Frank Sinatra


I’m not sure when I became a Frank Sinatra fan. For many years I couldn’t listen to him then sometime in the 80’s I bought a cassette box set of his 50’s recordings offered by Reader’s Digest. There were 6 or 8 cassettes in the set & I quite enjoyed them. But over time the cassettes fell apart. I also had an multi lp boxset of his earlier Tommy Dorsey recordings. For decades he was one of the most popular singers in the USA & around the world. His movies made him the emoji for ‘cool.’ By the end of the 60’s he was a old-fashioned cliche.

I now have these on 6 mp3 cds. The Song Is You is the Tommy Dorsey work. The other is The MFSL Sinatra Box: 16 lps from 1954 to 1959 54: Swing Easy/In The Wee Small Hours/A Swingin’ Affair/ 56: Songs For Swingin’ Lovers/Close To You/ Where Are You?/Come Fly With Me/ Songs For Only The Lonely/Come Dance With Me/ 59-65: Look To Your Heart/No One Cares Nice’n’Easy/ Sinatra’s Swinin’ Session/All The Way/Come Swing With Me!/Sinatra Sings of Love & Things/September of My Years. Also his 1980 Trilogy: Past Present Future. 

You want the Great American Songbook? All the classics are here, all nicely done by the master. Sinatra created the singing idol & his live shows were often near riots that paved the way for arena rock today. The sound is sexy mellow but his stage presence then was undeniable & his selection of material was excellent. 

Rounding out the cds is work by Harry Belafonte: Calypso, My Lord What A Mornin’: sexy calypso & ethereal hymns: a perfect pairing 😉 Ella & Louis: self-titled, & Again. More classic songbook & a great combination of superstars. Two 50’s idols hit collections: Perry Como: Gold; Elvis Presley: The Top Ten Hits. Perry the smooth, family friendly crooner. Elvis who took over the Sinatra pop idol mantle. Sinatra’s sound influenced singers around the world including Belgium’s Jacques Brel: Chansons Ou versions Inedites is a compilation of studio outtakes & live versions across his career. Unlike Sinatra Brel wrote & performed mainly his own songs.

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Simply Banshee

When Simply Red’s “Holding Back the Years” topped the charts here in Toronto I remember a buddy asking ‘Is that Carly Simon?’ No, it was red-head Mick Hucknall. The band’s first lp was Picture Book (1985), which at that time I had as cassette. I have that & Men and Women (1987), A New Flame (1989), Stars (1991) in my collection. 

The band was good, if unexceptional, the original songs were good, if unexceptional, the cover songs ditto. It was Hucknall’s voice that sold the work. The music progressed to a more commercial, slick sound & by Stars I lost interest – verging on bland, adult contemporary as opposed to top ten. 

Sinclair: Que justice soit faite! (1993), Au mépris du danger (1995): French fun with amazing engineering, & a great singer. Production was done by members of French techno wizards Cassius (whose cds I love). The music is funky, sexy & danceable with songs about love, politics & dancing. I bought these in Montreal when I used to visit in the mid 90’s as a part of learning French. I never really learned much except that lyrics are often irrelevant to enjoyment.

I made a cassette copy of of a friend’s Looking Glass (1987) lp by Siouxsie and the Banshees which I eventually downloaded as mp3. On it the band covers songs by Roxy Music, The Doors etc. They move from their Goth sound to a more alternative rock sensibility & I liked the song they chose to interpret. I’ve heard other lps but they didn’t grab me. I did eventually add Gold: a 2 cd compilation of their ‘hits’ & alternate takes. 

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Wes Montgomery

By Wes Montgomery (1923-1968) I have over 2 mp3 collections Finger Pickin’ (1996) live December 1957, Movin’ Along (1960), Boss Guitar (1963), Guitar on the Go (1966) includes tracks recorded in 1959 and October and November 1963, Bumpin’ (1965), Dynamic Duo with Jimmy Smith (1966), Further Adventures with Jimmy Smith (1966), California Dreaming (1966), A Day In The Life (1967). As stand alone: Impressions; The Verve Jazz Sides 1995 2cd compilation.

My introduction to Wes was late in his career by A Day In The Life by which time he was on the A&M label with producer Chip Taylor. I loved his mellow electric-elastic guitar tone & was amazed by his covering of pop songs like Windy & A Day In The Life. Listening to them now they are a bit too reverent & verge on muzak. But this was the Chip Taylor style.

Many jazz players enlivened their careers by working with contemporary pop material to appeal to younger  listeners. His earlier work is much jazzier in a tradition way – his playing is always precise & tasteful. I love the two lps he recorded with organist Jimmy Smith & they are well worth having. The Verve sides are a delight too. 

Rounding out the mp3 cds are: Herbie Mann and Dave Valentin: Two Amigos (1990); Herbie Mann and Phil Woods: Beyond Brooklyn (2004) – two fun jazzy sets with Herbie Mann. Good solid work that verges on easy listening.

