Tuesday, November 30, 2004

11/30 - Godzilla vs. Diarrhea!!

Example I heard the news today, oh boy…he stomped on Tokyo with his big scaly feeeeeet…” Godzilla just got a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. There he joins everyone from Francis X Bushman to the Olsen Twins. He must be thrilled. Producer Shogo Tomiyama ("Accepting for Godzilla, who couldn't be here tonight...") said "I'm here representing Godzilla. Unfortunately, he cannot speak English," he said. "We're very excited he is being honored in America." Godzilla then went on to a luncheon where he was honored by the B’Nai Brith, as Jewish Monster of the Year, and an evening as guest of honor at the American Film Institute Honors where he was roasted by good friends Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty. Tomorrow he’s going to be on “Ellen” where everyone in the audience will find a jar of his new vanity project, “Godzilla Brand Wasabi” and a copy of his autobiography "Will There Ever Be A Rainbow?" (in which he confesses to a longtime affair with Mothra) under their seats. But things haven’t been all rosy for the beloved atomic mutant. He is currently being abused as a metaphor for diarrhea in an Imodium commercial. The commercial opens as an otherwise attractive woman, relaxing in a chaise lounge on the beach, grimaces as the image of a pagoda-detroying Godzilla is projected on her mid-section (the inside of which we are led to believe has been similarly afflicted with said diarrhea…). She reaches into her straw bag – which she no doubt picked up at Sandals, the same place she picked up her intestinal bug – and pulls out a box of Imodium. She takes one, and the next thing you know, old Godzilla, who could not be stilled by laser cannons and missiles is vanquished by an over the counter dose of loperamide hydrochloride, marches out to sea. Oh the indignity. Besides, if there’s something rumbling around in your guts that feels like Godzilla, it’s time to go casket shopping. Check out the “fun facts” on the Imodium site:

Monday, November 29, 2004

11/29 - Tony Newman - "Soul Thing"

I picked this 45 up a while back on the strength of a friend’s recommendation. ‘Blazing Hammond grooves’, said he, ‘How much?’ said I, followed by a brief postal interlude, after which the disc dropped onto the deck of the old GP3 and my ears melted and my eyelids peeled back and my lips flapped around like the guy in the astronaut g-force simulator. Wheeeeee! No, really. It’s that good, and there’s more to the story. As soon as the needle dropped I knew that I’d heard this song before. Not only that, I’d been looking for it forever and had no idea what it was called. This version, was recorded in the late 60’s by UK drumslinger Tony Newman (thus the high-in-the-mix percussion). ExampleExampleExample Newman (seen above in various stages of Darwinian ascension) met the definition of “journeyman” musician as well as anyone. He started out as part of UK hitmakers ‘Sounds Incorporated’, contributed to the catalog of many a group as an anonymous studio dweller, spent some years with Jeff Beck, Marc Bolan and David Bowie and did time in the heavy, heavy bands Three Man Army and May Blitz (know almost exclusively to survivors of the early 70’s lager guzzling, soccer hooligan set). The tune, originally composed and recorded by UK library music maestro Keith Mansfield (and borrowed liberally by acid-heads Arzachel for their theme to the UK series “Queen Street Gang”), “Soul Thing” is a funky drums and brass tour de force with generous helping of the aforementioned ‘blazing Hammond grooves’. The flip side is an instrumental remake of Bunny Sigler’s ‘Let The Good Times Roll / Feel So Good’ medley, also drum-heavy. Anyhoo…the deja vu aspect of this particular gem…back when I was a kid, the then anonymous ‘Soul Thing’ was used as the backing track to a “coming attractions” animation at the local cinema (the self-same animation unearthed and reused by Quentin Tarantino for the opening of ‘Kill Bill’), and was also used (as it was after all advertising library music) for a local TV station public service ad (sometime in the late 60’s, early 70’s). I can’t say with any certainty whether I was hearing the Mansfield original (though that now seems likely), but the tune definitely struck a chord in my youthful mind (literally and figuratively). US funk and soul collectors (and beatheads hunting samples) are already familiar with library figures like Alan Hawkshaw, via his work as the Mohawks (Champ, Baby Hold On etc.), and library records in general have become a very hot commodity. I don’t know if the Newman or Mansfield versions of ‘Soul Thing’ are available in reissue, but originals of the Newman 45 (released in the US and UK) and Mansfield’s UK LPs aren’t terribly hard to come by. Newman later relocated to the US where he worked with country artists like the Everly Brothers and Crystal Gayle.

11/29 - Dave Van Ronk - RIP (2 years late...)

