Wednesday, February 24, 2016

"Repo Man"

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack:  “Repo Man”
Secondhand Vinyl Album  (Purchased at Total Drag Sioux Falls, SD)
Original Release Date:  1984  San Andreas Records
(My Rating:  5 Stars)

Side A
Repo Man  (Iggy Pop)
Tv Party  (Black Flag)
Institutionalized  (Suicidal Tendencies)
Coup D’Etat  (The Circle Jerks)
El Clavo Y La Cruz  (The Plugz)

Side B
Pablo Picasso  (Burning Sensations)
Let’s Have A War  (Fear)
When The Shit Hits The Fan  (The Circle Jerks)
Hombre Secreto (Secret Agent Man)  (The Plugz)
Bad Man  (Juicy Bananas)
Reel Ten  (The Plugz)

   I would like to begin this review by making a confession.  “I know virtually nothing about the genre of punk music.”  There, I admitted it.  I can finally stop nodding my head in agreement while people spout off about how influential bands like the Dead Kennedys and Bad Religion are.  Now that the cat’s finally out of the bag I can say, “Uh…I’ve never heard those bands before.”  Yes, it’s only taken me 36 years to fess up to the fact that my experience with the punk rock scene has basically been limited to three bands;  The Clash, The Ramones, and The Misfits.  As I’m writing this I can’t help but wonder why this statement is true.  While my exposure to punk has been embarrassingly limited I will say the bands I just mentioned are all, “5 Star,” artists in my book. Considering I hold all of these bands in such high regard one would think I would’ve tried to expand my horizons on this movement.  However, it always seemed daunting to me.  I never knew where to start.  I wish someone would’ve given me the, “Repo Man,” soundtrack a long time ago and said, “Here kid, get a little nuts.”
   I remember when I saw the cult classic movie, “Repo Man,” for the first time.  Even as a small child, (who was probably not supposed to be watching such oddities), I remember thinking, “this is definitely a little nuts!”  Somehow I stored that thought away in my admittedly easy to distract mind and have always regarded this movie as fascinating.  Keeping this in mind when I spotted the, "Repo Man," soundtrack on vinyl I snapped it up in a hurry.  This was regardless of the fact that the entire album is basically an homage to the 80’s LA hardcore punk scene.  “It’s about time I check this out,” I thought.
   All I can say now is, “Boy, was I right!”  One of my favorite songs on the album is, “TV Party,” by Black Flag.  I remember while in high school always crushing on the boys that wore the Black Flag t-shirts.  I honestly had no idea what the band sounded like but figured with a name like, “Black Flag,” they had to be bad ass.  Now, nineteen years later, I’ve finally heard one of their songs and guess what, I didn’t find them bad ass at all!  If anything I found their version of rebellion more of the tongue-in-cheek variety.  An example of this can be found through this song's lyrics. Here Black Flag chants in amazingly fun, sing song style, “We’ve got nothing better to do.  Than watch TV and have a couple of brews.”  It soon became clear to me that Black Flag had constructed the ultimate anthem of under achievement.  No wonder I was crazy about it.
   Returning to the word, “crazy”, another notable song on this soundtrack is, “Institutionalized,” by Suicidal Tendencies.  During the song this band expresses a fantastic release of angst while relaying through spoken word a questionably fictitious story about the mental health of a juvenile.  While listening to this song I couldn’t help but think, “Where the heck was this music while I was going through all of my teenage grief?!”  I felt so passionate about missing out on this song the first time around that I mentioned it to my brother who quickly responded by perfectly reciting the lyrics back to me.  Apparently, he was in on all the original angst.
   At this time I would also like to mention how surprised I was at the number of songs on the album, “Repo Man,” that were recited in spoken word.  Initially, I would’ve guessed this occurrence was a result of the cliché idea that, “Punk musicians can’t play their instruments.”  However, the more I listened to the songs on this album the more I realized that this statement is simply untrue.  Songs like, “Pablo Picasso,” by Burning Sensations and, “Let’s Have A War,” by Fear both contain impressive saxophone solos that left this listener mystified by how wrong she’d always viewed this genre.  Note to self, “The most punk rock dude in the joint may have started out by playing, “Louie Louie,” for the pep band.”
   Finally I would like to define my favorite group featured on this soundtrack as, The Plugz.  Before hearing this album I had no idea who this band was.  Now that I’ve been introduced to three of their songs I can’t stop talking about them.  According to one of my favorite websites,, The Plugz are considered to be the first Latino punk band.  Considering they don’t speak any English during these songs, all I have to base my opinion on is their instrumental music.  As a result my opinion is, “Their music is awesome!”  I would describe The Plugz style as a hybrid of rockabilly, ska, and get this…ambient music?!  The specific songs presented on this album feature talented musicians playing saxophones, guitars, and synthesizers.  Combine the skill of these rock artists with the enthusiastic yips and howls typical of classic mariachi music and you’ve got The Plugz, a.k.a. one hell of a fun band to listen to.  I guess this rather novice listener always thought punk rock was only about being angry.  I forgot being angry can sometimes be a lot of fun.

