You can imitate everyone you know…

So in a fit of Anti-Pepper, not the best album The Beatles made and not the start in any shape or form of the concept album, and it misses all the good songs off for second division filler, sentiment. I bought the Beatles albums missing from the collection in pretty new remastered versions. Rubber Soul, Revolver, The White Album and Let It Be. I deliberately avoided Sgt. Pepper in self righteous indignation at all the posters telling me I should get it. I strolled out of the store having claimed my 30% off the purchase and felt pretty good about myself in not succumbing to the pressure to buy the 50th anniversary one.

So on to this:

The unpopular last released album.

The contentious recording process, the awkward movie. The arguments about production. Did Phil Spector really ruin the album?

The geek in me wants to make all sorts of clever points. Scratch my beard and frown meaningfully and decide that one of the Get Back acetates is really the best version, or McCartney’s Let It Be Naked is the true classic.

The irony of an album that was supposed to be a return to some sort of semblance of live performance has become to be regarded as one of the most overproduced albums appeals to me.

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I have to admit though this is the Let It Be I grew up with, it is in fact one of my favorite Beatles albums, even the saccharine strings and choir on the Long and Winding Road are  essential to the listening experience, anything else is not right. Yes it is a patchwork album in feel, it never quite flows right and yet it flows exactly as it is supposed to do at the end of the day.

Also any album that has Get Back, Across the Universe and Let It Be on is a pretty good album as far as I can tell. Two of Us, Dig a Pony and I Me Mine are not too shabby either.

I found myself thinking as I listened to this newly bought version, as it’s cheaper than any original I could find, what a strange game listening to records has become. Is it the right pressing, is it mastered correctly is it remastered, what is the source tape, analog or digital and who cut the album. I have to admit it’s great fun and appeals to the inner geek. I do however long sometimes for the days when I was just happy to find a copy that I could afford new or used. Of course in the bad old days we only had one way of listening to records and our choices were limited and the word audiophile was reserved for those strange bearded men in the stereo store buying equipment we didn’t know what to do with.

To be honest after years of abuse at live shows I don’t think my ears can really tell some of the differences others claim to hear in all these exotic pressings. I like to listen to records because they are funner and I can read the lyrics and the sleeves are easier to enjoy. It’s also gratifying to see the jealous look my children give the shelves as they plot how they will split the legacy when I am gone.

Full disclosure. I got guilty when I got home and ordered the damned Sgt. Pepper album. I then felt better knowing the collection was complete in some way, I did not however get the super deluxe fab new version remixed, remastered and rewound. I got the mono version but now I think I may need the other…

 

Time was when we got along…

There is a good time feel to Canned Heat.

It’s not psychedelic but they are forever aligned with the hippie world especially the Woodstock concert and movie because of Goin’ Up The Country.

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I have no idea if it’s good blues or bad blues all I know is I smile when I play Canned Heat. Of course I don’t need anymore than the Greatest Hits album I have which has all the necessary Heat material on it for me. I seem to remember there could be too much of a good thing at times.

I realize I have nothing really exciting to say about this album other than for approx 40 minutes it transported me to a time when all I had to worry about was whether I got the essay in on time and had money for chips and beer that night. In short it took me back to a time when cares where minimal and fun was all and for that I am eternally grateful for the rejuvenating affects of music.

So whoever was Paterson who looked after this record so well thank you.

The other thing is that yesterday I visited four thrift stores and this is all I found and it very well may be enough.

 

Reckon luck sees us the same…

“Dude it’s all about volume, seriously man listen to how loud that shit is.”

img_6101Wise words indeed as the bottle of Jameson’s reached the sorry end and we had to switch to Carlsberg lager in plastic 2 liter bottles, always the sad end to the night, this time however we were on the fourth listening to Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock by Talk Talk.

The lights were off an all we had was the rising lights of the graphic equalizer on the stereo, we were playing it so quietly that you had to strain to hear but I swear it was the loudest thing I had ever heard. Repetitive, relentless, gripping and yes so pretentious and honest. Prior to these albums I had written off Talk Talk as pop pap, a New Romantic dance band and then Mark Hollis hits you with this stuff that is so heavy, so dense it never sounds the same twice and then he just about disappears into the aether.

“Man the harmonica, listen to it wail.”

