Johnny Cash “Rock Island Line” (1971?)

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First discovery: The record in the sleeve is not the same as the album title! They are both Johnny Cash, but the sleeve says “I Walk the Line,” and the record is “Rock Island Line.” Alex actually just picked this record up at Platter World, which we just discovered as New Jersey residents and very sadly, it is in the process of closing its doors. However, that means that they records are going at amazing prices. So if you live in the area, I’m sharing the secret: go check out Platter World before it’s gone forever.

Okay, so I guess we’re listening to “Rock Island Line,” which is a compilation. There’s not good information about when it came out, but it was around the early 70’s, according to discogs.com. I love that this happened actually. It could only happen in a used record store! Let’s put it on! The first song is called “Rock Island Line.”

It appears to be a talking story type song about the rock island train line. Ohh and then he starts singing in the fast way that really makes you think you’re playing the record at the wrong speed!

The second song has a very sweet sounding guitar solo and it does make you want to get up and dance. The main verse is “get rhythm when you get the blues,” so you can tell it’s a dancing song already. If you were listening to this song played live at like a backyard club where everyone was sitting around tables and drinking wine, you would grab your sweetheart and go dance in front of the band. It would be hard not to.

I love how this music feels really simple, but then when you listen to it closely it doesn’t sound simple at all. Like you could play this with one guitar by a campfire, but Johnny Cash’s arrangements really have a lot going on. The third song is pretty sad with the line, “everybody’s baby but mine’s coming home.”

There appears to be a railroad theme with this album. This song is called “Hey Porter.” And the one before it was called “Train of Love.”

On to side two! The wikipedia page track listing is not in the same order as the track listing on my record. BTW. I know more of Johnny Cash’s big hits, so I’m really appreciating this album. Even though most of these songs are about trains, they’re really good. His voice and guitar are just intoxicating. It’s making me feel very calm. Especially “I Heard That Lonesome Whistle.”

Home of the Blues,” has really great lyrics. I’m especially loving this line: Just around the corner there’s heartaches down the street that losers use. If you can wade in through the teardrop, you’ll find me at the home of the blues.” Down the street that losers use is so good.

The album ends with the more upbeat “Wide Open Road,” which makes you want to get up and dance again, bringing us full circle! All in all I love this album! I’m glad it was this album in the sleeve by mistake, and will definitely listen to it again.

Alex Says: Garfield New Jersey is about a half-hour north of us. I didn’t know Platter World existed until I heard there was a record store nearby letting go of its inventory at fire sale prices. So I went up there.

I showed up right when it opened, and it was just me and three or four other guys crate digging. I could tell right away this was one of those “benign neglect” record stores, because it was records on top of records with records hung from the ceiling for decoration, and shelves that were literally crumbling and lashed together with twine to keep from falling apart.

The person who was manning the counter asked me how I heard about it, and I told her I heard online. She told me her dad, Charlie, had run the record store for something like 40 years. I told her it was my idea of heaven, to which she replied “keep coming back, we have about twice as much heaven in the back we’re slowly bringing out.” Periodically, a guy wearing a respirator mask would come out of the back with a sealed box of hundreds of records.

I mostly got disco singles, but I managed to find a couple of albums I was interested in - a Ray Charles record, the original broadcast of War of the Worlds, and this Johnny Cash record. A lot of them were pretty beat up - no sleeves, scratched up. This Cash record looked like it was in good shape, and it was. It’s not the right record, but after listening to a half hour of amazing train songs, that seems like a small oversight.

Cash Cows (1980)

Cash Cows is a Virgin records compilation put out in 1980. Well, it says “Rock 81” on the cover, but the copyright date is 1980. Maybe it’s like how the 2015 model cars are already out. Anyway, compilations are always a little harder to review than albums, because they’re not cohesive but, let’s embrace these cash cows and see what they got!

The first song is “Respectable Street” by XTC. This song starts really quiet, so I turned it way up, but when the song started I nearly blew out my eardrums. I kind of like when that happens though, as long as you’re not wearing headphones. I like this guys singing voice, there’s something kind of playful about this song, but it’s also a little harder sounding. I like it, I think I’d check out this album after hearing this song. Spoiler Alert: Alex says he thinks he has this album. What is life going to be like when I’m in the “X’s”?? Will we ever know?

