Thursday, April 28, 2016

Playlist for 4/28

South Texas Rhythm 'N' Soul Revue Vol. 1 & 2 - Various (Ace)
Pines -Above the Prarie
Margo Price - Midwest Farmer's Daughter
Wayfaring Strangers: Cosmic American Music/Ladies From The Canyon (Numero)
Teddy Pendergrass - TP/Teddy  (2016 reissue)
Maze - Live In New Orleans/Live In Los Angeles   (2016 reissue)
Anthony Hamilton - What I'm Feelin'
Mayer Hawthorne - Man About Town
Internet - Ego Death
Noel Ellis - s/t
Struts - Everybody Wants
Deep Purple - Burn

Monday, April 25, 2016

Prince & Completism

The only other artist whose every recorded moment I had to have was Elvis Presley.  Prince was the second one.  Purple Rain set off my obsession.  And by the mid-80's Prince was already recording too much stuff to put out.  So, he relegated some of his newer songs to the B-side of hit singles.  Tracks like "Hello", "17 Days", "Another Lonely Christmas", "Erotic City".  All ended up being flipped over by Prince obsessed fans like me.  The best of these of course was "Erotic City".  Never a single, but did get airplay on Top 40 stations.

The biggest bootleg I ever tracked down was the infamous Black Album recorded in 1987, but not officially released until 1994.  An album that was supposed to be the followup to Sign "O" The Times, but shelved by Prince at the last minute.  But I had a CD of it before Prince, in an effort to fulfill his Warner contract, finally let go of it.

In 1998 another odd Prince project came out.  It was a 3CD set called Crystal Ball/Truth consisting of vault stuff and separate CD of newer acoustic songs.  Available only as a mail order or Internet only order, but eventually was sold in stores exclusively through Blockbuster, which is where I bought mine.

From 2000 until he died Prince's albums sold less and less but he was still dropping new product almost yearly.  I had to have them all, well the studio albums at least.  If you've heard of titles like Rainbow Children, N.E.W.S., Planet Earth, Lotus Flower3r/MPLSound, 20Ten (never released in U.S., but easily streamed), Plectrumelectrum, Art Official Age, HitnRun Phase One & 2, then you are as big a fan as me.  None of these sold and most were quickly reviewed and forgotten.  But there's good stuff scattered throughout them, just no classics.  Prince's focus was turning more to stage than records.

When Prince's death was announced I took a look at all his CD's that I accumulated and realized what a life of music he gave Prince nuts like me, and during his classic 80's period, all other Prince fans.
If they ever need someone to compile a Box Set of his career, I'd volunteer in a second.  Until then, let his unreleased vault do its magic.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

"When Doves Cry"

"When Doves Cry" was iconic they moment it was released.  There simply wasn't anything out there before or after.  It's a Rock song, with funk elements.  In order to appreciate it, you have to devour the nearly 7 minute Purple Rain version (skip the truncated single version).

I first heard it when driving home from work, listening to my local Top 40 station.  The DJ announced it as Prince's brand new song.  The opening guitar riff had me intrigued, and then it took off.  What is this and when can I hear it again?  It was the first single off of Purple Rain.  Neither the film or album had been released.  So, this was our first look at what Prince had been up to since 1999 made him an MTV and Top 40 fixture.

Again, some songs announce themselves the moment you listen.  "Stayin' Alive" is another example.  I know people have other favorites off of Purple Rain, but I've never gotten over the initial thrill of "When Doves Cry".  I think it's Prince's ultimate masterpiece.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Prince: His Best Albums

Prince's albums up until the mid-90's are uniformly strong.  As the 2000's were ushered in, Prince's records all had a few good cuts, but were lacking the originality we came to expect from his early days.  I hope someone will release a compilation of Prince's late 00's work.

So, my own list is top heavy with the classic stuff.

Dirty Mind
Purple Rain
Sign O' The Times

Every music fan should have the above 5 in their collection.  These are Prince's best albums and show his depth better than anything:  Funk, Rock, Pop, Soul, Gospel and any other genre he was inventing.

