Saturday, August 25, 2012

My Two Cents: The Arkansas Haul

I've decided to keep up with taking notes on CDs as I buy them. I'm listening to all of these at work on my iPod, there's fuck-all expected from me while I'm here, so I have nothing better to do. Also, name dropping a ton of bands that have nothing to do with Mortville brings traffic to my blog from people looking for free downloads that normally would never visit (jokes on you, morons!). It's unusual that I buy this many CDs in such a short span of time, so I'm knocking them all out at once. My wife and I went on vacation in Missouri last month and were only 5 hours away from my grandmother in Arkansas, so we went to visit her again in the hospital after her stroke. The city she lives in is about the same size as our home town, so there's not much to do there. We ended up at Hastings and I picked up a bunch of CDs, all for less than $6.99, most for $3.99. Nobody gives a fuck about CDs these days, so stores are marking them down like crazy. One thing I've noticed over the years, though, is that the Beatles, Pink Floyd and Metallica CDs are always $16.00+ no matter where you find them. Apparently they aren't affected by the deflating value of CDs. There are a few things in this post that came from other places, but for the most part this is my Hastings haul.

ALICE COOPER - "Love it to Death" CD (This is probably my favorite Alice Cooper album. The first two are great because of how strange they are, but this is the first one that sounds like the band they're known for and it's the heaviest, darkest and most raw of the bunch. The second half of this is particularly great. Those last three songs are just about the most powerful moments in Alice's career. I'm happy to finally have a legit copy of this.)

ANTHRAX - "Among the Living" CD (While on vacation last week I picked this and a bunch of other stuff up at a Hastings in Arkansas because they were too cheap to pass up. Arguably the best Anthrax album. It's the first one I heard and I owned it in both cassette and LP before buying this CD. I remember not liking Joey's vocals the first time I heard Anthrax, but he's my favorite of the three they've had. That lovely Megaforce crunch is ever present and these are some of the best songs Anthrax recorded. I really like how loud the bass is in the mix, it really thumps throughout. That Alex Perialis knew his shit. It's been several years since I last listened to this, but I've heard it enough times in my youth to remember every lyric today. It's like visiting with an old friend, having the same conversation we've had hundreds of times, but somehow never getting old. This must be an old CD, though, made before the volume war. I've got my iPod cranked and it's nowhere near loud enough.)

ANTHRAX - "Persistence of Time" CD (This was the last Anthrax album I heard and liked. When this came out my tastes were shifting towards death metal, but I still really liked this one. Once John Bush joined, I totally lost interest in them. This album is noticeably heavier than the one before, the riffs more aggressive and the production is a bit heavier, too. Because of my changing tastes, I've listened to this one a lot less often than the earlier albums and because of that a lot of these songs are still fairly new to me. That first riff on "Keep it in the Family" sounds fucking close to Overkill's "Drunken Wisdom". I have this album to thank from introducing me to Joe Jackson courtesy of their great cover of "Got the Time". I've been a big fan of Joe since seeking out the original version. Overall this album is still really enjoyable, but less so than the three albums before it.)

ANTHRAX - "Spreading the Disease" CD (Fucking phenomenal album. I go back and forth between this one and "Among the Living" as my favorite Anthrax album, but this one has a sense of melody missing on the rest of their albums. Joey's vocals are at their best here and the songs are so fucking catchy. This is crazy good stuff, great from start to finish.)

ANTHRAX - "State of Euphoria" CD (The volume on this CD is even lower than on "Among the Living". This was released while I was in middle school and was the first current release I bought of theirs as it was released. I still have my cassette copy, but haven't played it since the 90s, easily. The local JC Penny's sold Anthrax t-shirts for some reason, so they were all over my school. It wasn't quite as bad as the WalMart AC/DC thing, but there were way more Anthrax shirts on people's backs than albums in people's music collection. Warmer production than usual on this one, songs are bouncy and "happy" sounding. Maybe it's the approaching Anthrax burnout, but this one didn't age as well as the others.)

COHEN, LEONARD - "Death of a Ladies' Man" CD (I love Leonard's first couple of albums, but didn't venture any further into his catalog for years. I remember reading about the recording of this album in a book about Phil Spector a few years ago; about how Leonard was drunk the whole time and how he was barred from the studio while it was mixed (enforced by armed guards). People universally hated this album when it was released in 1977, but it's since gained an audience because of how tacky and strange it is. It's impossible to break this down and critique it on it's separate flaws. Let's face it, Leonard could never sing, but somehow it worked with the minimal folky records he did. Here he is surrounded by lush arrangements, strings, horns, backing vocals, etc - everything drenched in Spector's beloved reverb. This much instrumentation for vocals that are lousy at best just seems to draw attention to Mr. Cohen's short comings as a singer. Instead of supporting him, it isolates and the whole thing sounds like an elaborate practical joke that's being played on him. I'm sure that wasn't the case and it was just another instance of Spector piling on too many overdubs and ruining yet another record with his wall of sound, but this is dreadful. I'm sure if I forced myself to listen to this a few more times I could learn to appreciate it for its camp value, but I can't be bothered. There's too much good music in the world for me to waste another minute on this turd.)

