Who Likes Cuban Rum? I Do!

Bob Dylan.  Enough of this “Great American Songbook” bullshit.

“Triplicate” is sublime.  Unapproachable.

A year or so ago, Bob said “Covers? These songs have been covered so often they’re buried. We’re uncovering them”.

When I heard “Stardust”, I understood.  Reinterpreted from the ground up.  It flows like virgin water.

If you don’t get it, you don’t get it.

There’s nothing more to say.

Speaking of Bob, he did an album in 1990 called “Under The Red Sky”.  I’ve always loved it for its sheer silliness, but the holier-than-thou critical “experts” panned it without mercy.  I say they missed the point.

The lyrics are full of fairytale references.  The album is dedicated to his then four-year-old daughter, Gabby Goo Goo.  Dylan had said in 1985 that he wanted to do an album of children’s songs, but that Columbia wouldn’t know how to market it.  So I say he snuck it out.  And it’s my favourite children’s album.

Listen again.

And speaking of Jeff Gay, which we weren’t, his new album is called “Cuban Rum” and it’s bloody wonderful.

It’s the best thing I’ve heard in a good while.

Smart writing and intuitive playing, which don’t happen often.

Good taste abounds on this one.

Gay knows about imagery.  He’s the real deal.

Authentic.  Without thinking about it.  He knows that as soon as you think about being authentic, you aren’t.

So buy it.

Give him an extra buck and he’ll probably autograph it too.

And Chuck Berry.  Bless him.  I love Chuck but I just felt embarrassed for him when I heard the new album.  No feel.  None.  The band doesn’t have a clue.  Every song smacks of “let’s recreate that one” and fails miserably.  Stick with the double “Chuck Berry Gold” Chess CD.  It’s almost got you covered.

As for that new Buckingham/McVie song… “dinky dinky ding, dinky dinky ding”, over & over & over until I wanna scream.  And don’t even get me started on the lyrics.

And dear old Sgt. Pepper.  Remixed.  Why?  Money.

The original mono mix is untouchable, even if your old album is hacked up.  I know, because mine is, and it sounds like magic.

And that “old” George Martin stereo mix is perfect.  Because it was done then, in the moment.  So what if it took him two hours?  I’d take two hours with Martin anytime.

So the deluxe version has extra takes that aren’t as good as the issued takes.  If they weren’t good enough for the album, what makes them “deluxe”?

Pizza Person:  “With our deluxe pizza package, you get a bonus pizza that doesn’t taste as good as the first one.”

Dumb Customer:  “Really?  Wow!  I’ll take it!”

Apple announced in ’95 that there was nothing left worth releasing after the anthologies came out.  I guess profit changes everything.

And “She’s Leaving Home” is now credited to “Paul McCartney”. “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, “Good Morning Good Morning” and “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” are credited to “McCartney-Lennon”.

Apple should have a contest:

“Win a limited numbered edition ‘A Day In The Life’ alarm clock that Paul McCartney claims to have designed!”

That guy has a serious self-esteem problem.

Maybe he should hire Giles Martin to remix his brain.

And I can’t leave out The Rolling Stones.

I was talking with a self-proclaimed “audiophile” the other day.  He rambled on about all the wonderful “nuances” to be heard on the mono Stones boxed set.

Who in the fuck wants to hear “nuances” on “19th Nervous Breakdown”?

Not hearing the “nuances” was the whole point.

I remember first hearing that song on the little plastic radio in my parents’ kitchen.  I was stunned by the overall noise of it.

Perfect, muffled, scratchy, powerful, distorted noise.

And that was the magic.

It always seems that the suckers who buy this “remastered-into-sterility” stuff are the ones who know nothing about actual music, just “sound quality”.

I have never heard an “audiophile” talk about music.  Ever.

Have you?

Now… where did I put that old Stones 45?

