Stereo Review In Review: September 1986

SR’s last connection to the 1960s, at least on the popular side, fades away. Peter Reilly is on the masthead of reviewers, but there aren’t any contributions from him; after an almost twenty-year run, this is the final issue in which his name appears. Reilly came on board with the January 1967 issue, and the first review of his you’d have encountered was a rave of Jefferson Airplane Takes Off. (As it happens, Rex Reed also joined SR with that issue, though he lasted but a few years. I tweeted about Reed’s jaw-dropping Jan 67 take on Revolver last night.)

Article
The Basic Repertoire on Compact Disc, Part 1
The CD era was mature enough at this point to begin curating the best of what was out there, though this is strictly a classical affair. Going alphabetically by composer, Part 1 takes the reader from Bach through Mendelssohn. The second half appears in the October issue.

Our reviewers this month are Chris Albertson, Phyl Garland, Alanna Nash, Mark Peel, and Steve Simels, with a future regular contributing a little.

Best of the Month
–Steve Earle, Guitar Town (SS) “His songs deal, in part, with traditional country themes—faithless lovers, the continuity of family life, poverty and hard times—but from a remarkably sophisticated and modern perspective, and he can be mordantly funny in a way that would never have occurred to, say, Ernest Tubb.”
–Tonio K., Romeo Unchained (SS) “…the kind of album that will sound good on MTV and make you think anyway.” Simels also references what had become an inside joke: he crowns each of K.’s releases as ‘the greatest album ever recorded.’ That habit continued through January 1999, SR’s final issue, where Simels gets to proclaim the same about Rodent Weekend ’76-’96 (Approximately).

Other Disks Reviewed (* = featured review)
–Anita Baker, Rapture (PG) “…possesses not only a remarkably lustrous voice but also the kind of taste and intelligence that mark her as one of the finest vocal interpreters to emerge in quite some time.”
–*Tony Bennett, The Art of Excellence (Roy Hemming) “…shows that Bennett…is still musically and expressively at the top of his form…”
–*Chuck Berry, Rock ‘n’ Roll Rarities (SS) “…brings together previously unreleased alternate takes and stereo remixes of some of the most familiar tunes in rock history and allows us to hear them as if they were spanking new.”
–The Blow Monkeys, Animal Magic (SS) “Here’s yet another act purveying the effete, post-disco British r-&-b that is all the rage these days, a music inhabiting a space somewhere between bad Culture Club and bad Spandau Ballet (the latter admittedly a redundancy).”
–George Clinton, R&B Skeletons in the Closet (MP) “…his manifesto against the evils of crossover—commercial tendencies that dilute, homogenize, and otherwise bleach funk of its essential nastiness.”
–Ornette Coleman and Pat Metheny, Song X (CA) “…the two principals exhibit a mutual rapport that simply begs for further collaboration.”
–The Forester Sisters, Perfume, Ribbons and Pearls (AN) “…neither as progressive as the Judds nor as traditional as the Whites. They are also not nearly as interesting nor as overtly talented…”
–*Peter Gabriel, So (MP) “But it’s not for lack of effort that the album comes up short. Rather, it’s the dimming of Gabriel’s white-hot vision.”
–Howard Jones, Action Replay (MP) “I keep waiting for Jones to come up with a worthy successor to Human’s Lib…”
–Journey, Raised on Radio (SS) “I remain convinced that Journey is the most inexplicable band in America. It’s not that they’re bad…it’s more as if they’re utterly and irredeemably lacking in personality, brains, body odor, or any other recognizably human characteristic.”
–Nicolette Larson, Rose of My Heart (AN) “…the only real complaint I have about her is that she obviously has a severely limited emotional range…”
–Susannah McCorkle, How Do You Keep the Music Playing? (CA) “Simply put, McCorkle is the finest interpreter of sophisticated songs we have today.”
–Bobby McFerrin, Spontaneous Inventions (CA) “McFerrin is often at his best when he’s teamed up with an instrumentalist…a very successful and creative album.”
–Pet Shop Boys, Please (MP) “Like Wham!, the Pets are the kind of group that drives frustrated audiophiles to mutter, ‘I could do that.’”
–Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, Like a Rock (SS) ‘…longer on good intentions than inspiration. A lot longer.”
–Jane Siberry, The Speckless Sky (MP) “The arrangements…work at being free-wheeling and innovative, but while there’s lots going on, none of it is much fun or very interesting.”
–The Style Council, Home and Abroad (MP) ‘…succumbs to just about every pitfall that can ruin a concert recording.”
–Randy Travis, Storms of Life (AN) “…proves that he is a serious and worthwhile suitor for the same audience that reveres (George) Jones, Merle Haggard, and George Strait.”
–Van Halen, 5150 (MP) “…Hagar is clearly intent on proving he’s a worthy successor to the King of Raunch-and-Roll. But where Roth could be legitimately funny about his rampaging promiscuity…the best Hagar can manage is a dull, passé crudeness.”
–Wax, Magnetic Heaven (SS) “Everything is cheerful, well produced, and well crafted, but neither Gold nor Gouldman is a particularly interesting singer, and more to the point, their melodic gifts seem to have deserted them.”

