Saturday, August 19, 2017

Debbie Gibson - Live at Wembley '89 (1989)

Exactly 28 years ago today, on Aug. 19, 1989, Debbie Gibson played one of her biggest shows ever when she performed at Wembley Stadium in England to some 77,000 people, according to the Guardian. Gibson, who was 18 at the time, was the opening act for the then-popular British duo Bros -- a dance-pop act whose UK success didn't translate to the United States when they opened for Gibson earlier in the year as part of her Electric Youth tour.

The audio from this concert survives in good quality, which is great news for Debheads who can't get enough of her during her early days. Unlike the poor-quality audience recordings of her live shows from this era (one of which I put out recently), this concert was taped from a broadcast, so the sound is recorded and mixed professionally. I was luckily enough to come into possession of a copy of it when a reader of this blog, Scott From Australia, passed it along. I performed some technical fixes on it (see the info below) and am happy to present it online for the first time.

In researching this concert online, I found that not only hadn't Gibson's set been circulated online before, but there is precious little information about participation in it at all. For example, I couldn't find any photos of Gibson from the day of the show. The only way I was able to design a "cover" was by taking a screenshot from an old video that was filmed by a stationary camera apparently owned by one of the musicians in Gibson's band at the time.

I also learned that the date for this concert has been listed erroneously as Aug. 8, 1989. The actual date was Aug. 19, 1989. This can be confirmed surviving artifacts such as the concert poster (above right) and the insert from UK single of Gibson's "We Could Be Together," which advertised the gig (left). Finally, the video I linked above has a date stamp that reads "8 19 89." I find it both amusing and depressing that there's endless concert info online for acts from the '60s and '70s, but precious little info on Gibson's gigs, which were far more recent.

At least Radio One was there to document Gibson's participation, as can be heard in the interviews that bookend this recording. The opening interview has Gibson talking about her musical influences and how she got started in the music business. The interview is broken up with airings of some of her favorite old songs and I included them in full here, so as not to ruin the integrity of the broadcast. The closing segment has her talking about how the gig went. It's amusing now to hear her speak in a Long Island accent, something she's long since lost.

In between, we get a pretty exciting show. Gibson performs nine numbers (including a medley), which constitutes an abridged version of her stage show during this period. But that said, she exudes an authority in this performances that she didn't have at her concerts the previous year on her Out Of The Blue tour. Back then, she was an upstart entertainer with a set that mostly consisted of songs from her first album. But by August of 1989, Gibson had racked up so many hit songs that she could do practically an entire set featuring only her charting songs. This is an impressive accomplishment for anyone in the music business, but more so for Gibson, who wouldn't turn 19 until 13 days after this concert.

The crowd might have been there for Bros, but they're definitely into her, even chanting "Debbie! Debbie!" at the end of "Only In My Dreams." Her vocals aren't as precise as they usually are -- as I noted in a previous post about Debbie Gibson, she had theatrical training and is an excellent live vocalist. But a few bum notes are to be expected here since the gig was outdoors in the summer heat and Gibson was probably moving around on Wembley's gigantic stage practically the whole time. Judging by the standards of today's Auto-Tuned pop acts, she comes through with flying colors, since she had no vocal safety net.

Gibson's hits might be overly familiar to anyone into '80s music, but the versions here have a lot to offer because they aren't rote recitations of the records. Some, like "Foolish Beat" and "Only In My Dreams" have introductions specially arranged for the stage. This is something Gibson regularly did, and it adds a surprise element to the tunes. In fact, these re-arrangements seem to work even better now than it did then, since we've become overly familiar with these songs over the years.

"Shake Your Love," meanwhile, gets an extended workout -- another Gibson concert tradition from back in the day. Gibson really pushes her voice to the limit during the second half of this number, where she goes toe-to-toe (or is it voice-to-voice?) with her backup vocalists. Unfortunately, Gibson also included rap sections into her concerts and the one that turns up here is especially silly. Let's just say that as a rapper, Gibson made a really great piano player. Still, her overall performance here would give any entertainer a run for their money, energy-wise.