Dave Davies – Hidden Treasures (Sanctuary)

Dave Davies. A hidden treasure indeed. Always in brother Ray’s shadow, enhancing every song, content to be “Dave Davies, Quality Control”.

A guitarist any band would covet with a voice to match. And those solos. If he’d done nothing after “You Really Got Me”, his place in rock & roll history would be assured.
But he accomplished much more than that. Listen again to the intro to “Dedicated Follower Of Fashion” and imagine the song without it. And picture “Lola” without his voice propelling it into the sky.
He even had his moment in the sun in ’67 when “Death Of A Clown” was a massive “solo” hit in the UK and Europe, and what a record it was. Listen closely to the intro where he taps that C-G-F bit on his acoustic. I swear I’m gonna steal that idea someday.
After a few more great singles, which were really Kinks records with Dave up front, plans were set for a solo album. It was pretty much done when Dave decided he was more comfortable as a Kink. And so it never came to be.
Some songs were buried on Kinks b-sides, some were placed on Kinks LPs, and some never appeared at all. Until this eye-opener of a collection.
The first thirteen songs are as close as we’ll come to the planned LP, with fourteen others that cover his solo singles and much more.
“Susannah’s Still Alive”, “This Man He Weeps Tonight”, “There’s No Life Without Love”… they should all be in heavy rotation on everyone’s favourite “oldies station”, alongside “All Day And All Of The Night” and “Sunny Afternoon”, for they’re every bit as good and memorable. So let’s listen and remember them.
From ’64 to ’93, Dave Davies lifted The Kinks, in every conceivable way. His modesty and his dedication to his brother’s more extensive muse speaks volumes.
“Hidden Treasures” is The Kinks with “the other guy” in the front. It sounds like a lost horizon finally found.

****

“You Really Got Me: The Story of the Kinks” by Nick Hasted is well worth reading. Plenty of input from all four Kinks. It’s interesting how the whole Ray/Dave thing stems from sibling rivalry as kids. Six older sisters, then when the youngest sister was six, along came baby Ray, the apple of their eyes. When Dave appeared three years later, that all changed. A dynamic that seems to still be there. When all is said and done, though, they clearly love each other. The fact that they could do “Hatred” for a good laugh speaks volumes. I love this performance. The ending is perfect:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHF4Lpdr-iY

Ray Davies: “I think Dave, as a guitarist, he doesn’t get the credit he deserves.”
Dave Davies: “Ray’s an arsehole.”

****

Ringo Starr:

“The way I’ve been working over the last several years is that I do sort of a rhythm-pattern synth track. And then I play drums and go ‘Oh, there’s a verse. Oh, that sounds like a chorus. And then I call writers in and say, ‘Let’s write something to that!’”
Umm… in other words, who writes the songs?
I love Ringo’s playing. He’s second to none, but do you know what disappoints me? On this “All-Star” footage I see, he’s rarely playing drums. And when he is, there’s always a second drummer playing with him.
Sorry, Ringo, but you’re a drummer.

****

I like this. Paul McCartney:

“I’ll put out my next album, but I won’t think I’m gonna sell a lot. I’m putting it out because I have songs that I like. And I will do my best job. The scene has changed, but it doesn’t disturb me, because I had the best of it.”

****

Chuck Berry, commenting on:

The Sex Pistols – God Save the Queen:
“What’s this guy so angry about anyway? Guitar work and progression is like mine. Good backbeat. Can’t understand most of the vocals. If you’re going to be mad at least let the people know what you’re mad about.”

The Ramones – Sheena is a Punk Rocker:
“A good little jump number. These guys remind me of myself when I first started. I only knew three chords too.”

