Tag Archives: Pop

[149] Kate Bush – The Kick Inside

19 Feb

Oh, that voice.  It has always been present in my life, and it has always done something to me.

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Kate Bush had a powerful effect on the boys of my generation.  Even into our 40s, my friends and I still find ourselves captivated by a Kate Bush video, a potent combination of hormones and nostalgia ensuring our complete attention.

Kate Bush was certainly a part of my childhood, her singles playing on the radio, on Top Of The Pops, on early MTV.  But The Kick Inside came out just a little too early for it to have had a great influence on my musical education – indeed I believe it was the only Kate Bush album I was not thoroughly familiar with before exploring it for the blog.  The Hounds of Love is likely my favorite, although The Red Shoes and the wonderful compilation, The Whole Story, certainly received more play over the years.

And when I was ready, finally prepared to really engage with the themes and emotions explored by Kate Bush, it was Tori Amos’ Little Earthquakes which opened my eyes, blew my mind, shaped my world.

While I was pleased to see Kate Bush on om Moon’s list, it always bothers me that it appears that she makes the cut at the expense of Tori Amos – the only mention of Tori in the hundreds and hundreds of pages of the book is as a “Next Stop” footnote to The Kick Inside.

I understand Tori claims never to have heard Kate before recording her debut album, but whether or not you believe that has little to do with the powerful effect of her raw yet still cultured musicality.

While I have little doubt that a Kate Bush album makes my top 1,000, Tori Amos makes my top 100 at the very least.

After taking this opportunity to rant at what appears to me a near unforgivable omission, I return to the album and the artist of the day, and find that I have many vivid and varied memories of listening to Kate Bush:

– My first love (long ago and far away away) once included “The Man With The Child In His Eyes” on a mix tape for me, as I was flying away from her, perhaps forever.  Twenty years later the song still has the power to make me blush and smile and sigh.

– I liked “Wuthering Heights” from the first time I heard it, on the radio back when I still listened to the radio, but it wasn’t until I studied the novel in High School – I devoured it while home sick one week, getting a jump on the assigned reading – that the true genius of the composition was revealed.  It sounds like the book reads, lyrical and awkward and cold.  The song always reminds me of my warm, dusty, dizzy teenaged sickbed.

– As an older teen, I would often sleepover with a couple of friends on Saturday nights, and after a few drinks, The Hounds of Love would be one of a small roster of records which would play once the lights were out and we could concentrate on the pure music on the way to sleep.  We were all terrified by the shrieking musical gymnastics of “Waking The Witch” and this fear was a delicious part of the ritual.  The strings still drag shivers down my spine today.

– I can’t hear her Christmas single, “December Will Be Magic Again” without  recalling one of my most favorite misheard lyrics:  instead of “I’ve come to sparkle the dark up” (a wonderful line in its own right), I initially heard, as did other friends, “I’ve discovered a Womble . . .”

But enough asides!  What about The Kick Inside?

The vocals are appropriately haunting and powerful, palpably intelligent and moving, every word enunciated beyond clarity, often distorted or affected in order to achieve the perfect tone.  And the lyrics are equally innovative and memorable.

Famous for her ballads, it is Bush’s uptempos which always surprise me, with her exquisitely complex rhythms, odd percussion and staccato delivery across an absurd number of octaves.  The instrumentation is all so unusual for Pop, yet perfect for the mood and timbre Bush is reaching for with each delightful track.

Once more my love of all things sax is fully indulged, with solos and flourishes, and even a song named for the instrument.

Since The Kick Inside does not sound like anything else of its time, it has aged very well – it is timeless rather than dated, not tied to the Disco or Rock sounds so associated with the popular music of 1978.

And who knows – without The Kick Inside, perhaps I never have the opportunity to hear Little Earthquakes, Into The Pink, Boys For Pele and beyond.

