Month: November 2018

Tsunami – The Heart’s Tremolo

ARTIST: Tsunami                       Tsunami-The_Heart's_Tremolo

TITLE: The Heart’s Tremolo

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Be Like That

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No

LINEUP: Jenny Toomey, Kristin Thomson, John Palmer, Andrew Webster

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: DC area band and record label owners second full length runs into a rut of same-same and bad production.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: I guess I DON’T have to follow the hipster crowd on some things. One of these is this Tsunami record.

Critics loved this band, but they must have seen them live, because on record they sound flat, have same-same songs, and have mixing and production issues. I can her fits and starts of songs that sound good, but when they get to the chorus it blurs together, at least in my ears.

Tsumani has a great DIY and independent legacy, and I don’t mean to belittle that. It’s just…I don’t get this record. It’s probably on me.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: After this, they took a hiatus as Andrew Webster finished his degree.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE C: It’s probably a cop-out review but I’ll exile this and see if my ears perk up for their final album.

Nada Surf – High / Low

ARTIST: Nada Surf  220px-High_Low_(Nada_Surf_album)_cover_art

TITLE: High/Low

YEAR RELEASED: 1996

CHART ACTION: #63

SINGLES: Popular (#51 US, #11 Alternative, #123 UK), Treehouse, Deeper Well

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Doubt it

LINEUP: Matthew Caws, Daniel Lorca, Ira Elliot

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Alternative rock band with out-of-nowhere hit isn’t like typical post-Nirvana alternative bands.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: When you only hear of bands and songs in passing, you tend to judge them harshly – moreso than other bands you’re more familiar with. So I lumped Nada Surf in with the countless other alt rockers that emerged post-Nirvana and post-Pearl Jam popularity.

Whoops.

Over 10 tracks (not bloated, which is refreshing), Nada Surf plays energetic rock without being repetitive nor stupid. That’s refreshing. Songs like “Deeper Well” have a catchy chorus, and they do know their ways around hooks and riffs. But they change it up (“Stalemate”) and their hit (“Popular”) is a different kind of track that fits the record well.

It’s not totally essential, but it’s a very good 90’s alt rock record.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Caws and Lorca spent time in France and Belgium as kids.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE: A-: Definitely worth a few spins for the alt-rocker in you.

Sonny Knight & the Lakers – I’m Still Here

ARTIST: Sonny Knight & the Lakers                          sonny knight

TITLE: I’m Still Here

YEAR RELEASED: 2014

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Hey Girl

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Obscure, so no. Yet powerful.

LINEUP: Sonny Knight, Blair Krivenek, Bryan Highill, Calvin Knight, Casey O’Brien, Cole Pulice, Eric Foss, Sam Harvey-Carlson, Tony Beaderstadt

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Old school soul man (formerly of Haze) and a group of soul-drenched revivalist get together and burn it up.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: It’s been a trend that old-school obscure soul singers find sympathetic current bands and release albums that just cook. That’s the case with this from Sonny Knight and the Lakers.

This Sonny Knight was in Haze, and had gigged without much traction in the 60’s, but when he got together with the Lakers in the 2010’s, it was magic. The horns and arrangements by the band fit in with Sonny Knight’s hard-soul voice that has power and some surprising finesse.

All in all, this is a damn fine soul record that sounded like it could have been made in 1968, if not for the better production values. Quite a find!

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Vietnam was the main reason for Knight to stall out in the 60’s

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE: A: It’ll burn up your digital memory!

The Rainmakers – The Good News and the Bad News

ARTIST: The Rainmakers                             220px-Rainmakers_GoodNews

TITLE: The Good News and the Bad News

YEAR RELEASED: 1989

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Spend It on Love, Hoo Dee Hoo

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Oh, no. They buried this one.

LINEUP: Bob Walkenhorst, Rich Ruth, Steve Phillips, Pat Tomek

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Third Mercury album from sardonic, politically edgy band flops, even though it was a better record than their second.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: After an uneven second album, the Rainmakers went back into the studio and tried to reclaim some of the career momentum they had and lost (everywhere but their home base of KC, and Scandanavia, because why not). And track for track, they made a good album that was more consistent than their previous one.

It didn’t sell. In fact, it was a well-kept secret. These things happen with record companies.
The themes of the record are familiar to Rainmakers fans: the common man’s problems and other social observations sung with religious fervor. The imagery in the lyrics are sometimes spiritual, sometimes apocalyptic, sometimes they evoke sadness, or even the hardscrabble poor.

There’s nothing as high as their best ever songs, but most of these tracks fit comfortably in any other album and really, it was a shame it was buried by Mercury.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They released a live album from Oslo and Wichita (!) in 1990 which concluded their Mercury contract.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, they released an acoustic EP and it was appended.

 GRADE: B+: It could have been another college radio hit. Alas…

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.