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Archive for the ‘Album IDs’ Category

The superior song sequence on cassette versions of Steely Dan’s Pretzel Logic

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009


I’m not sure why, but certain major labels in the seventies and eighties would release cassette and vinyl versions of specific albums with different song sequences. The three I remember clearest from the seventies are Steely Dan’s Pretzel Logic and Can’t Buy a Thrill as well as Cheap Trick’s Heaven Tonight. Did these differences have to do with space restrictions from format to format? Maybe, but I’m not convinced.  I bring this up is because I lament how Steely Dan’s Pretzel Logic now survives only in the original vinyl sequence, and I want more listeners to consider experiencing it in the more meaningful sequence used on the original cassettes. Let’s compare the two:

Steely Dan, Pretzel Logic (LP version): Side One – 1) Rikki Don’t Lose That Number; 2) Night By Night; 3) Any Major Dude Will Tell You; 4) Barrytown; 5) East St. Louis Toodle-Oo. Side Two – 1) Parker’s Band; 2) Through with Buzz; 3) Pretzel Logic; 4) With a Gun; 5) Charlie Freak; 6) Monkey in Your Soul.

Steely Dan, Pretzel Logic (cassette versions): Side One – 1) Rikki Don’t Lose That Number; 2) Through with Buzz; 3) Monkey in Your Soul; 4) Any Major Dude Will Tell You; 5) Parker’s Band; 6) Charlie Freak. Side Two – 1) Barrytown; 2) East St. Louis Toodle-Oo; 3) With a Gun; 4) Night By Night; 5) Pretzel Logic.


On the vinyl version, two of the album’s most crescendo-worthy cuts, the neon-lit “Night By Night” and “Pretzel Logic,” with its epic mad visions, are squandered off in the middle of sides one and two, respectively. On the cassette version, they close the album effectively, one after the other with the same sort of authoritative finality as nightfall and dreams.

Sides one and two of the vinyl version end with what come off as offhanded snickers – “East St. Louis Toodle-Oo” and “Monkey in Your Soul.” On the cassette version, though, they’re rightfully reconfigured as supportive – and therefore more useful – middle tracks, giving way to the haunting and poignant “Charlie Freak” as the side one closer and “Pretzel Logic” for side two.

The entire trajectory of the album, in fact, makes more sense in the cassette versions. Let me rephrase that: it makes sense while the vinyl one doesn’t. Side one of the cassette functions as a series of person-to-person conversations, pleas, jokes, and negotiations, all of which give listeners a sense of the tangled, “pretzel”-like nature of relationships. “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” that vulnerable and familiar message to a girl we all assume the singer will never hear from, is followed up by his declaration of having had it with a pain-in-the-neck friend named Buzz who steals girlfriends (Rikki?) and money. Next comes “Monkey in Your Soul,” which offers classic Steely Dan yuks by featuring a prominent, buzzing guitar line as a follow up to a song called “Through with Buzz.” It also reinforces the “yeah, right” nature of “Monkey’s” message which is that, no, the singer can’t hold his ground. He can only supplicate, wise-crack, or grouse. “Any Major Dude Will Tell You” reinforces our impression of him – all nifty words and no action – and we feel pity. With “Parker’s Band,” our frustrated singer is listening to records and longing to get lost in the city where he can lead a loose and commitment-free existence, something he’ll actually gun for in response to the tragic side one culmination of “Charlie Freak.” There’s no second-person dialogue going on in this song. Someone’s dead now, and the best our man can do is drop a keepsake in the corpse’s coffin. Time to make some changes.

