Liner Notes

Commodores – The Commodores

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I have heard both Brick House and Easy countless times. They’re all over the radio; plus movies, tv shows, and commercials. I never realized A) they’re both by The Commodores (somehow I was under the impression that Brick House was a Rick James song), and 2) they’re on the same album. I also had no idea that Lionel Ritchie was in the band. I guess what I’m getting at is in addition to really enjoying this album, I also learned a lot about The Commodores today.

I’ve always thought Easy was a little corny. I don’t know if my opinion has mellowed or it’s because of its association with Baby Driver now or what, but I’ve definitely learned to appreciate that song more. I also really enjoyed Won’t You Come Dance With Me and Funky Situation. All for completely different reasons. The songs on this album vary quite a bit in tone, which makes it surprising to me that it holds together so well.

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Liner Notes

The Damned – Damned Damned Damned

⭐️⭐️⭐️

Neat Neat Neat is both the opening track on this album, and the one included in the Baby Driver Soundtrack. That seems to be a recurring theme. I think at least half of the albums I’ve listened to so far that have a song in the soundtrack had the song in question as track #1. It keeps reminding me of the “Desert Island All Time Top 5 Side 1 Track 1” conversation from High Fidelity. I’m not sure what it was about the song that got my hopes up so high for this record. It was probably the really great chase scene that it was used in. At any rate, I wouldn’t say my hopes were dashed, but they were certainly unwarranted. This album is not really anything to write home about. It’s not bad, though. The more I listened to it, the more it grew on me, too. And since it’s only 34 minutes long, I was able to listen to it a bunch today. I think probably the most enjoyment I got out of it, though, was learning the stage names of the band’s lead guitar and drummer: Captain Sensible and Rat Scabies (respectively). Amazing.

Liner Notes

Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Further Out

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Skipping Kashmere, because I've already listened to it, next on the list of songs from the Baby Driver Soundtrack is Unsquare Dance by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. By the time both of the aforementioned songs played in the movie, I was already in love w/the music. So when two songs in a row came up that I thought were not super well known but I still recognized I felt pretty full of myself. I've been a fan of Dave Brubeck for a long time, but aside from listening to Time Out a couple times, I'm not sure I've ever actually listened to one of his albums before. But I have listened to a handful of his songs many times on shuffle.

At any rate, while listening to this album today I had a strange feeling. I was enjoying the album but aside from a couple of standout tracks (Unsquare Dance and Bru's Boogie Woogie in particular) there was nothing noteworthy about this album. But then it occurred to me that the fact that this album is sort of unremarkable is, in itself, remarkable. The first two tracks on this album are in 3/4 time (think waltz). The next two in 4/4, like most modern/pop music. After that, the time signature keeps … advancing? The thing that happens with the "tempos" as the liner notes refer to them is unique; which means I don't even know how to describe what they're doing. After the 4/4 songs is a 5/4, followed by a 6/4, then 7/4, then 8/8 and finally 9/8. The fact that this album has songs in so many wacky time signatures (the only other song I can even think of in 7/4 is Pink Floyd's Money), yet somehow seems a little too run of the mill is astonishing in hindsight. The quartet managed to make weirdly nerdy music while also keeping it accessible.

Liner Notes

Carla Thomas – Carla

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I really enjoyed this album. It's not often I listen to old school R&B, but I enjoy it every time. You'd think I'd learn something from that. B-A-B-Y (track #1) is the song from Baby Driver that inspired me to listen to this one, and it's a great start to a record. Some of the better songs on the soundtrack were only released as singles. Harlem Shuffle was one, but I found the Stones cover. I failed to mention yesterday that track #4 on the soundtrack is Smokey Joe's La La by Googie Rene, which is another. I would have really liked to hear more of his stuff, but I couldn't find any evidence that he ever released a full album at all, let alone w/Smokey Joe's La La on it. All that to say I was kind of expecting that to be the case for this one, too. It turns out Carla Thomas put out 6 studio albums. Now that I'm thinking about it, I remember that they actually show the album in the movie, so I don't know why I was assuming that. Oh, and those 6 albums don't include a collaboration with Otis Redding! After enjoying Carla so much, I may have to add that album to my list, and check it out once this soundtrack expedition is complete. Although I'm only on track #6 of 30, so it'll be a while.