The next song is super weird and definitely from the future it’s called “The Black Hit of Space,” by the Human League. It’s got a real attitude about it. The lyrics almost sound like slow rapping at times, and they’re just really having a fun time with all the spaced out intergalactical synthesizers sounds that they can make. Like I feel like they must have been really excited by the the sound of this song. Alex just said, “Can you imagine a major record label putting something like this out now?” Um, no. Never.

The next song “Sheba” by Mike Oldfield is in a language I don’t know. It might be Japanese. Alex just looked it up. They’re just vocalizations, not in any language. It has a very magical and slightly cheesy feel to it. But you want to embrace this song. You want to skip or do Prancercise to it

Also, don’t think I didn’t notice that Captain Beefheart is on this compilation. It’s the first thing I noticed. At least it isn’t a song from Trout Mask Replica.

I’m liking this punk song by The Ruts who Alex has never heard of, and I haven’t either (duh) It’s called “West One (Shine On Me)” Although I liked it more in the beginning, it kind of loses it’s soul halfway through and then all the sudden a super cheesy saxophone really ruins the whole thing! So I take it back, no thanks, The Ruts. That’s the thing with compilations, I feel like they can mess with you  sometimes.

The last song on side one by The Skids, has a unique sound to it that I’m liking. It’s really slow at point but then build into something great. I mean, a song that know how to build can really make you feel so good. LIke it can make your heart beat faster in anticipation, that’s a great feeling. This song is called “Arena.”

On to side two! The first song is called Permafrost from the band Magazine. I was kind of zoning out with no opinion but then he said “I will drug you and fuck you,” and I looked at Alex and he was all ewwww and I was like uh-huh. Alex said he likes this song other than the drug you and fuck you line, that it has a “sludgy synth,” but I was not feeling it.

The next song  is “Hands To Take,” by the Flying Lizards. I’m super into the singer. So far I like this song. I’m pretty sure the only other song I know by this band is “Money.” And I know that song from the Empire Records Soundtrack. Yeah, this song is good. It has a little bit of a Brian Eno feel to it. A little “Baby’s On Fire.”

Oh look who it is. The next song started and my eyes went wide and I immediately picked up the cover to see who it was, I bet you can guess! Alex was all, “did you miss him?” With a satisfying grin on his face. I will say this, at least Captain Beefheart gets a reaction out of me. It a way better feeling than feeling bored about a song. This song is called “Dirty Blue Gene,” and is from an album Alex doesn’t own so I’ve never heard it before, lucky me!  Actually though, I’m kind of into the guitar. I’m kind of liking it a bit. The mayhem is somehow working. My relationship with Captain Beefheart is so love/hate!

Ugh the next song is like some AC/DC crap, I definitely like the Beefheart song better. Way better. This song is called “Are You Sure,” by Gillan. Oh my god the cheesiness is making me roll my eyes so hard right now.

Following the AC/DC crap is a Bob Seger sounding guy named Kevin Coyne. First of all, it really does not follow that last song well at all. And it kind of sticks out on the whole album, it feels like they just didn’t know what to do with this guy so they threw him on this compilation. I wonder if compilations were a legitimate way for people to discover music in the 80s? This song just does not belong here! It’s called “Taking On the World.”

The last song is “Attack,” by Public Image Limited, which Alex just told me was Johnny Rotten’s band after the Sex Pistols. I’m into it. It’s raw and genuine feeling a good way to end this pretty blah album.

And that’s it! Even though there were a few songs I liked on this compilation, I really don’t think I’m ever going to put it on again. Alex says he liked it A LOT and would definitely play it again, but I seriously doubt that ever happening.  I’m officially calling it a dud.

The Cars “Shake It Up” (1981)

This Cars cover doesn’t have a car on it! But it does have another blonde woman. Is it the same woman every time? I can’t tell. This is the last Cars album in Alex’s collection, so let’s put it on!

Oh I like where this first song is going, “Since You’re Gone,” it manages to sound upbeat and kind of melancholy at the same time. Is this song ever in a John Hughes movie? Because it sounds like it should be, it just has a teenage feel to it. This song is really sweet, and kind of sad I’m really liking it, and I’m swaying back and forth as I type. This should definitely be included on any heartbreak mixtape.