Besides the hits, there's a medley of old Motown songs that ends with a rendition of Sly & The Family Stone's "Dance To The Music." Gibson apparently enjoyed doing medleys of her favorite songs and performed one of Billy Joel songs at the June 8, 1991 "Acoustic Live" show, which I previously posted. Her roll call of classic Motown songs here isn't that smooth, rhythmically speaking. But, as I noted in that earlier post, she definitely can sing live, and she sings the hell out of these old chestnuts.

The high point is the rousing rendition of one of Gibson's best songs, "We Could Be Together," a '60s-styled pop-rocker that has a somewhat covert message about interracial romance.* This song holds the unfortunate distinction of being Gibson's first flop single in the United States, bombing out at #72. This was a bad omen. Gibson would only crack the U.S. Top 40 one more time, so at this concert, she was as popular as she was ever going to get. But in England, "We Could Be Together" was at least a decent-sized hit, getting to #22, and the audience seems to love Gibson's extended rendition of it here. But the Brits always did have great taste in pop music, didn't they?

Technical notes

Since my post about how to do clean vinyl rips went over so big, I'm going to chime in with info about how I do what I do when the occasion warrants. I didn't have to do that much to make this concert presentable, but it still took some work.

For one thing, the EQ needed to be reconsidered. Like the Acoustic Live show, the recording that survived had lots of bass but very little treble. So I figured out which frequencies needed to be lowered or boosted and altered them accordingly. That gave the sound some zing. I also noticed that there was some phase cancellation, which caused the right channel to sound louder than the left, no matter how much you raised the volume on the left. I remedied this by moving the right channel slightly out of sync with the left. I moved it back by a micro-millisecond. Once I did that, the sound balanced out and the constricted pseudo-mono sound panned into a nice, natural stereo spread.

There was also a speed problem. No, not the drug, but the clip at which the songs ran. When listening to the songs against the originals, I discovered everything ran a bit fast. That was often the case when people recorded things on cassette decks in the old days. In this case, that problem was easily corrected by slowing the speed down by three percent. At that rate, it matched the recorded versions. Since Gibson used synthesizers as the basis for her music, it wasn't like the tunings of her songs could "drift," as they sometimes do with guitar bands. The studio recordings worked as a "key anchor" and the tape proved consistently fast, so the fix was simple.

The elements I couldn't clear up were the various audio "pops" and other artifacts that were the inevitable result of recording radio programs on cassette. I tried to remove them manually and it didn't work. Then I tried using ClickRepair, but that just made the problem worse. So I left them. There aren't that many, plus hearing them is reminiscent of listening to old shows and since part of this music's appeal is nostalgia, the extraneous noise actually helps evoke a long-gone era. Now if someone could just get me back the youth I had in the summer of '89, I'd have it all.

Finally, I had mentioned in my "Dozen Tips for Creating Clean Vinyl Rips" post that the best way to convert WAV files to MP3s is by doing them in batches using a freeware program called FormatFactory. It usually is. But when you split up one continuous file, like a live concert, you have to use your sound editing program itself to do the MP3 conversions for each file if you want them to play seamlessly together in a playlist. Using FormatFactory gives you a millisecond or so of extra silence at the end of each file, and this ruins the continuity of the segues.

