Thursday, September 23, 2010

Etobicoke Accordion Youth Orchestra

Many kids feel the need to rush into adulthood, while many of us adults want to run screaming back into the carefree days of childhood, usually once we realize that that door has closed and locked solidly behind us. I mean, it doesn't have a handle or even a keyhole on the other side.
Hey! No one told me this grown-up world was gonna be so ugly, and now I can't go back?! Get up on your tiptoes, rub frantically on the grimy windowpane with your coat-sleeve and gaze back in before heaving a sigh, turning around, and waking up to an alarm-clock.
Reason being for bringing this up is that I could get more than 3-4 posts up a month if I were a kid again and wasn't collecting responsibilities like so many unwanted hockey-card doubles. Sure, I could quit my job, but crap doesn't buy itself, kids.

But while on the subject, one can sort of revisit kidhood in various ways, some ways being going through old school artifacts like yearbooks or report cards. One rather rare artifact of one's academic years is the school record album, most of the time a recording of the school band and/or choir. Personally, none of the schools I went to ever put out an album that I'm aware of, but that could be an indicator of the quality of the students' abilities. And judging from the others in my guitar class (that we all took just for an easy grade), uh yeah, we sucked.
Rarer than the albums themselves are the nuts who actually seek out and collect these things (me being one), which range in quality from "utterly tragic", to "so good it sounds like a normal band, which equals crap" - because who wants normal, anyhow? You wanna find something that stands out, screams incongruity, spells out "remember this" on a chalkboard with fingernails instead of chalk. "Adequate" is never memorable.
Then there are the good school bands that stick in your head out of the left turn they took, something like the rather famous Langley Schools Music Project, and something like this.

Found somewhat recently in the basement of a local Sally Ann, this was originally a product out of Etobicoke (k is silent) - once a municipality, but now a part of, Toronto (which if you'll check any map, is actually quite far from Vancouver) - and happily I more recently made contact with someone who actually played on this album, so now I can relate a little info attached.
Seems the album was conceived out of a need to raise money to fund a trip to Los Angeles for a battle of the bands competition in 1980, but after all the recording and studio costs were covered, they still had to fund the trip anyways. "Limited Edition", the title of the album, comes from the fact that only 1500 copies were pressed, maybe because that was the most the school could afford, but more likely it's from the fact that in 1980 accordian-based music wasn't setting fire to the Billboard (or any?) charts and expectations of shifting as many units as The Knack weren't really high or considered sane.
And the LP cover itself is unique: most if not all of the time on these things we either get a xeroxed copy of a photo of the kids in the band or some abstract art piece that was requested from what the art teacher thought of as the most gifted student in his/her class, but here we're given a shiny black cover depicting quite the classy hottie smoking a hell of a long cigarillo perched at a candle-lit Steinway knockoff, single red rose and bottle of champagne (I was going to guess Baby Duck, but it's Martini Spumonte) waiting for someone. Probably the drummer. I was thinking it was just a stock photo being used, but as my informant tells me, her name is Yolanda and she's actually the older sister of the (then) head music teacher who made the suggestion of making the album. Sad to say, guys, but last we heard, Yolanda married and moved to England in the 90's.
And while most of the performers here have most likely gone on in life to be accountants, firefighters, or won huge lottery wins straight after University, a few have stuck to music: lead guitarist Silvio Simone is currently in a musical called Rock of Ages (as well as being a regular session musician) and a Maureen Bynoe is a smooth-jazz singer with her own band.
Okay, now music-wise, I'd give this a boost up over many recordings I've heard, partially from musicality but also from inventiveness. Some standards on here sandwiched between a few 70's/80's modern tunes, definitely check out the cover of Peter Gunn, the effects-spattered Star Wars theme and the Saturday Night Fever medley - which starts out with seagull-sounds that were apparently manufactured in the studio.

And an extra big thanks to Maria for making contact and giving me some background!

Track list:
A1 Theme From "Peter Gunn"
A2 Liberty Bell
A3 Moon River
A4 Pennsylvania Polka
A5 Instant Concert
B1 Gonna Fly Now - Theme From "Rocky"
B2 At the Hofbrau House
B3 Star Wars "Title Track"
B4 Saturday Night Fever (Medley)
B5 Bandstand Boogie

Download here:

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Sounds of Love, A to Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

It's 1985. You and your date have hidden in the mall til they shut the lights & locked the doors, you've creeped over to the arcade, dodging the security guards. Making out in the Sinistar booth-console is cool but uncomfortable, so you both roll to the low-pile carpeted floor that smells of sneakers and orange soda. Suddenly one of the games comes on. Scares the crap out of the both of you so you haul up the pants and get out as more and more games fire themselves up. Ducking around the corner, you watch as the machines seemingly jabber at each other, one of which has somehow recorded your prelude to lust and is playing it back as several arcade themes play, a fight breaks out between consoles, lasts about ten minutes, and eventually classical music pops out of nowhere as the playback continues.
That kind of sums up this very odd LP, a 1972 offering from Yorkshire Records out of Pennsylvania.
The first three cuts are originals, whereas the originality cut out after the first two. That's not me being snarky, that's you downloading these and agreeing with me. STILL, wow, who put this out? The insane genius with a synthesizer and a willing female accomplice? Were they one and the same? No information given anywhere, except that a Liza Condon took the photos - three more black & white pics much like the cover on the reverse - and Warp Productions took the project on. I have a feeling that if one scoured the '72-'73 issues of Playboy or Penthouse, one would find small advertisements for this hidden in the back.

