Monday, January 31, 2011

The Remnants of Dignity

Interesting or perhaps alarming news reaches us from the invaluable unofficial website of legendary powerpop deities The Left Banke: The band is doing a reunion show at Joe's Pub in Manhattan on March 5th and 6th.

Well, actually two founding members -- bassist Tom Finn (left) and guitarist George Cameron (right) -- are doing the shows.

And according to a message left on the Joe's Pub board, semi-original guitarist Rick Brand may drop by to see what's going on as well.

I say interesting and alarming, of course, for all the obvious reasons; reunions of fondly remembered bands after nearly forty years have a spotty history, and in any case, the two crucial members of the LB -- glorious choir boy vocalist Steve Martin and keyboardist and songwriter Mike Brown -- will not be in attendance. (Both are as of this writing alive and well, although Brown is a legendary and somewhat eccentric recluse who reportedly has been living with a sister for at least two decades). That said, at a reasonable 20 dollars a ticket I just may have to check the show out despite my misgivings, the Left Banke looming large, as they say, in my legend. If you're interested, you can get more details (and order tickets) from the club either at the website above or by calling 212-967-7555.

Oh, and incidentally, it's highly ulikely that this lovely young lady...

...will be in attendance, either.

That is of course the teenaged Renee Fladen, as in "Walk Away Renee," in a photo that recently surfaced on the web and which had heretofore been something of a Holy Grail among pop obsessives. The Brooklyn-raised Ms. Fladen, of course, inspired several of Mike Brown's songs, including the timeless and beautiful "Pretty Ballerina" and "She May Call You Up Tonight," but since then has guarded her privacy rather carefully.

UPDATE: Just found this, which is also by way of the Holy Grail -- actual performance footage of the band at The Bitter End in NYC circa 1967, doing "Shadows Breaking Over My Head."

Martin's vocals, at least, are live, but in any case, this is by far the most watchable clip of the Left Banke that I've ever seen.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

History Lesson

As those who have met me (or even read me here) know, I am an unreconstructed geek. I wear my interests and obsessions on my sleeve, generally, and pride myself on being relatively well-informed on a variety of topics. My daughter, 20, is wont to begin sentences, "Mom, you know everything, so tell me..." I admit, I'm no simels, who literally DOES know everything: I am just a pale replica. But I'm proud to be even that.

And so it's cool/interesting/exciting for me when I encounter a field of rock history that was completely hidden from me. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you GESI.

Castro aimed to cure Cuba once and for all of "ideological deviants," which included long-haired youth, homosexuals and any others the authorities simply had reason to mistrust. For Cuban authorities, The Beatles were viewed as harbingers of an imperialist offensive out to corrupt young Cuban minds.

Over the next two years, thousands of youth were swept up in a repressive crackdown. Among those caught in this burst of revolutionary fervor were two relatively unknown singer-songwriters whose names would become legendary a decade later: Silvio Rodríguez and Pablo Milanés.

The story of how these "deviants" were saved from oblivion and how, in turn, their music transformed the musical soul of revolutionary Cuba itself, is tied to the story of a short-lived rock fusion group, "Experimental Sound Collective of ICAIC" (ICAIC is Cuba's Film Institute), better known in Spanish as GESI.

Officially, GESI became the house band for the film institute, producing soundtracks for ICAIC's numerous projects. Unofficially, GESI served as a kind of cultural refuge for those whose artistic talents ran afoul of Cuba's ideological police. More fundamentally, GESI became a "musical think tank," as authors Deborah Pacini Hernandez and Reebee Garofalo have called the group. They were a diverse group of young, rebellious musicians at once committed to the revolution but determined to push against its aesthetically rigid ideological boundaries.

GESI formally existed from 1970 to 1978. Although prodigious in output, the group was initially barred from releasing its music on the radio or performing live. The idea was to contain these musical rebels, not reward them. As Rodríguez later lamented, the group was accused of making "songs with revolutionary texts and imperialist music."

This is just very cool stuff. I had no idea!

(h/t commenter Bill Buckner, under his meatspace name at The Social Network)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Weekend Cinema Listomania (Special Stop Me If You've Heard This Story Before Edition)

Video Event of the Week: Might Criterion's DVD upgrade of maverick filmmaker Sam Fuller's wildly stylish 60s melodramas The Naked Kiss and Shock Corridor be what we're talking about? Is it conceivable that Summit's Blu-ray of Red, with Bruce Willis and a bunch of older folks including Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman playing spy games, could make the cut? Or is there the slightest chance that the respective Music Box discs of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, the third installment of the Swedish film adaptations of those Stieg Larsson thrillers, are actually The One(s)?

