Friday, July 29, 2005:

Phil Judd

Phil Judd -- The Swinger

Phil Judd -- Dream 'N' Away
Q: What do you know about this song?
A: Not much, really. It's fun, it's friendly, it's neat--uncluttered--and it has a sort of striking clarity to it. It sounds familiar but I'm fairly certain I've never heard it before. I think it's probably just familiar in that way that inherently good things are, where it's almost as if you know them before you meet them and it causes a sense deja vu when you finally do. And, you know, after awhile it's hard to imagine never having known them--like the taste of cherries, or the sight of a breeze passing through grain, or a melody like "Yesterday." Just one of those fundamental goodnesses that probably existed in whole cloth before the universe exploded out of a pinpoint of matter, and when the universe finally got around to creating them, it was with a sigh of relief at finding something so comfortable. Like slipping into a pair of old jeans.
Q: You don't say.
A: But I did.
Q: So you like this song.
A: Well, yes.
Q: What do you know about Phil Judd?
A: Antipodean punk/New Wave/soundtrack musician.
Q: Would you like to add anything to that?
A: Hey, hey, hey, hey. Ho, ho, ho, ho.

This post was brought to you by channeling Dan at Said the Gramophone. (Dan is not a ghost, and he said it made him all woozy when it happened. I promised not to do it again.)

This LP is out of print, which is a shame.

Brief Judd bio here.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005:

Bobby "Blues" Bland

Bobby Bland -- Two Steps from the Blues
Bobby Bland -- I Can't Put You Down
Bobby "Blues" Bland is a giant in the field. He started off in electric blues, with a sound a bit like B.B. King's work (Bland and King played together in a group before Bland's solo career; and they recorded a couple of albums together in the mid-1970s once Bland's career began to flag). Bland's palette would broaden a bit as his career wore on, his sound becoming more suave, developing into soul with a gospel tinge, but I think his early stuff is ace material too.

"I Can't Put You Down" is classic blues, well-done: horns, guitar, piano rolling along, with Bland's wail cutting through it all.

"Two Steps from the Blues" is a softer number about a strained relationship: it's got a backbeat, a picked triplet figure, some horns mostly low in the mix, and Bland's voice plaintive yet trying to hold out hope.

"I Can't Put You Down" is available on The 3B Blues Boy - The Blues Years: 1952-59, which rates mediocre, and on I Pity the Fool, which is rated much higher, is out of print, and sells for $65 used. Right. I picked it up on an MCA LP (The Best of Bobby Bland, vol. 2) printed in 1980 with a mixed-up track list on the back. Lousy cover, lousy liner notes, great music. The LP was in tip-top shape but at only ten tracks, it's in the rare position of being entirely too short.

"Two Steps from the Blues" is available on the compilation by that name. That one might be too short too.

... The more I use all these various guides to foo, the more I notice all the odd quirks in them: Maltin's aversion to violence, Ebert's rush to praise the brilliant and the formulaic foreign films, Allmusic's complete disconnect between a writeup and a rating (e.g. saying "age didn't improve this record; it's still only okay" but giving it a 4.5 out of 5, or saying an album "maintained the high standard" set by previous high-ranking records, but giving it 2.5 out of 5). I think they're useful anyway, even moreso once you pick up on the inconsistencies and biases, but it makes me idly curious what sort of bent I'm showing in my selections. No big deal, in any case; I'm not losing sleep over it.

In any case, here's writeup of Bland's career.