Forgotten Albums: Kennedy Rose, hai ku

In the early 1980s, an all-female quartet called Calamity Jane scored four minor hits on the country charts, including covers of Patsy Cline and Beatles songs. When CJ split, two of its members kept on keeping on in Nashville, putting their efforts into songwriting, invariably with one or two other collaborators. It paid off for Mary Ann Kennedy and Pam Rose: between 1983 and 1987, six of their songs went Top 10 country (including two that made #1), performed by the likes of Janie Fricke, Lee Greenwood, Crystal Gayle, and Restless Heart–yes, they co-wrote “I’ll Still Be Loving You.”

At the end of the decade, Kennedy and Rose signed to PANGÆA Records, a label formed by Sting and distributed through I.R.S. Records (which I just learned was co-founded by Stewart Copeland’s brother Miles). They recorded ten songs they’d co-written (mostly with Pat Bunch) between 1984 and 1988, and along with two short instrumental interludes, released the set as hai ku.

Being on a subsidiary of a minor label may have made it doubly hard to get traction; hai ku never charted. The performances defy easy classification, too–while Kennedy Rose obviously have their roots in country music, there’s a folk/pop sheen that makes one wonder how it would be best promoted.

I think Kennedy Rose came to my attention via some combination of a blurb in Rolling Stone magazine and the video for first single “Love Like This” on VH-1. When this occurred exactly is lost to me now, but I became quickly interested in tracking the CD down. It took a while–Record Service in Champaign didn’t seem to carry it. The album has a 1989 date on it, but it sticks in my mind that I purchased it the following year, finally discovering it in a record store inside the Chicago Loop. hai ku got plenty of play in my apartment, but clearly not much elsewhere. Finding its tracks on YouTube is possible these days though many are barely viewed. I’m here today to see if that can be rectified a little.

It’s a shame that the catchy “Love Like This” never caught on. Carlene Carter’s version was the lead single from 1995’s Little Acts of Treason, but even she couldn’t break through with it, reaching only #70 country.

The overarching theme of the album is that of the euphoria one feels being in love with another. The loping “After Your Arms” certainly mines that vein well.

I really like the way “Love Is the Healer” builds.

“Born to Give My Love” was later covered by Martina McBride and the Forester Sisters. It’s a gorgeous, gentle song. I apologize, though, for making you suffer through clips from a Hallmark Christmas movie to hear it.

One of my favorites on the disk is the driving “Nightline,” which cuts against the other tracks in that our narrator is lusting for someone she shouldn’t but can’t help continue pursuing.

Kennedy Rose released a second album in 1994, which I also picked up. Alas, Walk the Line suffered a similar commercial fate. Highlights included “Safe in the Arms of Love,” later a Top 10 country hit by the aforementioned McBride.

If you poke around a little on YouTube, you can find clips of Kennedy Rose’s appearance in support of hai ku on Austin City Limits. As on the album, they share singing duties, harmonizing beautifully. Mary Ann Kennedy shows her versatility in playing percussion and mandolin, while Pam Rose ably handles guitar work. The videos are worth seeking out, even if that appearance didn’t help them launch. I’m glad for the songwriting success Kennedy and Rose experienced–just wish that somehow hai ku had been a bigger thing.

Songs Casey Never Played, 9/13/80

Somehow in doing more than twenty of these SCNP posts, I’ve yet to include one from 1980. Let’s rectify that right here and right now, mostly featuring acts trying to followup on Top 40 hits from earlier in the year, with some personal faves tossed in.

96. Lipps Inc., “Rock It”
Minneapolis studio group tries to capitalize on the biggest dance hit of the year, but are unable to navigate the path from Funky Town back to AT40. They’d rocked it all the way to #64 with this jam, but are now about to fall off the chart, never to be seen again.

86. Ali Thomson, “Live Every Minute”
The younger brother of Supertramp’s bassist falls out of the 40 this week with the delightful “Take a Little Rhythm,” while debuting with his next single. “Live Every Minute” sounds a whole lot like brother Dougie’s band; I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the boys were playing on it, particularly Rick Davies on keyboards. It missed the show by a whisker, reaching #42.

79. Rossington Collins Band, “Don’t Misunderstand Me”
The group formed out of surviving members of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Lead singer Dale Krantz married Gary Rossington within a couple of years of this song’s charting. Coming down off a #55 high; I’ve always liked it a bunch.