All worthy, perhaps, although without seeing it I'm still reasonably certain that TGWKTHN sucks as much as the first one (which I have seen, in case you're wondering). But in any case, for my money it simply has to be Disney's DVD/Blu-ray combo pack of the 60th anniversary edition of the animated Alice in Wonderland.

This was one of the first Disney titles to make it to home video, beginning on VHS and Betamax(!) back in 1981 and it's been more or less continuously available in the various evolving formats ever since; there was a restored DVD in 2004, but apparently it's been bumped up to high-def for the current edition. In any case, it's especially nice to have the 1951 Alice available in such a gorgeous transfer after the serious misfire that was last year's Tim Burton version (or as we like to call it around Casa Simels -- Alice, Warrior Princess). Which is to say that I think this is still -- in its only slightly Disney-fied way -- the most faithful of the many film versions to both the spirit of the Carroll story and to the original Tenniel illustrations. Without question, it's the most charming.

I should add that it's also the most psychedelic and scary, even after all these years; here's the Cheshire Cat scene, which gave me the creeps big time as a kid and still induces some very trippy frissons. The Cat's voice, in case you can't quite place the actor, is by the incomparably funny Sterling Holloway.

As you can see from the above excerpt, the restored film is in splendid shape and the new transfers are visually stunning, with color you could eat with the proverbial spoon (the Blu-ray is to my eyes merely incrementally better, but as is customary it's also stuffed to the gills with more extras than the DVD, including a clip of Uncle Walt introducing an airing on the Disney TV show from 1969). Both discs have a previously available making-of featurette (Reflections on Alice) and -- best of all -- give you the option of choosing between a clean-as-a-whistle version of the original mono soundtrack or a quite convincing digital 5.1 surround version juryrigged from the same elements.

In any case, this is a generally flawless presentation of one of Disney's finest efforts from the Golden Age; you can -- and very definitely should -- order it here.

And with that out of the way, and because things will be pretty quiet around here for the next couple of days, here's a fun and hopefully relevant little project to help us wile away the hours:

Best or Worst Version of an Often-Filmed Story, Classic or Otherwise!!!

And my totally top of my head Top Five is:

5. A Tale of Two Cities (Jack Conway, 1935)

Of all the adaptations of classic novels from Hollywood's heyday, this one has to be the most stirring. Starting with Colman, born to play the role, obviously, but let's say a word for Edna Mae Oliver's Miss Pross and Blanche Yurka's Madame DeFarge; their catfight is only one of several scenes in which both actresses manage to steal the picture out from under the rest of the huge and wonderful ensemble cast.

4. Yojimbo (Akira Kurosawa, 1961)

Eastwood's frame-for-frame spaghetti western is the most famous, but I've lost track of how many other versions (credited or uncredited) of Kurosawa's masterpiece are out there, including the sci-fi remake with David Carradine. Most of them suck, of course, although I will admit a certain fondness for Walter Hill's Prohibition era gangster adaptation (Last Man Standing) with Bruce Willis.

3. Hook (Steven Spielberg, 1991)

Just what the world needed -- Peter Pan II: Electric Boogaloo. With Robin Williams inexplicably cast as an English person.

2. The Passion of the Christ (Mel Gibson, 2004)

Mel's Jesus torture-porn epic, and despite the fact that it's idiotic and kinda anti-Semitic, it compensates by being unwatchable.

And the Numero Uno thrice-or-more told tale pretty much has to be....

1. Dracula (John Badham, 1979)

Langella had already made a splash on Broadway in a revival of the Dracula stage play, done semi-tongue in cheek with black-and-white set designs by cartoonist Edward Gorey. So of course somebody at Universal thought it would be a smart idea to star him in an irony-free blood-and-guts color version directed, without a hint of style or Gothic poetry, by the same nose to the ground hack who would later make Short Circuit. Pretty awful, including Laurence Oliver's middle-European accent.

Alrighty, then -- what would YOUR choices be?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

An Early Clue to the New Direction: Not!!!

No annoying mis-direction this week, as tomorrow brings the latest of our bi-weekly Cinema Listomanias.

