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Favorite Edition Rewind: 1978

[Blondie - Parallel Lines]

A decade ago, I wrote a series of entries ranking my favorite albums from 1985 to 2004. My collection has expanded greatly since then, particularly in the last five years. So I wanted to see what has changed in 10 years.

Our retrospective ends at 1978 because my collection starts thinning out at this point. I was 6 years old at the time and just starting to become aware of songs on the radio. Of course, nothing on this list would have appealed to 6-year-old me.

  1. Steve Reich, Music for 18 Musicians
  2. Brian Eno, Ambient 1: Music for Airports
  3. Kate Bush, The Kick Inside
  4. Emmylou Harris, Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town
  5. Blondie, Parallel Lines
  6. Andrew Lloyd Webber, Variations
  7. Andy Gibb, Shadow Dancing
  8. Willie Nelson, Stardust
  9. Kate Bush, Lionheart
  10. The Police, Outlandos d’Amour

Other favorites from the year:

  • Clannad, In Concert
  • Rap Reiplinger, Poi Dog

I loved Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”, but when my dad saw her perform on Solid Gold, he hated her on sight. “She looks drugged,” he would complain, so I wasn’t allowed to listen to Blondie. That didn’t stop my brother from picking up the 7-inch singles for “The Tide Is High” and “Rapture.”

I can only imagine what dad would have said if he saw Kate Bush dancing in “Wuthering Heights.”

If any album on this list would have appealed to 6-year-old me, it would be Rap Reiplinger’s Poi Dog. Local radio played Reiplinger’s skits regularly, and I enjoyed hearing “Room Service” over and over again.

I didn’t realize those skits were available on an album. I thought only radio could broadcast them, so it wasn’t until Poi Dog was reissued on CD in 1992 that I could relive that thrill.

Reiplinger forged the Honolulu stand-up comic scene, and it died when he did in 1984. Or maybe it was the humorlessness of the 1980s.

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Favorite Edition Rewind: 1979

[The Manhattan Transfer - Extensions]

A decade ago, I wrote a series of entries ranking my favorite albums from 1985 to 2004. My collection has expanded greatly since then, particularly in the last five years. So I wanted to see what has changed in 10 years.

1979 is officially the year I started collecting music. And it’s all because of a post-disco hit about the Twilight Zone theme song. This list, though, couldn’t have been compiled till 2006.

  1. Gang of Four, Entertainment!
  2. Andrew Lloyd Webber, Evita
  3. Stephen Sondheim, Sweeney Todd
  4. Philip Glass, Einstein on the Beach
  5. Midnight Oil, Head Injuries
  6. Talking Heads, Fear of Music
  7. The Clash, London Calling
  8. Michael Jackson, Off the Wall
  9. The Police, Reggatta de Blanc
  10. Emmylou Harris, Blue Kentucky Girl

Other favorites from the year:

  • The Manhattan Transfer, Extensions
  • The B-52’s, The B-52’s

The hit in question is “Twilight Tone” by the Manhattan Transfer.

Though more renowned as a jazz vocal quartet, the group wouldn’t get on my radar till “Twilight Tone” invaded the airwaves. Search YouTube for a performance of the song on a variety show — it’s amazing what people will endure for art. Or gimmickry.

My parents relented and bought the Extensions album for me. Of course, I played “Twilight Tone” to death, but I also dug the other songs on the album. Unlike “Twilight Tone”, they ranged from doo-wop to a capella. One song was a bizarre novelty with the singers voices rendered at chipmunk speed. You could say this was Manhattan Transfer’s disco album.

I’ve included it in the extended list. As fond as I am of the album, I have a better sense of what 1979 really offered as a year in music.

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Favorite Edition Rewind: 1985

[The Outfield - Play Deep]

A decade ago, I wrote a series of entries ranking my favorite albums from 1985 to 2004. My collection has expanded greatly since then, particularly in the last five years. So I wanted to see what has changed in 10 years.

This list is the last of the original years covered in my previous survey. The Favorite 10 hasn’t changed, but the extended list has gotten longer.

