Apr 12, 2014

Apr 11, 2014

Mama Feels So Good, Robbins' Remains, Romanthony's World, Plus Irene's Love And A Girly Fun Secret Song!

Some things keep coming around, like Lyn Collins. If you were born in the 1980's, you may know her, or at least you've probably heard her, because her 1972 hit "Think About It" has been heavily sampled by an entire roster of hip-hop stars, like Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock in their 1988 smash "It Takes Two," Snoop Dogg's 1993 single "Ain't No Fun," and Kanye West's 2010 song "So Appalled." And that's only naming a few. We won't even go into the songs that sample "It Takes Two" (which makes them a sample of a sample of a sample) (or something like that) (is your head spinning?) (mine is) (always). Lyn Collins is woven into the fabric of modern hip-hop. 

So now seems like a good time to strip away all the EDM effects and heavily processed vocals and let just the voice come through. The Cheerfully Lyn-Like Exclusive!, 2006's "Mama Feelgood," is a live recording - very live - in which she builds slow, takes the temperature of the room, then let's it rip. It's just plain joyous. And she doesn't sample anyone.

Is it raining where you are? April showers 'n' such? If it is, make yourself a nice pot of tea and put on one of Richard Robbins' best scores. You'll thank me.

Richard, as you may know, scored practically every single Merchant-Ivory film - their 44-year collaboration is the longest in movie history - and one of their best efforts was 1993's "Remains Of the Day." The score is subtle, beautifully haunting, but it's not wedded to the film's post WWII setting. Like most of Richard's scores, the music for "Remains of the Day" seems timeless.

This enduring sound, I think, makes his music one of the more radical elements in Merchant-Ivory movies - and also a direct link to the characters' emotions (and ours). The latter you might say about any good score, but something about "Remains Of The Day" feels almost intensely gratifying. It can generate broad emotional sensations, of course, yet also feel specific to whatever state of mind you might be having while you listen. And that, for me, makes it a masterpiece.

If you were shocked by Frankie Knuckles' passing, then you were likely just as surprised upon learning that singer/DJ/writer-producer Romanthony passed away just this past May at age 46.

If you've never heard of him, or only know of him through his collaborations with Daft Punk, the best way to describe his work is Prince-Gone-New-School-Acid (I know that's too easy, but it'll have to do for now). He was born in New Jersey, and was later known in Chicago and New York for the many original tracks he produced through the 1980's, but he didn't achieve name recognition until he moved to Scotland, a mecca of House music (who knew?), where his first LP, "Romanworld," was released in 1997. House music changed overnight, or at least it seemed that way to me.

Before you're scared off, this isn't dreary, impersonal, industrial-sounding, thump-thump-thump electro, but a transfixing blend of House, raw soul, low-fidelity and mesmerizing vocals - with each song building upon the last, similar to old "concept albums." In this case, the concepts Romanthony's grappling with are race, spirituality and a whole lot more, most of which reach their summit in the tracks "Fall From Grace" and "Ministry Of Love." It's dark, it's playful, and by the end, almost insanely uplifting.

When I think of elegant, I think of many things, but mostly of Irene Kral, a jazz singer who released several gorgeous jazz vocal LPs in the late 1950's and early 60's, vanished from the scene to raise her family, then returned in 1974 with a collection of spare ballads in "Where Is Love," a Comeback Cheerful Exclusive!

It's now considered a classic, and once you give it a listen, you'll know why, because few singers display such heart-stopping delicacy. Her approach is difficult to achieve, and I don't think I've heard anyone do it this well; she goes right for the heated jugular of a song, yet her singing is remarkably uncomplicated. This comes across especially well in the quietly moving "Never Let Me Go" and "Where Is Love?," the latter a musical standard which seems newly invented in her hands. Yes, she's really that good.

Guys are such pervs. Case in point, these two yucks caught peeping through the Secret Song File's living room window. I won't tell you what they saw, but let's just say that when she bops, she's so unusual!

Oh, my God, that was easy an E-Z hint! Remember years ago, when we all thought she would have a more successful career than Madonna? You know, because she could actually sing? You don't? What? Are you, twelve or somethin'?! Anyway, this is the 30th anniversary release of her most famous LP, all gussied up with extra tracks 'n' things. It's still a lot of fun, and it hasn't aged a lick!

I haven't either, 'cause I wash my face in the tears of Millennials!

