Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Silvio and Fausto

Been a bit lax with updating of late I confess, for those occasional readers who don't know me personally, I should explain that much of my time has been consumed by moving house and also organizing my impending wedding... such time available to me has been spent yelling at the ducks on my lawn.

(Turns out shrieking "DON'T YOU DARE SNEAK OUT YOUR BIRD TURD UPON MY LAWN YOU CRETINOUS MALLARD" tends to have the opposite than intended effect - more efficacious: sidling up to whisper the scientific name "Anas platyrhynchos" in their stupid little lizard-hole ears, they pucker right up and they don't come back)

So anyway after Silvio Berluscone's narrow victory in a confidence vote of the Italian parliament last week I had planned to photoshop a picture of him being orbited by a cyclone of Fausto Papetti album covers as a mildly entertaining and semi-racist salute to Italian lechery, but I couldn't get it looking right.

You escape the skewers of my satire for now, Mr Berluscone!

The other problem is that the only Fausto Papetti LP I actually own has just a dumb old saxophone on the cover:

Wah wah wah wah...
Fausto founded his very career on exploiting every permutation of the sax/sex pun to its outermost limit, whatever drove him to sign off on such a bland and bosom-less cover I do not know. Or indeed this one:

Everyone's tired of these nude models. I think the public really just wants to see my face at last.
The "A Saxy Portrait" album itself is nothing special but it does have one track that in the hey-day of my record collecting fever (the early '00s) would have been described as having a "DOPE LIBRARY-TYPE SOUND" and also containing "ILL STABS AND LOOPS".

Fausto Papetti - White Lady by doggziller

I welcome links to your favourite Fausto cover in the comments.

Monday, November 22, 2010

I'm Not Joking About These Albums With Big Shoes On The Cover

Look at this mess.

Just dreadful!

Jump, S/T (early '70s?)

This is one of those albums that winds up in the dollar bin because, in all honesty, ain't nobody want to buy an album with a big old shoe on the cover.


Why, it's the four disembodied heads of  "Jump", flying out of the shoe on a rainbow!
This catastrophic design decision is probably the reason why an allmusic.com search for Jump contains no mention of this band whatsoever (and instead reads like a team of brain-stormers with lexical constipation were trying to come up with the name for a Christian music aerobics festival).

My initial guess was the the long-hair rockers from Jump never saw this cover until it was too late, and that shortly after they emerged stinking from the studio, someone in the Janus label art department was sent home bloody-faced and weeping to their family. But then I noticed a detail in this posse shot:

Jump: just a fun bunch of guys.

Digitally enhanced image.
Yep, I do believe that's lead guitarist Dennis Tracy sporting the ever-so-distinctive shoe from the cover, and its twin. I think "Jump" were doomed from the first - just imagine if the cover for "Appetite for Destruction" featured Axl Rose's head flying out of one of his nasty old Chuck Taylors and ask yourself whether you'd know the name "Guns'n'Roses" today.

(You would not).

As this is ostensibly a music blog and not a dang old design blog, I should point out that the quality of music on this LP is far better than that ghastly glam-rock-looking foot apparatus would suggest - my fave on here is "Bank of Love", which is about one time when a lowly teller from the Bank of  Love decided to rob the Bank of Love (OMG alert!)

Jump - Bank of Love by doggziller

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Vanity 6, "If A Girl Answers (Don't Hang Up)" (1982)

The main thing to understand about Prince is that he is very great, amazing, the best.

Back in the '80s, music was just foaming up out of Prince, it couldn't be checked. If he was down at the dry-cleaners on a Thursday morning having his lavender banana sling cleaned and pressed in time for the weekend, and he started drumming his fingers on the counter while he waited for fifteen seconds, by the time he pulled up the purple Honda 400A into the big driveway at Paisley Park he would have that shit worked up into a dancefloor banger, then lay down and mix all the tracks before lunch and just turf the master tapes atop a huge pile on the back lawn. Followed by an entire afternoon of sex, topped off with coconut rum mojitos by the pool at sundown. 

Warner Brothers weren't trying to release nine Prince albums every weekend, so the man generally had a few side projects on the go under the pseudonym "Jamie Starr", just dashing off classics like 777-9311 for The Time. Reportedly Prince not only composed and produced this tune but laid down all the tracks except Morris Day's lead vocal and Jesse Johnson's guitar solo - not that they couldn't have played it themselves, the band having been put together by Prince primarily so that he could go on tour with a support act that was capable of competently playing the songs that he wrote for them (you get the sense that there's not really any such thing as "collaborating with Prince").

