The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

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Igor
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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Igor » Thu Feb 23, 2017 9:50 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote: Her next album, the all-covers The Hit List, shoulda been a home run, but it just lays there, completely inert.


Yeah, there are three really good covers on there, then lots of blah. Those covers albums are usually pretty spotty. One of the best ones I have run across is Real to Reel by Tesla. No particularly "out there" selections, but they clearly have the bar band experience to execute the selections well.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2asVpAIMoqk

Def Leppard did an okay one as well, but (predictably) for a more studio-based band, they concentrated on high-production values. Made some good selections though.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkYtHhfIddk

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Sat Feb 25, 2017 12:00 pm

JOHNNY AND THE HURRICANES -- I have no idea how prolific these guys were or how representative this compilation from the good folks at Varese Sarabande is but I can say it's a pure delight from start to finish. This kind of instrumental rock (all ca. 1959-1963 here) can often bore me if taken too much at once, but not only is 20 cuts a reasonable dose, despite these mostly being very recognizable, well-worn songs, The Hurricanes come up with some way to put their own stamp on every one of'em. Great production, great playing, great fun!

BLIND WILLIE JOHNSON -- One of The Great Insights I've gleaned from this project has been that I own a fucking lot of old Delta blues despite not really enjoying listening to it very much. Why did I acquire so much and apparently listen so little? I suspect it was the completist in me (a collecting habit I have thankfully abandoned over the last decade, as that way leads to both madness and the poor house) but I also bet it had something to do with how influential the old blues masters were on so much of the '60s/'70s stuff I loved, and Blind Willie definitely qualifies as one of those influences (as evidenced here by "Nobody's Fault But Mine", for example, famously ripped-off by Led Zeppelin.) All of this might lead you believe I didn't enjoy this 2CD collection of his entire output but I am happy to report, I totally did! (I should write thrillers, the way I just defied your expectations!) This was a quick listen (that is, I didn't keep checking to see if it was almost over, which happens a lot when I tackle a lot of other similarly vintaged blues), the songs all come in around the 3 minute mark so there's no super-rambley solos or endless repetitions, Johnson's voice is committed and inviting and he's got enough tricks in his vocal bag to avoid everything sounding the same, and quite a few tracks feature some really great vocal dueting from someone named Willie B. Harris (otherwise it's just Willie and his guitar.) So if any fellow Forons need a little Jesus in their day, why not let His light shine on thee? (Did I mention all of these songs are about Jesus? That's why they call it "gospel blues", doncha know . . .)

BUBBER JOHNSON -- Bubber had a big hit on the R&B charts in 1955 with his fine, lush ballad, "Come Home". That got King Records to release this long-playing record (now on compact disc!) and over the 12 songs on it, Bubber proves to be as good of an example of a bridge between the black pop vocal style of the '40s and the '50s style(s) to come as anybody else I can think of. Not gonna blow smoke up your ass and tell you it's any kind of lost masterpiece, it's just smack dab in the middle of my musical comfort zone.

Next up . . . big band-leader Buddy Johnson!

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby DCB » Sat Feb 25, 2017 6:22 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:JOAN JETT deserves a full write-up because she is one of my favorite rock and roll performers of all time.

I've only seen her perform live once, in Madison (199?). Amazing.
Prof. Wagstaff wrote:"Crimson And Clover" (far superior to the original, imho)

A bold claim; but I won't argue!

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Sat Feb 25, 2017 6:50 pm

DCB wrote:
Prof. Wagstaff wrote:JOAN JETT deserves a full write-up because she is one of my favorite rock and roll performers of all time.

I've only seen her perform live once, in Madison (199?). Amazing.

I have had the pleasure of seeing her perform three times at wildly varying venues and she is always fantastic fun. (Once at Corn Fest in my hometown, once at a large county fair, and once in an arena opening for Cheap Trick, who she blew off the stage -- and trust me, I loves me some live Cheap Trick, she was just that great.)

