musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Posts tagged ‘Todd Rundgren’

Music CDs at Dasa in Bangkok

Well, somebody had to do it.

After several years of thinking about it, debating the pros and cons, and talking it over with my business partner, I defied conventional business wisdom and forged ahead last month, adding secondhand music CDs to the product mix at Dasa Books, my shop in Bangkok.

dasa_CD6sm

My decision to “try it and see what happens” has pretty much been my way of doing business. Throughout more than thirty years of managing or owning various retail businesses, I have consistently defied conventional wisdom and simply done what I wanted, or what I thought customers might want, regardless of popularity or trends. I’ve found that if you cater to a niche market and know your product you can succeed.  And CDs have become one such niche market. But nowadays, even in a city as large and cosmopolitan as Bangkok, finding a good selection of music on CD, either new or secondhand, is becoming more and more difficult. Frankly, the selection in local shops sucks. To find CDs that I want, I have to either buy them when I go to Kuala Lumpur (where the Rock Corner branches still have a good selection) or order from online dealers.

Statistics in recent years show that CD sales are declining, of that there is no doubt. Thus many “experts” have declared that CDs are now obsolete, convinced that all music lovers are suddenly going to abandon their CD collection and start downloading and streaming music instead of buying actual discs. Well, hold on there, all you geniuses, maybe that’s not quite the case. Many music addicts still prefer buying and listening to music on compact disc. You can weigh the pros and cons of CDs versus vinyl, or even throw in downloads into the argument, but the fact remains that many people who buy and collect music still want CDs.

dasa_CD8

So yeah, I like CDs, and I buy several hundred each year to satisfy my addiction, but I am a dying breed? I was excited about finally selling music in my shop, but frankly I wasn’t sure how much of a demand that there would be for CDs. If you listen to all those experts and doomsayers, they will tell you that digital is the future and “nobody buys CDs anymore.”

Thankfully, I discovered that’s not the case. We started selling CDs in mid-November, and for our opening stock I plucked about 500 “non-essential” CDs from my personal collection (How many do I still have? Let’s just say that didn’t make much of a dent in my collection!). Since that time the stock has continued to grow as customers have sold us more discs. We now have over 1,300 CDs in stock and the total would be higher, but a strange thing happened: we’ve already sold nearly 400 of the darn things! No market for CDs in this digital age? I beg to differ. Needless to say, I’m happy with the CD sales thus far, and judging from the feedback we’ve gotten, many diehard music lovers are very happy and excited to have another place in Bangkok to buy CDs.

Meanwhile, here are the CDs that I’ve been playing a lot at home and at work recently, reading to close out this year with a sonic bang!

lesambassedeurs

Les Ambassadeurs du Hotel de Bamako

Lee Hazlewood – Poet, Fool or Bum/Back on the Street Again

The Idle Race – Back to the Story

Ryley Walker – Primrose Green

Wet Willie – Manorisms/Which One’s Willie?

 

detroitfunk

Various Artists – Detroit Funk Vaults: Funk and Soul From Dave Hamilton 1968-79

Leon Ware – Moon Ride

Shawn Colvin – Uncovered

Game Theory – Real Nighttime (30th Anniversary Edition)

Various Artists – Loose Funk: Rare Soul from Sound Stage 7 Records

 

haitidirect

Various Artists – Haiti Direct

Frankie Lee – American Dreamer

Continental Drifters – Drifted: In the Beginning &  Beyond

Neil Diamond – The Bang Years 1966-1968

Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – The Travelling Kind

 

hottunaburgers

Hot Tuna – Burgers

Various Artists – Super Funk 3

Justin Townes Earle – Single Mothers

Bombay Bicycle Club – A Different Kind of Fix

Jeff Lynne’s ELO – Alone in the Universe

 

passionpit

Passion Pit – Kindred

Red Garland Quintet – Soul Junction

Icehouse – Man of Colours

Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – Stranger in Town

Bob Welch – French Kiss

 

squeezecradle

Squeeze – Cradle to the Grave

Goldberg – Misty Flats

Various Artists – Step Inside My Soul

Catherine Howe – What a Beautiful Place

Jefferson Starship – Red Octopus

 

funkinchangin

Funk Inc. – Hangin’ Out/Superfunk

The 9th Creation – Bubble Gum

Marlena Shaw – The Spice of Life

Various Artists – Los Angeles Soul: Kent-Modern’s Legacy 1962-71

Johnny Hammond – Gears/Forever Taurus

 

inperfectharmony

Various Artists – In Perfect Harmony: Sweet Soul Groups 1968-77

Tame Impala – Lonerism

Roy Wood – The Wizzard

Various Artists – Howie B: Another Late Night

Todd Rundgren & Emil Nikolaisen– Runddans

 

