Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Cruisin' Years

I'm not sure about you, but this winter has sucked pretty hard for me. All that polar vortex crap (speaking of suck) has just about done me in. And it's made me seriously question my career choice, since the 24/7-ness of my job requires me to BE there in any weather.

Two workfriends just got back from cruises. They haven't told me what kind of entertainment they saw...but I bet it was nothing like what I'm gonna serve up for you right now. Time was, the only entertainment you had on your ship was some Italian band mixing it up with old "Amore Scusa' me"-type Italian songs and "now sounds." Maybe if the band kept you entertained enough on your cruise, you could get them to autograph their album for you as a memento to take home.

Then that band could maybe keep you entertained enough at home to fire up the old Astro-Sonic Magnavox once in a while.

Or not.

Hit any thrift store at any given time and you're bound to find at least one old cruise ship album there, autograhps and all. If you do, look 'em over. Sometimes you'll get 12 tracks of Amore Scusa' Mi...sometimes you'll get some surprises. I'm not at the stage yet where I can offer compilations, but I can offer you one track at a time for your picky-choosy pleasure. To christen this post, the Romy Formica Theme by...well, the Romy Formica Orchestra, silly! Who'd you expect? (And why's he named after the stuff your counter is made with?) Typical of the music you'd hear on a lot of cruise albums. Recorded underwater before a live audience. Or maybe just the audience was underwater:

A lot of cruise albums just have songs like The Donkey Song, from the cruise album kings, The Rolando's (The Rolando's what? You're killin' me here). WARNING: man-made animal sounds.

Some albums are more adventurous. Here's a foggy little version of Glen Campbell's hit By The Time I Get To Phoenix by Il Milionari:

Here's "Il Mil" again, with a colorful version of a Procol Harum hit. And so it was that later...they decided to sing in Italian.

Here they are doing a whole song in Italian. The song: Black Is Black, originally by Los Bravos - a Spanish group with a German lead singer. Singing in English.

Now, one of the world's shortest versions of Satisfaction, from Murolo-Salviati.

It's The Rolando's again, still with that apostrophe. But this time, maybe a little soul.

And finally, a real off-the-board choice, again by The Rolando's. I bet some of you don't remember the original. I forgot who did it when it hit in 1970 (and can't explain why I remember that). Turns out it was a group called Christie.

Bon Voyage!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Whither Expedit?

Word from the Huffington Post this week indicates that vinyl collectors' favorite shelf, the IKEA Expedit, is about to be no more. And a lot of us are not taking this news well. Facebook and Twitter are all lit up over this.


Basically, Expedit is the perfect record shelf. It has just the right amount of depth for 12" album covers, just the right height to make it easy to swipe an album from the top (handy for box sets), and more than the right number of configurations to suit any record collector.

I myself have two Expedits: a 4x2 and a 5x5, both fully loaded. They've been with me for about seven years now. The 5x5 has even been knocked apart and put back together for a move I made a few years ago. Still solid as Sears, despite the load on it. It should be: its raw weight is about 150 pounds. Each shelf can hold about 70 to 80 single albums. That's a LOT of music.

The 4x2 used to hold my LaserDiscs and CEDs (yep, I collect those too - look 'em up, kids) but was "converted" to vinyl storage. It's a perfect fit behind my love seat and would probably do well under a living room window of the right height if you choose not to stand it up.

In addition to the decor-friendly 2x4 and the economy-size 5x5, there are 2x2, 4x4, and single-cube sizes. Not to mention plenty of accessories, like doors and drawers. With that kind of versatility, you can probably understand why record collectors are not happy.

Expedit, IKEA says, is not really going away; just being replaced by a shelf called Kallax, which is apparently Swedish for something, like the inscrutable names of most IKEA things. It's claimed to use the same fittings and have the same internal dimensions...but the external sides are smaller. Naturally, with the weight we vinylites put on our Expedits, we can't help but be skeptical about how Kallax will hold up. Gizmodo reports that the reason behind the switch is to use less wood. As it is, IKEA uses 1% of the world's entire wood supply.

Kallax goes on sale April 1, but if you hurry, and you live close enough to an IKEA to grab one, you can still get an Expedit or two to house your vinyl.