Example This past week I found out that Dave Van Ronk had passed away. I also found out that this sad event had taken place almost two years ago. First I felt sad. Then I felt stupid. Van Ronk is one of those artists that record collector/professional obscurantists like me hold close to their heart. He had an explosive, gravelly voice that carried in it the notes and tones of all great American music from the earliest folk songs, spirituals, sea chantys, hot jazz, blues pop and rock. One of the early cornerstones of the American folk revival (the one that birthed everyone from Odetta to Dylan), Van Ronk was forever hovering (unjustly) on the periphery. He was the kind of artist for whom the term cognescenti was invented, if only to have a small but devoted group of people know who he was (not that that ever put bread in anyone’s mouth – or wallet). I first saw and heard Dave Van Ronk in 1976 or 77, when PBS broadcast a Memorial Concert for Phil Ochs. I remember a bunch of familiar faces (though Van Ronk is the only one I’m sure of now), all gathered for the sad task of remembering once great troubadour, turned tragic suicide. I can’t remember exactly what he performed, but Van Ronk made a serious impression on me. It was his voice. If someone like Judy Collins has a voice like a bolt of velvet, Van Ronk had the same roll of fabric, soaked in whiskey and cigar smoke and wrapped in razor wire. From that day on, Van Ronk and his music occupied a place in my mental archive. I was always on the lookout for his old records (and occasionally new ones). His early stuff, on Folkways, Prestige and Mercury was very cool, with Dave covering Blind Lemon Jefferson, Mississippi John Hurt, and Dylan (for the first time anywhere) among others. His versions of ‘Come Back Baby’ and ‘Cocaine Blues’ are definitive. In the mid-60’s he dabbled – briefly and obscurely – in pop/rock on albums for Verve (if anyone has a copy of ‘Dave Van Ronk and the Hudson Dusters’ they wish to part with please e-mail me), and the results, while incongruous were actually quite charming. He even did an album with a Dixieland jazz band. Through the 60’s and 70’s he managed to build a varied body of work that carried him further away from the “60’s folkie” label into an area where he would more accurately be described as an interpreter of classic songs of all kinds. He continued to perform (and often re-interpret) items from the folk and blues canon, but he did so alongside tunes by Leonard Cohen, Randy Newman and Joni Mitchell (long a favorite of his). It seems likely that Van Ronk was never a bigger star precisely because he refused to limit himself – doomed, like so many other great performers before him, by virtue of his own eclecticism. In the 90’s the Gazelle label released a great two CD career retrospective entitled ‘A Chrestomathy’, defined thusly by Webster: Main Entry: chres•tom•a•thy Pronunciation: kre-'stä-m&-thE 1 : a selection of passages used to help learn a language 2 : a volume of selected passages or stories of an author While I’m pretty sure that Van Ronk was aiming at definition #2, I like to think #1 is a more apt description (at least in the abstract). The singing of Dave Van Ronk was a language of a kind that pulled elements as diverse as Rev. Gary Davis, Bing Crosby and the Hollywood Argyles together and made them sound like various components of a single thing. The collection is worth finding for the inclusion of ‘Garden State Stomp’, with lyrics composed entirely of NJ Place names (it’s better than it sounds). Example Fast forward to 1992, where Van Ronk collaborated with British folk singer Frankie Armstrong on the LP “Let No One Deceive You: The Songs of Bertolt Brecht”. Before you get all wound up wondering what possible enjoyment you might derive from such a collection (philistine…) it pays to remember that Brecht did some of his best work – and most of the songs on this album - at the side of one of the 20th century’s greatest (and most consistently interesting) melodists, none other than Kurt Weill. For those unfamiliar with the collaborations of Brecht and Weill, suffice to say that every time you hear Bobby Darin belting ‘Mack The Knife’, you are hearing the fruit thereof (albeit estranged from it’s original title: Die Moritat Von Mackie Messer). That particular song (performed by Van Ronk on the LP) originated in 1928’s ‘Three Penny Opera’ (itself partly borrowed from John Gay’s 18th century “Beggars Opera”), one of the great works of the modern musical theatre, and the best know of all Brecht/Weill works. Van Ronk and Armstrong perform several selections from ‘Threepenny Opera’, and the best of them is the arch, yet nostalgic ‘Tango Ballad’. Compared to the version from the 1954 revival (which featured a duet between Scott Merrill and Lotte Lenya), the approach to the song is wry and a little more restrained (though Armstrong’s voice is as cutting as Lenya’s any day…), and the arrangement has a wistful feel reflective of the inherent sadness in the lyrics. If you are unfamiliar with either Van Ronk or Brecht/Weill, this sublime performance should act as a suitable gateway into their music. The CD has long been a favorite of mine (and strangely enough appears to remain in print). Now that I know the great Van Ronk (sounds like a magician) is no longer with us, I’ll be giving it a couple of listens this week. This past summer the City of New York named a street off of Sheridan Square for Van Ronk. I'll have to stop by to pay my respects the next time I'm in the city.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

11/16 - 13th Floor Elevators - Slip Inside This House

Example Roger Kynard "Roky" Erickson Back in 1966 the 13th Floor Elevators exploded out of Austin, Texas – slicing through the barely psychedelicized minds of America’s youth like a ghost train screaming through the night. Soaring high into the ether they pulled hundreds of thousands of listeners with them, changing them forever, creating an acid utopia with Roky Erickson seated atop the Armadillo Throne (where he remains today). Well….not really, but it should have happened that way. The truth is (as much as can be pieced together from the shrapnel of the 60’s), the Elevators first 45 surged briefly into the top 40 – known to most only as a psychedelic curiosity – and then dropped back out of sight, taking the band with it. That’s the top 40 mainstream facts. It’s the kind of clichéd anecdote familiar to fans of the “one hit wonder”. But unlike a lot of similar stories, where the bands in question never deserved more than that tantalizing sliver of fame, the 13th Floor Elevators moment in the showbiz sun was the tiniest, barely visible tip of the iceberg, below which – hidden from the kids that saw them on Where The Action Is – existed another world entirely. There, in the shadows stood a groundbreaking band, led by a mad genius, who would record three albums of visionary psychedelia (serious shit too -none of that flower child doo-dah either) and then dissolve, smashed to pieces by drugs, madness and the hellhounds of the Texas constabulary.


The 45 that brought them to the attention of the teenyboppers was ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ from their first album ‘The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators’. Recorded for Houston’s International Artists label, Roky Erickson had originally recorded the tune with his old band the Spades. It’s a deadly bit of savagery, with Erickson’s otherworldly voice stabbing through like an icicle, alongside the eerie sound of Tommy Hall’s amplified jug (no…really…). That singular voice – and the jug – should have been a signal that there was something new afoot in Texas, but since the Top 40 is often a monument to the fickle power of brute ignorance, the Elevators got their taste, and then dropped back into the underground, like so many Morlocks. That first LP is really the foundation of the Elevators legend. The sound, the songs and that cover standing like an invitation to some kind of demented debutante ball where the guests of honor were a pack of drug addled Texans dumping LSD into the punch. However, as I said before, these were not the mewlings of a tribe of daisy-toting, Maharishi-ettes, wearing the mantle of Dr. Hoffman’s “problem child”. The Elevators were channeling the real, often dark vibe of the psychedelic experience. They had been to San Franciso, joining the exodus that had already carried their fellow Texans Janis Joplin, Chet Helms and Doug Sahm to an place that – while not the fabled utopia touted by so many – was certainly a less hostile environment for longhairs. Unlike their fellow Texpatriates, the Elevators went home and made perhaps the greatest American psychedelic album, ‘Easter Everywhere’. Now before you go getting all “But, but but…..what about the Exploding Indoor-Outdoor Grateful Elephant Farm Experience…blah, blah, buh-lah…….” Or whatever your personal favorite is, let me assure you that you are WRONG. I believe wholeheartedly in the greatness of the Frisco bands (especially the Grateful Dead who I think have been criminally misunderstood and doomed by the culturally marginalizing force of the traveling circus known as the Deadheads), and I know that many great bands, from your storied West-Coasters like Spirit and Love and dark New Yorkers like the Velvets all had great psychedelic moments, NOBODY, in an era absolutely filthy with great albums, made a psychedelic record as perfectly realized as “Easter Everywhere”.