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Tommy Talton’s Musical Legacy: Cowboy & We The People

One of the more unsung musicians of the 1960s and 1970s is Florida’s Tommy Talton, a guiding force behind influential bands such as We The People and Cowboy. I grew up in Central Florida during those years and heard a lot about those bands, but I am ashamed to admit that until earlier this year I had never heard a full album by either one of Talton’s famous groups.

cowboy_5ll

Cowboy, a band that Talton formed with Scott Boyer after We The People broke up, were signed to the Capricorn label (label mates and friends with the Allman Brothers) released Reach For the Sky in 1970 and 5’ll Get You Ten in 1971. Both albums (re-released last year by Real Gone Records) were laidback country-rock gems, focusing on melodic songs and soaring harmonies more than the “guitar army” slant of many other southern rock bands of that era. After the other band members left following 5’ll Get You T Boyer and Talton continued making music as Cowboy and later as a duo for the rest of the decade. They reunited in 2010 for a live album and reports have it that they are writing songs for a new studio album. Meanwhile, Talton continues to play live shows, mostly near his home in Atlanta and around Florida.

cowboy_reach

Talton cut his musical teen as a teenager when he formed We The People  in late 1965 with other Orlando area musicians such as guitarist Wayne Proctor, David Duff, and Randy Boyte. They played a lot of shows in the Orlando area and around the Southeast, and were briefly signed to the RCA label (releasing a few singles but not a full album), but never managed to break big nationally. Blame that on poor marketing and record distribution more than talent. Like Cowboy, this was a band that had an arsenal of great songs. To immerse myself in the music of We The People I recently bought Mirror of Our Minds a 2-CD collection that includes everything the band recorded during their brief existence, including tracks that the members made under earlier band-names such as The Trademarks, The Nonchalants, and the Offbeets. Most people categorize We The People as a psychedelic rock band, or garage band, but their songs also had a strong melodic foundation and sometimes exuded an R&B and soul vibe. Even at this young age it was clear that Tommy Talton was a songwriting talent. It’s not a stretch to say the songs of We The People were every bit as good as those of their more famous British contemporaries such as The Yardbirds or the Pretty Things.

wethpeople

Meanwhile, here are the other albums — all legally purchased CDs — that I have been enjoying and singing to during the recent rainy days and stormy nights in Bangkok.

 

verckys

Verckys et L’Orchestre Veve – Congolese Funk, Afrobeat, & Psychedelic Rumba 1968-78

Cut Copy – Fabric Live 29

Bobby Lance – First Peace/Rollin’ Man

Lightspeed Champion – Falling Off the Lavender Bridge

Dwight Yoakam – Second Hand Heart

 

todd_global

Todd Rundgren – Global

TV on the Radio – Seeds

Paul Collins – Feel the Noise

Various Artists – Bonobo: Late Night Tales

Dawes – All Your Favorite Bands

 

jazzmeetsafrica

Various Artists – Jazz Meets Africa

Sloan – Commonwealth

Mongo Santamaria – Up From Roots

Various Artists – Masterpieces of Modern Soul

The Grip Weeds – How I Won the War

 

barbara&ernie

Barbara Massey & Ernie Calabria – Prelude to …

Mark Knopfler – Tracker

Blur – The Magic Whip

Phillip Upchurch – Darkness, Darkness

Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Don’t Stand Me Down

 

studioonescorcher

Various Artists – Studio One Scorcher: Instrumentals

Rasputin’s Stash – Rasputin’s Stash

The James Taylor Quartet – Hammond-ology

Ron Nagle – Bad Rice

Bobbi Humphrey – Fancy Dancer

 

larryjonwilson

Larry Jon Wilson – New Beginnings/Let Me Sing My Song To You

Various Artists – Next Stop Soweto

The Pazant Brothers – The Brothers Funk: 1969-1975

Various Artists – Por Vida: A Tribute to the Songs of Alejandro Escovedo

Wendy Rene – After the Laughter Comes Tears: Complete Stax & Volt Single & Rarities 1964-65

 

XLcantbesatisfied

Various Artists – Can’t Be Satisfied: The XL and Sounds of Memphis Story

Orchestre Super Borgou de Parakou – The Bariba Sound: 1970-1976

Belle and Sebastian – Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance

Roscoe Gordon – Bootin’: Best of the RPM Years

Chris Spheeris – Eros

 

Politics and Lunch … with Ry and Ian

One of the many great albums that Ry Cooder recorded in the 1970s was Paradise and Lunch. That album included inspired covers of jazz, blues, and country standards such as “Mexican Divorce,” “If Walls Could Talk,” and “Ditty Wah Ditty,” along with some pop and R&B tunes such as Bobby Womack’s “It’s All Over Now.”

