Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Every year I visit my father to put a Christmas wreath on his grave stone.   Even though my mom is alive, I've usually undertaken the task alone so as to minimize the sadness that goes along with the task.  It's easier to simply do it alone, pay respects, and then provide my mom with a photo.  Anyhow, this time around I decided to invite my mom along.  Together we tried to keep things upbeat and then it got strange and kind of cool.

My father is buried in a cemetery in Leesburg, Virginia.   The cemetery has been around for a couple of hundred years and through an odd series of events my father was buried in a plot located in the old part of the cemetery.  He's literally surrounded by civil war Union veterans - kind of ironic for a man born and raised in Alabama.

We got out there on a surprisingly warm and sunny Friday morning.  There was nobody around the place except for the two of us so it was extremely peaceful and quiet - exactly what you'd hope for when visiting a cemetery.   As we were tying the wreath to grave stone there was a loud fluttering sound and something literally swooped by us.   I was startled, unsure what it was, but as I looked around, less than twenty feet away sat a large hawk (at least I think it was a hawk).   The majestic bird had settled on a grave stone literally right next to where we were and didn't seem to have any fear of us.  In fact, the bird let me walk right up to it in order to take a photo.   For the next ten minutes we stared at the bird and the bird stared at us.   Eventually we went back to doing what we'd come there to do, tying the wreath on to the stone; saying our silent prayers; snapping a couple of photos.  When we turned around to say goodbye to the bird, it was gone.  I didn't even hear it leave.  

It was kind of unsettling, but also kind of comforting ...   Happy Holidays to all.

postscript -  So I mentioned the episode to my wife and showed he the photos.  She laughed and pointed out to me the fact my mother is pretty small and happened to me wearing a fur jacket when we were out there.  She half jokingly suggested the hawk spied my mom and thought she would be a quick snack ...  might be right.

Monday, December 23, 2013


Last Friday started what will be a ten day stretch away from work ..   Other than when I got married, I've never taken ten days off in a row.   Got to say that four days in and I'm starting to really like this lifestyle.   Guess the downside is that it will eventually come to an end and then I'll have to face reality once again.   As friends remind me, the next seven years will go by quickly.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Seriously - I'm sitting right here !   Riding the bus to Metro this morning and there's a
young woman talking on her cell phone to what sounds like a girlfriend.  That's fine, however the details she's going on about are way too personal for public display.   I'm literally sitting a couple of inches away from her and she's going on about the boyfriend's this and the boyfriend's that ...   I suspect the boyfriend would be horrified to know that he's being discussed in such a colorful and graphically detailed manner.   Add to that, I
kept thinking "am I invisible?   "Does she not know that I'm sitting here and can hear (and understand) everything she is saying?"  Maybe she thought I was simply too old and senile to matter ...   Anyhow, I now know that the boyfriend likes her new pink thong undies; if he has four or more beers he falls asleep in bed which ticks her off; he doesn't like to spoon ...   I'll spare you the grosser parts.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


Over the last year I listened to and reviewed 225 albums - virtually all of it older material.   The most recent release was a 2008 CD by Andy Zwerling (Hold
Up the Sky") which might as well have been a 1970s release.   The oldest releases wee a pair of 1968 albums: The Esquires - "Get on Up and Get Away" and the Italian psych/progressive band Equipe 84 "Stereoequipe".  So out of that jumble of releases, what stood out from the rank and file ?    On my simplistic 1 to 5 star rating scale (1 being unlistenable; 5 a must own product), 32 of these albums got four or five stars (12.8%).   That's a pretty high proportion and I'm sure it would change if I went back and checked them all out again. 

Anyhow, looking back at the list, here Well, here are the top ten albums I listened to over the last twelve months.  I put them in favorite order and included links to the original reviews

Johnny Jenkins "Ton-Ton Macoute!" (1970)

Geez, Jenkins "discovered" Otis Redding; plays some mean blues guitar, and get's a helping hand from a big chunk of the Allman Brothers Band.  How can you go wrong ?


Badfinger "Wish You Were Here" (1974)

Their second release for Warner Brothers should have made them mega stars, except for the fact the record company pulled all support for the album over an issue involving the band's management and missing promotional funds.   You can only wonder what would have happened under other circumstances.


Kensington Market " Aardvark" (1969)

One of the best pop-psych albums to ever come out of Canada ...


Junco Partners  "Junco Partners" (1970)

English blues, but not the stodgy kind that found folks like Mick Fleetwood trying to fake their way through the genre.   These guys had the real thing going for them


Otis Clay -"Soul Man: Live in Japan" (1983)

Speaking of the real thing - one of the last true soul masters tearing it up in front of a Japanses crowd.   Why is it American never recognizes its true talents until it is too late ?



Doc Holliday "Doc Holliday" (1973)

All but unknown outfit who turned in a consistently engaging album that disppeared without a trace.


Equipe 84 "Stereoequipe" (1968)

Italian pop/psych/progressive outfit.   The language gap is not an issue on this one.


Atlanta Rhythm Section "Eufaula" (1999)

With late Ronnie Hammond on vocals, a wonderful, if completely overlooked "comeback" set that should have returned them to the charts.


Philippé Wynne "Wynne Jammin'" (1980)
Still best known for his work with The Spinners - this set finds Wynee working
with George Clinton and the P-Funk crowd.   I'm still not sure how the late
Wynne managed to find a sweet spot between classic soul and P-Funk, but he did.

Andy Zwerling "Hold Up the Sky" (2008)
National Public Radio's favor ost pop cause.  The funny thing is that NRP got it
right with Zwerling.   Classic pop and goofy enough to be fascinating.


And two bonus selections:

Terry Reid "Seed of Memory" (1976)
I've owned this album for years and always though it was pedestrian.   I was wrong.   Maybe his best solo release.


