Sunday, October 30, 2011




Check out Albert's Blog BDC192, the new blog by my old pal - and very interesting character in his own right - Albert Venczel. He's working on a media degree at a prestigious Toronto university, and he's undergoing a trial by fire right now as an adult student back in school at a later point in his life. He's a good man who's had some intriguing encounters, and his work on a variety of 9/11-truth-oriented projects (among other things) deserves some attention, so here's a link to his work. Wish I could do more for you, Albert! Sorry I lost all my audience! Seriously. It sucks for both of us.





This 6-part documentary series presents the publicly unavailable (and even suppressed) historical audio and video recordings relating to the Kennedy assassinations, the classified "Black Ops" used to launch massive war in Vietnam, CIA mind control programs, the Jonestown massacre and other important truths of our time. The more you know about real history versus official history, the better equipped you are to see behind the lies of our day. All together, this documentary spans 8 hours, and it is a definite must see. This is Part 1: The Assassinations of Kennedy and Oswald. If you dig it, you should buy it!

Friday, September 30, 2011


This little-seen classic of early 70's paranoid political conspiracy cinema deserves to be seen by a much wider audience. You can now watch the entire mockumentary online, thanks to Youtube. Here it is. Watch along with yer old pal Jerky and leave some comments!

Friday, September 9, 2011


This is a reading of one of the two posts which had been censored by Open Book Toronto, home of Basil's author blog. Thankfully, they saw the light and re-posted my work. The background imagery was created by Fernando Perriera, with assistance from Sandra McLelland, at Station Zero.


The giant scrolling image in the background is the novel's cover and again features model Araina Nespiak. The cover photo, design and image processing were done by Fernando Perriera at Station Zero.


Our old pal Basil Papademos - of frequent guest posting infamy - stars in this video of a reading from his upcoming novel, Mount Royal. While shooting the cover photo for the novel, a video camera was left running to record the whole process. The background imagery is an out-take from that video. The model/performer is Araina Nespiak.

Monday, September 5, 2011


Run, run, run to our old pal Jeff Wells' formerly essential Rigorous Intuition Blog to read his latest post in... what... a year and a half? I got so excited when I surfed on over there and saw an update that I immediately raced back to my own pathetic blog to announce it. I haven't even read the damn thing yet, but that's what I'm gonna do now. So, if you'll excuse me...

Monday, August 29, 2011


The Incredible Jimmy Smith - Back at the Chicken Shack (1960)

I'd never heard of this cat before, but I was immediately intrigued by both the braggadocious album title and the humorous cover photo. Whoever this "incredible" Jimmy Smith gentleman might be, he definitely grabbed my attention from the get-go. The music behind the image was absolutely not what I expected. The central focus of this all-instrumental album is the legendary roller-rink sound of Mister Hammond's Organ. The Book says this is the first ever album of "soul jazz" and I guess that moniker kind of fits, but more than anything this reminds me of a kind of embryonic version of Booker T and the MG's, with a hint of the type of music that would explode out of Jamaica a few years later with the likes of Jackie Mittoo and The Upsetters. Fans of these Kingston superstars should find this album very enjoyable, as I did.

Had I heard this before? No.
Do I like it? Yes.
Am I keeping it? Yes.
Standout tracks? "Minor Chant", "When I Grow Too Old To Dream"


The Everly Brothers - A Date with the Everly Brothers (1960)

I don't know what to say about this record other than the fact that I didn't enjoy it. Perhaps the inability to enjoy this kind of harmless fluff is a failure all my own. If so, so be it. The lyrics are the typically insipid treacle characteristic of the era - neither more nor less offensive than all the other teenage broken heart at the malt shop crap that was being churned out by countless artists and labels back in the Good Old Days of Eisenhower's America. Even the album cover gets on my nerves. They look like they're calling a Black family to warn them not to move into their neighborhood or something. Blech!

Had I heard it before? Yes.
Do I like it? Meh.
Am I keeping it? No.
Standout Tracks? "Cathy's Clown" is, at the very least, memorable.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Miriam Makeba - Miriam Makeba (1960)


Aside from being able to write amusingly snarky comments about artists I don't like, finding wonderful stuff like this is probably what makes this 1001-step exercise in music appreciation so rewarding. Miriam Makeba was a South African Xhosa singer who was brought to the States by Harry Belafonte, who "discovered" her during one of his many trips to Africa. After listening to her first American album (which Belafonte produced), I can see why he was so smitten.

One impressive aspect of Makeba's voice is that it sounds as comfortable and natural belting out standards like "House of the Rising Sun" as it does clicking and popping through the astonishing "Click Song". And her take on the classic South African pop hit "Mbube" - also known as "Wimaweh", also known as "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" - is so jubilant, so vital and throbbing with life, it leaves me struggling for the proper words to describe it. 

As good as the music is, in this case, there is an even more incredible personal story behind that music. Makeba, who died in 2008 after a concert in Italy, was known as "Mama Africa" and "The Voice of Africa" for her tireless work against the Apartheid regime, which led to her 30-year exile from the homeland she so dearly loved. Oh, and did I mention she was incredibly beautiful? Thankfully for those of us too lazy to do all the research ourselves, there's a movie coming out about her life.

So far, 26 albums deep, this is my favorite new discovery, and it's going to take something pretty impressive to dislodge it from its perch.

I heard it before? No.
Do I like it? Yes. It's wonderful.
Am I keeping it? Yes.
Standout Tracks? "Mbube", "The Retreat Song", "The Click Song", "The Naughty Little Flea", "Nomeva"

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Elvis Presley – Elvis is Back! (1960)

Elvis' first album after spending two years in the military doesn't waste any time covering a lot of new ground. The King strays far from his rocky roots, indulging his creative side with everything from torch balladry ("Fever") to opera ("It's Now Or Never") to super-smooth romantic crooning ("Are You Lonesome Tonight") with a barn-storming nut-rocker thrown in for good measure ("Such a Night"). The end result was a hit-packed, persona-redefining album that was Elvis' favorite of his own work. I hadn't heard many of these songs in a long while, and it was very enjoyable to revisit them. Thanks, Elvis!

