Cool and Strange Music Vol. 2, Number 5

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Well, after the excellent response to my first Cool and Strange Music article, I have decided to make this a once a month regular column. I figure this way, I can never ever run out of something to write about as there will always be cool and strange music as long as the sun rises from the east and their are bizarros in our midst.

Many people who did take my recommendations for CDs and actually bought them all wrote to me to say, “Thanks.” In fact, not a single one complained that I recommended a “turkey.” So today’s CDs all carry the “Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers guaranty of quality.”™

I’ve also decided to open up the “airwaves” to new artists who sent me their music and asked me to recommend it — if I liked it. And I sure got a winner this time! So if you are an artist and want me to review your music — Send me an e-mail!

Not only have I used my very well trained (and worn out) ear to find bits of gold that deserve a place in your CD collection, but every CD I have recommended here today has been approved by my kid, Wray, using the scientific methodology of the “Baby-o-Meter.”™

If I play a tune and Wray likes it and smiles, well then you know you’ve got a winner. He just giggles and bounces around the room whenever I play Perrey-Kingsley!

Another concern this time through our adventures in fine listening will be the availability of finding the CDs on-line through Amazon.com. Some people mentioned that they went to their local CD-O-RAMA super store and were not able to find the recommended CDs. Of course not! These CDs are only for those interested in Cool and Strange Music — Top 40 Hit-Parade-Of-Hell fans need not apply! This music is for only those who want to be above the riff-raff and wish to find aural bliss as well as impress their friends with their musical finesse.

In today’s article, besides recommending cool music I will also be telling you some of the secrets of the lame and famous rock bands that disgrace the airwaves. Today I’m slagging off Aerosmith. Why? Why not? They deserve the rotten raspberry as much as the next guy!

My first highly recommended CD is:

Robert Drasnin / Voodoo

Robert Drasnin was the music director for CBS television in the 1960′s where he scored the music for such shows as “Lost in Space,” “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” and “The Wild, Wild West.”

This album was originally released in 1959 and it is the ultimate in “Space Aged Bachelor Pad” music. Fans of Les Baxter will argue that Les was the king of “Exotica music” and I might agree. But this record stands up to the best that even Les Baxter had to offer. And the sound quality of this CD is superb! Which is one of the complaints I have about Les Baxter CDs (I hate surface noise). This CD will take you to another place in another time; relaxing on the beaches of the South Pacific without a care in the world!

Not only that, “Voodoo” is music that soothes the heart of the savage beast… Great for background music, barbecue parties, or even when you are trying to deal with heavy traffic and people with road rage… Just roll up the car window and enter the Tiki room.

Be forewarned though, this album does not come complete with glow skulls, flaming torches, a moonlit beach, and forbidden love…. You’ll have to provide for that yourself.

The String Quartet Tribute to Kiss

Okay. I can already hear you now! I hate Kiss too. I have always hated Kiss. I have never even bought a single Kiss record in my life, even though they were famous when I got into college. But this CD is amazing! You can tell that the people performing on this CD are really into what they are doing. Lots of these “String Quartet Tribute” CDs are “tired” but this one really has some guts. My kid loves it. My dad, who is 75 years old, thought it was way cool. The violinist plays some awesome solos and you just know they couldn’t do it justice unless they were totally into the tunes! And these guys are! I dare you to play this in the car with Grandpa and Grandma as well as your snotty 16 year old and not have them all humming along!

The String Quartet Tribute to Kiss? Yes. The rock band Kiss? No. And speaking of crappy rock bands that I dislike with a passion, let me tell you about the time I met Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. As my regular readers would know, I am an anarchist. So I don’t want the government to pass any laws. But if there was a law I would agree with it would be that Heavy Metal rock bands cannot play ballads under penalty of death!… So now you know why I don’t like Aerosmith.

Anyhow, I went to the Aerosmith interview dressed up as the “masked D.J.” The masked D.J. wears a pro-wrestlers mask and spends his life fighting against the crime of crummy music. So when the word came out that Aerosmith were in town, you just knew that the masked D.J. had to be there.

The bands crass ruffians, I believe that they are referred to as, “Roadies/Managers” weren’t going to let the masked D.J. into the room to do the interview. They were afraid that the masqueraded one would foul the mood of the “Godly ones” who were busy having their boots licked at every turn and corner. But, destiny was not to be denied.