Bobby Womack "Lookin' for a Love Again" (1973)
Three words are all you need to know - CLASSIC SOUL ALBUM.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


It was kind of a slow evening at our house.   Wife was sick.  Younger child was playing a video game.   I was channel surfing with no particularly destination when I stumbled across the weirdest thing I'd seen in a long time - it appeared to be Lady Gaga singing with some of The Muppets.   That was simply too bizarre a scene to be true so I stopped to see what was actually going on.  Yes, in fact it was  - she was the co-star in  ABC's Lady Gaga & The Muppets Holiday Spectacular.  

So where do you even start to describe this weird mash-up of genres and demographics ?   You kind of had to wonder what marketing genius came up with the idea of a show that would allow five years olds to watch Gaga cavorting with The Muppets, while going through some of the ugliest stage costumes known to mankind (one looked like an oversized condom).  That's not even addressing the blatant  attempts to sell her newest album "ArtPop" which judging by the couple of songs I heard, wasn't particularly catchy, or inspiring.   That said, the "ArtPop" efforts were better than lukewarm duets with the likes of Elton John (a remake of "Benny and the Jets" - "Gaga an the Jets" and "ArtPop"), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (a lame and surprisingly sexless "Baby, It's Cold Outside"),


and  RuPaul ("Fashion").   The latter sounded like a third-rate Bowie tune, but had Gaga wearing the "condom" outfit.  Damn, either RuPaul is gigantic, or Gaga is petite:


I'll admit that "Applause" wasn't half bad in a mindless techno kind of way.  Not sure I'd want to have to explain to my young kids why she was dance with her assets shakin' all over the place and what was with the wild eyed look ?


The "ArtPop" duet with Elton John was ...  well dull came to mind (nice hair there Lady):


As for Kirsten Bell - I have no idea what her role on the television program was - maybe she was there to make The Muppet characters seem even more talented?  If so, well it worked.

The show apparently tanked with audiences.

Monday, December 2, 2013


Everyone seems to have their top-10 holiday season songs (yes, you'll notice I've adopted the politically correct terminology for the season).    As much as I love the old standards, in a world where releasing a holiday album seems to have become a personal right, I've elected to go with an eclectic list showing my top 20 Holiday songs (plus three bonus selections).  Not intended as a slam on any of the standard top-10 picks, but you won't see John Lennon's ""Happy Christmas (War is Over)",  Wham's "Last Christmas", or David Bowie and Bing Crosby's 'Peace on Earth/The Little Drummer Boy" on the list.   Hopefully, what you'll see is a list that features lesser known, but no less enjoyable offerings.   Where possible, I've included a YouTube link allowing you to enjoy the actual tune.  By the way, the list is in alphabetical order by artist name.  And if I were asked, I'm not sure I could pick a favorite from the listing.       

Postscript 12/7/2013 - I guess you can argue this isn't a true Christmas song, but I think it exhibits more of  the spirit of the season than most of the other songs on this list combined.  Anyhow, I stumbled on to an amazing story about a 17 year old named Zach Sobiech.   An aspiring musician, Sobiech died of cancer in May of this year, but before he died he wrote a song entitled "Clouds".  The song was intended as Sobiech's goodbye to his family and friends.   A local radio station had been playing Sobiech's song for the last year and as a charity fund raiser, the station decided to sponsor a large chorus to perform the song at the Mall of America.  Some 5,000 people showed up.   The results were simply stunning.   As a 54 year old I don't cry very often - probably the last time I cried was when my father died.   It was all I could do to not tear up after seeing this video clip.   Sobiech was clearly a special person ...


James Brown "Santa Claus Go Straight To the Ghetto"
One of the tunes on Brown's "Funky Christmas" album, this was classic James Brown with an able assist from Maceo Parker and his classic backing band.   I'll let the YouTube link do the talkin'


The Carpenters "Merry Christmas Darling" (1978)
Okay, you can accuse me of being lowbrow and totally caving to commercial pandering.   I'll readily admit my guilt - this is easily the sappiest song on the list.  The thing is I can remember taking
the train home from college for the holidays and while I was waiting to board the train in the midst of a nasty snow storm, this was one of the songs playing in the waiting room.   There was just something very comforting in hearing the late Karen Carpenter's sweet voice.


Cheech and Chong "Santa Claus and his Old Lady"
Christmas is not all about sentimentality.   There has to be a feel good dimension to it as well and who better than Cheech and Chong to introduce that facet to the season ?    I actually seem to remember hearing this one played on a local radio station.   With it's stoned revision of the Santa Claus story, there's no way that would ever happen today.


Vince Guardaldi  "Christmas Time Is Here" (1965)
Since 99.99% of Americans have seen the classic A Charlie Brown Christmas television show, I'm guessing that people would recognize this song from the opening chords ...   Instantly reminds me of Christmas.  Always wondered why this one doesn't show up on more top-10 lists.


Donny Hathaway "This Christmas" (1970)
I guess it just struck me, the list as  lot of songs by folks who have passed on ...   guess that's a  nice reflection on the fact we need to enjoy and appreciate the limited time we have.   Hathaway actually released this as a 1970 single and it was included on his second studio album - 1971's "Donny Hathaway".   The song's been recorded dozens of times by everyone from punk band The Summer
Set, to Usher.   Hathaway's original remains the classic performance, though I've always wondered about the bizarre drums that keep popping up in the back of the mix.

The Kinks " Father Christmas" (1977)
Ray Davies and the band were always at their best when  upset about something and in this instance their target was seemingly the brutalization of Christmas.   There was something endearing about the dark lyrics that portrayed Christmas through the eyes of a department store Santa confronted with kids asking for money instead of presents, or simply asking for help getting one of their parents a job.   Even more relevant now than in 1977 when it was initially released as a single.

Brenda Lee "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree"  (1958)
Okay, okay this is one that makes every top-10 list and it should.    The oldest tune on my list, it was originally released as a single back in 1958 (how many of you were even born in 1958?).   Lee was only 13 when she recorded the tune and as good as her performance was, Hank Garland's giddy guitar and Boots Randolph's sax are the icing on the musical cake.   Funny that many people know the song from the fact it was included in the original "Home Alone" film (1990).