"Hombre Secreto" by The Plugz:

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

"Songs From The Big Chair"

Tears For Fears:  “Songs From The Big Chair”
Secondhand Vinyl Album
Original Release Date:  1985 PolyGram Records

Side 1
The Working Hour
Everybody Wants To Rule The World
Mothers Talk

Side 2
I Believe
Head Over Heels

   The album, “Songs From The Big Chair,” by Tears For Fears has accomplished the near impossible.  My love of this record runs so deep it actually made this admittedly OCD blogger create a NEW category while rating her music.  At this time I would like to introduce the first selection in the, “END OF THE WORLD SURVIVAL PICK,” rating.  Basically the title is self-explanatory, this is one of the albums I would try to preserve for any post-apocalyptic society that may find themselves rebuilding the culture of music.  Also, it's one of those records I would selfishly try to save simply because I couldn't bear to think about never hearing it again.  I guess I began thinking about creating a category like this after recently re-watching one of my favorite movies, “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.”  During this film actress, Keira Knightley, plays the role of a flaky twenty-something who decides the only thing she needs to grab while fleeing her apartment during a riot, spawned by the impending end of the world, is her favorite records.  I thought, “Uh, yeah that makes sense.  I better start planning what to take now.”  Hence, my new category is born.  I have a feeling I may need a wheelbarrow to carry all of my selections when the fateful end actually arrives.  This all being stated, I believe it’s probably fairly obvious that I absolutely adore the album, “Songs From The Big Chair.”  Oddly enough, I have no recollection on how I actually acquired this record.  It’s like one day it just appeared among the others.  I’m thinking it's arrival was probably a divine intervention thing intended to get me prepared for well…you know…"THE END."
   The first thing I’ll state about this album is that I find it incredibly hard to review it in the usual song by song manner.  Here, more than any other record I’ve reviewed so far, is an example of a true concept piece.  However, I would like to note that the specific concept introduced by the band Tears For Fears differs significantly from the themes presented by so many other groups.  Instead of creating a record with an easily categorized topic, “Songs From The Big Chair,” forms a cohesiveness through mostly instrumental sound.  (Example:  The Band’s self-titled record was a concept album that could easily be defined as a work paying homage to 19th Century Americana.  The Tears For Fears record, “Songs From The Big Chair,” is much more complex to label. During this album there is no definite theme linking the songs other than pure cohesion of sound.) 
   In addition, this album presents a solid case for the idea that even hit singles can sound so much better when enjoyed in their original format.  In fact, this blogger would be willing to argue that it’s the songs in between hits like, “Shout,” and the iconic 80’s anthem, “Everybody Wants To Rule The World,” that actually elevate this record to greatness.  Particular examples of this can be found during the song, “The Working Hour,” where it became extremely clear to this listener that not only was she going to have to add a category to her rating system, but she was going to have to redefine her idea of what genre the band Tears For Fears actually fits into.  During this song a grand piano perfectly accompanies gorgeous saxophone solos and crystal clear vocals, creating a feeling reminiscent of smooth jazz…but the good kind…like the ridiculously good kind.  Later in the album the song, “Mothers Talk,” skews a listener’s perception yet again by creating an almost industrial feel through drum sound worthy of current band's like, Nine Inch Nails.  At this point, a reader may be wondering how it’s possible to transform noise from smooth jazz to industrial techno during the course of one album and still maintain a perfectly cohesive sound.  I have to admit that even after about twenty listens I’m still wondering too.  For this reason I won't hesitate to define Tears For Fears founder, Roland Orzabal, a musical genius.
   It’s this blogger's opinion that the height of this bands' talent is best exhibited on Side 2 of, “Songs From The Big Chair.”  Here it’s virtually impossible to decipher where one song ends and another begins.  This is most prominently displayed during the piece, “Broken,” where the band provides a medley type song, featuring many of the album's overall sounds.  Suddenly, this collaboration of noise is interrupted by yet another hit single, “Head Over Heels.”  Interestingly enough, as soon as the last note of this song is uttered the album launches straight into the instrumental chorus line of, “Broken,” again as if, “Head Over Heels,” was just a euphoric dream that actually never was on the album in the first place.  Again, in this case I blame divine intervention.  Perhaps the song, "Head Over Heels," never did exist. Furthermore, maybe the whole album, "Songs From The Big Chair," is simply a beautiful dream, because concoctions of sound that include aspects of new wave, jazz, industrial techno, and pop are simply too good to be true.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Cher:  “Cher”
Secondhand Vinyl Album
Original Release Date:  1971 Kapp Records
My Rating:  (3 Stars)