Pretty sure Prince drew this too.
Today's track is from another Prince side-project, "Vanity 6"... this LP includes the excellent "Nasty Girl" but I'm featuring the little-heard "When A Girl Answers (Don't Hang Up)", built around an entertaining call-and-response quasi-rap in which a couple of "party girls" bitch each other out over the phone - save that one of the "girls" is transparently Prince just affecting a sassy voice. Oh Prince, you delightful little faun!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sarolta Zalatnay, "Zalatnay" (1971)

Eerily enough this is the exact look that most women will give any time I start to explain about records.
I'm back from my travels and, courtesy of a record store in Budapest that was savvy enough to install a diorama in one of the main subway stations, I was able to smuggle a few of Hungary's national treasures away with me.

This pile of trash is as the most beautiful ikebana to a dude like me. 
I ventured out to this place on my last day in town (getting drenched by the rain in the process), and quickly discovered something astonishing - Hungarian records are not rare in Hungary. Moreover, this place had a decent selection of records from the whole Eastern Bloc and, heaven of heavens, actually allowed the prospective buyer to listen to stuff (in my experience so far this is rare outside NZ - in London, that great Sodom of a town, stores don't even keep the records inside the sleeves, you just have to flip through all these flopsy old empty sleeves, the digging equivalent of having your palm tickled during a hand-shake). I could've easily used another day in Budapest just to go through this place properly - I still have this itchy feeling at the base of my skull like I ought to drop in there again later this week, (despite hundreds of dollars in air fares and hours of travel now being in the way).

I didn't actually expect to have access to a trove of carefully sorted and reasonably priced Hungarian heaters so I felt a bit short on homework - however I did recognize the name Sarolta Zalatnay from some recent exposure in compilations and re-issues.

Zalatnay Sarolta, "Zalatnay" (1971) by doggziller

"Késő Esti Órán" is probably the standout track on the album although it is marred by some shockingly ill-advised backing vocals (SERIOUSLY what is going on with the guy shrieking in at 2:24, was he a commissar's nephew and the engineer didn't feel safe muting him or what). "Hiszed-e Még?" is perhaps less catchy but on the other hand your ears don't have to dodge anything and you get not one but two fine Hammond solos for your trouble.

Listening in the shop, when the needle dropped on "Késő Esti Órán"and I first heard that riff kick in I had a sudden urge to try to ingratiate myself with the taciturn fellow in charge of the place. I took the headphones off and announced "ALL THIS MUSIC IS REALLY GOOD!" to which he flatly replied "yes" without glancing up from his game of Minesweeper (put a Hungarian behind a counter and they seem to don a nigh-impenetrable armour of scorn).

This wasn't all misplaced flattery on my part however as the hit rate seems to be very high among Hungarian 70s music, in the weeks ahead I will doubtless write up a couple more of my Budapest finds in between the backlog of other tracks I have earmarked for attention.

The English leg of my trip also resulted in a few finds, mainly fairly well known 80s dancefloor cuts that I was missing (since I couldn't discover anything by listening) - to which, I should acknowledge, I am indebted to the help of reader Dom of Team Yours! who was amazingly kind enough to write up a guide to London record stores for me, what a real dude.

Team Yours! receives the 2010 Cowabunga Award for Achievements in Realness

Monday, August 30, 2010

September Service Interruption

I doubt anyone much would notice given my usual erratic update schedule, but I'm going out of the country for most of September so there won't be any updates for a month or so.

I don't have a great amount of time or money to devote to record digging while I'm gone but I don't doubt that when the man and the hour come together, I'll distract my handlers and duck into a store .

When I am in London I'll try to find this:

And when I'm in Hungary I'll try to find this:

Though I don't much fancy my chances of finding either - but we'll see what I do find instead.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Frank Hatchett, "Body Shots" (late 70s?)

This seems to be one of a number of records put out by the obscure "Statler" label to provide soundtrack for dance classes. Frank Hatchett is not actually the recording artist but instead a dancer/choreographer who worked on the kind of Broadway stuff where numbers end with everyone freezing with their arms held out and then they yell "JAZZ!" on the final beat - or at least so I imagine, being deeply unqualified in such matters.

Here's what the liner notes say:

Sensational - that's Frank Hatchett! All across the country he has left his mark. Once you've seen him you're a fan for life. No one works with such electricity and warmth. His highly successful Springfield, Mass. school, The Frank Hatchett School of Performing Arts is a testimonial to his genius. 

Among his outstanding credits are the choreographing of off Broadway musical comedies, including "Reach for the Sky" and "Cartoons", the MacDonald TV Commercial, Black Miss America and Miss Universe. On his International agenda are choreographing for the Queen Elizabeth Hotel night club in Montreal Canada and the musical production of "Frick Frack" in Vienna Austria.

If you can catch him it will be at his school in Springfield or in New York where he teaches at Jo Jo's Dance Factory. 