Art Pepper (1925 –1982): The Return of Art Pepper (1956), Artworks (recorded 1979 released in 1984). His career was repeatedly interrupted by several prison stints stemming from his addiction to heroin. His sax is slightly aggressive, propulsive & adventurous but rarely becomes squawky. He covers jazz standards & originals.

Chico Hamilton (drummer): Man From Two Worlds (1963) Gábor Szabó, The Further Adventures of El Chico (1966). Gábor Szabó is another of my favourite easy to enjoy jazz guitarists. I picked up a double lp while I was living in Cape Breton & loved it. Another jazz player who did excellent covers of pop music. On the hits lp were tracks he recorded with Chico, so I eventually added some Chico to my collection. Solid, sometimes intellectual jazz, old-school & fun to listen to.

Here too is Wilbert Longmire’s Revolution (1969) – another jazz guitarist in the Montgomery mold in a fun funky set of mostly covers – including the Beatles’ Revolution. Finally Art Farmer (Trumpet): Crawl Space (1977) – a fine, moody, romantic set of excellent jazz that is a good introduction to jazz in a more exploratory & relaxed style.

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Simone and Odetta

It seemed fitting to do an mp3 collection that included both Nina Simone & Odetta. Both were fiercely independent black, female folk/blues singers who paved the way for Aretha to Beyonce. Their voices are similarly husky, strong & emotional. Nina followed a somewhat more ‘pop’ route once she was established. Both left the USA for a time to free themselves from both civil rights issues & to find opportunity to create careers.

Nina Simone (1933 – 2003): an American singer, songwriter, pianist, and civil rights activist. Her music spanned styles including classical, folk, gospel, blues, jazz, R&B, and pop. On this mp3 cd I have Four Women: The Nina Simone: Philips Recordings (1964 – 1966). On another mp3 collection is: ‘Nuff Said live (1968), To Love Somebody (1969), It Is Finished live (1974).

The Philips are her 7 lps for that label which includes her blistering Mississippi Goddam. She does originals &  folk standards (Black Is The Color of My True Love’s Hair) & classics (Strange Fruit). The other three lps reflect her love for the BeeGees (!) & even includes some Broadway show tunes. My first Nina lp was the live ‘Nuff Said – I was reading the poetry of Langston Hughes & did a search for recordings of his songs, some of which are on this lp.

Odetta (1930 – 2008): an American singer, actress, guitarist, lyricist, and civil rights activist, often referred to as “The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement.” On this mp3 cd I have the hits collection Traditional Masters. She was a more traditional in her choice of material fold/spiritual & eventually feminist/political. Her voice is powerful & there is nothing understated in her lyrics even when traditional folk. 

Over the past few years there have been excellent documentary biographies of each them that are worth tracking down. They were both fearless women who forced men to listen to them, to respect them. Both had creative career blocked by US fear of such voices but these women persisted & in doing so produced some fine music.

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Paul Simon

When Simon and Garfunkel broke up, Paul stayed in the music industry, with one film attempt. Art pursued film with some success & did some okay solo recordings. I’ve heard some & wasn’t interested in having them. Paul’s solo works, on the other hand, continued to deepen his ability to craft top ten masterpieces – often with the help & inspiration of prime jazz, latin & world musicians. 

Over a couple of mp3 collections I have: Paul Simon (1972); There Goes Rhymin’ Simon (1973); Still Crazy After All These Years (1975); One-Trick Pony (1980); Hearts & Bones (1983) (includes: The Late Great Johnny Ace); Graceland (1986); In The Blue Light (2018). elsewhere I have his The Rhythm of the Saints (1990) & Songs from The Capeman (1997). In 2022 he performed live at the Newport Folk Festival & was amazing.

The rush of freedom energy carried him though for several years producing a series of best-selling classic albums but eventually by Saints he slowed down – which showed in some of the work on those later lps. By The Saints his urge to create was satisfied & his need for more fame, money hits was satiated. Capeman was a curious message-heavy Broadway musical. 

But those lps from 1972 to 1986 are enough to make his work memorable & replayed for centuries. I picked up Blue Light to hear what he was now writing & it was solid but more pretty than inspired. Do I have a favorite? No – do you?

Rounding out the Paul Simon cds I added Johnny Ace: Memorial Album (1955) – Paul has song on Hearts & Bones about Ace so downloaded this ‘hits’ collection. A tragic rock life. He was a romanic r’n’b singer who died too soon. Time for a movie bio? No, let’s have one about Elvis.

