Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this middle-aged man as I attempt to listen to all the music in my CD collection. CDs revisited in their entirety from start to finish - no skipping tracks, no shuffle. CDs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no downloads. And just as CD technology (and the album format itself) becomes obsolete. I'm no music critic, just a music junkie with too much time on my hands.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Marshall Crenshaw (1982)

Note: the CD I listened to was the 2000 Rhino reissue with ten (!) bonus tracks.

From the 'Bout Damn Time Dept:

You might not believe this but I have no memory of hearing Marshall Crenshaw in the '80s although I would have loved it had I been introduced to his music back in '82. I was in a Rockpile/Nick Lowe/Squeeze phase at the time and this music is an Americanized version of British pub rock. I eventually picked up a greatest hits compilation and have (too) slowly been picking up Crenshaw's back catalog which is slowly fading into out-of-print status in many cases. I'm in complete agreement with Robert Christgau on this one:
This album seems simple because it is simple, yet it continues to unfold long after you believe its byways played out--not by exploiting the snazzy bridges and key changes of the traditional pop arsenal, but with lines repeated at odd junctures, choruses reentering when you anticipate another verse. Brushing by the everyday phrases that are the stuff of pop songwriting--cynical girl, she can't dance, the usual thing--to add a twist or make an oblique point, Crenshaw captures a magic ur-adolescent innocence without acting the simp. It's as sly and well-meaning as his love of girls. A
To that, I'll add that this album is an all-out blast to hear. It's a can't-sit-still, can't-feel-bad, put-the-top-down, can't-help-but-sing-along sorta thing.

Rolling Stone magazine gave it ★★★★½ (which is a ½ star too low IMO) and placed it at #72 on its list of the 100 Best Albums of the Eighties, calling the album "an alternately rousing and heartbreaking cycle of infectious pop rockers and ballads — none of them clocking in at more than 3:07."

Smash Hits, June 24, 1982, p. 17

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #50
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #51

Tracks: Picking favorite tracks is like picking a favorite donut - you can't go wrong with anything you choose. The best I can offer is today's favorites: There She Goes Again, Someday Someway, Girls..., I'll Do Anything, aw forget it - I'm just naming all the tracks.

Bonus tracks: The first four bonus tracks sound like they should have been part of the originaly album and the flow is seamless. I normally dislike demo versions, but the ones here are so good, I don't mind them a bit. Of the seven live tracks (most of them covers), the highlight is a cover of George Clinton and The Parliaments' Look At What I Almost Missed, while the weakest is the cover of Edwin Starr's Stop Her On Sight (S.O.S.). The only repeated song is Brand New Lover and that's included as a dreaded "hidden track" at the end of the CD. But don't let any of that stop you - find a copy of this deluxe edition ASAP.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None with this particular album, but I remember a facepalm moment when I was finally introduced to Crenshaw via the compilation CD Just Can't Get Enough: New Wave Hits of the '80s, Vol. 5 in late summer 1994.

Previously revisited for the blog:
Jaggedland (2009)
What's In The Bag (2003)
The Best of Marshall Crenshaw (2000)
Life's Too Short (1991)

Monday, September 18, 2017

Cabo Frio - Right On The Money (1986)

Smooth jazz in the vein of other groups such as Spyro Gyra or Yellowjackets with solid performances and production but only average writing. This album, the group's third but second on the Zebra label, has a definite late '80s sound to it (e.g., the title track). Except for the final tune, this thing's harmless - nothing outstanding but easy enough to listen to.

Billboard, April 19, 1986, p. 84

Looks like the group is still together, although which members remain from this recording? I couldn't tell ya, but it appears that drummer Curtis Kendrick is the one responsible for keeping going.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Did not chart
Peak on the US Billboard Top Jazz Albums chart: #11
Peak on the Cash Box Top 40 Jazz Albums chart: #14

Tracks: My pick for best cut is Majesty*, but also good are Time For A Change and Sophistication. Vocals weigh down an attempt at pop/R&B cut She's The One but drum programming and an attempt at hip-hop/jazz fusion ruin the last cut, Working Out.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None, but for the true CD aficionado (which you must be or you wouldn't be here), the jewel case for this CD is one of those original old disc cases with "Patent pending" on the lower right corner of the back of the case.

