Kat: Believe it or not, I don't live to rip people apart. I start each listen hoping I'll be able to rave. Too often, that's not the case. In fact, most times, new music I listen to never should have been released because it's that bad. And that's probably true of any year, honestly.
1967? Seems to magical to us now, wear flowers in your hair, go to Monterey Pop and see the Mamas & the Papas, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, the Who, Laura Nyro, Janis Joplin and Big Brother, Otis Redding and Simon & Garfunkel. Albums included SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND, THE DOORS, THE SUPREMES SING HOLLAND-DOZIER-HOLLAND, MELLOW YELLOW, I NEVER MET A MAN I LOVED THE WAY I LOVED YOU, SURREALISTIC PILLOW, JAMES BROWN SINGS RAW SOUL, THE MAMAS & THE PAPAS DELIVER, HAPPY TOGETHER, ON STAGE AND IN THE MOVIES, ARE YOU EXPERIENCED?, THE SUPREMES SING ROGERS & HART, THE TEMPTATIONS WITH A LOT O' SOUL, ODE TO BILLY JOE, ARETHA ARRIVES, THE WINDOWS OF THE WORLD, I WAS MADE TO LOVE HER, COLD SWEAT, CHUCK BERRY IN MEMPHIS, SOMETHING ELSE BY THE KINKS, BLOWIN' YOUR MIND, STRANGE DAYS, SMILEY SMILE, PLEASURES OF THE HARBOR, SILK & SOUL, A WHOLE NEW THING, FOREVER CHANGES, MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR, AXIS BOLD AS LOVE, THEIR SATANIC MAJESTIES REQUEST, JOHN WESLEY HARDING, THE LOOK OF LOVE, THE MAGIC GARDEN, FOR YOU, MORE THAN A NEW DISCOVERY, THE FIRST LADY OF IMMEDIATE and UP, UP AND AWAY. Great, right? And we could name many more.
But 1967 had other vinyl offerings including Ronald Reagan's FREEDOM'S FINEST HOUR, Patty Duke's SINGS SONGS FROM VALLEY OF THE DOLLS AND OTHER SELECTIONS (her sitcom may have let her play two roles but even they knew not to let her sing the theme song), Bobby Sherman's "Cold Girl" (Bobby, we just wanted to buy the pictures, not recordings of your voice), Pat Boone's I WAS KAISER BILL'S BATMAN, (which was his 26th consecutive album to fail to chart on BILLBOARD's
weekly album chart of the top 200 selling albums of the week), Nancy Sinatra's COUNTRY, MY WAY(for four years, Nancy had issued one single that bombed after another, then she was finally on a string of success with ten top forty hits from 1965 to 1967; but starting with this album, the hits were over -- and over for good), The Dave Clark Five's FIVE BY FIVE and YOU GOT WHAT IT TAKES and many more.
So the past was never as perfect as it seems in retrospect. That said, 2022 has not been a good year for music.
I'm a fan of the voice. She can sing. I loved LP1. And then I hated everything that followed. She was an oldies act for all intents and purposes. A young woman on the oldies circuit. LP1 demonstrated that she could take that amazing voice and actually make music that mattered -- not just pleasant background noise. But it didn't sale the way she wanted and she immediately retreated and went back to doing what she had before. Oldies. THE SOUL SESSIONS II may have charted but they really ended her career. WATER FOR YOUR SOUL followed and proved the career was over.
Now it's NEVER FORGET MY LOVE. A month old and it's still not charted in any country.
It has an awful cover, she looks like an anonymous model chosen for some cheesy ass Herb Albert album. Sadly, the music is even worse.
Shirley Bassey is a talented singer and, from time to time, I can get into one of her songs -- a Bond theme or "History Repeating" or "Get The Party Started." But, at the same time, she's also something of a supper club singer. And that's what NEVER FORGET MY LOVE really reminds me of -- second-rate Shirley Bassey recorded live at a supper club.
