Sunday, September 30, 2012

"Brown Dust" ... Hum, perhaps a marketing survey would have helped with name selection

I don't know a great deal about this short-lived outfit ...   I can only speculate that the hideous name might have played a role in their short career.   Singer/horn player Paul Cisneros was apparently the Brown Dust front man and was responsible for inviting former Spiral Staircase drummer Vinnie Parello into the lineup.  Rounded out by bassist Carlos Longoria, guitarist George Noranger and sax players Frank Ramos and George Stanley, the band was apparently based in Southern California, though hey subsequently relocated to Hawaii where they made a living playing tourist hotels through the early 1970s.  How the band ended up recording an album for Artie Ripp and T.J. Bruno's Family label is a mystery to me ...   Judging by an online comment I found from guitarist Noranger, I'm not even sure the band knows.     

Showing a ragged bunch of cowboy wannabes listlessly poised around some sort of backwoods building, you could be forgiven for thinking "Brown Dust" was going to offer up a set of early-1970s country-rock.  Those were certainly my expectations.  So much for first impressions.  Anyone who actually listened to "Brown Dust" was probably surprised to discover that sonically it had more in common with Three  Dog Night-styled top-40 pop than country-rock.  'Course a quick review of the performance credits showing a three piece horn section might have provided a clue that these guys weren't looking to be The Flying Burrito Brothers. So what did this one actually sound like?  Sporting three decent lead singers in the form of Cisneros, Longoria and Ramos, about half of the set featured distinctively top-40 material powered by likeable, if slightly anonymous group vocals. The liner notes didn't provide song-by-song credits, but at least one of the three singers sounded a lot like Chuck Negron - check out the closing tune 'Autumn'). Tracks like 'Fantasy Folk' and the cover of John Sebastian's 'Do You Believe In Magic' were quite commercial (in an early 1970s fashion).  Elsewhere, performances like 'So I'm Down', 'Photograph' and ;Autumn' found the group pursuing more of a rock band sound. The results weren't entirely convincing, but song-for-song the collection had a fairly high enjoyment factor that was only underscored by the fact the horns were kept in check throughout most of the album.   Interestingly, none of the ten tracks appeared to be originals, with most of the ten tracks credited to R. Burton and M. Crowe.  Anyone know who these guys were ?  

- Showcasing their talented vocal line up, 'Fantasy Folk' was one of the album highlights sported a catchy pop melody with a 'happening' lyric and, thanks to Noranger's tasty lead guitar solo, enough of a rock edge to make this one quite enjoyable.   rating: **** stars 

- Kicked along by a nice barrelhouse piano, a great Longoria hyperactive bass line and those blended lead vocals, 'So I'm Down' was another album highlight.  This time out they seemed interested in showcasing the fact they could rock out.  Again, the results weren't entirely convincing though I will give them kudos for the fact the horn arrangement (which kicked in towards the end of the song), wasn't particularly disruptive.   rating: *** stars 
- The first disappointment, 'Reflecting' was a plodding, overly sentimental ballad.  This was one where the group vocals just didn't cut it.  The song would have been far better had the it been re-arranged to feature the guy with the raspy voice (no idea which member that was).  The sax solo was also unnecessary.  Imagine a bad Billy Joel song being sung by a slightly tipsy Catholic choir and you'll get the feel on this one.   rating: ** stars 
- Their cover of Carole King's 'Going Back' was one of the album's more interesting performances.   Opening up with some psych-influenced arrangements, their adaptation turned the song into an over-the-top emotional meltdown that would have made Phil Spector proud.  As on the rest of the album, I wasn't sure which of the three vocalists handled lead duties this time out, but his performance was killer; sounding like he was literally pleading for his life.  Cool cover version.   rating: **** stars 
- I never really liked John Sebastian's signature tune 'Do You Believe In Magic' so I can't say this cover was anything to write home about.  Seemingly intended as one of the album's potential 'hits' (it was tapped as a single), their cover version stayed pretty close to the original.    If pushed, I might actually give the nod to this version since it upped the tempo a notch and had another nice barrelhouse piano embedded in the arrangement.   rating: ** stars 
- 'Photograph' was another attempt to blend rock with pop sensibilities, this time out the results sounding a bit like a bad Three Dog Night cover tune.  Noranger's classically inspired fuzz guitar provided the highlights.   rating: *** stars - With a pleasant CS&N-styled vocal arrangement, the lyric made me guess 'Stormy Sunday' was written when the band were living and working in Hawaii.  Cute and very '70s.   rating: *** stars 
- Unfortunately 'Everlasting Peace' found the band descending into lounge act territory.  Easy to picture them playing this in front of tiki drink soaked hotel guests.    rating: * star 
- The album's strangest offering, 'Desire Not a Taste' started out as a stark, almost folk number before abruptly shifting gears into a bouncy, organ powered Up With People-styled peace chant.   I can picture The Kaplan Brothers covering this one.  Strange enough hearing it sober, I'm sure it was even more jarring if you were sitting there stoned out of your mind.     rating: **** stars 
- Probably the album's heaviest and most rock-oriented track, the closer 'Autumn' was another track that had a distinct Three Dog Night vibe (okay, okay overlook the horns).  Sounded like the song was edited out of a much longer studio jam session ...   

As mentioned above, the album spun off a single in the form of:       

- 1972's 'Do You Believe In Magic' b/w 'Family Folk' (Family catalog number FPA 0904)   

No, it won't change your life, but not a bad listening experience, especially if you liked Three Dog Night ...   

"Brown Dust" track listing:

(side 1) 
  1.) Fantasy Folk   (R. Burton - M. Crowe) - 2:45 
  2.) So I'm Down   (R. Burton) - 2:38 
  3.) Reflecting   (R. Burton - M. Crowe) -2:53 
  4.) Goin' Back   (Carole King - Gerry Goffin) - 4:05 
  5.) Do You Believe In Magic   (John Sebastian) - 2:14   

  (side 2)
1.) Photograph   (R. Burton) - 3:37

2.) Stormy Sunday   (R. Burton - M. Crowe) - 3:05 
3.) Everlasting Peace   (R. Burton) - 2:48 
4.) Desire Not a Taste   (R. Burton - M. Crowe) -3:00 
5.) Autumn   (R. Burton - M. Crowe) - 3:58

Detroit aural madness "The Happy Dragon Band"

Everyone's out of the house.  Done my chores and no soccer for a couple of hours.  So I'll post this old one.  