Neither the Austrian production of the intriguing-sounding "Frick Frack" nor the other shows mentioned seem to have survived in popular imagination long enough to dent the Internet, but I suspect that this may be the McDonald's commercial that he choreographed (gotta have some sympathy for Frank given the portly white dudes he had to work with - okay guys, just uh, just line up in a row and march on the spot would you? okay let's try it one more time). There isn't a lot of information available on-line but Frank seems to be still hard at work and inspiring new generations of jazz dancers.

The music itself is late '70s sounding instrumental jams played by session musos, many of the tracks don't hit the spot but there are a couple of nice grooves, bedroom joint "The Lover In You" and the more up-tempo "Shamballa", presented here for your jazz-dancing pleasure:

Frank Hatchett - Body Shots by doggziller

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hard Stuff, "Bulletproof" (1972)

I was thinking about writing up an '80s slow jam today when I glanced down and noticed the hairs on my fore-arm quivering as they slowly retracted into their follicles at glacial speeds... this little understood depilatory effect is thought to be a consequence of listening to too much music like this. If unchecked it can leave a man completely smooth and shiny with all of his hair pointing inwards, curling into fanciful shapes such as love-hearts or stylized flamingos and saxophones.

The most effective antidote is tough 70s rock, so, time for some of that.

Hard Stuff - Time Gambler by doggziller

Hard Stuff were refugees from Atomic Rooster and Quatermass who fled those bands' increasingly fruity prog inclinations to devote themselves to strictly the whiskey-gargling real deal. The album title "Bulletproof" is a reference to their earlier band name, "Bullet", which they abandoned under threat of litigation from an American band of the same name. Prior to that they were also called "Daemon" for a while, which leads me to conjecture that they ultimately settled with the questionable though evocative name "Hard Stuff" out of exasperation.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Lyn Collins & James Brown, "Babystabbers" (1975)

First thing to know about this song is that it's called "Babystabbers".

There it is, right on the label.
 James Brown and Lyn Collins were, I believe, the first musicians to ever explicitly take a stand and speak out against babystabbing, and they did such an effective job that nobody has ever really needed to mention it again since.

This is a really tough, soulful, beautifully arranged mid-tempo jam with James and Lyn singing  just the dumbest lyrics with utter commitment and passion. James Brown was famously incomprehensible, but this is a special effort even for him. Launching with a baffling monologue, he trades increasingly meaningless sentence fragments with Lyn until by the end he's intoning "Ga-gun. Ga-gun. Ga-gun." as we careen into the fade-out.

It is a truly riveting listen. RIP, James, I still think of you every day.

Lyn Collins & James Brown - Backstabbers by doggziller

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cosmic Sounds revisited

By reader request, here's three more Zodiac-themed tracks from the "Cosmic Sounds" album - Sagittarius (the Versatile Daredevil), Capricorn (the Uncapricious Climber), and Pisces (the Peace Piper). All selectable from the player below:

the zodiac - cosmic sounds by doggziller

Condolesences to the Sagittarians out there, you got the dumbest poem on the album. Maybe this is not a universal thing but I just can't respect anything circus-related.

I'm sorry, Sagittarius.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Hassles "Hour of the Wolf" (1968)

I recently enjoyed a romantic dinner in a restaurant which featured a pearl-white player piano that jangled out five or six Billy Joel hits in or loop (no, not the raw dancefloor shit like "We Didn't Start the Fire" or "Uptown Girl", just the real sexy deals such as "Piano Man" and "Honesty" that you know you wanna hear with your meal). Anyway it put me in mind of this Hassles record since Billy Joel was in this band (calling himself William Joel at the time) and do you know what, I think that Billy used to smoke pot.

That thump you heard was me just being crash tackled by Billy's press agent. But I gotta dust myself off and post this anyway 'cos that's the extent of my commitment to both Truth and things that are just possibly True.

Fact of the matter is, the title track of this album is roughly 13 minutes of fairly pointless noodling and features a dramatic interlude in which Billy can be heard transforming into a wolf in a windy old forest and I guess he'd left a dictaphone going in his pocket from reading out some great ideas for lyrics that he'd come up with earlier that day. And if that's not some bullshit dreamed up by stoners then we can only assume that Billy Joel really is a were-wolf - here's what it sounds like:

Billy Joel's Transformation into a WERE-BEING by doggziller

So if I were his press agent I'd go with the story that's not going to get my client shot in the face with some melted-down cutlery - i.e. BILLY JOEL BE BLAZIN' THE CROP.

Billy celebrates as 1983's "Tell Her About It" hits #1 on the Billboard charts.

Apart from that remarkable passage there's not too much on this album that stands out, other than the excellent "Four O'Clock in the Morning", a laid-back groove about walking around town in the middle of the night when it's all quiet and peaceful which, now that I think about it, is also kind of a werewolfish sentiment. It's very much what you'd imagine a late '60s Billy Joel song to sound like if you wanted it to be good.

