Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Space Art: Trip in the Center Head

Excellent synth-pop album from the band Space Art, released in France in 1977 (they got "classic 1980s synth-pop" about five years ahead of schedule!)



Speedway
Odyssey
Eyes Shade
Watch It
L’Obsession D’Archibald
Hollywood Flanger
Psychosomatique

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Christian Marclay: Record Without a Cover

Christian Marclay is a turntable terrorist, sculptor, and video artist. His cut-up album More Encores was one of the first albums made entirely from recycled materials, and along with John Oswald’s Plunderphonics is part of the bedrock of our cut-and-paste age. His art can be as awesome as it is goofy. His album cover cut-ups are legendary. His 24-hour movie The Clock is built entirely of clips from movies where the time of day mentioned in the original film plays out at the same time of day you watch the movie. A 1994 exhibit in Geneva called False Advertising consisted of outdoor paste-ups of five posters in different styles of five imaginary Christian Marclays – chansonnier with an autoharp, heavy metal shredder, folkie guitarist, classical violinist, and jazz saxophonist.

Many Marclay CDs are in print, but punishingly few of his records ever turn up for sale. You may never find the vinyl More Encores, or Footsteps, a 1000-copy run of records that lined the floor of a Zurich art gallery in 1989 as patrons walked on them for six weeks. That’s why when I walked into Exiled Records in Portland and saw Record Without a Cover on the wall, I grabbed it (how much did I pay? I demur). It’s Marclay’s first record, released in 1985, and you want to write him a million-dollar check just for the concept: it’s a single-sided platter, sold without a cover, with printed instructions on one side demanding it should never be stored in a protective sleeve. You put it on, it crackles away, and after four minutes you think "Did I just...hear something?" Noise is signal, signal is noise, you've been hearing it all along.

Sometimes great ideas beget low entertainment value, but this will transfix you. It’s a cousin to Bruce Conner’s Wavelength – what you think at first isn’t much of anything at all amplifies some aspect of itself until it feels like the whole world’s going to explode. Multiple minutes of a stasis of random record clicks and pops lulls the listener into thinking this is a gag record with a blank groove, until very gradually the records playing in the distance move to the front of the mix and the performance is revealed. It’s like locking yourself in a light-tight room and realizing after five minutes that Finnegans Wake is written on the wall in lumisescent ink, and it’s getting brighter. Or how an astronomer in 1995 pointed the Hubble telescope at an empty patch of sky for 100 hours and the final composite image revealed 3000 galaxies. When you listen to this, you will lean in!

Record audio & artwork

DISCLAIMER: To the best of my knowledge, this work is out of print and not available for purchase in any format. If you are the artist and are planning a reissue, please let me know and I’ll remove it from the blog. Also please get in touch if you’ve lost your art &/or sound masters and would like to talk with me about my restoration work.

Sandler & Young: The "In Person" Album

From time to time I’ll post something on this blog based on criteria that do not include “quality”. In the years when Real People was on NBC, and I was a dumb tween, our family would take one night a week and eat fried chicken as Dad powered up the Zenith Allegro and played side two of Sandler & Young’s “In Person” Album.

Singers Tony Sandler (born 1933 in Lauwe, Belgium) and Ralph Young (born 1918 in the Bronx) met in a revue in 1963, and the two baritones became a double act after a successful 1965 gig in Las Vegas. They recorded more than 20 albums together, ten of them for Capitol Records. In 1968, the year Capitol released The “In Person” Album, they became Las Vegas headliners, eventually winning multi-week gigs at the Sahara, the Dunes, the Flamingo, and Caesars Palace.

This record sounds exactly like what you’d expect from talent weaned in a casino environment: well-practiced patter, a crackerjack backing orchestra, an audience that applauds for a held long note in “Malaguena Salerosa”. And then there’s side 2: “Bill Bailey”. In twenty minutes they sing eight arrangements of “Bill Bailey” in various international styles – French can-can, Swiss yodel, Italian grand opera, etc. Sandler, who’s fluent in English as well as French, German, Dutch, and Italian, does most of the heavy lifting for the polyglot lyrics. He plays straight man to Young as they deliver short comedy bits between musical phrases. And then there’s the next-to-last track, straight from Tel Aviv, wherein Young puts on a Yiddish accent and tells three shaggy-dog jokes while the band impressively vamps a single-bar phrase for five minutes, until finally band and singer join in a rendition of a faux-Israeli version of “Bill Bailey”:

    Bill bubbe won’t you please come home, you’re driving me to ruin
    I think that I should tell you that I know what you’ve been doin’
    My cousin is a lawyer from New York and he just flew in
    He told me not to wait, so in the morning I’ll be suin’

This is…what it is. In form and function, The “In Person” Album remains fossilized in its original state, and will have no category beyond Thing That Tourists Agreed To Call Comedy In The 1960s. The production values are extremely high. A close listening reveals that the band and vocalists were both recorded live but for many songs the live vocals were replaced with new studio takes (almost, but not quite, covering the faint sound of the original live vocals captured by the band’s mikes). And some of the humor still cracks expectations nicely – the fact that many in the audience have been playing Keno all day is exploited nicely when Sandler prefaces the opera version of “Bill Bailey” by saying “Opus cinquemila cinquecento cinquanta cinque… (beat) You lose again.” Some of the tunes, stripped of their explanatory introductions, would work well dropped into a mix as a moment of happy WTF. But yes, it’s still a choke-on-your-borscht yuk fest full of lines like “My andante got tangled around my pizzicatta”, and a joke about a condominium ending with the punchline “If I was you, I would still take the pills.” It’s what I grew up on. It’s not recommended. You have been warned.