Related posts (i.e. the largest collection of Debbie Gibson rarities online):
Debbie Gibson - 12-Inch Singles (1986-88)
Debbie Gibson - 'Out of the Blue'-Era 7-Inch Singles: A's and B's (1987-88)
Debbie Gibson - Live At The Concord Pavilion (1988)
Various Artists - The Songs Debbie Gibson Gave Away (1988-92) 
Debbie Gibson - The Alternate Electric Youth (1989)
Debbie Gibson - Rarities (1990-1999)
Debbie Gibson - Acoustic Live (1991) 
Chris Cuevas - Somehow, Someway (1991) 
Deborah Gibson - Memory Lane Volume 1 (2004)
Deborah Gibson - Memory Lane Volume 2 (2005)

Track list:
1. Interview Part 1 - feat. Wham's "Heartbeat"
2. Interview Part 2 - feat. Bill Haley's "Rock Around The Clock"
3. Interview Part 3 - feat. George Michael's "Kissing A Fool"
4. Interview Part 4 - feat. Billy Joel's "Only The Good Die Young"
5. Interview Part 5 - feat. Billy Joel's "Honesty"
6. Interview Part 6 - Debbie Gibson's Music
7. Who Loves Ya Baby?
8. Out Of The Blue
9. Foolish Beat
10. Shake Your Love
11. Lost In Your Eyes
12. Motown Medley/Dance To The Music
   a). I Want You Back
   b). ABC
   c). The Love You Save
   d). Stop! In The Name Of Love
   e). Where Did Our Love Go
   f). Please Mr. Postman
   g). Dance To the Music
13. Only In My Dreams
14. We Could Be Together
15. Electric Youth
16. Radio One Post-Concert Interview

* The lyrics to "We Could Be Together" have been the topic of a lot of Internet forum discussions over the years -- some dating back to as far as two decades ago. The opening couplet "If I were an only child/I would be a lonely child" had some people suggesting that the song had to do with incest. Nice try, but no go. So where did I get the idea that it's about an interracial love affair? The symbolic hand-holding that opens the main section of the video (from :35-:38). This was the MTV era when videos held a lot of significance for both performers and their audience, and that moment didn't get there by accident.

Once you take that into consideration, the lyric starts to make sense. And my opinion is that the "lonely child/only child" couplet is meant to signify different races, meaning that we were all put here together and how insular and boring would it be if we were "only children," racially speaking? Yes, it's clumsy imagery, but Gibson was 16 or 17 when she wrote this, so give her a break. She makes up for it with a catchy-as-hell chorus and two (!) different bridges. What other songwriter includes two distinct bridges in a song? Elvis Costello, maybe? I can't think of one offhand.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Debbie Gibson - Live At The Concord Pavilion (1988)

This is an audience recording of a Debbie Gibson concert from her first tour that took place 29 years ago today, Aug. 5, 1988, at the Concord Pavilion in California.

I've been sitting on it for a while, and was on the fence about posting it at all because the sound quality isn't so hot, which is often the case with fan-made recordings. This one is a low-fi recording to begin with, but the sonics are muddied even further because it's sourced from a second- or third-generation cassette tape.

But with all that in mind, the fan in me still won out over my inner audiophile. Because where else are you going to hear this concert? Nowhere. If it wasn't for the bootleggers, this concert would be lost forever. This is the reason why so many audience recordings have formed the basis of bootleg concert albums. Not all of them sound wonderful, but they're out there because they're now part of history. Same goes with this concert. It might not have the historical significance of the live shows by such '60s bands as the Grateful Dead, but so what? It's all we now have to recall an era that's rapidly fading into the past.

And while it might seem odd to mention Debbie and the Dead in the same paragraph, close listening to this concert reveals they do have one important thing in common. They both sang live without electronic sweetening or Auto-Tune fixes. This is becoming important with the passage of time.

As we move deeper and deeper into the Auto-Tune era, pop stars are being signed by record companies more for their looks and less for their vocal talent. Singing songs live without a net has become a thing of the past, except maybe on those TV shows where singers compete with each other. So even though the Dead jammed and Gibson played commercial pop, their commitment to actually kicking it live -- warts and all -- gives them some common ground, historically speaking.

This concert presents an excellent example of Gibson's commitment to live performance. She's a theatrically-trained singer who has acted on Broadway and belted out songs from the stage with little or no amplification. Here, she's on key about 99 percent of the time, but there's an enjoyably imperfect human element to her vocals, which sometimes come off like an excited teenager racing around the stage -- which she was, being just 17 at the time.

