Archive for the ‘Video’ Category

The Well Wishers: Here Comes Love

Friday, September 30th, 2016

The Well Wishers recent album Comes and Goes is only the latest in Jeff Shelton’s catalog of superb power pop. Check out this one from 2012’s Dreaming of the West Coast.

Chuck Blore: Okay, Okay, I Wrote the Book

Saturday, September 10th, 2016

chuckblore_okayokayiwrotethebookThe birth of major-market Top 40 radio

Chuck Blore is the program director who brought Top 40 rock ‘n’ roll to the major market masses. His rise to fame began as a DJ on Tucson’s KTKT and San Antonio’s KTSA, and as program director for Gordon McLendon’s KELP in El Paso. It was at KELP that Blore developed the fast-paced, jingle-filled, personality driven Top 40 rock ‘n’ roll format that was dubbed “Color Radio.” In 1958 he moved to Los Angeles, where he put KFWB on the map and became the first to establish Top 40 rock ‘n’ roll in a major market.

Blore chronicles his years at KFWB (and sister station KEWB in the San Francisco Bay Area) in a breezy collection of anecdotes, rather than a detailed history, but readers will gain valuable insight into the endless details involved in creating and maintaining a complex and unique radio format. KFWB’s influence and reach were unparalleled in the Los Angeles market, and the impact of Blore’s innovations (along with the DJs, business team and operating staff he trained) reverberated throughout the industry for decades.

After leaving the programming side of radio, Blore founded a pioneering advertising firm, and produced many memorable ads. Most notable was the “remarkable mouth” ad originally produced for KIIS, and reproduced for stations throughout the country [1 2 3 4 etc.]. Along with Ron Jacobs’ KHJ-Inside Boss Radio, this is one of only a few insider documents on the workings of classic Top 40 radio. It’s an essential read for anyone who enjoyed (or is retrospectively interested in) rock and pop radio of the 50s-70s, as well as anyone curious about the art of radio advertising. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

Color Radio HIstory
KFWB Surveys

The Beach Boys: Becoming the Beach Boys – The Complete Hite & Dorinda Morgan Sessions

Saturday, September 10th, 2016

beachboys_becomingthebeachboysThe complete pre-Capitol session tapes

Before there was “The Beach Boys,” there was a garage band called the Pendletones, formed by three brothers, a cousin, a friend and a domineering father whose own show business dreams had never come to fruition. The harmony vocals of the 1950s and the surf sounds of the early ‘60s provided the ambitious Brian Wilson stepping stones to musical immortality, and these two discs of pre-Capitol sides paint the most complete picture yet of Wilson’s first steps towards the beach. From the Fall of 1961 until their signing to Capitol in the Spring of 1962, the Beach Boys recorded nine songs for Hite and Dorinda Morgan, with “Surfin’” b/w “Luau” released as a single on the Candix and X labels. The A-side charted at #75 nationally, but was a huge local hit on Los Angeles’ powerhouses KFWB and KRLA.

The group recorded additional material for the Morgans, including Beach Boys icons, “Surfin’ Safari” and “Surfer Girl,” but only one other single, “Barbie” b/w “What is a Young Girl Made Of” was released in the U.S., and then with Brian, Carl and Audree Wilson singing under the name Kenny and the Cadets to pre-produced backing tracks. The rest of the recordings were consigned to the vault, coming to light only after the group had established themselves on Capitol. Omnivore’s two-disc set gathers together the pre-Capitol master takes and all of the extant session material, including demos, rehearsals, studio chatter, false starts, overdubs and alternates. At sixty-two tracks covering only nine songs, this set isn’t for the casual listener, but for fans who have imbibed every detail of the masters, it’s a welcome peek into the group’s embryonic creative process.

Among the most surprising elements of this set is the fidelity of the tapes. It may not match what Brian himself achieved at Goldstar and elsewhere, but even the demos are clean and the studio productions are quite crisp. That said, take after take of the same song, often with only minute differences to break up the repetition, is both a revealing and an exhausting experience. The sessions document the arduous job of capturing a perfect live take from a nascent group with no studio experience, the group and their producer gaining confidence on each track as they try it again and again. Though there was limited overdubbing of guitar leads and lead vocals (and for “Surfin’ Safari,” a ragged stereo mix), the core of these takes are a quintet posed around microphones, hoping that no one screws up.

