Netflix needs Jazz

I have to first off state that I have never seen the movie The Jazz Singer, but I will correct that soon. So this review will be strictly over the music and hopefully not completely out of context. Forgive me, I am just more of a music man then a movie man.

Neil Diamond has been a staple in music and pop culture since 1963 when he released neil-diamond-the-jazz-singerhis first solo single, “Clown Town.” Although this was predicted to be a hit, it failed to chart successfully. Diamond began to spend the majority of the following years songwriting. He wrote for many legendary performers, including Elvis Presley and the Monkees, and wrote some legendary tunes including “I’m a Believer” and “Sweet Caroline”.

His first hit came as an artist came in 1966 with “Solitary Man.” He began performing and opening for many big name bands and artists, but began to feel restricted by his record company. He then switched over to MCA Records and his solo career gained serious traction with a string of hit songs and albums. He also became extremely well known for his stage performances.

In 1980 he had planned on starring in a movie with Barbra Streisand titled after the song “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.” He instead opted to star in a remake of The Jazz Singer. He agreed to write songs for them film, thus my album review starts.

TheJazzSingerNeilDiamondalbumcoverFrom this soundtrack/album alone I am amazed at Diamond’s songwriting. It takes a lot to be a songwriter, but he has a special quality I feel many don’t, and that’s adaptability. He was able to adapt his lyrics to a storyline, instead of writing from just his personal experiences.

The album opens with the hit “America.” I think most Americans know this song, even if they don’t know where it came from. It’s an anthem for every American and could be considered an anthem for many immigrants. The songs talks about coming to America for freedom, a home, and ultimately to pursue a dream, all set to an uptempo musical style. The last seconds of the song use lyrics from the classic song “My Country Tis of Thee.” A great ending to  an optimistic ode to this great nation.

The album then goes into the classic “You Baby.” A definite concert pleaser and a tune you are slightly embarrassed to admit you dance to alone. The next gem comes with “Love on the Rocks.” The lyrics tie in a double meaning, not only is there a love relationship that is over, yet there is also slight drinking involved. My favorite line, “Love on the rocks, ain’t no surprise, pour me a drink, I’ll tell you some lies.” This ballad goes on to explain how love can often be a hardship. He actually encourages one to leave a relationship once “they” know they have you. Lesson to be learned: don’t ever totally give yourself to one entity, for that provides the tallest fall.

I enjoyed the religious references in “Amazed and Confused” and “Jerusalem.” It seemsjazzsinger that, although “Amazed and Confused” is from a movie where Judaism is prominent,  it has much to say to Christians. It talks about someone waiting on the other side of the Jordan (As a Christian, I would say Jesus), casting stones as they cross (sins), but that they will abide (God’s grace and law).

Lastly, I just have a slight comment on “Acapulco.” This song seems to be an 80’s version of the Andrew Sisters “Rum and Coca-Cola.” This sensed connection had to be expressed.

For me, this is a prelude to the movie. I have read where the movie was not quite as successful as the album, but the songs were recorded live on set. This is a huge testament to Diamond’s vocal talent as well. Although, the title of the album and movie can be a misconception, for there is not any jazz, but pop music sang. The title seems to commit homage to the original, 1923’s Al Jolson’s Jazz Singer.

So although there is no Jazz actually performed, the soul and heritage of Jazz is portrayed within the music. Jazz is about hurt, emotion, and overcoming obstacles. It’s in the genre’s history. This album’s title is a perfect correlation to these facts.

This movie is Diamond’s first and last. It has taken the hit of ridicule and acclaim, but the music is golden. Unfortunately I now want to see this movie, and Netflix never has that one movie you need.

I guess today I will be off to all the used DVD stores.

Agent Foreign Love Reporting for Duty

I’m going to admit, this record has been sitting on my shelf for a while. I’ve listened to it once or twice, but I Covermainly bought it for “I Want To Know What Love Is,” and the fact that Foreigner is a legendary band. After I recently went through my entire record collection I decided this was an album that deserved a closer listen.

Foreigner has an odd dynamic. They started out with six members, 3 were British and 3 were American. One of the founding members, and the only original member remaining today, Mick Jones, named the band Foreigner due to the fact that no matter what country they went to 3 of them would be foreign. I found that pretty cleaver.

