Sunday, June 26, 2016

Alice Weiss By Popular Demand Edelweiss Productions 1986

Alice Weiss By Popular Demand Edelweiss Productions 1986 CAT# CR-1086

Alice Weiss is a multi-faceted soprano, at least that's what the cover reads. As far as being a good one, I have no clue, it sounds operatic, so that's something. I assumed if she was great, this wouldn't be on a private label run by her dad or some other family member. The label name, Edelweiss and the back page lists Robert Weiss as the President of Edelweiss productions.

The backside does indicate she did gigs in Europe and throughout the States. There's a big deal made about a New York City performance and quotes from her NYC teacher. But, again, if she was really great opera singer, I think she'd be recording somewhere other than Chapman Studios in Kansas City.

The backside also indicates Alice Weiss grew up in Missouri and attended the University of Kansas before traveling elsewhere to focus on her craft. She has connections to the Lyric theater, but there's nothing out there anymore on Alice Weiss. I'd like to think she's still involved in the KC opera scene or someone's opera scene, but the name Alice Weiss doesn't get many returns. Maybe she got married.

Either way, I don't know, this sounds okay, but opera isn't my hobby.

Casket Lottery Survival is for Cowards Second Nature 2002

Casket Lottery Survival is for Cowards Second Nature 2002 CAT# SN031

Fantastic Casket Lottery LP, but, they're all great. So much aggression, screaming vocals, screaming guitars, and huge drums. It's strange how At The Drive-In became so popular while Casket Lottery had the same feel and in comparison, stayed only Zine-Famous.

This was the band's third album and until Real Fear showed up 10 years later, was thought to be their last. Had it remained their final LP, it would have been a good way to go. Classic emo, teenage angst turning into adult anger and frustration. One of the final golden era of emo albums, before it turned into a scene about trendy jeans, combed hair and suburban malls.

Survival Is For Cowards

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Fullbloods Mild West High/Dive Records 2015

Fullbloods Mild West High/Dive Records 2015 CAT# HDR013

Millennial Dad Rock is my new favorite genre. Seriously, these Kansas City dudes are slick and weren't afraid to use the studio as an instrument. Which is nice to see in indie-rock, it's okay to layer up sounds and seek that clean Fleetwood Mac perfection, although, people got Pro Tools now, Fleetwood Mac just had tape and lots of cocaine to get things perfect. But, yeah, these kids in the Fullbloods evoke groups like Steely Dan and Fleetwood Mac, albeit, the lite version, but the clean sound is there.

And they don't go full yacht rock, the Fullbloods would rather flirt with all the smoothness, they still have their indie-rock moments. But man, the track "Anima Mundi" is so Steely Dan-ish, it's hard to think of anything else when you play this LP.

The whole album, even at Steely Dan-lite status, is great. Chill vibe, not as jazz heavy as the Dan, but the light blues rock guitar riffs and vocal gymnastics are what draw you in.

Anima Mundi

Pat Metheny Group First Circle ECM/Warner Brothers 1984

Pat Metheny Group First Circle ECM/Warner Brothers 1984 CAT# ECM1278

As easy as it is to get lost or bored of a Pat Metheny's Jazz Fusion (it's just an acquired taste), this album's opener, "Forward March," kind of gets you excited. It's an out of tune, abstract, march song that still sounds familiar. It gives you hope this album will give you more than the slick production and jazz fusion forays into rock and world music.

After that, it's like all most the other Metheny albums. Well done jazz fusion. Very intricate and impressive musically without being a challenging listen.

First March

Count Basie and His Orchestra Broadway Basie's...Way ABC/Command 1966

Count Basie and His Orchestra Broadway Basie's...Way ABC/Command 1972 CAT# RS905 SD

This is MOR Count Basie. He trudges through 12 show tune standards, thus the title, "Broadway Basie's...Way."

It's unimaginative, but that's not to say it's un-listenable. It'd be pleasant as background music if you don't have to pay attention to it. Of note, it was put out by ABC's Command label which was an early audiophile label founded by Enoch Light, who later to left to do Project 3 recordings. The label employed high tech recording techniques and material for the time which was aimed at getting the best recorded sound possible. So, in that regard, it's some high-quality background music that will sound crisp and clear pumping through a hi-fi system.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Comstock Records Various Artists 10th Anniversary Album 1988

Comstock Records Various Artists 10th Anniversary Album 1988 CAT# COM-986

If you dig through 45s in the KC area, you're almost guaranteed to come across one from Comstock Records listing a Shawnee address on the label. It would appear to be a regional country label focused on local talent. However, it's not. Comstock was and still is a small independent country label focusing on national talent.

The label's founders, Frank Fara and Patty Parker, are both from out west, Arizona and Neveda. Neither seem to have any ties to the Kansas City area, yet, for some time they put their Comstock Records home in Shawnee, KS. Other than having a central location, it's not really clear why they picked Kansas (now the label calls it's home Arizona).

