Tuesday, June 4, 2013

#680: Tracking down MORE Olde Favorites

Bob Lefsetz's First Rule Of Entertainment Success: Satiate Your Audience.
So, without further ado....

I've been geographically separated from my turntable, my library, my at-home CD-player & My Stuff since about February, as I continue to spend practically every waking non-work moment with The Girlfriend. But she had a long workday on Tuesday, so I took my empty schedule & the gorgeous weather (near 80 here, pretty warm for us) & made the 10-mile trip Home, played some Strange Music (including stuff I've been sitting-on unheard since April), had some lunch, cleaned-up around the house, enjoyed the afternoon, & vanished again before The Roommate got home. & a Report follows:

The playlist:
Billy Lee Riley -- I Got a Thing About You Baby.
Johnathan King -- It's a Tall Order for a Short Guy.
Randy Edelman -- Pistol Packin' Melody.
Space Art -- A TRIP IN THE CENTER HEAD: Speedway, Odyssey, Eyes Shade, Watch It, L'Obsession d'Archibald, Hollywood Flanger....
Nino Tempo & April Stevens -- I've Been Carrying a Torch for You So Long That I've Burned a Great Big Hole in My Heart, Deep Purple.
Turtles -- Who Would Ever Think That I Would Marry Margret?, Lady-O, Cat in the Window, Like the Seasons, Rugs of Woods and Flowers.
Mott the Hoople -- All the Way from Memphis, Honaloochie Boogie.
J. Geils Band -- First I Look at the Purse (live).
Paul Simon -- American Tune.
Rip Chords -- Here I Stand, The Queen, Gone, Ding Dong.

Billy Lee Riley's 1972 "I Got a Thing" is lighter & breezier than I remembered -- but then I hadn't heard it since '72. Might also be the fault of my turntable, which has LOADS of treble & very little bass response. Anywho, "I Got a Thing" sounds just like 1972, very bright & sweet & innocent. Tony Joe White wrote it, Chips Moman produced it, it was released by Entrance/CBS, & Billy Lee STILL couldn't get a hit out of it?! One of the longest unlucky streaks in rock&roll history....
Ditto for J. King's "Tall Order," another bright&silly non-hit from '72, WAY bouncier & happier than I remembered -- pure pop. & where did those horns come from?
Randy Edelman's "Pistol Packin' Melody" is sung in a higher register than I remembered -- could also be my turntable's fault. Hadn't heard this one since '74. It's lighter than air, but it does the job.
None of these were exactly the revelatory smashes I expected upon re-hearing them -- but neither was Chris Hodge's "We're On Our Way," which I hadn't heard for 40 years but have now re-adjusted to. So....
No re-adjusting required for Space Art's TRIP IN THE CENTER HEAD, the best, most melodic synthesizer album I've ever heard -- & which I hadn't heard a note of since 1982. I'd forgotten the opener, "Speedway," but the first few bass pulses in the opening brought it all back.
The one I remembered best was "Odyssey," with its spiraling opening theme, followed by a bubbling undercurrent. This & the rest of the album beats anything I've ever heard from Rick Wakeman solo, or from Synergy, Tangerine Dream, or any of those other synth giants. Synthesizer music with some LIFE to it, very upbeat & flowing.... Weak ending here, though....
The shorter 5 of the album's 7 tracks are the best -- "Eyes Shade" was a mellower ballad, slower to develop, & I couldn't wait. "Watch It" is another upbeat, chirpy electronic piece, closer to Synergy's sound, but catchier ... though it cuts off too soon.... "L'Obsession d'Archibald" has a silly title, but it's spacey, dramatic & driving in turns, with great refrains & a multi-keyboard midsection very reminiscent of Synergy. "Hollywood Flanger" has another memorable, punchy main theme. I couldn't sit through the 10-plus-minute closer....
I read in an old Jem Records Imports catalog that Space Art was actually Jean-Michel Jarre performing under a pseudonym (D. Perrier) -- but there are several names credited on the jacket; the one credited with "realisation" is Sybil Demarsan....
"I've Been Carrying a Torch" is FAR OUT ... though not as extreme as I remembered -- it no longer sounds to me like some kind of field-work song from another planet. But there are several great moments as Nino slips up into a screaming high falsetto, & the lyrics are a hoot.
Maybe it's not a lost classic, maybe it was just the way the woodblock punctuates the title line. But get the Atco single if you can find it -- it was the B-side of the foghorn classic "Deep Purple," which still sounds great, BTW. The single has a thicker bass & seems punchier to me, though on "Deep Purple" it all sounds like an impenetrable fog.... (From the DEEP PURPLE album.)
The Turtles were another '60s group with talent to burn. "Marry Margret" is pleasant, old-timey & short. "Lady-O" is a gorgeous shoulda-been-hit written by '60s/'70s folksinger Judee Sill. As on so many Turtles songs, the vocals here are AMAZING -- it should've been on their CD best-of. "Cat in the Window" is a short, spacey piece about Getting Away, again with great group vocals. "Like the Seasons" was written by Warren Zevon & is much gentler than I'd expected -- it also ends too quickly. "Rugs of Woods and Flowers" is a sorta fake-opera, very spacey, 3 minutes I'll never get back. (From MORE GOLDEN HITS and HAPPY TOGETHER.)
Mott's "All the Way from Memphis" is a hoot, rollicking good fun with excellent lyrics & great squealing sax from Roxy Music's Andy Mackay -- not far from early Rod Stewart, really. "Honaloochee Boogie" makes just as big an impact in half the time. (Both from MOTT.)
I've heard better versions of "First I Look at the Purse," but Geils does fine -- it's funny & it MOVES, there's lotsa energy, though they do seem to almost rush through it. "If the wallet's fat, that's where it's at." No romance without finance. (From BEST OF 2.)
Paul Simon's "American Tune" is frustrating -- it's produced for High Drama by Paul Samwell-Smith, the lyrics are grand, the orchestra's all lined-up behind Paul ... but the songwriter throws away the vocal by trying to stay modest. It's a letdown. Could Art Garfunkel have done better? (From RHYMIN' SIMON.)
"Here I Stand" has a great acapella vocal opening that'll stop you in your tracks, followed by some great doo-wop-style vocals & some nice twangy, shimmery guitar. I read somewhere that the Rip Chords were Beach Boy Bruce Johnston & Byrds-and-Raiders-producer Terry Melcher in disguise -- the pair co-wrote 4 songs on this 1963 HEY LITTLE COBRA album & Melcher produced, but there are four other singers' names mentioned & one of THEM also gets a songwriting credit, so....
If you're a fan of doo-wop, surf bands or twangy guitar, you might like this -- with the warning that some of the vocals get pretty high-pitched. "The Queen" has some nice vocals on the choruses, though the song is your standard cars&girls breakup-piece. "Gone" is a wild vocal rave-up that degenerates into some great falsetto screeching.... "Ding Dong" may be best of all -- great falsetto vocals & a silly lyric. These guys had real trouble concentrating on a song for more than 2 minutes.
Whoever they were, the Chords also covered 5 Beach Boys/Jan&Dean songs, & do a pretty great "409," "Little Deuce Coupe," "Shut Down," "Drag City," & a surfed-up "She Thinks I Still Care." Great singing on each.
So: 12 songs, 24-1/2 minutes, $8.50 used, no paper inner sleeve -- priceless.

Coming Soon -- A review of Jim DeRogatis's LET IT BLURT, a biography of legendary rock critic Lester Bangs....

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