Donny the Mostest - Rock is Dead, and Now You're A Lady

If you are of a certain age, you'll remember Donny Most as Ralph Malph - the wacky red-headed all-'round-trying-too-hard-to-be-funny-guy friend of Richie Cunningham on Happy Days. If you don't know who he is or the show, you can probably just move on to the next post because this won't mean anything to you other than being another recording of crappy songs by an actor capitalizing on fleeting popularity.  Actually for that matter, those familiar with the subject should likely think the same.

Rock Is Dead (1976) - Donny Most

Well if it wasn't before this track, it is heretofore. Listening to this, I'm reminded that Happy Days itself, and American Grafitti (the movie that more or less spawned Happy Days) played to the mid-70s post-hippie 'rock and roll' revivalism that was sweeping the US. Actually maybe American Graffiti kicked that movement off.. well it contributed to it anyway..  whatever. This song seems to play off that wave.. I guess.

Now You're A Lady (1976) - Donny Most

Oh dear.. Well.. it's certainly refreshing to hear something clearly not AutoTuned..

To my surprise it seems Donny is still acting, and it looks like he's still singing too, though it looks like rock really did die this time.  I'm being too hard on the guy.. The 70s produced far worse than this.


The Ten Commandments (Overture) - Elmer Bernstein

The Ten Commandments (Overture) (1956) - Elmer Bernstein

As previously mentioned, the number of examples of non-ironically enjoyed music in my collection is minimal.  I pretty much stick to oddities, though here's an exception worth mentioning. In fact, I just bought this last weekend at Value Village and was pretty stoked to have found it. I'm a straight-up atheist and most people I know wouldn't think I'd be into Chuck Heston Bible movies. They would be wrong.  I love these old-school grand epics, and in this case primarily for the score.  Of course, seeing both Vincent Price and Edward G Robinson not only together on screen, but in a Bible story is just plain weird if you think about it.

Elmer Bernstein is a pretty interesting dude..  Amazingly, he's no relation at all to Leonard Bernstein, despite not only being contemporaries, but having more than a passing familial resemblance. What makes Elmer so particularly interesting as a film composer is the range of his work.  We're talking about a guy who did (among other classics) The Ten Commandments in full-on golden-era-style lush orchestration, and then 30-odd years later did music for Animal House, Ghostbusters, and even the incidental music in Michael Jackson's Thriller video.  I was pretty stunned when I first heard this, figuring that stylistically, never the twain shall meet.

Anyway, I haven't much to say about Bernstein other than to direct you to his Wiki.

Man, I *LOVE* this scoring work.


Tap Dance Practice - Dixie - 4/4 Time, Practice Phrases, Met. 88

Tap Dance Practice - Dixie - 4-4 Time, Practice Phrases, Met. 88 (19??) Unknown

Something of a disappointment this one.  I'd really hoped there was some kind of verbal instruction for the kiddies over top the music, or the sound of tap shoes. Sadly there is nothing of the kind. There isn't even a pressing or publication date, though by the album cover styling I'd guess early 60s.  Boo.  The only information given for each track is present in the title.  In this case 4/4 time, 'practice phrases' indicating it is different song sections repeated for practice sake, and the metronome marking of 88..  that's 88bpm.  Please don't pull out your metronome to confirm it.. my turntable plays slow.

Let's let this be the example that shows you really do have to dig through a lot of crappy vinyl to find the gold nuggets!  This ain't one of them.  Sorry kids.

Tibetan Buddhism - Tantras of Gyuto: Sangwa Dupa

Tibetan Buddhism - Tantras of Gyuto: Sangwa Dupa (1975) - Monks Of The Monastery Of Gyuto, Tibet

This is the entire first side of the album (almost 25 mins) so kick back with the lights out and prepare to have the crap scared out of you!

Overtone Singing is known to a few different cultures, mostly across Asia, but also to the Inuit in North America. The Tibetan Buddhist chanting variant is practiced primarily as a meditative and religious rite. The example from this record is about 40 Buddhist Monks chanting A capella, but in practice the it is often accompanied by wind instruments, drums, bells, and the like.

The practice involves manipulating the shape of the vocal folds in the throat to accentuate certain harmonics over top the fundamental of the chanted note.  A bit about the science behind this here.

Typically, the accentuated harmonic is a major 3rd or perfect 5th, though it can venture all over the place, and result in some very interesting perceived intervals and chords within the drone texture.

