Saturday, January 30, 2016
I try to listen to this impartially, but I can't. This was a band formed by Jon Harrison of Lawrence, KS, who I came to know shopping at Love Garden records. He's this insanely tall guy and insanely nice. He sold me some of my favorite records based on his tastes. Let's Active, 3 O' Clock, The Nerves, I could go on and on with all the power pop this guy threw at me, his taste is impeccable.
Listening to his early EP, it's so Jon Harrison. It's power-pop, REM jangle, and a bit of punk. It's like talking with records with the guy.
It was obviously issued by the band as something to peddle as they were playing shows in and around Lawrence, KS. They pressed up a double 7" release, which is odd. Could have done two 7" releases, or combined it all into a 10" or 12" EP, but the uniqueness of a double 7" EP is kind of fun, there's 5 songs in all.
The songs are all strong and it's a shame no one is seeking this out. Maybe it's a bit too pleasant, had the band created a tougher sound collectors might take more notice. But, there's a ton of heartbreak, jangly guitars and good harmonies, it's everything you'd want from 80's indie, maybe a bit late in the game by 1989, but that's relative, and a solid collection of tunes. Further, the title, Songs About Girls, is probably the most accurate title ever as it applies to approximately 50% of all music ever released.
If you just got the first song, "Savior", out of this EP, it'd be money well spent. Listening to it now, it recalls the best aspects of grunge, but is an absolute bruiser. A sludgefest, so much so you think you're spinning at the wrong speed.
This EP was released in 1995 on Craig Comstock's own HC label. It's a solid collection of tracks, and speeds up a bit by the third track, "Lemon," which stands as another highlight filled with noise rock reminiscent of the Jesus Lizard with a bit more melody, but insane out of control guitars.
All around, it's just a great EP, just bruising and relentless. You have to be in a certain mood to really enjoy it, but if you're angry or want to punch things, this can fit the bill nicely.
Friday, January 29, 2016
Namelessnumberheadman were Okie's that relocated to KC, because, you know, Oklahoma. The band's debut came out on Kansas City's no defunct Urinine label in 2002. Due to Urinine's relative obscurity, there debut is usually cited as 2003's Your Voice Repeating, released on Kansas City's the Record Machine as a CD only release. Your Voice Repeating was meet with rave reviews due to the post-modern mess of sounds, big Flaming Lips-esque drums, acoustic guitars and a constant barrage of electronic sounds.
However, by the time of this release in 2007, the band's sound was no longer as original as it was in 2003. A swarm of Postal Service type bands were employing playful electronics throughout their releases. Despite other bands catching up to Namelessnumberheadman, it doesn't change the fact that this is a great LP.
The songs have these huge drums, they're brought out front surrounded by all these bedroom electronic sounds and the small voices the band sings in. It doesn't rock or anything, but the drums give the tracks a lot of soul. The band experiments more than others that were exploring the same sound, so repeated listens are necessary. These are complicated pop tracks with a lot of layers. Also rad, the vinyl edition of the release has a hand painted cover, which has been done before, but that type of thing never gets old.
Sunday, January 24, 2016
Shana Lynette was a child performer around Pittsburgh, Kansas. Apparently, she gained some sort of notoriety or regional attention with a Christmas song entitled, "Mister Russian, Please Don't Shoot Down Santa's Sleigh," which in turn convinced people to record a full length LP.
Reviewing the credits, the album was put together by producer Gene Strasser and songwriter Jim Iori. Can't find much on Jim Iori, but Strasser is still out in Pittsburgh, KS recording and pushing his tunes around. Back cover indicates Shana was growing up in Elk City, KS, and 9 years old when she recorded the Christmas tune, 10 years old when she sang the songs here. Mostly, she was the vessel for Iori and Strasser. Interesting though, the back cover indicates she is a distant relative of the legendary Bob Willis. Today, she also can be found on the internet still singing country tunes.
As far as quality, well, it's privately issued country music sung by a 10 year old. For a 10 year old, I guess it's okay. For a country production team in Pittsburgh, Kansas, I guess it's alright. But, being just okay or alright doesn't get you very far, especially if you're trying to get there from Nowhere, Kansas. Had they attempted something novelty like the Red, White and Blue of their Christmas song, maybe there would be something here to remember, even if it was just a bad joke, but there's not.