The second song, “Shake it Up,” is really having fun with the synthesizer and has a pretty sick guitar solo. I’m liking how pop-y these songs are so far.

Wow, the beginning of “I’m Not the One,” kind of sounds like a song from the early 2000s. Like it could be a Postal Service song maybe? This song is interesting. I’m not sure if I like his voice when he’s singing kind of slow, and the synthesizer is a little cheesy. It kind of sounds like a trumpet announcing something. Like a royal announcement of some sort. I don’t hate it though, but I’m definitely into the more upbeat Cars sound, I think.

“I’m Not The One,” and “Victim of Love,” felt like a little break before getting back to the sound that I really like from these guys with “Cruiser.” It has a little bit of a Devo sound to me - Ric Ocasek is singing a bit like Mark Mothersbaugh! - but it still sounds like The Cars. I like how it’s kind of forceful and then there’s the awesome breakdown part where they all sing, “cru-use-er.” Yeah, it’s kind of reminding me of “Gut Feeling” a little bit.

So far I think “Cruiser” is my second favorite song, after “Since You’re Gone,” and then “Shake It Up.” On to side two!

I’m noticing that so far this album isn’t doing that thing where songs run into each other, like the last two albums did. Side two is on the slower side again so far with “A Dream Away,” and “This Could Be Love,” both have a dreamy almost David Bowie feel to me. I’m liking the level of soulfulness that they put into this album. Sure there’s synthesizers and stuff, but it sounds very human. Whenever they harmonize vocals I’m always way into it.

Wait, hold up, don’t take those dance shoes off yet, “Think It Over,” is next! Oh my god, I want to do aerobics to this song so bad!

And just when I thought this album wouldn’t have it, “Think It Over” runs right into the last song, “Maybe Baby,” which kind of has a wild west feel to it a little bit. LOL. I’m smiling as I typed that, but that’s where my brain went.

Overall I liked this album a lot more than Candy-O but their debut album will always be my fave. Also, The Cars are a pretty cool band.

The Cars “Candy-O” (1979)

Okay, I’m not too into the boring sexy woman on a car cover for this album, but I am into Greg Hawkes looking like a confused lady who ended up in this picture just because she happened to be wearing a red blazer.

Let’s start. This first song, “Let’s Go,” isn’t offending me, but it’s a little boring. It sounds like there are other songs out there that sound just like it and are cultural touchstones that I’m more familiar with. Like with the hand claps in this song, I can’t help but think of “Mickey.”

The first few notes of “Since I Held You” had me feeling like we were about to go into ballad territory. But it ended up sounding more like a typical Cars song after those first few notes, which I’m pretty sure is a good thing.

I’m enjoying the melody of “It’s All I Can Do,” and the pretty synthesizer. Alex said that this song is good because it sounds like The Magnetic Fields, if The Magnetic Fields weren’t so annoying. I have to say I agree with him.

Oh! “Double Life" has a strange ending that fades straight into the future space music and echo effects of "Shoo Be Doo." I really liked "Double Life," following "It’s All I Can Do," with similar sweet and simple melodies. But "Shoo Be Doo," is coming out of no where! It sounds totally different. feel like if I had been listening to this cd on my disc man for the first time as a kid, I would have been so surprised and excited by a song like, "Shoo Be Doo." It makes you pick up the cover and look and the track listing and go, wait, what just happened?

Alright, on to side two! I really like the sound of the title of the first song, “Nightspots.” You have to say the words fast next to each other since there’s no space. It’s sounds mysterious and intriguing. Nightspots. So, the feeling I’m getting about this album is that it did not have the serious knock out hit power that their first album did. It’s still good, there just don’t seem to be any top 40 type songs that the whole world is going to love. I think this works as an album, it’s just that the individual songs are a little more forgettable. My bottom line is, the next time I feel like listening to The Cars, I’m most likely going to want to put on their first album. Maybe, not, because I do like this album, but probably.

I think this album really ends with a bang with “The Dangerous Type.” It’s just got a good beat to it that makes you want to move your butt.

PS- So this review was pretty epic in the life of this blog because it was the last album on the first shelf! I have listened to and written about ALL OF THESE RECORDS!