The Hassles - Four O'Clock in the Morning by doggziller

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Andy Pratt, "Records Are Like Life" (1969)

Leaving aside the expense of actually buying records, there's two main drawbacks to having a record collection, particularly if, like myself, you went through a few years of buying pretty indiscriminately.

One; these shits take up space and are they are heavy, they are a pain in the arse when you move house you have to allow space for the collection (as a rule of thumb they will use about the same amount of space as three and a half babies).

Two - and this is related to point 1 above - you never really know that it is "safe" to throw a record away or sell it. It may seem obvious that you should just sell the ones you don't really like (and they will be many), but the fact of the matter is that a man's musical taste will mutate, mature, improve, corrupt and/or degrade over time, so much so that you can never say with true confidence that something that sounds corny, boring or pretentious to you today will not on some future occasion have you throwing down like a stimulus-deprived gorilla. Keep records or don't - either way you are likely to have something to regret.

Case in point, I originally bought "Records Are Like Life" by Andy Pratt purely because the title track was about buying lots of records and I thought I would use fifteen seconds of it in a mix-tape or something. I very nearly got rid of it when I moved overseas some years ago, but fortunately did not since, in accordance with those processes just described, it is Right Now one of my favourite albums.

This music was probably too grown-up for me until two or three years ago. With the prominence of piano throughout, it's kind of "adult-oriented progressive cocktail lounge music" though I fear that pigeon-holes it rather too narrowly. The following three selections are a good indication of the level of variety and inventiveness on this album.

Andy Pratt - Wet Daddy

For someone who hobbies as a music writer I often find it quite hard to actually describe music. The song "Wet Daddy" has a guitar in it and some drumming. There are words, emerging as sound from a human mouth in a sequence of different yet mathematically related tones. I can really only encourage you to listen and see if you can get your own head around it. The shuffling of multiple layers of Andy's falsetto is characteristic of the album, as are the cryptic and whimsical lyrics.

Andy Pratt - Mindy

Another energetic song underpinned by the skittery drumming of Rick Shlosser (his invaluable contribution to the album was enough to earn him a slightly larger font in the back cover credits). "Mindy" starts from a bossa nova jazz premise and then just subverts it into whatever Andy Pratt felt like doing.

Andy Pratt - Low Tide Island

In a total change of tone, "Low Tide Island" is a melancholic folk song with haunting, acid-tinged vocals and zero percussion.

The face of  a genius (and his mates).

The remainder of the songs on "Records Are Like Life" are also unique and superb - and if you don't feel like lurking around in record stores for an unspecified number of months or years, you can get full, legitimate downloads from  It's About Music ("where it's about music, not about web design")

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Zodiac, "Cosmic Sounds" (1967)

From the 1970s through to the mid '80s, Zodiac signs were mainly referenced in music in order to help you decide whether you were sexually compatible with the featured musicians.  For a time it was rife, but ultimately the death knell rang for astrology in 1986 when Prince announced that he didn't care about it.  These days, astrology is half-remembered only as an antique barbarism, alongside such questionable practices as horse-riding, phrenology, and suicide by asp.

This album, conversely, dates from the glory days of hippiedom and celebrates the Zodiac purely for its own sake. It consists of 12 tracks dedicated to each star sign, each with overblown poetry spookily intoned over a psychedelic arrangement. Each of the poems is careful to reference a significant planet, number, colour and gemstone for the sign in question, e.g. 

nine times the colour red explodes like heated blood
the battle is on!
Mars, the master matchmaker, sulphurizes the sky
incendiary diamonds scorch the earth 

Probably a bit embarassing in hindsight, and not much help in picking your lottery numbers either. But the creative and varied arrangements do stand up well, being performed by talented sessioners and featuring excellent use of the Moog synthesizer (which in 1967 was about the size of a two or three large wardrobes). I have linked to my two favorite tracks from the album below, and as a monument to my immaturity, I include as a bonus "Aquarius, the Lover of Life" since it includes the passage:

in the friendly opal light of Uranus,
all men can blend
yet still be what they are 

(stifled giggles)

The Zodiac - Aries, the Firefighter
The Zodiac - Taurus, the Voluptuary
The Zodaic - Aquarius, the Lover of Life

I expect full compliance with the instructions on the back of the sleeve - "MUST BE PLAYED IN THE DARK"

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

THIS SATURDAY NIGHT - 1983 presents: Jellphonic & Reggie Blount "Live Forever"


Auckland City's leading source of excitement, the 1983 Collective, are celebrating the ascension of the handsome men depicted above into the roll of honour titled: "Roll of Honour Listing Dudes Who Have A 12" Record Out"

Our boys' records and many others will be played to generate a perfect dancefloor-sized sphere of  unadulterated Body Talk. Those who witness will be changed forever, plus they will still be finding glitter in their hair for three or four days afterwards.