Had I heard it before? Yes.
Did I like it then? Yes.
Do I like it now? Yes.
Am I keeping it? Yes.
Standout Tracks? "Are You Lonesome Tonight", "Love Me Tender", "It's Now Or Never", "Such a Night"


Joan Baez - Joan Baez (1960)

Only 23 albums and we're already switching decades! That means the 50's only got... let's see... 23 out of 1001... carry the three... 2.39 percent of the slots available! Oh well. Time marches on, and so must we, if we're expecting to finish this exercise. That means no quibbling over minor details like the one I just spent five minutes quibbling over.

Now, on to Joan Baez. I recently mentioned how Joan, Willie Nelson, Jim Croce and Ray Charles were erstwhile companions on a couple of family cross-country driving trips, thanks to their "Best Of" tapes being the only listening material in the car other than the radio. So I do harbor a certain fondness for her peculiar, warbling, high-pitched vocal stylings, occasionally in spite of my own better judgement. Of course, at the time I had no idea about her relationship with Bob Dylan (which spawned one of the most bitter breakup songs ever in "Diamonds and Rust") or the fact that she borrowed her falsetto/vibrato/rubato technique wholesale from Cambridge folkie Debbie Green. But that hardly seems to matter at this point, especially considering many of these songs were centuries old by the time they were recorded.

Fifty years later, is this material still worth a listen? I would say yes. It's definitely not as vital or immanent as it used to be - its time, politically speaking, having come, gone and left a whole lotta ugly t-shirts (not to mention busted bongs and a scattering of syringes). But there is artistry worth considering, here, and some of the selections are deeply moving. Give it a listen and see for yourself.

Had I heard it before? Most of it.
Did I like it then? Yes.
Do I like it now? Slightly less so.
Am I keeping it? Only the Standout Tracks.
Standout Tracks? "Silver Dagger", "All My Trials", "Wildwood Flower", "John Riley", "Girl of Constant Sorrow" (yes, the O! Brother Where Art Thou? song)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011



Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Out (1959)

Are my ears deceiving me, or am I discerning substantial chunks of what some wags might refer to as "progressive rock" in these idiosyncratic and memorably quirky compositions? The bouncy hit "Take Five" had become the instrumental sensation of the season, or perhaps, it could be argued, of the decade. And there's definitely no debating that particular tune's pedigree. It is jazz, straight up, no chaser. But on many of the other selections here, Brubeck's Quartet crank out music that wouldn't seem out of place on a Gentle Giant album.The opening track, "Blue Rondo", careens from Stravinsky-esque staccato piano-banging to finger-snapping bebop alto horn solos - then back again - with an almost diabolical abandon. The next cut, "Strange", kicks things off with a warm and lovely Liberace style étude before dropping into a smooth and mellow swing set. That's followed by "Take Five", which you've heard even if you think you haven't. After that it's a mixed bag, with some tunes in the Duke Ellington mode and others that you might be able to squeeze onto Frank Zappa's Hot Rats without anyone but bona-fide Zappaphiles taking note. Very interesting, and a definite recommend.

Had I heard it before? Only "Take Five".
Do I like it? Yes.
Am I keeping it? Yes.
Standout Tracks? "Blue Rondo", "Strange", "Take Five", "Pick Up"


Marty Robbins - Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs (1959)

Many of the songs on this album could easily have played over the opening credits of The Big Lebowski instead of the one the Coens eventually went with: Tumbling Tumbleweeds. Marty Robbins' cowboy songs have that same half-authentic, half-artificial feel to them. His voice seems far too delicate, even pretty, for the gritty subject matter. I somehow doubt the men who worked and ranged over the land back in olden days spent much time indulging their passion for barbershop harmonizing. And yet that's part of what makes this selection of songs so compelling. I think smart people call it "tension". 

I'll tell you this: If I were trying to write the script for an ironic Western, many songs from this album would definitely be in heavy rotation in my "tunes to write by" mix. Robbins paints a picture, and even if sometimes it's a goofy, kitschy picture, it's always painted quite well, with all the little details in place. The spurs and revolvers shine. The oiled leather saddles glow warm and golden. You can almost see Lee Van Cleef crouching behind a papier-mâché boulder, drawing a bead on you. And there's the stage-hand, just beyond the Saloon facade, tossing a tumbleweed in your direction just as the 2nd AC chops the air with his black-and-white clapperboard. 

It's just a bit of harmless fun, and I didn't hate it, like I thought I would. So sue me!

Had I heard it before? Chunks of "Cool Water" and "El Paso" have been permanently engraved into the side of my brain since early childhood, thanks to those K-Tel commercials way back when.
Do I like it? More than I thought I would.
Am I keeping it? Yes.
Standout Tracks? "Cool Water", "Big Iron", "El Paso", "Come Back to the Valley"

Monday, August 22, 2011


Miles Davis - Kind of Blue (1959)

So many gallons of ink have been spilled in praise of Miles Davis' masterpiece, Kind of Blue, that anything I add here will invariably end up seeming redundant, repetitive and totally unnecessary. Suffice it to say that the hundreds of critics and scholars who call this "The Best Jazz Album Ever" aren't exaggerating in the slightest. Eschewing Bebop and taking one of the most incredible bands ever assembled (Bill Evans, Wynton Kelly, Jimmy Cobb, Paul Chambers, Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane) into the studio to explore the wide open spaces of modality, Miles came out on the other side with an album that quite simply demands - and amply rewards - every thinking music lover's full and undivided attention. It would take someone far more knowledgeable about the mechanics of music theory to explain how this works to any accurate degree, but roughly it means that, instead of being given a composed score, a series of chord progressions or a harmonic framework, each musician was given a set of modal scales defining their improvisational parameters. The end result was something Davis called "Modal Sketches", but you might as well just call it magic. Look, just trust me on this one, okay? Seek out Kind of Blue at your earliest possible convenience, in any format you can get your hot little hands on, set aside an hour, maybe roll yourself a spliff, smoke it slow and just... dig... the groove.

Had I heard it befoer? Yes.
Did I like it then? Yes.
Do I like it now? Immensely.
Am I keeping it? Yes.
Standout Tracks? Every cut is a Standout Track.


