Thursday, January 29, 2015
Pretty clever LP by the Dillards and the last thing they released on Elektra. It follows the formula of the highly regarded LP, Wheatstraw Suite. Copperfields find the band effortlessly combining traditional bluegrass with pop and rock tendencies. The harmonies are great, the cover tunes are well selected for the most part (I could do without another version of "Yesterday", although pure vocal version is kind of cool) and the originals are solid.
Personally, I think bands like the Dillards get overlooked. The problem seems to be these guys were country first and then added rock influences. However, if you're the Byrds and take your folk-rock sound and add country, people lose their shit. People swear by Sweetheart of the Rodeo. And, they should, it's an excellent album, pretty sure it has a the Dillard brothers signing on it. Point is, there's a wealth of material out there that coincides with Sweetheart that's worth checking out, including this band and this album with their Kansas City connection and bluegrass roots.
Close the Door Lightly
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Don't know when this came out, but it's pretty clear it's from the late 70's. Some people may say, it's early 70's, but I'd remind them Tim's from Hiawatha, Kansas which is in the Northeastern part of the state by the Nebraska border. Trends were slow to get there, so going to say late 70's based on the red suit, kick-ass sideburns and bowl cut.
As cool as Kansas is, it gets really white and Christian. This album represents that aspect. This is red-blooded, American, right-wing, Christian pride type stuff. You can probably guess it follows a country music path. Cool thing about Tim, though, he does all his vocals, check out the photo. Dude doesn't just have an awesome bowl cut, he has some fucking range.
The music is what I like to term, "Creepy, White, Gospel." It's uber-Religious and if there is stylistic theme, it'd be country. The best thing I can say about that is at least it doesn't go all Nashville Pop and stays slow and somewhat traditional. The lyrics are pretty over the top...stuff about meeting a "cripple" (that's what he says, not me) and when Tim explains he says he's sorry for the "cripple" the "cripple" replies, "I'll be walking just like you in Heaven." That's from the tune, "Hallelujah Square." On the uptempo tune, "If It Keeps Gettin' Better," Tim explains he doesn't know what he's going to do it the Lord keeps making things better. Stuff like this all seems a stretch to me, but whatever, good on you for putting it out there...I guess.
I could also mock the back cover note from Tim, but that'd be a dickmove. It's Christian and he's just explaining all that, all in all, it's a pretty nice message if you set your own beliefs apart from all the Gospel. So props to you Tim, way to put it out there despite assholes like me.
This isn't something I'd ever purchase, even if it is local. Not trying to judge a book by it's cover, but a quick look at the song titles and you know what this is going to be about. The record came in a bulk buy, so because it was local, I kept it.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Obviously, the title alone should tell most people this is worthwhile. Outside of a couple of tracks prior to this release, this was the first time Ella Fitzgerald recorded with Count Basie. They would continue working together from time to time afterwards. Considering this was released in 1963, it's a bit surprising that the two hadn't done more work together, you would have thought they'd met up at the peak of their careers, not it's twilight. Which is kind of illustrated in the cover, it looks like two old folks having a chat at their retirement home.
That said, still and enjoyable album. Basie and Fitzgerald were both capable of doing their best work at this time, it was only their scene that was fading, not their talents. Like other Norman Granz supervised albums of the era, Granz tapped a young Quincy Jones to arrange. His arrangements are pretty tight and don't allow Basie to explore much. The focus of the album was clearly to showcase Ella. It's an easy album to listen to with a number of highlights.
On the Sunny Side of the Street
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
So much cuteness, just so much love, and melody, and cuteness...and yelling. Mates of State liked to yell a lot.
I'm a sucker it, guy-girl back and forth lyrical conversations, unpredictable bursts of keyboards, and the screamed chorus'. In fact, I was just recently discussing the attributes of an Illinois band called Wolfie with a friend. Wolfie was this out of tune, chaotic, twee-pop band that employed boy-girl vocals. As much as we both liked Wolfie for the amateur charm, we agreed, if there's a group that perfected the short lived late-90's twee-pop sound, it was Mates of State.
This album proves the theory, even though I consider it on the bottom rung of the groups total output, it's still charming and worth a few spins. At the time, Mates of State was touring heavily with the likes of locals, the Anniversary. The album was constructed on the road to follow up their debut, My Solo Project. The nervous energy of a debut record is gone and the you can tell the two were trying to concentrate on being less abrasive with their chaotic bursts. That said, there's still plenty of highlights. And, their exploration into straight pop is pleasant. They'd perfect their blend of chaotic twee-pop and guitar-less radio pop on later albums, but this is a good in between.
Monday, January 12, 2015
I don't do year end of lists. First, because I'm sure there's something I'd miss and second, because I can't afford enough new records to make an accurate judgement to begin with. Regardless, this is one of my favorites out of the few things I did pick up from this year. It's Shiner-esque power, ultra-mathy beats, and focused sound is spot-on throughout this LP. When you think it gets a bit too Radiohead-y and pretentious, the band just crashes down on drums and guitar, when you think it's going to get to 90's for you, they drop in enough electronics to keep it interesting.
Unfortunately, I think this album is going relatively unnoticed. Sure, the band appears to have the zine-famous thing down. The reviews are decent and there's always a mention of Allen Epley's Shiner work. But, I don't think it's going to be given the chance to set the world ablaze.
Truthfully, this band is now too old to be cool. Seriously, Shiner was like 20 years ago. It's like the Police in 1978 trying to fool everyone into thinking they were punk. The kids looked at them and said they were too good at their instruments to fit in. That's just as true with The Life and Times, they're too good to fit in. They're too proficient, they're too talented, and they got way too many cool tricks to be fitting in with the young, indie-rock crowd. The kids can't keep up with this, it's got dad skills (you know, the way your dad can beat you in 'HORSE' on a basketball court).
