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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

WeirdoMusic Album Reviews

As some of you may have noticed, I've been writing album reviews for WeirdoMusic.com -- about one every five weeks or so. I thought I'd post all of those links here, though, just so that you guys can peruse conveniently. :D

So, here are all nine reviews I've written so far (in no particular order). Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Various Artists - Stroboscopica, Vol. 1: Sonorizzazioni Psycho Beat (CD, 1998)

Various Artists
"Stroboscopica, Vol. 1: Sonorizzazioni Psycho Beat"
Plastic PL 003, Italian import [1998]

Volume one of a three volume series issued by the now defunct Plastic Records of Italy, this various artist compilation features a selection of tracks sourced from late '60s and '70s Eurotrash films and B-movies. Unfortunately, this release is long out-of-print and beyond scarce, and I'd imagine that many people would have difficulty finding it for less than 50 dollars.

This album is comprised of only a handful of groups/composers, though they are fairly "big" names in their field -- Marc 4, I Gres, Freedom Power, Franco Micalizzi, I Pulsar, Alessandro Alessandroni, and Francesco De Masi. Despite that, the sounds presented here are musically diverse and cover a range of styles and moods. Speaking in terms of the music's application in film, the tracks featured here were taken from a variety of different scene clichés -- love sequences, fights, you name it, pretty much. Personally, I don't know which films these tracks were originally from. They don't give any clear details in the liner notes, and I kind of wonder whether they even researched it themselves.

Now I'm going to discuss what stands out to me the most about this CD. This collection seems to be a perfect example of how much this genre can be an "acquired taste." I say this because, for me and probably for many other listeners too, these sounds are rather unassuming. That's not to say they are unapproachable because of that, but it took me three or four plays over a period of months to finally gain appreciation for what these artists were doing. I'd imagine that most people who are not accustomed to '70s Italian B-movie soundtracks would find this "boring." Perhaps it would even put them to sleep. What actually seems to be the case, however, is that the subtleties of these tracks are what make them entertaining. The subtleties don't just jump out at you, though -- you need to search a little bit to find them.

Put simply, and in my "expert" opinion, all 16 of these tracks are first-class. All of them are "good." While this release is most certainly too esoteric and pricey for the mainstream, it presents the listener with a rich helping of unusual and exciting material for them to get lost in.

Click here to see back cover

05 - Marc 4 - Hyde Park:


16 - Francesco De Masi - Altalena Party:

Monday, January 20, 2014

Various Artists - Calvert DeForest's Erotic Experience (CD, 1999)

Various Artists
"Calvert DeForest's Erotic Experience" (CD, 1999)

This CD, a Various Artist compilation of vintage Lounge music, was released toward the end of the Space Age Bachelor Pad bubble. It did, however, come out the same year that Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me hit the box office. The songs that make up this album actually seem to be more inspired by the Austin Powers franchise and a revival of the Swingin' Sixties in the classic Mod/Rocker style.

While the contents presented here consist of a mixture between fairly well-known singles and much lesser-known obscurities, it is, as a whole, distinctive. Part of this has to do with the presence of several neo-Lounge acts (Tipsy and Combustible Edison), mostly because, in general, they have rarely been pared up with mid-century recordings (at least in the realm of professional reissues). Another aspect of its distinctiveness is the fact that the tracks chosen for this release, as a whole, haven't shown up on very many other compilation CD's from the same period or since. The listener, therefore, would most likely be getting something uncommon and fresh.

Now, let's talk about the "look and feel," since that usually says more about the character of an album than the contents alone. Truthfully, I have not been particularly impressed by this -- and I've listened to it a decent number of times over the years. Throughout the runtime of this album, the vibe that I get feels kind of like a sleazy "has-been" Vegas lounge singer; overly-moussed hair, rhinestones and all. While the cover art further intensifies this feeling, it also lends itself to probability that it's not really meant to be taken seriously. Despite the obvious camp quirkiness and tongue-in-cheek characteristics of the album cover, as well as the inclusion of Austin Powers' theme song ("Soul Bossa Nova" by Quincy Jones) and the really crappy DeForest original ("Tequila"), this irony only has so much appeal, at least to me. What ends up happening is that warmth of sound and emotion are traded for humor, and I would have preferred warmth.

