Monday, February 12, 2007

Opinion: 49th Annual Grammy Awards Wrap Up

I have not watched a full broadcast of the Grammy Awards in the last few years, but this year I did. It was a good show, fairly decent. It was great to see The Police reunited, but it seemed too brief. I would have liked another song from them, such as "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic".

I did not like the American Idol aspect of the show, where someone had a chance to duet with Justin Timberlake. Seemed flakey and lame, especially as Joan Baez and Nancy Wilson looked at them in the background going "WTF?"

Performance-wise, I thought the union between John Mayer, Corinne Bailey Raye, and John "my real last name is Stephens" Legend was a major highlight. Christina Aguilera was pretty good for her tribute to James Brown, but there were two small James Brown highlights. I'm sorry, but considering the contributions he and his music made, there should have been a lot more. Oh, but we did get THREE, count 'em, THREE fricken Eagles songs. Eh.

Justin Timberlake's performances were very good too. Gnarls Barkley did a great job, Cee-Lo has some a long way from portraying a bum in the "Soul Food" video. The Dixie Chicks were great, congratulations to them.

But should they have won Album Of The Year? Who am I to say? I felt it was a great album, I liked it, but St. Elsewhere by Gnarls Barkley was far more interesting and innovative. Will Danger Mouse have to 1-Up his game? Who knows.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers? Eh. I did like the fact that Flea honored saxophonist Ornette Coleman, who had received a lifetime achievement award.

To be honest, it's hard to play critic to the Grammy Awards. People are quick to bitch and gripe, but a lot of us want to be a part of the industry. One day, I say, one day.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Thrift Store Adventures: February 2, 2007, Pasco, Washington

Being the lazy ass I can be sometimes, I've been meaning to put up the finds I found last week, but... eh, rather than blah blah blah on about nothing, let's just get into the records.

I should preface this by saying that I went to the St. Vincent de Paul in Pasco after driving past it for the last few months and noticing that the records were moved upfront to the window. I didn't bother going in because the selection in the last few years has been less than desirable. Yes, it is the same St. Vincent de Paul where I bought a certain 45 for a dime and sold it on eBay years later for $495 or so, but things like that aren't common. Seeing the records upfront pushed me, lead me to finally turn my car into the parking lot and look.

I began to browse and I'm seeing familiar names, and not of the Merrill Womack and Oral Roberts variety. Familiar labels, and not just Peter Pan and Myrrh. I kept on packing them on top of each other. Not a major stack, but...

As always, in alphabetical order:

Hotel Hello
(ECM; 1975)

This was one of a number of jazz albums that were in the racks. It's jazz, it's on ECM, how could I complain? I like some of the Burton material I've heard on Atlantic, I'm unfamiliar with Steve Swallow, although for whatever reason I've heard his name before. The album is just Burton collaborating with Swallow, no drums or anything. It's laid back, ECM style, and funky at times, in fact I'm sure I've heard some of this in songs before, as far as samples are concerned.

Great Guitars
(Concord; 1975)

Before they bought the Stax and Fantasy catalogs, Concord was one of many independent jazz labels in the 1970's that were there to fill the void as major labels got rid of their jazz departments. One can find their albums fairly easy, and one might think that that is a sign of it being not good. Buy, listen, and decide for yourself.

Great Guitars is a good album bringing together three jazz guitarists to play and show their love for their craft in a live setting. All the songs on this are very good, including "Undecided", "Topsy", and "Benny's Bugle".

Soft & Mellow
(Concord; 1979)

Now, here's Ellis on his own, four years later. One could call this "cool jazz", of the early George Benson variety, and like his work on many other albums, Ellis' work here is worthy of many listens.

