Educating Peter # 54

June 30, 2013

Where does Michael finds these songs?

This week it’s “Can’t Get Close”, a 1980 track by Canadian skinny-tie band The Cry. I haven’t heard it yet, but I’m fairly confident that it’s going to be a skinny-tie song because of this:

I see skinny ties.

Technical Note Before We Get To The Song:

I’ve discovered that the version of “Can’t Get Close” that Michael supplied is in mono. (I had a quick listen.) I found a stereo version, and it was tagged as “remastered”, but it sounds awful. I’m going to listen to the mono version.

The Song:

The Cry – “Can’t Get Close (1980) (mono)

The Cry – “Can’t Get Close (1980) (stereo)

0:00-0:13 – This is the introduction, and it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the song. It’s all a bit anonymous-sounding to me.

But it has prompted me to ask a question I don’t usually ask in day-to-day life: Is that a flanged bass?

0:13-0:38 – Yep. It’s a skinny-tie song. An Elvis Costello-inspired skinny-tie song. And I must apologise for the amount of hyphens in the previous two sentences. Sorry about that.

This is sung well enough, and played well enough, but it’s not igniting any flames of excitement in me. I can, however, imagine this going over well in a live situation (i.e., at a gig).

0:38-0:50 – This chorus would definitely be well received at a gig. It has a shout-along quality that sweaty, inebriated audiences can yell at the top of their lungs.

By the way, the vocal melody of the chorus reminds me of the chorus of Johnny O’Keefe‘s “She’s My Baby” (1960):

(0:29-0:33)

Also by the way: This song deals with a chap who’s in a state of extreme irritation because he “can’t get close” to his potential romantic partner. Why are so many power pop songs concerned with frustrated love? There aren’t that many frustrated singers in The World of Power Pop, are there?

And one more thing: the last couple of bars of the chorus (from 0:47-0:50) reminds me a lot of the end of the chorus in The Rolling Stones‘ “Get Off Of My Cloud” (1965)…

(0:51-0:56)

Because of this, I think the chorus of “Can’t Get Close” is going to be followed by the verse of “Get Off Of My Cloud”.

0:50-1:15 – The singer sure sounds agitated in this verse.

1:15-1:27 – Time to shout along again: CAN’T! GET! CLOSE!.

1:27-1:40 – This is a repeat of the introduction. Coming as it does after the second chorus, my spider senses are telling me there’s going to be either a middle eight or a guitar solo appearing very shortly.

1:40-2:04 – It’s a middle eight.

2:04-2:17 – Here’s the chorus again. SHE’S! MY! BABY!…

2:17-2:29 – A repeat of the chorus. SHE’S! MY! BABY!…

2:29-2:58 – And a variation on the chorus. The big difference (which isn’t all that big) is the background vocals. There’s an elongated “action” (first time from 2:34-2:35).

And that’s about it for the song.

***

It’s a three-minute blast of skiny-tie-ness. (And there I go with the hyphens again.)

Hopefully, the singer finally found the “action” he was looking for. And I’d also like him to relax sometime.

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Song of the day: Lee Michaels – "Do You Know What I Mean"

June 30, 2013

I love this song. And always have.

Lee Michaels – “Do You Know What I Mean” (1971)


Song of the day: Too Much Saturn – "Walter Cronkite"

June 29, 2013

Here’s another of what I hesitate to call a “review” of a new album. (They’re not reviews at all. It’s just me listening to music and making idiotic comments.)

This time it’s Moving Forward Sideways, an album by Too Much Saturn.

Too Much Saturn is a band from America. They named themselves after this song by Francis Dunnery:

Their album is an 8-track affair – and no, I don’t mean this:

I mean it has eight songs on it.

Here comes a hopefully short series of comments on the contents of an album called Moving Forward Sideways.

(Unfortunately, yesterday’s attempt to keep things brief didn’t turn out too well, because it went on and on and on, so I can’t guarantee a concise and pithy post for this album. I’ll apologise in advance.)

