Shawn Sage and Kyu Sakamoto

Shawn Sage is one of the few musicians I’ve actually known. I first met him when he worked tables at the defunct Renaissance Cafe. I didn’t realize he was a musician until a week or so later when he did a set at one of many shows at the Cafe. So his cd ‘One Of The Good Guys’ is more than great music but also full of fine memories. His ‘She Don’t Want My Eyes on Her’ is one of the best country songs ever.

Next on the shelf is an mp3 collection of around-the-world international hits. Starting with: Kyu Sakamoto (Japanese): Best 9 + 2: Best remembered for “Ue o Muite Arukō” (1961) (“I look up when I walk”) under the Americanized title “Sukiyaki” (1963) which has no actual connection to the song. Sakamoto was killed at 43 in 1985 in a plane crash. This is one of my all-time favourite songs. I can’t describe the emotions it calls up in me. This was the start of my love of most things Japanese. He is a sort of Bobby Darrin type. His other songs are nice but none as resonant at his hit.

Domenico Modugno: The Very Best Of  Italian. He is best known for his 1958 international hit song “Volare – Nel blu dipinto di blu“, for which he received 1958 Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Song of the Year! I’ve heard dozens of versions of this song but never the original, so auditioned it on YouTube first then found this hits compilation. An Italian version of Dean Martin. 

Lucienne Boyer: French – Parlez-moi d’amour – wiki tells me she “reigned as queen of Paris nightlife during the 1930’s.” I’m not sure how she came to my attention but she fits in with US singers like Ruth Etting who were popular through there 30’s & then were forgotten. Sound quality is good & she’s clearly the forerunner of Edith Piaf – only with a less emotionally overwrought voice & style. 

Hermeto Pascoal from Brazil transcends genre. His experimentalist approach covers samba, folk, jazz, music concrete, string quartets & choral. I have some of all scatted through my collection. Here is his Slaves Mass (1977) that includes some of the best musicians of the time i.e. Ron Carter, Flora Purim & makes an excellent introduction to Hermeto if you are unfamiliar.

I ran across a YouTube video by Filho da Mae out of Portugal for his album Mergulho (2016).Visually stunning it lead me to download the lp. The music is a soothing mix of organic (acoustic guitar) and electronic. I’d love to name off a hit by popular Venezuelan musician Hugo Blanco but I suspect he’s too obscure outside of South America. Here is his 40 Anos 40 Excitos. Hits from the 50’s to 90’s. If you are a soccer fan you may hear on his songs which has become a popular chant at games. A Venezuelan Frank Sinatra.

Finally something quite different & almost modern from 2017: Finland’s Herra Varjojen Herra: Loputon Yö 2017 which includes their amazing reworking of Arthur Brown’s Fire. I was looking to see fig anyone had done a cover of the song & this was one of the ones that I found. Good fun. I am the God of hellfire & I bring you to Finland lol.

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Buffy Saint-Marie

I can’t say I’m a Buffy Saint-Marie fan but I do respect her as an artist & a revolutionary. I recently watched ‘Carry It On’ a PBS American Masters documentary about her career & was amazed by the ups & downs that she survived. I didn’t know that the US Government deliberately sabotaged her career – they weren’t pleased with both her antiwar & her Indian rights activities. To shut her up they ordered radio stations not play her recordings or songs she had written. Land of the free – yeah, sure.   

I have an mp3 cd compilation that includes I’m Gonna Be a Country Girl Again (1968): country, Illuminations (1969) psychedelic with synthesizer to create electronically treated vocals & textures, & Soldier Blue – Best of the Vanguard Years (2003). As a stand alone I have ‘Running For The Drum’ (2008). Her ‘political’ songs are strong & fearless. Her romantic songs are tender. I loved Illuminations perhaps one of the most before it’s time recordings of the 60’s. Creatively daring, a total departure from her well-regarded folk & country roots it is still an amazing piece of work. 

Also in this mp3 collection is Mercedes Sosa out of Argentina, she sings in Spanish. I read about her somewhere as being one of the best selling singers in the world! Yet, at the time, I had never heard of her. A sign of the insular world of pop music. I have a couple of her cds & here is Gracias A La Vida. She has a warm alto voice. I love the tile song &  Maria Maria. 

Remember Sam The Record Man? On the second floor there was tiny world music section & in a reminder bin I picked up a cassette ‘Aster’ by Aster Aweke (Ethiopian) singing in Amharic. I love the African horn sound, similar to Osibisa’s. Another warm alto the songs were emotional even though I didn’t understand them. On this cd I have Sugar (2001). 