  1. Tears for Fears, Songs from the Big Chair
  2. Sting, The Dream of the Blue Turtles
  3. Arcadia, So Red the Rose
  4. ABC, How to Be a Zillionaire!
  5. 10,000 Manaics, The Wishing Chair
  6. Clannad, Macalla
  7. Kate Bush, Hounds of Love
  8. Soundtrack, Macross Song Collection
  9. Midnight Oil, Red Sails in the Sunset
  10. Andrew Lloyd Webber, Requiem

Other favorites from the year::

  • Camper Van Beethoven, Telephone Free Landslide Victory
  • Eurythmics, Be Yourself Tonight
  • Hiroshima, Another Place
  • The Pogues, Rum Sodomy and the Lash
  • Simple Minds, Once Upon a Time
  • Sade, Promise
  • Hüsker Dü, New Day Rising
  • The Replacements, Tim
  • The Outfield, Play Deep
  • INXS, Listen Like Thieves
  • Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam with Full Force, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam with Full Force
  • The Power Station, The Power Station
  • The Family, The Family
  • Prince and the Revolution, Around the World in a Day

Younger Me would approve of most of this list.

He would have gasped at the inclusion of Prince, considering the Sibling Rivalry Collection Race was at its height, and this kind of intrusion would be accompanied by a drubbing.

And he would groaned at the inclusion of The Outfield. Older Me would then advise him to wait 20 years before a real appreciation could begin.

I capped this survey at 1985 because my collection before that year wasn’t extensive enough for much punditry. Weekly visits to thrift shops in the last three years have allowed me to fill in enough gaps to keep going till 1978.

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Favorite Edition Rewind: 1987

[Sonic Youth - Sister]

A decade ago, I wrote a series of entries ranking my favorite albums from 1985 to 2004. My collection has expanded greatly since then, particularly in the last five years. So I wanted to see what has changed in 10 years.

I go on and on about how much I love 1987 that I should just shut up and let the list speak for itself. Unsurprisingly, the Favorite 10 hasn’t changed, saved one correction.

  1. U2, The Joshua Tree
  2. Sting, … Nothing Like the Sun
  3. 10,000 Maniacs, In My Tribe
  4. Sinéad O’Connor, The Lion and the Cobra
  5. Bulgarian State TV & Radio Women’s Choir, Le Mystère de Voix Bulgares
  6. John Adams, The Chairman Dances
  7. Andrew Lloyd Webber, The Phantom of the Opera
  8. Wendy & Lisa, Wendy & Lisa
  9. Guns N’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction
  10. R.E.M., Document

Other favorites from the year:

  • Kronos Quartet, White Man Sleeps
  • Depeche Mode, Music for the Masses
  • Dolly Parton / Linda Ronstadt / Emmylou Harris, Trio
  • The Art of Noise, In No Sense? Nonsense!
  • Swing Out Sister, It’s Better to Travel
  • Hiroshima, Go
  • The Smiths, Strangeways, Here We Come
  • Eurythmics, Savage
  • INXS, Kick
  • Sonic Youth, Sister
  • The Dukes of the Stratosphear, Psonic Psunspot
  • Dead Can Dance, Within the Realm of a Dying Sun
  • Icehouse, Man of Colours
  • In Tua Nua, Vaudeville
  • Johnny Hates Jazz, Turn Back the Clock

I originally listed the cast recording of Into the Woods in the Favorite 10, but I discovered it was actually released in 1988.

The extended list is shorter than the one for 1988, but I’ve actually added fewer titles from 1987 since the original list was compiled. I think I also like these albums more intensely because I had discovered them at the time, and they’ve made a lasting impression.

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Purchase log, 2018-03-06

[My Bloody Valentine - Loveless]

I catalog my music purchases on Collectorz and Discogs, but they don’t give me a sense of change over time. So I’m noting them here weekly as well.