Just don't come to me looking to rent space. I'm full up and my Expedits ain't goin' anywhere.

Weigh in:
What do you use for record-keeping, and what do you think about IKEA's move? Make a comment and get some dialogue going.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Kings Were There: Not Always Better The Second Time Around

Sometimes you're best to leave well enough alone. Canadian rockers The Kings learned that the hard way. After their breakout success with The Kings Are Here and its hit single This Beat Goes On/Switchin' To Glide, the foursome decided to cut a second album. Unfortunately, when they did, they followed Murphy's Law to the letter.

Figuring they had a good thing going, they stuck with the producer of their first album, Bob Ezrin. Ezrin had done a lot of good things for The Kings, as he had for Pink Floyd before them. Unfortunately, by the time Amazon Beach came around, Ezrin was doing things for a lot of others too, so another producer, Charles Harrison Kipps, came to fill in some of the blanks. Or attempt to. A lot of decisions Kipps made were unmade by Ezrin - and those unmakings were not always approved of by the band.

On top of that, Nimbus 9, the studio in the Toronto suburb of Yorkville where the magic was captured for The Kings Are Here had closed. Scarborough's Phase One had a lot less appeal mainly because of its location. The combination of studio and producer resulted in a product that The Kings' US label, Elektra, were less than confident about. But they pressed on, citing loyalty to Ezrin for putting them on the map.

Not even the cover of Amazon Beach escaped scrutiny. The Kings, on their page, said one of the proofs featured an image of what they thought was "over the hill biker chicks on some bad dope had taken over the city."

Despite the struggles, Elektra released the album and its single, All The Way. All The Way was a victim of Bob Ezrin's tinkering. It started out with a "playlet" of a guy going for a run on his motorcycle - something "more at home on a Pink Floyd record."

Clearly not The Kings' finest moment, Amazon Beach was never reissued. I guess it's more out of respect than anything that I don't post any tracks here. So I suggest reading the album's entire story - or better yet, listening to and even buying their other, better albums - at

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Gradually Going Tornado

Might as well. I mean, we've had just about everything else here in the northeast, as weather goes. We're getting even more tonight and possibly lots more this weekend.

Anyway, remember that series of early '80s rock I told you about? Well, here's the first of the rest of it.

Here's a little '80s prog from Bruford. Bill Bruford, that is. He's a drummer who's played with the likes of King Crimson and Yes. This album is the last he did with his own group. Jeff Berlin played bass, and on keys was Dave Stewart. No, the other Dave Stewart, not the one from The Eurythmics. On guitar, The Unknown John Clark replaced Allan Holdsworth from Bruford's two previous albums. All About Jazz has a nice piece that sums up Bruford's history. You can find this album and its forerunner, The Bruford Tapes, at Bill Bruford's very own website,

Before there was Lena, there was Inga. Inga Rumpf came from Hamburg, Germany. She got her start as a member of The City Preachers, a folk-rock outfit, who became Frumpy after a change in drummers. Frumpy morphed into Atlantis, and a few years later, Inga gave us this solo album on RCA. Along with a few originals, Inga gave us a couple of interesting covers: Love Potion No. 9, Roxanne, and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers' Break Down.
Though she never really made a dent here, Inga's still as popular as ever back home in Germany. In fact, she's going on tour in March. Her site, has all the details - in German, of course.

I have the press kit on this one, so I can cheat a little. Jerry Moss, the "M" of A&M Records, signed Burning Rome to his label the same day he signed The Human League in 1982. The deal-sealer was 22-year-old lead singer Vicki Thomas, who A&M's Dave Anderle claimed was one of three women born to sing rock & roll. The other two? Janis Joplin and Bonnie Bramlett. That's some company. MMicky Shine (the extra M is his), who you can hear on Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True album and some Tommy Tutone and Huey Lewis songs, got tapped for drum duties. Rochester's Ron Murray is on bass, and Steve Dougherty rounds things out on guitar.
So what happened that this was Burning Rome's only album? Mmicky said in this interview that A&M gave the album "no support" and the album didn't do much. To remember it by, here's the video for Once Over.