Too Much Saturn – Moving Forward Sideways (2013)

1. “Photogenic”
The introduction of this song sounds like the guitarist is demonstrating to his bandmates the tremolo setting on his amplifier. After nine seconds of that, Mark the lead singer says, “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera”. I don’t quite know why. (Note to self: Have a look at the song title, Peter.)

At 0:13 the band starts playing, and it sounds to me like a garage band.

At 0:25 Mark starts singing. I’m afraid I’m not enjoying the singing.

Although I’m not responding very enthusiastically to the song so far, I do like how it sounds like the band is playing live in the studio. That makes a nice change from a lot of recordings nowadays that sound sterile, where everything is Pro-Tooled to perfection.

I liked the “Bony Moronie” riff in the verse, from 0:41-0:45.

By the way, at 1:40 Mark says “Here we go!”, and it brings up a question I’ve always wanted to ask, ever since I first thought about it (approximately three seconds ago):

I’ve heard singers in bands say “Here we go!” in a few songs. My question is this: Just where are the band going? As far as I can tell, when they make that statement they’re in a recording studio (or on stage, if it’s a live recording), so I’m guessing they’d be fairly limited in where they can actually go.

(That question was rhetorical, so you don’t need to answer it.)

All in all, I thought “Photogenic” was a suitable way to open the album. It was bright ‘n’ breezy, and full of energy. It just didn’t appeal to me very much.

2. “All His Way”
I prefer this song. And it reminds me of something.

From 0:15-0:18 there’s that tremolo sound again. I think the guitarist likes tremolo.

I have a production question for the band: what is that quiet, buzzing sound in the background of the verses? Is that a distorted guitar you forgot to remove from the mix?

The chorus begins with the line “When it’s all his way…”, sung by someone who isn’t Mark. I noticed the difference immediately because the other singer sounds like Morrissey, whereas Mark emphatically does not.

I like the twin-guitar playing from 2:08-2:19, but I’m a sucker for twin-guitar playing. (Hello Thin Lizzy!)

I also liked how the song ended dreamily (3:20-3:41).

I Must Be Summer“! That’s what “All His Way” reminds of.

I really need to keep these comments for each song shorter.

3. “Walter Cronkite”
I didn’t see the point of applying sound effects to spoken-word introduction for this song (“Direct from our news room in New York”) – unless it was give the song a psychedelic feeling.

The rest of the song isn’t particularly psychedelic, so I’m a bit puzzled.

I think the 12-string bass is way too quiet in the mix. With such a unique sound (that I love), I’d advise all 12-sting bass owners to insist on having your instrument turned up in the mix as much as you can get away with.

As I’m listening to “Walter Cronkite” I’m enjoying it more than the first two songs. However, while I’m listening to it I’m thinking it has an “unfinished” quality to it. I guess it’s just me wanting to hear more instruments and better production.

4. “What’s Your Plan”
I like the combination of the phased guitar in the left channel and the slide guitar in the right. It makes the song sound pleasantly slippery.

I thought the synthesizer in the guitar solo (1:47-2:14) was too quiet. I reckon it was there to add a bit of colour during the solo, but because of its low volume I thought it was more of an annoying buzz than anything else.

But I didn’t mind the song itself.

5. “First Glance”
I liked the guitar in the introduction, but I wasn’t overly fond of what came after it.

There’s a synthesizer that pops up occasionally, but Chris, the band’s Tickler of the Ivories™, changed its sound, and it’s nowhere near as annoying as the one in the previous song.

I liked the little Who-inspired section from 2:47-3:00, but thought it a little underpowered.

I also liked the prog-rock riffing directly after the Who bit, from 3:00-3:14.

And directly after that is a bit of a skinny-tie song (3:14-3:27) featuring a synthesizer solo.

I’m not liking the song overall, but I am liking the variety in it.