They did scout and sign talent in the area. This 10th Anniversary compilation features three Kansas City area artists, Debbie Martin, Alla Dee Franklin, and the O'Roark Brothers. But, outside of a few locals and an address, Comstock releases are from artists all over. In fact, the label's biggest successes seemed to be finding Canadian country artists and getting them charted up North.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Rajah That's What's Com'n Rajah Records 1990

Rajah That's What's Com'n Rajah Records 1990 NO CAT#

First look at this and you see the crudely drawn KC skyline so you know it's local, then it just becomes figuring out what it is. Given Rajah's front cover photo, I initially though modern soul, here's a lady trying to show off her pipes. But, review of the backside, she's wearing a hair-net and indicates that her EP features the Strickly Deaf Posse. Turn back over to the front-side and now it seems she may be trying to evoke the B-Girl style with that hat, so it might be hip-hop.

Either way, it's got the possibility of being really bad or really good. Taking out the record you'll see it's from 1990, which is late-era vinyl and a time when modern soul was basically done, it's got to be hip-hop still stuck in the 80's. Review of the backside you'll see that Rajah states, "This album is dedicated to My Heavenly Father for whom my life will reflect his greatness." Now it could be really bad religious hip-hop or stuck in a time loop modern soul and religious. It's also obvious that Rajah failed horribly if she intended this to be an album, it's 2 songs with an instrumental version added of the title track. Without actually listening to it, things are stating to sound horrible.

That's a hair net, right?
Listening to it, it's not religious, it's a hip-hop/soul hybrid sound that was trying to gain a foothold in the late-80s and early 90's. The title track is actually titled, "Good Lov'n That's What's Com'n", which apparently couldn't fit on the front cover finds Rajah switching between rapping and singing throughout. She's speaking to her targeted man talking about how she'll be the best woman for him. Yet to be mentioned is that her name, Rajah, is almost hidden on the front and the back. To get the artist name, you have to rely on the production and producer credits as the scribble signature on the front and the label are hard to decipher. As a lame trademark, Rajah, samples a terribly obvious Middle-Eastern chord progression, the same you hear in any movie soundtrack that has a Middle Eastern scene, whether that be Disney's Aladdin or Raiders of the Lost Ark, it's that hokey snake charmer theme.

The second side features an unneeded instrumental of "Good Lov'n That's What's Com'n", although it features the rap verses. The second track, "We Don't Know How It Happend", is lover's lament sappiness. The title is kind of clever though with the misspelling of Happened being Happend. But, the track is pretty much garbage, slow moving plastic beats with Rajah crying over a break-up.

Bloodbirds Psych Surgery Private 2013

Bloodbirds Psych Surgery Private 2013 CAT# BB001

I'm not hip and if I was, I'd probably have seen this band a dozen times and have a lot more to say. Instead, I have my lame-ass story of finally tracking down a copy of this LP.

Years ago I was at Zebedees (before it moved and became something else), I asked the owner if he was into anything local and he grabbed his last copy of this Bloodbirds' release and said, "These guys played the KC Psych Fest and blew everyone away." It did look cool, but the S/T Berwanger LP was sitting there as well and I weighed my options and thought Berwanger's release is going to disappear before this small KC psych band is.

Man, was I wrong. That was literally the only time I saw a copy of it. I did search for it, I was interested seeing if the gloating reviews from Zebedees were true. I just never saw it around town. The band did a limited run of the LPs, something to the number of 500 and I guess everyone is hanging onto theirs. Eventually, the LP showed up on Discogs from a guy in North Carolina and I grabbed it, just glad the band's popularity is still within KC because it was reasonably priced.

It's a solid LP. Psych rock isn't a bad term, garage rock would fit as well. They obviously have classic rock influences, but don't have the classic rock studios their heroes had. The Bloodbirds are three piece and to fill out their sound, guitarist Mike Tuley layers guitars throughout the recordings. It's a lot of guitar. His classic rock hooks and indie-rock production make it feel like an early Dinosaur Jr. LP. It's a solid LP and I can get why it's nowhere to be found currently.

Psychic Surgery

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Stan Kenton The Ballad Style of Stan Kenton Capitol 1958

Stan Kenton The Ballad Style of Stan Kenton Capitol 1958 CAT# T1068

This album is a nice set of slow-moving, romantic ballads Kenton arranged. It's nice and all, but I find it hard to believe anyone cares about this album anymore. Unless you're playing it a swanky dinner party, someone MIGHT say, "This music is nice," and that'd be your extent of anyone caring about Kenton, anymore.

Truth is, I only bought it because Kenton is a Wichita, KS, native and the price. Check that out, 49 cents and buy one get one free. I got it for a quarter. For a quarter, I'm cool with having some square Wichita jazzman's LP that only listen for the sole purpose of this blog, then shelve it and never pull it out again.

The Night We Called It a Day

Pat Metheny & Lyle Mays As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls ECM 1981

Pat Metheny & Lyle Mays As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls ECM 1981 CAT# ECM 1-1190

Lee's Summit native Pat Metheny made a lot of albums, with a lot of different people. This one is supposed to be pretty good. Listening to it, it sounds dreamy, there's elements of prog-rock mixed in, but I'd rather talk about something else.

