Wild, wacky vinyl

4 10 2012

I’m starting to buy vinyl, not to be a pretentious hipster or audiophile, but because I love music.  Buying vinyl allows me to get some old stuff that is hard to find on CD and also to get my hands on some great stuff from places like the Salvation Army or other thrift stores.

Because I am trolling resale shops, hoping to stumble on a rare gem or two, I’m running across a lot of crazy stuff that I can’t even imagine anyone ever having owned.  It’s no secret that there are thousands of crazy, kooky, ugly, bizarre LP jackets.  They can be interesting pieces of  bad pop art.  Some of it has comedic value — good for a cheap laugh.  I found some records yesterday that made me giggle, made me shake my head in disbelief…  I didn’t buy any of these albums, but I hope you can appreciate the pics.

Rockin’ Easy — It’s entirely possible that many of us Generation X-ers were conceived with the sweets sounds of albums like this playing in the background.  What I’m quite sure of is that our parents didn’t “make whoopy” on an unsteady rowboat, in the middle of some scummy pond.

Win This Record (?), David Lindley & El Rayo X — I don’t know what the heck the name of this album really is.  Is it Win This Record, or does that mean that the distribution strategy for this record was to give it away as some crappy prize to a radio call in contest?  Was “caller number 5” the lucky guy or gal to pick up this rockin’ piece?  Clearly, the smash hit on this album is “Talk to the Lawyer.”  I’m speculating that’s a song about a couple heading for divorce.  The can’t agree on who gets the sofa and who gets the china.  An argument ensues and one of the disgruntled soon-to-be-ex spouses says, “Talk to the Lawyer.”  What else could it be?

A Brand New Song, the Carroll McGruder Trio — There’s no beating what I assume to be their stage outfits.  I tried to look up this album and find a track listing, but I was unsuccessful.  This is …err was … a southern gospel group.  I’ll betcha lunch that this is a record full of ole’ time gospel covers, with not a “brand new” song to be found.

Champion of Love, Glad — Just how does one become a “champion of love”?  Is there a playoff system?  How do you score the match.  The lads look like So Cal version of Menudo.  Given their appearance, maybe the band name should be GLAAD.

The Last of the Romantics, Englebert (Humperdink) — Boy, someone really thinks quite highly of himself.  This album was released in 1978.  I’m quite sure that there have been plenty of “romantics” in the last 34 years.   I’m sure she’s thinking, as he holds her steady with a death grip on her face, “Please release me, let me gooooo….”  An aside: everytime I hear or see this guy’s name, I can’t help but giggle at John Lennon having called Paul McCartney “Englebert Humperdink” in the early 70’s.

A Lover’s Question, Jacky Ward — “A Lover’s Question,” “Fools Fall in Love,” and “Big Blue Diamond.”  I don’t know what question the “lover” asked, but I just can’t see Jacky knowing the answer.  “Fools Fall in Love,” obviously, suggests it’s not good to fall in love.  So why the “Big Blue Diamond”?  We are left to conclude that only a “fool” would “fall in love” and give his girl a diamond worth four months rent at the trailer park.

Hollywood in Rhythm, Ray Coniff — Maybe it’s me, but I don’t understand what the connection exists between a skinny mannequin and “Hollywood.”

Swingin’ School Songs — Perfect mid-century collegiate material.  Fight Songs from some of America’s most well-known universities are found on this disk.  I want one of those sweaters, but I just want the block “S” to be green — Go State!  The “artists” are Dave Pell and his Octet.  I’m assuming the gleeful collegians on the cover aren’t the octet since there are only 5 of them.

Heleno — Our man, Heleno (presumably), appears to be a mafia tough guy dressed up for a night out at Studio 54 circa 1979.  Supposedly, you can’t judge a book but its cover.  But you might be able to judge an album buy it.  I’d bet a baker’s dozen donuts that the music on this album is measurably worse than the cover itself.

Whipped Cream & Other Delights, Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass — For reasons I still don’t understand, there were two copies of this record in my parent’s album collection.  I never once put this on the turntable, but I was always interested in the cover.  You can find this album anywhere.  By the amount of copies floating around at garage sales, flea markets and second-hand stores, you’d think this album went 10x platinum back in the day.


This is an “album,” or a “long playing record,” kids.

23 07 2012

My personal feeling about vinyl records is that they are cumbersome, not particularly portable, sound awful when scratched, and generally inferior to compact discs. I know many audiophiles will disagree, but that’s where I stand. Still, there’s nothing like an LP for functional, 3 dimensional musical art. I’m glad vinyl is making a big comeback, for that reason alone. I found this Smokey Robinson & The Miracles album at a pawn shop in Hastings, Michigan, and just had to have it. One, the vinyl is pristine. Two, it’s a nice – though slightly campy – piece of Motown art. Three, you just can’t get albums like this on CD. It seems like all that can be found out there are bad “best ofs” and lousy compilations that have the same 5, 8 songs that always get radio play. I hope to soon give this a spin. I betcha it’s a solid album.