65. The Kings, “Switchin’ to Glide/This Beat Goes On”
This is in the fourth of a twenty-three week ride that somehow ended only at #43. It sure seems I heard at least one band playing this at a state conference dance during my senior year (likely Beta Club, in December 1981).

61. Journey, “Good Morning Girl/Stay Awhile”
Our second double-sided single. Hot take: it’s better than “Open Arms” and “Faithfully.” Liked it enough to have it make my personal top 50 for a few weeks even without it getting to the 40; it’s another one that couldn’t make it past #55.

59. Ray, Goodman & Brown, “My Prayer”
“Special Lady” had been a #5 hit back in the spring for the trio formerly known as the Moments. This was the lead single from Ray, Goodman & Brown II, a faithful cover of the Platters’ #1 song from 1956. It was a couple of weeks away from topping out at #47.

Bonus content #1: A look at what WKRQ in Cincinnati was playing then. The back of this sheet promotes a contest to send a lucky listener and guest to see Elton do Honolulu in mid-November (including seven days’ accommodations and a grand in mad money).

Bonus content #2: My 10 faves from this week, the only one to feature the Stones at the top. It’s plenty soft-rockish, but collectively, IMO this is one of my better Top 10s of the year. If I had a do-over, though, I might swap “Give Me the Night” at #11 with either Eddie Rabbitt or Genesis.

What Did You Hope To Learn About Here?

There’s an American Top 40-related message board I usually visit a few times each week, in part to find out which 70s and 80s shows are going to be offered by Premiere over the coming week or two, in part to learn from the folks who post there (as in other portions of my life, I tend to lurk). The great preponderance of the community is male, and from what I can tell, age-wise I’m somewhere in the middle–most of them seem to be between roughly 45 and 65. This isn’t news if you pay attention to the commercials that Premiere runs each week–we Casey-philes are clearly an aging bunch.

I stopped listening to AT40 sometime in the second half of my first year of college, late winter 1983. Despite that, I stayed fairly on top of the pop music scene for another four or so years, so I’m glad I have the opportunity now to hear those mid-80s shows (I confess I’m not normally all that interested in the 1988 offerings). Many of the younger people on the message board paid attention to AT40 (and other countdown shows) a lot longer than I did; one fellow in particular is a veritable fount of knowledge when it comes to the Radio & Records CHR chart (which was used on Casey’s Top 40 and the late 90s reboot of AT40), at least up to the end of the 20th century.

I’m going on about this because this past holiday weekend, Premiere offered as a bonus the 9/5/98 American Top 40 from Casey’s second run. Curiosity got the better of me. Through the message board I was able to find a station in North Carolina playing it on Monday afternoon (though I missed the first four songs). It was plenty interesting to note differences with–and similarities to–the shows from the years I know pretty well now.

First, Casey definitely sounds older. In September 1998, he was 66 years old, eligible to draw Social Security. The vitality is still there–mostly–yet the toll of the years is making itself known. Hearing him announce “Flagpole Sitta” and “Ghetto Supastar (That Is What You Are)” felt a little incongruous.

(Aside #1: Kasem was almost an exact contemporary of my father–he was ten months younger than Dad, and his death in June 2014 came only 6.5 months after Dad’s. Back in the 70s it didn’t remotely occur to me that the two were pretty much at the same points in their lives.)

In 1998 I was 34. Many of the songs on this show–mostly the R&B, rap, and boy-band tracks aimed at a somewhat younger audience–weren’t familiar. That said, three of my favorite songs for the year were played in the third hour: “Torn,” “The Way,” and “One Week.”

(Aside #2: I’d lost much of my sense of connecting music to events in my life by this point, but I actually know what I was doing on Labor Day weekend 1998. Martha and I traveled up to Champaign-Urbana for a mini-reunion with my officemates and their spouses. Paul and Sue still lived there, and we spent much of our time hanging out in their family room.

Sports was on the TV in the background. On Saturday, Sammy Sosa hit his 58th homer, while Mark McGwire notched his 60th–this was the year both of them shattered Roger Maris’s record. Sunday was opening weekend for the NFL and my fantasy football team. 1998 was the only year I won my league, and I learned that weekend how wise I’d been to draft the Seattle Seahawks defense.)

I didn’t care for the updated jingles and bumpers, which were pretty tuneless. In fact, it was hard to discern any kind of musical theme overall–each hour just seemed to start with Casey talking up the next song in the show. As in the mid-to-late 80s, there were stories that had nothing to do with the music (for instance, Casey told about Dizzy Dean when Fastball’s turn came up). One sign of the times–online dating–played a key role in two of the ever-maudlin Long Distance Dedications. On the positive side, I’ll grant it was very good they were using the Radio & Records chart, since Billboard was still three months away from including songs not released as singles on the Hot 100. As a result, we rightly got to hear the top two pop songs for the year, “Torn” and “Iris.”