However -- and forgive the shameless blogwhore -- but there's a very cool song to be heard over at the semi-official website of the fabulous Floor Models. And an amusing story. Or vignette.

Okay, an amusing paragraph, that's much as I'm prepared to claim.

In any case, I'd be deeply indebted if you could take a moment to head over there and give the tune a listen.

Nobody LIkes a Wiseguy

But in the case of The Dickies take on you know who's usually lugubrious "Nights in White Satin" I'm willing to make an exception.

No particular reason for posting this, except it came up on my iPod shuffle the other day and I wound up laughing out loud on the bus to Jersey. Got some odd looks, actually.

Incidentally, when this originally came out in 1979 it sounded a lot nastier and a lot more radical, at least to my ex-hippie ears. Now it barely even registers as a parody; in fact, it just seems like an imaginatively energetic cover version.

You know -- like rock 'n' roll.

UPDATE: I didn't know the Dickies had covered one of the founding texts of power pop -- The Left Banke's "Pretty Ballerina" -- in 1995.

And I certainly didn't expect it to be as good as it is. Seriously -- it's not on the same level of gorgeousness as the original, but as you can hear they play it straight and it rocks.

The things you can learn if you have a little time on your hands and a fast internet connection...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Words Fail Me

I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- it still amazes me that there's obscure late 60s pop and rock left to discover that's actually really good.

Case in point: My new favorite song.

From 1968, and the all but forgotten album Pilgrim's Progress, please enjoy wiseguy L.A. singer/songwriter Mark Levine (also all but forgotten) and his hilarious and oddly haunting "Going to the Country."

Featuring acoustic lead guitar by Ry Cooder and genuinely astounding piano work by the late great Larry Knechtel.

"Sock it to me, rock it to me, Periwinkle Blue...nicest knockers this side of Malibu..."

That's Levine in the shades in the picture. The girl -- Kathy Deasy, presumably the spouse of producer/guitarist Mike Deasy -- may or may not be the one from the song.

Despite the stellar personnel, the album was originally released on Hogfat Records, which must have been either a vanity label or the least heralded indie imprint in rock history. Of Levine, I can find absolutely no biographical information whatsoever, or any clue to his subsequent career (if there was one).

The album itself is uneven; as somebody over at Redtelephone66 said, some of it sounds like Levine was trying to make the greatest rock record of all time and some of it sounds like he was just goofing around with some friends. In any case, "Going to the Country" simply slays me, especially that single note bass-line climb at the end of every verse.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Keith's Royalty Statements™: Part II

And speaking as we were yesterday about the section in Keith Richards' vastly entertaining new autobiography in which he recounts his early songwriting efforts with Mick Jagger:
Mick and I spent months and months trying to write before we had anything we could record for the Stones. We wrote some terrible songs whose titles included "We Were Falling in Love" and "So Much in Love," not to mention "(Walking' Thru the) Sleepy City," a rip-off of "He's a Rebel." Some of them were actually medium-sized hits...I wrote a forgotten gem called "All I want is My Baby," which was recorded by P.J. Proby's valet Bobby Jameson.
Here's the song in question; I don't know if it's a forgotten gem, but it's better than "That Girl Belongs to Yesterday," which Mick and Keith foisted off on the usually discerning Gene Pitney, I'll tell you that for free.

I should add that the fuzz-guitar solo toward the end is almost certainly the work of one James Patrick Page rather than the song's co-composer.

I should also add that Jameson, who went on a to reasonable career in pop music, including some work with Frank Zappa later in the 60s, has a bone to pick with Keith, and not just about that "P.J. Proby's valet" crack.

From The Guardian UK, right after Keith's book came out last November:
Richards and [Andrew] Oldham wrote "All I Want Is My Baby" and Bobby Jameson sang the lead vocal on both sides of that single. Keith is listed as the musical director on the record, while Oldham is the producer, with Jagger, Oldham, and Jameson all singing back up vocals.

Says Jameson: "The real problem I have with Richards remark is that I was never paid a penny for doing this record. It was released as a single worldwide on Decca and London Records, and can be found on multiple albums of Rolling Stones involved work since 1964.

In the last forty five years I haven't gotten anything for it, so it seems belittling me at this point, after I already got fucked over by Oldham, Richards, Jagger, Decca, and whoever else has had anything to do with the record is a little pathetic.

If you're going to badmouth another artist I would suggest that it not be one you screwed out of any money you might owe him Mr. Music Director."


