LITTLE RICHARD “Here’s Little Richard”

Here’s Little Richard
Available on CD, LP and digital download.

To the casual fan, this reissue of Little Richard’s first long-playing album might be a little redundant, especially if they already have a legit CD of the original Specialty recordings of his greatest hits, like The Georgia Peach (all of the songs on this album are also on this collection, albeit in an obviously different sequence). But why buy this album in the first place, especially when it’s coming from an era – the rock and R&B markets of the 1950’s and pre-Beatles 1960’s – when singles were the dominant format and albums were pretty much an afterthought?

Simple: Because this album – and thus a good chunk of the Reverend’s classics – are sounding the best they have ever sounded. These are almost sixty-year-old tapes – and I don’t know what kind of stock Art Rupe and Bumps Blackwell, Richard’s producers, were able to get their hands on at the time (1955-early 1957) of the sessions, but either it held up well over these years compared to reel-to-reel analog tapes of the Eighties and beyond (when a company called Ampex was selling studios some of the shittiest formulations of recording tape ever to be wrapped around a flat plastic spool) or Specialty’s previous owners, Fantasy, took very damn good care of the tapes in their vaults.

The star of the show here, of course, is many of Little Richard’s classic A-sides: “Tutti Frutti”, “Long Tall Sally”, “Slippin’ and Slidin’”, “Rip It Up”, “Jenny Jenny” – and many of their B’s. These songs, of course, are part of the backbone of rock and roll (Elvis Presley covered four of Richard’s songs on his first two RCA albums, but he could only better Pat Boone’s whitewashed and pathetic treatments of those same songs, and barely see Richard’s taillights himself); The rest is fine R&B that Specialty was hoping their answer to Ray Charles would be putting out.

As further bonuses, there is some revealing material on this release. Most important is the demo that got Richard signed to Specialty – more to the R&B side that Specialty was looking for rather than the rock and roll he would spontaneously invent at his first session, but with his own backing band rather than the session musicians that supported him on the original album’s recordings. Less important is an interview with Specialty owner/producer Art Rupe (edited down, obviously, from an existing finished radio program) that one will find themselves listening to only once. And then there’s two film clips of Richard performing for a screen test for The Girl Can’t Help It – which this review couldn’t review because of how his otherwise new laptop was set up.

As mentioned at the beginning of the review, singles, not albums, were the predominant format for rock and R&B music and albums were an afterthought – meaning, in this instance, that the sessions took place between 1955 and early 1957 and were all meant for single releases. By then, Specialty had enough material to compile an album. Here’s Little Richard was first released in March of 1957; a few months later, Little Richard would have an epiphany, leave the music business in favor of Bible study and later becoming an ordained minister, and vault back and forth between rocking and preaching for the rest of his life until he eventually concluded that God wanted him to be Little Richard in the first place. Even if he had disappeared completely from music after this first album and the rest of his recordings for the label were issued (the rest of his available sessions would be released by Specialty as a second, eponymous album over a year later – which I hope Specialty will also remaster and reissue soon, since there’s some classics on that album that didn’t make this long player), his place in history was already assured – and in the case of this reissue, history is clearer than ever.

(Collector’s alert: A colored vinyl reissue of this album is being released by Specialty/Concord this Saturday, April 21 – Record Store Day.)


Raw Power

Raw Power

I shouldn’t really have to tell anyone about this album, but I’m going to talk about it anyway because this is the 5th anniversary of my music blogging activities, and I always use this date because today was the day I witnessed Iggy and the Stooges perform in Philadelphia in 2007. The original start date of my original music blog is lost to the ether, but it did start in April of 2007 so I adopted this day as the anniversary.

This forthcoming Record Store Day, Columbia is reissuing a special double-vinyl edition of Raw Power to commemorate, with one record containing the original and controversial David Bowie mix that was firt released in 1974, and the second containing Iggy’s equally controversial 1998 remix. Now, there is no doubt that every music lover should have a copy of this album (either store-bought or legally downloaded from someplace like iTunes or Amazon – fuck that torrent shit). If you don’t have a copy, which version should you get? Both versions are in print and easily found.