Also here is Astrud Gilberto the Brazilian bossanova singer who sang in both Portuguese & English. The Silver Collection (1991) is a nice selection of her hits. A lighter voice than the others here with a strong jazz leaning. Lots of classic Latino hits. A good introduction to her & the samba genre.

Finally Miriam Makeba out of South African. She was best known though the 60 thanks to her work with Harry Belafonte. Similar to Buffy her music was part of her social mission. Here I have Sangoma (1988) – sung in a variety African languages. Yes another warm alto voice & a great introduction to Afro-Jazz & folk music.

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Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji

Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji (1892-1988): As a composer, Sorabji was largely self-taught. On 2 cds I have Jonathan Powell’s recording of the 8 hour Sequential Cyclica for solo piano/ 8 hours! I hope the pianist gets a washroom break at some point. Of Parsi & English parentage & openly gay he had a lifelong tendency to seclusion. I came across a post on Tumblr about him & was intrigued, found the Cyclica on iTunes. Sonically dense, some sections are under five minutes at least one is nearly an hour. If you are fan of Keith Jarrett this is the man for you.

Rounding out the cds I have Johann Vexo: Organ of Notre Dame – I bought this because of the Notre Dame fire. Oddly none of the shows I’ve watched about the rebuilding of the cathedral have mentioned the organ or any damage that happened to it. Maybe it out for the day & was saved from burning? The sound is epic, the pieces are elegant & not overtly religious.

Reynaldo Hahn (1874 -1947) & Jules Massenet (1842 – 1912) Piano Concertos. Never heard of  Reynaldo Hahn? Neither had I until their was a post about him on Tumblr. Another obscure classical composer. He was Proust’s lover for many years. The concerto is romantic &, to my ears, unexceptional. The same holds for the Massenet concerto – pleasant & undemanding classical music. 

The same is true of  Frederick Delius’s (1862 – 1934) Sea Drift, Songs of Farewell. Though some do find semi-opera orchestra songs a bit challenging. I downloaded this after reading a biography of Bram Stoker. Sea Drift was a piece of music he listened to frequently for creative motivation & solace. As a result of the swelling strings I haven’t been inspired to write a new Dracula. 

Finally Claudio Monteverdi (1567 – 1643: Magnificat & Missa. Beautiful coral work sections of which were used on the soundtrack for a Spanish film I watched. I can’t recall the film but I was happy when I tracked down the actual recording used in the film. Often when I do this sort of search I come up emptied handed (or is that empty eared?). A great introduction to the whole genre of religious choral music that isn’t too sonorous or melodramatic.

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Rush to Mendocino

When I lived in Cape Breton I was in love with Tom Rush’s Wrong End Of The Rainbow. The gentle country-rock music & the sweetly poetic lyrics captivated me.  He fell between James Taylor & Jackson Browne. In face he did cover versions of songs by both of them. I picked up a cd that combined his first Self-Titled (1970) lp with Wrong End. The first is more folk rock & all cover versions: Jackson Browne’s These Days. Wrong End has originals like the title song, covers like James Taylor’s Riding on a Railroad. He’s still alive & performing – his last release was in 2018.

Next to Rush on the shelf is an lps to cd transfer of The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (1978); and  Bubblerock Is Here To Stay (1972). The Rutles: is the soundtrack to Eric Idle’s pitch-perfect parody of the Beatles. Much like Spinal Tap, it captures changing musical styles of the 60’s & the absurdities of the rock industry. The songs are excellent & quickly transcend mere parody.  Bubblerock is a Jonathan King satire of pop music forms – Mr. Tamborine with a background of more tambourines than an octopus could shake; a mash up of led Zeppelin & The Supremes. Worth searching out.

Next on the shelf is an mp3 cd collection including Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels: Breakout! (1966), Greatest Hits (1981), Get Out The Vote (1997). Mitch was a hit maker through the last half od the 60s with his masculine rock that owes much to Wilson Pickett etc. Here too is the cult favourite: Chocolate Watchband: 65-67 psychedelic and garage rock components compared to the Rolling Stones. A time when bands had ‘trippy names’ Vanilla Fudge, Strawberry Alarm Clock. They are better than their names suggests.