Shuffling and short attention spans: the death of the album

5 12 2010

During recent conversations I’ve been in online regarding pirating copyrighted music — mostly through free file-sharing software — I’ve learned that younger music fans do not see unauthorized free downloading of songs as stealing. They justify it several ways:  1) some artists put out their albums free online and then use they tours to make money (which is dumb since you can make royalties long after you are nursing home and wheelchair bound);  2) the music industry is behind the times and we’re just “forcing them to change their antiquated business model”; 3) you older folks used to make mixed tapes of song.  We’re just doing the same thing digitally.  Of course, that ignores that the guy that made the mixed tape bought both the blank tapes and the cd’s from which songs were borrowed and copied to tape.  One tape was made especially for a girlfriend.  We didn’t have 4000 guys come over and burn the CD or songs from it.

Perhaps I’m straying far afield.  The idea is that the mindset of the younger — teen, early 20-something — fan has changed dramatically.  They readily, almostly gladly, declare that “the album is dead.”  Downloading is great because people don’t listen to albums anymore.  We just go out and find the songs we like and mash them all together in whatever for or fashion is suitable at the moment.

“Nobody listens to albums anymore.  We just listen to individual songs.”  That statement, made by one of the piracy defenders, really jumped out at me.  I grew up in the day of the album.  After the Beatles, pop artists and rockers were expected to put out an album full of good material, with 2 or 3 strong singles to boot.  A great album, even if it wasn’t a concept album, was tied together nicely with some kind of common movement or even a loose theme.  With some notable recent exceptions — Gorillaz Plastic Beach — albums only exist to contain a lot of songs.  Their utility seems less obvious, particularly since only the hits tend to have any value.

I’ve been asking, “How did we get to this point?”  The Beatles made the album a work of art and thereafter the album was the standard.  It was like that until the late 90’s, at least. If a band didn’t have a decent album to put out, its career would die in the water.  Lack of album material lead to an endless stream of one-hit-wonders. “How did we stray back to the pre-Beatles days when only the song — or 2 or 3 — mattered? To answer that, I came up with a crazy theory that is a bit chicken-and-egg.

Shuffling — The earliest CD players had shuffle functions so that you no longer had to listen to an album in sequential order.  You could mix up the songs with the press of a button, a feat not easily completed with a phonograph or cassette player.  Single disc CD players soon became 100 disc carousel players.  You could store over a thousand songs in your multi-disc player and put them on shuffle.  That was the precursor to the digital music player with shuffle functions.

Short attention spans — Kids won’t admit it, but their constantly moving minds won’t permit them 47:30 necessary to listen, start-to-finish, to some great old classic rock album.  Oh, some of the young whippersnappers today like classic rock…but only in one song bites.  Everything’s been given to them in sound bites.  Why shouldn’t music only be in short bursts?  One Beatles or Stones song is enough for now.  It’s time to move on to Kings of Leon or Jay-Z.

If you have a short attention span, why would you try to fall in love with an album cover to cover?  Just get your hands on the song that your friend played for you, download it, and move onto the next fresh track.

Because kids these days don’t listen to albums, I theorize that “artists” no longer try to make them.  It’s as if we’ve come full circle.  In the early rock early, especially just before the Beatles broke in England and the States, pop artists made records full of filler, 10 crappy songs to justify selling a 12 inch platter for 2 songs.  Singles, of course, were what most kids bought, but record companies push long players to squeeze more money out of the kids.

Albums still exist today, but they’re full of filler.  They’re made for old farts (like me) that still see that albums are the measure of a band’s talent.  To me, if you can’t put together 12 solid songs, I’m probably not interested in the 1 or 2 groovy tunes you’ve managed to get on the radio.  People like me buy CD’s, but we are select in what we get. They’re also made to sell to the little kids that don’t know better and who haven’t figured out that only 2 songs are worth listening to.  Those little kids don’t use their own money for music; it comes from the old farts still buying albums.


Puttin’ it on wax in Motown

3 05 2009

Until today, I had no idea that vinyl records are made in my hometown, the Motor City.  The May 2, 2009, Detroit News ran a feature article on Archer Records Pressing company which manufactures vinyl records.  Apparently the company is one of maybe a dozen companies in the entire world:

It is unclear how many record-making companies still exist. Web sites count between eight and 10 worldwide, and three to five in the United States.

Check out Archer Records Pressing’s website http://www.archerrecordpressing.com/

Apparently the techno music scene in and around Detroit has help keep the company going.  There is no mention of it in the article, but I wonder if small companies like this are hired to press vinyl for major label releases.  Vinyl is making something of a comeback and lots of artists these days seem to want their music on vinyl.

This is just one more example of why Detroit is and has been a major player on the world stage of music.

ONJ and a star-struck 5 year old boy

11 02 2009

Let Me Be There

Let Me Be There

Have You Never Been Mellow?

Have You Never Been Mellow?

One of my earliest musical memories is of going through my mom’s record collection, finding these two albums. I’d pull them out and stare at the pretty woman on the covers. Some nights, to unwind, my mom would play them back-to-back.

It’s funny that I can very distinctly remember — almost hear — the two title songs, “Let Me Be There” and “Have You Never Been Mellow.” My mom played both records all the way through, but those are the two songs that I can still hear. I’d have to play the albums to remember the other songs. I’ve not heard either album in over 30 years. Maybe we’re hardwired to remember the best (or the worst) things and those were probably the two best songs on those albums.

Since then I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Olivia Newton-John. I’m not much of a sentimentalist, but those albums made me feel good as a kid. They probably put my mom in a good mood and the mood trickled down to me. Maybe I liked the songs, too. Whatever the case may be, I’d like to find those albums on CD and give them a listen, just for old-time’s sake.