Having released a little noticed 1974 album for Capitol under the guise of Phantom's Divine Comedy, four years later drummer John Bdanjeck, singer/guitarist Tom Carson, bassist Dennis Craner, keyboardist Mike DeMartino and guitarist Gary Meisner reappeared as The Happy Dragon Band.  Released by the small Michigan-based Fiddlers label, anyone expecting to hear another set of faux Doors-inspired psych was bound to be surprised by 1978's "The Happy Dragon Band".  Whereas the earlier Phantom LP featured all-original material, here all nine tracks were penned by someone under the name of Tommy Court.  Whoever he was, Court  was also credited with production, engineering and direction.   Musically the set was a major shocker.  Dropping their earlier pseudo-Doors stance, material such as "3-D Free", "In Flight" and the instrumental "Bowling Pin Intro" found the band plunging headlong into outright experimentation.  Featuring extended tracks filled with synthesizers, odd sound effects and dazed vocals, the results didn't make for a particularly commercial outing.  That said, the album sported a weird, hypnotizing appeal that's worth a couple of spins.  Dark, heavy and disturbing, part of the aura may be explained by the liner notes - "This album is in memory of: my friend Ritchie & my child Ritchie Joe".  (Reportedly 200 copies were printed; hence the steep asking price.)  

- Easily one of the album's odder numbers, '3-D Free' was a slightly disconcerting ballad that combined a reggae influence, a dated stab at social relevance, along with some of the most irritating vocals you've heard in a long time (every time I hear this one I flash back to chalk on a blackboard mode).    rating: *** stars 

- Opening up with an explosion of Kraftwerk-styled synthesizers and Talking Heads-styled shouted vocals, 'Positive People' was equally hard to figure.  Ultimately the synthesizers simply took over the song so the David Byrnesque vocals simply didn't matter.    rating: *** stars
- So the ballad 'And ' In Flight' simply begged the listener to continue playing spot-the-influences ...   And 'In this case even a deaf person would be able to spot the Pink Floyd influences ...  Actually influences doesn't even come close to it.  This one literally sounded like it had bee stolen off of "Welcome To the Machine".    I'd suggest they were lucky not to have been sued for plagiarism.    rating: *** stars 
- The opening guitar feedback seemed promising, but that was a fleeting hope as 'A Long Time' quickly degenerated into an irritating sound collage.   rating: * star 
- Built on an irritating mixture of  synthesizers,  discordant noise, and various sound effect, ,'Bowling Pin Intro' was a full frontal assault slice of experimentation.  Didn't do much for my ears ...   rating: * star 
- 'Lyrics of Love' started out with a nice blend of acoustic guitars and a laconic, Donovan-esque vocal.  Yeah, it may have been recorded in 1978, but it had a very mid-'60s vibe.  Completely atypical and goofy enough to be one of the album's more commercial numbers.   rating: *** stars 
- A you may have guessed, 'Disco American' really wasn't a dance track, rather sounded a bit like a Frank Zappa-meets-Mott the Hoople-styled slice of social criticism.  A rocker that wasn't particularly tuneful, insightful, or effective, probably the best thing here was the fuzz guitar solo and the guy who occasionally showed up with the snarling George Clinton-styled vocal.  Actually, the 'American Disco' refrain reminded me a bit of a David Bowie tune ...    rating: ** stars 
- An acid-tinged mid-tempo rocker, 'Inside the Pyramid' had some heavily treated, Floyd-influences vocals.  Initially this one struck me as very disturbing, but after awhile the breezy acoustic guitars, nice vocals and breezy melodies all won be over,   rating: *** stars 
- Opening up with some of the cheesiest '70s synthesizers you ever heard, 'Astro Phunk' was best described as sounding like one of those old Atari space invaders game going bonkers with the intention of destroying all mankind.   rating: ** stars 
- '3-D Free (Electronic)' ended the album with a toughened up and heavily treated reprise of the opening song.   rating: ** star   

Quirky, but in an interesting and engaging fashion.  I'd listen to it again ...   

"The Happy Dragon Band" track listing: 

(side 1) 
1.) 3-D Free   (Tom Court) -  
2.) Positive People   (Tom Court) -  
3.) In Flight   (Tom Court) -  
4.) A Long Time   (Tom Court) -  
5.) Bowling Pin Intro   (Tom Court) -   

(side 2) 

1.) Lyrics of Love   (Tom Court) - 
2.) Disco American   (Tom Court) -  
3.) Inside the Pyramid   (Tom Court) -  
4.) Astro Phunk (instrumental)   (Tom Court) -  
5.) 3-D Free (Electronic)   (Tom Court) -    

In 2007 the Radioactive label reissued the set in CD format (Catalog number RRCD 118).  I'm guessing the Radioactive set was unlicensed so use your concious when deciding whether to fork out for a copy of the reissue.

Motown's man at the bottom - Jack Ashford's debut LP

Early Sunday morning and eveeryone's still in bed.  Dark and cold outside so can't do anything in the yard, or around the house.   To the turntable !!!

So Jack Ashford was a member of Motown's famed Funk Brothers band and played percussion on hundreds of the label's releases (every self-respecting music fan should see Paul Justman's documentary "Standing in the Shadows of Motown").  I knew Ashford had done some mid-1970s production work for the likes of The Mighty Clouds of Joe (I own a couple of those albums), but I was unaware of this solo side.  So here's a perfect case of the old adage "never judge a book by its cover".   At least on the surface, 1977's "Hotel Sheets" doesn't look all that promising - small name label (Magic Disc), tacky and sexist cover, un-inspiring song titles ...