Although, it was not long that member shifts began in the band. By the time they got to Agent Provocateur in 1984, they were down to a quartet, and only three were founding members. Over time, turn over has proven to not be foreign to this band. I mean, when you still perform as a six man “Foreigner” with only one original member, are you even the same band? On top of that, Jones has been going through health troubles and isn’t always able to take the stage.

Back to 1984. This albums provides all the genius of the previous albums, a Mick Jones and Lou Gramm writing duo. There was tension during this album because Jones wanted to move to a more 80’s synthesizer feel, whereas Gramm wanted to remain pure rock. I think this is vocally obvious in many different tracks, especially on side B, for Gramm just seems distant and slightly forced. Ultimately Jones won, but Gramm’s vocals were an essential component.

Mick Jones

Mick Jones

I read that Agent Provocateur was to be a somewhat concept album. The definition for an agent provocateur is one employed to associate with suspected persons by pretending sympathy with their aims to incite them to some incriminating action. This fits the theme of the songs perfectly for each song seems to be a tad negative on relationships and love. I feel the members were the ones incited to an incriminating action, while their lovers were the agent provocateurs, luring them into a trap, an 80’s siren if you will. I’m not sure what exactly the incriminating action could have been in this situation.

There are some great songs on this album. For one, it produced their only number 1 single “I Want to Know What Love Is,” and the hit “That Was Yesterday.” There’s also some great 80’s hair feel in the songs “Tooth and Nail” and “Reaction to Action.” All these are on the first side of the record.

Then you flip the record and the songs begin to blend in together. The best song on this side is “Stranger in My Own House,” but the song that precedes it, “A Love in Vain” is basically the same concept, minus the elements of the former. This is where I feel Gramm was just not feeling the music.

The best part of this album is “I Want to Know What Love Is.” I’m sure that is no surprise. This has long been one of my favorite songs and I fully enjoy the original and its many covers. This song features Jennifer Holliday, who was signed to Geffen records. She was the original Effie in the broadway production of DreamGirls and her power house vocals, along with various others, provide the gospel feel of the song. Holliday is one of the best belters out there (have you heard “And I’m Telling You?”), and you can easily hear her wanting to know what love is.

The main artifact I pull out of this nearly 30 year old album is Lou Gramm’s voice. I believe I may have found another vocalist to add to my long lists of favorites. His vocals possess rock, soul, and many different emotions. I am not qualified to fully define his voice at the moment. More Foreigner albums and his solo recordings will be making their way to my vinyl collection soon.

Lou Gramm

Lou Gramm

I found this album a great definition of what many 70s bands were experiencing in the transition into the sound of the 80s (personally one of my least favorite decades in musical history). To remain popular they adapted, yet did they lose their original appeal in the process? Gramm made one more album as lead vocalist with Foreigner, rejoined in 1992 for two more albums, and has now since parted again. I’m suspecting artistic differences.

In the end, don’t let this album slip through your record sleeves. It has a defining purpose not only in Foreigner’s catalog, but in Gramm’s vocals.

All you have to do is check in for agent duty, grab your cape, and and stealthily listen to this recording. There won’t be much disappointment.

Lookout! It’s Cheap Trick!

Every so often a band is “big in Japan”…Cheap Trick reached Beatlemania level in Japan. This album documents their first tour in Japan in 1978.

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

I bought “Cheap Trick at Budokan” for around $1 at a messy little thrift shop next to the coffee shop on Main Street in Shawnee, America. I bought it because it’s a gatefold sleeve and has “I Want You to Want Me” on it. (Which is mostly because of the movie Bandslam, which is quite a gem if you haven’t seen it yet) Anyway, I’m usually drawn to gatefold albums because they include a more complete packaging treatment like booklets full of things to read while listening to the album. For this album, the booklet had some really interesting things inside. For example, a letter written to Japan thanking them for the tour as well as the lyrics of the songs both in Japanese and sometimes poorly translated English.

