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.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Haircut 100 - Paint and Paint (1984)

EU Import

Note: this release was originally purchased as an LP, later replaced by a Deluxe Edition CD, which, according to the Cherry Red website, "includes all the original album tracks, related bonus tracks, nine development mixes from the band's own archives and four BBC session tracks dating from May 1984."

After recording one of my favorite albums of 1982, lead singer and main songwriter Nick Heyward left Haircut 100 due to personal issues. Percussionist Mark Fox took over lead vocal duties and actually does a good job.  What's really missing on Paint And Paint is Heyward's songwriting gift - there aren't many memorable melodies here, but there's plenty of typical H100 grooves.  Besides letting Heyward go, the band made three additional mistakes: 1) they changed labels from Arista to Polydor, 2) they experimented with different drummers, and 3) they experimented with different producers.  (On the other hand, Heyward stuck with Arista, hired The Beatles' engineer Geoff Emerick to produce his exquisite debut solo album, North of a Miracle).

Smash Hits, July 5, 1984, p. 21

It's no Pelican West, but how could it be?  Truth be told, it's better than I thought it would be with side 2 being much better than side 1.  However, this release tanked commercially in the UK, wasn't released in the US, and the band quickly fell apart.  In 2004, VH1 put the band back together for an episode of their "Bands Reunited" series, then again in 2011 for a one-off concert.

Bonus points for wonderful liner notes/booklet, but I've come to expect that from a Cherry Red re-release.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Not released in US.

Original Album:
  • Fish in a Bowl:  Starting with familiar H100 guitar and horn licks, you initially can't tell any difference between this album and Pelican West, then the vocals kick in and you can tell a little bit.  But when the disconnected chorus comes around, you know notice a big difference in songwriting.  So even though the verse, chorus, and bridge sound completely unrelated, the groove is good - you can tell Bob Sargeant had his hand in producing this one.
  • Immaterial: Much like the previous track, the verse and chorus don't really seem to go together.  The syncopated groove is a little different for H100, but the chugging guitar part moves things along in a recognizable way.
  • So Tired: the second single released from the album (probably because of its similarities to Love Plus One) this peaked at 94 on the UK chart.  It starts off promising, but by the chorus, the whole thing sounds, well, tired.
  • Hidden Years: While there's a tropical feel to this one, it's uninteresting filler with one of the most boring percussion breaks ever recorded.  The horn solos are its only redeeming features.
  • 40-40 Home: Now things finally start cooking.  I've got no idea what they're singing about (guitarist Graham Jones claims it's about his childhood home), but this thing is as catchy as anything on Pelican West. 
  • High Noon: Another boring, disconnected chorus makes me want to go ahead and move on to what was Side Two on the LP.
  • Too Up, Two Down: the third single, this one didn't chart and I can't see why not, it's a catchy thing that contains one of the better choruses on the album.  Great arrangement and production (Sargeant again). 
  • Benefit of the Doubt: can a melody be this disjunct and still memorable?  There's an unusual tropical meets ska-lite feel to the whole thing and somehow it works for me.  Go figure.
  • Prime Time:  the lead single, this funk tune peaked at #46 on the UK chart.  Smooth vocals interrupted by jagged horn parts.  It's good - I can see what it was chosen as a single.
  • Where Do You Run To Now?:  a ballad?!?  It actually starts off with a fantastic hook, but after two measures it completely falls apart and the hook is wasted.  I enjoy the soft rock sax solo, though.
  • Infatuation: the album finishes strong with the characteristic H100 pop/soft funk sound.  After an odd introduction, there's lots of things to like about this one: the sax parts, slap bass, the rhythm guitar, there's even some piano here and there.
Bonus tracks:
  • Too Up Two Down (7" Remix): the rare case where the 7" version is the same length as the album version. I can tell the mix has been touched up a bit with a bit of synth pad, but there's little difference. Didn't matter much as this single didn't break into the UK charts.
  • Evil Smokestacking Baby: the b-side of Too Up Two Down. Described in the liner notes by bassist Les Nemes as "filler...came from a bass line that I had been messing around with for years and was inspired by having listened to Stanley Clarke." I hear no Clarke influence; this instrumental sounds more like Simple Minds to me. It bears no resemblance to any other H100 tune I've ever heard, yet it mesmerizes me.
  • After It's All Been Said And Done: included on the 12" single release of Too Up Two Down. This is the closest this group gets to sounding like Nick Heyward. Maybe that's why they didn't want to include it on the album. I also notice there's no mention of it in the liner notes, but I'm always looking for a conspiracy theory.
  • Prime Time (Late Night Shopping Version): the 12" extended remix of the first single. Any good? Well, it includes an ill-advised rap breakdown section and an off-key appropriation of Lennon's Give Peace A Chance if that tells you anything. Yikes. 
  • So Tired (Extended Version - Long Slumber): the 12" mix. Typical '80s extended version - an instrumental bit added at the beginning.
  • Fish In A Bowl (Deeper Version): included on the 12" single of So Tired. Typical '80s extended version - an instrumental bit added at the beginning.
  • From the website: "The next nine tracks were supplied by the band from their own archives. They feature working mixes taken straight from the mixing desk during the recording sessions for the band to listen to at home and work on additional arrangements and brass parts. They offer a unique insight as to how the tracks took shape. Six of the tracks made the final album and the other three are heard for the first time on this release." Demos. The band's homework, in other words. Sorry, no "unique insight" to be found here. Move along. I'd be upset at the inclusion of these tunes, but since this was a budget-priced release (2 CDs for $12.99), I'll consider the second CD of the set to be free.
  • The last four tracks were recorded at the BBC for a session on the David Jensen show. They were aired on his show on May 13, 1984. (On a completely unrelated note, I graduated from high school 12 days later.) I was expecting more "live in studio" takes but these are too produced and sterile for what I expect of BBC session tracks. None of these four add anything to the earlier recorded versions.
Bottom line, I'd have been okay with a one disc re-release that didn't include the demos and live tunes, just the original album along with b-sides and remixes. 

