Monthly Archives: October 2002

Musical Taste has now reached 250 members. Thanks to everyone who has helped to make it an interesting place to visit.

I’m also spreading the word about the upcoming Morricone night. Hopefully it should be a lot of fun.

I’m listening to a preview stream of the new Flaming Lips album. It sounds very good. I hardly know the band, but they sound like a slightly less murky Mercury Rev, with some beautifully ethereal stringy soundscapes. Does that sound pretentious? Oh well… Update: It turns out that a couple of members of Mercury Rev used to be in the Flaming Lips. You learn something new everyday, eh…

Compilation: '304 Holloway Road' (CD; Sequel; 1961-1966)
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I have great affection for this compilation of Joe Meek productions, since it's the one that introduced me to his work. Actually, it was Boyd Rice and Rose MacDowell's version of 'Johnny, Remember Me' (as Spell) that really piqued my interest. I picked up this disc soon afterwards, and still believe it to be one of the best Joe Meek compilations, although it seems now to have fallen out of print.

The opening track, 'I Hear a New World' is by Joe himself, and is taken from his lost space concept album of the same name. It's bizarre, ridiculous, and strangely compelling.

There are a number of great instrumentals highlighted here, including the Fleerekkers' 'Sunday Date', the Packabeats' superbly twangy 'Theme From the "Traitors"'.

Emile Ford and the Checkmates' 'What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For?' sounds strangely out of place, probably because it's so smoothly produced. More typically of the compilation (and of Meek's output) is Andy Cavell's 'Andy', a fraught pop vocal with weird vocal effects and a decidedly retro 50s feel. Jess Conrad's 'Hurt me' is similar, except with hilarious spoken female commentary.

'Baby I Go for You' by the Blue Rondos is a very cool garagey instrumental with a rocking beat.

Other highlights for me include Pat Reader's 'cha cha on the moon', with delightful squelching sound effects, and Peter Cook's 'Georgia on my mind' (is it that Peter Cook? I don't know. I don't think so).

All in all, this is a nice compilation; well worth picking up. It complements Razor and Tie's It's hard to believe it... compilation quite nicely.

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I’m doing my first live performance in several months this Thursday, Halloween, at 11pm at Cinema Classics, 332 East 11th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues in New York City. It’s essentially Stretcher Case, but with the rhythm section replaced by a drum machine and some spooky noises. I’m also going to sing a little. Sounds awesome, right? Actually, it might just be good.

Roger Nichols and the Small Circle of Friends: 'The complete' (CD; Polydor; 1967-1969)
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Reissued in Japan in 1997, this 1968 vocal group album is simple and beautiful. At first glance, I could understand people wondering what all the fuss is about. The album (plus some extra outtakes, single and B-sides) contains a mix of original material (Roger Nichols wrote a lot of pop hits of the time, often alongside Paul Williams) alongside standards and pop tunes of the time, including a few Beatles numbers.

The lead track, 'don't take your time', is odd. I can't really decide how much I like it. It has an extremely memorable tune and a sweeping, fast-moving arrangement with piano and strings. But some days I just can't deal with it. Next up is a version of 'With a little help from my friends', which I can't really get into either.

However, after this, the album gets really interesting. The version of Bacharach's 'Don't go breaking my heart' is wonderful, with a gentle bossa nova backing, great warm strings and uncannily vivid vocal harmonies. This album was released on A&M at around the same time as Bacharach's solo instrumental LPs, so the orchestra used may be the same. 'I can see only you' is a beautiful, tender ballad, with acoustic guitar, strings, and soft group harmonic vocals. The string arrangements are breathtaking. 'Snow queen' (a Goffin-King composition) is in a similar mood.

'Love so fine' is a great sunny upbeat pop number, as is the equally brilliant 'Just beyond your smile'. 'Kinda wasted without you' is the same kind of bouncy 60s pop, but slightly less successful somehow. The version of 'I'll be back' is slow and delicate, with great harmonies and acoustic guitar playing.

'Cocoanut Grove' is pleasant, but doesn't completely hit home with me. 'Didn't want to have to do it' is a mournful, lazy and atmospheric track; the kind of thing the Beach Boys would sound really good singing.

The final track on the album is 'Can I go', which is very unusual sounding. It's upbeat, with a prominent bass and a nursery rhyme-style melody. The chorus is very catchy, with pleasant harmonies. There's then a discordant neoclassical string sequence, before the song gets going again.

The extra tracks include a very pleasant and sweet version of 'Our day will come', 'Love song, love song', which has the same evocative feel as 'love so fine'. 'Let's ride' and 'The Drifter' are a bit smoother sounding, but very pleasant, with great harmonies. Finally, 'Trust' is incredible, with harmonies that sound at times very like 1980s pop, although I think the recording is from 1968.

