H Nilsson – Nilsson Schmilsson

Artist: Harry Nilsson

Genre: Singer-Songwriter, Pop
Title: Nilsson Schmilsson
Released: 1971
Label: RCA/Victor
Musicians:Harry Nilsson – vocals; piano, Mellotron, organ, harmonica, electric piano, Jim Gordon – drums,percussion, Klaus Voormann – bass, rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar, Chris Spedding – guitar, Herbie Flowers – bass, John Uribe – acoustic guitar, lead guitar
Additional personnel: Henry Krein – accordion, Richard Perry – percussion, Mellotron,
Jim Price – trumpet, trombone, horn arrangements, Jim Keltner – drums, Roger Coolan – organ, Bobby Keys – saxophone, Gary Wright – piano, organ, Paul Buckmaster – string and horn arrangements, Roger Pope – drums, Caleb Quaye – guitar, Ian Duck – acoustic guitar, Jim Webb – piano, George Tipton – string and horn arrangements.
Producer: Richard Perry
Engineer: Robin Geoffrey Cable
Mix Engineer: Doug Sax

From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Nilsson Harry Edward Nilsson III (June 15, 1941 – January 15, 1994), usually credited as Nilsson, was an American singer-songwriter who achieved the peak of his commercial success in the early 1970s. His work is characterized by pioneering overdub experiments, returns to the Great American Songbook, and fusions of Caribbean sounds. A tenor with a three-and-a-half octave range, Nilsson was one of the few major pop-rock recording artists of his era to achieve significant commercial success without ever performing major public concerts or undertaking regular tours. Continue reading

James Taylor – Sweet Baby James

Artist: James Taylor

Genre: Folk, Folk-Rock
Title: Sweet Baby James
Released: 1970
Label: Warner Bros
Musicians:James Taylor – guitar, vocals, Chris Darrow – fiddle, violin. Carole King – piano, vocals, Danny Kortchmar – guitar, Russ Kunkel – drums, John London – bass, Randy Meisner – bass, Red Rhodes – steel guitar, Bobby West – double bass
The horn players are uncredited.
Producer: Peter Asher
Engineer: Bill Lazerus
Mastering Engineer: Darrell Johnson

Sweet Baby James is the second album by American singer-songwriter James Taylor, and his first release on Warner Bros. Records.

From Wikipedia: “The album, produced by Peter Asher, was recorded at Sunset Sound, Los Angeles, between 8 and 17 December 1969 at a cost of only $7,600 out of a budget of $20,000. Taylor was “essentially homeless” at the time the album was recorded, either staying in Asher’s home or crashing on a couch at the house of guitarist Danny Kortchmar or anyone else who would have him.”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_Baby_James

The copy I have happens to be the green label version which in the Warner Bros hierarchy of the time was and is considered the better pressings. My copy also came with the original fold-out lyric sheet as well. That’s called pure luck folks. I bought the record used of course and did not realize that it still had what would normally be long gone until I went to listen and review this LP. Got to love it when that happens for it happens very seldom.

Side One
1. “Sweet Baby James” – I always have thought the song was about, or additionally about, Taylor himself — a “self lullaby” being a reasonable interpretation given the name and “singing works just fine for me” lyric — and so Taylor is often referred to in the press by the nickname “Sweet Baby James”.  However, according to Wikipedia: The song was written by Taylor for the son of his older brother Alex, who was also named James (and indeed was named after him). Deliberately a cross between a cowboy song and a lullaby, it was first thought up by Taylor as he was driving through Carolina to meet his infant nephew for the first time.

2. “Lo and Behold”
– This is a gospel style song because it is a gospel song and while I am not a fan of gospel, this song is quite good. It was not written by James Taylor, but written by Jack Christopher Allsopp and Andrew Wyatt.

