Ronstadt Round-Up

Linda Ronstadt, as much as Janis Joplin, paved the way for females who rock – not that Aretha didn’t pave the way too but soul is very different genre. In my collection I have as mp3 Stone Poneys – Evergreen Vol.2 (1967), Different Drum (Michael Nesmith) Stone Poneys III (1968), art folk. Solo: Silk Purse(1970) country, Linda Ronstadt (1972)   country rock – I Fall To Pieces;  Don’t Cry Now (1974) Desperado – producer Peter Asher; Heart Like a Wheel (1974) Asher You’re No Good; Prisoner in Disguise (1975) Tracks Of My Tears; Hasten Down The Wind (1976) ‘That’ll Be The Day’; Living in the USA (1978): Alison; Mad Love (1980)

The early Stone Poneys are adventurous, the sound is interesting & the material is smart. The band resented that she wanted to the call the shots & so it broke up. I love Hobo on III. Her solo career started off a little unsure as she explored country, country-rock & her voice in incredible but often the material & production reined her in – she did work with studio musicians who became the Eagles. 

But when Peter Asher took over the production her career soared. With songwriters like JD Southern, Jackson Brown, Laura Nyro, The McGarrigle Sisters & even Elvis Costello – she was amazing. I particularly loved ‘I drove past your house lates last night just to see if you were there’ Perhaps the bursty song about stalking & romantic obsessions I can think of. Her work with Nelson Riddle bored me – the songs were too tidy for me. Her Spanish language work is sublime but also was too smooth for me.

I added some other prime female vocalists to the mp3 CD. Smith: A Group Called Smith (1969) lead singer Gayle McCormick sings the shit out of Baby, It’s You. The group fell apart, she did a few solo lps but never really hit the charts again. Here too is Grace Slick’a Dreams (1980) – an unexceptional lp by one of the most exceptional pop voices ever.

The first Pretenders: The Pretenders (1979): with Tattooed Love Boys. This is a stunning lp of powerful raw songs & Chrissie is amazing, as she is on every Pretenders lp. What can one say about Marianne Faithful? Here is Broken English (1979), a remorselessly angry lp with eviscerating songs that quickly reestablished her as a major voice not merely some quiet nostalgia act. 20th Century Blues (1996) is a fine set of ‘cabaret’ & rock with songs by Brecht etc. 

Finally – a couple of more ‘modern’ singers: Grace Jones: Nightclubbing (1981): featuring Walking In The Rain – this was Grace’s step out of disco into alternative. Iconic songs, great engineering & a classic. After the end of the electrodance group Yaz, Alison Moyet launched her solo career with  Alf (1984) a set of sometimes over-dramatic songs that clearly opened the door for Adele. I love this lp.

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The Rolling Stones 1

There was always this argument: who is better The Beatles or the Stones? These were the only two bands pitted this way – there was never an argument: who is better Herman’s Hermits or The Yardbirds? I doubt if The Beatles or The Stones really cared – who was selling most was probably, their concern, if they had any at all. Looking back now I see The Stones had a darker & more sexual sound. The Beatles were lighter & more playful. One would never mistake one for the other.

On shelf as stand-alone or mp3 I have England’s Newest Hit Makers (1964), 12 x 5 (1964), Out of Our Heads (1965), December’s Children (1965), Aftermath (1966), got LIVE if you want it! (1966), Between the Buttons (1967), Satanic Majesties Request (1967), Beggar’s Banquet (1968), Ya-Ya’s Out (1970). 

The other argument was: which is the best Stones lp before 1970? Their material progressed from lp to lp as they went from covers to original songs. I find it impossible to pick a favorite lp – even  favorite song – my favorite moment, however, is Keith’s guitar break in Sympathy For The Devil. Buttons was perhaps their most radio friendly & I did love it. The reviled Majesties is excellent but certainly not Satanic nor as compelling as Banquet.

Rounding out one of the mp3 cds I added: John Mayall with Eric Clapton (1966), A Hard Road (1967), Jazz Blues Fusion (1978) – Mayall is a traditional blues player who was very influential but never really tried for radio top ten. Clapton went on to bigger fame & the Stones replaced the deceased Brian Jones with Mick Taylor – who was one of Mayall’s lead guitarists.

How could I resist Marianne Faithful’s Best (1987) – a sweet collection of her sweet nearly folksy early work. If you only know her later work (Broken English) you will stunned by the purity of her voice. Finally is the soundtrack from Performance (1970): A film starring Mick Jagger as a reclusive rock star caught up in gangsters. Great music & let’s face it Jagger was never reclusive.

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McRae Baker Faithful

I love creating mp3 cds of mixed styles, generations & voices. On this one there is Carmen McRea, Anita Baker & Marianne Faithful. Can you imagine them doing an album together? Neither can I. I picked up a couple of 2nd Carmen’s lps decades ago & enjoyed them enough to transfer them to cd, then to mp3. I like her take on Alfie. The songs are jazz/pop standards & her style bridges jazz & pop nicely without becoming lounge. Not a mellow voice but pleasant enough. She’s in the Lena Horne, Nancy Wilson mold. Here I have: Sings The Great American Songwriters, Alfie, Portrait of Carmen.

 

I enjoy Anita Baker. She has a warm, sensual voice than could wring emotion out the phonebook (do they still publish phonebooks?). A female Barry White. She sings about love, unrequited, betrayed, lost, fulfilled & unexpected. The songs tend to merge into one another though – unless one is a real fan it is hard to tell them apart or even to tell which lp any one song is from. Comfortable, non-demanding easy-listening adult music. Psalms to codependency. Here I have Compositions, Rhythm of Love, My Everything. Copied from a friend’s collection.