*I can't find Majesty on YouTube, but that cut is featured in Dr. Smooth's Flashback #11, available on Mixcloud or on the JazzLPs website.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Peter Erskine - You Never Know (1993)

If I see a CD on the ECM label in the used bin, I'll pick it up without question, such is my respect for the label and its artists. I see used ECM CDs very, very rarely so I didn't think twice when I recently saw this one. I first learned of Erskine when he was the drummer on early Steps Ahead albums, but had never heard any of his albums as a leader until I bought You Never Know. The album is characterized as his first recording with his "European trio" which includes British pianist John Taylor and Swedish bassist Palle Danielsson.

Taylor writes the majority of this album and because of the instrumentation, it feels like a piano album, but all players contribute to the overall aesthetic. It's typical contemplative ECM stuff and I mean that as a compliment; I'd recommend this for nighttime listening. In a May, 1993 review, Down Beat magazine gave the album ★★★★½ and heaped praise on Erskine's subtle playing, calling it "more zen than macho" and stating that "rather than keeping strict time, Peter plays a more melodic function here, commenting on the music while Danielsson holds the center." The New York Times seems to have liked this album, but for some reason couldn't resist a dig at Jarrett:
Drummer Peter Erskine leads a Keith Jarrett-influenced trio featuring John Taylor on piano and Palle Danielsson on bass in a comfortable set of standards and originals. The mood is upbeat, the rhythm in Erskine's hands bright and easy. Taylor's piano solos have a nice shape and more of a sense of understatement than Jarrett, for all his gifts, can ever seem to muster.
I guess every ECM pianist gets compared to Keith Jarrett eventually. If you're looking for an album review drenched in needless metaphors, head over here

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Did not chart

Tracks: It's all very serene and relaxing to these ears, particularly New Old Age, On The Lake, Evans Above, and Heart Game. There's also a nice take on Cole Porter's lyrical Everything I Love from the Broadway show Let's Face It!

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Swing Out Sister - It's Better To Travel (1987)

Note: this release was originally purchased as a cassette tape, later replaced by a CD.

I guess this stuff would now be classified as "sophisti-pop" but when I discovered it in '87, I didn't care what you called it; I liked it.  Admittedly, I originally played the first cut, Breakout, then flipped the tape over, rewound a bit and played Fooled By A Smile, then I'd repeat that process over and over. But eventually I started listening to the whole tape and began to appreciate the album as a whole - it's best listened to whole, so CD is the way to go. I see that a deluxe 2 disc edition was released in 2012 - I'll be on the lookout (if a little bit is good, more must be better, right? That's what I think after listening to this CD's bonus remix tracks).

The sound of the group is polished but not sterile. Plus we get real drums (a rarity in pop music back then), real strings, and real horns. I've heard Corrine Drewery's voice compared to Dusty Springfield's and I'm good with that comparison - it's sexy as hell. My only complaint is that the liner notes don't provide a full personnel listing. I'm only now discovering the group's later albums and I'm enjoying that journey, but I'll recommend this as a point of departure and if all you've heard of this group are the Top 40 singles, I suggest you dive on in.

The album garnered SOS two Grammy Award nominations for Best New Artist and Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Group or Duo (Breakout). The group lost to Jody Watley and (I've Had) The Time Of My Life by Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes, respectively.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #40

Tracks: No skipping. In addition to Breakout and Fooled By A Smile, my favorites are Surrender and the instrumental Theme From It's Better To Travel.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: When I first heard Breakout on the radio, I knew I had to buy the album post haste. However, I had no idea who the artist was so I asked a fraternity brother who was a radio & television major and part time DJ on the college station, KETR. He spouted off "Swing Out Sister" faster than you can say "shazam" and the hunt was on.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Best of Matt Bianco (1990)

