Monthly Archives: July 2010

Devon Sproule – Don’t Hurry For Heaven

January 01, 1970

(Black Hen Music)

www.blackhenmusic.com

 

Singer/songwriter Devon Sproule and her husband, guitarist
Paul Curreri have successfully pursued parallel careers for several years now,
so it’s all but inevitable that their musical paths would cross on occasion.
Curreri’s tribute to his wife, Songs for
Devon Sproule
, offered her an homage that affirmed the couple’s trajectory
was inextricably connected (while hopefully scoring Paul some valuable points
at home as well), and the fact that he produced her latest, while also touting
his own fine new effort, California,
draws their bonds that much closer. Regardless, Don’t Hurry For Heaven, Sproule’s fourth effort to date, reflects a
distinctive style all her own, with Curreri taking his lead from her, and not
the other way around.

 

Consequently, Sproule continues to reveal a sensual,
seductive allure that puts her stamp on every track, varying by degrees from a
saunter to a sway. The easy ambiance imbued in the title tune, with its gentle
lilt and pervasive steel guitar, is more a variation on a theme as opposed to
any break in mood. Likewise, the perky sentiments of “Good to Get Out” and the
sprightly sentiments of “Bowling Green”
further affirm the easy-going vibe. Yet, while the wistful “A Picture of Us in
the Garden,” with Sproule singing solo, initially appears a simple celebration
of homespun habits, the final stanzas are somewhat revealing:

“Honey, how are we supposed to ever have
us a family.
When the business won’t give us a buck,
I guess it’s pretty lucky
I’m still pretty young.”

 

Given its air of optimism, Don’t Hurry For Heaven suggests that Sproule’s got plenty of good
fortune to look forward to.

 

DOWNLOAD: “A
Picture of Us in the Garden,” ” Don’t Hurry For Heaven,” ” Good to Get Out” LEE
ZIMMERMAN

 

Mark Olson – Many Colored Kite

January 01, 1970

(Ryko)

 

www.rykodisc.com

 

An album that radiates unfettered charms and idyllic
sentiment, Many Colored Kite is Mark
Olson’s most expressive and luminescent effort to date. The ex-Jayhawk/Creekdipper
makes every note seem effortless, thanks in large measure to his pensive vocals
and a penchant for contemplative musings that sets his songs alight. Olson was,
after all, the voice that gave both the aforementioned bands their pervasive sense
of ache and longing, a fragile sound that often seemed as if it might unravel
if given the slightest tug.

 

Olson’s two solo excursions since the Creekdippers’ demise –
which, not surprisingly, took place at the same time as the dissolution of his
marriage to Victoria Williams, his wife and former musical colleague — retain
that forlorn sensibility. But where his first album, Salvation Blues, was
wholly immersed in tearstained sentiment and misty-eyed remorse, the new record
offers an air of optimism that occasionally even verges on serendipity. Whether
it’s the tumbling melody of “Little Bird of Freedom,” the angelic harmonies
that waft through “No Time To Live Without Her” and “Scholastica” or the
intimate spoken narrative that intersects the lovely “Wind and Rain,” Olson’s
idyllic settings come across like wistful conjecture, thoughts both real and
imagined.

 

Consequently, it would be hard to imagine a more sublime set
of songs. Many Colored Kite bears
both a faraway feel and an intimate embrace.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Wind
and Rain,” “Scholastica,” ” “No Time To Live Without Her” LEE ZIMMERMAN

 

 

Billy Squier – Don’t Say No (30th Anniversary Edition)

January 01, 1970

(Capitol/Shout Factory)

 

www.shoutfactory.com

 

Billy Squier is often described as a poor man’s Robert
Plant. While that’s not inaccurate, it is a little unfair. After all, what hard
rock band hasn’t ripped off Led Zeppelin, usually with far worse results?
Perhaps a better comparison is Cheap Trick. If you want to take
that analogy to its logical conclusion, then 1981’s Don’t Say No is Squier’s At
Budokan
, the moment when his mixture of hard rock riffs and pop smarts
finally came together in a way that sounded absolutely perfect blasting from
car radios everywhere. 

