Album Review: Spiritual Jazz 14: Private (2023, Jazzman Records)

Posted on by Gary in Albums | Leave a comment


Where do the fans go when the FTPs and ICQ of yester-years have long since gone dark? Wherever do we find satisfaction now that Spotify supplies the pressure to an infinite variety of musical firehoses without the tiniest speck of care and regard for us on the other end, slaking (or I gather, just subsisting) like patients on feeding tubes? Well, if it is to be anything and everything, then I might as well insist it be more analog, more time-consuming, and more work. All of which I enjoy. Just as I do wasting your time in this intro paragraph.

Which brings me to the object of this review – Spiritual Jazz 14, the latest compilation of found-jazz recordings issued by the London-based outfit Jazzman Records, on this occasion my gurus. And because it is so much better to listen to a sound system than Bandcamp’s compression over shitty computer speakers, I now have the liner notes and anal bum cover to peruse (see above).

The theme of this compilation is private-pressings only, which means the artist/manager paid the record manufacturer to produce a short run of custom pressing, inadvertently leaving behind something that scratches my indie hipster esoterica in the right places 50 years later. I confess not to know what spiritual jazz is, really. Is it just generally inoffensive set-piece passages riffing about the eternal struggle of darkness and light in life, decorated with instrumental solos, and destined to be background of intellectual debates in Boston cafes? I don’t even know what jazz is, if that level of meta-ness does not compute.

But this is clearly brilliant listening. How do I review 14 different artists? Will I spare you the liner notes regurgitation? To me, listening to the album roughly recapitulates a day. It opens with pensive pieces that develop into surprises that were decent enough to never telegraph themselves, just like a morning withholding the rest of the day. The only vocal numbers in the collection follow, and Radam Schwartz and Mary Lou Williams deliver two crisp statements like true professionals. Then we wade into the after tea/coffee hours in which we examine the casual, shared DNA between Cullen Knight’s “A’keem” and Black is —-‘s “Variations.”

Don Menza’s “Spanish Boots” is the sumptuous dinner of the bunch – not only substantial, but clearly on-pointe and recognizably (rowdy big band) Jazz. The desserts that follow are lighter and more inquisitive. Andrew McPherson’s “Delilah” is a cover of Clifford Brown that is more centered around the opening theme than the 1954 original ever was. The atmosphere finally gets smoky and sleepy toward the end of the album. You get to see a vivid dream with Bobby Jackson’s “Desiree Song” and then you are ready to hit the wake up to another morning when Compass plays. Is this some naturally subconscious organization of a compilation or over-analysis on my part? While I’ve breezed through the numbers, nothing on here is filler. Perhaps because they were privately pressed, one can sense value and weight in the music, whether or not they were the same as that held by the musicians at the time.

Ever wonder how your favorite saying/sentence would morph in accent, enunciation, phrasing when you repeat it 256 times? It might give you discovery, introspection, appreciation, all-that-jazz. Or it might just be a waste of time.

Song of the Day: Teenage Fanclub – Back To The Light

Posted on by Paul in Albums, Song of the Day | Leave a comment

Today sees the release of Teenage Fanclub‘s latest, Nothing Lasts Forever, an album that deals with themes of mortality, darkness and light, and the changing of seasons.

Based on some of the album’s lyrics and subject matter (or for that matter, the title of the album itself), one might suspect that the members of Teenage Fanclub were feeling a bit down during the period when they were writing the songs for this album, and while it does have its moments of melancholy, the overall tone is generally a hopeful one, as evidenced by tunes like “Back To The Light.”

Nothing Lasts Forever is out now via Merge Records. Check out the video for “Back To The Light” below.

Classic Album Review: Meat The Bruiser Band (1984, WRIF 101)

Posted on by Paul in Albums, Classic Albums | Leave a comment


A recent trip to Detroit saw me returning home with a bounty of used records acquired at one of the Motor City’s many fine record shops. Amongst that bounty was a collection of musical parodies recorded by one Richard T. Bruiser, aka Dick The Bruiser – not to be confused with old-school wrestler Dick The Bruiser, although his image does grace the album cover.

