Thursday, January 18, 2018

On UB40 and that great divide

I wrote (and even Tweeted) UB40 the other day telling them I am looking forward to this album that's going to be out by the 2nd of March. I got a reply from the band saying that isn't the new album at all and it's another one instead. I didn't get it and decided to research. And i found out that the band split into two and this one right here, A Real Labour of Love, is by one side that features Ali Campbell, Astro, and Mickey Virtue. So there are two UB40s each suing each other. Just like Yes and Stiff Little Fingers.
I sort of lost track of UB40 in the late 90s and even stopped buying their albums. Not because I wasn't a fan I just moved in another direction. 

I became a fan of the band back in the 1980s with the release of the great Labour of Love album but sort of lost touch with the band in the 90s not because I didn't like them. I simply moved into another direction. When I saw the advert for this, I thought it was a great way to get re-oriented with UB40. Instead there's this.
Sad to hear of this and do not know what to think. Does this change the way I will look at the two new competing releases? I have no idea. While I like their music, I don't have that strong emotional connection to other artists I never stopped listening to. But I do like them and now I want to check out what I missed. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

POT! Yugyugan na!

Got the original compact disc release, the re-mastered cd with the plus-versions, and the vinyl! Yugyugan na!

The indie rock supergroup that isn’t, Prank Sinatra, will release their greatest hits this year (or something like that)

The indie rock supergroup that isn’t, Prank Sinatra, will release their greatest hits this year (or something like that)
by rick olivares

Indie rockers Prank Sinatra ended 2017 with a bang by closing the final show of Sugar Hiccup with a raucous set that nearly stole the show and perhaps came away having converted a few shoegazer fans. Now they open 2018 with the announcement that perhaps one of the most fun bands you might have not heard of will be releasing a “greatest hits” album on vinyl.

Unless you’re a habitue of the local rock clubs, you might have not heard of Prank Sinatra. However, when you find out that their line-up is as close to an indie superband, then you should pay attention.

Prank Sinatra’s leader, lead vocalist, and guitarist is Iman Leonardo who is the last bassist for Sugar Hiccup and formerly of local Goth Rock pioneers, Dominion. On drums is former Sugar Hiccup multi-instrumentalist Czandro Pollack. Rivermaya, Daydream Cycle, and Japsuki’s Japs Sergio plays the guitar. His brother, Dok, who also plays the bass Pupil, Teeth, and Daydream Cycle is on board, and Ryan Goan, who also plays with Ely Buendia, is on keyboards.

Japs Sergio, digresses: “Puwera BS, I don’t really think of Prank Sinatra as a superband. I’ve always looked at it as Iman’s band and friends with similar musical tastes. Completing the line-up.”

The disagreeing doesn’t end there.

“I hate the name Prank Sinatra,” declares Leonardo over a later merienda of French fries and beer at Chef’s Garage in Cubao X. “It was by accident and I needed a band name. My neighbor loves Frank Sinatra and it was just a joke. The name has no meaning. Kesyo naman ang pangalan namin ay, ‘Iman Leonardo’. Lalo na walang dating.”

I started a joke… that had the whole world laughing….

Leonardo laughs at my cribbing an old Bee Gees’ song.

The days of wearing eyeliner and make up with performing with Dominion are over. Leonardo has instead created his own music to his own beat; a free form of rock much like one of his musical inspirations Frank Zappa. “Although I am a Zappa fan, you will not find any traces of his playing styles in my songs,” says Iman.

The late American rocker’s music was characterized by non-conformity, sound experiments, and satire.

Witness the song titles: “I Lost My Plectrum”, “These Fingers Can’t Seem to Brighten Up My Day”, “Hooked on Gobbledygook”, and “It’s All Right If It’s Gone All Wrong”.

Touche. Leonardo laughs. “Yun lang.”

“I write songs the way I feel. If I want to play a chord here that doesn’t seem right, I have to find a way to make it sound right. Does that make sense,” Leonardo asks.