My guess is that one of her teenage fans sneaked a boombox into the concert and slipped it under their chair to tape it. I'm assuming this because the recording captures the audience in glorious stereo but the music in constricted mono. My guess is that the recording device was placed under someone's seat or in another hidden location.

To make the tape more presentable, I did some tweaking of the EQ to bring out the treble frequencies. I also applied some limiting to beef up the sound (cassette recordings are notorious for lacking presence). The first two songs in the second set -- which came after the "tape flip" -- dragged a bit, so I sped them up to the proper pitch. Cassette desks were also notorious for being unreliable when it came to recording and playback speeds.

The 80-minute show is a time capsule of Gibson on her way up. The crowd is extremely vocal, especially when she goes into her then-recent #1 hit "Foolish Beat." Gibson had the audience in the proverbial palm of her hand. But to her credit, she refused to play it safe and pander to her teenybopper audience. Instead she hit 'em with four (count 'em) new songs from her still-to-be-released album Electric Youth, which wouldn't hit stores until five months later in January 1989.

Gibson's 1989 #1 hit "Lost In Your Eyes" is presented here with some variations in the melody that she'd improve upon in the final recording. She mentions that she'd only written the song a short while ago. Wonder how many concert goers remembered it when it was blaring from every Top 40 station on the planet within a few months?

She even breaks out one of the aforementioned new songs as part of the encore, "We Could Be Together." It's a great song (in fact, it's my favorite Gibson single), but its retro melody and rhythm represented a change in her style and it was totally unfamiliar to the crowd. So it took some guts to play it. The next time someone tells you Gibson's music was bubblegum, remember how she led her audience from dance music into '60s-styled pop in this concert.

Gibson closes with a cover of one of her favorite songs, Elton John's "Crocodile Rock," a tune she also did as part of the Acoustic Live show I previously posted. I was never an Elton John fan, so what she sees in this song I don't know. But the crowd seems into it.

In two weeks I'll have a much better sounding Gibson concert that's an even bigger part of history. Thanks to fellow Gibson fanatic Scott From Australia for hooking me up with these super-rare shows, both of which are making their first appearances online here.

Related posts (i.e. the largest collection of Debbie Gibson rarities online):
Debbie Gibson - 12-Inch Singles (1986-88)
Debbie Gibson - 'Out of the Blue'-Era 7-Inch Singles: A's and B's (1987-88)
Various Artists - The Songs Debbie Gibson Gave Away (1988-92) 
Debbie Gibson - The Alternate Electric Youth (1989)
Debbie Gibson - Rarities (1990-1999)
Debbie Gibson - Acoustic Live (1991) 
Chris Cuevas - Somehow, Someway (1991) 
Deborah Gibson - Memory Lane Volume 1 (2004)
Deborah Gibson - Memory Lane Volume 2 (2005)

Track list:
First set:
1. Introduction
2. Staying Together
3. Play the Field
4. Love In Disguise
5. Foolish Beat
6. Red Hot
7. Wake Up To Love
8. Shake Your Love
9. In the Still of the Night

Second set:
10. Lost In Your Eyes
11. Should've Been The One
12. Out Of The Blue
13. Introduction of the Band
14. Only In My Dreams

15. Between The Lines
16. We Could Be Together
17. Crocodile Rock

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Grateful Dead FAQ: Chapter 9 - Five Reasons People Hate The Dead (2013)

It's Aug. 1, Jerry Garcia's birthday. Had he not died back on Aug. 9, 1995, he'd have turned 75 today.

To mark the occasion, I'm posting a chapter from the book "Grateful Dead FAQ," which came out a few years ago. The chapter I'm putting out is somewhat irreverent, as it's titled "Five Reasons People Hate the Dead." I'm purposely posting this instead of the kind of stuffy historical "tributes" that Rolling Stone publishes. This is rock music, not church. When people genuflect before the musicians, it ruins the whole thing. I think the humor and attitude of this chapter captures the spirit of what Garcia was all about more than anything you're likely to read in the mainstream press.