 

Since his early, more folk-influenced recordings in the 1970s, Ry Cooder has veered all over the musical map; witness his various soundtrack projects and world music albums such as his recordings with the Buena Vista Social Club in Cuba. But in recent years he has returned to his roots, recording original material, many of the songs focused on politics and social issues. In fact, he has just released a new album of originals that is his boldest political statement yet. It would have been appropriate to call it Politics and Lunch, but instead Ry settled for Election Special. The album includes tracks such as “Guantanamo”, “The Wall Street Part of Town,” and “Mutt Romney Blues” (yes, that’s “Mutt” not “Mitt” in the song title!). Cooder is an unabashed Democrat and proudly affirms his allegience, along with his views on the state of the nation over the course of this lively album.

 

Naturally, Cooder has alienated any right-wing fans that he might have had with these politically-charged tunes, but I doubt that he’s losing any sleep over it. Instead, he’s doing interviews to both plug the album and wake up the voting public. He’s pulling no punches, urging voters to choose Barack Obama and not to put up with the crooks on Wall Street, or the creepsters behind these nefarious PAC funds. In a recent issue of Mojo magazine, Cooder urged Obama to “give up the idea of bipartisanship and kick ass now.” In the same interview he declared that “the foundations of society are being dismantled before our very eyes, brought about by four years of think-tank fascism funded by the Koch Brothers.” The Koch Brothers, for those out of the US political loop, are described by the magazine as “billionaire industrialists and right wing propagandists.”

No matter how you feel about Ry Cooder’s music, you have to admire him for speaking his mind and using his music to illuminate various social, financial, and political issues. To my ears, Ry Cooder is a throwback to folk singers like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, musicians with a strong social conscience and equally strong backbone, guys who were not afraid to take a stance on matters of importance to them. I wish there were more artists like that in this me-my-mine age. Too many of them play it down the middle, wary of voicing an opinion for fear of a backlash from fans with opposing views. Some people seem to think that it’s wrong, or a mistake, for musicians to get involved in politics, but I think such a view is balderdash. Musicians should not only feel free to voice their opinions without getting slammed for it, they should be encouraged to do so.

 

Meanwhile, at the age of 73, Ian Hunter still continues to amaze with his boundless energy and the high quality of the music he is recording. Hot on the heels of the amazing Man Overboard album, he has released another yet strong group of songs, some with a decidedly political slant, on his new album, When I’m President. Ian, being a Brit, won’t be able to vote in the US election (unless, of course, he managed to become a US citizen in between tours and recording sessions), but he still feels strongly about what’s going on in this crazy world, and ain’t afraid to speak up. In the fist-pumping title track to the album, he sings:

I’m gonna lean on the one percent — when I’m president

I want a 28th amendment — when I’m president

No more bargains in the basement — when I’m president

Everything’s gonna be different — when I’m president

Veto this, veto that — when I’m president I’ll stick it to the fat cats

 

Politics and music have always been awkward bedfellows but each election year, countless artists either play benefit concerts to help the candidate of their choice or publicly declare their support. I’m reminded of another Ian Hunter venture into American politics, when he toured with Todd Rundgren in 1980, raising money forthe campaign of  John B. Anderson, an independent candidate for president that year. I was fortunate to see the Ian Hunter-Todd Rundgren tour when they stopped in Tampa, Florida for two shows at a small club called the Agora. Ronald Reagan, of course, defeated Jimmy Carter in the November election. Anderson finished far behind with less than 7% of the national vote. I didn’t vote for either Reagan or Carter in that election, but I can’t recall voting for Anderson either. Most likely I stuck to my usual stubborn habit of voting for a write-in candidate such as Bill the Cat.

 

I forget where on the net last week that I saw the retouched photo above, but it’s just so brilliant, that I had to post it! Kudos to whoever actually created it.  Don’t know what it is, my friend, but something odd is blowing in that wind!

 

Daryl Hall

A new Daryl Hall album, Laughing Down Crying, his first solo effort in 14 years, was recently released. Okay, I can almost hear the collective yawns out there. Daryl Hall? The guy from Hall and Oates? Who cares? Well, those of us who appreciated the music of Hall and Oates certainly care, and frankly, this new Daryl Hall album is so good that it bears raving about.

In these days of hip-hop hits, “free” downloads, and file sharing, this album will no doubt fail to sell and sink into obscurity very quickly. But if the time machine was set back twenty years or so, Laughing Down Crying would certainly yield several hit singles. In other words, the “formula” is still there, but it’s augmented by Hall’s songwriting creativity, and damn, those vocals are still flawless; it doesn’t sound like he’s aged a bit after all these decades.