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Mon Feb 27, 2017 1:56 pm

BUDDY (AND ELLA) JOHNSON -- Despite racking up 13 Top 20 R&B hits between 1943 and 1957, bandleader/songwriter/pianist Buddy Johnson doesn't seem to get much attention. That's a shame, because his recordings are fine examples of the kind of bluesy, pre-rock jazz I adore from this era. Jukebox Hits 1940-1951 collects 8 of his biggest hits, plus 13 more fine selections in a similar vein, all uniformly good songs. My enjoyment of any particular one has as much to do with who the featured vocalist is as anything else, and they run they gamut from some very-dated-sounding male vocals to Buddy's sister Ella, who really cooks, imho. Even better than this disc, because the sound is closer to more modern (read: '50s) R&B and is heavier on the Ella, is the collection of tracks I gathered from a wonderful Mercury R&B box set (its plastic case is shaped like an old-timey radio and has a special place in my heart as when I first moved into my house and my CD collection was still packed up, this odd-shaped set was the only accessible music I had for a couple days, and it more than delivered the needed vibes to get the job of unpacking done.) Longtime readers of this thread will know, I really can't get enough of this style of music. A few highlights: "That's The Stuff You Gotta Watch", "Fine Brown Frame", "It's Obdacious", "Hittin' On Me", "(Gotta Go) Upside Your Head"

JAY JAY (J.J.) JOHNSON -- I have two discs filed under trombonist J.J. Johnson. The first, The Emininet Jay Johnson Volume 1, is a solid 1953 Blue Note sextet session with Jimmy and Percy Heath, John Lewis, Kenny Clarke, and Clifford Brown (whose trumpet, imho, steals the show here.) Very enjoyable but slightly downgraded for Blue Note's annoying habit of putting multiple takes of the same song in a row. I've also got Jay & Kai, 1954 Savoy recordings from a quintet featuring J.J. teamed with fellow trombonist Kai Winding (+Charles Mingus, Billy Bauer, Wally Cirillo, and Kenny Clarke again) and it's also pretty terrific. Great music to organize recipes to!

LONNIE JOHNSON -- Not to be confused with the inventor of The Super Soaker, this Lonnie Johnson is a fantastic singer/jazz and blues guitarist (and, I am just learning now, apparently the first guy to ever play an electrically amplified violin.) In 1948, Lonnie had a much-deserved #1 R&B smash with the wonderfully loping "Tomorrow Night" which shows off both his voice and guitar skills in a great light. Much to his regret, he was pigeonholed as a blues artist (and generally thought of as a vocalist by record buyers back in the day), but he was really more at home in the jazz idiom (he worked with Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, among others, and was a major influence on Charlie Christian and Django Rheinhardt, so it was just the public, not other musicians, who insisted on limiting him so.) Most astonishingly, he is often credited with inventing the guitar solo (that is, playing note by note with a pick.) I guess someone had to be the first, right? (I have no idea if he really was, btw. Perhaps some guitar-playing history-minded Foron can set us all straight.)
Anyway, I have two CDs worth of Lonnie recordings, mostly culled from various comps -- so there's little rhyme or reason to the order I listened to these tracks -- spanning from as early as 1925 to a marvelous 1965 album, known in its CD reissue as Stompin' At The Penny. There's a lot of stylistic variation here for someone known today mostly as a blues artist and for only a single hit, that's for sure. And almost all of it is pretty cool. The least interesting songs are his lascivious recordings, particularly those done with Victoria Spivey. Yes, they are chockful of double entendres -- you'll routinely find this stuff on "Bawdy Blues" compilations -- but while Lonnie's guitar and singing are always great, Spivey's pretty dreadful, and this kinda "I can't believe they were this dirty way back when!" song is really only of historical interest at this point. (Not that there aren't some delightful examples that still really deliver, of course. Ever heard this amazing '50s group vocal number by The Blenders, "Don't Fuck Around With Love"? Worth a click, though obviously NSFW.)