Another reason for posting this chapter is that it will hopefully appeal to both Deadheads and non-believers, since it straddles both worlds, thematically speaking. The topic of why some people don't like the Dead is actually pretty funny, even if you love this band. Hell, especially if you love this band. In fact, I'd even say part of their appeal was that only some people "got" them -- much like Beefheart, Zappa, various jazz musicians, etc.

My feeling is that you have to have a sense of humor about this stuff. Every artist has his or her haters. If you've got any sense of objectivity, you should be able to see why, even if you think your favorite artists is the proverbial cat's pajamas. I've mentioned in my Debbie Gibson posts that I can fully understand why people run screaming from her music, even though she appeals to me. So the same goes here. It takes all kinds, and that goes for both Deadheads and Debheads (yes, there is such a thing).

For those who'd like something to listen to while they read, below I've compiled a list of links to rare Grateful Dead music, all of which I've posted on this blog over the years. There may also be a surprise in store for those who read the chapter. Finally, if that chapter whets your appetite for more, you can also buy "Grateful Dead FAQ" by clicking on the link. Since the author was kind enough to bless us with all this out-of-print or hard to find Dead stuff (with more to come soon), I'm giving him props in return.

Grateful Dead posts:
The Grateful Dead - Aoxomoxoa (Original Mix, 1969)
The Grateful Dead - Spirit of '76: Live at the Cow Palace Bonus Disc (2007) 
The Grateful Dead - Days Between: The Final Album That Never Was (1992-95) 

Grateful Dead-related posts:
Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions - Live at the Top of the Tangent (1964)
Keith & Donna - Keith & Donna (1975)
Diga Rhythm Band - Diga (1976)
Kingfish - Live 'N' Kickin' (1977)
Robert Hunter - Jack O' Roses (1980) 
Bobby and the Midnites - Featuring Bob Weir (1981)
Brent Mydland - Unreleased Solo Album (1982)
Tom Constanten - Grateful Dreams (2000)

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Lotus Eaters - Remixes (1983-85)

First off: This is not a collection that I personally put together. And most of the tracks it contains are not my rips. This set of old Lotus Eaters remixes is something I acquired online a long time ago. But since the blog it came from has since disappeared, I thought I'd recirculate it because it's pretty great stuff. (I can't remember the name of the blog that first put this out and Web searches reveal nothing, but if someone wants to step forward in the comments section I'll give credit where it's due.)

I did contribute to this set, however. I improved a few of the rips since I had them in better quality. I also researched release date info and songwriter's credits and included that in the file tags. Most of these recordings were UK-only 12-inch singles that came out on indie labels in the mid-1980s, so this stuff is starting to get lost to history.

But that shouldn't be the case, because a lot of these songs hold up really well today. The Lotus Eaters were a short-lived group that had limited popularity, but they made a lot of excellent music in just a few years. Funny enough, I never heard the group on the radio during its heyday in 1983 and 1984. Instead, I discovered them several years later after buying a $1 bargain bin Ronco Records cassette tape called Chart Trek 1 (see right), which was subtitled "To Boldly Pick the Stars of '84." It turned out that Ronco was correct in their picking some of those stars (Wham!, Thompson Twins), but not so right about others (Care, the Danse Society, Marilyn).

I'd bought the tape for the song "Never Never," which was a minor college radio hit by another group that quickly came and went, the Assembly. But what grabbed my attention instead was the tune by the Lotus Eaters, "First Picture Of You," which had a glittering, effervescent quality that seemed emblematic of the optimistic mid-'80s. (Well, at least my own private mid-'80s. Dunno what yours was like. Mine was great. But I digress.)