German Import

I know British band Matt Bianco* as the group that Basia was in before going solo. I've got their 1984 debut album Whose Side Are You On? on vinyl from a cutout bin and it's like most Basia '80s stuff: if you're in the mood, it's spot-on and if you're not, it's annoying as hell. Offhand, I'd say they were a jazzier Miami Sound Machine, but with better writing and vocals from both male and female voices. Word has it they're still around in some form.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Did not chart

Tracks: I was in the right mood today, so I'm digging everything, except the tune Nervous which tries too hard to be a Janet Jackson cut. It's mindless background music, but it's upbeat and easy to listen to, so I'm good with that.

Song Album  Year 
Don't Blame It On That GirlIndigo1988
Yeh-YehMatt Bianco1986
Half A MinuteWhose Side Are You On?1984
More Than I Can BearWhose Side Are You On?1984
Sneaking Out The Back DoorWhose Side Are You On?1984
Fire In The Blood 7"-1990
Good TimesIndigo1988
Matt's MoodWhose Side Are You On?1984
Get Out Your Lazy BedWhose Side Are You On?1984
Wap Bam BoogieIndigo1988
Dancing In The StreetMatt Bianco1986
Whose Side Are You On?Whose Side Are You On?1984
Say It's Not Too LateIndigo1988
We've Got The Mood - Matt's Mood '90-1990
Fire In The Blood 12"-1990

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None, just picked this beauty up out of the clearance bin for $3.

*the group name suggests that Matt Bianco is a person, often assumed to be an alias for the main constant member and frontman, Mark Reilly (I'm guessing that's him on the CD booklet cover), but Matt Bianco is in fact "a made up spy, a secret agent; we loved spy TV themes and film scores."

Friday, September 1, 2017

Makoto Ozone - After (1986)

Japanese Import

At this point in his career, Ozone was considered a "young traditionalist" in the jazz world. And this release certainly supports that definition of the jazz pianist - he was only 25 at the time of this release and his music fit in with the revivalist Young Lions movement of the 80s.  At this point in his career, Ozone was working closely with vibraphonist Gary Burton, who doesn't appear on this release but produces it. Ozone's writing hasn't fully developed at this point, but it's pretty darn good and the pros here (including Eddie Gomez on bass) make it shine.

Cash Box, June 6, 1986, p. 22

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Did not chart
Peak on Billboard's Jazz Album chart: #33

Tracks: While there's not a stinker in bunch, the real prize is the title track. Also good are the swinging Kato's Revenge and the final track, Improvisation.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: I was recently looking at a 1986 jazz album chart where this album sat in the #33 spot. Having never heard of it, I pulled up the title track on YouTube. After one listen, I ordered the CD. Glad I did. I missed this one 30+ years ago which is a shame because I woulda listened to the crap out of this thing in 1986.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Bobby Caldwell - Where Is Love (1993)

The material Caldwell picks/writes has always been hit-or-miss to me but I've always love his blue-eyed soul vocals. This album is no different. Caldwell produced, arranged, and played most of the instruments on this album (plus Boney James on sax), but it's an artifact of its time - the arrangement, mix, and synthdrums immediately date it. Now that I think about it, this album dates more late '80s than early '90s. There's two exceptions: Caldwell sings two 1930's standards (Don't Worry 'Bout Me & I Get A Kick Out Of You) with an all-star big band and both tracks are stellar. These two cuts are easily my favorites - mostly because of Caldwell's perfect phrasing.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Did not chart
Peak on the US Billboard Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart: #13

Tracks: Most of the album straddles the line between quiet storm and smooth jazz while many of the tunes seem like they should be sub-titled "Love Theme from [title of romantic movie]" (see Never Take A Chance for an example).  Of the non-big band cuts here, the best are the title cut, Once Upon A Time, and Rina. I don't skip anything; this is one of those albums that I don't seek out to play but am always pleasantly surprised when a Caldwell track suddenly appears in a shuffle.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None