As noted above, the last recording I have by Lonnie is Stompin' At The Penny, recorded with Jim McHarg's Metro Stompers, and it's a real corker. It's New Orleans jazz in the Dixieland mode and, with the exception of Louis Armstrong's Hot Fives/Sevens sides, this record is probably my favorite recording in that style. This sucker cooks and Johnson's chops are evident everywhere. Unfortunately, there are no links to individual songs on YouTube but some hero has uploaded the entire album and if you're a fan of Dixieland or amazing guitar playing, you really should check it out. Here's a couple standouts from the earlier stuff: "I Done Told You", duetting with Eddie Lang on "Hot Fingers"

Next up . . . more Johnsons!

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby PaleoLiberal » Tue Feb 28, 2017 4:09 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:Next up . . . more Johnsons!


Did any of these other Johnsons sell their souls to the Devil at the crossroads?

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Igor » Tue Feb 28, 2017 7:22 pm

PaleoLiberal wrote:
Prof. Wagstaff wrote:Next up . . . more Johnsons!


Did any of these other Johnsons sell their souls to the Devil at the crossroads?


No, but they helped keep the Irish out of Rock Ridge.

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Tue Feb 28, 2017 11:36 pm

You guys sure are impatient for some Robert Johnson. Are you worried I might stop posting again before I get there? Or are you wondering if, given my previous comments about old blues, I might give him a bad review? Or perhaps some of you just think if you say his name three times he'll reappear and drop a new song on us? Well, I was gonna wait til I finished all of the Johnsons before popping off another post (that's what she said!) but whatever. Give the people what they want, I always say (<---I actually never say this.)

MARV JOHNSON -- In 1959, Marv was the very first artist signed to Berry Gordy's Tamla Records. (Quick history lesson: Tamla was the first of Gordy's label imprints. The first record on the Motown label proper was "Bad Girl" by The Miracles.) Since Motown wasn't yet an established force of its own, Marv and Gordy's first single, the delightfully bouncy "Come To Me", was distributed nationally by United Artists. Shortly thereafter, UA signed Marv directly, but Berry stayed on as his manager and songwriter; both "Come To Me" as well as the even better, even bigger hit "You Got What It Takes" were co-written by Gordy, as were many other early Johnson releases. Marv had only one more major chart appearance, "I Love The Way You Love" (again co-written by Gordy), but those hits were enough to convince United Artists to release two whole (unimaginately titled) albums in 1960 -- Marvelous Marv Johnson and More Marvelous Marv Johnson -- both of which were reissued as a 2-on-1 CD by Collectables. They are typical soul music records of the era; all three big hits are here, plus a whole buncha really undistinguished filler. The first album is chock-full of some seriously pointless versions of Gershwin standards ("S'Wonderful", "I Can't Get Started", "Love Is Here To Stay", and of course, "Summertime", because everybody had to record that back in the day for some unfathomable reason) and the whole affair is way overproduced with strings and horns and goopy backup singers attempting to compensate for Marv's uninspired performances and poor song selections. (Not that Marv's voice is bad or anything, but Smokey Robinson he ain't, and away from the modern pop sound of his hits, he is way out of his depth.) At least the filler on album two is Berry Gordy/Smokey Robinson toss-offs but even still, this is mostly pretty undistinguished stuff. The disc is rounded out with a few stray singles -- including a truly wretched version of "Sweet Georgia Brown" -- that never made much of a chart impression, nor did they deserve to.