Ray Charles - The Genius of Ray Charles (1959)

Wit this, his third album, the man who single-handedly created Soul by blending R&B, Blues, Jazz and Gospel tried his hand at something akin to "Big Band Fusion", backed up by Basie and Ellington alumni with lush arrangements by Quincy Jones. It works, of course, as pretty much everything Ray Charles ever attempted always seemed to. Side One is pure bombast, a high energy romp through some old favorites from the Great American Songbook, to most electrifying effect in "Let the Good Times Roll" and "Alexander's Ragtime Band". But it's Side Two that stands out, here. Jones elevates Charles' distinctive, beautiful croon to the top of the mix, so you can hear every tortured sigh of his incredibly expressive delivery. Here is the Ray Charles who would go on to become a national treasure in his lifetime, with good reason.

Had I heard it before? About half the songs.
Did I like it then? I have always loved Ray Charles, and he is forever locked with Willie Nelson, Jim Croce and Joan Baez in my mind, because of a few cross-country trips where the only cassette tapes we had in the car were those four Best Of collections. 
Do I like it now? Yes.
Will I be keeping it? Yes.
Standout Tracks? "Let the Good Times Roll", "Alexander's Ragtime Band", all of Side Two


Ella Fitzgerald Sings the George and Ira Gershwin Songbook (1958)

With this, the 19th stop in our musical journey across the post-war decades, we complete the triumvirate, the Holy Trinity of Female Jazz Vocalists of the 20th Century. First was the brilliant and tragic Billie "Lady Day" Holiday, with her iconoclastic phrasing and her ability to wear a song like a personally fitted, gem-encrusted shroud. Then was Sarah "The Divine One" Vaughan, with the mellow warmth and glowing, perfect tone. And now we come to Ella Fitzgerald, the "First Lady of Song", who brought her personal sense of swing to every song she sang, not just the "scat" vocal improvs for which she was justifiably renowned. 

Ella Fitzgerald Sings the George and Ira Gershwin Songbook is, by reputation, the best in a legendary series of album sets in which Ella interprets the so-called "Great American Songbook". So you have a Black woman interpreting songs written by mostly Jewish writers, targeted specifically at a White, Christian audience/market. In a way, in terms of her impact on the cultural side of race relations, Ella was kind of like Elvis before Elvis

Maybe I'm just not in the mood right now, but I wish I was enjoying the experience of listening to this box set more than I am. It's a long slog - fifty-three songs, many of which are sad and slow - and it obviously wasn't designed to be digested in a single sitting. On certain songs - "Nice Work if You Can Get It", for instance - Ella lets herself swing. But for the most part, she shows a kind of reverence for the material that perhaps it doesn't really deserve - or, more importantly in this case, require. The whole affair would have benefited from a bit more of a fun, loosey-goosey, anything-goes approach... in my humble opinion, at least. 

Don't get me wrong, here. Ella does each song perfect justice - as does the ubiquitous Nelson Riddle, whose arrangements are, as usual, perfect. I'm just saying maybe it's a little too much justice. If you're looking for a definitive collection of Gershwin interpretations, you won't find better. If you're looking for the best of what Ella can deliver, you're probably better off looking elsewhere.

Had I heard it before? Not all collected like this, no.
Do I like it?  I respect it a lot more than I like it.
Am I keeping it? Only the Standout Tracks.
Standout Tracks? "Nice Work if You Can Get it", "S'Wonderful", "Strike Up The Band", "Slap That Bass", "Embraceable You"

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Sarah Vaughan and her Trio - Live at Kelly's (1958)

Along with her frequent collaborator Billy Eckstine, Sarah Vaughan was one of the first artists to bring bop and swing into the popular consciousness in the 1940's. Their Big Band spawned such talents as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Art Blakey, to name but a few. So if you've ever enjoyed any of these people's music, you now know who to thank. Now, if that list of Jazz Giants seems intimidating, make no mistake about it; Vaughan's command of her instrument was no less sure and true than Miles' over his horn, or Blakey's over his drumsticks. Her voice is warm and rich and her control is unbelievable, even - or perhaps especially - when she forgets the lyrics and begins scatting and giving affectionate shout-outs to Ella Fitzgerald on "How High the Moon", an album highlight. As I sit here listening to "Dream", I can understand why one of Sarah's many nicknames was "The Divine One" (another one was "Sailor" because of her love of swearing). Hers is a voice so fantastic it's almost enough to make a confirmed atheist consider the possibility of the existence of the Almighty. Also, the between-song patter on this extremely intimate recording is priceless, giving you a real sense of the obviously immense personal magnetism that made Vaughan such a long-lived favorite among aficionados of Great American Music.

Had I heard it before? Only a few of the songs.
Do I like it?  Oh, yes.
Am I keeping it? Yep.
If I had to seek out only one song by this artist, what should it be? "Whatever Lola Wants", most definitely.
Standout Tracks? "How High the Moon", "Thou Swell", "It's Got to be Love", "Honeysuckle Rose", "Embraceable You", "Dancing in the Dark", "I Cover the Waterfront"

Ah, what the heck. Here's a video featuring stills of Vaughan while she sings her signature song, "Whatever Lola Wants":


I ask you in all seriousness, do these look like guilty men to you?

Friday, August 19, 2011


Jack Elliott - Jack Takes the Floor (1958)

I feel I should confess up front that I do not now, nor have I ever, enjoyed Folk music. I don't mean real, traditional folk music, like Negro chain-gang spirituals or "Greensleeves". I refer, in this case, to the music of what musicologists refer to as the "Second Folk Revival", which is also known as the "Folk Explosion", commonly associated with artists like Peter, Paul and Mary, The Mamas and the Papas, Simon and Garfunkle and Joan Baez.

It is certainly true that many of these artists produced influential work of lasting popularity, and I don't mean to tar all of them with the same brush. However, much of the music from that era gives me the willies. Maybe it's the harmonies, or the recording techniques that were used. There's a hollow, cult-like quality to much of it that gives me the same kind of Manson Family creepy-crawly feeling that I get when I watch the Hippie Commune scene from Easy Rider.

If you've seen the movie you'll remember the scene. A bunch of sunburned Jesus Christ lookalikes with vacant stares pray over a simple supper of gruel smooshed together from the meager selection of crops they've managed to tease from the barren patch of scrubland where, in their shirtless Hippie wisdom, they have decided to "make a go of it". As Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda prepare to depart, Hopper expresses his doubts about the operation. In response, Fonda says something like: "They'll make it... dig?" What a pompous ass. This one scene alone almost ruins the entire film for me.

