Monday, May 26, 2003

While indulging myself in an all-day Mick Ronson music marathon on the JB stereo, here's that long-awaited edition of Johnny B's Mondo Vinyl-O! In which I list ten of those prehistoric vinyl albums I've listened to since the last edition of JB's MV-O. Here we go:

Rickie Lee Jones-The Magazine (1984) Got in the mood to hear this after Brendan mentioned it a while back. It's probably the most ambitious thing Rickie Lee ever attempted, but it's a bit slick in that early-to-mid 80s production style way so it doesn't really stick. There are two songs which I love on this one: Steely Dan-ish The Real End, with goosebump-inducing horns, and It Must Be Love, which has a gorgeous melody and some nice dynamics.

Foghat-Girls To Chat and Boys To Bounce (1981) A lot of bands, around the turn of the decade, were forced to respond to the Punk and New Wave trends. Many adopted skinny ties and curbed the tendency to write 6 minute songs, making them 2 1/2 or 3 instead, which was the tack that uber-blues-band Foghat took. This thing takes off like a shot with the opener, "Wide Boy" a fast and furious tale of a bouncer of some sort...if the rest of the LP had been as good as the first cut, this would be an minor masterpiece. Sorry to say that it's not. There is one other song of note, a singalong called "Sing About Love" which has an actual hook, something the Hat boys couldn't seem to come up with elsewhere. Actually, I always liked the follow up "In The Mood For Something Rude" a lot more, but I don't have it on vinyl. Never thought you'd run across a conniseur of obscure Foghat albums on the Web, didja?

Debbie Harry-Koo Koo (1981) This album was a colossal flop, despite the popularity of almost everyone involved- Harry, in the wake of Blondie's breakup; producer Nile Rodgers of Chic, which also provided the musical backing, Devo's Mothersbaugh brothers, heck, even cover artist H.R. Giger only a couple of years after acheiving noteriety via his designs for the film Alien. Maybe people were trying to pay Debbie back for the demise of Blondie, who knows. 22 years later, this remains, to me, a fun pop/R&B/New Wave hybrid, a bit dated sounding, maybe, but tuneful and jumping just the same. Faves on this album include "The Jam Was Moving", a funky-poppy thing with Devo-ish BV's; "Chrome", with harsh, abrasive guitars and percussion, and would-be hit single "Backfired", which is probably the most Chic-ish sounding thing here and sounds like some sort of kiss-off to somebody probably forgotten by now.

Sly and the Family Stone's Greatest Hits (1970) 12 groundbreaking, funky, fun, brilliantly played and excellently sung songs for your listening pleasure. Released between "Stand" and "There's A Riot Goin' On", it's not a complete Sly collection by any means but that doesn't make this any less of a great album. One of my 10 favorites, has been in fact since 6th grade when W.T. Stinson (see link at right in the Artists section) snuck his cassette copy in the tape recorder that we were all supposed to be listening to a reading exercise through. It was like a light bulb coming on in a dark room.

Mott The Hoople-The Hoople (1974) Here's another I've often placed on my faves list. One of many important (to me, anyway) records I bought off the record rack at the Ben Franklin five and dime in beautiful downtown Horse Cave, KY, sadly no longer there. The Ben Franklin, not Horse Cave. The last proper album Mott ever did with Ian Hunter, fresh off a tour with Queen and their "baroque and roll" influence is all over this one. It's an amazing assortment of styles, from the Chuck Berry meets Ziggy Stardust opener "The Golden Age of Rock 'n' Roll" through the weird, imaginative, theatrical "Marionette" to the calmer Dylanisms of "Trudi's Song". Original guitarist Mick Ralphs had left for Bad Company, and was replaced on this album by one Luther Grosvenor aka Ariel Bender, who contributed some howling solos here and there but really didn't have much to offer as a guitarist, unfortunately, but Hunter's vision for this album is so strong that it didn't really matter. If you've never heard this, or any Mott album before, then you should. Now. Go here for the skinny on one of the best bands that the 70s had to offer.

Procol Harum-Grand Hotel (1973) While I liked them much more than he did, I always thought Christgau's review of this album was kinda funny: "For years, these guys have been vacillating between a menu of grits which certainly ain't groceries and lark's tongues in aspic...Personally, I wish they'd pick their poison and choke on it". OK. Me, I kinda like this album and its next two follow-ups "Exotic Birds and Fruit" and "Procol's Ninth"– their attempts to marry r&b & blues to grandiose classical sensibilities failed as often as it succeeded but was sometimes brilliant, like on the title cut to this album, the lovely "For Liquorice John" and the dancehall singalong "A Souvenir of London" (which I used to play in my stool-and-guitar days), a tale of an unfortunate fellow who got the clap on a trip to England complete with tap-dancing. When it's off, though, like on the endless "T.V. Caesar", it can be an ordeal. My copy is a later reissue, and I still look from time to time on eBay and in used record stores for the elaborate, gatefolded original release.

Cheap Trick-In Color and In Black and White (1977) For a couple of years there, Cheap Trick was one of the greatest American pop-rock bands ever. Then, a couple of years after this came out, they totally lost the plot and only sporadically reached the heights that this album and its successor "Heaven Tonight" did. There's not a bad cut on this record.

Ringo the 4th (1977) Saturday Night Ringo Fever. Recorded during one of his most diffuse periods, in which he often sounded like he couldn't care less as long as someone propped him up at the mike and handed him a lyric sheet, this slick disco record was such a huge commercial disaster that Atlantic dropped him like a hot coal and poor Ritchie didn't record for a major label until 21 years later. But you know what? This is not a completely bad album. Several of the songs are catchy and tuneful, and once in a while it's as fun as it tries to be. So if you run across this somewhere, you could do worse.

Roger McGuinn-Peace On You (1974) I've always been a fan of the clutch of solo albums Byrd-guy McGuinn did in the 70s, especially his self-titled debut and the Mick Ronson-produced Cardiff Rose, but this, the second in the series, has it's highlights as well. It's definitely got that mid-70s El Lay production sound, and many diverse musicians contribute such as Al Kooper and Flo & Eddie. Sometimes the lyrics are a bit dodgy, tending towards sexism and cliche, but the musical accompaniment is first rate. Probably the best cut is "Gate of Horn", a witty reminisce about his early folksinger days.

Carly Simon-Spy (1979) This one's got "Vengeance", a rollicking tune with BVs by Tim Curry, and the title cut, a disco shuffle with a nice flute solo. Otherwise, this is a bland and dull album that was as big a flop as it deserved to be. If you're looking for a pattern in my listening habits last week, there you go: slickly produced late 70s-early 80s albums that were commercial flops for one reason or another.

And there you have it! Look for another Johnny B's Mondo Vinyl-O, coming soon to this blogspace! Thanks for reading!

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