Share your beauty tricks (or sob story) in the comments, if you like!

Apr 6, 2014

Bucket Of Sads: Mickey Rooney

Mickey & Judy...reunited at last. "Lord, what fools these mortals be!"

Bucket Of Sads: Frankie Knuckles

The day the House Music died. But thankfully, it plays on, first in this groove-a-licious retrospective:

And also in this mid-90's masterpiece (Disc 2 is Knuckles) (and, yes, Romanthony's "Ministry Of Love" is here!):

Mar 29, 2014

Bev's Coffee Jazz, A Fantastic Plastic Party With A Panther, Three Terrif Sisters, Plus a Big Ol' Yellow Brick Of A Secret Song!

Earthquake, earthquake! We had another shake-shake-shake here, but it was fairly mild compared to the last one (since we weren't near the epicenter), which means there was no need to clean up, no need to vacuum. But it did make me think of Jeanette MacDonald - and gosh, how brave she was in "San Francisco" - and the Golden Gate Bridge and beatnik coffee shops and the always delightful 1960s and 70s-era jazz chanteuse Bev Kelly, who recorded several LPs in good ol' Fog City (see how neatly that all fits together?). 

Though largely forgotten by mass-market jazz aficionados (and she really shouldn't be), Bev was playing classical piano at age five, and by the time she graduated college, she was already touring the nation's top jazz clubs and recording albums. She continued performing well into the 1970s, but her family soon took priority - and then (get this; you'll suddenly feel lazy), she somehow found time to earn her Phd. in Clinical Psychology, and to this day, enjoys a thriving private practice. 

Her live "Coffee Gallery" LP, likely recorded in the early 70s (a Call Me Dr. Bev Cheerful Exclusive!), reveals a jazz vocalist with a wonderful light touch - and a wisely contained vibrato which she deploys with skillful precision. Yet it's the overall sunniness of her sound which really sets her apart. When she performs, she seems unencumbered by the usual zonked-out heaviness, unconscious or not, which inflicts some jazz vocalists. Jazz frees something up for Bev; there's purest joy in her singing and it's infectious. 

By the way, if you're throwing a post-earthquake cocktail party today - and really, why wouldn't you want to? - you might want to invite a certain fuchsia-colored feline along.

Mancini isn't the only partygoer on hand at the "Pink Panther's Penthouse Party;" this kicky compilation is surprisingly well-curated, and joins Mancini with oodles of buoyant electro tunes from Pizzicato 5, the Fantastic Plastic Machine, Peggy Lee, Dimitri from Paris and scads more. And, okay, it starts out awkwardly - do we really need two "Pink Panther" mixes in a row? - but I swear it gets better and better as it goes along. Really. Kind of like an earthquake.

Clear the way! They're comin' through! Virginia, Mattye and Anne. That's right; three splendid sisters are. In. The. House.

Mind you, these are international sisters, for they found their greatest fame, along with many movie and TV roles, in Italy and France from the 1950s through the 70s. Could they have succeeded in the U.S.? Probably. But would they have starred in a string of giggly spaghetti westerns and pasta commercials? Probably not. The U.S. might have been their home, but it was Europe (especially Italy) which truly embraced them.

Their singing - a festive mix of blues, jazz and swing - may at first remind you of the Andrews Sisters, but given the time period, they're more self-aware, and so their performances have an added comedic charge. They performed with Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, amongst many others, but in "The Terrific Peters Sisters" - a Just-Between-Us-Sisters Cheerful Exclusive! - they take center stage. And they're delicious.

Hold on, ya'll. It's an aftershock. And it's scary! Why, it's enough to turn the Secret Song File's brown eyes (phosphorescent) blue. Also shocking? The 4-CD anniversary edition of the Queen Mum's a certain Brit pop star's smash 1970s double LP. Sure, there's yellow bricks, but this ain't no Dorothy story (or maybe it is).

There's Jets, too, and Marilyn Monroe and even social diseases (eeow). If you know what this is already, you want this nicely restored version with a trunkful of extras, and if you don't, then you really ought to give it a spin (painted ladies everywhere will thank you). Oh, and remember, this is 4 CDs, so go make a coffee or pop a Xanax or take a nap and come back later because it'll take a while.

If the Big One hits, find your drugs first!

And, please, create a rumble in the comments, if you like.