PETE JOHNSON -- Y'all like barrelhouse boogie woogie piano, right? Of course you do. Everybody does! And Pete Johnson, well, he's the fuckin' man. The single disc I have filed under his name (I've got more of him backing Big Joe Turner, but at this rate it's gonna be another seven years before I get that far) is another of my cobbled-together-from-various-comps affairs, covering the years 1936 (when Johnson was a member of Harry James's Boogie Woogie Trio) through 1946. Deeeeeeelightful stuff. There's fast numbers and slow numbers! Diversity! But seriously, when music is this animated and joyful, I don't really care how samey the particular songs are. I mean, come on -- how can anyone not groove to this? There's lots more Pete Johnson music available, so the fact that my disc is a self-made comp and I can't recommend any particular CD should be of no consequence. If Pete Johnson is playing piano (excuse me, I meant pianny), it's good. 'Nuff said.

ROBERT JOHNSON -- Unlike so many other Delta bluesmen, who at this point I've kinda come to fear when they show up in this project, I wasn't the least bit worried about this one. That's because Robert Johnson's near-universal adoration is most definitely earned. More often than not, the people singing his praises are guitar players who found inspiration in his bottleneck playing, which is great, to be sure, but to my ears it's his often acrobatic vocals that do the real heavy lifting.

Because there's really no reason in this day and age to own anything but his Complete Recordings, that's indeed what I have. Dude only recorded 29 different songs, after all -- might as well own them all in one place. Unfortunately, just like the idiots at Blue Note, the compilers here thought it was a good idea to put the master and the alternate takes right next to each other in the running order (when obviously they should have been split between discs, amirite?) But that's a quibble about the presentation -- there's no arguing with the greatness of these songs or the performances by Johnson which range from the peppy ragtime "They're Red Hot" to the absolutely terrifying "Hellhound On My Trail". I don't know that I need to say much more. Either you've explored Johnson's music on your own or you're probably just not interested; it's not like you've never heard of him, right? Anyway, hopefully some of the more impatient commenters here will chime in with their own thoughts.

Possibly important note for listeners to Robert Johnson: It's pretty well-established at this point that Robert Johnson's recordings were all sped up a bit before their release. I don't think there's a consensus as to whether this was by mistake or done intentionally to make them sound more otherworldly. Whatever the reason, while it's possible to find examples of people "correcting" the speed, the CD presents these tracks as they've been passed down and there's really no way to know for sure what the proper speed is. Many scholars have claimed they're at least 20% too fast. That seems like a stretch to me, as it does to this YouTube poster who adjusted them by ear. I think he's probably more in the ballpark. The curious can hear his slowed-down versions of "Hellhound" and "Red Hot" and judge for themselves. I think both versions sound pretty great, so I don't much care ultimately, but it's interesting nonetheless, not just because of the effect it specifically has on how modern ears imagine Johnson, but also as an example of how changes in technology have an effect on future playback.

Next up . . . one more Johnson to go!

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Igor » Wed Mar 01, 2017 12:34 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:Next up . . . one more Johnson to go!



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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Kenneth Burns » Wed Mar 01, 2017 1:40 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:Because there's really no reason in this day and age to own anything but his Complete Recordings, that's indeed what I have. Dude only recorded 29 different songs, after all -- might as well own them all in one place. Unfortunately, just like the idiots at Blue Note, the compilers here thought it was a good idea to put the master and the alternate takes right next to each other in the running order (when obviously they should have been split between discs, amirite?)


There's an article to be written about questionable sequencing choices in the CD era, especially for catalog releases and box sets*. Take (please) the 80s XTC CD releases that sandwiched bonus tracks between LP sides. Terrible idea. Bonus tracks more typically appeared at the end of CDs, which was better, but basically bonus tracks meant the end of the album as an artistically conceived whole. For catalog titles anyway. When it came to new CD releases, the problem was filler.

* There's another article to be written about box sets in the CD era. After Dylan's "Biograph" came out (at the tail end of the original LP era, actually), every artist cashed in with expensive, lovingly packaged collections of songs that everyone who had the albums already owned, plus a few bonus tracks for completists.

