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 Spotify Wormhole
Author: breno 
Date:   06-16-17 10:04

It's a fairly slow Friday at work today, so I'm going to try a variation on the Wiki Wormhole feature from The AV Club. I'm starting by putting Spotify on shuffle, and choosing the first random band that comes up on one of my playlists. I will then listen to an album of theirs, then choose an artist from that band's "Related Artists" page for where to proceed next. Maybe I'll discover a buried treasure along the way.

So I'm setting my 1800 Songs from the 80s playlist on Shuffle and up comes "Ch-Ch-Cherie" by the Johnny Average Band. So let's check out their album!

From what I know of the Johnny Average Band, they were a bunch of session musicians who did a lot of work for Bearsville and in 1980 decided to try their hand at the ol' New Wave/Power Pop. "Ch-Ch-Cherie" is the only song of theirs I'm at all familiar with going in, but it's a swell little number that Josie Cottoned a couple of years before Josie Cotton did. Hopefully the rest of the album will be as good.

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 Re: Spotify Wormhole - Johnny Average Band
Author: breno 
Date:   06-16-17 10:31

Some People by the Johnny Average Band (1980)

Well, no. Nothing else as good as "Ch-Ch-Cherie." The female vocalist on that song is relegated to mostly backing vocals on the rest of the album and the lion's share of lead vocals are handled by a generic slab of bar band beef. Whoever he is, he ain't a terrible singer, but there's nothing particularly distinctive about him, either.

There's also not a lot the New Wave stylings of "Cherie" in attendance. A couple of huffy puffy standard sub-Springsteen issue bar band workouts, several odd but kind of charming attempts at reggae, and a few anonymous power pop numbers.

The only other New Wave leaning number is the herky-jerky "Public Image," which sounds like something Johnny Slash's band might've played on Square Pegs. I guess it's their attempt at a DEVO number? It's mildly fun, but definitely plays like a "New Wave" song that might've turned up on a sitcom written by people who didn't really understand New Wave. (Kind of like any time "punks" showed up on Bosom Buddies.)

"Ch-Ch-Cherie" is so clearly the standout that it sticks out like a sore thumb. It doesn't even feel like the same band as what recorded the rest of the album. They were clearly throwing things at the wall to see what stuck, and were fortunate enough to end up with at least one appetizing pasta noodle stuck to the wallpaper.

Anyhow, the Johnny Average Band were well named. One great little gem, a couple other mildly diverting moments, and a bunch of inoffensive but decidedly not special hunks of beef jerky. Not the worst thing I've ever heard, but far from the best. Happy to have "Ch-Ch-Cherie" on my 80s playlist, and it's not inconceivable that I might give "Public Image" another listen someday. But that's about it.

I see that American Flyer is on their Related Artists page - that was Doug Yule's post-Velvets band. I'm kind of curious what the relation might be (was Yule in Johnny Average? I don't think so, but maybe one of his AF bandmates was), but I think I'd rather go with something I'm completely unfamiliar with.

Let's see what Libby Titus is all about. The name seems vaguely familiar but her sole album on Spotify is a self-titled 1977 release featuring what I assume to be Miss Titus with a glorious 70s white girl afro.

Post Edited (06-16-17 10:33)

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 Re: Spotify Wormhole - Libby Titus
Author: breno 
Date:   06-16-17 11:02

Libby Titus - Libby Titus (1977)

A fairly soporific bland (ha! I meant "blend" but I guess that was a Freudian typo) of Laura Nyro and Carly Simon. I guess it's good enough for what it is, but what it is is not something I spend much time listening to.

Titus resides in the same general neighborhood as Nyro, Joni Mitchell and Rickie Lee Jones, but lacks any of the quirks and idiosyncrasies that makes the best work of those women fascinating. Carly Simon is probably the closest comparison. Competent, well-intentioned, undeniably talented, but undeniably content to only be those things. She doesn't seem the least bit interested in doing anything weird like Nyro, Mitchell or Jones would push themselves to do. (We won't even bring Kate Bush into the conversation.)

The most memorable song here is "Miss Otis Regrets," but that's only because I already know the song. Kirsty MacColl made that song one of many highlights in a career full of them. Titus makes it sound like "Anticipation."

Anyhow, I hope her Related Artists page coughs up more interesting people. I can't stand the idea of this exercise getting stranded in bland 70s singer-songwriterdom.

Aha! Jackie DeShannon! Someone I don't actually know near enough about. Plus, of all the people on the Related Artists page, I think she offers the best path into something completely unrelated to the Libby Titus album.