****

And NOW… What you’ve all been waiting for…
It’s “Arthur Fields And Harmony Trio”. From another time and another world. Recorded in Boston, 1925, for a low budget label that pedalled its wares to discount stores. That wonderful slide guitar is probably played by someone named Andy Sannella but no one knows for sure. That only adds to the charm. This 78 is one of my prized possessions. Ridiculous? Maybe, by today’s standards. Silly? Definitely. But picture yourself in the parlour with your sweetheart, winding the Victrola, placing that steel spike of a needle on this brittle 10” shellac disc. You gaze into each other’s eyes. And you’re in… My Blue Heaven:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMWZHRWHnFw

****

The Stones? I’ll take The Mandala

charlie-watts-thumbSo The Rolling Stones have a new “blues” album.

Whoopie.

I know it’s great that they’re still around and, hopefully, still having a good time playing music.

They deserve that.

But this is just another in a long line of “new” albums by old codgers who lost the plot a long time back.

Remember that new Neil Young album?

That new Van Morrison album?

Or that new Keith Richards album?

Did you ever go back to any of them once the novelty wore off?

This record’s created a buzz because of who it is, rather than what it is, which is a mediocre blues album.

As a matter of fact, it’s not a blues album.

It’s a plodding, generic rock album.

In every case, I’d rather hear the original versions and I’d never say that about the early Stones.

Truth be told, this band lost their genuine feel for the blues when they lost Brian Jones and Mick Taylor.  Then Bill Wyman, their true anchor.  We’re talking decades ago.

Ronnie Wood’s chunky, rigid nonsense is about as far away from blues as you can get.

Jagger & Richards have become eternal posers.

And Charlie?  Well, Charlie’s as solid and swinging as ever.  He’s just got nothing to work with.

Ringo Starr:

“I love Charlie.  He’s the only one who leaves out more that I do.”

Wanna hear some old bugger who really can play the blues?

Check out “Tank Full Of Blues” by Dion.

That’s right, that Dion.

It can be done.

****

mandalaTop this:

The Mandala.

Opportunity.

Toronto 1967.

If ever there was a “lost treasure” 45, this is it.

Domenic Troiano’s solo is perfect.  Over the top in the best of ways.

He’d arrived from Robbie Lane’s Disciples, so christened on Good Friday.  Actually, I made that up.

He later moved on to The Guess Who & The James Gang.

And George Olliver.  That bugger could SING.

If you haven’t heard it, I kind of envy you, getting to hear it for the first time.

“We came three thousand miles from Canada to L.A.,

to tell you exactly how it feels,

maybe, maybe it’s here we’ll get our Opportunity!”

Then…. BANG!

Why this record wasn’t huge still baffles me.

Even the fadeout is beyond belief.

And the fact that Troiano doesn’t return in the fade, playing all the over-the-top shit he could obviously stun us with, speaks volumes for his taste & humility as a musician.

It’s like he’s thinking “I’m really gonna mess with them.  They’ll crave my madness in the fadeout.  I know!  I won’t play anything.  Fuck them.”

Either that or the engineer forgot to turn him back up.

Solid soul with The Dells on backup vocals.

It’s right here.

Listen up:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IaRhVjjA10

****

I’m friggin’ sick & tired of no-name country songs masquerading as “roots” music.  Aren’t you?  Americana.  Canadiana.  Alt-Country.  And let’s not forget Tropicalia.  And Post-Electronic Tropicalia, Shoe Gaze, Post Art-Punk and (my favourite) Anarchistic Folk-Punk.  I kid you not.  Check All Music.

Aren’t things becoming a little too fragmented?  Can’t we just call it music?

I am rather intrigued by “Atmospheric Punk” though.  Punk is nothing if not atmospheric.  When I listen to The Ramones, I can always smell the pizza.

But the good news is that I just found out that I’m a “World Folk” artist.  Me!

I didn’t know that.

Della Rosa

della-rosaWhat do you want me to say?  That “Della Rosa” by Willie Stratton is as real as it gets?  Okay, “Della Rosa” is as real as it gets.  I first heard the song on a sunny summer morning.  Once.  I then took a half hour stroll downtown.  I did what I did.  Then I walked back home.  I sang it all the way.  Couldn’t get it out of my head.  I didn’t want to.  Beautiful story, striking imagery, elegant arrangement, perfect execution.  Taste personified.  It rests on a cloud.

