One time the suits “desecrated” the original U.K. release and came up with something way better for the American market was when they turned The Cure‘s 1979 debut album, Three Imaginary Boys, into 1980’s Boys Don’t Cry.
Rock albums from the 1990s are getting re-released on vinyl at an epic pace but jazz LPs from the Clinton years are coming out at a much slower pace. One of my favorite vocal jazz albums that deserves to come out on vinyl is 1991’s You Gotta Pay The Band, which features Abbey Lincoln with a hand-picked group that includes pianist Hank Jones, bassist Charlie Haden, daughter Maxine Roach on viola, and Stan Getz as the featured soloist.
Abbey Lincoln came to fame in the 1950s as a singer of standards, was an early 1960s Black Power belter, and late ’60s Hollywood actress. Somewhere in between taking time out to raise a family and divorcing drummer Max Roach, Lincoln developed as a jazz singer-songwriter outside of the mainstream spotlight throughout the 1970s and ’80s. She was at her most popular, and at the height of her powers, during the 1990s with a major label behind her.
1991’s You Gotta Pay The Band was her second album for the reignited Verve label and showcases Abbey Lincoln as a master storyteller, songwriter, and an artist with a unique point of view. Hard-won wisdom and emotional insight light up such Abbey Lincoln originals as the title track, “Bird Alone,” and “You Made Me Funny.” But, Abbey’s reading of a lyric only deepened with the decades and she also scores with three distinguished, though less recorded, standards from the usual songwriting suspects. My favorite track on the album is her revival of the depression era stunner “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?”
I picked it up immediately. Shine sounds fantastic on vinyl.
Like everybody growing up in the 1970s, I knew a few Joni Mitchell songs. “Help Me” and “Free Man In Paris” were much played on FM rock radio for a few years and “Big Yellow Taxi” was beloved by kids of my generation at levels that almost approached Harry Nilsson’s “Coconut.”
By the time I was in my teen years the Joni Mitchell I read about in the press and saw on TV seemed somewhat bitter and unpleasant. Maybe I just always caught her on an off day but she didn’t match my adolescent energy level. It probably worked out better that her music started to come into my life in my 20s when I reached back to such late 1970s albums as The Hissing of Summer Lawns and Hejira. I slowly worked backwards from there to discover wonders such as Blue and Court and Spark.
By 2007, I had no doubt that Mitchell was a brilliant, singular, singer-songwriter and was interested to hear her first album of original material in nearly a decade.
From Sinatra to Elvis there is something about a dog that centers, and calms, an iconic artist.
This snap of Prince with his pup catches the transcendent musician, performer, songwriter, and studio artist at the start of his career.
There was too much blazing talent inside Prince to capture all of his facets in just one performance so I have gone with two.
The first time I heard of Prince was when he made the cover of the New York Rocker. The first video here, from 1981, throws a hazy spotlight on a new artist sharing one of era’s best New Wave power pop anthems. The second video showcases Prince the tireless master showman with an unbreakable connection to a long history of American popular music and jazz.
A little while back some record friends and I were waxing nostalgic for the rollerskating scene of the late 1970s and early ’80s that was depicted in movies and in music. I was more familiar with coastal So. Cal rollerskating, which is perfectly encapsulated in George Benson’s peerless video for the ultra suave “Give Me The Night” but out in New York City the had a grittier skating scene that I don’t remember seeing at the time, other than the weird rugby-jersey-and-overalls gang that haunted the subway station in The Warriors.
Sharing clips on the Black communal skating scene in 1970s NYC led my mind to drift over to thoughts of double dutching.
I first heard about double dutching in middle school when some new transplants from NYC showed up and started skipping some sweet rope out on the blacktop at lunch break. This is also where I learned of the concept of the block party from one girl, which sounded like the best thing ever during an era when age 12 meant trying to be 18 really bad and there were no parties to be had anywhere.
Snapping back to present day, I went to the shelves and pulled out the Malcolm McClaren 12′ single “Double Dutch,” which is a guaranteed inducer of pleasure.
Come In From the Rain is the second of two 1970s Captain & Tennille albums where the pop duo was photographed with their beloved bulldogs. The first LP shot is pretty iconic in helping to define the sometimes oppressive Stepford happiness of 1970s pop culture. Come In From The Rain does a perfect job of summing up the ’70s dream of sheltering in place from outside troubles. I have no idea if this is the real life couple’s actual living room but classic 20th Century comforts look pretty good from the vantage point of joyless, minimalistic, 2020 interiors.
This album didn’t have any big hit singles on it but it still went gold in the U.S. The married duo would return to #1 in 1980 but they faded from the charts after that. It looked like Tennille wanted to sing standards after that though tastes change — I should investigate if they have a synthy new wave album under their belt in the early ’80s. The Captain, whose real name is (the pretty awesome) Daryl Dragon had a long tenure as a Beach Boy previous to this while Tennille was a session singer who even contributed to Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
A number of musicians have died from Covid-19, including losses that particularly hurt — John Prine, Toots Hibbert, and Adam Schlesinger.