Very Good
Around The World In A Day
Diamonds and Pearls
Love Symbol Album
Gold Experience
Black Album

Controversy followed Dirty Mind in 1981 and was seen as being less daring than that album, but still has some great moments.  Same fate for Around The World In A Day which followed Purple Rain. But today it stands as a neat stylistic departure.   Lovesexy from 1988, had a great, overlooked hit "Alphabet Street".  Diamonds and Pearls (1991) was sort of a comeback album chartwise, as it was released after the terrible movie Graffiti Bridge.  It has Prince's last #1 single, "Cream". The Love Symbol Album followed and was one of his funkiest albums. Gold Experience contains Prince's last big Top 40 hit, the #3 "Most Beautiful Girl In The World".   Both it and Emancipation released in the mid-90's and kind of forgotten today. Finally, the Black Album, recorded in 1987 but not released until 1994 was to be the followup to Sign O' The Times but shelved at the last minute.  It became a big bootleg album for years.  It's a good album, not a classic, but full of odd songs.

Graffiti Bridge
Prince (1979)
Crystal Ball
Chaos and Disorder
Art Official Age

If some of the titles don't seem obscure to you, then you are as much a die-hard as me.  For most, a lot of these were completely forgotten by even curious Prince fans. The latest album on this list is 2014's Art Official Age.  I'm kind of fond of the Batman album.  All have their moments, and again I hope someone compiles a latter day Prince compilation.

Greatest Hits Sets
Hits/B-Sides  (1993)
Very Best Of  (2001)
Ultimate  (2006)
4Ever (2016)

4Ever was released after Prince died and is the best of the bunch, even though it stops at 1993.  None of the others contain anything post-1993.  Very Best Of is a single disc, Hits/B-Sides a triple and Ultimate/4Ever are double discs.  Ultimate has a few 12" mixes for collectors.

Friday, April 22, 2016

25 Overlooked Prince Songs

I figure most people will post their favorite Prince songs, so I've decided to take another route and post 25 of my favorite, overlooked Prince cuts.  Most of these are from his peak years 80's/90's.

My only criteria is that they would be songs that you don't hear anymore, but are beloved by Prince maniacs.  A few were minor Top 40 hits, but don't get airtime nowadays. And, of course, this list could go on forever. Lots of great album cuts in his catalog.

Ballad of Dorothy Parker
Call My Name
Courtin' Time
4 The Tears In Your Eyes
Hot Thing
How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore
Money Don't Matter 2 Night
Sexy M.F.
Soft and Wet
Sometimes It Snows In April
Starfish and Coffee
There Is Lonely
When 2 R In Love
Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad

Thursday, April 21, 2016

R.I.P. Prince

Prince was going to live forever.  And he always seemed to be here. There were artists whose new music you couldn't wait to here.  That's how it was with Prince.  He was one of the few artists whose non-album B-sides I would devour.  My Prince infatuation began with Purple Rain.  The movie was good, the soundtrack a classic.  One of my most-played albums.  Purple Rain made me go back to his earlier stuff.  Dirty Mind would be my 2nd favorite.  1987's double disc Sign "O" The Times continues to fascinate me.  Sometime in the late 90's, Prince's music no longer clicked.  It's hard to maintain the level of genius he did for so long.  He was still putting out albums up until 2015, and all of those had hints of past glories.

Most of Prince's greatest musical moments occurred on stage.  Once the records no longer sold, he became a concert fixture.  And reviews were always glowing.  I saw Prince in 1993 in San Francisco.  It was during his "slave" period in which he railed against Warner Brothers for what he considered their poor contract with him.

One thing I hope people remember is that Prince had a sly, wicked humor about him.  And the mystery of who he was will continue because Prince rarely did interviews.

Still, my early fascination never waned even when he did stuff that didn't live up to his past work.  He was an innovator.  Mixing up his R&B, Funk, Rock, Pop into a heady mix.  You could also add Jazz and some Folk to that brew.  Usually, all in the same song.