Next Week: William Byrd – Harpsichord Music

Owned before blogging? No.  (12 of 149 = 8%)
Heard before blogging? Yes.  (21 of 149 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (124 of 149 = 83%)

Kate Bush, Pop, 1970s, UK, Recommended, Memories

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[59] The Beach Boys – Good Vibrations

23 May

Would Queen ever have written, recorded and released “Bohemian Rhapsody” if The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” had stayed shelved after Brian Wilson left it off of Pet Sounds?

"Good Vibrations" was eventually released on [i]Smiley Smile[/i]

“Good Vibrations” was eventually released on Smiley Smile

I am actually asking the question here, not making a statement of manifesto – I am genuinely curious.

The song is an old familiar classic that, perhaps, has lost the ability to shock and amaze.  We take the mood changes, the time signature shifts, and the  sound of the (then almost unknown)  electro-theremin for granted.  It has become another beloved, if overplayed, track for Oldies stations everywhere.

OK, sounds superficially a lot like “BoRap” so far.

The following are all quotes from the Wikipedia page on Good Vibrations:

“Layered production”, “recorded piece by piece . . . over weeks at multiple studios”, “a cut up mosaic of musical sections marked by several discordant key and modal shifts”, “dubbed a “pocket symphony””. “People complained, “that’s going to be too long a record.””

And don’t forget the tight vocal harmonies . . .

The Queen track takes things to much further extremes – it is almost twice as long, its different sections are more pronounced and differentiated – but everything mentioned above could be equally applied to either recording.

At the time they were recorded, first “Good Vibrations” and then “Bohemian Rhapsody” was the most expensive single ever made.

There is a great website making the rounds right now showing the dangers of confusing correlation with causation, so I will not make any rash pronouncements.

Instead I’ll just sit back in the New York City humidity and let The Beach Boys tease me with the California sun.

Next Week:  The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds

Owned before blogging? Yes. (3 of 59 = 5%)
Heard before blogging? Yes. (5 of 59 = 8%)
Recommend? Yes. (47 of 59 = 80%)

[20] Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass – Whipped Cream & Other Delights

23 Aug

How can you not smile on hearing those opening three notes walking up the scale, pausing, repeating, before the ultra recognizable swing of “A Touch Of Honey” begins in earnest?

Whipped Cream & Other Delights

Whipped Cream & Other Delights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jazz and Samba and Mariachi all blended into a sound so of its time, yet still relevant today. It may evoke gameshows and elevators, but somehow this is far from disposable – there is musicianship and craft on display here, nuance amd joy.

There is a reason that these musical morsels caught the imagination of a nation in the mid-60s, and it goes beyond the food themed silliness, the model covered in whipped cream on the iconic cover – although these things all helped. The songs are still lively and energic sounding today, the product of a bunch of studio musicians enjoying themselve with no pressure, no real expectations.

Each tune is short – there are only two that even break 3 minutes – so they never outstay their welcome. They impart a mood, a theme and leave you if not exactly wanting more, at least not overfed.

There is a sense of motion throughout the album – the musicians are never still, and neither it seems is the listener.

It is impossible not to tap along, to groove to the faux south-of-the-border compositions. It is not high art, but once again I am incredibly grateful to The List for inspiring me to spend a few days in the company of these swinging horns, this odd slice of 60s Americana.

Full of bright, breezy brass, fun tempo changes and unexpected modulation, the songs here are at the same time technically impressive and endlessly engaging.

I’m still looking forward to the heavier classical recordings that are to come, but being able to fall back on this kind of frothy pop is exhilerating. I’m actually having more fun with this than with recent albums that should have been more in my wheelhouse like Dirt or At Fillmore East.

Expanding my range is what this has been about, and once more I doubt I would ever have sat down to this album were it not for Tom Moon – mine apparently being the only parents of their generation who did not have this record in their collection for me to discover as a pre-teen.

And every time I pause from my work to take a closer listen, that smile creeps back onto my face. I mean, how often do you get to hear a glockenspiel take the lead?

