Friday, December 30, 2011

Donald Shirley
"Secret Love"

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Donald Shirley
Tonal Expressions
(Cadence Records, 1955)

Back in the days before I was borned, or even close to it, my mother bought records. Sure, my dad did, too, and most of their collection he likely acquired, but I found several albums with her maiden name written across the fronts when I raided their obsolete-to-them record collection several months ago. Ha! I deftly, electronically erased it from this one, however; no stealing my identity!

Donald Shirley was not a name I had heard before, but something about the title, Tonal Expressions, and the cover intrigued me. Unfortunately, when I returned home to my beloved (and my) turntable, I discovered it was in rather terrible condition. The little snippets on which I decided to risk my stylus sounded interesting, however. I took a gander on-line, and found a super cheap used copy of a double-CD, pairing it with his next-and-second album, Piano Perspectives. Woohoo!

My initial visual impression was, indeed, warranted; it's a wonderful album (and Piano Perspectives is no slouch, either). It's mostly a mellow affair, as Shirley primarily plays jazz standards, Tin Pan Alley numbers, and show tunes. He doesn't just play them, however; he plays in and around them. Arrangements go out the window and bits of other tunes often slip in and out and through the pieces. It's a sumptuous yet understated affair, lush but never saccharine.

My favorite piece, and today's jukebox selection, Secret Love, was a bit young to be a standard yet, as it was written only a couple of short years earlier for the 1953 film Calamity Jane (see below), starring Doris Day, whose TV show, the imaginatively named The Doris Day Show, I loved as a child.

And now, let's give the album's liner notes the floor for a bit, shall we?

Let us begin simply by saying that Don Shirley is a pianist. With all that this term implies, it is used here in its fullness to designate the stature of this musician. The kind of piano he ploys may now be, and most certainly and more acutely will be in the future, open to debate.

We would not be inclined to categorize him as a classical or as a jazz musician although with the public that is likely to happen. We would go further and say that his kind of music does not seem to hinge between the two although this is the designation he is likely to receive by many. We would go one step further and say that of all the things that might be consigned him, he is most nearly to become the artist embodying the suffusion of the classics and the modern.

These are strong statements to make. They would be so if the artist here considered were an established one. It is dangerous to claim them when he is beginning the ascent. We allow his musical history and what you will hear in this and forthcoming albums to be the proof.

In considering his background, you should know that his first teacher was his mother, that he was born in Kingston, Jamaica on January 27, 1927, that at the age of nine he was extended on invitation to study theory with Mittolovski at the Leningrad Conservatory of Music, that he later studied with the famous organist Conrad Bernier, and that he studied advanced composition with both Bernier and Dr. Thaddeus Jones at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D. C.

Shirley mode his concert debut with the Boston Pops Symphony Orchestra in Boston June 25, 1945, with Dean Dixon as guest conductor. In 1949 he received an invitation from the Haitian government to play at the Exposition Internationale du Bi-Centenaire De Port-au-Prince followed by a request from Archbishop Le Goise and President Estime for a repeat performance the following week. Upon Arthur Fiedler's recent trip to Chicago, Shirley was again extended on invitation to appear with the orchestra in June 1954.

With such a background, it is evident that Shirley is a highly respected legitimate musician possessing great technical skill and an innate musical ability. He displays also great tenderness and emotional depth which render his performances inspiring.

Yeah, Secret Love may not sound like something you'd expect from this blog, but I absolutely adore this album! Sadly, my mother is getting up in years, and, when I asked her about it, hoping to please her by my liking it, she only vaguely remembered Shirley's name.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ian Lloyd
"One More Chance (Sha La La)"

Ian Lloyd
Ian Lloyd
(Polydor, 1976)

Roughly a fortnight after I became a teenager, I attended my first rock concert. Yes, that's the actual ticket stub from said show! Not long after that show, I started buying records with my own money. My parents had given me a copy of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band that they found at a yard sale when I was twelve, but that was the only record I had that wasn't a children's record.

Even during this early phase of record buying, I was already doing the buy-it-'cause-it-looks-interesting-and-it's-cheap thing. I found this Ian Lloyd album at a huge rummage sale held at the same place I'd seen Kiss earlier. I bought it and Slayed? by Slade, who looked a bit thuggish (this was a positive; I wanted loud, tough music); I think they were 25¢ each (the albums, not the members of Slade). I hated the Slade album (love it now, though), but the LLoyd one I listened to a lot. It certainly didn't rock as hard as Kiss (especially not on this track!), but the songs were catchy, and I liked it.

Some time in college, I sold off a ton of records when I was getting heavily into hardcore punk, and this was one of the casualties. A few months ago, I started getting a hankering to hear it again. This urge was partially inspired by my obsession for all things Starz (featured here this past October), as Starz guitarist Richie Ranno had played briefly in Lloyd's pre-solo group Stories before becoming a Star(z), but not on their huge 1973 hit Brother Louie (please, see below). My interest was also piqued 'cause I couldn't even remember what it sounded like!

Looking around town proved fruitless, so I turned to the 'net. It didn't take very long for a sealed copy to appear on eBay for a reasonable price, and off a-bidding I went. When it arrived, the songs sounded only vaguely familiar, but I still liked many of them, lo these many decades later. I debated between a few, and this song kept popping into my head, so here 'tis.

Geez, I even saved the newspaper ad for the above concert! But hey, it was my first (not counting my daddy taking me to see the Jackson 5 when I was eight), and Kiss were the hottest band in the land! A pack rat at an early age . . .