 

Unlike a lot of reissues, this one doesn’t put the artist in
a new context or make you think about him in a different way – the only bonus
tracks it includes are pointless 2009 live versions of “The Stroke”
(excruciating at 14 minutes) and “My Kinda Lover.” But the original
versions of those songs – as well as many others – hold up surprisingly
well, and having a new version of the CD available is a good excuse to revisit
them. Squier may not have been an original, but at his best, he was a
helluva lot of fun to listen to.

 

DOWNLOAD: “My
Kinda Lover,” “In the Dark” HAL BIENSTOCK

 

 

Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter

January 01, 1970

(Chicago
Review Press Books)

 

www.chicagoreviewpress.com

 

BY STEPHEN M. DEUSNER

 

What makes Karen Carpenter such a fascinating biographical
subject is the very thing that has made most previous attempts to document her
short, sad life so lacking. As they did while she was alive, her family has
kept close guard over her and her image following her 1983 death of
complications from anorexia nervosa, notoriously whitewashing some of the
thornier conflicts between Karen, her brother Richard, and her mother Agnes.
Richard in particular has been fastidious in discouraging any depictions that
might reflect poorly on the rest of the Carpenters. When CBS commissioned Barry
Morrow and later Cynthia Cherbak to write a TV movie about the late singer,
they found themselves continually blocked and censored by her brother, who made
changes to scenes even as they were filming them.

 

Randy L. Schmidt’s new biography, “Little Girl Blue,” begins with the story of that ill-fated TV
production, detailing the writers’ frustrations and Richard’s manipulations in
what is a revealing and startling introduction. What he does not make
explicit-nor does he need to-is that this strict control over image and
substance did not arise after Karen’s death, but informed every single aspect
of her life. She was born the second of two children to Harold and Agnes
Carpenter in 1950; her father is barely a presence in “Little Girl Blue,”
ostensibly silenced by his overbearing wife, who loudly favored her son and
promoted his career aggressively. When the family moved from Connecticut
to Los Angeles, the primary reason was
professional: the then-teenaged Richard would have many more opportunities in California than on the
East Coast.

 

Even as the Carpenters became quickly successful as a
musical act, notching whitebread hits like “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “(They
Long to Be) Close To You” in the early 1970s, Agnes seems to have viewed Karen
as a supporting player to Richard, who co-wrote, arranged, recorded, and
produced all the hits. Karen was just the singer, the complement to her bother.
But she possessed a deep, smoky voice and an intuitive talent for
interpretation, which made her the face of the sibling act. In her mother’s
eyes, however, she became an active obstacle to Richard’s success. And herein
lies the strange contradiction that created so much conflict in the family:
Karen was beloved by millions of fans but most wanted the love of her mother,
while her brother received Agnes’ undistracted affection but never got the
popular recognition he felt he deserved.

 

As Schmidt claims in the introduction, “Little Girl Blue” is promisingly unauthorized. He writes that
Richard had agreed not to “discourage others from contributing” to this book,
“which is as close to an endorsement as anyone could hope for.” With that
implicit, hands-off authorization, Schmidt has written the fullest biography of
Karen to date, one that draws on and greatly expands Ray Coleman’s 1994
authorized “The Carpenters: The Untold
Story.”
Schmidt has obviously researched his book deeply, drawing from
previously available source material as well as from new, extensive interviews
with friends from every stage of her life-pre- and post-fame, pre- and
post-eating disorder-to get fuller, occasionally conflicting accounts of her
career: the early success, endless touring, doomed romances, drop-off in
popularity, shelved solo album, and ultimately her death.

 

“Little Girl Blue” doesn’t change the sad shape of Karen’s
story, but fills in some of the holes and adds vital new information to our
understanding of his contradictory and conflicted artist. More than that,
Schmidt recognizes that Karen often gets lost in that story, remembered more as
a pop-culture cautionary tale than a flesh-and-bone human. We know her story
ends, but Schmidt has made it as absorbing as it is deeply humane.