Owned before blogging? No. (1 of 20. 5%)
Heard before blogging? No. (3 of 20. 15%)
Recommend? Yes. (16 of 20. 80%)

Next Week: Los Amigos Invisibles – Arepa 3000: A Venezuelan Journey Into Space

Guest Blogger Joe Gola: Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass – Whipped Cream & Other Delights

20 Aug

More Guest Blogging goodness, this time from one of the best writers and worst people I know, Joe Gola. (I kid because I love . . .)

—–

Back when I was a teenager, I was always hunting through other people’s record collections to see what interesting stuff I could find, and one of the more puzzling trends I noticed was that, if the owner of the collection was of a certain age, there would almost always be at least one Herb Alpert album stuck in there somewhere. What was particularly odd about the phenomenon was that demographics didn’t seem to have any bearing on it; the owner could be a New York sophisticate, a small-town regular joe, an ex-hipster, a mainstream devotee, whatever. There was no corner of American society you could flee to where you would not eventually be tracked down and tackled by Herb Alpert and his terrifyingly ubiquitous TIJUANA BRASS.

I never listened to any of these albums back then myself, of course. What could be more corny? A young man of discriminating taste did not entertain himself with recordings of a glorified mariachi band playing Mexican elevator music. Eventually, however, Whipped Cream & Other Delights somehow found its way into my hands, and it seemed perversely comical to just throw it in with the rest of my stuff, particularly because the cover was so, um, memorable.

When I finally got around to ironically listening to my ironically owned Herb Alpert album, the mystery of Tijuanamania became suddenly clear: you cannot listen to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass and not feel happy. At its peaks, the experience is like being inside a zany 1960s comedy in which Peter O’Toole, Woody Allen and Peter Sellers are chasing each other in go-carts while a person in a gorilla suit is doing the frug in a room filled with bubbles. Even the sad songs aren’t really sad; they’re the type of stuff you would hear late at night at some old-fashioned nightclub with the waiters and tables just before you took your date out to your big curvy car and kissed her passionately under the lamplights until her knees got weak and you could throw her over your shoulder and carry her home like a sack of mail.

Beyond the general aura of jollity, the music also happens to be pretty darn good. The horn sections are tight down Mexico way, the rhythms are catchy, and the arrangements are inventive. The quality of the musicianship is quite high, I would say. What’s interesting, too, is that it’s really not elevator music at all; it’s way too in-your-face for that. You can’t have a serious conversation with Herb in the background, because his trumpet keeps nudging you in the ribs. The album is also interesting to me because it’s not the kind of music that people listen to much any more: punchy, dense instrumentals that are not jazz or ambient but rather involved pop etudes featuring an unlikely combination of masterful precision and an infectious sense of fun. You get the feeling that Herb Alpert was some kind of secret genius who could have built rockets or played the stock market, but instead he decided that it would be more personally fulfilling to make kick-ass Mexico music.

As far as individual songs go, I can only say that the hilarious “El Garbanzo” is my favorite, both because I am in favor of naming songs after legumes and because it sounds like something you could put on a P.A. to play a losing team off a ballfield.

Is Whipped Cream & Other Delights something you absolutely must hear before you die? No, not really; I would hate to think of anyone feeling regretful on their deathbed because they hadn’t heard enough Latin American trumpet music. Let’s not be too dramatic, after all. I will say, though, that it’s pretty darn fun, and that’s something we could probably all use a little more of.

—–

Joe Gola is the author of the upcoming horror-adventure novel The Satanic Bridegroom. He is also the typist for an advice-giving internet pony named Jingles. His crimes against propriety and right-thinking are enumerated in detail at golarama.com

[1] Thank You For The Music? ABBA – Gold.

12 Apr

“I’m a Rocker / I’m a Roller too.”

So said Phil Lynott right around the time I was born, and that sounds about right to me.  Of course I’m not *just* a rock ‘n’ roller, but I think it is fair to say that Europop Discoer doesn’t make the Top 20.