For those unfamiliar with the situation behind the two mixes: Iggy had already done a final mix of the album in London after the band finished recording there, but either Columbia or his management rejected it (stories vary but I understand it to be the latter) and insisted that it be remixed… preferably by the management’s golden boy, Bowie. Apparently, Bowie’s management didn’t like the idea of Bowie, who was one of the Stooges’s biggest fans, insisting on their handling the Stooges in the first place, so they played some serious mind games with both Iggy and Dave – the aforementioned insistence to Iggy that someone else remix the album or else it wouldn’t come out, and then the same management’s insistence to Bowie, “You foisted this asshole on us, Mr. Bowie – now you can remix his album if you’re such a big supporter of him.”

Bowie’s mix, done in a day in a cheap Hollywood studio, did enable the album to come out… but, probably because of how the mixes sound, they didn’t exactly set the mainstream music world on fire. Not yet anyway… The future members of the Ramones, Sex Pistols, and Clash – and their peers and immediate descendants – would proceed to recover this particular fumble and run with it.

Raw Power first came out on CD around 1989… I have this original CD release, and to be honest, the sound SUCKS. Which is where Iggy come back in. He didn’t like very much how the album first sounded when it was released with Bowie’s mix (probably because of an average at best mastering and pressing job on Columbia’s part at the time), and he hated the original CD even more, stating “It sounded worse when it got to CD.” That, plus the fact that Columbia was releasing the new mix on its reissue label Legacy (Iggy liked it because it was dealing with an important part of the Stooges’s legacy) spurred Iggy to revisit the taps and deliver a mix that lived up to the title.

Not long afterward, a 180gram edition of Raw Power came out using the original Bowie mix… while this was a somewhat disappointing development for me when I bought my copy, it actually made sense to me at the time: the original Bowie mix seemed to be more vinyl-friendly, and more importantly, a new master had been cut for the vinyl version, giving the mix a little more detail and warmth.

Not counting the forthcoming double album reissue and the aforementioned early 2000’s heavy vinyl release (now presumably out of print), the original David Bowie mix is only available on the 2-CD Legacy Edition (released in 2010 and containing on the second disc a live concert from this era and a couple of outtakes) and on a four-disc special edition (same as the Legacy Edition, but with a bunch of other cuts from the same period on the third disc, and a documentary DVD on the fourth disc, plus a reproduction 45 of the Japanese “Raw Power”/”Search and Destroy” 45. Iggy’s remix was issued as a single disc only in 1999. (Why Columbia didn’t include Iggy’s mix on that box set edition in its entirety is beyond me…) Quite honestly, those two CD editions are the best the original Bowie mix is ever going to sound.

But supposing you’ve never heard this album, ever? What version do you get, then? Simply up, go for the Iggy mix (single CD, 1999 copyright date, Iggy quote on the back cover) first. It lives up to the album’s title. If you fall head over heels in love with the album and you get curious, then go for the 2CD Legacy Edition. Or, if you have a turntable, you could wait until Record Store Day next Saturday and get both versions.

Just this one Stooges fan’s opinion.

Iggy’s mix:

Bowie’s mix:

A little later than I intended…

…unless you’re seeing this in a time zone other than New York’s, but my first new entry of my new blogging schedule is up at the mothership, The Groove Music Life, right here. This’ll explain everything that happened the past few weeks with me both personally and professionally. The first MILO entry will be up sometime today (the 2nd).

Returning soon…

Specifically, I’ll be back to regular blogging both at The Groove Music Life and here on April 1st.

Update… We Were Hacked!

To make a long story short:

Friday afternoon, ex-Romeo Void singer Debora Iyall had discovered my overview of It’s a Condition and posted the link to it on her Facebook page. Since I’ve been Facebook friends with her for awhile and had participated in her Kickstarter campaign for her new EP, I knew about it because she had linked to my personal Facebook page in her status update about the post. I hadn’t told her about the post (I didn’t want to be spamming her page or whatnot) so I was happy that she had found it and was giving me props right back for giving her old band props.

For whatever reason (a bit of ego, maybe?), I went to click through the link on my iPhone (I was at dinner with my mother at the time) and found myself getting rerouted to a .ru page that was basically dead. What?