Even though I probably share a lot of the political views held by many of these artists, some of their music still sets off alarm bells in my head. Perhaps it is because I have taken the time to educate myself about what was going on behind the scenes of that "scene" that I'm over-sensitive to certain nuances pertaining to it. Perhaps not. It nevertheless remains an indisputable fact that much of the "product" surreptitiously unleashed by certain Sinister Forces back in that most misunderstood of sociopolitical eras was responsible for sucking in, chewing up and spitting out more than a few good-hearted, soft-headed people, dragging them through the Chapel Perilous against their wills, causing many to drown there and be forever lost in the lava lamp undertow of Acid Fascism.

What does all of this have to do with Ramblin' Jack Elliott or this album in particular? Other than the fact that he was a tremendous influence on most of the artists of the 60's Folk Explosion, not a whole hell of a lot. I guess I just had some ideas that I needed to let out of my head. Thanks for reading.

Oh, and don't forget not to take the Brown Acid, the one-time Holy Host of the CIA.

Had I heard it before? No.
Do I like it? Not really. But it's better than most of what came after.
Am I keeping it? Only two songs.
Standout Tracks? "Muleskinner Blues", which I genuinely like, and "Bed Bug Blues", which I am keeping because there is currently a continent-wide Bed Bug panic, and this song might come in handy for some future media work.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Billie Holiday - Lady in Satin (1958)

This was apparently a controversial pick among The Book's editors, as the legendary-in-her-own-lifetime Lady Day was long past her prime when it was recorded. Holiday had been riding a pale horse towards oblivion for two solid decades, with both heroin and hard drink having ripped much of the rich and mellow tone from her voice, so the "satin" in the title of this, her final album, seemed like a reference to coffin linings rather than evening gowns. And yet, as a testament to the resilience of authentic genius - a quality that shines through even the most glaring of handicaps - the album undeniably works. On the more melancholy cuts - and the track list is fittingly rich in downbeat subject matter - you could even argue that the scratchy catch in Holiday's throat works in the material's favor. There's a reason why she was often called "the suicide's favorite." As I sit here listening to this most mournful of swan songs, I am reminded of Rick Rubin's monumental "American" project with Johnny Cash. Are there better Billie Holiday collections than Lady in Satin? Yes. Are any of them as poignant? Definitely not.

Had I heard it before? Yes.
Did I like it then? Somewhat.
Do I like it? Yes. A lot.
Am I keeping it? Yes.
Standout Tracks? Every cut is a masterpiece, but "I'm a Fool to Want You" and "You Don't Know What Love Is" are powerful stand outs.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Tito Puente - Dance Mania Volume 1 (1957)

Okay, you can pretty much tell from the title that this one isn't exactly gonna be strolling down yer old pal Jerky's alley. This is Big Band Mambo from the undisputed KING of Big Band Mambo, so if the idea of syncopated rhythms gets your hips and feet moving in a spiffy sort of counterpoint shuffle, then this is the disc for you. For non-dancers and individuals not of a certain ethnic background, it's more of a historical curiosity. As for myself, I typically classify this type of music as "research material", because the only reason I'd ever listen to this again is if I were writing something set in an era and/or locale for which this kind of music would be appropriate, just to get myself in the mood. Otherwise, I can't see myself revisiting this one. It does sound pretty though, I have to admit. "Cha-cha-cha!"

Had I heard it before? I don't think so.
Do I like it? Kind of. A little bit. I guess.
Am I keeping it? Only the Standout Tracks.
Standout Tracks? "3D Mambo", "Llego Mijan", "Hong Kong Mambo", "Mambo Gozon"


Hey folks! It's time once again for a literary visit by our old pal and regular guest poster Basil Papademos! Enjoy! - YOPJ

Okay, this is Part 2 and once again, is all dialogue. It's the same cheat as Part 1 - two guys just sitting around talking. It would of course be much more difficult if there was action to describe - or infer. I guess then you'd be forced to try and include it in the dialogue and it's difficult to see that sounding believable. Anyway, I think one of the purposes of blogging, for me at least, is trying out ideas like this. See what you think... -BP

“Mitch, what’s up.”
“Plenty. I’ve been into some really classy, low-mileage pussy lately.”
“Oh, yeah?”
“Fuckin’ Christ, yeah. I’m seeing this woman, right? She’s 50, probably 53 or whatever but she’s got a body like a goddamn teenager. I can’t believe it. I ask her, where the hell have you been hiding? Married to some gaylord or what?”
“Is she married?”
“Naw, she was mixed up in some weird thing with a French artist asshole in Paris who put on little Louis outfits and she’d spank him with a pricey Marcel Cloutier hair-brush - that sort of bullshit. She told me the guy couldn’t fuck his way out of a wet paper bag. No wonder there’s no Frenchmen left. Anyway, she’s got this really creamy skin and when I look at her lying there, grinning so snakey and sexy, she looks like some college kid. Jesus! It just blows my mind!”
“Well, it is well known that if you really wanna get laid, you gotta move up a few floors. Older chicks, they got more style, more sass - in the sack and out.”

Continued at Basil's Blog at Open Book Toronto.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Little Richard - Here's Little Richard (1957)

Would you like to see some high praise? These five words from The Book about Here's Little Richard stopped me cold: "Rock and roll's stem cells." Wow... that's really saying something. And you know what? It's true. I've always kind of dismissed Little Richard as a slightly more masculine iteration of Prince, without the latter's unfortunate penchant for the inscrutable pose. But on these early, original recordings - not the inferior versions recorded later to get around lousy contracts - I swear I can hear snatches of everything from Marvin Gaye to Motorhead. It boggles my frigging mind to think that all these fantastic songs were recorded over half a century ago on a single-track recording unit. How is that possible?!