It leads off a six song EP that’s a joy to hear.

I wish old Charlie Poole could hear Willie’s merciful take on “Moving Day”.  Who knows?  Maybe he has.  It’s the real deal.

When you make a record this good, the right band makes all the difference.

Anna Wedlock on fiddle, Jill Chambers on bass, Zach Crawford on steel and Kim Harris on vocals are the right band.

Strong and true from start to finish.

No weak link.

Willie Stratton isn’t someone who’s trying to be authentic.  He is authentic.  The difference is immeasurable.

Buy this EP.  It’ll have you dancing in the very best way.  And Willie could use the money.  It’s on vinyl, on CD and it’s right here:

https://williestratton.bandcamp.com

****

Interesting thing about Elvis.

I was listening to “Trying To Get To You” by The Eagles (not those Eagles) from 1954.

It’s a cool record but Elvis’ version is WAY better.

Then I listened to “Baby Let’s Play House”.

Then “Mystery Train”, “Such A Night”, “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin”, “Good Rockin’ Tonight”. Even “Hound Dog”.

I’d never thought of this before but, in every instance, Elvis’ take is better than the “black” original.

He only picked GREAT songs that weren’t very good records.

Smart guy.

And he waited until the originals had run their course before he recorded them.

Very fair of him, I think.

No wonder James Brown liked him.

****

Rolling Stone was once a damn good music magazine.

After all, Doug Sahm was on their cover.  Twice.

That says a lot.

Now they’re a damn good political magazine.

That also says a lot, in an entirely different way.

But what I like best about RS2016 is their hilarious story headers:

“Wynonna Judd Talks Surprise Acceptance by Americana Genre”

(Don’t get me started.)

“Three of Elvis’ most beloved movies – Blue Hawaii, Girls Girls Girls and Paradise, Hawaiian Style.”

(What?)

“Elvis’ producer Tom Felton.”

(Who?)

“Weekend Rock Question: What Is the Best Star Trek Movie?

Cast your vote in our weekly poll”

(Mine is “Telstar”)

****

And hey, all you bored I-wish-I-had-a-life geeks:

Listen up.

Have you checked out the Come Undone Records Facebook page?

We’re posting cool, century-spanning music and art, solely for your aural and visual pleasure, on a (pretty much) daily basis.

Where else can you listen to Scott Walker and look at Edward Hopper?

Nowhere.

Except here:

https://www.facebook.com/ComeUndoneRecords/

And besides, unlike other alleged pages, we actually love you.

Really.

Belle Plaine “The Unrequited Love”

belleplaineListening to “The Unrequited Love” is like discovering an enchanted treasure chest full of unexpected surprises.

It’s the kind of album that gets you through the hard times in a magically unexpected way. I’ve lived with it for a few months and, believe me, it’s inspirational.

And aspirational.

Great title too.

Smart writing, smart singing, smart playing.

Tom Waits’ “Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis” sounds like it was written for Belle Plaine to interpret.  It’s hers now.  Stark and true.

“Good Heart” kills me.

Straight to the point.  “I’ve got a good heart”.  What a commanding lyric.

My friend Dave Careless:

“I feel like I can hear a train whistle about forty miles away!”

Dave also described this music as “humbling”.

Well said.

“Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out” was written by Jimmy Cox in 1923.  It’s been sung so often that it’s almost become a cliche.  Not here.

Belle finds the ether of this song and she turns it into something new and relevant.

As for “Swamp Lullaby”, what a mysterious, beguiling groove.  It draws me in.  It has momentum.  Alchemy too.

It’s way off the beaten path.

And I do love to stroll off the beaten path.

It’s strong and convincing.  It speaks for itself.

It encourages me to use my imagination.

What a performance.  I actually heard this song first.

