Friday, May 20, 2005

Time now for the first in a series of REVIEWS OF MIXED BAG CD's!

Chris "Lefty" Brown got something started recently- a group blogger project in which we all created a mix CD and sent one to each person on the list. I now have all the participant's CD's, have listened to them all at least once through, and I'm past due opining on them. Rather than go in depth, I'll do short takes to save time, and I'll try to do at least three at a time. I'll also rank them at the end on a re-listenability scale, from "not a chance", "moderately low", "moderately high", "high" to "most definitely".


Highlights: "My Old School"- Steely Dan, a bit overplayed on classic rock radio stations but still a great track with two, count 'em, two excellent stuttering guitar solos; Cracker's laconic country-rock "Eurotrash Girl", track no. 69 from the Kerosene Hat album and one of the better cuts from that hit-and-miss Camper Van Beethoven spinoff group; Warren Zevon's "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner", the b-side to "Werewolves of London" and while it's not really one of my favorite WZ songs it's a good one nonetheless; an alternate take on David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust Marc Bolan tribute "Lady Stardust" which doesn't improve on the original but is interesting just the same, and "Fight Test", the lead track from the Flaming Lips' Yoshimi album, which features a shiver-inducing (well, it makes me shiver a little, anyway) instrumental break about 2:50 in.

Subjects for Further Research: Darling Violetta, whose "Anastasia Says" evokes a strong Mazzy Star/Cowboy Junkies/Patti Smith/Velvet Underground feel, and Jack Ingram, who sounds like Joe Ely's long-lost cousin.

No Harm, No Foul: Kasey Chambers' "The Captain"- I picked up on Chambers a few years ago, after seeing her on some music show of some sort, and was disappointed by the slick, bland production sound of her music, which kept me from looking any further. She's not terrible, but not especially memorable either; Tori Amos' "Past The Mission"- I don't hate Tori, really I don't, but I rarely hear anything out of her than Kate Bush didn't do better in the 80's; Heather Nova's "Virus of the Mind" wasn't too bad- sounded like she'd been practicing her Ani DiFranco/Alanis Morrisette moves; and Alison Krauss' "When You Say Nothing At All" is a song I'm very familiar's a favorite of my daughter, who often sings it at weddings and listened to it over and over and OVER again to learn it. It's a lovely song, but I have no real desire to hear it anymore. Bruce Robison's "Angry All The Time" has that modern country sound but was at least tuneful, I've always liked Manfred Mann's Dylan cover "The Mighty Quinn" although he did better later on (both Mann and Dylan), and Carbon Leaf's "The Boxer" (not the Simon & Garfunkel song) had a definite Pogues vibe to it, although with all the sharp edges sanded off in the studio.

The rest: I just don't dig mainstream country at all, (even though I work part-time at a radio station which plays it- fortunately it's mostly pre-records and I rarely actually hear the music I'm announcing) with its singing hats and country divas and its too-slick production, completely designed for maximum crossover appeal and pandering to all the wannabe snuff-dipping good ol'boys and trailer trash Walmart moms of the world. We get two examples of this here and that's fine, but they just aren't my cuppa joe.

Re-listenability: Moderately low. The songs I liked the most I already own, and there weren't many unfamiliar cuts that compelled me to come back. Still, I liked this one just fine and I'm looking forward to the next prescription from the good Doctor.

TOM THE DOG'S "YOU'LL PLAY IT AND YOU'LL LIKE IT, vol.1" (Oh yeah? I kid, Tom.)

Highlights: Several: a nice, rocking cover of the MC5's "Kick Out The Jams" by the Presidents of the U.S. of A.-whatever happened to those guys, anyway?; "I Don't Want To Know" by the Donnas, whom I usually like when I see them on TV but that hasn't translated to "go out and buy" just yet; solid cuts by musicians that I like but generally don't go out of my way to buy like the Ben Folds Five, They Might Be Giants (although I do have that two-CD best of that came out a while ago), and Joe Jackson, a great song that I haven't heard by Springsteen, which I assume is from The Rising, which I don't own; and appearances by personal faves Harry Nilsson ("Coconut", one of HN's best and the first hit he had with a song he wrote himself), Patsy Cline (can't beat "Crazy"- now that's country music), and Dino Crocetti from Steubenville, Ohio, AKA Martin, with the classic "That's Amore" as well as Marvin Gaye's legendary "Let's Get It On", always good macking soundtrack music. I usually like The Lemonheads, and the one provided is a solid track from them.

Subjects for Further Research- None. I'm at least passing familiar with every artist on this mix.