My dad gave me this album. Not because he's a Metheny fan or anything, just because he hordes records and came across this one. Years ago, my dad was decorating his garage with vintage things. Just random stuff he'd come across on Craigslist. For Father's Day or his birthday (can't remember which) I gave him a stack of LPs and an old Fisher Studio Standard turntable I had lying around, just to fit the vintage motif in his garage and because I didn't want to go anywhere I try to buy a present.

My father grew up in a time when vinyl was king. I remember growing up with my parents playing albums pulled from there Peaches wood crate that set next to a Sony stereo system. However, as my parents got older and moved from place to place, the stereo stopped being a part of household and my dad started tuning into talk radio instead of the local classic rock station. Point is, giving him a record player and some albums wasn't introducing him to anything new. Rather, it was giving him back something from his past.

I didn't really think giving him a turntable would be any sort of problem. I just thought he'd play the old albums he still had, maybe buy a few that he lost along the years, but mostly, I thought the turntable would just be a conversation starter in his garage/man-cave. What happened is that my dad went full tilt on records. He moved his man-cave to the basement and it became nothing but records and turntables. Every time I came over, more records would be there, another receiver or another turntable. He started trying make it a lifestyle, buying tee shirts related to vinyl and turntables. Texting me about finds and "digs". He got to know other area collectors by going to Estate sales and stores.

At first, I didn't mind, I'd thumb through his new stuff, he'd grab local stuff for me when he saw it. But anymore, it's a bit too much, I can't keep up. There's also the annoyance of him thinking it's "cool." Similar to a millennial bragging about a bullshit Ryan Adams LP sounding great on a Crosley turntable, he began to think of the hobby as cool, something unique to him. Vinyl isn't inherently cool. And, collecting vinyl is anything but cool. It's a nerdy hobby. It used to be filled with weird old guys it sweatpants that loved to talk about Elvis Presley, which is anything but cool. Sure, there's a revival. However, despite the revival, it doesn't make an obsessive vinyl collector with a Rush t-shirt anymore attractive or cool.

Regardless of hipness, one thing that is true for most new collectors is that he or she gets a bit value-obsessed. The question, "What's it worth?", becomes a huge part of the vocabulary. This was most certainly true of my dad, although, I think he's slowed down on that aspect. This record came to me at his height of what's-it-worth-syndrome. At his job, he has access to some sort of cellophane wrapper and he was using it to re-seal old LPs. When I first asked, he described it as an easy way to preserve albums. To which I'd reply, shrink wrap isn't a good way to store records, it's a only a good way to warp them as the shrink does what the name implies, it shrinks over time and puts pressure on the record eventually warping it if you don't break the seal. However, it became apparent that it wasn't really about preserving them, it was an attempt to elevate the value.

The first time he showed me this record, he bragged about it's sealed condition. And if that were correct, yeah, it's true, mint condition Pat Metheny albums do hold some value to nerdy audiophiles. However, when I looked at it, it was painfully obvious it wasn't an original seal. The wrap it was thin and not typical. But, the dead giveaway was the water-stains along the spine. I didn't have the heart to call him out, just said, "Yeah, that's cool."

He probably tried to trade this off and couldn't and that's probably good because I don't see a bunch of re-sealed LPs at his house anymore. It's a shady practice and most people see through it. Eventually, he gave this LP to me, still re-sealed. I opened it up, thinking maybe it is legit, but no. It's got scuffs, it's got signs of usage, it's not mint. It still plays nice and all, I'm just saying, the weird re-sealing thing could have really pissed someone off if he sold it on eBay. And, it's weird, right?

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Kevin Morby Singing Saw Dead Oceans 2016

Kevin Morby Singing Saw Dead Oceans 2016 CAT #DOC111

Kevin Morby is this kid from Kansas who's creating his own Dylan mythology. Yeah, big words, but that's what he's done up to this point. Apparently, with very few people taking notice he grew up in Overland Park, KS and dropped out of Blue Valley Northwest High School. He obtained his GED and left for New York.

In New York worked in restaurants and being a bike courier. He helped create the experimental folk group, the Woods, as the bassist. He also created his own side project with Cassie Ramone of the Vivian Girls called the Babies, putting out two albums. By 2013, he began his career as a solo artist releasing Harlem River. He's since moved to Los Angeles.

Singing Saw is his most recent and third release. Between it and Harlem River was the album Still Life released in 2014. His first two albums are satisfying experimental folk and brought him critical attention, but both are a bit wobbly, close, but not quite realized. Singing Saw nails things down.

Morby's voice draws a lot Dylan comparisons, he mumbles and groans over his melodies. However, he's not a complete folkie, he likes to try a lot of everything. Best comparison to an area artist would be Gene Clark. Morby's music is a melting pot of American music, with heavy nods to Dylan, but stepping so far out into space that it's best called American Cosmic. Singing Saw is filled with amazing moments and no tracks you'd want to skip. It's surprising this kid has anything to do with Overland Park.

Dorothy (Video)