Friday, December 9, 2011

O is for Outkast

The Os ain't exactly a treasure trove of great tunes, but we do have our moments here.  Outkast is one of the more obvious ones, of course.

Pick five people at random from a crowd of people and ask each of them what their favorite Outkast record is, and you're likely to get five different responses.  I've never actually tried this, but I'm pretty sure it would happen.  Maybe the hipsters pick ATLiens, the hardcore pick Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, critics love Aquemini, but I just can't ignore Stankonia.  Sure, the critics love Stankonia too, but let's be honest here: it's a goddamn masterpiece.  Period.


Ripping up her record contract
Return to the 36 Chambers is a masterpiece too, even if it got overshadowed by the brilliance of Cuban Linx, Liquid Swords, and whatever your favorite Ghostface record is.  Flip on the ODB when you're lazy kind of stoned, and you won't argue much.

Boy do I love Roy Orbison!  I'd like to surgically remove the Travelling Wilburys from our cultural existence, but that's not his fault.  It's also not his fault that his divider card read "Roy Oribson" at the record store I worked at for years (my co-favorite along with "Mary J Bilge").

Let's pay tribute to Onyx, shall we?  I have countless hazy but wonderful memories of throwing "Slam" on and watching everyone bounce up and down like morons, splashing malt liquor all over whoever's house I was in.  I also made the mistake of cueing up "Blac Vagina Finda" at a few parties, resulting in my immediate ejection.

Who remembers Sinéad O'Connor?!!  Talk about here one day gone five years later... anyone out there own a
copy of 2003's She Who Dwells in the Secret Place of the Most High Shall Abide Under the Shadow of the Almighty?  I saw ol' cueball at Jones Beach way back, and she really knew how to piss off a crowd.  Cursed like a fuckin' sailor, too.

Speaking of women named O'Connor with ridiculously great voices, I hope you all check out or have already checked out Jennifer O'Connor's stuff.  The Color and the Light's my favorite, but don't let me change your mind about anything.  JOC's a real good person too.

Anyone know what happened my Orb CDs?








Sunday, November 20, 2011

Lulu

Didn't they know they'd stain the carpet?
A friend of mine recently came uptown to visit me and my kids and gave me a burned copy of Lulu, the collaboration between Lou Reed and Metallica. I'm pretty sure there are hundreds of burned Lulu CDs in fireplaces and incinerators across the country, but this one was actually meant to be listened to. It was also the only way in hell that I was going to devote any measure of time whatsoever to this ill-conceived, God-forsaken hunk of baloney.

This morning I boarded an M5 bus with about four passengers on it (no, this is not a math problem) and headed down RSD to go see the new Herzog documentary. Seeing as I was in a rather morbid mood, I decided to give Lulu a try at full volume. Turns out that the opening track "Brandenburg Gate" is really fucking good. In fact, I think it's a masterpiece. I've only listened to it twice, but you can quote me on this one.

Surely Lee's putting us on here, or setting us up for some kind of cruel joke... Right?

Nope, it really is brilliant. The rest of the record is absolute horseshit, which I'll get into a bit later. But "Brandenburg Gate" is seriously as good a track as this cursed partnership could conceivably produce. Let's pretend (wish?) we've never heard the record before, and list all the possible ways Lulu could have turned out:
1) Straight up Metallica riffs with Lou jive-talking semi-randomly on top. In other words, they each do their normal thing. [this is pretty much what the record is]
2) Atmospheric, highbrow artsy shit with occasional Reed-prose and metal/feedback bursts. Or, Metallica gets outside their box and Lou does his thing. [they do this on the record a bit as well]
3) Metallica Machine Music: Lou talks the Four Horsemen into an instrumental noise record, and immediately disowns and trashes the project upon its release, resulting in lengthy lawsuits by Metallica and Reed moving to Indonesia. [unfortunately not the case]
4) The five dudes just plug in and plow through a Ragged Glory-style sludge-cycle, bringing their individual strengths to the table but smashing their own tried & tired templates in the process. ["Brandenburg Gate"]

I have absolutely no idea what Lulu is supposed to be about (sounds like it has something to do with a girl, who might be a slut or possibly a masochist), so I don't really care about the lyrics a whole lot. I will say that Lou, in classic form, manages to outdo any parody/imitation of himself that anyone might throw at him. Ever think you're hilariously clever by pretending to be Lou Reed singing songs by other artists? Give it up, homeboy. Leatherface himself tops all with his "You are my Goliath... you are my Goliath" mantra on "Mistress Dread."

I'm not going to waste anyone's time ripping apart tracks 2 through 10 on Lulu, because any idiot with two ear canals can do it themselves. I'm just overjoyed that at the very least, if only for 4 minutes and 19 seconds, these numbskulls came up with something really exciting. Hey, maybe Lulu will spawn more absurd "mash-downs" in the near future? How about Randy Newman and King Crimson with their new release, Hollywood Serpent? Have you heard the new Al Jarreau & Yo La Tengo collaboration on Matador Records? I think it's called There Is A Street And Its Name Is Bop.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

N is for Nas

Tough to talk about the N section of my music collection without Nas coming up.  He's easily got the most pieces, although Naughty By Nature's pretty damn close (how the hell did that happen?).  No, I don't own the Nirvana box set.

Illmatic put Nas in the hip-hop pantheon for life, and rightfully so.  There were plenty of great rap records in the 90s that were more daring, more groundbreaking, or just more plain old fun, but Illmatic's the critical purist's dream.  Smart, street, lean, and great fucking beats.


Max Schreck puttin' heads to bed.
No surprise that "Dr. Knockboots" never made another perfect record again.  One could make a great mix of highlights from the rest of his career (and more than one of these exist), but that's about it. Maybe he'll be the Dallas Braden of rap... well, probably not.

Much more interesting to imagine the future Nas nicknames.  Ever since Nastradamus dropped (I think I dropped mine in the garbage once), me and my boy Grit (keep ya head up, kid!) have been passing moniker-morphs back'n forth:

Nasferatu - Vampires are still trending, right?  This could be dope!  My long fingernails scratching in the night... I ain't a snitch but yo my bitches I might bite...  Some creepy Gravediggaz-style beats and this thing's on, although we just missed Halloween.

NasDAQ  "Toolz Of Tha Trade" - Might be a little tricky, but maybe some sort of anti-OccupyWallStreet angle?

Da Planet UraNas - A trip through the solar system, perhaps a different producer for each planet?

Goin' BanaNas - Full-on rap comedy album; could probably resurrect a few careers with this one, but likely to end his own.

Entre Nas - All French production team, maybe a lounge-electronica kind of vibe?  Guest spot by Wyclef?  Anybody still reading?

I always considered myself a fan of Napalm Death, but I can't find a single one of their recordings in my home.  I think this officially makes me a poser.

I could write for hours about N*E*R*D, but I have nowhere near the amount of drugs this would require.  Same goes for Neu!, Neurosis, and New Order.

Oh yeah, Nirvana.  Am I the only one that listens to Nevermind and wishes it sounded like In Utero, and then listens to In Utero and wishes the songs were as good as Nevermind?

The Nuggets box rules.  Those who say, "Yeah, but I'm just not into that kind of stuff..." should stand facing a mirror with their entire record collection behind them and say, "I guess I'm just not into rock and roll."