Darlene Love "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" 1963
So here's a true old-school  addition to the list (Love originally recorded the tune in 1963 as part of Phil Spector's "Christmas Gift for You" compilation album.   Spector originally planned on having Ronnie Spector and The Ronettes record the tune, but was unhappy with their version of the tune.  The tune was handed to Love and say what you will, her dynamite voice made this one of the most romantic Christmas tunes ever recorded.  Love's made a tradition of singing the tune on David Letterman's late night show.  While she does a killer live performance of the song, I'll stick with the original studio version with the classic Spector wall-of-sound production:



Bob and Doug McKenzie "12 Days of Christmas" (1981)
Did this really come out in 1981 ?   Starring Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, SCTV's "Great White North" segment was consistently funny and at the time this was amazingly funny.   Admittedly it has lost a bit of appeal, but it is still funny.


Moody Blues "In The Quiet of Christmas Morning" (2003)
This one came off the Moody's "December" album which technically wasn't a Christmas album.  For some reason I've come to really enjoy the entire album, but since this one basically appropriates a Bach melody, it's hard to go wrong.


The O'Jay's "Christmas Ain't Christmas New Years Ain't New Years Without the One You Love
To my ears The O'Jays had a sound that was perfect for seasonal tunes and in spite of the hideous title (my college thesis was shorter), this is simply one of the best soul Christmas tunes out there.


Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers  "Christmas All Over Again" (1982)
This one was initially included on 1992's  'A Very Special Christmas Volume 2'  Special Olympics charity album and his "Playback" boxed set.  Great jangle rock tune that sounded like a George Harrison and the Travelling Wilburys tune.  I included two YouTube links; one to the studio version and one to a 2000 live performance at the White House:

The Pogues "Fairytale of New York"
Has anyone written a classic Christmas song in the last thirty years ?    Yes.  The Pogues did with a song that's apparently about a guy spending Christmas Eve in a New York City drunk tank while thinking about a busted up love affair.  Certainly not everyone will agree with that statement, especially folks who aren't big fans of Shane MacGowan's totally out of tune vocals.   Course' the late Kirsty MacColl makes up for some of  MacGowan's shortcomings.


Sir Mack Rice - "Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin"
Seriously, you can't have a list without at least one Stax tune on it.   Picking one is a major chore, but this Sir Mack Rice tune is amazingly funky and will bring a smile to virtually everyone's face !!!    Why has America lost it's ability to write socially relevant commentary like this ?


Root Boy Slim - "Christmas At K-Mart" (1978)
One of the memories that will haunt me until the end of my life is seeing Root Boy and the Sex Change Band doing a mid-'80s  Christmas concert at Radford University.  In addition to playing the usual Root Boy classics, as I recall, the man threw in some seasonal selections (including this tune).   Even though I was clueless at the time, there was lots of snow - including what appeared to be
a generous portion on Root Boy's face.   It's a near perfect Christmas tune for those of us in the lower socio-economic rankings.


RUN-DMC "Christmas In Hollis"
I'm not a gigantic rap fan, but regardless of what you musical tastes are, this has to be considered a classic holiday tune.  Nothing more to say on this one.


Bob Seger And The Last Heard, 'Sock It To Me Santa" (1966)
So this 1966 nugget was Seger before he became an FM-radio mega-star with the Silver Bullet Band.  As much as I loved the mega-star Seger, the garage rocker Seger was even better, though he was clearly channeling more than a little bit of James Brown.


Slade "Merry Xmas Everybody" (1973)
Another tune that remains criminally unknown to most Americans, though it was a massive UK hit (# 1 for weeks in late 1973 and early
1974) ...  For a band that weren't known for being particularly subtle, that one was a major surprise, showcasing an attractive
working class vision of the holidays.  Noddy Holder's vocal chord shredding performance has to be heard. 


Bruce Springsteen "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" (1985)
Another one that deservedly shows up on every top-10 list.  The version most folks are familiar with was recorded at a 1975 performance at a small Long Island college and initially appeared as the flip side to Springsteen's 1985  "My Hometown" 45.    What isn't there to love on this one ?  Springsteen sounded like he was having a blast (it's still part of his live catalog);  great sound effects, and Clarence Clemmons was the perfect Santa bellowing "ho ho ho's"
throughout.  Simply wonderful.  The video is from a 2007 performance in Paris - hysterical to hear the French audience singing the chorus in English.


The Waitresses "Christmas Wrapping" (1981)
Ah, the late Patty Donahue ...   I loved her quirky voice and The Waitresses were one of my favorite new wave bands.   Anyway you look at it, "Christmas Wrapping" had a giddy combination of punk, new wave, and even early rap influences which made it a killer holiday tune.  Even better - David Hofstra's amazing bass line.


Roy Wood and Wizzard "I Wish It Could be Christmas Everyday" (1973)
I've always loved this tune; there's no denying it was highly mid-'70s commercial, but have long suspected Roy Wood's eccentric edges were simply too English for American audiences.   Roy Wood (white hair and beard) is prominently featured  in the promotional video (which is a major glam hoot).


Weird Al' Yankovic 'The Night Santa Went Crazy'
Another tune that hasn't gotten the recognition it deserves; not that Yankovic is an unknown, rather it probably has something to do with the unsettling nature of his reworking of Soul Asylum's "Black Gold".   To say Yankovic gave the original tune a truly demented PG-13 lyric would be an understatement, though his performance  seemed to suite the less sentimental nature of the holiday season.  I'll let you judge for yourself.


Stevie Wonder "What Christmas Means To Me" (1967)
Not sure why, but picking my favorite Motown holiday tune was a major pain.   To be honest, most of the Motown holiday product is pretty tame - lots of MOR efforts meant to appeal to middle class American stereo systems.   Luckily this 1967 Stevie Wonder original captured that magical Motown sound.   I think this Disneyland clip was recorded in 2009.  About all I can say it that it shows Wonder still has it after all these years.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Where do you start with horrible music ?  There's so much of it out there ... 
seemingly more each and every day.  And how do you define horrible?   Some
genres that I can't even listen to (death metal, noise rock, giant swaths of
rap) have rabid fan bases.  

