Month: April 2018

Steinski – What Does It All Mean? 1983-2006 Retrospective

ARTIST: Steinski

TITLE:  What Does It All Mean? 1983-2006 Retrospective steinski

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The Payoff Mix

LINEUP: Steve Stein (Steinski), Doug DiFranco (Double Dee)

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: One of the greatest mixers and samplers in hip-hop has his collection of sample collages and mixes.compiled in one place.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Starting with a contest entry for Tommy Boy Records (“Lesson 1 – The Payoff Mix”), and continuing through the 90’s and 00’s, Steve “Steinski” Stein (along with his early partner Doug “Double Dee” DiFranco) was the mix and sample master of early hip-hop.

Their first three lessons took the community by storm, even if they were basically uncleared samples, and after the sampling controversy the releases of these Lessons were very hard to find. Steinski kept going, though, creating mixes and mashups that were just as clever as the original mixes, and inspiring so many DJs and producers on what turntables, a record collection, and a studio could go.

The technical wizardry is impressive, and the mixes have a natural flow. For anyone wondering about hip-hop mix and remix culture, here’s one of the pioneers that needs to be checked out. rough mix

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The track that got them their start (“Lesson 1 – The Payoff Mix”) was based around “Play That Beat, Mr. DJ” by G.L.O.B.E and Whiz Kid.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: A-: It can be overwhelming, but it’s so stunning and groundbreaking.

 

Low – I Could Live in Hope

ARTIST: Low                                       Low_i_could_live_in_hope

TITLE:  I Could Live in Hope

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nah

LINEUP: Alan Sparhawk, Mimi Parker, John Nichols

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: It started as a lark, but it became a serious project with some fantastic tracks right out of the gate.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Issuing a five song EP first (with tracks later repeated on this and their second album), then releasing this, their full length debut, Low turned the alternative world on its head. Slowly and hauntingly, Low became the exact opposite of grunge.

Alan Sparhawk’s lachrymose baritone is joined by his wife Mimi Sparhawk’s harmonies to provide an eerie set of harmonies, and the simple instrumentation (guitar, bass, a brushed floor tom and cymbal) evoke a mood. The songs are not dirges, though. These are mood pieces that evoke sadness and hope, and the tempos only add to the atmosphere. 220px-Low_ep

At times, the songs drag on a bit too long (three tracks over six minutes long that could have been trimmed) but there’s nothing that’s totally a throw away. This is a great debut from an important band in alternative circles.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Sparhawk and Nichols were in a standard grunge band, and they formed Low out of rehearsals where they were improvising quiet sounds.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: A: A statement of quiet, slow purpose.

 

Kate Bush – The Kick Inside

ARTIST: Kate Bush                               The_Kick_Inside_(Album_Artwork)

TITLE:  The Kick Inside

YEAR RELEASED: 1978

CHART ACTION: #3 UK

SINGLES: Wuthering Heights (#108 US, #1 UK), The Man with the Child in His Eyes (#85 US, #6 UK), Moving, Them Heavy People, Strange Phenomena

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not over here

LINEUP: Kate Bush, Ian Barinson, Paddy Bush, Duncan Mackay, Andrew Powell, David Paton, Stuart Elliott, Morris Pert.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Nineteen year old songwriter and dramatic soprano becomes a UK phenomenon with her evocative voice and literary songs. The_Kick_Inside_(alternative_cover)

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Featuring songs written throughout her teenage years, 19-year old Kate Bush became a phenomenon in the UK and Europe with a dramatic single retelling of “Wuthering Heights”.

The album sold well, and has some fantastic tracks (such as the opener “Moving”) and some tracks that cover a lot of subject matter than normal 19-year olds don’t cover.“Them Heavy People” covers religion, and the title track is a child and murder ballad based on a child and murder ballad about a murderous brother, though Bush gives it a twist.

Some tracks, though, sound like they don’t belong, and use different studio musicians. A few probably had to make up the numbers, but for the classic tracks this is definitely one to check out.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: She formed a band to tour a bit and get ready for the studio, but only used one of those musicians (her brother) on the album itself.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 

GRADE: A-: There’s some really outstanding tracks here and you can skip through some of the others without a problem.

Primal Scream – Sonic Flower Groove

ARTIST: Primal Scream                               220px-Sonic_Groove_Flower_album_cover

TITLE:  Sonic Flower Groove

YEAR RELEASED: 1987

CHART ACTION: #62 UK

SINGLES: Gentle Tuesday (#86 UK), Imperial (#86 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Streams of Whiskey

LINEUP: Bobby Gillespie, Jim Navajo, Robert Yount, Andrew Innes, Dave Morgan.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: UK band sounds like a refugee from the Paisley Underground in their debut.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Sounding like they transplanted from LA in 1965 (or in 1982), Primal Scream’s debut is definitely in the jingly, psychedelic motif. The guitar jangle and swirl, the vocals are gentle, almost too gentle, and the melodies have a psychedelic, raga tinge to them.