And that's probably just fine. Leave this for the Shiner fans and anybody with an open-mind. They're the ones that deserve it.
Ice Cream Eyes
Sunday, January 11, 2015
Generally, Big K Records was putting out regional country albums, but this doesn't quite fit the bill. It's basically an Elvis Presley impersonation album, there's even a tribute tune. That probably sounds worse than it actually is, but that's the best description for it.
Donnie Quinn was apparently a teenager obsessed with the King. Of course, with that comes a healthy dose of country influences, from rockabilly to the straight early Nashville sound, but it's all filtered through Elvis Presley. The album also features the work of Terry Swope on guitar, who apparently like Quinn, was also obsessed with Elvis as he pens some of the tunes.
Again, though, it's not a terrible thing, a bit strange, but not terrible. The ballads don't need to be here, they showcase Quinn with his snarled lip vocals, just trying to channel some Elvis magic. But, it's no better than what Andy Kaufman was doing as a joke. When the band gets going on their "comeback" style Elvis-tunes, it's pretty enjoyable. There's some horns here and there, Donnie channels the best of sweaty, soul-driven, black, leather-suit, Elvis. It's no From Elvis in Memphis, but it's highlights aren't bad, just no where near as fulfilling as the real thing.
Thursday, January 8, 2015
Full disclosure; I'm probably never going to grab this album again. This is going to be my first and only impression of this release.
I can't find much info on Alan White, based on the LP it appears his home base was Kansas City, KS. Other than that, you can find listings on-line from sellers, most people that have tried to sell this LP try to pass it off as jazz. Which is weird, it came out in 1987. People selling records should know that there are only like 5 80's Jazz albums that people are actively searching for. That said, it does have jazz influences, on the smooth, yacht-rock, side of jazz, but the influence is there.
So yeah, yacht rock or 80's blue-eyed soul is where this lands. Lots of programmed beats and synth, but still a lot of organic stuff, horns play a prominent role and sometimes the guitar takes center stage. Alan White sings with soul, he lands on Michael McDonald spectrum, in that, yeah, he's got some soul, but I can still tell he's white.
Overall, I'm not a fan of this type of thing, but despite not having an expert opinion, I believe this is a well done LP. For a privately issued LP, it's insanely well-produced. The LP was produced by Alan White himself so it's surprising I can't find a list of other work he was involved in. This should all sound terribly corny, cheap and plastic. But, kid you not, if someone played this for me and said, "This was huge in the 80's." I'd believe them. Alan White's songs are par for course, the lyrics aren't hokey, the players are capable, the songs are well put together and thought out, and again, the production is well done. It's a little simple, but hey, that was the scene. If slick, privately produced, jazz-influenced pop-albums from the 80's ever become a collector thing, I'd say this might record might get noticed.
Saturday, January 3, 2015
The reviews on this are pretty dismissal. For the most part, they are also accurate. The album represents Kansas' transition from goofy American prog rock band to the American pomp rock band they played out in the 80's.
The band had become great players by this point, they just ran out of ideas. This evident on "How My Soul Cries Out For You," but it's so goofy, I don't think anyone is revisiting the track after a single listen. Moments border on catching onto songs like "Point of Know Return", but they fall short because they aim for radio play rather than the band's original material.
It's also got some sort of theme to it. Super-powered, futuristic Native Americans that are trying to keep the world afloat. I don't know, makes for cool album artwork, which is the best thing you can say about this album.
Also, if you can make it the second side, "Away From You", is pleasant for pomp-rock, but, yeah, not sure if it's worth it.
How My Soul Cries Out For You
Thursday, January 1, 2015
Pedaljets Self Titled The Communion Label 1989 COMM13
There's a hype sticker on the back of this copy that states the following; "2nd recording from K.C.'s greatest quartet. D'ya like Zen Arcade? Raymond Carver stories? Lots of guitars? Then, come on down to Stipple County!" High praise indeed, but you'd expect it from the band's label.
To address everything there, though... Greatest quartet? Well, again, label hype. The Zen Arcade comparison is warranted. The Pedaljets sound like the rural in between to Husker Du and Replacements. Like Zen Arcade, this album is trying to tell a story. Thus, the Raymond Carver hype. The Pedaljets aren't Carver-good at telling stories, they aren't even as good as Husker Du, but A for effort. They fall shy of Westerberg on a lyrical front. The group is more about being a rock band than poets, anyway. The "lots of guitars" is also warranted. The band picked up an additional guitarist, which let them spread their sound out a bit more. This is much more ambitious than the previous album, Today Today. Initially, it sounds weaker than Today Today, but repeated listens prove this LP is the band's best work.
So, despite the shortfalls of the hype sticker, what the Pedaljets do well is make a great sounding album. This isn't awash in late-80's style. In fact, you'd think with the multiple guitars you're hearing something from the 90's. And, yes, the band is very similar to the Replacements and Husker Du, but this isn't a poor man's version. Musically, they're on the same level. Repeated listens are all you need. Just keep listening to this, it's better every time.
Also of note, the original artwork was done by Archer Prewitt who was a Coctail at the time, but went onto to form the Sea & Cake with Sam Prekop. This copy is also pressed on virgin vinyl, which may not have been standard for all copies, but the sound benefits greatly because of it. The Pedaljets would reissue a CD of the album with new artwork and mastering...it wasn't needed, it's great as is.