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As a kid, I was proud to get a copy of the Ohio Players’ album Honey. I was 5 or 6, so to have a cover featuring a cover of a woman in the nude pouring a jar of honey all over her body… let’s just say my parents (or at least my mom) bought it for me, didn’t feel it was offensive, and I played the album all the time. I stared at the album cover.
All the time.
However, as I was putting together this week’s Book’s Jook, I thought of this 45 and I wondered what did I get first: the Honey album or this 45? A part of me remembers wanting the 45, going to Music Box Records (one of my favorite childhood record stores) in downtown Honolulu and asking if they had a copy of this record, but whether or not I heard the short version first on the 45 that was 2:55, or the album version that went for 4:45 is a bit of a mystery. I want to say that the 45 must have come first, and when I got the album, I was blown away by the extra two minutes on the album. Okay, maybe not “blown away” with an adult mentality, but more like “wow, this song is cooler because it’s longer here”. Yet I swear I had the Honey album first, which may mean I simply wanted “Lover Rollercoaster” as a 45 just to have “the little record”.
Regardless, “Love Rollercoaster” is most likely the first Ohio Players song I had heard, although if I had heard “Fire” before, I most likely didn’t remember who performed it, and I’m certain I didn’t hear “Skin Tight” until way later. I may have heard it on the radio, simply loved the feel of it, the groove, the vibe, and the fact the song made me dance. I liked funky, I could not help it. I was one of those kids who heard a story from my auntie who said that there was a woman in the song who they recorded when the band was performing at a carnival. It just so happened that the woman was not tied to the rollercoaster and when the coaster flipped upside down, she fell off and crashed onto the ground, dying. They recorded her fall and decided to honor her by including her in the song. It was “the story”, or at least one of the stories attached to this song and while I heard the scream, I always wondered why would a band like this, who looked cool and happy on their album covers, would do something as morbid as this. These guys could not have done this as an afterthought.
The man who did some of the band’s sweetest falsettos also did the high pitched scream in “Love Rollercoaster”, so nothing morbid happened to create the howl. This, of course, meant that a love rollercoaster had to mean something else. As a Hawaiian kid, I was fascinated by real rollercoasters but we only had the mini-ones. It wasn’t until I became a teen and my mind became peculiar did I start to understand what their rollercoaster really was. The song was talking about a “rollercoaster…of love”, the woman of attention, and it seemed everyone wanted to ride it. Or her. The song doesn’t have much lyrics to it, maybe there’s twenty words or so, but the guitar helps the song to strut it out, the horn section is gritty, and the drumming and bass playing ties it together while the keyboards/synths make sure you hear everything you’re supposed to hear. It Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner’s ad-libs that helps to drive the song further and deeper into the abyss, so when you hear Beck say he wants to ride, Bonner is singing “why don’t you ride, chil’?”, as if he’s encouraging all riders to strap on tightly and have fun.
The 45 mix fades out earlier than the album version, so one isn’t able to feel the anticipated action that is to come, which is just the drummer adding a different fill as the band are in anticipating of the ride they’re about to get on. It fades out at the precise moment when the band starts wanting to “get in”, which is unfortunate but as far as 45 versions are concerned, it makes you want to get to the album version even more, to know there’s an extra 60 seconds or so of sexual madness. Regardless, when I hear this song, I hear the feeling of enjoying to dance to the groove of Ohio, knowing where the song will fade, then playing the album version to get a full grip of the ecstasy that happened in the studio, at least in the mind.
As for the blue 45 listed above, this is the version I received from Music Box Records and for years, I used to think this was the first pressing that Mercury made before they switched to the skyscraper label. After almost 40 years, I discovered the truth today. The blue label was a second pressing made by Mercury in 1976, a year after the original which was released with the skyscraper label, with a B-side (“Who’d See Coo”) different from the original (“It’s All Over”). I would want the blue label in my dream jukebox although since it would be the song that’s played, it wouldn’t matter either way.
The latest album by jazz pianist Ellen Rowe has her joined by four powerful musicians (Pete Siers on drums, Kurt Krahnke on bass, Ingrid Jensen on trumpet and flugelhorn, and Andrew Bishop on tenor sax and clarinet) and getting accompaniment from trombonist Paul Ferguson and the University Of Michigan Chamber Jazz Ensemble. Courage Music (PKO) sounds like the kind of music you’d expect to hear on albums by McCoy Tyner, Dave Brubeck, and Brian Blade, where things are cool and laid back and the whole vibe is about that easy feeling, with intense interaction between everyone involved. Songs like “Golandrinas De Los Horcones” and “Gentle Spirit” has Rowe playing in a way that truly speaks to you, and when she brings in Jensen or Bishop to play solos or perform in unison, you can really see and hear what she and they are trying to do. This is the kind of music you might hear on NPR on Friday at 11:30 and go “wait, what was that?” and then you go out to find out how to get the full album. It’s music that not only has courage, but gives courage to the musicians who are playing it, something that leads to peace and freedom.