Despite the middle of the road-ness found on the album, it makes up for it with all it's Kansas. Shana's got the cowgirl-Western apparel. The label is Yellow Brick Records, a homage to The Wizard of Oz. The cover even has a tornado in the background.
Angel in the Snow
Danny Cox was a KC transplant, brought to the city after teaming up with Good Karma management in KC. His early work is primarily as a folk artist with a soulful voice and a steady acoustic guitar. This LP found him on the Casablanca label, known for their over the top production of both rock and disco artists.
For what could have turned into an absolute disaster, Cox turned in a decent album of some original tunes. Reviewing his past releases, you can sense that his label tipped the tracks into the soul/disco realm, but Cox isn't completely drowned out. There is still a sense of his roots throughout the album and some of the funk elements add to the LP.
It has become is best known LP as it had some promotion behind it and fit in well with it's times. It's a dance album and has a lot of groove. It wasn't enough of a success to continue on the Casablanca label, but it was a worthy attempt at finding a larger audience.
Hot Down In Chile
Friday, January 15, 2016
Beyonce ain't got nothing on Kansas City, we had the original Queen Bey. Nice, right?
Queen Bey was a Kansas City blues and jazz singer active in a Kansas City scene that was popping out local LPs and compilations throughout the 80s. She's now in Los Angeles apparently or was, either way, it appears she still performing. This specific recording was recorded in Los Angeles and credited to Beystring Productions in Overland Park, KS. It can be assumed that Beystring was the Queen's own private label.
During her time in KC, she is reported to have started singing at an early age in the 1950's. Her bio indicates she started to become a significant member of the local jazz and blues scene in the 80's and is officially recognized as an Ambassador of Jazz for Kansas City. In addition to her singing career, she's also been featured as an actor in television, screen and on Broadway. So, a pretty substantial career.
This 5 song EP is a throwback sound, the backside notes it was recorded live with no mixing, editing or overdubs on a two tracks, so no plastic, canned garbage to be found here. It was recorded digitally, which was still fairly new in the 80s, so the sound is very sharp and loud, maybe too much, but that's a minor issue. It's an enjoyable set of songs with a throwback style. It certainly doesn't sound as if its a product of the 80's. However, someone could mistake for a 70's lounge act very easily if they weren't paying much attention. However, the arrangements done by Joe Cartwright and Greg Eicher (both Kansas City area guys) sound authentic to a time when jazz was king. Overall, it's a solid set of tunes.
Queen Bey Live, 2011 in KC
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
This is a relgious folk album from a female folk duo that appear to be out of Leavenworth, Kansas. At least the LP thanks the student and faculty at Saint Mary College in Leavenworth, KS. The duo recorded the LP in Chapman Studios in Kansas City.
Initially when I saw it, I had my hopes for femme-folk, but reviewing the songs, it's far too religious for that, this is Jesus music on the Catholic spectrum with harmonies influenced by services in the Church. Outside of the religious tracks, they do some traditional folk songs and a few originals. It's well done and Marguerite and Cindy's voices work together well. However, it's no long lost treasure, just pleasant for what it is.
What drew me in was the artwork on the front cover. There is the hands drawn all over hand written font. Looking at the words, it's just a random collection of names, thank yous, phrases, and more names. I can't seem to make sense of where the message starts if there is one, The names all over the place from Darth Vader to Bob Dylan, so it's interesting. Once I looked at the backside to review the tracks, I wasn't as interested. Bit too religious for $3 the store was asking. I almost put it back until I happened to peak in the sleeve to find two signed cards.
Initially I thought they were two hand-written cards one from each performer, turns out it's one hand-written card and a photo-copy of the same card. The card reads:
I think God made a really beautiful person in you. Thanks for the the gift of yourself! Have a very Merry Christmas and I hipe you enjoy this amateur endeavor my friend Cindy and I put together.
P.S. You're a great teacher!
So, despite not being that interested in the LP based on the tracks listed, I can't resist stuff like this. It's so personal. It feels like it should never be discarded or forgotten about. I feel like I need to keep it safe until someone comes calling for it.
