Cool and Strange Music Vol. 2, Number 5
by Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers
by Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers
Being a player in this topsy-turvy world of Pop music, I get to schmooze with a lot of heavy hitters. We call them the dream-weavers. Guys who can make or break an artist on a whim. Well, I won't be talking about any of them today, but I would like to introduce you to two good friends of mine, Keith Cahoon and Steve McClure.
Keith used to be the head cheese of Tower Records Asia. He was single-handedly responsible for building the biggest record store in the entire world: Tower Records Shibuya. Keith is now running his own music publishing company in Japan, called Hotwire, and is always looking for new artists to break into the world's number two market. Steve is the head honcho of Billboard magazine for all of Asia. Now if you can get Keith and Steve to push your band, then you are in like Flint, you might as well buy that brand new Ferrari now.
As I was walking down the street in front of said world's largest record store, I stumbled upon Steve McClure. We stopped to chat and then we did coffee (that's show-business talk). Steve told me about a cool project that he and Keith are trying not to mess up too badly and it's called, Nippop. Nippop is setting out to be the world's number one Internet information site about Japanese music in English. And is it ever great! It has got everything you'd ever want to know about Japanese music and then some. And there could not be any two guys more expert or more geeky to lay out one of the coolest new websites on the Internet than Keith and Steve. Anyone with even a passing interest in Japan or Japanese music — new and old — should check it out. It's totally fab! Tell them Mike sent you.
Now let's get to the tunes. Today, I'd like to play some music for you that not only is very Cool & Strange but each of these albums has jacket artwork that suitable for framing. Also, feel free to click on the links provided and you can listen to snippets of most of the tunes — at no charge. That way you can hear them before you decide to buy.
Ultra-Lounge, Vol. 7: Crime Scene — Ultra-Lounge (series)
List Price: $11.98 Now on Sale: $10.99
I figure there going to be lots of talk about criminals, thieves, crooks, and liars in the next coming few months, but hey, this article is not about George W. Bush; it's about cool music. And you'll need the first CD I'm recommending today for the perfect background music for when the Bush hits the fan. And I've got it right here! The album is called Crime Scene (Ultra Lounge Series Vol. 7) and it is a compilation chock-full of sensual and erotic clues to cool and moody crimes. There are 18 tracks of cloak-and-dagger gems and they are all the original versions from your favorite criminal, spy movie, and TV show theme songs. You get:
- Dragnet by Ray Anthony
- I Spy by Earle Hagen
- The Untouchables by Nelson Riddle
- From Russia With Love by Count Basie
- The Silencers by Vicki Carr
- and the ultra-rare Music To Be Murdered By by Jeff Alexander and Alfred Hitchcock.
All these great tunes and twelve more! Not only that, but this album is on sale! So what are you waiting for? Go to the link above and you can sample some of the sounds for free! This music will just murder ya! Killer!
Jazz for the Jet Set [Import] [Original Recording Remastered] — Dave Pike
List Price: $19.49
This has got to be one of the coolest Jazz albums I own. Dave Pike's Jazz for the Jet Set is a 2001 reissue of an album that was originally released in 1966. This fine piece of wax was remastered from the original analogue tapes and the sound is divine. The album has 8 tracks featuring several musicians including Herbie Hancock in his debut on the organ.
While most music can be categorized quite easily — and this is first and foremost a Jazz album — the discerning listener will notice that the music is not confined to the Jazz audience. Anyone who can click their fingers or tap their toes can dig this album big time. Dave has united Jazz as well as Latin and a dab of out-and-out Pop music to come up with a totally new, exciting sound of his own. This was not Dave's first recording, but it stands out as, undoubtedly, the finest record he ever made. Anyone will love this fantastic record.
Hawaii Five-O [Import] [Original Recording Remastered] — The Ventures
List Price: $26.49
The Ventures!? Yes, the Ventures. How old are these guys now? They must be getting on in years. But, unknown to most people, besides their own original releases, the Ventures released literally dozens and dozens of albums with instrumental cover tunes and just about every one of them is a gas.
And speaking of gas, this particular Ventures album features the boys playing an out-of-this world version of the Mason Williams classic, Classical Gas. Not only that, but you get fab covers of Glen Campbell's Galveston, Love is Blue, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, Mission Impossible, Torquay, Hawaii Five-O and a very cool radio spot for Hawaii-Five-O.
But don't think that this is noisy surf music. No way, my friends, this is just some excellent and smooth guitar playing by some of the best. A perfect album for relaxing, and for listening to while at the family barbecue. And the album has been re-mastered in high definition 24-bit so it sounds like dynamite!