The opening cut, “Gentle Tuesday” is quite good and promising, and a few other tracks have the same kind of edge, but most of tracks fall into a rut where the song isn’t hooky enough, and the guitar jangle blurs together from one track to another.

Even though this charted, and isn’t half bad, the band went on hold and emerged a different type of group, leaving the jangle mostly behind.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Mayo Thompson of the ‘famous’ Red Krayola produced the album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: B-: If you are into Byrdsy stuff, it’s fine, but it’s got some great stuff and some stuff that’s just a meh genre exercise.

The Pogues – Red Roses for Me

ARTIST: The Pogues                                        220px-Red_roses_for_me

TITLE:  Red Roses for Me

YEAR RELEASED: 1984

CHART ACTION: #89 UK

SINGLES: Dark Streets of London, Boys form the Country Heil

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Streams of Whiskey

LINEUP: Shane MacGowan, Jem Finer, Spider Stacy, James Feamly, Cait O’Riordan, Andrew Ranken

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Punks make traditional Irish music. It works.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Punk rock can be played with a tin whistle, accordion, and banjo. Five traditional Irish songs, jigs, and reels, a song from the great author Brendan Behan, and originals by Shane MacGowan that combine punk attitude with Irish music make up this record. It definitely opens your eyes and ears on what can be considered ‘punk’.

The album is lively, raucous, and spirited. Many songs are drinking songs, or related to drinking, because, Irish, you know. Most punters know “Dark Streets of London”, but every track can be thrown into the mix as a good time track. Well, not every track as “The Auld Triangle” is a great sad Irish track.

It’s great to hear a band with a fresh sound (even though it’s rooted in an old style) put themselves out there with enthusiasm and fervor. Irish music purists may find flaws, but heck, it’s fun record with or without a pint.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: MacGowan, Stacy and Finer were in a band called The Millwall Chainsaws before they evolved into the Pogues.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, B-sides of their singles, including one of their best known songs, a cover of “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda”. 

GRADE: A: It’s dubbed “Celtic Punk”, which is a great description. A fine debut.

Kiss – Dressed to Kill

ARTIST: Kiss                                                 220px-Dressed_to_Kill_(album)_cover

TITLE:  Dressed to Kill

YEAR RELEASED: 1975

CHART ACTION: #32

SINGLES: Rock and Roll All Nite (#68), C’mon and Love Me

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The deep cuts stayed deep

LINEUP: Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, Peter Criss

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Third album from the made-up marvels improves the sound and the songwriting, but the sequencing buried their classic song at the end.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Recorded with label boss Neil Bogart, the third album by Kiss has better sound, which helps the band tremendously. The guitars of Ace Frehley stand out now above the mix (frankly, that’s the best thing about the band if you want to be honest). The vocals are out there as well, which is good and bad, since the vocal range of this band isn’t that dynamic. You do hear Paul Stanley’s harmonies better, though.

As for the tunes, it has some decent deep cuts that didn’t get any traction, probably because no one listened to the first side. “Rock and Roll All Nite”, THE Kiss song, is stuck at the end of the record, which seems odd. Put it on side one, and flip, say “Getaway” to the end, then it’s probably a stronger album just by moving a couple of tracks around.

This still didn’t propel them in the stratosphere, not yet. They were too hard or scary for AM radio, and FM radio thought they were juvenile until the kids decided “Rock and Roll All Nite” was the tune.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This was a short record. Just over 30 minutes, and that’s with a two minute acoustic intro to “Rock Bottom” which seems gratuitous. Not a value proposition, but this was their third record in a short amount of time.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: B+: Better production made a big difference.

L’il Kim – Hard Core

ARTIST: L’il Kim                      Lil_Kim_-_Hard_Core

TITLE:  Hard Core

YEAR RELEASED: 1996

CHART ACTION: #11 US, #3 R&B, #116 UK

SINGLES: No Time (#18 US, #9 R&B, #1 Rap, #45 UK), Crush on You (#23 UK), Not Tonight (#6 US, #3 R&B, #2 Rap, #11 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Big Momma Thang, Queen Bitch

LINEUP: L’il Kim, Puff Daddy, Notorious BIG, Jay-Z, L’il Cease, Junior MAFIA, Jermaine Dupri,  Lamarquis Mark Jefferson

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut from the Junior MAFIA rapper who was in the Puff Daddy / Notorious BIG orbit. It’s absolutely filthy.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Oh, my stars and garters, this one will peel the boxers off anyone listening to it. L’il Kim’s raps, over solid beats and rhymes, and featuring the NYC rap elite of the mid-to-late 90’s, made her a star and somehow got on the radio, too. (How the heck could “Not Tonight” get on the radio, much less hit the Top 10? How? Oh, yeah, there was a remix.)

