Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Vengeful Turntable

Flashback to fall 2017:
There rests a large cardboard box in the middle of the living room in the House of VV.  Inside, a fancy new turntable ordered from Needle Doctor in Minnesota.  With the VVers having a busy week, and needing to rearrange their current electronics set-up before setting up the new player, the box sat untouched for a few days.

Vengeful spookiness ensued.

Artist rendition of actual real imagined events
On the first night, the VVer's still-functioning basic model Audio-Technica turntable decided to make its voice heard.  It is important to preface this with the fact that since 2010 this AT has been the main platter spinner in the House of VV.  During that time it has gotten a ton of action, 100% reliable, aside from needing the occasional adjustment when the speed control got a little out of whack.  So what happened with the AT on this night you ask?  The tone arm refused to lower to the play the record.  You read that right.  The player refused to play.  Usually the process is simply to push the start button and the AT does all of the work, but not on this night.  The arm would raise,move to hover over the vinyl, and sit there thinking about lowering for a few seconds... then return to the cradle.  No joke.  It did this four times before the VVers applied some coaxing, lowering it freehand.  The VVers took note that it was behaving strangely and moved on.

While playing Soundgarden EP, Fopp, on the second night that the new box sat in the living room, there was a moment the VVers turned to each other with eyebrows raised.  "Oh! It's must be set to 45, the wrong speed!" (typical activity in the House of VV).  Upon pushing the button on the AT to change back to 33, it sped up even more, then equalized.  Apparently it was already at 33, then decided to push itself to 45.  It was definitely wrong and after toggling the buttons an extra time it played correctly at 33.  VVer1 could tell the song was initially wrong because "I was dancing--funk dancing--and Soundgarden is not that kinda band."  The speeds were strange, but it did add some extra fun juice to the synths on the f'ed-up "Fopp (Fucked Up Heavy dub remix)."  A happy off-speed accident?  More likely a message of warning that the house machine was not amused.

On the third night, the turntable chose to be extra well-behaved.  While the VVers were listening to an LP from Mr. Chuck Berry, the record had a skipping groove.  As VVer2 got up from playing Settlers of Catan with the neighbors, and before she made it to the turntable, the needle decided to fix itself declaring: "Look at me, I'm a great turntable!"  "Keep me!"  Thinking that everything was ok, the House of VV went back to the seemingly normal game of Catan, but as it turns out VVer1 was clearly possessed by the indomitable spirit of the turntable.  He spent the rest of the night cheating with total disregard for the rules of the board game while the old AT player spun merrily along.  Curse!

This was the last straw.  The VVers committed to setting up the new player that weekend and with the viewing of several goofy YouTube videos were able to get it into action.  "The tables have turned!"
"You've had your turn Mr. Bond!"

It's also possible that VVer1's Dead Cross album was the original source of the curse.  Obviously, right?  It arrived at the same time as the new turntable and with an evil glow in the dark cover and blood splattered vinyl too.  Listen to even one foreboding track and you may very well be convinced that this LP is in fact the origin of the trouble.  Impossibly fast, fierce, and eerie with the ear splitting vocals of Mike Patton (Faith No More), annihilating percussion from Dave Lombardo (Slayer), mangled mayhem guitars from Mike Crain (Retox), and pounding  bass from Justin Pearson (Retox, The Locust, and Head Wound City); these Dead Cross guys are just plain mean.

Flash forward to present(ish) day:
End of story, right?  Wrong.  The new table had all sorts of wingdings and gewgaws that needed adjusting to exact precision.  This took months to get right.  YouTube was helpful.  The instructions and home page of the new Pro-Ject player had some helpful tidbits a well.  But "months" is not an exaggeration.  While everything is going well these days, it had been a mental leap to have to manage something that used to so easily and effectively manage itself.  Beware!

Double flash forward to the year 2076:
From their record-shaped flying saucer, the VVers activate their teleportation device and empty out their storage unit finding the AT!  It has grown horns and acquired a trident, but still sounds great when played.  The VVers of the future applaud the VVers of the past for deciding to keep the vengeful turntable around for the next generation of those possessed with the vinyl hobby.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

RECORD WEEKEND COMMENCE!

Record Store Day 2018 is Saturday, April 21.  Go out to your favorite record store, buy something, and talk to people (what?--socializing?!--panic!).  The VVers have always managed to find something interesting on RSDs of the past, so just do it!  Read about our adventures here: 2017, 2015.  I mean, just look how excited Third Man Records was about RSD 2018 back in February when the VVers went to visit their Detroit plant.


For a double-whammy of a vinyl weekend, come buy records and zines from the Vinyl Vagabonds in Silver Spring at Denizens Brewing Co. on Sunday, April 22, from 1pm-6pm.  Consumerism!!!  While there is no guarantee RSD titles will be for sale, there is the certainty of beer brewed on premises.  "I'm thirsty already!"  The VVers will have a bunch of used records for sale as well as a debut of their new weird side-project: Reggie and Hoop!  Its a flip-book zine about records and record people.  Perfect!  (As usual, if you want to mail order one, just message us!)


