Tuesday, February 02, 2010

...the hills are alive...with the sound of Money...
(A quote from Steve Martin's "Let's Get Small" album)
First of all, I must admit that Someone Else's blog led me to post this posting. That person reviewed several new CD's, and I blatantly stole his idea. A-ha! Music! THAT'S what I can feed that big, greedy, porky, salivating Blog Monster. And so I have. Burp...Quick! Where's the Beano?
First up on this fine morning is the latest CD by that un-lovable Beatle, Ringo Starr. I think his best album ever was his 1973 album, "Ringo", the one that features "Oh My My", "Photograph" and his version of "You're Sixteen". But it wasn't just that it had hits on it...it was a genuinely fun album to listen to. He's never come close to equalling that album, although he's tried. He's released umpteen albums since, and a lot of them sank without a trace. In fact, one of his albums, "Old Wave" wasn't even ISSUED in the U.S.A....it got issued in Canada, though. And it's like all the other LP's he's issued, in that He Sings, He Drums, people play and sing with him, his records get released, and then it's "okay, what do we do now?"
Everyone's teeing off with the news that For The First Time Ever, Ringo PRODUCED an album of his, that it's the first time he's done so, that this is an 'honest' album, how it's a musical turning point for Ringo, and I'm sorry; My Eyes don't see it and My Ears don't hear it. His latest CD is called "Y Not". And I can't really figure out "Y" I bought it, other than the fact that as long as ex-Beatles continue to breathe, I'll buy any music those Living Ex-Beatles issue. The songs are basically paint-by-numbers pop music, and the lyrics contain all kinds of pseudo-philisophically trite phrases we've all heard before. But what really jumped out at me, is that in spite of (or because of?) the fact that Ringo Himself produced this, the Playing just isn't all that good. If someone other than an Ex-Beatle had issued this disc, it would have sunk to the bottom faster than a 200-pound-test-limit line with a brick of concrete fastened to it. Ker-Plunk. Granted, he's closing in on 70 years of age, but I hope that when I'm 70, I can rock harder than Ringo did here. The rhythms, especially on the first few numbers, actually DRAG. And midway through listening to it, I found myself thinking, "this isn't all that good, is it?"
Finally, the last song on the disc features a Female Lead Vocal on it. I have nothing against Women Who Sing, but Ringo, this is your album; couldn't you have written another formula-song in 10 minutes with one of your band members? A female lead vocal, on this, a Ringo disc. It's a song called "Who's Your Daddy". Original title there, huh? Can I please take my CD out of the player now? Some say, "if you don't have anything good to say about it, don't say it." So what's good about this disc? Well, it's semi-melodic pop n'roll, it's pleasant, inoffensive, and for 70 years of age, he sounds pretty good. Paul McCartney sings harmony on a couple of cuts, and plays bass on one track, but I'm sorry, Paul's assistance doesn't lift those songs into the stratosphere, as I've been led to believe, according to those who've given this Ringo CD such lavish, unadulterated praise. Buy it if you must, as Beatles freaks like I have done, but don't expect to play it a lot; it's like any other slice of calculated Pop, that you'll play it once or twice and then shelve it, never to be heard again. Love ya, Ringo, but sorry, this disc doesn't live up to the hype everyone's pasted on it.
The second album I'll slice and dice here is by that guy you all know and love, who used to lead Creedence Clearwater Revival, that man of wit, wisdom and song, John Fogerty. After CCR broke up way back in the early 70s, Fogerty released an album of Good Hard country rock in which he played everything on it...all the instruments, as well as singing all of the vocals. That album was my introduction to Country rock, and most everything was very Solid. That album, folks, was called "The Blue Ridge Rangers". For that record, he recorded songs such as "I Ain't Never" (a Mel Tillis tune); "Hearts Of Stone" (a country-pop tune that's been around for ages); "Jambalaya" (yep, the old Hank Williams tune); an eccentric old spiritual ( "Workin' On A Building") and other toe-tappers. Well, he's got a new CD that he hopes Everyone Will Buy titled "The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again". Yeah, I know that title is gramatically incorrect; it should be "The Blue Ridge Rangers RIDE again", but then again, what do I know?
The promo sticker says "John Fogerty pays homage to the American Songbook". Oh yeah? Well guess what songs are on it...Fogerty's version of a JOHN DENVER song, "Back Home Again". A John Denver song is A GREAT AMERICAN SONG? John, what the HELL were you smokin'? Elsewhere, Fogerty does his version of the old Kendall's song, "HEAVEN'S JUST A SIN AWAY". What, is that a classic, too? Aside...that "Sin" song was originally recorded by Papa Kendall and his pretty young Daughter. AND IT'S A CLASSIC? Mr. Fogerty, What the Hell is Going On Here? Elsewhere, Fogerty does a pretty good Everly Brothers' song, "When Will I Be Loved". Yeah, that's a good song. Except that it features BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN on added vocals. IF I WANT TO HEAR SPRINGSTEEN, I'LL PUT ON A SPRINGSTEEN ALBUM! Note: Springsteen is NOT as good as everyone thinks/says he is. His gargley-sounding voice just Irritates me. Another song on this album is Fogerty's reinterpretation of "Garden Party", a number one song for Rick Nelson back in 1970. Is this song a Great American Song? I'm not sure. And guess who's singin' the background: Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit, members of The Eagles. Again, if I want to hear Those Guys, I'll force-feed an Eagles CD to my stereo system. John, in my book, you don't need The Eagles to help you sell CD's. Just a thought.
Both of these CD's share one quality...and it's a quality possessed by a lot of newer CD's; the digital technology used to put Music on Disc just sounds all splashy and artificial somehow. Some say that CD's generally sound colder than do LP's, and maybe there's some truth to that. Yet, when I purchased George Harrison's "Brainwashed" CD, back in 2002, it sounded every bit as warm as the Vinyl Copy of that record, which also resides in my collection. So, what needs to happen is that all digitally-recorded music be subjected to all sorts of technological revisions in order to achieve warmth missing from a CD's sound. In short, tweak the Technology to take us all backwards to the warmth of Vinyl.
Finally I need to explain something here, something I'd never thought of until I was reading a book consisting of Rock Reviews by Robert Christgau of the Village Voice. He'd alluded to the potential ill-logic of Papa Kendall and his Daughter singing that Heaven was Just A Sin Away. I honestly didn't think that when I'd first heard the song. And I still don't, although the idea did give me a case of mental whiplash...


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