It’s difficult to nail down exactly why this is. Not in the sense that the albums greatness is not immediately evident on first hearing it, but trying to reverse engineer the recipe isn’t so easy. First and foremost the Elevators were a great band, in the truest sense of the word. In an era where there were many bands that featured great performers, or technically proficient bands without any heart (the hallmark of the oncoming progressive era), or bands with all the heart in the world but no vision (like those making thousands of great garage punk 45s during the same period), the 13th Floor Elevators were a “band” in the Merriam Webster 5B definition of the word (b : a more or less well-defined range of wavelengths, frequencies, or energies). On the level of pure sound, Erickson’s eerily powerful voice, Hall’s incongruous yet strangely appropriate jug, and Stacey Sutherland’s guitar combined to create something new and unique. The echoes of the wider psychedelic zeitgeist were there – the Elevators were not working in a vacuum – yet they managed to transcend the echoey, trippy clichés because of their songs. Working in various combinations, Erickson, Tommy Hall and Sutherland wrote most of the bands non-cover material, along with Powell St. John (who would later show up as a member of Mother Earth). Though capable of love/relationship songs, they tended more to abstract ruminations on fire engines, earthquakes etc. ‘Easter Everywhere’ begins with the epic ‘Slip Inside This House’ (click link above to hear the 45 edit). Opening with a droning guitar line, followed by the drums and jug, Roky winds in and out with lyrics that on first listen appear to be a metaphor for psychedelic experience, yet something more as well:
“If your limbs begin dissolving / In the water that you tread / All surroundings are evolving / In the stream that clears your head / Find yourself a caravan Like Noah must have led And slip inside this house as you pass by. Slip inside this house as you pass by. “
These are the words not of a psychedelic dabbler but of a convert and prosyletizer. Someone who has already “slipped inside this house” and seen the way. The final verse of the song speaks to the levels of enlightenment:
“One-eyed men aren't really reigning / They just march in place until / Two-eyed men with mystery training / Finally feel the power fill / Three-eyed men are not complaining. / They can yo-yo where they will / They slip inside this house as they pass by. Don't pass it by.”
The song stands as a kind of manifesto, not just for the rest of the album, but for the Elevators music in general. As to whether or not it is in fact possible for everyone to “slip inside” their house one can hope that those that do not fully “get” the Elevators will at least be drawn in by the power of the music and suitably intrigued by the lyrical sentiments. The next cut, the Powell St. John tune ‘Slide Machine’ (according to an interview with St. John) uses a road grading machine as a metaphor for the power of nature, and love (it’s better than it sounds) starts off slowly but gradually picks up speed – and settles down again. A paean to the uber/everywoman (or perhaps someone more supernatural) ‘She Lives In A Time of Her Own’ features some bizarre interplay between the jug and guitar, as well as a ghostly refrain. ‘Nobody To Love’ (no doubt a response to the Jefferson Airplane) has long been one of my favorite Elevators songs. It has an intriguing melody line, harmonized throughout the length of the song by the Sutherland’s lead guitar. Sutherland’s vocal is an interesting departure from Erickson’s voice. I know some people think of this as an atypical Elevators song, but it dovetails nicely with a lot of the Sutherland material on their last LP ‘Bull of the Woods’. Over the course of three studio albums, the Elevators only covered a single song, Bob Dylan’s ‘It’s All Over Now Baby Blue’. Their treatment of it is slow and spacey, replacing any warmth/irony from previous versions and replacing it with a chilly sadness. ‘Earthquake' may be one of the most chaotic, intense odes to lust ever recorded. The guitars pound and feed back and Roky wails about the shaking of the earth, the splitting of his head and the long lasting power of his woman’s love. I won’t speculate as to whether or not this song is a window into Erickson’s later mental problems, but the combination of the lyrics and the musical vibe is kind of disturbing. ‘Dust’ is a quiet love song, that starts out with just Erickson’s voice and spare acoustic guitar. It sounds as if that’s how the whole song was done initially, and the bass/jug etc. were overdubbed. The most rocking song on the record ‘Levitation’ (later covered to great effect by Julian Cope) is as close as ‘Easter Everywhere” comes to the garage punk of ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me”. Perfectly suited to the song’s pulsing waves, Erickson’s voice punches through the ringing guitars at all the right times. As hard as it is to conceive of the Elevators creating a deeply touching, almost traditional love song, ‘I Had To Tell You’ illustrated that they could do so as well as anyone. Co-written by Erickson with Tommy and Clementine (his wife) Hall (who also duets with Erickson on the track), they lyrics are timeless, and the sparse backing - only acountic guitar, harmonica and tambourine – frames them perfectly. The words of the song, illustrate the redemptive/protective powers of love :
Chaos all around me with it's finger clinging,but I can hear you singing in the corners of my brain.Every doubt has found me. Every sound of grows drier. Everything is quiet. But the song that keeps me sane.I can hear you're voice, echo in my voice softly.I can feel your strength, reinforcing mine.If you fear I'll lose my spirit, like a drunkard's wasted wine,don't you even think about it, I'm feelin' fine.
It may well be the Elevators finest moment, and is still one of my favorite songs. The final song on the album, ‘Pictures (Leave Your Body Behind)’ is almost like the mellow ending to an intense trip. An ode to astral projection (or at least it seems that way), taken at a leisurely pace, you can almost picture the band driving off into the sunset as the credits roll.


The Elevators story doesn’t end here. They did one more studio album, ‘Bull of The Woods’. This album’s reputation has suffered unfairly due to the fact that Roky Erickson is barely present – literally and figuratively. His struggles with psychedelic overindulgence, in combination with a mental breakdown (one of the many parallels to his UK counterpart Syd Barrett) have risen to the level of folklore, and it becomes difficult (if not impossible, without firsthand knowledge) to tell where one ends and the other begins. In either case it’s a tragic story, Erickson was a truly talented individual, and the Elevators hugely influential (much like the Velvet Undergound, their influence was not immediate). He continued to perform through the 90’s, and though he made some savage rock’n’roll, nothing he did rose to the heights he ascended to with the Elevators. Careful consideration of their legacy should strip the Elevators of the pejorative label of “psychedelic curiousity” and elevate them to a position as one of the great American bands of the 1960’s.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