When I, er, the Masked D.J. finally weaseled his way into the room, the interview started. The Aerosmith guys didn’t know what to make of this entire affair. But I quickly put their minds to ease when I said:

“Oh I go back with you guys. I’m a fan from way back when… Since high school, I’ve been an Aerosmith fan! Oh yeah. I just love you guy’s music! Wow! Rock and Roll all night!” (That’s a song by their rivals, “Kiss.”) And I began to sing, “I wanna rock and roll all night. And party everyday. I wanna rock and roll all night. And par—ty everyday!”

I started playing the air-guitar and asking the group to sing along. They just sat there stone cold, quite unamused, and staring at me. The lead singer, Stevie Tyler, was mad.

“Hey dude, what’s your problem?” I said. The record company people and the promoters were all in a near panic.

Things got better when I asked them which guy was the cat? Which guy had the star on his eye? Then the bassist said, “I was the cat!” And that was the cue for the rock gods that all was okay.

Aerosmith started singing the Kiss song “Rock and Roll all Night” for me. I had prevailed. The interview was a success.

The String Quartet Tribute to Garbage

Yeah, yeah I know what you’re thinking… A string quartet tribute to Garbage!? But really, Garbage is the name of a kind of famous British rock band. Now why am I recommending this CD? Well, because these versions of the original songs are really great and also, because anyone who likes strings will enjoy this whether they know the originals or not. Garbage makes quite melodious music in this day and age of noisy rock and roll. Never heard of Garbage? Well that’s because they’re not as trashy as the top 10! Grandpa & Grandma will dig it big time. The baby-o-meter scores a huge smile every time!

Jean Jaques Perrey / Moog Sensations

Jean Jaques Perrey is 1/2 of Perrey-Kingsley and I can’t say enough about this fantastic artist. Seriously, I have never met anyone in my entire life who didn’t like this kind of music. It’s like being a kid in a candy store. Even though you’ve probably heard a few of these songs before, this CD will take you back to the days when you were a six-year-old kid shopping in a candy store with your mom. Really! Imagine holding hands with mom and looking at all the wonderful colors of the world! That’s what this music is like. Just perfect for the parents to teach the kids that classical music doesn’t have to be boring! By the way, grab this CD while you can because Jean Jaques Perrey is now 85 years old — And he won’t be around for too much longer!

Slim Cessna’s Auto Club / Always Say Please & Thank You

I generally hate today’s country music with a passion too, but this is different. Easy to listen to and the lyrics are quite funny and romantic. Even if you just throw this CD on for background music, you won’t be disappointed. Slim Cessna offers that slow, take-it-easy beat and rhythm that is what once was country music’s claim to fame. Rockers will enjoy this as well as lovers of the true blue deep South. Makes my mouth just water for some grits and gravy. Will it become a top 10 Country music chart hit? No way…. It’s just too damned good for that!

Bruce Springsteen / Born in the USA

No. Absolutely not! Never.

I guess this is as good a place as any to give you a run-down of my checkered past as well as my qualifications for recommending CDs. I am proud to claim that I am the only radio personality in Japan to have been fired from every major radio station in Tokyo at least once. Some of them have fired me more than once. And one station has fired me three times!

Most people wouldn’t admit to being fired. But I’m proud of it. Why? Well if you’ve ever heard just how bad the radio stations are here in Japan, you might either want to hang yourself or just settle for getting “canned.”

Stations in Japan broadcast the most incredibly idiotic droll you’ve ever heard. Yes, I know stations in America are pretty bad too. But this is where Japan has America beat. American radio stations, and American “pop music” in general, can only aspire to be what Japanese pop radio has already become: Dum — That’s spelled correctly, d-u-m. It’s dumber than dumb.

Here’s some typical hard hitting interview questions that are asked by Japanese interviewers to rock stars from the west:

“What is your favorite color? What is your favorite food?” Or;

“Do you like Japan?” Or;

“What kind of girls do you like?”

Don’t think that I’m making this kind of stuff up either. These are real questions that most Japanese interviewers ask — And these people can ask these questions with a straight face.

So you know that if I keep getting fired and then re-hired, I must be doing something right!

Mike Perlowin / West Side Story

This CD came to me from one of the readers of LewRockwell.com. When he first wrote to me and told me he played the pedal steel guitar I was, well, unimpressed. He asked if he could send the CD to me and, me being an extremely nice guy, I said, “Okay.”

I get over one hundred CDs sent to me every month from various record companies here in Japan. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that 99.9% of them are junk (I usually keep the CD boxes and throw the CDs away). So when Mike’s CD arrived in the mail, I sighed and thought, “Oh well, he went through all the trouble sending it to me, might as well listen to it once…”

And what a surprise I got! This CD is great! Mike does something very special with the Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim musical, “West Side Story.” You have never heard pedal steel guitar like this! You have never heard the “West Side Story” like this either!