Adam Schlesinger, the youngest of the bunch, was both wildly successful as a songwriter and under-appreciated in the music industry. His songs earned an Oscar nomination for film, numerous Emmy awards for TV, and a Tony nomination for Broadway. Ironically, one of his Emmy awards was for the theme song he wrote for The Tonys — “It’s Not Just For Gays Anymore.” He even wrote Xmas songs for the likes of Stephen Colbert. Schelsinger’s final stage collaboration, with Sarah Silverman, was supposed to debut on Broadway in 2020 but had to be postponed when the pandemic that would kill him hit New York City. Silverman joins Ted Leo, Nada Surf and dozens of other artists in covering Schlesinger’s songs on this tribute album. 100% of the proceeds go to the MusiCares’ COVID-19 Relief Fund.
Adam Schlesinger was part of a number of groups but he’s best known for his part in two quality indie pop bands. Fountains of Wayne used early 1980s style power pop to paint portraits of quiet middle class desperation and sudden, meaningless, acts of rebellion. Think of The Cars with lyrics written by a very American Ray Davies. His other band, Ivy, was closer in sound and spirit to such acts as Blondie, The Sundays, Lush, and Saint Etienne — European ennui with never-ending pop hooks. Ivy’s vocalist, Dominique Durand, illustrates the band’s general mood perfectly on the better of the two album covers Apartment Life used.
Ivy had way more luck getting songs placed in movies and TV shows than in earning radio play or album sales. Ivy’s back catalog is full of top tunes though, and Apartment Life is up their with the debut albums by The Cars and The Plimsouls and Saint Etienne’s Good Humour in having killer songs from top to bottom. Literally every song on Apartment Life belongs on the radio. Adam Schlesinger was that good of a songwriter. It was co-produced by site favorite Lloyd Cole and guests him, Luna’s Dean Wareham, and James Iha on guitar.
When I first started this blog I decided I was only going to cover the greatest vinyl albums of all time. Only flawless records everyone should own would make the grade — people are pushing all sorts of physical product out of their lives so only share the essentials. Pretty much instantly, however, that evolved to writing about records across a spectrum of greatness, from the interestingly imperfect to the uniquely blemished. People aren’t perfect so why should works of art be?
Flawed people are often the most interesting. Bill Evans was a deeply flawed person but he made four albums with Scott LeFaro and Paul Motian that are as close to perfect as anything can get. So, of course the first Bill Evans album I wrote up for this site was the one he recorded right after those utterly brilliant albums came out. And then, I spent half of it nattering on about the petty joys of bargain record shopping.
But, if I could take X number of albums with me to anywhere, from a deserted island to Valhalla, those four Bill Evans Trio albums would be among them. I will get to all of them here eventually but lets start with Waltz For Debby— the final release of the bunch.
You know times have changed when a residence hotel once proudly proclaimed “Transients Welcome” to lure in prospective clientele instead of keeping it something that is just quietly understood. The jazz life is hard though and this is the neighborhood that welcomed in an impossibly young, ever dapper, Archie Shepp and his besotted shepherd.
Shepp was a big part of the NYC free jazz movement of the 1960s but he grew up in the middle of an extraordinary Philadelphia jazz scene that included such pioneers as Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons, and John Coltrane, whose future work would help lead Shepp in startling new directions (including Protest era FM-radio worthy funky R&B/jazz). In the ’70s, Shepp kept his avant-garde credentials while reconnecting with the blues, Gospel, and the classic standards of his Philly upbringing.
Here is Archie Shepp reunited with Horace Parlan, a sublime pianist whose playing style was shaped by managing how polio mangled the shape, and functionality, of his fingers. You see Parlan’s hands in action in the below clip, as well as Shepp’s equally unique “How the hell can he play his horn like that???” style of blowing through his mouth piece. You can also hear Shepp’s fluency in French in the clip. Not included are any readings of his theatrical works — Archie Shepp is an all-around artist.
A long way back a friend helped start up this weekend hard pitch baseball happening. Two teams, composed of co-eds whose enthusiasm eclipsed practice and skill, battled it out for domination. Much to his amazement, it just kept getting bigger and bigger as the word got out. I am no fun — I stayed far away though I enjoyed the weekly tales of everyone getting beaned.
The teams names could be shortened down to the Bangers and the Fuckers and they played under the NAMBLA organizational banner. This was at a time when every organizational name got turned into NAMBLA on The Daily Show. Early on, I remembered him saying that NAMBLA stood for the North American Baseball League of America. Another friend, who had a refrigerator magnet business among his Radar O’Reilly list of side hustles, later made Bangers V Fuckers NAMBLA magnets. On these, NAMBLA stood for the North Atlantic Mission League & Association. This magnet was on my fridge until the images on it completely faded away. This second one was more accurate but the one where America is repeated twice in the name still makes me laugh.
During this whole thing, the Coachwhips, an SF Garage rock band, released an album called Bangers Vs. Fuckers with one of the best album covers EVER. The Coachwhips were awesome and earned plenty of positive notice, especially in Europe. The band’s leader, John Dywer, would go on to form another superior Garage/punk rock band, Thee Oh Sees, that are, if anything, even better.
Strange to think you can now even look back at the early 2000s, a truly terrible time in history, with a nostalgic glow. There was war, rigged democracy, and fast rising rents but it was still less fucked up than things would become. Plus, nobody is playing chaotic, girl-beaning, baseball games right now.