Pristine till Death

I stumbled across this record at a Half-Price books store. I had never seen it, nor have I seen it since. Judy. London.1969. Considering I was already a Judy Garland fan and knew that she had died in 1969, I had to pay the 4.99. It is billed as her very last recording on the sleeve.

I’ve read many articles over the legendary Judy Garland and have watched numerous IMG_4938documentaries. I have watched over half of her movies and would say she had me wrapped up at “Somewhere.” The struggles this legendary hollywood star went through were tragic. They all seemed to stem from low self-confidence and persistent questioning of herself. She was always good enough for her audience, but never for herself.

From my research there wasn’t a lot of material from Garland since 1967, three years before her death. I was not sure what had happened to her voice during this time, but I know she had a hard fall from her failed TV show. We all know about the pills and alcohol that plagued Garland and who knew if they had taken a toll on her voice during these years.

How completely wrong I was.

The album is mixed mostly with Garland’s biggest hits. There are also a few songs that were only recorded on this recording. Although, this is by no means a professionally mixed album. Garland was being encouraged to start recording again, but as I mentioned before, self-doubt was getting the best of her. Her then husband, Mickey Deans, recorded her performances on the second tier of the auditorium to prove to Judy that her voice was still in superb form. So the recording is a little scratchy, sometimes distant sounding, but it caught the essence of the Garland touch.

IMG_4939The album opens with “I Belong to London (London Belongs to Me).” This was a real crowd pleasure with her English audience. She then goes into her signature hit “Get Happy” from Summer Stock. Then she goes into one of my all time favorites, “The Man That Got Away.” This is one of her best recordings of this song. For once she didn’t sound plagued with its negative connotations, but she was able to sing it as if she was giving advice. She also inserted a few stylization changes in there, that portrayed a new chapter. The first side then closes with “I’d Like to Hate Myself in the Morning.” A song written specifically for an album of new material for Garland, but was never made.

Side two opens with “Just in Time.” This is the only recording of this song by Garland. She then goes into her classic melody of “You Made Me Love You,” “For Me and My Gal,” and “The Trolley Song.” She then performed “For Once in My Life” and “San Francisco.” The former is her only known recording of the song, but the latter song she performed many times.

Throughout the whole concert Garland is cracking jokes, talking to people in the audience, and being the excellent crowd pleaser she always was.

Then there was the closing song, her signature, “Over the Rainbow.” For each live Garland album I own, I always hold my breath for this one, especially in her latter years. You could sense and feel the hurt and anguish that was in her life, but this version took a different twist.

During this rendition of “Over the Rainbow” Garland sounded happy. She sounded close IMG_4940to her rainbow. Was she almost there? Or was that actress coming out in fine form? It makes me ponder these last moments in her career and life that ended on June 22nd, 1969, just four months after this recording. I hope she was happy. I hope she was satisfied and realized just how amazing she truly was. This was the last recording of her London engagement.

She was always Judy. That unstoppable, 4’11” performer who always brought the house down. Her smile often fooled, but all loved to see it. For us who were not able to see it, we love the pictures. Her voice still feels as warm as it ever was on her recordings and her talent nonetheless.

Often, I believe music and film scholars forget just what a tragic year 1969 was for the industry. Not only did they lose a legend, but they lost something the industry will never have again. There is only one actress, one voice, and one smile that could touch like hers. Judy’s legendary career is sealed in history books, but her voice will always live, making you warm on winter nights, happy on summer days, and hurt on lonely evenings. There’s no more “O why can’t I,” for she did.

 

Okie Review: Part 2: Whoever is an Idiot…

…is one that doesn’t agree this album is what country music is all about.

This album is the benchmark of Reba McEntire’s Career. Her album Whoever’s in New England was her 10th studio album. It was her first to reach the top spot on the Billboard Country Album chart and later that year she won CMA’s Entertainer of the Year.

Now, before I fully indulge in this review I must reveal my bias. I am a HUGE Reba fan. I photo (2)always have been and always will be. I am extremely proud to say that she is from Oklahoma and I believe she is the queen of modern country music. I’ve seen her twice in concert, and plan on going every time she’s within a 100 mile or so radius from me.

Whoever’s in New England is the essence of what true country music should encompass, both in content and musically (there’s some great steel guitar in there!). The album is comprised of mostly sad songs, but also some jolly breakup songs as well. The content includes how the man went out on her, she’s gonna take him back, she’s leaving him, she’s rushing into a relationship, etc. The only thing she left out was the horses back home in Stringtown.

I’ve decided to do a track by track rundown of this record, because I took notes on each song and they are all great.

Track 1: “Can’t Stop Now.” This song explains how Reba has rushed into a relationship and that now the “love we made has a life of its own.” The song is traditional 80’s country with a classic country twang. I don’t two step well, but I would really like to give this track a try.

