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)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Smith "A Group Called Smith" (1969)

Okay so the simple reason why I'm posting this track today is because it is hot as shit - tough drums, heavy bass, burbling Hammond, wailing fuzz guitar, and a woman yelling that she wants to sex you, while four stern men emerge from shack and silently observe.

Basically everything I hope for in rock music from this era.

Smith - I Just Wanna Make Love To You

BONUS JOINT: Etta James' version set to a photo montage of the bloke from "Draculas" and "Draculas 2: Oh No, Werewolves" - strickly 4 the ladiez / homo draculas.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Jan Hammer Group "Melodies" (1977)

Jan Hammer is, of course, mostly famous for soundtrack work on Miami Vice. Those of a certain age will no doubt remember the scandal and long-running "flame war" that eventuated when Greg Phillinganes was bumped from the cover of the September 1985 edition of "Keyboard" magazine in favour of Jan.

Mr. Phillinganes is said to have snapped a keytar over his knee when an acquaintance pointed out that his name had been printed in the same size font as "Equipment Reviews".

But Jan had a long career before his work on Miami Vice secured him eternal fame, a Bill Gates bankroll and a white stretch limo with piano keys painted on the side. He spent the 70s mostly putting out jazz-fusion with outfits like the Mahavishnu Orchestra and his own Jan Hammer Group - while there's no denying his talent as a keyboardist, the style he was working in is generally of little interest to me (e.g. how is this not terrible).

However, today's selection is a just a normal love song that happens to hit a sweet spot between the 70s and 80s and come out totally unique, with an arpeggiated bass-line that anticipates the Miami Vice years underpinned by tough drums that hark back to the early 70s. The production is superb and studio nerds should find it a rewarding listen. Folks who mainly just like nice songs will not be disappointed either.

Jan Hammer Group - Don't You Know

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Licky "African Rock" (1979? 1980?)

I think this is one of those obscure low-rent studio productions where they spent a day recording a bunch of tracks with session musicians and made up a new name for the band on each song. So I guess it was pretty near the end of the session when somebody came up with "Licky" as a band name.

"Licky, man, it's like Sexxy but it sounds more sexual in your mouth when you say it" explained Larry Robinson while frantically rubbing his nose "I'm about that mouth feel."

High fives all 'round.

So anyway, Licky is the B-side. Bizzarrely, the A-side is the exact same recording but with all the percussion turned down in the mix, and as an over-dub a
man sings off-key in a kind of trembly, stage fright voice while randomly shaking a tambourine that has about a hundred too many microphones pointed at it. It is like someone doing bad karaoke of Osibisa. The track is still called "African Rock" but the band is now "Dream Lovers". I doubt that anyone anywhere has ever listened to the A-side of this record all the way through.

It's disco, by the way, but in all the right places - no strings, plenty of augogo, hot synth solos and bass that gets slapped, sure, but not in an abusive way.
The concept of this song is that an African rock is travelling from America to Africa to learn about itself. Initially the rock doubts its abilities but it receives encouragement from nearby backing vocalists in the end it succeeds. It is kind of "a journey" I guess.

(B-side wins again).

Licky - "African Rock"

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Potapy, "C - O - backwards P joined with frontwards P - backwards N - backwards R" (1970s)

Both myself and my keyboard are incapable of rendering Cyrillic characters so I've had to resort to the Jackie Chan school of sounding out Russian script. Who knows what the name of this LP actually is. There's no Wikipedia article for Potapy so I'm not going to feign any erudition on this one - the only clue I have as to how it made its way to NZ shores is the words "From Ukrainian Friendship Society, Kiev, May 31 1977" scribbled in ballpoint on the back. So presumably someone at the Kiwi Embassy sent them back a Ray Woolf LP and the detente was ON.

I have no idea how the production and distribution of pop music worked behind the Iron Curtain. One imagines stooped, hollow-cheeked men with hard eyes, travelling from school to school searching for children with slender fingers and a sense of rhythm - those showing promise dragged into blockish gray buildings where they are subjected to Beatles and Otis Redding records until their eyeballs spin. Elsewhere, old ladies in headscarves queue for half a day in the snow, clutching tickets redeemable for the latest state-approved hit single - most will trudge home disappointed, as just thirty copies were made before the vinyl press was repurposed to boost steel production.

But however it was done, the process was not without successes.

Potapy - Side 1 Track 5
Potapy - Side 2 Track 3

Monday, March 8, 2010

I can't go for that - for president

Okay, so we were just listening to 'I can't go for that' by Hall and Oates and we we're all like "This might just be the most widely appealing song in the world". Like, Murray heard them playing it on an easy listening radio station at his corporate work job today and everyone stopped typing and hung up their telephones and started singing together and waving their index fingers at each other when it went "No can do!". We also played it in the club on Saturday night and the ladies were getting buck wild and dudes were taking their shirts off and air horns were sounding all over the place.
Also Murray said that he thinks it was the only song to be number one on the top of the pop and r'n'b charts simultaneously.
Best song ever? Ask your mum

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Hanson & Karlsson "Rex" (1968)

Prog keyboardist Bo Hansson is prolly best known for his "Lord of the Rings" and "Watership Down" concept albums, which are dollar bin staples. He also did an LP call "Magician's Hat", the cover has a painting of a wizard on it, and that pretty much tells you where the dude is coming from.

This LP is probably from before he read Tolkein, a time when he was more about manly pursuits such as snorkelling with his buddy Janne Karlsson (truly a superb drummer) and wailing hard on the Hammond organ.

This live album mostly consists of the two of them frantically playing their instruments as fast as they can, presumably while grinning and waggling their eyebrows at each other. I mean that pretty much sums up side 1. To be honest, it doesn't sound great to a modern perspective (which is to say, I don't like it much).

Hansson & Karlsson - BFF!

Side 2 is a 22 minute suite call "Chateau Plaisance" and I include the first 5 and a half minutes here. It sounds like it was recorded off of one mic in Bo's bedroom (there were probably Gandalf posters on the wall) and it is just grimy as hell. Bo just sets up a nasty drone throughout the whole thing and the two of them crank up the intensity until... well, until an awkward cross-fade signifies that the whole thing must've been about to go off the rails. Let this one build, you guys.