New Releases

Vinyl
  • Shiina Ringo, Gyakuyunyuu ~Koukuukyoku~

Catalog

CDs
  • Andrew Lloyd Webber, Song and Dance (Original Cast Live)
  • Billy Bragg and Wilco, Mermaid Avenue
  • Jeff Buckley, Grace
  • Freedy Johnston, Right Between the Promises
  • Joni Mitchell, Ladies of the Canyon
  • My Bloody Valentine, m b v
  • Robert Palmer, Addictions, Vol. 1
  • Ride, Nowhere
  • R.E.M., And I Feel Fine: The Best of the I.R.S. Years (Deluxe Edition)
  • Roxy Music, Roxy Music
  • Soundgarden, Badmotorfinger
  • Texas, Mother’s Heaven
  • Texas, Southside

Reissues

Vinyl
  • Annie Lennox, Diva
  • My Bloody Valentine, Loveless (2018 Remaster)

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Purchase log: 2018-02-27

[Fishbone - The Reality of My Surroundings]

I catalog my music purchases on Collectorz and Discogs, but they don’t give me a sense of change over time. So I’m noting them here weekly as well.

Catalog

CDs
  • Andrew Lloyd Webber, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
  • Benjamin Gibbard and Andrew Kenny, Home, Vol. 5
  • Black Flag, The First Four Years
  • Elvis Costello, The Very Best of Elvis Costello
  • Fishbone, The Reality of My Surroundings
  • Ministry, The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste
  • Ministry, Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed or the Way to Suck Eggs
  • Neil Young, Harvest
  • Nirvana, In Utero
  • Television, Marquee Moon

Vinyl

  • Marvin Gaye, Let’s Get It On
  • Patti Smith, Horses
  • Roxy Music, Avalon
  • X, Los Angeles

 

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45 Albums for 45 Years: A Birthday Retrospective (1980s)

[The Art of Noise - In Visible Silence]

In 1987, I turned 15 years old, an age when music discovery exerted its strongest pull. The same Spotify analysis that charted music tastes over time claims most teen-agers highly identify with popular titles. Had the same study been done when I was a teen, I probably would have been an outlier point.

Kronos Quartet, Black Angels

The first Kronos Quartet album I purchased was Winter Was Hard, and it was something of a Reader’s Digest for modern classical music. Then Black Angels followed, and it exploded my perception of what music could be.

John Zorn, Naked City

I was a pissed-off teen for a lot of reasons, most of them mundane. But it gave me drive to find music that would alienate everyone around me, and the howls of Yamantaka Eye and John Zorn fit the bill nicely.

In Tua Nua, The Long Acre

This album introduced me to the idea that popularity is not the same thing as merit. I couldn’t find a filler track anywhere on this album, and the confrontational “The Innocent and the Honest Ones” mirrored my own dissatisfaction with being raised in a monotheistic culture. It should have been a hit, but mostly, you’ll find it in the 99 cent bins.

U2, The Joshua Tree

U2 had to score a number one album in order for radio stations in Hawaii to pay attention. I knew about the band beforehand but hadn’t taken the plunge till I saw the video for “With or Without You.”

Andrew Lloyd Webber, The Phantom of the Opera

Andrew Lloyd Webber gets a lot of flack for his signature hit tunes, but for a young burgeoning composer, his scores are incredibly instructional. I’ve yet to encounter another pop writer who can make a hook out of an atonal melody.

The Art of Noise, In Visible Silence

Before I learned about Kronos Quartet, John Zorn or Andrew Lloyd Webber, I encountered the Art of Noise. I would later learn (Who’s Afraid Of …?) The Art of Noise! had some bonafide songcraft, but its follow-up, In Visible Silence, essentially jettisoned all that.

Arcadia, So Red the Rose

Of the two Duran Duran splinter projects from 1985, Arcadia hews closest to the parent band and engenders the most sentiment from long-time fans.

Stephen Sondheim, Sunday in the Park with George

Sunday in the Park with George arrived at time in my life when I was just starting to learn about modern classical music. I looked to Lloyd Webber to bridge my interests in classical and pop musics, and I turned to Sondheim to go further into modernism.