Also Eric Anderson’s debut lp Today Is The Highway (1965) folk originals except for Joe Williams’ ‘Baby, Please Don’t Go.’ A pretty boy with  pretty voice who never made it big but stuck around – changing labels & moved into a more country rock & eventually blues sound. I have other lps of his in other compilations. Finally Sir Douglas Quintet: Mendocino (1969). A Texas/California good time swamp rock band that had a few hits, none of which really charted in Canada. Classic rock like Mitch Ryder.

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Royal Sixties

Sadly the first version of this post got deleted 😦 so all my research – dates of release etc was lost – check these groups out on wiki for more info on them. The bulk of this is one of my mp3 collections of 60s hit-parade mostly one-hit wonders plus a few groups rolled by famous parents. A couple of performers never really crossed over from the r’n’b charts. 

Royal Teens: Lets Rock – remembered for their mega hit Short Shorts.

Best of The Jayettes: who might be remembered for ‘Sally Go Round’ – they lacked the glamour of The Supremes.

Dino, Desi & Billy- famous parents produced somewhat talented kids who managed some tolerable radio-fodder & even played their own instruments.

The same is true for Gary Lewis & The Playboys – expect their hits were bigger & better & more memorable than Dino, Desi & Billy. They also played their own instruments.

Keith: 98.6 was his one hit. He was a victim of a label that didn’t know how to package him or how to compete with the likes of Neil Diamond, BJ Thomas etc. 

Brenton Wood: 18 hits – Gimme A Little Sign was a cross over hit from the r’n’b charts but he couldn’t compete with white singer covers of his songs. Sweetly soulful but not as bluesy as Otis Redding.

Finally on this mp3 collection are The Turtles. Their songs frequently turn up in movies to establish a time era & a psychological mood. The band’s need to do ‘deeper’ material ended up with them leaving their label & the lead singers joined Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention.

A couple of stand-alones on the shelf: a double cd of Ruby and the Romantics: their one hit was Our Day Will Come – a brilliant romantic song. Ruby has a warm inviting voice but the band’s success was mainly on the r’n’b charts. Finally another stand alone that jumps us into 1990’s Rude Luck, out of PQ. Fun, soulful pop with a dash of hiphop. Bought in Montreal in 1993 as a part of my attempt to improve my French. 

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Silent Movie Soundtrack

I love movie soundtracks. They are written to sustain or create a mood. Deliberately manipulative music that can scare, lull, arouse & even make one patriotic. Often I wish it would drown out the dialogue lol. Sometimes it is the only good thing about movie. Even silent movies had music – usually played live on piano or elaborate pipe organs while the movie was being projected. Some had music written for them. Many had sheet music to accompany the film. As technology progressed early forms of lp was tried but sync was a challenge.

I have the soundtrack for Metropolis (1927) – For the film’s 2010 “complete” restoration premiere, Huppertz’s score was performed live and subsequently re-recorded by the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Frank Strobel. The composer, Huppertz, often played piano on Lang’s set to inform the actors’ performances. Huppertz’s score only accompanied the film once, at its original premiere.

The music is sweeping & one doesn’t need to have ever seen the movie to enjoy it. I have the 2010 restoration & have watched int a few times & the music certainly supports the plot & action but when I listen to it separately I don’t recall scenes. Unlike, say, the music from the Psycho shower scene. Great music that is more than just an historic document.

On this mp3 cd I added two soundtrack collections: Legendary Horror Films: original soundtrack music from King Kong, Frankenstein  etc. and Film Noir: original soundtrack music from Peter Gunn, The Big Sleep etc. Original movie instrumental soundtracks lps weren’t really a ‘thing’ until the sixties. Sure blockbusters would make some available i.e. Gone With The Wind. So these two collections of original music are excellent, in some cases music was taken directly from the film reels as the original recordings were not archived.

The soundtrack to I Married A Monster From Outer Space (1958) wasn’t released until the film itself became a cult favourite decades later. This is prime sci-fi space age music with ondes Martenot flourishes by a variety of composers including Max Steiner! The movie is great fun too, but you don’t have to see it to enjoy this soundtrack. 

Now for something different but retro. Bent Fabric was Danish pianist and composer best remembered for his hit Alley Cat (originally called “Omkring et flygel” (literally, “Around a Grand Piano”). It topped the charts in 1962. The song has shown up in various movies about the 60’s. I have a sweet collection of his fun pieces in a friendly jazzy style. 