Eventually, I tracked down the Lotus Eaters' lone LP from 1984, No Sense Of Sin. It did not disappoint. The Liverpool-based group's two main writers, Peter Coyle and Jeremy "Jem" Kelly, had a knack for writing pop tunes that were tailor-made for the synth-pop genre of the day (as opposed to other groups, who sounded like they were shoehorning standard rock ideas into synthesizer-based arrangements).

Since most of the songs here are from that album, they range from good to great. The opening track, "Out On Your Own," lengthens the original LP cut by almost two minutes but actually works better that way. The extra time gives the synth riff that drives the song room more to expand. When you've got a great riff, flaunt it.

"Can You Keep A Secret," which was another highlight of No Sense Of Sin, gets an expanded introduction. Some research indicates that this was the way it was presented on the original pressings of the album and the now-common three-minute edit replaced it on later editions. As with Duran Duran and others, the Lotus Eaters had more than one version of an album released after they'd had a bit of success and their record company reworked the track list in order to better appeal to commercially-oriented teen listeners.

Finally, three of the tunes here are songs that weren't on the original album at all. "It Hurts (There Must Be A Taste Of Murder In It) (12-Inch Version)" was the A-Side of a non-LP 12-inch single. "My Happy Dream (Long Version)" was the B-Side of the "Set Me Apart" 12-inch and "You Don't Need Someone New (Charleston Mix)" is a special mix which appeared on the B-Side of the 12-inch single of the same name.

The above titles might be familiar to hardcore fans, but these versions won't be. These specific mixes are not the same ones that appear as bonus cuts on the expanded CD reissue of No Sense Of Sin. All are exclusive to the 12-inch singles...and now to this collection.

Related posts:
Various Artists - Sharp Cuts (1980)
Nina Schultz - Nina Schulta (1982 EP)
Color Me Gone - Color Me Gone (1984)
Marshall Crenshaw - U.S. Remix (1984)
Tommy Keene - Places That Are Gone (1984)
Growing Up Different - A+B=C (1985)
Marti Jones: Unsophisticated Time (1985)

Track list:
1. Out On Your Own (Extended Version)
2. The First Picture Of You (12-Inch Version)
3. German Girl (Long Version)
4. It Hurts (There Must Be A Taste Of Murder In It) (12-Inch Version)
5. Love Still Flows (Extended Mix)
6. You Fill Me With Need (Remix)
7. My Happy Dream (Long Version)
8. Set Me Apart (Full Length Original Version)
9. Can You Keep A Secret (Long Version)
10. You Don't Need Someone New (Charleston Mix)

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Nico - The Peel Sessions (1988; Recorded 1971)

From the looks of things, this is out of print, at least on CD. A vinyl version came out a short while back, but since modern-day vinyl is cut using digital files (as opposed to old analog tapes), you might as well just listen to the CD.

These four songs are from Nico's visit to John Peel's BBC1 radio show on Feb. 2, 1971. They were broadcast a few weeks later, on Feb. 20, 1971, but weren't officially released until 1988 -- the year Nico died. I have no idea if this release preceded her death on July 18 of that year, or if it was put out to commemorate her.

But whatever the case, these recordings are an excellent testament to her legacy. They all feature Nico performing her own compositions with just her harmonium for accompaniment -- the way she sometimes performed in concert.

If you only know Nico from the Velvet Underground or from her first album, Chelsea Girl, you might be taken aback by this music. On those albums, she sang other people's songs and it (mostly) fell into the category of pop music. This music is from when she started writing her own songs. She composed music in an old world Gothic European style and it was a whole 'nother thing. If Lou Reed's Velvet Underground songs were cutting edge, then Nico's tunes were completely over-the-edge...and then some.

But if you're a Nico fan, you're in for a treat. All of these recordings are first-rate, performance wise. Nico was definitely "on" when they were recorded, and they come across as more intimate and personal than the recordings on her albums.