No Harm, No Foul: Green Day, "Uptight"- several Mix Bag participants put Green Day on their discs, but I'm just not a fan. Still, I will admit that they're listenable even as I ask for something else, please. Gary Numan's "Cars" is a classic of sorts, and catchy, but I always preferred Kraftwerk, Sparks, Bill Nelson or Low-era Bowie. The Who's "Who Are You" is a great song (hey, any song that namedrops T.Rex is OK by me) but I've heard it a skadillion times. Tori Amos' cover of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is OK, and a nice take on the song, but see my comments earlier. I've never really been a big AC/DC fan, either, but "It's a Long Way to the Top" isn't a bad choice- it's pretty typical of their output.

The Rest: Foo Fighters are OK, but not a group I'll go out of my way to listen to, and that applies to The Refreshments, Lit, the Dropkick Murphys, Therapy? and Barenaked Ladies (another Mixed Bag participant favorite).

And oh yeah, there's that group from England that everybody gets all in a dither about, the Moondogs or the Silver Beatles or something like that. Funny thing about "Her Majesty"- did you know that it was originally sequenced in between "Mean Mr. Mustard" and "Polythene Pam" on Abbey Road, but Paul didn't like it and had it removed. But the engineer spliced the section of tape on the end, to recycle the tape, and when Paul accidentally heard it in its new place at the end he liked it there a lot better, so it stayed there. A happy accident which performs the necessary function of deflating the rather grandiose ending of that album's song suite.

Re-playability: Moderately high. Several songs that I don't own and like.

ROXY'S WORLD MIX. Time for a little Roxy music! Ha.

Highlights: Gets off to a good start with the Philly disco soul of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes' "Don't Leave Me This Way". Seems like there's another version of this, by a female, that was a big hit at about that same time, maybe later. I got a kick out of Liam Lynch's "United States of Whatever", surely the "Don't Call Me Dude" of its day. I remember when that first came out; the video got a modicum of MTV airplay. I liked it then, but completely forgot about it. Funny stuff. "Polyester Bride" by Liz Phair is a excellent Stonesy track from the one Phair CD I don't own, Whitechocolatespaceegg. I listened to a friend's copy, and liked it, but I never got around to buying even though I've seen it for cheap in several places since. I'll have to remedy that someday. "Six Underground" by the Sneaker Pimps is another tune that I remember from when it was released, and liked it, but never bought it. "Spiders and Flies" from Mercury Rev is a great track from a band that I own one album by, 1998's Deserter's Songs. I like their mix of Brian Wilson/Spector production tricks with Hunky Dory-era Bowie songwriting. I just may have to get this track's CD, 2001's All Is Dream, one of these days. Back in the good old late 80's-early 90's days of the smalltown FM station where I worked, WLOC (Yes, I still work for WLOC, but it's different now. Long story.), we played a ton of Southern Culture on the Skids, and I remember "Camel Walk" very well. Fun, funky track, kinda like a redneck B-52's with a Cramps flavor. I consider Nick Drake's spare title track from his final album Pink Moon to be one of the loveliest ever written. The only overdub on the entire record, that piano solo, is just supernatural in its beauty and correctness.

Subjects For Further Research: I'm not at all familiar with David Carter, who's represented with a live version of CSN's "Southern Cross" here. The cover is pretty routine, but I wonder what his own stuff sounds like.

No Harm, No Foul: Cake the band, like Cake the foodstuff, is something I enjoy in moderation. There are several Cake tracks I like, but "Sheep Go To Heaven" isn't one of them. It's not bad, though. The Misfits' "Patient Boy" has a nice riff and boogies along agreeably, but the vocals grate. "Whistle Song" by P.J. Olssen is nice enough, but slight. The goofy, if nicely choreographed version of the Police's "Roxanne", sung by the narcoleptic Argentinian from Moulin Rouge! was fun to hear in this context. Not my favorite scene from the film, but it was a good one just the same. I'm by no means a fan of Morrissey or the Smiths, but Morrissey's solo "Suedehead" is a tuneful track which, again, I liked in this context. Carbon Leaf pops up again, as they did on Dr. Scott's mix. Catchy, but didn't really call me back for seconds.

The Rest: I liked Cornershop's "Brimful of Asha", but this remix adds nothing. My comments about Cake go double for Barenaked Ladies, and "Falling For the First Time" didn't grab me much. A little rap goes a long way with me, so I didn't really dig "Girl Named Michelle" all that much- it sounded like your typical run-of-the-mill hip-hop. I tried to find out who did it for ya, Roxy, but I couldn't find anything. Is that the correct title?

Re-playability: High, at least until I pick up Whitechocolatespaceegg...

More when I have time...!

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