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Showing posts from January, 2009

208. The Monkees: Headquarters (1967)

Here's the album that quashed a thousand arguments, the Kryptonite to any Monkees naysayers. Yes, after the rushed debacle that was More of the Monkees, the boys took control, ousted maestro Don Kirshner, and recruited Turtles member Chip Douglas (NOT one of My Three Sons) to produce. Their vow: To perform the entire album themselves.

Well, almost. As the note on the original back album cover says, other personnel handled the cello, French horn, and some bass parts. Otherwise, it's all Peter, Mike, Mickey, and Davy, on bass, guitar, drums, and tambourine, respectively. The boys also wrote 8 of the 14 songs themselves. The resulting album is less professional than The Monkees' previous albums, but in a good way.

The Classics

By the admittedly narrow definition of a "classic" as a song that is instantly recognizable, there are none on Headquarters. But two songs could fit on the farther end of the spectrum. The gentle Shades of Gray made a greatest hits compilation he…

207. Ghostbusters II (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (1989)

It was 20 years ago today. Saved by the Bell was just debuting on the airwaves, Tim Burton's Batman was the top grossing film, and there was a Bush in the White House (we thought he was pretty bad, but that was before we met his son).

Over the next few months, I'll be looking back at 5 seminal (well, depending on your definition of the word seminal) albums from 1989. First up...

1989 marks the year I first became completely susceptible to movie marketing machines. There was Batman of course. Everyone bought into that. But I was also hyped-as-I-could-be about Ghostbusters II. I remember discussing it with my neighborhood friends, pouring over the logo with the ghost holding up two fingers. I was all over the fast food promotions (little electronic noisemakers and 32 oz. glow-in-the-dark cups from Hardees). I had the movie poster on my wall. I saw it once, and then I saw it again. The second time I had lied and told my grandpa I hadn't seen it yet so he would take me; that has…

Rock Bottom: Elvis Costello

The one constant in every established artist's oeuvre is the bad album, the one that's reviled by both fans and critics. Those unlovable albums are the ones this feature, Rock Bottom, is concerned with.

Here's how it works: I've consulted two main sources, the AllMusic Guide (for the critical point-of-view) and Amazon.com (for the fan perspective*). The album with the lowest combined rating from both sources is the one I'll consider the worst. I may not always agree with the choice, and my reviews will reflect that. I'll also offer a considered alternative.Finally, there are some limits. The following types of albums don't count: 1) b-sides or remix compilations, 2) live albums, 3) albums recorded when the band was missing a vital member, and 4) forays into a different genres (i.e. classical).

*A note about Amazon.com. I consider this the fan perspective, because most people who choose to review albums on this site are adoring fans of the artist in question.

*…

205. Sean Fournier: Oh My (2008)

The Interweb has revolutionized countless aspects of our world, not the least of which is self-expression.

Artists, musicians, filmmakers, photographers, crafters, and writers are all now able to put their work out there with ginormous potential to be seen and heard. There are those rare artists who create as an instinct and have no need for others to react, but most are not content to create in a vacuum. They want other people to experience what they've done.

Singer/songwriter Sean Fournier is one such individual. He's so intent on getting his music to the masses that he's giving it away. Oh My, a 6-song sampler, features new recordings of songs from Fournier's 2005 and 2006 albums, as well as one new tune. Offering a product for free to get people interested is nothing new, but it is a good idea. And it also shows a confidence in said product.

In Fournier's case, the confidence is justified. His folk/pop sound is pleasing, well-crafted, and genuine. It was also a …

204. The Monkees: More of the Monkees (1967)

On the original back cover of 1967's More of the Monkees, there's an interesting bit of propaganda from supervising producer Don Kirschner saying basically, "Look, I know we lied to you last time, but this time we won't pretend the boys wrote the songs. But look who did!" Kirshner was on his way out anyway.

Though he'd been instrumental in the musical side of the Monkees empire, he was also a victim of its success. While Davy, Peter, Mickey, and Mike were out on tour, the T.V. show ruled the ratings, and I'm a Believer topped the charts, Kirshner capitalized on the frenzy by rushing out an album made up of songs the boys had already put the finishing touches on the previous summer and fall. He slapped a photo of the four Monkees wearing clothes from J.C. Penney on the front cover and called it More of the Monkees. The four band members were barely involved.

Mike Nesmith was especially furious. Already battling accusations that they weren't real musician…

203. The Monkees: The Monkees (1966)

In the summer of 1986 I was 9 years old, and my mom shipped me off to Kentucky to spend two weeks with my grandparents. I was terribly homesick, and my mom tried to assuage this by sending letters and postcards. My step-dad also got into the act, sending me a tape for my Walkman along with a note that read, "I saw this and got it for you because I know they're one of your favorite groups." The tape was Then & Now...The Best of the Monkees and they weren't just one of my favorite groups, they were my only favorite group.

That was the summer that The Monkees experienced a career revival, courtesy of reruns on MTV and Nick at Nite. Being a connoisseur of both pop music and zaniness, I quickly fell under the spell. But that tape took things to another level. Along with a couple of "Weird Al" tapes that I had probably somewhat tired of, it was all I had to listen to, so that's what I did. Over and over and over.

In the mid-1990's Rhino Records released…

24 Pages

I know what you are thinking: Paul doesn't have enough blogs. Well, we are on the same page about that, so I've decided to start a new one.

So please welcome a geeky little brother to this music blog, its corollary music film blog (Baby, I'm A Star), the dormant Brain Clouds comic repository, and the rarely-touched essay blog (To Try). It's called 24 Pages, and it's dedicated to comic books.

If you have any interest in that realm, take a look. If you don't, no one will think any less of you.

Rock Bottom: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

The one constant in every established artist's oeuvre is the bad album, the one that's reviled by both fans and critics. Those unlovable albums are the ones this feature, Rock Bottom, is concerned with.

Here's how it works: I've consulted two main sources, the AllMusic Guide (for the critical point-of-view) and Amazon.com (for the fan perspective*). The album with the lowest combined rating from both sources is the one I'll consider the worst. I may not always agree with the choice, and my reviews will reflect that. I'll also offer a considered alternative.Finally, there are some limits. The following types of albums don't count: 1) b-sides or remix compilations, 2) live albums, 3) albums recorded when the band was missing a vital member, and 4) forays into a different genres (i.e. classical).

*A note about Amazon.com. I consider this the fan perspective, because most people who choose to review albums on this site are adoring fans of the artist in question.

*…

201. The Hopefuls: Now Playing at the One-Seat Theatre (2008)

Now Playing At The One-Seat Theatre, the long-awaited second album from Twin Cities power pop super-group The Hopefuls, has a couple of repeating motifs. One is the closing instrumental track that echoes the title track. The other is a rousing coda that ends the album's opening and penultimate songs. In both, songwriters Darren Jackson and John Hermanson shout: "It was a long way back / And we almost made it."

At first it seems like a meaningless phrase, but with some context, it comes into focus. See, after the 2004 release of The Fuses Refuse To Burn, The Hopefuls (The Olympic Hopefuls before the litigious I.O.C. got involved) had plenty of reasons to fulfill their own moniker. They had a cracking live show, songs catchier than chicken pox, and national exposure (on The O.C.). But then things got rough.

Erik Appelwick, who wrote and sang half of the songs on the band's debut, left the band in 2006 to be in a band that has exceeded its local fame, Tapes 'n Tapes. …