Just seven more to go before we address the boxes and piles of records that did not fit on this shelf and are in our basement! (I’m making the scared grin imogi face right now.)

The Cars S/T (1978)

So, no one guessed what band was going to be next in the comments, which was surprising to me! Guess what, it’s The Cars! I definitely know most of these songs, because it looks like a lot of them were big hits. I’m pretty sure I’ve never listened to this album, or if I have, I didn’t realize I was listening to it.

I’m digging the liner notes which include a photo of each member of the band and lyrics. I’m trying to decide who I think is cutest. At first I was going to say David Robinson, but I think I’m going to have to go for way sadder looking Benjamin Orr. Look at that pout! I can’t resist!

Alright, let’s put it on!

Good Times Roll,” is surprisingly slow and while I like the power punching chorus where everyone says “good times role!” it’s not doing much for me emotionally.

But with “My Best Friend’s Girl,” the second song on the album, a song which I have heard a million times - with that first guitar riff before he even starts singing, you just know you it’s gonna go big. There’s something exciting about it. I like how the whole band seems to harmonize on the chorus of each song. It gives this band kind of a sweet, friendship feel, like a barbershop quartet or something. Also, the subject matter of this song is perfect. I just connect the most with songs about love rather than songs about good times and how they roll.

Ok, so I’m pretty sure “Just What I Needed,” which is next is the pièce de résistance of this album. Right? I love this song so much and every time I hear it it always reminds me of Weezer and then makes me want to listen to Weezer. When I said that to Alex, like a year ago, he was like, “The lead singer of The Cars produced The Blue Album!” That made me feel so cool. Like, I totally get their sound.

The next song, “I'm In Touch With Your World,” is the first one on this album I’ve never heard before. It’s also on the slow side, and I’m probably enjoying it as much as “Good Times Roll,” it’s a little “meh.” Apparently Alex knows all the words though, because he is singing along. It’s reminding me of Adam Ant a little bit.

I’m liking “Don’t Cha Stop,” I think it would actually be a great dance song. I’m surprised I haven’t heard it on the dance floor more often. This band definitely excels at writing uptempo songs.

Alex just said: “Oh man, this album is so good. The guitar is so wicked,” quietly to himself.

Side two! “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight,” starts with a little heavier almost punk feel, but then a synthesizer and harmonized vocals come in, and don’t worry, we’re back to new wave. I’m definitely feeling the drums and “wicked” sounding guitar in this song. It sounds like it would be fun to be in this band. This song has a pretty long guitar solo in it which is really good. I like this song because it feels a little more complex than their real pop hits, but it’s still pretty accessible.

"You’re All I’ve Got Tonight" sort of flows right into the next song, "Bye Bye Love." You can tell that side two definitely is definitely sequenced for a different vibe than side one. I might even like it a little more because these songs sound fresh and new and also like they’re not just meant to be radio hits. Not to knock their radio hits, because they’re good, but these songs feel more complex.

The last song, “All Mixed Up,” feels like a real grande finale with a surprisingly melancholy feel. So different from “Just What I Needed,” but I’m still enjoying it. It feels more like it’s trying to tell a story with the music. This song barely sounds new wave to me. It’s almost reminding me of Fleetwood Mac with the vocals and vaguely medieval romantic sound.

And that’s the end! This was a fun listen, super pop hits on side one and more deep sounding stuff on side two. I’d definitely listen to this again and recommend listening to it as an entire album, especially side two. Those songs were meant to be played in that order.

Wendy Carlos (released as Walter Carlos) “Clockwork Orange Soundtrack”

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Today is the final Wendy Carlos review with the Clockwork Orange soundtrack! Whenever I think about Clockwork Orange I think about how it took my high school boyfriend and I three tries to actually watch the entire thing. Twice - not just once, but twice - his dad happened to walk in at the worst possible violent sex scenes and made us turn it off. It was so embarrassing. And while he would try to argue with his father that we were watching a critically acclaimed film by a highly acclaimed artistic director, I’m pretty sure I remember feeling a little bit relieved. But also SUPER embarrassed. Stanley Kubrick films have always felt like a dudes club to me. I don’t like any of them, (except for maybe Lolita, but I like the book much better) but tried watching pretty much all of them because I was curious about their place in cinematic history. And I was usually dating a guy who loved them. The fact that all of his movies are male-centric and lacking in strong female characters is not unusual in film, but I think that has something to do with it.

