Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this middle-aged man as I attempt to listen to all the music in my CD collection. CDs revisited in their entirety from start to finish - no skipping tracks, no shuffle. CDs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no downloads. And just as CD technology (and the album format itself) becomes obsolete. I'm no music critic, just a music junkie with too much time on my hands.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

On indefinite hiatus

Bands break up, TV series end, couples split, etc. In other words, change happens. When I started this blog almost seven years ago, my goal was simple: listen to all the CDs I had in my collection from start to finish. At the time, I figured I had 800-900 discs and I'd be done in three years. The blog was simply meant for me to keep track of what I'd listened to. If you'll look at early posts from 2010, there's not much to them; the writing is brief, dry and unedited. I wasn't writing for other people, I was writing for myself, but I made the blog public so I could share with a few friends.

As I mentioned in this post, I've since accomplished that original goal. However, over the years the blog and my CD collection have evolved and grown, so I've kept going albeit at a slower pace. However, this blogging process has me listening to music more critically than ever before and I find myself writing blog posts in my mind as I listen to new CDs instead of simply enjoying the music. I'm taking a step back from that. Plus, after two years of searching, I've finally landed a new job and the wife and I are moving 300 miles to a new home; it's a good time for a break.

Over the past seven years, I've met an amazing number of wonderful "online friends" some of which communicate with me often and I hope will continue to do so. That wasn't my original goal but that's my true takeaway from this whole blog thing.

All that said, breakups aren't always forever. Bands reunite, TV series are occasionally reborn on other networks, couples get back together, and music blogs make comebacks. At this point, I'm not ruling anything out. Thanks for reading these pages and don't forget that I've got other blogs/online projects I encourage you to visit:
All the best,

Friday, September 29, 2017

Willie Nelson - Nacogdoches (2004)

As I mentioned in my previous post, Nacogdoches, Texas has been my home since 2006, so I bought this Willie Nelson CD more as a memento than anything else. I'm moving on to another job opportunity in another location, so I thought it would be fitting to post about this CD as my final CD Project entry from Nacogdoches.

Willie's longtime friend, musician Paul Buskirk (1923-2002), had retired to scenic Nacogdoches but Willie would see Buskirk whenever a tour brought him through East Texas. In 1997, during one of those visits, Nelson and Buskirk recorded this album at a local recording studio. For reasons unknown to me, the album wasn't released until 2004.

The album is a collection of pop and jazz standards given a stroke of a country brush through Nelson's voice and Buskirk's mandolin. The contributions of Gary Weldon on harmonica and Paul Schmitt on piano are noteworthy as well.

About the cover photo: there is no statue of a colonial Willie Nelson in downtown Nacogdoches (although that would be pretty cool). Instead, the cover features Willie's head photoshopped onto a statue of Antonio Gil Ybarbo (1729–1809), a founder of the city. There is a statue of Willie Nelson in Austin, however.

I've seen eBay/Amazon sellers asking upwards of $40 for this CD, but I got mine downtown at the visitor's center for $10.

Back cover (click to enlarge)

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Did not chart

Tracks: my top picks are Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone, Corrine Corrina, Columbus Stockade Blues, and How High The Moon but the whole album is easy to listen to because it sounds like old songs played by old friends just having fun. Which I guess it is.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None, although I once did a recording session in the same studio where this album was recorded. But that's a story for another time. 

Previously revisited for the blog:
Two Men with the Blues (2008)

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Pat Metheny Group - Travels (1983)

A live album, recorded on the 1982 tour supporting the release of Offramp. Like most good live jazz albums, it features many tunes never before recorded/released among a few fan favorites. In the early '80s, the group included "special guest" percussionist/vocalist Nana Vasconcelos and the band's sound at the time was heavily influenced by Brazilian music while still allowing Metheny to experiment with the latest technology. Perfectly sequenced, I find the recordings stunningly beautiful and recommend this release without hesitation.

Memo to ECM: I'd be willing to fork over for a remastered box set that featured all the recordings made during this tour.

The album won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Fusion Performance.
Virgin Encyclopedia of Jazz: ★★★★
Rolling Stone Jazz & Blues Album Guide: ★★★½
Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide: ★★★
Allmusic: ★★★★

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #62
Peak on the Billboard Jazz chart: #3
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #85

TrackOriginal Album
Are You Going With Me?Offramp
The Fields, The Sky Travels
Phase Dance Pat Metheny Group
Straight On RedTravels
Farmer's Trust Travels
Goin' Ahead - As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls
Travels Travels
Song for BilbaoTravels
San Lorenzo Pat Metheny Group

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: Among my college buddies in the mid-'80s, this was probably the Metheny album we listened to the most regardless of format: double LP, cassette, or eventually CD. As a knuckleheaded college kid, I couldn't truly comprehend the music and I'm not certain I fully understand it yet.

