Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Billy Joel: Piano Man (1973)

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"And the Meat Loaf to the Billy Joel.
Certain songs, they get so scratched into our souls"

- Certain Songs, The Hold Steady

I'm not really a Billy Joel fan, but if Chuck Klosterman can admit to being a fan, I guess I can justify having some Billy Joel records in my collection. I have a copy of this record because I paid $1 for it. Sometimes, the price of a record will persuade me to buy a record I normally would not consider owning. In this case, the record is practically mint, and still in shrink wrap.

I don't think that there is a person alive in the western world who has never heard the track Piano Man. It's just one of those songs that really grabbed the attention of people seemingly everywhere. What I didn't know, until very recently, was that this track was a fictionalized account of Joel's experiences working as a lounge singer. I think that gives the tune a little more gravitas, but I am still not convinced that this is a great work of art. It's simply familiar.

Another track that people might know is The Ballad of Billy the Kid, which sounds like a weak Elton John impersonation. Die-hard fans will love this LP while more casual fans will pay some attention to certain songs.

This is the kind of record you would break out at a dinner party of middle aged parents keen to memorialize their youth. I imagine this would be followed by Fleetwood Mac's Rumours and Elton John's Greatest Hits (Volume 1). It might be a great soundtrack to a pre-key party dinner.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts: Up Your Alley (1988)

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This record was perhaps underrated or underappreciated at the time, with some good reason, given some of the filler tracks, but I simply cannot dislike a Joan Jett record. The most notable track on this record is probably I Hate Myself For Loving You.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Joan Jett & the Blackhearts: I Love Rock 'N Roll (1981)

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I remember my cousin telling me, oh so long ago, that he hated female singers. He felt that singing should be entirely in the domain of men. Not too long after that conversation, something happened. Let's call that something puberty. Suddenly, he was totally enamoured with the likes of Girlschool and Lee Aaron. I was there long before him, having secret crushes on Pat Benatar and Joan Jett. He caught up quickly, even though he is a year older than me.

I think that most people assume that the title track, I Love Rock 'N Roll, was written by Jett. Alas, she did not write it. It's originally a tune by The Arrows, but I think Jett does an admirable version. It's too bad more people aren't familiar with the original. By the way, Cyndi Lauper did not write Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. In fact, I don't think Lauper wrote a single song on her debut record.

The only problem I have with this record is that some versions contain Little Drummer Boy, that little turd of a song. You now how I feel about Xmas music. Besides hating insipid music (which includes most Christmas music), Little Drummer Boy simply destroys the record. Imagine an adolescent boy listening to Joan in his room, having all sorts of sexual fantasies. Just when he is imagining picking up Joan and throwing her on the bed, this buzz-kill song comes on. It ruins the mood; it ruins the record. The record ends in a confusing mess, especially if you are listening outside the Christmas season.

The video for the titular track is interesting because it includes a segue from Bad Reputation.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Joan Jett: Bad Reputation (1981)

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Sure, I had a crush on Joan Jett. What adolescent boy at the time didn't? There was something super sexy and appealing about her guitar-playing, bad-ass, and rock and roll attitude. Oh, and leather. In Bad Reputation, she sings:

I don't give a damn 'bout my reputation
You're living in the past it's a new generation
A girl can do what she wants to do and that's
What I'm gonna do
An' I don't give a damn ' bout my bad reputation

It should have been an anthem for all women everywhere. It was also the theme to Freaks and Geeks, a show that was cancelled too soon, though I have only seen it on Netflix, well after the fact.

This record was originally released in 1980 with the title Joan Jett. A year later, it was released under the title Bad Reputation. By the way, there is nothing uncensored about the video below. I think that's a ploy to gain clicks.



Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Jethro Tull: Repeat - The Best Of Jethro Tull - Vol. II (1977)

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My copy is a Canadian pressing from 1983. It has a bunch of tracks you may or may not know, depending on your interest or devotion to the band. I was never a big fan, and I am sure I paid nothing for this LP.

I've always viewed the flute as a feminine instrument, despite its obvious phallic proportions. I suppose I really view it as an instrument preferred by women, judging by my old music classes in junior high and high school. Men shied away from that instrument, and I thought that was a wise decision at the time. Apart from Ian Anderson, the only other flutists (or flautists) I can think of are Peter Gabriel, Mel Collins, and Florian Schneider. There must be more.

I'd say that this record has a fairly good minimalist cover design.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Jethro Tull: Minstrel in the Gallery (1975)

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You know you are in prog rock territory when one of the pieces (subdivided into smaller movements) is nearly 17 minutes long, and takes up most of one side of the LP. I have the original Canadian pressing.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Jethro Tull: Stand Up (1969)

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Though originally released in 1969, I have a Canadian gatefold repressing from 1982. There are some good moments of this record, though the blues influences seem to have been dampened somewhat. I probably haven't listened to this record since the mid-80s.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Jet Black Berries: Sundown on Venus (1984)

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The Jet Black Berries are probably an 80s band that few people have ever heard of. I guess they are no longer just an 80s band, because a new album (on CD only) came out in 2010. I have never heard  the CD. I can't believe that 2010 was seven years ago already. Why is time moving so fast?

