Month: September 2015

Yo La Tengo – Ride the Tiger

ARTIST: Yo La Tengo Ride_the_Tiger_(album)_cover
TITLE: Ride the Tiger
YEAR RELEASED: 1986
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: None
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: If you have a YLT comp or two – maybe.
LINEUP: Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley, Dave Schramm, Mike Lewis
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The start of a long and commendable career, the first YLT album has some of the charm, but is more a straight forward four piece band at this time.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Hoboken’s finest created a small stir in independent circles in 1986 with their debut release. The indy circuit then wasn’t as big as it is now, so in terms of sales and real ink, not so much.

But the building blocks were there. This was mostly a collection of Ira Kaplan songs, the guitar chords and changes were interesting. They had a great choice of a cover (the Kinks Big Sky). What they didn’t have was the sonic adventure that a YLT normally has. The songs are decent. It’s a good, not great, 1986 independent record.

The album reminds me of the Feelies a bit, which is ironic since the Feelies released their second record on the same record company that year.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Kaplan is kind of a guitar hero now (in a very YLT way) but he said in an interview that Dave Schramm’s guitar was the best thing on the record.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a reissue has an early single and two live cuts.

GRADE: B-: It’s not bad. It’s consistent. I like it. But there’s nothing that really moves you.

The Sea and Cake – The Sea and Cake

ARTIST: The Sea and Cake The_Sea_and_Cake_(The_Sea_and_Cake_album_-_cover_art)
TITLE: The Sea and Cake
YEAR RELEASED: 1994
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: None
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Again, only if you frequented indie record stores in 1994 or so.
LINEUP: Sam Prekop, Archer Prewitt, Eric Claridge, John McEntire plus producer Brad Wood
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Members of three Chicago-area bands come together to form a jazzy indie band and releases a mellow yet adventurous record totally against the grunge grain of the time.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Hey, an independent album released in 1994, must be grungy, right? Not. So. Much. The Sea and Cake fuse an indie rock sensibility with jazz influences, and the result on their debut is a wonderful, gentle album that was really out of step with the indie scene at the time.

The stars of this record for me are the fluid guitar lines from Prekop and Prewitt. The vocals are nice but really secondary to what’s going on with the guitar melody. For a new band, and from coming from two separate bands, Prekop and Prewitt play together like they have been in a combo for years.

As with any jazz, a few cuts ramble a little past their sell-by date, but all-in-all this is a great record to chill to, with or without Netflix!

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The name comes from a deliberate spoonerism from a Gastr del Sol song.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-: To be honest, in the 90’s I had one Sea and Cake album and I didn’t get it, but now I know why. I wanted grunge, not jazz. I’m older and wiser now, and this is great.

Tsunami – Deep End

ARTIST: Tsunami
TITLE: Deep EndTsunami-_Deep_End
YEAR RELEASED: 1993
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: None
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Maybe if you frequented indie record stores in 1993 or so.
LINEUP: Kristin Thomson, Jenny Toomey, Andrew Webster, John Palmer
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: DIY to the extreme DC area band releases first album featuring some interesting sonic contrasts between guitar and voice.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Thompson and Toomey loved music and playing in bands, but hated record company BS. So they formed their own band AND record company. Total DIY. It worked out.

This record has some high points. They are very similar to Velocity Girl with noisy guitars and female vocals mixed a bit down. However, it all ran together for me. In short bursts, on shuffle with other tracks, this would be great. One after another, not so much. The problem is that most every song follows the same pattern.

Tsunami’s ethos and DIY spirit are admirable, though, and one wonders why other bands didn’t follow their lead. Thompson and Toomey did have a great work ethic. That may be part of it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Their record label, Simple Machines, is defunct but you can still order stuff.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B-: It’s just repetitive for me. I’m keeping it in my catalog because it would be great on shuffle on a 90’s playlist.

The Isley Brothers – Shout!