But, I’m going to put all of that aside while I listen to this soundtrack and treat it more as a Wendy Carlos album. And make sure you close the gatefold if your parents walk into the room, or you’re going to be super embarrassed.

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The first thing I’m noticing about the track listing is that Rachel Elkind is listed as composer next to Carlos’ name for each song. And not all of these songs are by Wendy Carlos, there’s a lot of Beethoven on here and other composers I’ve never heard of.

The first song though, “Title Music from A Clockwork Orange,” is composed by Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind. It is very dramatic and building. It’s the kind of music you could slowly climb a mountain to.

Ah! The second song we have all heard before! I just didn’t know the name, and maybe you didn’t either? It’s “The Thieving Magpie” by Gioacchino Rossini. Doesn’t this song just make you want to put on toe shoes and a tu-tu? That’s what it makes me want to do at first. But then the way it builds makes you think that they’re probably running around and doing something terrible to this music in the movie. I like when contemporary movies contrast scenes of violence with non-contemporary music. I think it can work very well. Ah yes, here we are, “Alex putting his droogs in place,” if you’re interested.

Following another Wendy Carlos “Theme from Clockwork Orange,” is Beethoven’s “9th symphony, Second Movement- Abridged,” another extremely famous song. Writing about listening to classical music for this blog feels harder than writing about listening to rock. I was about to say because the songs are so much longer, but the 9th Symphony is only 3 minutes and 48 seconds, so that’s not the reason. So far though, I think this would be a good album to put on when you’re in the mood for classical music. It feels like a nice album to cook and eat dinner to. Which is funny since I wouldn’t call A Clockwork Orange a nice movie to eat dinner to.

Listening to this album is honestly kind of making me want to watch this movie again, since I haven’t watched it since high school. I’m very surprised that I’m feeling this way!

The song following Beethoven’s 9th Symphony is “March from A Clockwork Orange (Ninth Symphony, Fourth Movement- Abridged)” by Wendy Carlos, and I’m really enjoying it. It has some robot sounding vocals and is pretty uplifting and joyous. The vocals were surprising at first, but now I’m really into them.

On to side two, with “Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1” Besides “The Wedding March,” I can’t think of any other song where you really can only think of one thing when you hear it. This is the graduation song! But I’m going to try and listen to it as if I don’t know it as the graduation song. I think when I try to listen to it differently, the most noticeable thing for me is the drums. They really give this song a kick. Oh! There’s a second verse! And it just sounds like a jaunty, romantic march! It’s very pretty, but definitely not the kind of music you would get your diploma handed to you with. But then….we’re back to the main theme. It kind of makes you want to wave your arms in the air back and forth like you’re listening to a Boys II Men song.

Following “Pomp and Circumstance” is Wendy Carlos’ “Timesteps.” Maybe this is the song you graduate to if you live in outer space. Probably is.

All of a sudden the soundtrack takes a sharp turn - “I Want to Marry A Lighthouse Keeper.” I know it’s a soundtrack, but it just doesn’t fit! It’s only about a minute long, but it’s a very inappropriate minute.

Now, back to a song with the word “overture” in it with “William Tell Overture- Abridged.”

And then we end with “Singin’ in the Rain,” which, is a lovely song, but does feel a little out of place again. But not as much as “I Want to Marry A Lighthouse Keeper,” because this song is much, much better.

Thus concludes my brief education in Wendy Carlos! My opinion has remained the same from when I heard those first couple of notes of the Tron soundtrack and saw her picture with a cat on her shoulder: I am a Wendy Carlos fan and will definitely revisit these albums in the future. But for now, it feels good to move on to a new artist. Any guesses for what is next? Let me know in the comments. And I’ll let you know if I end up watching A Clockwork Orange tonight when Alex get’s home. Of course he owns the dvd. He owns the entire Stanley Kubrick Collection boxed set. (So cliche.)

UPDATE: I just found out that The Big Chill is streaming on Netflix. I am SO watching that instead.

