Friday, January 30, 2015

Rod McKuen [1933-2015]

Artist: Rod McKuen
LP: In Search of Eros: Loneliness and Love In the Age of Eroticism
Song: "Stations and Trains" 
[ listen ]

This morning I awoke to the sad news that singer/songwriter/composer/poet Rod McKuen had died. McKuen is one of those artists where you just keep finding more of their records in the used bins than it seems humanly possible for one person to have made in a single lifetime. I've accumulated 15 Rod McKuen albums so far (not even counting his Christmas record) and, after glancing at his discography, I see that I've barely even scratched the surface! But when you find a Rod McKuen album, you buy it. There's just no question. And speaking of always buying albums, I just learned that "Rod McKuen lived in Southern California with his brother and four cats in a large rambling Spanish house build in 1928, which housed one of the world's largest private record collections." So I guess it's safe to assume that Rod actually acquired a copy of every single album in his own discography. You can read more about Rod McKuen on Wikipedia here, go here to find his obituary in the New York Times and here you'll find the website for Mr. McKuen, whose work literary critic Nora Ephron called "superficial" and "frequently silly." And this from the person who made MIXED NUTS.

 Rod McKuen
[ April 29, 1933 — January 29, 2015 ]
We will miss you, Rod.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Roy Wood's Wizzard

Artist: Roy Wood's Wizzard
LP: Wizzard's Brew
Song: "You Can Dance Your Rock n' Roll" 
[ listen ]
Song: "Wear a Fast Gun" 
[ listen ]

Speaking of funny face makeup, here's something I found at one of the best record stores in the South—Vertical House Records in Huntsville, Alabama. As I mentioned earlier, I had a limited amount of time to spend at this store, so I was only able to flip through bins A—G. I would have missed this 1973 Wizzard LP both alphabetically and entirely if someone else hadn't already recently listened to it and rejected it (!), leaving it atop a pile of records to be re-filed. Andy, owner of Vertical House, brought it over to me before re-filing to see if I'd be interested.

As you can read in the the cocky-yet-not-very-well-written LP liner notes included below, Roy Wood was a member of both The Move and The Electric Light Orchestra before going stark-raving-bat-shit brilliant and embarking upon Wizzard in 1972, a project that involved members of both of Wood's former groups. Wizzard is pretty exciting stuff that holds up remarkably well today, though they've made one of my mid-'80s psychedelic art-rock favorites, Doctor & The Medics, seem like more of a cheap reproduction than I'd formerly believed. You can read all about Roy Wood here, his Wizzard here, and there's a link below where you'll find Wizzard performing one of the most joyous Christmas tunes ever put on wax.

 Roy Wood's Wizzard on YouTube:

[ Roy Wood: Wizzard ]

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Artist: Cepillin
LP: En Un Bosque De La China
Song: "Bailando Feliz" 
[ listen ]
Song: "Pan Con Mantequilla" 
[ listen ]

It's hard to imagine who could possibly have been intended as the target audience for this record. You've got a sexy hippie rock-star type wearing silk pajamas and half-assed clown makeup doing covers of classics by the Bee Gees and The Newbeats. Fun for the whole family, right? It turns out Cepillin (or, the artist formerly known as Ricardo González) was a dentist who started wearing funny face makeup so kids wouldn't be scared while he went to work on their teeth. But I can't think of anything more nightmare-inducing than a shaggy, falsetto-voiced hippie clown towering over me with a grin while giving me a root canal. 

Cepillin on YouTube:
[ "La Feria de Cepillin" ]

[ The dentist will see you now. ]

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Rev. Isaac Douglas

Artist: Rev. Isaac Douglas
LP: By the Grace of God
Song: "Keep Praising God" 
[ listen ]

When quarterback Russell Wilson gave credit to God during his post-game interview after the Seahawks' miraculous comeback that lead to a win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game this afternoon, my friend Trevor texted me, "Why do sports teams give God credit when they win? So does that mean God hates the other team and causes them to lose? It's so annoying." I'd have to agree with him there. And yet, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Keep Praising God, Russell Wilson. SEATTLE IS HEADED TO THE SUPERBOWL FOR THE SECOND YEAR IN A ROW!!...and I don't even like sports.