I’m 100% glad I had the chance to listen to this show–seriously, when was the last time I heard “Hooch,” from Everything? However, it’s not clear how frequently I’d listen were these to become a semi-regular thing; there’s just not enough nostalgia for the late 90s in my bloodstream, I guess.

For the curious, the #1 song 23 years ago was the Diane Warren-penned, Steven Tyler-crooned “I Wouldn’t Want to Miss a Thing,” from the Armageddon soundtrack. For a song feature, though, we’re going two spots lower. Honestly, I never really got why Matchbox Twenty blew up. The songwriting’s only so-so at best, and it’s not like Rob Thomas has golden pipes, either. Nonetheless, the chorus of “Real World” isn’t bad, and the song is plenty fun and catchy if you don’t listen too closely to what’s going on in the verses. Besides, I think most of us could use less hassle these days.

Bearing A Gift Beyond Price, Almost Free

A couple of years ago, my college hired a new professor for our Department of Communication and Media Studies. Among her duties was to resuscitate and serve as advisor for WRVG, our college’s small low-power station, which had lain dormant for much of the 2010s. She’s done a lot in a short period, figuring out how to get the station back on the air (first on campus and more recently as a stream), conducting fundraisers to refurbish the studio (yes, there’s a skeleton that serves as a mascot–his name is Otto, in honor of music going on auto-play when there’s no one around), expanding the library, and overseeing a small cadre of student DJs and other workers, mostly in the midst of a pandemic.

Not long after she started, I reached out to my new colleague to learn a little about the task before her. WRVG had been around in some form much longer than I’ve been at Georgetown (it’s actually got quite a history, only part of which is told at the station’s Wikipedia page), and despite my past experience and long-standing interest in radio, I’d never previously sought to become involved. Maybe a combination of things–our nest had just emptied, some of the folks I’ve met through blogging, learning about the demise of the station at my undergrad institution–raised my interest this time. While dealing with COVID’s impact on my teaching duties has kept me plenty occupied for the past eighteen months, I didn’t forget about WRVG; truth be told, I was harboring hope of hosting a weekly show.

My colleague was receptive to the idea when I emailed her over the summer. Last week she showed me how to work the board, yesterday I watched one of the student DJs for a while, and this afternoon, I turned on the mike and let it rip for sixty minutes. In spite of a technical issue or two and stumbling over my own tongue here and there, I had a blast. The current plan for the fall semester is to mine the contents of my digital library from 2:00-3:00pm Eastern each Thursday that school is in session. I can record my shows, and so I’m hoping to post links to them here–we’ll see. In the meantime, you can listen to the stream anytime you like at wrvg.radio12345.com. I’m definitely planning on tuning in more often.

The show today was a mix of pop/AOR tracks from 1979-1986 and songs I discovered after digging on Pandora around 2008. Here’s one of the latter, the delightful “Falling,” from Texan Ben Kweller’s 2002 album Sha Sha.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 8/28/82: Asia, “Only Time Will Tell”

When I was much younger, I made a few attempts at maintaining a diary, none of which ultimately took hold for all that long. The first began in the summer of 1975, at the tender age of 11–quite a bit of that focused on the status of my baseball card collection, with only a little devoted to what was going on inside me at the time. Two later efforts had a better mix of reporting on current events and looking inward (or at least I think so). One of those occurred at the midpoint of my junior year in college; I wrote about that a couple of years ago. The other had taken place (mostly) in August and September of 1982, just before and immediately after I’d flown the nest to begin life at Transy on 9/4. Those weeks are almost certainly the most closely chronicled of my life, though that hardly means they make for compelling reading. Nonetheless, you get a brief synopsis of some of what I elected to record for posterity at the end of that August.

–We had returned from a family vacation to Myrtle Beach on Sunday, the 22nd, and my sister started her senior year of high school just two days later. I visited my school (at least) twice between 8/24 and 8/31;

–I mentioned going shopping for stuff to take with me to college on four occasions, including the desk pad/calendar I wrote about last fall;

–“Making the rounds” to see high school friends one last time was a common refrain, and several close ones receive specific mention (and visits);

–I went golfing with Dad a couple of times–he was still scoring better than I was. A couple of bowling outings with my good friend Tony happened, too;

–What about my AT40 habit? Well, that got a shout-out, on 8/24. I wasn’t taking as much time to listen to the show at this point, relying on Recordland’s posting of the Hot 100 instead:

Funny thing is, I didn’t record those predictions on the 8/21 chart.