I don’t think Mary Lou Williams did any soundtrack work – she was too busy working with the likes of Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis to write for movies. Jazz pianist extraordinaire she was an early black, female powerhouse who, I think, is due for a major bio-pic. As a break from the noir soundtracks I have her Black Christ of the Andes (1964), Super Female (compilation of tracks from her albums). You want a black, female genius before Beyonce look no further.

Finally the Lemurian Congress – a Canadian electronica band. Their recording The Tour is the ideal soundtrack for any unmade movie about the future of Earth’s colonizations of Mars.

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Roxy Music

I have as stand alone or as part of mp3 collection by Roxy Music -1st (1972), For Your Pleasure (1973), Stranded (1973), Country Life (1974), Siren (1975), Manifesto (1979), Flesh & Blood, (1980) Avalon (1982). I was a fan before they hit it big with Siren, though I found some of songs on the first lps a bit dull & self-indulgent in that art-school way. 

With pop dominated by groups like Led Zeppelin, Grand Funk Railway or The Carpenters, Roxy Music was clearly different – romantic without being overly-sweet. The new romanic sound – i.e. Spandau Ballet – started with Roxy Music. They paved the way for emo.

‘You’re talking in headlines, up to the murder of three’ is a favourite Roxy line. It’s hard to pick a favourite lp. Siren has the most memorable pop songs, the earlier ones are fine but Siren is amazing. The lp was given to me a Xmas gift back in 1975. My favourite lp could be Manifesto – released in 1979 the year I move to Toronto it is, in some ways, the sound of the start of my new life. It & Siren are good lps to start your Roxy collection.

Bryan Ferry felt confined by Roxy Music & developed a solo career: These Foolish Things (1973), Another Time, Another Place (1974), Boys and Girls (1985), Bete Noire (1987), Ultimate Collection (1988),  Dylanesque (2007), Avonmore (2014). He wanted to record work by other writers & what a great mix of songs – It’s My Party, Walk A Mile in These Shoes – unpredictable & sweet. All with a sense of humour & even reverence for the originals. Dylanesque is interesting & pleasant but too respectful for my taste.

Rounding things out are a couple of other neo-romantic bands of the time: Cabaret Voltaire: Micro-Phonies (1984); Ultravox: Quartet (Deluxe) (1982). Delightful, moody, melodic, progressive alternative pop that has aged well & could be released new tomorrow.

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QBoy Ray

The history of pop music by queer performers goes beyond Sylvester & came well before Pet Shop Boys. Some were out & some were forced out & some are neglected. This mp3 cd includes all that & more.

Forced out of the closet is Johnnie Ray. He, an amazingly popular torch singer in the early 50’s, was the prime target for teen hysteria in the pre-Presley days. I have At The London Palladium (1954); High Drama (1997 hits compilation) includes Cry (1951). Two arrests for soliciting under cover police offers pretty much ruined his reputation & career. His life is tragic & deserves a bio-film. He influence countless singers from Bob Dylan to Leonard Cohen. 

Not actually queer music but an iconic queer film is Pink Flamingos (1972). I have the soundtrack release that coincided with the 25th anniversary release of the film on DVD in (1997). It is fun but  mainly classic 50’s r’n’r such as I’m Not a Juvenile Delinquent by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. There needs to be a film looking at how many delinquents were queers.

From Toronto is the forgotten glamrock Justin Paige: Justin (1974) with bold songs like Sugar Daddy, Steam Queen & a cover of men in leather – this is an amazing, overlooked, historic recording. Bold lyrics done in a Joe Cocker bar-band style this is worth searching out. I bought a vinyl copy at Cheapies sometime in the 80’s based on the campy cover art & was not disappointed.

I’m sure he paved the way for Toronto’s Rough Trade: Avoid Freud (1980), Weapons (1983), O Tempora! O Mores! (1984). Carol Pope’s voice is powerful, the lyrics are funny – High School Confidential is a classic – often tackling complexity of relationships (regardless of gender). Avoid Freud is a must have in any collection.

Now a jump to another decade with Huggy Bear: sort of a compilation: Taking The Rough With The Smooch (1993) self-defined as riot grrrl “girl-boy revolutionaries.” Semi-punk with loose electric guitar, fun vocals & attitude. Perfect for queer core pogo dancers & not as dissonant as some. Similarly is Pansy Division: More Lovin’ From Our Oven (1996) a compilation of singles, unreleased tracks, demos. Total Entertainment (2003). Only Pansy has a more commercial sound – like REM but with very out lyrics & a sense of humour about lgbtq lifestyle. 