“Surfin’ Safari” and “Surfer Girl” were reborn at Capitol (the former with reworked lyrics, the latter shaking off the morose tone of this early version), but the rest of the material failed to make the jump. Dorinda Hite’s “Lavender” is sung in acapella harmony for the demos and augmented by bass and acoustic guitar on studio takes. Hite’s “Barbie” is a novelty tune redeemed largely by Brian’s tender lead vocal and the production’s stereo mix; its flip “What is a Young Girl Made Of” is a frantic 50s-styled R&B song that even Brian’s lead vocal can’t redeem. Brian Wilson’s “Judy” is a bouncy pop tune written for his then-girlfriend Judy Bowles; the master take shows how the group filled out bare demos with Carl’s guitar and Brian’s sincere, enthusiastic lead vocal. Carl’s “Beach Boy Stomp” is a basic instrumental that picks up steam as the group plays it a few times, paving the way to “Stoked,” “Surf Jam” and “Shut Down, Part II.”

The set’s most revealing moment occurs at the end of six takes of “Surfer Girl.” Unable to play bass and nail down his vocal, Brian Wilson realizes that overdubbing would allow him to focus on singing. His request is curtly shut down by Hite Williams, who either didn’t understand its value, or didn’t want to pay for extra studio time. To add insult to injury, there’s an extra overdub with an unknown and uncompelling lead vocalist. No doubt this helped plant the seeds of self-production in Wilson’s head. Moments like this are a music archaeologist’s dream, and in a sense this entire set is like a dig through a museum’s archive. This isn’t something you’ll track through on a regular basis, but there are subtle, important discoveries to be made here, and you’ll enjoy having them pop up on shuffle. Some of this material was released on 1991’s Lost & Found, but this full rendering, packaged in a tri-fold digipak with a 20-page booklet and liner notes from James Murphy, is the one to get. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

The Beach Boys’ Home Page

The Connells: Stone Cold Yesterday – The Best of the Connells

Saturday, September 10th, 2016

Connells_StoneColdYesterdayBest-of an 80s/90s college radio favorite

There was a time that melodic guitar rock music was a mainstay of college and alternative radio. During that time, the North Carolina-based Connells were a hardworking band whose career hit a commercial peak in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s with a string of singles that included “Something to Say,” “Stone Cold Yesterday” and “Slackjawed.” But their most lasting mark on listeners ears came with the belated European success of the nostalgic “‘74-’75,” and its memorable video (since updated, Up style). In all, the group has released eight albums and two EPs, and worked with numerous noted producers, including fellow North Carolinians Don Dixon and Mitch Easter.

Although they continue to perform sporadically, their recording career effectively ended with 2001’s Old School Dropouts. This first-ever best-of collection cherry-picks sixteen tracks from across all of the group’s albums except the first, Darker Days, and last. The group’s music is impressively timeless, as Doug MacMillan’s vocals still cast a spell on the introspective lyrics, and the guitars, bass and drums retain their punch. The song list is programmed for listenability rather than chronology, but the effect, even with the switch from Rickenbackers to Fenders and the introduction of a keyboard player, was fairly consistent. If you can’t help but sing the chorus of “‘74-’75” you’ll find a lot more to like here. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

The Connells’ Home Page

The Minus 5: Of Monkees and Men

Monday, September 5th, 2016

Minus5_OfMonkeesAndMenA songwriter’s tribute to Mike, Micky, Davy, Peter and more

The Monkees legacy is complicated. At the peak of their fame they were celebrated and reviled in nearly equal measure. Their transformation from actor-musicians playing the part of a pop group to musician-actors forming a real pop group is well documented, but lingers oddly in listeners’ consciousnesses. Scott McCaughey, whose early work with the Dynette Set and Young Fresh Fellows captured the sweetness and adventure of ‘50s and ‘60s pop, leads his latest edition of the Minus 5 in an unabashed tribute to the men who were the Monkees, though interestingly, other than “Boyce and Hart” and the rhythm opening “Micky’s a Cool Drummer,” not in their musical style.