DSC_0156As expected of a live album, a heavy dose of crowd noise is present at the beginnings and endings of songs. With a seemingly sparse number of tracks, the slow burn jam “Need Your Love” clocking in at just over nine minutes makes up for the three or four missing songs. The song calls to mind Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” Cheap Trick’s live show sounds like it is full of energy and spans several genres from punky pop, rock and roll, and a twinge of 80s hair (“Big Eyes”). It is interesting how each member of the band dresses to fit a different rock subculture: punk, hair, mod, and rockabilly.

Stand out tracks include: “I Want You to Want Me”, “Lookout”, “Need Your Love”, “Ain’t That a Shame.”

My vintage copy is dated 1979 by Epic Records. Fun fact: This album is #426 in Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Albums of All Time. I recommend this album for lovers of music inside the space between punk rock and hair metal. Word on the street is that Cheap Trick is still touring…

Track listing:

  1. Hello There
  2. Come On, Come On
  3. Lookout
  4. Big Eyes
  5. Need Your Love
  6. Ain’t That a Shame
  7. I Want You to Want Me
  8. Surrender
  9. Goodnight Now
  10. Clock Strikes Ten

Since We are On the Topic….

Since Cher was mentioned in our last post she has released a new music video for her current single “Woman’s World.” Although a it recently went number 1 on the U.S. Club charts, which does say a lot, is this the Cher music fans everywhere respected? Now, as a music lover, I have a high respect for Cher. She has proven how a career can have longevity and has produced some classic songs over the past 40 years, but in this new video, I just don’t know.

I wonder if she should have left everything at The Farewell Tour in the early 2000s. I wonder if she should hang up a few wigs and parts of her career. I give her kudos for keeping up, but is this most recent video and song a little much? I want to stand corrected.

Would Cher’s career be better suited for a Rod Stewart style revival? I tend to think so. She was featured on one of his American standards albums (she excelled immensely) and she has expressed her love for this music. Instead of trying to still grab the young fans, should she begin to pay attention to those who have loved her from the beginning, when she was only on vinyl? Should she be more worried about the Adult Contemporary charts instead of the Hot 100?

Now don’t get me wrong, she looks amazing. Her face is still flawless after all these years and her body is unspeakable, no matter how much work has been done.. I also love how they incorporated all types of different women for the video.

I just want Cher to go out on top. Does this video do her justice as the Goddess of Pop? Please let me know what you think and prove me wrong.

Filed for Divorce Within 9 Days, Reconciled for 2 years, a Baby and 1 Album

I am completely confused about this collaboration between two highly regarded musicians, Greg Allman (a Rock and Roll hall of Fame inductee) and Cher (an everlasting performer who has set more trends then anybody).

In 1975 Allman and Cher were married, just days after her and Sonny Bono’s divorce was finalized. This wasn’tCher and Greg 1 a complete shock when looking at the lifestyle that Cher and Bono had been leading. They had both been pursing different “lovers” for around 3 years, but remained publicly married for their successful namesake. Allman and Cher had been dating for around 6 months when they sporadically married in Las Vegas.

Cher filed for divorce 9 days later, citing Allman’s heroin and liquor abuse…then they reconciled for a few years. Quite conventional.

During their tumultuous tenure they made one album, Two The Hard Way. There wasn’t a more suitable title and thank goodness that this was Cher’s last duet album.

This album is a divorce party album. It is the most forced vocal and emotional connection between two artists who were clearly infatuated with each other, but were completely wrong for each other. Although, even that infatuation was limited. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine Allman stated that he didn’t feel Cher had a good singing voice, but a good talking voice.  She responded with an atomic bomb.

Well it was really just an f-bomb to be precise.

According to some this is both artists’ worst musical endeavor, but there is some respect. A few songs stick out, and they do cover a range of genres. One can feel disco, pop, r&b, and rock throughout the album. Although there is two things to keep in mind, Allman was a southern rocker teetering on country and Cher was a pop singer who went with any popular musical wave to remain sucessful. I’m all about experimenting, but some chemicals just don’t work well.