Another seventies singer/songwriters who was a chart topper is Cat Stevens. Here I have his Catch Bull At Four (1972), Buddha and the Chocolate Factory (1974). More excellent top ten writing with a slightly more spiritual sensibility than Paul Simon. I loved Cat & was saddened when he departed for deep spiritual values (that were also somewhat homophobic). Rick Nelson was a late 50’s TV sitcom star with a decent pop career but found that nearly denied him any serious critical respect until Garden Party (1972). Romantic country-rock with a great song about chasing off that pop career reputation.

Richard Betts: (of Allman Brothers) Highway Call (1974) – a solo career thanks to his work with the Brothers – simple sincere country music – good voice & pleasant forgettable songs. Leon Haywood: The Best of (1996) an American funk and soul singer, songwriter, and record producer. Simple sincere funk-soul, danceable music – good voice & pleasant forgettable songs. Mickey Newbury: Winter Winds Live (2002) – folk/pop emotional singer/songwriter with a pleasant voice, nice acoustic guitar & cello? Chamber folk pleasantness. 

Harvest: various old time ‘folk’ songs ie: The Bowery, I Dream of Jeannie. I had this urge to hear The Bowery complete & found it as a part of this great collection of classic American songs that surface at campfire sing-a-longs. Not sing-a-longs is Neil Young’s with Promise of the Real: The Visitor (2017). Does he live in a studio? There seems to be a new release from him every six months. A fun collection of politically motivated rock.

David Bowie: The Gouster (76-79) is a miscellaneous collection of early versions & jams some of which became Diamond Dogs. Originally only part of the 2016 box set Who Can I Be Now? (1974–1976) it was made available separately after his death. For completists like myself.

n3lly: N3LLY is out of the Danish urban scene. Is there easy listening hip-hop? Sweet rapping in a language I don’t understand with great samples by an eye-candy guy. saw his Nu video on YouTube & followed the link to this soundcloud lp.

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Silver and Garfunkel

The now legendary Silver Apples were an American electronic rock group from New York. They are a pioneering fusion of rock and electronic music. Until 2008 when I picked up this cd of their first two lps all I heard of them was their reputation. Silver Apples (1968), Contact (1969) show where ELP & the British electronic movement sprung from. The first lp is spacey oscillators & drums with cosmic lyrics, the second is slightly more grounded with more emotion lyrics plus banjo (!) to give a sweet country turn. A group that was undone by a corporate lawsuit over cover art! 

Simon & Garfunkel were one of the best-selling music groups of the 1960s. I’ve had all their lps – some more than once as played them to grey. On the self is The Complete Studio albums: a 3 cd set of all the Columbia studio lps: Wednesday Morning 3 A.M. (1964); Sounds of Silence (1966); Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme 1966); [The Graduate (1967 Dave Grusin)];  Bookends (1968); Bridge Over Troubled Waters (1970).

Paul Simon, along with Bob Dylan were my two first poet idols. I later discover my influences were really their prime influencers: TS Eliot & Alan Ginsberg. In my high school note books I wrote ‘inspired’ imitations of both that were word salads as opposed to actual poetry but it was an excellent way to start. Nearly every ‘folk’ group in Cape Breton did their own versions of those early songs: Parsley, Sage; Homeward Bound; Sounds of Silence. 

The Graduate soundtrack is a separate release but represented a major jump for the the pair & works well as a soundtrack. Each release was a musically different as Simon mastered Top 10 songwriting. They incorporated spoken sections, sound manipulation without alienating their teen fans. Though I do skip some of it now, then I felt it was amazing.

I was also convinced they were lovers to sound so in harmony. With the last lp they had hit such a music peak fans were shocked & dismayed over the breakup of the group. The last lp is a sonic masterpiece with directions that Paul pursued successfully for most his solo career. (coming next week). Each lp has strong nostalgic emotional pull on me & take me back to my life as a teenager, as struggling queer boy trying to find an emotional anchor. I was disappointed to find neither of them was even bi.

I think of all their songs my favourite is For Emily, Where Ever I May Find Her. What is yours?

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Aspekt Worldmusic

Aspekt Best Of (2017): Aspekt is a German record label & this is sampler of some of their artists. A good mix of mostly techno dance, electronica & hip-hop. I downloaded this from soundcloud to add something modern. Hipster easy listening non-dull background music. 

Chuck Cissel: If I Had The Chance (1982) – Cissel is a Broadway singer who recorded a few excellent disco/romantic lps before moving on to jazz. Sweet danceable music. 

The Highlife World Series is a series of releases working with young musicians and traditional instruments around the globe. The first three parts were released in 2015, beginning with Cuba, followed by Kenya and Uganda. I downloaded Kenya (2015) from bandcamp. Hipster easy listening non-dull background world music.

Billy Porter: Love Yourself (2019) – his gown made Oscar history a few years ago & his acerbic gay presence has elevated more than few TV shows. His Broadway music background gives him a great presence for the few singles, like this, he has released. Uplifting dance music.