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: I hadn't heard this album until about 15 years after its release when I picked up a used import vinyl copy on eBay.  I wasn't expecting much, so I wasn't disappointed.  

Previously revisited for the blog:
Live At The IndigO2 28th Jan 2011 (2011)
The Greatest Hits of Nick Heyward & Haircut 100 (1996)
The Best of Nick Heyward & Haircut 100 (1989)
Pelican West (1982)

Full disclosure: portions of this post appeared previously over on the My Favorite Decade blog. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Various Artists - GRP and The Oasis 106.1 FM present Oasismusic 1 (1990)

I picked this up out of the $1 clearance bin recently simply because I listened to 106.1 FM when I lived in the Dallas area in the late '80s. Looks like I already had many of these tracks on other CDs, so I'm betting the rest are of a similar ilk. Let's see.

I could find no evidence of the release of a Oasismusic2 sequel.

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


Pleasant "new-to-me" cuts were Through The Test Of Time by Patti Austin, Hope by Kevin Eubanks, and The Chief by Gary Burton which was written by Pat Metheny and features him on a fine solo.

Oldies but goodies: Minute By Minute by Larry Carlton and Alexandra from Spyro Gyra.

The rest work well in this sampler context; nothing I want to skip.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: I've mentioned KOAI "The Oasis" a few times already on this blog, but it was the first commercial New Age/smooth jazz station I'd ever heard. Sadly, it was only on the air from 1987-92 (I left Dallas in summer 1990).  Currently, 106.1 in Dallas is the Top 40 station that produces the nationally syndicated Kidd Kraddick Morning Show (which my wife loves) and a Phoenix soft rock station uses the KOAI call letters as well as "The Oasis" moniker.

I still get a kick from early GRP releases that include the info "Digital Master" because I remember how special that was back then. Now I've probably got more digital mastering capabilities on my smartphone.

Friday, August 4, 2017

John Klemmer - Touch (1975)

This early smooth jazz release finds saxophonist Klemmer teaming up with such session greats as Dave Grusin, Larry Carlton, and Joe Porcaro as well as "borrowing" drummer John Guerin and bassist Chuck Domanico from Tom Scott's L.A. Express. It's all mid-tempo, laid back, and easy to listen to. I've read a few reviews that credit this as being the first smooth jazz album - I'm not ready to make that call and I'm sure Bob James, Grover Washington, Jr., and other musicians would have something to say about that claim. Speaking of other musicians, Grusin's electric piano work on this thing is outstanding and even steals the show on a few of the tracks.

Klemmer has a pleasant tone and doesn't get overly showy in his soling, which I appreciate. So the key to any Klemmer album is the writing. While there are some tunes here that tend to meander without much melody, there are a few standouts, including the title track, Glass Dolphins, Sleeping Eyes, and Tone Row Weaver. Skip the final track, Walk With Me My Love And Dream, which includes "vocal narration" from Klemmer himself and features overdubbed flute.

This stuff all sounds fairly normal in 2017, but how groundbreaking was it in 1975? Let's check some of the original reviews:

Record World, October 18, 1975, p. 18
Cash Box, October 18, 1975, p. 24

A transcendent talking stick? Sheesh. And the writing isn't much better over at Amazon:

  • "I generally don't like jazz but this is a must have album"
  • "This music is was what the saxophone was truly invented for (not nonsense like classical applications)."
  • "chocolatey melodies to soothe away the day's stress, and cocoon you in a warmly textured bath of restrained, healing sounds."
  • "I was 'touched' by this compilation "
  • "this may be the greatest make out album ever."