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Monday, July 25, 2005:

Look Over Your Shoulder

Alan Price -- Look Over Your Shoulder
Track today is from Alan Price, keyboardist for The Animals, on his work for the soundtrack to the Lindsay Anderson/Malcolm MacDowell film O Lucky Man! Anderson and MacDowell have done some very odd and fascinating work together, starting with If...., a surreal, grim, blackly humorous film about some rebels at a British boarding school (<rot13: spoiler/commentary>Vapvqragnyyl, vg raqf jvgu n fubbgbhg juvpu jrag pbzcyrgryl haerznexrq va gur H.F. va gur zrqvn nsgre gur inevbhf fpubby fubbgvatf. V thrff gurl'er chaqvgf, abg fpubynef; gurl'er snzvyvne jvgu ivqrb tnzrf naq fb gubfr trg gur nggragvba engure guna nalguvat zber eryrinag be, Tbq sbeovq, frafvoyr. Nf Puevf Ebpx fnvq, jungrire unccrarq gb "ur'f shpxvat penml" sbe na rkcynangvba?</rot13: spoiler/commentary>)

O Lucky Man! picks up with Michael Travis some years later as his career takes a number of unexpected and amusing turns, putting him through all classes of British society. Like the first film, it's a social commentary and it tends towards the deeply satirical. Price's work fits the film like a glove and I think it's awesome that Price is filmed with his band, playing his piano, and the footage is cut in with the story so that the songs comment on the action like a Greek chorus. It's a bold move--risky--but I think it works.

"Poor People" puts social class as a zero-sum game, explaining that poor people stay poor because they don't have spunk enough to take everything they can, gleefully; "Justice" explains that you need a lot of wealth to get any; "My Home Town" is a ragtimey tune with some wonderful lyrics. Those are all good tracks, but I think "Look Over Your Shoulder" is the one for today, because the rhythm and melody are memorable, hummable, and (as Sean at Said the Gramophone said) pastoral. Very nice for a mid-summer.

When there's a bluebird singing by your windowpane
And the sun shines bright all day through
Don't forget, boy, look over your shoulder
Because there's always someone coming after you-hoooo, la la la la....

Right-o. Bangup work.

I just want to reiterate at this point that I do very much like every track I've posted here on the shanty. That said, some of my writeups left a lot to be desired, especially the ones that sound glib or spend their time talking about things with nothing whatsoever to do with the music. I'm making it up as I go along, true, but I'll try to do better. If nothing else, I hope you dig the music.

Daily Question: John at The Tofu Hut was
a) kidnapped by aliens for a young extra-terrestrial's science project,
b) kidnapped by the CIA/DHS/NSA for posting unpatriotic photos,
c) kidnapped by the RIAA and forced to listen to the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack on repeat for nearly two weeks, effectively breaking his psyche and forcing him forevermore to post only music that sucks, or
d) not kidnapped at all; in fact he decided to take a trip to Isla Mujeres, where he is now, in a hammock with a straw hat over his face, sipping a margarita and singing "Malagueña". Badly.

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Friday, July 22, 2005:

told him I ain't got five, so he will have to take two

Betty Roche -- Trouble Trouble
A track today from Betty Roche, who played with Ellington in the 1940s and 50s. Roche is known for her phrasing, but on this track I'm especially fond of the trumpet, sax, and guitar. It's a smoking jazz tune about a man who's no end of trouble for Roche but she's staying with him anyway. It's a destructive relationship, a love that won't work out but won't be denied--he keeps leaving; she blames herself for speaking her mind; he calls from jail; she goes to bail him out. It's so bad she can't afford to pay the iceman or the landlord but she just won't dump him.

The track has some hiss and crackle on it--it was ripped from a 78--but the theme is timeless.

As far as I know, this track hasn't been released on CD. I found it on, which is not a bad source for old jazz and blues tracks that have lapsed into the public domain.

... I'm feeling a bit under the weather. I'll have another post Monday.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005:

Brides of Funkenstein

Brides of Funkenstein -- Funk or Walk LP cover

Brides of Funkenstein -- Nappy
Brides of Funkenstein -- Amorous
Brides of Funkenstein was one of many George Clinton/P-Funk offshoots, featuring Lynn Mabry and Bernie Worrell (who you might also have seen on Stop Making Sense), as well as other bits of the Clinton crew, including Phelps Collins, Gary Shider, Michael Hampton, and Bootsy Collins.