 

Cats On Fire – Dealing In Antiques

January 01, 1970

(Matinee
Recordings)

 

www.matineerecordings.com


Though
this Finnish 4-piece, around for nearly a decade now, might be unknown to many,
they have been the talk and toast of the indiepop Tinseltown for a few years
now with two terrific full-lengths under their belt. This 20 song record is
actually a collection of singles, rarities and the like. Leader/vocalist/main
songwriter Mattias Bjorkas has been accused of sounding like Morrissey and that
is not entirely untrue, but his croon is deeper and richer and the crack musical
cast behind him complements his vocals perfectly.

 

The
record starts with the collection’s only cover, a take on White Town’s “Your
Woman” (would have rather heard their take on “Hair like Alain DeLeon” but
that’s just me) and it’s not exactly a bang, but they redeem themselves on song
number two, “Poor Student’s Dream of Marx” with some nimble guitar playing and
shuffling rhythm. “Never Land Here” is crisp and elegant, “Something Happened”
is spare and pleasant and “Don’t Say It Could Be Worse” is confident and
vulnerable. Many of these songs paint perfect contradictions and thus, that’s
one of the many strengths of the band. When so proudly writing pop songs it’s
too easy to be dismissed and these guys don’t deserve a dismissal, on the
contrary, a big raise and promotion should be in the works. Where’s the boss
around here?

 

DOWNLOAD: “Poor Students Dream of Marx”, “Don’t Say It Could Be Worse”, “My Friend in a
Comfortable Chair”, ´”Solid Work” TIM HINELY

 

 

When You’re Strange – A Film about The Doors

January 01, 1970

(Eagle Rock; 96 minutes)

 

BY MARY LEARY

 

Familiar to many, the saga of Jim Morrison and The Doors parallels
the Icarus myth neatly enough for any ancient dramatist. Is anyone still anxious
to replay its more depressing aspects? Hey, millions must crave footage of skyscrapers
crumbling and California shredding into the ocean, or Hollywood wouldn’t keep upchucking
them (leaving aside propagandist theories). And apparently there are people who
can watch Unexplained Mysteries or
tune into Art Bell without laughing until tears mar their shirt collars.

 

During some of the segments, the Tom DiCillo-directed When You’re Strange mirrors Unexplained
Mysteries
‘ cheesiness. And jarring imagery of Vietnam, MLK, RFK, and
Charles Manson underscores the Doors’ role as Greek chorus and participant(s)
in the ‘60s’ chaotic trajectory. Viewers already familiar with the band may
feel the question’s over-begged. On the other hand, despite Morrison’s glances
at the camera, he dove into the fray more whole-heartedly, with less concern
for his well-being, than just about anyone; bringing in aspects of gospel
ecstasy he may have gleaned from Elvis worship and foreshadowing mosh pit
abandon. DiCillo apparently felt a heavy hand best matched Jim’s rise and fall.

 

In a gentler world, a biopic might cobble Jim’s scribbling
and filmmaking from an earlier age. For one thing, given his father’s
disapprobation, and his own insecurities about singing, when – and how – did he
first let out a roar? But Morrison’s muses sang with less engaging brilliance than
those of, say, John Lennon. His most consistent, best-realized output sprang
from collaboration with Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, and John Densmore. For the
creatively inquisitive, the egalitarianism the Doors maintained until
Morrison’s addled ego muddied the idyll is one of When You’re Strange‘s big draws and inspirations.

 

The film reveals an abundance of performance footage, along
with previously private archival film of the band. There’s even an intriguing
glimpse at one of Morrison’s film school efforts, which looks to have been
influenced by Un Chien Andalou.