Still, this album is not terrible. As a whole, it's OK -- but that's about it. I'm not saying you shouldn't enjoy it, own it, or recommend it, because it's an OK release. Personally, it's a permanent part of my collection, because sometimes it's fun to hear a song or two from it. But it's still only OK.

Track list:
  1. Tipsy - Mr. Excitement
  2. Combustible Edison - Laura's Aura
  3. Quincy Jones - Soul Bossa Nova
  4. Dusty Springfield - The Look Of Love
  5. The Bob Crewe Generation - Music To Watch Girls By
  6. Henry Mancini - Peter Gunn
  7. Michel Legrand - A Man's Castle
  8. Barbara Acklin - Quiet Nights Of Quiet Stars
  9. Count Basie - Green Onions
  10. Arthur Lyman - The Shadow Of Your Smile
  11. Dick Jacobs - Saturday Music
  12. Gene Chandler - This Guy's In Love With You
  13. Young-Holt Unlimited - Light My Fire
  14. Calvert And The Craftmatics - Tequila

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Holidays From Exciting Sounds! 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

It's that time of the year again for the "Happy Holidays From Exciting Sounds!" compilation, which means over an hour of intriguing, unusual and wildly original (read: 'exciting') sounds for your listening pleasure. ;D

For this mix, I added some classics (as in, songs that many people reading this blog would already be pretty familiar with), along with a decent amount of total rarities that many people (including obscure music fans) will probably never hear anywhere else.

So, without further a-doo-doo, here is my Christmas gift to you: 21 awesome tracks presented in a continuous-mix MP3 file. It comes in a ZIP file and includes the Exciting Sounds album cover (seen above) and a PDF file listing the artist and song names.

Hope you enjoy, and don't hesitate to leave feedback. I want people to enjoy my work, so I'm interested to know what you all are thinking and feeling. :D

Until next time, keep it exciting!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Audiophile Update For November 19, 2013

For this Audiophile Update I'd like to talk about a concept I think is very important for people with this hobby. It's something I'd like to call "Practical Audiophilia" and, in essence, it's the realization that you're doing it for music, as opposed to just superiority of the sound. Many audiophiles get so wrapped up in the technicalities that they forget they're doing it to make music (an emotional/psychological/physical experience, in and of itself) more enjoyable. Personally, I know what it feels like to be so concerned about the sound quality of what I'm listening to that the thoughts and feelings being conveyed musically no longer have an impact. In these situations, all I care about is how lossless the files are and how expensive the speakers or headphones were. Instead of it being a emotional experience, it becomes a scientific experience -- just as cold and clinical as astrology or medicine.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with high-end audio. On the contrary -- being able to hear all the nuances and full soundstage of music definitely makes it more enjoyable. There has to come a point, though, that audiophiles stop thinking about the science and completely lose themselves in the art. As for myself, I've really made an effort to give up many of my overly perfectionistic audiophile tendencies. When I listen to music, I make a point now to relate to the music, even if I'm listening to a lossy mp3 or through cheap car speakers. The technicalities of sound quality have begun to fatigue me, to a degree.

Now, I also realize that plenty of people don't have a problem separating the scientific from the artistic. They're able to deal effectively with both sides of the hobby. The purpose of this post is just to make this phenomenon known, since that's half the battle.

In short, just be aware of yourself and your tendencies. :D

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Various Artists - Stereo A La Carte, Vol. 1 (LP, 1968)

a - stereo a la carte
Various Artists
"Stereo À La Carte, Vol. 1"
Decca Phase 4 S-16800-P, stereo, German import, 1968

This record, the first installment in a series of no fewer than six volumes, is a Decca/London Phase 4 Stereo sampler from 1968. Like many of the other stereo samplers from the late ’50s and ’60s, this series compiles recordings from a variety of the label’s studio albums (with the Phase 4 name) onto one heavily stereo-ized piece of wax. As many of you could well imagine, and which is also generally typical in the world of vintage stereo samplers, this LP is comprised great, great music — 100-percent. Indeed, "Stereo A La Carte" makes for an incredibly captivating journey through the late sixties Phase 4 catalogue. In my humble opinion, it also delivers a refreshing relief from the American Easy Listening of the same epoch (think Ray Conniff and all those sugary “Now Sounds,” *sigh*).