See YOU next weekend, records in hand!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Hoop Analog and Friends

Vinyl Vagabonds premier their brand new "record comic" this Friday, March 9th at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center as part of the group show, not too high not too low.  The new project, Hoop Analog and His Record Shop, explores a community of record stores and their staff.  Hoop, our hero, conquers the galaxy one record at a time (more or less).

NOT TOO HIGH NOT TOO LOW

MARCH 9 - APRIL 13, 2018
Featuring artists: Jessica Ag├╝ero, Andrew Cohen, Eric Gordon, Toni Lane, Anna Sellheim and Lenora Yerkes
Pyramid Atlantic Art Center
4318 Gallatin Street, Hyattsville, Maryland 20781




Ahhhhhh!  High priced record art!  Rare!  Limited edition!  Put that sh*^ on eBay!!!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Does Your Collection Need Some Sprucing Up?

Feeling like your record collection is in the doldrums?  Not sure what to get rid of and don't want to add to it?  How about reorganizing?!  The VVers have come up with new fun and creative ways to give your record stash some new zing.  You could possibly even uncover a platter or two you didn't know you had!

Let's get sortin'!

By Genre
Rock, hip-hop, soundtracks, reggae, polka, you know how this goes.  You probably already do this.

Alphabetical

The pinnacle of organization?  Usually its alphabetically last name or group, but make it more challenging and try by album name, or reverse alphabetize to really keep your guests on edge.

By Optimal Time to Listen to the Record
Some albums really just should not be listened to over breakfast, or even in daylight.  Some are perfect to put you right to sleep at night.  Some should only be listened to under the influence.  Others never while hungover.  Some should only be listened to while cats are in the room.  Try organizing your collection by when you prefer to listen to the album.  By hour, by day, by season?

Where it Came From
All records from thrift stores go here, purchased online here, had forever here, borrowing indefinitely from a friend here.  Know where your records came from.  Sometimes, it is the only thing you know about a record (example, "that gold spray stenciled cover from Skully'z in New Orleans": no idea of the name of the band or album, only where it is from).

Chronological
A way to get a perspective on your music.  Organize by year originally released and records get to live near their contemporaries.  Time slices, people!  Or, if you are really weird, you can organize by date issued, meaning originals in one section and reissues and new albums in another.  Seems not right... and yet.

Sleeve Color
Are you one of those people that needs Instagram-able pictures of books or clothes organized by color?  Try it with your records.  Sleeve spines that are in rough shape and peeling/cracking go under beige/white.  Good luck.


Sleeve Spine Width
Here's a fun and tedious idea--arrange your records based on how much room they take up on the shelf!  Skinny to widest please!  Take this further by arranging your records by ...

Gatefold
Create a "gated community" on your record shelf that only houses gatefold covers!  Then work your way down to singles and then those flimsy sleeves that don't really have spines and aren't really sleeves.  The gatefold community reigns supreme!

Record Label
Shouldn't all of your Sub-Pop records live in harmony together?  Don't Motown albums want to share space?  Some labels could be neighbors, such as Gordy and Tamla.  Makes sense.  Could get a little confusing with artists who have lengthy discographies and did a lot of label hopping.  This probably isn't the best idea.


Related Bands
Rage Against the Machine/Tom Morello/Street Sweeper/Prophets of Rage/Public Enemy/Cypress Hill.  Are we playing six-degrees of separation, or should these records actually live together because they all have overlapping musicians?  Tool/A Perfect Circle/Puscifer.  Santana/Buddy Miles/Jimi Hendrix.  Dum Dum Girls/Haunted Hearts/Crocodiles/Flowers of Evil/A Place to Bury Strangers.  Big Business/Melvins/Nirvana/Hole/Foo Fighters/Queens of the Stone Age/Mark Lanagan/Screaming Trees.  Don't even think about trying this with the jazz recordings, everyone worked with everyone!  This actually might be a perfect way to organize.

Buying History
You know what album you got first.  This could be a really fun way to engage your collecting with a little self history reflection.  You would get some perspective on how your tastes may have changed (or stayed the same) over the years.

Listening History
A system like this would have to take place organically over time so the organizing part is generally very simple.  Just empty the first slot on your shelf and the rest should take care of itself.  It could be a little controversial as you're likely to lose track of albums very easily.  However, you'll always have a lock on what you are enjoying and what you aren't.  The biggest plus to that might be that you can figure out what you should put in the "out" box.  "Collector" records that don't get spun often or at all might get a little bit shunned, or maybe they will be more likely to be out of harms way?  Only one way to find out!

By Listener
If you share a collection and have designated records that don't get played in front of the other resident, why not relegate those records to their own little area where the enjoyer of those records knows where they are kept?  This would make it so the un-appreciator of those records never has to see them.  A quick rebut to this method is that one will immediately call the other out for taking up more shelf space than the other and chastise them to keep their amassing collection in check.   This system very acutely provides a visual to any hoarding being done by one of the resident collectors.  Probably should avoid doing this.  Le sigh.