Had I heard it before? Yes.
Did I like it then? Yes.
Do I like it now? Yes.
If I had to sum it up in a single word? Does "A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-wop-bam-boom" count as one word?
Am I keeping it? Yes.
Standout Tracks? "Tutti Frutti", "Ready Freddy", "Long Tall Sally", "Slippin and Slidin", "Rip it Up"


Machito - Kenya (1957)

This intoxicating blend of Afro-Cuban rhythms and Duke Ellington style Big Band Jazz is like the soundtrack to some great, lost epic film about the Batista regime in pre-revolutionary Cuba, back when it was the most bananas of all the many Banana Republics in Uncle Sam's filthy, rancid back pocket. Maybe Francis Ford Coppola could have directed it. Maybe Oliver Stone still can. Anyway, every cut on this album throbs like a Havana nightclub in 1944, with Ernest Hemingway holding court up in a corner balcony - as far away from the band as possible so the lovely 15-year-old brown girl squirming in his lap can hear what he's shouting in her ear - puffing on a Cohiba, slurping down one Mohito after another, back in those steamy days before everything came crashing down and the only way out so far as he could see was by dancing the Shotgun Waltz. Once again, I have to say this is absolutely essential listening for any would-be drummers or percussionists out there.

Had I heard it before? No.
Do I like it? Kind of, but I resist it.
Why? Because it wants me to DANCE, goddamnit!
If I had to sum it up in a single word? "Afrocubalicious!"
Am I keeping it? Only the Standout Tracks.
Standout Tracks? "Kenya", "Wild Jungle", "Frenzy", "Oyeme", "Conversation", "Minor Rama"

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Miles Davis - The Birth of Cool (1957)

Everything I wrote about Thelonious Monk's Brilliant Corners two reviews ago stands for Miles' debut as a band-leader, here, as well. Birth of the Cool is both testament and witness to Miles' apprenticeship under Dizzy and Bird. One difference here is song duration. Unlike Monk, Miles was still sticking to the mythical "3 minutes" that songwriters believed was the "perfect" length for a successful piece of music. This perhaps makes Birth of the Cool the better starting point for someone wanting an introduction to modern or "cool" jazz, as Brilliant Corners' never-ending epics take a lot more out of the listener. That's not to say Birth of the Cool is Easy Listening. It requires concentration, as does anything of value. This is the kind of music people used to sit in dark, smokey clubs, put on their Jazz Face (everybody's got one) and think real hard about... but mostly they'd be thinking "Who does that guy facing the back of the room think he is? And who farted?" The answer to both those questions was, is, and always shall be an emphatic: "MILES DAVIS!" 

Had I heard it before? Yes.
Did I like it then? Yessir.
Do I like it now? Oh, yes.
What percentage of people reading this do I think will like it? Roughly 20-25%, which is actually pretty high!
Am I keeping it? Yes.
Standout Tracks? "Move", "Jeru", "Godchild", "Israel", "Darn that Dream"


Sabu - Palo Congo (1957)

This music speaks to me. Unfortunately, it's speaking Spanish, so I don't understand a word.

I kid of course, but I also make a point. Those of you who've met me would most likely attest to the fact that I'm not what you'd call the dancing type. For myriad reasons, I simply do not dance. Consequently, I have never had much use for music that has as its primary function the instilling of a desire to dance in the listener. Sabu's Palo Congo falls into this category, a trait that I imagine will not be that uncommon as I go through The Book's 1001 picks.

It's not that I am oblivious to what it's trying to do to me. I do feel it. But as Sabu's ancient, tribal rhythms work their powerful mojo on the most primitive parts of my brain, I can't help but think of Peter Gabriel earnestly croaking out "The Rhythm of the Heat" (working title - I kid you not - "Jung in Africa") from his solo album Security: It goes a little something like this:
Looking out the window
I see the red dust clear
High up on the red rock
Stands a shadow with a spear...
Huff, huff, huff, huff...
The land here is strong
Strong beneath my feet
It feeds on the blood
It feeds on the meat
The rhythm is below me
The rhythm of the heat
The rhythm is around me
The rhythm has control
The rhythm is inside me...

Can you friggin' believe this guy?! And he says he quit Genesis because they were getting "too pretentious"? Don't "smash the watch", dude. Smash the fucking video camera so you can't embarrass yourself and your "real Africans from Africa" band by writhing around on the ground like Frankenstein's Monster on the verge of his first Tantric orgasm. Oops... Too late. Sorry!

Had I heard it before? I honestly couldn't tell you. After a while it all kind of blends into one, giant chicken-shredding voodoo jam.
Do I like it? Something inside me resists it.
Repeat Listenability? Very low. This stuff is like saffron. A little goes a long way.
Am I keeping it? No. However, I'm thinking this would pretty much be essential listening for anybody who writes, plays or records music for a living - or anybody who wants to do so. It's like a university level course in poly-rhythms.
Standout Tracks? "El Cumbanchero" is the only one that separates itself from the "boogada-boogada" blob in my mind, so I'll say that one.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Thelonious Monk - Brilliant Corners (1957)

Thelonious Monk is the second most recorded jazz composer in history after Duke Ellington. Duke wrote over 1000 songs. Monk wrote 70. The things you learn from Wikipedia!

I'm loving this album. Even though I inherited a love of jazz from my dad, who was a huge fan of early Miles Davis and everything by Dave Brubeck, I make no claims to jazz hound status. I can't tell where a piece of music was recorded based on the ambient room dynamics like some jazz fans can. I also am not one of those Jazz Fascists who insists that if a piece of music deviates one iota from the strict parameters they set - be it Dixieland, or Swing, or Bebop, or (heaven forbid) Fusion - then "it isn't REAL JAZZ!"

All I know is what I can tell with my own two ears, and this kind of music - where virtuosi take turns trying to impress each other with mind-blowing improvisations over a structured theme - is what I think of when I think of Jazz. Did I mention that I'm loving this album?

Had I heard it before? No, much to my shame.
Do I like it? Yes.
Repeat Listenability? High.
Am I keeping it? Yes.
Standout Tracks? All five tracks are great, but my favorites are the title track and the piano solo "I Surrender, Dear"


Count Basie - The Atomic Mr. Basie (1957)

These musico-literary gambols of mine are getting a bit longish for my liking. I originally meant to type out a few carefully-chosen 'bon mots' about the artist and/or the album in question, then move on to the next chapter. There are, after all, 1001 of these to get through, and - unlike everything else I've ever begun in my life, I would like to finish this at some point. But I keep having artists like Count Basie - and albums like The Atomic Mr. Basie, a.k.a. The Complete Atomic Mr. Basie, a.k.a. E=MC2 = Count Basie Orchestra + Neil Hefti Arrangements - thrown my way way.