Track 2: “You Can Take The Wings off Me.” This song explains how one is losing their innocence and I will say no more. I look at Reba like I look at my mom.

Last.fm

Last.fm

Track 3: ” Whoever’s in New England.” Legendary. This song has been a long time favorite of mine. I can’t resist it. It crosses genres, for it doesn’t sound completely country. My favorite line “When the icy wind blows through you remember that it’s me, that feels the cold most of all.” And, o my, that high note at the end, strums my heart strings every time. This was the first song she made a video for. Recently in concert she was showing a montage of her videos and she quipped, look at that hair! Did I also mention this song went number one?

Track 4: “I’ll Believe it When I Feel It.” This is a nice soft country song that I would also like to two step to.  McEntire talks of a man leaving her and how her friends say she will have “it” again with another man, to which she replies, I’ll believe it when I see it. I love the drums during the chorus and their crescendo effect.

Track 5: “I’ve Seen Better Days.” This is a beautiful breakup song. She even says a rainy day with him holding her is better then what she is feeling now, a little ironic. McEntire provides a nice prayer at the end of the song.

Open. Flip. Side B.

Track 6: “Little Rock.” This is a happy little ditty about divorce.  She talks about slipping off that “little rock” on her finger because “there’s more to life then what I got.” This song went number one. It portrays the character of a strong woman, willing to take her life back in her own hands, even if they don’t have any diamonds on them.

Track 7: “If You Only Knew.” This song takes on a different twist. It’s a breakup song, but through the lens of friendship. McEntire explains how her friend comes to her, envious of her single life. She then reveals that it is not what it’s cracked up to be when your “always in control.” She encourages the young damsel to “put your anger down, turn around, and go back home.”

Track 8: “One Thin Dime.” This song is classic country. It is upbeat and talks about a breakup. Although, she is not bitter for she states how she will always be there and is one thin dime away. I’m assuming “one thin dime” refers to what they call pay phones. I’m still getting used to the rotary at my house.

Track 9: “Don’t Touch Me There.” This is a ballad about a person being slightly afraid to dive into a relationship. She says he can hold her hands, kiss her lips, wrap his arms around her, and run his fingers through her hair, but there’s just one place he cannot touch, her heart.

Track 10: “To Make That Same Mistake.” This is another fast two step breakup song. It’s a
great end to the album, considering it opened with rushing into a relationship and now she just hopes she can make that same mistake again, which would be falling in love. A great conclusion to a landmark country album.

There is one word I use to describe Reba’s voice: gold. Her voice has been never changing since the late 1970’s. Her vocal ability is unparalleled with her contemporaries. I have personally witnessed this in her live performances. Her performances are high energy, with sprinkles of red dirt. She has made her state proud.

gac.com

So I am still trying to figure out who exactly could hate this album. I mean even if you don’t like Reba, you have to admit it’s legendary. If not you can probably just move, to New England preferably, ahh heck, the barn will do.

 

 

Swingin’ and Spinnin’,

Gabe

The first Reba video…

Record Haul: Alleys and Trolleys

Over the past few weeks, I have been able to visit my favorite record shops, some new stores, and have also been given a few gems.

George Harrison’s This Too Shall Pass: I’ve had my eye out looking for this album for a little over a year. Glad I found it in great condition for a good price thanks to Alley Records on Britton!

imageimageHugh Downs First Man on The Moon: I was given this record by a family friend. Being a space buff, I couldn’t help but accept it! It is a great piece of that historical day.

The Clash London Calling: This album is a classic. The album artwork is too iconic to pass up with its irreverent tribute to Elvis Presley’s first album cover. It is a great addition to my record collection, thanks to Jon at Trolley Stop Records!

The Beatles The Beatles: No vinyl haul is complete without a Beatles album! I finally own a copy of what we know today as “The White Album.” I haven’t listened to this album as much as the others, but there are some great tracks on here. Also found at Trolley Stop Records.

What’s your latest record haul?

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Review: Hoyt Axton, Less Than a Song

Hoyt Axton- Wikipedia

Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Not many know the name Hoyt Axton, but everybody knows the songs that he wrote. Amongst his hits were Three Dog Nights “Never Been to Spain” and “Joy to the World (Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog).”

Axton was born in southwest Oklahoma in  Duncan and grew up in a little town, Comanche. Songwriting ran in his family. His mother, Mae Axton, co-wrote Elvis’ first hit “Heartbreak Hotel.” Throughout his childhood he was encouraged to learn music through his parents. His mother started him in piano lessons, while his dad helped him develop his baritone vocal technic. Axton became popular in the folk music scene when he left the Navy. He had also previously attended Oklahoma State University and played football (Go pokes!).

