Chicago – Chicago IX – Chicago’s Greatest Hits (CBS 69222) (1975)

SAM_0743As refreshing as an ice-cream on a sunny day (with about as much nutritional value), Chicago’s Greatest Hits takes late-period Beatles pop innovation to a warm, post-hippy, soft rock conclusion: wistful “Getting Better” existentialism (“Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”); “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” ponderousness (“25 or 6 to 4”); blissed-out, blue-eyed soul à la “Got To Get You Into My Life” (“Make Me Smile”); the crooked smile descending chromatics and sunshine psychedelic observations of “You Won’t See Me” and “Penny Lane” respectively (“Saturday In the Park”); “Because”-style icy harmonic lushness (“Wishing You Were Here”); etc, etc. That all of the above are lyrically banal matters little.

Despite spanning six years, as many albums and featuring three different lead singers, the often horn-driven Chicago IX compilation serves the band well and stands as a satisfying, summery listen in its own right.SAM_0742

Co-incidentally, I’d been moved to covetousness re Chicago on hearing an excerpt of “25 or 6 to 4″ on Family Guy only last week. When this popped up at a Tenterden chaz for the unholy sum of £3 Saturday just gone, I took it as a sign, threw thriftiness to the four winds and purchased it forthwith. The cover pastiches the sentimental American illustrative realism of the Saturday Evening Post‘s Norman Rockwell. Quite appropriate, really.

Published in: on July 29, 2015 at 1:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Various Artists – The Blues – Volumes 1-5 (Pye International R&B Series) (1963-65)

SAM_0733Mercifully, my sense of order (so offended by the missing fourth volume and the change in art direction for the latter in the series [including the absent number four]) did not overwhelm my sense of pleasure at the purchase this weekend, for one pound each, of these excellent compendia of top-drawer 1950s blues. Culled from the mighty Chess Records archives, these early 60s releases were no doubt both product of and inspiration for that decade’s ‘blues boom’, particularly in the UK, where these editions were issued.SAM_0734The physical quality of all four are VG/VG+, after a good wash. Beautiful.

Published in: on July 6, 2015 at 6:42 am  Leave a Comment  

The Golden Sound of Motown (World Records) (1980)

SAM_0668I might not have picked this 8-Lp World Records box set were it not for the persuasiveness of the guy at the chaz selling said item. I know he knows what he’s talking about (and there was another record boffin there from whom I’ve purchased several items at boot fairs discussed in these pages), so when he reckoned these were excellent pressings (and the other chap confirmed its relative rarity), I was sold. Not that I needed that much selling, but £6 for 8 discs (how’s 75p per album for thrifty vinyl!) is not so bad.

I’ve only listened to the first two records and I can confirm that not only do they sound great, but are really well programmed.SAM_0669While this track listing on the inside of the box makes it look like a seven record set, there is a ‘bonus’ album included entitled The New Sound of Motown featuring Rick James, et al.SAM_0672Normally World Records has classier  graphics than those on display here. Perhaps the monumental nature of the task was simply overwhelming for the WR art department and they went for a fairly crass K-Tel look.SAM_0670In case there was any doubt as to the quality of the product…

Published in: on April 15, 2015 at 7:00 pm  Comments (3)  

The Best of Percy Sledge (ATC 9160) (1969)

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More death. I got this in Margate a couple weeks ago.
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NB: I’ve been asked by all musicians and their wives to stop buying their product. They’re calling me Prince ‘Touch of Death’ Asbo.

Published in: on April 14, 2015 at 5:38 pm  Comments (2)  

All Jazz – A Decade of Pacific Jazz (ZET2) (1962)

SAM_0610“In my music, I’m trying to play the truth of what I am. The reason it’s difficult is because I am changing all the time.” — Charles Mingus.

I have some sympathy with Mingus’ sentiment (recently highlighted in the Basement Tapes Complete box set), both in its original intention and as a music enthusiast. Practically, this means that over the years I’ve played in classical, jazz, punk, folk and electronic bands and can listen to Sandy Denny, Studio One reggae or the Stooges and say to myself, ‘This is my favorite-ever music’ and mean it in each case. SAM_0611Or, indeed, in the case of this Pacific Jazz compilation which is not only 100% great, but features a complimentary range of smooth and spiky soul jazz from 1950s California. SAM_0612It is my favorite-ever music. Mean it. And only for £1 a couple weeks ago in Hythe.

