Thursday, July 24, 2014
Fuck you, Bob Shepherd. Seriously, what is this nonsense? You dress up like a bad ass on a front cover with your poker chips and Jack Daniels, plus, you're from Wichita, yet, you gave everyone you know this Kenny Rogers (minus the twang) meets Kenny Loggins (minus the fun) bag of mind-numbing originals and covers?
The original tunes land somewhere between Jimmy Buffet and 80's Nashville pop. You're from Wichita, dude, you can kick ass, like Willie or Waylon. There was no reason to dumb it down so much, unless you're intended audience was Wichita housewives who don't actually like music. And the covers, oh man, the covers. How do you take a simple song like Chuck Berry's "Talkin' Bout You" and make it sound moronic? Seriously, it's early rock n' roll, how do you ruin that? And "Cocaine Blues," the fun is in the wordplay and cool breaks, but why bother with that, just blow it off, just run through it like your band is bored and can't wait to tear into a sappy Shepherd original.
The best thing I can say about the LP is good for you, dude. Way to put it out there and give it a chance. Despite it's complete mediocrity and lameness, at least you gave it shot.
Monday, July 21, 2014
Melissa Etheridge was born and grew up in Leavenworth, Kansas. Leavenworth is notable for a large Federal prison, but hey, after Etheridge, the town has a freakin' Grammy winner. She attended K-12 in the town, her dad apparently still teaches at the area High School. Further, she doesn't seem to bag on Kansas, even when the reporter tries to bait her in. From my quick research, she's been quoted saying it was lonely in Kansas (it is) and occasionally, the reporters say things like, "Growing up gay in Kansas," not Melissa. That's hard anywhere, it isn't easier to be a gay teen in California than it is in Kansas. Those things are usually just a reporter trying to make something out of nothing, because from I what I can see, Etheridge describes her Kansas upbringing like anyone else would: boring.
I first heard this album shortly after she became a big deal. My mom feel in love with it, playing it all the time and telling me constantly how much she loved Etheridge's voice. At the time, I was growing up in Wisconsin and into heavy metal and the Dead Milkmen. I could have cared less about Etheridge's music, never mind where she was from.
Now-a-days, I still don't care much about Melissa Etheridge's music. For me, it's pretty MOR and I'm not impressed just because she's a girl. She treads on some pretty well-worn territory, throws in a few blues riffs, keeps it folk-y, and occasionally even gets funky. There's just better music out there. She does have a good voice and a flair for dramatics, but eh, I just can't get all that wrapped up in it.
I'm a bigger fan of her being from Kansas and winning Grammy's. That's solid. Further, if her music and popularity lead others (this time I'm all for the girl-power) to create and appreciate music, that's awesome.
Sunday, July 20, 2014
So, when I first embarked on this project and found out Stan Kenton was from Wichita, KS, I was like, "Sweet!" Then, as I started actually keeping my eyes peeled for all records that have a Kansas connection and saw how many Kenton albums are out there I said to myself, "Fuck, Stan Kenton is from Wichita." I mean seriously, how many things can I possibly come up with to say about Stan Kenton?
Luckily, this 10" is pretty interesting and at points, challenging. Kenton was in transition and on this album his orchestra had just begun it's experimentation with swing. The first track, "23 Degrees North - 82 Degrees West" comes in with killer horns that take a bit to come together, but it works within a few seconds. The Latin flair on that track is the most exciting part of the album, but there are other moments to explore, love the guitar lines on "Invention for Guitar and Trumpet," and the revamped ballad, "My Lady.".
As per usual, on this album Kenton's orchestra is loaded with talent, Maynard Ferguson, Lee Konitz, and Gerry Mulligan, just to name a few. Of course, Kenton tells you all about that on the back side of the album in true douche-bag form. The guy describes all the tracks like his work is for the better good. But, outside of that, solid album, cover art is incredible.
23 Degrees North - 82 Degrees West
I love these Basie/Williams albums. Mostly because for the rest of his life, Joe Williams spoke so highly of Count Basie. One of his early solo albums, he's quoted gloating about his work with Basie, then later performances, everywhere, always just gave huge thanks and credit to Count Basie. He never forgot his roots.
This album is in all actuality considered a solo LP for Williams. Joe Williams' popularity had reached it's peak. Williams' popularity was also instrumental to Basie's continued success. Basie's work on the album was a thank you to Williams for the years served as his band's singer.