Co-produced by Ashford and Art Stewart, I'll tell you the album isn't perfect, but it's seldom less than entertaining.  This is all speculation on my part, but I'm guessing that after all those years in the background, by the mid-1970s Ashford was simply exploding with creative frustration and the need to show off some of his talents (dammit I can do more than shake a tambourine).  And judging by this album, its hard to figure out how Motown would have missed Ashford's other talents.  In addition to writing all eight tracks, Ashford had a wonderful voice.  Deep and soulful, he was every bit as good as some of Motown's better known solo acts.   The album was also notable for featuring support from several of Ashford's Funk Brothers brethren, including percussionist Eddie Brown, keyboardist Earl Van Dyke, and guitarist Wah Wah Watson.  Musically this wasn't particularly adventuresome with Ashford trolling through a mixture of upbeat, disco-tinged dance numbers, a couple of more pop-oriented tracks, and an occasional nod to the blues.  That said, the performances were all solid and a couple of these were real keepers.

- The title track was a formulaic slice of disco madness saved by Ashford's growling voice, a funky rhythm guitar, and some bizarre percussion effect.  rating: ** stars
- So if Donna Summer's 'Love To Love You Baby' made you blush, then parts of 'I’ll Fly To Your Open Arms' were likely to cause you the same problems.  A mid- tempo ballad complete with moaning females and suggestive, borderline lewd lyrics, this one sounded like Barry White overdosing on Viagra.   rating: *** stars
- One of the standout performances, 'This Ain’t Just Another Dance Song' was a dazzling number that should have attracted attention from dance club and top-40 radio.   Built on an instantly captivating melody, the song also had a great bass line and one of Ashford's best vocals.  I find myself humming this one all of the time.   rating: ***** stars
- The instrumental 'Hi Mom, Hi Al' found Ashford showcasing a bluesier style; in this case setting up a showcase for guitarist Watson to spotlight his talents.  Great track and my only complaint here would be the song faded out too early.  By the way, the title was meant as a nod to his mother (Thelma) and brother to whom the album was dedicated.   rating: **** stars
- Starting off side two, musically the ballad 'Shar' sounded like something off of one of a mid-1970s Isaac Hayes blaxploitation soundtrack.  Funny, but vocally Ashford's multi-tracked vocal actually sounded a bit like Bill Withers.   Highly commercial and radio friendly.  Another album highlight.   rating: **** stars
- While it took awhile to work it way through the new age noodling, 'Get Right On Top (Cause I Need Someone)' finally broke out into a surprisingly funky dance number. Lyrically this one wasn't going to win Ashford any awards, but it sure did have a catchy melody and Jerry Knight' bass work was simply dazzling.   rating: **** stars
- Even though Ashford wasn't featured on it (just female backing singers), the bouncy 'Baby I’m So Glad' was the song that came closest to capturing the classic Motown sound.  With a little work this one could have been a hit.   rating: *** stars
- Complete with party sound effects, it sure started out sounding like a 'Funky Disco Party' ...  The funny thing is the song was actually built on a slinky blues groove.  Yeah, the party crowd sound effects quickly became irritating, but the rest of the track was pretty cool.   rating: *** stars

The title track was released as a promotional 12" single.  It's become highly sought after by collectors and will actually cost you more than the parent album.


- 1977's 'Hotel Sheets' b/w 'Hotel Sheets' (Magic Disc catalog number MD 5-507)

The album was also reissued with a modify, slightly less risqué cover:

"Hotel Sheets" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Hotel Sheets   (Jack Ashford) - 5:29
2.) I’ll Fly To Your Open Arms   (Jack Ashford) - 4:01
3.) This Ain’t Just Another Dance Song   (Jack Ashford)  - 4:01
4.) Hi Mom, Hi Al  (instrumental)   (Jack Ashford) - 4:57

(side 2)
1.) Shar   (Jack Ashford) - 3:44
2.) Get Right On Top (Cause I Need Someone)   (Jack Ashford) - 5:59
3.) Baby I’m So Glad   (Jack Ashford) - 3:10
4.) Funky Disco Party   (Jack Ashford) - 5:28

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Les Kanto "Serais-tu un de me amis?"

If you poke around the BadCatRecords website ( you'll quickly see that I have a fascination with French-Canadian garage bands.  I'll admit it's odd since I've never been to Canada and I don't have any connections with the area.  Anyhow, many French-Canadian bands have roots stretching back to the early 1960s, frequently well before their better known English speaking Canadian counterparts even dreamed of rock and roll stardom.   That's certainly the case for Les Bel Canton.    Formed in Montreal in 1962, the band was originally known as Les Cinq Canto (which I think translates roughly into The Five Chanters).  By 1964 they'd morphed into Les Bel Canto (The Handsome Chanters).  Starting in 1964 they became a recording franchise, churning out about two dozen 45s for a chain of Canadian and French labels.  They also released a series of  LPs.


late-1960s publicity shot  from left to right:
back row: Rene Letarte, Pierre Paquet and Dany Bouldec and front row: Claude Falardeau and Andre Fortin

By 1970 the band (now known as Les Kanto) featured the talents of lead guitarist Dany Bolduc, guitarist André Fortin, bassist René  Letarte, and drummer Pierre Paquet.  Signed to the Trans-Canada label, they recorded their fourth studio album with producers Jean Beualine and Yves Martin.  Titled "Serais-Tu un des Mes Amis?" the album showcased all original material penned by Letarte and Bolduc.  Shown on the cover with their hair grown out and dressed like they were happenin', I was expecting to hear something with a rather heavy edge.  Instead these guys sounded like a Francophile version of Tommy James and the Shondells.  That wasn't meant as a criticism since I'm a Shondells fan, but meant to set the tone in terms of what to expect.  And those expectations should be set to early-'70s, orchestrated pop.  Tracks like ' Bon Matin ma Rose', ' Le Vieil Homme et Son Jardin' and 'Assez' were lightweight, orchestrated pop that was clearly meant for top-40 radio play.  More product than art, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing given there was quite a few interesting performances buried on the album.  By far the standout numbers were also the album's most atypical performances - the garage rocker ' On Fera L'amour' was a killer track that demonstrated they could play (check out drummer Paquet's performance on this one.), while 'Si Chopin' was a McCartney-styled rock shouter.  