–A recurring theme is dithering over what to do about the girl I was kinda sorta dating at the time. We’d met at FBLA Leadership Camp the previous summer, and after a few weeks of calling her after school started back, I’d let things drop (she lived just a couple of counties over from me, which fortunately meant the calls were local). We’d reconnected at the Regional and State FBLA Conferences in the spring, and at the latter, I’d been there to offer some comfort after she lost the election for State Treasurer–she was a year behind me in school. The phone calls resumed, and we’d gone on a date or two over the summer.

But I was about to embark on a new adventure, and she would still be in high school sixty-plus miles away… At first I considered driving to see her over the last weekend of August to “talk it over,” then it got pushed back to the middle of the week, and finally…nothing happened. At one point I did consider how she might be feeling about things, how my apparent lack of interest in seeing her before I left might be playing.

The first encounter with the term “supergroup” I can recall came in the spring of 1982, when Asia blasted on the scene. Even if I wasn’t that into prog rock growing up, I certainly knew about King Crimson, Yes, and ELP (yeah, the Buggles, too). I’m virtually certain my sister had purchased Asia while “Heat of the Moment” was riding high on the charts, though I don’t remember it getting played much while I was around. By this final weekend before the start of my next phase, second single “Only Time Will Tell” had advanced to #24. It would be at its peak of #17 on my final chart in early October.

She and I exchanged a couple of letters after I got to college. In the last one I sent, probably in mid-to-late October, I made not-so-casual mention of my new female friend. The whole thing was clearly far from my finest moment. She was never anything but nice to me, and even if that hadn’t been the case, she was undeserving of shabby treatment. I guess I can only hope that she wasn’t as bitter as John Wetton.

Stereo Review In Review: August 1981

No articles this month, though Paul Kresh did fold a chat with George Rose, who starred as Major-General Stanley, into his review of The Pirates of Penzance soundtrack below. The reviewers were pretty liberal about granting the Recording of Special Merit designation this time around; I don’t know if this was a particularly good month, or if they collectively were deciding to use it more frequently.

Hard for me to say how many SR reviews really planted themselves in my head over the years–maybe 20? 30?–but one of them, that of Hard Promises, is in this issue.

Our reviewers this month are Chris Albertson, Irv Cohn, Noel Coppage, Phyl Garland, Paul Kresh, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance.

Best of the Month
–Leo Kottke, Guitar Music (JV) “…reveals him as once again confident, assured, and at the top of his form as both artist and producer.”
–Carole Bayer Sager, Sometimes Late at Night (PR) “What is startlingly apparent in this collection of Sager’s songs is that she has not only discovered her own identity, personally and artistically, but in the process has arrived at what amounts to a summation of the attitudes of the young women of her generation, a kind of rulebook for making life in the Eighties congenial.”

Recordings of Special Merit
Pop/Rock/Soul/Country:
–Terri Gibbs, Somebody’s Knocking (PR) “…all the tracks indicate an interesting performer with innate style.”
–Dan Hartman, It Hurts to Be in Love (IC) “These songs are elaborate productions…(t)hrough all that, though, something extraordinarily likable shines.”
–Junie, Junie 5 (PG) “It is good to hear an album in which the artist seems to be stretching some of the old formats to create fresh sounds.”
–Ben E. King, Street Tough (PG) “He sounds as good today as he ever did, his voice as rich and mellow as a fine cognac, and he handles phrasing like a master.”
–Mass Production, Turn Up the Music (IC) “As the name implies, Mass Production’s productions are big. They are also quirky, funky, and fun.”
–Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio, A Woman Needs Love (PG) “The careful mix of uptempo dance music with slower selections makes this an excellent party album.”
–Brenda Russell, Love Life (PG) “Her performance here is sweet and sassy, and the songs…are a fascinating amalgam of soul and rock with just enough barefoot-folk flavor from the Sixties to lend them an air of distinction.”
–Split Enz, S/T (JV) “All of the vocal material deals with the ups and downs of courtship—specifically, the fear of not being wanted or of not trusting the beloved—and it is an impressive display of writing craftsmanship.”
–Three Degrees, Three D (IC) “…the trio sings with power and grace, and Moroder provides balanced, energetic support.”
–Muddy Waters, King Bee (JV) “Waters, now in his sixties, has a combination of calm authority and frisky charm that makes you believe almost anything he says in his songs.”
–Robert Winters, Magic Man (CA) “…delivers his songs in a voice that is at times reminiscent of both Ray Charles and Al Green but has a wider range than either.”

Jazz:
–Count Basie, Kansas City Five (CA) “I hope the session here is representative of what is to follow and that we can expect the addition of a sympatico horn now and then.”
–Milt Jackson, Night Mist (CA) “The solos are good and plentiful…”
–Ellis Larkins, S/T (CA) “…provides lessons in subtlety, good taste, timing, and dynamics.”
–Jeff Lorber Fusion, Galaxian (IC) “For Lorber fans, the augmented orchestral sound of most of the album may take some getting used to, but this time more is simply more.”
–Modern Jazz Quartet, More from the Last Concert (CA) “…as fine a representation of the group’s artistry as you are likely to find.”
–Art Tatum, Solo Masterpieces, Vol. 10 (CA) “I would be hard put to recommend a better musical value.”