And here I am at the tail end of the year, figuring it out and playing those two albums img_6102again. I can almost smell that room with the incense, spilled whiskey and beer and cigarettes as we annoyed the neighbors and fought our way through those two albums. For almost two weeks we sat enraptured by the noise, the sheer physicality of those two fragile albums , we angered our room mates who prayed for the return of the Grateful Dead or Pink Floyd, hoped for something with a discernible melody and a hook and a less than relentless beat, something less physically demanding to listen to. I looked up and there he was staring out the window as the sun rose over Sefton Park and we realized that the only answer may be a walk and feed the ducks and maybe a stroll through the palm house, then a greasy breakfast and try get your head on straight.

The next night we played Miles and Coltrane and smiled. The madness had moved on maybe.

It has  been something like 20 years since I owned either of these albums in any format but there they were in the record store this afternoon. Sitting there on the rack those sleeves so mysterious and familiar. I remembered that physical experience of listening to them and new they were coming home with me. Immediately they caused consternation in the household, it’s unfamiliar, strange and yet engaging, there were grimaces and then I realized they had to be played late and quietly to truly understand the volume.

Maybe next week I can take a stroll through the park and get my head on straight who knows.

 

So many things I would have done But clouds got in my way…

Maybe it’s time for one of those round up posts, or not.

Christmas is behind us and all that brought. I am anticipating a fun filled couple of days with the family and then maybe off to the high desert for New Years. I really need to get some hiking boots though to thoroughly enjoy that experience.

It’s been a pretty strange year. A year of reflection and consideration, that began with a rush back to the UK to deal with illness, then a return over the Summer to continue with that as well as having a vacation of sorts. In two weeks I head back to see my parents and hopefully keep getting things organized for them.

I’ve bought a lot of music this year, mostly used albums from various sources, mainly thrift stores, then every now and then I think of something I really need and suddenly I am online looking for bargains, they can still be found occasionally. I also realized that I had a real affection for the music I seemed to despise when I was a teenager as well as a continued love for some of the old favorites. I realized how many records I had discarded over the years and had to find again and also how many records had been lost because of generosity or the end of a relationship.

15698257_10209936042751580_8384825806606636043_n-2This last year I rambled through my sonic memories, blasting out Hawkwind and Pentangle on the same day, relaxing with Leo Kotke and getting angry with Harper. I failed to enjoy a Steve Hackett show too many phone calls not the music,  and never went to the Field Music gig I had so looked forward to because I had to get on a plane all in the same two days. Maybe this trip I’ll get to find some records especially those Julian Cope records that have been on my mind this week. I may also get the chance to catch up with some people other than my parents in Liverpool this time.  I did however find my favorite Cope album with World Shut Your Mouth, a record that saved me from an interminable week of Bruce Springsteen and Queen one summer.

To round the year off me and my son just bought Cropredy tickets. This has been my 15726798_10209909453526866_5475464668825045969_nchildren’s graduation gift for many years and this is the last one to graduate, the bands 50th anniversary and also my friends 50th birthday. This will all be celebrated if it all works out in a field In Oxfordshire this August. Then I get all sentimental about my relationship to Fairport Convention and the fact I have been attending Cropredy since 1982 and I believe this may very well be the last, it looks the right one to end on as well.

I think that next year may well be overshadowed musically by that strange anomaly that is Fairport Convention for me in many ways. Over the last few weeks I have been drawn to their music, that may very well be because I just bought tickets for Cropredy and a nostalgia that is definitely rose tinted. I have also pretty much decided this will be my last visit to that field. Of course I made the same statement in 1992 when I staggered back to my tent knowing I was leaving for the USA pretty soon, then I found myself back in ’97 and occasionally throughout the years, money and time allowing. I found a copy of Moat on The Ledge from the ’81 show when it was still considered a reunion stuffed in the back of a wardrobe. This record caused me much grief when I bought it in Probe records all those years ago, not hip enough probably.

Well who really knows what will happen next, I know I have found it hard to sit and write recently, not much to really say. I had to force myself to sit down for this. For my own sanity more than anything. I get back to the USA right before the inauguration so we will see what they brings. It is exciting concerning times indeed.

