19 days of songs from the ‘90s: Days 3 and 4

Weekend Dance Party Two-fer!

aolcrucFor a brief time in the very early ‘90s, my pal JB and I frequented the downtown Atlanta dance club Velvet. The songs “Crucified” by Army of Lovers and “Been Caught Stealing” by Jane’s Addiction were in HEAVY rotation at the club; I think we heard them pretty much every night we were there. On one of our visits, we partied with Ellen DeGeneres. And by “partied” I mean we were drinking and dancing and she was drinking and dancing nearby, and we never spoke or anything, but we’re best friends now, I swear! (And guys, not to speak out of turn, but she had her arm around another lady!)



19 days of songs from the ‘90s: Day 2

Celebrating the last truly great decade for pop music.
A pox on your aughts!

IMG_20160729_093949One of the great joys of shopping in a record store is being turned on to a new album that the staff is playing. I’ve heard so many great records for the first time that way, and having worked in many a record store myself, I know I’ve turned others on to new music as well. I first heard “What Makes It Go?” by the Swedish band Komeda, in Tower Records in the Around Lenox Shopping Center in Atlanta. (One of the last Towers to open, it was only there for a few years before the whole chain went kablooey.) It’s not the deepest album of the ‘90s by any means, but it’s insanely catchy and fun—check out the track at the link below—and the point is there’s a good chance I might not have heard it any other way. And that unique opportunity for discovery is being lost now, thanks to those damn millennials and their smart phones and their streaming! (Now if you need me, I’ll be mall-walking in my Velcro-strapped sneakers with my thermos full of Ensure.)

19 days of songs from the ‘90s: Day 1

Celebrating the last truly great decade for pop music.
A pox on your aughts!

IMG_20160728_111257I read this morning that Mary J. Blige’s debut album “What’s the 411?” was released on this date in 1992. I got the opportunity to see her perform live in the mid-‘90s in Atlanta and report on the performance for Rolling Stone magazine as part of a “50 Shows in 50 States” special issue, for which a writer from each state covered a different summer concert. It was my first article for a national magazine and I was super excited, until I got the issue and discovered that a great majority of the 50 of us wrote in a strikingly similar style, as if we were all cribbing from the same concert review template. It was a bummer to find out that, in this case at least, my journalistic voice was so generic. Mary’s voice though? One of a kind.
Mary J. Blige — “Real Love”

Taking a Chance on Love & Hate

Michael Kiwanuka gambles big on his sophomore album, with winning results

mklove.jpgBritish singer-songwriter Michael Kiwanuka’s 2012 full-length debut “Home Again” was a lovely, low-key effort loaded with potential and shot through with mellow soul. Clearly though, no one is going to label his sophomore album “Love & Hate” low-key. Produced by habitual risk-taker Danger Mouse, the album makes its ambitions evident on the opening track, the 10-minute orchestrated stunner “Cold Little Heart.” (More risky business: Kiwanuka doesn’t start singing until five minutes in.) Strings and lush backing vocals colour many of the songs, bringing to mind “Hot Buttered Soul”-era Isaac Hayes. Thematically, Kiwanuka is tackling bigger, thornier issues here. He bluntly addresses the issue of race on “Black Man in a White World” and wrestles with self-doubt and his place in the world on tracks such as the slow-build, psychedelic opus “Father’s Child.” As on “Home Again,” the groove is languorous throughout, and it might be nice to get a bump or two in the beats-per-minute next time around. But here the unhurried pace is unifying and mesmerizing. It’s early days yet—the album was released only last week– but come year’s end, I wouldn’t be surprised to find it on many best-of lists, perhaps even atop them. Including my own.


A surprise encounter with an alt-rock hero (maybe) in Stockholm

Two years ago this week, my partner Paul and I visited Stockholm, Sweden, and though it was only a brief visit, we made the most of it with tons of shopping, sight-seeing, and of course visiting the ABBA Museum. Being the kind, indulgent person that he is, Paul helped me track down a record store called Pet Sounds in an out-of-the-way neighbourhood near the city’s Old Town. It’s a fantastic store; if you’re ever in Stockholm, check it out! I made my selections, including a European pressing of an album by the Paisley Underground band the Three O’Clock, and headed to the cash register, which was manned by a grizzled but friendly-looking gentleman. As I approached, a co-worker popped out from a back room and said to him, “Marty, the albums are ready for you to look through.” Marty nodded in response and I handed him my albums. “Oh, the Three O’Clock,” he remarked in a British accent. “My band played with them once in L.A.” “What band were you in?” I asked, thinking it would be some obscure act I’d never heard of. “The Church!” Marty chirped, and in my head I was like, “WHAAAAAA???” I stammered something about loving the band and having a bunch or their records, with my favourite being– and of course I blanked on the name. “What’s the one with Electric Lash on it?” I asked. “Seance!” Marty answered brightly. I was too flustered to ask him if he was THE Marty Willson Piper, one of the band’s founders and key songwriters, so I’ll never know for sure if it was him or someone named, say, Marty Fleggman, who maybe toured with the Church for a few weeks as a glockenspiel player. But later I looked up Piper online and his photos resembled my Pet Sounds Marty. According to one article, Piper had left the Church a year or two previously and was devoting his time to amassing a huge music and film archive. Maybe he was working at Pet Sounds to have access to more archive additions?

Anyway, it was a great day and I got a cool story out of it, thanks to Marty Willson Piper. Or Fleggman.

Put the Needle on the Record


It all started with a 45 by Reunion in the mid-70s. I’ve been a pop music nerd ever since.

For a while now I’ve been scattering my music-related thoughts/discoveries/tantrums aimlessly throughout social media and I figured it was about time to gather all these golden nuggets of wisdom together in one place. So, ta-da! Dugout Discs. I’ll be sharing my latest vinyl finds, concert reviews, best-of lists– LOTS of those– and misty water-coloured memories on a regular basis, so check back often.  And feel free to share some of your own music musings!