The entire album just flows. I was chuckling and singing along to every tune on the CD. In fact, I haven’t been able to get that “Jet Song” outta my head for these last two weeks. What a find this CD is! A true diamond in the rough.

And it’s not just me who thinks this is a fantastic piece of musical artistry! Mike has gotten some rave reviews for this CD and has even wrangled his way into having Tower Records independently carry this item!

Now I know just how hard it is to get a store like Tower Records to carry an independent item. Why do I know this? Well, several years ago, when Tower Records Asia ran their own record label, I was the guy in charge of it. On paper, the only person above me was the president of Tower Records Asia, a very nice guy by the name of Keith Cahoon.

Keith taught me all the ins and outs of music retailing so I know that it is nearly impossible to get the biggest record chain-store in the world to carry your product if you are not with a major label. But the Tower folks can recognize a masterpiece when they hear one — They should; they’re professionals! I just can’t say enough about Mike Perlowin’s “West Side Story.” Buy this CD now and be the first on your block to find what just might be the best CD this year! Five stars!

Prefuse 73 / One Word Extinguisher

I’m recommending this CD today for those of you who have a bit of adventure in your hearts. I can’t really categorize this album in any genre besides the ambiguous term “progressive music.” I do know that this album is stocked in some stores in the instrumental, electronic hip hop section. But I can’t really figure out why. I suppose it’s because the brains behind this work is a young guy named Scott Herren. I met Scott once and he has moved out of the United States and into Spain so that he can “get the vibe of the old country.” And he has it here on this record. There are some incredibly beautiful tracks on this album (like “Storm Returns”) that I cannot classify as anything other than “modern electronic classical music.” I think that if you like Wendy Carlos with a bit of an uptempo flair, then Prefuse 73 would be a refreshing surprise. This album goes from jazz, classical, even a smooth jazzy Hip-Hop “after hours” lounge sound — And I don’t usually like Hip Hop, by the way. But I love this.

I’ll bet everyone in the family who wants to hear something new will find this a more than satisfying record. Prefuse 73 is true genius.

Henry Mancini / Hatari

This is the soundtrack for the 1962 double Oscar winning movie, “Hatari” starring John Wayne.

Everyone will love such standard classics as “Baby Elephant Walk” and “Your Father’s Feathers.” In fact, I think “Baby Elephant Walk” was one of the first songs I ever liked when I was a small boy. I was quite surprised to find this album available on CD as I saw an LP of this disc at a garage sale for $75 dollars one time! But leave it to the British to re-issue this classic. If you are unfamiliar with this soundtrack, then I promise you that you will love it from first listen. If you have heard this already, then you know what a treasure this CD is. This disc has been remastered with the original sleeve design.

And, just in case the little ones don’t even want to give this CD a chance, throw on the “Theme From the Pink Panther” by Henry Mancini first. The kids will all say, “Oh! The Pink Panther? I love this music!” And when they do, you’ve got them! If it’s raining or cold outside, play the CD. Everyone will immediately get hooked — After that you just reel ‘em in!

Well, that’s all for this months Cool and Strange Music. Don’t forget that Christmas is just around the corner! Don’t waste time, gasoline, and money by going to the shopping mall at the last minute and fighting with the crowds (when you wind up buying something you don’t really want anyway!) Buying through Amazon.com is anywhere between $4 to $5 cheaper per CD and, if you order more than $25 dollars at once, you’ll get free shipping!

As a good friend of mine would say, “That’s better than swallowing a piece of un-cooked spaghetti sideways!” How can you beat a deal like that?

They say, “It’s the thought that counts,” right? So put some thought into it this year, buy some really tasteful music for you and yours and spend a relaxing Christmas season avoiding the rush.

By the way, I gave my 16-year-old daughter, who is a hard-core Kiss fan the “String Quartet Tribute to Kiss” for her birthday. At first she didn’t want to listen to it. But a little coaxing from me and now she likes it! In fact she plays it while studying because since it is a smooth, relaxing instrumental album, she says it doesn’t interfere with her concentration!

Score one for Daddy and the String Quartet!

Finally, I’d like to request that those of you who do themselves a favor and try out some of this music to drop me a line and let me know what you thought of today’s picks!

Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He has worked as an independent writer, producer, and personality in the mass media for nearly 30 years.

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