The album consists of live material recorded in July, October, and November 1982, in Philadelphia, Dallas, Sacramento, Hartford, and Nacogdoches. Nacogdoches (pronounced NAC-uh-DOH-chiss) is a small college town in deep East Texas where this humble blogger has lived since 2006. Metheny performed in (haunted?) Turner Auditorium on the campus of Stephen F. Austin State University (my employer during my time in Nacogdoches). I was nowhere near Nacogdoches in 1982, so I wasn't present at the recording of this album, but I've been in Turner Auditorium for plenty of events/concerts/performances over the past 11 years, most recently for the Big Head Blues Club.

Previously revisited for the blog:

Monday, September 25, 2017

Barry Manilow - Here At The Mayflower (2001)

Barry rings in the new millennium with an hour-long concept album of all original tunes? Yup, and it ain't half bad. Taking a break from an unwelcome (to me) series of cover albums, Manilow delivers his first album of original tunes in 17 years and it's like heading back to '70s AM radio. Allegedly, the album concept is based on the Brooklyn apartment complex where Barry Manilow grew up - each of the 16 tracks from this offering is listed in another apartment in the Mayflower building, such as "Apartment 6C: I Miss You," "Apartment 2G: I Hear Music Playing," and "Apartment 3E: Border Train," you get the point. Critics seemed to like it, using phrases like "return to form" but the following review from Amazon offers a slightly different take: "this cd is good but it needs more bass, and more duets with p diddy." Me? I like it fine.

Pluses: getting Dave Koz to guest on several tunes, piano driven arrangements
Minuses: the dreaded AutoTune/production tricks, a tendency to sound like Rex Harrison-spoken show tunes

Now that I write that, it occurs to me that this thing plays more like a musical cast album than a concept album. And now I've damned myself to hearing it as such from now on.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #90

Tracks: Like most concept/cast albums, it's best heard from start-to-finish (set it and forget it). It's not "all killer, no filler" but the filler is better than what he was putting out in the early '80s (ah, the luxury of time and no label pressure). For me, the standout tunes are Come Monday, Say Goodbye, and Welcome Home. Also fun is the disco tune, cleverly titled They Dance! Plus, I hate myself for liking Turn The Radio Up as much as I do.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None; didn't find this until 15 years after it was released, but I've listened to it quite a bit since it arrived in a lot of CDs I purchased on eBay last year.

Previously revisited for the blog:
Ultimate Manilow (2002)
If I Should Love Again (1981) 
Barry (1980)
One Voice (1979) 
Even Now (1978)
Tryin' To Get The Feeling (1975)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Nick Heyward - Woodland Echoes (2017)

I received this double CD set a few weeks back after pre-ordering it in early April as part of Nick's self-funding efforts on Pledgemusic. Nick's in love again and wants to express it through song (as someone wrote in an Amazon review: "'I love this girl. She's the one. I'm happy and content. I want our life together to go on and on. She's the sun, moon, and stars.' That's the theme. Yeah, I get it.") So I'll focus more on music than lyrics which is my m.o. anyway. There's nothing similar to Haircut 100 tunes on this thing, but there's some great cuts that sometimes hearken back to his earlier solo work. The critics like it:

and it's easily his best work since 1995's Tangled. Metacritic currently has it rated at 81 which sounds about right.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Did not chart, but debuted at #89 on the UK charts.

  1. Love Is The Key By The Sea - a beautiful waltz and my current favorite track on the album.
  2. Mountaintop - I'm not wild about this foray into the pseudo-country genre (complete with fiddle solo) but I'll be damned if I don't sing along anyway because it's such a happy tune. 
  3. The Stars - sounds like it could have been on Nick's 1993 album, From Monday to Sunday and that's a good thing. '90s college/singer-songriter pop still exists in 2017.
  4. Beautiful Morning - a laid back acoustic ballad. Pretty, but not much to hold my interest for four and half minutes.
  5. Who? - in which Nick does his best imitation of Michael Buble with some measure of success. Wish it swung a little harder, but I like it nonetheless.
  6. Forest of Love - starts as a quirky little number à la TMBG, but then the tension is released when it goes into the chorus. Typical beautiful Nick melody over a descending bassline. I really like the coda that starts about 2:30 in.
  7. Baby Blue Sky - currently my second favorite tune on this album, this song echoes back to his '90s work when he was being compared to Oasis. Feel good music with beautiful harmonies.
  8. I Can See Her - a mid-tempo Beatlesque love song complete with string quartet on the chorus and slide guitar solo in the manner of George Harrison. One of Nick's strengths is writing bridges and this song is a good example of that.
  9. Perfect Sunday Sun - another Britpop throwback which is, beneath the wall of electric guitar, catchy as hell.
  10. New Beginning - enjoyable acoustic instrumental interlude, perfectly sequenced
  11. I Got a Lot - Good chorus hampered by a bland verse. Pleasant but not memorable. Notable for an appearance by former Haircut 100 drummer Blair Cunningham.
  12. For Always - My least favorite cut. A bland way to end the album. Needs salt?
Bonus tracks (for some reason, the bonus tracks are on a separate disc, which is a pain for 9 minutes worth of tunes but whatevs):
  1. Angelfish - Nick's attempt an an all-out rocker. Can't blame him for trying, but easy to see why this wasn't included on the album: it sounds nothing like a Nick Heyward tune.
  2. Make It Happen - Another rocker, but this one is more melodic and more adventurous with the chords. Might have been big on the '90s rock charts, but again, apart from the Heyward norms.
  3. Back Together - a fun ukulele-driven love song which should have been the album closer instead of For Always so that's the way I'll hear the album from this point forward.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None as it is a new release, but if you've followed this blog for very long, you know that I sprung for this mediabook:

