By New Times
By Derek Askey
By Mark Deming
By Serene Dominic
By Jason Keil
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Jeff Moses
By Serene Dominic
Don't know how Y2K is panning out for you so far, but I suspect there are plenty of people already trying to separate themselves from everything pre-millennium. Who could blame them for furiously pursuing new things? After reading all those "best of the century" lists, perhaps even you might consider yourself all caught up. Or fed up. But as you deepen in your conviction that nothing good ever came out of "that damned 20th century," who suffers? The music. The music suffers.
Each year, millions of orphaned albums languish from neglect in flea markets and thrift-store bins across this nation -- albums that could bring some much-needed stimuli to jaded ears that think they've heard everything. Yet these same albums have been routinely pushed aside for decades by people rummaging for rare and precious vinyl they can resell at marked-up prices. With less than half the households of this country now employing serviceable turntables, the odds of these records finding a home decrease exponentially with each passing year. The millennium dividing line will only make things worse.
Not even the most adventurous record reissue companies have considered converting these lacquers into digital audio, and no cultural revival has seen fit to champion this soundrot. Without a seductive-siren album cover to entice shallow bachelor-pad record collectors, dusty goodwill bins are sure to be the last stop for these forgotten, unwanted artifacts. They deserve some kind of home -- your home. Won't you open up your heart to the following case studies? Even if you can't love them, you'll be doing the Salvation Army a service by clearing room for the discarded Jewel, 98 Degrees, Garth Brooks, and Korn CDs of tomorrow.
Donny & Marie Osmond
Goin' Coconuts(born 1978)
Television viewers may have allowed Donny and Marie back into their homes, but only on the condition that they check their lousy records at the door, especially this album, the grinning he-and-she devil's very last together and the by-product of an unwanted movie vehicle. Goin' Coconuts did for Donny and Marie what Head did for the Monkees -- absolutely nothing. A bad premise -- bro and sis trying to outwit jewel smugglers -- is made worse by having to stop to perform songs written by Alan, Wayne and Merril Osmond. It couldn't have been easy for the elder Osmond brothers to be shunted aside in favor of the squeaky clean Marie and miss out being immortalized on the silver screen, but they managed to get even by forcing their "little-bit-country, lit-bit-rock-'n'-roll" siblings into Disco Dunderland. Quicker than you can say "aloha, tropical fruit," clueless Donny and Marie are cheerfully chirpin' the loony "Doctor Dancin'," complete with Donny belching "boogie boogie" like the Cookie Monster beggin' for treats. Bad as that sounds, seeing Donny and Marie butt-thrusting on the cover while giant coconuts masquerade as stool samples behind them might convince you to part with some spare change.
Bubblegum, Lemonade & Something for Mama (born 1969)
If you find an album cover more nauseating than this one -- buy it. This one contains the most offensive album credit of the century, too: "Bubble Gum Border, Chewed by Russ, Annette, Amy, Henry, Sheri & Many More . . ." And you'll note I didn't say anything about a ham sandwich to get a cheap laugh. Until now.
The Ides of March
Vehicle (born 1970)
Ever wonder why one-hit wonders get stuck in the single digit? They got lucky! These Blood, Sweat & Tear droppers captured the early sleaze of the '70s perfectly on the title hit about a "friendly stranger in the black sedan." But then they hadda ruin it all by making a sleazy album. First they put out a cover that advocates the rape of a kewpie doll. Then they exhume poor old "Eleanor Rigby" and attack her with horn chops until she becomes the insufferable "Symphony for Eleanor." This version is even longer and more torturous than the Vanilla Fudge's savage attempt to stretch that old biddy's bones on a rack for eight and a half minutes. Please, spirit, show me no more!
The Ohman Brothers
The Glorious Sound of Brass (born 1966)
In the '60s, everyone was horny for the sound of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, and knockoff Alpert albums sprang up everywhere. Today, they converge into one mass of thrift-shop clutter, still vying for your confused south-of-the-border attention. "The Mariachi Brass" (featuring jazz legend Chet Baker), "The Mexicali Brass," "The Brass Ring," "The Band I Heard in Tijuana" -- they all earned their daily crust by coppin' Herb. These Ohman Brothers were no exception. This album is clearly targeted to deceive that demographic, right down to the copycat Whipped Cream & Other Delights lettering. But when you look closely at the titles, there ain't a "Spanish Flea" in sight. "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah"? "I Would Be Like Jesus"? "Come Unto Me"? Duped into buying a trumped-up gospel horn fest is bad enough, but these horn-wielding devils have the effrontery to claim they're not apin' Alpert but rather trying to emulate General Joshua at Jericho. Lord knows how few people bought into their "lonely bull."