The Funk or Walk LP is good for the most part, with a few standouts and one stinker ("Just Like You," a nine minute soul track that's so soft it makes Pee Wee Herman look like a contender).

"Disco to Go," the album's opener, was a hit for the Brides, but it was the only one they had. Personally I think that "Nappy" and "Amorous" might be a bit better. "Nappy" isn't very danceable, but "Amorous" is.

I love the sort of gently-delirious tone to "Nappy." says it sounds like something by Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band, which it does: it's got a chilled-out jazz-tinged festive atmosphere to it, like something off a high-society musical in an alternate history New Orleans. Odd and fun work.

"Amorous" closes the album and is more conventionally funky. Pluses: the vocals (the melody, the delivery, the growl), the bassline (thumps, slides, growls back), the horns, the composition as a whole (including the lulls--very nice). Minuses: N/A.

The LP is out of print, though you can get "Disco to Go" on two different concert albums available on review


In other news, I don't think these trackback links are working. I've seen links to the site in the referer log that aren't being picked up (one I can think of was in French, talking about Steinski & Double Dee). If anyone has any idea what's gone wrong with the "auto-detect," I'd love to know; otherwise I'll just remove the trackback links so there's less clutter.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2005:

Bill Nelson's Red Noise

Bill Nelson's Red Noise - robot answering the phone
Bill Nelson's Red Noise -- Furniture Music
Bill Nelson's Red Noise -- Out of Touch
Tell me, you see an LP with this cover, with a price of two dollars, and the 33 is in good shape. Can you not buy it? You're curious, right?

These tracks are from Sound-on-Sound, an LP recorded at Townhouse Studios in London and released in 1979 on Harvest/EMI/Capitol. I'm not sure what I'd expected, exactly, aside from something interesting. Playing the "sounds like" game, the music is equal parts The Cars and Talking Heads, except when it's The Cars/Talking Heads/Kraftwerk. Yes, it sounds like its era--post-punk/New Wave--but it's accomplished work.

The lyrics tend towards the neurotic and somewhat cold; as a whole, they're discontent with the trends towards greater computerization. The songs have titles like "Don't Touch Me (I'm Electric)," "Radar in My Heart," and "Substitute Flesh"; the lyrics have passages like "I'm all hooked up to every modern appliance / But I hang with the angels on the gallows of science" ("The Atom Age"). It seems a safe bet that Nelson (or at least his narrator) was dissatisfied with the society of the time, and that he associated it with dehumanization and alienation. It's odd, then, that so much of the content seems to be from a point of view that's already alienated. Is this a concept album, or is this Nelson speaking directly? Did the alienation cause the discontent, or vice versa (or both)?

"Furniture Music" is a song about a man who gets tired of being in his room, so he rearranges his furniture. Perfectly sensible solution, when you're afraid to go outside.

"Out of Touch" seems almost schizophrenic, with its focus on staring faces and eyes like mirrors and people who seem to know more than they're letting on. Whatever you do, don't try to fool the man with science.

... All of this might be horribly depressing if it weren't for the music: it's catchy and upbeat, occasionally frantic, making it easy enough to hum along and miss the lyrics. I could see a DJ dropping some of the tracks, the dance floor packed with sweaty oblivious people; I wonder what Nelson would think about it. He'd probably regard it with a wry humor, maybe write a few notes in a small battered book.

At any rate, I don't know if he still records, but I'd love to hear what he's up to these days. I'm also curious if he thinks the world now is much like the kind of world depicted/predicted on the LP.
[]: CD re-release.

update: Girish points out an Ira Robbins writeup of Nelson, which shows he's been up to quite a lot indeed since 1979.