My copy is 78/1500. The companion book is lyrics and Nick's photography, which is better than it probably should be (I'm just saying that because I wish I had that talent).

Previously revisited for the blog:
Live At The IndigO2 28th Jan 2011 (2011)
The Mermaid And The Lighthouse Keeper (2006)
The Apple Bed (1998)
Stars In Her Eyes (1998)
Today (1997)
The Man You Used To Be (1997)
A Hard Days Nick (1996)
The Greatest Hits of Nick Heyward & Haircut 100 (1996)
The World (1995)
Tangled (1995)
From Monday To Sunday (1993)
He Doesn't Love You Like I Do (1993)
Kite (1993)
The Best of Nick Heyward & Haircut 100 (1989)
I Love You Avenue (1988)
You're My World (1988)
Postcards From Home (1986)
North of a Miracle (1983)
Pelican West (1982) and Deluxe Edition (2016)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Maynard Ferguson - Chameleon (1974)/Conquistador (1977)/Hot (1979)

UK Import

Three albums on 2 CDs from the master of the stratospheric trumpet. Thanks, BGO. Almost 40 years ago, I discovered Ferguson while in high school through a greatest hits cassette. We (me and my fellow trumpeters) loved Maynard in high school, but my college trumpet-playing friends looked down on him. I continued to listen to him anyway and then Maynard came to our college campus in 1986 and all of a sudden these same jazz snobs were on the Maynard bandwagon. Shameless. Here's a photo taken at that show. Maynard is the one with the towel and white pants after Labor Day.

Excellent remastering job on these plus a fantastic liner note booklet that includes full credits as well as a nice essay by Charles Waring, jazz columnist for Record Collector and contributor to MOJO and Wax Poetics. Well done.

8 tracks, 41 minutes

My on-again-off-again high school girlfriend had this on vinyl and I dubbed the good stuff to a cassette. Mostly covers, this thing's hit or miss, but I literally wore out that cassette.

Cash Box, August 31, 1974, p. 22

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Did not chart
Peak on Billboard's Jazz LPs chart: #13

Tracks: Choice cuts are the title track (by Herbie Hancock), Gospel John (an original by Jeff Steinberg), a high energy cover of McCartney's Jet and, my pick for top track: La Fiesta (by Chick Corea). Avoid Maynard's take on The Way We Were and his vocals on I Can't Get Started. Speaking of not getting started: the arrangement of Stevie Wonder's Living For The City. The title track, which came out within a year of Hancock's original, is now a jazz/funk standard and remains popular with high school marching band and jazz bands.

6 tracks, 36 minutes

Famous for its lead track, Gonna Fly Now, which became Ferguson's biggest hit and a signature tune for the pop/disco/Columbia Records phase of his career. Not surprisingly, this is also Maynard's all-time top selling album.

Cash Box, March 19, 1977, p. 14
According to the liner notes, Gonna Fly Now was a last second addition at the recommendation of a record executive that had just seen the first Rocky movie. Hey! A record exec got something right! But he wasn't the only one: the tune is unique in that it had recordings by 4 different artists charting at the same time: Ferguson's peaked at #28, Bill Conti's original which was #1 for one week, while Rhythm Heritage and Current both peaked at #94.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #22
Peak on Billboard's Jazz LPs chart: #1
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #45
Peak on Cash Box Top 40 Jazz Albums: #5

Tracks: My picks are Gonna Fly Now (natch), Mister Mellow with a tasty extended solo from George Benson, and Soar Like an Eagle which is a Bob James tune and in case you couldn't tell that from the very first measure, James contributes a nice electric piano solo. And even though the Theme From Star Trek is all cheese, I can't help but love it probably because it was on the aforementioned greatest hits cassette I bought in high school. People buying the album because they liked the Rocky theme were probably disappointed by the title track and the throwaway experiment, The Fly.

