Albums Country AND Western

Merle Haggard and the Strangers – Swinging Doors (SM-2585) (1966)

Being something of a hybrid, it’s a nonsense to call Swinging Doors “pure country” and yet there’s a mathematical precision and natural beauty here that only art of purity can achieve. In the same way that the recent MJQ and BB King posts discuss representative five-star albums of mature, but not yet ossified, genres, Swinging Doors is, as my friend said, the real deal;  a perfect example of the so-called “Bakersfield sound” which successfully (and long before Bubba-Come-Latelys of the country-rock movement) absorbed a rock & roll feel without compromising its country roots. Pointless and goofy commercial country records by Alan Jackson, George Strait, Brooks & Dunn, etc., etc., ad nauseam poured forth over the following decades in Hag’s wake, but don’t let that put you off–this is fantastic focussed music. Another US pressing, all mine for a pound from an Etchinghill bootfair.

Incidentally, I have Merle to thank for my enthusiasm for George Dickel‘s whisky (alluded to in the Rickie Lee Jones post). His quip (in the excellent The Tenacity of the Cockroach) that he keeps “a shot of George Dickel within heart-attack range at all times” led me to sample some–it’s like Jack Daniels, only smoother–now my mom kindly brings a bottle over every time she visits.

Albums Jazz

Modern Jazz Quartet (Atlantic 1265) (1957)

Hell yeah–that’s what I’m talkin’ about! I was just kidding when I said earlier that it wasn’t all about the Modern Jazz Quartet. How the sharp eyes of today’s early birds missed this particular worm, I don’t know, but for only 50p, I got an almost mint condition US press Lp’s worth of the kind of smoothness you wouldn’t see this side of a Gulf of Mexico otter. Hell yeah, I say again.

7 inchers Classic Rock

Hank Mizell – “Jungle Rock” c/w “When I’m In Your Arms” (CS 1005)

Wanting them to “go to a good home” rather than get swindled by some dealer, a friend gifted me a large collection (numbering in the high hundreds) of Lps, singles and CD box sets originally belonging to her deceased brother. The brother was a proper collector, had his pet niches (northern soul, punk, Motown, etc., etc.) and a week doesn’t go by when I don’t play one of these records and think warmly of this very kind gesture.

Among the collection was Charly’s estimable 13 volume Roots of Rock series chronicling Sun Records. The present item (being originally released on Eko [!] Records) was not a part of that anthology, but, as it was on Charly, I was more than willing to fork over forty-nine pennies for this revived rockabilly single–recorded in ’56 and a UK no. 3 hit in ’76– at the Folkestone Age UK. Glad I did, too.


Rickie Lee Jones (1978)


Slunk back, Chuck stretched out his arms and draped it over Rickie who sat beside him on a broken down couch riddled with tears and unidentifiable stains. The eccentrically dressed pair, who were enjoying the third day of a five-day drunk, had just returned to their dingy West Hollywood apartment for lunch after several late a.m. eye-openers at Danny’s All-Star Joint to continue an argument about Beat Poetry. Kind of Blue played softly on the hi-fi in the corner of the bare-wood floored room.

“It’s wrong to romanticise dilapidation,” began Chuck with the emphasis that only George Dickel can inspire. “To celebrate aimlessness.”

“Why not, baby?” slurred Rickie, she paused to light a clove cigarette and exhaled dramatically. “Even T.S. Eliot admitted he was ‘no lord attending’. We aren’t all heroes, can’t all be kings and lead armies. Most of us are under-riders who kiss boys behind the magazines.”

Rickie had a laid back way of speaking which alternately rushed and lagged as if her ideas were coming fast but jumbled. To hear her talk, you might guess she was “Mac” Rebennack’s mush-mouthed younger sister straight outta N’awlins, that is if you didn’t know she was born in Chicago and raised in Phoenix.

“That is exactly the kind of nonsense I’m talking about,” Chuck countered simply as he rose to fetch a couple of Mickey’s Big Mouths from the fridge. “No. Most of us are quietly desperate (to paraphrase Eliot again), not loudly desperate. We somehow get through the day, work, eat, shit, watch TV, listen to top 40 radio, go to bed. This idea that somehow people with berets and soul patches live in places called ‘Coolsville’ and grandly hold forth in the bars and street corners on existential matters while listening to jazz music in the middle of the day is frankly cartoonish.” He opened both bottles and handed one to Rickie.

“Me, I like Bugs Bunny,” replied Rickie with perfect timing before taking a slug of the malt liquor. “It takes a lot of thought and money to make good cartoons, to produce something that slick. And you have to have A-list people to help you, lover. Yeah, there are plenty o’ shitty ‘toons like the Smurfs and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe; but, you know, you can learn more from Daffy Duck than Julian Barnes any day.”

“Anyway, Cecil and Bragger are comin’ over with Sal from the barrio soon. We’re goin’ to Nyro’s Nook to talk about our failed dreams and I don’t want you lousin’ things up with your ‘realistic’ view of life. This isn’t ‘real life’, baby. It’s much more interesting.”

