Tuesday, October 12, 2010

New Old Music: You CAN'T Judge a CD by Its Cover

[Ha ha! Just kidding! No Comic-Con recap today! We'll have one on Thursday, though. Promise!]

As you may recall, I've embarked on a quest to listen through the stack of music CDs that have been sitting untouched in a box or on my shelf for over a decade. Last time, I discussed CDs that sounded pretty much like I expected them to. This time, I get to reveal how bad at guessing games I really am.

Tom Chapin - Family Tree (1988)

What I expected: The same brand of surprisingly clever and enjoyable kid songs as those put forth on the Zag Zig album.

What I got: The kind of stock kids' music I was afraid of encountering when I popped in Zag Zig.

What I think: Alright, so it's not as bad as that. There are still many songs with the same level of creativity and parent-friendliness, but I found myself getting weary of most songs before even the halfway mark.

The songs are well-constructed and always spot-on in their storytelling--what it's like to help your dad shovel snow, or how children show up "in the nick of time" when you're going to COUNT TO FIVE, OR ELSE, BUSTER--but the lyrics just weren't as interesting to me and the music itself was more often a vehicle for the story than something fun to listen to on its own.

Still a good album for the young'uns, but maybe better as a bedtime CD than a fun road trip CD.

Curtis Salgado/Terry Robb - Hit It 'n Quit It (1996)

What I expected: I dunno...Hall & Oates, maybe?

What I got: ...Blues? No, seriously. Where is that harmonica coming from? No, I can't go for that. No can do.

What I think: Blues is really hit-or-miss-or-miss-really-hard with me, and this album covers a little bit of everything. There are songs where the instruments overpower the vocals, and vice-versa, and I think I prefer blues where everything is evenly balanced.

There are some songs like that (and one or two that are all instrumental), but I'm not terribly big on the repetition or the relatively gentile voices that sound like they're trying a little bit to sound like some of the more famous and more rugged blues performers. For me, the best songs here are the ones that blend into the background, so I may keep a few of these around.

Battlerack Scatter - The Blues Ain't For Everybody (1996)

What I expected: Bananas At Large, but unintentionally funny.


What I think: There must be something about the use of a synthesizer, a greater focus on percussion, and lyrics like, "Yeah, I know my woman is ugly" that make the genre more interesting to me. The CD is a little hypnotic, a tad quirky, and pleasingly easy to listen to. Seems like a nice choice to keep around the car if I ever need a change of pace.

UB40 - Labour Of Love III (1998)

What I expected: Hey, at last, a group I recognize! I remember their renditions of "Red Red Wine" and "Can't Help Falling In Love," so this CD will totally sound like that.

What I got: SPACE REGGAE!! I am absolutely serious. The first track starts off with lyrics that sound like no language ever to grace this planet, and with unearthly sound effects so strange that I actually had to turn off the music at several points to make sure there was nothing wrong with my car.

What I think: Despite my love for sci-fi, I don't think there's a place for Space Reggae in my collection. It isn't atrocious, but I'm not fond of reggae to begin with, and there are simply too many noises I can't begin to classify on this CD. Perhaps it'd be best to donate this one. To science.

Pia Zadora - Pia Today! (1989)

What I expected: This is so a teenie bopper CD with just a hint more "You Are So Beautiful."

What I got: B-B-Broadway showtunes!? From a woman with a strong, adult sound!? And...wait, you've got to be kidding me...she actually sings "You Are So Beautiful"?! Hah! Guess I'm not as bad at this guessing thing as I thought!

What I think: I like showtunes, but usually only when I'm watching a show. Though the songs on this CD are standards such as "All By Myself" and "Get Me To The Church On Time" and not technically showtunes (as far as I know), the presentation is definitely showtuney, and it actually makes me a little depressed.

I can't exactly explain it--her performance is solid, and the songs aren't bad, but I grew more and more unhappy the longer I listened. The silver lining here is that Pia was a child actress in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, which is one of the best (I.e. worst) Mystery Science Theater 3000 movies I've ever seen.

That's all for today. Maybe next time I'll see if I can round up the most unabashedly generic albums of the lot. Stay tuned.

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