Music Reviews for the Impatient

This is a music review, but also a commentary.

Uh, it sort of works, I guess…

Dolly Parton – Rockstar – Dolly got inducted last year into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and I can’t understand why. Her non-country hits were largely pop-oriented, and songs like “9 to 5” have crossed over into the pop charts, but it’s not rock. Now at age 77, she has produced this new album called Rockstar, consisting mostly of her singing covers often with the musician that composed and wrote the song. She teams up with lead singers from The Beatles (surviving members Starr and McCartney both show up), as well as the lead musicians from CCR, Heart, Aerosmith, Blondie, and solo artists like Joan Jett, Peter Frampton, Miley Cyrus, Elton John, and, well, generally a star-studded cast of musicians. I think it will sell multi-platinum because of the big-budget appearances of nearly every surviving rock musician that is about her age, showing up and performing with her. Just in time for Christmas shopping. At 2 hours and 21 minutes, its 31 tracks are a bit of a slog, and the equivalent of a triple LP if it comes out in that format. Not my cup of tea, though.

The marketing juggernaut that is Taylor Swift.

Anything recent by Taylor Swift — On iTunes “Top Pop Albums” collection, there are five albums by music billionaire Taylor Swift, and at least two of them have more than one version: Lover, 1989, Midnights, Red, reputation. Taylor Swift occupies 10 positions on the top 200 album list this week. This has been more or less verified on Billboard’s Hot 200 Albums. Apart from titles already mentioned is her 2020 album Folklore at #16; Evermore, another album from 2020 at #38; Speak Now, a revised version of a 2010 album at #41; and Fearless, an album from 2008 at #96. In case you are awake, and counted only 9 albums, 1989 appears twice: Once at #1 and once at #48. The version at the #1 position is a recent revised version. While much of these have gone multi-platinum, still not my cup of tea. She occupies about 16 positions on Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles.

I also noticed this by other artists: Drake has 8 albums on the top 200; Morgan Wallen has three; Billie Eilish and Rihanna have two each. 25 albums on Billboard this week are held by 5 artists. Dolly Parton has not charted yet with Rockstar, which was released only yesterday.

On Billboard, I noticed Fleetwood Mac’s 1976 album Rumors is at #40 on the top 200 albums this week. #1, the greatest hits comp by The Beatles released in 2000, now over 2 decades old, has just re-entered at #149. AC-DC’s Back in Black, an album that will soon be 44 years old, also re-entered at #160; Eagles’ Greatest Hits 1971-1975, an album our family had on 8-track, is now at #176; Abba’s 1992 Abba Gold Greatest Hits, is one below the Eagles at #177; Fleetwood Mac’s 1988 Greatest Hits is at #197; Bob Seger’s 1994 Greatest Hits is at #163. Oh, and I have to mention: at #195, Elv1s: 30 #1 Hits, a 2002 album of 60 and 70 year-old hits which peaked at #1.

Our musical favourites as a culture has become a rehash of old music that is older than most of the consumers buying the music. By sharp contrast, one of the craziest things I have noticed about all this new music record companies are putting out: it’s shit. People just want to buy the old stuff. Today’s music is so bad in fact, that when a half-decent performer like Taylor Swift comes out, she dominates the charts more than The Beatles ever did in their prime. It is not because of any merit of Taylor Swift (I say, at the risk of offending Taylor Swift fans); it is more because of the utter lack of competition from other capable artists. I don’t feel that today’s artists are less talented than they were during the 70s; it is just that companies are not investing in their talent like they used to. Recording companies will invest in the odd musician and invest in them more if they will toe the corporate line. Talent is not as much of a driving factor as it used to be.

Views: 710

Famous Teetotalers 013: She’s a little bit country, and he’s a little bit rock and roll

Donny and Marie
Donny and Marie Osmond.

Donny and Marie Osmond have been singing as a brother and sister act since the early 1970s. Both don’t imbibe, and possibly never did, accounting as to why both look so young. They still have their brother/sister act, which they perform mostly in Vegas these days. Marie has liberal views about marriage and out of support for her lesbian daughter, she supports LGBT rights, something not necessarily agreed to by all of the Osmonds.

You might remember that Donny starred in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat back in the ’90s. The Toronto musical eventually went on tour, and had a very successful 6-year run. Andrew Lloyd Webber was so impressed, that he chose Donny again to star in the film adaptation shot in 1999. Both Donny and Marie have been raised as Mormons, living that way their entire lives.

