Thursday, March 26, 2009

Recent Acquisitions: March 26, 2009

The Spinanes, Manos (Sub-Pop, $2.50). Before there was the guitar-drums duo of Jack and Meg White, there was the duo of Roberta Gates and Scott Plouf, except the guy played drums and the gal played guitar. (File under: Band Name or Archaic Malady?)

The Schramms, Walking to Delphi (OKra, $2.50). Dave Schramm was an original member of Yo La Tengo, who struck out on his own. He returned to the group for one album that happens to be one of the greatest cover albums of all time (Fakebook). This is his band playing literate rock. Two songs set Emily Dickenson poems to music and one song borrows from a Baudelaire poem. Just goes to show you that bands these days don’t even aspire to pretentiousness. (File under: Band Name or Beer Name?)

Francoise Hardy, Loving (Reprise, orange and tan label original pressing, $13). This is Hardy’s first album sung entirely in English. Will that diminish her appeal? It might if it turns out she’s been singing about buttercups and bumblebees all along. (File under: ESL Records)

Van Morrison, Tupelo Honey (Warner Brothers, green label, original pressing, $1). This is an album that I sold during a vinyl purge in the late 80s. This used copy has a very honey-colored album cover, hopefully due to exposure to sunlight. This thought also crossed my mind: Could tupelo honey be a genteel Southern euphemism for piss?

Brahms, Four Symphonies, Bernard Haitink, Concertgebouw Orchestra (Philips, 4 LPs, Dutch pressing, $1). Four monuments of Western culture for a buck! On one hand I’m glad about this bargain. On the other hand, it depresses me that it’s valued less than The Monkee’s Greatest Hits.

Beethoven, Late Quartets, Amadeus Quartet (Deutsche Gramophone, tulips label, 4 LPs for $15). Wonderful warm analog sound. It's always interesting how different performers interpret this other-worldly music. These performances are a little too refined for my taste. (File under: Rocky’s Favorite Music)

Rimsky-Korsakoff, Scheherazade, Reiner, Chicago SO (RCA stereo, shaded dog label, $2.50). This record is treasured by audiophiles. I’ve seen a mint copy sell for $100. This copy is not mint, but excellent nonetheless and hard to pass up at the price.

Peter Tosh, Legalize It (Columbia, $2.50). It’s a warped, thrashed copy. After listening to it, I’m intent on picking up a clean copy. Great album! (File under: Drug Czars in an Ideal World)

Dusty Springfield, Dusty in Memphis (Atlantic, original pressing, $15). I’ve been looking for an original pressing of this classic ever since I bought a recent reissue a few years ago. There’s a noticeable difference in sound quality, more bloom in the original pressing. Advice for all singers: record an album in Memphis if you want to revive your career. It never seems to fail.

Cal Tjader, Hip Vibrations (Verve, original stereo pressing, $3). I guess in the 60s it was conceivable for a horned-rim-glasses-wearing jazz vibraphonist to put out a record with a psychedelic cover and the title Hip Vibrations. Far out. (File under: Good Vibes)

Perez Prado, Our Man in Latin America (RCA original stereo pressing, $3). Latin big band music is made for happy times. That's to say it doesn't get played much at my place. 

Perez Prado, Estas Si Viven (UA Latino, $2). I can imagine this record being played near the end of a cocktail party in the 60s after most of the gin has been consumed or spilled on the carpeting.

The Horace Silver Quintet, Tokyo Blues (Blue Note, blue label, Van Gelder in dead wax, $5).

Miles Davis, In Concert (Columbia, -1A pressings, 2-LP, $8). There are no songs listed on the jacket or record labels. Judging from the Fat Albert-type cartoon figures on the cover, this is a live album from the On the Corner period (mid-70s).

The Ahmad Jamal Trio, Volume 4 (Argo stereo pressing, $4). Surprisingly Jamal seems neglected these days, especially considering he was a major influence on Miles. He sounds good to my ears.