Monday, July 18, 2005:

Hangnail Phillips

Hangnail Phillips -- Wit's End
Hangnail Phillips -- Thought Boxes
Hangnail Phillips -- Be Yourself
Hangnail Phillips is ... a bit hard to describe. Picture someone comfortable recording rock, country, folk, and dance/pop/electronica, with a quirky sense of humor and an endearingly off-kilter perspective.

"Post Cold War World" is a lot of fun, and "Angora Sweater" and "Wit's End" are both postworthy (as are the other bonus tracks hidden in "Wit's End," all quite different from each other), but I think I'm going to go with "Be Yourself" and "Thought Boxes."

"Thought Boxes" is a sort of droning downtempo track with Indian cadences, finger cymbals, backwards guitar, brooding menace, wind chimes (!), and the ghost of Jimi Hendrix showing up for a short solo. Very odd and interesting work.

"Be Yourself" sounds like a lost Who track. The song has a solid classic rock vibe to it and, frankly, I wish it were on the radio rather than much of the classic rock that's there. But de gustibus non disputandum est, or maybe I mean fabas indulcet fames (that might explain a lot. Recently I rented a car to take a trip across the Florida panhandle, discovered it had no CD player, rolled across the FM then the AM bands, and discovered that the best thing on was Peter Cetera. I give North Florida radio ... the finger).

Monika Bullette, who I wrote about previously, appears here with Phillips on vocals (actually, according to Phillips' Myspace page, Phillips did "most everything" and Bullette did "everything else"). Neither of these musicians are setting out plates of beans; they cook up dishes much more satisfying and unusual.

Said the Gramophone beat me posting from this album, but Hangnail Phillips' site has more mp3s for download: the entire album, in fact. Recommended? Yes.

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Sunday, July 17, 2005:

Group Sounds

Group Sounds

Group Sounds -- Gingerbread Man
Group Sounds -- Things Fall Apart
Group Sounds is a punk/rock/dance group from New York City who put enough energy in each song to power a city block. It's infectious and fun and a real challenge to put it on and not jump up and dance; I had trouble deciding which songs to post.

"Things Fall Apart" has nothing to do with Chinua Achebe, colonialism, or, for that matter, The Roots. It's a quick story of a failed relationship, too busy rocking out to sit around moping.

"Gingerbread Man" is a live acoustic track with a sort of rockabilly-ish solo on it; it sounds like it was recorded in a small club. Group Sounds sold out the Bowery in NYC so I wonder how many small clubs they've been playing lately. Maybe they're catching on. In any case this is a good song.

Group Sounds have more mp3s for download at their site; you should go check out "People on the Left" and also poke around a bit. There's plenty to like. Starting August 17th the group will be playing at a NYC bar called Piano's on every Wednesday; I'm sure they put on a good show.
Group Sounds' homepage

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Friday, July 15, 2005:

more Nusrat

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan -- Allah Hoo Allah Hoo (from Devotional and Love Songs) (8 minute track, 8.3 MB download)
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan -- Kali Kali Zulfon Ke Phande Nah Dalo (from Shahen-Shah) (this is an 11+ minute track, 12MB download)
It's hard to know whether to run with this, since yesterday's post didn't get any comments. But, uh, here it is. I love this man's music.

"Kali Kali Zulfon Ke Phande Nah Dalo" is another romantic song, talking about love and the woman's beauty. This track is in no hurry, and I love it. I find it oddly hypnotic, like much of Khan's work; the phrases repeat and repeat, the song building slowly and becoming more intense. It's got the typical scat sections in it; the melody is infectious; and for some reason I'm quite fond of the false start and the little hiccup there where they seem to decide, that quick, to start over.

"Allah Hoo Allah Hoo" is a song in praise of Allah; Khan's concerts would typically start with a song in praise of Allah, followed by one about Mohammad, and branch out from there. This is another of Khan's more traditional songs; in interviews, he lists it as his favorite of his own work.