ARTIST: The Isley Brothers Shout-isleys
TITLE: Shout!
YEAR RELEASED: 1959
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: Shout (Part One) (#47 US), Respectable, How Deep Is the Ocean
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They covered a lot of standards on this.
LINEUP: Ronald Isley, O’Kelly Isley, Jr., Rudolph Isley
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Shout was a hit. RCA wanted an album. Here’s what they got.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: I almost didn’t review it, especially since I had to put the album together via a playlist. However, all of the RCA masters for the Isley Brothers are in one collection (18 tracks) so it was easy to put it in the right order.

This kind of album is why I don’t want to review very many 50’s and early 60’s albums. The performances by the Isley’s are good to great for the most part, but the material is more like “What do you know, and who are the publishers that I owe favors to?” The album has When the Saints Go Marching In (as the lead cut)!

It’s good for what it is, but it isn’t going in my collection except for the obvious song.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: As you can see, Shout didn’t chart well and didn’t even make the R&B chart, but it still sold a million copies – slowly but surely!

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No but if you like this stuff the RCA Masters are available.

GRADE: C+: Shout ups the grade, otherwise it’s a good vocal group doing standards. If you like this kind of stuff (doo-wop and early R&B) go for it.

Toots & the Maytals – Sweet and Dandy

ARTIST: Toots & The Maytals LP03
TITLE: Sweet & Dandy
YEAR RELEASED: 1969
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: Most of these songs were Jamaican singles.
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Pressure Drop, Monkey Man, 54-46 (That Was My Number)
LINEUP: Toots Hibbert, Raleigh Gordon, Jerry Mattias
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A collection of the early songs from the legendary ska/reggae band.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This is one of the earliest true reggae albums featuring recordings done with Leslie Kong in the 60’s. As such, the fidelity isn’t that great.

Many of these songs were re-done by the group as they moved to international record companies. The originals have their own charm, though. Hibbert and company are political, emotional and love struck. Reggae fans will eat this up, fidelity and all.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They were a ska band until the mid-to-late 60’s, and the three listed above were the vocal group that were more popular than the Wailers in Jamaica at the time.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B : I’m not a reggae zealot. I’m keeping a select few songs and exiling the rest.

The Tubes – The Tubes

ARTIST: The TubesTheTubesAlbum
TITLE: The Tubes
YEAR RELEASED: 1975
CHART ACTION: #113 US
SINGLES: White Punks on Dope (#28 UK)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Mondo Bondage, What Do You Want from Life?
LINEUP: Fee Waybill, Bill Spooner, Roger Steen, Michael Cotton, Vince Welnick, Rick Anderson, Prairie Prince
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: San Francisco shock theatre-cabaret rockers bring their stage show to vinyl.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: You either crack up at their humor or you don’t. The issue with this album is that songs like Mondo Bondage work more as a stage routine than on record. However, the band does play well and Al Kooper did a nice job producing it.

Some of the humor seems more fitting for a National Lampoon album, and it is dated, with some definite 70’s references that you kids wouldn’t really get. I mean, I may not get all of them either.

I’d say about half of this record is good, and it’s a shame that it’s not streaming because a couple of the cuts I like aren’t the deeper cuts.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Not on Spotify or Google Play. You can find it on You Tube.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B- : The good parts are good – the other parts are probably for stage only.

The Dirty Projectors – The Glad Fact

ARTIST: The Dirty Projectors 220px-The_Glad_Fact
TITLE: The Glad Fact
YEAR RELEASED: 2003
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: None
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Hell No
LINEUP: Dave Longstreth
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Low-fi, hi-fi, noise, obtuseness, art-damaged weirdness.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: I’m following the rules of my project – which is to review most everything by bands that I had in my iTunes catalog. I had a Dirty Projectors record in there, which I thought was OK.

This is the first official Dirty Projectors album, and for me, it’s just weird for weird’s sake. I mean, I don’t mind weird. But, I can’t….I know someone likes this. It’s not my cuppa. I’m giving it a C and moving on.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Longstreth did almost everything himself, and I can’t find any other credits.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. 15 songs is enough, right?

GRADE: C : I can’t say it’s bad, but I can say that I don’t really like it. I don’t know what it’s supposed to be.