Well, I'm not putting up with it any more, goddamnit. When The Book throws me a subject so pregnant it seems about ready to squat and drop a baker's dozen of atomic bombs, I may have to resort to throwing random words at the computer screen. Like this: "Thrilling, evocative, impressionistic, controlled, powerful, subtle, dynamic, legendary, beautiful, wonderful, perfect, priceless, peerless, essential."

I mean, for fuck's sake, it's Count Basie, bitches!

Had I heard it before? Yes.
Did I like it then? Yes.
Do I like it now? Yes.
Am I keeping it? Yes.
Standout Tracks? "The Kid from Red Bank", "Duet", "Flight of the Foo Birds", "Double-O", "Whirly-Bird", "Midnight Blue", "L'il Darlin", "Silks and Satins", "Sleepwalker's Serenade", "The Late, Late Show"

Friday, August 12, 2011


Buddy Holly & The Crickets - The Chirping Crickets (1957)

Odd that Buddy Holly should choose to name his band The Crickets when his vocal style doesn't so much sound like "chirping" as a kind of gulping hiccup-yodel. Not that I mind. I'm just saying. If nothing else, Holly was probably the world's most astute creator of ear-worms - songs that, once you've heard them, you can't dislodge from your head no matter how hard you try. "Peggy Sue", "That'll Be The Day", "Oh Boy"... take your pick.

The original album featured 12 songs clocking in at under 26 minutes. The version I downloaded has 4 extra tracks added on - all covers, I think - and, to be honest, they're the ones I was most impressed with. As a survivor of the borderline pathological 50's nostalgia boom of the 1970s, most of Holly's oeuvre is as familiar to me as the taste of my own thumb, and I'm a firm believer in that old idiom about familiarity breeding contempt.

I should probably point out that I do appreciate the immeasurable influence Buddy Holly's take on rock and roll as a genre unto itself had on literally everyone who came after. Even without that fateful, legend-making winter's night plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa - a mere 18 months into his career - he still would have deserved that chart-topping shout-out from Weezer back in '94. Although which Saint's grave he pissed on to deserve the hideous ignominy of being portrayed by Gary Busey in his biopic - or having Don McLean write that wretched song about him - I have yet to figure out. "American Pie" my fat, white ass.

Had I heard it before? 95% of it.
Did I like it then? Rockabilly has never really turned my crank.
Do I like it now? Kind of.
Am I keeping it? Only the Standout Tracks.
Standout Tracks? "Oh Boy", "Not Fade Away", "That'll Be The Day", "It's So Easy"

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Frank Sinatra - Songs for Swingin' Lovers! (1957)

A repeat appearance in this project's artistic line-up so early in the proceedings would have to come from a real heavyweight, and what do you know? It does. Old Blue Eyes is back - along with legendary arranger Nelson Riddle - for what The Book calls "day following night", referring to the happier, snappier tone of the selections here compared to the more reflective, somber feel of the picks from In The Wee Small Hours. Is the tumbler of bourbon half full or half empty? It all depends on whether you're drinking or pouring. On Songs for Swingin' Lovers!, Sinatra is definitely pouring, and he's pouring it on thick. The Rat Pack's Chairman of the Board is in full-on swagger mode here, and once again he displays an almost supernatural control over his instrument. 

Still, despite all the bounce and swing, there remains an undeniable darkness. This is, I suspect, partly a by-product of a half-century of social evolution - the casual misogyny occasionally catches today's sensitive listener off guard - and partly due to the fact that Frank was kind of a nasty piece of work in real life. You can almost picture him forcing Norman Fell to get down on his hands and knees to spit-shine his patent-leather Mary Janes in the lobby of The Sands, or retiring to the Jungle Room after his umpteenth triumphant gig to while away the night banging cocktail waitresses two at a time while Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford wait patiently in an adjoining suite for a chance at sloppy seconds. 

Here is a man who spends most of Under My Skin essentially telling his lover that he's constantly trying to figure out ways to dump her, but the pussy is just too damn good. In Makin' Whoopie, you can almost hear the contempt dripping from Frank's lips as he details the countless "humiliations" the Average Joe has to put up with just to get a little tail. The idea that some men would actually stoop to doing dishes is literally beyond Triumphant Frank's ability to comprehend. He even manages to make Anything Goes - originally an ironic ode to prudery - sound like an aggressive invitation to anal sex. "Bite the pillow, doll-face... it's going in dry!"

Then again, maybe that's what makes Somber Frank so potent. Later in his career, when he rumbled out the immortal words: "Regrets, I've had a few..." we knew exactly what he was talking about.

Had I heard it before? A few of the songs were new to me.
Did I like it before? Again, it would be truer to say that I didn't NOT like it.
Do I like it now? I appreciate Sinatra's gifts a lot more now, but I prefer him in a more reflective mood.
Am I keeping it? Only the Standout Tracks.
Standout tracks? "You Make Me Feel So Young", You're Getting to be a Habit With Me", "Too Marvelous for Words", "Pennies From Heaven", "I've Got You Under My Skin", "Anything Goes", "How About You?"

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


This is a guest post by our old pal CT! - YOPJ

So as you may be aware, Squirrel Girl – everyone’s favorite not-quite-superhero – gets her own solo cover story in New Avengers #15 this month. When it comes to Squirrel Girl, people (people who've heard of her, anyway) tend to fall into two camps: there’s the nerd-raging fanboys who refuse to acknowledge her as anything more than a poorly told joke, and there’s the people who love her (more or less) BECAUSE she’s a poorly told joke. She’s been used sparingly in her almost two decades of existence, and when she is, it’s almost always for comedic effect. There’s nothing wrong with that; it is, in fact, part and parcel of the very character of Squirrel Girl. But if you take a moment and look harder at her, you find a series of wonderful contradictions that point to a vastly underrated–and underused–character...

Continued at CT's LUDICROUS SPEED blog!