11/10- 11/11 - Bob Dorough Parts One & Two


Bob Dorough is a force of nature, like the summer wind, the aurora borealis and laughter. Bob Dorough is also – in more concrete terms – a musician. I’ll start off by assuming that although you have probably heard his music sometime in the last 50 years (exactly when depending on how long you’ve been around), you probably had no idea who you were listening to. Born almost 80 years ago in Arkansas, Dorough (most say duh-row, the locals say dora), he has been bouncing around, and making his mark in all manner of jazz and pop music since the 50’s. To pin him down as a practitioner of a single style is probably a mistake, though he is best known as a jazz singer, and it’s fair to say that most of his non-jazz work (on his own or in support of others) is most definitely informed by jazz. In the early 50’s, he worked as pianist/arranger for championship boxer Sugar Ray Robinson’s music stage act (that’s right…I said “musical”) and spent some time in Paris working with future musical co-worker and kindred spirit Blossom Dearie and the Blue Stars. In 1955 he recorded his first solo LP ‘Devil May Care’ for Bethlehem. I remember distinctly the very first time I played this CD (about 2 minutes after paying for it at the local books’n’music supermegastore), because from the very first note, I knew I was listening to pure, unadulterated genius. Not necessarily genius in the Beethoven/Einstein way (though a little bit I guess) but genius in the sense of a brilliant combination/intersection of talent, inspiration, material, and bright human spirit. It was all there, from the very first notes of ‘Old Devil Moon’ on through the inspired vocalese of ‘Yardbird Suite’ and ‘Ow’. This guy was an original, possessed of a style so unique – yet accessible – that it ran through me like a bolt of lightning. It was like someone had approached singing the way that Thelonious Monk went at the piano (not exactly, but definitely working the same side of the street). Dorough’s music went right to the electrical centers in my brain and triggered the “I need to know more about, hear more from and dig more completely the sounds this person is making” switch in my head. So…I started looking, and strangely enough, remembering….. Back in the day (more exactly the last few years I was in high school) I had a friend – who I have not seen or heard from in many years – who was into jazz (I just “liked it” at that point) and we used to try to get into NYC when they were doing the Newport/Kool/JVC (or whatever the hell is is now) jazz festival and catch the yearly “theme” shows. One year (somewhere in the 1978 to 1980 time frame) that show was a tribute to Charlie Parker, and one of the performers was none other than Bob Dorough. It all started to flood back….At the time I had no idea who Dorough was, but I remember digging his wigged out, quasi-Beat stance, expecially how it stood out against the somewhat stale, “moldy fig” (Google that one kids…) air of tribute and remembrance that was turning Parker’s music into history (as opposed to music, which it once was and still should have been…). Not too long after that show, my first encounter with Dorough was stuffed deep into my brain, under crates of BeatlesStonesGaragePunkPsychedelic yadda yadda yadda, frozen in time, waiting to be rescued by newly revivified brain cells and synaptic connections. So…I’m launched into this one man wave of Dorough-mania, and finding snippets of info here and there, and luckily getting to see the man play in person, which is a whole ‘nother bag I recommend getting into, and I discover the following: Bob Dorough has in the 50 years since his first LP managed to continue recording quality music, even if it was sometimes for teensy labels Bob Dorough was the ONLY vocalist to record with Miles Davis Bob Dorough was one of the main forces behind Schoolhouse Rock (as writer, arranger, performer) Bob Dorough, along with his running buddy Stu Scharf arranged and wrote a lot of interesting pop music in the 60’s, including working on some LPs for Spank & Our Gang among others And those are just the obvious things. The more I dug (literally and figuratively) the more I realized what an interesting and talented guy this was. His career is so full of unusual detours and diversions that it would be nigh impossible to lay it all out comprehensively, so I decided to grab some of the high points and lay them out. If you see something you like, follow it (like I did). Example The ‘Devil May Care’ album is essential. It’s the perfect introduction to Dorough’s unique style and wiggy enough that if you’re not all over the standards he covers, you will be when he’s done. It’s still in print, and ought to be grabbable. He also did a bunch of other stuff for Bethlehem, including a small role in their ‘Porgy and Bess’ (starring Mel Torme) and working (with Sam Most among others) as a pianist – a role that he fills quite well. As far as I know only the Most stuff is available in reissue. One you might want to try to track down, from around the same time is an LP called ‘Jazz Canto’ (World Pacific). The album, put together by California poet Lawrence Lipton (father of scrumtrilescent celebrity interrogator James Lipton of ‘Inside the Actors Studio’), the disc contained a series of collaborations in which poetry (by Langston Hughes, Philip Whelan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti among others) was set to a jazz backing, with recitations . Dorough does Ferlinghetti’s ‘Dog’ and ‘Three Songs by Langston Hughes: Daybreak In Alabama, Night and Morning and The Dream Keeper’. All in all very swinging and all you would expect – and more – from a such a Beat era collab. As far as I know this has never been reissued. My copy set me back around $25 on Eeeeeeeeebay. Also recommended for John Carradine completists… The Miles Davis collaborations apparently came about because Davis had seen, and dug (digged, dag??) Dorough, and became possessed of a whim to have him sit in on some of his sessions with the mighty Gil Evans. The results are interesting. Not the best stuff either of them did, but the sheer value of hearing the sounds made when three great musical minds were in the same room together is worth it. They laid down ‘Nothing Like You’ (cowritten by Dorough and Fran Landesman), ‘Blue Xmas’ and instrumental versions of ‘Devil May Care’ and ‘Nothing Like You’. Outside of the ‘Miles Davis/Gil Evans’ boxed set, the vocal of ‘Nothing Like You’ showed up years later on Davis’ ‘Sorcerer’ album (and appears on the CD), ‘Blue Xmas’ has appeared on a couple of Christmas jazz comps, and the instro version of ‘Nothing Like You’ appears as a bonus track on the Verve CD of ‘The Individualism of Gil Evans’. One of the weirder artifacts in my Bob Dorough collection is the LP by the Medieval Jazz Quartet, a group composed entirely of recorders (of various pitches). Recorded in 1959 the recorder-ists are backed by Paul Motian on drums, Al Schackman on guitar and George Duvivier on bass, and play a variety of standards in a Medieval Times stylee. Strangest of all is that if you Google “recorder” and “Dorough” together it becomes apparent that his work with the lowly recorder extended to writing music for the instrument that’s still used today. Crazy man…crazy. Dorough is also co-composer (with Ben Tucker) of ‘Comin’ Home Baby’. Swung most heavily by Mel Torme, the tune has been recorded countless times by folks as wide ranging as the Downliners Sect, Mashmakan and Timi Yuro. Example The other easily located “early” work by Dorough is the 1966 LP ‘Just About Everything’. This disc has Dorough laying down great originals like ‘The Message’ and the title cut, as well as covers of Bob Dylan and Hoagie Carmichael (reprising ‘Baltimore Oriole’ from ‘Devil May Care’). While any Bob is good Bob, I’ve always found this disc to be kind of tame and mellow compared to a lot of his other work. If you like your grits plain, start with this one and move on to something heavier (I don’t want you to hurt yourself…). It was around this time that Dorough and Stu Scharf started to work with Spanky & Our Gang (‘Lazy Day’, ‘Like To get To Know You’, ‘Sundays Will Never Be The Same’), producing, arranging and writing tunes for the group. They also worked on more obscure stuff like albums by Alzo, and Irene Kral. Dorough also played piano on a session recorded in 1968 as part of a group backing Allen Ginsberg on the Verve LP ‘Allen Ginsberg/William Blake: Songs Of Innocence And Experience’. I’ll end Part One by mentioning one of my fave Dorough obscurities, an EP by the 44th Street Portable Flower Factory. I found this at a flea market, and it sat in one of my record boxes for years before I bothered to read the credits, and discovered that it was a Dorough project. Recorded for Scholastic Books (I think it was given away with a book about popular music/lyrics) it features Dorough on vocals/keyboards and a group that includes Steve Swallow on bass playing mellow, soft-rock renditions of tunes like Donovan’s ‘Atlantis’ and the Youngbloods’ ‘Get Together’. Pretty cool stuff, and a nice intro into his Schoolhouse Rock recordings. There’s also another ep by the group on Scholastic, where they drop the ‘44th St.’ and become just the ‘Portable Flower Factory’. I haven’t found that one yet… Example Part 2 – Schoolhouse Rock to the present….

