Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tommy, you complete me

I write a lot about Kimura Kaela on this blog and I have a blog (which I haven't updated in a long time) for Love Psychedelico. I love them both dearly and I'm grateful to all of them for providing me with music I'm not sure I'd be able to do without. With all of these new artists and albums of late, I tend to neglect one of my absolute favorite Japanese artists; Tomoko Kawase aka Tommy February6 aka Tommy Heavenly6. The reason I tend not to write about her so much is that her output has been virtually nil as of late (with the exception of a cover of "All Through the Night" for the Japan only Cyndi Lauper Tribute Album, "We Love Cyndi"). She's put out 3 singles with her first, and most famous band, "The Brilliant Green" this year and that's wonderful, but I'm a dyed in the wool fan of her alter egos.

You see, "The Brilliant Green" is a legendary band in many parts of the world and Tommy is an integral part of it's success, but her eccentricities seem to be a bit dampened by being part of a three piece band. That's not to say her bandmates stifle her creativity. Look no further than the video of "The Brilliant Green" where the entire band is dressed as students of Hogwarts with Tommy making a quite fetching Hermione. It's just that, as Tommy February6 and Tommy Heavenly6, she becomes a performance artist. She's not playing a half drunken schoolgirl who sings 80's synth pop or a Grungy Hot Topic casualty with an affection for Blythe Dolls... She simply IS a half drunken school girl who sings 80's synth pop AND a Grungy Hot Topic casualty with an affection for Blythe Dolls. Tommy, whether February6 or Heavenly6, is absolutely unique and brilliant.

My love for her work is (like my love for any of my favorite International Artists) somewhat crippled by the fact that I simply can't find readily available merchandise that won't kill my pocketbook. I bought Tommy February's "Tommy Airline" Special Edition CD+DVD set and Tommy Heavenly's self titled Special Edition CD+DVD sets early on in my fandom, so they were fairly easy to find for an agreeable price; not so for Tommy February's first album. Oh, I could have bought the first album in it's regular CD only edition, but I REALLY wanted that Special Edition CD+DVD set. Why? Well, you have to understand that while Japan has what is possibly the most expansive music releases in the world (they release EVERYTHING), their releases are mostly relegated to limited runs and the Special Edition runs become scarce quickly. I was able to score those other two sets because they were still in print when I bought them. The "Tommy Airline" was an especially lucky break since I obtained it from a US seller for under $20 shipped. Tommy February's Special Edition first album is an object I've sincerely NEVER seen available for sell anywhere in the USA... not even on eBay (and that's rare, folks!)

So, I turned my sights to Japan. Yahoo! Auctions Japan, to be precise. Yahoo! Auctions Japan is the only Yahoo! Auctions site still in operation and it thrives on Japanese people selling to each other exclusively. A look at any auction on that site will invariably carry a disclaimer stating: "Will Not Ship Internationally". Damn. And there were a few really nicely priced copies of Tommy's Special Edition First. What to do, what to do.

Thank goodness for a service that I only occasionally hit up. From Japan is basically a brokering site; a middleman that will bid on Yahoo! Auctions Japan items for you, will have the item shipped to them on your behalf if you win and have that item sent to you. It's expensive: You pay for the item, shipping to their offices, shipping to your home and a commission fee. Thankfully, I took advantage of their free commission promotion and that cut a few dollars off my order. It took 2 weeks from bid to arrival, but it was on my doorstep today. Approximately $32.00 shipped.

Gorgeous, ain't it? That's the front cover. Looks like a Wonka Bar. Inside, chocolate goodness and a ticket to the "Lollipop Candy Land". OK, maybe not, but a splendid time is guaranteed for all who wish to indulge. (Look! You can see me in the reflection!!!!).

The inside. The top one is the CD, the bottom one, the DVD. Perfect shape, both. The Really cool thing is, the inner hub on both are marked as "Sample Loaned". I got a Promo Copy! Verrrry Cool. The booklet is bound into the package (That's the brown part). It contains lyrics and four pages of photos that apparently depict Tommy's High School days. I've taken the liberty of scanning all 4 photos and making a big collage. Click to enlarge. Enjoy!

Isn't that awesome? The CD sounds better than any copy I've ever owned and the DVD is worth the whole thing. The DVD has only 2 videos, "KISS One More Time" and "Bloomin'!", but each video comes in 3 flavors: Regular, Furitsuke (only dance footage is shown so you can learn the dances at home!) and Karaoke (so you can sing like Tommy!). There're are also promo TV commercials for each song and a making of segment for each song. "Bloomin'" is great, but "KISS one More Time" is easily my favorite Tommy February song and video, so I was sent directly to nirvana this morning, as I'm sure you'll find easy to believe.

So there it is. I've completed my Tommy Album/DVD collection (for now). I feel complete, myself. Is that strange???

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Along Came A Spider and a free shipping spoon!

I got the vinyl edition of Alice Cooper's new album, "Along Came A Spider" today. I got it from Amazon.com. It was $24.95 and super saver free shipping is $25.00. I had to buy an 8 inch spoon for 95 cents to get the shipping. Yeah. An Alice Cooper Vinyl album and a spoon. Shades of the 70's.

Sans spoon.

So, I'd been listening to the album for a couple of weeks already on CD and MP3 and I think it's a very good concept album. Concept albums are an acquired taste, like movie musicals, so your milage may vary. Still, the aural history of a Serial killer told in song appeals to me. Can't wait for a tour.

Oh yeah, if you get this album as an album.... be careful... Things can happen to you...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

RIP: Jerry Reed

Jerry Reed died today of Emphysema. He was 71. It's a shame (and not at all ironic) that the guy who recorded "Another Puff" on his Ko-Ko Joe album would succumb to a smoking related disease.

This man was another one of my heroes. He was a killer guitarist and songwriter. Most people know him solely from his work as Burt Reynold's sidekick in the "Smokey And The Bandit" pictures, or, to a newer generation, as the coach in Adam Sandler's"The Waterboy".

To me, however, I will always think of him as a fantastic writer and performer of country funk storysongs. Although he had a fine baratone, as showcased in songs like Today Is Mine and A Thing Called Love (A personal favorite of mine), the meat of his hits were performed like near rap narrations. She Got The Goldmine (I Got the Shaft), Tupelo Mississippi Flash, When You're Hot, You're Hot, Ko-Ko Joe and his signature classic Amos Moses were all spoken storysongs that skyrocketed him to the top of the Country Western charts throughout the 70's and early 80's. All of those songs were produced by Chet Atkins solely or with Jerry on hand co-producing and were on the RCA label. They even released a few instrumental albums together; Jerry's guitar in one speaker, Chet Atkins' guitar in the other.

The songs were funky, too. Even if the songs were labeled country, the guitar riffs in the songs were nothing short of diabolical funk. I'm still amazed no R&B producer hasn't sampled the riff from Amos Moses. It's THAT funky.

so, you'll be missed Jerry. I'm going to put on some Jerry Reed albums in his honor tonight.

Here's Amos Moses from 1983