Albums Soul

Al Green – I’m Still In Love With You (SHU 8443) (1972)


Nice. A VG+ original UK stereo issue, licensed by London, of the Reverend’s fourth Lp. How much it set you back?

A pound at Wincheap bootfair.

So, whatiya think of it?

Well, it’s great, isn’t it?

I’m interested that you answer the question rhetorically, as if it would be wrong to even question whether an Al Green record could be bad.

That’s not fair, there are plenty of instances where I go against critical orthodoxy, see the recent New Order post; and as regards Al Green specifically, you know full well know I thrifted his 1984 album Trust In God and re-sold it before I even had a chance to post about it. Anyway, consensus by a group of interested, informed people, even if they have some sort of unconscious agenda, is still surely worth consideration, no?

Wow, you had the courage to come out against some pretentious new wave disco band and a mid-80s gospel record. Is there no end to your iconoclasm?

Fuck off. Back to the matter at hand, i.e. I’m Still In Love With You: This is a great record, possibly the most consistent of his popular early Lps, a virtual best of. That Memphis Soul sound, ruff ‘n’ smoove at the same time, is fully mature: thick, hollow snare beats regularly occur on the and of four adding that little hop in the groove; the tight horn charts act as sexy exclamation marks; and the lead singing is a model of controlled passion, full of sensually sibilent S’s. The songs themselves generally have memorable choruses, but sly and expressive verses so idiosyncratic they defy easy singalong.

Okay, if you like Al Green hits, as you profess, why not simply get some stuffed-to-the-gills budget label comp?

I think these records were designed to be heard in this sequence, even with the odd bit of filler. And frankly, it’s partly about the money and supplying my habit inexpensively.

 You can get CDs, very inexpensive Al Green twofers.

C’mon. Those things look like crap and you know it. I want to see original labels and sleeves, heavy cardboard, fold over or tip on style.

Oh, and I thought it was all about the music.

Jesus, it’s just one cheap shot after another with you. Seriously, would you put the Mona Lisa in a cruddy clip frame or a substantial, rococo gilt gesso one with scrolls and swags around the edges.

Uh, that’s not strictly analogous: you view a painting through the frame–it’s part of the experience. You don’t listen to music through its sleeve; the frame is more comparable to the stereo system you use.

You put your finger on it there: “it’s part of the experience”, you said and I agree with that. The sleeve, the liner notes, all that is part of the experience. Okay, howazabout this then: well-preserved, old vinyl has better, more organic sound reproduction than its digital counterpart; and the mastering, etc. decisions were made by people closer to the locus of creation.

Pul-eeze. You’re a self-professed cloth ear.

Not entirely true. I may not be an audiophile, but even I could tell the difference between, say, the first Led Zep CD issues and original vinyl. Why do you think all those Dubstep heads insist on issuing their music on vinyl?

Who are you trying to impress invoking Dubstep?

I’m not trying to impress anyone. It’s a fact that I’ve got a load of Dubstep 12″s. Anyway, the Thrify Vinyl people understand me and my need to feed the beast.

Alright, when was the last time you bought any grimey-dub, or whatever, singles?

Okay, I’ve gone off DS, so it’s been a year or so when I got that Scientist Launches double Lp and I got that James Blake “Limit To Your Love” 10″. Anyway, my listening goes in cycles. It’s been like that  since I was a teen–Christ, remember my Yes phase?

I still don’t get why you have to have “original” issues and all that if you’re buying to listen to and not deal.

As I’ve said before, boot fair and thrift store collecting is fun for its random nature, the thrill of the hunt, the surprise of new discovery, etc. and, I admit, there’s a bit of a snob factor too. Is that what you wanted to hear?

I just want you to be honest with yourself. Hey, off topic, have I told you that you look a lot like Xabi Alonso with your new beard?

Aw, that’s nice. Thank you.

A much older, fatter Xabi Alonso, obviously.