Try a mash-up of styles, then really no one other than you will know where your records live.  Meow.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Randy Thinks You're the Spud

Randy Edleman You're the One 1979
In another chapter of . . . "The VVers braved it so you won't have to!"

Look at this piece of... No No No.  "It burns the eyes!!!"  What is happening here!?!  VVer Master Apprentice found this LP in the outbox of a relative on the West Coast (apparently it was a gift, hopefully a gag gift), shipped it to VVer Secret World HQ, with accompanying letter "Smug asshole cover waiting for a Vinyl Vagabond scathing review if worthy - HAHAHA."  Worthy indeed.

What starts off bad only exceeds expectations as a pulsating poop sandwich.  Dropping the needle reveals playful synth pop, completely void of creativity and soul.  Randy himself sounds like a fifth rate Elton John, lacking any significant musical chops and at times missing his marks.  His back-up singers do their best to sound enthusiastic, earn their pay, and get out of the studio as quickly as possible.  Title track, "You're the One" sounds a little interesting for a brief moment, in tone at least.  And then in comes horsey clackity-clack wood block percussion and the incredibly cheesy chorus.  It seems like an attempt at a Stevie Wonder tune going horribly off the rails.  At the very least, it's not as terrifyingly bad as what happens two tracks later: "A Potato in the Rain" which has the dubious history of being used to terminate pregnancy in farm animals.  It's hard to exactly quantify the level of schmaltz on display in this song, in short, this is a sad, sad, sad song.  It's supposed to be sad.  The VVers doubt this is the sort of sad Randy was going for though.  The track goes on about Randy getting ditched by a lady in favor of another guy.  Don't ask about what happened to the potato.  "Night Music," the only up tempo tune on the album has a 52 second fade out which actually does have a final piano flourish to end the song... so why the fade out Randy?  WHY!?!  By far the best/worst song on the album has to be the final track, "All Along the Rhine."  It's a tourism tune that touches on the history and sights of Europe set to a mopey vibe.  The lyrics end with Randy having a hangover.  Suffer through this album and it's guaranteed you will have a hangover as well.

Let's talk about lyrics for a second.  The VVers don't often review albums of love songs and balladry, so with a clothes pin firmly attached to nose, here are a few lyrics to contemplate.  First a line from the song "Thirty Years Old (Mom)": "I've been reading books, I wanna see the world at first hand.  I've been taking looks around, I'm gonna show where I stand.  I've been too locked up, to give my heart half a chance.  See your baby has grown, and it's time I left home."  Really Randy?  You put a song on your album about moving out of Mom's house on your 30th birthday?  WTF.  How about a line from "A Potato in the Rain," ready? "We had planned to take a drive, a postponed romantic ride.  But when I pulled up, another guy had just pulled out.  You waved goodbye, feel I'm falling, feel I'm weak.  I know I'm not in command, so here I stand in endless pain, a potato in the rain."  Endless pain is right.  The only upside is the VVers and friends now have a new code for a bad party time.  Example: "This bar is like a potato in the rain."  "Yeah, let's go."  Does this guy have a fan club?  Does it double as a watch list for the FBI's least wanted list?

Figure A: Totally creepy
But what got this record to the VVers is the album cover.  Look at this guy.  Have you ever seen such beautiful shiny hair?  His image, pointing so earnestly in the VVers faces.  The color of his skin is slightly washed out in a frosted way, perhaps intended to be ethereal, but instead has the appearance of the Grim aka "Awkward" Reaper.  Honestly, the LP has to be placed face down to finish this review otherwise there will be hurling.  As in, this VVer is going to hurl this album into a threshing machine.  Guess what?  The inside sleeve has even more awkward pictures of Randy and yes, in several of them he is pointing at the VVers.  STOP BEING CREEPY RANDY! 

Lastly, credits for "A Potato in the Rain" read: Fender Rhodes, Piano: Randy (Spuds) Eldeman;
Fingersnaps: Randy (Tater-Tots) Eldeman.  STOP RUINING POTATOES FOR THE VVERS!!!  THEY ARE YELLING IN ALL CAPS NOW!  This album is stamped a promotional "DJ" copy and is NOT FOR SALE.  What a shame.  You can't make that shit up, this album is the gift from Satan that keeps on giving. 

Friday, February 2, 2018

RCA Victor Vintage Series

Some records you end up buying almost by accident.  You might know of the artist (but not the specific record) or you know about the reputation of the label it is on.  The VVers have talked about this in the past; sometimes you have faith in a label and buy whatever they issue.  Examples that come to mind: Light in the Attic, Blue Note, Stax.  At some point a few years back, the VVers realized they had a few of these RCA Victor Vintage Series jazz records (Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman) and have since been collecting more, just because.  The iconic, black and white, diamond-shaped wine rack on the cover makes it fairly easy to identify a release from this series.  Had it not been for easily identifiable cover, we may not have picked up Earl Hines (hearing of him, but not hearing him) or Sidney Bechet (again, only known by name, not sound).  What is also nice is that many of them were recorded before vinyl LPs, and thus were available only on shellac 78s from the 1930s and 1940s.  This new series brought jazz and folk music on the as-advertised "microgrooves" of the vinyl record.  Each album is a well curated compilation of these musicians careers.  All the liner notes from this series are fairly thorough, speaking both of the background of the artist and the tracks selected.