Wendy Carlos (released as Walter Carlos) “The Well-Tempered Synthesizer” (1969)

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This record has a few essays on the back cover, starting with an essay by Rachel Elkind, who has the title of “producer,” but who Wendy Carlos describes on her website, as a silent and creative partner with Carlos.   Rachel writes: “Something went wrong. ‘Switched-On Bach’ was meant to be an artistic experiment, a learning and testing vehicle, an example of a contemporary composer trying to find himself- not the marked commercial success it has so clearly become.”

Thomas Frost, the music director of Columbia Masterworks also writes, “Young people everywhere-college students, teenagers- many of whom ordinarily buy nothing but Rock and Folk, passed the word that here was a record with a new contemporary sound.” I just love that part about buying nothing but rock and folk music. I just watched The Source Family documentary that is streaming on Netflix right now, and am feeling pretty fascinated with the teenagers of the late 60’s and early 70s. I can’t believe there were runaway 12 year old girls living in the Source Family, most likely only buying rock and folk music. It’s a good documentary, but spoiler alert - by the end you will hate “Father Yod” or whatever the hell his name is. At least I did. 12 year old girls have a lot to do with it.

The record sleeve also has this awesome list “Here’s How Records Give You More of What You Want.” I particularly like #4 and #8.

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Okay, lets listen to some more Wendy Carlos, shall we?

The first song, “Monteverdi: ‘Orfeo’ Suite,” sounds like something that should be played when astronauts graduate from astronaut training. It is very regal and feels celebratory yet serious, and of course the synthesizer makes it feel super space aged. Let’s not forget Bach flying through space with his Moog synthesizer on the last Wendy Carlos cover!

This might also work if two astronauts were marrying each other. It could be played at their wedding ceremony, right before the ceremony was about to begin.

The next songs, “Sonata in E Major and D Major,” have me picturing a classic ensemble scene for a space aged ballet. You know, your typical space aged village with some children running around playing games and pantomiming whispers into each others’ ears. A group of young men show of their brawn on one side of the stage and a group of young women giggling behind ornate fans on the other. But all with an outer space/ tomorrowland twist. I would go see that ballet.

Not really knowing that much about synthesizers, even though Alex loves them, I’m having a hard time picturing how this music would look performed live. Is it all played by Wendy at different times, or the same time, or different people on different synthesizers? Alex and I just had a conversation about it where he drew this diagram to help explain. Alex likes to draw it out when he’s explaining stuff. It usually helps. (The computer part on the bottom is a MIDI, which was not invented yet in 1969. The half completed heart shaped spacecraft in the middle is a doodle.)

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So, I get that if this was done live, there’d have to be a bunch of people on different synthesizers. But the way Wendy did it was by herself with one crazy looking synthesizers with a bunch of wires, and recorded each part separately before putting it all together. Pretty amazing.

I think Wendy tries to explain it in her essay on the back cover but I still wouldn’t have gotten it without Alex’s diagram, and also, still don’t totally get what she’s talking about. Here’s an excerpt:

The four Scarlatti Sonatas are quite different from anything I have done. Since they consist of two-part counterpoint with rarely more than three or four voices, I thought a straight performance of one color different or related, on each voice might not be particularly effective musically. So I tried to fragment each part among many colors, quasi-pointillistically, but with an over-all integral ‘feeling’ of the various phrasings and voice leadings.

Either way, it mainly sounds like enjoyable classical music, good for when you’re in the mood for classical music, with a little bit of a space aged feel. The synthesizer makes this very old music feel modern, and yet it also dates it. It kind of sounds like it wouldn’t be out of place in the 70’s or 80’s. It’s an interesting thing to listen to in 2014, especially on vinyl, because “remember… it always happens first on records!” (I’m referring to the fabulous liner notes list here.)

PS- I lovely reader made me aware of the fact that I made a mistake in my last post in crediting Ned Washington with writing the Disney Electric Light Parade music. It was actually Gershon Kingsley. Who, with a quick google search I’m seeing wrote the Popcorn song! Oh man, music is wonderful! And so is the internet!