All in all, if you're at all interested in that warm late 1960s pop sound, I would recommend picking up this Japanese-issue CD. It's both sweet and melancholic, and while it doesn't fit the bill every day, it is undoubtedly high quality pop music.

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Managed to visit Washington DC last weekend without getting killed, and also without visiting any record stores to speak of. I stopped into ‘Smash’, which is apparently a classic punk store in Georgetown. They didn’t really have anything for me.

The other day, I did stop into the thrift store next door to where I work (I would feel blessed, but I’m really trying not to accumulate stuff), and picked up a couple of nice records. Since I bought one for the cover and haven’t had a chance to listen to the other, here’s just a brief description. Scotty MacGregor’s Command Performance for Kiddies Vol. 3 is a children’s novelty record that looks like it’s from the early 60s. I bought it because there’s a track called ‘The rollicking men from mars’. That would be a good name for a band, eh… The other was A Young Man And A Maid by Theodore Bikel and Cynthia Gooding. The record is trashed, but what an incredible cover! From 1956. My mono copy has a cool old elektra logo in the bottom right.

Compilation - Burt Bacharach: 'Easy Loungin' - Twenty Easy Listening Classics' (CD; Polydor; 1967-1973)
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If you're interested in Burt Bacharach, there's a sea of material out there to try out; so much, in fact, that many people simply turn on the radio or settle for something mediocre. I have big stack of Bacharach-related CDs and records, but none of them are quite like this.

Released in 1995, this is a compilation of Burt's solo LPs on A&M from the late 60s and early 70s. Pretty much all of his most famous tunes are here, along with some less-famous ones. What every track has in common is that it is beautifully arranged, with incredible string sounds and percussion. Almost all of the tracks are instrumental; 'something big' has a good Burt vocal, and many others have occasional chorus or wordless vocals.

The opening track is the furiously upbeat 'Bond Street' from Casino Royale (aka 'The Benny Hill theme'), but almost all the other tracks are much more smooth and beautiful. 'Walk the way you talk' is outstanding: beautifully distilled orchestral mood music. I'm sure many people would dismiss this as being musak or elevator music, but these stunning arrangements really deserve to be heard. Another great track is 'Nikki', which was used as the ABC TV theme in the 60s. Vinnie Bell did a great version of this on a late 60s decca album. It's beautiful and catchy, with great brass, woodwind and string arrangements, accompanied by light piano, guitar and percussion.

Some familiar tracks sound especially stunning in these arrangements, including 'The look of love', with a great guiro sound and a cool beginning sequence, and 'I say a little prayer', which has a great little minor-key section added to the beginning. 'Are you there with another girl' is also incredible, with organ, strings, guitar, and a stuttering percussion section.

'South American Getaway' is a remarkable 5-minute epic, with a bouncy piano part, percussion, and a harmonizing 'ba-ba' wordless vocal chorus. It swells beautifully, changing pace frequently. I particularly love the section near the end when everything slows down, and the chorus provides an acappella accompaniment for the solo female vocal. Stunning track!

'Long ago Tomorrow' is similarly incredible. The warmth of the arrangement is quite amazing. 'Something big' is a lovely slice of Bacharach pop with a catchy use of vocal chorus and brass.

Even tracks that I previously never enjoyed, such as 'promises promises', 'I'll never fall in love again' and 'raindrops keep fallin' on my head' sound great in the context of this compilation.

The concluding track is the epic 'and the people were with her', complete with lovely neoclassical string interludes.

This is a great compilation, kind of like a Mondo Bacharach (in fact, the cover art is in the same style as that for Mondo Morricone, and is by the same guy, Stefan Kassel). I've nothing against 'The Look of Love' 3CD compilation, but I do think it's a shame that its success and omnipresence may lead people to forget that these songs sound great without center-stage pop vocals as well!

Gentle People: 'Soundtracks for Living' (CD; Rephlex; 1997)
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I've had this album for 5 years, but listening to it today, I suspect that I didn't really give it the attention it deserved before. I say that because I had entirely missed the track 'dream', which has some great Morricone touches with harpsichord, reminiscent of the Goldfrapp record.

The album as a whole is a strange hybrid of styles: ambient, modern pop, and glamorous 60s easy listening. True to the title, there is a soundtracky kind of feel as well. The first track, 'intro' is cool. It has a catchy indie-sounding guitar riff, backed by a bossa nova beat with a stereo effect, bouncing between the channels.

'The soundtrack of life' is quite good. If my ears are hearing correctly, it samples the Peter Thomas version of Marcos Valle's 'gente'. There are a lot of synths and ba-ba vocals.

