Saturday, April 30, 2016

Dexys Midnight Runners

Artist: Dexys Midnight Runners
LP: Don't Stand Me Down
Song: "This Is What She's Like" 
[ listen ]

In North America, Dexys Midnight Runners is known for just one thing: "Come On Eileen." I was disappointed right along with the rest of my countrymen when I caught a glimpse of the group's 1985 follow-up LP, "Don't Stand Me Down," in the bins at my local Yakima record store. No singles were released from the album that I was aware of, and not only that—the band's charmingly ragamuffin appearance that could have been described as "'80s hillbilly chic" had somehow been supplanted by some much-less-charming "mid-'80s life-insurance-salesperson chic."

Flash forward 30 years, and guess what. The album is brilliant! While no 16-year-old in Yakima, Washington is ever going to appreciate this LP, fully-grown adults, especially ones no longer living in Yakima, can now delight in how completely and thoroughly non-commercial this record is, while marveling at the level of integrity demonstrated by Rowland and his crew by releasing "Don't Stand Me Down" as the followup to "Too-Rye-Ay," which had been an international success.

There's nothing on "Don't Stand Me Down" that could even accidentally be mistaken as a potential hit single (desperate for another hit from the group, Mercury released a three-minute version of "This Is What She's Like" two months after the album came out, but they gave up on promoting the record when the song slid off the UK singles charts after peaking at #78). I'm apparently not alone in my rediscovery of "Don't Stand Me Down" as something well worth listening to, as you can see here. There's more to read about Dexys Midnight Runners here, and there's a video here featuring more recent music from the group, now simply called Dexys.

[ Kevin Rowland of Dexys Midnight Runners ]

Friday, April 29, 2016

Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau

Artist: Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau
LP: No Kristo
Song: "Waikiki Hula" 
[ listen ]

Speaking of Fantasy Islands, here's something soothing from the beautiful state of Hawaii. This 1976 LP was the first from Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau, which included siblings Skippy and Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole. When Skippy died in 1982 at age 38, his younger brother followed in his musical footsteps and eventually became rather famous throughout the world. Sadly, Israel (far right on the LP cover) also died at age 38, back in June of 1997. You can read about Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau here

Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau in 1979 on YouTube:
[ "Ka Mamakakaua" ]

[ Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau ]

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Hervé Villechaize with Children of the World

Artist: Hervé Villechaize with Children of the World
LP: 7" single
Song: "Why" 
[ listen ]

Here's something I found at Golden Oldies today—which, coincidentally, would have been Hervé Villechaize's 73rd birthday if he were still alive. Villechaize, star of the 007 film THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN and TV's "Fantasy Island," is backed here by Children of the World—who are actually Children of the Cleveland, Ohio Area according to notes on the back of the record. I feel kinda' bad saying this, but I don't think I've ever come across a more appropriately titled single.

 [ Hervé Villechaize: April 23, 1943 — September 4, 1993 ]

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Prince [1958-2016]

Artist: Prince
LP: 7" single
Song: "Delirious" 
[ listen ]

Like the rest of the world, I was shocked to hear that Prince died today. He seemed so prolific, so active, so healthy! But I have to admit I'd actually been prepared for this sad day by something that happened over 30 years ago. I was in the 9th grade at West Valley Junior High when the news began to spread through the school's orange-carpeted hallways that Prince had suddenly died of a drug overdose! I was living in Yakima and we didn't have the Internet back then, so we all just had to assume Prince was dead—until several months later when his new album came out.

My first encounter with Prince was in early 1983. I was 13 years old and his "1999" single debuted at #43 on the 'Major Top 60 Hits' pop chart I collected every other week from Talcott Music Store in Yakima. (Why yes, I think I do still have the charts:)

As you can see, the song descended two spots to #45 before disappearing from the Top 60 altogether. But my curiosity had been piqued. The song got no airplay in Yakima (the city was still firmly stuck in the '70s, so there was no way in hell they were ready to leap forward to the dawn of the 21st century—plus, Yakima has never been the sort of town that caters to royalty) so I was only able to look at my charts and wonder: "What is this futuristic pop single from this strange and enigmatic person called 'Prince'?" Of course, the next single Prince released was "Little Red Corvette," which blew everything wide open, shoving innovative musical royalty down the unwitting ears and  throats of Yakima residents everywhere, but mostly in Yakima. The "1999" single was then re-released, and this time it climbed to #16 on the Talcott Major Top 60 chart of August 22 - September 12, 1983. 

As he was for many, Prince became a prominent performer on the soundtrack of my formative years. I recall dancing to "Delirious" with Traci Borup on the deck of her family's countryside home during a young adult dance night there. I think it may have been Traci's birthday. I remember when Kristine Paulson and I danced to "Take Me With You" at the Mormon Youth Dance at the 6th Ward building in West Valley. When Jaymi Dressel played "When Doves Cry" in our 9th grade typing class, Mr. Buckmiller nearly had a conniption! He had absolutely no tolerance for good music. And was there any better song to listen to in the summertime in the '80s with the car windows down than "Raspberry Beret?" I don't think so. I have to admit too that the unfolded poster sleeve for Prince's "Delirious" single (went to #23 on the Talcott Major Top 60 in October/November of 1983) gave 14-year-old Mormon Alex of Yakima plenty of sexy fantasy material to work with. (Prince sleeps naked!?) You can read all about Prince and his incredible career here, go here to read his obituary in the New York Times, and there's a nice piece I heard on NPR today you can listen to here.

