You really think that I’m gonna post something about basketball? Well if that’s what you think, then you really don’t know me very well. March Madness to me is about some of the records I’ve played and stumbled across this past month. Some old and some new, a random selection of sixteen cool records I listened to a lot, getting me down to my own final four.
But for those of you who need your basketball fix, I’ve included dialogue from a scene in Woody Allen‘s Annie Hall where basketball is a key element. It’s way down after my music choices.
Photographer Michele Clement just bought a farm. Yeah a 5 acre property with a barn and everything. Even Alpacas running around. Well the previous owners left three old crates of LPs in the barn and guess who took them off her hands? Most of the titles were from the 1970’s, about 150 records, many with mildewed, smelly cardboard covers. Some worn and tattered, most scratched and abused with mouse chewed corners. But there were a few salvaged titles that weren’t beat to hell. Gratitude, a double live Earth Wind & Fire album was one I hadn’t heard in years, probably since my record stores days. I never owned a copy. But it was pretty clean sounding as those 70’s Columbia pressings were pressed to last. Loud, funky and crowd pleasing. A great party album!
Jason Molina who passed away last year, was a singer-songwriter who released a series of records under the name Songs: Ohia. They had been an ongoing entity, with a rotating line up of musicians that began in 1996. This album titled The Magnolia Electric Company, which was originally released in 2013, was the final release under the Songs: Ohia moniker. It’s a rootsy, folksy, alt-country affair.
Everyone seems to love the Who’s Quadrophenia. A rambling schizophrenic album in more ways than one. I pull it out every once in awhile in the hopes that I will love it more than I do. I’m a big Who fan, especially their 60s Mod music like the Who Sell Out. I Can See For Miles is one of those perfect singles in my book. Tommy too is an all time fave, that for me does this rock opera thing so much better and concise than Quadrophenia does, but I still try and crank the volume up with each listen. Don’t get me wrong, there are some wonderful songs and great thunderous passages, but in the end, it’s a bloated package of songs that could have been edited down like their earlier Who’s Next album. But hey, it’s got a great cover!
Another record salvaged from the barn crates and a definite party record. Wild Cherry. Again an album I never picked up during it’s heyday as I was too much of a record store snob to enjoy poppy, funky music. Punk was on the horizon and this was one musical place I didn’t want to go to at the time. But hey, better late than never. Play That Funky Music White Boy. Thank you, I think I will.
Enoch light was a musician and producer who started a label in the late 1950s called Command Records. He released a series of what many considered to be the very first audiophile recordings, taking advantage of recording studio techniques that showcased high end home stereo record consoles that were getting popular at the time. Pursausive Percussion was the first of these released in 1959 and the left right channel panning became known as the ping-pong effect. I had several of these early records in my collection but just came across this volume in a used record store. Not musically as interesting as the first few from the series, but with a cover like this, how can you pass it up?
Another record I found in March in a used shop is Odetta at Carnegie Hall. One of the great singers of the new folk music revival of the 1950s and 60s, Odetta became known as the Voice of the Civil Rights Movement. The album sports a wonderful cover painting by artist and folk singer Eric Von Schmidt along an Appreciation of Odetta written by Harry Belafonte.
I was first introduced to poet, blues, jazz and soul man Gil Scott-Heron, through his recording, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised from the 1970s. A sort of Black Power Beat-Poet, Scott-Heron would later influence rappers and hip-hop artists a generation or two later. In fact he became known as the Godfather of Rap. Gil Scott-Herron disappeared off my radar for many years until I’m New Here was released in 2010. It’s a cool record and a very strong comeback. Unfortunately he passed away in 2011.
MGMT’s third Album; MGMT, is another psychedelic, vocal based rock n’pop record made up of catchy tunes and glossy recording studio manipulations. Although not as strong as their first two releases, the mix of electronica and 60s and 70s sensibilities make for another record that puts a smile on your face with each spin.
The Kinks are my second or third favorite band of all time. Although my favorite period of their career starts with 1966’s Face to Face and continues on through 1972’s Everybody’s In Show-Biz, there are bits and pieces afterwards that I also enjoy. Misfits is one of those records that has it’s highs and lows. But the title track Misfits along with A Rock & Roll Fantasy are two songs that truly extend their great record making history. Ray Davies is very cleaver songwriter and a musical genius in my book.
Frank Sinatra. That cover with that great hat and a Billy May collaboration. What’s not to like? And A promotional DJ copy to boot!