Firefly (mid70’s) is a fun pop group with a sweet disco undercurrent – songs of love, positivity with tight harmonies that you can dance to either on the disco floor or the bed.

B. B. & Q. Band (which stands for the Brooklyn, Bronx, and Queens Band), was an Italian-American post-disco studio band, which formed in 1979 and disbanded in 1987. Songs of love, positivity with tight harmonies that you can dance to.

Martin Circus was a French band formed in the late 1960s, whose musical style developed over time from progressive rock through pop to disco and new wave music in the 1970s and 1980s. Here I have their ‘long-cut’ perfect disco hit – DiscoCircus (1978).

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Before Shakira burst out of the Columbian/Spanish market she released these CDs that broke down barriers: Pies Descalzos (1995), Dónde Están los Ladrones? (1998) – when I bought these I was merely adding them to my latino world music collection. The production was superb & she was clearly working on becoming the next Celine Dion – only with a lot more sexuality. Great music. Her English work seems a little forced to me & I quickly lost interest.

Canadian Remy Shand hit big with his first (& only lp) The Way I Feel (2002). Smooth emotive voice & catchy r’n’b. He quickly stepped away for the mainstream industry & has remained active as an indie performer. He didn’t want any record lable accountant telling him what to record to maximize sales. 

Shriekback: Trench (1982), Care (1983), Oil & Gold (1985), Big Night Music (1986), Go Bang! (1988), The Dancing Years (1990). I remember recognizing  Coelacanth when it came up in the Manhunter film. I’d recently bought Oil & Gold & was amazed to hear my favourite band in a movie. The moody organ, ocarina instrumental was perfect. The band’s careful, deliberate arrangements held my attention & the lead singer’s voice was sexy & a little chilling.  The band changed personnel over time & their sound changed as well. I love each them for different reasons. The Dancing Years is a sort of ‘hits’ compilation & makes a good introduction to the band.

Rounding out the Shriekback mp3 cd are: Fleetwood Mac: tango in the night (1987) the video for Big Love brought me back to Mac. The lp is good solid work & was one of their best selling. Paul Simon pulled his career back together with Graceland (1987). This is an amazing album, though with the passage of time one wonders about his eager appropriation of another cultures music even with credits for the many African musicians on the lp. 

I was gifted the vinyl of Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft’s Alles Est Gut (1981) with it hot cover art & the techno music is still surprisingly fresh & appealing. The same is true for M: Pop Muzik: New York–London–Paris–Munich (1978) I remember loving that dance single in my first years in Toronto & eventually dowloaded the mp3 of the album a few years ago.

Here too is Eddie Kendricks’ The Hit Man (1975).One time lead singer for The Temptations – he stepped to record several solo lps all good solid disco/r’n’b love songs & the search for peace. Finally Dead Can Dance: Aion (1990), which I has as cassette & up graded to mp3. This Australian band was deep into Gothic/Renaissance music with a dash of modern. Sweetly different. 

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Blue Cheer Seeds

The Seeds: psychedelic artistic statements The Seeds (1966), Web of Sound (1966), Future (1967), A Spoonful of Seedy Blues (Sky Saxon Blues Band) (1967) Raw & Alive in Concert at Merlin’s Music Box  (1968), Rare Seeds (1966-67). I remember The Seeds first & only big hit ‘Pushin’ Too Hard’ with it’s garage band, pre-punk anger that captured teen-angst that few other songs did at the time. The sound quality was perfect for transistor radios. Who could resist a song about too much homework & parental expectations. 

There was nothing slick about the sound, the music or the pellmell rush off the guitar & lyrics. All I had was the memory. Several years ago, as I set out to reclaim my music memories I found these thanks to iTunes & couldn’t resist adding them to my collection. Web includes their ‘long song’ Up In Her Room in which they start to mellow out. Future is one of the sweetest flower power, sitar stoked lps you’ll ever hear. 

Another 60s one-hit wonder is Blue Cheer. A power trio that some consider the first heavymetal band. their first lp Vincebus Eruptum (1968) included the hit Summertime Blues, an excellent cover of Parchment Farm & solid originals. Their next Outsideinside (1968) (with hideous cover art) was more of the same, a bit more polished & trippy. I lost interest in them plus the local record store was mainly focused on top 20 lps so their next ones never made it to the east coast. 

I found New Improved! (1969) & Blue Cheer thanks to iTunes. Personnel changes also changed their sound which was still metal but not as heavy. By Blue Cheer (1969) they ran out of lp titles 🙂 & were also a quartet. By this lp they had lost their initially angry momentum & also, I think, they suffered from improved production. It was the raw energy & sound of the first lps that gave them ‘personality’ by this lp they were a band with groupie complaints, which I didn’t find very compelling. 

There are hits compilations by both bands that are fun & if you are a fan of that late 60’s rock both are worth adding to any collection. 

Do you have any favorite one-hit wonders from that era?

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