- 'Man Man Man' started the album off with a strange pop-psych number.  The song's bouncy melody and refrain meshed with some nice Dany Bolduc fuzz guitar and weird, effects laiden lead vocals that reminded me a bit of Tommy James circa 'Crimson and Clover'.  Strange, but fascinating.   rating: *** stars - '
- 'Bon Matin ma Rose' (I think it translates as 'Good Morning My Rose'), was a nice, Association-styled ballad with sweet harmony vocals and a pretty melody, though it would have been even better without the horn arrangement.  It was tapped as one of three singles.   rating: *** stars
- Lorsque nous Serons Heureux' opened up with a slightly psych tinged arrangement featuring what sounded like an early synthesizer, before shifting into ballad territory.  Not sure who handled lead vocals on this one, but his raspy delivery was actually kind of cool.  The song's real highlight came in the form of René Letarte dazzling acoustic bass.   rating: *** stars
 - Apretty, harpsichord-propelled ballad, ' Le Vieil Homme et Son Jardin ' sounded more 1967  than 1970.  Breezy and fun, though not any special.   rating: ** stars - ' 
- On Fera L'amour' found the band taking a crack at hardcore garage.  Showcasing Pierre Paquet's caustic drum and a killer freak-out guitar solo from Bolduc, this pounding rocker was easily one of the album's highlights.  Should have been a single.     rating: **** stars
- Opening up like it was recorded in front of a game show audience, ' Assez' ('Enough') was another heavily orchestrated Association-styled commercial ballad with nice group vocals.      rating: *** stars
- Another atypical offering, 'Si Chopin' was a  true, punk-rocker with screaming lead guitar, powerhouse drumming, and a great tear-out-your-vocal chords performance that would have made Paul McCartney proud.  Easy to see why it was tapped as the lead off single, though I'm not certain how Frederick Chopin would have felt about the performance.    rating: **** stars   - I'm guessing
Una Croce Sul Mio Nome' was written with the thought it might make a European single - the band had toured Europe a couple of times.  A big, overblown ballad, the song didn't have all that much going for it, though the Italian lyrics were momentarily surprising.   rating: ** stars
 - So if the previous one targeted an Italian market, why not take a stab at the Spanish market with the equally lame pop ong ' Love Me Por Favor'?    Clumsy and barely in tune, you can live without this one.   rating: ** stars
- 'Dors' was a lightweight, heavily orchestrated pop tune that with it fluffy chorus ("flu, flu, flu") sounded like it might have been written to sell bubblegum, or underarm deoderant.   rating: ** stars - Remember when The Monkees where cute and goofy?   I meant to say remember The Monkee television episodes when they were still cute and goofy?  Before the four of them started to get an attitude and wanted to dip their toes into social commentary?  Well, had The Monkees been French-Canadian,  'En avion' (translated as 'By Plane') could easily have been one of the songs on one of their first three LPs.  A catchy, almost bubblegum slice of pop, it had all the ingredients required to be a radio hit, except for the obvious fact it was sung in French.   rating: *** stars
- The album's most 'modern' sounding number,  'Serais-tu Un de Mes Amis?' opened up with a nice Bolduc guitar segment, turning into a anthemnic mid-tempo ballad.  Unfortunately, just a the song really started to jam, it faded out.  Love to know what the lyrics were about.    rating: **** stars

I'll readily admit I've never understood the way Canadian labels operated.  In this case the album spun off three single (all credited to Les Bel Kanto), but they weren't released by Trans-Canada, rather came out on the Elite label: 

- 1970's 'Si Chopin' b/w ' On Fera L'amour' (Elite catalog number EL 7007) 
- 1970's 'Bon Matin ma Rose' b/w 'En Avion' (Elite catalog number EL 7010)
- 1971's 'Serais-tu Un de Mes Amis?' b/w 'J'aime Le Vie' (Elite catalog number EL 7020)

These guys were clearly talented; far better when they ditched their commercial moves in favor of a more rock oriented sound.  Like a lot of other French Canadian bands, you were left to wonder what would have happened if they'd been willing to record a couple of track in English. 

  "Serais-Tu un des Mes Amis?" track listing:
(side 1) 
  1.) Man Man Man    (René Letarte - Dany Bolduc) -  
  2.) Bon Matin ma Rose   (René Letarte - Dany Bolduc) -  
  3.) Lorsque nous Serons Heureux   (René Letarte - Dany Bolduc) -  
  4.) Le Vieil Homme et Son Jardin   (René Letarte - Dany Bolduc) -  
  5.) On Fera L'amour   (René Letarte - Dany Bolduc) -  
  6.) Assez   (René Letarte - Dany Bolduc) -   

(side 2)
1.) Si Chopin   (René Letarte - Dany Bolduc) -  
2.) Una Croce Sul Mio Nome   (René Letarte - Dany Bolduc - T. Caticchio) -  
3.) Love Me Por Favor   (René Letarte - Dany Bolduc) - 
4.) Dors   (René Letarte - Dany Bolduc) -  
5.) En avion   (René Letarte - Dany Bolduc) -  
6.) Serais-tu Un de Mes Amis?   (René Letarte - Dany Bolduc) -        

For anyone interested, bassist Letarte has a small French language website at:   


Is someone trying to tell me something?

Catching up on email this morning and I noted that I've received an invite from the AARP (they're a couple of years late), as well as an invitation telling me that I can beat alcoholism with treatment.

I guess I'm happy to know you can fight alcoholism with treatment ...

Friday, September 28, 2012

Have I become a curmudgeon?

I've begun to wonder because more and more things seem to bother me.

- 7:15 am:  Drop my kid off at before school care.  We're suppose to escort our
kids into the facility.  I get back to my car and a mom has pulled her minivan
right behind my car while dropping her children off.  Does she escort her kids
in?  Nope, but she can block me in.  Thought occurs to me that if I had a crappy 
car I'd just back into her - "Whoops, sorry 'bout that, but you were suppose to 
park and walk your kids into the building."

- 7:24 am:  Driving to the bus stop.  Guy in front of me puts on his right turn
signal and turns left just missing a panel van.

- 7:30 am:  Standing in line at the bus stop.  There are about 20 of us in line. 
Some guy walks up to the front of the line and just stands there.  As far as I
can tell he isn't handicapped.  Bus pulls up and he climbs on board.  It's all I
can do to not tell him to get his ass to the back of the line.  Luckily some old
lady tears him a new one.