The Call Of The Cosmos (Fire) is an interesting album by Sterling Roswell because:
1) it sounds more like an EP than a full length album
2) the album is a blend of decent songs and trippy interludes, if you want to call it that
3) the interludes are trippy soundscapes and seem to balance the album/EP in a unique way
4) its direction is somewhat uncertain, at least at first.
It’s a 38 minute project where I found myself wondering what direction things would be going, only for me to say hey, even if there is no obvious direction, I’ll listen to it as is and come up with whatever conclusion I have at the end. I’m still slightly confused, but as a creative piece of work, it’s not odd as it is quite… I don’t know if flabbergasted would be the word I would use, but it’s the first I came up with. Whatever the call is towards the cosmos, this is one of billions of pages that help to create this dialogue. Collect all 100,000,000,000.
Viewfinder are a band that sound like other bands I’ve heard before, such as Suicidal Tendencies, Seaweed, and Weezer, which to me means they play hard and abrasive in some moments, understand the power of a good pop tune with quality choruses and verses, and when they let loose, they know how to keep themselves under control. Do You Even Want Anything could easily be a question the band could or should ask fans, because while they are capable of giving what they want to rock out for rock’s sake, I’d like to think they’re able to do a bit more if they give a bit more effort. What I did find interesting was the pop tendencies in their music, although they don’t tend to incorporate pop with their aggressive rock’n’roll, they are doing the pop thing quite nicely, thank you. I’d be curious to find out where they will be in coming years.
Henrietta’s The Trick Is Not Minding could sound intriguing by title alone but unfortunately, that’s the only thing that is intriguing about this release. Granted, these guys are competent and are able to sing, play, and write songs, but they come off like every other bar band that does the exact thing, and I want to hear something that goes beyond that. Maybe I’m the one who is wrong. Okay, as far as playing like a bar band is concerned, let’s get out of that. These guys make powerful pop/rock songs that could easily be used for any amount of television shows or movies as a means to catch the ear of a scene or something, and maybe these songs will be remembered as a key moment. The only problem I find is that it has too many key moments and it gets lost amongst one another. I don’t hate it, but there’s not enough here that will make this listen to me repeatedly, or months from now. Check in in ten years and we’ll see what happens.
Hoax Hunters sound like a band who listened to the good stuff out of bands, songs, and albums, and approach their own style with a “no bullshit whatsoever” approach, as they show on Comfort & Safety (Cherub/Negative Fun). They play rock as if the world was going to end in four minutes or less and when it doesn’t, they rock it out again. It’s like grunge without the glam or fame, or punk rock without the glamour or facades. When they do get melodic and technical, it only draws you in towards the harder parts of a song, and you can’t wait until they blow shit up and get distorted. Comfort & Safety is something that happens rarely on the album, or at least things are under control for the most part until they let the floor below them crumble and forget the risks involved. They are very tight but when the openness comes through, you just want to swim and dwell in their ocean until they throw a bottle in your face.
Nobody’s Smiling (Def Jam) is what I would call “comfort zone Common”, in that everything on this album is what Common fans have come to expect from one of Chicago’s all time best MC’s. The flows remain strong, the lyrics are poignant, and the songs hold up from start to finish. There are no surprises and nothing mindblowing, but don’t think it means that this is bad. By all means, this is a solid album from start to finish and there are no disappointments whatsoever, it’s the type of Common that has made people want to hear more, the songs that may be bold and daring but make a swift turn around to let you know he’s still the classiest and styling man around. This is the Common you loved 10 to 15 years ago, and he shows why he understands what people want to hear.
If you’re looking for something negative in this review, let’s see if I can come up with something. At this point, it’s hard to say if people want to hear a bold and daring Common, if they expect to hear him do some dance tracks or throw in some dubstep or do a duet with Ariana Grande, and maybe that can happen with the next album, EP, or song. For now, no thrills, it’s straightforward and to-the-point Common so if you want to expect good music, this is him in his comfort zone. It’s hard to say if someone like him would be willing to throw out different expectations, especially at a time when MC’s are more of a risk factor for musical efforts than ones involving publicity. It may be one of many reasons why this album is called Nobody’s Smiling, no one wants to be involved in doing bullshit and this is a no-bullshit album. Maybe next time, he’ll throw out the unexpected but for now, not now.