CRAMPS - "Bad Music for Bad People" CD (I heard the Cramps a lot in my teenage years at friend's houses, but I've never owned anything of theirs until now. I found two of their CDs new for $6.00, decided to pick them up. This is the one I'm most familiar with and it's the better of the two. Really minimal, twangy throwback rock - not quite rockabilly, but country-tinged punk with traces of psychedelia. I think this is a compilation of sorts, but I don't know enough about them to say where these tracks came from. The vocals are really stupid, exaggerated and over the top, but I assume they're what draws most people to this band. It certainly isn't the primitive musicianship.)

CRAMPS - "Psychedelic Jungle / Gravest Hits" CD (I was walking whole listening to this, so I'm writing about it after the fact. The production has improved since the above CD, but it's still really sparse. Songs were good, vocals just as silly and the guitars were just as twangy/fuzzy. It'll take a few more listens before these are burned into my memory like "Bad Music...", but I'm already looking forward to listening to it again, so it shouldn't take long. I should have picked up "Songs Our Lord Taught Us", too, while I was there.)

HOWLIN' WOLF - "Howlin' Wolf / Moanin' in the Moonlight" CD (I'm not the biggest fan of Howlin' Wolf, or of blues in general, but I do have a couple of his CDs and listen to them from time to time. I saw this CD with his first two LPs on the Chess label for sale at Hastings for $3.99 and couldn't pass it up. Chester's vocal delivery is legendary, one of the greatest ever. It's even better after learning his speaking voice is just as raspy and he's not putting on a voice when he sings. Some of these recordings I recognize from the singles he recorded at Sun Studio, but most of them are new to me. I don't know enough about blues to say if this is any good or not, but this is gritty, rough sounding stuff. I read a biography on the Wolf a few years ago and he lived a hard life without privilege, even when he was making money hand over fist for his label. That sort of authenticity is enough for me to enjoy this. I'm digging this CD today, definitely not a purchase I regret.)

THE METERS - "Rejuvenation" CD (I picked this one up at a CD store on Beale Street in Memphis. Two minutes after entering the store the guy working there was handing me Dolemite DVDs and CDs of a band he insisted sounded just like The Meters. He was helpful, but pushy. While this was happening there was some aging blues artist in there trying to push his CDs on me. One of them was playing over the speakers while I was in there, sounded like someone playing guitar solos over a rhythm track generated by the presets on a 1980s Casio keyboard, but not in a good way. Everything in this store was priced $16.97, way too much, but I picked this up along with one of Rudy Ray Moore's comedy albums. "Struttin'" is the only other Meters CD I have, but I've listened to it about once a week since buying it a few months ago. Compared to "Struttin'", this one is a lot more fleshed out and there are more vocals on it. It's less southern sounding and has more of a polished funk sound. It's every bit as good as the other CD I have, just not what I expected when I bought it. The cover art is laughably bad, and according to the liner notes, the band hated it when they saw it. I recognized a few of these songs sampled on rap albums. The Beastie Boys usage of "Hey Pocky A-Way" jumped right out at me, impossible to miss. That lengthy jam at the end of "It Ain't No Use" is incredible, one of the highlights of this album. I'm looking forward to picking up more Meters stuff when I see it, this one is great.)

MONK, THELONIOUS - "Solo Monk" CD (I only have one other Monk CD, a best of, and I didn't really appreciate it until I went through all of my CDs last year and listened to it again for the first time in several years. Even then, I still had a difficult time with it. The odd time signatures and accents in the "wrong" places just confused me, still do for the most part, but I picked this up for $3.99 because I love solo piano and because this was recorded quite a while after the other CD I have. I figured there must have been some sort of a style change in that gap. This CD is just as "difficult" as the other one I own. I'm sure this makes perfect sense to a lot of people, and maybe someday it will click for me, but it's harsh, really disjointed and lacks flow. It's not what I'm looking for in jazz. I'll try listening to it again later, see how it sits then.)

