Friday, August 21, 2015

Can Let You Go

Second song, "Can't Let You Go," on the 1983 Rainbow album Bent Out of Shape, leads in with nothing but pure, gothic organ (think Phantom of the Opera), then some minor distortion and out of left field comes this glossy, hair metal ballad.  There's no mistaking that 80's drum sound and overwrought vocal style for anything else.  You'll be fist-pumping in your fringed leather vest and jean cut-offs in no time!  Vocalist Joe Lynn Turner belts this one out with cornball bravado that just skims the edge of opera.  It's not that he sounds bad or anything--actually he's got an impressive voice--but the delivery is so dang pretty.  More to the point, Joe Lynn Turner has pretty hair.  You can (and should) check it out in this weird video.  Rainbow founder and leader, Ritchie Blackmore, throws in a nice little shredding solo which lends this cut a hint of metal cred.  Unfortunately the solo is a shorty.  Ultimately, the pop-oriented approach with sugary riffs makes this single, amongst others, entirely too catchy.  The rest of the album has a few flourishes here and there, two notable instrumental tracks might get your attention.  Keyboardist David Rosenthal manages to insert some proggy non-Christmastime sounding synths in there, which is no small feat.  For the most part though, the album is only mildly bearable.

Rainbow's Bent Out of Shape may or may not have been a beloved LP, so why do the Vinyl Vagabonds make particular mention of "Can't Let You Go"?  Apparently, the prior owner loved the song as they took the time and care to punch up the lyrics on a typewriter.  The original lyric sheet/sleeve that comes with the album is still intact so that owner ("Tracey Studios" is the signature on the hand typed sheet), must have typed this up for a party or some sort of homework assignment, maybe a karaoke night?  Perhaps she typed it up out of mega-devotion to Rainbow?  Was Miss Studios the world's biggest Rainbow fan?  Maybe Joe Lynn Turner's only stalker?  Either way, this is just the sort of oddball ephemera that tends to turn up when buying (or in this case finding abandoned on the side of the road) random used records.  As amusing as this is, the LP isn't exactly worth holding on to so the VVers can let this go.  Clutter the VVers shelves with your harmless hair metal no longer!

Don't have your own lyrics sheet?  Just sing what you hear.  That's what the VVers do.  For instance take "Desperate Heart," the break-up rocker that starts Bent Out of Shape side-B, where no one will miss a beat when you belt out: "You promised me there would be a food fight!" sung like you are in the band Europe [whoa-oh!].  {Actual lyrics "You promised me there would be no goodbye."}  Seriously, who wouldn't be heartbroken because of the lack of a food fight (or this record)?  Whoa-oh!  No lyric sheet, no problem!  Clearly the VVers need to get themselves a typewriter.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Have You Ever Danced with Prince in the Pale Moonlight?

By: The Vagabond Apprentice
I’ve always thought of movie soundtracks by pop musicians to be merely an element of support to the visual medium of film. On the odd occasion I listen to a soundtrack separated from its original purpose, it tends to have a weaker sound; more like an album of unfinished demo tracks or B-sides. I consider it not a normal part of an artist's discography because it rarely matches the experience of a traditional finished release.

This brings me to the Spring 2015 Brooklyn WFMU Record Fair. As I was expertly going through the rows of LPs, like a good vagabond should, I spotted a huge, cropped, solid-gold Batman logo’ed record cover.  I knew immediately it was Prince’s Batman soundtrack to the 1989 Tim Burton smash-hit film.  Don’t you just love those 80’s golden, gaudy colors? (yuck).  For all you young people out there, this film stars Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger, and Jack Nicholson (NOT Christian Bale!).  Staring at that record, I was immediately was transformed into my former fourteen year old geek self.

A few Bat-songs I remembered from the film were “Batdance,” “Partyman,” and “Trust.”  I recall thinking back then, that the soundtrack was just another piece of sell-able Bat-merch, along with a million other bat-things, action figures, keychains, mugs, underoos, etc., that Warner Bros. was hawking.   Warner Bros. studio, who produced the DC comic, the movie, and the Prince record, definitely wanted my hard earned paper-route money for the Bat-merch that Bat-summer.

Now, twenty-six years later, I realize how wrong I was.  While the 1989 Batman film has not aged well, the Batman Soundtrack has become a timeless Bat-sterpiece rivaling “Purple Rain.”  Prince went “POW,” “BAM,” and “BIF” on this one!  This album is loaded with those classic Prince deep beats, funky guitars, groovy bass lines, and synthesizer pulses.  For the most part, the songs really don’t have much to do with Batman, comic books, or the movie in general.  Doing some research, I found out that Prince was desperately in need of a hit album at the time, so Warner Bros. persuaded him to change a few lyrics, add a bunch of audio movie quotes clips, and slap on a “Batman” logo cover, so that the album related in some way to the movie.  You can tell though that Prince had fun being part of this Batman tidal wave.  He seems enthusiastic and uninhibited on the album and to this day, he still performs songs off this record at concerts.

Looking at the lyrics sheet, I noticed songs are pseudo-sung by Bruce Wayne, Joker, Vicki Vale, and Gemini.  Who is Gemini you ask?  Gemini is Prince’s alter ego for this record.  Huh?  And in all the marketing for this album, Prince wore a "Gemini" superhero costume that was split down the middle; it had a half Batman outfit and half Joker outfit, which also looked similar to Batman villain, Two-Face’s costume.  Is Prince trying to be a new Batman character?  Is he being conceptual and making a statement that no man can be all good or all evil?  Prince’s birth sign is Gemini (June 7th), does that have anything to do with it?  Your guess is as good as mine.

As with Prince records, the lyrical concepts throughout the LP are mostly about sex, women, love, and partying.  I mean, what does a “Lemon Crush” have to do with Batman?  Absolutely nothing, but it's an amazing, kick-ass song.  Another fascinating stand out is the slow, romantic duet “The Arms of Orion,” sung by Prince and the 80’s Grammy Award winner Sheena Easton.  Usually, Prince’s love songs sound like he’s on the prowl, lusting for a woman, like a tiger lusts for bloody, raw meat.  Not here.  In this song his tone is of true love and being content with his deep affection. It’s a top notch 80’s ballad.  Last but not least, I must talk about “Batdance.”  This bombastic, amazing track is a collage of music and audio movie quote clips that needs to be heard to be believed.  It's electrifying and manic.  Prince also does a guitar solo that rivals former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash on it.  (Don’t forget to check out the “Batdance” music video, Prince and his crew perform the movie in a seven minute interpretive dance.  It is bizarre and super funny.)  If you buy this record, I guarantee you will “Go, go, go with a smile!”

Saturday, August 1, 2015

DJ Night: The Flipside of Summer (because digital B-sides just don't cut it)

(It was too damn hot out to do a fancy logo.)

The Flipside of Summer
(because digital B-sides just don't cut it)

Friday, August 14th 7pm-9pm

Be seen with the Vinyl Vagabonds as they Baffle your Brain by Busting your summer quota of Beautiful B-sides.  Better not Be late! Beat the heat, Be cool, and listen to some lesser-knowns from the Best side of the platter.

This is a free, metro-walkable, all ages, cosmically-relevant music night at Silver Spring's newest (and only) record/coffee shop.  Also, they have an awesome staff, fine adult beverages, and delicious foods for eating.  YES!

Bump 'N Grind
1200 East West Highway,
Silver Spring, Maryland 20910

Be there!
  Stuff you probably already know:  
The Vinyl Vagabonds (who are Eric and Sara) is a music and art focused project inspired by the medium of vinyl records, going strong for over six years!  They like all kinds of music and are prone to play just about anything.