Monday, January 24, 2011

Keith's Royalty Statements™ (An Occasional Series)

Just gotten to the point in Keith Richards' vastly entertaining autobiography where he and Mick are starting to try and write songs -- their initial efforts not being deemed good enough for their own band, of course.
Mick and I spent months and months trying to write before we had anything we could record for the Stones. We wrote some terrible songs whose titles included "We Were Falling in Love" and "So Much in Love," not to mention "(Walking' Thru the) Sleepy City," a rip-off of "He's a Rebel." Some of them were actually medium-sized hits...I wrote a forgotten gem called "All I want is My Baby," which was recorded by P.J. Proby's valet Bobby Jameson.
That last sounds interesting, actually, but meanwhile from 1964, please enjoy The Mighty Avengers -- of whom I can find no biographical info other than they seemed to have hailed from Coventry -- and their version of the aforementioned early Jagger/Richards songwriting foray "So Much in Love."

And from their 1980 debut album, here are punkish pub-rockers The Inmates (of "Dirty Water" cover fame) and a version that sounds -- I suspect -- a lot more like the original Jagger/Richards demo.

I say "I suspect" because I can't seem to find a downloadable version of said demo version anywhere on the intertubes; if anybody knows where it might be found, I'd be forever in your debt if you'd post a link.

In any case, I've loved that Inmates cover since a vinyl promo copy arrived at my old offices at the The Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review. And I'll bet a Stones live version back in the day would have sounded absolutely fabulous on stage, regardless of what Keith now thinks of the song.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Weekend Listomania (Special Tom Waits For No One Edition)

Well, it's Friday and you know what that means. Yes, my Oriental trampoline tart Fah Lo Suee and I are off to lovely Wasilla, Alaska to join former Governor Sarah Palin [R-Blood Libeled] in a crash course in the Kabbalah. We've been assured that when the weekend is over the ex-Gov will be able to breathe life into a clay golem, thus enabling her to smite her liberal Nazi detractors.

That being the case, and given that things will doubtless be a little subdued around here till our return, here's a fun little project to help us all wile away the intervening hours:

Group, Song or Album You Used to Like But Which, Given the Passage of Time, You Now Consider Unlistenably Dated!!!

No arbitrary rules, you're welcome very much, and it occurs to me I may have flogged something like this one in the past, Without looking it up, however, I suspect at least some of my nominees must have changed since, so what the hell.

And my totally top of my head Top Five is:

5. Paul Simon -- Graceland

Maybe it's simple over-exposure or maybe it's that damned gated drum sound. In any case, an admittedly great album that seemed like it would be timeless when it emerged in 1986 now comes off as...a really annoying artifact of the 80s, kinda like the Thompson Twins except with (much) better songs.

4. Hüsker Dü -- Zen Arcade

There's a couple of great tracks on this -- the above being one of them -- and as a result I overlooked the album's appalling low-fi punk-rock production for far too long. Sorry guys, it was an annoying affectation then, and it was even more annoying on your subsequent major label albums, which also sounded like muddy amateurish crap.

3. Poco

I loved Richie Furay in Buffalo Springfield, and "You Better Think Twice" remains a pretty cool song. But in retrospect the doofus "Isn't everything great?" optimism of most of Poco's output strikes me as beyond irksome.

2. Pearl Jam -- Jeremy

I have no problem with these guys in general, although what could be said of Michael McDonald -- that you can hear the beard when he sings -- could also be said of Eddy Vedder, and he usually doesn't even have one. In any case, at this point you would need a heart of stone to sit through the 90s grunge angst of "Jeremy" without laughing.

And the Numero Uno time wounds all heels act or artifact simply has to be...

1. The Mamas and the Papas

Okay, "Safe in My Garden" is a great song and production, but most of the rest of their hits just sound insufferably smug to me now. And frankly, if I ever hear "Creque Alley" again I swear to god I'm gonna take a hostage.

Alrighty then -- what would your choices be?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

An Early Clue to the New Direction: Those Fabulous '80s!

A news flash and a shameless blogwhore:

There will in fact be a traditional -- musical rather than cinema -- Weekend Listomania tomorrow. I think I'm going to alternate them for the forseeable future, which has the dual benefit of a) justifying the video companies still sending me cool DVDs and Blu-rays and b) helping me avoid burnout.

More to the point, the clue itself can be found over at the sort-of official website of 80s pop combo The Floor Models. Yes, the masses demanded such a site, and who am I to deny them?