The Bill Evans Album
(Columbia; 1971)

I had never heard or seen this one, which is odd considering it won two Grammy awards. After years of playing with many musicians and recording for so many labels, Evans found himself talking with Clive Davis, who would sign Evans to Columbia. The Bill Evans Album begins with "Funkallero" in a manner that sounds more characteristic with what Ramsey Lewis would do a few years later, with an electric piano. My knowledge of Evans' music is on the surface, but I had never heard him get electrified before, so it was a surprise. After a few minutes, he moves to the traditional piano and plays in the style that he became known form.

It sounds great, and the musicianship is very good, featring Eddie Gomez on bass and Marty Morrell on drums. In an interview with Morrell, it seems he wasn't too pleased with the album, partially because the powers that be at Columbia wanted to change the sound and dynamics of the way they recorded the instruments, arguably a technique that would change the way most studios recorded artists. (You can read the full interview here.) Despite the verge of what was to come, it is a very good album, where Evans gets a chance to finally play his own material. Nice.

(RCA; 1971)

WOW! Ten women singing delightful pop as to not irk the people who hated that hippie crap. It seems that's why The Golddiggers became popular. The group of ladies would have a television show that would replace other shows that were canceled, which they would do for three years until someone realized they should have their own proper series.

Some of these ladies were quite attractive way back when (a good 36 years ago), and I figured it had to be a bit cheesy. I was right, but it's amazing to hear what did pass off as good music, or what labels wanted to pass off as good music.

The best song on here is a Peggy Lee original, called "I Want Some Man To Give Me Some". I bet. Obviously the ladies want some, and in the traditional pop manner, they don't hint at what that "some" is, and I'm sure there's an audience who never quite understood what that "some" really was. Eh.

Straight Life
(CTI; 1970)

One of the first releases on Creed Taylor's own label, this one is a must hear. After recording for Atlantic for many years, Hubbard found himself on CTI, where he would stay to record even more classic music. Here, he's joined by Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Jack DeJohnette, Joe Henderson, Pablo Landrum, and George Benson. Some of these guys were not only coming in and out of sessions for Miles Davis, but were doing their own thing and also session work for others. The title track is a 17½ jam that sounds a bit like early Weather Report, and you really hear the instruments breathe throughout, especially Carter and the stand-up bass that helps keep everything together.

Side Two features "Mr. Clean" and "Here's That Rainy Day", and one almost wishes there was much more to this album than the three songs offered.

Little White Duck

This Columbia pressing is a reissue of an album Ives released on the Columbia subsidiary Harmony. It is an album of children's songs, in that style that millions of people loved him for. I bought it to be able to hear "Fooba Wooba John", which talks about a flea kicking a tea. Amazing.

(Capitol; 1972)

I've heard of these guys before but never heard them. Joy Of Cooking were of the country rock/rock country variety, and had some connections with the Grateful Dead. I've always liked this kind of music, and I find myself enjoying it more. The group were lead by two ladies, Toni Brown and Terry Garthwaite, and with their band they recorded this one in Berkeley, singing about good times, longing for better times, and hoping for better.

The band weren't a massive success for Capitol, and were dropped after this album. Both Brown and Garthwaite would eventually record as a duo, and in time they would do their own individual music. Joy Of Cooking weren't bad at all, and it is a shame that you don't hear this kind of stuff on oldies radio.

I'll See You In Hawaii
How Great Thou Art

Eddie Kekaula was a Hawaiian living in California, which might answer the question of why his albums and 8-tracks are found in thrift stores. It's not because he's bad, because he's not. He was someone who released his own records on his own label, and he worked with some of the best musicians around, including Benny Saks, Sol K. Bright, and Bill Aliiloa Lincoln. Yet he's not up there in rank with Hui Ohana, Sunday Manoa, Gabby Pahinui, or Alfred Apaka, and unfortuantely that may never change. But Kekaula's music pops up frequently, so if you want a decent introduction to the goodness that Hawaiian music can provide, pick his music up. I'll See You In Hawaii feature a number of songs that have become Hawaiian standards, while How Great Thou Art is of the religious variety.