Mason Williams Phonograph Record — Mason Williams
List Price: $9.98
I'm throwing this one in because I just think that Mason Williams has never gotten proper respect for his songwriting. Why is that? He wrote Classical Gas — the original is on this album — and he wrote many hits for the Smothers Brothers. But, in my opinion, Mason Williams is not quite a good singer. I don't want to say he's a lousy singer... Okay, I do. He's a lousy singer. But his songs are great.
I'm recommending this CD only for those truly interested in having interesting music. You see, the monster hit, Classical Gas, has been licensed out by Warner Brothers for innumerable movies, TV shows, commercials, etc. So they are never going to let this song go. So if you want to get the original (and it's by far and away the best) then this is where you have to get it. I have never seen the original song on any record besides this one (well, there's another but the rest of the songs on that record are thumbs down).
I think that the $9.98 price is worth it just for Classical Gas. But don't think that this is a bad record, it's not. There are several very good songs on this album — songs you've heard made famous by other people — but I just don't dig Mason Williams' voice. By the way, if you don't know or remember, Classical Gas is an instrumental.
Ninety dollars for a Smothers Brothers CD!? That's right. The Smothers Brothers CD's are all out-of-print now. The only one that is at a fairly reasonable price is Curb Your Tongue, Knave! Which I wouldn't recommend as it is probably their least interesting work.
I'm showing you this Sibling Revelry CD because I do own one that I bought for $14.00 about three years ago; and because I've mentioned many times that the albums that are introduced on Cool & Strange Music are the types of music that disappear quite quickly and they always go up in price.
I checked on Amazon and there are only two of these CD's left. Now, if you loved the Smothers Brothers as much as I do, then you might just cough up the cash to get one. Otherwise, remember the words of your old buddy Mike whenever I say, "You'd better get one soon, cause they are going fast. And once they're gone... They're gone." So when old Mike recommends "buy" you should "buy" — unlike your real-estate agent.
The Pearl — Brian Eno, Harold Budd
List Price: $11.99 Sale Price: $10.99
This is a very refreshing excursion into what is known as Ambient music. It's music for creating a mood. Here's what Amazon has to say:
This sublime, tranquil recording features 11 haunting ambient tone poems for treated piano. They are crafted from simple chords, arpeggios, or melodies that are frequently trailed by delicate electronic whispers to produce dreamy results. Even though Budd and Eno chose to compose and record in a minimalist style, their gorgeous, moody music evokes so much more, for the reverberating spaces between the notes are just as important as the notes themselves. In an interesting experiment, both "Against the Sky" and "An Echo of Night" explore the same melancholic musical theme in different settings — the former is a sparse piano piece with gentle electronic treatments, the latter is a murky synth work set against a nocturnal outdoor backdrop. (Budd later explored the theme again as the ethereal elegy "Olancha Farewell" on his 1986 solo album, Lovely Thunder.) Beautifully understated, the slow-motion ballet of The Pearl is a piece of striking ambient impressionism that was highly original in its day, well before the myriads of New Age imitators its composers spawned, and it remains fresh and vital two decades later.
If you've ever wondered what all the fuss was about Electronic music then this is the perfect CD for you. A beautifully crafted and wonderfully fun album to listen to for kids and adults of all ages. There are no heavy bass beats here and no vocals, just the sweet sounds of Electronica. Some of the tunes sound like something you'd hear as background music on a kid's show, some of the music sounds like Classical music done in the 22nd century. This is a great CD for relaxing to or for driving when you really want to hear something different that's sure to please everyone.
Bach for Babies: Fun and Games for Budding Brains
List Price: $11.98 Sale Price: $10.99
I'm going to write an article later on about how much I am sold on the idea of playing soft Classical music to your baby. My son is only 1 year and seven months old now but he can recite the entire A-B-C's and sing-along to the ABC Song. He can read the words, "up", "down", "yes", "no", "bear", "big", and a bunch of others that I cannot recall at this moment. Not only that, while other children — some even 4 to 6 months older, speak in single words, he already speaks in sentences. Is he especially smart? I think so. Why? I suspect it's a part of the effort that my wife and I make daily — as well as no TV — and only Classical music (as well as terrific advice from Linda Schrock Taylor). I know his mom is smart and I know we make a special effort to make learning fun. Is it also because my wife insisted that we play only Classical music for him since before he was born? I think it is. But before I get around to writing that article, I want to play three critical albums for your baby and the expectant mother. First, Bach For Babies, a versatile collection in terms of composition, performance and layout. Comparing to most CD's specifically designed with classical selections for baby, this edition is a rich musical experience. Genre wise, the piano solo, concerti, chamber and opera are all included. Performance wise, it is absolutely fabulous. And this is not only for babies either. Adults will also love the great artistic sensibility of this CD. This music is great for baby, mom, and for students who want to study. And it's a full CD, so you don't have to change the disk every 5 minutes. Not only will you love this CD for just relaxing, but everyone else will too. But let's not stop there. You need this CD too:
Beethoven for Babies: Brain Training for Little Ones
List Price: $11.98 Sale Price: $10.99
Once again, music that satisfies babies, children, and adults. But with a bit of a different flair. This is electronic music — but only a very trained ear could tell the difference. The musicians on this album are world-class at their craft. The synthesized flute is the main instrument on these selections and it includes Airs composed late in Beethoven's life. These songs are fantastically beautiful. Each selection is so soothing, but in a quite subtle way. A great album to calm the nerves of even the most savage of beasts — your husband — and it will calm your kid down too. This is a fine anthology work of some of Beethoven's best.