"The RCA Victor Vintage Series has been created to bring you selected reissued performances, unavailable for some years, by great personalities of popular, jazz and folk music worlds.  All recordings in the Vintage Series have been remastered with the latest recording techniques, but the artistic values of the performances are the only consideration for inclusion.  There are truly great recordings of the past for your present and future enjoyment."

Duke Ellington Daybreak Express 1964
Recordings from 1931 to 1934, notable contributions from Cootie Williams on trumpets, Johnny Hodges on alto and tenor sax, and Sonny Greer on drums, amongst others.  Tracks are classic Ellington and sound "of the time," whatever that means.  Perhaps the first of this series that the VVers bought.  The appeal of the cover art, known musician, and track listing certainly helped.  Jazz standard "Dear Old Southland" closes out side one on a familiar sounding high note, yet when turning to the sleeve write-up wanting to learn more about it, the pathetic one sentence just mentioning this song doesn't do it justice.

Leadbelly The Midnight Special 1964
Imagine being teleported to a time of the deepest blues.  You're not even close.  Try a little harder, get into the mind of the dusty field worker.  Leadbelly pulls the blues from his belly and pushes the lead out from his throat.  He belts out tunes like a solo, baritone gospel singer all while strumming on his twelve-string guitar.   Not the sort of record you just pop on for giggles.  He cuts up a howling jam pretty well: "New York Citay! Wooh!  Ain't that a citay! Eeeh!"  Puts Little Richard into perspective.  "Whoa Back Buck" is just amazing.  Good luck figuring out exactly what the words are in this work song--sounds like marbles in his mouth are occasionally spit out by kung-fu "hi-ya" shouts.  Even his back-up singers provide a "whoa, hey, whoa."  "Midnight Special" is especially affecting; swinging in soul and harmony like an ancient spiritual.  The liner notes on the rear sleeve are flush with information.  These VVers didn't know the story behind what the midnight special was--what did they think it was exactly?  "A popular legend among inmates at the prison . . . was that if the midnight express shined its light in a prisoner's window as it went roaring by, that prisoner would be the next man released."  And now you know.

Earl Hines The Grand Terrace Band 1965
Jumping' swingin' rollickin'.  All three apply here to high effect.  Considering he is apparently known as the "King Pianology" his pianology isn't quite the focus here; most tracks feature horns and even the write-up credits saxophonist Budd Johnson for most of the arrangements on the album.  Overall it doesn't matter, its still a great listen. 

Sidney Bechet Bechet of New Orleans 1965
While it assuredly helps when an older record is in pristine shape, the audio on these recordings from 1932 through 1941 are stunningly quite crisp.  Perhaps this is because these New Orleans classics were mostly recorded in RCA Victor's New York studios (as opposed to field recordings) with Bechet on both the clarinet and soprano sax.  His self-taught style sounds like a hummingbird zooming in tight tremolo.  Final track, "Sheik of Araby" is an odd one, he played all the instruments, overdubbing one after another.  This was 1941.  Who did that!?!

Benny Goodman B.G., The Small Groups 1965
Literally every time one of the VVers plays this for others, usually the stand out "Bei Mir Bist Du Schon," someone asks what it is and comments positively on it.  It's a guaranteed conversation piece defined by multiple tempo shifts directed by Goodman's narrative clarinet and accompanied by a playful, shimmering xylophone and crisp female vocals.  About half of the tracks on here are fast numbers that will get your toes tapping in a pleasing frenzy of percussion, while the other half of the tunes are more patient and magical.  All are colored nicely with Mr. Goodman's clarinet and smooth swing.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

WILD THANG!

Major League, Motion Picture Soundtrack 1989

Side A
"Wild Thing" by X
This version of the Troggs classic magically combines arena rock with punk bonafides and a helping of dark snarl.  Singer Exene Cervenka's rude delivery of "c'mon shake it shake shake it" is up there among the best things you will ever hear.  Lead guitars peel and shred mightily and disintegrate in lots of fun ways.  There are two stretches of the tune where it appears it's fading out to close, but then it comes back with more thunder.  These slight returns are excellent fun, but... the track suffers a bit from being a touch too long, and the band probably should have picked one or the other.  The percussion is over produced, an artifact of the 80s.  There are numerous points in the song where it sounds like an entire stadium full of fans are singing along.  Corny?  Nah.  This version isn't better than the original from the 60s, but it absolutely locks in with the celebratory sport movie.  According to the wiki, this track was released by X as a one-off single in 1984.  Did the producers of the film know they had this sick version of the song before going into production?  The tune is so integral to the script and a part of a number of fun parts in the film.  Crank it!