HOT (1979)
7 tracks, 42 minutes

Note: this release was originally purchased as a LP (twice), later replaced by this CD set.

This album contains Maynard's second (of only two) pop chart appearance; an attempt to cash in on the movie sequel, Rocky II.

If you believe that label (and I have no reason not to), the album was originally slated to be titled Blow Your Own Horn.

Of the album, in a one star review/pan, Allmusic writes:
"Hot could be the absolute worst of trumpeter Maynard Ferguson's '70s recordings. It's not just that it contains more over the top versions of theme songs -- "Rocky II Disco" anyone? -- and generally vomitive dancefloor-ready production, but more to the point, 'ol MF just doesn't sound good.
It's hard to argue any of that, but when the album brings back memories of high school, none of that matters. At least Cash Box tried to put a good spin on things:

Cash Box, August 4, 1979, p. 17

To tell the truth, I never woulda picked up this LP (heck, I think I had it special ordered!), if I hadn't happened across the following sheet music in 1979 or 1980 at the local music shop (click images to enlarge):

So I had the sheet music and wanted to hear what it sounded like, so I got the album.Yes, I still have the sheet music but I don't think the value has appreciated much.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #188
Peak on Billboard's Jazz LPs chart: #14
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #175
Peak on Cash Box Top 40 Jazz Albums: #9

Tracks: There's not much to recommend here, to be honest, not even the aforementioned Rocky II Disco. I listen for purposes of nostalgia. The rehash of Gospel John (from the Chameleon album above) is titled Gabriel and is possibly the only instrumental disco funk gospel tune I've ever heard so there's that. Even though it's silly disco filler, my favorite track might be Topa-Topa Woman.

And what's Theme From Star Trek doing on here? Wasn't it also on Conquistador? Yes, it's the same recording, only shorter. The liner notes characterize the inclusion of the Star Trek theme as "a blatant attempt to capitalise on the release of the first Star Trek movie."

Previously revisited for the blog:
Master of the Stratosphere (1997)
Hollywood (1982) 
The Best Of Maynard Ferguson (1980)

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Marshall Crenshaw (1982)

Note: the CD I listened to was the 2000 Rhino reissue with ten (!) bonus tracks.

From the 'Bout Damn Time Dept:

You might not believe this but I have no memory of hearing Marshall Crenshaw in the '80s although I would have loved it had I been introduced to his music back in '82. I was in a Rockpile/Nick Lowe/Squeeze phase at the time and this music is an Americanized version of British pub rock. I eventually picked up a greatest hits compilation and have (too) slowly been picking up Crenshaw's back catalog which is slowly fading into out-of-print status in many cases. I'm in complete agreement with Robert Christgau on this one:
This album seems simple because it is simple, yet it continues to unfold long after you believe its byways played out--not by exploiting the snazzy bridges and key changes of the traditional pop arsenal, but with lines repeated at odd junctures, choruses reentering when you anticipate another verse. Brushing by the everyday phrases that are the stuff of pop songwriting--cynical girl, she can't dance, the usual thing--to add a twist or make an oblique point, Crenshaw captures a magic ur-adolescent innocence without acting the simp. It's as sly and well-meaning as his love of girls. A
To that, I'll add that this album is an all-out blast to hear. It's a can't-sit-still, can't-feel-bad, put-the-top-down, can't-help-but-sing-along sorta thing.

Rolling Stone magazine gave it ★★★★½ (which is a ½ star too low IMO) and placed it at #72 on its list of the 100 Best Albums of the Eighties, calling the album "an alternately rousing and heartbreaking cycle of infectious pop rockers and ballads — none of them clocking in at more than 3:07."

Smash Hits, June 24, 1982, p. 17

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #50
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #51

Tracks: Picking favorite tracks is like picking a favorite donut - you can't go wrong with anything you choose. The best I can offer is today's favorites: There She Goes Again, Someday Someway, Girls..., I'll Do Anything, aw forget it - I'm just naming all the tracks.

Bonus tracks: The first four bonus tracks sound like they should have been part of the originaly album and the flow is seamless. I normally dislike demo versions, but the ones here are so good, I don't mind them a bit. Of the seven live tracks (most of them covers), the highlight is a cover of George Clinton and The Parliaments' Look At What I Almost Missed, while the weakest is the cover of Edwin Starr's Stop Her On Sight (S.O.S.). The only repeated song is Brand New Lover and that's included as a dreaded "hidden track" at the end of the CD. But don't let any of that stop you - find a copy of this deluxe edition ASAP.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None with this particular album, but I remember a facepalm moment when I was finally introduced to Crenshaw via the compilation CD Just Can't Get Enough: New Wave Hits of the '80s, Vol. 5 in late summer 1994.

Previously revisited for the blog:
Jaggedland (2009)
What's In The Bag (2003)
The Best of Marshall Crenshaw (2000)
Life's Too Short (1991)