Speaks his mind on music & movies!
Some of CB’s earliest music exposure was through album compilations. One of my favorite gifts as a kid was a 3 album set called ‘Rock’n Roll Revival – 36 Rockin’ Oldies’ (I still have it minus one album). What a grab bag of great music. Little Richard, Bill Haley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles, The Fendermen and others.
My siblings used to pick up albums with the current hits. There were always some gems sprinkled in with the mix. Some of the album covers were cool, shaped like a jukebox etc. Later on I started picking up jazz comps (Impulse, Verve, Bluenote, Prestige, ECM, Columbia ) rock comps (Sun, Stax, Altlantic, Charley), Blues comps (Chess, Atlantic, Alligator, Rounder) tribute comps, folk all genres. What a great way to hear a variety of music and get a taste of new artists. I have a pile a mile high. When I indulge in one of my favorite pastimes, a walk, I more often than not take a compilation with me. In the warm weather i also take a cigar. CB is a happy man.
So when Bruce (Vinyl Connection) ran this idea of “Various Artists/Various Blogs” by me i thought where do I start? Well the first one I grabbed was ‘Stay Awake’ (it even has the word”various” in the title). No reason other than it is one of many comps that I dig and it was at the top of the pile. CB used to listen to a lot of late night FM radio stations. There were always some cool shows and cool DJ’s playing music you wouldn’t normally hear. Commercial free with very little bullshit. That’s how I discovered Hal Willner and this album.
I can’t remember the first cut I heard or where I came into on the spin but I do remember lying there “awake” listening to the music from this album. It was a perfect listen at that time and place. (I had the same experience with other music). I was hearing Disney music done by some artists I really dug at the time, Los Lobos, Tom Waits, NRBQ and others I didn’t know and some I would never have taken the the time for. The DJ would play some of the record and then give info on the cuts and artists. Needless to say I was strapped in for the duration. I found out it was put together by some guy named Hal Willner. Even though it’s various artists, Willner gives the album a certain feel and mood. He had a real good idea on what he wanted.
As usual I can only give you my take and experience with this music. Right off the top the mood is set with the great Ken Nordine (if you don’t know him check him out before you do anything else), Bill Frisell and Wayne Horvitz. You feel like you’re entering another world, the world of a circus, a little off center circus, “candy for the mind”. I felt like I was moving through this dream world that Hal creates. What is the next act under the big top? The lights go out and what comes next? I recognized some of the tunes. Some took a bit until I caught on. Others were new to me. The album plays like a film. Images are induced, emotions, imagination. Dream world.
“Damn everything – But the circus”
Los Lobos version of ‘I Wanna Be Like You’ hits home with one of CB’s fave Disney tunes with Steve Berlin playing some tasty sax. It’s only the third cut and I’m in for the rest of the show. There are so many highlights on this record. For me though they all go together to make the whole of “Stay Awake”. Individual songs stand alone but it’s like taking a scene out of a film. They sound so good in the context Willner places them. You go from Bonnie Raitt and Was(Not Was) doing ‘Baby Mine’ right into Tom Waits’s ‘Heigh Ho’. It just fits. Bill Frisell, Wayne Horvitz and Garth Hudson provide instrumental tunes that have the right sound and feel. So good. Syd Straw (who ever she was) introduces herself to CB with ‘Blue Shadows On the Trail’. Beautiful.
This is how the record plays out. What’s behind the next door in this trip? I don’t want to spoil it for anyone that listens because there is the cool feeling of discovery. Hearing tunes you know and ones you don’t being interpreted by a great cast. Sun Ra and His Arkestra, The Replacements, Harry Nilsson, Aaron Neville (when he sings “because we love you” I believe him), Betty Carter (with a cool jazz number). Buster Poindexter and the Banshees of Blue (I thought it was Mink Deville) and more. They all bring something special to the music and give it a new slant. Not all are traditional interpretations.
I found myself anticipating what was coming next. That is a real good sign when I’m discovering a great record. I think we all have a bit of Disney in common. So if you want a musical adventure with lots of surprises along the way have a listen and you will be rewarded. CB was. Lots of tastes and it will bend your mind a bit. Great mix, great tribute. There are some interesting liner notes from Hal Willner about his vision and gathering the musicians to help realize it. Very cool record! Walt are you listening?
(I also listen to Hals ‘Weird Nightmare: Meditations on Mingus’ a lot)
Drop over here to https://vinylconnection.com.au/v-a-v-b/ check out more choices for the “Various Artists” festival. CB will be. I’m already anticipating the new music I’m going to hear. Thanks Bruce. Cool idea!