Featured Reviews
–Gary U.S. Bonds, Dedication (SS) “Its music is as heartfelt and spontaneous-sounding as you remember it from its first go-around, but it is also wise and knowing in a way it could not have been in 1961.”
–Brian Eno and David Byrne, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts/Public Image Ltd., The Flowers of Romance (SS) “…it’s no surprise to me that both (albums) are archetypal hippie albums, vintage Sixties psychedelia from start to finish, or that both have been received as avant-garde.”
–Gilbert and Sullivan, The Pirates of Penzance (PK) “…even though all of the fun of the energetic and inventive staging doesn’t come through on discs, the show sounds better on the album than it ever did in Central Park or it does at the Uris.”
–The Grateful Dead, Reckoning, Volume One (NC) This was the acoustic half of a two-part release from a concert at Radio City Music Hall. “Even if you have all the previous Grateful Dead albums, you don’t have these same songs played this way.”
–Shot in the Dark, S/T (NC) “I wouldn’t think you frivolous if you called it an Anglo-American answer to ABBA; it has that kind of lightweight charm and zest for melody and harmony.”
–Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Reach Up and Touch the Sky (JV) “This is one of those rare live albums that justify the genre: there’s something here that could never have been captured in the studio.” One of two acts that never really clicked nationally whose work I remember seeing trumpeted over and again in the pages of SR during my junior high and high school years–the other was Mink DeVille.
–Fats Waller, The Complete Fats Waller, Volume II, 1935 (CA) “There is simply no way to convey adequately in writing the wit and musicianship that oozes out at every turn of these records.”
–Glenn Yarbrough, Just a Little Love (PK) “When Glenn Yarbrough sings, every word comes through loud and clear, and every note glows with life.”

Other Disks Reviewed
–Jefferson Starship, Modern Times (NC) “It does no good to overrate the past, but if this album is a reflection of what the years have done to us—and it probably is—we really should be in a hurry to on to more interesting times.”
–Robin Lane and the Chartbusters, Imitation Life (JV) “The Chartbusters are sturdy musicians and Lane has a good voice, but the band tends to play safe and Lane tends to lecture.”
–Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Hard Promises (SS) “…though this is clearly his weakest album, at least it’s an honest failure; he’s not pandering to anyone.”
–Santana, Zebop! (JV) “…the younger Santana was entertaining; the older one just seems to pound away trying to be ingratiating.”
–Sylvia, Drifter (NC) “…seems to opt for a style somewhere between cowgirl and countrypolitan…but the instrumentals do have a certain zing to them…Her voice is good enough to warrant careful handling.”
–Sarah Vaughan, Copacabana (PR) “The wonderful Vaughan sound, butterscotch mellow already, overpowers the bittersweet, delicate moods of the songs.”
–Joe Walsh, There Goes the Neighborhood (NC) “The instrumentals in general, a few guitar licks aside, get the same low-energy, lick-and-promise treatment as the songwriting.”
–Yellow Magic Orchestra, BGM (IC) “…too busy pushing at the frontiers of electronic rock to worry about accessibility.”

American Top 40 PastBlast, 8/16/86: The Blow Monkeys, “Digging Your Scene”

The vast majority of my college’s incoming class showed up Thursday morning to move in and begin being oriented to a whole new phase of their lives (first-years playing in fall sports such as football, soccer, and volleyball had trickled in over the past week or two). It’s been a few years since I’d pitched in to help new students and their families transport belongings from vehicle to dorm room, but two days ago I spent around 75 minutes in a steady rain doing just that. We have a very large group this year, possibly the biggest in the school’s history (certainly the largest out of the thirty groups who’ve entered during my time); an offer of free tuition to graduates from this county and three others is the reason behind our growth spurt this year and last. With the sudden uptick in enrollment will come a bit of a strain on resources, as many departments on campus have been downsized over the last decade after an almost as precipitous a drop in number of students hit us ten years ago. On the other hand, it’ll be great to use up excess capacity where it still exists, while on the other other hand, I know I’m glad we were able to hire a new mathematics faculty member for this year. Classes start Monday, and of course we’re doing it in-person again (masks required in indoor public spaces for at least the first three weeks). Sickness and quarantine among the student body will assuredly be a part of the landscape, but one can hope the percentage of vaccinated folks on campus trends upward quickly.

