Monday, February 28, 2011

9. Tears For Fears - The Seeds of Love (1989)

45 years, 45 LPs, 45 days...
The Seeds of Love (1989)
Hype sticker
Prior to 1989 I was pretty anti-Tears For Fears. I had heard more of their music on the radio than I considered necessary, and would have been perfectly content to never hear them again.  Then I heard "Sowing the Seeds of Love" on the radio, and I changed my tune pretty quickly.

1989: My bedroom, N.E. Minneapolis
I remember thinking what a bold move it was for Tears For Fears to record a single so overtly Beatlesque as "Sowing the Seeds of Love".  The first time I heard it I thought "Wow - this is really good."  The rest of the album, while not as radio friendly, is stunning in its complexity. The band added a new voice to its sound palette, the lovely Oleta Adams, who is featured so much on the record that she should have been credited as an honorary band member.

Tears For Fears, circa 2004
From what I have read about the making of the album, Roland Orzabal's obsession with perfection over each detail delayed the LP's completion, which escalated tensions with bandmate Curt Smith. Smith left after Seeds of Love, and Orzabal kept TFF going for several decent albums. The duo reunited in the 2000's to record the spectacular comeback, Everybody Loves a Happy Ending (2004).

Sunday, February 27, 2011

10. Prefab Sprout - Two Wheels Good (1985)

45 years, 45 LPs, 45 days...

Here it is - the TOP 10
Two Wheels Good (1985)
Ernie November, where joy was cheap
Two Wheels Good (1985) is yet another album that I bought after reading about it in MOJO's list of "100 Greatest LPs". The album completely slipped past me when it first came out in the 80's. I bought my first used copy in 1996 at the Ernie November record store in Mankato, MN, where I was buying most of my vinyl at the time.

Mankato's ghetto Devonshire apartment complex
where my roomie & I lived a thrifty & cozy two years

The first few months of 1996 were an interesting, somewhat manic time. I had spent the latter part of 1995 emaciated from Crohn's disease (the illness had wasted my body down to less than 110 pounds). After beginning a therapy of prednisone I was able to start healing. One of the steroid's many annoying side effects was sleeplessness, so I would often head out to the 24 hour Happy Chef to study & have breakfast. Other mornings I would have coffee at home and listen to records as the sun came up. It helped me to find some peace amidst all the insanity.
The legendary MOJO
 My investment in the MOJO list led to a growing collection of classic LPs; Records by Bowie, Sly & the Family Stone, & Joni Mitchell were ones that I would likely never have sought were it not for my MOJO venture. Looking back at how sick I was, I am wicked thankful to have had these LPs as my companions during that crazy time.
Class of '96. 

Shortly after graduation I made a trip to Saranac Lake, NY (which I wrote about here). For my rental car excursions through the Adirondacks I packed a few tapes: The Byrds' Younger than Yesterday, Elvis Costello's All This Useless Beauty, and Prefab Sprout's awesome Two Wheels Good. When I hear these records today they remind me not only of the trip to NY, but also of my journey of healing during that first half of 1996. Even though it was a painful time, the music on these albums remind me that I'm a survivor, and that's a very sweet thing to remember.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

11. Redd Kross - Phaseshifter (1993)

45 years, 45 LPs, 45 days...
Phaseshifter (1993)

F*ckin' Redd Kross!

My first taste of Redd Kross was a cassette of Neurotica (1987), lent to me by a friend who was convinced I would love this band. Rule #1 in the Jeff handbook: The best way to guarantee that I'll dislike something is to tell me that you know I'll love it.  Sure enough, I was indifferent and returned the tape with a shrug and a "meh - it was alright."

Fast forward to 1990. The Go-Go's are on a brief reunion tour to promote their new Greatest compilation. They were booked to play the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis, but got moved to the much cooler First Avenue (due to sluggish ticket sales, I presume). November 30th arrives, and I couldn't be more pumped for what was going to be my 3rd Go-Go's concert. But first, warm-up band Redd Kross took the stage and ripped through a set that turned me into an instant convert. As the band played songs from their new album Third Eye, I remember thinking "Hmm. This might just have to be my new favorite band."  Over the years I would see Redd Kross play at First Avenue several more times before they went into hiatus (the band is currently playing live gigs again and finishing up a new album).