3. “Sunny Skies” – 
Taylor wrote “Sunny Skies” during his treatment at the Austen Riggs Center. The melody is cheerful, which is ironic given the lyrics. Taylor accompanies himself on acoustic guitar. The title “Sunny Skies” actually does not refer to the condition of the sky, but to the title character of the song. The title character of the song “sleeps in the morning,” “weeps in the evening,” “doesn’t know when to rise” and has no friends. The last verse of the song links the title character to the singer, who sings that he looks out his own window to see snow and trees, and wonders if he should let the world pass him by, just like the title character. The singer, just like Taylor himself at the time, wonders if his accomplishments were worth the suffering he went through to achieve them. Perrone also notes that, like the title character, Taylor had gone through a period where he was too depressed to get up in the morning.

4. “Steamroller Blues” – “Steamroller Blues” (a.k.a. “Steamroller”), is a blues parody written by James Taylor, that appeared on his 1970 album Sweet Baby James. It was intended to “mock” the inauthentic blues bands of the day. The song later appeared on two of Taylor’s compilation albums and has been recorded by a variety of other artists. Taylor and Danny Kortchmar, both playing electric guitars, laid down the track in one night at Sunset Studios, the rhythm section being added later. A tight budget and production schedule forced Taylor to record the song despite suffering from a head cold.
The song was included on Taylor’s diamond-selling Greatest Hits 1976 compilation using a live version recorded in August 1975 at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles, which in my opinion is one of the best versions.

5. “Country Road” – The song references Somerset Street in Belmont, Massachusetts,[citation needed] a wooded road running adjacent to the land owned by McLean Hospital, where Taylor had committed himself in 1965 to receive treatment for depression. According to Taylor’s friend Danny Kortchmar, “Country Road” captures the restless, anticipatory, vaguely hopeful feeling that plays a large part on James’ character. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Country_Road_(song)

6. “Oh, Susanna” (Stephen Foster) – This is a good version of this traditional song, but the best version in my opinion, is Neil Young’s rendition, it’s crazy.

Side Two
1. “Fire and Rain” –  “Fire and Rain” is a folk rock song written and performed by James Taylor.  The song follows Taylor’s reaction to the suicide of Suzanne Schnerr, a childhood friend, and his experiences with drug addiction and fame. Taylor said the song was about several incidents during his early recording career. The second line “Suzanne the plans they made put an end to you” refers to Suzanne Schnerr, a childhood friend of his who committed suicide while he was in London, England, recording his first album. In that same account, Taylor said he had been in a deep depression after the failure of his new band The Flying Machine to coalesce (the lyric “Sweet dreams and Flying Machines in pieces on the ground”; the reference is to the name of the band rather than a fatal plane crash, as was long rumored).
In 2005, during an interview on NPR, Taylor explained to host Scott Simon that the song was written in three parts: The first part was about Taylor’s friend Suzanne, who died while Taylor was in London working on his first album after being signed to Apple Records. Friends at home, concerned that it might distract Taylor from his big break, kept the tragic news from him and he found out six months later.
The second part details Taylor’s struggle to overcome drug addiction and depression.
The third part deals with coming to grips with fame and fortune, looking back at the road that got him there. It includes a reference to James Taylor and The Flying Machine, a band he briefly worked with before his big break with Paul McCartney, Peter Asher, and Apple Records.
Carole King played piano on the song. Drummer Russ Kunkel used brushes rather than sticks on his drum kit and Bobby West played double bass in place of a bass guitar to “underscore the melancholy on the song”.
King has stated that her song “You’ve Got a Friend,” that Taylor recorded, was a response to the line in the refrain that “I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend.”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_and_Rain_(song)

2. “Blossom”

3. “Anywhere Like Heaven” – To me this song is about his home town and how connected he feels to it. It’s almost like a sanctuary to him. He probably wrote this on some tour or something as the song seems to be about him missing home while on the road.

4. “Oh Baby, Don’t You Loose Your Lip on Me”

5. “Suite for 20 G” – The song “Suite for 20 G” was so named because Taylor was promised $20,000 (US$130,617 in 2017 dollars) once the album was delivered. With one more song needed, he strung together three unfinished songs into a “suite”, and completed the album.