Eurythmics, Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)

I loved Eurythmics singles, but their albums tended to have quite a bit of filler. Sweet Dreams is the deserved obvious choice, but Savage and In the Garden deserve some props.

Duran Duran, Rio

This tops my Desert Island Disc list, so of course, it’s going to be here.

Wendy Carlos, TRON Original Soundtrack

I listened to this soundtrack to death because I loved the computer graphics of the movie. It wasn’t till much later that I discovered how rich Carlos’ harmonic language was. This soundtrack pretty much planted the seed that would be nourished by the Art of Nosie, Kronos Quartet, John Zorn and classical music after 1900.

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Andrew Lloyd Webber, a reconsideration

[Andrew Lloyd Webber - Variations]

Back in junior year of high school, I got bit by the musical theater bug hard.

My music collection was practically an altar to the two titans of Broadway in the late ’80s — Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Both composers were the gateway drugs to a world of modern classical music. Without either one, I wouldn’t have developed a cozy relationship with dissonance.

Lloyd Webber has fallen pretty hard since then. His last hit show was Sunset Boulevard in 1993, and his work has made nary a ripple in pop culture consciousness since. Hell, I didn’t even know he made a sequel to The Phantom of the Opera.

A few weeks back during my usual crate digging, I ran across a vinyl copy of Variations, his pop/classical album of variations on Nicolo Paganini’s 24th Caprice. Lloyd Webber wrote the piece after losing a bet to his brother. It was later turned into the “Dance” half of the show Song and Dance.

At the height of my Lloyd Webber craze, I wanted to hear this album badly. The original album was released in 1978, and in 1988, it wasn’t available in any of the record shops I frequented in Honolulu.

I did find a cassette of an orchestral version performed by Julian Lloyd Webber with Lorin Maazel conducting the London Philharmonic. I had to use a lot of my imagination to hear a rock arrangement in an 80-piece orchestra.

By the time the work was reissued on CD in the US, my priorities had shifted. I started my own music studies in college, and I treated Lloyd Webber as a phase I needed to get through to find Igor Stravinsky, Philip Glass and John Zorn.

When I finished college, Lloyd Webber was completely out of my system, but my sister didn’t know that when she gifted me a compilation of his greatest hits. Till then, my entire experience with Lloyd Webber was through cast recordings. I listened to his shows in their entirety instead of cherry-picking the showstoppers.

That compilation revealed a weakness in Lloyd Webber’s canon. Well, any song excerpted from a show suffers from this problem but moreso with Lloyd Webber. Stripped from the dramatic context of the story, his songs can get pretty schlocky.

And it doesn’t help when interpreters milk the drama. Michael Crawford really drained that cash cow as much as he could.

So I forged ahead and pretty much forgot about Lloyd Webber. I made sure to get Jesus Christ SuperstarEvita and The Phantom of the Opera on CD, but I wrote off the rest of his canon.

Of course, that meant I couldn’t pass up Variations when I saw it in the record bin more than two decades later.

Lloyd Webber may have been a phase, but he was an important one. At the time I encountered him, I was impressionable enough to be swayed by his use of dissonance. He won’t be mistaken for Elliott Carter in a million years, but Lloyd Webber knew how to balance the showstoppers with the grit.

The overture to Cats isn’t anything you can hum, but to a 16-year-old dipping a toe into the larger world of avant-garde music, it’s not a bad introduction to how all twelve notes in a chromatic scale can be spun into a melody.

Variations was a lesson in how to construct a large-scale work from everything and anything. Some moments were pastiche, others pure sentimental manipulation. But Lloyd Webber threw in some ugly distortion at points, and none of it felt purposeless.

Yes, it was a concept album, but it was more than that.

In its own way, Variations opened up the possibility that music didn’t have to be exclusively high-brow or low-brow. It could synthesize both. It could be ancient and modern, melodic and discordant. It was what a teenager needed to hear to ease him into some thornier discussions about art and life later in adulthood.

 

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