During the early punk years, I wasn’t initially into many hardcore punk bands like the Cramps, the Damned, Flipper and Black Flag although I enjoyed seeing the Dead Kennedys and other acts when they played the Mabuhay Gardens and San Francisco venues like the Deaf Club and Valencia Tool & Die. The Clash were also a favorite and the Sex Pistols, while interesting with their angry songs, felt almost like a novelty act at first. But then around 1980 I was exposed to the Los Angeles punk and new wave scene through bands like X who I saw live several times when they passed through San Francisco. Their first album produced by Ray Manzarek of the Doors (X even covers the Doors song Soul Kitchen), is a perfect sample of that revitalized energy that returned to rock an roll as a result of the punk rock movement.
So Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong gets together with Norah Jones to record an entire album of covers of the Everly Brothers’ Song’s Our Daddy Taught Us. Theirs is titled Foreverly and damn, they pull it off. The beautiful record of folksy-country harmonies does make you want to go listen to the superior original, but if this introduces the Everly Brothers to a new generation, then that alone makes it successful. The only sad part is that just a couple of months after the albums release, Phil Everly passed on. Foreverly is a really good record. But seek out the originals too.
The Final Four:
Sinatra at the Sands. A Man and his Music. I’ve had the CD reissue of this album (recorded in 1966) for a number of years, but just came across a pristine mono copy of the double LP. WOW! You really get that 60s live Vegas showroom vibe with this record, and listening to Frank Sinatra collaborate with Count Basie and Quincy Jones is just perfect, even with Sinatra’s back and forth audience banter and somewhat irreverent humor aimed at Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. But the Count Basie Orchestra and Quincy Jones’ arrangements just kick ass and make this one great live album. A great Sinatra record that really should be played loud. It’s boozing time for Frank and the audience here.
Temples. A new British band heavily influenced by the psychedelic pop-rock sounds of 1967 Who, Byrds and everything jingle-jangle from that time period. They blend beautiful harmonies with catchy songwriting in their debut album Sun Structures. This has become one of my favorite releases so far this year and I’m looking forward to seeing them live in the very near future. Check this band out now!
Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks is a perfect album. A record I have loved from the day it was first released. A very usual record at the time, mixing folk, rock, blues and jazz into something that had rarely (if at all) been done before that time. At least nothing else as artistically successful. The acoustic and seemingly free-form mood of Astral Weeks blends beautifully with Van Morrison’s jazz-like vocals throughout the album. This is one of those stream-of-consciousness albums that seems almost totally improvised, floating along like the best dreams. It is a record you can listen to over and over again and never get tired of. Astral Weeks is an album everyone should own.
Beck is probably my favorite all around recording artist of the past twenty years. He seems to be one of the few musicians who can successfully go from rock to hip-hop to country-folk and then to soul, funk and psychedelic moody soundscapes and then back again with seemingly little effort. His 1999 release Midnight Vultures is probably the best Prince album since Prince made Sign O the Times in 1986. Mutations from 1998 is like David Bowie, Ray Davies and Bazilian pop music all mixed together. Morning Phase, his newest album, is somewhat of a companion piece to his album Sea Changes. Both mix moody overdubbed melancholic vocals with lush, swirling orchestral arrangements and infectious low slow bass lines. Very much a mood piece that sticks with you more with each subsequent listening. Morning Phase is not only the album I played the most throughout March, but is also my favorite album of the year so far.
Alvy sits on the foot of the bed watching the Knicks game on television. TV ANNOUNCER (Off screen) Cleveland Cavaliers losing to the New York Knicks. Robin enters the room, slamming the door. ROBIN Here you are. There's people out there. ALVY Hey, you wouldn't believe this. Two minutes ago, the Knicks are ahead fourteen points, and now ... (Clears his throat) they're ahead two points. ROBIN Alvy, what is so fascinating about a group of pituitary cases trying to stuff the ball through a hoop? ALVY (Looking at Robin) What's fascinating is that it's physical. You know, it's one thing about intellectuals, they prove that you can be absolutely brilliant and have no idea what's going on. But on the other hand ... (Clears his throat) the body doesn't lie, as-as we now know. Alvy reaches over, pulls Robin down onto the bed. He kisses her and moves farther up on the bed. ROBIN Stop acting out. She sits on the edge of the bed, looking down at the sprawled-out Alvy. ALVY No, it'll be great! It'll be great, be-because all those Ph.D.'s are in there, you know, like ... discussing models of alienation and we'll be in here quietly humping. He pulls Robin toward him, caressing her as she pulls herself away. ROBIN Alvy, don't! You're using sex to express hostility. ALVY "'Why-why do you always r-reduce my animal urges to psychoanalytic categories?' (Clears his throat) he said as he removed her brassiere..." ROBIN (Pulling away again) There are people out there from The New Yorker magazine. My God! What would they think? She gets up and fixes the zipper on her dress. She turns and moves toward the door.