In 1993 Redd Kross released the absolutely perfect Phaseshifter, which truly tore the top right off of my head. I consider it to be one of the premiere power-pop LPs of all time (another being God Bless the Go-Go's (2000), which sadly never made its way to vinyl).  Collaborations between Redd Kross and the Go-Go's continued into the 90's and beyond on various records, but more importantly through the marriage of RK's Jeff MacDonald and Go-Go Charlotte Caffey, who collaborated on the birth of their daughter Astrid in '95.

On 10/25/2005 I posted the following question (at precisely 7:41 PM) to a forum on Go-Go Jane Wiedlin's official website:
The double bill of Redd Kross and The Go-Go's in 1990 made for one of the BEST rock shows I've ever seen in my life. Seriously, I was lucky enough to see the tour when it hit First Avenue in Minneapolis, and they tore the roof off the place. What I didn't know at the time was that there was a little romance happening between Charlotte and RK's Jeff MacDonald. 

My question for Jane: I've often wondered, did Charlotte and Jeff know each other well prior to the tour, or did things start happening as a result of spending time together on the road?  Thanks Jane - You rock super duper hard.  Jeff
Exactly ten minutes later Jane posted the following response:
That WAS a great night, and not just because of the music! Jeff & Char started their crush at that show, and look where it led!

Friday, February 25, 2011

new Monkees radio interview on BBC 6

Posted by the BBC 2.23.2011:

12. De La Soul - 3 Feet High and Rising (1989)

45 years, 45 LPs, 45 days...
3 Feet High and Rising (1989)
Have I mentioned how much I loved 1989? It kicked some sweet musical ass.  I could probably do a Top 45 of albums just from 1989 alone. 

3 Feet High and Rising is not De La Soul's best album. In my opinion Buhloone Mind State (1992) is their best work so far, and 2009's Nike sponsored aRe yoU iN? is awesome as well.  What makes De La's first album so important is its influence on hip hop. What puts it so high on this countdown is how it opened me up to a whole hip hop scene that had previously been limited to Run DMC, The Fat Boys, and The Beastie Boys.
1990: Sporting my fancy Posdnous eyewear, my fave cardigan,
one of my fave friends and, on the wall, my fave hip hop group

3 Feet High and Rising was released at a time when gangsta rap was becoming HUGE. I remember working at the record store when CDs from Ice-T and N.W.A. started selling huge numbers. Out of nowhere comes this trio from Long Island with a crazy mix of bizarre samples and beats, assembled with the assistance of producer Prince Paul. This was a whole new genre of music - psychedelic hip hop - lifting bits off records by The Turtles, Rascals, and even Schoolhouse Rock. The songs featured little comedy skits and songs about girls, sex, drugs, and popular culture. De La Soul was different and fresh, and I was mesmerized. 

Through De La Soul I found a whole mess of other artists that were part of the "Native Tongues" posse: A Tribe Called Quest, Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah, Monie Love, Brand Nubian, and Black Sheep. For five years I didn't miss any Native Tongue releases.  In the end A Tribe Called Quest broke up (but not before I saw them on a double bill with De La Soul at First Avenue), Latifah became a big movie star/tv star/CoverGirl, and Monie Love focused on motherhood. De La Soul? They are all family men now, but they're still making records and going strong.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

*new* Monkees 45th Anniversary Tour (UK)

9:43 AM

Spinning The Who today at work.

13. Prince & The Revolution - Parade (1986)

45 years, 45 LPs, 45 days...
Parade (1986)
"Kiss" b/w "❤ or $"
The story of Prince and the Revolution is as interesting as the music they made during their short tenure as a band. By the time of Parade, Prince was involved in multiple projects (such as directing the ill-fated film Under the Cherry Moon) , so he delegated much of the completion & sweetening of Parade's tracks to his trusted bandmates Wendy & Lisa. In the end, Parade sounds like more of a band effort than either of its predecessors, Purple Rain (1984) and Around the World in a Day (1986).