Details for the grown & sexy:
Saturday June 12 from 10pm
Rising Sun (373 K Rd)
$5 on the door

And here for download again is my old 1983 promo mix which by now has been listened to by almost as many people as Pat Benatar's "Love Is A Battlefield"... however there may still be one or two recently emerged survivalists who still need to hear it:

"One day I will complete the squeakwel" (he gasped on his deathbed).

that is the same as if i handed you five bucks

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sonny Charles, "One Eyed Jacks" (1982)

 There are various reasons to like a song apart from how you feel about it as music. Both Ben and I, for example, have a fondness for a meta-genre which I have just this instant decided to call Overextended Metaphor Groove (OMG).

As the name suggests, these are songs where the artist has committed to shoe-horning all their passions/joys/torment into the framework of a single over-arching metaphor. Sonny Charles' "One-Eyed Jack" for example, is basically a song about player-hating expressed mainly with reference to playing cards (and with total sincerity).

"The one-eyed jack is a mysterious card,
only one side you can see."

Taking a scientific approach, I quickly counted the total number of lines in the song and divided by the number of lines that contain explicit card game references (chorus counted only once). This gave an OMG compliance ratio of 53.33%, i.e. just over half of all lines in the song have some nonsense about card games in them. This is actually much lower than I expected and definitely shows the value of taking a hard-nosed, evidence-led approach (to my dismay Sonny went off the rails on the second verse and neglected to mention playing cards at all).

By the way, I have made a shortened edit of this song as after the two minute mark it does nothing but repeat the fairly ordinary chorus for another three minutes (yes, this song has a "chorus-til-fade" segment that lasts longer than the song proper - better to go for a breakdown when you've run out of ideas I'd have thought)

Sonny Charles - One-Eyed Jack

More OMG will be posted as it comes to my attention!

Monday, May 31, 2010

NZ MUSIC MONTH #6: The Underdogs "Wasting My Time" (1971)

In the 60s the Underdogs were a blues band and their biggest hit was a cover of John Mayall's "Sitting In The Rain",  landing them the support slot for John Mayall when he played in Auckland which is maybe an awkward situation when you think about it.

By 1971, after more line-up changes than I care to explain, they had somehow transformed into a garage psych band  - this is real, raw, underground shit, sounding like practice room recordings. There are some tough original songs in this bunch with great guitar work,  although you have to allow some charity for the vocals rather loose relationship with the tune at times. 

Thanks to the obscurity of our exotic nation, this LP goes for loot among overseas psych collectors, though I shan't be retiring on the proceeds as my copy is sleeveless and hence unmarketable (found wedged between two New Seekers LPs in a pile of throwaways, so, can't complain).

The Underdogs -  Every Little Thing
The Underdogs - It's A Blessing
The Underdogs - Is He Going To Die

If anyone has an empty sleeve for this album get at me: we can sell this to a bearded man in Kent and go halves on a jacuzzi.

Better than records

Thursday, May 20, 2010

NZ MUSIC MONTH #5: SJD vs. Sola Rosa vs. Savage, Con Psy, & Scribe - "Not Many" (Doggziller blend) - (2004)

This one popped up on shuffle this morning and I thought it might be worth a re-visit for NZ Music Month - a blend of the acapella from the remix of Scribe's breakout hit "Not Many", over an SJD remix of a Sola Rosa joint that came out around the same time (I forgot the name - the record will be around here somewhere I suppose), blended together by Yours Truly. So that is 100% NZ artists + 100% a guy from NZ who owns a mixer, two turntables, and kinda knows how to use the pitch shift. And about three layers of remixing.

(A cute detail about this song is when Scribe yells "reeeeeeeee-miiiiiiiix", ain't nobody do that no more. Times was, you always immediately yelled "REMIX" when there was a remix. I miss that.)

This blend was done in accordance with the Old School, it is just two records playing at the same time, you can even hear where I was trying to correct for timing slips by giving the record a nudge. As I no longer have the original recording, this is lifted straight from the 2004 mix that I used it in, hence the somewhat abrupt start and finish.


SJD vs. Sola Rosa vs. Savage, Con Psy, & Scribe - Not Many (Doggziller Blend)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

NZ MUSIC MONTH #4: The Golden Horn Big Band, self-titled (1974)

Decently funky big-band jazz out of Wellington with an unusual mix of obvious ("Shaft", "Corazon") and non-obvious covers (opening the album with Malo's "Latin Boogaloo"?)

Musical direction is by Rodger Fox who was part of Quincy Conserve at around the same time, and who continues to work in this vein today in his eponymous big band (keeping trombonists off the streets since 1978!)

The Golden Horn Big Band - Hikky Burr
The Golden Horn Big Band - Dead Ringer

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

NEW ZEALAND MUSIC MONTH #3: The Chapta "One" (1971)

Today's selection "Journey to the Sun" is cherry-picked from The Chapta's first album - amid a set of otherwise fairly straightforward pop-rock, someone decided to cut a freaky psych tune (my money says it was the Two Ronnies looking dude on the lower left).