- 7:35 am:  Guy sits next to me on the bus; gets out his cell phone and starts
talking to his girlfriend about how much he enjoyed the wine and romance last
night.  Can't be his wife.  Married couples don't talk like that.  Besides, he's
talking about Thursday night.  Married couples don't do that kind of stuff on a
school night.  We're just too tired.  C'mon guy ...  I'm sitting right there. 
You really don't need to go into graphic details about your turn ons.  It's 7:30
in the morning for goodness sake.

- 7:35 am:  Standing room only on the bus, accept for the one rude old man who
wants an aisle seat and makes no attempt to allow someone to slide in next to
him.  My immediate thought is to throw his ass off the bus and make him walk to

- 7:45 am:   On the metro.  The woman in front of me is eating her breakfast. 
Guess she's blind since she's sitting right under one of the 'don't eat  on the
metro signs'.

- 7:55 am:  Two women in front of me exiting the metro.  Each customer is
suppose to have their own fare card.  They push out under one card.  The metro
station manager is right there when they do it.   One was kind of cute so I
guess he had an excuse for not taking action.

- 7:56 am:  Going up the metro escalator.  Commonly accepted metro escalator
behavior is that you walk if you're on the left side and stand on the right
side.  Guy in front of me is so wide that he blocks the entire escalator.  
Guess that degree of impatience may indicate I have more of an A-type
personality than I thought.

- 8:00 am:  Going up the elevator at work.  Woman pushes the 4th floor button. 
Does she get off on the fourth floor?  Nope. She gets of on 6.  She either
can't read, or forgot where she works.

- In the interest of protecting my working relationships I'll leave out my 08:00
to 16:30 frustrations.

- 12:10 am: Call a local big box store to see if they can replace a pair of dead
keys on my home laptop computer.  After navigating the customer support helpline
which doesn't help me at all, I finally hit zero and ask for the computer repair
group.  Five year old in the guitar and musical instruments department picks up
and tells me I'm in the wrong department (no kidding), but he'll transfer me.  
He does.  He transfers me into oblivion.  4 minutes and 23 second later (my
iPhone clocks the length of calls), I give up and redial, pressing zero
immediately.   Second time is the charm in that computer services picks up. 

I ask 'Do you repair computers?' 
Response 'Yes.'
I ask 'Do you repair Dell computers?'
Response: 'Yes.'
'I have a couple of keys that need to be replaced.  Can you fix them?'
Response: 'Yes.'
'I'll stop at home, grab my Dell laptop and bring it over this evening.'
Response: 'We don't do Dell laptops.'

Give me a break guy ...

- 16:40 pm: Walking to the metro. I'm walking across the street in the pedestrian zebra
stripes. Woman in a Lexus SUV zips right by while chatting on her phone. I can reach out
and touch her she's that close to me ... totally oblivious to the fact she just missed
me and just missed an opportunity for me to sue her for that Lexus and everything else
she owns.

- 16:43 pm: Deja vu here ...   Going down the metro escalator.  Commonly accepted 
metro escalator behavior is that you walk if you're on the left side and stand on the right 
side.  Family in front of me block the entire escalator. They're tourists so I can forgive
them.  Less easy to forgive is their collective decision to stop at the bottom of the escalator.  I literally plow into the dad since he’s standing at the base of the escalator.  He gives me a dirty look.  I step around him as other people pile into the rest of the family.

- 16:45 pm:  Waiting for metro.  Just missed one by a minute (thanks to the tourist family on the escalator).  As a common courtesy I stand away from the edge of the platform and leave people a path to come and go.  Cant be more than twenty people on the entire platform.  Naturally a woman stops right in front of me and waits.  The platform is easily the length of a football field ...  she tops right in front of me.

- 16:47 pm:  Metro comes.  Doors open.  Guy standing in the door doesn’t move, forcing people to scrunch past him to get out.  People also have to scrunch by him to get in.  Get out of the way dummy !!!

- 17:00 pm: Two guys playing sax and trumpet for tips at West Falls Church. I admire people that can play instruments.  Unfortunately even though these guys are standing next to each other, it sounds like they’re playing totally different tunes.  One seems to be playing ‘When the Saints Come Marching In’ while the other guy sounds like he’s playing a Christmas carol.  I turn up the volume of my iPhone and stride right by them.  No tip.

- 17:05 pm: On the bus.  What is with people and their cell phones?  Don’t they realize the rest of us can hear them?   I really don’t care that you think your co-workers are worthless.  I suspect they feel the same way about you.  I certainly feel that way.  If I knew your co-workers I’d tell them that you’re a lousy co-worker who bad-mouths them.  I did note that you had a Department of Transportation badge on.

- 17:10 pm: Decide to play SongPop to avoid phone guy.  Get my butt handed to me on a platter when the person picks contemporary Italian pop songs, or something similar where I can't even begin to guess.  Manage to lose 620 to 19,840 or something equally hideous.

-17:28 pm:  Bus pulls into park and ride and I get off.  Finally something nice to say …   I’ve noticed that around 17:30 there’s often an older gentleman who sits in one of the bus shelters.  He’s accompanied by what I assume is his son – I’m guessing the son is in his early 20s and he's seemingly developmentally challenged.  They’re frequently sharing something to eat, or talking to one another while waiting.  The older man's affection for the son is apparently.   I’m pretty dry and cynical, but I find the pair uplifting.  It always makes me say a prayer of thanks for what I’ve been blessed with.

- 17:40 pm:  Walk into Best Buy to see if they can fix my computer.  15 minutes in line and the 12 year old Geek Squad employee tells me that they will take my computer and replace the keyboard.  They want $35 upfront; I have to give them my computer, and they will call me with the actual costs (can’t even give me a guess on the price, though it will be less than a new computer).  Oh, the other piece of good news?  It’ll only take them 2- 3 weeks.

- 18:00 pm:  Walk out of Best Buy with my computer.

- 18:10 pm:  Walk into Staples.  Interestingly, nobody else is in the store.  Go up to the help desk and the 12 year old clerk tells me they can replace the two sticky keys.  Wants to know if anything else is wrong with the machine.  Tell him no.  He asks me the same question two more times.   He then calls his 14 year old supervisor who tells me they will order the parts and call me when available,  Sounds great.  Where do I sign?  Whoops, not so fast.   Can’t order the parts after 17:00 pm.  Can I come back Saturday?  Nope.  Can't order parts on Saturday.   