I researched Don Raymond, what I came across is a blurb in the Leavenworth newspaper that he may have been a music instructor at Saint Mary College. He obviously helped influence the sounds here so I'll keep this LP safe, just in case his family ever needs to know his legacy. Also, there's an instrumental on on the second side that's pretty good.
Monday, January 11, 2016
Further proof that Pat Metheny's skills are not to be scoffed at. He collaborated with one of the most admired pop-stars of all time, David Bowie. Metheny did soundtrack work for the 1985 John Schlesinger film, The Falcon and the Snowman. I don't have the album, yet, but I do have this single featuring David Bowie on vocals.
The song is cool, it's got Bowie's signature vocals and Metheny noodling around on guitars and synths. When I finally got around to this release, I had grandiose plans to discuss how cool Kansas City can be. Here's this jazz guitarist from Lee's Summit with enough clout to get the most stylish rock star of a generation (lifetime) to work with him. Then Bowie died, and now I just want to talk about how much I love David Bowie.
I've always been really attached to music, it's something that always brought a smile to my face, it's always helped me through tough times and helped make the good times better. My earliest memories are of me sitting in the back seat of the family station wagon and notifying my parents whenever a Beatles track came on the radio. I was proud of being right, at least they always told me I was. As I got older, the love for music just became stronger, I started to notice that sometimes (often) my enthusiasm for it wasn't the same as everyone else's. To this day, my closest friends are those who share the same enthusiasm for music.
Somewhere around 3rd or 4th Grade, I think my mom started to realize I was seeking out things that were different. Challenging myself to seek out music that wasn't on the radio, the deep cuts. I started digging through my parent's LP collection trying to find something new for me to get into. My mom pulled out a beat up copy (all my parents' albums were beat up) of David Bowie's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and pointed out the backside liner note which stated, "TO BE PLAYED AT MAXIMUM VOLUME."
So I did. That album opened me up. Before it, the strangest tracks I was digging on were "I Am the Walrus" by the Beatles or Doors albums. Here's this album that tells a story about an interstellar rock star, an androgynous one, and the music isn't backwards, but it's from another planet when compared to the Appetite For Destruction cassette I was fond of. It opened things up for me. I had to seek out more albums like this. I bought Rykodisc reissues of Bowie's catalog. Then it was finding more of the glam rock Bowie championed in the 70's. And that sent me down the path I'm at today....this rabbit hole of continually seeking out another album, seeking out another genre or style. That's how Bowie opened me up, I mean the guy touched almost every genre throughout his catalog, how could it not.
For a long time, there was a full-fledged Bowie obsession. While it's cooled down since high school and college, I'm still very much a fan of his music. In college, I wrote a paper about Bowie's androgynous Ziggy character and how, in a way, it made gay cool. Of course, I embellished the point for the purpose of my paper (the professor pointed this out, not me), but what is important about the story is that it made gay acceptable for me. Obviously, in 4th grade, I wan't comprehending what Ziggy was about. Ziggy, to 4th grade me was asexual, which was odd, but I wasn't old enough to understand sexuality.
As a young adult reading about it, it became a bit more clear. Bowie's sexuality was up in the air, probably bisexual, but pretty clear, not a straight laced heterosexual. And, I want to be careful here, because I've never had it in me to hate, but as a heterosexual teenager, the idea of homosexuality is well, queer, for lack of a better term. Even my aunt is gay, I knew that before Bowie, but I just kind of choose to ignore it to avoid confusion. At that age, it's easier to question things that are different from you rather than accept them. And sometimes, you just don't bother to come to terms with it. But, here is this guy, this hero of mine, who was different than me, who was gay. I had to accept that. So, beyond the music, I credit Bowie for making me a better person.
Rest in peace David Bowie and thank you.
This Is Not America
Sunday, January 10, 2016
I used to have all these really great split 7"s back in the day. Loved them. It was such an economical way to get something from a band you liked and possibly get into a band you've never heard. Or, you'd get a couple songs from two of your favorite bands on the same 7". They were special, many times it'd be the only way to grab a certain song, or you'd get a preview of an album track prior the full length release (and it would often be an alternate version).