Having listened carefully to the lyrics of this song I can confirm that in true psychedelic fashion, they are a bunch of nonsense - my guess is that the boys were stoned one day and decided that it was "about time someone gave the Sun some props". The change in the chorus where "Apollo" is exhorted to "shine [his] light" is a bit over the top but otherwise there's little to fault with this tune, the rise and fall of the synth at the start has me foaming at the mouth in particular. I'm unreliably informed that in 1971 the only synthesizer in New Zealand was held in an acoustics research lab at Victoria University so I guess the lads must have signed it out for the afternoon.

"Journey to the Sun" was not released as an album or B-side and was perhaps considered filler at the time - in retrospect it is the stand-out tune of the album. It should be noted that this is available alongside a number of excellent cuts on the compilation "A Day in My Mind's Mind"  (the Salvation and 40 Watt Banana tracks on there are some SERIOUS HEAT).

The Chapta - Journey to the Sun

Sunday, May 9, 2010

NZ MUSIC MONTH #2: Waves, S/T (1975)

I have given it much consideration and this is, without a doubt, my favourite folk album ever.
I think all record collectors and lovers of music generally will agree that it is a rare for an album to have only good tracks on it. In fact if an album has more than even one good track it is already in something like the top 5% of all albums ever.  Complete, flawless albums are much discussed and rarely agreed upon - even the White Album had stupid bloody "Ob-la-di Ob-la-da" on it. Even "Illmatic" had "Life's a Bitch" in there to soil the sheets.

So, such albums are rare, but this is one of them. It is a superb set of songs, mainly arranged around acoustic guitar and percussion, excellently performed and ever so delicately dusted with studio effects for a light psychadelic glaze. It is exceptionally tasteful.

This is the band's only LP and there is not a lot of information available on-line - apparently they did a re-union gig a few years ago (while I was living in Japan, unfortunately). Criminally, "Waves" has never been re-issued - and given that the last second-hand copy I saw in the wild was going for a cool hundy, I considered it a urgent matter of cultural improvement that a recording be made available from the link below: 

Waves - self-titled album

Monday, May 3, 2010

NZ MUSIC MONTH 2010 #1 - Quincy Conserve "Listen To The Band" (1970)

Having myself once appeared as a "professional dancer" in a New Zealand music video - a fact both inexplicable and hilarious - I'm well aware that in the Kiwi music scene, folks generally ain't got a lot of budget and you need to trade favours where you can. So I think we can safely explain the grimacing woman on the cover of this album, as... well... a friend of the band. A gift horse, shall we say, whose mouth has most assuredly not been inspected.

The Quincy Conserve was a local equivalent of American "jazz/rock" or "brass-rock" bands such as Blood, Sweet & Tears or early Chicago, a style of music that was pretty hot in the early '70s - basically around the time that significant numbers of white people first started wanting to play something like funk, but before most of them were comfortable saying as much.

The Quincy Conserve were one of the best local bands of the 1970s and their first two albums are little acknowledged classics. I'll most likely post about their second LP "Epitaph" later in the month, for now, here's my three favourites from "Listen to the Band":
The Quincy Conserve - Ride the Rain
Penned by drummer Bruno Lawrence, this strong, slightly psychadelic tune was the biggest hit on the album and was a finalist for the "Loxene Golden Disc" awards, the contemporary equivalent of the RIANZ awards, sponsored (oddly enough) by a shampoo. Despite this contribution to the band's success, by 1971 Bruno was out of the line-up, apparently due to his rascally behaviour (a habit of performing impromptu armpit fart concertos while frontman Malcolm Hayman was speaking between songs has been cited as one aggravating factor in their fraught relationship)...and as all patriots know, Bruno went on instead to form the very crucible of Kiwi male identity in landmark films such as 1982's "Battletruck".

"Men must be strong, like Battletruck."

The Quincy Conserve - Frustration
Another toothy original which cleverly references a second cornerstone of our national identity with backing vocals that mimic the cries of sheep and lambs.

Our national identity explained.

Bruno's drumming on this track is especially choice. 

The Quincy Conserve - Somebody Stole My Thunder
This is a cover of a track by Georgie Fame, which in my ultra-nationalistic opinion edges out the original.

The Conserve broke up in 1976, but had an unexpected boost in profile a couple of years ago when TV2 released a promo built around the song "Aire of Good Feeling" from "Epitaph", consequently both "Ride the Rain" and "Frustration" are available in high quality, legitimate versions along with a number of highlights from the Conserve's other albums. I commend all true patriots to COP THAT SHIT.

