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.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Manhattan Transfer - Mecca For Moderns (1981)


Note: this release was originally purchased as an LP, later replaced by a CD.

Typical Jay Graydon "West Coast Sound" awesomeness. The group's follow-up to 1979's Extensions album, this covers much of the same ground with many of the same session musicians (Graydon, David Foster, Steve Lukather, Jerry Hey, Abe Laboriel). There's pop, jazz, vocalese, ballads, and standards -this was the formula that I liked best from this band and really lost interest not long after they had moved on to Brazilian music. However, I will praise this release because it looks to the future while acknowledging the past and does it well, which isn't easy to do. This isn't my favorite Transfer album (that would be either Extensions or Vocalese), but this album does contain some of my favorite Transfer songs.

According to the group's website, here's the story on the title: Tim Hauser was at Janis Siegel’s home one afternoon and he picked up a Duke Ellington album entitled Live At The Blue Note 1952. While reading the cover, he noticed it said “The Blue Note was a haven for the smart set, in fact, the real mecca for moderns.” The group liked the phrase, and it fit well with the album concept. However, there's no explanation given for the horrid album cover.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #22
Peak on the Billboard Jazz LPs chart: #6
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #26

Tracks: My two favorite tracks are On The Boulevard and Kafka which are great not only because of the singing (this could be any group, really), but because of the production/lead guitar of Graydon and incredible drumming of Steve Gadd. Also good are Smile Again, the vocalese of Until I Met You (Corner Pocket) and the beautiful a capella closing track, A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square which couldn't be performed like this by any other group - I recommend listening loud on headphones (how often do you hear that about this kind of music?). Skippable are the cheesy (Wanted) Dead Or Alive and Spies In The Night. The hit single from this album was Boy From New York City, a cover of a 1965 do-wop song by The Ad-Libs. The cover peaked at #7 on the charts and won a Grammy, but I've never cared much for it. In fact, I almost didn't buy this album because that song is on it.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: When I was in high school, this was one of my guilty pleasures. I enjoyed listening to the album at home, but most of my friends had no idea I was listening to this pop goodness because I was always cultivating a New Wave hipster image back then. When I saw the group in concert in 1983, I was so excited when they performed On The Boulevard and was very disappointed they didn't sing Kafka.

Previously revisited for the blog:
The Christmas Album (1992)
Brasil (1987)
Bodies and Souls (1983)
Extensions (1979)

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