And we can't forget the songs he wrote that were turned into hits by others:  "Manic Monday", "I Feel For You", "Do Me Baby", "Nothing Compares 2 U".  Those Sheila E., Sheena Easton and Time hits as well.

A once in a lifetime talent.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Playlist for 4/17

Merle Haggard - Let Me Tell You About A Song
Merle Haggard - It's Not Love
Merle Haggard - Keep Movin' On
Merle Haggard - Roots of My Raising
Merle Haggard - My Love Affair With Trains
Merle Haggard - Land of Many Churches
Merle Haggard - It's All In The Movies

Friday, April 15, 2016

Playlist for 4/15

Merle Haggard - Working Man Can't Get Nowhere
Merle Haggard - It's All In The Game
Merle Haggard - Way I Am
Merle Haggard - Chill Factor
Merle Haggard - Amber Waves Of Grain
Merle Haggard - Kern River
Merle Haggard & Willie Nelson - Seashores of Old Mexico
Merle Haggard & Bonnie Owens - Just Between The Two Of Us

Thursday, April 14, 2016

ICYMI: Looking at 8 Genres & The Rock Hall

Below are 8 links to posts I wrote about what R&B, Blues, Country, Non-Performers, Hip Hop, New Wave, Indie, Alternative, Women and Music critics could be inductees of the Rock Hall.

All have been updated for the 2017 induction.

With 2017 prediction season in full bloom, there's bound to be a name or two on those lists that might pique your interest.

I'm open to any suggestions of names that I might have missed.

R&B Artists and the Rock Hall

Blues Artists and the Rock Hall

Country Artists and the Rock Hall

Non-Performers & The Rock Hall

Music Critics and the Rock Hall

Hip Hop and the Rock Hall

Women and the Rock Hall

New Wave/Alternative/Indie and the Rock Halll

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Playlist for 4/9

Buddy Miller and Friends - Cayamo Sessions At Sea
Paul Kosoff - Back Street Crawler
Mahavishnu Orchestra - Apocalypse
ELP - Pictures at an Exhibition/ELP
Joni Mitchell - Mingus

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

R.I.P. Merle Haggard

Whenever the my Dad and I talked about Country music, he always reminded me that I saw Merle Haggard, Charley Pride, Loretta Lynn and others in 1969/1970 while we lived in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.  Only problem was, I didn't remember seeing any of them.  I have vague memories of going to concerts, but I was 5 & 6 years old during that time.
Move ahead to the late 90's and I finally did catch Merle Haggard in concert.  It was a County Fair show, free with admission.  Not the main stage, but a side one.  We had good seats, and Hag was in great voice.  Played lots of guitar too, which surprised me. Sang just about all the classics.  I remember buying a T-shirt.  

Merle Haggard wasn't just a Country music giant.  We know he'd be on everybody's Mt. Rushmore of giants of that genre, but he was also a giant of music, period.  As a singer Haggard was influenced by Lefty Frizzell (and even Frank Sinatra), but he found his own style pretty quick.  And only Hank Williams can rival Haggard as a Country songwriter.  His catalog is vast.  Over 60 studio albums and most are top quality.  It's no surprise that he consistently ranks as the #1 Country artist of all time in various polls.  The songs he wrote covered lots of ground.  And there was no way you could narrow him down to just one thing.  He really wrote and released whatever he wanted.  

Instead of coming up with a list of the usual Haggard songs, I've put together a bunch of songs that you probably don't hear very often on your local Country Classic radio station.  Below are overlooked/underrated songs that deserve some love no matter where you get your next Hag fix.