Friday, April 30, 2010

3rd Bass "Brooklyn Queens (The U.K. Power Mix)" (1989)

Seems like hip-hop singles from around 1990 sometimes have these British remixes on them which are usually about making the tunes more "club-friendly". Now, back in those times doing something up "for the club" often meant adding thin synthesizers chords, a house beat, and MIDI orchestra stabs, but occasionally it just meant beefing that shit up. And that's what happened here.

(I'm assuming here that U.K. stands for "the United Kingdom" and not "Ultimate Knowledge" or some shit, but you can never be sure with these rap guys).

While still based around the same core sample, this mix is a pretty noticable improvement on the original - the beat is a lot easier to get down on, the horn samples on the chorus actually make sense musically, and the layering and stripping back of samples gives each verse a different feel.

You don't gotta take my word for it though, first download and listen:
3rd Bass - Brooklyn Queens (The U.K. Power Mix)

...and then compare the original:

The video also features several notable details such as:
- MC Serch's flat-top (note the "3" shaved into the side)
- The intro - ladies if you ain't got me no rings already, don't be talking to me now.
- Jackin' from 3:06... god damn I like to see me some jackin'.
- The very high probability that everyone in the video went to school with MC Serch and Pete Nice. 

...and of course, many many examples of the classic rapper pastime of "pretending to be rich", which, at this point in hip-hop history, was still pretty unconvincing most of the time. See also:

What's that you're holding guys, like, twenty-three dollars? Come on.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Peggy Lee "Sneakin' Up On You" (1965)

Alright doggs, here's a quick one to keep things breathing.

Peggy Lee was a very prolific jazz/lounge singer with about twenty or thirty albums to her name, peaking in the 50s and 60s. I tend to think of her as a more schoolmarmish version of Julie London - in 1950s terms, Peggy Lee could probably make 1 bow-tie spin around for every 4 bow-ties set spinning by Julie London, or; Julie London could make one single bow-tie spin at a rate four times faster than the same bow-tie in the presence of Peggy Lee - I'm not quite sure how it worked exactly. 

Peggy Lee - "a swell dame"

Julie London - "dang, up to 4x sweller"
(In the interests of being even-handed in my sexual objectification of musicians, I will be comparing 2Pac's abs against this Korean in a later post)

"Sneaking Up On You" is not a famous joint, but like many of the world's great songs it is about stalking. Peggy vows that she is going to "creep up" and "pounce" on her target, regardless of whether he is at the beach, on a date with another girl, or "standing around on a roller-whirl" (whatever that is) - those seem to be the three scenarios she has allowed for.
She even trucks out the phrase "if it's the last thing I do", more famously associated with Gargamel, nemesis of the Smurfs. The whole thing rides a nicely arranged and surprisingly tough groove (given the genre and the early vintage), I'm particularly fond of the double-bass work and the drumming. Check it out.

Peggy Lee - Sneakin' Up On You

BTW, keep 'em peeled for Peg's stomping version of "Dock of the Bay" - I haven't managed to track down a copy yet.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

OVS "Crimes of Passion" (1985)

In my system, 1985 is pretty much a last chance year. If a record says '86 or '87 on the label I will not touch that mess with a barge-pole borrowed from a disliked neighbour (unless of course it's "So" by the delightful Peter Gabriel).

That is my shit right here.

Even then, I have to make allowances before dropping the needle on a joint from 1985, because odds on someone will have made some bad decisions. e.g. The snares will probably be too loud, or there will be no bassline, or a melodic hook will be played by pitch-shifting a sample. I don't know why a few months' drift in production trends makes such a difference, but it does. "Crimes of Passion" by Dutch outfit OVS, however, sounds like an earlier production, possibly because cocaine was less readily available in Holland.

(In fact from the limited information available on line, I suspect it may be a release of a tune from '82 - which kind of makes all this nonsense about production year a bit irrelevant).

I think Ben put it best when he characterized vocalist Bernard Oattes' voice by pointing out that you can't imagine him meaning anything remotely rude or sleazy, regardless of the actual lyrics. His is a pure voice, an angelic voice - almost asexual, certainly without a smidgen of lasciviousness. You can't help feeling that the "Crimes of Passion" referred to in the song could only be something like "holding hands when a policeman can see" or "teasing with intent to tease".

Bernard van Oattes, today.
By my reckoning this is a near perfect pop song, hit the link and see who you believe.

OVS - Crimes of Passion

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Living Diamonds "What's On Your Mind?" (2009)

In an effort to cajole my silent partner - the elusive "Second Dragon" - to actually write about a song or something, I have agreed to do a write up of his new project "The Living Diamonds". It also serves as a shy tilt at relevance since, as Ben said to me in a recent money-counting session, "ain't no-one give but five percent of a shit about them stank-ass old rekkids, no how".

So here goes.