NOTA BENE: Today's entry gets the before they were famous tag, in addition to after, as it was writ by Mick Jones, who played guitar here and not long after shot to megastardom with The Clash Foreigner, whom I never particularly liked (but they were at least more palatable than Boston).

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Blue Ice
"Power Play"

Blue Ice
Power Play
7" single
(Cracked Records, 1977)

I have no idea what the significance of blue ice is, but there are currently four different groups with that name on What the heck? Is it a drug thing? I'm straightedge as a very bad word, so I'm not hip to all the controlled substance vernacular. Of course, being hip is an old term for smoking opium.

Regardless, this particular Blue Ice was a hard rockin' band from Harrisburg, PA. This was the lone record they released, before new wave had made its way to the wilds of Pennsylvania. They clearly were influenced by the psychedelic sounds of the 6T's, as the flip of this lil' disc is a nice cover of The Electric Prunes' I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night), though they killed the parentheses for some no doubt nefarious, unknown reason. Or it was just a mistake. Evil is more fun than error, though. So there!

So . . .

Power Play

Power Play is what brings us together today.

Power Play, that blessed event. That dream within a dream.

Sorry! Got distracted . . .

While Power Play is, indeed, a slammin' little number, what really sets it apart and above and such is the insane synth solo near the end. The player of said instrument (and second vocalist on this track) was Bill Stump. After new wave came into being (to use his words), he changed his name to Billy Synth and has been sporadically active both solo and with various groups ever since. I highly recommend the two albums recorded as Billy Synth and The Turn Ups.

NOTA BENE: The bass player on this is Roger Deller, who kept his surname and his bass and played on the (Billy-less) Turn Ups' Crack My Face featured here last year.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cee Jay
"Take Your Love and Shove It"

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Cee Jay
Take Your Love and Shove It
7" single
(Amoura Records, 1980)

As I mentioned earlier this year, my folks moved to a retirement home just over a year ago. Amongst the classical, jazz, Gilbert & Sullivan, and childrens' records (mine and my sister's), I found this 45. I'm guessing it belonged to my sis*, as I can't imagine our folks ever buying or listening to country music. Plus, she likes it (more than I, I mean). When I saw the title, I was compelled to stick it in the pile of stuff headed southward to my house.

It turned out to be a fun song, sung by a woman sporting some impressive mom jeans on the album cover I found on-line.

According to the listing on Amazon for the album itself, Pure Country, it dates from 1980. It sure doesn't sound like contemporary country music. That's a compliment.

*I will, of course, return it; if it's hers and she wants it back.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

"I Saw Momma Kissing Santa Claus Thing"

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No Two Flakes the Same
compilation LP
(Penny for the Guy Records, 1988)

How 'bout a nice, naughty song for Christmas?


Here ya' go! Man, this gonna throw a monkey wrench into Santa's nice and naughty lists, eh? Maybe I'll get an extra pretty, magic lump of coal.

From what I recall, the rest of this compilation is pretty forgettable. The Workdogs were the only reason I bought it, in fact.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

"The Expiration is Sweeter Than Death"

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One of the things I loved about Thralldom was their use of shotgun blasts for percussion. They used more standard drummy/percussiony things, too, mind you, but the explosion of gunpowder and buckshot is a beautiful thing to behold. Or maybe it's evil. People like to refer to Thralldom as a black metal band, but they don't wish to be pigeonholed; they will kill you, if you call them black metal. In fact, one of them is named KILLUSION (I'm not shouting–that's the way he writes it). The other one is Jaldagar, btw. Duos are the bestest!

Thralldom split five years or so ago, unfortunately, but KILLUSION manages to keep himself plenty busy. He followed-up Thralldom with Drifting Collision, who were renamed The Howling Wind after their first release. He also played guitar in Villains, but left them and now plays with Pollution. Oh, and he's part of the noise duo Abandoner. He's best known, though, as the guitarist & vocalist for the astonishingly heavy Unearthly Trance. He's also known as Ryan Lipynsky, if you ask to see his driver's license. Ask nicely, though.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Captain Kangaroo
"Happy Hands"

Captain Kangaroo
The Horse in Striped Pajamas
6" single
(Golden Records, 1959)

Hey! Hey! Hey!

I'm finally back!

Today, it's time for happy fun time. Or, more accurately, happy hands time. Now, maybe it's just the dirty perv that lives in my brain, but Happy Hands is a rather suggestive song title, in my opinion.

I'm sure it's all completely innocent, but still . . .

Then again, my brother's hands are working fits rhythmically much better than my brother's hands are masturbating. Of course, my brother's hands are sinning would fit, but perhaps the good Captain was wise enough to know that 99% of males beat off, and the other 1% are either lying, in comas, or bereft of hands. Not even sad hands.


But we must also take into account the fact that the Captain's viewing audience, which once included lil' ol' [young] me, was a bit young to be risking impotence and insanity, via the dread evil that is self-pleasure.

On a personal note, our TV died one morning while I was eating breakfast and watching Captain Kangaroo. It was quite traumatic. I was two or three years old at the time, and still remember the screen unexpectedly going dead black.

For those too young and/or gaijin to know who the heck Captain Kangaroo was, he was Bob Keeshan, the titular host of a long-running morning TV show that I adored. The best parts were when Mr. Moose would dump copious deluges of ping pong balls on the Captain, and when the mysterious Dancing Bear would appear for a few moments to dance for us.