Thinking it was some odd Facebook quirk, once I got home I got on my computer and checked the link. Through Chrome, I got the same dead page. Through Firefox, I got a fake virus scan site that (thankfully) Norton had cockblocked before any damage could be done.

Yep – some fuckers — probably Russian hackers — had somehow gotten into the account that holds all of my music blogs (The Groove Music Life, Music Is Like Oxygen, my Reina Tanaka worship blog So Hot She Shits Fire) as well as the blog for Resonant Blue and a blog for a friend’s charitable work (Sounds For Scoliosis, a series of benefit shows in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area booked and promoted by my friend Lucia Peregrim). Going directly to the main sites was fine… but anyone clicking through a link from just about anywhere (Google, Bing, Facebook, whatever) was getting redirected to some Russian pecker’s malware festival instead – and making me look bad. So bad that one of Debora Iyall’s friend had gotten hit with that shit, forcing the link to be removed.

So, after a few phone calls to my hosting provider, here’s what happened – the hackers had gotten into a file called .htaccess that, in the case of these blogs, works within WordPress installations and makes sure whoever visits one of my blogs is seeing one of my blogs. The hackers had replaced it with their own version that, within its hardly-complicated code, tricks links from search engines and social networking sites into taking people’s browsers into the Russian assholes’s virus playground instead.

Thankfully, a little Google research – a few seconds worth, more than most Tea Party members do – turned up how to fix this shit, using only Notepad and an FTP program. But I had to do it for every WordPress installation on my account – a minor pain in the ass, but it had to be done. Now all links should be fine.

Now, I don’t know if this kind of thing can affect the “free” WordPress blogs hosted on their own server farm, but if you’re independently hosting your own WordPress blog elsewhere, here’s what you should do to make sure these hacker motherfuckers aren’t messing with your hard work. With your FTP program (like Filezilla), check the size of the .htaccess file on your server. If it’s a little more than 200 bytes, you’re fine. If it’s bigger than that – the hacker’s version was over three thousand bytes – delete it immediately, Google for “.htaccess wordpress” and you’ll find a proper code to get your blog back to normal. Boot up Notepad, cut and paste (or type it up) it exact, and use your FTP program to upload it to your server. Note that you can’t simply just upload the clean version over the dirtied one – some of their code in the dirtied one prevents that, so you have to delete just that file.

My apologies to anyone who had been affect by visiting one of my blogs – in fact, at the time of this writing there was still a malware alert for So Hot She Shits Fire, which I’ve already applied for a correction on with Google. (Right now a direct search in Google warns that the site might harm people’s computers, especially if they don’t have something like Norton installed.) Everything on all of my blogs should be safe.

VAN HALEN “A Different Kind of Truth”

A Different Kind of Truth

I really don’t need to tell anyone about this album… anything I could have said in a review was already said by the authors of this review which said everything I could have said here or at TGML.

Speaking of TGML, however, another review by a less attentive “writer” (translation: jaded hack) here led me to again reconsider the nature of reviewing records, a couple of years after I first ruminated it. That post should be up on TGML in the next day or two.

W “Duo U&U”

Duo U&U

I don’t know what the exact intentions behind this first album from Morning Musume members Ai Kago and Nozomi Tsuji were, outside of having them do some duo-oriented Showa-period kayokyoku classic hits, but I can tell you one thing they hadn’t counted on that this CD did – it got me even more interested in older Japanese pop music.

See, I knew of Pink Lady because of their short-lived American TV show and their “Kiss In The Dark” single, but I knew very little about what came in Japanese pop before Morning Musume, Whiteberry, Mai Kuraki, and Chihiro Onitsuka. The fifteen covers that Aibon and Nono did on this album – The Peanuts’s “Koi No Vacance” and “Passion Flower”, Pink Lady’s “Southpaw” and “Nagisa no Sinbad”, Amin’s “Matsu Wa”, Wink’s “Samishii Nettaigyo” – ended up being my introduction to all that.