EXILED post haste

John Prine – John Prine

ARTIST: John Prine 220px-John_Prine_self-titled
TITLE: John Prine
YEAR RELEASED: 1971
CHART ACTION: #154
SINGLES: Sam Stone and Illegal Smile were promo singles
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Paradise and Angel from Montgomery were covered by many artists.
LINEUP: John Prine with a crack session band at American Recording Studios in Memphis
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A record full of classic country/folk songs, some poignant, others humorous, that have become standards, covered by many artists.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Prine’s first record is a classic that everyone should have in their collection. The collection of 13 songs range from humorous and poignant (Spanish Pipedream, Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore), to poignant without being cliché ridden (Hello in There, Paradise, Donald and Lydia, Angel from Montgomery).

The highlight is Sam Stone, a chilling tale of a Vietnam vet who came back with a junk problem. On first listen, it’s harrowing, and the listener is both revulsed and empathetic at the same time.

Prine’s career after this would have ups and downs, but this is the record to have if you can only have one Prine record. And everyone should have one John Prine record.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Kris Kristofferson had Prine open for him in the early 70’s and at one gig Atlantic Records execs saw him and signed him.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: A+ : There are 13 songs on this album, and 13 songs that are just terrific.

Helmet – Strap It On

ARTIST: Helmet Helmet-StrapItOn
TITLE: Strap It On
YEAR RELEASED: 1990
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: Repetition
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: All of ‘em if you ran in my circles, otherwise none..
LINEUP: Page Hamilton, Henry Bogdan, Peter Mengede, John Stanier
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The first song is Repetition, and that’s the modus operandi. Repetitive, powerful riffs and dissonant noise.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: When Page Hamilton formed Helmet after leaving the Band of Susans, he set out to fuse powerful hardcore and metal riffs with a subtle understanding of free jazz. Basically, he accomplished that in Strap It On.

The riffage and sounds are powerful, bludgeoning even. But there’s a subtle Coltrane-esque feel if you listen hard enough to how the two guitars work and intertwine together. It’s not just power chords and yelling, though it may SEEM that way.

The highlight for me is Sinatra, which unlike most of the songs on the album is a moody, morose piece that moves at a slower pace than the others songs. The one drawback about the record is that the last half of it starts to get a little repetitive. Also, I think the sequencing is a bit off – but that’s a minor fault.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The line “It’s just Sinatra’s world / we just live here” is paraphrased from a comment Dean Martin made.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B+ : There are a few flaws, but this a great fusion of hardcore, punk and subtle free jazz.

Pantera – Vulgar Display of Power

ARTIST: Pantera 220px-PanteraVulgarDisplayofPower
TITLE: Vulgar Display of Power
YEAR RELEASED: 1992
CHART ACTION: #44 US, #64 UK
SINGLES: Mouth for War (#73 UK), This Love, Hollow, Walk (#35 UK)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: On radio, no. Metalheads know this album by heart.
LINEUP: Phil Anselmo, “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, Rex Brown, Vinnie Paul
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Pantera releases their ultimate record and possibly the best metal album of the 90’s. It’s heavy, hard, and…catchy?

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The leap between Cowboys from Hell and this album wasn’t as big as the leap between hair metal and Cowboys, but it’s still a leap. Pantera’s settled into their new persona, and recorded a devastating record full of riffs and power.

The production is much better, with a more natural drum sound and a better vocal mix. Abbott’s guitar riffs are classic, and the solos are intense without straying too much for the song or showing off for showing off’s sake.

There are even a couple of slower songs, but unlike hair metal power ballads, they retain the intensity and power of the more riff driven songs – and that’s quite a feat. The last song, Hollow, is definitely a ballad, but its placement on the album as the final song is just right. It also shows that Anselmo can really sing instead of yell.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: During the recording of the album, Abbott moved away from “Diamond Darrell” or “Dimebag”. Rex Brown also stopped being Rexx Rocker. That last name belonged in a band like Britney Fox or something.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with an extra song (that’s not needed really) and a DVD.

GRADE: A : It’s almost the perfect metal album.