- 18:20 pm:  Walk out of Staples with my computer.

- 18:22 pm:  Call my brother to see if he’ll take a look at the computer.  He does this kind of stuff for a living.  He laughs at my repair experiences.

- 16:30 pm:  Home – time for a cold beer.  All told, I realize how lucky I am.   it was a good day.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Robert John Gallo - interested in a concept album based on the life on Edgar Cayce ?

Another tax scam release ...    Yes, this one's credited to A New Place To Live, but for all intents and purposes it's a Robert John Gallo release with studio backing from singer Joey Carbon and guitarist Richard Zito of Sounds of Modification fame.   As an added bonus, radio/television personality John Zacherly  recited the poetic segments.   Written, arranged, conducted, and produced by Gallo 1972's "A New Place To Live" was also  released on Gallo's Mandala label.  Quite an industrious guy !!!

A concept piece seemingly based on American psychic Edgar Cayce and a bizarre mixture of ecological concerns, history, religion, social commentary, and probably way too many illicit substances, the album sported one of the strangest plotlines I've come across. To quote the liner notes:  "Due to recent occurrences in the world, I would like to bring your attention to my concept album " A New Place To Live".  Written by Robert John Gallo more than two year ago.  Its meaning and significance take on a frightening yet truthful aspect now that the earthquakes and other disturbing occurrence of nature have begun."  Some of you will swear I'm makin' this stuff up. I'm not and I've gone to the extra step of embedded the song-by-song liner note comments along with my own thoughts:

- "Side one opens briefly with the poem 'A New Place To Live' depicting the creation of this planet and how it will destroy itself."  The title track opened up with a nice atmospheric instrumental section, before shifting over to an extended spoken word segment.  Backed by some tacky sound effects (ticking clock, theremin, explosions), John Zacherly managed to somehow keep a straight face while setting the stage for what was to come.   It actually sounded a bit like Captain T. Kirk spouting some sort of campy Federation manifesto.   The song ended with a rock-cum-progressive tinged segment.  rating: ** stars
- "We move to the first cut which is about the prophet Edgar Cayce who made the prediction many year ago of a disruption in the San Gabriel Mountains - which did occur recently.  The prophet is attempting to warn the people about this disaster but had no success."  Say what you will about this project, Joey Carbone had a nice voice and managed to get through the pop-tinged 'Go Away From Here' with his dignity intact.  One of the most accessible and enjoyable tracks on the album.   rating: **** stars
- "The next tune takes place at the present time along the Eastern Coast of the United States.  The song 'Summertime In The Winter' is self explanatory."   Kicked along by some tasty Rich Zito acoustic guitar and another poppy Carbone vocal, 'Summertime In The Winter' blended another highly commercial melody with some of the album's darkest lyrics.   rating: **** stars
- "The fourth cut on this side reminds us of the Atlantis legend - that when the end came only a few people were mart enough to escape via the sea route thus bringing 'Standing On The Edge Of An Island' into focus."   Okay, I'll admit that I never would have gotten than message out of this bouncy slice of cocktail jazz tinged pop.    rating: ** stars
- "The last song is about the pollution problem (which we are all aware of) and how the atmosphere, because it is so full of garbage is cutting off our only supply of heat and light; the sun.  End of side one."    Okay, the message may have lacked a bit of subllty, but 'When You Wake Up In The Morning' had a good heart, some biting Zito fuzz guitar, and a bouncy bubblegum-ish melody that would have let you overlook other shortcomings were it not for the totally unnecessary country segment that popped up in the middle of the tune.    rating: ** stars
- "Side two begins with 'The Dream Poem'  the state in which Edgar Cayce and man originally derived all their basic thoughts.   The Dream Poem shows how most occurrences in dreams actually do come to pass.  In relation to our story one subject has a nightmare about the "end" which he feels is relevant and soon to come."   Zacherly's back with another extended spoken word segment that ends in what I'd imagine sounds like a bad acid trip, complete with trippy sound effects, echoy vocal snippets, and other goofy touches.   Curiously the track listing doesn't even show this track.   rating: ** stars
- "The first song to follow the poem 'The Dream Stage'  is the part of man's life when he is awake yet not concious."  I won't comment on the lyrical content (it is what it is), but musically this one offered up a cool slice of '60 pop-psych influences.   One of my picks for stand out performance.   rating: **** stars
- "The second cut 'Easy Does It' explains the idea of an escape route or pattern to those who do believe."   Had it been recorded for a conventional album, 'Easy Does It' probably wouldn't have made much of an impression, but here the combination of pop hook, Greek-flavored instrumentation (wonder if Zito was actually playing a balakaika ...)    rating: **** stars
- "The third tune suggests the Moon as a possible escape spot - thus 'The Moon Tune'."   Showcasing Zito's fuzz guitar, 'The Moon Tune' was another sterling pop tune, marred by some truly goofy lyrics.   I can only hope that Carbone was paid well for his efforts.   This one would have sounded good on the Carbone-Zito "Snowball" album.    rating: **** stars
- Now we leave what is so far fact and continue without frightening sojourn into realism.  The people finally put our prophet in jail because he is the cause of mass confusion among the world's population.  In this selection 'To the Jailhouse' he sees the end clearly and exclaims "When these walls come tumbling down, then I'll be free !  Yes, I'll be free."   Another nice pop tune with a bouncy country tinge that would have been far better had it been written and recorded a straightforward pop tune.   rating: *** stars
- "Following the jailhouse scene is the prayer to the heavens.  It seems that when all else fails we always look up to God - as a last resort.  But it is too late for the prophet (who was actually a messenger of a sort  from the heavens), and his warning have gone by unheeded.  Thus all prayers go unheard as the thunder starts and the end begins.  The earth crumbles; armies fighting; mass confusion.  All of which is occurring presently.  The end is evident and out prophet who had somehow hoped to save the old world is now hoping to find a new and pure world - a new place to live.  'Finali (Oh Dear God)' was another track that didn't show on the track listing.  It started out sounding like a Gregorian chant and ended with another Zacherly spoken word segment and a slew of backward tapes and sound effects.   Not exactly the most cheerful ending you could have imagined.  rating: *** stars

I own a couple of Gallo's solo albums and this one is unlike any of those other releases.   This one is simply so strange that it almost qualifies as a classic ...   image an aural version of  Edward D. Wood' Planet 9  From Outer Space.  At the same time, several of these song were remarkably catchy and commercial.  Released as part of a more conventional album, they could have attracted considerable commercial attention.