Saturday, October 29, 2011

In Defense of Phil Collins

What were they doing?
At some point in the 1980s, the words Phil Collins became interchangeable with sellout, lame, bad, or simply uncool. I'm here to argue that there was actually a time when Phil Collins might have been the coolest guy in the business.

I'd say things started going sour for Phil in 1986 (Invisible Touch, "Land of Confusion" video) or possibly late 1985 ("Separate Lives" and general fallout from No Jacket Required). Of course, I mean artistically sour; PC's bank was as sweet as dew on the vine at this point. He was turning mere over-exposure into hyper-exposure, and alienating even his ficklest fans. By the end of the decade, we were left convincing ourselves that drivel like "Throwing It All Away" and "One More Night" wasn't all that bad.

Friends, it wasn't always this way. Phil was a world class banger through the entire early 70s, as any objective listen to Nursery Cryme, Selling England... or Lamb will verify. That's not really news to the casual music fan... most people would admit, "Yeah, I know his drums were pretty good on the Peter Gabriel Genesis stuff, but..."

Hold it right there. The drums on Trick of the Tail and W & W are awesome, so it had nothing to do with Gabriel's hip factor. In fact, Phil already had a resumé that was way cooler than PG could even dream of until he hooked up with Fripp. Let's look at some of Phil's extracurricular work so far:

Eno's Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), Another Green World, Before and After Science: PC does a nice job on Tiger Mountain, but positively kills it on Green World and BAAS. Those records aren't the same without him.

Brand X: Take it or leave it, but pretty awesome to have a legitimate experimental jazz fusion outfit on the side of your arena-level prog rock band. Great drums, and a few make-you-puke-up-your-tussin-it's-so-nuts tracks give Brand X the stamp of approval.

Not bad, eh? Phil kept in touch with his UK art-rock pals right into the early 80s, and hit the session jackpot with his work on his old mate's Peter Gabriel record in 1980. PG ironically gave birth to the "Phil Collins drum sound" and countless radio hours over the decade. The sound also opened the gate (ugh!) for Phil's demise, as his "big" period ("In the Air Tonight," "I Don't Care Anymore," Something's Going On, Behind the Sun, Pictures at Eleven, "Easy Lover" etc.) made good songs great and made bad songs really fucking annoying.

Phil was the undisputed king of the parking lot from '81 to '83, and here's why:
Face Value - the quintessential drummer does it all, bad marriage solo record.
Abacab - one of the most underrated records of the 1980s, co-defines prog-pop with Ghost in the Machine and Moving Pictures.
Hello, I Must Be Going! - even darker than Face Value, and is 50% perfect (not bad!).
Pictures At Eleven - "Far Post." Nuff said.
"I Know There's Something Going On" - Solidifies the "paranoid drum song" genre.
Three Sides Live - "Paperlate" b/w "You Might Recall" might be the apex of Genesis/Phil Collins, if not my own listening lifetime.
Principle of Moments - some genius is sampling "In The Mood" as we speak...
and, um, he also played on an Al Di Meola record in '83 and the Genesis album with "That's All," which I don't really want to talk about.

Hey, maybe the guy just got tired? I sang "Against All Odds" once at Winnie's and nearly passed out, so imagine how Phil musta felt! Oh yeah, he also played at Philly Live Aid and Wembley Live Aid (with Zeppelin!) without the use of a teleporter. Overexposed much?

I won't defend anything after 1985, so don't ask me to (with the possible exception of Stephen Bishop's horrendous Bowling in Paris record, which I'll gladly spin at any party I'm invited to).
This man is a billionaire.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

M is for Metallica

M's the first big section I've had so far, weighing in at well over 200 discs. Had some fun looking through my Mahavishnu sides (haven't listened much), and was a bit surprised at how often Bill Laswell's name comes up in other M titles. Nothing too exciting until I hit Kill 'Em All.

Pretty weird that talking about Metallica these days is a lot like talking about The Who or Pink Floyd. Maybe you've forgotten the first time you heard them, which probably means you weren't listening in the first place. Maybe you got sick of their bullshit and stopped caring, or just grew up and got a job. Allow me to refresh your memory.

Metallica were the best band in the world for damn near ten years. They did everything to the nth degree: played louder, faster, longer, were smarter, cooler, got more drunk, and generally beat the pants off every known band on the planet from 1982 to 1989. If they had recorded ...And Justice For All with the "not very" production of $5.98 E.P. they might have created the greatest hard rock album of all time. Metallica.

That said, I'm not sure what to think about the Lou Reed/Metallica collaboration, Lulu. I absolutely love it, but I intend to never hear a single note. However, I'm all in on the tour! Already hearing rumors of a "Sword of Damocles"/"Leper Messiah" medley encore, and possibly a guest appearance by Fernando Saunders on "Orion"... but these are just internet stories.

Lessee... how about a list of outstanding M records?
The Charm of the Highway Strip, Breaking Atoms, Master of Puppets, Bright Size Life, Operation: Doomsday, Mingus Ah Um, Double Nickels on the Dime, "Shook Ones Part II", Astral Weeks, Orgasmatron, Glider EP.
Personal faves:

The Pipes of Pan at Jajouka, A, Fear and Whiskey, Cargo, Blackout!, Special Herbs Vol. 7 & 8, The Introduction, "Universal Magnetic" b/w "If You Can Huh! (You Can Hear).

Sorry, still recovering from a couple of months of physical agony. I'll get some spunk back real soon.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I'm back!!!

[sound of tree falling in unpopulated area]

Friday, August 12, 2011

L is for Los Lobos

What?!!! How could L possibly be for anything other than Led Zeppelin?!!!

Hey, Zeppelin is obviously the greatest rock band of all time. No arguments there. But when I heard the theme from the Disney Jr. program Handy Manny the other day, I remembered just how criminally underappreciated Los Lobos have been for the last few decades.

I'm not even sure these guys are even "that band that did 'La Bamba'" any more... they might have disappeared from the general consciousness completely. I once drunkenly called The Wolves the "quintessential American band of our generation" (God, I used to love saying shit like that!). I mean, they had their paws (get it?) in the L.A. punk scene, roots rock, trad/Chicano, country, straight-up songwriting, textural production, you name it! These guys could, and did do anything and everything.

Up until the early '90s (I say "up until" because they were a full-fledged working and recording band in the fucking seventies!) it looked like LL might end up in the "great band, good records" file. The Neighborhood was pretty great, but Kiko is absolutely brilliant. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more rock solid record (minimum 50 min.) in the decade. No fat at all on this fucker. At least four songs can bring a grown man to tears, and a few might even inspire you to actually make something out of your life. "Short Side of Nothing" is the one of the greatest songs about the American experience, fuck that, the human experience ever written.

Don't get me wrong here. Their first couple of records (and EP) are great, and might actually document their live sound even better than their production-oriented stuff. But the fact that they took a chance and made Kiko, Latin Playboys (sort of), and Colossal Head was extraordinary. Tripping out to the beautiful "Ten Believers" and then getting your ass destroyed by "Mas y Mas" is the musical equivalent of jumping out of a jacuzzi and into the Arctic Ocean. No, they're not even on the same record, but I used to love doing this anyway.