The Delfonics, Super Hits (Philly Groove original pressing, $10). I've been looking to pick up a Delfonics album ever since I saw Jackie Brown, with the scene of Pam Grier playing a Delfonics album for Robert Forster. 

Al Green, I'm Still in Love With You (Hi Records, $8). I'm on a mission to acquire all of Al Green's secular albums released on Hi. We'll see about his religious albums.

Al Green, Livin' for You (Hi/London Records, UK pressing, $9). UK pressings generally used higher quality vinyl than US pressings of the same era. But the sound of this pressing is less dynamic than the US Hi pressings of other Al Green albums. 

Joe Simon, The Chokin' Kind (Sound Stage 7, $3). Never heard of Joe Simon, but I like the song list. "The Chokin' Kind" is one of the greatest songs ever written.

The Who, Quadrophrenia (Classic Records reissue, 2-LP 200-gm vinyl, $34). This is comfort food for me. But I suspect buying a second, expensive copy when I already have a clean original pressing of the album sets me apart from sane people, among other things.

The Police, Ghost in the Machine (A&M, Sterling TJ in the deadwax, $2). 

Jimi Hendrix, Hendrix in the West (Reprise, Sterling RL in the deadwax, $3).  RL stands for Robert Ludwig, one the best mastering engineers in the business. His version of Led Zeppelin II is justly sought after by vinyl collectors. It makes other pressings of the albums sound dull and lifeless. His abilities are limited if the original tape isn't good to begin with, which is the case with the Isle of Wight concert tracks on this album. The Berkeley and San Diego concert tracks sound great.

Bonnie Tyler, Faster Than the Speed of Night (Columbia, $1). The album title begs the question, exactly how fast is the speed of night? Does it stay constant during a total eclipse of the heart? It’s enough to confound Stephen Hawking. (File under: Airhead Physics)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Classifying Records

I started writing about organizing my record collection with the basic premise that dividing the collection into musical genres was necessary to find individual albums with the greatest ease. But as I thought about it, it became apparent that arranging all the albums alphabetically by artist name, regardless of genre, would be the simplest organizational system. It would still allow me to find a specific album without much trouble. This method also eliminates the problem of cross-over artists such as Ray Charles and Ella Fitzgerald who could fit into two or more genres. Yet I will never adopt this system. I can’t bear the thought of finding J.S. Bach next to Burt Bacharach next to Bachman Turner Overdrive.

Then what is the real reason for organizing records by musical genres? My best guess is it has to do with establishing (or imposing) a sense of order. Just as biologists name flora and fauna within a taxonomic system to make the natural world more understandable, record collectors establish a taxonomic system of musical categories and subcategories to understand what they have. Except it’s not an objective, universal system like the taxonomy of organisms. Each collector’s method of organizing records is highly personal. I suspect, ultimately, categorizing records isn’t an attempt to understand the musical world, but rather an attempt to understand oneself. When I look at my collection, I can see I have three shelves of classical albums with about ten inches of Mahler albums, and four shelves of Jazz with about eight inches of Mingus albums, etc. When I see this, there is some sort of self-identification going on that would be impossible if the albums were all mixed together.

I’m reminded of the scene in Diner where Shrevie (Daniel Stern) reprimands his wife (Ellen Barkin) for not returning an album to its correct location on the shelf. He can’t understand how she can confuse musical genres. Her response—“I just want to listen to the music”—is perfectly reasonable on one level, but misses the perhaps unreasonable relationship of the record collector to his collection. Levinson uses the scene to illustrate the disintegration of their marriage. He stages it so the audience perceives Shrevie as overreacting to the situation. For me there’s a little more to it: As long as she has access to his records (I don’t think Shrevie complains about her listening to his records), his sense of order and self-identity will be challenged by another who may think the Nat King Cole Trio belongs in Pop, not Jazz.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Album Cover Gallery: Punk Ass Kids

"Hey! Get off my lawn, you punk ass kids!"

"Hey, kids, get off my porch! Scram!"

"For Christ's sake, get off my roof!"

"Hey, you no-good kids, stop drinking my booze!"

"Where are you going with my hubcaps!"