A predominant feature of "Stereo A La Carte" is that its selection has a rather worldly and sophisticated demeanor. It’s also complex and quirky, and includes tinges of smooth, spaced-out futurism. Taken in as whole, you would probably notice that it covers a lot of territory — not only musically, but also regionally as well. You’ll hear a little bit of Swing, a little bit of Big Band, a show tune here or there, and a variety of other genres sprinkled into the mix. Listening through, you will also hear Spanish (Stanley Black’s Sevillanas), French (Maurice Larcange’s C’est si bon), Hawaiian (Frank Chacksfield’s Sweet Leilani), and New Orleans music (Frank Chacksfield’s Jambalaya), with other locales represented as well. Yeah, this line-up is very diverse. In fact, I might go so far as to say it is a veritable Jet Setter’s acid trip.

Based on what I know about Phase 4 and what I’ve heard, this compilation brings together some of the best names featured in the series — Frank Chacksfield, Stanley Black,Ted Heath, Robert Farnon, Ronnie Aldrich, and several others. Endless Groove did a really good overview of the series’ history and discography, and if you don’t know much about it, or you want to get a very in-depth perspective, I’d direct you there. In my stacks, I’ve managed to amass a decent amount of these records and I like what they brought to the world of lounge music back in the day. They were overall a bit more classical and orchestral, but I like them nonetheless.

Something else that stands out to me about Phase 4 in general, but this record more specifically, is a rather meticulous standard of quality. They had highly skilled engineers working on these records, and, put simply, you can hear it. The stereophonic mixing job sounds and feels very comfortable, with a good separation of the channels. Mixing aside, the equalization, too, works wonderfully, with the highs, lows, and mids in a good harmony. In short, it’s an audiophile’s dream (and I know because I’m one myself).

This is a record that vintage stereo sound and lounge music enthusiasts should give a good thorough chance. It could be a little difficult to track down, but I believe you’d be rewarded if you find it.

Frank Chacksfield - "Sweet Leilani":


Stanley Black - "Zorba's Dance":

Monday, October 7, 2013

Exciting Sounds News And Updates For October 7, 2013

Hi everyone!

The main website has grown again -- there are now more pages containing discographies, liner notes and other information related to music and audio history.

That aside, I'm still brainstorming ideas on how to flesh out my concept, so expect more features and updated user interface design in the near future. :)

The blog you're reading now has shed its old address of "excitingsounds.blogspot.com" and is now at the domain name "excitingsoundsblog.com." I did this because I thought it would add a little professionalism to it, and so far so good. :D

Anyway, thanks again to everyone who reads, shares and enjoys my work.

Until next time…

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Oscar Brand - Sports Car Songs For Big Wheels (LP, 1960)

oscar-brand-sports-car-songs-front
oscar-brand-sports-car-songs-back
Oscar Brand
"Sports Car Songs For Big Wheels"
Elektra EKL-188, mono [1960]

While Brand is a relatively big name in mid- to late- century folk music, this album tends toward a more humorous disposition in the old novelty song tradition. It also seems to be one of his more obscure works, since it's long out-of-print and scarcely accounted for on the interweb.

Those familiar with Brand may know of his radio show at WNYC --- Oscar Brand's Folksong Festival --- which first premiered on Dec. 10, 1945. Regardless, Brand has composed a very healthy repertoire (wikipedia says over 100 albums and no fewer than 300 songs) and has generally made a good name for himself in the musical arena.

Over the years, I've encountered a decent number of his records released on a variety of labels, including the Bawdy Songs series on Audio Fidelity and others on ABC-Paramount, Elektra and Roulette. Judging the records by their covers alone, Brand's creative streak was a force to be reckoned with.

I listened to this LP three times over a period of a week or so, and although it took a little time to grow on me, once it did the material here virtually came to life. Brand was/is an extremely talented and competent songwriter who has a way with rhyming lyrics and visual storytelling. This album also features different voices depending on what is being conveyed, and the contrasting personalities work very well, in my humble opinion.

In a nutshell, this is a very likable album and one that deserves your thirty minutes. Check it out for yourself below! :)

Track 02: "That's What I Should Have Said"


Track 06: "Accessories After The Fact"


Track 06: "Classified Ads"