So…Back to Bob…. If you haven’t heard/seen Dorough, to say that he’s ebullient would be understatement. What’s cool is that he manages to be that way without passing over into “cutesy. He’s so animated and humorous that it would be easy to overlook how good a jazz musician he is (as pianist and singer). A few years ago, stuffy, Jonathan Schwartz-ish “American Songbook” devotee Will Friedwald wrote a book on jazz singers, in which he was singularly unkind to Bob Dorough. “….anyone that’s ever taken singing lessons resents the hell out of Bob Dorough for having the nerve to pass himself off as a vocalist.” Suffice to say, Friedwald’s idea of jazz singing hinges on folks like Rosemary Clooney (a wonderful singer to be sure, but not the kind I go to seeking “jazz”). The difficulty someone like Friedwald (and you know that fucker wears a bow-tie…) has with Dorough probably begins with the fact that Dorough is not possessed of a “classic” singing voice – no one is ever going to mistake him for Vaughn Monroe. Nor is his style straight-forward or mellifluous (in the standard sense). He’s not here to lull you into a Sunday afternoon with the standards reverie as you sip herbal tea and leaf through the New York Times Book Review. His place in the musical landscape it to make you open your eyes and ears, crack a smile and say “Yeah!” (all the while nodding your head involuntarily). The same reaction I had when I first saw a Joan Miro painting; something which is completely outside the realm of convention, yet is nonetheless miraculous. I think what it is I find so remarkable about Bob Dorough is that he and his music exude happiness, humor, wonder and originality and manage to do all that without an iota of pretension. He’s like a musical bodhisattva, and I will not hesitate to say that if you do not “get” him, you have missed the train my brothers and sisters. I’m reluctant to use him as a litmus test to divide the cool from the uncool - mainly because the border between those two regions is so fluid – but he kind of works that way. That said…. Example When ABC came up with the idea for Schoolhouse Rock, they picked our friend Mr. Dorough to be musical director. In turn, he brought in folks like David Frishberg, Blossom Dearie (‘Figure 8’) , Jack Sheldon (‘I’m Just A Bill’) and Grady Tate (‘Naughty Number 9’) to participate, and the rest is history. If you were a kid in the early/mid 70’s you already had the sounds of Schoolhouse Rock chiseled into your brain, and if you were a kid after that, you probably heard it anyway (since the shorts were reissued on VHS/DVD). The animated musical shorts, covering grammar, math, American history, science and computers all sported original melodies and lyrics by Dorough/Frishberg et al, and performances by all those previously mentioned as well as Lynn Ahrens, Essra Mohawk. Many of these tunes have long since been woven into the great public subconscious (just try singing ‘Conjunction Junction’ without someone else joining in…), and if in the end, Schoolhouse Rock is what Bob Dorough is remembered for, I don’t think he’d be upset. All the music from the series is available in a boxed set (I have that one, and it’s worth it) as well as individual discs, the Schoolhouse Rock Rocks tribute, and of course DVD and VHS. Now I know as I go along here I’m missing some stuff. Dorough has recorded a number of albums that are currently unavailable due to the fact that they were recorded for small labels, some of those outside the US. Stu Scharf manages to keep some of Bob’s most interesting stuff in print. Among those is his 1970 album ‘To Communicate’, which includes an amazing cover of the Stones’ ‘She Smiled Sweetly’, and his 1991 LP (composed of material written largely in the 1960’s) “This is a Recording of Pop Art Songs by Bob Dorough”, both of which are great and highly recommended. Example One other LP Scharf sells, “Beginning To See The Light” is a personal favorite. Recorded in 1976 at Concerts by the Sea in Redondo Beach, California, the disc has Dorough on vocals and piano, backed only by longtime musical sidekick Bill Takas on bass, winding his way through 10 tunes. A tasty mix of originals (‘I’m Hip’, ‘I’ve Got Just About Everything’) and unusual covers (Randy Newman’s ‘Simon Smith and his Dancing Bear’ and Dr. Seuss’s ‘Just Because We’re Kids’) the album is a great introduction to Dorough, and is HIGHLY recommended. Flash forward to 1997 (keeping in mind what I said about numerous small label works falling between the cracks) and our hero finds himself (finally) on a major label, this being Blue Note. His three (to date) CDs for Blue Note are all worth grabbing. Example The first, ‘Right On My Way Home’ doesn’t hit high on the “far out” scale, but it’s still an excellent album. ExampleToo Much Coffee Man” kicks it up a notch (with the title song about and underground commix hero) and BD is in rare form. Example His split-LP with Dave Frishberg, “Who’s On First” is a good intro, but there’s not much here that’s new, except of course for Dorough’s only major-label (and thus accessible) recording of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Hong Kong Blues”. There’s apparently another small label live set from this year, but I have yet to see it anywhere. In closing….the dude is 80, so do yourselves a favor and go see him in person. Dude is most definitely the shnizzle….

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

11//9 - Godzilla We Hardly Knew Ye...

Example The other night, adrift in the Sargasso Sea of digital cable (a pox upon my checking account) I encountered – for the second time in a week – a fairly recent Godzilla movie. I had for years assumed that Godzilla, like the Beatles, Twiggy and Barry Goldwater had remained locked in the 1960’s, never growing old, always the young, brash monster of his youth. Unbeknownst to me, everyone’s favorite radioactive dinosaur (?) had, like Bob Dylan before him, continued on into old age, weakening the impact of his early “important” work with a string of ill-conceived returns…. The “film” that I encountered was 1995s ‘Godzilla vs. Destoroyah’ (released in Japan as Gojira vs. Desutoroia…the strange Anglicization no doubt the work of some Hong Kong video box auteur). My wife had already fallen asleep, so I left it on. First off, the basic plot structure has not changed. Godzilla’s earthly reign is interrupted by some upstart from space/beneath the sea/inside the earth, who is eventually defeated by Godzilla after a long fight in which Godzilla seems to be on the verge of losing several times – exactly like any professional wrestling match. We get to root for Godzilla as he(she?) battles back from the brink of almost certain disaster , saving the world (or at least Japan) once again ( or do we????). Unfortunately, after about five minutes I realized that something HAD changed….Godzilla movies – always known for being incredibly cheap and cheesy – have gotten CHEAPER and CHEESIER! In the fifty years since Toho started making Godzilla and Godzilla-esque monster fare, Godzilla who started out as a man inside a rubber suit trampling cardboard cities, is still a man inside a rubber suit – and it’s not even a good one. It doesn’t help that his opponents – never terribly realistic in the first place – have gotten less believable. Yeah, yeah, yeah…I know, “What’s believable about a giant turtle that flies by shooting jets of flame out of his leg holes?”. Well, nothing really. But at least you could look at it and say, “Hey…that’s some big turtle - or pterodactyl (Rodan) – or three-headed space dragon (Ghidora) or moth (Mothra*).” Destoroyah looks like a dinosaur that fell into an atomic junkyard – all superfluous glowing horns, bat wings and an extra jaw “borrowed” from the monster in ‘Alien’. It’s like the kind of thing a 5th grader with an active imagination draws in his notebook while not paying attention to his teacher. “Hmmmmm…” he thinks to himself. “Maybe if his tusks shoot atom rays….”. Someone once described Arnold Schwarzenegger as looking like a condom stuffed with walnuts. Destoroyah looks like that same condom stuffed with walnuts, barbed wire, car parts, tacks and bug-eyed Vegas has-been (never-was?) Charlie Callas. Adding insult to injury, Godzilla loses to this insane crap-heap, and DIES (though his place is taken immediately by Godzilla Jr. – a path of succession set by the Japanese Constitution ) but manages to rise from the dead a few years later for “Godzilla Millenium 2000” This same technical awfulness was on display in “Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth” and I’m sure in every one of the 7 other Godzilla movies made since 1992. My gut reaction was to assume that this was kitsch; The Japanese meant for the monsters to look like crap…but I don’t think that’s the case. The Japanese have a knack for digesting American pop culture and spitting it back up in strange new meta-configurations, but Godzilla was theirs to start with. It may be that Toho have figured out that the bulk of Godzilla-abilia sold in the US is purchased by grown men that still live in their Mom’s basements (who are probably the main audience for the US releases of these films), but I doubt that there are enough of those guys to generate enough commerce to keep the franchise alive).


Basement dwelling Godzilla lover

Is it that these movies are aimed exclusively at kids? In a culture where kids are enamored of faster, fancier special effects – and have their own HUGE share of the Japanese entertainment market with your Pokemons and the Yugi-Ohs and whatnot - probably not. Is it some kind of nostalgia that only the Japanese can understand, doomed to be puzzled about and misinterpreted by people like me? Could be, rabbit… Somebody help…I’m losing a lot of sleep over this. *RE:Mothra…can someone explain to me if Japanese moths are somehow more threatening than the kind we have, and if not, how did they become monsters??

Friday, November 05, 2004

Now Playing 11/5 - Scott Walker and the Crying Game

Example So…I decided that since it was getting more difficult (due to time constraints) to get full updates of my web site completed, I would try to be the 5,000,000th person to get one of these things going. I've seen some audio blogs, and thought they were a great idea. While this site won't follow that path 100%, it'll touch on some of the same bases. Also, while my recent focus has been on funk and soul music, I'll be writing about a lot more than that here. I'll paraphrase Duke Ellington who said something along the lines of "there are only two kinds of music, good and bad", and what I'll be writing about here is the good kind. There'll also be the occasional political monologue/rant, and all manner of pop culture rambling. That said, the last week has been extremely depressing. The re-election (election?) of George Bush has brought an end to one of the most hopeful political seasons in recent memory. For the first time in a long time I saw a lot of people getting as excited about politics as I was, and it looked like we were really going to turn things around. Needless to say that did not happen. I'll spare you the gory details of my own personal political hell (compounded by the fact that my wife and son have been away visiting her folks for the week). Suffice to say that I was/am pretty down. So...what to do? I broke out the records. A while back we came into (via my father in law) a sizable stash of 45s. Maybe 80% of them were crap, but the remaining 20% yielded some interesting stuff. Some for me, but mostly for resale. My wife was a huge help sorting/pricing/grading the records, and one of the things she pulled out was a version of "The Crying Game" by Brenda Lee(?!?). This was already one of my favorite songs via the original version by Dave Berry (a big deal in the UK and Europe during the 60's, never really hit it over here). It's a superb, atmospheric beat ballad, which enjoyed a brief moment of popularity when it was redone by Boy George for the movie of the same name. Anyway.... The Brenda Lee version was FANTASTIC! Even though I knew she was more than her top 40 chart list would lead you to believe (she made some cool rockabilly sides), this was a complete surprise. I'd love to know how the song made it's way to her. She recorded her version in 1965 (after Berry and Ian & The Zodiacs), when her career was not exactly at it's peak. Ultimately it was the perfect match between a singer and a song. Anyway...(again)... Hearing this record inspired me to work on a mix built around it. I'm at a stage in my life where I've listened to (and continue to listen to) so much music that a large part of my brain has become devoted to assembling and reassembling it all into categories, lists and ultimately impressionistic, themed mixes (god bless the brilliant bastard that invented a way to record vinyl to cds). So...last night, after dinner I moved into the record room and started digging through my LPs, to see what hit me. I pulled about 60 LPs off the shelves and got to work. I wanted to put something together that would alternately sooth my shattered nerves and still satisfy my need to hear obscure, and interesting music. So here it is (you'll need Realplayer to hear the soundclips) 1. Artie Schroeck Implosion - Darling Be Home Soon - The first track I used is a cover of the Lovin' Spoonful's "Darling Be Home Soon" by the Artie Schroeck Implosion. Schroeck was a producer/arranger who was given an opportunity to make his own album, and he decided to compose it entirely of Lovin Spoonful covers (saxophonist Bud Shank did a similar project around the same time). Unlike a lot of LPs like this, it's actually quite good; the kind of off kilter, somewhat inspired takes on easy listening/background music that were so prevalent at the time. "Darling be Home Soon" is one of my favorite Spoonful songs, and Schroeck laid down a pretty interesting version, using harpsichord, acoustic guitar and strings. The melody/vocal lines are run by French horn, oboe and what sounds like an electronically processed clarinet, and the song builds nicely, layer upon layer. 2. Glen Campbell - Without Her - I followed it up with Glen Campbell covering Harry Nilsson's "Without Her". Say what you want about his recent drunken rampage, but in the early days of Campbell's pop stardom he combines his fantastic voice and guitar playing with really good taste in material. It certainly didn't hurt that he had Jimmy Webb writing his hits for him. From 1967's "Gentle On My Mind" lp, which also includes a great version of Donovan's "Catch The Wind". "Without Her" is a fairly early cover of a Nilsson tune, and it's one of his prettiest melodies. It helps that Nilsson and Campbell were both outstanding singers whose voices had a similar clarity and texture. Campbell's 1968 "Wichita Lineman" LP is also quite good with some interesting covers (Bee Gees, Jacques Brel, Tim Hardin). 3. Sonny Stitt - Wichita Lineman - "Wichita Lineman" is simply a great f-ing song. Sonny Stitt's version from1969 isn't stunning, but it's a great window into what seasoned jazz performers had to do to stay afloat at that time. Stitt started out in the 40's as one of best alto players to appears in the wake of (and as a disciple of) Charlie Parker. By the mid-60's all but the biggest jazz starts (and then some of those) were forced to make albums of pop songs, some more inspired than others. By the late 60's, Stitt (like Eddie Harris) was a proponent of the Varitone saxophone, which 'electrified' the sound of the instrument. Not a synthesizer, as much as a saxophone equivalent of a guitar effects box, the Varitone made for interesting listening. Stitt acquits himself nicely. It's certainly not 'jazz' by any real standard (other that the fact that it's being played by jazz musicians) but it's a cool version of the tune. 4. Dorothy Ashby - Drink - Dorothy Ashby's name is known mostly to beat junkies, soul/funk collectors and fans of exotica. She was a jazz harpist who made three amazing albums for Cadet in the late 60's. "The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby" is her most "far out". A concept album based around musical framings of the poetry of Omar Khayyam, it features Ashby not only on harp, but piano, koto and vocals as well. Produced by the brilliant Richard Evans, the LP moves between quiet, meditative pieces, exotica and full on jazz, sometimes hitting all three bases in the same song. 'Drink' is one of the few selections on the album to feature a full vocal and like a lot of Evans work has a lush backing overlaid on a slightly funky beat. 5. Luis Bonfa - Zabumba - Luis Bonfa was one of the pioneers of bossa nova. He composed two absolute classics Manha de Carnival and Samba de Orpheu - and made many great albums. His 1968 Dot LP 'Bonfa' is a pretty typical mix (for the time) of incongruous pop covers and originals. 'Zabumba' is a moody slice of instrumental bossa guitar. Short and sweet. 6. Jose Feliciano - California Dreaming - Jose Feliciano is one of those guys that was huge for a short time and eventually just faded into the Branson-like wallpaper. That's a shame because he was not only a brilliant guitarist but also a great, expressive vocalist. While I was tempted to include his version of 'Light My Fire' ( a top 40 hit and a big fave of mine), I decided instead on his take on the Mamas and Papas 'California Dreaming'. It starts out with the same signature guitar riff, but them drifts off on a soulful wave, building to a kind of subdued crescendo with Feliciano scatting in Spanish (at least I think he's scatting...) 7. Ian & The Zodiacs - The Crying Game - So...Brenda Lee's 'Crying Game' inspired this mix, yet didn't get on it. Therein lies the difference between listening to 45s on the old Columbia GP3 portable, and on a good turntable. Brenda was (as the say on Soultrut) skated/rinked, or as they say everywhere else, VERY scratchy. Fortunately I had an alternative, and grabbed my recently acquired copy of the same tune by Ian & The Zodiacs. Ian & The Zodiacs were Liverpool contemporaries of the Beatles who became fairly big stars in Germany during the beat era (and got some of their 45s issued in the US). They played all the kinds of stuff that the Liverpool/Hamburg bar bands had to play, i.e. soul/R&B covers, pop tunes, standards etc. They were a solid band that during their three album tenure on Germany's Star Club label recorded lots of great rock'n'roll, and at least one moment of certified Euro-punk brilliance , 'Why Can't It Be Me'. Their version of 'The Crying Game' doesn't rise to the magnificent heights of pathos attained by Brenda Lee, but it manages to create a real sense of longing/sadness (and borrow Big Jim Sullivan's guitar effects from Dave Berry's record). It's still the same great song. 8. Gabor Szabo - Gypsy Queen - Perhaps the hottest Hungarian export since goulash (for what that's worth) guitarist Gabor Szabo had a pretty nice career for himself in the 60's. He recorded several great albums for Impulse and later partnering with Gary McFarland to create the short-lived but interesting Skye Records. His 1966 'Spellbinder' album features the track 'Gypsy Queen' (which might be familiar because Santana redid it as part of a medley with 'Black Magic Woman'). Szabo managed to combine folk and pop sounds in his jazz stylings, and his acoustic guitar work on 'Gypsy Queen', in combination with Willie Bobo's percussion is hypnotic. 9. Hugh Masekela - Bajabula Bonke (Healing Song) - To most people Hugh Masekela's career starts and ends with 'Grazing In The Grass'. One of the first 'world music' crossovers, Masekela came from South Africa with music that represents jazz as much as it reflects the sounds of Africa. Prior to his pop success, Masekela recorded a pair of excellent albums for MGM. He first recorded 'Bajabula Bonke (Healing Song)' - which had been written by his then-wife Miriam Makeba - on 'The Americanization of Ooga Booga' in 1966. He rerecorded the tune in 1967 for UNI, and is seen playing the song in the film Monterey Pop. The tune is slow and meditative, but also quite powerful. Masekela vocalizes over a slow piano/bass vamp, building to a climax with the horns. 10. Roberta Flack - The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face - Flack's cover of Ewan McColl's 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face' is the only track in this mix that was a hit (albeit two years after it was first released). The whole 'First Take' album is beautiful, with covers of Leonard Cohen and Eugene McDaniels (and a couple fo Donny Hathaway tunes), but 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face' is absolutely sublime. Flack's voice seems to caress the words of the song. The instruments are almost an afterthought, bubbling under ever so subtly as if to intrude on the the communion between the singer and the song would be criminal. I can hardly listen to this song without feeling transported. And that’s what it’s all about, isn't it? 11. Scott Walker - It's Raining Today - Speaking of music that "transports" me to a different place, there isn't much that approaches Scott Walker. Though Walker has become something of a chic cult object for alterna-types of late, I haven't really met too many people that really "get" his music. If you approach his albums casually, the initial impression is of a standard crooner. Walker's voice is so rich and magnificent (maybe the best pop voice of the 60's??) that it's hard to believe that he had previously been part of the teen-idol Walker Brothers (and that all of his post-Walker's solo albums were top 10 hits in the UK). If you look at the tunes he was covering (he was a Jacques Brel fanatic), and then at his sometime spellbinding orginals it soon becomes apparent that the singer you are listening to is no Robert Goulet. Scott Walker had the soul of a poet and it was easy to hear that in his music. 'It's Raining Today' (which starts with a string sound that was later sampled by the Sneetches for 'Behind The Shadow') , which appeared on his first solo LP, Scott/A Loner, is more than a song. It's more like a vignette, or set piece from a musical that never existed. I first got into Scott about 15 years ago via a compilation put together by Marc Almond of the group Soft Cell. Since then all of his albums have come back into print, and there's more than one compilation. 12. Gary McFarland - Everybody's Talkin- Gary McFarland was a strange dude. He started out as a pretty straight ahead vibes player, but was also an accomplished arranger. At some point in the mid-60's he happened upon a unique style wherein he kind of vocalized (sometimes wordlessly) over his vibes. This kind of thing wasn't totally unprecedented (listen to early recordings of bassist Slam Stewart, or later recordings of guys like George Benson), but McFarland's take on the style always had a slightly off-kilter feel. Sometimes this worked to his advantage, on tracks like 'Fried Bananas' (from the 'In Sound' LP). I wanted to include a version of Fred Neil’s 'Everybody's Talkin' - (other than the Nilsson hit), but couldn't find my Fred Neil album, so I dug out this version by McFarland. Here he mixes straight singing of the lyrics with whistling (?!?) and the strangest thing of all is that it works. Whether that has anything to do with McFarland, or is simply a testament to the greatness of the song is for you to decide. Strangest of all, McFarland died in 1971 after being poisoned in a bar in NYC. 13. Donovan - Sand and Foam - Donovan is one of the most misunderstood artists of the 60's. Most people have no idea of his music outside of 'Mellow Yellow', and he is largely remembered as an uber- flower child. In fact he made some extremely interesting music, fusing folk, pop and jazz with some great songwriting. 'Sand and Foam' from the 'Mellow Yellow' album is just Donovan and his guitar, dark, stark and moody. I can't make much sense of the lyrics, but I like them a lot. 14. Philamore Lincoln - The North Wind Blew South - Completely obscure outside of UK psyche-pop fans, Lincoln made this album in 1969 (rumored to be assisted by various Yardbirds/Led Zeppelin members). Most of it is fairly light and wispy, but with a nice pop touch. One of the other tunes 'Temma Harbour' was a UK hit for Mary Hopkin. 'The North Wind Blew South' has a kind of subdued, minor epic quality to it - kind of like what a lot of late 60's/early 70's prog rock would sound like with all of the bombast and pretension drained out. I don't know if the lp was ever reissued. 15. Ramsey Lewis - Mother Natures Son - The title track from his Cadet lp (long sought after by beat heads for the drums on 'Back In The USSR') starts out with a totally incongruous moog interlude which leads directly into a lush, Charles Stepney (the other great Cadet Records producer/arranger with Richard Evans) arrangement. The strings are prominent, the horns subdued and Lewis's piano manages to snake in and out of the mix without getting lost. Things get a little less lush and a lot more jazzy toward the middle, eventually exploding into a burst of strings (sounding like George Martin's orchestrations for the 'Yellow Submarine' soundtrack). This whole album is great. 16. John Martyn - Bless The Weather - Martyn was/is part of the axis of UK folk-rockers like Fairport Convention/Richard Thompson, Nick Drake and others, and like those artists have never really been strictly folk. Like Drake his style is definitely informed by jazz and pop, and his original songs are high quality. 'Bless The Weather' (the title song of the LP) is mellow, jazzy folk with lots of acoustic guitar. 'Bless the weather that brought you to me. Curse the storm that took you away.' 17. David Bowie - London Boys - Great story/song from Bowie's lesser know mid-60's period. Slightly melancholy (and quite possibly ironic, one never knows with Bowie) ode to the pilled-up Mods of London, circa 1967. Redone quite well by The Times in the 80's. Not at all what you'd expect from Bowie, kind of like a prototype for some of the quieter songs on 'Hunky Dory' and 'The Man Who Sold The World’' and definitely in line with the theatrical pretensions of Bowie the mime. 18. Tom Rush - Urge For Going - Definitely in line with my comments on Sonny Stitt, 'Urge For Going' was from Tom Rush's attempt (successful to some extent) at career redefinition 1968's 'The Circle Game'. Rush had always been a great interpreter of folk and folk blues, and occasionally threw a very tasty stylistic curve ball like his early 60's cover of 'Just A Closer Walk With Thee'. 'Circle Game' had him all screen-idoled up on a cover photo by Linda Eastman, and covering a selection of tunes by up and comers (at the time) like James Taylor, Jackson Browne and the composer of this tune, Joni Mitchell - all of whom had yet to reach a wide audience. The arrangements on the album are marked with subtle brilliance, set to showcase Rush's dry baritone, with which he paints 'Urge For Going' as if he were sitting in chilled Canadian prairie. Very nice. 19. Scott Walker - Montague Terrace (In Blue) - I can't say much more about Walker that I didn't say earlier. One of his best. www.funky16corners.net

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