Sunday, June 20, 2010

Album Cover Gallery: Rocky's Worst

How you make a bad cover...

even worse:

Is Bing reaching in his pocket for some peanuts for Satchmo?

If homeless men designed album covers, they'd look a lot like this:

Keep your pantaloons on, gents, bawdiness ahead!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Recent Acquisitions: 6-18-10

The following albums were bought for the princely sum of $20. I can have my cake and records, too!

B-52’s, B-52’s (Warner Brothers, original pressing). A dadaist masterpiece with lines like, “Why don’t you dance with me? I’m not no Limburger.”

Beach Boys, Sunflower (Brothers Records, original pressing). The album before my favorite BB album, Surf’s Up. Side 1 of Sunflower is as good as any side they recorded.

Beach Boys, Holland (Brothers Records, original pressing). The album after Surf’s Up. I didn’t become a BB fan until I heard Surf’s Up. They’re later albums, which didn’t do well commercially, have richness and weight to them that is lacking in their more exuberant early albums. It’s called growing up. Even Pet Sounds seems kind of adolescent to me.

Roxy Music, For Your Pleasure (Atco, second pressing). Brian Ferry, Brian Eno, Phil Manzanera, and Andy McKay trying to please rocky? Mission accomplished!

Astrud Gilberto, The Shadow of Your Smile (Verve, original stereo pressing, Van Gelder in dead wax). Do smiles cast shadows? Yes, in a bossa nova world.

Chico Hamilton, A Different Journey (Reprise, white label promo, original mono pressing). It’s a good thing Chico isn’t alive to see that they’re practically giving away his albums.

Charles Mingus, Mingus Dynasty (Columbia, 6-eye label, original mono pressing). This is almost as good as the masterpiece that preceded it, Mingus Ah-Um.

Shelly Manne, Shelly Manne & His Men at the Black Hawk, Vol. 3 (Contemporary, original stereo pressing). If I told you this was recorded in San Francisco, you’d probably guess by the title that it’s the soundtrack to a transvestite burlesque show at a gay strip club. You’d be wrong. It’s straight west coast jazz. So is their next live album, Shelly Manne and His Men at the Manne-Hole. I kid you not.

Michel Legrand, Le Jazz Grand (Gryphon, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab reissue). This 1978 album is like a bookend to Legrand Jazz recorded 20 years earlier.

Cannonball Adderly, 74 Miles Away (Capitol, original stereo pressing). The title begs the question, what’s 74 miles away? My guess: The last place Cannonball passed up a meal.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


for setting up a bedroom:

This is the back cover of Ryan Adams' Gold. Notice the stereo with record player next to the bed, and drinks above and to the left and right of the bed. There's a song on the album called "The Bar Is a Beautiful Place". I'd choose this bed over any bar.

Monday, June 7, 2010

This Swedish Pop Music Break Has Been Pre-Empted by Bill Evans

I was going to make this a Swedish pop music break featuring a video of Monica Zetterlund singing "Waltz for Debby" in Swedish, accompanied by the Bill Evans Trio, as filmed in the style of Fellini. The video is notable because Evans rarely backed singers. But alas the video has disabled embedding. You can go here if you want to view it. Instead, here's a superior version of the song performed by the Bill Evans Trio sans singer:

Recent Acquisitions: 6-7-10

Bill Evans and Jim Hall, Undercurrent (United Artists Jazz, mid-60s stereo pressing, $18). This has been on my list for as long as I can remember. It’s one of the best jazz duo recordings ever. The cover featuring a woman floating in water is also beautiful and haunting, worth having in the large LP format. There’s a cheap reissue available, but there’s nothing like having an original.

John Coltrane, Coltrane (Impulse, Analogue Productions 45rpm reissue, 2-LPs, $20). This is the first recording of Coltrane’s classic quartet. It’s one of the few Coltrane Impulse records I didn’t have. So when I saw this mint reissue at less than half the cost of it new, I snapped it up.

Chico Hamilton Trio, Chico Hamilton Trio (Pacific Jazz, original mono pressing, $10). The price of used records has been increasing steadily in the last few years even in the midst of the recession. There are exceptions to this trend. Some very expensive records have a hard time selling. And a few artists seem to have gone out of favor, as reflected in the price decline of their records. Chico Hamilton seems to be one of them. This is good news for a Hamilton fan. His recordings from the 50s and 60s are consistently worth listening to. Foreststorn Hamilton (real name) had something in common with Art Blakey besides being a drummer and band leader. He was a prodigious discoverer of talent. Eric Dolphy made his first commercially recorded appearance on a Chico Hamilton record. Other notable sidemen in Hamilton’s band included Jim Hall, Paul Horn, Charles Lloyd, Gabor Szabo, and Larry Coryell. One could attribute the lack of appreciation for Hamilton on the general bias against West Coast jazz. Whatever the reasons, if I can pick up original pressings of his 50s records for ten bucks, I’m not going to complain.

Leonard Cohen, New Skin for an Old Ceremony (Columbia, second pressing, $1). This copy has an alternative cover with a black-and-white portrait of Cohen, which I had never seen. The original cover has an illustration of a winged couple from an alchemical document. Whenever I think of Leonard Cohen, I’m reminded of a scene from college. Our film class was having class outdoors on a beautiful spring day. We were discussing McCabe and Mrs. Miller, which features a number of Cohen songs (one of many unconventional touches in Altman’s “Western”). The discussion steered toward Cohen’s songs and was guaranteed to go nowhere when the professor admitted she was embarrassed to having liked Cohen when she was our age. Yet she didn’t seem embarrassed about letting everyone look up her skirt the way she sat open-legged on the grass. That’s what I think of when I think of Leonard Cohen.

Michel Legrand, Legrand Jazz (Columbia, original mono pressing, 6-eye label, $2). This album would be the answer to a good trivia question: Which non-compilation jazz album features Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Hank Jones, Ben Webster, Art Farmer, Donald Byrd, and Phil Woods? Second clue: Playing arrangements by a French guy who wrote the score to The Ode to Billie Joe and the theme to Brian’s Song?

Gang of Four, Solid Gold (EMI, original pressing, $8). Remember when bands had something to say? Remember when punk, reggae and rap music had social and political messages? Remember what it was like to have fun and be politically conscious? Okay, there were popular airheaded acts back in the day (cf. Madonna, the 80s equivalent to Lady Gaga), but what is today’s equivalent to Gang of Four? I can’t think of one either.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

God Help the Girl

A very long time ago, I bought my first and only Marianne Faithfull album, Broken English. What I remember is how bleak the album sounded--the songs delivered in Faithfull's cracked and weary voice, the expression on her face on the cover while shielding her eyes with a hand holding a cigarette just gave off the vibes of a defeated person. So I was surprised to hear this:

The Jagger-Richards penned song launched her career at age 17. The following year, the Stones recorded their own, now more famous, version. Around that time Faithfull gained sympathy for the devil, getting romantically involved with Jagger and with heroin. It all led to the person who recorded Broken English.

I've been listening to her eponymous debut album a lot lately, which I picked up in the dollar bin a while ago. It's a bunch of sad songs sung in her then sweet and innocent voice. It's not artistically notable, but charming nonetheless. There's something refreshing in her understated delivery that is the opposite of, say, Whitney Houston. It also makes the sad songs not so sad, quite the opposite.