Published in: on November 23, 2014 at 9:17 am  Leave a Comment  

The Hour Glass (UA-LA013-G2) (1973)/ Duane Allman – An Anthology (2CP 0108) (1972)

SAM_0576The liner notes accompanying this compilation of the Hour Glass’s two Lps could hardly be more baldly dismissive, beginning with the opening paragraph (“The music on these two records is not very good”) and carrying on in like fashion from there (“Far from being the story of why the Hour Glass was such a fine band, it tells us more about why they were not“). In fact, writer Ben Edmonds’ attitude towards this charming pop-soul double album has more to do with place and timing than artistry.

A little background. The Hour Glass represents the first commercial output of Allman brothers Duane and Gregg. Despite having been in the business for a few years, the boys were manipulated in classic “I’m-gonna-make-you-a-star”-style into moving to LA dressed up in the hippy gladrags, having songs picked out for them and being allowed to perform only for a few high-profile gigs. As a result, the band was broke and culturally overwhelmed with a sorely misrepresentative repertoire, all of which left them more than a little frustrated and bitter. I think Edmonds’ liner notes reflect the band’s still fresh resentment rather than the music, which is actually quite good, certainly as good or better, thanks to the band’s considerable chops, than most Blue-Eyed Soul of the time. I got this three weeks ago in Hythe for a pound.

SAM_0577Not two weeks later, I picked a companion piece at the Ashford bootfair. Alluded to in glowing terms in Edmonds’ brush off, Duane Allman – An Anthology contains a couple previously unreleased Hour Glass tracks, notably a blues medley highly rated by the band, that indicate where the brothers were headed. SAM_0594In addition to a side’s worth of AB highlights, An Anthology also includes songs which feature Duane as sideman, such as Wilson Picket’s “Hey Jude” and Boz Scaggs’ “Lend Me a Dime”.SAM_0595

Published in: on October 6, 2014 at 12:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Burning Spear – Spear Burning (PSCD 033)

SAM_0466SO, LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT, BURNING SPEAR IS, LIKE, ONE GUY? – An Editorial by Your Dad

YOUR DAD

YOUR DAD

I haven’t been so confused since I found out that Pink Floyd was a band: you’re telling me that Burning Spear is one person? Are you sure? I’ve got, like, seven or eight of their albums. It just seems like a weird ‘stage name’, especially for a reggae artist. I mean, don’t they usually go for American tough guys or anthropomorphised rodents?

Okay, say you’re right, how do you explain the photograph of a trio of men of the back of my copy of the Marcus Garvey? It lists their names right there! And it doesn’t say Bob Smith, Ted Jones and Burning Spear, it says “Rupert Willington, Delroy Hines and Winston Rodney”.

Burning Spear. No, it doesn’t sound right as a man’s name. When he shows up at the pub is it like, “Hi, Burning, come sit down and join us” or when he’s picking up his dry cleaning, does the bloke behind the counter say, “Extra starch in the collar Mr Spear, just how you like it”? No, it’s all wrong.

Yes, I know Bunny Wailer’s mother called him Neville Livingston when he was born, but that doesn’t prove your point that Burning Spear is one man’s name. If anything, it weakens your argument. Think about it: if one of those guys was adopting the band’s name for his own, wouldn’t it have made more sense to be known as, say, Rupert Burning-Spear or Delroy Burning-Spear?

Tell you what. If we’re ever at a party and this guy is there and you introduce us, “Burning Spear, dad. Dad, Burning Spear” and he acts like that is, in fact, his moniker, then I’ll believe you. Until then, I say Burning Spear is what the band is called.

Inner tray artwork

Inner tray artwork

Editor’s Note: I got this second-hand for only £3. An excellent Pressure Sounds comp of BS singles and dubs, I’d say it ranks right up there with Spear’s proper albums (which can sound a bit clinical sometimes), with the versions providing contrast to the vocal takes, Rodney’s voice being an expressive but limited instrument. There are a couple of other vocalists involved, too.

Published in: on July 22, 2014 at 12:14 pm  Comments (7)  

Robert Wyatt – Nothing Can Stop Us (18-8614-1) (1988)

SAM_0437GUEST ACCIDENTALLY SAYS ‘DEFENESTRATE’ AT WYATT DINNER PARTY                                                       Awkward Silence, Sidelong Glances Follow Unfortunate Remark

(London, England) – “I’d only had a couple glasses of red wine,” claims an embarrassed Aisa Richie. “But it was enough for a ‘Freudian Slip’ nightmare.”