 

I can’t do that round here…

Another day another stop at the Goodwill to kill time and away I come with this weeks haul so far. The odd thing about shopping for records this way is that you pretty much take what you find. Sometimes it’s a risk on something you have never heard and other times it is like finding an old friend. This last day was odder than usual, I don’t normally listen to reggae but I could not resist the Toots and the Maytals Best Of, if only for their slightly twisted version of John Denver’s country roads and who doesn’t like a song called Monkey Man. It was also brand new and still in the shrink wrap so why not.

Burgers by Hot Tuna has always been a favorite and it would be a sin to leave a George Harrison album on the shelf.ahaul

The real find though was Nils Lofgren Cry Tough, I have never listened to Nils solo albums. Cry Tough however has proven to be a really great Rock ‘n’ Roll album with a stunning version of For Your Love mixing rock and some reggae moments. I had never really paid attention to how good a guitarist he really is.

Then there is the shame of the Electric Light Orchestra, but it looked so tempting and I have never heard anything by Savoy Brown so why not.

I did resist the Eagles and was bummed to find the Creedence albums scratched beyond hope in a strange Big Lebowski irony overload. This is the downside of the thrift store rummage, you have to really consider if something will be playable once you get it home.

So new things to listen to. A moment of pop indulgence and it is only Wednesday.

The biggest problem is that we have just moved and the rooms are so empty that they echo considerably so listening is a challenge especially if you attempt any reasonable rock out volume.

It’s all a figment of my mind.

Hawkwind have been a fixture in my life since some time in the late 70’s. I think I went to see them 2-3 times a year during most of the eighties, usually at the Liverpool Empire, often in St. Helen’s and Preston as well as brief forays to Warrington and Wigan. space

I have to admit I don’t always have a clear recollection of the gigs. Usually waking up with throbbing ears and an aching body. They used to be entire body experiences. I remember one time I think on the Choose Your Masques tour a stage invasion and some sort of collapse as Nik Turner honked his way painted silver on roller skates or some other foolishness. They were incredible joyous experiences regardless of the lack of ability of the band.

Once the Hawkwind sound of bleeping synths, churning guitars throbbing bass and implacable drums hit you there is no hope. They were the original anarcho hippie collective space bandits. I have to admit the lyrics are at best silly at worst embarrassing but it’s all part of the fun and games with fire eaters dancers and sword waving mimes, what more could you want. They can make spinal tap look reasonable and they do it all with a cheeky grin.

This is why a white vinyl version of X In Search of Space, the first wholly coherent, well as coherent as they get, album by Hawkwind makes me so happy. Still no Lemmy on bass on this one but Amon Duuls Dave Anderson does a great job and titles like You Shouldn’t Do That , We Took The Wrong Step Years Ago as well as Master of the Universe can only add to the excitement. It is a churning mess, at times terrifying and at other times oddly reassuring and wholly disquieting. The next album would blow the lid but this one is a taste of things to come.

Enough of that though, here we have this weeks haul from browsing the local thrift stores and garage sales. Some of the sleeves have seen better days but the vinyl is fine, well loved would be my description I have to admit to being a little over excited by the Police, Dylan and Elvis albums.

the haul

Yes the Eagles are there, it is one of the best selling records of all time so I felt I had to buy it and it was surprisingly fun to listen to this weekend. It does have the good grace to stop before they became too self important and bloated.

Here’s to the lone and wayward son

Here is one from my favorite local Portland(Oregon that is) bands, Blitzen Trapper. Destroyer of the Void was a surprise when it came voidout, following on the folky leanings of Furr, the opening track starts out as if Queen played folk-rock with the Beatles and then runs the gamut of classic rock, folk with space rock synth moments swooping through the mix.

I have always found Blitzen Trapper to be a little more honest and in your face and less reverential than their near contemporaries The Decembrist’s. They manage to reference folk-rock without paying homage, or placing a finger in the ear. They are definitely more rock than folk delving into seventies guitar god moments that can cause you to imagine the seams splitting in the striped pants as the foot goes on the monitor. At times they can be a little throw everything at the song but it always comes out sounding so fun. Quirky time signatures and lyrics that at times remind me of Dylan or the Kinks, a heady mix of influences that can confuse at times as much as delight.

Anyway Destroyer of the Void arrived in a pretty gatefold sleeve and looks and sounds wonderful. My son already stole it and disappeared into his room with the volume set to 11, all because I had to stop playing it for Spanish homework.