Basie worked the arrangements with a smaller backing band than normal. You still get the huge sound expected from Basie's standard and title track, "Everyday I Have the Blues." However, after that, the album is laid back. The swing style of "Going to Chicago" is a vocal workout for Williams with your basic club group from Basie. The album flows like that for the most part, even a smoker like "Shake, Rattle and Roll" is toned down (but at a good clip, for sure). It's a jazz vocal album that finds Williams showing off and Basie adding flourishes that don't normally appear on similar albums.
Everyday I Have the Blues
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
If you can come up with an original Tiger Style issue of this release, it's still worth a pretty penny. However, to save money, this is fine. The Graveface reissue series has done an amazing job with the Cast. The album is the first the band did after leaving the notrious Deep Elm label and at the time, was highly anticipated following the buzz of the Low Level Owl albums.
Personally, I find the release a bit more focused than the sprawling Low Level Owl LPs. My only real complaint is it's a very slow-moving album. Whereas the previous album had bursts of emo-ness thrown in to keep you off balance, Two Conversations steadies the pace. This album certainly shed the emo tag, Chris Crisci's vocals are strained here and there, but he isn't crying like a baby anymore. And the band, fucking brilliant, can't throw them in a punk-teen scene any longer, they're too good to emo. The album finds the band with confidence, like they know who they are. It also finds the band aligning themselves further with post-rock movement, building songs rather than writing them.
Overall, it's a fantastic mood album. That is, you have to be in a certain mood to enjoy it. If you want something immediate that you can sing and dance to; this is not your answer. But, the deeper you get involved with it, the more rewarding it becomes. The chilling loniliness that you hear on side one with songs like "Hanging Marionette" and "Fight Song". And, if you make it through, you get rewarded here and there with the energy of "Innocent Vigilant Ordinary" and the slowcore beauty of "How Life Can Turn" and "A Dream For Us," on the flip.
Innocent Vigilant Ordinary
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Replay Records Delivers 2012 Boxset
This is a boxset Replay Lounge put out in 2013 possibly that collects all four 7"s released in 2012. I don't think the newly found label had planned this from the beginning of 2012 or anything, but rather, it was a creative way to move some product. You get 7"s, a koozie, a sticker, a download of the Cheap Beer comp. and it's all packaged in a hand printed personal pizza box that's designed around Lawrence's best, crappy, pizza place, Pizza Shuttle.
As awesome as I think this whole package is, I'm saddened because it's leading me to believe the following: 1.) It's 2014 and these are still available for purchase, they limited the boxsets to 100. That means, Replay Records was sitting on at least 100 records of each release. 2.) Since they got a good amount of stock on hand, the label might be in danger of disappearing. They haven't released anything in a while. 3.) This is a great deal. All this cool stuff for $20 and it's still available. Fucking, go buy this at Replay Records.
As for the music, it's all worth the investment, you really can't go wrong. Great artwork and cool labels to boot. Only issue I have with Replay Records is they press their stuff on some shitty vinyl, things are off center, the center holes are too narrow, and you can just look at the grooves and see cheapness. However, they sell cheap beer at an awesome bar and release punk rock records, I'm not sure I should expect them to sell audiophile grade vinyl releases. As for the tunes and bands, here's a quick breakdown:
The Hips/Hospital Ships Split - Yoo Hoo's Binoculars B/W Come Back to Life - The Hips play some drunken stoner-groove. It's well done, but at times I feel it drives too far down a well-worn path filled with hippies and bands from Austin, TX. The Hospital Ships are primarily Lawrence, Kansan, Jordan Grieger, doing bedroom pop odes to the Flaming Lips (he took the name from a Lips' lyric). At least, that's what you always hear. I think his tune here is the best of the bunch. Definitely a homespun, bedroom feel, in which you do hear a Wayne Coyne vocal strain, but it's so twee and great. I really need to invest in the releases available on Graveface Records where Hospital Ships have found a home.
Rooftop Vigilantes/Mannequin Men Split - Automatic Trash and Trouble Making Words B/W What's Yer Favorite Colour and Dark Cemetery - I already talked about this, it's still awesome.
Mouthbreathers - Die Alone B/W Validation - First, great band name. The first tune is drawn out and dark. It's a little too stuck in idle for metal and it's certainly too focused to be punk. I suppose they may be going for a post-rock sound, that is until "Die Alone" turns into an all out garage-rock raver. "Validation" on the flip side is more fuzzed out garage punk, reveling that this band was just playing around on all the previous build up.
Pretty stoked to come across this at a thrift store. The Morning Dew were a Topeka group of teenagers caught up in the garage rock scene. Like other Kansas bands of their time, they weren't reliant on the snappy tunes of the Beatles to fill out their sound, they wanted to be sure to keep their Midwest roots. This band, at least on this record, focused their sound around Dylan's Highway 61 and fuzzed out guitars. Similar to what Texas band, Mouse and the Traps, were doing down South.