 

Sitting through the whole spectacle reveals the dedication,
and occasional prophecy, at the core of the carnival barker.  It shows the strangely inevitable similarity
of his fate with that of rebellious victims like Lenny Bruce. It makes you
wonder if Patti Smith, Lux Interior, and Kurt Cobain could have channeled such
free fire without his example (“You’re all a bunch of fuckin’ idiots! You’re
all a bunch of slaves!” screams Morrison in ’69 at a frustrated Miami crowd,
before all hell breaks loose).  “Smell(s) like teen spirit,” anyone?

The roar falls to a near-whisper for conversations with Morrison’s
father and sister. These indicate the poet and probable alcoholic’s isolation
within his family, and the gulf between himself and his father. The concern of
Morrison’s insightful sister, along with the expressions on Admiral Morrison’s
face, penetrate more deeply than the most  strident footage. Even snaps of young Jim — that
could pass for a teenaged Mark Wahlberg — aren’t enough to make me crack wise.

 

Special Features: Theatrical Trailer, “Conversations With…”

 

Chuck Berry – Have Mercy: His Complete Chess Recordings, 1969-1974

January 01, 1970

(Hip-O Select/Universal)

 

www.hip-oselect.com

 

This last box in U Music’s Berry-at-Chess collection isn’t
as bold as the previous (You Never Can
Tel
l) or as predictable as its initial offering (Johnny B. Goode) but it’s a thriller from start to finish and
filled with surprises Phil Chess always said that Berry would return to the
label that made the duck walker a star and after three years at Mercury Records,
you can hear the slick haired guitarist tear into chunky blues (“Annie Lou”) and
boogie with country-buck aplomb as he does on cuts like “Tulane” and
“Have Mercy Judge.”

 

Pay as little attention as possible to “My Ding-A-Ling
(live)” and head instead to the additional concert cuts absent from the
original The London Chuck Berry Sessions featuring cats from The Faces and Traffic in Berry’s band. (Members of Steely Dan and Average
White Band play as well) From the pedal steel stretch of “Too Late” and
“I’m Just A Name” to cutting dust-funk instrumentals
“Woodpecker” and “Turn on the Houselights” (nice solo, Chuck) to the
6-minute poem “My Pad” that Berry reads to deep and tender poignancy,
the box is a shockingly stately and epic coda to the series.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Gun”
“Christmas” “Fish & Chips” “I’m Just A Name” A.D. AMOROSI

 

 

Various Artists (Mixtape by Shoes) – Eccentric Breaks and Beats

January 01, 1970

(Numero Group)

 

www.numerogroup..com

 

Outfoxing bootleggers is nothing new in the music industry.
In 1991, Frank Zappa hijacked a gang of illegally recorded concerts that had been
released on underground labels and reissued them on his own via Rhino as part
of his famous Beat the Boots box
sets. Bob Dylan followed a similar trajectory, cueing off the illicit
activities of such infamous bootleg outfits as Scorpio, with his critically
acclaimed Bootleg Series, now in its
8th volume. And then you had Pearl Jam’s scheme in 2000, virtually
flooding the market with quality soundboards of every show from their national
and world tours and essentially undermining the entire bootleg business model.

 

However, in the realm of the other type of bootlegging
commonly known in urban music circles as mixtapes, such means of combat have
yet to be instilled in the war against unauthorized recordings and/or
duplication, even in this era of the download. That is, until now. Echoing the earlier
sentiments of Messrs Zappa and Zimmerman, the widely respected Chicago-based crate
digging connoisseur imprint Numero Group
delivers Eccentric Breaks and Beats, a
street tape that distills the label’s seven-year, seventy-release output down
to a 40-minute megamix that was only previously available on the black market. As
it turned out, the culprit was the mysterious production team Shoes, who in the
past had crafted popular underground mixes of Al Green and Miles Davis among
others. The Numero Group folks were
big fans of many of the those mixtapes, yet regardless of their appreciation of
the Shoes crew’s previous efforts, the label nevertheless seized the plates of
the mix from the pressing plant and turned it into Eccentric Breaks and Beats, utilizing its existence as a de facto
imprint anthology in the grand tradition of those great old Street Beat
compilations from the mid-1980s.