In any case, said clue resides in the most recent blogpost over there, the one entitled "What Will the Goyim Think?" Although I will admit this one is a bit of a reach.

In any case, as always, a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded the first reader who gleans its relevance to the theme of tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.

Compare and Contrast: This One's for Dave™

From 1969, here's the wicked Wilson Pickett's hit cover of (gasp!) Sugar Sugar, proving that even the largest bubblegum annoyance ever heard by sentient mammalian ears can be rendered with soul...

...and from 1978 and London's Hammersmith Odeon, here's power pop gods The Rubinoos and their fuzz-toned (not completely reverent) live version of the same song proving...

...I'm still not sure what, actually, except I really like both of these.

Hey -- sometimes a cigar is just a stogie.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Tomb With a View

And speaking as we were the other day of the late Gerry Rafferty, and how there was much more to him than the ubiquitous "Stuck in the Middle With You" and "Baker Street" -- from 1978, and the unreleased at the time original version of Richard and Linda Thompson's great Shoot Out the Lights album, here's the Rafferty produced version of the chilling title song.

I've been meaning to post this for a while, but seeing it over at Never Get Out of the Boat must have motivated me. In any case, I hadn't heard the Rafferty stuff for a few years, and I remembered thinking the later Joe Boyd version of SOTL, which is considerably stripped down by comparison, was rather more to the point. Listening to the above yesterday, however, has changed my mind; in fact, I now rather prefer the extra bit of studio sheen that Rafferty gives to Richard's melancholic minimalism.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Royal Pains

Got tickets to see The Artist Formerly Known as Symbol Guy tonight. At the Garden. Never seen the little freak live before, believe it or not; in any case, could be a hot one.

Although I doubt he'll do a certain theme from a movie he was in the way Big Daddy did it.

Incidentally, not a lot of people know this, still, but there is in fact an official pronunciation for the supposedly unpronounceable glyph Prince used between 1993 and 2000.


You're welcome.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Compare and Contrast: Lovesick Blues

From 1995, and the wildly uneven alt-rock/indie parody/tribute to all those K-Tel late night TV albums, please enjoy power pop heroes The Sneetches with some band that seems to loom large around here Shoes and a perfectly splendid cover of The Raspberries genre classic "I Wanna Be With You."

And from 1996, and what's generally conceded to be a disappointingly uneven tribute album, here's Alex Ballard and Sugarfoot and a radically different interpretation of the very same song.

Some old bandmates of mine, doing business as The Rock Club, have one of the better tracks on Raspberries Preserved (a Badfinger-ish version of "Rose Colored Glasses"), but it is, as I said, a largely disappointing record, and I remember thinking that the Ballard version of "I Wanna..." was a major misfire back in the day. A rockabilly remodel of one of the most perfect power pop songs ever written? Sacrilege!

Listening to it again today, however, it strikes me as kind of charming; in any case, the song itself is clearly indestructible.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Weekend Cinema Listomania (Special Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Whatever Edition)

[As noted yesterday, the List is back, albeit in slightly altered form on a trial basis. -- Ed.]

Video Event of the Week: Might Dreamworks' DVD of the splendidly monikered Paul Rudd/Steve Carell comedy Dinner for Schmucks be what we're talking about? Does Sony's Blu-ray of David Fincher's creepily effective making-of Facebook docudrama The Social Network deserve the nod? Or could Fox's respective disc versions of Machete, the over the top Robert Rodgriguez recasting of a 70s Blaxploitation flick as a Latino revenge epic, conceivably be The One(s)?

All worthy, to be sure, but for my money it's got to be Shout!Factory's fab new 6-disc box set of Dark Skies: The Declassified Complete Series.

Dark Skies, which ran for 18 episodes in the 1996-97 network season, was one of the many paranoid conspiracy sci-fi shows that sprang up in the wake of The X-Files. It wasn't the best -- for my money, that honor goes to Nowhere Man, with the great Bruce Greenwood -- but it was hands down the most ambitious, featuring as it did a Unified Field Theory of Everything. Everything, in this case, being all of 20th century history beginning (more or less) with the Roswell UFO incident of 1947, after which the show went on to posit alternative explanations for real life events as disparate as the Kennedy assassination(s), the New York City blackout of 1965, The Beatles first appearance on the Sullivan show, and the death of What's My Line? panelist Dorothy Kilgallen.