Thank you Dan from Doom Dong for letting me know! Here’s the email he sent me:

Dear Sarah,

I’m a big fan of the blog! I’d like to offer you a correction for your record review of Wendy Carlos - Switched on Bach II. You refer to the Disney’s Main Street Electrical Parade song, one of my favorites. However, I feel obligated to point out that the main motif of the song was NOT written by Ned Washington, but rather by Gershon Kingsley (his original version, often credited along with Jean-Jaques Perrey, is titled “Baroque Hoedown”). Ned Washington is listed as a writer because he co-wrote “When You Wish Upon a Star,” which, I’m sure you know, is one of the song’s medley parts.

Wendy Carlos (released as Walter Carlos) “Switched on Bach II” (1973)

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Based on my reading about Wendy Carlos, I know that the original Switched On Bach made her famous. Alex doesn’t have the first one, so I guess I’ll have to settle for the sequel! Such is the way of the Stupid Record Collection project. I must obey the shelf! I still have high hopes for this one though, I feel like it’s going to be weird and nerdy in a great way.

There is a long essay on the back cover by Robert A. Moog or as Alex just said excitedly, Bob Moog! I do recognize the moog name- he’s the inventor of the Moog Synthesizer!

Let’s put it on!

I have to say that I’m not sure if I would have been able to tell that this is electronic music if I hadn’t known. Sure, it sounds a little electronic, but when I listen I’m picturing gold plated harpsichords instead of Moog synthesizers. It’s not like she has added a theremin or weird outer space effects. It’s just got that fat synthesizer sound sometimes.

Oh! The first song is reminding me of the old Disney electric light parade music. That parade was SO AMAZING.

Moving on. This is really relaxing and I could totally picture Bach floating in space, enjoying his music being pumped into his space suit. Side note: This is definitely one of the best album covers that I have come across so far. I especially like how you can see Earth in the background. Home sweet home to this crazy work of art.

As someone who is not well versed in classical music, but does like to listen to the Glenn Gould Goldberg Variations sometimes, I think this is pretty great. 

On to side two. I’m going from thinking Moog Bach is just as good Piano Bach, to thinking maybe I’ve had enough of they synthesizer. But side two starts out really great with “Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 In D Major, BWV 1050.” it feels like it could be in a Wes Anderson soundtrack. There’s something very playful and joyful about it, which is Bach’s doing, but I think the synthesizer does a great job of bringing that feeling out. Side two is turning out to be really good.

There’s an interview that Wendy did when the re-released box set of Switched on Bach came out on CD on her website. At one point she says, “Oh, oh! The gray cat’s dry heaving a hairball. Just a minute. Subi’s okay, but he’s eighteen years old, so I have to watch him.” And Subi is linked to this picture:

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I said it before, and I’ll say it again, Wendy Carlos has the best website filled with hours of entertainment. Read it while you’re listening to Switched on Bach II, and you’ll have the best Monday night ever! I promise.

PS- Also listen to the Disney Main Street Electrical Parade, by Gershon Kingsley (his original version, often credited along with Jean-Jaques Perrey, is titled “Baroque Hoedown”)

BRB

Hey guys, I’m on vacation this week visiting family in Michigan and California, so that means I’ll be away from the record collection. But if you’re looking for something to read, check out the review I wrote for Amanda Petrusich’s great new book, Do Not Sell At Any Price The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records for Slate.

The book is really good and I think anyone who reads this blog would love it. Also, they asked me to write a little about my blog in the review too, so if you read this blog might also enjoy reading the review.

II’ll be back in a week!

xo

Tron Soundtrack music by Wendy Carlos (1982)

The Tron Score was written by a woman! Wendy Carlos. I just said, this was a Disney movie? I’m surprised I never saw it! But I don’t think they ever played it on the Disney Channel in the 90s, I wonder why? So, pretty cool that the score is written by a woman, especially since this is a sci-fi movie. Let’s put this one. I’m hoping for futuristic sounds in a totally 80’s way.

It starts with some very majestic singing along with majestic synthesizers so, yay! Oh, but then it goes straight into one of two Journey songs that are inexplicably on this album. The front cover says, “Contains Journey’s new ‘Only Solutions.’” Well this has a pretty and soft rock feel to it, but his voice is almost too cheesy. It’s border line Brian Johnson, and we all know how I feel about him. But I like the angelic chorus of “only solutions.” It’s really so 80s though. I’m picturing tube socks, short shorts and sweat band head bands. Actually I’m picturing Josh Brolin from the Goonies. He would like this song.