Albums Wimpy Ass 70s Folk Rock

Gordon Lightfoot – Back Here On Earth (UAS 6672) (1968)

I’d read that Dylan was a big fan of the man and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” was a huge, dramatic hit a few years later, at least in North America, that I really liked, so I thought it was just possible Back Here On Earth might be some sort of minor gem. Okay, strictly speaking, this isn’t Wimpy Ass 70s Folk Rock, but given two years it would have been, so that’s as near as dammit for Categorization purposes. And Geeze-Louise, how much more sensitive can one guy get? When not inhaling the scent of a just picked twig, or writing poetry in which the narrator “see[s him]self as a child”, Gordo is indulging in a finger-picking guitar style so delicate it recalls nothing so much as the beating of butterfly’s wings, or summat.By turns wistful and resigned, Lightfoot’s inoffensive, literate country-folk is observational and likeable; but without the surreality of the best folk, the kitchen-sink drama of proper country or pop’s enchanting hookiness. And so, after a while, his warm, mellow voice (which recalls the Byrds’ Gene Clark), the same-y arrangements for guitars and bass and too-consistent tempi remind the listener of the vapor trail left by a jet high in the sky, it intrigues for a short while before disappearing leaving little trace.

Of course, one of the pleasures of thrifting are the occasional personal artifacts one comes across stuffed inside the jacket. Reviews, doodles, ads and other ephemera have all been emptied from 12″ square vessels past. In this case, lifted from another tabletop sale at the Tayne Centre in the village, I hoped I’d discovered an original piece of heartfelt doggerel on the inner sleeve: but no, it turned out to be a painstaking lyrical transcription of one of the tunes on the album. Still, kinda cool.

Albums File Under POPULAR: Female vocal

Bette Midler (SD 7270) (1973)

Side one of Bette Mildler’s second Lp makes a strong case for the Divine Miss M’s pre-eminence as a torch singer nonpareil. Yet her approach, while reverent, is thoroughly modern. As a result, wrenching and beautiful piano-led (pianist: B. Manilow) takes on songs by Carmichael, Mercer, Brecht-Weill, etc. sound of a piece with those by contemporary singer-songwriters. (I wonder what the woman could have done with a set of Randy Newman covers?) Admirable diversity comes in the form of a funky “Breaking Up Somebody’s Home” and a soulful “I Shall Be Released”, demonstrating what Rolling Stone called her ability to find the “emotional center” of the song, even while the latter is marred by some too-jaunty piano fills and breathy over-emoting during the final third. The second side, however, trades in the parched nostalgia of an arch Ethel Merman that I, for one, can do without.

An interesting illustration of the contrasting American and British approaches to art in general can be gleaned by comparing Bette Midler with Bryan Ferry’s no-less-camp first solo album, “These Foolish Things”, which came out the same year. Both albums contain tunes from the Tin Pan Alley-era songbook, some soul covers, teen angst and a Dylan. Yet, conceptualised in a way born of decadence and a tremulous, limited singing ability, Ferry brutally (and often hilariously) recasts his covers program with a high degree of personality and perversity; whereas Midler, hampered by a reverence and technical finesse beyond Ferry, renders her version of the oldies artifice stale, at least on side two. Put another way: Americans use technique to arrive at a style and the British follow the precise opposite route, delighting in an aesthetic frivolity opposed to exacting and sentimental recreation. Why this is broadly (though, obviously, not always) so probably has something to do with the conditions of our respective empires, i.e. faded (UK) and just peaked (US), but that’s for another article.

While it has been argued that Ferry’s approach serves to diminish “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and “These Foolish Things” to the level of “It’s My Party” (rather than Midler’s converse but likewise bold elevation of “Da Doo Run Run” to the status of “I Shall Be Released” and “Skylark”), I still know which album I’ll be listening to more often.

Spotted at Lord Whiskey in Rhodes Minnis yesterday as I cycled back from dropping off the car for servicing in Elham, I was moved, for the second time in three days, to buy based on the presence of Arif Mardin behind the producer’s desk.

