Henry Rollins Waxes Poetic About Vinyl

Henry RollinsI have a lot of respect for Henry Rollins. I’m a big fan of his music and spoken word stuff too. A friend lent me one of his spoken word tapes many years ago, along with Weight, which is to this day my favorite Rollins Band album, and one of my favorite albums ever. Henry also happens to be a serious music junkie. Someone posted this article on the Steve Hoffman forums last week and it just totally made my day. I hope you enjoy it too. And since you’re here reading this blog, I can’t help but think that you just might.

Here it is:
Plastic Fantastic: why vinyl still matters (Henry Rollins: The Column!)

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Joan Armatrading – Show Some Emotion

Joan Armatrading - Show Some EmotionI’ve been vaguely familiar with Joan Armatrading for years– in fact, she was one of those artists who I had been hearing on the radio since I was a kid, but I never knew it was her. Songs like “Drop the Pilot” and “(I Love it When You) Call Me Names” popped up pretty frequently. When my wife and I first got together and I was getting familiar with her music collection, I put in Joan’s Greatest Hits CD and was surprised to find I knew so many of the songs. Anyway, about 6 months ago, we went to see her at a local venue and were absolutely blown away. Being a novice/casual fan I had no idea what an incredible guitarist she was. And she had a great way with the audience too. Without a doubt one of the best shows I’ve seen.

Several months later, I found this record (Show Some Emotion) at a local thrift. It looked pretty darn dirty, had a ton of funky looking schmutz on it…but I thought, what the hell, I can probably clean it. After using the famous sink cleaning method I’m happy to report the LP sounds great. Some light background noise here and there, but the music shines through. What a great record…apart from the title track and “Willow”, the only two songs here that I knew, the other cuts are stunners too. In fact there’s not a bad track on here. I love that the songs take such interesting twists and turns. Joan’s voice and guitar work is fantastic, and she always seems to surround herself with equally amazing musicians. This record is gonna be getting a lot of play.

The Verdict: SCORE!
My Cost: 25¢

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Whole lotta nothin’

Mantovani - the bane of the thrift store record collectorHaven’t had any luck this week. For a while it seemed like I was coming across some pretty good stuff (a lot of which I still haven’t posted here yet), but at the moment I’m not finding a whole lot. Hit one place today that I haven’t been to in about 5 months and they had almost exactly the same records they had 5 months ago! But I do have good news for the Dionne Warwick and Herb Alpert fans: I know where to find your favorite records. They’re slightly abused and smell like mold, but hey, you can’t have everything!

Anyhoo…I’ll post some better news and more finds here soon.

The Verdict: aghhh
My Cost: whatever I paid in gas to drive around and find nothing

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Some mid-70s R&B and soul

Spinners - Live! and Earth Wind & Fire - SpiritFound these at a “Savers” thrift store recently. Made a few trips there and wasn’t too impressed initially…lots of pretty common, fairly trashed records, and they were $2 a pop (which in thrift store terms is on the high end of things). But this last time I actually found a few nice records in good condition, including these two. Earth Wind & Fire and the Spinners are a couple of favorites for me when it comes to 70s-era soul and R&B.

I’m a bit more familiar with Earth Wind & Fire, having a bunch of their albums already. Actually, my favorite records of theirs are the first two, which nobody ever talks about, but I digress…Spirit was one I hadn’t heard before. At first listen I like it, but I think I need to give it another chance as I don’t think I was in the right frame of mind when I first checked it out. One odd thing: the track listing on the record cover doesn’t match that on the inner sleeve, and they are both wrong. The correct order is on the label only. Also, much to my dismay there’s a skip on the second side. Anyway, I know this LP is pretty highly regarded so I’m going to give it another shot.

As for the Spinners LP, musically it’s about 50-50 for me. When it comes to these guys, I know and like the hits a whole lot, but am not really familiar with their deeper catalog stuff. There are many tunes here I know, but I was kinda bummed that it was missing some of my favorites (“I’ll Be Around”, “Games People Play”). This double LP is taken from a Vegas show, so I guess they felt they had to do the cheeseball “Superstar Medley” wherein they imitate Tom Jones doing “It’s Not Unusual”, Elvis doing “Hound Dog” etc… it’s far from their finest moment. Having said that, there are an equal number of great moments:  “One of a Kind (Love Affair)”, Linda Green‘s guest spot on “Then Came You”, and a kickin’ version of “Mighty Love” where the band really gets to stretch out. Both records (and the cover) are in near-mint condition so this one’s a keeper, though I may only listen to half the songs again.

The Verdict: MIXED BAG
My Cost: $4 FOR BOTH

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Yesterday’s Finds (Zeppelin, Beatles, Goodman, Winding & Koto Music)

Led Zeppelin, Beatles, Benny Goodman, Kai Winding, Japanese Koto MusicFound some pretty cool stuff yesterday. This is actually the first time I’ve come across a Led Zeppelin record or a Beatles record at a thrift store…they don’t pop up too often. As it happened, they also had two copies of Let It Be, but both of them were trashed. This copy of Abbey Road (which appears to be a US pressing from the 70s) is a little on the grungy side and has some light scratches, but I’m hoping that a good old-fashioned kitchen sink record cleaning will help it out. The Zeppelin, on the other hand, looks like it’s in beautiful shape, and is also an early (1st?) US pressing– with the original 1841 Broadway address for Atlantic Records on the label. AND…”Porky” in the deadwax, which is a good sign. This means it was mastered by George “Porky” Peckham, who has been responsible for some amazing-sounding records over the years.

Of the other three, the Benny Goodman and the Kai Winding looked to me like they might be worth something– they’re not. That’s probably the primary reason I picked them up, but I plan to check them out and see how they sound. The Classical Japanese Koto Music LP was for my own interest, and is in fact the only one of these I’ve put on so far– just for a second– and it sounds like something I’m gonna enjoy.