Finally, as a real contrast to the other two, is Marianne Faithful’s Strange Weather. This is a stunning lp filled with songs like Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Her voice is astounding, her world-weary lived-in interpretation of these songs is dour but not defeated. I love this lp & the emotional depth & history she brings without making the work maudlin or depressing. As she sings ‘As Tears Go By’ you sense that she doesn’t regret crying but that she’s not crying anymore. She’s a survivor. A must have.  

Micturition

Jim had to piss. Badly. He cursed the extra large coffee in his hand. If he didn’t have this so called important meeting at work, he would have stuck to the usual medium but felt he needed that extra zip of caffeine to get through it. Now here he was in transit and needing to take a pee so bad he was tempted to find a corner on the subway car to do it. He’d had to take this leak for the last two stops. He had another dozen or so to go and knew he couldn’t hold it. 

So against his better instinct he stepped off at the Bloor/Yonge station. He knew there were public washrooms there. The thought of going in there filled him with dread. Thousands of men a day went into this bathroom and the place had to be a cess pool of filth, stink & germs. 

The washroom was tidier than he expect though, but busy. Men of various heights at all the urinals. It looked like the last toilet stall was unoccupied. Even if all the urinals had been free he would have headed for a stall. Privacy was the key in public places.

He could smell shit. The smell got stronger as he neared the stall. Just what he needed. Some people couldn’t flush. Was that why this one was unoccupied. He nudged it open with his elbow. His hands touched nothing. His foot slid a bit on the damp floor and he nudged the door with more force that he intended. Something stopped it from inside.

“Sorry.”

There was someone in there. The door bumped whomever it was on the head. The whomever slumped forward off the toilet pushing the door shut again. One arm slid into the next booth. The head protruded from under the door. It lay at a weird angle to the rest of the body.

Jim dropped his coffee and stepped back.

“There’s a body there.” He said to the man he bumped into.

The next stall emptied. Jim stepped in over the arm. Body or not he had to take a piss. Damned if he was going to wet his pants and then have to talk to the police.

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Faithfull Nightfly

Next on the pop shelf is Donald Fagan’s The Nightfly – this is a sublime, too short, solo effort by half of Steely Dan. It has the same jazzy, easy sultry sound & great songs. Adult pop of the highest degree.

Next is the amazing Marianne Faithfull. I remembered her mainly for the chocolate bar story from her days with the Rolling Stones. Pretty & with, then, a clear if emotionally empty, voice. She recorded a fair bit but everyone felt she as coat-tailing the Stones. I have a nice anthology of her Early material. As Tears Go By is tender. Lacking creative input she did tolerable cover material & some original stuff. Folksy safe. Then she disappeared for decades – wrote an amazing biography & resurface.

Her return was the full-throttle, gutsy, remorseless Broken English. It remains a masterpiece & touch stone for so many female singers who followed: Alanis Morissette, Courtney Love – none of whom match the power of this recording. The first shock is her voice – gone is the sweet soprano. Years of addiction, booze, sex resulted in a raspy assault that amazes with its emotional direct force. Lyrically fierce & scary – this is a work that if you haven’t heard it by now – find it.

She’s recorded extensively over the decades: I also have: Blazing Away a great live set from 1990 & she is mesmerizing. There is also a concert video of this performance worth searching out. 20th Century Blues: amazing live cabaret from 1997 with covers of Weill/Brecht; Strange Weather: almost as good as Broken English but a little more laid back. This is stunning music by a survivor.

Prettier Boys

Mike looked at Jack. The tiny table in the coffee shop became wide, wider and wider the longer they sat there.

‘Mike. We both knew this might happen.’

‘Yes.’

‘This distance thing was good but we both knew it wouldn’t last, couldn’t last forever. You know what I mean? I wanted someone nearer, close, someone I could see without having to book a flight, a hotel. You have to understand that. Don’t you?’

‘Yes.’ Mike wasn’t sure what to do. He knew had to resist the temptation to seize on any little opening to pull Jack back to him. Over had to be over. He knew that and hated it.

‘I’ll be here for the Film Festival. You have your gold pass?’

‘Yes. The press package you always arrange for me.’

‘No need to be bitter about things. At least I didn’t hide you away like some would have.’

‘I … I think I’ll go now. I have things to do.’

‘To do? Such as?’

‘Figure out what to do with the rest of my fucking life.’ Mike stood and left the cafe.

So this is how it ends. Not even decent background music.

His mind raced with what he wanted to say. Sure Jack easy for you to say get on with life when you have a life to get on with. You have looks. I’m always going to be one of those squat hairy little men that no one wants. One of the ones who become invisible in any crowd. The ones who never stand out and who only get to look worse as they get older. Ugly and … and what .. repulsive. Never the right look.

Even when I had youth I didn’t have that right look. No chicken hawks ever showed interest in me. Shit and now this. Sorry if I hurt your feelings but get the fuck put of my life you squat little troll. Why couldn’t you be honest Jack. You wanted a prettier boy to be seen with. Face it and get over it. I just wasn’t worth moving for, wasn’t worth inviting to live with. I would have. You knew that didn’t you. I would have happily picked up my life on the east coast and moved to be nearer to you, to be the one within reach, but no you felt the distance was a good thing. Yeah good thing that you didn’t get seen with me by your pretty friends in Toronto.

Okay to be seen with me in other places, other cities where you could always pretend I was some movie type and not the man whose dick you sucked.

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