6. “Funny”
This is an old-school power pop song, from the early-’80s end of town. Considering all the songs I’ve heard on this album so far, I think this would probably the one most likely to get put on the radio.

Oh, I just noticed that the bass player’s 12-string bass is in this song. I hadn’t heard it in this one until the rest of the band went quiet from 3:00-3:14. (Up until then I though I was just hearing a regular bass.) Hmm. Maybe the buzzsaw sound from the 12-string bass was the sound I heard earlier in that other track (“All His Way”).

I like how the band ends the song, letting the drummer loose from 4:10-4:29.

7. “I Don’t Wanna Say”
A nice tinkly start to the song.

The melody in the chorus is reminding of something, but I don’t know what it is.

Despite that, I’m enjoying this song for its melodies, chord progression, and structure. However, I’m not enjoying the singing very much, or the instrumentation, or the arrangement. I also wasn’t a huge fan of the (totally unnecessary) slap bass in the section from 1:55-2:21. Overall, I think this is a good song not well presented.

But the tinkliness at the end was nice.

8. “Daydream Believer”
Yes, this is the “Daydream Believer” you think it is. (Unless you’re not familiar with any songs called “Daydream Believer”.)

I like this version. It took too long before Mark started singing, and the guitar chord chosen at 0:35-0:36 was unnerving, but I enjoyed it. I didn’t think it was a great version, but it was great hearing the song again.

A Quibble for Mark: “Me shavin’ razor’s cold…” (). “Me”? I know the Monkees’ singer, Davey Jones, was from Manchester (England), and engaged in a bit of good old-fashioned English “Ere, Guvna…” or “Wot’s up, me darlin’…” with his accent, which sometimes spilled over into his recordings, such as when he sang “Me shavin’ razor’s cold…” in the original recording of “Daydream Believer”. But an American chap, in an American band, whose singing up until now has shown no trace of Englishness, suddenly drops a “Whoopsy daisy” English affectation in the form of “Me shavin’ razor’s cold”… Why, that’s just beyond the pale.

Beyond!

Many apologies for that lengthy paragraph above. I may have gotten carried away there.

Where was I?

Oh yeah. Too Much Saturn’s version of “Daydream Believer”.

I think it’s OK. I also think it’s not possible for there to be a bad version of “Daydream Believer”. As far as I’m concerned, this song is indestructible.

My favourite part of this version was the end section (3:22-3:58). There was nice interplay between the guitar and synthesizer, trading melodies. I liked that.

***

Okey dokey. That was Too Much Saturn’s Moving Forward Sideways. I’m not in a position to say I thought it was fantastic (if I did, I’d be a lying toad). I thought it was alright.

But thanks anyways, guys, for letting me know about the album. If you hadn’t, this post wouldn’t have existed.

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Song of the day: Magnus Sörensen & The Captains Inc – "When You’re Not Around"

June 28, 2013

I’ve recently received a barrage of emails from musicians wanting me to mention them on this blog. Woohoo!

In one respect this is a boon: I don’t have to choose songs for the blog. The songs have been chosen for me. Woohoo!

However, one unintended disadvantage of having quite a few songs and albums to listen to is this: If I do what I usually do – namely, getting nitpicky about minute details of each song I listen to – it’s going to take me way too long to get them on to the blog.

What I’m going to have to do is engage in a bit of speed-listening. I’ll listen to all the songs that have come my way, but I won’t listen to each track at least three times. Most importantly, I’ll keep my written interference to a minimum. Or at least try to.

Okey dokey.

Magnus Sörensen is a Swedish chap from Sweden, and he has an album called, er, something. Hang on, I saw it here somewhere…

Ah, yes. The album is called Love In A Mixtape, and it’s credited to Magnus Sörensen & The Captains Inc. It has seven tracks on it, so that makes it a mini-album – unless one of the tracks is extra long (like a prog rock track, for example). Nope. All seven tracks come to a total of 31:46. I guess that barely qualifies as an album. Maybe. (But still, when I see seven tracks, I see a mini-album.)