In the months after this album became a frequent visitor to my CD player and a permanent resident in my iPod, I would find myself doing as much research as possible into the original artists that were represented and covered by Aibon and Nono here, to the point where I was buying anthologies from The Peanuts, Wink, and Amin as well as snagging mp3s of the original versions of other songs that W had covered from a LiveJournal trading community. When I got a turntable at the end of 2007, I found myself searching out Japanese vinyl on eBay, scoring albums from Akina Nakamori, Hiromi Iwasaki, and other kayokyoku icons as well as a slew of enka singles that put me on the path to the Japanese balladry known as enka.

That is not to say that Aibon and Nono’s performances on Duo U&U are lackluster – they aren’t. This album and the rest of their output as W remain their finest hours as vocalists, with their almost telepathic harmonies and a rapidly maturing range. These aren’t note-for-note copies of the originals – tempos get taken up a few notches throughout (W’s version of “Koi no Vacance” shows some serious punk influence compared to the original recording’s fox-trot tempo). and compared to the originals W and their in-studio collaborators took a few other liberties with the arrangements. If they hadn’t taken such an investment in these recordings, who is to say that I  wouldn’t have been interested in checking out the original recordings in the first place?

By now, quite frankly, we should be on our sixth or seventh W album by now. But some of Ai Kago’s indiscrections just as their third album W3: Faithful was about to head for the mastering studio held up their collective careers considerably. A year after that, Kago would be released from her contract with Up Front Works, her agency since her Morning Musume days, for a similar indiscretion, while Tsuji would find herself becoming a premature Morning MILF several months after that. While Tsuji found some stability, Kago’s own life was full of ups and downs; even though she did record a pop-rock single in 2009 and a jazz album the year afterward, her personal life hit several potholes until, after a severe low point, she settled down and announced that she was going to be following her fellow ex-W into Morning Motherhood.

TOMMY FEBRUARY6 “Tommy Airline”

Tommy Airline
(DefStar/Sony Japan)

Tomoko Kawase is reviving her  Tommy February6 alter ego after several years hiatus where she concentrated primarily on her Tommy Heavenly6 persona instead up until a couple of years ago when she reformed her old band The Brilliant Green for an album and tour.. only her first release back as February6 is one where she’s sharing space with her Heavenly6 persona. Barring her old band, which I really haven’t been able to get into for some reason at this point, there’s the matter of Ms. Kawase’s two personas. Tommy February6 makes music dominated by or consisting entirely of synthesisers, while Tommy Heavenly6 is more guitar oriented. Given the occasion of her new release and of her birthday (which is also the origin of her first alter-ego’s stage name), a good look at the first album I bought of hers was in order.

Tommy Airline is Kawase’s second album under her original solo persona, and it would be the last long-playing effort she would do under her persona until this year. As Tommy February6, Ms. Kawase collaborates with one pseudonymously named collaborator, Malibu Convertible (not much is known about this guy – although it’s also likely the name is that of a production team rather than one person), the music is heavily synth-oriented, save for piano and an electric lead guitar on “I Still Love You Boy”. Most of Tommy’s lyrics are a mix of Japanese and English – although it should be noted that Ms. Kawase wlll write her English lyrics despite a serious lack of experience with the language, utilizing more bilingual friends to help proofread her text.

Having been interested in synth-pop since I had my first earfuls of Kraftwerk, Gary Numan, and Human League back in the early 80’s, it is probably no surprise that this has been a favorite album of mine for years since it was first recommended to me; I’ve followed Ms. Kawase’s solo exploits since then. A few highlights:

“Magic In Your Eyes” – one of the singles from the album. There’s a severe clash of decades on this one – a severe Motown feel (60’s) being played almost entirely on synthesizers (80’s) save for one rhythm guitar part, gives a strangely timeless feel to the song.

“Choose Me or Die” – Major key music a-la early Madonna gives way to a rather foreboding lyric during the bridge that would foretell the darker Tommy Heavenly6 persona (“If you don’t say you love me, I’ll kill you”) before that morphs into Tommy singing an almost angelic “Loooove you” over Human League-ish synth arpeggios.

The aforementioned “I Still Love You Boy”, an excellent power ballad.