The result on this 45 is decent. Both songs were penned by band leader, Mal Robinson. The record was pressed by a regional label in Columbia, Missouri, called Fairyland. Apparently, despite an actual deal with Fairyland, the band footed their own bills to put it out. The band paid for recording and 2000 of these records to pressed. Fairyland took it to radio and attempted to distribute copies regionally, only 500 were reported to stay in the Topeka area for purchase.
The A-Side, "No More", must have caught onto some extent. The band was able to tour the Midwest on it's airplay and open some pretty big shows locally. It's got a crunchy rhythm, but twee in comparison to the Dylan sound they were after, it does have a stellar guitar solo drenched in fuzz and psychedelia thrown in. The B-Side, "Look At Me Now" is decent, in fact, compared to the crap that ends up on most obscure garage rock singles, it's fantastic. It's definitely the band's panty-dropper as it's over the top with teenage heartbreak. It's got a nifty fuzz guitar break and draws heavily a R&B/doo-wop influence that was filtered down to the Topeka natives by the British Invasion.
The 45 is sought after by garage collectors, but not to the extent psych collectors hunt the band's obscure 1970 Roulette full length. The LP will bring in excess of $500 if you can find a copy. There's a bootleg out there, though, if it's something you got to have.
Saturday, July 12, 2014
Three Businessmen Laughing at the Face of Danger Terminal Squat Records 1988 CAT# Squat 001
Ron Rooks was interesting dude. For 26 years, he ran the premiere record store in Kansas City, The Music Exchange. By the time I started shopping there in the 90's, he had amassed an absurd amount of vinyl. There were rumors that hidden from the customer's view, both in a warehouse and above the store he was sitting on even more. When he passed in 2006, the rumors virtually became confirmed (can't totally be true, the legend of hidden vinyl got a bit absurd) as thousands upon thousands of LPS, 78s, and 45s were unloaded in the West Bottoms. It was insane. Store owners that purchased from the collection still have untouched boxes sitting in various spots throughout Kansas City. However, it should be noted Rooks' best stuff was donated to the UMKC music archives, which is run by Chuck Haddock (local radio host who does a great job on a program called the Fish Fry).
Besides being the operator of the Music Exchange, Rooks was documented as quite the prankster in Westport. Google his name, you'll find some of his antics with The Pitch and the KC Star. He's no different on his self produced and released album. There's jokes all over this thing. The large green bar over the top meant to mimic the Mobility Fidelity label stating, "Original Three Quarter Master." The grotesque cover art meant to make you think you're holding something fascinating, rare and artistic, but upon further look, more jokes. The backside states, "Acousticly Enhanced for Two-Channel Mono," and, "Pressed on Vinyl Virgins." Rooks also gave a rundown of all his songs, comical little notes on his thought process.
Unfortunately, his legacy in KC wasn't for his ability as a songwriter. The jokes keep coming, but in song they become childish and weak. Furthermore, he jumped all over the place on the LP, country, funk, new wave, etc. and with all the cheap jokes, he just seems to be poking fun at music in general. The production is pure 80's and awfully watered down. I'm sure he wasn't working with much of budget, but you would have thought he'd let some musicians run free on his LP, y'know? He knew people. Overall, the music is kind of goofy and nonsensical. We're better off remembering Mr. Rooks for his Westport antics and his enduring love of vinyl.
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Pretty incredible album. It was the first of several albums Basie did with blues singer, Joe Williams. Basie had quite a string of discovering amazing vocal talent and Williams was no different. Williams was born in Georgia, but spent most of his youth in Chicago, so outside of Basie, he has no Kansas City connections.
Previously, Basie was working with featured vocalist, Jimmy Rushing. Rushing was a fantastic shouter and while Williams couldn't match Rushing in that regard, he could sing circles around him. Joe Williams brought a whole new dimension to Basie's big band, providing soulful ballads that would prove influential in the development of soul music years later. Further, Williams could handle up-tempo numbers and the blues, his baritone gliding effortlessly in front of Basie's band.
This album, hands down, is a classic. 5 stars, A+, whatever you want to term it, it's an absolute smoker. You don't have to understand big band, early R&B, or this form of the blues to get it, it's undeniable. Basie directs the band and keeps the groove, his piano is loose, but keeps everyone in check. Williams just floats over the top, taking songs in directions Basie couldn't go before. "Everyday I Have the Blues," "The Comeback," "Roll Em' Pete" are incredible, stand out tracks. The version of "Alright, Okay, You Win", is a just as classic and the big hit from the LP.
Alright, Okay, You Win