Views: 333

[Video Monday] Ocean – One More Chance

A professional audio engineer calling himself mojofilter seems to have made a reputation for himself with his plethora of old and new Canadian hits transferred from vinyl or some other analogue source into digital form. I have showcased a few of his transferred recordings already. You can click here to subscribe to his YouTube channel. If you click on the YouTube video below, you can be sent to the page which houses this video, and you can hear the full story on the 5-member group from London, Ontario calling themselves Ocean, and their rise and fall.

“One More Chance” was their second hit, peaking at #12 in 1972.

Views: 163

[Video Monday] Tom Middleton – One Night Lovers

Tom Middleton was another seventies artists who spends these days delivering mail for Canada Post in Victoria, BC. He had four hits in the mid-70s, this one being from February of 1976, peaking in Canada at #35, and never charting in the States. If you listen carefully to the intro, you can hear a guitar in the background playing “Here Comes The Sun”.

This is the last in the short-lived Video Monday series. The video seemed to have been deleted from the server, and I have replaced it with this MP3 file. Enjoy.

Views: 266

[Video Monday] Gary & Dave – Could You Ever Love Me Again

Gary Weeks and Dave Beckett had a handful of minor seventies’ hits that were popular in Canada from around 1973 to 1976. The son of Gary, Jesse Weeks, now works as a police officer for the Toronto Police Service.

The hit song below is their biggest hit “Could You Ever Love Me Again”, which peaked at #1 in Canada, while flopping in the States at #92 in July of 1973.

Views: 262

Crappy Album Covers #187 — Food on Vinyl IX

Album_Cover_Crap_343 Welcome, Ladies and Gentlemen to the sub-series that never ends! FOOD ON VINYL!Martha and her ugly sister greta were in bed sleeping when they were awaken by a rumbling outisde their room. They followed the rumbling to the kitchen, when, suddenly, they were attacked by snacks! Marauding hamburgers, with evil eyes, flying through the air.This is a cover for the U. S. release of the 1981 album from Kevin Godley and Lol Creme, which was called “Ismism” elsewhere, but they thought “Snack Attack” would work better for North Americans. It yielded one top-40 single on Billboard: “Under Your Thumb”. The title track never charted.
Album_Cover_Crap_381 Gershon Kingsley is the composer of  this classic tune that no conscientious tacky ’70s synth collector should be without. He recorded it in 1969, where it broke wide open in Europe. Hippies and nerds alike copped to it. Hot Butter records it in 1972 and even kids as young as 5 got into it. And of course, it was of that certain genre of music that made it into more than one K-Tel compilation.The album cover could have been designed by Andy Warhol, but I doubt it.

Views: 252

Crappy Album Covers #186 — A Parent’s Horror

Album_Cover_Crap_341 A parent’s horror: Ukuleles. On tour, no less. Pay admission, you get to hear a whole orchestra of them.Few people can make a ukulele sound good.  This is an elpee’s worth of toons from a group of classmates, possibly from Halifax, by Order of Canada recipient J. Chalmers Doane and a group of his pupils. This was Doane’s second recording, released in 1974, of a total of 9 albums of children and their ukeleles. This was reportedly recorded during a tour of Quebec and Ontario.
Album_Cover_Crap_345 Another horror: Babies crying! For forty-five solid minutes! Can you stand being in a room that long while this is playing? On a more solemn note, what did the guys in the studio do to make the babies cry? Take away their rattle? Slap them up’side the head? Electric shock treatment? You got to wonder.

Actually, you need not. These are recordings of  more than 20 different kinds of diseased babies, so that physicians can tell the kind of disease by the kind of cry the baby makes. Recorded in 1971 by a South African doctor, Dr. Eugene Weinberg. Hear babies with Chronic Asthma! Cystic fibrosis! Severe Pneumonia! Cri du Chat! Hydroencephaly! You’ll never mis-diagnose again!

Views: 269

Crappy Album Covers #185 — Family Bands II

Album_Cover_Crap_346 Available for $21.00 on some websites, this 1977 album features siblings Rick, Jack, Toby, Jill and Carrie who hail from Minneapolis, and according to (click on image) they still are performing as grownups.
Album_Cover_Crap_342 Comedians John and VickiJo Witty are here with their album called “Family Portrait”. Not sure about their style of humour (haven’t heard of them), and info is hard to find online; although I have found this album for sale in some places. 


The Groucho glasses gag is old by several generations, and I hope that is no reflection on the originality of the humour within. I have found it on sale from a few places in my online searches.