... I saw the Whirling Dervishes when they came through Gainesville some months back; it was a very interesting show. I think there's just something endlessly fascinating about the notion that a devotion to art--whether dance, or music, or any its other forms--could lead to spiritual enlightenment. Like the edict to study the sciences as a means of praising God by coming to know his creation better, I think the notion of art as a path to enlightenment is at odds with many of the fundamentalist Christian beliefs I was raised with (Nazarene, if you're curious--think Southern Baptist, then imagine that that is simply too liberal for you).

At any rate, thus ends my Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan posts. Next up: some kickin' indie rock.
[]: Shahen-Shah
[]: Devotional and Love Songs


Thursday, July 14, 2005:

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Michael Brook

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan -- Nothing Without You (Tery Bina) (from Mustt Mustt)
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan -- Longing (from Night Song)
Two tracks today from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, a Pakistani Sufi with a voice that was just short of a force of nature. I've heard these tracks probably four dozen times each in the last few weeks, and I still love them, but it's been much easier listening to them than writing about them. The best I've got is remembering a comment someone made years ago about Freddie Mercury's voice being a weapon. Suppose Mercury had something like a shamshir, elegant and refined. What Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan had was more like a claymore: greater heft and weight, and slower to swing, but he had strength in abundance and when he took a mind to he just might swing it broadside and knock you silly.

Mustt Mustt is a fairly westernized CD for Khan; much of his work is more traditional and explicitly devotional, with lyrics in praise of Allah, Mohammad, or various caliphs. Many of the songs on Mustt Mustt were edited heavily: lyrics chopped up and rearranged without regard to what they might mean, or fail to mean, after. "Nothing without You" still has lyrics, and they still make sense; the song is about romance.

Night Song is, like Mustt Mustt, a collaboration with Michael Brook. I think it's a fairly accessible album, though I might not be the best judge since I've liked most of Khan's work immediately. What I like so much about "Longing," in addition to the tabla and the singing (wow--that singing) is the way the song seems a good embodiment of what it's about. It suggests itself, it builds, it circles around, it becomes more insistent; it ends abruptly, dissatisfied. Nice.

I am very tempted to post more about Khan tomorrow; I think he was a fantastic and compelling singer (and, after growing up in the southeastern U.S., I'm perversely delighted to read about a religion that believes that art can lead to revelation rather than fire and brimstone).

In any case, I've also got some good indie tracks on deck. Look for another post tomorrow.
[]: Mustt Mustt ( writeup)
[ Night Song ( writeup)
Wikipedia writeups: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Sufism, Qawwali
More Qawwali reading.


Wednesday, July 13, 2005:

lunas de noche en Chapala

Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán -- Chapala
Long-term readers should know that I have a genuine fondness for cheesy music. I hope it's only occasional, but ... who knows. Um. I like today's track very much, in spite of every atom of my superego whispering "this is horribly cheesy." Here's a short story about the music: I first heard it in 1996, sold most of my CDs in early 2000 when I was low on cash, and still thought of the song off and on for five years after. There was something about the cartoonish feel to it that stuck with me: the pizzicato harps on the left, then the muted trumpets on the right, the violin on the left, the woodwind on the right, all to sort of a languid guitar, and then the men's choir comes in, sounding like a late night in a centuries-old Catholic church, candles casting flickering shadows on stone walls. It was all very vivid and it nagged at me. Finally last month I tracked down the song and bought the album.

The song's lyrics take an unabashedly romantic approach, describing the fishermen and their nets in the moon-lit night: waves and shadows forcing the man to sing.

You can read more about Chapala here and here, but it's not required to dig the music. What's required for that is probably just to send your superego off to the store to pick up some health food. Then you turn off the lights, turn up the volume, lay back awhile, and let your mind drift.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2005:

Sugar Babe, I'm Leavin'

Blue Steele And His Orchestra -- Sugar Babe, I'm Leavin'
Early jazz here, with horns oomphing along and one of those vocal melodies that seems wonderfully dated. It's a giddy little track about leaving a bad relationship: "don't you think I'm grieving 'cause you treated me wrong / you thought I'd be crying, not singing a song."

