While my vinyl jones is mostly kept at bay on the cheap, I do occasionally take advantage of the fact that almost anything worthwhile is available in this “obsolete” format, and that records I once considered “unobtainium” are now just a click away on Amazon for a very reasonable price. Here are a few I was spinning just this weekend…
The Velvet’s White Light/White Heat…What can you say about it? Certainly nothing that hasn’t already been said, but I’m not going to let that stop me. Easily the least accessible thing in their catalog but I find it just as essential as the banana record and the third one. Now I realize that Cale and Lou were into free jazz, minimalism, and lots of other intellectual stuff, but to me this sounds like serendipity more than anything, like they just got loaded and started banging on their instruments and this is what came out…I believe “Sister Ray” was done in one take was it not? In any case, when I’m in a particular (or should I say peculiar?) mood, nothing sounds better than this… I have openly admitted my novice status when it comes to jazz but I can say nothing apart from Louis Armstrongs’s 20′s-30′s work has impressed me as much as this record. The Miles/Coltrane combo is pretty fucking incredible and the arrangements seem tailor made to strengths of all the players involved. I’ve listened to it a dozen times or so and feel like I’m only scratching the surface. Awesome… It seems like Raw Power gets more love in many quarters, but Funhouse strikes me as the perfect Stooges record. It’s like they were able to reduce their music down to some thick, scuzzy, single-celled entity that exists entirely outside of time, space, words, notes…it’s no wonder people didn’t take it seriously upon it’s release. “Down On The Street”, “Loose”, and, hell, the whole record strike me as mysterious and elemental as anything Hank Williams or John Lee Hooker ever came up with and that as high of a compliment as I’m capable of doling out…I really wanted to get Grotesque but the affordable issues were out of stock (The Fall stuff on vinyl seems to be less available in general, thus more pricey) so instead of trying to research the merits of a thousand Fall records or whatever absurd number it is, I just went with the most recent one, Re-Mit. Mr. Smith & co. are definitely an acquired taste, but as one who has acquired it, I dig this quite a bit. Whether he’s grunting unintelligibly or spinning off imagery at a pace that would make Dylan blush, Mark E. Smith is one of a kind and, to my ears, fascinating. The music isn’t quite as repetitive and chaotic as some of his earlier work but it does just fine in my opinion. Can’t wait to see what he/they spit out next!
Okay, I promise to shut up about records for a while and just post iffy music like I’m supposed to do…
I’m still getting things sorted out with my new 8 track computer-based system…Some nice advantages, very easy to use, almost impossible to accidentally erase or record over a track, no tape hiss…However, I’m having difficulty mixing stuff to my liking and it eats up the memory pretty quickly.
Anyway, I was dicking around with it yesterday and with all the discussion a while back about Graham Parker’s Stick To Me in one of my cheap-o vinyl posts, I got the bright idea of doing a sort of “chill” version of the title track, the results of which can be found HERE
I’ve been a little under the weather which has brought my recording activities to a halt but I’ve still managed to feed my cheap vinyl addiction. Let’s see what we got…
First up we have Tony Joe White’s (of “Polk Salad Annie” fame) eponymous record. When I was in Germany I found that there were huge cult followings devoted to artists such as Serge Gainsbourg, Lee Hazelwood, Scott Walker, and…Tony Joe White. I was thrilled to stumble upon this rather beat copy of Tony Joe and while I usually steer away from vinyl this ragged (even for a buck), in this case I made an exception. Good call! Despite some serious surface noise I absolutely LOVE this record! Tony’s voice is just perfect for the type of material he likes to do which ranges from gutbucket takes on John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom” to foreboding acoustic blues, down-home balladry, and more. His harp playing and swampy guitar stylings are unerringly soulful and the players, including David Briggs on organ are perfectly suited for the gig. My favorite cut is probably “Stud Spider” which has a little “Polk Salad” feel to it and features TJ’s wry humor and greasy guitar to excellent effect. Loved this so much I immediately bought his Black and White album from Amazon and eagerly await it’s arrival. Next we have the Godfather of Soul checking in with Soul On Top. As we all know JB could really churn out the product and he often made rather strange decisions. I would definitely place this record into the strange decision category and I find it fascinating! Instead of using his band he chooses to work with a bunch of L.A. session dudes (although Maceo is present) and Oliver Nelson (an accomplished jazzer who, among other accomplishments, wrote the theme for Six Million Dollar Man before dying of a heart attack at 43) conducting the Louie Bellson Orchestra. The results are just as weird and disorienting as you might expect. The choice of material ranges from Vegasy fodder like “What Kind Of Fool Am I?” and “For Once In My Life” to remakes of his own signature tunes. The results are absolutely bizarre and, in my view, highly entertaining. On the more MOR tunes he starts out playing it pretty straight but eventually things morph into something more James Brown-like with the repetitive vocal tics, grunts, whoops, and what have you. His take on “Your Cheating Heart” is awesome and this version of “It’s A Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World” reminds