Views: 228

Crappy Album Covers #184 — The International Language of Bad Taste V

Album_Cover_Crap_336 In the multilingual universe that is the international CAC-o-sphere, we see three guys with pasty complexions and one chick sporting skin tones of a living being. 

Honestly — do we have to see the pasty complexions twice — once again in their reflections?

A direct translation of the title might be uninformative, but “Look To Paris”/”I Want You” seem to come out in Google.

Album_Cover_Crap_390 Cattus. That’s “Cat” in latin. Actually, that’s “Feline” in Latin. From Perez Prado and His Orchestra, from before the days of stereo.

Sorry. I succumbed to the lolcat craze. Enjoy.

Views: 240

Crappy Album Covers #183 — Chixdiggit!

Album_Cover_Crap_335 What is the problem with this picture? It would seem as though, despite all of the efforts of these four lads to entice the two swimsuit-clad young ladies to join them (hell, what lady wouldn’t be impressed four guys wanting to form a human pyramid?), there is a major logistical problem: There are only two ladies for four guys. Maybe they should be called “The Four Perps”. Or: “The Four Pervs”.The Four Preps had been performing for the better part of 30 years, beginning in the 1950s. The original lineup consisted of Bruce Belland, Ed Cobb (1938-1999), Marv Ingram, and Glen Larson. In the 12 years between 1954 and 1966, they reached the Billboard Hot 100 13 times.  Belland wrote the song “Tainted Love” for singer Gloria Jones, which Soft Cell turned into a worldwide smash hit in 1982.  Glen Larson became a big-time TV producer in the 1970s.
Album_Cover_Crap_389 Chicks dig guys with guitars. Les Paul (1915-2009), supremo guitarist that he is, would score with the chicks all the time. And just to make sure that chicks fall prostrate at his feet each time he picks up that guitar of his here he is depicted as having 6 guitars and 12 hands to play them with. This is the album cover equivalent of gang rape.Not enough can be said about Lester William Polsfuss, since without him rock and roll wouldn’t exist, and most of country music would still consist of fiddles, banjoes, and accordions. Every time you see a group of four musicians, at least one or two of them will be sporting a Les Paul invention — the electric guitar. He also contributed chording sequences, fretting techniques, riffs and licks that many rock and country musicians are still thankful to him for. He also has his own permanent place in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.

So, Chicks? What’s not to dig?

Views: 207

Crappy Album Covers #181 — Plainness, overdone

plainness, ovedone Currently selling on E-Bay for about 15 bucks, Bobbi Jean White’s album “Higher Ground!” shows Ms White sporting the bouffont she was well-known for.White had been singing gospel since she was a child in Georgia. She had recorded dozens of albums either solo or with other groups, then became a radio announcer beginning for a Gospel radio station in the 1970s. This career extended into the early 90s.She had lost her hearing 12 years ago, and got it back this year through surgery, hearing again at age 79.
Album_Cover_Crap_337 P. J. Orion and the Magnate$’ self-titled LP is diaplayed here, with its litany of cliches, including (1) with the band posing with electrical instruments that could not possibly be plugged into anything; (2) wearing shades; (3) railroad motif; (4) prairie background with requisite blue sky.This was rumored to have been released in the 1960s, while the guys in the photo were attending prep school.

Views: 249

About the Great American Songbook

I once was listening to my favourite Jazz station in the Toronto area when I heard the announcer say something about The Great American Songbook (GAS). It was one of those phrases which kind of rolls off the tongue and seems to have no real meaning, but is a phrase often used by announcers at the station in describing the song choices or past hits of the many artists they play.

I got curious and looked into it, and found that the GAS is actually a more technical term, referring to some period in American history between 1920 and 1960 or so, which includes many of the so-called Jazz “standards”, as well as sing-along stuff that we all take for granted. Songs like “Blue Skies”, “Puttin’ On The Ritz” (both by Irving Berlin);  “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” (George and Ira Gershwin); “Ol’ Man River” (Jerome Kern) have all been used in ads, been made into top-40 hits in the past 20 years, been sung by jazz musicians, big band ensembles, and rock and country groups alike. In all, the GAS can be said to represent the American songwriting canon. They are a collection of songs that have had a big effect on American culture, thought, and style. When you filter out all of the lowbrow music, movies and videos that come from the States, the GAS is what is left. It is difficult to sit through an hour or two of all jazz or easy listening without hearing someone covering a tune from the GAS. They have been covered by everyone from Joni Mitchell to Queen Latifah.