"Crying Shame" by Lyle Lovett
Blue collar blues.  Nothing to get worked up about.  It won't offend you.  Mr. Lyle is also on Curb Records, the label the soundtrack is on.

"Walkaway" by The Snakes
Starts off promising, but then goes into cliche territory pretty quickly.  Still, you've got full-throated rock vocals, chugging percussion, and the sort of bluesy swagger that feels right for a movie about a bunch of underdogs.  The guitars are pretty smokin'.  Too bad about the chorus, which comes close to feeling right, but not quite.  Meh.  This band is also on Curb Records.

"Hideaway" by The Beat Farmers
This one feels right, chugging along with a dark riff over a solid tempo.  Twangy vocals are on point, feeling kind of sad, but in a rock n' roll kind of way.  The chorus works pretty well.  It's not re-inventing the wheel or anything, but you'll get your kicks.  The only wish is that it did not have a fade out.  This one is a nice surprise that this VVer could listen to a few more times.  Guess what? Another Curb Records band.

"How Can the Girl Refuse" by Beckett
Awful.  Imagine the soppiest, late-80s rock/pop with campy lyrics that only make it worse and you're only halfway there.  This is painful.  Backup whispery female vocals too.  No no, make it stop, please, run for your life!  A fourth Curb Records band; we have a trend here...

Side B
"U.S. Male" by Lonesome Romeos
This is just a straight-ahead, honky-tonk thumper.  Is it good?  Yeah, it's pretty good.  The lyrics however are a little strange: "You can't stop a U.S. male" gets repeated a lot.  Not sure what we're singing about here.  Another band on Curb.

"Burn On" by Randy Newman
Aside from "Wild Thing," this is the other most well known song from the movie.  "Burn On" manages to capture the blended whimsy of the film as well as the truth in the sadness that Cleveland and many of the characters (players, coaches, loved ones) fight to overcome in the film.  A song about a once-beautiful, iconic river that impossibly goes up in flames from time to time due to pollution and neglect?  It's as close to a perfect song match to a film as you're going to get.

"Oh You Angel" by Lonesome Romeos
These guys again?  Ah, it's a goofy song, even more forgettable than the other song.  At least that one was a little weird.  Is it over yet?

"Trial and Error" and "Pennant Fever"
These two tracks are part of the instrumental score by James Newton Howard.  If you love the movie, you'll enjoy these.  This is an early score by Mr. Howard (Sixth Sense, Batman Begins, Hunger Games, and a ton of other well known films), with a rock-inflected vibe that is a mix of sporty, playful, and 99.9% fun.  The synths and some of the percussion make it sound a little dated, but this VVer didn't mind.

"Most of All You" by Bill Medley
A sweet love song.  Zzzzzzzz.  Bill has a little gravel in his bass heavy voice, which means that he really means it.  This one was a little hard to get through--with so many tears and all.  Weep weep weep.

One comment on the abundance of has-beens and never-were musicians on this album.  Never having heard of Curb Records before, this VVer did a little looking around and it turns out the label, was the brain child of Mike Curb, who went on to become president of MGM Music in a merger in 1969.  Seems when Curb Records got the nod to put together the soundtrack, they loaded on a bunch of their artists.  This isn't an unheard of practice in soundtracks, but it does reflect on the lack of consistency of the music.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Happenings!

Need holiday presents for that hard-to-shop-for someone (or for yourself)?  
Feel like new tunes and checking out some vinyl-themed art is in your forecast?  
The Vinyl Vagabonds have got you covered!





Saturday, December 16, 2017, noon - 5pm
Record Rats at Rhizome in Takoma (DC)
6950 Maple St. NW
Washington, DC 20012

Vinyl Vagabonds will be selling records and zines (perfect for stocking stuffers!!!) at this music and arts space.









Friday, December 15, 2017, through Sunday, January 27, 2018
The Post Contemporary Records Store at Cardinal Gallery in Baltimore
1758 Park Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21217

The Vinyl Vagabonds have been creating a new work of art involving the narratives of vinyl records that will be debuted at Cardinal, and will have zines for sale.  Two dates: Friday, December 15, opening reception; Friday, January 19, artists talk.

Page 7 of Reggie: The Lovable Record Slob

Page 8 of Reggie: The Lovable Record Slob

Friday, November 17, 2017

Escape from DC (There is No)

With the prospect of four years living with the current apocalyptic political landscape, the Vinyl Vagabonds (and friends) have begun making plans to escape the District of Columbia... should the need arise.  The Plan: Bike to Canada.  Why bike?  In DC, roads transform into parking lots in the blink of an eye.  Now imagine a crisis situation on top of that!  Thankfully, bicycles don't have to obey the typical rules of the road.  They fit in narrow spaces and can go on and off road.  In a pinch you can even carry your bike.  No worries about running out of gas either.  Grab your most important belongings and pedal! 

Wait, wait, WAIT!  What about the record collection!?!?!  There won't be anything worth living for if the VVers don't have their tunes.  But how to carry everything you will need to survive, plus vinyl?  In an emergency situation of this magnitude, things are bound to get heavy real fast.  The only solution is a bike with a hitch to quickly load in the essentials... and a master plan!