Me and my music buddies (all huge fans) went to see Los Lobos play at some damn amusement park in Rhode Island right after Kiko came out. We were fucking corndogs-- smoking bad weed on a roller coaster, chugging big cans of beer, generally having fun. The band kicked ass, and we got so excited that we decided to "sneak backstage" after the show. We basically just walked into their dressing area, sat down, and started drinking their beer and eating their food. I think someone from the club followed us and was waved off by one of the band members, for reasons I still can't comprehend. Maybe we rattled off enough trivia about their discography to stay? Maybe they wanted to hear more about our band (doubt it!)? Maybe they were just plain bored (yep).

Regardless, we hung out with Los Lobos for what seemed like hours, and managed to keep what I remember to be actual conversations with these fine gentlemen. Steve Berlin was talking about early '80s Los Angeles, Louie Perez revealed recording secrets involving Pete Thomas, Conrad Lozano gave some tax advice (I'm not kidding!)... they really seemed comfortable shooting the shit with a bunch of drunken strangers. The only guy that wasn't interested at all was Cesar Rosas-- he had his headphones on for the entire ordeal.

Eventually it was my turn to sit alone with David Hidalgo, which was probably the most exciting "celebrity experience" I've ever had. This guy is one of the best songwriters, vocalists, and guitarists I've ever heard. Period. He sat there and listened, then looked me in the eye and said, "Just play music." Fucking amazing.

In other Mexican-American music news, "Low Rider Madness" by A Lighter Shade of Brown was my very favorite song for a few months. That was a weird period for me.

Let's salute Last Exit, Large Professor, Labradford, the Libertines, Lighting Bolt, Suede, Love, Nick Lowe, and Skynyrd while we're at it. And Led Zeppelin, who probably wouldn't have let me and my friends hang out with them backstage and drink their beer and eat their sandwiches.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

K is for Killarmy

Has anyone ever tasted aspic?
So we got back from a family trip yesterday afternoon, and boy are my hip flexors tired! Apparently I've lost almost all of my strength in this rather essential muscular group, which includes the iliopsoas and adductor longus muscles. From Wikipedia: Without the iliopsoas muscles, flexion in sitting position is not possible across the horizontal plane. Yeah, and it's really a bitch to walk, too.

Anyway, we had a really fun time, despite my adductor longus issues in the St. Louis airport and associated car rental location. After a grueling drive across Missouri featuring rain squalls of biblical proportions (causing Lee Jr. to shriek uncontrollably for about twenty miles), a slightly scary truck stop where a 5:3 ratio of males to toilets in the restroom was maintained over a 15 minute interval, and a statewide dearth of Smurf Happy Meals at McDonald's, we sputtered over the tire slicers at Avis/Budget (which Jr. hilariously called "Ah-vis Boojit" every damn chance he had) to return our purplish Hyundai. For some mysterious reason, we had to leave our car at the bottom of a long hill at least a football field away from the Avis shuttle bus, forcing us to climb an expanse of hot gravel with all of our luggage and both of our children. Everyone in the family had to piss badly, and nobody seemed to give a shit.

The shuttle bus bounced all over the damn place on the way over to Lambert, making our little 18-month angel cry her eyes out and nearly ejecting Jr.'s "Cars 2" potty seat right out the side of the vehicle. We finally get to the airport, and check our baggage curbside with the custodian from the Spinal Tap Cleveland concert. We had about as much luck as they did finding their way around-- I ended up separated from the rest of my family by a makeshift "under repairs" wall in the terminal and barely found each other. That said, the flight back wasn't too bad.

Here's what I learned from our trip:
1) Portable DVD players save lives.
2) Don't try to squirt allergy medicine down your 3-year old's throat mid-flight... just squeeze it into his drink.
3) Watching dozens of twenty minute chunks of Toy Story, Toy Story 2, and Toy Story 3 is really confusing and doesn't serve the filmmakers' intentions.
4) I honestly don't mind homes with little biblical quotes hanging all over the place, but I just can't seem to find inspiration from them. I was having a bit of a crisis in the bathroom late last night, and could only find something about "thine oxen" on the wall.
5) Always pack extra Prilosec when travelling in the Midwest. Just do it!
6) Airline stewardesses named Blanche may appear kind and helpful, but ultimately should not be trusted.

K,K,K,K... what begins with K? A few of the darker Wu-Tang projects, for starters. I remember listening to the Killah Priest stuff and saying, "This guy definitely has an interesting approach and something to say, but I'm not sure that I'm enjoying myself while listening to his music." My experience with Killarmy was similar, except that I never said anything about it for fear of being murdered. However, I don't need a gun to my head to tell you that the tracks on Silent Weapons (and, to a lesser degree, Dirty Weaponry) are spectacular. As for the rapping, well... I guess it's OK [looking over my shoulder for hidden assassins].

My King Crimson CD collection has been gutted out like a Tanzanian bush pig. Here's the damage: In the Wake of Poseidon, Three of a Perfect Pair (gotta have these); Beat (I'd like it back, but not losing any sleep); Lizard, Islands (good riddance); USA, Earthbound (probably only had on cassette); Young Person's Guide... (definitely never had CD). Everything else is still here. As for the crap after Perfect Pair, I'm waiting for someone to convince me that it's worth a darn (C. Simone?).

I seem to be missing some Kinks records too, but all the ones I love are still around. Life's not worth living without Village Green.

Not much else going on in the K department. Kraftwerk 2 is sehr gut, and solo stuff by KRS-One is interesting only for the production by Primo. Kool G Rap never fails, Kool Moe Dee is good for a few laughs, and Kool Keith slams on Sex Style. I don't know where this Diana Krall CD came from, but it looks like it cost at least $17.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

J is for Jesus Lizard

My friends and I are such unbearable dorks that we often attend Yankee games with prepared trivia questions and/or Saturday New York Times crosswords. I even do this with my wife! Also included in these pursuits is the creation of music-themed lists/categories.

I've written about this before: best metal bands of all time, bands whose name contains a member that isn't the lead singer, etc. At an excruciating loss to the Red Sox this year, we explored the idea of a band that was considered "huge" or generally well-liked and respected during their heyday, but hardly gets mentioned ten or twenty years down the road. My buddy may have framed this one within the indie rock sphere (late 80s and 90s), but I'm not sure.

Tight 'n Shiny!
Either way, he nominated the Jesus Lizard as a former powerhouse that can't get a free cup of coffee these days. I thought this was an excellent example... I can't think of a band that kicked more ass back in the day. I might have suggested the Boredoms as well, but the 'Zard is pretty darn perfect. After further discussion, we agreed that bands in this category were probably great live bands without many (or any) definitive recordings, and likely a bit "edgy."

As I skimmed through the Js, I was shocked to find only one Joe Jackson CD. Hello, is Look Sharp! available? Not here? How about Night and Day or at least Jumpin' Jive for cryin' out loud?!! Vanished. I have Body and Soul and that's all, folks.

Actually, I maintained possession of my Joe Jackson "I'm the Man" CD3... remember these?!! Now there's a fad right up these with the pyramid-shaped Rubik's Cubes and Magic Shell chocolate sauce! I showed one of the tiny twirlers to our babysitter, and she acted like I just whipped out a Betamax tape. OK, this is getting weird and I'm moving on now.

James, Jayhawks, blah blah, here we go... I couldn't wait to dig into my old Tull records, but they were all missing too!!! I need to reevaluate my habits of living in the early 90s, because I seem to have traded in about a third of my fucking music collection. I'm absolutely positive I owned This Was, Benefit, Aqualung, Living in the Past, Thick as a Brick, and at least five other Jethro Tull CDs. I probably have all the cassettes somewhere too, but that's another story. All that's left now is Stand Up (thank g_d!) and some cockamamie collection (not M.U.).