NEVER FORGET MY LOVE is what happens when you spend the bulk of your career recording oldies. It's just garbage. "Love You Till The Very End" is so overproduced it seems sealed in a sarcophagus. The brige is enough to have you reaching for the aspirin. The chorus has horns repeating lines as though the horns are backup vocalists. Every thing that can go wrong on this song does go wrong.
And the really bad news?
It's the best song of this ten track album.
Again, LP1 was a great album. It was brave and alive. But it didn't sell the way she wanted.
"Drive All Night," for example has become a streaming classic. Wasn't a hit in real time -- should have been -- but it's gone on to have a life beyond the album. If she'd trusted her talent, she might have pursued something that caused an immediate re-evaluation of LP1. Instead, she went back to doing what she'd done before -- you know, doing all the songs 100 other artists did before, decades before. And as she sought safety in the past, she fossilized.
"When You're In Love" plays out like a condensed version of every move she's ever done vocally, it's almost a Joss Stone parody. "Oh To Be Loved By You" sounds less like parody and more like plagiarism -- especially if you've heard Amy Winehouse's recording of Mark Ronson's "Valerie."
Joss shouldn't be touring to promote this album -- no one needs to hear these tracks live. She should be taking a long vacation, trying to reconnect with life and figuring out how a woman of 34 produced such a tired and dated cabaret set that draws to mind a singer on the last legs of her career.
You know, someone like Judy Collins.
Judy Collins and Joan Baez hate each other. At one point, Joan was just irritated with Judy. Judy always hated Joan and was always jealous. Over the years, Judy's digs at so many women (Joni Mitchell, Mavis Staples, etc) have also included digs at Joan and Joan largely ignored them. But more recently, the ten or so years, the digs have also been as Joan's late sister (Mimi Farina) and at Joan's late mother. Joan's patience has worn thin.
Which is too bad because Joan did something smart not all that long ago and someone needs to impart wisdom to Judy. Joan rightly noted the voice was gone and stopped recording. Now the voice was gone before she admitted it was. But, here's the thing, she found a way to use what was left of her voice in a such a manner that made it and the songs (mainly by others) that she recorded interesting.
Carly Simon talks as though she's lost her voice or is losing her voice (she'd planned for 2008's THIS KIND OF LOVE to be her swan song). If that were true, that she'd lost her voice, Carly could still do an album because she's a singer-songwriter. She or Johnny Cash or any other artist can find depth and meaning in statements that they write themselves can continue to create art when the sweet, higher notes have left their range. Even with a limited voice, I think Carly could put across an acoustic album that would please many of us. (Again, I don't think her voice is gone.)
Judy, like Joan, writes the occasional song. Unlike Joan, Judy's enver written a hit song. Judy writes 'album tracks.' Back in the day, that used to mean you wrote an interesting song that could take up space on an album but would never be a hit. Hopefully, on the album, it would enrich the flavor. That's about all that it could accomplish.
2019's WINTER STORIES brought her a little praise -- no real sales, the only place it made a real impact was in Norway -- don't tell me 'a hit on Bluegrass!' That's not really an accomplishment because that's not a thriving or crowded market these days. For that album, she recorded eight strong songs by others and three of her previously recorded album songs -- two of which are strong songs.
But the voice is gone, long gone. And this go round, for SPELLBOUND, she's written every one of the 12 tracks. "When I Was A Girl In Colorado"? You think maybe she still has a voice. Then the chorus kicks in and you grasp that she was, in the first verse, just singing softly and not stringing notes together. When the chorus kicks in and she starts trying to really sing, the voice . . .
Did you ever drive a stick? Did you ever have the transmission go out on you on a stick? When it happened to me, it didn't just make a grinding noise and then the stick just move around uselessly with no tension, it also stunk up the car like something had burned.
SPELLBOUND actually produces a smell -- one like the transmission going out.