Duke Ellington - Ellington at Newport (1956)

Whenever I listen to Duke Ellington's music, two stories immediately come to mind. First, there's the one about how he and his band used to avoid hassles while performing throughout the segregated South by traveling in Duke's lavishly appointed private railway car. That's absolute class in a frosted champagne glass. The second is from Frank Zappa's The Real Frank Zappa Book, and, unfortunately, it isn't anywhere near as grand. Zappa tells about being backstage at some hastily thrown-together festival in Miami, '69, where he witnessed Duke pleading with one of the promoter's flunkies for a ten dollar advance - a pitiful sight that prompted Zappa to disband The Mothers right then and there. "If Duke Ellington had to beg some George Wein assistant backstage for ten bucks, what the fuck was I doing with a ten-piece band, trying to play rock and roll?" Thankfully, Ellington at Newport chronicles a happier, more prosperous point in his multifarious narrative. Here is an album that showcases the man and his band at their magnificent best, testament to the natural aristocracy that transformed this musical Midas from "Edward" to "Duke" at the tender age of seven. From the very first days of the Harlem Renaissance at the fabled Cotton Club, through the birth of radio orchestras and soundtracks for Hollywood Golden Age films, through world-conquering tours with an ever-growing band that showcased some of the brightest lights in American music - a roster of Greats with a capital G - Duke's story simply cannot be summed up in a space like this. Suffice it to say that Ellington at Newport captures one of the finest incarnations of Duke's revolving band, and the decision to keep all the between-song chatter makes you feel like you're sitting there in the rain with an audience so appreciative, they occasionally come close to rioting. No wonder this was Duke's best-selling LP. A masterpiece from an artist who lived his life as an ongoing masterpiece, it is more than a mere pleasure to hear this music today... it is a privilege that should not be taken lightly.

Had I heard it before? I'm ashamed to say that this is the first time I've listened to this recording straight through.
Do I like it? Hell yes.
Am I keeping it? It would be so very wrong not to.
Standout Tracks? Every cut is a classic, and the between-song chatter only adds to the charm.


SUMMER in Toronto is drawing to a close. I can feel it mostly while riding my motorcycle, which is the best barometer of changing weather. There are really only a few nights during the summer when you can ride at seriously high speeds in just a t-shirt and jeans and not begin to feel cold, those few nights when the rushing wind feels hot and sultry no matter how fast you're going. And those are the best moments for the kinds of motorcycles I love; Japanese superbikes of a certain vintage that are subtle but sure-footed and aggressive, full of raw and completely unnecessary power, beautiful of line and howl like a banshee… sorta like... well, this isn't the place for that...

Okay, so all this means more sleep lately, which means more waking early, which means more chance to practice one of writing’s most fundamental tenets, the ol’ A.I.C. - Ass In Chair… Speaking of which, thanks to AL C for reminding of all that.

So I’ve been thinking about dialogue lately, a story made almost exclusively of dialogue - sort of like theatre but not. How do you get across references common to say two people in a conversation? They’re not going to explain everything for the benefit of the reader. I’ve been working on this idea while writing a trio of short things that when put together are called Insane Women We Have Known + Loved.

Let’s give Part 1 a shot and see how it rolls…

I run into a guy called I used to know, Mitch Farrango. Hadn’t seen him in decades - literally. Something about drying out over night in the Barrie bucket, late summer during the late ‘90’s, back when Sauble Beach was a big hang-out.
“What you been up to, Mitch?”
“Been making time with this woman I used to know and met again not long ago. I think you probably knew her. Percy.”
“She Greek?”
“No, you kidding?...

To read the rest, go to: Insane Women Women We Have Known + Loved - Part 1

And as an added bonus, here's a song to get your back-end moving again after a session of Ass In Chair... "I'm Like a Brand New Bitch" by Anjulie. She sang it at the recent Pride event in Toronto. Pretty great stuff.


Fats Domino - This Is Fats (1957)

New Orleans native Fats Domino was the first of many RnB/rock crossover artists to use the tried-and-true “obesity insult plus game piece” motif in naming himself. He was followed, of course, by the likes of Chubby Checker, Tubby Leggo, Lardass Jenga and the immortal Tubaguts McLincolnlog. I joke, of course. But I joke for a reason. I joke because, to be honest with you, I’m really not feeling this one. It’s nice and all, but so far, This Is Fats is the first album on The List that feels like a museum piece. Fats’ voice is pleasant enough, but there’s something just a little too simple about a lot of the songs here. I’m sure some will find this refreshing, but I find it uninteresting. Ah… here’s an exception. “Blue Monday” has an urgency, both in Fats’ delivery and in the robust instrumental attack. The mix is muscular, and as Fats reels off the days of the week – and how each one is shitty in its own special way – it comes across. Wait a minute… “So Long” is also pretty darn good. Maybe I judged this one too soon (I write these reviews as I listen, just FYI). Damn! “La La” is pretty good, too! There’s nothing of the virtuoso in any of these songs, but they chug along nicely and have a certain malt shop time-warp appeal that is undeniable. Good stuff.

Had I heard it before? Some, but a surprising amount was new to me.
Did I like it before? I’d say I didn’t NOT like it.
Do I like it now? Some of the songs, yes.
Am I keeping it? Only the Standout Tracks, mostly for mix-discs I’m making for my mom and older in-laws.
Standout Tracks? “Blue Monday”, “So Long”, “La La”, “You Done Me Wrong”, “Reeling And Rocking”

Monday, August 8, 2011


Louis Prima - The WILDEST! (1956)

"The Book" says Louis Prima was frequently dismissed as an Italian Louis Armstrong impersonator early on in his career, which I guess makes a certain kind of sense. Their voices share a playful familiarity, the way they interact with the band, the audience... and they both share the ability to juggle verbal flubs into memorable musical moments. But calling Prima a Satchmo rip-off is definitely going way overboard. Some of the selections here - "Buona Sera" for example - have a certain mob movie flavor that doesn't appeal to me, personally. However, there can be no denying the sheer elemental ferocity of "Jump, Jive an' Wail", which has to rank up there with the Benny Goodman Orchestra's "Sing, Sing, Sing" as the piece of music most capable of causing involuntary skeleto-muscular spasms in anyone not currently in a coma... or deaf. Also, I vividly remember my parents dancing to that particular song at a Chamber of Commerce Christmas party once when I was, like, six years old. Man, those two could cut a rug to ribbons!