'Le Tunnel de l'amour' and 'stay' are both rather cool slow ambient electronic pieces with string samples. I'm less into the kitschy pop songs with slightly cheesy effects-laden vocals, although their backings are often great. These include 'Laurie's theme', 'Journey'.

There is more to say than I have time for right now, but this is definitely an interesting album. I think that the production has slightly too much reverb on everything, and I'm not crazy about some of the vocals, but the influences and compositions are often great. There are some breathtaking echoey string samples.

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I enjoyed this deliciously sarcastic article on the music industry’s approach to peer-to-peer technology and the internet.

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I’m still kind of obsessed by that Quarteto em Cy record. But mainly, I just want to sleep.

Avalanches: 'Since I left you' (CD; Sire; 2001)
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I've come to like this album very much. When I first listened, I really felt as if there was just one song, dragged on and on through different cut-ups and remix formulation. This was a lazy verdict; it's really every bit as interesting and rich as Tipsy, just in a different style.

All the tracks are threaded together in one long DJ mix (although there are individual track marks). The first track, which is a single, is that one song I was talking about. 'Since I left you' is a beautifully put together and very catchy and warm pop tune, made up of various vocal and instrumental samples cleverly spliced together. I can hear hints of Morricone's 'Metti...' in here, along with Van McCoy's 'The Hustle'.

The second track uses the same vocal sample, but includes backgrounds from Sergio Mendes's version of 'cinnamon and clove', among others.

'Radio' sounds like it has a politician's voice spliced up over a generic-sounding house backing.

It's after this that, for me anyway, things really get much more interesting. Track 4, 'two hearts in 3/4 time' starts out with some goofy spoken and vocal samples, before slipping into a beautiful delicate little string/wordless vocal sample that sounds just like something I'd listen to. It's quite cleverly presented, with beat over the top, and a further Fender Rhodes sample linking bits together. The main sample is slightly crudely spliced together, but perhaps that's part of its charm. The song has little direction, and just meanders around. I think this is probably a property of how it was put together (that is, with a mouse and a computer, as opposed to via traditional methods).

The beginning of track 5, 'avalanche rock' has a rapper, a sign of how this album mixes up styles even more than similar groups like, say Noonday Underground and Bent.

Some tracks use short loops, and are as simple as bands like Daft Punk; just a little less glossy. 'A Different Feeling' is a good example of a track like this.

'Electricity' is a strange track in the sense that it sounds unfinished; after a bizarre choral introduction, a big beaty sample comes in that doesn't quite loop properly. This effect is so obvious that it must be deliberate, but it sounds rather unsettling all the same.

'Frontier Psychiatrist', which was the second single from the album, is rather impressive. It's a goofy mix of well chosen voice samples and beats, and is slightly reminiscent of 'Fish' by Mr Scruff. "You're a nut! You're crazy in the coconut," which must have been sampled from an old film, is a particularly well-used phrase. At the beginning, they make subtle use of a sample from the 'Laurence of Arabia' theme, an extremely evocative tune that I've thought of using in such a way myself.

To conclude, there's a fair amount of filler material on here, but I think of it as a 'background'-style album, so I don't find that a problem. Because it's so light and because of the patchwork nature of its composition, some people would dismiss this album as meaningless. To me, meaning is something you the listener can add to a record. This record is more about style and interesting juxtaposition. There's an incredible volume of interesting samples to be heard, and I imagine I'll discover something new every time I listen to this album. It's also incredible that it ever got released at all, when you consider the volume of samples that will have had to have been cleared.

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My Brazilian albums from Dustygroove arrived. They are superb. It seems Odeon has reissued 45 albums, but I can’t find a listing of them anywhere on the web. The two I have are great, anyway.

Joao Donato: 'Quem e Quem' (CD; Odeon; 1973)
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This is one of the Joao Donato albums I had in my head as being worth looking out for (the other is 'A Bad Donato'). So I jumped at the chance to pick up a CD for $12.99. It's very different from what I expected, but good all the same. Although the back of the CD case states 1968 as the original release date, the opening strains of 'chorou, chorou' make it clear that it's later than that, and the inside confirms that the album is actually from 1973. It's extremely light-sounding, with prominent fender rhodes, bouncy drums, and Joao's gentle vocals. There are some female backing vocals on some tracks, giving tracks like 'Terremoto' a similar feel to that of Marcos Valle's Previsao do Tempo album (in fact, Valle is listed as 'assistant producer' on this album).

'Fim de sonho' is warmer and slightly less bouncy than many of the tracks on the album, and highlight's Donato's voice, which is slightly rougher than Valle's. 'A ra', a classic scat number, is familiar to me from a compilation. It's simple and repetitive, but good all the same.

It's a little goofy, but this is a nice record all the same.

Update: I think I was a bit harsh to call this goofy, actually. There are some goofy tracks, but overall, it's just very beautifully distilled, tender music, with nice instrumentation. The arrangements are pleasantly spare, and the record has grown on me a lot.

