Friday, August 14, 2009

Body Parts: Your Feet’s Too Big

Fats Waller: Your Feet‘s Too Big


Fats Waller was one of the great talents from the time before jazz had a name. Starting in the 1920s, and extending into the early years of WWII, Waller’s career was a steady string of novelty songs, interspersed with a few that have become standards. His best known songs today are Honeysuckle Rose and Ain’t Misbehavin’. In 1978, the show Ain’t Misbehavin’, a revue which was a tribute to Waller’s music, made its debut on Broadway.

Your Feet’s Too Big is a wonderful display of the sense of humor that made Waller’s novelty songs so successful in their day. It also displays the musicianship that has helped his music endure, when so many of his contemporaries have been forgotten.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Body Parts: New Jersey Edition

All Gods' Children: Peace Fills Your Head


From the mid '80s to the mid '90s, New Brunswick, NJ had a very fertile local music scene. One of the most originals band in that scene was All Gods' Children. They were a large band (up to 14 members) with a constantly shifting lineup lead by jazz bassist and songwriter Adam Bernstein. (If you have very young kids, you may recognize Adam Bernstein as the bassist for the current queen of children's music, Laurie Berkner.) Musically, they were all over the map, covering funk, folk, soul, rock, reggae, klezmer, afropop, and avant garde jazz, with equal aplomb. They only released a handful of cassettes in their six-year run, but what really made them special was their live shows: nobody sat at an AGC show, and the band were always having as much fun as the audience.

"Peace Fills Your Head" is from their only full-length studio cassette, Zapata and Other Love Songs, from 1993. (Note: I digitized it from a well-worn cassette, so the fi is not necessarily hi.)

ISOE: Brown-Eyed Stare


One of the great things about All Gods' Children was that it seemed like everyone in the band could play at least two instruments. You often didn't know it until you saw various members in other bands. AGC vocalist/flautist Kate Evans was also a singer-songwriter and keyboardist, and AGC trumpeter Andy Maroko was also an accomplished guitarist. They joined forces for their own band, ISOE, and released one CD, Manhattan Lullaby in 1995. Kate's almost uncomfortably personal lyrics often dealt with relationships, including the CD's lightly funky opening track, "Brown-Eyed Stare".

Tiny Lights: Curlyeyed Open Stare


Although they were based in Hoboken, Tiny Lights were regulars on the New Brunswick scene. Drummer Andy Demos played percussion and various woodwinds in All Gods' Children. Tiny Lights were another band best experienced live, where they came off like Fairport Convention and Sly & the Family Stone jamming on the Beatles' "I Am the Walrus". Their most famous alum is "cellist to the stars" Jane Scarpentoni (Bruce Springsteen, Lou Reed, R.E.M., etc.), but she was gone by the time they released their fifth album Stop the Sun, I Want to Go Home, in 1992. The album opens with the funky "Curlyeyed Open Stare". Straightforward lyrics were never their forte.

Note: The All Gods' Children and ISOE catalogs are both out of print. The purchase links go to more recent solo albums from the main songwriters of each band.

Body Parts: Up To My Neck In You

Mark Kozelek: Up To My Neck In You


AC/DC: Up To My Neck In You


Though I'm a coverblogger at home, I tend to favor originals here on Star Maker Machine - after all, it is the popular starpower of the original which so often drives coverage. In this case, though, Mark Kozelek's dreamy, melodic deconstruction of what had been a pretty typical guitar-driven AC/DC B-side screamer deserves first billing, if only for reclaiming the power of the lyric from the less-than-subtle 1978 original. For more of the same, Kozelek's full album of slow, acoustic Bon Scott-era AC/DC covers comes highly recommended.

Body Parts: Baby Scratch My Back

"Ahhh, itchy! And I don´t know where to scratch..." You may know Slim Harpo because the Stones covered his immortal I´m A King Bee early in their career, but that sure enough wasn´t the only trick this always laid back sounding bluesman from Baton Rouge had up his sleeve. Baby Scratch My Back was actually his biggest hit, back in ´66. Now do the chicken scratch, y´all...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Body Parts: My Liver Needs a Lawyer

The Naysayer: My Liver Needs a Lawyer


The Naysayer is the music of Anna Padgett. She makes folk/country music and most of her work has a great sense of humor, as seen in this track which is take on all the classic country songs about drinking problems.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Body Parts: Foot of Pride

Photo of a foot.

Lou Reed: Foot of Pride


Here's a song to bridge the gap between last week's theme and this week's.

Back in 1992, I had an old Chevy pickup truck that had been bouncing around the family for a while. Not everything worked on it, including the gas gauge. I relied on the odometer to guess when I needed to get gas. I usually got it right. On October 16 of that year, I was driving home from somewhere, and I knew I was running low. But I was trying to make it home in time to catch the live television broadcast of Bobfest, the the huge 30th anniversary Bob Dylan tribute concert at Madison Square Garden. As I pulled off of Rt. 1, a mile or two from home, the engine died. I managed to steer it into an empty parking lot and mulled over my options. It didn't take me long to figure out what my priority was. I left the truck, walked the rest of the way home, watched the whole concert broadcast, then figured out how I'd get gas for my truck. It was one of those events I did not want to miss.

The concert was flawed (where were Joan Baez and the Grateful Dead?), but there were many highlights. Some even involved people other than Neil Young. One of my favorite performances was Lou Reed's take on this relatively obscure song. He stretches out the original's six minutes to almost nine, and the guitars get almost psychedelic.

I have to confess, I've never studied all the lyrics to this song. I just like the way they come pouring out, almost too fast for Lou to keep up. I remember at the time people were dissing Lou for using a lyric sheet, but I recall his defense was that the teleprompter everyone else was using just wasn't able to keep up with the lyrics for this one.

I eventually sold the truck and bought a Honda Civic hatchback. Loved that car for ten years, but I had a lot more friends when I owned the pickup.

Body Parts: Fishing in Your Eye

The Balancing Act: Fishing in Your Eye


This post happened by accident.

The Balancing Act was an undeservedly obscure band on the IRS label, back in the 80s. I don’t even remember how I found out about them. But I did, and I loved what I heard. Acoustic rock with great pop sensibilities, and wonderful vocal harmonies. Eventually, the IRS label went bankrupt, and all but the most popular acts, (R. E. M.), went out of print, to be lost forever, or so I thought.

Just for fun, I was searching Amazon’s download store for obscure body parts. My daughter gave me a challenge to find a song about the large intestines, and what I found for that was a guided meditation for body health. There are some intestine songs, but I will not be posting them; they all sound pretty disgusting.

So, anyway, while doing that I remembered Fishing in Your Eye. I had no hope of finding it, but, I figured, why not? You can see what happened. So, I am very happy to be presenting The Balancing Act in one of their more adventurous moods, adding a jazz flavor into their mix.

And now you know more than you ever wanted to about the thought processes of a music blogger.