The Verdict: SCORE!
My Cost: 99¢ x 5 = $4.95

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How Records are Made

If you are interested in these kinds of things, this is a pretty cool look inside the record making process. There are actually a number of YouTube vids on the subject, but I think this is one of the better ones. Just ignore the cheesy background music.


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Genesis – Three Sides Live

Genesis - Three Sides LiveOkay, this is cheating a little bit, since I didn’t actually find this Genesis record at a thrift store, but it sure was cheap. This album was not new to me, I’ve been a fan of it for years. I stupidly sold my vinyl copy years ago and got the CD remaster. Kind of a mistake. The remaster doesn’t sound particularly good, and it also has the UK version of the album, which is actually “Four Sides Live”…instead of a 4th side consisting of studio tracks, there’s additional live material. While I do like the extra live stuff a lot, I also miss having the studio songs. So the point is I was psyched to find this for $2, in mint, and I mean mint condition. This thing sounds beautiful, with virtually no pops or crackles. No, the sleeve is not exactly mint, but I can live with that for a record that sounds like it’s never been played.

Of the live material, the “In the Cage/Cinema Show/Slippermen/Afterglow” medley is just stunning…I could listen to it all day. Phil and Chester Thompson kick some serious butt when they are both playing drums simultaneously. The energy on that track is absolutely through the roof. On the studio end of things, I was always a particularly big fan of “Paperlate”, which has always sounded to me like “No Reply at All” part 2…but that’s a good thing.

A mint copy of one of my favorite double live LPs for $2? Yeah, I’ll take that.

The Verdict: SCORE!
My Cost: $2

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Modern Classical Music from Australia – Sculthorpe & Le Gallienne

Peter Sculthorpe & Dorian Le Gallienne - New Music from AustraliaWhile it’s always exciting to come across that rare, yet familiar, record in the thrift store– the one you’ve had on your list for years– sometimes it’s even more thrilling to discover some new music that comes right out of left field and surprises the heck out of you. So I recently came across this record with pieces by two composers I had never heard of before. I was immediately drawn to the cover artwork, and the titles intrigued me. It didn’t hurt to find that the LP was in beautiful condition. I’ve just played it and it’s extremely quiet, with scarcely a pop or a click to be found.

Sun Music I from Peter Sculthorpe presents eerie, dissonant chords punctuated by low-frequency accents. This is cinematic music. It’s so powerful that it immediately lends itself to visual interpretation and conjures up images in the mind. Irkanda IV features violinist Leonard Dommett. It begins slowly and ominously, giving way at times to moments of brighter colors, angular lines and more movement. Dorian Le Gallienne’s Sinfonietta on first listen appears to be a bit more traditional, at least in structure, but quickly reveals its more modern harmonic vocabulary. A fascinating piece. I’ve only just listened to this record once through but I’m already looking forward to listening a few more times to really take it in.

Now I need to go Google these composers and see what else I can find! By the way, I hope classical music experts will excuse my amateurish attempts to describe the music, I’m doing the best I can. But I know what I like, and I like this!

The Verdict: SCORE!
My Cost: $1.00

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Dave Letterman’s Record Collection

This was always one of my favorite bits Dave used to do that is unfortunately long gone…but thanks to YouTube we can still enjoy the old ones. Would love to get a copy of that New York Taxi Driver record at 3:14!

Happy Friday everyone!

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It Never Hurts to Ask

Some King Crimson & Sly Stone recordsWow…had a GREAT score at a local thrift shop yesterday. This is a little place off the beaten path that I remembered going to a few years back but hadn’t been to in a while. When I went in I saw they had CDs, but no LPs that I could find. I grabbed one CD and was going to leave it at that, but as I was checking out, I thought I’d ask if they had any records. The woman I talked to asked someone else, who called someone else, and finally I was brought out to a barn in the back, a crate of records was pulled out, the heavens parted, and… well, now we’re getting ridiculous. But you crate diggers know what I’m talking about, that magic moment when you discover something really good for really cheap. Not that these were original Beatles mono LPs or anything, BUT, there was some really good stuff. When the crate first came out and I saw the spine of a King Crimson record I knew this could be good. Here’s what I got:

  • Alice Coltrane – World Galaxy (Impulse)
  • Duke Ellington & John Coltrane (Impulse Stereo…looks like 2nd pressing?)
  • Herbie Nichols – The Bethlehem Years (Bethlehem)
  • Tony Bennett & Count Basie – Strike Up The Band (Roulette)
  • Oscar Peterson/Stephane Grappelli – Quartet (America Records …French import)
  • Nina Simone – Emergency Ward promo EP (RCA Victor white label promo)
  • Roberta Flack – First Take (Atlantic …yes, this one is pretty common, but I’ve wanted to check it out for a while now)
  • King Crimson – In the Wake of Poseidon (Atlantic US)
  • King Crimson – Lizard (Atlantic US)
  • King Crimson – Earthbound (Island UK pressing)
  • King Crimson – Larks Tongues in Aspic (Atlantic US)
  • Sly and the Family Stone – Life (Epic)
  • Sly and the Family Stone – Small Talk (Epic)

Herbie Nichols, Alice Coltrane, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Oscar Peterson...The covers on some of these are a bit chewed up, though many are at least VG and the Peterson/Grappelli, King Crimson – Earthbound and Bennett/Basie are more like NM. And most of the records themselves appear to be in VG+ to NM condition. Can’t wait to play ’em! The woman asked me if 75¢ a piece was okay and I actually talked her up to a buck a piece. In the end I paid $12 for the 13 LPs.

The Verdict: SCORE!
My Cost: $12 for 13 records

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