In 1973 Axton released Less Than The Song on A&M records. He did not sing any of his popular songs on this release, but he took a much different approach to the modern musical stylings. The album contains barely any drums and each song is mellow. This was a different venture when compared to other recordings in the early 70’s. It wasn’t nearly country, rock, or folk.

IMG_4868The album opens with “Sweet Misery.” I was hooked by the initial guitar picking. The song speaks of how misery often loves company, yet he turns it around with a simple, primary twist. In the second verse he offers the listener a puppy. He explains how the puppy will treat you and goes on to say that the listener seems happy. A great ode to enjoy the simple things in life and not join those in misery.

The next song on the album is the title track “Less Than the Song.” This composition expresses humility and the helping of others singing “Take my hand if I stumble and fall. It’s the strength that you’re share when your growin’.” He goes on to state that he wouldn’t rest until “your dreams are real sweet mama.” This is the essence of the song, he finds himself to be less then the woman he is with. Both points are excellent.

He finishes off this side with “Peacemaker.” This is a song speaking of draft dodging, which was a hot topic during this time (Vietnam War). Axton uses his higher register in this song as he crones “He was almost to sweet Canada’s border when he ran into a man who was high on gunpowder and a federal order.” The draft dodger is killed in the song, yet it talks how a war bond paid for his birth and how his father was fighting over seas to help pay for his illnesses. He suggested that this seemed to be a country of restraint rather then freedom. Axton concludes that the dodger died for his country and was not mistaken. I may not fully agree with the context of the song, but this is a true gem.

On Side B, track 2, Axton goes into “Oklahoma Song,” my personal favorite off the whole album. He expresses small town Oklahoma by explaining music being played on the front porch. This song projects Axton pride in his home state saying, “Red River water runnin’ deep in my blood” and how he was happy for his childhood. He also used the vocal style of growling and played the piano on this track. He speaks how he eventually does leave Oklahoma, but it seems he has fond memories. This song would bring a smile to any Okie’s face. 

Courtesy of Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame

Courtesy of Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame

After Axton explains a “Mexico City Hangover” with a drunk rooster, he goes into “Hungry Man.” This is a song of irony and hope. He expresses how people are mean and how often Christians can be two faced. He counters this action with the simple bridge, “Jesus is a friend when you’re hungry….hm, hm, he’s going to be a friend to you.” Axton concludes by saying that we need the Lord to come back down and that we will all gather at the “Beautiful River of Life.”  Sounds a bit like a line out of U2’s “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” “I believe in kingdom come, when all colors bleed into one,” I hope they mean a river or this would make no sense.

Axton concludes the album with “Blue Prelude.” This song was written in 1944 and he performs it acapella, sheer dark vocal velvet. His baritone vocals fit this blues song like a glove.

Axton left this world in 1999 after suffering a heart attack. One of his most famous lyrics was, “Well I’ve never been to Heaven, but I’ve been to Oklahoma.” In his eyes, he had lived Heaven on earth and he is now living the real deal. Thank goodness he had never been to Spain and that many of us Okies are living in some beautiful red dirt.

Praying for a better tomorrow in the land of the Great Plains,

Gabe

The King singing Axton’s “Never Been to Spain.”

Mind Mischief: Tame Impala

Tame Impala is the brainchild of Kevin Parker. He almost functions as a one-man-band in playing most of the instruments on the band’s album Lonerism save the contributions of Jay Watson and Dominic Simper. Live performances include two other musicians, to complete the sonic landscape that is Tame Impala. According to the cover, the album was recorded “at home” over the course of two years (2010-2012).

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

If someone were to combine the sounds of Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and sprinkle in a dash of Moog keyboards, the resulting noise would be something like Tame Impala. I snagged a used copy of the Australian band’s newest release at my local record store. The album art has a decidedly retro feel with its light-leaked film photograph-centric art direction, making the jacket on first glance appear to have shelf wear.

“Psychedelic guitar-driven chamber-pop” is a start in beginning to describe the complexity of Lonerism. The dreamy feel of the vocal harmonies deliver the album’s lyrical musings about love, relationships, and the everyday grind, “In the morning you’ll find real life was such a grind. Off I go, day is done where a new one’s just begun” (in “Endors Toi”). Throughout the journey of the album, the singer seems to have an inner battle with fears of his fraudulence being found out. The universal lyrical themes make the album easy to relate to and connect with. This is evident in “Music to Walk Home By” with the line, “I’m playing a part as somebody else while trying so hard to be myself. I just need to hear somebody say that this will all make sense someday.”