Morrissey – Kill Uncle

Artist: Morrissey

Genre: Rock
Title: Kill Uncle
Released: 1991
Label: Sire
Format: CD
Musicians: Morrissey – vocals, Mark E. Nevin – guitar, Mark Bedford – bass guitar
Andrew Paresi – percussion, drums, Seamus Beaghen – keyboards, Steven Heart – keyboards, Nawazish Ali Khan – violin, John Deacon – bass guitar (tracks 2, 4 and 8)
Linder Sterling – background vocals
Producer: Alan Winstanley and Clive Langer

Kill Uncle is the second solo studio album by English singer Morrissey. It is generally considered Morrissey’s most unconventional album, probably due to its mature torch song (“There Is a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends”) aspects combined with quirky music and lyrics that range from ironic and tongue-in-cheek to some of his more introspective.

Kill Uncle was recorded when Morrissey was in a transitional phase. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kill_Uncle

1. “Our Frank” – On “Our Frank”, Morrissey’s lyrics describe “frank and open, deep conversations” that get him nowhere and leave him disheartened.The song features some uncharacteristic production for the singer, with Morrissey’s voice being overdubbed and echoed. The bass line is also interesting.
2. “Asian Rut” – I find this track as one of the worst on the CD. The music itself is disturbing, but it must be pointed out that it was supposed to be. I first thought that it was a quasi racist song, but I found out that while the song does indeed deal with racism, it is actually against racism. It turns out “Asian Rut” is a tale about the murder of an Asian by three English boys in which Morrissey’s vocals are backed only by strings and bass, plus sound effects, lending an eerie quality to the somber narrative. The song continues the tradition of Morrissey examining English racism from a unique angle. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kill_Uncle
3. “Sing Your Life” – This is one of the better songs on the CD with a subtle rockabilly flavor. The strings from the first two tracks are present in the song as well, and they rise and fall in a fashion similar to “Our Frank”. The song has Morrissey instructing the listener on how to make a song, as he sings, “Walk right up to the microphone and name all the things you love, all the things you loathe.” Ironically enough, a rockabilly version of the song also exists, recorded live at KROQ in Los Angeles.
4. “Mute Witness” – “Mute Witness”, the fourth track, features piano backing composed by Clive Langer. The song is a somewhat farcical tale of an attempt to get information out of a witness who cannot speak at a trial.
5. “King Leer” – The upright acoustic  bass carries this song, which is kind of a silly song with its use of puns.
6. “Found Found Found” Langer – “Found Found Found”, another Langer track, is the only heavy song on the album. I’m all about heavier songs, but this one is not all that good in my opinion especially when you add over-compressed dirty bass.
7. “Driving Your Girlfriend Home” – In this ballad, Morrissey tells of how he’s driving the girlfriend of one of his friend’s home. He reveals that she asks him, “‘How did I end up so deeply involved in the very existence I planned on avoiding?'” and that “She’s laughing to stop herself crying.” These outpourings are interspersed with driving instructions, and Morrissey tells us, “I can’t tell her” what he feels about her and that the ride concludes with them “shaking hands goodnight so politely.” In a surprise twist of fate, I can realistically relate to this song. Too bad the music is somewhat annoying and strange in my opinion.
8. “The Harsh Truth of the Camera Eye” – This often cited as Morrissey’s most misunderstood song ever recorded. I find this song to sound like a track to a horror film about evil clowns (clowns are evil anyway). It turns out that the lyrics are describing the “pain because of the strain of smiling” and the dichotomy between one’s public image and private personality. The music consists of a carnival-like synthesizer and features sound effects like that of a door slamming and a camera lens snapping, along with piano accompaniment. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kill_Uncle
9. “(I’m) The End of the Family Line” – This song sounds like the same structure as the previous one and just as depressing. The singer rues that he will never have children, an insult into the “fifteen generations … of mine” that produced him.
10. “There’s a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends” – This is just a terrible sounding song in my opinion.
11. “Tony the Pony” – This song is only on the US version of the album. While it is more upbeat, it is equally stupid.