Richie then recounted how he said the word “defenestrate” at a party thrown by Robert and Alfie Wyatt. “After dinner, we were still all sitting round the table and I was doing an amusing party trick gag which involves manipulating a tea towel so it ends up looking like a trussed-up turkey”

“Anyway, at the piece’s denouement, instead of saying ‘Allow me to demonstrate’, I said, ‘Allow me to defenestrate’.”

“There followed about three absolutely agonising seconds of silence while people surreptitiously looked over at Bob to see if he’d heard; he was classy enough to look impassive, so no-one was really sure.”

“Well, I was wishing the floor would open up and swallow me, but quickly finished the trick, which received polite, muted laughter, at which point everyone swiftly moved on to other topics of conversation.”

Richie’s wife, Rachel, had been in the toilet when the unfortunate incident took place, but knew something was wrong by the pained expression on her husband’s face. “Without explaining, he quietly told me, ‘We need to leave as soon as possible’,” she said. “I figured it was serious, so I didn’t question it.”

“About 25 minutes later, even though it was only about 9:30, Aisa said something like, ‘Well, we’ve got a really early start tomorrow’ and made the move,” recalled Rachel. “[Aisa] then revealed the whole story on the walk home–I was so ashamed!”

In fact, neither Wyatt nor his wife had heard the offensive word and laughed when they were told what happened. “If I had a nickel for every time someone said ‘defenestrate’ in my presence due to parapraxis,” the ‘Canterbury Scene’ drummer joked, “Well, let’s just say I’d make money from that than my solo albums!”

Alfie Wyatt reported that she was going to call the Richies to set their minds at rest, saying, “I wondered why they left so early, I thought it was because [fellow guest] Paul [Weller] audibly farted when Aisa was performing his shaggy dog story.”

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Editor’s note: I got this used copy of the US edition of Nothing Can Stop Us a while ago; in fact, since it includes “Shipbuilding”, while the UK version doesn’t, it’s the more desirable issue. What a thoroughly great (properly) indie record of cover versions, though: Monk, Costello, Eubie Black, Ivor Cutler, Trad. Folk, the song choices reflect the eccentricity of the artist whose “technical inadequacies” (according to Wyatt’s liner notes) are “entirely deliberate and reproduced as evidence of my almost painful sincerity.” His recast of Chic’s “At Last I Am Free” is one of the most beautiful, poignant things ever recorded.


Published in: on June 26, 2014 at 8:02 am  Comments (2)  

Young Jessie – Don’t Happen No More (JMANLP 068) (2014)

SAM_0442ALL BACK TO MY PLACE                                                                  In Which The Stars Reveal the Sonic Delights Guaranteed To Get Them Going…

PRINCE ASBOEx-pat American writer, raconteur

What music are you currently grooving to?

I listen to all kinds of music constantly, so that’s almost impossible to answer. Not counting thrifted Lps, my favourite recent purchases include Young Jessie Don’t Happen No More, an absolutely belting Jukebox R&B comp and the Complete Impulse! Studio Recordings box set of John Coltrane’s Classic Quartet, apart from discs six and seven, which are unlistenable.

What, if push comes to shove, is your all-time favourite album?

Sorry, but it has to be Revolver. Wildly experimental, yet concise, accessible pop. It is the template.

What was the first record you ever bought? And where did you buy it?

The American soundtrack to A Hard Day’s Night at the Goodwill Store in Mount Vernon, Ohio. My first retail purchase was Some Girls by the Rolling Stones at Woolworths.

Which musician have you ever wanted to be?

[original Beatles bassist] Stuart Sutcliffe. Only I’d practice bass like mad and stay in the band. And get the brain tumor sorted out, obviously.

What do you sing in the shower?

“Beyond Belief” by Elvis Costello. Lots of range in tone and style on that one, plus amusing lyrics.

What is your favourite Saturday night record?

Depends on the mood, but something “up”. Could be Hip Hop, punk or maybe some disco; Mrs Asbo always chooses the La’s album.

And your Sunday morning record?

I listen to BBC Radio 3 on Sunday mornings to help me recover.

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Published in: on June 25, 2014 at 8:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Atlantic Blockbusters (587 180) (1969)

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I bought this Rock ‘n’ Soul gem today for a pound but had little hope that its absolute filthiness could be tidied. Happily, it cleaned up a treat and is a thoroughly fine listen. Nearly every song is a five-star job and, remarkably, only 3 of the 12 sides do I already own.

The pinnacle among so many highlights must be Wilson Picket’s astonishing cover of “Hey Jude” which features a goose-pimple inducing guitar solo from Duane Allman. It vies with the original, and that’s saying something.SAM_0436

Published in: on June 22, 2014 at 4:15 pm  Comments (6)