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Kenneth Burns » Wed Mar 01, 2017 1:46 pm

Obviously there were different kinds of CD box sets. More or less comprehensive collections like "The Complete Hank Williams" are amazing, but the ones that amounted to multi-disc best-of releases, like "Led Zeppelin Boxed Set"? I never saw the point.

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Wed Mar 01, 2017 2:05 pm

Kenneth Burns wrote:. . . CD releases that sandwiched bonus tracks between LP sides. Terrible idea.
Agreed.

Kenneth Burns wrote:Bonus tracks more typically appeared at the end of CDs, which was better . . .
I've always thought this was poor placement as well. The correct place for bonus tracks (and very few CD reissues have done this) is at the beginning of the CD. That way, it's a simple matter to pop the CD in and, if you just want to hear the record as originally released, skip ahead until the first album cut and you're good to go.

Kenneth Burns wrote:. . . but basically bonus tracks meant the end of the album as an artistically conceived whole. For catalog titles anyway.
I actually disagree here. Bonus cuts are essential if you expect me to shell out a second (or third, or fourth) time for music I already own. But yeah, never break up the original album with tracks shoehorned in the middle and, even worse, never ever split an album between two discs on a box set making it literally impossible to hear the actual album as released without a multi-disc changer and a whole lot of programming shenanigans (I'm looking at you, stupid-ass fucking complete Police set! Seriously, you suck.)

Kenneth Burns wrote:After Dylan's "Biograph" came out (at the tail end of the original LP era, actually), every artist cashed in with expensive, lovingly packaged collections of songs that everyone who had the albums already owned, plus a few bonus tracks for completists.
Relistening to Biograph for this project -- and remembering all the praise heaped on it at the time of its release -- I was struck by just how poorly sequenced it was. It seems essentially random to me now, with previously unreleased acoustic numbers butting up against fully electric album cuts right next to a (sometimes inferior) live version. And it also committed the cardinal sin of all career retrospectives, which is pretending that later, obviously weaker material is on par with the classics everyone bought the set for in the first place. I know opinions differ and all that, but come on -- Christian Dylan from the early '80s is just not that good and sticking it in the middle of classic '60s stuff doesn't make it sound better; quite the opposite.

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Fri Mar 03, 2017 11:31 am

RUBY JOHNSON -- Ruby is one of those '60s soul belters who, for whatever reason, never had a breakout hit. Pity, since it means she didn't get to record much. I'll Run Your Hurt Away, part of the '90s Stax reissue program, collects a half dozen or so of her recordings from 1967-1968 plus another dozen or so previously unreleased sides. It's pretty great, natch -- I mean, how could it not be with Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn, Al Jackson, Isaac Hayes, and The Mar-Key Horns as her backing band? Ruby shines in particular on ballads -- she's as gritty and soulful as pretty much anyone else you'd care to name. My faves here: "I'll Run Your Hurt Away", "If I Ever Needed Love (I Sure Do Need It Now)", and a great take on the Ben E. King/Aretha Franklin hit, "Don't Play That Song (You Lied)"

Only one sorta minor entry? Yeah, I know it's kinda lame for an update but I really wanted to be able to say this:

Next up . . . along come the Joneses!

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Prof. Wagstaff » Mon Mar 06, 2017 11:22 am

ETTA JONES -- Don't Go To Strangers -- the album and it's title song -- was a surprise hit for jazz singer Etta Jones in 1960. It's a pleasant if unexceptionable jazz session, serving mainly as a showcase for Jones's smoky, immaculately phrased vocals.