It's not the same anymore for the split 7" EP. With the vinyl resurgence, they still try to push these out in front of everyone, but too often a 7" isn't cheap. $7 to $10 for two songs you can download on Bandcamp for a $1 doesn't make a whole lot of sense. It made sense when you got something special for less than $5, but anymore, 7"s cost too much. Which is a shame, because more people would probably end up with good ones like this if they weren't such a cost prohibitive format.
Either way, this is a great 7" put out by the Record Machine, The Cowboy Indian Bear track, "Foolish" doesn't feature female vocals like many of their songs, but makes up for it with an opening that could be confused for something by the Sea & Cake. It's True is a band from Omaha, NE, their track fits right in with the whimsical Record Machine sound, but unfortunatly, it doesn't appear the band is active any longer and didn't put out much in the way of releases.
Marilyn Maye with The Tony DiPardo Orchesta The Chiefs are on a Warpath B/W We're Number One Chief 1970
Marilyn Maye with The Tony DiPardo Orchesta The Chiefs are on a Warpath B/W We're Number One Chief 1970 CAT# ZTSC 142955
CHIEFS! How about KC right now in terms of sports? Baseball locked up, soccer always good, and the Chiefs win their first playoff game since the days of Martyball with Joe Montana as the QB. Nice.
This is a Marilyn Maye novelty 7" recorded with the official Chiefs band, the Tony DiPrado Orchestra, to help celebrate their 1969 Super Bowl win over the Minnesota Viking. A completely Kansas City record through and through.
|If Marilyn Maye didn't sign your records, you weren't worth a shit|
The well known song, "The Chiefs are on a Warpath," isn't something that would be recorded today and probably shouldn't have been done in 1970, but people weren't as aware back then. I wouldn't call the record racist, but the use of Native American cliches is certainly insensitive by today's standards. Nevertheless, it's a pleasant novelty track about the Kansas City team that won it all. And, it's still pretty fun to listen to, especially after an 11 game winning streak.
The flip side is enjoyable, but generic, "We're Number One!". Obviously, it talks about the Chiefs being number one, it's also got the clever line, "We come from Kansas City and we haven't any pity, when we wreck they are permanently wrecked." If we win the Super Bowl, it's this song, all day.
Chiefs are on a Warpath
Thursday, January 7, 2016
There are numerous KC Jazz comps out there all of which are good, but this one does a tremendous job showcasing Kansas City as a pioneering city in music. The back liner notes do a much better job than me, but it takes all the artists featured here and connects the dots. From Buster Smith showing up from Texas, Basie from Ohio, and McShann coming from Oklahoma, they all met and played together in Kansas City. They also crossed paths with Charlie Parker. And just as soon as they hit upon a Kansas City sound, they took it nationwide.
What you have hear is the Atlantic Records story of Kansas City. The swing that would transform jazz. The same artists who featured a young Charlie Parker before he revolutionized the genre. And the jump blues performed by Big Joe Turner that would eventually lead others to rock n' roll and be heard in soul records. It's not the complete story, but the selections here are all amazing and tell some of the best parts to it.
Jay McShann Jumpin' At the Woodside
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
Came across this local gospel release with a grip of really great non-local gospel titles. Most of the other titles were in the 70's soul and funk era of gospel, so this was promising. The year on this release isn't listed, but the back liners indicate Rev. Steve Ray took the pastor position at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in 1979, so it can be assumed this album followed shortly after, likely in the early 80's.
The Shiloh Missionary Baptist church still exists, in Shawnee, KS, but at the time of this release it was located at 2213 North Third Street in Kansas City, Kansas. The church website mentions Steve Ray and advises he served as the pastor until his death in 1988, it also mentions this LP. However, little else is out there on the pastor as far as any sort of musical upbringing or musical forays before or after the release of this album.
The first side starts with a sermon with a lot of "HUH!s" and "CAN YOU HEAR ME!s" No real fire and brimstone, but entertaining and uplifting...he's go into a Kentucky Fried Chicken and soda bit, which is pretty interesting, because I think the point is G-d is better than KFC and soda, or something. The sermon leads into the second track on which is the sermon continued, only with music creeping in, Lots of dirty bass and guitar lines finding their way into all the "HUH!s", but still a sermon. Then, for a minute at the very end of Side 1, the sermon bleeds into a controlled church recording "This Little Light of Mine," which is super funky, sleazy, and just sliding all over the place, but it's only there for a minute.