Of course my Joy Division stuff is all here. I wouldn't part with those for a six-pack of pure LSD. I imagine that being a real Joy Division fan is like being a real Chicago Cubs fan. Yeah, it's totally trendy but also a true badge of honor if you really listen to the music.

That's about it. Apologies to Jungle Brothers, but I'd rather watch Phil Hughes actually pitch a decent game than try to explain your discography. No offense to the JBs at all, but they're a tough nut to crack. Go listen to "Blahbludify" and I think you'll get my drift.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I is for Irabu

Hideki Irabu was found dead yesterday afternoon near Los Angeles. If you're waiting for a punch line, you're reading the wrong wise-ass blog.

I loved Hideki Irabu. His arrival and debut with the Yankees was unlike anything I'd seen around that time, and I was going to shitloads of games in the mid/late '90s. This was before the mysterious sensations/disasters of El Duque, Ichiro, Hideki Matsui, Contreras, Wang, Dice-K, and anyone else that simply appeared out of nowhere. And once the Irabu photos and stories started making the rounds, we were gripped with a double standard: he had to be great, and there was absolutely no way he could be great.

Funny thing is, this is exactly what he was for most of his tenure in the Bronx. I'd guess I saw Irabu pitch around ten times at Yankee Stadium, although I only have six ticket stubs as proof. I saw him pitch in the first Interleague games at Shea, which was a hoot and a half. Hideki looked like a dad wearing his kid's batting helmet, and got a no-decision in the Yankees' win. I saw him toss a shutout against the Tigers in July of 1999, and generally saw decent starts from the guy. Don't remember details, but Heath Bieferman and I rooted our asses off for Irabu one time and assembled our own "K" signs out of ripped up pizza boxes in the old Loge section. It was always a good time to watch Irabu pitch.

I'll be wearing my #35 jersey this Saturday, not that I expect the Yanks to do anything cool for the poor guy. Rest assured that at least one Yankee fan will be thinking about Hideki Irabu as Bartolo Colon jiggles around on the mound.

Oh yeah, I just imported a bunch of CDs by artists beginning with the letter "I"... Not a whole lot here, excepting the spectacular Isley Brothers and Ice Cube singles/EPs. I'm fond of Under the Skin by Ice, although I haven't listened to it in ages. What happened to my Ivy record?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

H is for Harmonia

Crazy-ass motherfucking drum sounds
Boy was I happy to see that my copy of Big Bam Boom still exists. Along with Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti and Shaken 'N Stirred, this is one of my favorite crazy mid-80s production records. All are usually considered "dated" and are consequently underrated. Hold on a sec, I'm firing up my Pro Tools and recording that last sentence I wrote as a rap over a Paul Young loop.

What doesn't seem to exist is my copy of Daryl Hall's Sacred Songs. I miss the heck out of that one. If you like "Matte Kudasai" then you'll love "North Star!" That's because they're pretty much the same song, but the latter has a great singer and the former has Adrian Belew, who is a poor-to-fair singer.

If you've spent more than four hours in a row with me in the last ten years, you've probably heard me blather on and on about Harmonia. My two most-listened-to records for a long time now, and still not even close to tired of 'em.

Remember MySpace? I haven't been there in at least a couple of years... until this moment! I just logged in to my Harmonia fan page, and found that I (they) have over 4,000 friends and over a thousand unchecked messages. Surely there's a couple of lawsuits in there, or at least some nasty messages from HJR himself. I wonder how Charles Simone's Elf page is doing.

Importing my Hendrix stuff was a bloody mess. Because of the myriad reissues and posthumous collections that sully his core catalog? No, because my actual CDs resemble 80 grit sanding discs far more than pieces of digital media. How the hell did this happen? Were we throwing my copies of Smash Hits and Axis around the room while we were stumbling around to the stomp of "Machine Gun?" Somehow, they all ripped successfully.

I've already said most of what needs to be said about Allan Holdsworth, but I suppose a quick rundown of Metal Fatigue wouldn't be out of order, would it? Maybe some other time.

Let's finish with a quick curtsy to one of the great trios of all time: Hüsker Dü. They'll never be matched by anyone, and not for lack of trying. That's a sound, idea, and chemistry that just can't ever exist again anywhere. So enjoy the records while you still can.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

G is for Gangsta Boo

Normal people start losing their mind at around mile 13 of the New York City Marathon, which I believe is near the point where you're crossing into Queens and wondering where the hell the 59th Street Bridge is (this describes just about every trip I've ever made into Queens, usually behind the wheel of a car). Then you hit mile 14, and start feeling a little better. Maybe I can actually make it! Suddenly a black car pulls up next to you, and two guys in suits grab you by the shoulders and stuff you in the backseat. The car pulls off onto a backstreet and speeds back towards Williamsburg. Before you can say "Road Runners Member..." you're dumped out on your ass way back on Fourth Avenue and caught up in the running horde once again. You have to run those six or seven miles AGAIN!!!

This is how I felt when I realized that tons of the files I'd imported onto my first hard drive were corrupted. Certainly not all of them, but enough to make me go back and redo the Ds through Gs all over again, to be on the safe side. The horrible shame and embarrassment of sitting idly while a Gentle Giant CD is saved to your computer is one thing, but doing it twice??!! It's been a rough week.

That said, the Gs have been a breath of fresh air. Gang Starr and Geto Boys have highlighted recent rippings, but the giant Gs of Wu-Tang are the story around here. Thank the lord I had the wisdom and foresight to snatch up tons of GZA and Ghostface promo CDs back in the day. Not sure why I'm so glad, but I am.

However, the real gems of the section are two back-to-back records of remarkable guitar genius. Hmm... Slash? Buddy Guy? Phil Hurley? Nope, these are compilations on the excellent Original Music and Sublime Frequencies labels (the Matador and Drag City of world music). Joey Pants turned me and at least a dozen other stoners on to I've Found My Love: 1960's Guitar Band Highlife of Ghana. I've made my share of ignorant jokey references about this record ("Graceland on ________ (fill in hallucinogen of choice)" or "guitar tuners melted on dashboard of van"), but I honestly love it. I'm partial to the Frimpong tracks, but it's tough to argue with "Ohia Woa Enwu (Don't Commit Suicide Because of Poverty)" by the Royal Brothers, which closes the compilation with a slippery slide guitar bonanza.

Joey's recommendation inspired me to do some searching of my own, usually inside old Ziploc bags which eventually led me to several excellent releases on the Sublime Frequencies label. My favorite is the Guitars of the Golden Triangle: Folk and Pop Music of Myanmar (Burma), Vol.2 CD. Lots of great stuff on here, but the pieces by Saing Saing Maw are outstanding. As with most comps like these, very little information about the artists is supplied; this is because such information doesn't exist. The label's Cambodian Cassette Archives release is tragically mysterious, with well over half its tracks credited to "anon" and song titles that come up on Gracenote as either "Unknown," "Uknown," or "Unkown." Anyway, Saing Saing Maw's lead guitar playing is absolutely terrifying-- the solo on "Lah Ley Cham" sounds like it destroyed the recording mechanism used in the session. Writers say things like this all the time, but further listens support a literal interpretation. At least three songs on this CD are sonic dead ringers for the latest Ariel Pink stuff.