Side One
The Way Of Love
Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves
He’ll Never Know
Fire & Rain
When You Find Out Where You’re Goin’ Let Me Know

Side Two
He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother
I Hate To Sleep Alone
I’m In The Middle
Touch And Go
One Honest Man

   To begin, I would first like to address that I’m aware that the album entitled, “Cher,” pictured above is also known by the name, “Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves.”  Apparently, this record was originally released simply as, “Cher.”  However, eventually it was re-released under an alternative name.  Of course, this was only after the song, “Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves,” received massive attention as Cher’s first solo number one hit.  I decided to review this album under its’ original title, considering the copy I own was obviously pressed before the renaming.  This all being stated, I can certainly understand why Kapp Records eventually decided to feature the song, “Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves,” as the title track of Cher’s album.  
   Apparently, much like the rest of the United States during November 1971, this blogger admits to having a total addiction to this song.  It's without a doubt my favorite piece on the album.  One can only describe it as being that tune on the stereo that ends and you immediately press the repeat button.  The final lyric states, “But every night all the men would come around, And lay their money down,” and this blogger thinks, “Again!” before Cher has finished uttering her last note.  If not for the fact that I only possess this song on vinyl, I could realistically imagine myself listening to it about forty times in a row.  However, that’s a lot of maneuvering a turntable arm, especially considering this gem of a story is literally shy of three minutes long.  I refer to, “Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves,” as a, "story," because that’s exactly what it is.  While hearing the lyrics of this song, I envision the tale of a beautifully exotic bohemian girl’s scandal being revealed by the rich and sultry voice of Cher, yet another beautiful exotic bohemian girl.  Not only does this song provide a narrative full of provocative plot lines, (underage sex and unplanned pregnancy), it also possesses background music by accomplished studio musicians, The Wrecking Crew.  In order to substantiate these musicians' skill level I'll mention that this group eventually became known as record producer, Phil Spector’s, house band.
   Unfortunately, it seems The Wrecking Crew was not available to play on every song of the album, “Cher,” which brings me to my biggest criticism of this record.  Despite the fact that songs like, “He’ll Never Know,” and, “I’m In The Middle,” are solid examples of the talent Cher had already mastered over her vocal instrument, this blogger couldn’t get rid of the feeling that she was often singing along to elevator music.  In short, most of the instrumental portions of this album are not worthy of a voice as unique and expressive as Cher’s.  During these songs a listener begins to feel like they’re sitting at a karaoke bar only to suddenly be shocked back to life by the unexpected utterances of a vocalist who has far surpassed her surroundings.  The best example of this can be found during, “When You Find Out Where You’re Goin’ Let Me Know.”  Between this song’s cheesy jazz flute solos and poor lyrics, this listener found herself cringing at the sinful waste of Cher’s talent.
   However the album, “Cher,” does possess several promising moments as well.  Despite the fact that I’ve never been partial to the sound of the flute, the song, “One Honest Man,” nicely features the passionate emotion Cher so often artfully conveys.  During this song she pleads with a listener, “Why can’t I find me one honest man?!”  It’s this blogger's opinion that through these simple lyrics Cher’s voice embodies enough feelings of weariness, bewilderment, and plain anger to muster feelings of empathy from any female listener.  I found myself singing along and nodding, “Yeah, why can’t I find me one honest man?!”  However, keep in mind that Cher was still married to Sonny at the time she released this song, therefore her legitimate feelings on the matter are rather questionable.  Of course, we all know that relationship ended in divorce.  Yet, not being privy to their private matters, one can only guess that either Cher really believed in the lyrics of, “One Honest Man,” or she’s one hell of an actress. (A fact that's actually been proven true)
   Additional highlights on this album include Cher’s version of James Taylor’s song, “Fire & Rain.”  During her rendition, this otherwise, “folksy,” song gets a rather, "amped up," makeover merely from Cher’s husky voice.  Likewise, it’s this same voice featured in the song, “Touch and Go,” that hints at the future power diva Cher would ultimately transform into.  Of course, I specifically use the word, “hint,” because that’s all the album, “Cher,” is really able to achieve.  Considering the overall length of this record is only about a half hour it’s not possible for a listener to form a solid image of who the artist Cher would become.  However, this blogger loves the idea of those she came from.  That’s right, play it again, “They’d call us Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves…”

Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves”:

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

"Whipped Cream & Other Delights"

Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass:  “Whipped Cream & Other Delights"
Secondhand Vinyl Album
Original Release Date:  1965 A&M
(My Rating:  4 Stars)

Side One:
A Taste Of Honey
Green Peppers
Bittersweet Samba
Lemon Tree
Whipped Cream

Side Two:
Love Potion No. 9
El Garbanzo
Lollipops And Roses

   “It’s easier to skin an amoeba than to catalog the “Typical Tijuana Brass Fan.”  This is a quote I took right off the back cover of the album, “Whipped Cream & Other Delights,” by Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass.  Apparently back in 1965 it was standard for a record company to print a direct message to the listener regarding the artist they were about to indulge in.  During A&M’s synopsis of Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass it’s explained that this group attracted the likes of, “teens, hippies, squares, and little old ladies.”  This statement combined with the obviously, edgy for its’ time…heck, edgy for any time, album cover got my full attention.  I thought, “Heck, count this, “old lady,” in!”
   The only way I can think to describe the album, “Whipped Cream & Other Delights,” is it's an instant time warp back to the 1960’s.  One moment I’m in the year 2016, lighting the end of my incense stick, when all of a sudden the album’s first song, “A Taste Of Honey,” instantly makes this listener feel like she’s at some kind of, “swinging,” party on Haight-Ashbury, circa 196something.  Even before the first whiff of Nag Champa rises out of my burner, I have the overwhelming urge to slap on some serious cat eyeliner, put on the hugest mod style Lanvin pendant I can afford, (which would be none,) and transform my incense stick into a cigarette resting at the end of a very long holder.  Let’s just say, by the end of the first song this listener was ready to change her name permanently to Holly Golightly and refer to everyone in the room as, “Darling.”  Too bad, I would look totally insane doing so considering I was listening to this album in a room by myself.
   However, it’s difficult not to fall into, "party," mode while listening to a record like, “Whipped Cream & Other Delights.”  Not only does this instrumental album full of bright shiny horns, jazzy xylophone solos, and skilled acoustic guitar playing make this blogger want to get out and socialize, it seems the songs presented undeniably dictate the way the mood of a gathering will go.  For instance, much like the first song on the record, “Bittersweet Samba,” and, “Green Peppers,” are both toe tapping numbers that inspired this listener to find the nearest dance partner available.  It's at this time I’d like to formally apologize to my poor cat who experienced only a bitter samba that evening.  Despite my cat’s obvious distress at having to dance with a, “crazy,” lady, I think it’s fair to claim that even he couldn’t deny that Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass is not only a master at music, but also the spaces in between.  An example of this can be found during the song, “Green Peppers,” where there is a perfectly timed pause that inspired this woman to literally shout, “Darling!,” just for the fabulousness of it.
   During a later part of the album the song, “Whipped Cream,” continues the party type vibe while adding an almost comical flair to the mood.  Like the album cover this song has a flirtatious feel to it, however it’s slightly more whimsical than this listener expected.  Here the Tijuana Brass convey a sense of humor, perhaps at the absurdity of the idea of a fantasy woman covered in, “Whipped Cream.”  At this point the record seems to be saying, “Yeah, the party’s gotten a little out of hand.  Now people are naked and slathered in food.  It’s ridiculous, but boy it’s fun!...except for that lady dancing with her cat and yelling, “Darling!” She’s just weird.”
   Finally, I'd like to address the subject of why, “Love Potion No. 9,” is undeniably my favorite song on this album. While I enjoy the, “party,” atmosphere provided by the previous titles I’ve discussed, “Whipped Cream & Other Delights,” also addresses the more intimate moments that can be found during a social gathering.  During the songs, “Ladyfingers,” and, “Lemon Tree,” Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass is able to create a kind of dialogue between instruments that reminded this listener of what it was like to steal private moments of conversation with someone, “special,” while the rest of the room rioted on without you.  It’s these songs that display the more tender side of a group that seems ready to, “rock,” all night long…and, "rock," they do, as clearly displayed by the song, “Love Potion No. 9.”   I guess some listeners may consider this song the, “racy,” one of the album.  Between the measured, “blat,” of the horns, the hypnotic crash of the symbols, and the imagery on the album cover one could question what kind of establishment Herb Alpert was used to having his parties at.  Surprisingly, it’s this song that doesn’t make me feel like I’m at a social gathering.  When I listen to, “Love Potion No. 9,” I feel like I’m at home alone listening to my favorite song getting fired up for an outing.  This song is what I’d like to define as a confidence anthem.  When this blogger hears, "Love Potion No. 9," she knows she a budding socialite who belongs at Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass party wearing a fabulous Lanvin pendant...or not.  Too bad by the end of the album I always find myself back in 2016 wearing absolutely no Lanvin, only Levi's.

"A Taste Of Honey":