"Mountains" b/w "Alexa De Paris"
The first time I heard this album I knew it was different from anything else happening at the time. The album was daring and adventurous, using real orchestration at a time when most bands were saturating their records with synthesizers. The Revolution followed Parade with an equally adventurous album called Dream Factory which made it all the way to the mastering stage before the plug was pulled by Prince, who then proceeded to pull the plug on The Revolution. Only keyboardist Matt "Dr" Fink remained at Prince's side. Bassist Brown Mark was invited to stay, but declined in favor of a solo career. Wendy, Lisa and Bobby Z swiftly began work on Wendy & Lisa's self-titled debut album, which came out the following year.

b/w "Girls & Boys"
Parade is without a doubt my favorite Prince album.  One thing I've concluded in the 25 years since Parade's release is that we will never again experience Parade's artistic heights until Prince agrees to work with his former collaborators Wendy & Lisa.  W&L have publicly stated that they would love to join him again in the studio. Over the past few years there has been some on-stage collaboration, and W&L made some minor instrumental contributions to Prince's Planet Earth album (2007). Whether this means Prince is softening to the idea of further collaboration remains to be seen. If we have learned anything about Prince it is that he is completely unpredictable.
Junction Apts @ U of M Duluth, where I first experienced Parade

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Monkees comix in UK's Daily Mail

14. The Partridge Family - Sound Magazine (1972)

45 years, 45 LPs, 45 days...
Sound Magazine (1972)
1992: Jeff gets Keith's Autograph

My brother and I both pride ourselves on the loyalty we show to the bands that we like. When you are a fan of a band you do your homework: you find out what label they are on, where they are from, who plays what in the band, and how many records they've released. Once we officially identify ourselves as a "fan" we tend to stick with that artist through thick & thin. The rationale behind this is that good music is always going to be good music. If it is worth liking today it is still going to be something we'll like 20 years from now.  It's a long-term relationship.
My bro & I at evil petting zoo, 1970s
In contrast to the honest tried & true fan there is the sad wishy washy fair weather fan. In our opinion, a fair weather fan is one of earth's most despicable creatures. One of the more annoying phrases uttered by these creatures is "OMG I used to love __(insert artist name here)__."  Used to love? So what did this band do to make you suddenly stop loving them?  The logical conclusion is often that fair weather fans simply love bands because their friends love them, or because they think it's cool to like a band that's considered "hip" for whatever reason. We look down our noses at these people.
Don't wait! Join today!!

So it is with great pride today that I proclaim yet again my allegiance to the music of The Partridge Family. I loved their records as a kid, and I love them now. Why? Because they are great pop records, pure & simple.  I love the entire Partridge catalog, but Sound Magazine (1972) is undoubtedly their Sgt. Pepper. By the time of their 3rd full-length the well-oiled studio machine had perfected the "Partridge sound", and it is at its most glossy and harmonious on this LP. Sound Magazine is notable for being the first Partridge record to feature David Cassidy's natural voice, rather than the sped-up voice used on the previous two albums. Turned out this Cassidy cat could really sing.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Monkees on BBC to talk about upcoming tour

The Monkees 2011
Davy, Micky & Peter appeared on BBC's "The One Show" last night to talk about their upcoming UK tour. These guys are such pros -- stick them in a room together and the zaniness ensues, picking up right where they left off ten years ago. 

New Bangles vinyl 7" single

"Sweetheart of the Sun", a single from the forthcoming new Bangles album, is expected to be available soon exclusively at Maurice's clothing stores.

15. The Rascals - Once Upon a Dream (1968)

45 years, 45 LPs, 45 days...
Once Upon a Dream (1968)
Dreams are messages which are sent to us from above. They can occur in all types of shapes and forms from beauty to bizarre. They bring omens and nonsense. The origin of their birth however, is enough to allow the light which they bring with them to penetrate into our souls. The Dream Of Mankind Is Peace On Earth And Good Will Toward Men.
This album is dedicated to that dream.
~Felix Cavaliere, from a booklet included with initial pressings of Once Upon a Dream

 I actually had a dream about this album last night, which is pretty spooky/cool considering the album's title, right?

It's getting to the point in this "45 days" countdown where I'm pretty much going through my "desert island LPs", those records that have become so much a part of my cellular makeup that I would never choose to live without them.

Original Dream booklet
I've frequently referred to spring/summer of 1988 as my own personal "Summer of Love". I was finding my legs as a student and digging my new confidence and independence on and around campus. When off campus I was working part-time at a record store that stocked deep catalog titles. I made liberal use of my employee discount to explore new music by sixties artists, with the belief that 1967-69 was an unprecedented time of musical, social, and cosmic awakening for many bands. One such band, I learned, was The Rascals.

Mr. Fancy Pants of the month
Working for a retail chain that sold high volume meant that I had access to promotional copies for lots of new releases. I soon became known at the store for my musical tastes, so promos from companies like Rhino tended to make their way to my inbox. Two promo cassettes that got handed down to me were The Rascals' recently re-issued Freedom Suite (1969) and Once Upon A Dream (1968). I listened intently to both, but it was Once Upon a Dream that absolutely captivated me.