Anyhow, I originally published a list of my selections for the ten worst songs
of all time about five years ago when BadCatRecords was still hosted on the old
Geocities website.   The list is heavily geared to my teenage listening years
(mid-70s through the early-'80s which means I've ignored decades of equally bad
material.   I may have to expand the list to a top-20 at some point.  

So the original list got quite a bit of traffic, including comments from a
couple of the artists represented on the list.   I actually found that kind of
funny - the thought a rock star would take offense at my comments and take the
time to let me know they thought I was a lowlife tool was actually pretty funny 
...  When Geocities shut down I essentially forgot about the list, though a
couple of months ago I mentioned it to some friends who expressed interest in
it.   Sadly Geocities is gone, but I found the old HTML code on a computer and
I've reposted the list   And as an added bonus, in case some of you haven't
encountered these wonderful selections, I've added links to YouTube clips of the
songs.   Enjoy !

These aren't in any particular order, but they all have a special place in my
heart.  Bad, bad, bad ... so bad there's actually something endearing to each of

Gary Wright "Dreamweaver"
This one came out in 1976 and I clearly remember it getting all kinds of media
attention based on the fact the track didn't include a single guitar - it was
all synthesizers.   Cutting edge technology it was.   The only problem is the
song sucked and the synthesizers set a new standard for cheesy.   You actually
had to wonder if the keyboard guy had fallen asleep during the recording session
and accidently fallen asleep in the keyboard.   Okay, that sounded mean and
snitty.  I'll tell you that I saw Wright open up for Peter Frampton and in a
live setting he was actually pretty entertaining - wasn't as keen on the flight
suit-styled costume, but what do I know.


Buckner and Garcia "Pac-Man Fever"
As was pointed out to me by one of the performers, I've never written a million
seller, so who cares what I think about this song.   It came out at the pinnacle
of the video game crazy and it was insidiously catchy and equally annoying.  
The funny thing is it was actually one of the highlights off of an album of
similarly oriented songs ('' and '').   Regardless, unless you like what sounds
like an Atari being strangled, I'm not sure why you would bother.  The clip

has the pair lip synching the tune on Dick Clark's American Bandstand.  Even
Clark seems befuddled by the tune.


Starland Vocal Band "Afternoon Delight"
So these guys were Washington DC natives and this song made them billionaires -
I read somewhere the song still generates substantial royalties for the writers
(though they make upwards of $200,000 a year off of 'country Roads'.   So
'Afternoon Delight' was cute and commercial and 100% nauseating.  The thought of
two folks sneaking off from work to engage in a little hanky-panky wasn't bad,
but the smug, nod-nod, delivery was thoroughly irritating.  The video for the tune

was hysterical - those little looks (think they're long since divorced).


Rupert Holmes "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)"
Seriously, what is there to say about this song.   Everything about it was
annoying.   I can't even look at a frozen drink without thinking about this
musical nightmare.   And again, I'm sure Homes is enjoying more royalties on
a monthly basis than I'll ever earn across my entire career.


Chris DeBurgh "Lady In Red"
I remember being dumbfounded that this song got airplay.   DeBurgh had one of
those voices that just struck a chord with me - the guy sounded like he had his
manly parts stuck in a vice grip while he was being slowly strangled.   It was
truly painful to sit through this hideous ballad; made worse by the fact my
local radio station played it and play it and played it.  And for those of you who

think I'm being a complete a**wipe, I'll even admit that the live version of this
tune is at least listenable (still don't like it).


Donna Summer "Love To Love You Baby"
I liked the late Donna Summer.  She had a beguiling voice and I was always
impressed by her demeanor.  That said, her commercial breakthrough was
horrendous.   I remember it being scandalous when released.   All of the bumping
and grinding was an affront to morals and society.   The fact of the matter is
those orgasmic sound effects were about as sexy as listening to that fat guy
farting in the third toilet stall.  There was nothing even remotely sexy about
the performance.  Summer sounded like she was hurt and needed medical attention
- and not the kind of attention Dr. Love could provide.    The only thing worse
than the single was the seemingly endless extended play version.   As reflected

on a television performance, the live moans were positively painful to hear.


Kiss "Beth"
Kiss are great when they are being Kiss.   Kiss are not great when they are
trying to be a top-40 commercial band.   Kiss are even less great when singing
sappy ballads like this aberration.   The best way to describe the song was that
it sounded like Gene Simmonds was choking on his tongue.  "Beth, gasp, gasp


Debby Boone "You Light Up My Life" ()
To be fair, including this one is a little bit like the class bully picking on
the nearsighted science nerd.    This song is so bad in so many ways.   The fact
that it sold a billion copies just goes to show you how deep some of this
country's problems are.   Is there such a thing as a flatulent pop song ?  
Well, if so, I'd nominate this piece of insipid navel gazing crappola.    This
one is bad as in bad - not bad as in so bad that it is good.  I can actually
imagine this playing non-stop for all the souls in purgatory.


Paul Anka "You're having My Baby"
Another one where it's hard to know where to begin.   Musically the song was
horrendous with a melody that made chalk-on-a-blackboard sound good; a lyric
that was simultaneously sexist, cheesy, and embarrassing.   Hard to imagine any
woman wanting to hear this one ...  hard to imagine any potential father daring
to play this for his pregnant wife, or partner and yet it was  a monster hit for
Anka.   Even more puzzling, I recognize I'm not looker, but even in his prime
Anka was exactly a stunner.  


Morris Albert "Feelings"
What makes this one so special is Albert's voice - I've always though the guy
sounded like he was being strangled with piano wire.   Concepts such as being in
tune and following the melody were completely ignored.  


And as a bonus selection ...
Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder "Ebony and Ivory"
So I'll give the pair credit for trying to make a difference - the sentiments
were certainly nice ... tolerance, racial harmony, cooperation.  I'll vote for
all of them.   On the other hand, couldn't they have wrapped it up in something
with a little more energy and enthusiasm ?    'Ebony and Ivory' sounded like
something a whack job on an extended dose of tranquilizers might have cranked

out while tied to his dinner chair.    Literally sleep inducing ....