Originally released as part of the five LP Record Store Day set, Scott the Hoople in the Dungeon of Horror, “Side 1” includes individual songs for each member of the Monkees, plus a bonus fifth track dedicated to the group’s songwriters, Boyce & Hart. Threaded throughout each are musical and lyrical references, starting with the country tinge to an epic “Michael Nesmith,” a song filled with clever references to Nesmith’s many career highlights. Davy Jones is remembered as the group’s heartthrob, but also as a thrice-married father of four daughters. “Song for Peter Tork” and “Boyce and Hart” include McCaughey’s personal remembrances, and “Micky’s a Cool Drummer” defends Micky Dolenz as a musician and the Monkees as a band.

“Side 2” essays the “Men” half of the title, paying tribute to McCaughey’s late musical associates and friends, Jimmy Silva (“Blue Rickenbacker”) and John Weymer (“Weymer Never Dies”). The latter is even more epic than the opening “Michael Nesmith,” clocking in at nearly eleven minutes, and venturing into a Beatles-esque experimental jam. Filling out the side is McCaughey’s ode to the omnipotence of film tough guy Robert Ryan, and an appreciation of the Portland band Richmond Fontaine. One might be inclined to call this collection idiosyncratic, if idiosyncratic was at all unusual for the Minus 5; but it is more personal in its undisguised affection. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

The Minus 5’s Home Page

The Mobbs: Jolly Good

Monday, August 29th, 2016

From their upcoming fourth album Piffle!, this “pale and interesting” Northampton trio play 60s-styled rave-ups with a punk rock edge. And at one-minute-twenty, they don’t waste a second of your attention.

The Mobbs’ Home Page

Sonny & Cher: Good Times

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

SonnyAndCher_GoodTimesSonny & Cher’s soundtrack outshines their film

The most notable element of Sonny & Cher’s 1967 film Good Times wasn’t the duo’s move into acting, the skit-based humor or even the meta-conceptual plot of a movie about making a movie. The film’s most lasting contribution to the arts was the introduction of William Friedkin as a mainstream director. Friedkin had been directing documentaries, but it was this collaboration with Sonny Bono that launched his feature filmmaking career. The film is an interesting lark, capturing mid-60s mood, design and a bit of artistic ennui, but without the acidic bite of Head. The original eight-song soundtrack gave Bono a chance to stretch out, and added several excellent titles to the Sonny & Cher catalog.

Leading off is a waltz-time instrumental version of the duo’s signature “I Got You Babe,” a title that appears again at the soundtrack’s end in a fetching acoustic arrangement. In between is Sonny’s perfectly self-deprecating “It’s the Little Things” in all its proto-Spectorian grandeur, its B-side Cher showcase “Don’t Talk to Strangers,” the sultry B-side “I’m Gonna Love You” (originally released as a Cher solo on Imperial in 1965), and several songs lifted from the soundtrack with lead-in dialogue. The latter include the stage-hall styled title tune and another of Sonny’s self-deprecating, average-guy love songs, “Just a Name.”

The bonus tracks include the single “Plastic Man” and its B-side edit of “It’s the Little Things.” The latter shortens the album track by dropping the middle stanza of the refrain. Earlier reissues have included only the edited version, so the full album take turns out to be the real bonus. Varese has used the true mono master, unlike One Way’s 1999 reissue, and though quite listenable, the fidelity still isn’t the best that the era offered. Friedkin’s original liners are included alongside new notes by Larry R. Watts, rounding out an obscure entry in Sonny and Cher’s catalog, but one that harbors several top-notch tunes. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

Cher’s Home Page

Shane Alexander: Bliss

Friday, August 5th, 2016

ShaneAlexander_BlissCalifornia singer-songwriter spans acoustic folk and canyon pop

After five solo albums, and earlier records recorded with Young Art, Damone and the Greater Good, singer-songwriter Shane Alexander has self-produced his most sonically fetching work yet. The sparseness of 2013’s Ladera can still be heard in the opener, with Paul Simon-styled finger-picking and a double-tracked vocal that suggests Elliot Smith. But the album quickly expands beyond acoustic folk with the second cut’s driving drums and atmospheric piano and steel, echoing 1970s canyon rock with a melancholy lyric of haunted memories and a memorable chorus hook. And melancholy turns into panic as a relationship dies in the power ballad “Hold Me Helpless.”