The obligatory Record Store Day connection is that Blitzen Trapper will be releasing their live version of Harvest for this years day. I probably won’t go but maybe Chris will pick me one up.

Anyway here are 10 from the Trapper.

Take me back way back home, not by myself, not alone.

ZZ Top released the greatest rock’n’roll album of all time in Fandango, at least at the age if 16 when I first heard the album that was my contention. Having just found a very very beaten up covered version of the album yesterday at Goodwill I can categorically say that as far as boogieing three piece bands from Texas, ZZ Top win hands down, no contest.fandangor The beards the hats the all out rock and roll. It’s a joy.

I found it with no inner sleeve and the cover is messed up royally by years of laying against other records in some stoners basement. The vinyl however is pristine and after a good cleaning plays fantastically. Don’t get the bubble gum version of the Top go for the full tilt boogie band that began with Tres Hombres, and peaked with Fandango before they learned how to cash in on the pop market. They always were a lot of fun but in the early days they seriously rocked.

Deguello was the last classic album before the synth laden 80’s. Apparently they have returned to form since then but I gave up and prefer to look back through those rose tinted Cheap Sunglasses at the trilogy of albums that preceded the decline. Of course if they get close to me why not go.

So there you have it one side live and rockin’ the other side studio and rockin’ ending with the awesome Tush. The common denominator being all out rock and roll honesty.

I crossed my old man back in Oregon…

This was the first time I ever consciously heard the name of the state I ended up living in. It’s from Don’t Take Me Alive on Steely Dan’s The Royal Scam. I know somewhere on the wonderful internet there is an explanation of the song:

http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=20243

See told you so.

Royal Scam is the first Steely Dan album I ever heard, I bought it by mistake thinking it was a Steeleye Span album. I am going to bet I am the only person willing to admit this publicly. Imagine my dismay when I got home to discover the entire lack of fiddles and no Maddy Prior. I almost sold it so many times as it was way too different to anything I was listening to at the time, the only song I liked was The Fez, it was many years before I figured out what the song was about. Go on google it.

Over time and with perseverance it became a favorite. This was a time when the height of sophistication in my  record collection was Very ‘Eavy by Uriah Heep,eavy which is still a classic by the way or Steeleye’s Rocket Cotttage. Learning to appreciate such an uncool album led me to be able to listen to other styles of music that my friends mocked relentlessly. Suddenly Springsteen was attainable as an artist, I could listen to Zappa and when I learned that all pop was not Kylie Minogue I could hold my head high and listen to the likes of The Teardrop Explodes. So my willingness to listen to a diversity of music and deal with the ridicule is because of Steely Dan in a way.

That willingness to listen to just about anything eventually led to an overload of music with almost 400 gig’s on a hard drive and the current search to slow down and enjoy the tunes. Vinyl has allowed me to take a breath and really listen again. To take things in 20 minute chunks and then flip the disc. It has also raised a little anxiety at times, who knew a cat, a dog, a wife and three kids could be so heavy footed. Vinyl standards have improved as well, gone are those flimsy discs, replaced with heavy solid substantial discs that settle on the turntable with a solidity that is reassuring.

Incidentally not only is listening to vinyl more restful, Neil Young is right it sounds better and I have a ridiculously cheap set up that would be ridiculed by any audiophile. I did however buy a spinclean cleaner to deal with those dirty used records. And yes the thought has hit me to update my stereo already but I am determined to hold out.

That song about Oregon did however stick in my mind. Then I met a girl from Oregon, she told me they were pronouncing it wrong and it became even cooler in for me. Then I married that girl and all was lost.  You have to believe Becker and Fagen knew exactly what they were doing with their pronunciation, they new how much those granola crunchers out west would cringe every time they heard it. I bet they grin every time they sing it too.

So now I am in Oregon and have to pronounce my states name appropriately if I don’t it could well cause an international incident.

This weeks listening:

Fisherman’s Blues, The Waterboys

Royal Scam, Steely Dan

The Yes Album, Yes

Close To The Edge, Yes

Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd

Past Present and Future. Al Stewart

A brief question though, how many people when they see the sign, Rummage Sale Tomorrow 10am wonder if there will be vinyl??

 

Record stores…Up and over we go.