No, the Bruiser whose dulcet tones appear on these tracks is actually George Baier, whose on-air character was presumably inspired by Dick the Bruiser’s wrestling persona. At least I’m fairly certain that’s what’s going on here. It’s not entirely clear to me, but what is clear is that removed from any deeper context, the songs featured on this collection are, well, not the greatest. Though I’m not sure any deeper context is necessarily required – “deep” is definitely not a word one would use to describe this record.

A more apt description of Meet The Bruiser Band would be to call it what it is – a collection of mildly amusing yet subpar musical parodies. As parodies go, this is a far cry from “Weird Al” Yankovic. Hell, this isn’t even at a Bob Rivers level. Rather, what The Bruiser Band brings to the table are such gems as “Fat Cat Strut” (a parody of “Stray Cat Strut”), “Bars” (their take on Gary Numan’s “Cars”), “96 Beers” (“96 Tears,” naturally) and “This Bud’s For You.”

As you might have guessed, the lyrics are pretty much mostly about drinking (sample lyric: “Here at the bar/I feel safest of all/I get drunk as a skunk/And throw up on the wall.”), which also gives one an idea of the sort of topics that might have been covered on the WRIF morning show back in the day. As for the musical merit of these songs, the backing tracks are serviceable enough, probably performed by a bunch of session musicians making an easy buck. So, good for them, I guess.

As far as the vocals go, well, they’re pretty much what you’d expect from someone who goes by the name Richard T. Bruiser. Having done a bit of research, I can confirm that Baier’s vocal performance is actually a decent approximation of what the original Bruiser sounded like. Though for those unfamiliar, I suppose it also works if you imagine that he’s voicing a slightly crazed muppet. Same difference.

Like I said, Meet The Bruiser Band is not that great, but it’s not all that bad either. And for Detroiters of a certain age, I imagine there’s probably some nostalgic appeal to the album. For the rest of us? Well, I will concede that as far as Classic Album Reviews go, we are really stretching the definition of “classic” with this one, but so be it. It’s certainly not one I’ll be throwing on the turntable all that often, but it’s definitely got its own goofy charms.

Album Review: Feeder -Torpedo (2022, Big Teeth)

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I had heard of, but never heard Feeder. Even though they have been around for a few years, their latest album, Torpedo, released back in March from their pandemic backlog material, is the first to reach my ears.

The duo gets right to the point from the get go on this album full of redemptive intentions. Opener “The Healing” calls for people to unite and work towards a better state of affairs. But to be honest, it could have been lifted out of Al Gore’s mouth and flash frozen back in 2002. It is about as effective a Demolition Man as Stallone was – surprisingly fresh every 25 years. While I recognize the sentiments and any urgent attention is good attention, when the message is wrapped in the sugary lyrics, it is a bit much, especially in the midst of a pandemic. Especially given we had, over these decades, torpedoed repeated plans to tackle actual contributors of the clusterfuck we find ourselves in like climate catastrophe, habitat destruction, etc. A call-to-arms from the backdrop of international tours within the resource sapping frenzy of pop concerts seem a somewhat cynical route for promoting unity.

Maybe I misunderstand the entire perspective. (Power) grunge has always been a mystery to me: how can hyper-charged guitar riffs be a good medium for anything else but a call for triple -scripts of Adderall? Where is the dynamic potential for a range of expressions, when one is already flying in the stratosphere? Every twist and turn seems the same high altitude bank in a 747: however unexpected, always stately and safely within the parameters of a commercial jet flying predetermined waypoints. I do think “Decompress” and “Slow Strings” deserve mention, not because they are quieter, but because they are intentional and purposeful. The lyrics don’t improve much in interpretive depth, however.

To summarize: a blast from the past isn’t a bad thing. But I would leave this for the special occasion when I’ve run out of every other guilty pleasures that I could resonate with.

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