On Discogs, the band is referred to as punk, new wave, rock and roll, goth rock, and country rock. That's a lot to live up to. 

The US pressing of Sundown on Venus came in three versions: cassette, LP, and LP with a bonus single-side mini album. I have the latter. It was also released on vinyl in Greece and the Netherlands.

A discogs user (bubbleman) left a very interesting comment about the band:
An absolute underrated forgotten neglected classic by this totally unique sounding band far from the restrictions of any genre. Seriously, this makes my all time top ten. Do yourself a favour and get it. You'll probably find it real cheap on Ebay or in the bargain bin of your favourite Festival Rock record store. These guys were probably the inventors and the sole Kings of Death Goth Country Punk adding a large helping of Spaghetti Western aesthetics to the stew. An absolutely fantastic brilliant vocalist, well crafted lyrics avoiding the usual cheesiness of Horror Punk or Psychobilly thus implying a well-read and intelligent author of the afore-mentioned lyrics and a great organ and an overall excellent band create an uneasy air of impending doom and a certain healthy degree of nihilism and misanthropy. Some real bad karma here and some classic feel good music for creeps. And like with everything truly great a lot more SHOW than TELL. Alright, some of it is probably a little cheesy by today's standards, but it's really really good cheesy and 1000 roads probably really all do lead to Shadowdrive. [source]
That's a pretty good description, I think.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Jesus and Mary Chain: Blues from a Gun (1989)

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I have a German pressing of this 12" single for Blues from a Gun, which originally appeared on Automatic. This 12" contains the aforementioned track, plus three b-sides: Shimmer, Penetration, and Subway.

The Jesus and Mary Chain: Automatic (1989)

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Some of the tracks on Automatic are fantastic. Blues from a Gun and Head On are stellar. In fact, I would rank those tunes as being among the best from the band. The Pixies even covered Head On. However, some of the tracks just don't do it for me. This is a mixed bag. They seemed to have abandoned the post-punk landscape for something they hoped would have been more commercial. It didn't really work, and it's the first time I was disappointed with the band.

By the way, I have an original Canadian pressing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Jesus and Mary Chain: Sidewalking (1988)

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This 12" US Maxi Single contains the 7" mix and extended mix of Sidewalking, plus live versions of Taste of Cindy and April Skies. I think that all of the JMC LPs have been re-pressed, but I am not sure that these more ephemeral releases will ever see the light of day again.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Jesus And Mary Chain: Barbed Wire Kisses (B-Sides And More) (1988)

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This collection was recently re-released as a limited edition double LP, I think on some sort of coloured vinyl. I have an original US pressing, though it has been defaced with that horrible gold promo stamp. Such is life. This LP contains singles, b-sides, and rare tracks. The record even spawned the single, Sidewalking. There's also a good Beach Boys cover on this LP. I would award this LP, like the previous two, five out of five stars.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Jesus and Mary Chain: Darklands (1987)

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Hand in hand in a violent life
Making love on the edge of a knife
And the world comes tumbling down

Darklands is no Psychocandy redux. That's OK, since this is a very enjoyable record. I don't think that the band ever reclaimed the glory of the first LP, but there is nothing wrong with this record. I think the Allmusic review is spot on, so you can go and read it on your own time. There is just something about the sound of this band that is truly wonderful, to my ears at least.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Jesus and Mary Chain: Some Candy Talking E.P. (1986)

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The Canadian version of this EP contains:

Some Candy Talking
Taste of Cindy
Hit
Psychocandy

The 7" version had one fewer tracks and different cover.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Jesus and Mary Chain: Psychocandy (1985)

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Sometimes you hear a record and it stops you dead in your tracks. Psychocandy, for me, is one of those records. I went on a mission to find out who this band was. Shazam would have been very handy.

This record started a musical revolution, of sorts, leading to the shoegaze movement. I've heard this record described as part Beach Boys, part Velvet Underground. That's probably a good description

It's hard to choose the best Scottish band, but I would choose The Jesus and Mary Chain. (Another band on my short list would be Simple Minds).

Original pressings of this LP demand a moderate investment. I have seen copies priced at $40 quite frequently. I have an original Canadian pressing from 1985. Later CD releases included Some Candy Talking, which was originally only released on an EP.

The sound might not seem to interesting now, but this was groundbreaking back in the olden days.



Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Jazz Butcher Conspiracy: Distressed Gentlefolk

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The band's name might suggest that it is a weak jazz band or a failed jazz band. Alas, it is not. Instead, the band is a UK indie pop band from Oxford. Allmusic describes the band this way: "Formed in the early 80s as a vehicle for the idiosyncratic, melodic talents of UK songwriter Pat Fish." [source]

From Wikipedia:
Their oeuvre is blackly humorous with such topics as Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, an unrequited crush on Shirley MacLaine, and an ode to SF writer Harlan Ellison. The song "Sister Death" is not about the comic book character, but was inspired by the last words of Saint Francis of Assisi, "Welcome, Sister Death". [source]
I really don't know very much about this band, beyond this record and I cannot remember where I got it.