Albums Brazilian Compilations Jazz Outernational

Antonio Carlos Jobim – The Girl From Ipanema (MFP 50437)

Given the recording dates involved (’67-’70), I was, perhaps unrealistically, hoping for a Hard Bossa Brazilian Fusion take on Jobim’s deal when I bagged The Girl From Ipanema last Saturday in Hythe. Alas, while “Tema Jazz” comes close, this late ’70s MFP comp of Jobim’s three A&M Lps (originally titled Look To the Sky) is a mostly terminal lapse in to adult mood music designed to soothe anxious turn-of-the-decade Americans; arranged by Deodato, among others, I probably should have guessed. Only on the trio of songs lifted from Wave (“Wave,” “Lamento” and “Mojave”) does ‘Ton recapture some of the minor key lull, hypnotic swing and mellow edge that characterises the best Bossa; I think it’s because his guitar, not piano, is featured on those numbers, but I could be wrong.

And really, that (re)title!


Lulu – New Routes (Atco 228 031) (1969*)

I wouldn’t, of course, normally bother with a VG+ Lulu Lp, but the personnel (the Muscle Shoals crew) and production crew (Wexler, Dowd, Mardin) convinced me to part with a pound for this Dusty In Memphis manquée today at Demelza House. It certainly wasn’t the cover or the typography.

Sure enough, this record sounds great, the band on excellent form; nonetheless, one gets the nagging feeling that the lead singer is playing at lead singing, her moves seem thin and a bit pat. Still, Lu’s Southern Soul take on Traffic’s “Feelin’ Alright” is more than credible. Made for TV soul, p’raps?

*Discog and Wikipedia say 1970, but the Atco label says 1969, so ’69 it is.


Van Halen (1978)

Imagine me sitting on the toilet last week, taking a dump while reading the MOJO Classic – The Ultimate Collectors Edition* – The Who & the Story of ’70s Rock (2006) special issue. Along with other articles that, to be honest, you would find in any normal issue of the magazine, there was a feature entitled 70 From the ’70s purporting itself to be a compendium of “the greatest albums from rock’s golden decade.” This sort of thing is, of course, lazy journalism designed to fill pages and provoke geeks (“Where’s Gang of Four’s Entertainment?!”), analogous to those list-type shows usually aired on TV around Christmas time (e.g. 100 Greatest Toys, etc.) in which talking heads recount specious anecdotes about some stupid shit or other; it’s lazy telly for lazy people by lazy programmers. So everybody wins.

As is the way with these things, MOJO’s “greatest albums from rock’s golden decade” included usual suspects (Exile, Who’s Next, Dark Side, Bollocks, Physical Graffiti), relatively obscure crit faves (No Other, Clear Spot, Marquee Moon), records which didn’t belong there because they’re not that good (Pacific Ocean Blue, Ram, Kimono My House), as well as mega-popular, but nonetheless really good records (RumoursRocks). Among this latter group was the first Van Halen Lp. Certainly, if any record epitomises late 70s/early 80s midwestern US teenage Friday night running around, it is this; and as I grunted and quacked away on the head, I began to grow sad and berate myself for my non-possession of Van Halen.

Now, the Buddha is right to tell us that desire is the root of unhappiness, but, basically, fuck the Buddha because two days later I picked up Van Halen (still in plastic, though not sealed) as part of the Hythe Malt House thrifted-records-for-used-records deal. It is as good as I remember, though in a strange production tic designed, I suspect, to highlight the bandleader’s chops, a number of tracks on side two feature Eddie’s axe panned mostly to one side like on 60s stereo records; it sounds a bit unbalanced and may be the last time it happened on a major label album.

Erm, and actually, don’t imagine me sitting on the toilet.

*What does that even mean?

80s Albums Compilations Dance

New Order – Substance (FACT 200) (1987)

The Smiths, Jesus and Mary Chain, Stone Roses, Echo & the Bunnymen, Primal Scream, Depeche Mode, The Cure, Siouxsie & the Banshees, etc., etc., ad nauseam.

The British excel themselves in over-rating their 80s bands, crediting them with God-like powers when, in fact, they are all very, very ordinary. With the exception of a handful of singles from the above (e.g. “How Soon Is Now”, “Just Like Honey”), mostly these pop groups were good at getting on the cover of the NME (and now, Mojo), helping spotty bedsit layabouts justify their mopiness and not much else.