 

As recording duos go, Daryl Hall and John Oates rank as one of the most successful of the rock era, and also one of the most unfairly maligned. They sold tons of singles and oodles of albums, and not surprisingly that led to a critical backlash and complaints that their music was too commercial and shallow. While some of those 80s records were indeed very “pop and polished,” the duo’s lovely harmonies always lifted the songs to a higher plateau. If only all mainstream music sounded so good.

Many people assume that Hall and Oates were always a steady hit-making machine, but that’s not the case. During the 1970s they had their share of ups and downs before starting that hot streak in the 1980s. Starting with Whole Oates in 1972, their first three albums on the Atlantic label had plenty of great songs but were all commercial flops. Abandoned Luncheonette, released in 1973, is widely acknowledged as the best of the bunch, and boasted the classic “She’s Gone” — although that tune didn’t become a hit for Hall and Oates until it was reissued several years later — and there were also high expectations for 1974’s War Babies, produced by Todd Rundgren, but those albums failed to sell as well as hoped. The next year Hall and Oates moved on to the RCA label and almost immediately found success with the single “Sara Smile” from the album Daryl Hall and John Oates, often called “The Silver Album” because of its shiny cover art. They followed that in 1976 with Bigger Than Both of Us, another solid album that included the number one hit “Rich Girl.”

But during the late 70s their popularity took a strange downturn. They released three very good albums, Beauty on a Back Street, Along the Red Ledge and X-Static, and while those albums all charted, for some odd reason the duo didn’t receive nearly as much airplay as they had in previous years, or would in the following decade. It appeared that Hall and Oates had become another victim of disco fever. Along the Red Ledge in particular was a superb collection of songs and included some of the hardest rocking material (“Alley Katz”) of their career. It also didn’t hurt that they were backed by a stellar band that included studio vets Kenny Passarelli and Caleb Quaye, and featured guest appearances by George Harrison, Todd Rundgren, and Robert Fripp. I saw Hall & Oates in concert at the Lakeland Civic Center in Florida during the Along the Red Ledge tour. The touring band included Passarelli and Quaye and they were on fire that night; a great performance. It was actually fortunate that this tour came during a lull in their career . Because they weren’t such a hot commodity at the time, they played a smaller  hall in Lakeland instead of the bigger arena that hosted megastars such as the Moody Blues, Bruce Springsteen, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. That more intimate setting let to a fierce show.

An excellent overview of the early Hall and Oates material can be found on a UK compilation album titled The Atlantic Collection. With the exception of “She’s Gone,” most of these songs are virtually unknown to fans of the later Hall and Oates albums, but these tunes are considered by many, including me, to be among their best. That first album for RCA, Daryl Hall and John Oates, also still sounds great after all these years.

The Tubes and Remote Control

Wow, this one brings back memories! Remote Control was, in my opinion, the best album the Tubes ever recorded. And it was one of the best album covers of all-time too! Todd Rundgren produced Remote Control, leaving such an indelible stamp that the album even sounded at times like a classic Rundgren or Utopia record, fusing pop smarts with the Tubes flair for the theatrical. This was a definite concept album — as indicated by the title — about the control that television has on the general public … and your mind. This affliction was diagnosed when the album was recorded in 1979 and of course continues today. Perhaps it’s time for a sequel, lamenting the pervasive control that digital gadgets now have on the masses. Downloadable Control, perhaps?

 

Lead singer Fee Waybill and his band of musical misfits were in fine form for this recording, and Rundgren deftly used his famous production skills to make it all sound that much better. Before this album, the Tubes were mainly known for being a very wild and theatrical band, particularly on stage. One of the songs off their 1975 debut album, “White Punks on Dope,” along with “Don’t Touch Me There” off their second album only helped to cement their reputation as a curious rock act, but not one to be taken seriously. Remote Control, however, helped to change that opinion. These songs were keepers, the tunes sinking deep into the synapses of your mind until you couldn’t help but sing along. Remote Control indeed!

 

While the album’s them was clearly television domination — “T.V. Is King” … “Turn Me On” … “Prime Time” … “Telicide” — when all was said and sung, this was just a very fun and enjoyable album packed with catchy songs. Pure pop for wowed people. The band followed Remote Control with a few more popular albums, The Completion Backwards Principle  and Outside Inside, (which yielded the big hit “She’s a Beauty”) before finishing their major label career with the woefully overlooked Love Bomb (also produced by Rundgren) in 1985. The Tubes continued touring and recording for the rest of the decade, but due to a revolving door of departing band members and record label changes, they virtually disappeared from the music radar. The Tubes have persevered, however, and are still touring today!

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