Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ray Charles - I'm All Yours-Baby!

I’m a big Ray Charles fan so I’m always happy to add a “new” old album of his to my collection. I’m All Yours Baby was released in 1969 on Tangerine Records, a record label that Ray Charles himself owned from 1962 to 1973 (It was promoted and distributed by ABC Records).

The first thing that jumped out at me with this LP was the super cheesy cover, which I LOVE! For me, the cheesier the album cover, the better when it comes to these old 60’s albums. It features a picture of Ray relaxing on a couch with an attractive woman lying on his lap holding a glass of wine and touching his face…. and what’s with the statue in the background? And the icing on the cake, of course, the title of the album “I’m All Yours-Baby” is above the photo, as if it wasn’t corny enough.

But, as always, Ray’s music speaks for itself. It’s a great, slow jazzy album by the genius of soul. The string orchestra is accompanying him, but it’s not the full blown Disney movie type orchestra that overtakes his music in some of his albums, instead it’s tasteful and not overpowering at all. Moderation! Most of the songs on this album are ‘popular’ songs released between the 1920’s and 1940’s. Many of them were recorded by other well-known artists in this era, such as Frank Sinatra and Sarah Vaughan as well as Ray Charles, so you may discover a familiar song or two on this album.

A big bonus is that this album features one of my favourite traits about Ray, when he breaks out of singing and starts shouting out lines in the middle of songs. There is lots of it in this album, like in the second number I Didn’t Know What Time It Was with lines such as: “Ohhhhh. You’re looking good baby!” Seriously can this album get any cheesier?

Overall, a great Ray Charles album filled with slow tempo jazzy songs, perhaps the type of music you’d play if your girl wants to lay on your lap with a glass of wine and touch your face.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Revisiting a classic: TKO - Let it Roll!

Classified as a hard rock/metal band, TKO seems to be a bit mild to fit in this category (at least for this album). They get a bit heavier in later releases, but for Let it Roll, their debut album in 1979, TKO falls into the classic late 70’s rock category. I find they sound noticeably similar to The Who.

TKO formed in Seattle, Washington in the late 70’s. Lead singer (and only ongoing member) Brad Sinsel moved to Seattle from Yakima, Washington and joined a band called Mojo Hand. After many lineup changes, eventually all of the original members of Mojo Hand moved along leaving Brad as the member with the most seniority. It was somewhere around this time that the band name changed and became TKO. The lineup was: Sinset on vocals, Rick Pierce and Tony Bortko on guitars, Mark Seidenverg on bass and Darryl Siguenza on drums.

TKO quickly started gaining attention in the Seattle music scene and landed a recording deal with Infinity Records (owned by MCA). This is when Let It Roll came to light. It was the only release on this label since Infinity Records dissolved shortly after its release.
While it is labelled as a hard rock/metal album, this is really before they took their 80’s form. Instead of that thick fuzzy distortion, the guitar has a cleaner sound. The bass is crisp, and drums are very straightforward with no fancy frills and fills. It is an easier listen than what will soon come on their second heavier metal album: In Your Face.

It is overall a solid rock album almost forming a transition between 70’s glam and 80’s heavy rock. It’s definitely dated, but still worth a listen. The similarities to The Who are a bit overwhelming in some instances, but the backup singing and metal-ish guitar solos definitely give them their own unique twist.

I picked up an original release of this album on the Infinity label. Divebomb Records reissued Let It Roll in 2008 on CD with nine bonus live tracks which is an appealing option, but I will stick with the vinyl. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Lovelocks - Debut EP!

So many happening bands coming out of Toronto tend to have the name Cameron House thrown around in their biographies. Cameron House sure has a keen eye for local talent and it’s proven to be a great launching pad for some successful careers. It seems to be the in-spot for young alternative country. Fresh off a month long residency at this venue, Toronto duo The Lovelocks just released their debut EP.

The Lovelocks are Ali Raney and Zoe Neuman and with their ease of harmony and charming personas, they are quickly becoming a ‘must see’ band in the Toronto area and this EP is sure to help broaden their audience quick. The leading single Teardrop Tattoo is a breakup song with a happy upbeat Dixie Chick/Sheryl Crow type feel. The title was a bit misleading as most people have the tendency to associate teardrop tattoos with prison murderers, but Ali insists this was not an intentional play on words and had no idea of the grotesque symbolism when it was written. It makes a great conversation piece and a catchy song. It was never intended to be the leading single but quickly has become a fan favorite at their live performances. 