Apparently, because that is why Dok Sergio joined as he liked the songs. That is why Leonardo has buyers of Prank Sinatra’s albums from as far away as Europe.

Are these buyers from Europe – Filipino or not?

“Who cares,” Leonardo says throwing his hands up in the air. “They can be from Africa or wherever. As long as they buy and like our music, I like them.”

Prank Sinatra has released four albums – The F Defect (2005), Footlong Players (2006), The “Peel” Sessions (2008 with its Velvet Underground cover inspiration as well as late British DJ John Peel), and Get Outta My Way (2015).

The plan now is to release an album of songs the general public hasn’t mostly heard, to re-record them, or to record entirely new songs with the band’s current line-up. The band has never been complete for the discography thus far. Some perform on some albums, but not all.

“Before it was just kung sino available, but now, we’re available,” declares Leonardo. “It would be great to share a record with these talented musicians.”

The new line-up is interesting because Japs and Czandro are commonly associated with the shoegaze and dream pop genre. “Actually, kaya ko na-tripan yung music ng Prank, it’s because of the music I listen to as well as the psychedelic side from Pink Floyd to Syd Barrett. When Dok asked me if I wanted to play guitar for the band, I immediately said yes.”

“Regarding Prank, it’s better listened to in the perspective of depth,” chimes in Pollack.

The result is a livewire performance that has the sensibility and zaniness of an early Weezer or even Beastie Boys. They even dress the part as well such as the show with Sugar Hiccup where in everyone wore the same blue stripes collarless shirt that had the feel of a bizarro Clockwork Orange.

The time frame for the “greatest hits” -- or “new album of hits many people will not get to hear except in Germany” as Leonardo put – it sometime before the Christmas season. “This album,” he sums up, “is my Christmas gift to myself.”

Let the cackling begin.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Fatigued with Rayms Marasigan and Shinji Tanaka

Hanging out at Kodama Studios with Rayms Marasigan and Shinji Tanaka. We didn't talk about "wearing" fatigues and it was coincidence that we did.

Even such is time: An intimate homecoming show & album launch by Cynthia Alexander

Even such is time: An intimate homecoming show & album launch by Cynthia Alexander
by rick olivares

If you place all of Cynthia Alexander’s five albums next to each other – Insomnia and Other Lullabies, Rippingyarns, Comet’s Tail, Walk Down the Road, and the newly released Even Such Is Time (check it out, it’s stamped 2018), the latter’s cover art is simple in design and the least cluttered.

In fact, it only features a dragonfly, Alexander’s name and the album title. Yet in doing so, less is more.

During Alexander’s homecoming show last Saturday, January 13, at the Music Museum she explained how moving to Tacoma, Washington, has given her “space”. A quiet space that is a radical departure from the hustle and bustle of life in Quezon City. And more than the cover to Even Such is Time, the new album finds Alexander enjoying her solitude. The result is perhaps her most beautiful and deeply insightful album that draws on the poetry of her mother and new spins on old Rippingyarns if you’ll pardon the use of her second album’s title.

When I first heard her music – it was during Rippingyarns – I thought Cynthia’s quirky voice with its gentle inflections as well as her wistful, twee, and delicate songs were a refreshing change in the indie scene. Yes, her roots were folk, but it veered off in a totally new direction. The new songs and hearing her live for the first time since 2008 gave the performance a different feel. I know she had voice problems in the days leading up to the show and if it affected her singing, it did show early on but if the resulting raspy sound had shades of Alanis Morrissette, it was just as beautiful. It brought an edge and pain to the songs.

Even Such is Time as an album is sparse in its instrumentation but is no less beautiful. Cynthia’s singing and songwriting is even more front and center. When you listen to the album version of “Snowhills” it is almost as if you can feel the snow settle on your hair or shoulder. Live, with the nightingale voice of Abby Clutario (keyboards) and Mlou Matute (keyboards and percussion) adding to the harmony, it’s even more melodious; solemn even.

