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Weekly Vinyl – Jean-Luc Ponty

26 May

Live
Jean-Luc Ponty
(1979)

I bought this album used back in the early 1980s when I was trying to make sense out of the years I was studying violin.
I never really wanted to play the violin – I wanted to play guitar. But as a child I was overruled.
This album introduced me to the fact that the violin can be more than an instrument for classical music or folk dirges. It can be quite cool. It also introduced me to the world of jazz and improvisational music.
I like this album. The violin playing by Mr. Ponty is quite incredible. The band is rock solid in backing this violin virtuoso.
I have not heard this album for many years and I’m glad I pulled it out and gave it a good listen.
I should pull my violin out and start playing that as well.

19 May

Weekly Vinyl – Ramones

Rocket to Russia
Ramones
(1977)

Rocket to Russia.
Appropriate given the times we live in.
But that’s not what this album is about.
It is about the exhilaration of being unencumbered by pre-set notions.
Really!?!?!?
This is bubble-gum pop dressed up as anti-establishment propaganda.
What?!?!?!?!?!
It is all this.
And more.
Rocket to Russia is a definitive album that everybody should have. Everybody at least should listen to this album as a complete entity. Don’t listen to just the “hits”.
I’m not gonna list them out. Every song is a gem. A short piercing gem.
Listen to the whole album.
Brilliant.

Weekly Vinyl – Mancini

12 May

Theme From “Z” and other film music
Henry Mancini and his orchestra
(1970)

This is a strange album. As the title suggests, it is film music.
It is unmistakable film music. My wife heard the album and asked what film soundtrack I’m listening to.
It is cliché film music.
I remember seeing a book called “How to score film music.” I guess this is the album that should accompany that book.
Clever quips aside – there are a few problems with this disk.
The main is that the songs are quite indistinguishable in their blasé pastiche. It is schmaltz thinly spread on white bread (not toasted). The only song that stands out is Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head and I can’t get it out of my head now.
The other main problem is that the music is not credited – did Henry Mancini compose all this? Did someone else? It does say that he arranged all the music – so who is the original composer?
It is a well-produced recording that could be used effectively to stop teenagers congregating in certain places. Put this on a loop and you’ll have everybody fleeing the area.

Weekly Vinyl – Newhart

5 May

Bob Newhart
Bob Newhart
(1980)

I like Bob Newhart. I still do.
But as I’m listening to this album I realize just how dated it really is.
It is still funny, but the pacing is very slow. The comedy is rather subtle. It is rather one-dimensional and lacks the big huge laughs that today’s comics must deliver. You really have to listen to this guy or you will miss the funny bits.
I love his bit Introducing Tobacco To Civilization. (This title, along with other bits in his comedy would not pass muster with some of the members of the Politically Correct Police.) The subtlety as he relays the phone call from Sir Water Raleigh back to England describing tobacco and its use is great. The comedy does dim in the age of email and text messaging though.
This is a great album from a great comic that I will have to force my kids to listen to some day.

Weekly Vinyl – Ink Spots

21 Apr

10 of the Best Ink Spot Hits
The Ink Spots
(1970s?)

I think this was acquired because of the association with the ink spot tests that are performed by psychologists (the Rorschach tests).
I certainly did not know that the Ink Spots were a famous band in the 1930s and 40s. Listening to this you get a feel that this was done way back when. The music ok – it is old time music – a precursor to pop music, to do-wop, to rock music. But it has roots in the big band era as well.
The biggest with this album is the packaging. You have no indication of the music. It could be a comedy album, judging by the cover. The notes on the back explain how a vinyl record is recorded and manufactured. There is no mentioned of who the Ink Spots are/were or what their music represented. It even has a 3-year guarantee that stipulates that if the record wears out in three years you will have it replaced with a new one for the cost of one dollar shipping and handling.
Truly bizarre packaging – but a nice album.

Weekly Vinyl – Rare Beatles

14 Apr

Rarities
The Beatles
(1980)

Is it still possible for there to anything to uncover about the Beatles?
This, the first great group of Rock ‘n Roll.
The first Kings of Pop.
Every once in a while the internet announces that something “new” has been discovered from the Beatles past – be they songs, pictures, notebooks, whatever. Most people ignore this as they did with Elvis Presley sightings back in the day.
The music here is not earth shattering – it is The Beatles after all. In its time – perhaps revolutionary. But I’ve heard most of these tunes in a Muzak version on an elevator or in a shopping mall – so the edge has worn off.
What is interesting here are the notes on the back cover that explain why the particular track was chosen and its significance. This would no doubt be of interest to a tru Beatles fan.

Weekly Vinyl – Silesian Saturdays

7 Apr

Saturdays in Silesia (EP)
Rational Youth
(1982)

What a joyous song.
What pure electro-pop. Pure synth-pop.
Saturdays in Silesia is clean. The beat is pronounced. It is fresh. It is crisp.
This is a great pop song.
Rational Youth were a band out of Montreal that was prominent in the early 1980s. I should say they are a band as they are still around.
They have a sizable discography and had a few hits but they are all overshadowed by this one. There is another song on this EP, Pile Ou Face, but when that is playing you just want to hear Saturdays in Silesia again.
The song really hits one out of the park and I’m sure the band feels that it is a blessing and a curse.
It is a great song.