Feliz Navidad . . . con 14 Exitos Navidenos (born 1983)
If you buy this album and think you can resell it as a "RARE Ricky Martin Christmas collectible" on eBay, forget it -- the future Latin irritant joined the franchise a year later. By 1983, the Menudo organization, the Siberia of Pop, had already banished five lovable Puerto Ricans into bitter early retirement at age 16. Maybe that explains why the "Tarjeta Navidena Giganta," or "giant Christmas pinup," was still tucked inside the sleeve. Can't you just hear those Menudo purists talking shit about Xavier's gappy dental work and remarking, "Gee, the band sure has gone downhill since Nefty got the boot!" Two words of warning: No matter where you drop the needle on this record, it sounds exactly the same as the last snippet you played. Except for "Noche de Paz" ("Silent Night" to you), where some prehormonal freak in the ranks sounds enough like Eydie Gormé to get Steve Lawrence hot and bothered.
The Lennon Sisters
On the Groovy Side (born 1966)
The Lennon Sisters
Today (born 1968)
Working for Lawrence Welk does tend to take its toll on one's groovy side. For the Lennon Sisters, groovy obviously meant being free to wear paisley print house dresses, work with Gary Lewis' record producer and cover "Sunny," "Going Out of My Head" and "Sure Gonna Miss Him" (clearly, Gary Lewis was the sisters' Maharishi!). Still, one suspects beneath this eight-breasted beast was a crazed rendition of "Psychotic Reaction" ready to claw its way through the schmaltz. No such luck, but Today was as close as the Sisters would come to turning on and dropping jaws. After breaking away from the Welk musical family, the Lennons exercised their newfound artistic freedom by covering more Gary Lewis tunes and out-psychedelicizing the Lemon Pipers' "Green Tambourine." Imagine the original hit version, then picture the Lennon Pipers attacking it like four crazed Stepford wives! Unfortunately, their Christianity kicks in big time on "California Dreaming," where they change that pesky "I pretend to pray" line and ensure that they would never get asked to play the Monterey Pop Festival. It's the Love crowd's loss. They would've brought some kick-ass tuna salad sandwiches.
ADAM VIII Presents Disco Party (born 1975)
Although these timeless '70s hits are all easily obtainable on compact disc, they will never again be available in this configuration -- an "as seen on TV" LP from Adam VIII, whose relation to Adam 12 remains a mystery to this day. For Disco Party, "20 non-stop original hits by the original artists" were all seamlessly segued together like a Studio 54 DJ might have been -- if crack cocaine were available in 1975! Imagine the school dances and parties where this record might have been played, then picture a youngster hustling to "Rock Your Baby" and "Doctor's Orders" suddenly being traumatized mid-booty shake by BTO's "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" and then Paper Lace's "The Night Chicago Died." Or freaking out when Styx' s "Lady" is mercilessly plopped in between the Three Degrees and the Chi-Lites. Disco sucks -- no fooling!
The Plague (birthdate unknown)
No one flocks to hear the encouraging words or pedestrian organ playing of a fallen evangelist, unless you do prison time like Jim Bakker. Few collectors of faith camp have found it in their hearts to forgive Jimmy, so why do I love the Swaggart? Well, neighbor, let me count the ways. First off, I love the way the Swag just makes up words in the heat of the moment -- I spend weeks looking up new Swaggart phraseology like "prothlicate." I love the way he overheats like a gas-guzzling Le Sabre whenever he expounds on all things evil. I love the way he draws far more breath than he needs for the seven or so words he spouts before taking another ill-timed inhalation. I love the way he's mounted a one-man campaign to keep the word "dastardly" from slipping out of modern lexicon. And of course, I love the way he keeps name-dropping his no-good cousin Jerry Lee Lewis into every one of his turntable sermonettes, forever linking Jerry Lee's yin to his sanctimonious yang. But do you ever get the feeling in real life the Killer avoids Jimmy like . . . The Plague!?
