Friday, February 24, 2006

first steps

NOTE - I recently FINALLY picked up all my old vinyl from my parents' house - and I don't quite know how I've managed without it so long. Aside from the fact that it sounds infinitely better than CD, there's a lot of stuff there that I haven't listened to in a while. So after reveling in the superior audio, I'm aware of the irony in deciding to crunch some of the choicer moments down to mp3 format for your listening pleasure!

The first album I can remember my brother and myself owning was "The Muppet Show". I loved that TV programme and remember when my Dad came home with the album for us (also available on cassette and cartridge, according to the LP) - he'd also brought himself a copy of "The Sound Of Bread". Somewhere in between these two albums is mine and my brother's entire musical taste.

Dr. Teeth & The Electric Mayhem - Tenderly
... featuring a post-performance chat with Animal - surely the drumming icon of choice for anyone born in the 70s?

Fantastic organ work here from Dr. Teeth, not to mention Zoot on Sax... and the other two. Floyd and Janice?? If you can help me out, join me in the retro-void.

Rowlf - Cottleston Pie

I remember that I would pretend to play the piano along with this track - excellent bit of music theory when Rowlf explains what a modulation is. Is it me, or does this sound like Tom Waits??

Scooter (with Fozzie Bear) - Simon Smith And His Amazing Dancing Bear

... and this one might even have subliminally lead me to discover Randy Newman (hear his version here).

The Muppets - Hugga Wugga

History seems to have picked "Mahna Mahna" as the Muppet nonsense classic of choice, but I love this one - and blow me down if it doesn't sound like Funkadelic!

This albums has served me well over the years, especially in the making of many MANY compilation tapes. Go forth with these choice selections and spread the joy.

Buy - Muppet Show: Music, Mayhem & More!, which has most of this stuff
Visit -


from the comments to the original post

boyhowdy - "Floyd and Janice, indeed. In fact, in the Muppet pilot -- which was VASTLY different from the ultimate Muppet show -- floyd was one of the three main characters.

Thanks for these, by the way. We're a tv-less family with two little kids, and plenty of muppets videos (and now the whole first season on DVD) -- but it's nice to have these stripped out and isolated for us.

And...I thought manah manah was actually a cover of a porn song? Maybe just an urban myth. "

Ian - "Me and my brother had this on cassette too when we were kids. Until that sad and sorry day when some reprobate broke into my dad's car and swiped the stereo and collected tapes.

The swine!

'Tenderly' is such a good song!"

Francis - "i didn't know Randy Newman did "Simon Smith.." I only know the Alan Price version. I shall now compare and contrast Newman & Price's version with the original by Fozzie... "

cookies from elastic - "These are great! Thanks much. But, in the interest of fairness and scientific inquiry, wouldn't it be appropriate to post Manah Manah along with Hugga Wugga, so readers can judge between the relative merits of each? Ok, I admit, I'm less interested in scientific inquiry than in hearing Manah Manah again. I just thought subtlety might be the more effective approach. But I could be wrong.

Cheers, either way!"

Jason -  "Having just watched the majority of Season One on DVD, I am really appreciative of the time you took to rip these from the vinyl. They're fantastic. Thanks so much.

Did the vinyl have "Halfway Down The Stairs" as sung by Robin? Oh, how I love that song.."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

romantic rally

I don't want to get all "late-night-radio" on yr collective asses, but these go out to anyone who's having a crappy Valentine's day. They'll do you more good than any of these "break-up-favourites" compilations that seem to be doing the rounds at the moment!

Marvin Gaye started his career at Motown singing ballads and standards. He wanted to be a pop/jazz vocalist in the Nat King Cole/Frank Sinatra mould but at the same time as his standards were unsuccessful, his more commercial fare took off and he became a reluctant R&B star.

But he never totally abandoned his original dream and in 1967 he commissioned Bobby Scott to write arrangements for the seven songs that would become "Vulnerable". However, no-one was happy with the results so these takes were never issued. Marvin said that he hadn't lived enough to make the songs sound right.

However, he never forgot about the standards and would go back to them at different times in his life. In late 1978/early 1979, Marvin was still reeling from his acrimonious divorce from Anna Gordy (documented on the much-misunderstood "Here, My Dear" - more on this in a future post!). He was facing bankruptcy and his second marriage to Janis Hunter was already in trouble. Marvin returned to the ballads because "the pain in my heart corresponded to the pain in the lyrics".

Marvin Gaye - Why Did I Choose You?

