Monday, September 12, 2011

Listening Notes: 1983 Part 2

Kate & Anna McGarrigle - Love Over and Over

This is like a pleasant enough stab at a commercial compromise between studio rock and their own sound, but if I were choosing Kate & Anna albums, this isn't the one I'd chose. I've heard too much of their first two albums (plus demos - that's "Tell My Sister" if you're visiting a record store) recently to fall in love with this.

Katrina and the Waves - Walking on Sunshine

This is going to be embarrassing. I've always been in love with the young Katrina Leskanich's singing. There, I've said it. These 10 songs aren't works of genius, but they have hooks and melodies. Katrina sings the hell out of 8 of them, including the title song you should hear without those damn horns. I loved this when it was a Canadian only release 28 years ago, and I love it now.

Madonna - Madonna

Would I be listening to this album if the singer had, I don't know, Teena Marie's career? I'm not trying to be snarky. It's a good album, but a little singleminded in its pursuit of dance floor hedonism, to the point where I'm not sure the singer understands what she's singing. Take "Borderline". Is she happy or upset that her love is going over the borderline? Or is the confusion the point of the song?

Marshall Crenshaw - Field Day

Whose idea was the drum mix? I understand why - it was a "commercial" sound. It just wound up fighting with the vocals. I'm not convinced by the songs either. For instance, in "One Day With You", I keep expecting Marshall to get specific about the travails he'll endure for that one day, but it's just ruin, pain and degradation. It makes me wonder if he puts words in his songs only because pop songs are supposed to have words. My choice of his albums has always been "Good Evening", but I'm in the minority.

DeBarge - In A Special Way

I liked El's recent comeback, but I'm still not moved by this. To my ears, it's an unpleasant double team seduction. James comes on hard, then El whispers sweet nothings, then James is back being hard, then El whispers again, then El wants you to get on with it, then James gives up on you, then Bunny consoles you. Way too harsh? Undoubtedly, but life is short.

Jonathan Richman - Jonathan Sings!

If there's a record that makes me glad I bought a new turntable, this is it. It's so good it makes me wonder why he's made such dull records since. I don't know that he worked with these backup singers again, but they are perfect here. And the songs. He finds a wide eyed way of looking at the world without being icky about it. In my favorite, he takes the perspective of a three year old.

Pablo Moses - In The Future

Is when I'll have to consider this album properly. I don't remember enough of it for one play to make any kind of judgment.

George Clinton - You Shouldn't-Nuf Bit Fish

Far be it for a white guy living in Manitoba to tell anyone where any particular work in George Clinton's oeuvre sits. I prefer "Computer Games" because, you know, of "Atomic Dog", but then I'm a white guy living in Manitoba.

UB40 - 1980-1983

I wasn't going to listen to this, but I feel guilty about saying time has diluted their politics. Isn't "One in Ten" just as relevant now as then? Yes, but not with Ali Campbell singing it. His voice is suited to mild reggae covers. At the time, their very existence gave their songs an edge, but time has smoothed that away.

T-Bone Burnett - Proof Through the Night

Before he was Grammy bedecked producer, T-Bone was an opinionated singer/songwriter. How much you care for this album depends on how much you value his opinions. I can hear why he became a producer, although I'd rather watch out for the trap door.

Was (Not Was) - Born To Laugh At Tornadoes

Nietzsche died a lonely madman - Jerry Lewis had his own telethon - until they took it away.