Side two of Pretzel Logic, as conveyed so well in the cassette sequence, elaborates on the nightlife fantasies we heard about in “Parker’s Band,” conjured up by the interpersonal failures in side one. It’s about foregoing the micro-existence of relationships and losing oneself in the impersonal, macro-existence of the “city.” It kicks off with “Barrytown,” Steely Dan’s own twisted version of “Okie from Muskogee,” calling for the removal of people like the singer in side one from where folks like to do things the old-fashioned way. This is followed up by city-life objectification and fantasy with a version of Duke Ellington’s “East St. Louis Toodle-Oo,” which serves as a symbolic gateway.  Fantasy gives way to reality with the scenes of murder and robbery in “With a Gun,” with its campy steel guitars channeled in directly from Muskogee. But this is general street conflict nowhere near as painful as the heartbreaking business documented on side one, and on the following track we see our singer-protagonist reveling and taking refuge in it, living “night by night.” It’s a moment of bittersweet transcendence that Joe Jackson later tried to capture in “Stepping Out” as the “night” side closer for his carefully sequenced Night and Day LP. (It’s no surprise that Jackson was a huge Steely Dan fan, something we find out in his A Cure for Gravity. I’ll bet he owned the cassette version of Pretzel Logic – not the vinyl.) With “Pretzel Logic,” finally, we get a cinematic escape into dreams, time-travel and absurdity, providing the whole story, in conclusion, with an apt title.

Bud Scoppa’s 1974 review of Pretzel Logic in Rolling Stone sums up how the album, in its vinyl sequence, has continued to be understood as merely a collection of cleverly executed songs: “wonderfully fluid ensemble. . . private-joke obscurities. . . arrogant impenetrability.”  The cassette version, though, which someone with some authority arranged in a distinctly different sequence, sounds like a carefully constructed album with an actual story to tell.

Have a Cigar, Boys: Checking in with Kendell Kardt of Rig

Thursday, January 24th, 2008


Rig – Rig (1970)

Not long ago I found this album by a group called Rig at an east Texas thrift shop – I saw it was a Capitol release and recognized the name of Elliott Mazer (of Neil Young’s Harvest fame) who was listed as a co-producer. It had obviously been listened to many times over, and because I’m instantly drawn to mysterious records that appear to have served some kind of purpose to someone, I took it home.

What I heard was an appealing batch of early seventies Americana-rock songs dressed in piano and pedal steel and featuring lyrics that placed the album (released in 1970) right in step with an era that also gave us Elton John’s Tumbleweed Connection, The Band LP, and Jesse Winchester’s debut. I especially responded to the songwriting of pianist/vocalist Kendell Kardt. At once evocative and playful, his songs had a way of sticking in my head. My favorite is “Have a Cigar” (give it a listen at the end of this post) which opens up the album and zeroes in on cigar-smoking as a time-honored ritual accompanying the act of conquest. You can take it literally or figuratively – it pleases either way, and musically, it’s got a latin-tinged instrumental refrain that’s hard not to love.

My curiosity got the best of me, so through a bit of sleuthing and good luck, I was able to get in touch with Kardt, who’s currently working as a professional pianist in the New Jersey/New York area (when we first talked on the phone he was driving to his regular rehearsal gig with the New Jersey Ballet Company). He was gracious enough to field my questions, and here are some of the things I found out: The group’s deal with Capitol happened after a label scout caught them at New York’s legendary Electric Circus. This happy turn of events got them into the good graces of promoter Bill Graham and landed them high profile spots at Fillmore East. The group’s core lineup at this point was Kardt, guitarist Artie Richards, and bassist Don Kerr (who wrote the album’s beautiful closer, “Last Time Around”). With its eye-catching cover art featuring the trio’s profiles, the final product has the look and feel of a true group effort.

But this “group” aspect was as much of a “too many cooks” hindrance as it was a help, Kardt feels, because the band members and producers weren’t able to agree on a unifying purpose during the recording sessions. A shame, he says, because the group did have a true essence that never translated over onto tape. And the label’s own vision of how Rig should sound hardly made things any easier. “Internal friction is finally what caused the band to fall apart,” says Kardt, who was presented with the option of working on a second Rig album with a line up of his own choosing, or going off on his own to make a solo album. He didn’t feel it was fair to appropriate the group’s name, so he chose the latter. (Kardt, incidentally, is still in touch with Richards, although neither of them have been able to locate Kerr.)