You only have moments to prepare.  Quick, pluck five records from the shelf!  Leaving this sort of decision until the last moment will almost certainly lead to panic.  Put down the baby and start thinking this through as soon as possible.  One should assume this is a "desert island" scenario, where magically there will be a record player and speakers to play your records from when you land in your Canadian bunker.  Your US dollars will be worthless by this point and all the stores in Canada only have Celine Dion and Bryan Adams LPs and a few stray Gordon Lightfoot singles left on the shelves.  It's the apocalypse, remember.  OK USA, these are your five LP records that will be on repeat, repeat, repeat...

What LPs do the VVers take?  (Box sets don't count.)

VVer #1 focused on albums with music from the USA that are more rare and less likely to be just lying around at some Canadian's house.  More of an archival outlook perhaps?  "I'm doing this for my country (as he salutes and straightens his American flag bow tie)."
In no particular order:
Nirvana Bleach
  Because, obviously.  "It's on freakin' pink translucent vinyl!"
Faith No More The Real Thing
  The end of the world is going to be weird and wild.  This album is that.
Beastie Boys Paul's Boutique
  Just in case we make it, this will be a good one for the afterparty.
The Faint Doom Abuse
  Dark as Ragnarok, but at least you'll be dancing.
Nine Inch Nails The Downward Spiral
  A pretty ideal soundtrack for the end of the American dream.  Let the tears flow.

VVer #2 focused on albums that are played-and-proven "classics" that she will never get sick of.  She doesn't care if the records are from the States, she just wants to listen to good music.
In no particular order:
A Place to Bury Strangers Transfixiation
  The apocalypse needs to be loud.  This record is the soundtrack to "Fill the Void."
Manu Dibango Soul Makossa
  There's a good mix of melancholy, joyousness, and bongos on here.
Neil Young Rust Never Sleeps
  He's Canadian, ya know!  Also doubles as a passport.
Puscifer Conditions of My Parole
  It's as close to perfect as an album gets, so for sure it's coming.
The Clash Combat Rock
  The escape will need Joe Strummer yelling in your ear "know your rights, these are your rights!"
Queen Live at the Rainbow '74
  Basically it's Queen II and Sheer Heart Attack live!  Two for one (wait, it is two--it's a double)!  Plus, there are awesome asides from Freddie and the typical crushing Queen sonics.
("Haha, did you notice I picked six, not five!  I win, and my back will hurt from biking with these extra records!")
Bonus round, one 45.  And... GO!
VVer #1:
Chuck Brown & The Soul Searchers Bustin' Loose
  DC's very own, and the song title is entirely appropriate.  Look out Great White North; DC culture is heading your way!
VVer #2:
The Daily Hum The Fireman
  One song, 33 and 45, bleak and ska, from Norway.

Extra points if you remember to bring the record brush.  The apocalypse is going to be dusty.

Will Brother VV (the avid biker) meet us in NYC to be our fearless leader to the Canadian border?   The VVers are hoping a few friends and family glob onto our bike brigade to escape the present tyrannical rule.  Maybe they'll even help with the heavy lifting, or bring records of their own to add to the surviving collection.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Belgium RSD

Look at the smattering of stores!
The VVers by coincidence (you be the judge) landed in Brussels, Belgium, direct from a red-eye, the morning of Record Store Day 2017 (its ten-year anniversary).  Ok, it wasn't a coincidence, but they didn't specifically travel overseas just to buy records!  They did however look up their record store options beforehand, thanks to the RSD website and with the indispensable help of The Vinyl District's map app.  In anticipation of their record buying habits they packed two empty record shipping boxes to fill up and mail home so not to hurt their backs while traipsing across Belgium and France.  Woah, these VVers are organized!

Having slept exactly zero hours on the overnight flight, the VVers head to their first stop (based purely on locational convenience), the Hors-Serie (which the VVers for their entertainment call the "Horse-ery").  There was a small line queuing up waiting for the store to open already!  It moved quickly, but was a mad rush of men-folk crushing around the sales counter, some were a bit pushy.  All the RSD releases were on shelves behind the counter and this was really the first foray for our heroes in engaging someone in Dutch or French, or Belgish(?).  Smiling and pointing helped, and the first purchase was made!  Shocking Blue's At Home, is essentially a plush, expanded version of their most famous album on translucent (shocking) blue vinyl.  It also happened to be one of the few albums the VVers were fairly certain they would come across for RSD as the band was from the region.

Next stop was Caroline Records, which had a great selection of American-release RSD titles nicely in boxes on the counter for buyers to flip through.  This is truly a great store with a separate upstairs store, B-Sides, an amazingly well-stocked vinyl utopia run by a super enthusiastic and knowledgeable gentleman.  Based on the VVers inquiring if there were any Stereolab records (to bring home for their record-loving neighbor), he commented that they are impossible to find, and recommended a kindred UK band's RSD 10" EP, Vanishing Twin Dream By Numbers, and off went the VVers with more records.