Through his early 70s albums, Marvin learned how to multitrack his vocals and blend his different voices and this really adds to these tunes, making them more than just "soppy ballads"; the vocals throughout "Vulnerable" are real works of art!

Marvin Gaye - The Shadow Of Your Smile

Marvin claimed Motown wouldn't release it, but the truth seems to be that Berry Gordy never heard it at the time - Marvin was afraid that it wouldn't sell. I think it stands alongside other great torch-song albums like "In The Wee Small Hours" and "Lady In Satin".

Visit - Marvin Gaye on Wikipedia
Buy - Vulnerable

Saturday, February 11, 2006

random rally

No big link between these songs, other than the fact that I re-heard them all recently and the urge to share was too great! I hope you enjoy the random mini-mixtape below and, as always, follow the links to find out more and support these artists by buying their stuff!

Soundgarden - 'Sub Pop Rock City'
from "Sub Pop 200" - buy it.

Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings - 'Green Pastures (live)'
from "Down On The Mountain OST" - buy it.

Lisa Germano - 'Small Heads'
from "excerpts from a Love Circus" - buy it.

The High Llamas - 'Theatreland'
from "Hawaii" - buy it

Visit - unofficial Soundgarden homepage
Visit - Emmylou Harris
Visit - Gillian Welch
Visit - Lisa Germano
Visit - High Llamas

Saturday, February 04, 2006

I was Lord Kitcheners Valet

Andy Partridge of XTC sums it all up very nicely in the book 'Song Stories' by Neville Farmer... 'I loved British psychedelic music from 1967/68....For England it was garden parties and Edward Lear and school uniforms on boating lakes which turned to jelly.' So inspired were XTC by this period of music that they formed their own spoof band, 'Dukes of Stratosphear'....the joke backfired when the Dukes albums outsold the contemporary XTC ones.

Dukes of Stratosphear- Vanishing Girl

Vanishing Girl is probably the least 'far out' of all the Dukes songs but it has the harmonies and poppiness of The Hollies who dutifully 'went psychedelic' in 1967. Ultimately it was a bit of a gesture which sent Graham Nash packing for California for more like minded company and left The Hollies on the northern club circuit. 'King Midas in Reverse is a classic though.

The Hollies- King Midas in Reverse

The Move and Tomorrow really sum up the fuzzed up, manic glory of British psychedelia. 'I Can Hear the Grass Grow' has recently been covered by The Fall who really capture its dynamism.

The Move- I Can Hear the Grass Grow

Tomorrow played the same underground circuit as Pink Floyd but never broke big. Guitarist Steve Howe went on to join other space cadets in Yes.

Tomorrow- My White Bicycle

I love the daftness of all of these tunes but most of all I dig their lack of cynicism....more Laughing Gnomes if you please...more tea Vicar?

I've already linked 'Dukes of Stratosphear' elsewhere but here it is again.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

electric ladyland

One of my favourite and most-played albums of last year was Common's "Be", a really great album from the man Kanye West calls "the hip hop Marvin Gaye".

While I've been enjoying "Be" (and if you don't have it, you really should), I was bothered by the DVD accompanying the release, where various people seemed to disregard his previous album, "Electric Circus". The main complaints were that Common had taken to dressing like a freak (the crotched trousers, in particular, came in for some stick) and had been led by his then-squeeze Erykah Badu to neglect the hip hop faithful and become a "backpacker". Common, to his credit, wasn't having any of it, saying that "Electric Circus" was still true to him, it was just another side of his personality and was as far out as he could go. And that is pretty Far Out.

Common - Aquarius

It's been a while since we've used the term "psychedelic masterpiece" on The Rally, and "Electric Circus" definitely fits the bill. It sounds like no other hip hop album, often using the same production team as used on D'Angelo's "Voodoo", which I wrote about a while back. The collaborators on the album are pretty wild, too, ranging from the expected (The Neptunes) to the surprising (Prince) to the out-and-out "what-the...?" (Stereolab on the track "New Wave").

Common feat. Erykah Badu - Jim Was A Rock Star

The two tracks I've chosen here are coincidentally the ones with the most pronounced Erykah Badu involvement, but the whole album is so diverse it's been hard to narrow it down. "Jimi Was A Rock Star" is I think the closest any current artist has got to channeling the spirit of Funkadelic. Play it really LOUD, and try to imagine Fiddy having this much imagination or talent - as opposed to "this much talent".

Visit - Common
Buy - Electric Circus
Buy - Be