Capitol, then, recognizing Kardt’s own prolific songwriting talent as an asset, flew him to California to record a new set of songs as a solo album. Having access to members of the Grateful Dead and New Riders of the Purple Sage, Kardt was able to enlist their help and finished up the album to his liking. But in classic music biz fashion, particularly in the volatile early 70s, personnel changes and priority shifts led to the album’s unceremonious shelving. “It was that common situation where the artist is trying to accomplish something, but the business pressure makes it almost impossible,” he says.

By the early 80s, Kardt quit working as a solo performing songwriter in favor of the workhorse piano gigs he’s taking to this day. But ever the artist, Kardt does continue writing and recording in his home studio, even though he feels, as most any artist would, that “it really helps to get even the smallest sense that someone’s listening.” So add Kendell Kart’s LP to your list of Great Lost Albums to keep an eye out for, and let’s hope that that – along with other unreleased material from both his past and present – will see the light of day sometime soon. I, for one, will be listening.

(I’m posting two versions of “Have a Cigar” here. The first one is taken directly from the Rig LP, but the second one is a later demo version I’ve received from Kendell and which he’s given me permission to post. It’s a live take from 1971 that he recorded as a publishing demo for some of the artists Bill Graham was managing. I really love its spontaneous, energetic vibe. He was a solo artist at this point, so you can get a sense of how his other work might have sounded.)

Rig – “Have a Cigar” (1970)

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Kendell Kardt – “Have a Cigar (demo) (1971)

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posted by Kim Simpson


Album ID: Mary Weiss, Dangerous Game (2007)

Saturday, June 23rd, 2007


Norton Records serves a kind of religious purpose, a rock ‘n’ roll church that’s always there proclaiming the Truth and while some of us may flop around irresponsibly and experiment with our listening habits and heed the words of false prophets and would-be hipsters and make bad musical decisions that sometimes make us feel guilty, we can always turn to Norton when it’s time to get back on track.

Recently Norton’s done us another benevolent service by getting a true rock ‘n’ roll goddess, the Shangri-Las’ lead singer Mary Weiss, back in the studio. She’s singing about boys again, even one who still lives with his mom (“I Just Missed You”), and her trademark heartbroken-but-still-tough voice sounds even tougher now. My favorite songs are three in a row toward the end: “Tell Me What You Want Me to Do,” which features a wildcat growl by Mary at the end of the bridge; “Heaven Only Knows,” an update of a Shangri-Las classic and which sounds truest to her sixties roots with its backup vocals and doubled up lead; and the airtight and irresistible “I Don’t Care.”

She’s teamed up on this album with Memphis rockers the Reigning Sound, whose Greg Cartwright wrote most of the songs. I’m not sure if Mary and Greg are an ideal matchup, but if they’re talking about a second album, may I request the following: 1) More recitations so we can hear more of Mary’s speaking voice, which all Shangri-La fans crave; 2) more sis-boom-bah in the wall-of-sound department; 3) more melodrama in the lyric department; and 4) less Americana-syndrome B-3 organ, which sounds too conventionally gospel for our favorite bad girl.

Mary Weiss – “Tell Me What You Want Me to Do”

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Sunday Service: The Mercy Seat (1988)

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

posted by Stanislav

I hope nobody minds seeing a Sunday service post by Rev. Religious Dodo, ie, myself. Never been to church (except as a tourist), never prayed, not even as a child, not too familiar with the concept of god or God, simply never really cared… but some weird energy creeps through when I listen to the Mercy Seat, an 80s album by Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes and his super hot girlfriend Zena Von Heppinstall. The whole album is filled with religious topics. Some songs are pensive and reflective but most are fanatical baptist-style gospel stomps. I can totally see myself in a religious trance in some Southern church without air-conditioning, my sweat pouring in heavy drops as the church rolls on and on. If the Mercy Seat is the ticket then Lord let me ride!