I’ve been on a college campus every fall since I was 18 years old, and seeing the new faces this time of year can make me think back to when I struck out from home. As it happens, this weekend and next, Premiere is featuring 80s shows from the two years I began new educational adventures. First up, a countdown from about a week or so before I departed for the math grad program at the University of Illinois. While I wasn’t the completely green 18-year-old of four years earlier, in some ways this was the bigger leap into the abyss–four or so hours away from the parental units, knowing absolutely no one in my new environs. I wasn’t scared, though looking back, I didn’t remotely understand how much I didn’t know about my chosen area of study or what it would take to succeed at the next level.

By August of 1986 I had begun a slow drift away from paying attention to the pop chart scene. There are a few songs on the 8/16/86 show I know now mainly from listening to these rebroadcasts: “Man Size Love” from Klymaxx, “One Step Closer to You,” by Gavin Christopher, and Madonna wannabe Regina’s “Baby Love.” But listening to the show this morning sure was a pleasant way to spend four hours, taking me back to that liminal period between my KY and IL early-20s lives.

Because I’m a list-maker at heart, I’m sharing what I think are the three best and three worst songs on this show. The lowlights come first.

#38. David Lee Roth, “Yankee Rose”
Possesses none of the joy or humor of DLR’s work with Van Halen or his EP Crazy from the Heat. And the intro to the video is cruel and awful in almost uncountably many ways.

#39. Gloria Loring and Carl Anderson, “Friends and Lovers”
My sister was a huge Days of Our Lives fan throughout the 80s, so I was well aware of Loring’s turn as Liz Chandler. Amy bought this single sometime over the summer, as well, giving me plenty of opportunity to loathe it. Just one of many 80s ballad duets that never did much for me.

#40. Peter Cetera, “Glory of Love”
Who knows why some (many) ballads turn me off? I disliked this one from the first listen. And yes, I did see The Karate Kid II that summer.

As for the good stuff…

#3. Belinda Carlisle, “Mad About You”
This placement may be in part residual from my Go-Go’s fandom, but I did pick the 45 up in real time. A classy, intelligent, upbeat love song.

#2. The Blow Monkeys, “Digging Your Scene”
I wouldn’t have placed this nearly so high 35 years ago, but “Digging Your Scene” has really grown on me in recent years–it just gets better with each listen. At the time it completely slipped by me that “So sad to see you fade away” and “I know I’ll die” were references to AIDS and its victims. This was its last week on the show, at #36, having reached #14 a couple of weeks earlier.

#1. Peter Gabriel, “Sledgehammer”
The song and video of that summer, possibly my top song for the entire year. I bought So on cassette then and listened to it quite a bit for a while.

The Blow Monkeys never made another impression on the U.S scene, though they tallied a dozen or so hits in their native UK over the course of the 80s. On this show, Casey mentioned that vocalist Dr. Robert says that if the whole music thing doesn’t work out in the end, he might just open a record store. I suppose that was never necessary; the band split between 1990 and 2007, but they’ve recorded regularly since getting back together.

I Don’t Know When I’ve Had A Better Friend

While I can’t know how folks really felt about Nanci Griffith, based on the portion of her career to which I was paying close attention, she sure seemed to have a lot of good friends and command the respect of folks in the business. The list of guest musicians on her 1994 album Flyer is amazing: Emmylou Harris, the Indigo Girls, members of the Chieftains, U2, and the BoDeans, Mark Knopfler, Adam Duritz…on and on it goes. She certainly had good taste, too: the songwriters whose work she chose to cover on her Grammy-winning Other Voices, Other Rooms include Dylan, Prine, Lightfoot, Woody Guthrie, Tom Paxton, Townes van Zandt, Janis Ian, Kate Wolf, and Jerry Jeff Walker.

I’m probably not alone in first learning of Griffith in 1989, when VH-1 frequently played “It’s a Hard Life Wherever You Go.” I soon hit up the public libraries in Urbana and Champaign for Storms and a few of her earlier albums; my officemate Paul ripped them on cassette for me. I was charmed by her unique voice, and for a while (Storms through Flyer) I made sure to purchase new Griffith material when it came out. She was definitely a favorite during the first half of the 90s.

In the midst of my grief on Friday afternoon after saying goodbye to our family dog, news came over the wire about Griffith’s death. She never had that big hit song, but my social media feeds tell me how much her music meant to a lot of people. My two favorite albums of hers are Storms and Other Voices, Other Rooms, so I’ll toss out a couple of songs from each for your potential listening pleasure.

Always wondered if there was a semi-autobiographical element to this one.
From Austin City Limits; Mary Chapin Carpenter and the Indigo Girls are singing backup.
Yes, John Prine is singing along.
Written by Gordon Lightfoot; backup vocals by Iris DeMent.

Nanci’s final album was released in 2012, and it seems she’d kept a low profile in recent years. I do hope she understood how much her songs, her work, was appreciated. I know I’ll be getting those old cassettes out this week.

R.I.P. Buddy

He came into our lives in August, he left us in August.