Boyishly likable Eric Close -- in the first of many failed series he was asked to carry before some smart producer realized he'd be better as a supporting character in an ensemble show like Without a Trace -- starred as John Loengard, an idealistic liberal twenty-something who comes to Washington in 1962 to work for a Democratic congressman and, for various convoluted reasons, runs smack into the heart of an extra-governmental conspiracy so vast it boggles the imagination. The show's secret weapon -- beyond the smashingly rendered Kennedy Era detail, including a terrific use of period music -- was, however, the late great J.T. Walsh as one of the ringleaders of said conspiracy; Walsh, who died shortly after the show was cancelled, was one of the most dependable character actors of recent years, and on Dark Skies, his genuinely frightening aura of Regular Guy menace was used to particularly good effect.

Here's Shout!Factory's DVD trailer to give you an idea of the show's overall mise-en-scene. Not to mention a glimpse of pneumatic co-star Jeri Ryan, for all you Star Trek pervs.

Shout!Factory's presentation of all of this is exemplary; the transfers look and sound great, and there's all sorts of supplemental stuff -- running commentaries, making of docs, the two hour international pilot -- to keep you busy. The bottom line, of course, is that you can -- and on balance, should, I think -- order it over at Amazon here. That would be the same Amazon, of course, that dropped Wikileaks, an irony that may or may not have any direct connection to the show's premise.

And with that out of the way, and because methinks it will most likely be a tad sleepy around here for a couple of days, here's a fun little project to help us wile away the hours:

Best or Worst Movie or TV Series Clearly Inspired By/Stolen From an Earlier Movie or Series!!!

And my totally top of my head Top Five is:

5. Carnosaur (Adam Simon, 1993)

A laughably low-budget dinosaur flick designed to beat Jurassic Park into theaters. Producer Roger Corman famously declared "I know Stephen Spielberg; I don't believe he's trying to rip me off."

4. The Insiders (1985)

A black guy and a white guy as a pair of investigative reporters for a national magazine. Think Don Johnson and Phillip Michael Thomas in Miami, except without the charisma and with worse music ("Just a Job to Do" by Genesis was the theme song).

3. Big Bad Mama (Steve Carver, 1974)

More Corman-produced mishegass. This movie wanted to be Bonnie and Clyde in the worst way, although thanks to Angie Dickinson and Tom Skerritt, not to mention William Shatner(!), it turned out quite a lot better than you'd expect. Incidentally, Shout!Factory just put out a very nice DVD of this, paired with its somewhat lesser sequel.

2. Galaxy of Terror (Bruce D. Clark, 1981)


The Corman factory strikes again, this time knocking off Alien. Joanie from Happy Days stands in for Sigourney Weaver, which should give you some idea of the film's level of inspiration. Shout! Factory just released a pretty good remastered version of this one as well.

And the Numero Uno homage a fou in the history of Le Cinema or the teebee clearly is....

1. The X-Files (Chris Carter, 1993-2002)

C'mon -- like the first time you saw it you didn't go "Oh -- Kolchak the Night Stalker."

Alrighty, then -- what would your choices be?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

An Early Clue to the New Direction. Well, Sort Of...

Okay, as promised, Weekend Listomania is making its return tomorrow. But for a couple of reasons (which I won't bore you with) I need to beg your indulgence. Which is to say that -- for the next several Fridays -- I'm going to post Cinema Listomanias, i.e. like the ones I used to run over at BOX OFFICE, instead.

In lieu of yet another Top 10 Zither Solos kind of deal.

If this offends anybody's sensibilities, I'll revert to the traditional format sooner rather than later, but if there are no serious objections, I think this might be fun for a while.

Thanks again for your patience over the last month of Listomania slacking, BTW.

Perils of the Jungle

Drat -- when I posted that Johnny G song the other week, I knew I was missing a great Compare and Contrast.

In any case, from 1991 and his quite wonderful first solo album, please enjoy Lindsey Buckingham and his glorious ode to....

...well, "Bwana."

I have a tendency to forget just what a goddamned pop genius Buckingham can be, but jeez -- this record just cracks me up on a million levels. And I never thought I'd say this, but it's really a shame there wasn't an official video to go with it. Preferably animated.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Separated at Birth?

Swear to god, I don't remember ever wearing camouflage pants or playing the sax.

