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Category Archives: Vinyl

It’s a ’90s Thang

Dave Steed of Popdose has been doing a weekly exploration of vintage 1990s Bottom Feeders, songs that peaked at #41-100 in the Billboard Hot 100, for a couple of months now. Part 11, covering Brooks & Dunn through Tracy Byrd, has just been posted. Since I generally like most ’90s music except for the twangiest of Country and the most gangsta of Hip-Hop, there’s been a lot to enjoy. The neatest find so far has been this sly, Fugees-like cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody” by a female R&B duo known as The Braids. The single made it all the way to #42 in 1996 – so why is it so hard to believe I’d never heard of it until 2012?

A Fall Mix: Cheap, Painless & Easy

Time for the Fall 2011 Mix! I put together this one relatively quickly. The mix has some good flow, veering from current stuff to ’90s dance to kiddie music to ’80s pop and oldies in an interesting way. I called it Cheap, Painless & Easy (named after an older tune by retro pop band Ivy) since most of the tracks were obtained for free or next to nothing at various places —, eMusic, Bittorrent (hey, I didn’t say it was all legal). Some of it comes from old favorites with new (to me) songs, others came from various things I was fascinated by lately. Last month, for instance, I found that eMusic had most of the Sesame Street discography — including track #11 in this mix, “My Name.” I wonder if Eminem heard that one as a child? The cover art comes from my Jim Flora thrift store find, Pishtosh, Bullwash and Wimple.

That new album by Ivy, All Hours, is excellent by the way. The download version below is a continuous mix, done as a single 70-minute file. Enjoy the tuneage!

Download ‘Cheap, Painless & Easy: Fall 2011 Mix (66.93 MB Zip file)

Track listing:
1. Neon Indian — “Polish Girl” (Era Extraña, 2011)
2. Herb Alpert — “Beyond” (Beyond, 1980)
3. Cliff Martinez — “They’re Calling My Flight” (Contagion soundtrack, 2011)
4. Lady Gaga — “Fashion of His Love” (Born This Way bonus track, 2011)
5. Frankmuzik — “Ludicrous” (Do It in the AM, 2011)
6. Pet Shop Boys — “Flamboyant” (PopArt: The Hits, 2003)
7. Still Corners — “Endless Summer” (Cuckoo EP, 2011)
8. Ivy — “Everybody Knows” (All Hours, 2011)
9. Sarah Cracknell — “Taking Off for France” (Lipslide UK edition, 1997)
10. Madonna — “Deeper and Deeper (Instrumental)” (single b-side, 1992)
11. Bob, Gordon, Maria and Susan — “My Name” (Sesame Street: Aren’t You Glad You’re You?, 1977)
12. Bobby Caldwell — “All of My Love” (Carry On, 1983)
13. Melissa Manchester — “The End of the Affair” (Emergency, 1983)
14. Ben Rector — “Let the Good Times Roll” (Something Like This, 2011)
15. The Monkees — “Apples, Peaches, Bananas and Pears” (1966 outtake first issued on Missing Links, 1987)
16. The Mamas & The Papas — “You Baby” (If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears, 1966)
17. Matthew Sweet — “She Walks the Night” (Modern Art, 2011)
18. Baby Washington — “I Can’t Wait Until I See My Baby’s Face” (single a-side, 1964)
19. Dusty Springfield — “Small Town Girl” (The Look Of Love, 1967)
20. Johnny Crawford — “Cry On My Shoulder” (single a-side, 1963)

Who’s the Boss?

I’m sticking this one up since I’ve been grooving to Diana Ross’ 1980 LP diana today (not to be confused with 1970’s Diana Ross, or 1976’s Diana Ross, or 1978’s Ross. Miss Ross had a thing for egotistical album titles, eh?). Back when that album first came out, she did a TV special with Michael Jackson that I have vague memories of. Thanks to YouTube, I’ve found some of it.

I remember the footage of Diana and Michael doing “Upside Down” in concert, but this segment of Miss D. and Larry Hagman crooning together is totally new to me. Yeeks!