It was with this prejudicial frame of mind, I set about listening to the notionally chronological compilation of 12″ mixes by one of the grand-daddies of hyper-regarded 80s pop, New Order.

Let me start by saying I’ve always admired their graphic style and I absolutely love “Blue Monday”. If all NO songs were as classy as their sleeves or as lively and soulful as “BM” we’d be talkin’ 10 fuckin’ stars here. But they aren’t and we aren’t. The first two singles, “Ceremony” and “Everything Gone Green” are promising, picking up where their old band left off, incorporating a more dance-y vibe without sacrificing Joy Div’s appealing murkiness. After that, as the band becomes more commercial, obviously funky and techno-savvy, it’s all downhill. The problem is not so much the music, which is inventive enough, but Bernard Sumner. He simply isn’t that technically good or, more to the point, interesting a singer. His flat, feather-light tone, banal melodies and awkward, deeply uninspired scansion are embarrassingly exposed without the cover provided by the earlier atmospherics. And the lyrics: “Oh, love is found in the east and west/But when love is at home, it’s the best”. He actually sings that on “Theives Like Us”, ugh.

So keep your New Order albums, I’m happy with the early 12″s I already had.

Albums Reggae

Derrick Harriott and the Crystalites – The Undertaker (Trojan TBL 114) (1970)

Reggae is, of course, always welcome in the Asbo stereo room, especially when, as at this morning’s Hythe Cricket Club Boot Fair, part of a free-for-a-pahnd offer including the above, an Alvin Ranglin-produced compilation called Reggae Flight 404 and, unrelatedly, a Roy Orbison best of on Monument from 1967.

The Undertaker is a wonderful instrumental rocksteady suite, of sorts, being interspersed with bits of sound effects and Clint Eastwood-esque dialogue. A few bits of ur-dub, in the form of some rather wiggy echo/delay, inform what is basically pure summer skankin’.

The question is: Would I have found such a tasty morsel at a charity store or would it have been selected out for higher price sale?

Albums Soundtracks

Isaac Hayes – Shaft – Music from the Soundtrack (Stax Super 2659 007) (1971)

“Mr. Hayes?” Jerry Goldberg poked his head in his boss’s office/composition room to deliver some good news. “Joel Freeman sent a letter confirming your involvement in the soundtrack of his new film about a black private detective called Phallus.”

“Excellent,” Isaac burred. “Does he give any specs?”

“A few. Shall I read them?”


“Well, Joel says here he wants it to sound like fairly smooth soul music, nothing too syncopated, with a few Bacharach moves. You will want to use strings and wide-ranging musical colorations on some tracks to presage the disco movement by half a decade.”

“I can do that.”

“He also says he wants it to sound nothing like your brilliant southern soul work for Sam & Dave, et al.”

“No problem.”

“Finally, he’s included lyrics for the ‘Theme from Phallus’ which he’d like you to tidy up as you see fit.”

As he spoke, Jerry handed a sheet of paper to Isaac.

This is what it read:

Who’s the African-American private investigator
That’s physically attractive to a variety of women?
You’re darn tootin’

Who is the man
That would demonstrate bravery for other African-Americans?
Are you understanding what I’m saying?

Who’s the gentleman that isn’t afraid
Of any impending disaster?
That’s exactly right.

Understand, Phallus is a d-amned– 
(Reconsider that phrase)
But I’m discussing Phallus
(Then we can understand what you’re saying)

He’s a multi-faceted character
But no one understands him other than his good-lady wife
(John Phallus)

After he finished reading, Isaac set the paper down on his desk, leaned back in his chair and said, “Needs work.”

“But I do like the Greek-inspired, stereotype-fullfilling name,” he added brightly.

Editor: In what must surely be the greatest twist of logic ever to grace Thrifty V, I include the above Lp on the grounds that I exchanged it (and others, more of which later) at the used records stall in the Hythe Malt House for albums I’ve thrifted (including some featured here).


Guardian Online Thrifty Vinyl Feature

Following Colin Hard Format‘s suggestion, I petitioned the Guardian to highlight Thrifty Vinyl in the Blog Jam feature of its online Culture section. Which they duly did. Check it out.