Quarteto Em Cy: 'Quarteto Em Cy' (CD; Odeon; 1972)
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This Brasilian reissue from 1972 is quite magnificent, and exactly the kind of healing music that my exhausted ears need today.

The opening track is Chico Buarque's 'Quando o carnaval chegar', and the spectrum of sound is a superb blend of strings, piano, bossa nova guitars and female vocals. There's a delightful introduction, featuring a Claus Ogerman-like string arrangement, before the song gets going. 'Talvez' highlights the piano more, but has the same wonderfully rich production.

'Tudo que voce podia ser', is the only track on here that I've heard previously (on the 'Blue Brazil 2' compilation). It has a hip rhythm, and the vocals give it a spooky air. Later, the rhythm intensifies, accompanied by some cool scat vocals. It took a while for this song to really 'hit' with me, but it definitely has now.

In spite of my use of words like 'delightful' and 'soothing', many of the tracks are actually quite spooky. 'Incelensa' an unsettling song, starting with other-worldly voices that sound like the angels in the library in Wim Wenders's film 'Wings of Desire'.

There are also a few very poppy numbers. 'Underground' is an extremely bouncy, upbeat track. 'Antes da primeira hora', by the same songwriting team of Luis Carlos Sa and Ze Rodrix, is similarly light. 'Cavaalo-ferro,' with its catchy vocal refrain, is probably the best of the more upbeat and poppy numbers.

'Zanga, zangada' and 'Cantoria' are both strong Edu Lobo tracks, the latter of which has the same chords as 'death of a disco dancer' by The Smiths, but sped up.

The final track features the vocals of Dorival Caymmi and prominent berimbau and percussion.

This is a superb album. I never would have found (or afforded) the original, so I'm delighted that Odeon in Brasil have seen fit to release it.

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Exactly a week ago, Morrissey was live on Janice Long’s Radio 2 show. Miraculously, they’ve archived the show, and you can listen to it in full. I’m listening in now. There’s a long interview, and apparently there will be some live music as well.

Update: It’s a fascinating interview, but I’m really not crazy about the music (the two songs I’ve heard so far, anyway). On “The world is full of crashing bores”, I’m really not crazy about Boz’s guitar sound; he uses dirgey 80s effects. It’s not a great song, either. Our man Moz has never really found a songwriter to match Johnny Marr. ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’ is better, but I’m still not crazy about it. It sounds like an early Morrissey b-side, with a bit more of a U2 sound on the guitar. His words seem much more direct than they used to be.

Another update: ‘I like you’ is quite good. I had heard a live version of this song. It’s sweet, poppy, and quite likeable. Boz (or is it Alain?) still persists in using a nasty 80s overdrive sound though…

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I just succumbed to weakness and placed a small order at Dusty Groove. I couldn’t help it; they have huge new batch of Brasilian CDs in stock, all at $12.99 (not for nothing, but much cheaper than the Japanese versions were).

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There has been a little less posting from me recently, since I’m trying to keep working on various musical projects of my own. More on these when I have something to show off. I’m listening to Noonday Underground today. They sound a lot like one of my projects. Except a bit more beaty. Similar in many ways though.

One thing I did do is launch the new browse page at Musical Taste. It’s live now. I hope there aren’t any bugs. Let me know if you spot any…

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Thanks to Calle from Sweden, who sent me a compilation in a trade, I’ve been listening to some great 80s pop music that I had never heard before. Interesting – all this stuff (Pale Fountains, Orange Juice, Aztec Camera, Prefab Sprout) was out when I was growing up, but I guess I was about 2 years too young. Or, more likely, too close-minded.

Lee Hazlewood: '13' (CD; Smells like records; 1971)
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13 is a funny little album, recorded in a style that's completely different to all of Lee's other material. 'Bouncy' is the best way to describe the sound; it's a funky blues-soul-pop hybrid with prominent horns, bass and drums.

There are just 9 tracks, with a total playing time of just over 25 minutes. I recognize a couple of the songs from Lee's earlier albums, although they're completely recast here in bouncy style: 'She comes running' and 'I move around' (the latter was also sung by Nancy Sinatra. The arrangements are pretty incredible, transforming these moody pop songs into party-sound foot-tappers. There are some entertaining words, for example in 'Ten or 11 towns ago' when Lee describes 'One week in San Francisco/existing on Nabisco'

Perhaps it's the short length and fast pace of the songs, but I come away feeling that most of the music on this record is pretty throwaway. This isn't to say it isn't effective, because it is, and I guess most of Lee's appeal lies in his lyrics and delivery in any case. The style is almost ridiculously peppy and bouncy sometimes, but this is still quite a compelling release.

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