Right.

Time to listen.

Magnus Sörensen & The Captains Inc – Love In A Mixtape (2013)

1. “Breathe Easy”

A tinkly introduction and we’re away (after 17 seconds). In slightly roots rock territory. Sort of. Or is it country pop? Who knows? Whatever it is, it’s pleasant. And mild. While it’s on, I’m not loving it – but I’m not loathing it either. Unfortunately, I’m not especially fond of Magnus’ vocal inflections. The way he says the words “back” (0:32) and “up” (0:39) are a bit disconcerting. (I don’t know know why he needed to say those words the way he did.) And I thought his pronunciation of “track” at 0:37 was nasal and monotonous. However, when Magnus’ voice goes into a higher register (from 0:45 onwards), things became much more agreeable. When the chorus arrives (at 1:01), the vocal melodies and harmonies are very nice, but I think the chorus is hampered by a fairly ordinary chord progression.

Overall, despite the niceties I found the song slightly underwhelming. Unfortunately, whilst listening to this song I had a distinct case of the heard-it-all-befores.

2. “House Of Cards”

Excellent. The guitar at the beginning of this reminds me of two songs: Van Halen‘s “Little Guitars” (1982)…

(The reminiscent guitar part starts at 1:32)

…and David Lee Roth‘s “Goin’ Crazy!” (1986):

After 15 seconds of the guitar introduction, Magnus and the rest of the band come in, and it’s more interesting than Magnus’ the previous song.

Apart from it not being my kind of music, there’s very little for me to complain about with “House Of Cards”. Although I will moan about that filtered voice from 2:29-2:59. Pointless. And I’ll have a little grumble at the descending guitar lick in the solo (2:10-3:13). I didn’t like the choice of notes. (I much preferred the descending guitar lick at the end of the solo, 3:25-3:28.)

3. “What About You?”

And the reminders continue.

The guitar at the start of this one reminded me of the guitar at the start of Crowded House‘s “Something So Strong“:

The way this song starts also reminds me of Magnus’ previous song, “House Of Cards”. “What About You?” also has a 15-second guitar introduction before the band kicks in. With the first song, “Breathe Easy”, it was a 17-second guitar introduction. I hope all of Magnus’ songs don’t start this way.

Anyway, back to “What About You?”.

There’s a suspicious-sounding vocal note-jump at 0:36, when Magnus sings “I LEFT my old ways…”. Was that a bit of Auto-Tune?

This is another slightly roots-y/country-y song. I’m finding it pleasant but unremarkable. Having typed that, I want to point out that this song is very well made. Everything about it oozes quality. It just doesn’t appeal greatly to my particular tastes in music.

4. “When You’re Not Around”

Another one that starts with a bit of something before the band comes in. This time it’s 14 seconds of an introduction. Magnus sure does like to introduce his songs.

It’s musical coincidence time:

Compare the vocal melody in the verses of “When You’re Not Around” (e.g., 0:28-0:31) to the main vocal melody of The Hollies‘ “Jennifer Eccles” (e.g., 0:07-0:11):

I think “When You’re Not Around” is a good example of the kind of music Magnus plays – i.e., rootsy pop.

Although I’m not loving this song, I am enjoying the sound of the distorted guitar in the left channel.

5. “Solid Ground”

Yet another non-band introduction before the band appears. (This time it’s 11 seconds.) Grrr. But the introduction did contain something I enjoyed: a gleefully sliding note from the guitarist at 0:07.

Polite Note To Magnus: Can I have a bit of variety in how your songs start?

Once the seemingly obligatory introduction is out of the way, the song becomes a jaunty little thing, with a few “bup-ba-da”s thrown in for good measure.

6. “Growing Up / Growing Old”

Regarding the variety of the song introductions: I guess not. It’s a 19-second introduction this time.