me of a panther pacing around a nondescript cage occasionally going beserk and settling down again. Just wow. Next we have Here Is Phineas by jazz piano prodigy Phineas Newborn Junior. Phineas had an interesting but ultimately tragic career, working with folks like Charles Mingus, Lionel Hampton, Big Walter, B.B. King, Willie Mitchell, Jackie Brenston of “Rocket 88″ fame, and doing some Sun Records sessions for Sam Phillips. Listening to this record you can’t help but be amazed by the speed and precision of his playing. The dude just fucking smokes. However he was stung by criticism that he was more speed than substance and ended up spending time in mental institutions. Very sad. Next we have Keith Sykes, who I vaguely remember from the 80′s and, as I recall, was sort of in the realm of guys like Rodney Crowell and Guy Clark. This record is well played and arranged and Sykes’ voice is attractive but the songs made no impression on me at all. “The Coast Of Marseilles”, which Jimmy Buffet covered apparently, is emblematic of my problem with his songwriting. He starts the song proclaiming his location and then, with no other details, immediately launches into a banal litany of how much he misses and longs to hold his absent lover…It just doesn’t go anywhere. He also has a song called “Sounds Like A Hit” which…ah…doesn’t. Like the kinda’ Dickensian cover shot though. The late Willie De Ville is an interesting character. It’s sort of funny that he was lumped in with the punk/new wave folks since his bag is much more a Ben E. King/rootsy sort of thing. This is a solid little record that is in that vein except for a few rockers that lean in a Springsteen direction, though to be fair he was a contemporary of the Boss not a disciple. When looking at the track list, I thought Arthur Alexander’s “You Better Move On” was a less-than-inspired choice but it ends up being one of my favorite tracks, perfectly suited to Willie’s whole trip. Last we have Bryan Ferry’s Bete Noir recorded in the late 80′s and really sounding like it. Totally synthetic, lots of disco and “world music” touches, lots of black chick backing vocals to temper Ferry’s distinctive vibrato warble, this is a coke-addled mess that I still found interesting on some level. At least there’s no Dylan covers…
I have made the transition to an eight track digital computer program for recording which means my trusty old MT-120 has been relegated to a sort of pre-amp/mixing board status. I did record one last batch of tunes on 4-track cassette which I will divulge more about at some point, but from now on my horrible little demos will be done digitally. However you will be delighted to know that, despite the lack of tape hiss, my efforts will retain the clunky uncertainty that you have all come to expect. Here’s something I dashed off this afternoon: Spare Me
Let the new era begin!
As a well-deserved break from my seemingly endless bag-o-trax, I bring you a post wherein I pose five question to our good friend Kosmo Vinyl concerning his days with the legendary Stiff Records label. If you are not familiar with either Kosmo or Stiff Records, by all means fuck off.
Heeerrreeee we go…
1) How did you come to work at Stiff and, if you care to share, what were some of your duties?
I pestered the heck out of Dave Robinson for a job. Stiff were in a small back street store front in West London, which at that time was pretty much unknown to me. I would trek by underground across London and go ask Dave for a job and he would tell me to come back and back I’d go. I’d also see him at Graham Parker shows as he was their manager, I’d pitch in and help the roadies, I was working on building sites and before that in the street markets, so I could work and the roadies would tell “Robbo” I was a good lad. I guess in the end I just wore him down. My first actual job at Stiff was to fix a door and my expectation was to become a roadie – it was a small operation and I did whatever was needed – lots of carrying stuff, roadie-ing, running errands and just generally helping out whoever needed helping out.
2) Is it true the label was started with a small loan from Lee Brilleaux and do you suspect the somewhat surprising success of the Feelgoods was a rationale for believing an independent like Stiff could find an audience for the kinds of artists it featured?
The Feelgoods loaned Dave and Jake 200 pounds to get it started. Dave had been running some kind of recording set up upstairs at the Hope & Anchor pub, I think thats where he found Graham Parker, before that he had managed the band Brinsley Schwartz. Jake was the road manager for The Feelgoods and had also been involved in some way with Chilli Willi & The Red Hot Peppers. Anyway there was a whole scene/network that they belonged to. Their feeling was the established record companies (all based in London) were out of touch and didn’t know what they were doing, they felt they had a shot.
3) Did you consider the Damned’s “New Rose” single to be revolutionary at the time? How do you feel (if you have any feelings one way or the other) about it in retrospect both as a song and a cultural harbinger?
“New Rose” was revolutionary in that it was the first punk single, it was out and you could get it. It was the sign of things to come – The Sex Pistols and The Clash were looking for major labels, so they would have to wait on the bureaucracy of a “record deal” but The Damned just put something out. They were very much in the moment with no real game plan. Jake Riviera was their go-to guy and he really enjoyed that whole early punk attitude, the youthfulness, the disrespect – he had a blast. When Jake became interested in Elvis Costello, The Damned by default became a bit lost – they didn’t have anyone to work with them closely.
4) What was your impression of Dave Robinson? How about Jake Riviera?