But somehow a photo of me doing exactly that... now on the Wiki page of downtown jazz/punk/klezmer/movie soundtracks/all around cool guy John Zorn.

Man, this whole senility thing is really kicking my ass.

[h/t Ninotchka]

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Regardez Par Des Fenetres

Because a record that remains in my all-time power pop Top 10 -- The Hollies' 1965 "Look Through Any Window" (written by the great Grahame Gouldman) -- can only sound better...

...when sung in French.

Can't you just smell the elitist chardonnay and runny cheeses they were scarfing down while they recorded this?

Seriously, I stumbled across it and a bunch of other Hollies rarities the other day; naturally, I immediately gravitated to the previously unknown to me foreign language track. It is, of course, no secret that you're dealing with a guy who considers The Monkees Italian version of their tv show theme to be one of the most important cultural artifacts of the second half of the 20th century.

Oh, BTW, and harkening back to our little discussion about "You Didn't Have to Be So Nice" a while ago, I think we can all agree that if this record (in either language) isn't bona fide power pop, then nothing is.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Warning: Do Not Operate Heavy Machinery While Listening to This Song

From the amazing and mind-altering piece of cheese that is the Nirvana Sitar and String Group's 1968 psychxploitation album Sitar and Strings -- please enjoy their thoroughly confounding cover of The Box-Tops' "The Letter."

Seriously -- this thing just makes me dizzy. I haven't felt so weird listening to a song under the headphones since the first time I heard The Shaggs' Philosophy of the World.

This came out on a subsidiary label of Audio Fidelity Records. For our younger readers, Audio Fidelity was an oddball outfit that mostly made schlocky stereo LPs designed for the the hi-fi nut market. The bulk of their product was low-budget classical stuff (Scheherezade played by a pick-up orchestra) and sound-effects discs, but they also dabbled in pop. In fact, I was recently surprised to learn that they issued an American version of the debut album by my beloved Los Shakers, an LP that -- had I heard it in 1966 -- would have changed my life in unfathomable ways.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Cover Versions We're Not Quite Certain About (An Occasional Series)

[Weekend Listomania remains on hiatus for one more week. But it will return next Friday, swear to god. Really. We mean it. -- Ed.]

From 1995, and the alt-rock K-Tel parody/tribute album Super Fantastic Mega Smash Hits!, behold Southern Culture on the Skids' perhaps (hopefully?) inimitable rethink of Shocking Blue's often covered classic rock staple "Venus."

If truth be told, I came rather late to the Southern Culture party, which is to say I mostly ignored them until 2010's Kudzu Ranch album, which struck me as some of the most convincing more or less traditional guitar rock I've heard in ages. So when I chanced upon this earlier effort a few weeks ago I was a bit taken aback. On the one hand, their sort of beatnik rockabilly take on the tune is, in the abstract, a perfectly valid approach, and on the other the actual track has a certain overly self-conscious primitivism to it that reminds me unpleasantly of The Cramps, who I've never really been able to take.

I will stipulate, however, that it's way better than any of the remakes I've heard in TV commecials in the last couple of years, so that's something.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Keith's Record Collection™: Part III

Okay, this isn't one of the "forgotten jewels" Keith Richards raves about in his autobiography, but back in 1971 he did a Rolling Stone interview in which he went on at some length about Billy Fury's 1960 LP "The Sound of Fury."

Which he rated as pretty much the only really good pre-Beatles Brit rock album for a lot of reasons, including the fact that Fury wrote all the songs himself, recorded it without extraneous production touches (no strings or crying yeah-yeah girls) backed by his own crack stage band, and generally acted as his own producer.

At the time of the interview, of course, there was really no way for an American to see what all the fuss was about without buying a plane ticket to England and haunting UK used record bins; the album, like most of Fury's records, had never been released in the US, and it was long out of print in his homeland. In 2000, however, at the dawn of the Amazon era -- a time when it was still relatively difficult to find obscure music for free on the Net -- I found myself with a little disposable income and so I ordered an import CD of the finally reissued "Sound of Fury." I remember that I listened to it a couple of times, thought it was pretty good, especially for a Brit act of the day, but that nothing on it really killed me. I'm pretty sure I gave the CD away after that, actually.

Reading Keith's Life, however, especially the bits about his early listening habits, I got curious all over again, and so the other night I found a downloadable version of an even newer reissue of the album, this time in gorgeous stereo. Here's "My Advice," which strikes me as the most representative thing on the record.