I have very warm memories of walking to and from class in the bright morning sunshine, listening to Dream in my Walkman. My world was bursting into a bright colorful time of self discovery, and I was armed with a backpack full of psychedelic gems as my soundtrack, changing the lens thru which I contextualized my daily existence. I feel very lucky to have collided with such great music at such a formative time in my life when my mind was at its most receptive.
Once Upon a Dream is one of the grooviest, most accomplished, and woefully overlooked albums of all time.  The album opens with a very brief intro from the title track before segueing into "Easy Rollin'", which sets the tone for the far-out journey that follows, comprised of a wide and ambitious array of styles from psychedelic soul, eastern Indian, to rock and pop, all stitched together with short vignettes into a thematic peace dream operetta. At age 22 the album seemed tailor-made for where my head was at. Listening to it today as I fast approach 45, it feels like a friendly postcard from a far more innocent time.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monkees announce 45th anniversary tour!

It was officially announced this morning that The Monkees (or Monke3s as some folks, including Dolenz, haved spelled the trio incarnation sans Nesmith) may be coming to your town, as the old song says.  They've got ten UK dates set so far, followed by a US tour, the first show being Vienna, VA on June 19.

I will be covering news of this tour as it unfolds, so stay tuned here for more fancy Monkee biz!!

16. Love - Forever Changes (1967)

45 years, 45 LPs, 45 days...
Forever Changes (1967)
I bought my first copy of this album in the 90's after reading about it in MOJO magazine's 100 Greatest Albums of All Time issue (Forever Changes was #11). I didn't warm up to the album very easily, and after a couple of listens it got filed away.

Fast forward to summer of 1997.  I was packing for a trip to Duluth one weekend and grabbed a handful of tapes for the car, including (from what I remember) Notorious Byrd Brothers and Forever Changes.  It was on that trip, driving North on 35W, when I finally connected with this complex and magnificent album.

Summer 1997 on the North Shore
1997 isn't a year that I remember fondly. I was only a few months out of graduate school, working a job for which I was overqualified and slowly learning to hate.  By summer '97 I'd been clobbered pretty hard by a round of shingles followed by a nasty depression. This was not your standard every day run-of-the-mill depression - this was some dark shit (my own "Bummer in the Summer", to cite one of the songs on this album) . My sour state of mind at the time, I think, is probably what made Forever Changes resonate the way it did - it is not the rosiest of albums. In spite of its ominous tones, Forever Changes as a whole is undeniably beautiful.

Similar to another masterpiece from this period, The Zombies' Odessey and Oracle (1968), Forever Changes would not receive its proper acclaim until after the band had split up. Without the benefit of a hit single the album stalled on the Top 200 album chart at a painful #154 (Odessey and Oracle, on the other hand, enjoyed a huge unexpected hit with "Time of the Season"). Although The Zombies had moved onto other projects by 1968, Arthur Lee continued with Love into the 1970's, but without any of the band's original members.
1997: "Bummer in the Summer"
In 2004 Love and the Zombies actually teamed up for a tour, stopping for a show in Minneapolis on 7.10.2004 that my brother and I attended.  By this time Johnny Echols had rejoined Love, which was  very exciting to experience live. The Lee/Echols reunion was sadly short-lived, as Arthur's battle with leukemia soon made live performances challenging for his band.  He passed away in 2006.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Solar Fusion

I bought a 12 pack of this stuff last week thinking it would be delicious. It wasn't at first, but by can number twelve I'm thinking it's mighty tasty.

17. The Beach Boys - Friends (1968)

45 Years, 45 LPs, 45 days...
Friends (1968)
Sunshine Dream (1982)
My first taste of Friends (1968) was through a 1982 Capitol compilation called Sunshine Dream, a double album that mimicked the concept of Endless Summer (1974), except this time the lion's share of tunes were late 60's Beach Boys. I purchased the album in early summer '84 and became instantly obsessed. Songs like "Friends" and "Be Here In the Morning" were unlike anything I'd ever associated with The Beach Boys.  I soon bought Smiley Smile (1967), 20/20 (1969), and the majestic Pet Sounds (1966). To my 18 year-old ears these records were uncommonly awe-inspiring and downright spiritual.
May 1984: Orlando, FL
And so began my new life as a Beach Boys fanatic. Over the next two years I continued to buy up their catalog wherever I could find it (note that this was at a time when most of their 70's LPs were out of print).  In the fall of '85 I bought my first bootleg SMILE LP, which opened a door to yet another era of Beach Boys music I had never experienced. By this time I'd also obtained a shiny new copy of the 1974 Brother/Reprise twofer of Friends/Smiley Smile.
Friends/Smiley Smile twofer (1974)