It had been agreed by whoever it was to end  the time line for the GAS at around 1960, the ascendancy of the Rock era. But I think that is very limiting. It shuts out folks like the songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and Hal David; and the exclusion of rock leaves out Bob Dylan (can anyone say he didn’t contribute to American culture?), and Bruce Springsteen, whose ballads mark points in American history much like the poetry of William Wordsworth or the songs of Pete Seeger. And come to think of it, why was Pete Seeger not included? Seeger would have been alive during the Tin Pan Alley era of American songwriting (in the middle of the GAS period), and the rest of the pre-rock era of American music at the time. It is difficult to believe that Pete Seeger songs like “This Land Is Your Land”, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” would not be considered part of the American canon.

Views: 216

Crappy Album Covers #173 — Genre confusion

Album_Cover_Crap_287_musicforants_com This is the second album released by The Ben Folds Five, called “Whatever and Ever, Amen” released in 1997, and remastered in 2005.

The combination of seepia photos of the band members against a tablecloth background is unbecoming of an alternative record. Maybe a Johnny Cash album, if he was still alive. Or for that matter, Porter Wagoner. There is also the problem of The Ben Folds Five consisting of only three members.

The alternative “attitude” lies solely in the strength of the title.

Album_Cover_Crap_292_wikipedia_org This is one of those album covers that make you think that Mr. Pop should go back to mutilating himself and throwing himself into the audience, along with his other “neurosis-as-theatre” antics. Released just over four months ago, Preliminaires leans heavily toward New Orleans-style jazz with a toned-down rock edge.

Hear him sing songs taken from Louis Armstrong, Jelly-Roll Morton, and Edith Piaf. Quite the departure from The Stooges.

Views: 224

Crappy Album Covers #172 — Scary warlike thingies

Album_Cover_Crap_315_inspiredology_com Let’s get something stright here. Just because there are scary warlike thingies on your album like the Transformer dude on this Linkin Park record, doesn’t mean it’s a cool record, OK? It might impress a 10 year-old, but not many older people.
Album_Cover_Crap_298_guardian_co_uk Bodies of men with heads of birds as a warlike thingie has been overdone to the point where it has lost its power to scare people, if it ever had it at all. 

There are many scary birds: hawks, eagles, but since the name of this band is called Budgie, well… three guesses as to what species these heads belong to.

Bandolier is Budgie’s fifth album, released in 1975, and combines all the worst elements of the early Yes album covers.

Views: 219

Crappy Album Covers #160 – Elvez Prezley

Album_Cover_Crap_212_-_kristianhoffman_com This would be the soundtrack to Elvis’s first comedy, GI Blues, released in 1960 by Paramount Pictures, where he acts as Tulsa alongside some token girl named Juliet Prowse, who plays Lili.
Album_Cover_Crap_211_-_kristianhoffman_com This is not Elvez, but “El Vez” (The Time), played by Hispanic smart aleck Robert Lopez. He is not strictly an Elvis impersonator, and has been known to do covers of other artists.Lopez was born when the original album was created, and this parody was released almost 40 years later, in 1996.

Views: 261

(Adult Content) Crappy Album Covers #159 — Another rule: Male nudity doesn’t work as well

Album_Cover_Crap_319_Yes Men and women both buy records. With this idea in mind, I have no idea why it is that female nudity sells even the crappiest records, while male nudity doesn’t. I am not a marketing psychologist, so I have no idea why that is. Yes’s 1977 album “Going for the One”, which sold certified Gold, depicts a naked man in front of L. A.’s Century Plaza Towers. The towers are surreal and distorted, and it has all of these dotted and solid lines that make little sense. Chalk one up for the overly self-indulgent side of prog rock. Despite the album cover’s tastelessness, the album’s contents are considered among Yes’s finest work, and marks the first of many times Rick Wakeman had returned to the group.

This recording has been reissued in 2003 by Rhino Records with a large number of added tracks.

Album_Cover_Crap_276_rateyourmusic_com This 1994 EP, released by Unrest on Teenbeat Records before the time they were signed to the 4AD label, also shows why male nudity is just, well, … limp.

Unrest has had dozens of releases of original work as well as compilations. They started in 1982 in Washington, DC.


Views: 267

Crappy Album Covers #158 — Ladies of the low-rent district

Album_Cover_Crap_206_bad_hair_-_worstalbumcovers_org Harris Glenn Milstead (1945-1988) was a transvestite entertainer, whose live CD “Born to be Cheap” was issued posthumously in 1994. 

He died a week after the release of the movie Hairspray, which he acted in. He was going to audition for Fox’s Married with Children, but died of an enlarged heart before arriving. The people at Fox sent flowers, with a note wryly joking “If you didn’t want the job, all you had to say was ‘no'”. He counted Elton John and Whoopi Goldberg among his friends. They each sent a bouquet to the funeral.

