Monday, July 27, 2009

Joey Beltram - Classics (Compilation, 1996)

I'll outright say it: there are hundreds if not thousands of other music blogs out there that will better serve your techno and dance music desires. I like lots of techno and electronic music as much as other genres, but as a single and club-based medium, I'm definitely not the guy who is going to turn you onto the new big thing. When it comes to modern stuff, I just listen to critics and some fans, get what they tell me to and assume it's going to be good. Oftentimes, it isn't. It has kept my techno and house collection fairly modest.

After trying my hand at the ever-growing current minimal scene, I've discovered that much of it isn't for me. However in that revelation, I've finally turned my attention to some of the pioneers of the dance genres, Joey Beltram (under his numerous guises) being one of them.

Classics collects 13 (classic) dance cuts from the New York based artist. Even the uninitiated techno fan has probably heard tracks like "Energy Flash" and "My Sound" but as the compilation title tells us...these are not just run of the mill compositions.

I can't tell you about Beltram's influence on any scene. I can't recollect any sort of memory of seeing the guy live. I can't tell you about the effect his tracks have in dance clubs. I can tell you that right now, July 27, this compilation is hitting me hard all over again.

When the music is this good, this..."classic" don't have to find yourself in the club to enjoy it.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tweed - Fashion EP (1979)

Here's one I've been meaning to post for awhile. Semi-legendary 3 track EP from obscure French power pop band. I don't personally have any information on the band, who they are, what they did, why they stopped making this awesome stuff. All I know is that this is the only EP you can really find anywhere (you would have to really scour eBay and record collectors). I believe they have an earlier EP, but I guess they are just known because these songs have appeared on Power Pop comps and mixtapes for decades.

3 songs, all just over 2 minutes. The songs are great, you can listen to them over and over. My favorite is "I Need You"

Music speaks for itself, but you probably need this.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Darrell Banks - Is Here / Here To Stay (1967/69)

Two legendary albums by perhaps the most underrated would-be soul superstar I know. Powerful, powerful stuff. Darrell Banks Is Here came out in 1967 on Atco and Here To Stay came out in 1969 (again, the best year in pop music) on Volt.

This is great midwest, stax-style soul music. The ballads kill, the rev-ups kill harder. Think a bit more gruff Otis. Great shit, awesome summer lounging music.

These are his only two albums, as Banks was shot to death by a police officer in 1970. Listening to these albums makes you wonder what could've been if he survived a bit longer. My feeling is that he would've wound up listed with the all-time great soul singers of the era.

If you don't have these, you probably need them.

Darrell Banks Is Here!
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Here To Stay
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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Terry Reid's First 3 Albums

The story goes something like this: Terry Reid was still a teenage guitar player making waves in England. Proposed to be one of the next big things at the end of the 60s. By 18 or 19, Jimmy Page approaches him with an opportunity to sing for "The New Yardbirds." Reid declines, possibly for personal reasons or possibly because he was the opening act on a Stones tour. Reid tells Page he should pursue drummer John Bonham and vocalist Robert Plant. The New Yardbirds become Led Zeppelin, Terry Reid stays a solo act. Later in the 70s, Reid is approached to be the new vocalist for Deep Purple, declines and that title goes to Ian Gillian.

Is Reid the ultimate failed opportunist? Possibly. But at the end of the 60s, and into the 70s, the young Terry Reid put out some pretty excellent rock n roll.

The funny thing is the direct reference point to Terry Reid is probably Robert Plant. Especially his first two albums, and especially when the music turns a bit more to the folk-side of things. Otherwise, he has a high voice but not near the shrieking of Plant. Solid proto-hard rock. All albums are good, none are all-time greats, but the self-titled just misses. Make sure to watch the Youtube performance from 1971 (Glatsonbary Fayre DVD) that is one of the most badass performances there is.

Bang, Bang You're Terry Reid (1968)

First album proper. Some excellent guitar playing, but a number of throwaway cuts. Still sort of establishing his sound.
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Terry Reid (1969)

Almost certainly his best album. Good material, awesome jamming, great mixture of the harder sound and the folky stuff. Really solid.
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River (1973)

A looser affair. Definitely sounds like a rock album from 1973. A little more blues influence, a little tropical rhythm here and there. Also a really good album. Not quite as raw as the s/t, but at 7 tracks it's a solid listen and good for these hot summer months.
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Live Performance of "Dean"-1971

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Caetano Veloso - Cinema Transcendental (1979)

It's almost pointless to post Brazilian albums on this blog when the powerhouses known as Loronix and Um Que Tenha exist, but I'm posting this anyway.

I've been listening to a lot of Brazilian music lately. I mean, I'll never be able to even really dent the surface in a music scene that certainly rivals (if not overpowers) the pop domination of the UK and US, but there are obviously those few choice artists that get recommended time and time again and my collection has been growing of the last half-decade.

This is a new acquisition for me. Caetano was the first Brazilian musician I became semi-obsessed with, a few years ago. I have about 14 of his albums (including his great 2009 release Zii e Zie), but somehow I had overlooked this one. It generally seems to be regarded as one of his transition albums. AMG calls it his final "quasi-acoustic" album in which he transitioned from the folky, serene singer of his early albums to the more bombastic instrumentation found from the 80s onward.

I love this album.

Though the classic Caetano album is typically considered to be Transa and his self-titled albums, many of his biggest hits in his native Brazil actually came from this album. It's not hard to see why. In some ways, the album cover says it all. Relax, become lost in the music. It's not necessarily background music, it's way too engaging for that, but there is something about Caetano and his Brazilian contemporaries that allow for their brand of pop music to enlighten the listener. I listen and I relax. I may shuffle my body, I may nod my head, I may try to sing along to the choruses in my best Portuguese imitation, but through it all I will somehow manage to feel this unavoidable joy and ease. It works as a collection of single songs, it works as an album. I'm not going to call it my favorite Caetano album, but by the end of this summer it may be very close.

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The Critters - Anthology: The Complete Kapp Recordings 1965-1967 (1994)

Great summertime pop music. Incredibly catchy songs. I haven't listened to this collection in awhile, but a few years ago I used to listen to a lot. Definitely a product of it's time, but some of the absolute best guitar/folk/sunshine pop of its kind.

New Jersey's Critters have earned a reputation as a bubblegum pop group, but they really had a lot more going for them than that. For starters, founding members Jim Ryan and Don Ciccone were both gifted songwriters, singers, and arrangers, and if they had a sort of soft, sunshine approach to things, well, they did it as well as anyone. This anthology collects their Kapp recordings (which essentially means their one album for Kama Sutra and a handful of singles and B-sides) from 1965 to 1967, and it shows a versatile band that was much more than a sort of precursor to Bread. Their first single, a folk-rock cover of Jackie DeShannon's "Children and Flowers," leads things off here, and yes, it's sappy, but wonderfully so, and once you accept the lyrics, it emerges as a bit of a lost treasure. The next two tracks are also striking, the Beatlesque "He'll Make You Cry" and the equally impressive "Little Girl," both of which could have -- and should have -- been AM radio hits. "Mr. Dieingly Sad," a group original that out-associates the Association, is another highlight, and the set closes with a surprisingly bright, joyous, and breezy version of the Motown classic "Dancing in the Street." Leaving Kama Sutra at the end of 1967, the band recorded a second album on the Project 3 label before calling it quits. The Critters, like Chicago's Cryan' Shames, might have gone on to bigger and better things if the military draft, label snafus, and public perception hadn't short-circuited the creative life span of the group. As it is, they'll make you smile on a rainy day. There's something really valuable in that. - Steve Legget, AMG

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