Dave Robinson gave me start and I hope I repaid his faith in me with the work I did for both Ian Dury and Stiff in general. He’s a Music Industry journeyman, he’s done it all – he was a Hendrix roadie, he’s worked for Rick Rubin, he’s kept going and I salute that. Jake Riviera is a true one-of-a-kind and if you’re going to be around him, you’d better be thick skinned and fast with the witty reply. If Jake says he likes it - he likes it… and if he doesn’t he will let you know. I saw him for the first time in years last April in London, he’s still a huge fan and now lives on Eel Pie Island, which really says it all.
5) Many are aware of people like Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, and Ian Dury, all early Stiff artists that went on to significant careers. Were there any Stiff signings that you think never got the recognition they deserve or simply didn’t live up to their potential?
Of the first Five Live Stiffs I’d say that things worked out, pretty much as they should. Ian and Elvis were hungriest and pushed hardest. In those days Nick didn’t really want to be a front man and was happier in Rockpile. In my opinion Wreckless Eric never really found anyone to work with closely, to get things either the way he wanted them, or for him to be out-and-out successful. I suspect he really wanted to keep his output left of centre, but Stiff needed him to have a hit, neither side really worked it out. As for Larry Wallis, he just didn’t want to make the effort required, a great bloke -(he let me share his flat for a while) and a true talent, but from a work rate point of view he wasn’t that hungry. A shame I see no reason why he couldn’t have been bigger than Lemmy – he was meant to be in the first Motorhead line-up, but dropped out.
More Bulk period four-track tunes…
Oh, I may have some interesting (astonishing even) Bulk-related news in the future…but then again, I may not. Also, by my calculations, it should be certified gold about the time robots are herding human beings into the extermination modules. Knew I shoulda’ got on the synthpop bandwagon…
It’s that time again…let’s see what I’ve scrounged up for a mere greenback or less…
Up first we have The Sweet with Give Us A Wink. Of course we all know “Ballroom Blitz” if not “Little Willy” and “Fox On The Run” which were big AM radio staples in the day. The Sweet perfectly exemplifies a certain time and place in the 70′s with their proggy brand of highly commercial Glam Rock. While Wink has all that was good and bad about that era, including a super-trick die-cut cover that gives the illusion of one of the eyes winking when you pull out the inner sleeve, it produced no Big Hits…but not for the lack of trying. These fellows self-produced this LP and they packed it with hooks, sound-effects, lush, layered backing vocals and “Listen to This!” arrangements right out of the Queen playbook…or maybe it was Queen that was using The Sweet playbook? In any case, it’s an interesting listen. I remember buying Santana’s Caravanseri because this older dude that I thought was really cool was always blasting “Oye Como Va” out of his ’65 Fury. It wasn’t really what I was expecting when I bought it, but it was one of the first records I had that wasn’t Hendrix where I found I could have my emotions stirred by the sound of someone playing guitar. Nostalgia aside, it still sounds pretty good. I’m a late comer to 10c.c. ’cause they weren’t really my bag back then… Wasn’t that hot on “I’m Not In Love” (a remixed(?) version which is included here), always confused it with Alice Cooper’s “Only Women Bleed”, but I sorta’ dug “Rubber Bullets” ( a sort of mash-up version appears here called “Wet Rubber Suit”). Listening now to the 10c.c records and this Godley & Creme collection, I really dig the subversive weirdness encased in the slick, complex, and overtly commercial arrangements. I don’t recall “Cry” being a hit but it shouda’ been. I heard Graham parker before Elvis Costello, and I sort of thought El was stealing GP’s act…While they both shared the angry Brit nerd thing, they could not have been more different lyrically with Elvis doing all kinds of linguistic summersaults, puns, alliteration, etc. while GP was ruthlessly blunt. This record got a lukewarm reception coming after Howling Wind and Heat Treatment and was found in abundance in the cut-out bins of the time. As I listen to Stick To Me now, I find it to be compelling little record. GP chews bullets and spews bile and The Rumour are in fine form, delivering a manic performance and sounding tighter than an over-wound watch. Nick Lowe’s hands-off-the knobs production suits the occasion and the horn arrangements do nothing to slow down the proceedings. Underrated IMO. This J.J. Cale record was only forty nine cents and may be the bargain of the lot. I had forgotten just how eccentric this fellow was! The formula is basically this: Get a rootsy little groove going, mumble/whisper some cryptic shit incorporating blues/country-type subjects, lay some tasty, understated guitar licks into the spaces, and fade it out about two minutes thirty in. Done. I love it! Lastly we have Sparks Angst In My Pants. This is another outfit that I totally missed the boat on. The Maal bros. were into the electronic shit early on and this record sounds like it could have come out yesterday. The songs are dripping with hooks and the lyrics are clever and funny as hell without ever bordering on annoying (IMO anyway), always a tall order. They bring to mind a similar fave of mine, the twisted Scandinavian duo Yello who I imagine must have been at least a little influenced by the Sparks siblings.