The rest of the tracks are equally nice -- Fury may have been, shall we say, an Elvis impersonator, but he was a damn good one -- and Joe Brown's lead guitar work is really stellar throughout. Alas, none of it kills me, though, still. I guess you had to be there.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Keith's Record Collection™: Part II

Now this is more like it.

As recounted in Chapter Two of his new autobiography, here's another of the "forgotten jewels" the teenaged Keith Richards purchased with his own lunch money in 1959 -- The Atmospheres' totally kickin' instrumental "The Fickle Chicken."

Acoording to Le Google, The Atmospheres were a teen combo from the affluent Dallas TX suburb of Highland Park, and both this and their other single, "Telegraph," are highly regarded in rockabilly circles.

In any case, unlike that Johnny Restivo record I posted yesterday, this one strikes me as having that real gone spirit, if you know what I mean. Plus some guitar licks that are probably imprinted on Keith's DNA.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Gerry Rafferty 1947--2011

With Stealer's Wheel from 1973 -- the never released on LP or CD single version of "Everyone's Agreed That Everything Will Turn Out Fine."

His masterpiece, I think -- that middle sort of psychedelic section with the oohs and the Byrds-ish guitar stuff never fails to give me chills.

Keith's Record Collection™

So I'm reading Keith Richards' Life at the moment; so far, it's absolutely fascinating, and I haven't even gotten to the part where he and Mick start to get the Stones together.

More to the point, toward the end of Chapter Two, Keith talks about records he actually owned in his formative years, rock and rockabilly LPs and singles that shaped his musical tastes circa 1959, and he mentions a couple of "forgotten jewels." In particular a 45 I will confess to having never heard or heard of -- Johnny Restivo's "The Shape I'm In."

Which turns out to have a rather, er, interesting pedigree.

Johnny (John Charles) Restivo was born in the North Bronx, New York September 13, 1943. He enrolled in Cliffside Park Junior High School, New Jersey and was graduated in June of 1958. In 1959 Johnny was discovered by Joe Mulhall and Paul Neff and in June 9, 1959 he recorded "The Shape I'm In" and "Ya, Ya" at RCA Victor in New York City with Paul Simon (aka Jerry Landis) playing guitar on both tracks.
Not a bad little record, I'd say (and it's certainly still startling to hear early rock stuff like that in such excellent stereo). But on balance it strikes me as a tad (shall we say) inauthentic, at least compared to the Elvis and Buddy Holly records Keith was grooving on in 1959.

On the other hand, compared to most of the homegrown Brit rock that was around at the time it probably sounded like a work of genius. But that's a subject for another post.

Monday, January 03, 2011

In the Future, Everyone Will Be On the Radio For Fifteen Minutes

And in my case, that happens to be this evening, shortly after 11:15 pm EST.

I'll be a guest caller to Virtually Speaking, featuring Susie Madrak of Suburban Guerilla -- the woman who introduced the phrase "hippie-punching" to the language during a recent presser with Obama administration spokesweasel David Axelrod -- and Phildelphia Daily News writer Will Bunch, Pulitzer prize-winning author of the definitive study of the Reagan administration Tear Down This Myth.

Oddly enough, we probably won't be talking about politics -- apparently, Will is a fan of PowerPop and wants to discuss what we like to call semi-popular music. Go figure.

Anyway, the show streams over here -- if you're up and sleepless later this evening, give it a listen.

Monday Gratuitous Political Swipe

From 2002, please enjoy the (new to me) remix -- i.e., without the horns star Al Kooper overdubbed after the fact -- of the 1969 Supersession version of "Season of the Witch."

Or as Christine O'Donnell [R-Running for Senate in Delaware again as long as the rubes keep ponying up the money] might call it...

..."Your Song."


Seriously, while Supersession has a lot to answer for historically, the fact remains that co-star Stephen Stills was not an asshole at this point in time, and his playing here is quite impressively inventive. And it's nice to hear the entire track as nature intended, as it were.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Christmas Comes But Once A Year. Unfortunately, It Was Last Week.

Faithful reader FD13NYC and friends (see if you can guess which one he is -- I'm not telling, for obvious reasons) perform a selection of your holiday favorites (starting with the Fabs' charmer) in what might best be described as vintage Cable Access style.

As today's title suggests, I had meant to post this earlier, but my incipient senility intervened. Anyway, enjoy, despite the fact there are no New Years Day specific songs involved.