The Mozart Effect — Music for Babies — Playtime to Sleepytime
List Price: $10.98
My son just loves this CD still. I do too. After a really hectic day and he just doesn't want to go to sleep, well, out comes The Mozart Effect — and what an effect it is. Within 30 minutes (usually quicker) he's out like a light. Your child will love the special sound effects included within too.
Moms, let's face it, you need a break too. Sometimes with the laundry and the dishes, you just need for the kid to spend even 15 minutes by themselves, playing with their toys and enjoying themselves while you handle other pressing needs. Well, this is the CD for you. This will capture your child's attention and help their brains grow as they learn that they can play and enjoy themselves alone, even without mommy present 24/7. As you know, anything that will help you with house-hold chores all the while keeping the kid from screaming is a welcome relief and huge stress reliever for the both of you. This CD you must have if you are expecting or have a child under 2 years old.
Mystic India — Various Artists
List Price: $13.98
You need a quick vacation? Old Mike has it here for you right now. Spending any amount of time in India will change anyone's life. Can't make it to the exotic wonders that India holds? Well this CD will give you a peek of India in all its mind-blowing glory.
But this collection does not contain just your run-of-the-mill Indian Bollywood music, no. This CD runs the gamut from incredibly relaxing ambient sounds to a more traditional flavor that will start your toes tappin'.
This CD is a mix of the old and the new all with the theme of India at its finest as a main point. You get true traditional Raga, Sitar, as well as Jazz music with a dash of Indian spice. A great collection for relaxing and letting your mind wander to places that you have, up until now, only dreamed about going to.
Currently extremely popular (among cool people) World music is a niche of Ambient music. This CD gives you a taste of the music of India as presented by both the traditional artists and also those who are not so traditional — a bit ambient — but still find the heart of India in their music. A fantastic trip into another world that will leave you wanting for more.
The Science Fiction Album, Vol. 1 — Various Artists
List Price: $24.98
This CD is cool for kids and record collectors. The jacket artwork is fantastic. I just wish they had more from 1950's—1960's Sci-Fi movie soundtracks on this disc. This one is very heavily weighted towards the Star Wars and Star Trek fans. And if you like that, then this is the cat's meow. For more serious and appealing music that covers a much wider spectrum — and will make a great Christmas present that's much more Cool & Strange, see the next CD.
Don't let that $42.98 price tag put you off, this is a 4 CD set that runs a full gamut of music from modern science fiction to great tunes from the 1950's. And much more. There are a total of 71 tracks in all! Now this one is going to go fast. This is the perfect time to do some early-bird Christmas shopping and pick up a Science Fiction CD that even the geekiest of the geeks will love. You'll love it too!
And while I'm giving the hard-sell, may I really embarrass myself by making my own shameless sales pitch to you? If you like my writing, perhaps you'd enjoy my book Schizophrenic in Japan. It's full of my cynical humor, political rantings, and other stories — some about raising kids — and if you buy one by clicking on the picture of my book below, LewRockwell.com gets a percentage of sales. Forgive me for being so forward about this, it's just that I have no publicist in the USA so I have to ask you good folks for help and to use the Internet and word of mouth to get my book going. So please buy my book, if you can. Thanks so very much.
Either way, I'd appreciate your comments on any of today's CD's (or my book) and I'm glad we could take this little trip through the wondrous world of Cool & Strange Music. Until next time, stay cool!
Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He has the distinction of being fired from every FM radio station in Tokyo — one of them three times. His first book, Schizophrenic in Japan, is now on sale.
Copyright © 2005 LewRockwell.com