So we have the turn table and some records, what next? It is obvious really, let’s go buy more records. Who even thought to really consider that question in any serious manner. Luckily I have a supremely patient wife who seems to understand the need to buy an album for the third time. Or maybe she was just too sick to really care today. Either way the die was cast.

So where to go? Luckily Portland potentially being the center of hipsterdom has may record stores selling vinyl by the pound, not to forget Goodwill after all. So off to brave the big city which is a lot easier since GPS became something nestling on my phone. I tried to con one of my kids into coming with me but one wanted to sleep after working an overnight and the other preferred schoolwork. So it was a solo journey, reminiscent of my teen vinyl buying years.

Off to Everyday Music on Sandy Blvd, I had never been in the vinyl section here before, usually buying cd’s, a much safer used purchase than fragile vinyl. The store was large and well laid out and easily navigated. I was however looking for a nostalgia fest maybe or something else than I got at least. Record stores used to be these fun loud flamboyant places with interested people working as well as odd balls,probe or maybe that was just Probe records on Button street. This is how I remember it looking. The repository of all that was cool about records in the day. I managed to buy Harper’s Lifemask, Fairport’s Moat on The Ledge and Give and Take by Here and Now all on the same day.

Before the internet the cork board by the door would tell you where and when the gig was for most bands nobody else wanted to see was. All of the staff were characters and would tell you how badly what you were buying sucked, or if you were lucky or hip enough that you happened to be the only person with any taste that had walked through the door this week. Even the main chain stores such as HMV or Virgin would have knowledgeable people who seemed to realize that they were being paid to listen to music and talk about it all day. Consequently the disappointment of hearing the depressed hipsters at Everyday music complain about how sad they are was not easily overcome. Yes they were pierced by enough hardware and had a dizzying array of tattoos, actually pretty normal for Portland, and tried so hard to be alternative but they did not really seem to realize just how cool their job really was.

Maybe the staff at the Beaverton store will be more fun.

However the important stuff, wow so may records all nicely arranged, new and used all together. Banks of 50c records that I was a little afraid of and most of the records in great quality and reasonably priced. As well as a new arrival section arranged by day of arrival. So I rummaged around for an hour, a few guys my age looking for all those things that they had given away or sold in the past and the young kids looking to discover something they missed as a teen, the joy of records. Out the window went all good intentions of sticking to the idea of albums that blew me away and I just started collecting vinyl to buy. Then I had to go back and put half of it all back, however for some reason I still ended up with three Jethro Tull albums, go figure.

The Purchases:

Stills and Stills 2 – Stephen Stills, not quite on the list but maybe they should be.

Deja Vu – CSNY, of course it is on the list.

Below the Salt – Steeleye Span

Nine, and an odd compilation called Chronicles by Fairport Convention, Nine should be on any self respecting Fairport fans list.

Bursting Out, one of the great live albums, Songs from the Wood, Stormwatch, the first Tull album I ever bought, – Jethro Tull

Hergest Ridge – Mike Oldfield, no idea why apart from it was in perfect condition and everyone needs some Oldfield and it is better than Tubular Bells.

So two from the list if I ever get to writing it. Well I have got to 16 so far.

But in the mail arrived In The Aeroplane Over The Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel,aeroplanejpg the very first piece of brand new vinyl I have bought in over 20 years. So why this record and why is it on the list?

I first heard this album on the same day as I heard Belle and Sebastien’s Lazy Line Painter Jane and they have both stuck in my mind in a good way. So I guess that is the answer, if the record sticks with you for years then it is on the list, of course that leaves space for the Hollies Greatest Hits, which is not a bad thing.

Well it has a great cover. It is also a wonderfully naive, twisted album with some of the best use of trumpet and musical saw ever, despite the slightly desperate sixth form poetry it still manages to hold itself together barely. It reminds me of Julian Cope at his greatest but it is also very American with a vocalist in Jeff Mangum that sounds just about this side of sane. It is as idiosyncratic as it is wonderful, with an epic use of dissonance and melody almost simultaneously and a wonderful punk sensibility.

So there you have it, the first visit to a record store to buy vinyl in over twenty years and the first brand new album bought in twenty years or so. It is still exciting to hold a brand new record by the way, and they really seem to be making them so much better, it is a reassuringly solid feeling piece of plastic.