Boys Life

Occasionally I will get into a certain musical artist’s output during a specific time period — lately it’s been the Pet Shop Boys’ 1999-2004 output. I started off with ’99’s Nightlife, the last PSB disc I bought when it was new. This one got a mixed reception from fans, but I enjoyed it at the time and found on re-listen that it still holds up nicely, thankyouverymuch. Most of the album’s appeal comes from the airy, almost cinematic production by Rollo and Craig Armstrong. Some of the tunes have this beautiful, orchestral feel — which really comes in handy during the times when Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe’s dry irony gets laid on too thick (as on “Vampires”). As on other albums, they often go for the jugular in terms of emotion, something rarely heard in synth pop. The pathos of “You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk” is a good example of just how moving they can be.

Defying expectations, the Pet Shoppers followed Nighlife with 2002’s Release, a laid-back, guitar-oriented effort. This album was greeted with perhaps the worst reception of the boys’ entire career. People wanted nothing to do with a glum, introspective PSB, apparently. It’s actually not all that bad, but the shortage of memorable tunes doesn’t exactly make this a keeper, either. “Home and Dry” was the oddly bland choice for first single, with the anthemic (thanks to Johnny Marr’s guitar) “I Get Along” being a much improved follow-up. I ended up getting a cheap used copy of the deluxe Release recently. The album is pleasant chill out music, marred by the dated (and unnecessary) vocoder effects on several tracks. One highlight is “The Night I Fell In Love,” Tennant and Lowe’s airy tale of bedding a macho rapper who bears a striking resemblance to Eminem. That and “I Get Along” belong on a PSB’s Greatest compilation. The rest, not so much.

Completing my Pet Shop Boys journey meant downloading the two new tracks off their 2003 compilation, PopArt: The Hits. The sleek “Miracles” was a good stab at relevance, but the real stunner was “Flamboyant”. This and its b-side, “I Didn’t Get Where I Am Today,” count as two of my favorite PSB tracks. I’m also loving the “Flamboyant” video, a dizzying montage which includes clips of Japanese game show contestants making cleverly choreographed shapes from their bodies. Like the Pet Shop Boys themselves, it’s bizarre and brilliant at the same time.

Can’t Forget the Motor City

My exploration of Hip-o Select‘s Complete Motown Singles box sets brings me to volume 2, which covers the year 1962. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this one too much, since at this point Motown was still a scrappy Detroit-based R&B label — interesting, but not quite the legendary hit machine it would become in 1965-69. Whatever it lacked in hits is gained in context, however. At four discs, it is somewhat shorter than the other TCMS sets — but I think that conciseness works in the set’s favor. Listening to all 112 tracks in order paints a picture of a small but upwardly mobile, positively African American enterprise guided by the sure hand of founder Berry Gordy, Jr. Gordy personally wrote and produced many of these tracks, both well-known and obscure. His touch adds a lot of quirky personality to these sets that would be smoothed out in the years to come.

By 1962 many Motown songs were crossing over to the (white) pop charts, but by and large it peddled energetic R&B to a primarily black audience. Gordy was also branching out to jazz, country and gospel with new sub-labels Workshop Jazz, Mel-o-Dy and Divinity — examples from which pepper this set, but never overwhelm as on the ’63 and ’64 volumes. Mostly it was R&B ballads and dance tunes, however, simply produced but with just enough of a “spark” to give it mass appeal and an enduring quality. Probably the best examples from this year came via trio of pleasant, Latin-influenced hits that Smokey Robinson crafted for Mary Wells — “The One Who Really Loves You,” “You Beat Me To The Punch,” and “Two Lovers.” 1962 was also the year that Marvin Gaye transformed from a limp Nat “King” Cole wannabe into a bona fide R&B star. His “Stubborn Kind Of Fellow” is one of the more infectious tunes here, along with “Do You Love Me” by The Contours (later popularized on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack). It was also a good year for The Marvelettes, who had a good run of wistful, quintessential Girl Group turns led by raspy-voiced Gladys Horton (“Beechwood 4-5789”). It’s also interesting to hear early, non-hit sides by The Supremes and The Temptations here; Gordy obviously knew that both groups had talented vocalists that deserved wider exposure. The effort would pay off in spades later on.