The best example is the lead-off track, "Secret Side," the only song that was unreleased at the time of these recordings. Shorn of the ghost-like sound effects that John Cale added when it was recorded for Nico's 1974 album The End..., this unadorned version reveals the beauty of Nico's melody and the intensity of her singing. The song purportedly deals with Nico's rape by an American soldier when she was a teenager, but the lyric was largely obscured on the album by Cale's relentless swirling synth sounds. Here, Nico's vocals have no place to hide, and the song hits that much harder.

I've long held a theory is that in a lot of ways Nico was the real Lou Reed. What I mean by that is that a lot of Reed's reputation was built on his penchant for experimentation. But that was mostly in the early days and most of Reed's catalog is standard rock music. Nico, on the other hand, made Cathedral music from outer space that could never be mistaken for anything mainstream.

Play most Lou Reed albums to people and they'll get into it. But play Nico to someone and you're likely to get a "WTF?!!" response. She's definitely an acquired taste. But if you adjust your head and really listen to where she's coming from, her albums are pretty impressive and a lot of her songs are surprisingly catchy (in their own way).

And besides, it's amusing the way she baffled and annoyed critics. I recently came across this sentence from an old Robert Christgau review of one of my favorite Nico albums, Desertshore: "The Velvet Underground and Nico plus Chelsea Girl convinced me that Nico had charisma; The Marble Index plus Desertshore convince me that she's a fool." What better recommendation could you get than that?


Since there's not a lot of material here, I thought I'd add in a couple of related articles from two vintage rock magazines. I first read both of these articles in high school and they each had a major influence on my musical tastes.

The first is "The Velvet Underground: White Light/Dark Shadows" from the July 1981 issue of Creem magazine. It offers and cultured and scholarly overview of the band's work. In a lot of ways, this was the article that inspired me to be a writer. It definitely caused me to track down all the out-of-print Velvets albums that school year. I'm not sure exactly why Creem decided to include an article of this nature along with the then-trendy features on AC/DC, Pearl Harbor, and Joe Ely, but I'm glad they did. It's still an excellent read.

Special note to readers regarding the photo captions in Creem magazine: The editors of Creem used to use these spaces to make jokes and/or satirize the articles. These are not to be taken literally. Silly captions don't mean that the article in question is "All lies!! OMG!!" as some high school friends of mine shrieked back in the day. Seriously people, if you read this article and find you cannot emotionally handle a few jokes, the problem is with you, not with Creem. Adjust your meds.

Back to reality, the second article ran in the Sept.-Oct. issue of the little-known Trouser Press Collector's Magazine. This broadsheet, newspaper-styled publication was founded to supplement Trouser Press, the New York-based mag that covered British rock and new wave. The article focuses on Nico's recording career starting with her time in the Velvets. And while I think the writer goes a little hard on the Chelsea Girl album (which has aged exceptionally well since then), I generally agree with most of his points. And besides, who else was devoting three pages to Nico back in 1981?

Related posts:
The Velvet Underground - Squeeze (1973)
The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground - Etc. (1979)
Trouser Press Magazine Back Issues

Track list:
1. Secret Side
2. No One Is There
3. Janitor Of Lunacy
4. Frozen Warnings

Bonus material:
"The Velvet Underground: White Light/Dark Shadows" - Creem Magazine (July 1981)
"Nico" - Trouser Press Collector's Magazine - Issue #19 (Sept.-Oct. 1981)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

(Johnny) Ringo - Eye Witness (1982)

Johnny Ringo was a dancehall reggae performer and DJ who started releasing albums in the late 1970s. He also went by the lone name "Ringo," which was the case on this album, his fifth, but I've included his first name in the title of this post so Beatle fans won't get misdirected. This ain't the drummer of the Fab Four, people.

Unlike, say, Mikey Dread, who I followed starting in high school, I know very little about Ringo. The main thing that stands out in his catalog is that he didn't shy away from controversial subjects in his songs, as exemplified by his tunes "Herpes" and "Two Lesbians." This album has a song about "Cocaine," which is sadly ironic, because Ringo was said to have died as a result of overusing the drug.