For what its worth, Cayse's an interesting guy.  There's a nice bio on Wikipedia at:

"A New Place To Love" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) A New Place To Live   (John Robert Gallo) - 6:40
2.) Go Away From Here   (John Robert Gallo) - 2:28
3.) Summertime In The Winter   (John Robert Gallo) - 3:14
4.) Standing On The Edge Of An Island   (John Robert Gallo) - 3:435.) When You Wake Up In The Morning   (John Robert Gallo) - 3:15

(side 2)
1.) Dreams   (John Robert Gallo) -
2.) The Dream Stage   (John Robert Gallo) - 7:25
3.) Easy Does It   (John Robert Gallo) - 2:03
4.) The Moon Tune   (John Robert Gallo) - 2:405.) Oh This Jailhouse   (John Robert Gallo) - 7:04
6.) Finali (Oh Dear God)   (John Robert Gallo) -

Dewey Beach 7 - 24

There's so much amazing stuff out on the web ...  early morning July 4th 2012 - not even the dog walkers were out.

I've been going to Dewey Beach,  Delaware since I was in high school.  Due to that long standing relationship, the place has special memories for me.  Ed's, The Bottle & Cork, Rusty Rudder, Starboards ...  I love it all.  For goodness sakes, it was the first trip I took my wife on.   The place is truly special and even when packed to the gills with tourists and drunk college kids, I've always found it to be restful and calming.   So imagine my surprise when I stumbled across a live webcam that lets you check out what's happening on the beach (well along one block of the beach).  I'll readily admit that I have the site bookmarked on my work computer and when I'm having one of those miserable days (everyone suffers from them once in awhile), I'll spend a couple of minutes staring at the water and daydreaming.  One word of warning; you'll have to endure a brief commercial at the start.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Back to human factors engineering 101

I was filling my Jeep up with gas and noticed the dummy in front of me was doing the same thing, but didn't have the common sense to turn of his engine.  I'm sure it was important for him to save the five second of his precious life that it would have taken to turn the car off and then turn it back on.  I also couldn't help but notice all of the signs that clearly said "turn off your car".  Anyhow as I was sitting there wondering what would happen if an errant spark ignited his car (and almost certainly my car), I started looking around for a fire extinguisher.  The good news was that there was one with my grasp.  The bad news was ...   well, I'll let the photo speak for itself.

So in care you can't tell, the fire extinguisher conveniently includes a small hammer that will allow you to break the protective class and access the extinguisher itself.  And that takes us to the human factors issue here.  As you may have noticed, the hammer is behind the glass.   I guess the way this is suppose to work is you break the glass with your hand, or hopefully some other hard object; you then grab the hammer ...  shatter the glass shards into even smaller pieces ?   Knock yourself unconscious ?   And then grab the extinguisher and put out the fire.   Oh well, it made me smile and the dummy in front of me managed to fill up his car without causing an explosion.

BadCatRecords site traffic

So I've had a small website devoted to selling used vinyl for a couple of years.  It was original on GeoCities, but when that was closed down two years ago, I had to shift over to Yahoo's Small Business platform.  GeoCities closed rather suddenly and when the site was taken down, there was no provision for linking the old site to your new site.  'Customers' were literally left in the dark with respect to where you'd relocated.   When GeoCities closed, my site was getting about 500 visitors a day.  That traffic literally died when I moved to Yahoo.

So here's the funny thing - with limited HTML skills and little more than a fundamental understanding of how to do online advertising and draw traffic, after two years the BadCatRecords site is routinely drawing 13,000 - 14,000 hits a month.  Yeah, I know Amazon gets that kind of business in a five minute period, but for a neophite like me, that remains an impressive accomplishment.   Now if only more people would buy vinyl off the website, as opposed to simply stealing the album descriptions and write-ups.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Finally a tax scam LP that isn't a total waste of time

Lots of folks have a secret fetish of some sort and I guess mine would be tax scam records.   99.99% of the population doesn't know what a tax scam record is, nor do they care.  And to be honest, I shouldn't care either, but for some reason I've become fascinated by this subject.  The thought of someone making music with the goal of trying not to sell it just strikes me as being funny and sad at the same time,  Anyhow, anyone bored out of their minds can read more than they ever wanted to know about the subject at:

The majority of tax scam releases simply aren't very good.  After all, why would anyone put much effort into making a good record album if you weren't planning on trying to sell it?  There are exceptions to the rule and while it isn't a great album, 1977's "Departure" by the band of the same name, is a pleasant surprise in the tax scam universe.

You can read some information on the band Departure and a brief review of their sole LP at:

Monday, September 24, 2012

Let's join the reunion binge ...

For the last two years I've made new year resolutions to reactivate the 
BadCatRecords blog.  Needless to say, it didn't happen.  So here's the third 

Slow day and after hearing a particularly bad Eagles song I started thinking 
about band reunions.  Reunions have become so commonplace with most of them 
proving to be major disappointments.  Anyhow, I began wondering what band 
reunions would I like to see ?  The catch being the list had to be feasible - 
the band members were still living.  Obviously that eliminates a large chunk of 
the universe ...   I also expanded the definition to include a couple of solo 
acts that I'd like to see reactivate their careers.   So sue me if you think 
I've stretched the parameters too far ...   Anyhow here are my initial 
selections.  I didn't put these selections in any order.

Creedence Clearwater Revival   
Chance of a reunion: zilch
Okay, this one gets on the list due to a technicality.  Tom Fogerty is gone, but 
John Fogerty, Stu Cook, and Doug Clifford are still with us.  As fans will 
remember, Tom quit the band in the early 1970s, leaving the other three to 
record a couple of decent, late-inning studio sets before calling it quits in 
angry flood of recriminations.   Some thirty years later the three still haven't 
patched things up with Fogerty achieving mega stardom as a solo act, while Cook 
and Clifford have tried to keep the CCR nameplate alive under the Creedence 
Clearwater Revisited nameplate.  