A footnote: “Bill Bailey in France” opens with Young scatting up a storm in a pinched falsetto, singing “Chee chee, boint boint chee chee, oh oh oh oh oh oh…what the hell ever happened to her?” Nine-year-old me never got the reference. Viva Rose Murphy!

Opening Number
Watch What Happens
Mr. Boom Boom (Mr. Bass Man)
Love Is Blue
French Lesson
Malaguena Salerosa
Sweet Georgia Brown
Bill Bailey: In France
Bill Bailey: In England
Bill Bailey: In Switzerland
Bill Bailey: In Nashville
Bill Bailey: In Italy
Bill Bailey: In the Time of Johann Sebastian Bach
Bill Bailey: In Tel Aviv
Bill Bailey: In the U.S.A.

Album audio & artwork

Friday, November 4, 2016

Dwight Fiske & Nan Blakstone: Tongue With Cheek

Jazz-age cabaret artists Dwight Fiske and Nan Blakstone meet in this split LP on the Jubilee label from 1959. If you don’t agree this is one of the best LP covers ever printed, I can’t help you. (And yes, Jubilee has misspelled Nan’s last name everywhere in this album’s artwork; there should not have been a “c” in “Blakstone.”)

Dwight Fiske: Senorita Margarita Del Campo
Dwight Fiske: Case 142
Dwight Fiske: The Fourteenth Wedding Anniversary
Dwight Fiske: Mrs. Pettibone
Nan Blakstone: Life on Donkey Island
Nan Blakstone: Let’s Fall in Love
Nan Blakstone: He Should Have Been a WAC
Nan Blakstone: Blakstone’s Secret Passion
Nan Blakstone: Blakstone’s Torch Song
Nan Blakstone: My Boy Friend Elmer

Album audio & artwork
DISCLAIMER: To the best of my knowledge, this work is out of print and not available for purchase in any format. If you are the artist and are planning a reissue, please let me know and I’ll remove it from the blog. Also please get in touch if you’ve lost your art &/or sound masters and would like to talk with me about my restoration work.

Nan Blakstone: The World's Greatest Interpreter of Sophisticated Song

"Nan Blakstone,” wrote a reviewer in 1942, “could bring a Montreal audience to an unheated barn.” The singer/pianist, who was a much-in-demand cabaret performer for the two decades leading up to WW2, was best known as a performer of “saucy” songs. She was born in San Antonio, went to Oklahoma University and Chicago Musical College, and had a career that stretched from 1926 until her untimely death at age 49 in 1951.

A three-page biography / discography by ace researcher Barry McCanna provides some highly recommended background reading. Nan Blakstone was born Naomi Ewald, and first performed under the name Blackstone before ditching the “c” and becoming Nan Blakstone to avoid confusion with a magician with the same surname. Her career took her to nightclubs in major cities all over America and overseas; she was a staple of London nightlife for many years, and managed her own New York club for six months in 1944. Like Dwight Fiske, she built her reputation as a singer of party songs, ditties full of double entendres to please sophisticated audiences (well, as sophisticated as can be expected in an era where speakeasy drag act Gene Malin was marketed on the strength of his “pansy act”).

Just groove on the song names in her discography: a 1936 Decca recording session featured “Myrtle Isn’t Fertile Anymore”; in 1942 she recorded a monologue called “Merchant Seaman’s Voyage Into Courage”; a 1946 session included “Catherine, Madcap Empress of Russia”. I’ll be a much happier person, I know, once I’ve scored a copy of her 1936 Decca side “I’m Not In The Way Of My Family (I’m Just In A Family Way)”.

The World’s Greatest Interpreter of Sophisticated Song is an unnumbered album of three 78s compiled from six songs that Blakstone recorded for the Gala label in 1946. In a moment  I’ll be posting a 1959 LP on the Jubilee label that includes six more tunes from her Gala catalogue, recorded in 1947.

Sex Reared Its Ugly Head
Little Richard’s Getting Bigger
Who Brought Me Home
Cobwebs
A Lady’s A Lady No Matter What Cooks
Riding Academy

Album audio & artwork

DISCLAIMER: To the best of my knowledge, this work is out of print and not available for purchase in any format. If you are the artist and are planning a reissue, please let me know and I’ll remove it from the blog. Also please get in touch if you’ve lost your art &/or sound masters and would like to talk with me about my restoration work.

The Scaffold: How D'You Do / Paper Underpants

Scaffold's last hurrah, released on the Island Records imprint Bronze Records in 1977.

How D'You Do

Paper Underpants



Single audio & artwork

DISCLAIMER: To the best of my knowledge, this work is out of print and not available for purchase in any format. If you are the artist and are planning a reissue, please let me know and I’ll remove it from the blog. Also please get in touch if you’ve lost your art &/or sound masters and would like to talk with me about my restoration work.

The Scaffold: Wouldn't It Be Funny If You Didn't Have A Nose / Noselighter

This single for the Bronze label (an imprint of Island Records) from 1976, plus a second single released in 1977 (see next post), were the last material Scaffold recorded. Neither single has ever been reissued.

Wouldn’t It Be Funny If You Didn’t Have A Nose
Mr. Noselighter

Single audio & artwork

DISCLAIMER: To the best of my knowledge, this work is out of print and not available for purchase in any format. If you are the artist and are planning a reissue, please let me know and I’ll remove it from the blog. Also please get in touch if you’ve lost your art &/or sound masters and would like to talk with me about my restoration work.