The Mercy Seat – “Let The Church Roll On / I Won’t Be Back”

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Album ID: The Beach Boys – Golden Harmonies (1985)

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007


Just found an image of the scarce Golden Harmonies compilation I asked about earlier. I recognize the pic as an outtake not from an 80’s photo session, but a late 60’s Wild Honey-era one I’ve seen other stuff from (Dennis’s orange terrycloth pants are the giveaway). The funny image I had in my head, though, based on Golden’s description in Southern California Pastoral, isn’t too far removed from what’s here. What a strange compilation this Golden Harmonies is, incidentally: two records with four songs on each side with nothing from beyond 1965 except one – the Pet Sounds title track.

Album ID: The Moody Blues – In Search of the Lost Chord (1968)

Friday, March 30th, 2007


A few more sentimental/ potentially fetishistic words on the virtues of dead media. Until recently, I’d always heard this record three important ways:

1 – As a cassette from the strip mall library close to where I grew up. The tape was horribly muddy-sounding, and it came packaged in a hard shell that the librarian would toss in one of those big brown folders with the string that wrapped around a brad under the flap. A photocopy of the freaky cover had been glued onto the shell but it was all bubbly and on the verge of peeling off. The album sounded mysterious indeed as I listened on my shoebox tape recorder with the Graeme Edge recitations and all and I checked it out many times.

2 – As an 8-track in 1981, when I was somehow roped into a ride to the dump with my friend and his ancient brother in their parents’ Oldsmobile Toronado. Sitting in back, I found the tape under the passenger seat, and it looked much like that library cassette, with the cover picture starting to peel off. I showed it to my friend who stuck it in the 8-track player. It played uninterrupted and had our undivided attention. So there we were, wind blowing through our hair, garbage-scavenging seagulls frolicking above us in the sun, and “Voices in the Sky.”

3 – As a vinyl LP in terrible condition which I bought at the Deseret Industries shortly after the spectacular ride to the dump. The DI was a thrift store near our house in which it was, in the early eighties, always 1968. I always got very contemplative and even a bit reverent whenever I went to this particular location. (It always smelled vaguely of mothballs and vegetable soup, which is certainly how 1968 must have smelled.) I bought it for a quarter. The group’s name has been traced with pen on the front. In the gatefold it says “from John to Franklin on a Saturday night!!” and “wild dreams with Chuck.” It’s also got a crude drawing of an eagle with the words “some bird” next to it, and someone started to treat the Hindu Om design as a color-by-numbers project. I recently bought a remastered CD version of this, and it’s great, but it’s a completely different album. Needless to say, I’ve gotten accustomed to hearing my mellotrons under a layer of crackling murk, so I prefer my DI version.

The Moody Blues – “Voices in the Sky” (DI vinyl version)

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Album ID: Peter Blegvad – The Naked Shakespeare (1983)

Monday, February 12th, 2007


posted by Stanislav (Just That Junction, Vermont)
The year was 1983. XTC just released one of their most important albums, English Settlement, and Andrew Partridge felt confident about producing other artists. His American friend, Peter Blegvad, who moved to England prepared a new album The Naked Shakespeare for Virgin and asked Partridge to produce it. Blegvad was known as an avant-garde artist, a former member of Slap Happy and Henry Cow. It’s maybe a little surprising, but Blegvad’s songs are only partially avant-garde. They are somewhere on a surprisingly thick borderline between weird and perfectly normal – his songwriting owes a lot to John Lennon and Bob Dylan. A lot of it is also a conscious attempt to be pop – Dave Eurythmic Stewart nearly ruins the opening song, the only one on this album that he, instead of Partridge, produced. But there is plenty for us music lovers here. A careful listener will be rewarded with a lost jewel of authentic beauty which demands careful listening. It’s a deep and layered record. The song “Powers In The Air” is my favorite.

Peter Blegvad – “Powers In The Air”

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