Despite the somewhat heavy nature of the subject matter, the album remains upbeat and playful in its own fuzzy psychedelic way. Stand-out tracks include “Endors Toi” with drums reminiscent of the Jimi Hendrix Experience; “Apocalypse Dreams,” what the love child of Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper might sound like; “Music To Walk Home By” with its candid lyrics; and “Elephant,” a playful narrative about a man using the metaphor of an elephant. While the rest of the album uses first-person narrative, “Elephant” uses third-person and tells a story which has the carnival feel of “For the Benefit of Mr. Kite” from the Beatles’ masterpiece Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The introspective nature of the songs written in first person are nice, but it would be interesting to hear what other creative stories Kevin Parker can dream up.

Lonerism is a great album to spin both for background noise and concentrated listening with its complex arrangements and lyrical surprises. I recommend it for fans of 1960s psychedelic rock. Pick up their record and go see them live as they are on tour with Oklahoma’s own Flaming Lips!

Source: Facebook

Source: Facebook

Just Pour The Whole Bottle

Picture this: all instruments were made into a table surface. The guitar, piano, fiddle, drums, etc were all just connected to make a rather jagged and smooth surfaced table. Now take a bottle of red wine and slowly pour it over this odd structure slowly, use as many bottles as you want.

You now have Linda Ronstadt’s voice. lindaronstadt

According to Charles Baudelaire “One should always be drunk. That’s all that matters…But with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you chose. But get drunk.” I chose to frequently get drunk with music and Ronstadt’s voice is the most expensive red zinfandel you can purchase.

In 1973 Ronstadt released Don’t Cry Now. She was 27 when this album came out, which is surprising. Her voice had the maturity of an older adult, yet it still possessed hints of  vulnerability. I believe that Ronstadt’s voice is one of the best voices of the 20th and 21st century. It is high, yet low, it’s soft yet hard. Her voice encompasses a wide array of adjectives of which I cannot list and would also make this post more like a grammar lesson.

For the most part, this is an album of ballads and soft rock songs, with a hint of country. The first stand out track is “Love Has No Pride.” The song explains situations in which one would have a sense of pride, yet how one has none when it comes to a certain someone. Rondstadt’s vocals slowly glide over this tune effortlessly. It is followed with the heavily country “Silver Threads and Golden Needles.” This song is classic and when it is done the right way an artist can never go wrong. She did no wrong.

dontcrynow-305x305The title track “Don’t Cry Now” is a song everybody can relate to. This song explains where everyone will find themselves at some point. Everyone experiences loneliness, being taken for granted, being emotionally or physically strapped, etc. Although the songs theme is quite somber, I interpret it as giving encouragement. One must get up, wipe their tears, and walk on. This song was also written by J.D. Souther of whom Ronstadt was later romantically involved with.

Side B opens with “Sail Away.” This is a great homage to the essence of being an American and wanting every person to experience this freedom, satisfaction, and happiness. Later, Ronstadt crones “Everybody Loves a Winner.” I couldn’t help but connect it to Cabaret’s “Maybe This Time,” but it is far from it. This song just comes from the loser’s point of view and there is no maybe.

The best track on this whole album is Ronstadt’s classic rendition of the Eagle’s Linda+Ronstadt++1“Desperado.” This has to be one of the best recordings not only of Ronstadt’s career, but in the history of recorded music. Her vocals sound effortless and lonely as she encourages the desperado to come to their senses. This is pure vocal beauty.

Recently, Ronstadt has released that she has Parkinson’s disease and cannot sing a note. This is a heavy punch to the music world and proves that talent can often be limited, but never taken for granted. She’s made us drunk many times, and hopefully she’ll be able to serve another glass one of these days.

Always Spinning,

Gabe

Record Haul: Gentlemen of the Road Edition

ImageIf you’ve been in Oklahoma the past 7 months, you’ve heard of the excitement surrounding Mumford & Sons’ Gentlemen of the Road Stopover in the quiet Victorian town of Guthrie, Oklahoma. Due to finances and sonic sensibilities, I was unable to attend the festival. However, I took advantage of the $5 Downtown street festival to visit the great selection of antique shops in Downtown Guthrie.

Guthrie is one of my favorite “stay-cation” destinations because it is a little bit of a drive and is like stepping into a different decade with the Victorian architecture and the overwhelming number of antique stores. As far as vinyl selection goes, there is quite a bit of country western and pre-rock-and-roll to sift through. If you are a fan of those genres, you’re golden. But with any trip to a record shop, the thrill of searching through boxes of weird old records is just as exciting as bringing home a new LP.

I am already planning a return visit to search for a rockabilly album (Buddy Holly, anyone?) to add to my collection and to stop by Hoboken Coffee Roasters, which is one of my favorite coffee shops in Oklahoma. They spin vinyl in-store which gives the rustic former mechanic’s garage a warm and inviting ambiance that complements the kind owners’ demeanors.

All that to say, I bought the following of records in Guthrie this weekend:

The Fabulous 50s

Liz Damon’s Orient Express

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