When it ended with applause, I was stunned.  I’d no idea it was live.

My friend Michael Coll said:

“It makes sense that she gave the album an actual title rather than just ‘Live at the ___’, as it sounds like an album.”

This IS an album and this artist is for real.

So do yourself a favour.

Don’t pass her by.

****

monkeesgoodtimesOn to The Monkees.

I received a message from a friend. He’s a really good guy so I won’t name names:

“Just spinning the new Monkees album.. What a great record!!”

I must react:

The Monkees were junk.

Entertaining junk at times, but junk nonetheless.

Okay, so the junk that was made in ’67 is way better than the junk that’s made now.

But it’s still junk!

They were only ever glossy facsimiles of The Troggs and Paul Revere And The Raiders.

Now they’re dull facsimiles of dead Troggs and dead Raiders. And everyone’s saying “What a great record!”. Why? Because they’re not dead.  Mostly.

This is a shitty record.

Patched together and awkward.

Way past its expiry date.

It’s one of those albums that you (not me) WANT to like.

And when you WANT to like a record, all common sense gets sucked down the drain.

Yes, “Me & Magdalena” is the exception.  Great song.

Nesmith nailed the vocal.

Then some idiot “producer” decided to dub Dolenz’ voice over the top of it.  Ruined it.  Made it artificial.

Shame.

I’d love to hear the real thing.

****
e91169c5e72fbfc717904e73162a48dfAs for Mike Love, I’ve read his new book.

It’s not nearly as offensive as I thought it would be.

Now I’m gonna list some songs:

“California Girls”

“She Knows Me Too Well”

“Dance, Dance, Dance”

“In The Back Of My Mind”

“Let Him Run Wild”

“I Get Around”

“Help Me, Rhonda”

“You’re So Good To Me”

“Fun, Fun, Fun”

On the original records, these songs, among many others, were credited to “Brian Wilson”.

Mike Love wrote the lyrics for every one.

And if I was Mike Love, I’d want credit too.

Brian Wilson created a musical dream.

Mike Love made his cousin’s dream universal.

And accessible:

“Well, she got her Daddy’s car…. ”

“Well, since you put me down…. ”

“Well, East Coast girls are hip….”

“Well”.  What an opener.  Such a perfectly inviting word.

Well….

Let’s go surfin’ now.

The Gift of Squeeze

Squeeze“Nirvana” by Squeeze.  Have you heard this?  I’m serious.  There are lessons to be learned from this record.  I find it truly inspiring.

Not a wasted note.

Perfect intro.

Perfect lyrics.

Perfect story.

Perfect chord changes.

Perfect instrumentation.

Perfect arrangement.

Perfect fade (although some idiot cut it off here).

Perfect record.

And it’s got an electric sitar!

Watch on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fidOiAFXK0

And wait ’til you’ve heard it a dozen times.  Talk about sinking in.  There’s something about Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook singing the same melody, an octave apart, that no one else has touched.

These two create songs in a most unusual way.  Difford writes the lyrics and Tilbrook sets them to music.  Simple and brilliant.

It worked for “Black Coffee In Bed”, “Up The Junction” and “Labelled With Love”.  And it works here, maybe even better.

The album is called “Cradle To The Grave” and it exceeds all expectations, of which I had none.

I didn’t see it coming.

Twelve new songs and not a clunker among them.

Welcome back, old friends.

****

As for The Beatles, it’s re-re-re-marketing time.

“Beatles 1” has been (guess what) remixed.  I thought “this could be interesting”.

It isn’t.

“Paperback Writer”, “Ticket To Ride”, and the whole lot just sound more “modern” to me.  More centred, in keeping with current views on what “stereo” should be.  Hell, those early “isolated” George Martin mixes were an integral part of the charm of these records.  Turning down Ringo’s tambourine on “Day Tripper” should be considered a criminal offence.