And now we’re back to some serious soundtrack vibes. It’s kind of a strange mixture of modern classical with a synthesizer suddenly thrown in. Even though this music really doesn’t have a melody, I’m very much feeling it, and think I would enjoy watching a modern dance performance choreographed to this music.

I kind of wish I was listening to this in a big cabin in the country side while there was a thunderstorm going on. I wonder why I have such a high tolerance for this formless modern masterpiece and such low tolerance for Captain Beefheart’s version of a formless modern masterpiece? Is it the lack of vocals? Classical instruments? My ability to picture someone dancing to this music? Because it was written by a woman?

Oh my god, this is the first image that comes up when I Googled Wendy Carlos. I love her already.

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Wow, she also wrote the score for A Clockwork Orange and the Shining. I just told Alex and he said, “I have no comment on that.” And I said, “Why?” and he didn’t say anything. So then I said, “why no comment?” And he finally said, “because you may or may not be reviewing one of them in the future.” Of course.

Ok wait a minute. I just asked Alex, “Did you know it was the same person?” Meaning that scored those soundtracks as Tron, and he said “Walter?” And I said, “What?” And he said, “That Wendy Carlos used to be Walter Carlos, he had gender re-assignment surgery.” Wow! She also has a pretty awesome website. Please make sure to check out the “fuzzy critters" section. I’m going to look at it in more detail later though because I don’t want to miss this beautiful yet mysterious music. God, why is that Journey song even on this album? It is so beneath Wendy Carlos.

Ugh the last song on side one is also by Journey, but it’s called “1990’s theme” which is pretty awesome.

On to side two. While I’m very much enjoying this album, it is not making me want to watch the movie. I’m fine with just being familiar with the score. Is that weird? I’m just not interested in the movie, I’m interested in Wendy Carlos and her music. The writing about September 11th on her website is worth checking out too. Alex is shocked that I’m not trying to picture the movie while watching this, but it just feels like modern experimental classical music that doesn’t need to be associated with a film.

There is definitely a magical feeling to this music, especially towards what I think is the end of side two. (The track listing is only on the record itself) It’s reminding me of the Edward Scissorhands soundtrack a little bit. I like to listen to the Edward Scissohands Pandora station sometimes, and this song, would totally fit in there. Ah! What a powerful ending! I would totally see a live performance of the Tron Soundrtack in a second! Just as long as the left out the two Journey songs. Wendy Carlos, you have a new fan. The album isn’t on YouTube, but you can listen it on Spotify here.

Alex Says: When I was a kid there was a video arcade in Ann Arbor called “The Great Escape.” Once a month, my parents would take me and my older brother to the arcade and give us each two dollars and fifty cents to run around and spend on games. There were some games that I was drawn to because of gameplay (Joust, Mario Bros.) and some that I was drawn to because of graphics (Journey, SunsetRiders) but the Tron video game was the complete package.

First of all, look at the fucking cabinet! The joystick was clear plastic and lit up. The front panel had a black light in it, and the whole thing emitted this weird, eerie glow that no other games in the arcade had.

Second, it wasn’t just like Pac Man or Galaga, where you just kept playing different permutations of the same game over and over again until you died. It was four games in one! There were the light cycles, the tanks, the spiders, and the MCP cone.

Lastly, the game had very little music to speak of, but what it had was just bleepy low-res snippets from Wendy Carlos’s score.

I was too young to see the movie in the theater, but I remember watching it on video, and being kind of bored. It’s actually a weirdly heady movie, with a lot of the dialog about how computer programs believe (or don’t believe) in the world outside of computers, and there are a bunch of weird religious allegories, and a computer pope. It looked cool, but I was always kinda bored by it.

But man, that soundtrack! Years after seeing it, it stuck with me. And when I started collecting records, it was one that I was always on the lookout for. The album was, for a long time, not available on CD, so if I was ever going to hear it again, I was going to hear it on vinyl.

I can’t remember for sure, but I think that it was one of my first purchases on eBay. There was a moment there, when eBay first came out, that it was my favorite record store.