RARE EARTH - "Ma" CD (I chanced upon Rare Earth one day in my wife's car when their cover of "I'm Losin' You" played on one of the stations. It sounded like Chicago at their funkiest, but pushed through a Motown filter. Luckily, they announced who it was when it was over, and I went home that night and downloaded a couple of their albums, both of which ended up being excellent. I've since picked up three of their LPs and play them often. I found this one at Hastings, had never heard of it before, but bought it based on the strength of the others. "Ma" is their sixth album, released in 1973. The title track is a side long, 17 minute ode to the singer's mother. It's a slow, mid-paced build up number punctuated occasionally with horn blasts. Its just the one part throughout the song, a lengthy throb with solo segments. There's a lengthy guitar solo that brings to mind some of Funkadelic's recordings, but overall this drags on a lot longer than it needs to. I'm sure if it was playing in the background the length wouldn't be a problem, though. The rest of the album is really good. The other songs all clock in at 6 minutes or less, "Smilin' Faces" being the best of the bunch, and are more uptempo than the title track. The lyrics on "Hum Along and Dance" are silly, but it's a scorcher of a funk song. The orgasmic female moaning on "Come With Me" was probably edgy at the time. Normally that sort of thing annoys me, but it's pretty cool on this track. Attention should be called to the terrible cover art. If "Ma" really is a tribute to someone's mother, the drawing that graces the cover is a horrible and unflattering depiction of someone that sang so passionately about. Today was my second time listening to this CD, I enjoyed it much more this time around.)

RUDY RAY MOORE - "The Player - The Hustler" CD (Bought this one on Beale Street, too. I've had mp3s of it for a while now, this shit rules. I talked at length about RRM when I did my A-Z listening, so I'll skip the history and details now. This stuff is filthy and Rudy's delivery is completely abrasive delivered at the top of his lungs. The audio on this CD is better than the mp3s I have, but it sounds like some reverb has been added for these reissues. It's noticeable, but not annoying. If it were a music CD, it would be another story. This is awesome, Rudy Ray Moore was one of the greats.)

RUN-D.M.C. - "Raising Hell" CD (I already owned the original CD release, but bought it again for the bonus tracks for a whopping $3.99. It's my favorite rap album ever (I gushed about it earlier), and the bonus tracks were fun/interesting and worth the four bucks alone. The volume has been boosted significantly from the original, sorely needed as the original CDs were really low. There's some liner notes on the inside I haven't read yet. I'll get around to them someday...)

SLADE - "Beginnings / Play it Loud" CD (I first heard Slade in 1986, then forgot all about them until last year. My oldest brother won their "Rogues Gallery" LP on a radio call-in contest and I remember him playing it a lot. I haven't heard it since then, but can still remember the chorus to "Hey, Ho, Wish You Well" clear as day. I'm not sure what dragged them up from my memory banks, but last year I Googled them and downloaded their "Slayed?" album. I loved it and decided that I'd pick it up if I ever saw it for sale. This past weekend my wife and I made the journey to Weird Harold's in Burlington, IA, a record store that boasts a 50,000+ inventory of LPs. I thought for sure I'd find a cheap copy of it on vinyl, but I didn't. They had it on an import CD along with this CD, so I laid down $17.00 each for them - something I never do, or haven't done since my krautrock spending spree in the 2000s. These first two albums collected in this CD were new to me when I bought this. The first one, "Beginnings", was recorded when they were still called Ambrose Slade in 1969. I was expecting fruity hippie shit, but it turned out to be pretty good. Their excellent singer, Noddy Holder, is a lot more tame on this one, but still sounds great. There's a lot of cover songs on this album (Steppenwolf, Amboy Dukes, Mothers of Invention, etc.), but there's a good deal of straight-up rocking originals, too. The bands they chose to cover give a fairly accurate idea of what the originals sound like: lots of bouncy hard-hitting guitar rock with raspy vocals. There's some wimpy sounding shit, too, but it was 1969, what can you expect? On their second album, "Play it Loud" (1970), the energy level picks up significantly along with the tempo and they more closely resemble the band I was expecting from "Slayed?". They adopted a skinhead image for the cover art (at their manager's demand, in order to raise controversy), but the music is straight-up rock for the most part. By this point Noddy's vocals have started to develop that trademark sound, but it's still somewhat subdued. It isn't until the bonus track "Get Down and Get With It" that we hear his raspy greatness in all it's splendor. It's the perfect lead-in to the next disc. Neither of these albums are as good as their third, but I can see myself listening to this often. Quite often...)

SLADE - "Slayed?" CD (... but not as often as this one. This album is stunning. The more I listen to it, the better it gets. People considered them to be a glam rock band at the time, but this is pure stadium-rock - nearly every song an anthem, great rhythm section, terrific guitar work and excellent use of dynamics. Noddy's vocals are crazy on this one, singing near the top of his range for most of the album. Yes, one of the songs Quiet Riot covered is on this album (they covered two Slade songs and had huge hits with both), but "Move Over" is the real gem of this CD. It's a cover of an old Janis Joplin song, but you'd never guess by hearing it. It's "Slade" through and through, Slade at their best. The bonus tracks are mostly forgettable, but I didn't buy it for the bonus tracks.)

THIN LIZZY - "Jailbreak" CD (I've had a download of this for a few years. Love this shit, even if some of these songs have been beaten to death on the radio. I never realized how much "Emerald" sounds like Iron Maiden until today.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love It To Death is a powerful album. It's what brainwashed me from age of 5.