[ June 7, 1958 — April 21, 2016 ]
We will miss you, Prince.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

#43 - La Campana

Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for Bea

side one:
01. The Green Cathedral - Dorothy Matar
02. Mockingbird - The Belle Stars
03. Hop La! Nous Vivons! - Jean Ferrat
04. Kilimanjaro - Eepil Eepil
05. Calvary Conquered My Heart - Dorothy Matar
06. Boy - Book of Love
07. The Blue Bells of Broadway (Are Ringing Tonight) - Doris Day
08. Music of the Air - Tim Hecker
09. The Prayer Perfect - Dorothy Matar
10. Cake - Yumbo
11. Voyage en Judee - Jacqueline Fançois
12. Modern Girl - Sheena Easton
13. I Asked the Lord - Dorothy Matar
14. Rise Up, Careful - Bodies of Water
15. Chanson de Maxence - Jacques Revaux
[ listen ]

side two:
01. The Sensual World - Kate Bush
02. The Changing Lights - Broken Bells
03. Temperature of Windowside - Nikaidoh Kazumi
04. In the Garden - Dorothy Matar
05. Aliocha - Valia Dimitrievitch
06. That's a Touch I Like - Jesse Winchester
07. Les Papillons Noirs - Michel Arnaud w/ Serge Gainsbourg
08. Learn to Love - The Bluebells
09. My God and I - Dorothy Matar
10. Dans Mon Dos - Benjamin Biolay
11. Ma-Ma-Ma Belle - Electric Light Orchestra
12. The Old Rugged Cross / When They Ring the Golden Bells - Dorothy Matar
13. Besame Mucho - Yasuaki Shimizu
[ listen ]

[ #43 - La Campana — feat. tracks from "Golden Bells" by Dorothy Matar ]

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Spirea X

Artist: Spirea X
LP: 12" single
Song: "Chlorine Dream"
[ listen ]

The a-side of this 1991 12" single from short-lived 4AD band Spirea X has always been one of my favorite things to listen to in the springtime. It's different from the version included on the group's full-length LP—livelier, crisper, more springlike. It's one of the best 4AD releases of the '90s, if you ask me, partly also because it features bold and classy cover art made of neon lights. Sadly, I have to admit I liked the song a little bit more before reading just now that frontman Jim Beattie bragged that it was simply impossible to classify his music into any established genre of the time. He also occasionally claimed to be God, and sometimes he said he was Jesus. yawn. Silly, silly pop star. Spirea X features Beattie's girlfriend, Judith Boyle, on backing vocals. I bet it's not easy to date a guy who thinks he's Jesus.

[ Spirea X ]

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Sheena Easton

 Artist: Sheena Easton
LP: 7" single
Song: "For Your Eyes Only" 
[ listen ]

At the family Easter dinner a few weekends ago I realized what a horrible uncle and older brother I've been. I was telling my family about this 32-year-old treasure I picked up in Everett a few weekends before...

(I think my favorite is probably March, but it's so hard to choose!)

...and my youngest sister, my nieces and my nephews had never even heard of Sheena Easton before! This was shocking to me, since I was a card-carrying member of the Sheena Easton Fan Club the year this calendar came out. My oldest younger sister and I immediately produced and performed an impromptu medley of Sheena's most popular hits that included the choruses of "Morning Train," "For Your Eyes Only" and even "Strut" (I've never been allowed to sing "Sugar Walls" at the dinner table) for the younger set in hopes of sparking some glimmer of recognition, but each of the songs fell upon ears that were complete strangers to them. Obviously I need to put together an early '80s mix tape for the next Williams family vacation. 

In the meantime, here's one of my favorite hits by the lovely Ms. Easton, who evidently performed across the state in Spokane last year and I totally missed it. (Other tour dates here; looks like next up is Atlantic City!) As far as I've ever been able to tell, "For Your Eyes Only" was released as a single in the US with no picture sleeve, which is totally unacceptable—especially for the theme song to such an iconic James Bond movie! I've had to rely on the good people of Portugal to provide me with the sleeve I've got. More info on Sheena Easton here and here and here

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Cryan' Shames

Artist: The Cryan' Shames
LP: Sugar & Spice
Song: "Sugar & Spice" 
[ listen ]
Song: "Ben Franklin's Almanac" 
[ listen ]

It's a Cryan' Shame that these hip '60s psychedelic pop-rockers were never very well known outside their native Chicago. Their biggest hit, "Sugar and Spice," peaked at #49 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1966, though I prefer the single's b-side, "Ben Franklin's Almanac." It's neat that their tambourine player, Jim "J.C. Hooke" Pilster, is placed front and center in the photos instead of having his nifty old-style hook-hand 'conveniently' hidden behind someone's paisley bell-bottoms. Pilster and singer Tom "Toad" Doody are the only original members who are still with The Cryan' Shames today. More on Wikipedia here.

[ The Cryan' Shames ]