I don't remember where I found this track, but the mastering is far from, uh, masterful (check the drums in the back: they fell out almost entirely). There is a Blue Steele CD in print, but it got such an emphatically negative review at that I'll just mention that it exists and "caveat emptor." That might be where this one came from; I found the track on the internet some time last year and didn't listen to it before last week. I'd thought it was at, but it's not in their database.
[]: Texas & Tennessee Territory Bands: 1928-1931

And so ends the 'sweet' mix.

This delay in posting was brought to you by Hurricane Dennis. Was off visiting family in the panhandle and it became a poor time for it. By most accounts this one was a kitten for the Florida panhandle compared to Hurricane Ivan, though it still caused some destruction and claimed some lives.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2005:

One Sweet Hello / If Hollywood Don't Need You

Don Williams -- If Hollywood Don't Need You (Honey I Still Do)
Merle Haggard -- One Sweet Hello
And one sad goodbye. This is a concise telling of one of the oldest stories in the book: meeting, falling in love, falling out of it. Love and loss and lingering memories. Merle Haggard has a perfect voice for it, and the violin suits it well.

This is off the Someday We'll Look Back half of Haggard's Someday We'll Look Back / I Love Dixie Blues... So I Recorded "Live" In New Orleans double disc collecting two of his earlier albums; Haggard's had a long career with a number of ups and downs, but I think these two albums are definitely on the up-side.

"If Hollywood Don't Need You (Honey I Still Do)" is another about a relationship that's ended: the singer's girlfriend has moved to L.A. to pursue a career in film; he still burns a candle for her. The song was written by Bob McDill and, like most of Williams' work, it's warm, mellow, and tender, a bit melancholy and wistful. The singer doesn't bear her any ill will; he hopes she succeeds; but he'll be waiting just in case.

This one is available on a number of Williams' compilations, including 20 Greatest Hits; I have his volume 1 and 2 on CD as well a few scattered cassettes and LPs. (I think I Believe in You is all-around fantastic but, then, I'm just very fond of Don Williams' work.)
20 Greatest Hits: | allmusic review
Someday We'll Look Back/I Love Dixie Blues: | allmusic review

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Monday, July 04, 2005:

Sugar on My Tongue

Talking Heads -- Sugar on My Tongue
Here's a tightly-wound number with quirky lyrics, the hallmark of early Talking Heads, before they found polyrhythms and a looser funk. I'd not heard this song for a long time, as I skipped out on Sand in the Vaseline in favor of most of the Heads' albums (Speaking in Tongues, More Songs about Buildings and Food, '77, Fear of Music, Remain in Light--all brilliant). What I like about this song is that it seems joyful and terribly uncomfortable at the same time, even neurotically so.

Sand in the Vaseline first had it; the Once in a Lifetime box set does as well, if you're feeling more adventurous. ... Really, though, I think most of the Talking Heads CDs are solid enough that they should just release a stand-alone disc of outtakes and alternate versions.


Sunday, July 03, 2005:

Chocolate Jesus

Tom Waits -- Chocolate Jesus
Tom Waits here, my second posting by him on this run. It's an amusing little number about, you guessed it, a chocolate Jesus and what it can do for you. What do I love about this song? The rooster, the plodding bassline, the lyrics, the harp, the laid-back percussion.

Tom: Definitely part of the original idea was to do something somewhere between surreal and rural. We call it surrural. That's what these songs are -- surrural. There's an element of something old about them, and yet it's kind of disorienting, because it's not an old record by an old guy.
Q: What are you, about 60 now?
Tom: How'd you like a punch in the nose?
Read more; learn who played the rooster and why a Chocolate Jesus.
[]: Mule Variations

... Sorry for the delay in posting; I've been staying with my sister in the boondocks and her computer took a dive.