Besides, I was never too fond of most of the later McCartney stuff like “Get Back” and “The Long And Winding Road”.  I always wished they’d left the whole “Let It Be” album in the can.  “Don’t Let Me Down” was magnificent but it wasn’t on that album and it isn’t on this one.  Go figure.

It is, however, on one of the two DVD/Blu-Rays that come with the “Deluxe” version of “Beatles 1”, and they’re a whole other story.  (Sorry if this sounds confusing, but there are actually seven variations of this set!  Dollars, Dollars, Dollars.)

The live versions of “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “A Hard Day’s Night” are magic and the fish-and-chips video for “I Feel Fine” is too silly to ignore.

You even get to see John make a chip sandwich.

And eat it.

That’s what I call art.

And the alternate, laughing “We Can Work It Out” is a joy to watch.

They even had the good sense to include “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love”, two worthy footnotes to The Beatles’ legacy where Harrison absolutely shines.  Let’s just call them George’s revenge.

****

And please check out The Come Undone Facebook Page where you’ll find music and art that should tickle your fancy;

****

I was reading where Keith Richards calls Sergeant Pepper’s “rubbish”.

Has he heard the last twenty Stones albums?

****

As for summer delights, I stand by these;

“It’ll Be Alright” by Christina Martin.

Smart & challenging.

Midnight Roll” by Laura Merrimen.

Dark & engaging.

“The Unrequited Love” by Belle Plaine.

Elegant & economical.

And they all blend perfectly with beer & cashews.

Fashion

Rolling Stone is becoming my favourite magazine.
First they publish a list of “The 100 Greatest Songwriters Of All Time”.
Apparently, “All Time” starts in 1949.
Then they rate Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon above Brian Wilson.
Taylor Swift is there.
Robert Johnson isn’t.
Nor is Nick Lowe.
Of course Bob Dylan is number one.
I don’t disagree but he’d be the first to ask “Where’s Wolf?”

Their headlines of late have also displayed innate musicality;

“Miley Cyrus Goes Back to Synth Roots on New Song”

Synth roots.
Think about it.

Or this one;

“Whitney Houston Hologram Maker Promises Absolute Authenticity”

There’s nothing I love better than an authentic hologram.

It’s hard to believe they once put Doug Sahm on the cover.  Twice actually.

Ever heard “Big Dumb Jukebox” by NRBQ?
Why not?
You don’t know what you’re missing.
It’s from a fabulous album called “Message For The Mess Age”.
“Jukebox” salutes Rolling Stone in verse;

“Big ignorant fashion magazine,
you come on rockin’ and rollin’,
even your name is stolen”

No wonder they didn’t get good reviews.

They did momentarily redeem themselves last week when they quoted Merle Haggard talking about modern “country music”;

“I don’t find anything you can whistle, and nobody even attempts to write a melody.  As far as I’m concerned, Simpson’s the only one out there. The rest of them sound like a bunch of shit to me.”

That’s my Merle.  When I was ten, I lived around the corner from The Halifax Forum.  My friend Mike and I used to sell bottles of Coke for fifteen cents, wandering through the audience at shows and hockey games, hollering “Coca-Cola!”  We made two cents for every Coke we sold.  We worked a Buck Owens show in 1965.  I looked forward to it because Ringo had done “Act Naturally” and he’d talked about Buck in interviews.  I’d never heard of the opening act but once Merle started singing, I stopped hollering.  An ear opening experience that I’ll never forget.

Back to the fashion magazine.

Keith Richards is promoting his new album and, as usual, Rolling Stone is publishing his nonsense like he’s Jesus;

“What rap did that was impressive was to show there are so many tone-deaf people out there.  All they need is a drum beat and somebody yelling over it and they’re happy.”

That sounds just like the old school Stones critics sounded in 1964!

Keith;

“The Beatles sounded great when they were the Beatles.  But there’s not a lot of roots in that music.”