Okay, so that last bit might be good advice.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #90
Peak on Billboard's Top Jazz Albums chart: #6
Peak on Cash Box's album chart: #143

Tracks: See above.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None. I don't think I had even heard of Klemmer until I was putting together a list of Billboard jazz album charts a few years back. Then I started streaming some of his stuff and have since picked up a few releases.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Nick Heyward & India Dupre - The Mermaid And The Lighthouse Keeper (2006)

Faithful readers of this blog know I'm a big fan of Nick's work and have been since I happened across Pelican West in 1982 and North Of A Miracle the following year. So I ordered this self-released CD from Nick's website - it was available for a time on iTunes, but I don't see it there today (it's downloadable/streamable* at Amazon, however). And now that I look, I don't see it available on Nick's website, either. Can't even find any online reviews of the album, for that matter, so maybe I'm breaking ground here, eleven years after the fact.

This is a collaborative effort with India Dupre who promotes herself as an actress so don't ask me how these two got together. (update: on page 41 of the August 2017 edition of Classic Pop magazine, Dupre is characterized as Heyward's ex-girlfriend, so there ya go.) And because of the lack of credits in the liner notes, don't ask me how much she had to do with the writing and production of the album. Her thin vocals are present on all songs is the most I can tell you.

I don't know if it's because of the collaboration, but this isn't Nick's best effort. The laid back love songs aren't bad, but they all sound the same after a while and none of them stand out in ways a Heyward song should. It probably goes without saying, but I would like to hear a solo Heyward version. Even having written all that, I like the album good enough and the CD gets played around here a few times a year. 

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Not released in US

Tracks: The better tracks are Indian Summer, Secret Garden, 14 Summers, and Talk To Me. I usually skip track 10, Santorini, which bears no resemblance to a Heyward tune.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None, but Nick signed my CD booklet before mailing it to me and I like that.

*are these even real words?

Previously revisited for the blog:
Live At The IndigO2 28th Jan 2011 (2011)
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)

Who is Lawrence Watts?? -ed.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Steely Dan - Pretzel Logic (1974)

My least favorite Steely Dan album. That doesn't necessarily mean that it's bad; this CD just doesn't get much playing time around here. It would have made a fantastic EP if you got rid of the fluff (read: stuff I don't dig as much). In any case, the whole album barely clocks in at a paltry 34 minutes so it's not needed, but here's my EP suggestion:
Side 1:
Rikki Don't Lose That Number (single edit) - 3:58
Barrytown - 3:17
Monkey in Your Soul - 2:31

Side 2:
Any Major Dude Will Tell You - 3:05
Pretzel Logic - 4:28
Through With Buzz - 1:30

You can't really tell by reading the above, but I actually like most of the thing - just not as much as Christgau, ErlewineRolling Stone, et al.  And, hey, if they had to go through this to get to the greatness of Katy Lied, I'm all for it.

Billboard, March 23, 1974, p. 64
Cash Box, March 23, 1974, p. 32

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #8

Tracks: see above

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None

Previously revisited for the blog:
Everything Must Go (2003)
Two Against Nature (2000)
Alive In America (1995)
A Decade of Steely Dan (1985)
Gaucho (1980)
Aja (1977)
Katy Lied (1975)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Perrí - Celebrate! (1986)

The debut album from a vocal group made up of four sisters that were still finding their niche. Jazz, gospel, R&B? Let's try a bit of everything then.

Billboard, January 25, 1986, p. 66
Cash Box, January 25, 1986, p. 14

Despite being described as a mentor, there's not much Metheny support on this offering although two of his compositions are among the 8 tracks. I also found an unconfirmed report of the group supporting Anita Baker while she was on tour for the epic Rapture album.

Overall, a slightly better than average attempt; the group just lacked focus and the producer was unable to bring that to the party. It's a fun trip back to '86 because the sound is unmistakably of the time (see track 5, You Take Me To Heaven).

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Did not chart
Peak on Billboard's Top Jazz Albums chart: #14
Peak on Cash Box's Top 40 Jazz Album chart: #8

Tracks: The better tracks are Maybe Tomorrow, He Never Sleeps, and the Metheny covers (Jaco Two and Airstream Two). The only true misstep is the original Alone; the rest is harmless, forgettable R&B in which the material doesn't live up to the sisters' talents.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None, but for the true CD geek, the jewel case for this CD is one of those original old cases with "Patent pending" on the lower right corner of the back of the case.

In the CDP Archives, Perrí is currently filed between Michael Penn and Pet Shop Boys.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Charles Bradley - No Time For Dreaming (2011)

At the risk of losing my "retro-soul aficionado" credentials, I'm going to state that this album is like most Daptone releases I've heard: masterful performances of mediocre, monotonous, mostly mid-tempo, minor-keyed material.  Bradley's voice is powerfully weathered and emotional while the Menahan Street band knows how to play this Southernesque soul music period-appropriately.  But, for the most part, this just doesn't get me going. Yes, I realize I'm in the minority; it's where we contrarians reside.

Is "it's not the musicians, it's the material" the musical equivalent of a "it's not you, it's me" break-up?

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

Tracks: The better tunes are the title track, Since Our Last Goodbye, and the all-too-brief Trouble In the Land.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None