Sunday, January 28, 2007

Best of 1989

Here's a portion of the "50 Albums of 1989" list that was published in New Musical Express at the end of that year. Click on it for a larger, readable image. And there we are, in the lower right corner, smack in the middle of the pack at #25, surpassed only by the likes of Elvis Costello's 'Spike' (not pictured) and Bob Dylan's 'Oh Mercy' (pictured, and the best album he'd made in quite some time). Ken, I recall took particular delight in the phrase "lovable[y] batty." From this, one might surmise that a career in the music business might have been in store for us, that major-label status and full-time musicmaking was just around the corner. We certainly surmised that.

The album in question, 'Why Should I Stand Up?' conjures mixed emotions for me, and, I suspect, for other members of the group as well. It was the first full-length recording that I played on with CbJE, and it documents that the transition to the horn-infused sound of the new group took some time. There are some great songs on there: the title track, the wondrous "Buster Cornelius," the inscrutable "Hi-Fi Alphabet," "That's Entertainment," and others. And, I think it began to approach the sound and vision for the group that Chuck had had all along. But the album (for me) is hampered by a two-dimensional sound quality, flat and undefined, as well as excessive horn overdubs on "Why Should I Stand Up," and "He Must Have Been Quite Guy." (Those are my fault.) I am quite proud of my solo on "Polka Girl" (the only CbJE thing my clarinet teacher ever complimented me on) and the clarinet/guitar interplay of Phil and I on "I'm a Sailor." And the amazing string of solos/duos on "Buster Cornelius" is a magical piece of musical storytelling.

WSISU, unfortunately, was the only album the band made that was widely distributed in the USA and overseas. It's still the easiest bit of CbJE to find on eBay. The album that followed, 'Strange Sounds from the Basement,' shows that we all had learned from our mistakes. Recorded at the same studio, it has more clarity, and despite being an acoustic album, more power. If WSISU had been recorded with the sparkle and oomph of that later album, it'd be a classic.

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