At times, the relentless hardcore raps gets wearing, but L’il Kim seemingly has a one track mind. She’s got some good flow, and does a pretty good job of being creative with her lyrics.

Working with Biggie, Puff Daddy, Jay-Z, and other helped Kim get success and this is probably her legacy work. Remove the skits (what a plaque on the rap house in this time), and it’s solid.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The remix of “Not Tonight” also had Da Brat, Left Eye, Missy Elliott and Angie Martinez

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No 

GRADE: B+: I run hot and cold on this, but really, it’s pretty decent, and it’s FILTHY.

 

Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam – Super Hits

ARTIST: Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam      R-1750416-1392531071-6785.jpeg

TITLE:  Super Hits

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: I Wonder If I Take You Home (#34 US, #6 R&B, #1 Dance, #12 UK), Can You Feel the Beat (#69 US, #40 R&B, #6 Dance, #97 UK), All Cried Out (#8 US, #3 R&B), Head to Toe (#1 US, #1 R&B, #1 Dance, #82 UK), Lost in Emotion (#1 US, #1 R&B, #8 Dance, #58 UK), Someone to Love for Me (#78 US, #7 R&B), Little Jackie Wants to Be a Star (#29 US, #3 R&B, #90 UK), Let the Beat Hit ‘Em (#37 US, #1 R&B, #1 Dance, #17 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: That’s 8 of the 10 tracks.

LINEUP: Lisa Velez, Alex Moseley, Mike Hughes, other studio players (including Full Force, of course)

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A compact selection of a short-term hit maker that seems to have faded from view.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: 1987 was the year of Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam. Their 1985 debut  (credited with Full Force as well), was a minor hit until “All Cried Out” became a smash. Then “Head to Toe” and “Lost in Emotion” hit #1 and they were huge in that one year.

Two more records came and went, and while there was a couple of great tracks (“Let the Beat Hit ‘Em” and “Something ‘Bout Love” (not a single!)), they fizzled out.

There’s nothing revolutionary about Lisa Lisa – they were typical late 80’s pop hitmakers in the dance / R&B style. Just put this one and remember, remember, remember.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Full Force was a band and a production team that wrote the first three records for the group and half of the last one.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B-: Well crafted 80’s dance pop that’s good for short nostalgic bursts.

Kraftwerk – Radio-Activity

ARTIST: Kraftwerk                                     220px-Kraftwerk_Radio_Activity_album_cover

TITLE:  Radio-Activity

YEAR RELEASED: 1975

CHART ACTION: #140 US

SINGLES: Radioactivity

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No

LINEUP: Ralf Huitter, Florian Schneider, Karl Bartos, Wolfgang Flur

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Kraftwerk begins to forge out its commitment and vision to melding pop music to avant-garde electronics.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Beeps and bloops abound. Voices put through synthesizers to make them sound scary (especially in German). But, there’s melody, musicality, and lots of stuff that was sampled by all sorts of bands. 220px-Radio-Activity_2009

Kraftwerk was moving electronic music away from the ‘hey look at what this machine can do’ towards making it a real creative asset to music. The single, “Radioactivity” was a simple-sounding song that made the synthesizer a palette for musicianship.

Not every track works – which happens when you are experimenting. But unlike their first big album, everything is worth keeping as they fit together as a whole thematic piece, and the shorter tracks are intros and codas which captures the essence of the work.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They used an Orchestron, a synthesizer that used pre-recorded sounds much like a mellotron.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE: B+: Surprisingly listenable even with the interludes and experiments.

 

Johnny Cash – Now Here’s Johnny Cash

ARTIST: Johnny Cash                              220px-JohnnyCashNowHere'sJohnnyCash

TITLE:  Now Here’s Johnny Cash

YEAR RELEASED: 1961

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: So Doggone Lonesome (#4 Country), Cry! Cry! Cry (#14 Country)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Hey Porter

LINEUP: Johnny Cash, Al Casey, Luther Perkins, Marshall Grant, maybe others

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Sun Records mines its vaults again.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Thanks to some foresight by Sam Phillips and the prolific nature of Johnny Cash, Sun Records was still able to release records by Cash well after he left the label.

This collection featured 12 songs, nine of which were not on an album before, and two of them were hits for Cash very early in his career but had never been on a regular Sun album.

This odds-and-ends collection is better than most of these later Sun Records. There’s still three repeats, but the other nine cuts are pretty decent representation of early Cash.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: After three albums in 1960, this was the only Cash album released in 1961.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: There are some bonus tracks released later – Phillips hadn’t quite mined all of the tracks from his collection – though one is a very rough mix. 

GRADE: B: Downgraded for three repeat tracks, but otherwise pretty solid.