I gave a slightly harsher approval of this LP some time ago in another forum, but after a second listen I found that there is some sense of musicality to the original tracks, so I'd have to guess that the first time out I was under the influence of maybe a chemical or two or something.
Both Scented Wind and Black and Blues are rather simple tunes, the 'love' part of the equation coming from the sounds emanating from we're led to believe the woman on the record jacket, and whether or not she's with someone with a tape recorder beside the bed or she's alone in a studio giving crazy lip service to the back of her hand I'll let you guys try to figure out.
I could be a complete bastard and tell everyone to crank the volume for Midnight Waterfalls, but I just don't have the heart, nor money to cover emergency room bills. Imagine Metal Machine Music on 78 using a swatch of sandpaper instead of a stylus cartridge and I'd say it's close. The rest of the album is classical music, taken from somewhere but not actually played by whomever released this flawed gem, three tracks fed through the synth for some extremely mild tampering (I guess nuanced would be the term, but I couldn't swallow using it here) and the oozin' ahs laid over top once more.
Enjoy, but please listen to in an altered state.

Track listing:
Fred Miller - Scented Wind 5:20
A2 Fred Miller - Black & Blues 4:36
A3 Fred Miller - Midnight Waterfalls 9:30
A4 Maurice Ravel - Pavane 5:30
B1 Maurice Ravel - Bolero 14:00
B2 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Piano Concerto No. 21 7:30 
Download here:

Monday, September 6, 2010

Isn't that near Spuzzum?

If those two words and a couple initials don't mean anything to you but a piece of weird syntax, you're far from alone. Is it a song about a nice hiking area? No! Trail is a small town in British Columbia, hidden deep in a valley and home to approximately 7500 people, and that's about all I know. Here's a map:

This promotional 7'' was put out at one point in time, but there's not a breath of it mentioned on the web. But judging from the style of jingle involved I'd wager c.1963. Radio station CJAT (around since 1931 and today is home to "adult contemporary" music, whatever that is) produced it to help boost tourism and business ventures, and must have helped the town a bit as the tune won't come out of your head without the aid of micro-surgery. The flip - Your Invitation to Trail, B.C. - has a narrative piece expounding the features and other neat stuff the place has on hand, basically reiterating with a little more flourish what the singy jingle-side already covered. And if the song at all sounds familiar, you may just own the Smash the State Canadian punk compilation released in 1994 by a Frank Manley, which features part of the song side of this 45 at the close of the LP's first side.

Download here:
Wonderful Trail
Your Invitation

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Erotica: The Rhythms of Love

Fax Records out of Hollywood had a short run from around '59 through the early sixties with a few releases dotted out up to about 1970 or so, and all of them were dedicated to raunchy adult humor, including a few tied in with Stag magazine.
Their Erotica series is easily identifiable with the simple concept of the title in large jumbled serif letters with the nature of the album in smaller type underneath. (And pay attention when purchasing these, as later re-issues will have a different color-scheme, leading some to think it's an album of different material)
I have another under the Erotica heading subtitled "Songs of Pain & Pleasure", which was a ridiculously awesome find, until I played it.
Quite awful. 18th-19th century ribald songs played by an indifferent elderly couple sounding like the recording was getting in the way of their canasta game over at the Kuntzes.
This Lp, however, is an entirely different matter, being, as it turns out, a composite of overlapping recordings for an overall effect of fascinating entertainment, even if it sounds rather base at the start. 

The whole thing begins with snoring which is interrupted by a bongo-hit. We hear the man suddenly wake with a stream of what sounds like Hispanic-tinged gibberish and grunts as the bongos let out short riffs, then a mild interlude where you hear a sort of environmental change as a different recording gets mixed in, and this is where the loving starts.
After this, it's an insane 30 minutes of riding on a Mexican locomotive with an ADD stricken bongo player in the berth below and a couple across the aisle cracking the amyl in an almost non-stop backbreaker bout of passion.
You can't hear the proper man too much, but the female seems to be into it, and I have to assume that it isn't faked. I say 'proper', because I'm guessing what's supposed to be the fella here is also jumping in with "Hey!, What!?, Okay?, HA ha!" and other unusual heat-driven gutteral barks that are either dubbed in or the bongo-tapper in the room at the time was voicing his approval, and also asking them to repeat themselves. The locomotive-like noise comes from the nearly-unending mattress squeaking with occasional rhythmic banging that is either carpentry or the bed-frame smacking the wall.

The second side has less of the strange possible-third-party enunciations and more pronounced bongos, and is a tad more steamier.
Hilarious at times, then weirdly relaxing and occasionally arousing (I think it's just animal nature to hear the excitable progressions of a female and become affected, under any circumstances), all overlapping so often it's a confusing experience and you just can't take the needle off.
Now, while trying to find info on the label and their recordings, I happened on another blog hosting the album (knew I should've started this stuff ten years ago) that made the claim that the bongos and tribal-like emissions are actually culled from a track off of Chaino's Jungle Echoes LP.
At first my brain lit up as it was clearly reminiscent of the big C's work, as I just happened to grab a copy of that same album a couple months back. However, comparing the two, I have to disagree and conclude they are different things altogether. Chaino's drums are rhythmic whereas the Erotica-player's are all over the place, and the vocable eruptions littering the grooves are from a different set of pipes than Chaino's.
Now, turn down the lights...