Normally when I Get on the morning commuter bus, I'm pretty drowsy and don't pay
a great deal of attention to my fellow commuters.   For some reason I was more
awake this morning than normally.  Two curiosities caught my attention.

There was a guy sitting in front of me reading a newspaper.  That in itself
wasn't a big deal, however I was curious to see the newspaper had Chinese print
(well, it had Asian print).  Even more surprising were all the "page 3" girls
displayed throughout the paper.   For anyone who hasn't hear the term it refers
to English tabloid newspapers that feature a scantily clad, or nude woman on the
third page of the newspaper.   Anyhow, this guy didn't seem to have any problem
enjoying that feature of the paper.  In fact, I watched him fold the paper this way and that so he could focus on the articles.  Luckily for him the woman sitting next to him was zonked
out and didn't seem to notice.

The next thing to capture my attention was this oddly familiar clicking noise. 
I turned around and saw it was coming from a middle-aged woman who was seated
right behind me.  She was clipping her fingernails on the bus.  It was like she
was picking her nose, or wiping her butt, however it was just a bizarre thing to
see with her nails jumping all over the place.   I suspect the guy sitting next
to her wasn't all that happy with her morning hygiene routine.

Makes you wonder, what are these folks thinking.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


I'm not particularly political, but as a middle aged, middle, class, white guy, I've always kind of leaned to the Republican side of the equation.  I'm conservative in terms of finances and I'm probably more conservative in terms of lifestyle choices than I'd like to think.  I'm also a government employee who likes his job.   Over the years the government has paid me well.  They've provided me with a benefits and retirement program that most people would kill for.   I've been given education opportunities.  They've allowed me to travel.  They've given my opportunities to make a difference.  They've allowed me to work with some amazingly capable and dedicated people.  So, yes I'm prime Republican recruitment territory.   And in the past I've frequently voted Republican.   The thing is, I can't do it anymore.   The Republicans have fallen victim to their own personal agendas. They've allowed a small group of fanatics to basically take over their agenda and in doing so they've lost the rank and file that followed the party line.   Like spoiled three year old kids, they've thrown out the concepts of collaboration and cooperation that made the country great in favor of my-way-of-no-way.   I see them willing to sacrifice the very people they are suppose to be helping in order to further their own personnel agendas.  Do they care about you and me?   Hell no.

There's certainly plenty of blame to go around.  Obamacare seems like a nightmare
waiting to happen.   It is complex and will take years to work out the kinks.  I understand the Republican dislike for the program.  That said, it is the law.   They are required to uphold the law.   If they want to gut the program, they'll get their turn when they win control of the government.   For the time being, their attempts to gut the law by taking down the entire government are simply reprehensible.   Furloughing millions of federal employees; many who live paycheck-to-paycheck, is not the way to do it.   As I said, the Republicans will
get their shot someday, but given their current behavior and unless they figure out how to return to a more moderate and mainstream approach, it won't be with my vote.


Basic Information: 
Name: Rainbow Records
Location: 54 E. Main St., Newark, DE 19711

Website:  http://www.rainbow-online.com/

Location: Grade B:  I stumbled across this place a couple of years while walking around Newark, waiting for my wife to check out some local stores.   It's actually hidden down a side alley and easy to miss.  Street parking along the main drag (25 cents for 12 minutes, so bring quarters).

Staff: Grade B:  Three staff members were in the store, but were busy talking to each other and left me alone to poke around.  That's fine as far as I'm concerned.

Inventory: Grade C   So I'm guessing the store has about 3,000 LPs and a small inventory of CDs.  The albums are divided into "old stuff" and newer material (I have to admit I had not heard most of the newer stuff - Divine Destruction doesn't sound like something I'd enjoy.  Anyhow, about 60% of the small store is devoted to used books.

Pricing: Grade B-:  I'm kind of torn on this one.  Their focus is clearly on contemporary acts with many of those releases carry rather expensive  prices.   I'll readily admit many of those contemporary acts were unknown to me, but I did recognize a couple (High Llamas) and I've seen vinyl pressings for far less.  Someone must also have been reading a price guide for 60s and '70s LPs since some of those carried surprisingly high prices - Aesops Fables for $20; Beatles LPs priced at $10 and up, etc.   At the same time there were some bargains to be found in the bins, especially when it came to lesser known bands.   Good examples - spent $4 for a Brown Dust LP on the collectible Family label and $4 for a Ronnie Hawkins solo LP on ATCO.

Facility: Grade C:  The place is small - imagine a one bedroom apartment and you'll have the right size (and that includes both the music and book sections).   They've made the most out of their limited space, but it is cluttered and if there are more than a handful of people in the store at any one time, it gets to be a bit claustrophobic.   Most of the LPs are in conventional bins so it's easy to get to them.  The inventory organization was a bit of a mystery.   Anything 50s though early '90s appeared to be in one area without respect to genre.   LPs were roughly alphabetical, but you found country, pop, rock, soul, etc. all mixed together which made for some interesting discoveries.   They also has some "discounted" LPs under the bins and a small area with new inventory.   Somewhat cumbersome, but not a big deal.   My biggest complaint though had to do with the volume of the in-store stereo system.   They were playing some lame AOR album and while the music wasn't great, it was loud; not just loud, but mind-numbing loud.   I might have stayed longer, but I literally started to get a headache and didn't want to look like an old geezer (even though I am), by asking them to turn it down.  

Damages:  Again, I probably shouldn't document this, but I picked up about 20 LPs.   For the most part, I bought a mixture of '60s and '70s pop, rock with a couple of interesting soul titles thrown in the mix.  The single most expensive item was a new, six LP boxed set by The Stark Reality "Acting, Thinking, Feeling."  I know could have found it cheaper (saw it on Amazon for $20 less), but what the hell - support your local record store.   Total cost was $265

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Blue Groove Soundz
5852 N Washington Boulevard
Arlington Virginia 22205
(703) 270-9075
So here's a post-script to my original write-up.  
As mentioned I bought a bunch of LPs right before Christmas and was frustrated to discover a bunch of them had skips.  Of the ten LPs I bought, literally five were flawed.  Anyhow, I
took them back and because I was in a rush, didn't have time to find replacements.   The store clerk was nice enough to gave me a gift certificate for the value of the returns.  

