Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Day in the Life of a Record Collector Ends With Ruminations on The Flaming Lips

The day started at a garage sale in my neighborhood. The family had five boxes of records in the driveway. Most of it was easy listening dreck. One rarely sees good records in the suburbs. It makes me sad for my town. Even though the records were only a quarter each, I bought only two, an original pressing of Nancy Sinatra's Country My Way and Boulez Conducts Varese--an oddball among the the Lawrence Welk and Ray Conniff records--which appeared unplayed. I gave the woman a dollar and started to walk away, but she insisted on giving me change.

I drove to Berkeley hoping to find something worthwhile. I spent a couple of hours at Amoeba and Rasputin with a side trip to Moe's Books, where I picked up a remaindered copy of The Essential Rock Discography, a neat British book I had never heard of. I liked the blurb from the Guardian on the front cover, "The last word on rock 'n' roll trainspotting." I ended up buying two albums, Ella Fitzgerald's Sings the Cole Porter's Song Books and Sings the Irving Berlin Song Books. Both are double LPs reissued by Speakers Corner, a German audiophile label. I'd been on the fence about buying these records, which cost $65 each new. So when I saw these mint copies for $25 each, it was an easy decision. I almost picked up a curious album of Johnny Hodges playing with Lawrence Welk, but doubted it's musical merit. I have to draw the line somewhere and musical curiosities are not part of my collection.

On the way home, I decided to stop by a record store in Fremont. I've gotten to know the owner, who's a really nice guy. His store tends to be a hang out for an odd assortment of folks. He recently lost his day job at a tool-and-die plant, so I've been frequenting his store whenever I could. Today when I stopped by, there was a larger than usual crowd. They were gathered around the new record de-warping machine. I had walked in on the first test run. There was a little bit of confusion because the instructions for the machine were written in Japanese. Everyone though seemed excited to see how it would work out. I didn't stick around to find out, but left after finding a couple of albums to buy, Archie Shepp's Fire Music and a Japanese pressing of Miles Davis at the Plugged Nickel, Vol. 2. I'll ask him about the test run on my next visit.

At home I spun the Irving Berlin Song Book, which put me in a wistful reverie, which lately has been the most common effect of good music on me. It happened last week listening to "Let It Be" on the car stereo with the wipers strumming a light sprinkle off the windshield.

A comment in The Essential Rock Discography describing The Flaming Lips' At War With the Mystics as a scathing indictment of George Bush made me want to listen to the album again. When the album first came out I had high expectations and was disappointed by it. I enjoyed it a lot more this time when I really had no expectations and was listening for the Bush references. The Flaming Lips are great for many reasons. Down on the list, but appreciated by fans who care about sound quality, is the band's dedication to putting out the best sounding records possible. The production and engineering on their recent albums are excellent. They've released all their albums on high quality vinyl. Even more exceptional is the availability of their recent albums on high resolution digital DVD-A. It's good to know someone cares.

That night I was finally motivated to order my ticket to the Treasure Island Music Festival to see the Flaming Lips live.

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