And my favorite track on the album, “Sweet Dream”, a very haunting little ballad with lots of atmospheric keyboards, multi-tracked harmonies from Ms. Kawase, and a predominantly English-language vocal (the choruses are in her native tongue.)

This one is definitely worth searching out.

SAYURI ISHIKAWA “Sayuri Ishikawa 2012 Nen Zenkyoshu”

Sayuri Ishikawa 2012 Nen Zenkyoshu
Available on CD

Today, January 30, is Sayuri Ishikawa’s 54th birthday, and I knew that I wanted to highlight one of her albums, but there’s one problem – there really isn’t one “recommended” studio album. She does have several under her belt, but if you look her up on CD Japan (my usual source for Japanese import releases) you’ll see a large amount of similarly titled and packaged anthology CDs called Zenkyoshu’s.

This is a common practice with enka music, of which Ms. Ishikawa is an acknowledged queen. Every year, the Japanese labels (or the divisions or imprints thereof) that specialize in enka compile yearly anthologies of their top enka artists. And Sayuri has been recording since she was 16 years old, so that, ladies and gentlemen, is a lot of anthologies (never mind just a lot of back catalog to anthologize).

One thing that these anthologies will have in common is that there will be a few songs that will be on every Zenkyoshu. And in the case of Sayuri Ishikawa, that means that two of her most well known hit singles, “Amagi Goe” and “Tsugaru Kaikyou.Fuyu Geshiki” are going to be on every Sayuri Ishikawa Zenkyoshu. Having been in the habit of collecting her CDs for several years now, this has been an ongoing thing.

No complaints, though – Sayuri Ishikawa has one of the most beautiful voices on the planet. If you get into her vocals, you just might be tempted to check out what else the enka genre has to offer.

FLIPPER “Album Generic Flipper”

Album Generic Flipper
Available on CD, LP, iTunes, AmazonMP3, and eMusic

This is a band that has forever fascinated me – and not being able to get all of their records  right away made them more fascinating and attractive, even though I was already a fan during the band’s original heyday; when I was in high school all I had of Flipper was their Blow’n Chunks ROIR tape and the “Get Away” single, and I wouldn’t find a copy of this album until a few years down the line. Another thing that fascinated me about the band was the fact that their music usually centered around the bass and drums, rather than the guitar. By that token alone, Bruce Loose and Will Shatter were amongst my first bass teachers by proxy.

Until Infinite Zero/American released the posthumous Sex Bomb Baby compilation on CD, Album Generic Flipper and Blow’n Chunks were the only long-playing evidence I had of one of my favorite bands for the longest time. I held out hope that American would reissue the rest of the back catalog, but it never happened and it wasn’t until a few years ago that all of Flipper’s albums returned to their rightful in-print status.

Most punk bands were fast and tight. Not Flipper. Not that they were ever a shambles in the studio – they sounded more of a shambles live as evidenced by Blow’n Chunks and Public Flipper Limited Live and still didn’t fall apart – but only one of the songs on Album Generic Flipper even came close to a fast tempo. Most of the tempos here are slow to medium speed, and two of the songs – coincidentally, the side closers “I Saw You Shine” and “Sex Bomb” are over nine minutes and seven minutes long respectively – but they don’t feel that way.

The bass lines are the most prominent component of the Flipper sound – distorted and menacing, they lead the way with Stephen DePace’s drums following right behind, snapping off great drum breaks every four to eight bars. He’s easily one of my favorite drummers period, not just in punk rock. And then there’s Ted Falconi’s guitar, filling in the blanks with an almost free-form wash of chords, slurs, sustain, and feedback.

Flipper lyrics can be either flippant (“Ever look at a flower and hate it? / Ever see a couple kissing and get sickened by it?” on album opener “Ever”), retrospective (pick any verse in “Shed No Tears”), abstract (“I Saw You Shine”), or yes, even uplifting (“Life”). And even after all of those shifting moods, how could one do anything other than laugh or smile after the album closer “Sex Bomb”? Exactly.

I’m glad all of the Flipper material is back in print and staying that way. Let this be your starting point if you haven’t dived in and swam with these fish yet.