The music here will sound familiar to anyone who has heard the more popular dancehall performers who came in the wake of Ringo. The most obvious example of this is Shaggy, and some of the tunes here, like "Bounty Hunter" and "Gypsy Girl" sound like proto versions of what he'd do over a decade later.

I picked this CD up in the mid-1990s, back when you could find a lot of this stuff in discount bins. It's not rare, but it is out of print. Since I recently posted some reggae this week, I thought I'd put this out as a followup and keep things thematic.

Related posts:
Mikey Dread - S.W.A.L.K. (1982)
Bob Marley - Natural Mystic (1992)

Track list:
1. Eye Witness
2. Bendown Plaza
3. Cocaine
4. Video
5. Come Back Ringo
6. Bounty Hunter
7. Cleanliness
8. Gypsy Girl

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Bob Marley - Natural Mystic (1992)

Despite the title of this bootleg, it isn't really a collection of solo Bob Marley recordings. Rather, it's a posthumous CD that's a grab-bag of early recordings by various incarnations of the Wailers, Bob Marley and the Wailers, and Bob Marley and producer Lee "Scratch" Perry and his house band, the Upsetters.

This came out a quarter century ago, and it's long been superseded by legit collections and at least one huge box set. So why post it? For several reasons. First, it has sentimental value to me. I bought this on the cheap when I had little money to spend on CDs, and I listened to it a lot when I was much younger.

Secondly, the background of these songs were always a mystery to me. Putting this out finally gave me impetus to do some research on the recordings (which I've included in the MP3 tags). I was surprised that they were a hodge-podge of released and unreleased recordings done in a variety of settings.

For one thing, I had no idea Marley recorded as extensively with Lee Perry as he did. I also didn't know that when they put out singles in Jamaica, sometimes they didn't have catalog numbers. But the Internet now allows us to see scans of those old 45 labels and that's the way it was. For example, Marley's early version of "Satisfy My Soul, "Rock My Boat," had no catalog number when it originally came out on the Tuff Gong label in 1971. That's also the case with "Keep On Mooving" (SIC) and "African Herbsman," the latter of which is a cover of a Richie Havens song.

Whenever possible, I corrected the song titles here (bootlegs are notorious for getting them wrong). So "Keep On Movin'" is now "Keep On Mooving," which is what is says on the record label. "Don't Rock My Boat" is titled "Rock My Boat" on the label. If you want the titles as they appeared on the bootleg, just check out the scans.

Finally, if you know little or nothing about Marley's music, you might be in for a surprise here. Where his most popular material is slickly produced, these early recordings are low-fi and gritty. This is the way a lot of early Jamaican music sounded and it's pretty infections -- much like a lot of the American R&B that inspired it.

I was a big reggae fan in the '80s and early '90s, so I have a whole bunch of collections like this by various reggae artists, most of whom are far lesser-known than Marley. In the future, I may post some of the more under-the-radar ones if the mood strikes.

Related posts:
Mikey Dread - S.W.A.L.K. (1982)

Track list:
1. Bob Marley and the Upsetters - Natural Mystic
2. Bob Marley and the Wailers - Rock My Boat
3. Bob Marley and the Wailers- Keep On Mooving
4. Bob Marley and the Upsetters - Lively Up Yourself
5. The Wailers - Stop the Train
6. Bob Marley and the Upsetters - Small Axe
7. Bob Marley and the Wailers - Trench Town Rock
8. Bob Marley and the Wailers - Corner Stone
9. Bob Marley and the Upsetters - Mr. Brown
10. Bob Marley and the Wailers  - Soul Shake Down Party
11. Bob Marley and the Wailers - African Herbsman
12. Bob Marley and the Wailers - Soul Almighty
13. Bob Marley - Treat You Right
14. Bob Marley and the Wailers- It's Alright