The stage design that resembles a sala area with old lamps, chests of drawers, and books gave the performance a warm and even more intimate feel. It was if you were in Alexander’s living room and she’s playing you a song. What I loved about this was – you hung on to every word and note.

In fact, it was a perfect evening that began with a most earnest and passionate performance by Ben & Ben; a perfect set up for Alexander’s music. They even collaborated on “Dumaan Ako”; a song by Cynthia’s older brother, Joey Ayala (one that she also interpreted) and a cover of the Beatles’ “Blackbird” that was most apt for the set and the show.

And that wonderful cast of musicians - Zach Lucero on drums, CJ Wasu on percussion, Kakoi Legaspi and Rommel Sanchez on guitars, Louie Talan and Yuna on bass while Abby and Mlou shared keyboard duties – added so much to the new songs and old favorites -- “U & I” and “The Weather Report” to name a few.

It has been nine years since Alexander’s last album, the live Walk Down the Road, and close to 13 years since she recorded new materials (2005’s Comet’s Tail). Even Such is Time is well worth the wait as it reveals Alexander who is like fine wine. It’s a mature, deeply introspective, but no less wonderful.

It has been a couple of years since Cynthia also performed on our shores. And the Music Museum show like her songs, is one to remember.

Such it is with one of the most talented and gifted musicians of our time.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Flashback Friday: Some of my music promotions during the 1990s

As a label and junior artist & repertoire manager for a local record company, I handled a lot of the small jazz and classical labels. It was a tough job because before this happened, the local WEA (Warner-Elektra-Asylum) label split into two. Warner decided to open its own office and that left out some of its former executives and personnel.

When they put up their new label -- they grabbed a lot of labels almost all of them small. Many of these were unknown jazz and classical labels. And that was the challenge -- to promote them and to sell them.

Naxos was this small classical label that made its name selling cheap compact discs featuring unknown performers from Europe. Obviously, classical purists looked down on Naxos and these cheap labels.

Locally, they were priced at P200-250 which is significantly less than the regular P375-450 priced CDs.

One of the first things I did was produce a sampler -- that I called The Dreaming that was a nod to Neil Gaiman's Sandman comic book -- for record store use. I had to teach the sales ladies the proper way of pronouncing the names of composers which put off snobbish buyers. I also had a special rack for these CDs that stood out in record bars.

It sold well. Well, but not great. After all this was the Alternative 90s.

And there's that jazz compilation Pastiche -- lifted from the Manhattan Transfer's album of the same title -- featuring my fave jazz performances from the labels I handled. I sold this for P250 and sold out the 2,000 copies I had pressed. 

One of the artists that I was happy to promote was guitarist Peter White. The Scotsman became known during his time with compatriot and pop-folk singer Al Stewart. He also performed with Basia  on her albums and tours.

I put together this cheap CD sampler that I gave away as a promo. And it helped entice jazz music fans to pick up his five albums that I promoted. White also came over to Manila for a performance and he signed this sampler (you can see the signed copies in the picture above). 

I wrote the liner notes to several albums I put out. Pastiche was one. I also did one Eddie Katindig album. I kept the inlay card but lost the cassette tape. When I find it, I will post it.

Pianist John Boswell had some very interesting albums. He didn't play jazz and his music was categorized in the New Age genre. To promote this album, Count Me In, I used the Robert Downey Jr. angle. The actor was a co-writer of the second track "Do It as a Friend". Now RDJ could sing some and if you saw Hearts and Souls, he can sing some. That film came out before this album was released so that was one angle and I secured a video featuring Boswell and Downey performing the song. I played this at record bars in the Makati, Pasig, and Greenhills area which I felt was our market for this music. 

The other angle I used was Boswell was dating at this time, actress Kathy Najimy. Najimy played a lead role in the two Sister Act films alongside Whoopi Goldberg and this also helped generate some attention for Count Me In and Boswell's other albums.