Forest Flower
(Atlantic; 1967)

Recorded live at Monterey, Forest Flower has Charles Lloyd performing at his best with Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette, and Cecil McBee. The two part "Forest Flower" suite (a "Sunrise" and a "Sunset") is one of those things where you wish you were there to witness the performance, especially Jarrett, who takes the show away from Lloyd for two minutes during his solo in the "Sunset" section. As the liner notes from George Avakian indicate, it sounds like it was very much a "joyous atmosphere", and when they finally get to "East Of The Sun", it comes close to nirvana. Beauty.

Blues Current
(Polydor; 1970)

Nothing like the wonders of the Moog to pull you through a cold winter morning, right?

Cool, exotic, toxic, and occasionally drippy and funky, Blues Current is the kind of album that happens when everyone falls in love with an instrument and record labels will find every way to utilize/exploit it.

It's a blues album where the primary instrument is a Moog, which is alright but fortunately Bernard Purdie and Herbie Hancock, along with bassist Gerry Jemmont, are there to pull us through. This LP is primarily known for the song "Slinky", due to its irresistible funk squeezes. Thanks, Purdie.

Street Corner Stuff
(Chisound/United Artists; 1976)

Disco freshness, or at least I think it is. The album is still sealed, with a nice weird coating of grit on the back (or at least I'm hoping it's grit).

A Good Feelin' To Know
(Epic; 1972)

The ever humble Poco. As much as I've heard of these guys, I've never heard their music until now, and I'm glad I finally did. At this point in the game, Jim Messina was no longer in the group, discovering that a production job with Kenny Loggins could resort in an interesting duo situation. But Timothy B. Schmidt, who would later move on to join The Eagles, was with the band.

So what exactly was A Good Feelin' To Know? The feeling of solace, the feeling of home, the feeling of a family, and all of that is celebrated here. Right on. After hearing this, you'll understand why he was the perfect candidate for The Eagles.

Let The Music Play (12" single)
(Emergency; 1983)

This was one of my favorite songs when I was 12, it was funky, cool to dance to, and the electronic beats meant you could pop and breakdance if you were able to. I could never fully break, other than the worm, but I could pass the wave if I wanted to.

I bought this because this would be the first pressing, not the later pressing on Mirage/Atlantic that most people (including myself) are familiar with.

(Radio; 1981)

For the album, they wanted to be known as Stars On Long Play, but for all intents and purposes most people know them as Stars On 45. The death of John Lennon on December 8, 1980 made as much of an impact as the death of John F. Kennedy did for Americans, but on a much bigger scale. 1981 left many wanting to honor Lennon, and someone had put together an unofficial Beatles medley. What these guys did was recreate the sounds of The Beatles and lay it over a disco beat. The end result was a huge hit song, which lead to the album. Yeah, it's odd and goofy but it worked.

Side 2 of this album featured another range of oldies, and then a song credited to Long Tall Ernie & The Shakers, which is only so-so.

Stars On 45 would end up making a few more medleys, including a Stevie Wonder one that worked well, but none of them were as popular as the original medley Beatles tracks.

The phenomenon would lead to a number of even-more-corny disco arrangements of classical songs, done in medley form, and even the Cleveland punk band the New Bomb Turks found themselves getting into it punk rock style.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Opinion: Hawaiians On The Radio

Unless you live in Hawai'i or a city that has a specialty Hawaiian music radio show, why is it that the only time you hear Hawaiians on the radio is when you hear Yvonne Elliman's "If I Can't Have You", anything by the Pussycat Dolls, and a sample of Yvonne Elliman in a Fatboy Slim track? Huh? We have more music than that.

I know Israel Kamakawiwo'ole gets a lot of time on NPR and of course on television and in film, but I'm talking regular radio. I look forward to when Nicole Scherzinger's album comes out, then we'll have... one or two additional songs. Pfftt.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Run-Off Groove #142 is ready for reading

Lots of new reviews this week, including new music from Mudkids and Miles Bonny among many others.

Go check it out: