The Cave Singers – Invitation Songs

ARTIST: The Cave Singers                    220px-CaveSingers-InvitationSongs

TITLE: Invitation Songs

YEAR RELEASED: 2007

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Seeds of Night, Dancing on Our Graves

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No

LINEUP: Pete Quirk, Derek Fudesco, Marty Lund

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Seattle post-punkers in search of a band come together and make a folky type album, since that seemed to the rage during that time.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Never mind the grunge, the Pacific Northwest in the 2000’s were the home of the indie folk movement. The Cave Singers were part of this trend (like Blitzen Trapper, the Head and the Heart, and Fleet Foxes) and while it didn’t take the world by storm, it still was an interesting movement for the area.

This debut by the Cave Singers takes some time to process. Pete Quirk’s vocals are high and a bit reedy and the group (at this stage) doesn’t have a bassist. Acoustic guitars are to the fore, but sometimes they’ll throw in horns or synths.

There was a lot of buzz at the time about this album, and while it’s not as good as some of the hype, it’s solid enough especially if you dug their compatriot bands.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The members of this band came from Hint Hint, Cobra High, and Pretty Girls Make Graves.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B: You’ll need a few spins for this to break through to you.

Off! – The First Four EP’s

ARTIST: Off!                                    220px-Offfirstfourepalbum

TITLE: First Four EP’s

YEAR RELEASED: 2010

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: These were four EP’s, as the title says.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No

LINEUP: Dimitri Coats, Steven Shane McDonald, Keith Morris, Mario Rubalcaba

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Old punk (Morris) gathers up a band and makes a throwback punk rock record.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Off! is a nostalgia trip for those of us who were around (or kind of around) during the first wave of punk rock in the States, especially the LA / Orange County variety.

Here we have 16 tracks in 18 minutes, with no song lasting longer than 1:33. Keith Morris, formerly of Black Flag and the Circle Jerks is the vocalist and his voice is unmistakable.

However, to my ears, the tracks sounded a bit perfunctory and rote at times. Sure, it’s great to hear some real-life punk rock in the vein of the early Circle Jerks (“Black Thoughts” brings you right back to 1979) and “Jeffrey Lee Pierce” is a nice eulogy for the former Gun Club leader. But it’s not going to replace your original SST record collection. I don’t think it was supposed to though.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The Circle Jerks went on hiatus right before this material was recorded. It was done in two days – one in January and one in August.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Two extra tracks on various platforms.

 GRADE: B: I like it enough to keep it, and it’s real punk rock.

Adam & the Ants – Kings of the Wild Frontier

ARTIST: Adam & the Ants            220px-Adam&theAntsKingsoftheWildFrontier

TITLE: Kings of the Wild Frontier

YEAR RELEASED: 1980

CHART ACTION: #44 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Kings of the Wild Frontier (#19 Dance, #2 UK), Dog Eat Dog (#19 Dance, #15 Mainstream, #4 UK), Antmusic (#19 Dance, #14 Mainstream, #2 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Physical (You’re So) (US Version)

LINEUP: Adam Ant, Marco Pirroni, Kevin Mooney, Chris Hughes (Merrick), Terry Lee Miall

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A swaggering, brazen, spirited record where things come together for Adam Ant and his Ants like lightning in a bottle.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Malcolm McLaren stole the Ants and the “Burundi Beat” for Bow Wow Wow, but Adam Ant joined up with Marco Pirroni, found other Ants (including two drummers), and released an outstanding group of tracks expounding on his “Antmusic” philosophy (whatever that was).

There are swipes at the press, braggadocio about the band, tributes to Native Americans, pirates, and spaghetti westerns, and a couple tracks that could be themes to horror movies (especially “Ants Invasion”).

Any one within earshot of this album in the early 80’s was drawn to it. When MTV came on board, Adam Ant was one of the early stars because of his visual sense and themes as much as his music. It’s a unique album by a unique band for a unique time.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Released in 1980, this was the best selling album in the UK in 1981.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. In the US, the vinyl dropped a cut and added two B-sides (including the sublime “Physical (You’re So)”. The cassette and CD originally had the great B-side “Beat My Guest” and the next single “Stand and Deliver”. The deluxe CD drops those two, adds another B-side, an outtake, and a live show and restores the missing UK track. Whew.

 GRADE: A+: The early 80’s wouldn’t be the same without this record.

Madonna – Like a Prayer

ARTIST: Madonna                        220px-Madonna_-_Like_a_Prayer_album

TITLE: Like a Prayer

YEAR RELEASED: 1989

CHART ACTION: #1 US, #1 UK

SINGLES: Like a Prayer (#1 US, #1 Dance, #1 UK), Express Yourself (#2 US, #1 Dance, #5 UK), Cherish (#2 US, #3 UK), Oh Father (#20 US, #16 UK), Dear Jessie (#5 UK), Keep it Together (#8 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No, since six of the 11 songs are there. Ok, maybe Act of Contrition.

LINEUP: Madonna and all of the hot shot studio musicians of the time, and Prince

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Not missing a beat, Madonna dives into controversy with her image and videos, while not sacrificing the music.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The commercial, the videos, the song “Justify My Love” (not on the album, but the B-side was), and the uproar. IT would be definitely easy for this record by Madonna to be ignored, or just glossed over.

It’s a pretty darn remarkable record.

Madonna’s not just trying for easy peasy pop hits and filler. “Love Song”, a duet with Prince that was co-written and produced with the Purple One, is deliciously weird. The vocal effect in “Express Yourself”, where Madonna sounds like she’s underwater with a synthesizer, is innovative. The lyrics move away from boy-girl stuff toward more spiritual and feminist issues.

It’s an undeniable electropop dance record that addresses many themes and motifs. She moved to being a full-on phenomenon, and an artist worthy of her accolades.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Between True Blue and Like a Prayer, the Who’s That Girl soundtrack was released with four Madonna tracks and a dance remix record was also put out.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE: A: Definitely a fun album and a touchstone of the era.

Joe Jackson – Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive

ARTIST: Joe Jackson

TITLE: Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive  220px-Jumpinjive

YEAR RELEASED: 1981

CHART ACTION: #42 US, #12 UK

SINGLES: Jumpin’ Jive (#43 UK), Jack You’re Dead

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: All of these are swing-era hit songs

LINEUP: Joe Jackson, Pete Thomas, Raul D’Oliveira, Nick Weldon, Dave Bitelli, Graham Maby, Larry Tolfree.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After he broke up his angry-young-man band, Jackson goes swing (!?!) It was probably a fun record to make.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The swing music era always has affectionados, and revivals every now and then pop up in space and time. Joe Jackson loved the jump blues and swing, so why not put out an album of covers of his favorite songs.

Featuring songs made famous by Louis Jordan, Glenn Miller, Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, and others, Jackson leads a competent swing band through the paces in what sounds like a fun time.

Yet after a couple of plays, what you want to do is find the originals (which is now much, much easier in the streaming world) than listen to Jackson’s versions. (His voice isn’t always built for these songs). So a fun concept, the tour was probably a hoot, but these aren’t the originals and that’s what you really want.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: After this tour, Jackson changed directions again, keeping Graham Maby as the only continuum between his first band and 1982.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE: C+: It’s fun, but it doesn’t have staying power since the originals are the ones you need to seek out.

20/20 – Look Out!

ARTIST: 20/20                                      R-2470935-1285873847.jpeg

TITLE: Look Out!

YEAR RELEASED: 1981

 

CHART ACTION: #127

SINGLES: Strange Side of Love,

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Only if you adore power pop

LINEUP: Steve Allen, Ron Flynt, Joel Turrisi, Chris Silagyi.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album from relocated Midwestern power-pop quartet is hooky and melodic

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Power pop was either a hit or miss (usually a miss) on the charts, since it fell in between radio-friendly rock, pop, and adult contemporary and only the catchiest tracks could catch on with the radio.

Which means a band like 20/20, who had catchy hooks, harmonies, and interesting songs and melodies, didn’t catch a break in the era when the Top 40 was transitioning away from disco and into new wave and arena rock.

This second foray by the band covers a lot of the same ground as their debut. Some of the tracks near the end didn’t work as well in reality as in concept, and at times it felt like a slight re-write of the first one. Still, there was enough here that it could have done better on the charts had radio taken a flyer on it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They added a new drummer, and after the album only Allen and Flynt remained.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Two extra tracks.

 GRADE: B+: A few duds near the end, otherwise another good representation of power pop.

Suede – The Best of Suede

ARTIST: Suede                                          BestofSuede

TITLE: The Best of Suede

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: #31 UK

SINGLES: Top 10: Metal Mickey (#7 US Modern, #17 UK), Animal Nitrate (#7 U), Stay Together (#3 UK), Trash (#3 UK), Beautiful Ones (#8 UK), Saturday Night (#6 UK), Lazy (#9 UK), Filmstar (#9 UK), Electricity (#5 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Brit-pop fans know the B-sides and album tracks here

LINEUP: Brett Anderson, Mat Osman, Bernard Butler, Simon Gilbert. Richard Oakes replaced Butler halfway through their hit tenure. Neil Codling joinde on keyboards later.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: One of the original Brit Pop bands (taking the UK over from the Madchester scene), Suede’s singles were at times rock, pop, and bombastic prog all rolled into one.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: A combination of sex, drugs, and glammy rock-and-roll, Suede’s influence and popularity in the UK is greater than we’ll ever know here in the US. Yet, the band was a tinderbox due to tensions through recording and touring. and the drug use of singer Brett Anderson.

Britpop didn’t make much of a ripple over hear (Oasis and the odd Blur track notwithstanding), and while the themes of Suede’s music had an audience here. At times Suede were too bombastic and really worshiping at the altar of Bowie and Marc Bolan. When Bernard Butler left, Anderson didn’t quite have the musical partner he needed.

This is a good introduction for most of the curious in the US, as it covers most all of their A-sides from their classic period, and has a few B-sides and album tracks. That second disc does drag a bit and lowers the grade, as some songs are definitely exile-worthy..

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Here, we have to officiallycall them the London Suede, but I’m not going to.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: The first disc is the hits. The second are Brett Anderson’s favorites.

 GRADE: B : Had it been the first disc, it’s definitely an A-. The second disc has some duds.

Freezepop – Freezepop Forever

ARTIST: Freezepop                                                      220px-Freezepop-Forever

TITLE: Freezepop Forever

YEAR RELEASED: 2000

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None, but they did a remix EP

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Science Genius Girl, Get Ready 2 Rock, Freezepop Forever

LINEUP: Justine Gamache (Liz Enthusiasm), Kasson Crooker (The Duke of Candied Apples), Sean T. Drinkwater

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Boston based synthpop bands combines simple sounding synth lines and melodies with some lush backing. There’s more than meets the eye here. 220px-Freezepop_forever_elefant_release

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: At first, Freezepop sounds simple, a lark, with some silly songs about getting ready to rock and nerdy girls, and other such things. However, their melodies, while catchy and hooky, aren’t so straight forward and the vocals by Justine Gamache, while deadpan, have some depth to them, especially when overdubbed and vocoded.

The complexity shows in that many songs by them are used in Harmonix games (since Crooker is an engineer at Harmonix, they get an easy entrée there) and they’re pretty difficult to master.

You have to be ready for some twee, non serious tracks here and self references. But they’re pretty serious about their electronic craft.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The band started in 1999 in Boston and is big amongst the college students there.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: They had a release on Elefant records with some extra tracks and videos.

 GRADE: A- : First their fun, second they’re pretty accomplished, and third, they’re fun.

Danny Brown – The Hybrid

ARTIST: Danny Brown               220px-Danny_Brown_The_Hybrid

TITLE: The Hybrid

YEAR RELEASED: 2010

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Underground hip hop fans only

LINEUP: Danny Brown with producers Quelle, Mainframe, Nick Speed, Danny!, Chuck Inglish, Denmark Vessey, 14KT, Frank Dukes, Slopfunkdust

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Non-commercial rapper releases first record.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: He’s had no hit singles. He’s only had two charting albums. Yet Danny Brown is one of the most critically respected hip-hop artists going today.

He doesn’t sugar coat himself to go to radio. On repeated listens, this debut album takes you in. Using a variety of producers, Brown keeps his beats and backing fresh, and his flow and rhymes are strong and in your face. When he uses effects and tricks, you notice since it’s for embellishment.

This record didn’t get a lot of attention except for some deep hip-hop fans, but it’s solid and undeniably unique.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He used to be in a group called Rese’vor Dogs.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a few extra tracks

 GRADE: A- –  It’s easy to see why this got him some attention.

The Statler Brothers – Flowers on the Wall: Essential Statler Brothers / Gold

ARTIST: The Statler Brothers

TITLE: Flowers on the Wall: Essential Statler Brothers 1964-69 / Gold essential statler

YEAR RELEASED: Compilations

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Top 10: Flowers on the Wall (#4, #2 Country), Ruthless (#10 Country), You Can’t Have Your Cake and Edith Too (#10 Country), Bed of Roses (#58, #9 Country), Do You Remember These (#105, #2 Country), The Class of ’57 (#6 Country), I’ll go To My Grave Loving You (#93, #3 Country), Thank God I’ve Got You (#10 Country), Do You Know You Are My Sunshine (#1 Country), Who Am I To Say (#3 Country), The Official Historian on Shirley Jean Berrell (#5 Country), Nothing as Original as You (#10 Country), (I’ll Even Love You) Better Than I Did (#8 Country), Charlotte’s Web (#5 Country)…and more.

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Susan When She Tried

LINEUP: Harold Reid, Lew DeWitt, Don Reid, Phil Balsley. Jimmy Fortune came in for Lew DeWitt later.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Two comps for classic country vocal group allows you to make one good one but with two omissions you need to grab. statler gold

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Statler’s got their breaks with “Flowers on the Wall” and then opening for Johnny Cash for about a decade. They were singers in the gospel quartet tradition and they also had a sense of humor and parody. The harmonies they sang were impeccable, and notable for Harold Reid’s booming bass.

They had a huge collection of hits, and gained steam after leaving cash thanks to some great TV marketing and appearances. Their hits collection was advertised on independent stations everywhere. Anyone of a certain age knows at least snippets of their biggest hits.

Yet despite the riches here, Gold focuses too much on later material and omits two tracks almost everyone knows: “What Ever Happened to Randolph Scott” and “The Movies”. That downgrades that collection. The earlier collection doesn’t have as many hits, but has some nice material that would have fit nicely with Cash on stage.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Not brothers, but named after a Kleenex box they found in a hotel room.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. There are other compilations, but with split record companies it’s hard to get the early stuff and later stuff together, and they don’t solve the issue of “Randolph Scott” missing.

GRADE: B / B-  Gold needed a better selection and pacing.