Which brings me to ABBA – Gold.

Gold: Greatest Hits (ABBA album)

Gold: Greatest Hits (ABBA album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thin Lizzy doesn’t make the list, but it starts with ABBA?

When I found 1kRTHBYD, I was dreaming of nights rediscovering Steve Reich and Phillip Glass, of afternoons finally polishing up my education in jazz and blues of all flavors, and of mornings listening to old favorites with new ears.

None of which applies to ABBA.

It’s not that I *dislike* ABBA.  I’ve bopped along to “Waterloo” often enough (although I believe I first discovered the song as a 1986 cover by Doctor and the Medics).  I’ve laughed out loud as Gerry Dieffenbach used Ulveaus and Anderson as a Piano Bar punchline while belting out a truly wonderful rendition of “Dancing Queen”.  I’ve even sung “Super Trouper” karaoke . . .

But it is absolutely *not* what I had in mind when thinking of the 1,000 as a “best” or “most important” list.  I wonder if it is fate or design that has Tom Moon list them first in the book.  It has to have come up in discussion as an argument against alphabetizing the list . . .

All of which is what is going through my mind as I sit, building up the courage to start my 2 decades long journey of musical discovery.  An hour or a week listening to music I wouldn’t have otherwise.  Seems like the whole point of the excercise in hindsight.

Starting with ABBA?

Maybe Steven Tyler was right.  “Just press play . . .”

Let’s give them their due as trailblazers.  Without ABBA, it is doubtful we have such ESL acts as A-ha and Roxette, who I enjoy in a fun, throwaway pop way.  Which is, I guess the way I’ve always heard ABBA – in passing, on the radio.  What happens when I listen with a musician’s ear, view with a scholar’s eye?  I close my eyes and try to do just that.

But it turns out that it is just impossible not to sing along!  Even if the lyrics are often essentially meaningless – a case for the universality of the language of music? – you know you remember every word.

And there’s more.  When actually paying attention, the a capella harmonies that open “Take A Chance”, for example,  are . . . genius?  That is the word I land on when a band like Queen produce a similar effect.

These melodies are simple, sweeping and ludicrously infectious, the harmonies tight and sweet.  If the lyrics are  for the most part trite they are also beyond catchy.

The biggest complaint I find is that there’s no heat, no passion captured in the delivery – it’s all so clean and safe.  Which is probably one reason for the huge sales and massive following, yet I wonder whether these well crafted songs could soar with a more accomplished delivery.  Has anyone “good” ever covered “Super Trouper”?  What would Paige and Dickson have done with “Money”?

But still, an unexpected smile splits my face each time “The Winner Takes It All” kicks up a gear.  And the nostalgic sense memory that comes with the sax riffs in “Waterloo” has a power that I feel bodily.  There are reasons that these thoroughly 70s  singles still resonate, that this collection of Greatest Hits still sells.

Speaking of “Waterloo” – the Eurovision Song Contest winner that started it all for ABBA – I’ve always been a fan of saxophone in pop / rock music – it adds a certain flair and fun whether it’s a blistering solo (RIP Clarence Clemons) or, as in this debut hit that closes the first of 1,000 recordings, merely a brush of color here and there.  There should be more sax in modern mainstream music . . .

Thank You for the Music

Thank You for the Music (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

“So I say thank you for the music /
The songs I’m singing /
Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing /
Who could live without it /
I ask in all honesty what would life be /
Without a song or a dance what are we?”

 

 

It’s not Sondheim, but I am happy to admit there are worse sentiments, and worse ways to spend my listening time.

Owned before blogging?  No  (0/1, 0%)
Heard before blogging?  Yes (1/1, 100%)
Recommend? A surprised Yes  (1/1, 100%)

I like statistics, so will be tracking a few of them as I make my way through the list.  If there is something else you might be interested in tracking along the way, please let me know, and I’ll see about adding it.

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