So some eight months later I finally got around to going back and the first thing I did was see if they would honor my gift certificate. Eight months is a pretty long time so I was skeptical they would accept it.  Anyhow, I had the original sales receipt and the certificate and the store clerk agreed to honor it.  Kudos to store.

Other comments:
- They now have a designated parking space for customers on the side of the building (1 space).
- The store is as small as ever, but has way more stuff packed into it than the last time I was there.
- They are rearranging the layout, moving the check out desk to the side of the store, though it won't make much difference given the limited overall space.
- Prices are still very high - common garage sale LPs are listed at $8 - $9 and higher (if I could charge similar prices on my inventory I could retire).
- They mix old and reissues together, so look closely when you pick something up. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013


As part of BadCatRecords  website I listen to lots of obscure bands and here's a list of songs that have stuck with me over the past year.   They're not in any particularly order, but all ten managed to worm their way into my head where they spent way too much time taking up what little valuable space I had left at this point in my life.
What You Will   (Steve Woodard) - 2:23
ON album full of prime country-rock tunes, this one came as a major surprise.  While it slotted perfectly in he group's country-rock leanings,     this one was wrapped up in a much heavier rock arrangement, including an intriguing set of "kiss-off" lyrics, a great melody, nice harmony vocals, and one of the album's best guitar solos.   This is one of the tunes I would have tapped as the single.

Along Too Long To Be Lonely   (Mike Collings - Roger White) - 3:45
Another track off the "Friends By Feather" LP, this one was a  heavy pop tune with more hooks than most entire albums contain, 'Along Too Long To Be Lonely' definitely had top-40 slapped across it.   Imagine the kind of song Mark Lindsay and the Raiders always wanted to write and you'd have a feel for how good this one was.  It sounds even better when cranked up to maximum volume on the stereo.   Geez, I simply can't shake the double timed chorus out of my head. 

Fleetwood Mac
Future Games   (Bob Welch) - 
I always liked the weird, slightly ominous Southern California vibe Bob Welch brought to the band - kind of a rustic precursor to the Buckingham-Nicks era sound.   Regardless, 'Future Games' was one of the most commercial things Welch ever wrote.  While it took a minute to kick into gear, once it got some traction, the song revealed a beguiling melody, some tasty Kirwan lead guitar, and wonderful harmony vocals between Welch and McVie.    Could have been a hit for the band with a bit of support.   Welch certainly thought so, re-recording the track for his 1979 solo album.

Turn Turtle    (Ollie Halsall - Mike Patto) -
One of those English bands that deserved a far better fate than they were given ...  With Mike Patto sounding like he was about to explode, sexual frustration has seldom been wrapped in such a catchy tune ...   Always loved OllieHalsall's rollicking keyboards and the bouncy female backing vocals "la lal la la la ..." were mesmerizing - turn turtle, play dead ... 

Poor Little Heartbreaker   (Ollie Halsall - Mike Patto) -
I've always found it hard to believe 'Poor Little Heartbreaker' was relegated to a 'B' side.   Kicked along by Halsall's screaming Byrds-styled guitar, this was a killer rocker with a slightly West Coast psych-ish feel.   The liner notes describe it as "Definitely a late Timebox track, Halsall having switched to electric guitar/this early "punk" track closest to Boxer sound."    Not sure I agree with the punk description - yeah it had that angry edge, but the sound was simply too sophisticated to be considered punkish.  

Johnny Jenkins
Walk on Guilded Splinters   (Dr. John Creaux) - 5:23
Dr. John's version was the one I grew up with and as much as I love it, this version may be even better.  Kicked along by Jenkins sandpaper voice and Duane Allman on dobro (Jenkins and Pete Carr on guitar), this song simply oozed backwoods soul.  The irony is that as good as Jenkins performance was, in recent years the song's rhythm track has fueled the song's rediscover.  Powered by Allman Brothers Butch Trucks on drums and Jai Johnny Johnston on percussion, the song's been sampled by scores of songs including Beck's 'Loser', Blackalicious' 'A to G', Oasis 'Go Let it Out', and a bunch of others.   None of the samples come close to the original performance.  Capricorn tapped the song as a single, but didn't seem to have a clue how to market it.   I've only seen promo copies of the 45.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Vienna Music Exchange - Vienna, Virginia

Basic Information: 
Name: Vienna Music Exchange
Location: 131 Church St NW, #4, Vienna, VA.

Location: Grade B+:  I stumbled across this place while riding my bike along the WO&D bike path.   The store is actually a couple of blocks off the bike path (we were looking for an ice cream store); and is buried in an older residential structure that's been converted into a commercial building.   There's plenty of free street parking and the building has a small parking lot for customers.

Staff: Grade B:  One person (guess it was the owner - Manical Mike Pritchard  ?).   Nice enough.   Asked me if I was looking for anything in particular and suggested a couple of piles of stuff I might want to look through.  Spent considerable time talking to the other customer in the store and clearly knew lots about heavy metal and local bands - 'course the store tagline is "BEST SELECTION OF METAL IN THE DC/NORTHERN VIRGINIA AREA"

Inventory: Grade B   So I'm guessing the store has about 5,000 LPs;  a smaller inventory of CDs, some tee-shirts and music related material.   I overheard the owner say he has a ton more stuff at home and if you're looking for specifics he'd be willing to check his home stash.

Pricing: Grade B:   Kind of hard for me to be fair here since I'm not a big heavy metal guy.   The inventory I'm familiar with (pop, rock, soul) was a touch on the high side.   Lots of fairly common yard sale genre albums in the $7 - $9 range with prices going up from there.  Again, the heavy metal stuff may be more aptly priced.   I'm just not smart enough to know.