Judy can't sing anymore. And she's not a songwriter of merit but she's chosen to write twelve, run-of-the-mill, pedestrian songs. She, who has mocked Carole King's songwriting for years (even in her most recent autobiography), has never learned the first thing about writing a popular song. And it shows. It really, really shows.
Even the titles let you know that Judy, the crackling and cracked soprano wanna-be (if she pitched to her lower register, some of these harsh notes might sound better).is on fumes -- "Hell On Wheels," (for example -- and, no, it's not the song on Cher's PRISONER album -- and since I'm noting Cher, WITH LOVE, CHER was a great 1967 album, to name one more).
"So Alive" is Judy's attempt at autobiography. It's about as honest as her text version [see "Trapped in an AA meeting with Judy Collins (Ava and C.I."]. And it's not musical. And it's not melodic and Judy's voice is just irritating. At least with "Hell On Wheels," she doesn't go for the high notes. Still not sure, though, what the point of that song was. Are we supposed to be upset with the man "waving his fists" at her? I'm not. I wished he had called the cops on her since she was drunk and speeding and almost killed two little girls ("missed them by a mere few feet"). It's the kids' dad. He saw her almost kill his daughters.
What is the point of that song? Again, these aren't melodic. Her piano notes are simplistic and what you'd expect from a third year student. So we'd hope that they would at least tell a story that would move us.
But she lacks the skill and the talent to pull that off.
When the voice goes, a singer really needs material. Lucinda Williams and Marianne Faithful are two examples of women who lost what was seen as their beautiful voice. Or think Stevie Nicks who shredded her lyrical soprano with years and years of "Rhiannon" and "Gold Dust Woman," only to emerge in the eighties with a contralto. And it worked for her because she used it to strong effect. Judy seems convinced that no one's noticing how badly she fails to hit those high notes she's so desperately reaching for but are so far beyond her range as the years have piled up. At 82, she either needs to pack it in because the voice is gone or she needs to choose songs that her age and experience can add to.
I'd steer her toward Prince, myself. But these years have demonstrated that the only thing Judy's more allergic to than recording songs written by women, is recording songs written by people of color.
I mention Prince because this weekend, I listened to ORIGINALS, his 2019 album.
As I've noted before, it's been impossible for me to listen to Prince's posthumous work unless it's a recording of a concert. The applause probably serves me well, reminds me this is an event that's passed. I miss Prince a lot. And it's difficult to listen to studio recordings because (a) I miss him and (b) I feel guilty -- is this a recording that, were he alive, he'd be releasing?
There's so much there and it's just been difficult.
But I did listen to ORIGINALS this weekend. And I love it. I love all fifteen tracks. Yes, these are studio recordings but these are demos he made of his songs when he was gifting them to other artists. So maybe that's why I was able to finally listen? Who knows.
But it's amazing. "Sex Shooter"?
Reminds me of back when I heard Apollonia 6's version for the first time and thought it would have been a better song for Prince -- and it is. No offense to Apples but the song works better for a man -- "sex shooter" does really mean penis, right? Regardless, he brings a lot more life to it. I love all the tracks but the least impressive are "Noon Rendezvous" and "The Glamorous Life." That's because both appear on Sheila E.'s debut album THE GLAMOROUS LIFE and, if you ever listened to it with headphones, you know Prince is singing on every one of those tracks. They're practically duets, the tracks on that album.
Not a big Jay-Z fan. Never had a reason to praise or thank him. But turns out that he's the reason "Love . . . Thy Will Be Done" is on ORIGINALS. Thank you, Jay-Z. I'd missed this song that Prince wrote for Martika. It's a great song and he really puts it across.
If there's an ORIGINALS 2, I'd love to hear his demos for Patti Labelle's "Yo Mister," Sheena Easton's ''Sugar Walls" and "101," Tevin Campbell's "Round and Round," Vanity 6's "Nasty Girl" and Chaka Khan's "Journey 2 The Center of Your Heart" and "Don't Talk 2 Strangers."
2022's still young. Maybe that's why I'm having to drop back to 2019 to find something worth listening to?