Next up... Hendrix!!!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Tabloid

Loving a Mormon ain't easy.
Wife's at work, kids are at camp/with sitter, nothing going on... I'm going to the cinema!

Tabloid by Errol Morris was an easy choice for me.  Pros: (1) playing at Lincoln Plaza (artsy, but not too artsy), (2) easy access via M5 bus, (3) 12:05 matinee, (4) rumors of Joyce McKinney herself making guerrilla appearances at various premieres last fall (maybe she'll drop in on opening day, first show?!).  Cons: none.

Yeah, the film's great.  I won't spoil it, although it is a documentary and therefore based on real events accessible to anyone.  The story is totally insane and hilarious, and left me far more interested in what the film's subject(s) actually believe(s) to be true than in the actual reality of the scandalous chain of events.

As for scandal within the theater, I found almost nothing.  When I first sat down there was a guy in front of me intensely watching something on his iPad that turned out have nothing at all to do with anything-- I think it was Starship Troopers.  However, a truly suspicious and enormous man was sitting in the middle of one of the front rows, with an assortment of papers and bags spread out in front of him.  Every few minutes or so he threw up his hands and exhaled loudly, as if he had just seen something outrageous or offensive to his person.  I checked in on him after about 30 minutes and he was asleep with his nose at around 11:00 in the air.  He staggered out of the movie completely soon after.

I had to make an emergency rest room trip (or what Ian Anderson might call a "Pibroch") near the end of the film, and saw the weird big guy again in the bathroom.  If you've never gotten up and pissed in the middle of the film, let me tell you that bathrooms are always filled with lunatics during movies.  Who else would waste money this way?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

F is for Faith No More

The wait between A to Z posts wasn't because my intern quit (as far as I'm concerned), or because I have thousands of CDs by artists beginning with the letter F (the least of any letter so far).  Nor was it because I've been catching up on missed episodes of Basketball Wives (no comment).  I ran into some unforeseen problems with the importing of my music collection.

Not that I wasn't warned.  The disembodied voice of H.S.P. is still echoing in my mind's caverns: "Be careful with that..."
Dammit, I was careful.  I just didn't get a hard drive fast enough to handle the assembly line rapid-fire style of ripping I demanded from my computer.  Either that or I got screwed over at Costco.  Either way, I picked up a more appropriate external device, and shit's been tin goose ever since.  (knocking sound)


I'd also like to address the complaints I've been getting about the "druggie" references in my last few posts.  Yes, I'm afraid it's true.  I have indeed taken drugs while listening to, discussing, purchasing, mishandling, composing, and recording music on compact discs.  It just so happens that the Cs and Es were on the heavier side of said behavior.  I'll try to keep things a little more on the straight side this time.

[paragraphs about Marianne Faithfull and Faxed Head deleted]

Let's try to think of a weirder band than Faith No More, shall we?  I loved 'em because they made my indie rock friends and rocker friends equally uncomfortable.  Here's a good one: a truly bizarre "game" developed organically whenever we used to hang out at my friend's parents' house involving this band.  One person would perform the piano outro from "Epic" while another would enter the room in a creepy, Frankensteinish kinda way.  The idea was to do something more ridiculous than the last guy, which wasn't always easy, considering the people involved.  No drugs, by the way.

Quickly and pleasantly reminded of how great the Feelies were when I ripped their short and sweet catalog.  I know I had that fourth one, but... jeez I hope I didn't trade that in.  Even if it's the worst of the bunch.

MIAs: Fairground Attraction (debut full-length and import single), couple of Figgs titles, and any Faith No More besides The Real Thing.  I spent a lot of time trying to wrap my brain around Angel Dust, which I'm pretty sure wasn't a total waste of cells.  [drug talk deleted]

Aaaah, Fleetwood Mac.  Take the good stuff from the self-titled, Rumours, Tusk, and the good stuff from Mirage, and you've got one of the best runs in history.  I'm pretty sure the band ruined each of their lives (except Christine McVie), but that's their problem!

Shout out to Flying Saucer Attack, who conned me into buying at least six of their releases on the strength of their brilliant debut.  One time I cranked the shit out of "My Dreaming Hill" with my girlfriend-at-the-time (now ex-wife) sitting in the backseat of my car.  I don't remember ever turning it off or down as she writhed in agony, but...

Monday, July 11, 2011

2011 State Farm Home Run Derby from Chase Field

8:26 - Joining in progress... Gonzo's already clubbing dongs all over the fucking desert.  For a second I thought A.J. Burnett was pitching.

8:29 - Lee Jr. took me a little deeper than I was expecting tonight.  Had to resort to Cat in the Hat Comes Back as an emergency backup, which felt like bringing in Sergio Mitre in the 11th inning on no rest.

8:31 - Wow, they're moving right along!  I'd hardly wiped the drool off my chin and Matt Holliday's already at the plate!  This is a good sign.

8:35 - Some questions:
1) Has a H.R.D. entrant ever been beaned?  Specifically, in the head?  They don't wear helmets, as you know.
2) Have they ever resorted to instant replay to make a call?
3) Have any of the children in the outfield ever been injured?


8:40 - Ahhh, the verbal juggernaut we like to call the Grandy Man.  For real, the future President of the United States, Mr. Curtis Granderson.

8:43 - Cano's cranking 'em out of the Arizona park like illegal immigrants without fake papers like John Daly.  Broadcaster just said "Oh my goodness..." like he just watched Christina Hendricks peel off a wet t-shirt.  As for Chris Berman, he's been grunting and moaning like he's getting boned in the butt by Don Draper himself.  Yeesh.

8:53 - Rickie Weeks seems a bit overmatched here.

9:01 - Bautista took a ton of pitches and then started busting 'em out.  I don't know what he's been on for the past two seasons, but I could sure use a few vials of it.  Hmmm, maybe he's running a bit low on juice tonight.  Or the cops seized his stash?  I'm shutting up now.

9:06 - They're giving "actual distance" and "projected distance" stats for each home run now?  How about meters, kilometers, and "distance it would be on the moon" stats?  Or "distance it would have traveled in 2002" numbers?

9:11 - Now here's a great idea: Fans get to vote in a few guys with no power whatsoever (no pitchers), maybe Felix Pie or Julio Borbon.  They have to keep swinging until they hit one out.  Imagine the hijinks on the sidelines!  Ortiz ambling up there with a towel, cajoling the BP pitcher to keep mixing it up... hilarious!!!

RUNNING LOW ON BATTERIES... WILL REJOIN LATER!

9:26 - Some serious multi-tasking going on here... typing, switching computers, picking up stuff on floor in living room, monitoring kids in bed, ripping CDs in other room, trying to find my copy of Into the Wild, it's nuts!!!

9:29 - You know the box that has all the shitty/oddball toys in it?  The box that always gets dumped out and NEVER picked up by anyone?!  I mean, are any children really going to play with half of a plastic egg?  Jesus, I hope not.

9:31 - Well, this Derby's about as exciting as a fishing derby.  For people not actually holding a fishing rod, that is.  Plus, I'm in the hottest room in the house.  Hold on.

9:35 - This is getting too hectic.  I just galloped in from the dining room, where I'm importing "T.S.R. (Toilet Stool Rap)" by the Biz and trying to charge up my laptop.  This is by far the most I've exerted myself all day, with the possible exception of making my first peanut butter sandwich.  God, I love July.