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 Re: Spotify Wormhole - Johnny Average Band
Author: Michael Toland 
Date:   06-16-17 11:11

"I see that American Flyer is on their Related Artists page - that was Doug Yule's post-Velvets band. I'm kind of curious what the relation might be (was Yule in Johnny Average? I don't think so, but maybe one of his AF bandmates was), but I think I'd rather go with something I'm completely unfamiliar with."

This was Yule's *cough* supergroup with Craig Fuller from Pure Prairie League and songwriter Eric Kaz. I bought this album out of a bargain bin a good 30 or so years ago, when I was still transitioning from AOR to TP-style stuff. It's as bland as bland can be. So inoffensive it's somehow offensive. Makes Crosby, Stills & Nash sound like Husker Du. You're wise to avoid it.

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 Re: Spotify Wormhole - Jackie DeShannon
Author: breno 
Date:   06-16-17 11:48

New Image - Jackie DeShannon (1967)

Well, this is just swell. A dandy singer doing that Bacharach combination of 60s pop and lounge music and doing it flawlessly. No surprises, just goodness. Best of the lot is "Where Does the Sun Go?" which not coincidentally appears to be the only solo DeShannon composition on this particular album. Not much to say about it, really, beyond it's good.

The Related Artists page throws out a bunch of 60s Brits, most of whom I'm already fairly familiar with.

But there's Bobbie Gentry! I really know little about her beyond "Ode to Billie Joe," but she's apparently regarded as a bit of a badass who had a promising career until she married a rich man and said screw this working shit (my information here may be incredibly inaccurate). Plus, her photo on the Related Artists page is cropped in such a way to focus on her alluring torso, and never let it be said that I'm not a pig. So Bobbie it is!

Let's check out Fancy from 1970, which I remember seeing once on a list of the all time great Country-Soul hybrids.

Post Edited (06-16-17 11:52)

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 Re: Spotify Wormhole - Jackie DeShannon
Author: Michael Toland 
Date:   06-16-17 11:55

I've been meaning to check her out myself. I know a lot of folks outside of the usual country/Americana realm who rate her highly, so there's gotta be something there beyond one-hit-wonder status.

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 Re: Spotify Wormhole - Bobbie Gentry
Author: breno 
Date:   06-16-17 12:17

Fancy - Bobbie Gentry (1970)

First off, this album may contain the best ever version of "I'll Never Fall In Love Again." Gentry's vocals on the song are so wounded that I'm pretty sure listening to this physically bruised my heart. Sorry, Dionne, Elvis C., and everyone else who ever recorded this song. Bobbie kicked your asses.

It's especially striking, since on the rest of the album Gentry's vocals make it clear that she knows she's out of the league of everyone listening and that the thought of her giving a damn about what anyone else says or thinks is pretty laughable to her. Pretty sure that the reason she prematurely retired has to be that she just got sick of suffering fools of any sort and said screw it.

Conversely, she somehow makes "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" more trite and sappy than the well known version. It's way too jaunty - it completely misplaces any sort of melancholy undertone needed to give the song any little bit of bite. Yes, the lyrics are all about keeping your chin up and not letting things get you down, but there needs to feel like there's some possibility that you can be defeated for the optimism to have any resonance. Given how raw her version of "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" is, it's weird that Gentry seems to completely miss the point of "Raindrops."

And since Laura Nyro came up earlier, now Gentry's doing a pretty frisky take on "Wedding Bell Blues." If my name was Bill, I'd be at the altar in a heartbeat.

As far as Country-Soul goes, I think Country only enters into the description for this album because Gentry had already been slotted as a Country singer. Otherwise, there's not a whole lot of twangin' involved, just some Dusty Springfield soul.

Bottom line, this is a really good album by an excellent vocalist. Gentry was a hell of a lot more than "Ode to Billie Joe," but her premature exit from the music business left that song as her most lasting legacy. She should be remembered for a lot more than that.

Related Artists - Lee Hazlewood jumps out immediately. He's still got a lot of stuff I've never managed to check out.

Post Edited (06-16-17 12:19)

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 Re: Spotify Wormhole - Bobbie Gentry
Author: Michael Toland 
Date:   06-16-17 13:26

I know very little about Gentry. Her Wikipedia page is certainly interesting. I'm gonna have to check her work out.

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 Re: Spotify Wormhole - eh, I got bored
Author: breno 
Date:   06-16-17 15:56

Thread suspended due to coming back from lunch and having lost all interest in the exercise.

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