Finally QBoy: Moxie (2009) One of the original few out rappers in hip hop circa 2001 – clearly a precursor to Lil Nas X but not as sexually out there as X. Not that there is conservative hip-hop but QBoy spits sex positive lyrics against a fine backdrop of samples & started to shake hiphop out of its homophobic misogynist closet.

This is the my favorite sort of mp3 cd compilation that covers a historic arch of a genre that so often get narrowed down a name or two – Elton John or Liberace aren’t the sole definitions of lgbtq music. 

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Ancient Music

I watch a fair number of documentaries about ‘ancient’ cultures & often wonder what sort of music did they have? For some, all we know is the instruments they played,  as there was no notational system for writing music – it was an ‘oral’ tradition. I’m always amused by the music that gets played by court orchestras in movies about ancient Greece or Egypt. A modern sense of harmonics is imposed – this could be right. On this mp3 cd collection I have – Atrium Musica de Madrid’s Ancient Greek Music – ignores that modernizing & with an fun raucous approximation that feels close to authentic. Plucked lyres, discordant choirs & ragged percussion. More punk dissonance than movie soundtrack sweet. 

Guillaume de Machaut (1300-1377) French ars nova style in Medieval music. We have his music thanks to his own involvement in his manuscripts’ creation and preservation.  Sacred & Secular Music – Messes de Notre Dame; Le Jugement du Roi – an early hint of opera as a partially narrated but mostly sung dialogue between characters. I enjoy Medieval music – this is a good recording by the Ensemble Gilles Binchois  though the narrated portions of du Roi are much quieter than the sung parts.

The Baltimore Consort: The Food of Love – Songs, Dances, & Fancies for Shakespeare; &, The Musica Antiqua: A Cheerful Noise – Medieval And Early Renaissance Music – are both the music of the people – not sacred but what was sung in pubs, by travelling bards & was, I suppose, the pop music of their times. Songs about harvest, courting & valour. Though I do find these to be a little too ‘tidy’ – the voices are trained not average folk carousing cheerfully.

Finally on this cd is the Kyiv Chamber Choir: The Masterpieces of Ukrainian Choral Music – Medieval, Baroque, Classical, Romantic periods. Stunning harmonies, transcendent & one doesn’t need to know the language to be lifted by the spiritual seeking in some of these songs. 

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Rotary Connection

Rotary Connection

Thanks the production work of Charles Stepney & the proto-Hendrix guitar playing of Phil Upchurch, & the soaring voice of Minnie Riperton – Rotary Connection emerged as one of the best experimental soul/psychedelic groups of the 60s. Think Mamas & Papas with Jimi on lead guitar. Their albums mixed originals with sublime covers of songs like Tales of Brave Ulysses, Lady Jane. 

In an mp3 collection I have Rotary Connection: First (1967); Aladdin (1968); Peace (1968); Songs (1969);  Dinner Music (1970); Hey, Love (1971) As well as solo lps by Minnie Ripperton: Come Into My Garden (1970); Perfect Angel (1974);  Adventures in Paradise (1975); Stay in Love (1977).

I had their first & Songs as lps while I was living on the east coast. My friends didn’t like them that much but I was amazed by their first & by Songs – both which I discovered in remainder bins – Cape Breton wasn’t a market for experimental soul/psychedelic 🙂 

The others I found 2nd hand when I moved to Toronto or eventually downloaded. Peace is one of my favourite Christmas albums. It is a very urban soul take on Christmas – the opposite of the Phil Spector holiday album. Sidewalk Santa should be a classic & the guitar work on Silent Night is breathtaking. I you are tired of syrupy Xmas music get this if you don’t have it.

Minnie Riperton was a studio background singer for a few years before Rotary Connection – Charles Stepney utilized her stratospheric voice on several Ramsey Lewis lps (also worth checking out) & produced her first solo lp – Come Into My Garden. It presents her as a ballad singer & sometimes drowns her in distracting orchestrations. 

She stepped away from the industry for a few years to raise her children & made an unexpected return with Perfect Angel (1974) – full of warm, accessible soul-pop – adult contemporary. Adventures in Paradise (1975) – is a more sophisticated lp with denser lyrics about love & sense of self. On Stay in Love (1977) she moves into a soft disco sound (as hoped to bpm diva) that is sexy, soothing & romantic. All worth having. 

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