Better Love Next Time
Big Time Annie's Square
C.C. Waterback (w/George Jones)
California Cottenfields
Friend In California
From Graceland To The Promised Land
Grandma Harp
Holding Things Together
I Had A Beautiful Time
If I Could Only Fly
In The Good Old Days
Irma Jackson
It's All Going To Pot (w/Willie Nelson)
It's All In The Movies
It's Not Love (But It's Not Bad)
Kern River
Let's Chase Each Other Around The Room
Make-Up and Faded Blue Jeans
Mama's Hungry Eyes
Misery and Gin
My Own Kind Of Hat
Natural High
Place To Fall Apart
Seashores of Old Mexico  (w/Willie Nelson)
That's The News
Tulare Dust
Way I Am
What Am I Gonna Do
What Have You Got Planned Tonight Diana?
Working Man Can't Get Nowhere Today
You Take Me For Granted

Haggard's albums number over 60, but most are worth checking out.  Except for a lapse in the late 80's and 90's, everything else is worth your time.
Some of my personal picks:
Pride In What I Am  (1968)
Same Train, A Different Time (1969)
Tribute To The Best Damn Fiddle Player In The World  (1970)
Someday We'll Look Back  (1971)
Hag  (1971)
Serving 190 Proof  (1979)
Big City  (1981)
Pancho & Lefty w/Willie Nelson  (1982)
Friend In California   (1986)
If I Could Only Fly  (2000)
Last of the Breed (w/Willie Nelson, Ray Price 2007)
I Am What I Am  (2010)
Working In Tennessee  (2011)
Django and Jimmie  w/Willie Nelson  (2015)


Sunday, April 03, 2016

Playlist for 4/3

Carrie Rodriguez - Lola
Charles Bradley - Changes
1975- I Like It When You Sleep
M. Ward -  More Rain
Esperanza Spalding - Emily's D+Evolution

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Music Years of My Life: 1984

1984 was the year I discovered that there was a vast history of Rock and Roll that I knew little about.  Oldies?  Sure I heard them and even listened to them.  I worked at a hotel in 1984 and one of the cook's would keep his radio tuned to an oldies station.  On Saturday's Wolfman Jack's syndicated show would come on.  Records that in my childhood days would go right past me were now catching my ear.

Also in 1984 I bought two books that not only looked at the albums of the day but music of the past:  The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (1983 edition) and Robert Christgau's Rock Albums of the 70's (1981).  Christgau's book I remember skimming though in a library in 1982.  But with interest music before 1984, I decided to finally buy both of them.

The third thing that fueled my oldies obsession was making 1 or 2 trips a month to Tower Records.  The nearest Tower store was 60-90 minutes away, so given a free day I'd make a trip.  And having read both of those books and doing even more research at my local library, I found myself heading to Tower's oldies sections more often.

Happily, the catalog reissue boom was just starting to take shape.  Rhino Records was off and running as were imported catalog titles.  And even major labels were digging deeper than they had in the past.  My Tower trips were getting expensive.  While I would still buy the latest titles locally, the only way to find deep catalog was by going out of town.  Might be hard to believe, but I owned very little Beatles titles in 1984.  And not many more Elvis Presley ones.  But other names were on my mind.  Oldies stations were easier to find in 1984, and I would seek them out.  And my library reading on the history of Rock had me scooping up many of the originators. I'd come back from Tower with Greatest Hits albums by the Everly Brothers, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Dion, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, etc.  Moving forward came more Hits albums, everyone from the Doors to the Monkees to the Band.

One time I decided to take a night trip to Tower.  For the whole ride I put on an oldies channel.  I became transfixed by the Flamingos' "I Only Have Eyes For You".  A perfect nightime record.  Have I heard this before?  Probably.  But now I'm floored.  I've got to have this record.  This is how it started.  It's something I still do today.  Buried treasures are still out there.

1984 was also the year where I first started to buy Country oldies.  Merle Haggard, George Jones, Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, etc.  It's a glorious time for the music biz, right?  Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) is in its last years, before the fragmentation of radio formats.  Albums are selling in the millions.  It's the era of the Big Blockbuster Album.  Thanks to Thriller.  We now have monsters like Born In The USA, Purple Rain, Footloose.  MTV is King.  Everyone is happy.  Labels, artists, radio, tour promoters.

For the next few years, until the Compact Disc comes into my life, my vinyl collection grew substantively as I added oldies along with current titles.  A glorious time for the music biz?  Nope, I look back 32 years later and consider it a glorious time for me.  Discovering new music in old titles.

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