 [ Russell Wilson — Seahawks Quarterback, 2015 ]

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Ethel Waters

 Artist: Ethel Waters
LP: 7" single
Song: "Cabin In the Sky" 
[ listen ]
Song: "Dinah" 
[ listen ]

Yesterday while riding the bus home from work I was reading Pauline Kael's review of THE MEMBER OF THE WEDDING (1952), in which she wrote, "Miss Waters is not much less than magnificent and is certainly a feast for the camera." Kael goes on to say that the film includes Ethel Waters' best performance. Later that same evening as my new special friend, Martin, and I were walking on Broadway to get "updated Chinese food" at Zhu Dang on Capitol Hill (we didn't end up eating there; I tend not to support places that think it's low-class to use decimal points on their menu.) (We ate non-updated food at Jade Garden in Chinatown instead—highly recommended!) Anyway, as we were walking along Broadway we ducked into Spin Cycle Records so I could flip through their singles. Along with a couple of Joan Jett 45s I didn't think I already had (but it turns out I did), I found this terrific early '50s 4-track 7" by Ethel Waters, who I had been reading about just hours earlier on the bus—remember? What a weird coincidence

Born in Pennsylvania in 1896, Ethel Waters managed to eke out a meager existence in Philadelphia until an influential someone heard her singing at a Halloween party on her 17th birthday. They were so impressed they offered her a regular spot at the Lincoln Theater in Baltimore, Maryland, and the career of one of the very first female blues and jazz singers had begun. I first laid eyes on Ms. Waters just after I turned 15 in the summer of 1984; I was on a family Shaklee-sponsored cruise, sailing from Montreal to New York City. One afternoon I stumbled into a screening of Vincente Minnelli's CABIN IN THE SKY (1943), which was showing in the little movie theater on board. It totally blew me away (no pun intended)—I didn't actually even know until several decades later what strange movie I'd watched on that ship that day. You can see Ethel Waters in action at the link below, and go here and here to read more about this incredible, wonderful woman.

Ethel Waters on YouTube:
[ "Honey In the Honeycomb" from Cabin In the Sky

[ Ethel Waters: October 31, 1896 — September 1, 1977 ]

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Ian Hero and His Orchestra

Artist: Ian Hero and His Orchestra
LP: Woman In Love
Song: "The Winner Takes It All" 
[ listen ]

At the end of a hectic and stressful work week, nothing prepares you for bedtime on Friday night quite like Muzak ABBA.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


Artist: Telex
LP: Looking For Saint Tropez
Song: "Pakmoväst" 
[ listen ]

The other record shop I visited in Olympia was Phantom City Records, which is stuck right next to a vintage clothing store; they share a space. There's no vinyl listening station there, so I knew I'd have to proceed with caution. But then I threw caution to the wind when I came across two albums by the Belgian techno-synth trio of pioneers known as Telex. This album, their very first, was released in 1979. Someone had written on the plastic sleeve in green marker: "Extreme Kraftwerk vibe - Why weren't they huge in the USA in the '80s?" All I can say to that is: Have you never been to Peoria, Illinois? Anyway, I went ahead and bought both LPs, sound unheard. Turns out they're pure electro-pop dynamite, so I'm glad I did!

 [ Telex ]

[ Phantom City Records — Olympia, WA ]

Sunday, January 4, 2015


Artist: Puhdys
LP: Puhdys
Song: "Langstreckenlauf" 
[ listen ]

My friend Refugio was heading down to Olympia yesterday (it's the capital of Washington state) to pick up some coffee from a local coffee roasting company owned by a friend of his (I had a cup of the Kenyan blend; it was super). He asked me to go along for the ride and we had a lovely time. Of course we stopped into Rainy Day Records, which opened in Olympia the very same year that the East German rock band Puhdys had their photo taken in front of some orange curtains. (I don't know what year the photo of Rainy Day Records included below was taken. I forgot to snap pictures on the trip, so I just grabbed an image from the web. But when we were there yesterday, it was indeed a Rainy Day.)

Released in 1974 or '75, this second Puhdys LP isn't particularly rare, but most available copies are still in Germany or Eastern Europe. I wonder how this copy ended up in a sleepy little town like Olympia! Formed in 1965 and re-arranged in 1969 (read more about that here), Puhdys' took their name from the first letters of each of the founding members' first names—Peter, Udo, Harry and Dieter. One of the first East German rock bands allowed to tour in West Germany, Puhdys are still quite active today, releasing their latest LP, Heilige Nächte, in 2013.

[ Puhdys in 1973 ]

[ Rainy Day Records — Olympia, WA ]

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Black Soul

Artist: Black Soul
LP: Bingo Fiesta
Song: "Dakar Sound" 
[ listen ]

Here's something festive and foreign and fun that I found at Domino Sound Record Shack in New Orleans last April. Bingo Fiesta sounds like the perfect activity for the first day of 2015, don't you think? As usual, I resolve to post more frequently on my blog throughout the coming year. Happy New Year, everyone!