Had I heard it before? Roughly half the songs were perfectly familiar. A few were new to me. 
Did I like it before? What's not to like? 
Do I like it now? It's very enjoyable music... very easy to appreciate. 
Am I keeping it? Only the standout tracks. 
Standout Tracks? "Jump, Jive an' Wail", "Oh Marie", "Night Train"


All hail for putting up all 1001 albums from The Book yer old pal Jerky is using to broaden his musical horizons, expand his musical vocabulary, enrich his musical appreciation and otherwise adverb his musical nouns, as all the best sayings go. So please, by all means, feel free to listen along with yer old pal and kick in some opinions and reflections of your own. I would truly, honestly love for this to turn into an open dialogue of sorts. I'm listening to the Louis Prima album at #4 right now, so we've still got one helluva long way to go. So come on! Why not hop in while the hopping's good? See you in the funny pages! - YOPJ


Louvin Brothers - Tragic Songs Of Life (1956)

The Book calls this release “one of Country’s essential bedrock releases”. As I sit here letting the Louvins’ sweet harmonies wash over the gyri and seep into the sulci of my brain, be-numbed and struck mute by overpowering sense-memories throwing me back, back, back... I find myself riding shotgun by my father’s side in his filth-caked pick-up truck, sitting on blueprints for part of a neighboring village's sewer system, my feet parked among tools and boxes and papers, the space between the back of the bench-style seat and the cold metal behind it stuffed to the bursting with more tools, manuals, plans, contracts and papers of all kinds, the air blowing cold and wet through our open windows – we both liked the windows down, unless it was incredibly cold – the smell of whatever New Brunswick season it might be rushing and swirling all around us, the radio on one of the few AM station that came in clearly – in the day when Country music really was “country” music, even in French – my dad’s beautiful, gruff voice harmonizing in his distinctive falsetto… I’m sorry, where was I?

Had I heard it before? In a manner of speaking, I grew up on it.
Did I like it before? “Like” is not the word I would use.
Do I like it now? “Like” is still not the word I would use.
Am I keeping it? Not sure yet.
Why Not? It’s just too much. Those harmonies and waltz tempos and mandolins make me beyond sad. These songs don’t inspire… they stupefy.
Standout Tracks? They’re all equally powerful. You can tell Kurt Cobain was a really big fan… and why.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Elvis Presley - Elvis Presley (1956)

Not one of the 12 songs on this album – assembled from various disparate sessions, some from Sun and some not – reaches the 3 minute mark, and quite a few clock in under 2. Yes, yes, I know… he didn’t write his own songs. He borrowed 90 percent of his swagger from Black musicians who never got their due. He didn't invent anything. I know. We all know. But that doesn't change the fact that his once-in-a-lifetime voice – so limber, so supple, so inexplicably soulful – was coming out of that once-in-a-lifetime face – almost Luciferian in its lush, ambi-sexual appeal. There is only the slightest foreshadowing of the Las Vegas Golgotha to come on these early cuts - hindsight about the mythopoeic circumstances surrounding the King's birth having forever scarred all who've heard The Bad Seeds' perfect, unforgettable song Tupelo. For the most part, though, this album is just pure, balls-to-the-wall American rock-and-roll. Now, with over half a century having passed since it's release, you can almost understand what the old folks were so worried about.

Had I heard it before? Duh.
Did I like it before? Yes.
Do I like it now? Yes.
Am I keeping it? Yes.
Standout Tracks? I Got a Woman, Tutti Frutti, Blue Moon, Money Honey.


Thus begins a new side-project!

Yer old pal Jerky was recently in the company of some wonderful friends both old and new, many of whom are musicologically-inclined. Their knowledgeable talk got me to feeling rather timid about my own, comparatively paltry knowledge of popular music - both historically and perhaps more especially in regards to more recent releases and bands, some of which my friends with “good ears” assure me are “essential”, despite the fact that I’d never even heard of them before, much less heard them.

And so, using the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (Robert Dimery, General Editor) as my starting block - and, at 500 pages, it can certainly serve as one - I am endeavoring to rectify this deficiency in my learning. I have acquired a copy of the book, and have begun compiling copies of all the music found therein. This is not a difficult thing to do, as some enterprising soul has taken it upon himself to transfer all 1001 CDs into MP3s and put them up in chunks of 25 or so as torrents for thieves like you and me to download.

Some of the albums I already own, or have owned, legally, with full dues, fees and royalties making their way to all and sundry via the usual channels.

I intend to go through the list chronologically – the way it was helpfully compiled – and write a few thoughts about each of the picks as they come to me, if and when they do. I will also offer up my own patented YOPJ-meter score which, when the list is viewed as a whole, should help you know whether or not you’ll like a particular album, using our comparative musical tastes as a barometer. If I don’t like a bunch of stuff that you simply adore, then it’s a fair bet that you’ll enjoy the discs that I pan, depending. For instance, I am profoundly suspicious of almost all punk rock, and have a deep, abiding, almost perverse love for early 70's prog. So caveat lector.

That’s enough introduction to this exercise. Let’s begin at the beginning, shall we, with Old Blue Eyes, himself…

Frank Sinatra - In The Wee Small Hours (1955)

Is this the first “concept album”? The preface to 1000 AYMHBYD says so, but aside from this being as relaxed and smoky a collection of late night ballads as you’re likely to find anywhere, I’m having trouble seeing it. Later politics aside, I've always enjoyed Sinatra’s “guinea charm and olive oil voice” to steal a line from Jack Woltz, and the only word you can safely use to describe the man's phrasing is perfect. The same goes for Nelson Riddle’s arrangements for this album full of odes, laments and tonics to, of and for late night loneliness. It is legendary for a reason. It sounds magnificent, with gorgeous, lush orchestration, amazing fidelity, a warmth and richness that comes through even as Satanic MP3s. I can't imagine how awesome this platter would have sounded spinning on some swinging Playboy-subscriber's thousand-dollar turntable in the early days of Mutually Assured Destruction... dropping the needle on "Ill Wind" during the Cuban Missile Crisis, that truly must have been a real stone gas, man. Dark groovy, thick as gravy.

Had I heard it before? Yes, but never all packed together like this. It makes for a potent collection.
Did I like it before? Yes.
Do I like it now? Now, more than ever. And I think that, as I grow older and gather more tragedies and failures – as I inevitably will – these songs will only speak to me with greater and more devastating force.
Am I keeping it? Yes, but I will be deploying it sparingly and with caution. I’ll keep it around like a bottle of fine, aged scotch… in a cabinet, hidden away, only to be taken out for epochal personal catastrophes and/or epic melancholy moods.
Standout Tracks? Mood Indigo, Glad To Be Unhappy, Ill Wind, Can't We Be Friends... Not a stinker in the bunch, actually.