Dire Straits
Chance of a reunion: 50%
I guess this is kind of an interesting choice.  I saw Dire Straits live twice 
and have to tell you that in a concert setting they were amazingly dull.  I 
mean, I loved the music, but they sure didn't have a great deal of charisma.  
Regardless, some new Straits tunes would always be welcome.  On the technical 
level all of the original members are still with us.  Frontman Mark Knopfler's 
gone on to record a string of solo projects; some good and some frankly dull.

Chance of a reunion: 10%
I'm sure lots of folk will think I've lost my mind with this choice.  I beg to 
differ.  While you may not like it, the fact of the matter is that during their 
mid-1970s to early-1980s heyday Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny 
Andersson and Agnetha Fältskog made some of the best pop music ever released.  
Yea, it was light weight, throwaway pop, but Ulvaeus and Andersson had an 
amazing knack for crafting insidiously catchy hooks.  C'mon, who of you couldn't 
hum 'Mamma Mia'. or 'Dancing Queen' ?  Like most of the other groups on the 
list, the ABBA breakup wasn't particularly pretty.  Personal issues including 
broken marriages didn't exactly help the situation.   Anyhow, they remain 
amazingly popular - witness the popularity of ABBA-tribute bands and any 
ABBA-related product so the market is certain there.   The fact the four 
reportedly turned down a billion dollar offer to reunite seems to indicate this 
reunion's unlike to happen.  Shame they wouldn't consider doing it for a 
charity.  You could do a lot of good things with a billion dollars.

Emmitt Rhodes
Chance of a reunion: 30%
Another one that makes it on the list under the auspices of a technicality.  So 
Rhodes is on the list even though he's a solo act.  But what an act.  After 
recording a lost classic slide of '60s Anglophile-pop as a member of The 
Merry-Go-Round, Rhodes recorded a series of three fantastic early-1970s solo 
albums (see the BadCatRecords site for detailed reviews of those LPs).  Blessed 
with good looks, a nice personality, and a knack for crafting catchy tunes, 
Rhodes was easily the most talented of the Beatles / Paul McCartney influenced 
bands that enjoyed a wave of mid-1970s successes.  And then the wheels fell off 
his life.  Starting in the mid-1970s he tried turning his attention to 
production and basically disappeared off the face of the earth.  Rhodes has 
reportedly recorded a ton of solo material in the ensuing years and from 
time-to-time some happening band rediscovers him, but he's one of those acts 
that have never gotten another shot at the spotlight.

Black Sabbath
Chance of a reunion: 95%
So here's another one that gets in on a technicality - if only because they've 
already had a couple of reunions, including a 1992 "retirement tour", a 1997 
tour that saw the release of a double live set "Reunion" and isolated dates in 
support of Osbourne's Ozzfest.  This past November (2011) the four got together 
to announce they'd recorded a new album and would be touring in 2012.  Of 
course, given their volatile history, things could still go astray.  Anyhow, say 
what you will, but vocalist Ozzy Osbourne and the original Sabbath line up of 
bassist Geezer Butler, guitarist Tony Iommi, and drummer Bill Ward are musical 
groundbreakers and an opportunity to hear some new material from these guys 
(especially given all they've been thorough in their personal lives - 
addictions, marriages, divorces, heart attacks, etc., would be wonderful.

Young Rascals:
Chance of a reunion 35%
So here's another group that's technically already reunited; albeit based on 
circumstance that did nothing to undo the decades on animosity that had sprung 
up among the members.  The first Eddie Brigati, Felix Cavaliere, Gene Cornish 
and Dino Danelli took place in May 1997 when The Young Rascals were 
inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Along with pseudo-member David 
Brigati, the original line up played a couple of numbers during the post awards 
ceremony jam session.  Three years later four reunited to perform a couple of 
songs at the Kristen Ann Carr liposarcoma fund benefit.  Time seems to have 
largely forgotten The Young Rascals which is a crying shame since they're 
responsible for penning a sizable part of the soundtrack for the 1960s.  Maybe 
because I grew up listening to the band (they're songs are among my first 
musical memories), I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for these guys.  I 
would love to hear a reunion.

Bill Withers:
Chance of a reunion: 50%
So technically this wouldn't be a reunion, rather would be a comeback ...  
Withers wrote some of the best soul tunes to come out of the '70s.  An ex-Navy 
guy, he seemed totally classy, never falling into the rock and roll trap that 
swallowed so many of his contemporaries.  He basically seemed to know when his 
15 minutes of fame was up and graciously vacated the stage for others, focusing 
his time and energies on hit family - he's been married to the same woman 
(Marcia Johnson) since the mid-1970s.   The thing is he could have kept on 
going.  The man was that talented.  With an instantly identifiable voice and a 
knack for crafting instantly memorable melodies, a Withers return to music would 
be a major gift to listeners.

Raspberries, The
Chance of a reunion: 40%
As you can tell from the list, I'm a soft touch for classic top-40 pop and who 
better than Cleveland's The Raspberries to represent the mid-1970s genre ?  Yes, 
all four original members are still around - Eric Carmen, Jim Bonfanti, Wally 
Bryson and Dave Smalley (okay, okay I know that Smalley replaced original 
bassist John Aleksic).  I'm talking about the classic Raspberries line up here 
...  Their four mid-1970s albums are all classic and yes there's been a brief 
reunion - in the form of a 2005 mini-tour.  Time for a more focused reunion, 
including original product.

Chance of a reunion 10%
I know, every decade or so financial issues see Fleetwood Mac reunite and that 
brings Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks back together.  In this instance I'd 
like to see the pair of them reunite for a second collaborative album.  1973's 
"Buckingham Nicks" has long been a personal favorite; out-Fleetwood Mac-ing 
Fleetwood Mac.  In fact if you've ever wondered how a ponderous English blues 
band managed to reinvent themselves as the world's biggest selling pop band, 
then all you need to do is listen to the Buckingham Nicks LP.  Mick Fleetwood 
clearly knew the pair had the sound that would pave the way to a happy 
retirement.  With three years of life experience behind them, a Buckingham Nicks 
musical reunion would be mesmerizing.