Posts Tagged ‘Ramsey Lewis’

Prince
Prince
1979

I believe I missed Prince’s second album when it was released, as I was occupied with punk and the theory that it would be easier to initiate sexual relations with punk girls compared with disco girls. (No.) Too bad, because this is a fine disco disc. The one lasting number on it is “Sexy Dancer,” but it should last awhile, and the other songs would be popular if played as a unit at a party…if you could go back and host that party in 1979.

The album’s closer, “It’s Gonna Be Lonely,” shows some emotional depth in its story of a break-up. One verse hints at something much deeper:

I betcha thatcha never knew
That in my dreams you are the star
The only bummer is that you always want to leave
Who do you think you are?

Prince was 21 when he released this record, his second, and you can hear him struggling with the disco/smooth-R&B straitjacket – just as you can hear the 24-year-old Bruce Springsteen struggling to break out of folk-music prison on his second album, The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle (1974).

On Prince, you can’t tell if Prince wants to be Lionel Ritchie, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, or some kind of disco conglomeration. They’ve even photographed him on the album cover to look like Ritchie. But on his third album all hell will break loose, just as it did with Springsteen.

What I was doing at 21: Living in Boston, writing bad science fiction. This is already getting old.

Rolling Stones’ best albums of 1979: The Rolling Stone critics got lazy that year. They gave Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps album-of-the-year honors and cited no runners-up.

It’s not as if they had a small pool of candidates: How about Pink Floyd’s The Wall, The B-52s’ The B-52s, The Clash’s The Clash, Graham Parker’s Squeezing Out Sparks, Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall, The Police’s Reggatta de Blanc (the Coldplay of their day), Donna Summer’s Bad Girls, The Buzzcocks’ Singles Going Steady, or even Sister Sledge’s We Are Family? And look at all the crap, led by Foghat, Foreigner, and The Captain & Tenille?

They called Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” the single of the year. What where they smoking, and can I have some?

Those critics better shape up for 1980.

Random Pick of the Day (but it was close)
Various artists, Day Tripper: Jazz Greats Meet The Beatles Volume 1 (2009)
Two standouts, both on piano: Ramsey Lewis’ “Day Tripper” and McCoy Tyner’s “She’s Leaving Home.” Guitarist Wes Montgomery gives “A Day in the Life” the atmosphere of listening to records at midnight with the lights off. Unfortunately, at the 4-minute mark of this 6-minute song he gets up to get a drink and trips over The Moody Blues.

The rest of this disk explains why there was no Volume 2.

Random Pan of the Day
Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1962)
Recorded in 1959 for the French film, but not released in the USA until 1962. “No Problem” is a terrific tune. Unfortunately, you get four versions of it on this disc, as well as two versions each of two lesser songs, “Prelude in Blue” and “Valmontana.” There are only 10 tracks on Les Liaisons Dangereuses and eight of them are variations of each other. The repetition wore me down.

 

Here’s an important safety tip: If you mention Donovan even once in a public forum, you’ll draw all the Donovoids out of the shadows. I had no idea I knew so many people who responsibly enjoy the music of Donovan. So here’s the last thing I’m going to write about this guy: He’s the male version of Melanie!

The parallels between the two are probably refutable. They were born a year and an ocean apart. Their mono names each have three syllables. They were earnest folk singers before they became bell-ringing hippies. Melanie played at Woodstock. Donovan played at the 2008 Woodstock Film Festival. Their hit songs are mostly silly. But they each produced one magnificent musical artifact of the 1960s: Donovan’s “Season of the Witch” and Melanie’s “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain).”

Melanie’s song runs to 7 minutes and 40 seconds, dwarfing Donovan’s pace of 4 minutes 50 seconds. But Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, and Stephen Stills stretched “Season of the Witch” past 11 minutes. This might mean something. No? OK.

Serious music criticism such as this leads me of course to Achtung! The U2 Studies Journal, which was looking for a copy editor late last year. I would’ve applied, but they are only paying in CDs and concert T-shirts. You can’t even get a date with The Edge. Here’s the ad they ran:

The editors of Achtung! The U2 Studies Journal are seeking volunteer staff members for its online publication debuting in May 2012. Ideal candidates are academics, journalists, professional writers, and independent scholars with a demonstrable record of research, presentation and/or publishing experience in the fine arts, humanities, social sciences, or a related field. It is assumed candidates have at least a general knowledge of U2’s extensive catalogue, history and cultural presence.

Applicants must document a history of collaborative decision making; multitasking; attention to detail; exceptional grammar, mechanics, punctuation, and spelling skills; working on a deadline; exceptional verbal and written communication skills; patience and a sense of humor.

At minimum, a resume is sufficient documentation of qualifications, but an applicant may further elaborate on his or her experience in a cover letter.

I’m working on two essays for Achtung!: “Sunday Bloody Sunday: The Troubled History of Red Sox Weekend Play” and “Where the Streets Have No Name: Honey, We’re Lost.” If they pay me in T-shirts, I hope they’re from the Zooropa tour. Thanks to Number 9 for taking a break from her groundbreaking work on Electrical Banana: The Donovan Studies Journal to share this ad with me. That was particularly generous given that I’m late with the story I promised her, “You’ve Got to Pick Up Every Stitch: Your Mother Doesn’t Live Here.”

Cover of the week
Jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis’ cover of “Oh Happy Day,” a gospel cross-over hit for the Edwin Hawkins Singers in 1969. The following year, EHS backed Melanie on “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain).” Lewis does some fun things with this number.

Birthdays of the week
Happy birthday to Number 9. Play nice or she’ll go home and take ethnomusicology with her. Also to Liz, Duchess of Duct Tape!

Run-DMSteve of the week
I’m back in The Nervous Breakdown. I don’t mention Donovan, either.