This nonsense from a guy who was delighted and grateful when Lennon & McCartney wrote The Stones’ second single, and first big hit, which Brian Jones (who no longer seems to exist) put over the top with his fearless slide guitar.

Richards on The Beatles’ Shea Stadium gig;

“As a band, they weren’t in sync with each other.”

Have you ever watched that footage?
I’ve never seen Harrison and Lennon MORE in sync.
Check out “I’m Down”.
It’s on that tube and it’s everything you could wish for.
I’ll bet it’s also everything Richards wishes for.

Keith!  Get over it!  They were better than you’ve ever been.  In every possible way.

****

In other news, my song of the day is “Small Poppies” by Courtney Barnett.
It’s minimal, honest, tasteful, smart, and that guitar kills me.
Everything about this song is right.
Absolutely riveting.
It cruises.
It smokes.
It delivers.

And besides, Keith likes poppies too.

Elvis Is Back! (And so is Tuck)

Two overnight sessions in March and April of 1960.
Eighteen songs over two nights.
One LP and three 45s.
Elvis’ singing at this point…. there are no words.
And he produced them too.
“It Feels So Right”.
“Fever”.
“Such A Night”.
This album is impeccably recorded in bright, discerning stereo.
RCA’s Nashville studio was second to none.

Between September ’58 and March ’60, Private Elvis was stationed in Germany.
He met Charlie Hodge, a small time mostly-gospel singer from Alabama, also stationed in Germany.
They were both instinctive rhythm guitar players and they were both really good at it.
They sang too.
So Elvis got permission from the army to rent a house in Bad Nauheim (nice name), near the base.
He invited Charlie to live there with him, along with Elvis’ Daddy & Grandma.  She cooked (let’s not go there).
Charlie suggested that Elvis “practice” singing.
That took nerve.
Here was Elvis Presley, looking down from the very peak of the music world being told by this guy from Alabama that he should PRACTICE.
Elvis took to Charlie instantly.
For those two years, after daytime army duty, after Grandma’s meal, Charlie & Elvis sat in the living room where they sang and played.  And practiced.
Over & over for two years.
As soon as Elvis got discharged, he headed to Memphis.
So did Charlie.
They were true friends, bonded by the sheer joy of playing together.
“I Will Be Home Again” is Charlie & Elvis.
I love “Elvis Is Back!”.
And for those precious few months of 1960, he was back.

Elvis really believed in this album.
It made number two and sold half a million.
The Colonel & RCA viewed that as a disaster.
Time to resort to the tried & true;
A movie soundtrack.
“G.I. Blues” was next.
It shot to #1 and sold three million.
Elvis wasn’t happy.
In March of 61, Elvis went back into the studio and recorded “Something For Everybody”, a great album.
It made #1 but sold half a million.
Then came the soundtrack to “Blue Hawaii”.
Number one for months & it sold 5 million copies.
Poor Elvis.
Here he was, at twenty-five, having put his heart into two great albums and the idiots who bought his records clearly preferred SHIT.
He gave it one more shot when he recorded “Pot Luck” in early ’62.
Another great record.
Number one.  Half a million.
The “Girls! Girls! Girls!” soundtrack then sold two million.
The poor guy just gave up.
Then it was plastic hair & movie time.
And evil pills.

But “Elvis Is Back!” was before all that.  It’s a statement from an artist on fire.
From a voice that’s never been eclipsed.
And I haven’t even mentioned his acoustic on “Reconsider Baby”.

****

Al Tuck – Fair Country

A box of matches.  Al Tuck.  A download code.  What else do you need?

Here’s what you get for ten bucks;

“Always On My Mind”.  Definitive.
“Stompin’TomConnors.com”.  Jubilant.
“(Gotta Love) These Lies”.  Perfect.
“Stop Hittin’ On Louise”.  Really.

Those four titles won me over before I even played this album.

I won’t waste your time with further rambling.
“Fair Country” lives up to all expectations.
It speaks for itself.
And that’s saying something.