I don't think I disliked anything on this album. I've been listening to it on repeat for hours. If I had to guess, I've probably listened to it a half dozen times today. The sadder songs are still pretty good, but I find myself enjoying them less. That's much less about the quality of the songs than the mood of them, which don't match my current one. That said, there aren't really any standouts for me; even B-A-B-Y. You Don't Have to Say You Love Me caught my attention, but I'm pretty sure it's because I'm familiar with a different version. Dusty Springfield has the canonical English version (she was covering an Italian song), which is probably what I've been thinking of. I haven't listened to it yet, though, because I've been enjoying Carla too much.

Liner Notes

The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds

⭐️⭐️⭐️

HEY DID YOU GUYS KNOW THAT SOMETIMES BRIAN WILSON FELT VERY SAD?!

If you didn't, you must never have heard I Just Wasn't Made for These Times, because he says it about a thousand times in the chorus.

Pet Sounds is one of those albums that I've heard so many good things about that I always wanted to sit down and listen to it. I'm pretty sure it was on my list to check out for this blog even before hearing Let's Go Away For Awhile in the Baby Driver soundtrack. I think in this case it may have been a victim of its own infamy, because aside from the songs I already knew — Wouldn't It Be Nice, Sloop John B, and God Only Knows — I didn't really care for or about Pet Sounds at all. Some of it I even found pretty annoying (see example above).

I kind of get the feeling that this may also be another case of having fallen into the Confederacy of Dunces trap I've written about here and elsewhere. This was a groundbreaking album, but that was 50 years ago. That broken ground has been patched, paved over, and torn up again multiple times. In other words, maybe it's too late for me to truly appreciate it for how ahead of its time it was.

Liner Notes

Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers – Rock ‘n’ Roll with the Modern Lovers

⭐️⭐️

When they point out in the movie that Baby is listening to Egyptian Reggae, I thought it was a genre. I guess it might still be, but it was actually the name of the song he was listening to. There's a lot of songs on this album that sound sort of like Egyptian Reggae, but what struck me while listening to Rock 'n' Roll with the Modern Lovers is that the ones that sound the most like it are covers of traditional songs. Tracks 1 (Sweeping Wind (Kwa Ti Feng)) and 7 (South American Folk Song) are good examples of this. If that sounds weird, it is. The whole album is. I mean, track 12 is a cover of Wheels on the Bus! And somehow it kinda works! If I had to try to describe this album, it would be if Velvet Underground tried to make a Beach Boys album. Weird.

Liner Notes

The Rolling Stones – Dirty Work

⭐️⭐️

Like I mentioned yesterday, the next set of albums I plan to listen to are the original ones for all the songs on the Baby Driver Soundtrack. Track 2 of the soundtrack is Harlem Shuffle by Bob & Earl. Unfortunately, they only ever released it as a single. However, while reading about that on the Wikipedia page, I discovered that The Rolling Stones covered it on Dirty Work. So here we are.

It’s probably not too fair to compare an artist’s or band’s later works to their masterpieces. Dirty Work is their 18th album. Eighteenth! The fact that they were even able to record that many albums is an accomplishment. Even if Dirty Work is as horribly ’80s as the album cover suggests. The Stones fell into the same weird trap every band in the ’80s seemed to: “hey, let’s make the snare echo!” I don’t know who thought that was such a great idea that it made it into every song written in an entire decade, but it’s horrible. It’s in a lot of the songs on this record, but Too Rude takes the cake as the worst use of it I’ve ever heard. The fact that that horrible faux reggae dumpster fire isn’t actually the worst song on this album was surprising to me, but Back to Zero was just painful to listen to. Too little too late were the title track, which reminded me of Steely Dan more because of the style of the music than the name of the track, and Had It With You which seemed reminiscent of Chuck Berry. But even those two songs were mediocre at best.

