October 31, 2011

Not as Halloween-y as it looks

I grabbed this album because I liked the cover, and have always been curious about Spike Jones, that irreverent bandleader/musician I first heard about from comedian George Carlin in one of his comedy performances.

Based on the cover, I thought perhaps this would be an album of Halloween-type songs, but it's not, really. Still a lot of fun, though! Listen for the legendary voice actor, man-of-a-thousand-voices, Mel Blanc doing a "drunken", hiccuping verse in track 3, "Clink Clink Another Drink", as well as a truly ridiculous version of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite" on track 7. Happy Halloween everyone!

September 8, 2011

Them Old Country Songs

I find I've been listening to a lot of bluegrass music lately. That tends to happen in the summer - there's something about bluegrass that has an "outside in the warm weather" feel to it, at least for a city dweller like me.

As I listen, I realize that while I often say "I don't like country music" ... I actually like a lot of country music. Now, this isn't bluegrass music (however, this post from 2010 is), but all of this made me think of "Them Old Country Songs", a 3-LP set I picked up many years ago for a few bucks. This is that old-school kinda country music, full of soul and heartache.

Three LPs worth of music means there's a lot of stuff here. Particularly notable though, and by far my favourite track, is "Down Yonder" (LP 1, track 4) - a wild honky-tonk piano piece from 1951 played by Del Wood (a.k.a. Polly Adelaide Hazelwood - a woman in the 1950s country music scene! My goodness!). There is also a version of "Tell It Like It Is" (LP 3, track 2), popularized by Aaron Neville, as well as the upbeat "This Ole House" by Stuart Hamblen, later covered by Rosemary Clooney, mother of now-famous George Clooney (well somewhat famous, but what has he done lately? *snicker*)

Anyway, it's a "who's who" of old country, if there ever was one!

August 8, 2011

MORE Johnny Puleo and his Harmonica Gang

... and now we get more into the "specialty" side of Johnny Puleo with Volumes 3 and 4 of his LP series.

In Volume 3, we get "Molto Italiano!", a collection of Italian-themed, all-harmonica renditions of songs such as "Sicilian Tarantella", "Funiculì, Funiculà", and the similarly operatic "O Sole Mio". The similarities in sound between the harmonica and the accordion is quite evident here.

Volume 4 is dedicated to "Western Songs" such as "Home on the Range" and "San Antonio Rose", for a distinct 'out riding fences, sitting by the campfire' feel.

July 18, 2011

JOHNNY PULEO and his Harmonica Gang

Johnny Puleo has been a staple of my vinyl collection for many years now. I must have been only 15 or 16 when, as a nerdy music student, eager to listen to anything and everything "unusual" (clearly, I never really grew out of that), I picked up Volume 2 of this series of albums from Johnny Puleo and his Harmonica Gang for about 25 cents at a flea market. Years later, after thinking I'd NEVER find Volume 1 to complete the set, I found Volume 1 (but didn't complete the set - more on this later).

"The only instruments used on this recording and harmonicas or mouth organs!", the back cover proudly declares. Indeed, it's nothing but harmonicas, but if you like harmonicas, especially a bunch of 'em all together, it's nothing but fantastic. It's mostly corny old music but these guys really make their harmonicas sing. You may recognize Aram Khatchaturian's "Sabre Dance" (Volume 2, track 2) as the Buffalo Sabres' hockey team theme music often played during their home games, like I did (memories of old-school Hockey Night in Canada!) - but you've never heard it like this.

Not enough Johnny Puleo for you? Stay tuned for MORE Johnny Puleo, up next.

June 5, 2011

CALYPSO with The Mighty Sparrow

Wow, it's been WAY too long since the last LP resurrection. What can I say, I get lazy and tend to put things off unless someone says "hey man, why no blog posts lately?" So if you're an active follower of this blog who has been patiently waiting, and can't bear to go another three months until the next post after this, feel free to bug me about it and it might coax me to get off my arse.

Anyway, this post is for "Gale" and "FredrikO", two readers who have requested MORE CALYPSO after listening to some music from Trinidad and Tobago on the very first post on this blog. Request granted!

The Mighty Sparrow is sometimes referred to as the "Calypso King of the World", and considering he's won numerous important calypso competitions (quite often more than any other calypsonian), it's an appropriate title.

Always known for being outspoken, a notable track on this album is track number 9, "No Future", where Sparrow warns what might happen to you if you choose a life of drugs: "... brother, you ain't got no future, you ain't got no hope ... you might think you're dead, 'til somebody said, 'poor little bloke, he went off on dope." - kind of a "Just-Say-No calypso" (or "calyps-NO"?), if you will. Great summer music! Enjoy!

January 25, 2011

Happy "Rabbie Burns" Day!

Today, Scots and poetry lovers alike are celebrating the birthday of Robert (a.k.a. Robbie/Rabbie) Burns, considered to be the greatest Scottish poet (and even the greatest Scottish person) of all time.

Admittedly, this album has nothing to do with Robert Burns, except for being made by Andy Stewart, another Scot. But who cares, right? Robbie Burns Day is often a celebration of Scottish culture as much as it is a celebration of the famed poet.

Andy Stewart was a musician from Glasgow who had a number of international hit singles in the 1960s. Since this LP seems to have two front covers (pictured) rather than a definite front and back cover, it's possible that this is actually two albums in one, or perhaps a compilation of his biggest hits.

The track "Scottish Soldier", written by Stewart, is known by many fans of old-school professional wrestling as the entrance theme for "Rowdy" Roddy Piper (who is actually Canadian, but used his Scottish heritage as inspiration for his wrestling persona). The lyrics for "other" title track, the tongue-in-cheek "Donald, Where's Your Troosers?", is said to have been written by Stewart in 10 minutes while sitting in a bathroom with his "troosers"'round his ankles. Kind of a comedy-crossover song, the song pauses about halfway through, and Stewart wonders aloud if the song needs more "international appeal". Then the first verse is repeated - Elvis Presley-style! (and what a great impersonation!) - before going back to the original Scottish version. It's a bonny LP! Pour yourself a wee dram and have a listen!

January 10, 2011

Gerry Rafferty, 1947-2011

On January 4, 2011, the music world said goodbye to Gerry Rafferty, a Scottish musician best known for two late-70s hit songs that continue to be radio staples to this day: "Baker Street", which is instantly recognizable for its saxophone solo, as well as the more laid-back "Right Down The Line". Before that, he was also a part of the early 70s group Stealers Wheel, the band behind the song "Stuck in the Middle With You" (a song that had a resurgence in popularity in the early 90s, after being used in the rather gruesome "ear cutting" scene in Quentin Tarantino's film Reservoir Dogs).

In honour of Rafferty's passing, this post features this self-titled compilation album from 1974, a collection of songs written by Rafferty and recorded by yet another band he was a part of, The Humblebums. Interestingly, this band also had Billy Connolly as a member, mostly known these days as a stand-up comedian and character actor who has appeared in a number of Hollywood movies.