I was in Academy Records (18th St between 5th and 6th, NYC) today, where I ran into my friend David. In between fast talking, I managed to pickup four CDs – Lesley Gore, Laika and the Cosmonauts, Tindersticks and Jonathan Richman. I also might get around to entering some older CDs…
Compilation - Astrud Gilberto: 'Talkin' Verve' (CD; Verve/Polygram; 1966-1969)
This is a fun compilation, opening with the superbly warm and groovy track 'Beginnings'. The bulk of the material here is from Astrud's later 60s albums on the Verve label, 'look to the rainbow', 'windy', 'september 17, 1969' and 'I haven't got anything better to do'. There are also a couple of great tracks from the album she did with Walter Wanderley. The contrasting arrangements (Gil Evans, Eumir Deodato, Alberto Gorgoni) sound interesting when heard side by side. Much of this stuff is only otherwise available on Japanese issue CDs, so this brings it together quite nicely. Unfortunately, I have all the Japanese CDs and original albums, so quite why I bought this, I'm not sure. Still, it is an undeniably great compilation featuring the cream of Astrud's groovier tracks.
Jonathan Richman: '¡Jonathan, te vas a emocionar!' (CD; Rounder; 1994)
I feel pretty ignorant when it comes to this one. My interest in Jonathan Richman has been building recently. I read a great article on him in Cool and Strange Music magazine; also, a friend played me 'I was dancing in a Lesbian Bar', which I enjoyed very much. This album is from 1994, and is sung mostly in Spanish with phrases like 'rock'n'roll' thrown in. The backing is mostly acoustic guitar. I have very little more to say about it at this point. I think it's something I'll be getting into at a later date.
Laika and the Cosmonauts: 'Zero Gravity' (CD; Upstart; 1996)
Laika and the cosmonauts are a Finnish surf band. This is really pretty cool. How I would have adored it in 1995-6, though! I wanted to hear and have this kind of music so much, but I had no money and knew nothing about it... It's twangy, beaty music with some interesting sound effects. Kind of like 'man or astroman?' but better, perhaps (less sound fx and distortion, more cool influences, I'd say...). There is at least one hawaiian themed track, 'oahu luau', which is really cool. Very listenable, with a great sound and some lovely guitar work (e.g. on 'fadeaway'). Some tracks, e.g. 'fear', have an excellent soundtrack feel. Nice extra bonus for me - one track, 'baja' (which I guess was originally a Duane Eddy song) is a Lee Hazlewood composition. Too much of this kind of music suffers from nasty production or bad taste (e.g. this is pretty much how I feel about Stray Cats from what I've heard by them - the vocals seem to cheesy and the production too modern). But this album seems to succeed where others have failed. If anyone wants to form a band sounding like this with me in NYC, let me know!
Lee Hazlewood: 'Hazlewoodism - its cause and cure' (LP; MGM; 1968)
Very cool Lee album. Lee had a knack for creating simple, yet perfectly formed pop songs and executing them perfectly. This contains classic Lee narratives like the bullfighting song 'Jose' and Indian song 'the nights'. Other charming tracks are the warm pop in 'I am a part' and the upbeat 60s rock ripoff sounding 'In our time'. The whole record has great production and entertaining lyrics; it's not hard to see why Lee has been so influential.
Compilation - Lesley Gore: 'The Best of Lesley Gore' (CD; Mercury; 1963-1967)
I actually wanted to get a Lesley Gore compilation for a while, and was holding out for the best one. However, I couldn't resist picking this up for under $5. It contains the classic, if overplayed 'It's my party', and its sequel song, 'Judy's turn to cry'. But the jewels are probably others, such as her classic take on 'You don't own me', a song which I curiously first heard via Klaus Nomi's version. Lesley's vocals are entertaining on this one, especially late in the song when several vocal tracks emotionally fill in around the tune. Much of this is sweet early 60s teenage stuff. It's enjoyable to listen to; I'm amused by the lyrics of 'that's the way boys are' - "when he treats me rough and he acts though he doesn't really care, well I never tell him that he is so unfair/'cause he loves me and I know it/But he's just afraid to show it/Cause that's the way boys are". Ah, that's the way boys are. There is also 'My town, my guy and me' another 'I like it in my small town, cities are crap' type song (like 'That's Not Me' on the Beach Boys's 'Pet sounds'). Overall, most tracks are somehow lacking the quality and emotional intensity of my favorite 60s pop singers (people like Dusty Springfield, Mina). But they are still quite fun, and there are some classic mid 60s pop moments - e.g. 'sunshine lollipops and rainbows'. Interestingly, of the 12 tracks on this CD, 11 are produced by none other than Quincy Jones, and the other is produced by Bob Crewe - both idols of mine. Bob Crewe's influence is more audible on 'California Nights' than Quincy Jones's is on any of the other tracks.
Tindersticks: 'Tindersticks (first album)' (CD; Bar None; 1993)
This is one of the growing group of albums I've owned, sold and then bought again. In the case of Tindersticks, I originally came to the group via an interest in swampy, Gallon Drunk-style 50s oriented indie music. As it turned out, the group weren't really like that at all. I quite liked this album, but was quick to sell it when I was short of money about five years ago. I've since picked up all the other Tindersticks albums (except the latest one, which I will have to pick up soon). So I was happy to see the first album again used. Listening to it now, I still find the same tracks interesting as I did in 1993, but they have aged well, and have a classic feel...Tracks like 'marbles', 'milky teeth', 'jism', 'raindrops', 'her' (although I still prefer the Peel session version), and 'paco de renaldo's dream' are really quite superb - the production is mysterious and alluring, and the songs have a great otherworldly feel. None of the other songs are bad either, so I guess this is a pretty impressive LP, all in all...