Los Chicos!!!
9:40 - Oh, thank God.  They just flashed the tiebreaker rules up on the screen.  I mean, me and my buddies have been texting all night trying to piece together viable scenarios here...

9:41 - Wait, they're having a "swing-off" between Ortiz, Fielder, and Matt Holliday!  OK boys, drop yer drawers!!!  Yep, just as we suspected... Holliday's out by about the length of a soda can.

9:47 - So Cano's is the longest so far, eh?  That doesn't surprise me at all.  Robby and Melky used to get more tail than fucking Davy Crockett back in the day.

Lost track of things here for a while... ate some snacks and had a few confusing conversations with my wife.  Kinda shut down the operation.  I did manage to see Cano bomb his way to the top, which was totally awesome.  Overall, a slightly improved but still stupid event.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Yankees 5, Rays 4

Pretty sure I get called an asshole if I don't at least mention today's game.

So I had plans months ago to take my old buddy Kong to today's Yankee game.  He's in town visiting from Texas and a longtime baseball fan, so the game was a no-brainer.  As the date got closer, we started thinking about Jeter's 3000th, of course.

Just wanna say that Kong showed a lot of class today... the guy's a born and bred Red Sox fan, and still rooted like heck for Jete today.  Why?  Because he appreciates greatness, that's why.  On top of that, he even rooted for the Yanks to win (or at least he made me think so) to make the day that much more special.  He got psyched for Mariano to save the game, too.  A classy guy.

Made me think about what I'd do if the tables were turned.  Tough one, because there aren't any guys like Jeter and Rivera left on the Red Sox, or the rest of the Yanks' team, for that matter.  So let's say Kong somehow takes me to Fenway next season to see Manny (who's somehow still on the team and in baseball) with a chance to hit his 600th home run.  Yeah, I'd totally root for Manny to crush one to high heaven and lope around the bases like an idiot.  I really would.  But would I cheer on the team to win the game?  No.

I guess I'm just an asshole after all.

OK, here's two scenarios where I'd root for the Sox:
1) The Boston Red Sox play an exhibition game against a newly-formed team of Neo-Nazi white supremacists from around the world.  I'd also hope for a bench-clearing brawl where David Ortiz is forced to fight his way through a mass of opponents using a series of left jabs.
2) The Bostong Red Sox play an exhibition game against a team of alien invaders, on the condition that Boston must win in order to save the human race and planet Earth herself.

That's all I can think of at the moment.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Road Games (remaster)

I was looking through my unpublished drafts the other day, and I exclaimed to myself, "Hey, there's some pretty good stuff here!" One of my summer projects (along with teaching my daughter how to read and teaching my son how to solve linear equations) is to post some of these forgotten chestnuts. In some cases I might add a few sentences, but I promise not to delete anything-- no matter how incoherent it gets.

This one was originally titled "Allan Holdsworth vs. Eddie Van Halen" and was to pit Road Games against Fair Warning in a no-holds-barred battle for supremacy. I believe that Van Halen wins this one in both the rock AND jazz categories, but I quickly found that explaining my argument was much too complex for the English language, especially on two tabs of Ambien. I'm settling for a simple book report on Road Games.

Original date of draft: August 1, 2008


The early 80's were an exciting time for jazz in the music industry. Wait, didn't he mean to say the late 50's, or at least the mid-60's? You totally missed my point-- I said music industry!

Jazz fusion guys were pressing records by Warner Bros. with legitimate budgets, like 1984's Samurai Samba by the Yellowjackets or David Sanborn's Backstreet (1982). We were still years before Pat Metheny's VH-1 cool jazz empire took over with the help of Still Life (Talking) and Geffen Records. Big jazz records were being made, but the music still had an edge. It seemed that fusion could maybe score a hit record without going new age, but by going rock instead!

Enter jazz fusion journeyman Allan Holdsworth. Then bring in too-hot-for-your-road-case guitar phenomenon Eddie Van Halen, who starts citing Holdsworth as a major influence, and calls Allan "the best." Mo Ostin hears the things his label's major breadwinner's been saying, and decides to lets Holdsworth take a crack at a major label record on Warner Bros.

It seems clear that the goal of the project was to bring jazz fusion music to a much larger audience, an audience that simply never had the chance to hear such challenging music. Bring cultured music to the rockers... which is never easy.

Road Games was recorded in early 1983. Van Halen talked Mo Ostin into funding a project with some major talent, but with even more major groundbreaking to be done. Getting Holdsworth, bass phenom Jeff Berlin and Zappa prodigy Chad Wackerman on drums together sounds like a no-brainer: plug'em in and let'em play whatever the hell they want!

But WB wanted a bit more than Elegant Gypsy -- they wanted jazz fusion with rock vocals and song structure (like, verses and choruses). So the boys brought in a few singers to make this happen: Jack Bruce from Cream, and Paul Williams, who sounds a lot like Jack Bruce.

The record actually came out a bit more like an EP (and when this happens, it's always for the best), but it sure as hell came out on Warner Brothers! I remember carrying my Road Games cassette around in my pocket back then... I'd be at a party, and cats would be arguing back and forth about Geddy Lee and Bruce Harris and Billy Sheehan and sounding like jerks in a record store. I'd whip out my A.H. tape (already cued to the end of side one) during a lull in the action, and then unleash a vicious attack of fretless bass playing that made "Run to the Hills" sound like "Jack and Jill." I wasn't always the most popular guy at a party, but I did get really good at spelling "H-o-l-d-s-w-o-r-t-h" for drunk music fans.

Road Games could have made me into a visionary DJ/producer if I had the proper equipment in 1983. Well, Five Towns did have the proper equipment, but I had absolutely no idea how to use or even refer to it. Anyway, I always fantasized about putting the drum break and chorus of "Tokyo Dream" together to make a cool track on their own. I could have beat MF Doom at his own game by a dozen years if I'd understood my own concept and how to apply it. Or maybe I could've talked some of the guys down at the Long Island Drum Center into blessing the mic with some nasty Commack freestyles... we gettin' loose at the C.M.I., where niggas pay by the hour and never stay dry, or something to that effect.

Hey, I'm glad as all get out to have Road Games as a remaster. The recording simultaneously exemplifies the what could, the what is and the what should never be of 80's crossover jazz fusion, in just six songs!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

E is for EPMD

My intern Josephina quit a few days ago.  Kind of a misunderstanding... I'll just let her email explain:


See what I mean?! Well, she's a good kid.

So I've been ripping all these damn CDs myself for days!!! What a pain in the ass!!! I'll give her this... she was right about the "20x" importing thing-- it really is a lot faster. When she cools off I'll send her a text.

Speaking of crazy women, it was a real trip to see my copy of The Gasoline Age by East River Pipe again. I first heard this on a cassette my buddy made me when I was going through my divorce way back. Actually, I was going through lots of crazy shit at that point: divorce, major illness, and a bitch of a new job that I was laughably unqualified for. All I ever listened to for a few months was Lucinda's Car Wheels (for the divorce), Murda Musik (for the job), and this cassette, which I guess was for my rapidly deteriorating nervous system.