The Living Diamonds were initially forged from the wreckage of late Auckland outfit "The Shades", a live neo-soul/hip-hop outift who were something like what The Roots would be if they were white Aucklanders and there was a strong lady vocalist taking over from the rappers for every other song.
The bones of the Shades still show through in the Diamonds' ability to stitch together heavy, memorable rhythms from less-than-obvious elements - the groove on "What's On Your Mind?" is reminiscent of intro music from 70s live shows, a riff for the hype man to bellow over before some sequined soul celebrity jogs out onto the stage with a wave. But the Living Diamonds also represent a new trajectory for budding Kiwi superstar Ben Anderson, into territory closer to psychedelic rock, and with a new rawness and hard-won authenticity in his vocal performances.

"What's On Your Mind?" is the Diamonds' only recorded single so far but their entire set impressed when they played late at Whammy Bar last Good Friday, energizing a crowd that had seemed about ready to be kissed on the nose and tucked in, and leaving them baying for an encore which, Ben sheepishly admitted, could not be provided as they had run out of songs. The core line-up has changed since the single was recorded last year with celebrated guitarist Hayden Booth and feared yet admired drummer Alex Freer bringing strong contributions alongside Shades alumnus swoon-worthy starlet Cass "Fresh" Mitchell on bass and of course Ben Himself on vox and ill vintage keyboards. I confess that I was pretty drunk but it seemed to me that they were all playing their instruments real good and when I looked at faces in the crowd I could tell they all agreed.

The Living Diamonds sum a diverse set of influences into a sound dangerously new yet instantly familiar that harks back to the rawness and strength of the late '60s without falling into the trap of shallow reproduction. I'm confident all that remains for Ben Anderson and the Living Diamonds is to write some more songs and count that money.

You can hear the studio version of "What's On Your Mind?" at the Living Diamonds' myspace.

There's also this recording of a live session on bFM below...

Saturday, April 3, 2010

EASTER SUNDAY SPECIAL - King Hannibal "The Truth Shall Make You Free" (1973)

Within the Christian community there's a full spectrum of opinion on the acceptabilty of rockin' out in favour of Jesus, but the argument can be broadly broken down into three positions.

Firstly, there is the obvious position that rock music is created and actively controlled by Satan in his worldly guise as record label honcho "Lew Siffer".

Under this position, God is strictly into old-timey music and rocking is not acceptable under any circumstances - not even to save a drowning friend.

Secondly, there are Christians who want to be able to listen to normal music but are generally more comfortable if the song lyrics explicitly reference the rejection of Satan and his works. However this music is mostly terrible for the many of the same reasons that mainstream music is mostly terrible, with the addition of an interpretational minefield as to whether the artists are singing about Jesus or their girlfriends at any given moment.



Then there is a third category, into which King Hannibal falls. These Christians learned how to rock out the traditional way - i.e. while strung out on heroin, murdering prostitutes and/or reciting the Lord's Prayer backwards. For these prodigal offspring, conversion may have changed their ethics it sure as shit ain't changed the way they throw down - hence King Hannibal's ode to religious drug rehab is laced with heavy rhythm, fuzz guitar and psychedelic delay drops on the vocals.

Have a happy, non-drug-addicted Easter.

King Hannibal - "The Truth Shall Make You Free"

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sandie Shaw "Reviewing the Situation" (1969)

Sandie Shaw was pretty famous in the mid-60s for recording songs that your Auntie likes such as "Always Something There To Remind Me" - and in fact she even performed the barely excusable feat of winning Eurovision in 1967 with this oompah joint that presumably won over the German judges in the first four seconds.

(To clarify, I have a fairly watertight theory about Eurovision: EVERYTHING THAT HAS EVER WON IS SHIT)

Sandie first showed signs of a lurch towards grooviness in 1968 when she appeared on the cover "The Sandie Shaw Supplement" in what appears to be a crocheted bikini. Since, as we all know, the UK has no beaches, the photo was apparently taken at low-tide on a salt marsh in Dartmouth, probably at sub-zero temperatures. The album also included a pretty worthy stab at "Route 66", a whiff of the good things to follow.

She looks like she should be holding a barbarian's leg.

In 1969, at the age of only 22, she released the self-produced "Reviewing the Situation", an LP of superbly arranged covers of significant artists of the day, covering ground as diverse as The Beatles, Dr. John, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, and Rufus Thomas. Yet bizzarrely enough the storming title track is actually one of Fagin's songs from "Oliver!"

I include three selections here - unlike some of the stuff I've posted so far, this album is available commercially via iTunes and maybe elsewhere, so hit that mess up for more songs at better quality if you're feeling it.

Sandie Shaw - Reviewing the Situation
Sandie Shaw - Love Me Do
Sandie Shaw - Coconut Grove

(I'll be screaming "PROMO USE ONLY" even as they drag me off to jail, you'll see)