Facility: Grade C:  If you are claustrophobic, this place could pose an issue to your health.  As mentioned, it's located in an old home that's been modified into a commercial space with a half dozen small businesses tucked into the structure.   The store itself is up a flight of stairs in what was probably one of the original bedrooms.   I'm guessing it's about 8 feet by 8 feet with record bins and assorted merchandise taking up 80% of the space.  Getting three folks in the room would be tight.  Getting more than that would pose a significant logistical challenge.   There is a certain degree of organization to the material, but I couldn't quite figure it all out.  I found an online photo of the place, though be forewarned, it's even tighter than the photo would have you think.   Pop and rock is in one area; soul and R&B; blues-rock/country-rock; heavy metal, and even jazz (!) are all in their own little spaces. Most of it seems to be filed alphabetically, though there are  occasional surprises.   This is clearly a part-time job for the owner so the store has limited hours:  12 - 5 Thursday through Sundays.   I'd suggest calling to make sure they're open.

Damages:  Since I was riding a bike, I didn't want to haul a ton of records around with me.  I ended up buying 5  LPs (mostly rock), including an album by the French band Ocean and an Aretha Franklin LP (the latter was probably the one bargain I found).   Total cost was under $50.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


When:  August 17, 2013
Where: State Theatre, Falls Church, Virginia

Mary Ann Redmond has to be one of the first concerts I ever saw with my wife.  I remember going to see her in the mid-'90s at City Blues, a small club in Washington DC, with some of her friends.  Never heard of her; no idea what to expect and when this small, perky, blond haired woman got on the diminutive stage, I wasn't expecting a great deal.   Shame on me ...  For the life of me, I don't know how Redmond packs such an amazing voice into that small body.   Anyhow, I've been a fan ever since.  Over the ensuing years I've seen her play a couple of dozen times ranging from a restaurant in a local mall, small outdoor concerts, to the usual Washington area clubs.   I've seen her play for crowds consisting of a couple of dozen folks, to audiences  consisting of thousands.  And one thing's remained consistent - I have yet to see a show that wasn't top notch.

She's a pretty big deal in the National Capital Region (over the years she's won something like two dozen Wammies (Washington, D.C.'s version of a Grammy)).   Unfortunately that recognition hasn't travelled much beyond her local fame which is a shame since she has an amazing voice, a broad repertoire, a beguiling stage presence, and a top-notch backing band - I'm always amazed someone hasn't swept in and grabbed her rhythm section - drummer Deren Blessman and bassist Mike Tony Echols. 

Lots of Redmond fans adore her softer material, but I'll tell you they're missing the boat.   Redmond is at her best when she goes for AOR blues (Greg and Duane Allman would be proud to hear her cover of 'Whipping Post') hardcore soul (Ann Peebles 'I Can't Stand the Rain'), commercial pop (Patty Griffin's 'Time Will Do the Talking'), or rocks out  (know how Aretha appropriated 'RESPECT' from Otis Redding?  Well Redmond basically does the same thing with John Hiatt's 'Cry Love' - there's a section where she latches on to one of the high notes and literally holds it full-tilt for 30 seconds).  Even better - her cover of
'Crossroads' is simply killer.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


As a good citizen I take public transportation to work.  Living in Fairfax County, Virginia I use the Fairfax Connector to get to the Metro system.  To get to work I drive about a mile to a parking lot and then hop on a Fairfax Connector bus that takes me to the Metro station.  So over the last couple of months a flock of geese have decided to make the parking lot their home.   Geese apparently eat a lot which means they also leave tons of droppings.  The end result is they've turned the parking into a minefield.   Seriously - you cannot walk in a straight line without stepping in goose excrement.   It is nasty stuff and probably a major health hazard.   The funny thing is Fairfax Connector has route managers at the parking lot everyday, yet they've never bothered to do anything about it.  

Finally, out of abject frustration I emailed Fairfax Connector - so far my emails been forwarded to two different offices in the organization.   Wonder what the chances of something being done are?

update 9/4/2013
And why would I have expected anything else from this outfit ?    After receiving two emails telling me my original email had been forwarded on to another office ...  absolute silence.  Seriously, as a taxpayer all I can say is these guys are an embarrassment.   I suggest some remedial customer service training, or maybe we just subject the whole organization to some streamlining efficiencies.   Impressive work there Fairfax Connector.

Monday, August 12, 2013


When:  August 11, 2013
Where: Wolftrap, Vienna Virginia

BB King has been on my "bucket list" for years and though the man seems indestructible, at 87 (soon to be 88), he won't be here forever.  So King opened up the show and to be honest, he really didn't play all that much music.  His top notch backing band took up quite a bit of time and King himself spent about a quarter of the time vamping and talking to the crowd.   He's still an accomplish guitarist, but don't expect to hear anything nearly as polished as some of his past work.   That said, the man still have a wonderful voice - instantly recognizable.  Rough, roaring, ragged ...   a true treasure.  Beside, how can you not love a guy who takes the time to introduce every member of the band and his bus driver !!!

I saw Frampton about two years ago in a small local club (The Birchmere).  The last time I'd seen him was 1976 when he was touring in support of "Frampton Comes Alive".   Regardless, that small club show was great so I figured I'd give him a shot in a bigger arena (plus he recently got back the famed Gibson guitar).   While I missed the small show intimacy (this time around I was sitting on the lawn), Frampton and company was pretty good.   I wish he would have played a wider array of material, including some of his more recent material, but I guess you can't please all of us.  
The concert's biggest surprise/mystery was the appearance of Roger McGuinn.  Mind you, I'm a big Byrds fan, but McGunn just seemed totally out of place here.   Judging by the number of people who started packing up, I'm guessing 75% of the crowd didn't have a clue who McGuinn was, even when he played a couple of Byrds hits. Just a real strange guest to have brought along ...    

Saturday, August 3, 2013


24 hours later and I'm still steaming about this experience so I decided to put it on my blog.
So I'll admit this place has only been open for 10 days ...   clearly it'll take a little time to get into a groove and these guys clearly haven't gotten there (I have some doubts they ever will).   Even with that in mind, this was the worst dining experience I've had in years.   You'll have to judge if the 40 - 60 minute wait to get a table is going to be worth it.