For some reason, I began to believe that The Gasoline Age starts with "Hell Is An Open Door" and not "Shiny, Shiny Pimpmobile," which actually opens the album. I not only believed this mistruth, but I even went on record declaring "Hell... " to be one of the greatest opening tracks of all time. If you start at track #2 and stop before you get to the awful Atlantic City song, you're looking at an amazing album.

I've chosen to alphabetize "number bands" by their spelling and not their numerical value, so 801 Live belongs in this discussion. You won't find this square peg of a record in many discussions at all, unless you keep very peculiar company. For the unenlightened, 801 was a side project art-prog supergroup featuring Phil Manzanera (Roxy Music), Brian Eno (band name came from one of his songs), Francis Monkman (ex-Curved Air, future founder of Sky), Bill MacCormick (ex-Crimso Ian MacDonald's brother), Lloyd Watson (prog session guitar guy), and Simon Phillips (drums for Jeff Beck, Judas Priest, Pete Townshend, The Who, Asia, Toto, etc.). Like I said, a supergroup.

The record itself is weird as hell. Supposedly it was one of the first live albums primarily recorded "direct" (not mic'ed or off the board) to tape. That explains a few things, but the song selections are the story here: oddball Eno covers, standards by Kinks & Beatles, and wacko prog-fusion instrumentals. You might say that I found this album to be influential on my own career...

The best part of 801 Live, however, is particular to my very own copy of the E'G Records CD. It shouldn't surprise readers to read that I listened to this recording with friends while drinking cough syrup from time to time. One afternoon years ago I woke up to find this beloved treasure completely soaked in Maximum Strength DM-- the jewel box looked like a melted grape Fla-Vor-Ice sheath. Pictured at right is the actual booklet, complete with tussin discolorations.

I already dragged the Eno reissues through the mud a while back, so I won't do it again. On a positive note, I'll nominate side two of Before and After Science as my favorite flip side of all time.

Everybody loves EPMD for reasons that are obvious to those of us blessed with a pair of functional ears and/or legs. It's the morons that judge rap solely on "importance" that miss out on all the fun. Pretty tough to beat Strictly Business on any level, and I'll throw "So What Cha Sayin'" in with the cream too. Nothing we don't already know...

I will volunteer some new theories regarding the other rap giants of the E section, the Gog and Magog of hip hop... Eric B. & Rakim. I once brilliantly outlined a one-to-one correspondence of the catalog of Wyandanch's finest and another LI/NYC crew called the Velvet Underground. Yes, these two hugely influential musical acts followed dual paths, as demonstrated by their pristine recording tetrads. I can't exactly remember the finer points of my case, but I know that "My Melody" and "Venus in Furs" had something to do with it. Or maybe it was "Lyrics of Fury" and "I Heard Her Call My Name"... not sure. Since I've also famously presented the VU and Uncle Tupelo catalogs as analogs, it follows that Eric B. & Rakim and UT should also correspond. I'll leave that one to the listeners.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

D is for Dumptruck

First things first... I've settled on a storage system for my orphaned CDs and booklets. The big black Case Logic wallets have served me well for many years, but they don't stack or stow well at all. Since I'll be packing these "fusion frisbees" away long-term, I need something durable, prismic (preferably), and cheap. The winning system is shown at right:

The D-block immediately lifted me out of my musical swamp. Jeez, the Dambuilders were one hell of a live band. My favorite shows of all time were behind the kit opening for these guys, playing my ass off knowing that drummer Kevin was going to kick some majorette butt later on. Not that I had anything close to his chops, but I'd usually bust up a cymbal or two just to make him squirm. Oh yeah, the rest of the 'Builders were really good too.

Josephina left me a hilarious voice mail asking me, "Who the fuck is Das Efx?" and, "How do you have seven of their CDs?" and, "How could you possibly be missing two more?!!" My answers were, "Next question," "I don't know," and "I don't know," respectively. Side one of Dead Serious was as good as things got for a while there. Now, not so sure.


The question she should have been asking is, "How the fuck do you have so many De La Soul CDs?" These guys put more of their 12" singles out on CD than any other band I can think of, and single-handedly kept me feeling "in touch" with hip hop for years. You see, I don't buy vinyl 'cause I refuse to store or maintain it properly. It's a big damn pain in the ass. This makes it tough for one to consider oneself an actual fan of rap music, obviously. Somehow I've made it work, and the Tommy Boy Records marketing department is a big part of that.

The question I was asking was, "Where the hell are my Deee-Lite CDs?!" These hipsters were in heavy rotation for a while there (1990?), along with beer balls of Matt's and lots of acid. In fact, I'm pretty sure World Clique was the soundtrack for the LSD-inspired painting of our living room at the time... a really, really bad idea (lots of swirls and flowers with a hideous black skull in the upper corner of the wall). I remember Deee-Lite completely disappearing as suddenly as they arrived, probably due to the Built to Last Dead tour finally ending, as well as the absurd rumors that Lady Miss Kier was actually a man.

Aaaaaaaahhhhhhh... Deicide. Legion is easily top-ten "records you don't ever play at someone else's party" material.
THEM: "What the hell is this??!!!"
US: "It's Deicide!"
THEM: "WHAT??!!!"
US: "It's 'Satan Spawn, the Caco-Daemon!!'"
THEM: "WHAT???!!!!!!!"
US: "It's..."
THEM: "TURN IT OFF!!!!!!!!!!!"

I really wish I knew more about Deicide (the band, not the conceptual act)... any band whose lead singer burns multiple inverted crucifixes onto his forehead, gets a gig canceled when a live bomb is discovered and ultimately detonated on stage, and allows pit bulls to violently mutilate a (fake) body filled with entrails during one of its shows seems worth investigating some more.

I had a Bob Dylan harangue all cued up, but I just don't have it in me right now. I'll end with a CD by Liz Durrett that I picked up on tour about five years ago. It was the one night I actually drank beer after I played, so of course I bought stuff from the girl we played with. I only remember one song she played, which was spectacular; I spent the rest of her set making the songs sound like the one I liked in my head. Mezzanine is pretty good, but the recording doesn't really capture what I heard (or at least what I think I heard) that night in Athens, GA. They never do.

 

Friday, May 27, 2011

C is for Cavedogs


Finally, the third installment of the unabashedly self-indulgent "Lee's CDz from A to Z" series.

The C-section has delivered one bundle of joy after another. I was just getting started when my beloved pre-legal woes Captain America popped off the spindle. Along with Tougher Than Leather, this is one of the few records that actually makes me taste and smell beer whenever I hear it. Amazing. Licensed to Ill is the all-time winner for "beerfeel," but a bit unfair since the CD itself is actually covered with malt liquor and literally smells like beer. Anyway, "Buttermilk" from CA's "Flame On" was a boozy fave back in the day. With lyrics like "buttermilk was on her chin, same color as her white skin," it's no wonder the record was recalled! Also no wonder I was thrown out of their show at Club Babyhead for over-consumption of beer.

I'm getting all kinds of shit 'round the compass about how long this is taking... well excuuuuuuuuse me!! Do the math, Euclid!! Let's say each CD is 45 minutes (conservative estimate!), and I'm well over 500 already... so that's at least 500 hours of ripping time! Add the time it takes to put the discs in and out of the computer, plus typing all the song titles into iTunes, and we're talking about months of work! Josephina was yowling something about "doing it at 20X" the other day, but she usually has no idea what she's talking about anyway. Most of the time she's just looking for ways to bill more hours for her internship...
oh dear god in heaven!