What’s next?  A sixteen slice pizza?
Fix your oven, Al.

Belle Plaine – Notes From A Waitress

I have a friend who introduces me thus;
“This is Billy.  He’s the fussiest fucker you’ll ever meet.”
I take that as a compliment.
Why listen to “pretty good” music when you can hear the best?
Beats me.

I first heard Belle Plaine a few weeks back and I was hooked.
She was playing live, with Jeremy Sauer on piano and Elizabeth Curry on standup bass, two of the most tasteful players I’ve ever heard.
I had no idea who she was, but I instantly loved what I was hearing.
Real, unassuming singing, straight from the heart.
No theatrics, no bullshit.
And her songs were amazing.
They stood up beside the other crazy choices in her set.
And those choices were clever, funny and fearless.
Anyone who can do justice to Peggy Lee & Jerry Lee (that’s right) is okay by me.

She’s got an album called “Notes From A Waitress” and it gets better every time I hear it.
Here’s what you should do;
Listen to “Port Angeles”, “Vegas” and “Legendary”.
If you don’t melt, you’ve got problems.
This album is a gift.
Smart and warm.
Don’t miss it.

Dig His Sobriety

“When I Close My Eyes” is a perfect song.
I encounter few of those.
“For Your Consideration” is also a perfect song.
…. Now I’m interested.
Either would fit seamlessly onto a Nick Lowe album.
“Yours will be the currency….”
Brilliant.

You all know about Joel Plaskett.
But maybe you don’t know this;
“The Park Avenue Sobriety Test” is his best album.
By a mile.
His strongest songs.
Great writing.
Perfect delivery.
A sequence that was carefully considered.  Or outrageously lucky.
Either way.

Plaskett knows how to balance depth with fun.
That’s not easy.
I’ve lived with this record for a while and I’ve played it easily thirty times.
I recommend it to you all.
It sticks like glue.

It’s got surefire hits too.
And what’s wrong with hits?  I wish I had one.

This album is a welcomed destination, every time.
Not one of those that’s-good-file-it-away-and-forget-about-it albums.
This one’s permanent.
Enduring, like “The Impossible Bird” or “Braver Newer World”.
Okay, and “It’ll Be Alright”.
It doesn’t sound like any of them, but it’s as strong. 

Five Highlights;

1 Erin Costelo on “When I Close My Eyes”.

2  The backwards piano intro on “When I Close My Eyes”.

3 “Credits Roll”, which follows “When I Close My Eyes”.

4 “Captains Of Industry”, a resigned beauty that’s anything but resigned, unlike “When I Close My Eyes”.

5 “When I Close My Eyes”.

Six More;

1 “For Your Consideration”, because it strikes and sticks, like “When I Close My Eyes”.

2 The guitar solo on “Captains”, the best solo that Neil Young never played, whether on “When I Close My Eyes” or not.

3 The ever-reliable musical madness of Dale Murray, who plays for all the world like he has so many things to be angry about, but not on “When I Close My Eyes”.

4 Anchorman Tim Brennan, who also doesn’t play on “When I Close My Eyes”, yet savours a good Elvis movie.

5 Clive McNutt, because he’s brilliant, even when he closes his eyes.

6 The one that Joel left off the album, because it sounded too much like “When I Close My Eyes”.

Get the picture?

But “Hard Times” is the clincher.

To take an ancient Stephen Foster song and bring it to life like this is no small achievement.
I’ve always loved “Hard Times”.
It’s one of those great songs, like “Tonight You Belong To Me”, that were made into shitty records.
“Hard Times” is no longer a shitty record.
It’s a great record.
It’s right where it should be.
Soulful and thoughtful, from those marching drums to that sumptuous final chord.
A splendid performance.

What a great album.
And Plaskett’s a really good drummer…. I wonder how much he charges?

I’m sleepy now.

Must close my eyes.