A more-country-than-pop song.

I’m definitely not enjoying the sound the bass player’s making. (Tech Talk: It sounds like a combination of low action and the bass player playing too close to the neck, resulting in the listener – i.e., me – hearing more of the pickups and frets than the notes.)

Although this song is a pleasant and potentially relaxing country-ish thing, it does contain high-level verbal rudeness. If you’re at work, you will definitely not want to be playing this song around 3:27-3:29.

7. “Go, Went, Gone”

A 15-second introduction. So that makes it seven out of the seven songs on this mini-album that start similarly.

After the introduction, this song moves in a low-key and stealthy way (with a bit of twang at 0:57-0:59) until it arrives at…

1:40-2:09 – an upbeat chorus.

And then it’s back to the stealthy verse, slowly building to…

2:51-3:19 – another upbeat chorus.

Then it’s a middle eight.

Then it’s a guitar solo.

And then it’s the chorus repeating until the song fades out.

***

And that’s what I thought of Magnus’ mini-album.

Oh, and one last thing about the album. Now that I’ve listened to it, I’d like to say that I think the album cover (see above) is incredibly non-indicative of the music I heard. To me, the artwork looks suitable for anything but a country pop album. Indie goth emo metal, yes. Country pop, no.

Thanks, Magnus, for letting me know about Love In A Mixtape.

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Song of the day: Jackson Browne – "Lawyers In Love"

June 27, 2013

The other day, as Trevor The Plumber (Hi, Trevor!) was getting ready to drive away after another sterling bit of plumbing in the household, I asked him what he’s currently listening to on the CD player in his car. Trevor showed me Jackson Browne‘s 1997 compilation, The Next Voice You Hear: The Best Of Jackson Browne, and I told him that I enjoyed a bit of Jackson Browne, adding that I liked “Lawyers In Love” a lot. We were both shocked to discover that “Lawyers In Love” wasn’t on that particular compilation. Egad!*

So, this song is dedicated to Trevor The Plumber:

Jackson Browne – “Lawyers In Love (1983)

(*Sorry about getting carried away with the swearing there.)


Song of the day: Glen Campbell – "Rhinestone Cowboy"

June 26, 2013

If you’re looking for power pop today, I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place, because I’m in a Glen Campbell phase at the moment. I was in a Glen Campbell phase last week, got out of it and listened to other stuff (like power pop), but now I’m in another Glen Campbell phase.

And I don’t mind at all.

Glen Campbell – “Rhinestone Cowboy (1975)

Update:

Alert commenter side3 (Hi, Sidey!) pointed out something I didn’t know at all: Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy” is a cover.

The song was written by Larry Weiss, who recorded it in 1974.

Here ’tis:

Larry Weiss – “Rhinestone Cowboy (1974)

By the way, Larry also wrote the music for these songs (with lyrics by Scott English):


Song of the day: The Stanleys – "What Are We Gonna Do?"

June 25, 2013

A lovely lady by the name of Shana (Hi, Shana!) sent me an email telling me about The Stanleys, an Australian band I hadn’t* heard of before (along with approximately 3,246 other Australian bands I don’t know about).

The band are about to embark on a world tour, so for the next couple of months they’ll be hither and thither. (It looks to be an interesting jaunt, as the band will be playing in places as diverse as the US, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and China. Oh yeah.)

Shana also included a link to the band’s Bandcamp page, so off I went to have a listen to their EP, Always (2012).

I enjoyed 3/4 of the songs there (I thought “Kid’s Gonna Rock” was a bit ordinary). But I was especially intrigued by the second one, “What Are We Gonna Do?”. The more I listened to it, the more I thought “Hey, this sounds like a long-lost Raspberries track. Yum.”

The Stanleys – Always (2012)
1.
2.
3.
4.

(*Oops. It looks like I had heard of The Stanleys before, because I apparently posted a song by them last year. Feel free to call me Big Fat Lyin’ Pete.)