Friends is one of the first true Beach Boys records, in that each group member had stepped up their creative input to make up for Brian's increased absence. Brian is certainly present on Friends, but not like he was on Pet Sounds. Friends shows the other Beach Boys sharing songwriting and production credit, as well as increased vocal duties. Most notable are the beautiful "Be Still" and "Little Bird", the first Dennis Wilson compositions heard on a Beach Boys LP, and two of Friends' major high points.

1992: Carl & The Passions + Jeff
Very few bands have a musical history as rich  as The Beach Boys. Their body of work is so deeply layered that it requires a certain dedication to uncover it all. For me it's been a highly rewarding journey.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

18. RamonesMania (1988)

45 years, 45 LPs, 45 days...
RamonesMania (1988)
Only 18 albums left!

The Ramones were more than a punk band, they were cultural icons. I've written about my first Ramones experience here before, so I won't repeat any of that now.

Before seeing the Ramones in '86 I had only heard two of their albums: The soundtrack for Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979), and the Phil Spector production End of the Century (1980).  The next Ramones record I bought was 1987's Halfway to Sanity, which I listened to regularly on campus via my trusty Walkman.

My first Ramones show
Multi-colored pressing, released 
on Record Store Day, 2010
In 1988 Sire Records issued what I consider to be one of the most important "best of" collections of all time: Ramones Mania. This record belongs in every music library, in my opinion, alongside the Beatles' Red & Blue albums, The Rolling Stones' Hot Rocks, and The Beach Boys' Endless Summer.
1986: post-Ramones

In '89 legendary bassist Dee Dee Ramone left his band, although he continued to contribute new songs to the group's albums. New bassist C-Jay gave the Ramones a shot in the arm, and the band surged forward until their retirement in 1996. In March 2002, after the untimely passing of Joey Ramone, the surviving Ramones attended their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Three months later Dee Dee died of a heroin overdose.

God Bless The RAMONES...
From the Adios Amigos tour, 1996.

Friday, February 18, 2011

19. The Knack - Round Trip (1981)

45 years, 45 LPs, 45 days...
Round Trip (1981)

The Knack got a raw deal.

Unless you were alive in the summer of 1979 you are probably unaware of just how massive The Knack were. Without question, The Knack were the hottest band on the planet in '79, with the biggest selling record of the year ("My Sharona").  The Knack was packaged and promoted by Capitol Records in a rather cheeky fashion as "the next Beatles", which definitely drew attention to the band's debut LP. It didn't hurt that their first single was fresh and catchy and an undeniable powerhouse.

Capitol's "new Beatles" strategy eventually backfired, due in part to the band's choice to adamantly deny press interviews. The result was a public perception that The Knack was too big for their britches, and that their success was somehow undeserved.  By the time of their second album, ...but the little girls understand (released on valentine's day, 1980), severe damage to the band's reputation had already been done.

1981: Sophomore and proud member of Edison
high school's elite library staff
After taking a short time to lick their wounds, The Knack returned on October 15, 1981 with the epic pop masterpiece, Round Trip. The record was produced by Jack Douglas, who had recently finished co-producing John & Yoko's Grammy-winning Double Fantasy (1980). I remember one reviewer writing something like:
"If Get The Knack was Meet the Beatles, then Round Trip is The Knack's Revolver."
 I have always believed that the amount of sophistication and growth achieved by The Knack in the short time between their 2nd album and Round Trip was astonishing.

7.5.03: Autographs from my 3rd and final Knack concert
Sadly, the hate campaign directed at The Knack (coldly dubbed "Nuke The Knack!") had achieved its goal of destroying whatever was left of the band's momentum, and Round Trip sunk swiftly upon its release. The band split shortly after being dropped by Capitol due to Round Trip's disappointing chart performance. Luckily for the fans the band reunited for good in 1991 to record the seriously fun Serious Fun. The band would release two more top-notch CDs before 2010, when Knack leader Doug Feiger succumbed to a long battle with cancer.