Albums Blues

The R&B Soul of B.B. King (EMB 3379) (1967)

I’m no expert, but this must surely be King at the top of his game: the performances, the sound, the  style and timing all bespeak a pro who knew exactly what he was doing. And what he was doing was not as idiosyncratic (or as much in the country blues tradition) as Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf, rather it was an entertaining, polished synthesis of jazz and blues which sounds as rich as it is uncluttered. By the time this smart small combo record was taped in 1960, electric blues was fairly well established, though yet not rigid and R&B Soul might just be a definitive statement before the gimmicks of the 60s stole the soul.

This EX+ condition UK re-ish of King’s reputed personal favorite Lp, My Kind of Blues (adding “Rock Me Baby” and “I Can’t Lose”, both as strong side openers), represents yet another first, unbelievably my collection was bereft of the Beale St. Blues Boy, courtesy the local table top sale.

Enthusiastic notes from pseudonymous British DJ/Blue aficionado Mike Raven and, hey, I see it's in "Stereomonic" sound.
"Sixeventies" Rock Albums

Creedence Clearwater Revival (LBS 83259) (1969)

True pop artists with their hearts in the garage, Creedence Clearwater Revival sounds a lot bluesier on their debut than later, more popular singles. Yes, John Fogerty’s yowling style singing can be an acquired taste (especially mixed as high as it is), but there’s no doubting his and his band’s committment to rocking in the most focussed way imaginable and in contrast to the flightier members of the San Francisco scene detailed in extended notes by Rolling Stone Consulting Editor Ralph J. Gleason. Not that the band is immune from the extended jamming prevalent at the time and place, “Suzie Q” lasts almost 9 minutes and features two choral breakdowns and lots of piercing lead guitar (again, very prominently mixed). As with the Velvet Underground or Neil Young, the overall effect is of a rather simple majesty.

This first UK Liberty issue comes from Saturday’s Lyminge Jumble Sale haul and, though I’ve been on the lookout for ever, brings my CCR collection to a precise total of one.

Albums Soul

Jr. Walker and the All Stars – Home Cookin’ (STML 11097) (1968)

I’ve been feeling jaded lately. There’s been a lack of funds which has meant a severe throttling back of retail vinyl (and CD) purchases. As a result, I’ve been extra thrifty with selections. So thrifty, in fact, that I’ve been paralysed. I simply can’t choose.

But the joy of Thrifty Vinyl means that, for 80p, my mania for music buying can be sated. My Spidey Sense™ told me I was to pick up a Sam & Dave album today. Alas, Spidey Sense™ is an inexact science, but close enough. What a cool record is this, more Southern Soul and on heavier vinyl than a normal UK 60s Tamla-Motown product, what I found at the Lyminge Tayne Centre™ Table Top Sale today (I did get about a bit today–even had a go in Hythe), along with a few other gems, more of which later.

Jaded, no more.

7 inchers Folk

Shirley Collins – Heroes In Love (Topic TOP 95) (1963)

I don’t usually bother with singles, but this one is unique. Sung without affectation in pure Home Counties tones and performed with simple, delicate understatement, Brit-Folk lynchpin Collins manages to avoid the shrillness and preciousness of her contemporary folk loving sisters. And I love that “of Sussex” qualification. This is really good stuff bought today from a chazza in Sandwich.

Though I’d never heard her music, I was aware of her archival field work with Alan Lomax during a famous late 50s jaunt across the American south, known to folkies as the “Southern Journey”, to document (in stereo!) fast disappearing folk and blues artists. Though issued several times over the years, the fruits of this trip were recently made available again on vinyl through the good people at Mississippi Records.

Albums Compilations

Bananarama – The Greatest Hits Collection (1988)

Herb Ritts was to 80s photography what Norman Seeff was to the 70s.

Does anyone else have a soft spot for the pure 80s pop of Bananarama? Is that soft spot in the head?

While the record police would no doubt haul me down to the station for questioning upon finding such cheerful inanity in my collection, I maintain this largely unison-sung Bananarama best-of is well-built, unpretentious good fun–a worthwhile aural equivalent to a girls’ night out.

It’s not all about the Modern Jazz Quartet, you know.

Albums Jazz

Maynard Ferguson – Color Him Wild (Fontana TL 5293) (1965)

Bob Dylan on his “reunion” tour with the Band in 1974: “The only thing people talked about was energy this, energy that. The highest compliments were things like, ‘Wow, lotta energy, man.’ The bigger and louder something was, the more energy it was supposed to have. [T]hat’s what people were accepting as heavy energy. [I]t made me want to puke.”

The misdirected “energy” of which Dylan speaks is present in this brassy (in both senses), hyper-charged Big Band record from 1965–several decades after the genre had been codified. The band’s breakneck technical skills are beyond question, but “energy” is no substitute for innovation and the thrill of discovery. This is more like self-congratulations.

Like the rockabilly revival of the late 70s/early 80s there’s something vaguely unsatisfying going on here, like solving a maths problem when you’ve been provided the answer or watching a football match knowing in advance the final score. You still have to do the work to arrive at the given solution, the athletes must still exert themselves in a violent ballet, but the magic is missing.

Cool cover and graphics on this last of the recent Hythe buys.