Cher and Gregg 2The opening song “Move Me” is a decent song. There’s not to much to it lyrically, it just confirms they like the way they move each other. Insert your interpretation, but it’s a fun listen. They also do a rather interesting rendition of the Smokey Robinson penned “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me.” I’d stick with the original on this one, but this cover isn’t the worst. Add it to a “Cher Complete” box set and it will sit well in the 70s section.

The two best songs are the songs Allman and Cher decided to perform solo. Although not completely memorable, they could easily be filers on one of their individual recordings. Allman wins with “Shadow Dream Song.” His vocals are natural and pure. The song should be extracted from the album and judged by itself. Cher sings the only song Allman cowrote on the album “Island.” Since I have  a certain appreciation for Cher, I’ll plead the hard 2nd, errr, 5th on this one.

In the end Allman’s vocals are completely out of place portraying discomfort and many other different oddities. Cher’s vocals are decent, many times resorting to her belting ability, a safe area for the already seasoned singer.

Cher and Greg album

The cover of the album should act as a warning just as an explicit sticker does. The cover shows Allman and Cher’s hair blowing in the wind while Allman ispositioned uncomfortably over the panty hosed leg of Cher (can’t really tell what she is wearing, but that’s nothing new). The cover should immediately provide hesitation. It’s that feeling you get when looking at awkward family photos. The one with the dreadful flute from middle school band or basically any picture in this post.

If this album is found in a record store look over your shoulder and make sure nobody is looking and sneak it into your stack. If it’s your only album you can find worth buying take Cher’s above approach.

Drop an f-bomb and reconcile…..with their solo recordings.

Beatles Hollywood, Vinyl Clean $12

For my birthday this year, my mom bought me “The Beatles at Hollywood Bowl.” She knows how much I love the Beatles, and she was interested in hearing the record as well (Like mother, like daughter). Without further ado, here is my review of this vintage find.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Since it is a live album, one must not expect a studio dubbed recording but one with raw energy and ambiance. It truly is a treasure in that it is a snapshot of what became known as “Beatlemania.” The album documents the Beatles’ two visits to the Hollywood Bowl, first in 1964 and again in 1965. Both sides of the record contain songs from each concert. My vintage copy is a gatefold sleeved Capitol Records edition dated 1977 that opens to a spread of a photo of the band onstage and overlaid with various items of Beatles memorabilia. The inner record sleeve has two black and white photos of hysterical fans in various stages of euphoria.  On the back cover is the track-listing and a lengthy note from the Fab Four’s  long-time producer George Martin that explains the recording conditions (less than ideal) and method (three track tapes).

Courtesy of Beatle Photo Blog

Courtesy of Beatle Photo Blog

At first listen, the prominent feature of this album is the ever-present sound of screaming fans. The songs themselves are somewhat drowned out by the screaming, but not as much as one would expect. Interestingly, it is noted that the Beatles themselves could not hear themselves over their fans, and despite this hurdle, they sound surprisingly in-sync and on-pitch.

The track-listing includes early Beatles’ hits from their rock-n-roll era, such as “Twist and Shout,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” and “She Loves You.” As always, “All My Loving” is painfully too short and too wonderful. It is certainly an excellent live set full of energetic songs that would keep the crowd moving. In their live renditions, the songs take on a new energy and excitement that almost feels like hearing them for the first time all over again. That energy definitely takes its toll on the boys as their between song chatter becomes considerably more out of breath. Out of the thirteen songs on the album, only “Things We Said Today” has a slower tempo. It is amazing to think that the Beatles performed 1280 concerts from 1960-1970.

I would recommend this album for anyone who is already familiar and appreciative of the Beatles’ body of work. For the rest of you, I will leave you with the words of Sir George Martin: “My youngest daughter Lucy…once asked me about them, ‘You used to record them, didn’t you Daddy?’ she asked, ‘Were they as great as the Bay City Rollers?’. ‘Probably not,’ I replied. Some day she will find out.”

SyTCa

Tracklisting:

1. Twist and Shout
2. She’s A Woman
3. Dizzy Miss Lizzie
4. Ticket to Ride
5. Can’t Buy Me Love
6. Things We Said Today
7. Roll Over Beethoven
8. Boys
9. A Hard Day’s Night
10. Help!
11. All My Loving
12. She Loves You
13. Long Tall Sally