Parakeet Training Record - Hartz Mountain Products

Teaching a Parakeet to talk is fun! This dates from 1952, when training your bird to talk involved far more work than you cared to put into.

The Baroque Beatles Book: L'Amour s'en cachant: You've Got to Hide Your Love Away

L'Amour s'en cachant: You've Got to Hide Your Love Away (1965) - Joshua Rifkin

There really isn't a whole lot to say about this that isn't covered in this record's own Wiki page. It was actually re-released on CD and is supposedly available on iTunes, though I couldn't locate it.

The Prophet - On Pleasure & Theme from The Prophet (Pleasure is a Freedom Song)

The Prophet: On Pleasure/Pleasure is a Freedom Song (1974) - Richard Harris/Arif Mardin

It's really hard to figure out where to start with this aesthetic train wreck. It's a musical interpretation of the famous work by Lebanese-American poet Kahlil Gibran. The music was written and arranged by Arif Mardin, and the prose poetry read by Richard Harris.  For the uninitiated, The Prophet is an iconic work that has become synonymous with first-year English majors, hippie-philosophers, and other patchouli-soaked denizens. To be fair the book *is* a great work. On the other hand, this record is self-indulgent, self-important, and generally atrocious, much like first-year English majors, hippie-philosophers, and other patchouli-soaked denizens. It doesn't help that some pretty big league names are involved in its creation. Below are but a few of such characters:

Richard Harris - legendary actor and singer of MacArthur Park.  Known for having exactly two performing voices (if an SCTV parody is any guide.)

Arif Mardin - Turkish-American record producer with some very notable credits. He wrote, arranged, and conducted the whole album.

Tony Levin (bass) - mostly known for playing with King Crimson and Peter Gabriel, and other notable progasaurus 'rock' bands like Yes, and Asia,

Steve Gadd (drums) - well known drummer who has played on just a stupid number of big albums. Best to just see his discography.

Barry Manilow (backing vocals) - ruiner of piano ballads for all of contemporary Western culture vis a vis dreck like Mandy, and writer of among other things, some pretty well-known 70s commercial jingles. In fact when he went on his first solo tour, he used to perform what he called V.S.M, (Very Strange Medley) - a compilation of all the well-known commercial jingles that started his career.

Jerry Wexler (Executive Producer) - legendary Producer and A&R man who introduced us to or produced such acts as Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan etc.

I don't know what the fuck this group was collectively thinking, but clearly somebody had some cash to burn.


Family Life Education - Dating and Sex Behavior - Adolescence

Here's an interesting look back at Sex Ed from a simpler* time. Dr F.R. Wake talks about our changing bodies, what to expect, sex, dating rituals etc with a group of 11-13 year olds.  The dating rituals seem particularly, well, dated.  It's a lengthy listen clocking in at just over 7 minutes.  I don't know exactly who Dr. Wake was and couldn't find anything about him, but clearly he's some type of psychologist or health expert of some description. This was released in 1967.

The album was part of a series of similar educational records for kids and parents covering a variety of topics. Included with this one is a booklet with questions and answers kids have given, so that cringing parents can know what to expect.

What's most interesting to me is not how obviously conservative and archaic it seems, but how surprisingly open and liberal it is within that context. Admittedly, being more open and frank about these types of discussions is one of the main goals of the record. Still, given our perception of how conservative things were then, I'm amazed at how frank many older educational materials were.  This reminded me of Molly Grows Up, That hoot-and-a-half is totally worth a watch btw.

I've included an oversized pic of the liner notes:

*'simpler' of course in this case refers either to the times, or the people involved, depending on your political persuasion. ;)


Space Walk Action - Starink

Space Walk Action (1983) - Starink

There aren't many examples of just straight-up pop music in my collection.  I do however have one weakness - 80's breakdance movie soundtracks.

Relatedly, here's a little gem from K-Tel that sought to capitalize on the burgeoning future of mastering breakdancing in 1983. It features some legit tunes from Herbie Hancock and Grandmaster Flash on one side, but the main purpose of this disc is to somehow verbally teach you to break all on your own!  Clearly a ripoff off MJ's Moonwalk move, this track delivers the inner-city urban equivalent of a square dance by calling out the actual moves you need to successfully Moonwalk Space Walk. Sadly, I don't have the color poster promised on the cover. I really don't have too much else to say about this track. I couldn't find any online link or reference about Starink.