Wowed by The Cars in a big way. What a great fucking record. "Bye Bye Love" is pretty much perfect, and segues seamlessly into another vision of perfection. That would be "Moving in Stereo," aka "the song that makes every guy born between 1960 and 1970 instantly pop a boner."

Once again, missing tons of CDs. Between Josephina's notes and my spotty memory, here's the death toll: 3 Cream, 4 Eric Clapton, a ton of Cure CDs, a few John Cougars, possibly 2 (!) Chi-Lites discs, and God knows how many releases with Crosby and Stills on the spine. It's possible that each of the above titles were mysteriously replaced with Cypress Hill CDs, of which I somehow have eleven. What the heck happened?! And where's my Coolio record? 

About two-thirds of the way through the letter-grouping, I unearthed a piece of plastic that belongs in some sort of museum (or laboratory)-- my Giant Steps CD. This thing found its way into trouble so many times I was sure I chucked it! Nope, still here.A buddy of mine that crashed on my couch in college for at least a full semester had something to do with it. We took acid one night (actually, dozens of nights... but I'm referring to one in particular here) and ended up in a familiar scenario: taking turns playing records for each other. At some point, "Fruitfly" (not his real name) threw the Coltrane on, which I was certainly familiar with but by no means expert. My friend launched into several lectures within 30 seconds, namely (a) an etymology of the title "Giant Steps," (b) a quick discography of Paul Chambers, and (c) something about bungee jumping. At the same time, Fruitfly had unsheathed his bass guitar and was furiously playing along with the song, to my ears, perfectly.

Like many LSD experiences, fascination quickly morphed into terror. Fruit's fingers were moving so quickly that I imagined them as the blade of a circular saw, which made me shrink back about two feet. I stammered out some sort of suggestion about "Giant Eyes" or "Giant Squares" as an alternative title, and made an end run around Fruit over to the CD bookshelf. I considered hanging on for dear life until "Naima," but that was light years down the road at this point. I grabbed a disc off the top of the bookshelf just before 4:30 on the display and made a slick switcheroo. A brilliant transition popped into my throbbing orange brain in the 10 seconds of silence between records. Something like "here's your fucking Coltrane!" slid off my tongue as I skipped to track two of It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.


Fruitfly cowered in mortal horror as I practically climbed on top of him, with "Bring the Noise" shaking the walls of our building. I regurgitated some jive I'd tried out a few nights before on cough syrup, but fired off my lines about twenty times faster and clearer than the first time. "You're overwhelmed right now!! You're musically and conceptually overwhelmed!! This is politics, lyrics, production, innovation, humor, dance, race, EVERYTHING AT THE SAME TIME!!!"


I don't even think we made it to the end of the track; I felt like a rogue linebacker after breaking a placekicker's neck. It didn't take long for us to settle down and make friends... I think we went outside and watched cars for a while. Pulling a nasty stunt like that takes a lot out of you.


The Giant Steps CD resurfaced years later on Long Island, when I somehow left it in a paper bag with four other titles on a stool at Gunther's Tap Room. Next time I walked into that hole the bartender threw the brown package at me, sneering, "These are yours." The 'Trane was in there, but my brand-new Iron Maiden collection wasn't. I hate that bar.
looks kinda like a fish...

Somewhere along this odyssey, the CD was damaged badly. Who knows where,  who knows how? Regardless, there's a swatch of digitally encoded polycarbonate missing from the disc's underside. The missing data is near the outer edge of the program area, possibly during the alternate take of "Syeeda's Song Flute." I attempted to import this monstrosity a few weeks ago, and nearly destroyed my computer. As the CPU tower started to shake, a sound I immediately compared to running over a putter with a lawnmower filled our apartment, waking up two of the three sleeping children currently residing at Chez Mazzola.


I'm starting to worry about ripping my Red Hot Chili Peppers CDs, if I still have any. I know for a fact that one of my copies of Freaky Styley was submerged in orange juice for at least two hours.

Monday, May 16, 2011

B is for Bad Brains

Not vinyl but bloody brilliant
If the "digitization" of my CD collection were a cross-country trip, the B section would be the first hour of Pennsylvania: a few initial thrills followed by nerve-deadening boredom. I never thought I'd be so thrilled to see David Byrne's The Catherine Wheel emerge from a freaking spindle.

Highlights:
Original Émigré pressing of Basehead's Play With Toys ("Not Over You" is a forgotten classic), a copy of Biz' I Need a Haircut with a chainsaw-sized cut-out notch in the booklet, a promo-only single of Bodeans' "Closer to Free" with the Party of Five cast on it, a couple of weird BDP discs, and more Bill Bruford CDs than I'd like to admit. Oh yeah, Lindsey Buckingham's Words and Music too-- a collection interspersed with dorky musings and comments about the songs by LB himself (director's commentary-style).

MIA: nearly all my BÖC, Jeff Beck, Sabbath, and my Last Waltz double disc... no question that these were traded in during the early '90s depression days. Needed a 15-pack of Stroh's? That certainly seemed worth four or five perfectly good classic rock CDs. Now? Not so much. Remarkably, I'm even missing some additional Bruford recordings.

[The fucking Rays just scored five runs in the time it took me to write two paragraphs.]Flat-out missing are Vincebus Eruptum, Power of Pussy, This Is Big Audio Dynamite, Last Splash, and one of my Richard Buckner CDs. Like, I have the booklets but not the actual music. I guess they all might've walked at the same party, but seems a bit fishy.

Funny as hell watching my computer try to import We Sold Our Soul For Rock 'n' Roll... hiccuping and wheezing over the horribly scratched CD like a tubercular pigeon. After multiple attempts and piecewise ripping, only "Sweet Leaf" was declared to be unimportable and omitted.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A is for Audioslave


As I staggered around my living room watching Carmelo Anthony with a Miller Lite in my hand, trying not to step on my daughter's head, I wondered aloud, "What the hell am I doing?" Of course, I knew the Knicks had no chance of beating Boston in a 7-game series, and I actually love Lite beer, so I was searching much deeper. "Why do I have thousands of CDs stored in giant black wallets taking up valuable storage space in our apartment? What the hell am I doing?"

My CD collection's display value has varied inversely with my age, in years, over the last two decades according to the following equation:
da = 20
(let d = display value, in percent)


In other words, my CDs are currently hidden from view and somewhat accessible on demand. In other words, there's gotta be a better way.


Scary good.
I always laugh when people talk about "digitizing their CD collection"-- isn't that like liquifying your urine? Anyway, I bought myself a big old portable hard drive at Costco on 116th and started lettin'er rip!!! We've officially finished the A section, featuring well over 100 pieces of plastic. My new intern, Josephina, is doing a kick-ass job so far, even if she misspelled every one of the twelve Autechre releases she notated in her accompanying Excel file. "Lee, why do I have to type these in? iTunes does it automatically..."

Here's what we've learned so far:
Most of my indie rock CDs seem to be missing: Atari Teenage Riot, Archers of Loaf, Amnesia, etc. These are all on my original Excel file (typed by my old intern, Michelle), but nowhere to be found. Hmmm...

Totally forgot that AZ started out on RCA as "AZ the Visualiza." Wonder why that never caught on?

AC/DC might be the greatest band of all time. Their stretch from 1975 to 1981 is unbeatable. OK, they're the greatest band from 1975 to 1981.