Buddy was a gentle soul, a life changer. In the very early days of the blog, I recounted how we met him, but in brief: in 2013, one of our friends who worked with the local Humane Society brought some animals to a back-to-school function at our church. Twelve-year-old Ben, who’d grown up petrified of dogs, immediately bonded with this 60 lb. collie mix, and just over a week later, Buddy began his journey with us.

He was of unknown age when he moved in—probably between five and eight. Buddy wasn’t a cuddler or a lap dog; while some of that no doubt was nature, I always had a sense that in his earlier life he’d been disciplined not to get up on things. (I can’t complain at all that he didn’t want to climb into bed with us.) He needed a little time to get used to the new circumstance of his life—and vice versa—and a little training to learn not to bark at other dogs on walks. It wasn’t long before everyone adjusted, though, and he became an integral part of the family.

A couple years in, Buddy began losing fur and had trouble keeping steady. It took quite a while for the vet to determine that he had an atypical presentation of Addison’s disease (I guess his adrenal glands had atrophied, but the standard blood work couldn’t determine it). It was simple to fix—just a small, daily dose of prednisone—but until that determination, Martha and I had become more afraid as the weeks passed that we might lose him.

After that, life with Buddy went smoothly for a few years. He got in the habit of taking three walks each day—Martha would go on a long one with him most mornings, then there’d be one right before dinner, and another afterward. Martha particularly enjoyed the morning and evening walks, as she got to know neighbors (and the neighborhood) better; a dog makes a good starting point for conversation. As he aged, however, the walks first dropped down to twice a day, and eventually only the evening one remained.

The pandemic meant all three of us got to spend much more time at home with our dog, but that coincided with the beginnings of a slow but steady decline in Buddy’s mobility. The last walk in the neighborhood came this past April. Over the last year it’s been clear that dementia was setting in as well.

Here are a few favorite memories we have of Buddy:
–Trips to the dog park at Masterson Station Park in Lexington. It was great to give Buddy opportunities to run freely. He wasn’t much of a fetcher, but when other owners would throw something, he’d chase along with the dog going after it, barking all the way. He also tended to try to police matters when other pooches got into it with one another;
–Playing ‘sock’ in the back yard or basement. We did get Buddy to learn to go after a sock filled with a rubber ball here at the house. He was generally not very graceful—often when he would excitedly go after it, his front legs would splay out in odd directions. He regularly dropped the sock about halfway back, yet still expected the treat upon return;
–His energy when we returned home and let him out of the crate in the basement. Buddy could usually hear when we were back and would be standing in the crate by the time one of us got downstairs. He’d then bound up the stairs to the kitchen and drink deeply from his water bowl.
–Slinking into our walk-in closet during thunderstorms. Like so many dogs, Buddy hated thunder. Somehow he decided that closet was a safe place.
–Howling at sirens. I know the noise bothered him, but his mournful “A-roooooooo” became a part of the sonic landscape;
–Running home at the end of walks. We’d frequently let him off the leash near the top of our cul-de-sac, and he’d half-lope/half-dash toward our driveway. When Ben went along with us, they’d race. When our neighbor Mary was out, Buddy might peel off and head over to her instead, wiggling his butt furiously, ears down in a submissive manner and waiting for a head rub.

Over the last eighteen months or so, we’ve been missing how Buddy was; how he has been lately has been a challenge for everyone, Buddy included. Things finally came to a head around 3am Thursday morning. After dealing with the latest mess, Martha, Ben and I finally talked freely about stuff we’d been hinting at for the last 2-3 months. We worried that we were being selfish for considering letting Buddy go, yet we could also see that he wasn’t enjoying much about his life.

This morning, after a meal of boiled chicken breast, we took him to the vet one last time. On his most recent trips there, he’s been quite agitated, panting the entire way, pooping on the blanket in the car en route, pacing nervously once we got there. We had reason to be concerned that he’d be panic-stricken in his final moments.

Instead, he was surprisingly calm. No panting, no obvious display of nerves on the trip. (He did still poop in the car a little, I guess for old times’ sake.) We walked him into their euthanasia room, and he pretty easily laid still on his blanket. I guess he was ready to go; maybe he’d been ready well before we were.

Even toward the end, it may have been hard to tell from a distance about his issues. His coat was still in fine shape overall, and there were passing moments—even yesterday—when the old Buddy spark of life showed in his eyes. I took the picture at the top just this past Monday. The right-ear-up-left-ear-slightly floppy is (yes, was) a standard-issue Buddy pose.

This coming Tuesday marks the eight-year anniversary of Buddy entering and transforming Ben’s life. I don’t know—maybe it’ll be easier to observe that, celebrate it, knowing that he’s not suffering any more. I guess we’ll see.

Thank you, Buddy, for everything.