 

It runs the gamut of all the key Numero releases in the
time it takes many to travel to and from work on any given morning.  Serious Numero
Group fans will undoubtedly be able to pinpoint cuts from
their favorite titles interwoven throughout this continuous blend of grooves.
But whether or not you are a scholar of the label’s release schedule is
irrelevant, as Eccentric Breaks and Beats will certainly float the boat of any educated fan of funk, soul and leftfield
R&B – while providing a fair warning to any sucka DJ looking to turn a
profit behind this fine label’s back.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Side
A”  RON HART

 

 

Green Pajamas – Complete Book of Hours

January 01, 1970

(Green Monkey Records)

www.greenmonkeyrecords.com

 

Like the Northwest environs from which they hail, Green
Pajamas’ music conveys a magical allure that proves consistently beguiling, no
matter how many times it’s experienced. It conveys a joy of discovery that
seduces its listeners after little more than a cursory encounter. It’s
unfortunate, then, that after 25 years, they’ve never found a wider audience in
this country, even though their European fan base has burgeoned quite
impressively. Fortunately, that disparity has never discouraged them; they have
a stunning output that has never faltered from one record to the next.

 

Critics have been fond of typecasting Green Pajamas as a
broad divide of psychedelia and cinematic suggestion, but it’s a more
indefinable style that accounts for their charms. That was never more evident
than early on, with the release of their formal debut, Book of Hours, which, when originally issued in 1986, showed them
emerging fully formed. The band’s personnel mutated in the years since, but
with erstwhile leader Jeff Kelly at the helm, the musical vision remained
immaculately conceived. Never shy about melding cellos, oboes, sitar and even bagpipes
in the mix, Kelly and company let loose their grand ambitions, even as they
remained cognizant of a desire to craft an accessible sound.  In songs such as “Paula,” “Men in Your Life,”
“The First Rains of September,” and “Stand to Reason,” there’s a decided effort
to entice the listener while refusing to let go. What’s more, the retro
references also abound, from the pristine pop of “My Red Balloon” (affirmed by
its “la-la-la” refrain) to the overtly Beatlesque construction of “Ten Thousand
Words” and “Higher Than I’ve Been,” which recall the Fabs’ “Dr. Robert” and
“Taxman,” respectively.  It’s a seamless
album throughout, from the spunky, brass-infused opener “Paula” to the hypnotic
textures of its brilliant closer, “Time of Year.”

 

Now re-released and expanded to 17 songs with the benefit of
various bonus tracks heretofore only released overseas, the once rare Book of Hours gets the deluxe treatment
it deserves. Two and a half decades on, it proves as enchanting as ever, a
groundbreaking effort that makes for a welcome return.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Paula,” “My Red Balloon,” “Higher Than I’ve Ever Been” LEE ZIMMERMAN

 

Kele – The Boxer

January 01, 1970

(Wichita)

 

www.wichita-recordings.com/

 

Newly released
single “Tenderoni” drew me in…and the fact that I am a fan of Bloc Party;
therefore, I perhaps had premature delusions of grandeur for Kele’s debut solo
release, The Boxer. “Tenderoni” is
not wholly original – it is reminiscent of ‘90s trance music – but is catchy,
rhythmic and danceable.

 

However, The Boxer proves to be a slapdash
attempt at dance music. Sparse of sophisticated beats, the “upbeat” tracks
prove repetitive and laden with the typical, pulsating drum and bass riffs to
cue the chorus. Yet the songs that bear some complexity are those where Kele
did not heavily rely on his drum machine. The quieter moments at the end of the
album, “New Rules” and “Unholy Thoughts” especially, are hypnotic little
snippets that capture your attention due to their stark contrast to the earlier
energetic tracks.

 

DOWNLOAD: “New Rules,” “Unholy Thoughts” APRIL S.
ENGRAM