However since we're on the topic, I'll slip in a little bonus from the Breakin' soundtrack called:

Reckless (1984)  - Chris 'The Glove' Taylor and David Storrs (featuring some rappin' by Ice-T)

.. that was before Ice-T was on Law and Order, but after he was a Hawaiian pimp.  I guess creatively, we'll call this his 'middle period'.

Here's a bit about Mr."The Glove".


Trouble at Madame Dong's - Aphex Aural Exciter

Trouble at Madame Dong's (1985) - Francis X and the Bushmen

In the 1980s, Aphex Systems began producing a device for music production known as the Aural Exciter.  In short, aural excitement involves a process of enhancing the even-numbered harmonics in musical material which results in a 'warmer' type of sound.  Keyboard Magazine ran an issue with an insert flexi-disc record that ran this advertisement for the latest Aphex product in their line.

There isn't a whole lot to say about this clip.  I mean, its lowest-common-denominator overly-obvious double-entendre doesn't leave much to ole' gray matter.  I love the totally dated quasi-post-apocalyptic sound of the musical material of 'Francis X and the Bushmen' seems..


Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night - Dylan Thomas

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night (1952) - Dylan Thomas

What is so great about this recording of the famed poet reciting his own material is that it reminds me of an obsession I acquired studying composition in University.  I became fascinated with finding musical phrase patterns in natural speech and transcribing them.  Steve Reich explored this quite a bit and I caught the bug as well.  Dylan Thomas however, seems much more obvious in the way he recites.  It doesn't take much listening to hear natural musical phrasing and cadences all over the place.

This album was recorded a year before his death.


I finally did a piano sketch of the tonality and cadences of Thomas' voice that I hear.
You can listen here.  Try listening to it a couple times then go back and listen to the original..

Sound of the Main Artery of the Mother (A) - Dr. Hajime Murooka

Sound of the Main Artery of the Mother (A) (1974) - Dr. Hajime Murooka.

How cool is this?  I mean, really?!  It is a recording from inside a mother's womb using a tiny 8mm microphone near the head of a fetus at approximately 8 months development.  The purpose of this record is to help newborn babies sleep.  According to the liner notes:

"Of the 403 sobbing babies who listened to the tape, every single one stopped crying, with 161 dozing off to sleep in an average of 41 seconds."

Considering the machine-like rhythm of the gushing sound, it gives pause for thought on the effect of Industrial music on sniffing emo-goths.

Dr. Murooka was (is?) a noted Professor of Gynecology at Japan's Nippon Medical University in Tokyo.

Po' Folks - The Singing Post Family

Po' Folks (1967) - The Singing Post Family.

The Singing Post Family were a family country-singin' group from Prince Edward County in Ontario.  I don't know much about them, but the oldest sister apparently still performs from time to time.  The band consisted of Norm Post (father) and children Joanne (17), Debra (13), and Kenneth (7).  What happened to Mom I don't know, but there are a few songs that seem to mention her in past tense.

What's funny about this song is mostly the title.  Prince Edward County was originally where the Empire Loyalists settled when they immigrated from the U.S. during the American Revolutionary War.  These days it's a vacation mecca for the Sandbanks Beach and local wineries, but it still maintains a very 'down home' country feeling to it with Bed & Breakfasts and 'quaint' curio shops and the like.  The title "Po' Folks" obviously comes from the ebonicized version of 'poor folks'.  No matter how poor and rural the area, I just find it funny that working-class whites would use the slang.  Perhaps the lingo came north with the Loyalists and it was used naturally and not in some weird racist way..


Ask The Kids - Rusty Warren

This clip called 'Ask The Kids' is from Rusty's 1964 album 'Sex-X-Ponent'.

 Rusty Warren was a controversial and bawdy lounge entertainer in the late 50's and 60's whose comedy and music was based around one topic - sex.  At the time she caused quite a stir, though today she seems tame relatively speaking.  That being said, every now and then even by today's standards she'll hit you with something of questionable taste. :)  Ultimately, she broke down a lot of barriers and is now considered a pioneer in women's comedy.

Catherine O'Hara as 'Dusty Towne' satirized Rusty in the early 80's on SCTV.

Rusty's site contains her complete discography and more information about her.  CDs are available for sale.