These live performances are worth checking out online. They are a very talented duo, each mastering multiple instruments and really putting on a hell of a show. Plus, they are known to throwing in some great covers from artists like James Taylor, Johnny Cash and U2, giving them all a raw country/bluegrass twist. The raw sound is what I like most about these girls, and unfortunately raw is one thing this EP lacks. They managed to raise a considerable amount of money through online fund drives for this EP which allowed them to travel down to Nashville and record with some top notch studio musicians. It really gives it a more polished finish than their live performances which puts it in contention with modern country radio which is likely their goal. I prefer the raw sound of their live performances more, but I’m sure this EP will help them gain a wider fan base.

EP was officially released February 11th and you can purchase it on their website at www.thelovelocksband.com.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Phillip Seymour Hoffman

I am very sad to hear of the passing of actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman. He was my absolute favorite actor and I’m really going to miss him. While I usually devote this blog to music, I think Phillip’s portrayal of some pretty significant music related roles sure grants him an exception.
His most memorable music role would have to be his portrayal of Lester Bangs in Almost Famous. He plays the crazy journalist damn near exactly as I would imagine after seeing Lester’s interview footage. Previously, I had only seen Hoffman in somewhat serious roles (like the medical student in Patch Adams), but he played a middle-aged nerdy rock journalist with ease.  
Phillip was a rare breed who could crack me up laughing and make tears come to my eyes, all in the same scene. He could make a shitty movie memorable. I was just reading on people.com today an article showcasing some movie roles where his acting stood the test of time more than some of the movies he acted in. A great example of this is Twister: sure today’s special effects can put Twister to shame now, but Hoffman’s character could never be outdone.  
Another memorable music role was his role as passionate rock DJ, The Count in Pirate Radio. This is a good example of Phillip saving a mediocre film with his stellar acting. Ok, maybe he didn’t save this film as the ratings were horrible… but I loved it!  
Phillip was somebody that seemed like an ideal role model. He was proof that you didn’t need to have Brad Pitt’s looks, or be given the best roles to make it as a respected actor. He rarely landed credits large enough to put his name on the poster, yet he would completely steal the show with his realistic, passionate acting. And he managed to get all of this done with his physique looking like he just rolled out of bed. I still think he makes a great role model, regardless of his young death due to drug overdose. He was successfully sober for 23 years prior to this setback which anybody who battled addiction knows is huge. Unfortunately, it just took one step back to ruin everything.
It has been a shitty winter for losing young talent, but while all the others are shocking and sad, Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s is the first one that really hurt for me. It’s like I just lost a good friend that I never got to meet.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Dead Boys - Young, Loud and Snotty!

I’ve had this Dead Boys album in my collection for a few years now and have always enjoyed it. After watching the new CBGB movie and understanding more of the history behind this band, CBGB, and punk rock history in general, I find myself going back to it at a more regular basis.

Originally in a band called Frankenstein from Cleveland, Ohio, vocalist Stiv Bators, bassist Jeff Magnum, drummer John Blitza, and guitarists Cheetah Chrome and Jimmy Zero relocated to New York City in 1976 at the advice of Joey Ramone. Frankenstein soon changed their name to The Dead Boys and with Joey’s help were given an audition and subsequent gigs at the legendary CBGB bar.

They were known for their crazy live performance including singer Stiv hanging himself with his microphone wire, smashing his mic stand across his chest, loads of profanity, etc... CBGB owner Hilly Kristal saw so much potential in the Dead Boys that he believed they would be his winning lottery ticket and became their manager. Together they landed a recording contract with Sire Records.

Young, Loud and Snotty, their debut album, was released in 1977 on Sire. This is the only Dead Boys album that really seems to catch their raw, edgy sound. While it never became a huge success as punk rock never really caught on into the mainstream, they did manage to land a few big gigs including opening for punk rock icons Iggy Pop and The Damned.

Like most punk rock bands from the 70’s, their musicianship was far from impressive, but that didn’t slow them down from writing some great songs. The rock anthem Sonic Reducer opens this album and has gained punk iconic status being performed at many live shows from bands such as Pearl Jam and Guns N Roses.

Sire Records wanted the Dead Boys to change their sound to a more cleanly polished style for their second album, We Have Come For Your Children, to better fit with mainstream music. The band never liked this and it played a big part of them disbanding so short in their career. They did however have to get back together to record one more live album to fulfill their contract with Sire. But in pure punk rebellion fashion, Stiv purposely sang away from the microphone making the live recording unusable. He eventually did have to cave and re-record the vocals completing the album Night of the Living Dead Boys.

The Dead Boys were a short-lived band with their initial run only lasting from 1976-1979. They did manage to re-form for some gigs in the 80’s, but any chances of a full blown reunion were ended when Stiv tragically died after being hit by a taxi in France. The remaining members did reunite in 2005 for a handful of gigs. While never achieving mainstream success or becoming a household name, The Dead Boys did leave a lasting impression on punk rock.