The Mantovani Scene (born 1969)
"Where is the Mantovani Scene?" wonders the liner notes to this album. "Here, there and everywhere" the same liner notes answer right backatcha! These days, Mantovani's scene seems to be St. Vincent de Paul, where his albums are an inescapable presence. Every time Mantovani sneezed, apparently there was another new Mantovani album to catch the mucus. Magic Moments With Mantovani, Mr. Music . . . Mantovani, Mantovani Today, The Many Moods of Mantovani -- each with this messianic conductor to the world giving you the full Manty on every cover. Yes -- Mantovani! who can bend measures with his bare hand! Who can score everything from "April Love" to "Say Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose" with 100 tumbling violins sawing away in savage unison! That's power. That's . . . feeling! In an early '90s attempt to make himself seem even more boring than usual, David Bowie admitted listening only to Mantovani around the house. And you can see what that ringing endorsement's done for Mantovani's product placement.
The Living Strings
Music to Help You Stop Smoking (born 1964)
Hot on the heels of surgeon general Luther Terry's 1964 finding on the dangers of smoking came this, the most absurd of the Living Strings' "music to do something by" series. Of course, what instrumental songs like "Clair de lune" and "Yellow Bird" have to do with staving off lung cancer is inconsequential -- it's the liner notes that make the persuasive pitch: "Only will power will make you stop smoking. But this music may help your will power." The fact that this music is supposed to "relax you, make you feel good and keep your hand from groping a pack of cigarettes" may lead some more mischievous or bored listeners to grope for something else. Oops! Sorry. Wrong surgeon general.
Connie and Clyde (born 1968)
Connie Francis comeback attempt number three. While the kids are tripping out to Ten Years After, Connie decides to make like Thirty Years Before -- dressing up like a mobster's moll and singing songs from the Depression era. However did we resist?
Happiness Is . . . Up Up and Away With the Happy Hits of Today! (Reader's Digest) (born 1970)
Before the advent of CD boxed sets, you didn't get music collections any more exhaustive than this, nine albums of "pleasure programmed" music from the people who brought you "I Am Joe's Spleen." The concept -- making modern acid rock palpable for the soft-food-chewing set -- is no better demonstrated than on "A Day in the Life," where the massive orchestral buildup has been neatly excised to protect geriatrics and their pacemakers. But there's still the horrific experience of Benny Goodman playing "Up Up and Away" and "Spinning Wheel" there to offend. Plus, this set's got the sickest Muzak version of any Cream tune you're likely to hear this side of Clapton Unplugged. Optimistically, six post-paid order forms were enclosed in the box to "let your friends and relatives enjoy Happiness Is," and all were left unused. Which just goes to prove you can't force someone to be happy.
The Longine Symphonette Society
The Longine Symphonette Society Presents Great Melody Years 1968-72 (born 1972)
I don't know what kind of society The Longine Symphonette was planning, but clearly it revolved around the worship of cheese. Many people would take exception to the set's title just by scanning the song selection. Some of the worst songs ever committed to wax can be found within this five-year time warp, and you can betcha this seven-disc set didn't miss a one. "Candy Man," "Me and You and a Dog Named Boo," "Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast," "A Horse With No Name" -- they're all here ready to spread their ever-lovin' stink on ya. Should Rhino Records acquire the rights to rerelease this stuff, you'll already own volumes one through seven of Have a Nice Day -- at the Dentist!
Ike and Tina Turner
"Please Don't Hurt Me" b/w "Worried and Hurtin' Inside" (born 1962)
Here's a single you can't even give away. R&B doesn't get any more autobiographical than this! You've got to hand it to Ike. Not only did he think up new and intriguing ways of hitting Tina upside the head, but he also found a way to collect songwriting credits from Tina's strangled pleas for mercy! Pleas that he pretended to ignore! With the exception of O.J., no wife-beater has ever set himself up to be the victim as shamefully as Ike. "I ruined every good pair of shoes I ever had over that girl," you can imagine him crying in his new biography, Ike Turner: Takin' Back My Name. Unable to find a sympathetic publisher here, he had to go to jolly ol' London, also home base for the equally delusional "I Like Ike Turner Fan Club."