I’m reminded now of something I heard somewhere about movie remakes that’s always stuck with me. The gist of the argument is that at worst, movie remakes are neutral. Maybe they’re great. If they aren’t, maybe they’re at least good enough to bring a new audience to the original movie. But no matter how bad they are, they don’t make the original movie worse by existing. So even if a movie is remade, it doesn’t matter as long as the original exists. I guess that same logic can be applied here. Back to Zero is the worst Rolling Stones song I’ve ever heard, but that doesn’t make me love Bitch or Gimme Shelter any less.

Liner Notes

John Spencer Blues Explosion – Orange

⭐️⭐️⭐️

I've been totally obsessed with the Baby Driver soundtrack since I saw the movie. Since I can't get over how good it is enough to start listening to new stuff, I decided I'd try something else: listen to the albums each of the songs were originally on. This is not a perfect plan, as you'll soon see, but it's not the worst idea I've ever had.

The first song on the soundtrack is also the first track on this album: Bellbottoms. It's a great way to start (an album or a movie). There are some other pretty good tracks after it, but it is pretty much all downhill. One thing I didn't realize until way too late is that the iTunes version of this album is about 3 times the actual running length and is overall much worse quality than the original 13 tracks. The bonus stuff suffers even more from what I didn't like about this album: it's intentionally lo-fi in a lot of places. Somewhere I saw this band described as Blues/Punk, which I didn't think could even be a thing until listening to this record. If I had to guess the intentional lo-fi stuff is to further emphasize the "punk," but I found it to be distracting. Particularly Flavor, which features Beck. It sounds like Beck literally phoned it in; either because he did, or because they added some filter that makes it sound like he's singing through the phone. There are some really good riffs in many of these songs, but they can't seem to get out of their own way a lot of the time. Cowboy is another good example. The song's not bad, but it's sung in this over the top fake southern drawl that takes away from the song much more than it adds to it.

I suspect that most of this experiment will be discovering that the best songs on the album were the ones that made the soundtrack. It's certainly the case for Bellbottoms and Orange. We'll see how the rest goes.

Liner Notes

Green Day – Dookie

★★★★★

One of my favorite stories from my childhood involves this album. It was my first CD. I got it and a Sony Discman for my 13th birthday. At my party, my conservative Catholic uncle took the CD insert from me to show my dad the lyrics to Longview. “It’s too late now,” my dad said. “He’s had the cassette since Easter.”

That was 20 years ago today, and I think I enjoyed listening to it again today as much as I did then. I can’t tell you when the last time was that I actually sat down and listened to this record. I can tell you that I still remember almost all of the lyrics, and I still like almost every single song (never did care for that bonus track). I remember reading somewhere that the reason music you listened to you when you were in your early teens sticks with you so hard has to do with the actual structure of your brain at that age. I guess that’s why I love this album so much; I’m doomed to love it forever.

Liner Notes

Baby Driver Soundtrack

★★★★★

This blog was supposed to be one album per day, every day for a year. Obviously I’ve done a bad job of listening to an album every day. However, this is the first time that I’ve been so completely obsessed that I’ve been listening to music, but not listening to anything different for more than a day. On Saturday after seeing the movie in theaters for a second time I bought the Baby Driver Soundtrack, and I’ve been listening to it any chance I can get since.

It’s astoundingly good. The first time I saw the movie, I was pleasantly surprised when I realized I heard Kashmere Stage Band playing. And I think I might have fallen out of my seat if it didn’t recline when the very next song was one of my favorite by Dave Brubeck (Unsquare Dance). This is a soundtrack to a movie about driving cars with, arguably, the best car driving song of all time on it (Radar Love), and the rest of the songs are so good I forgot it was even in the movie.

I honestly can’t recommend the soundtrack or the movie highly enough. Go see it, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.