- First be aware that parking is extremely limited.  We saw folks trolling the area for 5 to ten minutes.

- Great beer menu.  Unfortunately nothing on the menu is apparently available,  Seriously.  The first ten (yes 10) selections we made were not available.   I finally walked over to the bar to see what they actually had and then relayed the order to our server.   We literally spent 20 minutes on this part of the meal.

- Waiter was nice and friendly, but totally clueless,   The two 10 year olds with us had better insight into the menu than the waiter.

- It took 40 minutes for the pizzas to actually show up.   People that had come in after us got their orders before we did.   One of the managers noticed something was up and brought over garlic bread as a "peace offering".  We were also told that it was taking them about 30 minutes to cook a pizza.  interestingly at that point in time we'd been waiting 40 minutes,

- The first pizzas showed up (the one the kids ordered).  We were then told that there would be a delay on the second pizza because they'd made a mistake on the order - we ordered it without onions and it showed up with onions.   They re-did the order, but it took another 20 minutes,

- With two young kids with us, we basically gave up at this point asking that the pizzas be put in a box to go.   The manager offered us a 25% discount on the kids pizza which we politely declined.

- Even better, the bill included a beverage we hadn't ordered, but at this point we only had one goal - get out of this place without wasting any more of our time.

- By the way; after all of that, the food was just okay.  One of the 10 year olds told us he'd rather have Papa Johns.  I won't go that far, but it was just okay - not something I would spend two hours waiting for.

Here's the really sad part.  We've been to three other Mellow Mushrooms and each was great.  We were actually excited to hear that one was opening up in Herndon.  Maybe because those prior experiences were so good, this was a complete and thorough disappointment.   The only reason I gave it a star is that's the minimum requirement to upload a review.   My suggestion - maybe wait another six months and try them, or hold out for the one in Savannah, or the one in Charlottesville.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


I drive a 202 Jeep Cherokee and recently had to take it in to get a Virginia state inspection.   I knew I was going to have to get the brakes fixed, but I didn't bargain on having to get $2,500 of work done, including replacing a rear axle (which I'm still a little fuzzy on with respect to why I needed this done - I was told it was a common defect on older Jeeps ...).

So in the interests of discretion, I'm going to keep the service provider private.  I will say that I've been going there since I've owned the car and I've been happy with them up till this point.

And here's where it goes wrong.   I took the car in on a Thursday and was told it would be ready that day.   When they discovered they needed to fix the axle I was told the vehicle would be ready Friday.   When they had to find a replacement axle I was told it would be ready Saturday.   Waited all day Saturday and finally called them after they had officially closed for the day only to be told that it would be Tuesday before the car was ready.  Let me underscore I had to call them - they didn't bother to contact me.  I eventually got the car back Wednesday.   Thursday to Wednesday - you can do the math.

I realize this was a big job and it took time to track down the parts.  Fine.  On the other hand  be honest and give me a realistic timeframe for the repair.  I can deal with six days if you tell me upfront so that I can plan for it.   Giving me a rolling estimate and then going out of your way to ignore me simply pisses me off.

One last piece of advice - the note you sent me thanking me for allowing you to service  my car ...   don't send it next time unless it includes a rebate or a steep discount on future service.   You may have meant well, but you merely succeeded in pissing me off again. 

Yes, I'm probably taking my business to one of your competitors next time.  Do you want your card back ?

Sunday, July 14, 2013


I've had the same credit card for a decade.  I use it for everyday purchases and simply don't care about mileage points; a pretty "diamond" card; first dibs at concert seats, etc.   I just want a decent rate on my card and convenience.

So with that in mind, my family was at the beach last week and one evening we went into a small local gallery.  They had some cool art glass and my wife mentioned she really liked a piece they had on display. Since her birthday was coming up, I snuck back to the store and bought it for her.  As it was late in the evening, the gallery said they'd pack the piece and I could pick it up the following day.

And that's what happened.   Fast forward a week.   We give the package to my wife for her birthday.  She opens it and discovers the piece is cracked.   The crack isn't obvious, but if you look you can clearly see this thing is damaged.  Given it cost $500, I contacted the gallery; sent them an email with a picture of the damage and asked what my options are.  Remember, they packed the item and I was very careful with the package.   Anyhow, the gallery said they'd get back to me which didn't exactly give me a warm and fuzzy feeling so I decided to contact my credit card company to see what my options were.

The first credit card specialist I talked to listened to my story and told me there were two routes to consider - an item protection program and a consumer protection program option.  Both of these were apparently options I had on my card (which I didn't know about and wonder what they're costing me).  When I asked her for details on how to pursue those options she told me I would have to talk to a specialist.  I was then forwarded to a different department.   After providing all of my account information to the second account specialist I was told the program required me to mail the item to a company warehouse, but the item couldn't be damaged.  When I pointed out this was a broken piece of art glass so it was damaged, I was told the item protection program wasn't an option, but I could try the consumer protection program.  When I asked for the details I was told that wasn't her area, but she would be happy to forward me to another specialist.   After providing the third specialist with my account information she told me to hang on while se read the consumer protection program materials to see whether I was covered - good up to $500; can't claim more than $50,000 over the life of the program; have 60 days to file a claim ...   all good.  Whoops, antiques and collectables are excluded from the program.  Yes, art glass is a collectable.  

I kind of saw that coming.  To drag out this misery, I asked what other options I had.  Could I simply file a dispute on the original purchase ?   Yes, but that wasn't something she could help me with.  I would have to work with a different specialist (I'm thinking I'll end up back with the first person I spoke to).

At this point I had already spent 30 minutes with my credit card company and decided I would give the gallery a chance to make good on the damaged item.   They were nice enough to tell me they'd get back to me the following day.

I'm pissed at myself for not having checked the glass myself.  I'm mad at the gallery for having sold me a damaged item; but above all I'm upset at the credit card company for their BS.   In fact, I'm think I may take up the next offer I get from the Navy Federal Credit Union.