The second side is all music. The first track is decent, it's got a wobbly horn line that runs on the chorus and the drumming is superb along with some splashes of guitar, it just could have been more bombastic. Rev. Steve Ray sings on about half the tracks, he tends to the limit the songs. The remainder of the second side delivers on the promise of "This Little Light of Mine,"sometimes only in moments of songs, but the LP gets there. Adding a horn section to the band makes this better than most obscure gospel records you could run across. The drummer is fantastic and could provide a beat jockey hours of fun with samples. The guitarists (there are several) can come across inventive and loose. Most the players sound as if they could done it professionally and may have, although Discogs doesn't return much on their names. The Shiloh Young Adult Choir is solid, the singers that take lead are female and a better option than the Reverend. The recording quality is decent, it's obviously a bit homespun, but reviewing the backside it appears the Church did entrust a local producer, but appears he recorded the tracks live in the church and had limited means to get things perfect.
Overall, this will likely cost a dollar at a thrift store or possibly even an actual record store. If so, it's worth it. Never sleep on the local gospel records.
Tuesday, January 5, 2016
Oleta Adams was not a native to Kansas City as she spent her youth in/near Yakima, Washington. In the 1970's, she took her vocals to Los Angeles where she was reportedly met with failure. Per the advice of her signing coach, she moved to Kansas City in the 1980's and started to perform locally. Sounds like a shit idea, but amazingly, it worked.
While in KC, she self-financed two full length albums (one of which may be demo only), this being the one readily available. The LP was met with some local success, but did little to advance her career as a singer reaching outside of Kansas City. Going on Record is a well-done live LP recorded at the Music Hall in 1983. All but one of the tracks were written by Oleta and are fairly strong mid-80s soul. It'd fall into the modern soul and boogie scene, but the live recording keeps it from being anything someone would spin as a DJ. People want studio jams on the dance floor. Still, despite no slick studio production, the LP is an enjoyable listen showcasing a talented singer, pianist and songwriter.
The crazy part of Oleta's story is her eventual discovery and success. In 1985 she was discovered by Tears For Fears while performing as a singer and pianist in a hotel bar. Two years after seeing and meeting her, Tears For Fears invited her to perform on their album, The Seeds of Love. The song "Women in Chains" by Tears For Fears featured her in a duet (and Phil Collins on drums). It was a hit. She toured with Tears For Fears in 1990 as the opening act and a member of their stage group.
The success with Tears For Fears led her to a contract with Fontana. She had a fair amount of success as a solo artist throughout the early 90s. Becoming very successful in England and breaking into the U.S. with a Grammy nominated cover of Brenda Russell's "Get Here", which was a top 5 single in the early 90s. Of note, many of the songs featured here on Going on Record were later re-recorded for her major label albums.
Oleta Live with Tears For Fears
Sunday, January 3, 2016
From what can be gathered, Chuck Cowan was a native Kansan, who toured and tried his luck out West as a musician. He is a member of the rockabilly hall of fame, likely for his work with Bob Willis and the Texas Playboys, but he stretched out much further than that. He played guitar for a number of well known artists, Sammy Davis Jr., Keely Smith, Don Ho, among others.
Currently, he resides near the KC Metro. At the time of this oddball release, which the year is unknown, but would guess early 80's, possibly the late-70s, he was in and around Emporia, KS. He's got a pretty sharp sense of humor displayed on the LP jacket. For one, no label for his private press release other than stating Generic Phonograph Records of Oceanview, KS. Obviously, there is no Oceanview, KS, because there's no Ocean anywhere to view. He provides a guarantee that, "This album Is Not a Retread." And, obviously the title, not really clever, but humorous.
The music is all over the place with Chuck Cowan's humor sprinkled throughout. It's focus is primarily country/western sounds, but there's a genuine pysch-blues track and songs too rooted in folk to be country. Heck, there's even a song sung in Spanish. The variety on the LP makes it an interesting and worthwhile listen. Cowan either challenged himself not to be stuck in a single genre or just got bored with the last song he recorded. Either way, it highlights his talents and the LP never gets old after repeated listens.
Chuck Cowan Show