We all know that well-known “Golden Oldies” drive projects like this, but the obscurities and one shots on these sets are also, suprisingly, worth hearing. The 1962 set in particular has a lot of great, gritty R&B sides by the likes of Hattie Littles, Gino Parks and Henry Lumpkin that never caught on simply because that style of music wasn’t too hip in 1962. There’s also a few goofy novelties here that are worth mentioning. “Hang On Pearl,” about a guy frantically trying to save his drowning girlfriend, didn’t do much for singer Bob Kayli but it’s a hilarious tune all the same. “Exodus” by Hank & Carol Diamond is an earnest if kitschy jazz ditty that has a strong whiff of Happy Hour at the Holiday Inn. Another intriguing novelty was “I Call It Pretty Music But The Old People Call It The Blues,” the debut single from a precocious blind youngster called Little Stevie Wonder.

These are cool sets, beautifully packaged and worth it for the detailed track-by-track liner notes alone. The Complete Motown Singles, Volume 2: 1962 came out in 2005 in a limited edition run of 8,000; later years have already gone out of print, but new copies of this particular volume can still be had via Amazon Marketplace at this link.

A Summer Mix: Plastic Fantastic

Hot and sticky nights require the perfect soundtrack. How about Plastic Fantastic, the Summer 2011 Mix?

I originally intended this mix to center around synth-based New Wave and contemporary songs with a similar, programmed-by-robots feel. It did end up that way for the first half, but the rest is more of the retro-lounge and soul that typifies my other mixes. Regarding the pleasantly purple cover design, the main image of Mr. and Mrs. Plastic comes from a manilla folder full of photocopied old magazine ads that I’ve had sitting in my files for 20-odd years. As the tenth anniversary mix, Plastic Fantastic is also something of a milestone. When I did the Is There A Stain On Mai Tai? mix in Summer 2001, I had no idea they’d still be going a decade later. Time flies!

As with our Spring Good Thing mix, Plastic Fantastic is presented as a continuous hour-plus mix. Track listing is below, with YouTube links where I could find them. Enjoy!

Download ‘Plastic Fantastic: Summer 2011 Mix’.

Track Listing:
1. Chic – “Le Freak” (Z-Trip Golden Mix) (The Disco Breaks Mega Mix, 2010)
2. Oú Est Le Swimming Pool – “Dance The Way I Feel” (single, 2009)
3. Daft Punk – “Derezzed” (Tron: Legacy soundtrack, 2010)
4. Plastics – “Top Secret Man” (Welcome Plastics, 1979)
5. The B-52’s – “52 Girls” (The B-52’s, 1979)
6. Devo – “Come Back Jonee” (Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, 1978)
7. The Buggles – “Clean, Clean” (The Age Of Plastic, 1980)
8. Talking Heads – “Air” (Fear Of Music, 1979)
9. Lipps, Inc. – “Rock It” (7″ edit of a track from Mouth To Mouth, 1980)
10. Janelle Monáe ft. Of Montreal – “Make The Bus” (The ArchAndroid, 2010)
11. Lío – “Suite Sixtine” (Suite Sixtine, 1982)
12. De-Phazz – “Something Special” (Death By Chocolate, 2001)
13. Tipsy – “Big Business” (Buzzz, 2008)
14. Arling & Cameron & Swarte – “Jealousie” (Sound Shopping, 2001)
15. Fitz & The Tantrums – “Don’t Gotta Work It Out” (Songs For A Break Up: Vol. 1 EP, 2009)
16. Noisettes – “So Complicated” (Wild Young Hearts, 2009)
17. Sheryl Crow – “Summer Day” (100 Miles From Memphis, 2010)
18. Adele – “He Won’t Go” (21, 2011)
19. Sade – “When Am I Going To Make A Living” (Diamond Life, 1984)
20. Peter White ft. Basia – “Just Another Day” (Caravan Of Dreams, 1996)
21. Marshall Crenshaw – “Starless Summer Sky” (Miracle Of Science, 1996)