A handy map led the VVers to small shop, Elektrocution, so why not pop in?  This place was a little too punk and metal for the VVers who were on the verge of collapsing by this point in the day (probably only 11AM local time).  Shop clerk/owner looked like he was in his 50's and was totally gothed-out with makeup, especially for the morning hours (dressed for the whole day?).  Probably was a great store, but no RSD releases and the VVers were a one-track mind at this point.

The Collector had a few very obscure RSD releases, but mainly was a used store with a deep and seemingly never-ending oldies section.  You could dig in here for days.  The basement literally was small room after small corridor for what seemed like quite a distance.  VVer1 happily got lost a few times.  As it was RSD and the special releases are the thing to go for, the VVers were only in here for too scant a time.  Anyways, by this point the VVers were looking towards a well deserved nap.

After some reconstituting, one last hurrah was in the cards.  You see, these travelers decided that, since they were very upset about missing the Black Angels play 9:30 Club with A Place to Bury Strangers due to the timing of the trip, they would without guilt splurge and on the RSD release of the Black Angels new LP, Death March.  The limited RSD release is on glow-in-the-dark double vinyl with plush packaging.  They already knew they would buy the regular release of the record anyway, so why not get the fancy edition?  Let the costs of shipping home a heavy, double record be damned! YES! Finding said album, however, proved harder than they anticipated with all the record stores in town being sold out.  Balades Sonores just outside the northern edge of downtown was the last stop of the day and proved to be just the place and just in time!  Hopes were dim, being late in the afternoon, but the VVers wanted to check out one more store, so they hopped a tram and lucked out, getting their last copy!  They still had bunches of international RSD releases and some compelling local ones the VVers got to sample thanks to the very friendly staff.  After a bit of back and forth the VVers made their purchases and the store staff recommended a nearby tavern to go a rest a bit before a bit of live in-store music courtesy of a local band, Compro Oro, who put out an RSD 10" release, Bombarda, which was also purchased.  The VVers had an hour and a half to kill and began to follow the directions, "Just on the other side of that church."  Turns out the church was much further away than it seemed and through a less than appealing area; the VVers were spent.  After a totally unnecessary trudge getting to the bar, which turned out to be closed for no discernible reason, the VVers decided to go back to home base and skipped the show.  Bummed as VVer1 was about this turn of events, it lead to a relaxing night of Belgian beers and strolling the neighborhood.  There are no complaints about Belgian beers.

On the way out of town, the VVers got up bright and early, with their newly acquired stack all packed up in two near-bursting shipping flats and ready to go.  As luck would have it there was a post office right around the corner.  After VVer2 heroically filled out what seemed to be a hundred forms for shipping two packages home, at a not insignificant price, the records were bound for the States.

When reunited at home with said packages, they didn't quite look like they did when they were sent out....  These packaged were covered with adorable kitten stamps--the best being a kitten playing with yarn!  Belgium!  How dare you make the VVers smile even more when opening packages full of records!?!  When trying to describe this scene to a friend the response went a little something like this: "I just want to lick them!"  Meow!

PS, The journey continued, but there are just way too many record stores in France to write about.  The VVers just can't....

Friday, September 15, 2017

Small Press Expo 2017 - September 16 & 17

Three hot new books for SPX 2017!!! Ahhhhhh!!! Come visit the Vinyl Vagabonds at table G-11 all weekend long.


Vinyl Vagabonds #8
Brand new zine about vinyl music (duh). Lots of words, original artwork, and pointers. You will learn something reading this. Screen-printed cover. Yummy.


Trick or Treat - Cartoonists Draw Blood Anthology
10% of each book's proceeds have been donated to American Red Cross as part of the broader mission of this group; supporting blood drives with art. Cover illustration by Teresa Roberts Logan. My story, "They Want Our Candy" is a four-pager about aliens landing on Halloween for mischief and sweets.  Part of a hefty book featuring the talents of - Joe Sutliff, Joe Carabeo, Teresa Roberts Logan, Steven George Artley, Carolyn Belefski, Art Hondros, Mal Jones, and Steve Loya.



Mr. Squibly is On the Job #1
The first-ever feature-length Mr. Squibly book, twelve pages of intrigue about our favorite gumdrop-headed hero and his new office job. Screen-printed cover! Very limited release!!! Rare!!!!!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Well - Pagan Science - 2016


Know what is a rare treat?  Getting to enjoy a local beer that shares a great album’s sleeve art.  True story.  Back in October 2016, The Well’s sophomore album, Pagan Science, was released, and Baltimore-based Oliver Brewing Company debuted the first of their limited-release, "Long Live Rock and Roll" Double IPA series.  The series features the brewer's favorite record labels, this particular one being Riding Easy Records, in conjunction with their album release of Pagan Science.   The VVers went to The Well's show at Metro Gallery in Baltimore with hopes of a trifecta: rock, new LP, and fancy suds!  Alas, on this night, only the band got to enjoy the new suds (they were on tour and earned it).  Not all was lost, the VVers got to chat before the concert about band and brew with Oliver head brewer Steve.  Don't worry, a few weeks later the VVers were able to acquire many of these beers for their consumption.  Pagan Science (the beer) is delicious and prominently features Mosaic hops (yum)!  As a side note, along with their stellar neighbors, the VVers have managed to try all of the "Long Live Rock and Roll" series of beer releases and all are quite quaffable.