There is a currently-released documentary called “I am Divine”, directed by Jeffery Scwhartz for Automat Pictures, which was released on July 30 of this year.

Album_Cover_Crap_209_-_wikipedia_org Intending to look loud and attention-getting, but ending up looking like a picked-through remaindered album at Wal-Mart, the reality is that this album never even made it to North America, except as an Import, since back in 1999, they no longer had a North American distributor. 

The Swedish duo Roxette, consisting of Per Gessle and Marie Fredriksson, enjoyed worldwide success in the decade from the mid 80s to the mid-90s, releasing about 8 albums during that period. “It Must Have Been Love” gave me one of my nicer memories of 80s music, and was re-used in the soundtrack to the film “Pretty Woman”.

Views: 216

Crappy Album Covers #157 — Full-cover faces

Album_Cover_Crap_305_minnesta_public_radio_org Paul Simon’s 2006 album “Surprise” has a baby’s face with the requisite surprised expression. Probably surprise at having the top of its head cut off by the upper photo, which is a depiction of some kind of bluey-watery-reflection thingy. Who knows what that’s supposed to convey? Hydrocephalism? 

The album boasts participation from big talents such as Brian Eno and Herbie Hancock.

Album_Cover_Crap_277_rateyourmusic_com This 1981 album from former Genesis member Phil Collins was the first of a line of albums which alienated prog rock audiences and attracted more general audiences to his music. Thing is, these facial close-ups, at least for me, usually make everything about the album seem too melodramatic. 

In this album, we get the much-overplayed “In the Air Tonight”. In later years we would be inundated with a string of equally overplayed hits, including the irritatingly successful “Sussudio”.

All I can say about Sussudio is what I remember reading, I think in a National Lampoon comic (of the single-frame variety) back in the 80’s. It depicted an angry guy knocking on an apartment door with a loaded rifle in his hand. He yells: “Sussudio all day long! Sussudio all night long! You want Sussudio? I give you some goddamn Sussudio!”

That comic writer knows my pain.

Views: 196

Crappy Album Covers #156 — Sounding Off

Album_Cover_Crap_252_blogspot_com Post-grunge group Caramel’s only album sports an angry cactus with bad teeth. There is a fable in this one, consisting of a “good” witch who cast some evildoer into the body of a cactus where the town lives happily ever after, but I am not sure that is what was places this self-titled album by Caramel at about 1998. That same year, a single called Lucy (not listed on the album) reached #35 on Billboard. The latter is more”rock” than “grunge”.
Album_Cover_Crap_241_-_bizarrerecords_com The way you are supposed to listen to “Sound Off…Softly” is to buy Gold Bond Ceiling Tile, cover your ceiling with it, and put this record on your turntable. While it is true that the composition of your ceilings and walls affect the acoustics and hence the sound of your stereo, I know of few tile manufacturers that would offer you a recording to play to prove their point.I am sure that Gold Bond won’t mind if you also covered your walls with ceiling tile. And your floors. Hell, make a whole goddamn soundproof studio out of nothing but Gold Bond Ceiling Tile. I’m sure the chicks will dig your pad.

Views: 206

Crappy Album Covers #155 — Dylan in Concert

Album_Cover_Crap_290_thomstonemusic_com In May of 2007, Rolling Stone’s web-based tentacle asked readers what the 10 worst albums of all time were, which were recorded by the great artists. You are looking at the #1 album.

While “Down in the Groove”, Bob Dylan’s 28th album has been nearly universally reviled, the problems I have with it are in the artwork.

The accusation levelled at this album is that it contains, apart from a large number of collaborations, a number of cover songs. I could have told those reviewers that by looking at the album cover, a problem was iminent. Not only is this 1988 album the umpteenth album with a cover photo of Dylan in concert, it is at least the third one which sports a blurry photograph.

Album_Cover_Crap_318_Bob-Dylan This, by all accounts was the second, which was his second greatest hits album. His first greatest hits album originally had exactly the same photo. Now when the first album came out in 1967, the cover photo was considered good enough to be awarded a grammy. But then he uses exactly the same photo for volume 2, released in 1971 (the photo was later changed, to a different concert photo).

This second volume had a paucity of actual “hits”, and instead had many originals which garnered hits through other artists covering him. This album can be regarded as a compilation of older material in LP form, to make up for the early 70s, which were doldrum years for Dylan.

Views: 302