GEORGE JONES -- One of the finest singers of honky tonk country, Jones recorded prolifically, beginning in the 1950s and continuing well into this century (his last record was released in 2008 and he died in 2013.) Like a lot of other fantastic singers (such as Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, with whom I do not lump him casually -- he's really that good, imho) his voice matured and improved over the years, but his material and (particularly) his production declined (thanks mostly to formulaic Nashville schlockmeister Billy Sherrill, about whom it's been said he never heard a song he didn't think should be smothered in strings and cheesy backup vox.) That means your best bet for quality songs is through the mid-'60s but if you really love his delivery, you'll want to at least check out some of the later stuff as well. I only have one proper album from Jones on CD -- 1962's The New Favorites Of George Jones -- which, while featuring uniformly great vocals from George, is a mish-mash of styles, as Jones tries to be everything to everybody. Honky tonk, pop country, novelty songs, folky throwbacks -- it's all here. And it's only 12 tracks! This isn't really a complaint, mind you (it's pretty great overall) but it does give some insight into where Nashville's head was at in the early '60s. The rest of my Jones-on-CD consists of a 2-disc career-spanning retrospective from 1994 (The Essential George Jones: The Spirit Of Country) which chronicles the decline of his recordings much more admirably than it probably intends to, plus another disc's-worth of tracks compiled by me from a variety of sources. The Essential's first disc is mostly top-notch, containing many of Jones's best known songs ("Why, Baby, Why", "Just One More", "White Lightning", "Who Shot Sam", "She Thinks I Still Care", "The Race Is On", "A Good Year For The Roses") but Disc Two gets bogged down in the aforementioned production goop and the material is decidedly more lackluster. Both discs also contain a handful of the duets he recorded with then-wife Tammy Wynette, but for my money, neither of them is better in that context then they were solo. But if you want great Jones duets (and he did many with lots of different folks over the years), look no further than the series of fantastic recordings he made in 1965 with (I kid you not) Gene Pitney. My faves: "My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You", "I've Got A New Heartache", "Big Job" and oh, what the hell, here's their version of "Why Baby Why" too, because it's a really awesome song.

QUINCY JONES -- Quincy is one of those legendary music industry dudes whose reputation, it seems to me, is based more on his longevity than any actual greatness. He made his name as a producer in the '60s and, of course, is often revered for his work with Michael Jackson, but honestly, I think Michael could've done better. I dunno, I just don't hear any actual "genius" in Quincy's work. Over the years I've acquired, listened to, and gotten rid of quite a lot of his albums and I don't miss them at all. The only thing left on my CD shelf is The Best Volume Two because it contains the immortal instrumental monster, "The Streetbeater" (better known as the theme to Sanford and Son.) It's also got his other great TV theme song, "Hikky-Burr" (a.k.a. theme from The Bill Cosby Show, with great nonsense vocalizations from The Cos himself and some super funky Carol Kaye bass.) The rest of the CD is a real garbage dump of pretty boring, sometimes pretentious (I'm looking at you, "Gula Matari"), generally idiotic jazz and funk wankery with a healthy dose of cheesy, 3rd-rate Stevie Wonder, laidback "grooves". Most of this wasn't even written by Quincy -- he's not really a songwriter so much as a "I've gathered you all here today to jam some shit that I'll take credit for" kinda guy.

Next up . . . still Jonesin' with the late great Sharon!

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Re: The Giant Wagstaff CD Listening Project Thread

Postby Marvell » Mon Mar 06, 2017 1:28 pm

Prof. Wagstaff wrote:The Jam


For whatever reason I was a little late to The Jam party. By the time I had gotten to college I had heard at least a smattering of most of the first wave of English Punk / New Wave bands - even in nowheresville Ohio I knew people who had The Clash and The Sex Pistols and Joe Jackson and even more esoteric stuff like that Vapors album you mentioned. But I can't remember ever hearing The Jam - with the possible exception of the "David Watts" cover - until a few years after college when I was staying with my oldest brother and he had a cassette copy of In the City.

The first time I heard it I was all like, 'where the fuck has this been all my life?'

Admittedly I prefer the punkier early stuff - songs like "In the City," "All Around the World," "Away From the Numbers" and "Art School." But I still like even the later, swankier sound of material like "The Bitterest Pill," "That's Entertainment" and "A Town Called Malice."

I never really listened to Style Council. I probably should give them a try one of these days.


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