Alexander can be abstract as he introspects his history and surroundings. “I Will Die Alone” is lined by moments in time, but they’re connected weigh-points rather than a linear narrative, and the allusional “Nobody Home” has the rhythm of pursuit for its fractional imagery. Alexander’s bliss may be in the act of observation rather than the observations themselves, but he shines a lovelight on “Heart of California,” pledging his undying gratitude for the state’s inspirational bounty. His greatest bliss, however, was likely the chance to record in his own studio, allowing his songs to unfold without a meter running. For those who haven’t met Shane Alexander, this is a great introduction. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

Shane Alexander’s Home Page

Velvet Crush: Pre-Teen Symphonies

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

VelvetCrush_PreTeenSymphoniesThe genesis of a rock classic

Although Paul Chastain and drummer Ric Menck recorded a number of singles as Choo Choo Train, Bag-O-Shells and The Springfields, they first came to wider notice as Velvet Crush with 1991’s In the Presence of Greatness. Critics and fans latched on, but it wasn’t until they released 1994’s Teenage Symphonies to God, with U.S. distribution by Sony, that they made their biggest splash. Three years and a change of producers (Mitch Easter replacing Matthew Sweet) between the two albums left a gap bridged by a few singles and an EP. The post-album afterward yawned even wider as the band mostly parked themselves, recording with Stephen Duffy, and didn’t re-emerge as Velvet Crush until the release of 1998’s Heavy Changes.

Omnivore’s sixteen-track collection helps fill the gaps, offering up Teenage-era demos and live performances. The first eight tracks cherry-pick demos previously released on the out-of-print Melody Freaks. Included are early versions of six album tracks, plus the otherwise lost “Not Standing Down,” and a cover of Three Hour Tour’s “Turn Down.” For listeners whose neurons have been organized by repeated spins of Teenage Symphonies to God, the demos provide an opportunity for renewal. You know these songs, but then again, you don’t. The pieces are there – lyrics, melodies and guitars – but not the final polish; but what the demos give up in nuanced construction they redeem in initial discovery. It’s the difference between a candid snapshot and a posed portrait – they each say something about the subject, but they also say something about each other.

Mitch Easter helped the band wring more out of their songs, and while the demos provided templates for the master takes, the album cuts provided the same for the live performances. The eight live tracks, recorded in a November 1994 opening slot at Chicago’s Cabaret Metro (and previously released on Rock Concert), show the band to be a ferocious live act. With Tommy Keene added as lead guitarist, the band goes all out to win over the crowd with their thirty minute set, and as Ric Menck said, “we got ’em by the end.” No small feat, considering they were opening for the Jesus and Mary Chain and Mazzy Star. The live set includes numbers from both Teenage Symphonies and Presence (“Window to the World” and “Ash and Earth”) and a closing cover of 20/20’s “Remember the Lightning.” This is a terrific companion to Teenage Symphonies, and an essential for the album’s fans. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels: All-Time Greatest Hits

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

MitchRyderDetroitWheels_AllTimeGreatestHitsMitch Ryder’s chart singles, with a splash of mono

As a recent documentary on the Grande Ballroom notes, 1960s Detroit was both a hard rocking city and the home of Motown, America’s most commercially successful purveyor of R&B. Few exemplified these dual influences better than Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. Though deeply steeped in soul music, Ryder’s biggest hits – “Jenny Take a Ride!” “Devil With a Blue Dress On” and “Sock It to Me-Baby!” – had a propulsive energy akin to Britain’s take on America’s early rock. Varese’s 16-track collection brings together all seven of the Detroit Wheels’ charting singles and four of Mitch Ryder’s solo outings. All tracks are stereo except for 5, 6, 8 and 15; the mono single of “Sock it to Me Baby” is especially welcome for its unique vocal track.

The stereo sides are crisp, but at times the extra wide soundstage is disconcerting. The opening “Jenny Take Ride” feels spread out with the handclaps panned hard-right, and lacks the punch of the mono single mixed for AM radio. On the other hand, many of these mixes provide the broad instrumental and vocal separation that plays like a revue band spread across a stage. The inclusion of Ryder’s solo singles makes this an interesting alternative to Rhino’s Rev Up set, and the stereo mixes provide an alternative to (but not a replacement for) Sundazed’s All Hits. An 8-page booklet with retro cover art and detailed liner notes by Jerry McCulley rounds out a great package. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

Mitch Ryder’s Home Page