What about the music already!?  Hailing from Austin, TX, The Well have captured that classic early 70's heavy metal essence and brought it forward with completely original material.  Pagan Science’s ferocity will enchant you.  Considering they are just a trio, their sound is plenty loud and doomy, yet you can distinctly hear each individual instrumentation.  Despite all of the mayhem, the band has found ways to compose and integrate thoughtful lyrics into this crushing blend.  Male and female vocals are sung in tandem, often being barely distinguishable from each other, while producing an eerie and powerful effect.  This is an excellent LP, start to finish; no track is weaker than the others.

Drop the needle and one side starts off with "Black Eyed Gods," swirling riffs over yelping then chanting vocals.  It lulls into a short blip of sampled, talking material titled "Forecast" that leads right into the thundering guitars of "Skybound,” a nearly five-minute grind of multi-speed headbanging.  "A Pilgrimage" brings a storm of chaos with female vocals mid-track effectively making use of the "woooaaa woah woaahhhhwawoawo" which so many metal bands f-up, or should never use.  An ominous bass cadence introduces "Drug from the Banks" and leads it to a thoroughly dark and punishing place, both lyrically and sonically.  That's just one side.  The other side is just as worthy for a flip.

LONG LIVE ROCK AND ROLL (and also beer)!!!
The production on the album is pretty darn good, but it is notable how amazing The Well is live.  At the show, the VVers picked up the first pressing of Pagan Science, which apparently has the wrong track list on the sleeve and the lyrics sheet has Side 1 and 2 flipped.  Good thing the VVers were warned when they bought it from the band at the merch table, and also a good thing that the tracks are actually distinguishable, having a correlation with their names.  More confusing is that a cover of David Crosby’s “Guinevere” is listed, but not on the LP (must be digital only).  Bonus for this version being on beautiful red and pink splatter vinyl.  The band happily signed the record, but only after the VVers got a lesson from bassist/vocalist, Lisa, on how to open shrink wrapped vinyl and keep the shrink on (friction + denim = (pagan) science!).  Well, well, well, the VVers thank you for the lesson!
*does not apply to gatefold covers

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Dear Record Executive

Dear Sir or Madam Record Executive,

Please consider green lighting a B-Sides and Rarities compilation for the legendary Mr. Kurtis Blow.  He continues to be musically active and is considered one of the founders of hip-hop.  In addition he most assuredly could use the money.  Evidenced here: http://www.njpac.org/events/detail/the-hip-hop-nutcracker-2016.  His discography has many high points that justify digging in the vaults (with all seven LPs in their collection, the VVers know what they are speaking of), yet there are some low points.  For instance: his last few albums were decidedly his worst, his somewhat corny rapping style became dated, and most surely of all he was "born again" in the early 90s and The Jesus does not like rap.  It's true.

Not convinced?  Perhaps a live album?  Even a legitimate "Greatest Hits and Misses" collection with a few bonus tracks might do it.  The few compilations (CD and digital only) that have come out to date don't feature a single bonus track.  Where are the deep cuts?  Where are the diamonds in the rough?  Mr. Blow probably has whole concept albums that have never seen the light of day!  Even an all B-Sides collection (ha, this is evil) would be acceptable... perhaps even useful?  The U.S. military would probably be first in line to underwrite it.

The VVers do not deny their shameless KB love.  No matter how bad this new compilation is, the VVers will buy it.  That put, please ensure this release is a plushly designed, picture disc, triple album pressed to minimum 200 gram vinyl, packaged with a chrome collectors download card, foil embossed lyric sheet, deluxe life size door poster, and flier advertising how to join his fan club.

Suggestions for a title:
B-Sides Both Sides
This Blows
Blowin' Again
Tough Deuce, America
Falling in Love ... Again?
Breaks, Blows, and B-Sides
B-Movie Beasts? Nah, B-Side Blowin'!

In conclusion, KB is an international treasure who deserves to be recognized for his talent.  The VVers are willing to pay.

Sincerely,

The VVers

P.S. The VVers have made it a tradition of harping on about bad B-sides by Mr. KB, and that is not really fair.  The man has made a number of great B-side cuts such as:  "Throughout Your Years" (with crazy jazz pianos and funspirational call and response), "Do the Do" (featuring a fat drum rolls and bass lines and some very silly call and response), "Daydreamin'" (the only tolerable singing Mr. KB has ever done over a well-composed track), "Under Fire" (a sonic assault of echo, braggadocio, and laser beam effects, also a favorite of VVer #2), "I'm Chillin (the Transformers theme song co-opted as an anti-sexism track), and "If I Ruled the World" (probably his most recognizable late-career track, famously swiped by Nas for his single of the same name).