Monday, August 11, 2014

Self Promotion

In an effort to improve readership VVer #1 has been making a concerted effort to hand out business cards to random people.  At a recent Fillmore "Cares" open mic in Silver Spring this VVer was showing his sketchbook to folks and mentioned vinyl.  One of the musicians, the very talented Samir Moussa, had a mega eyebrow lifting moment, "I love vinyl!" he enthusiastically expressed.  When given the VVers business card he said: "So how does it work, do I just send you records?"  The answer is "YES."  Just send us your records. (Expressed with acumen* [what does that mean?].)  A nice conversation followed and the VVers managed to actually talk about the blog with a total stranger.  Victory!
VVer #1 got pretty sketchy that night.
* All this talk of acumen made us look up what it meant.  Writing is making us SMART!
a·cu·men
əˈkyo͞omən,ˈakyə-/
noun
  1. the ability to make good judgments and quick decisions, typically in a particular domain.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

DC Zinefest and Mini-Updates to This Here Blog

DC Zine Fest is Saturday, August 9th at St. Stevens Church in Mt. Pleasant from 11am to 5pm!  The VVers will have their awesome, brand-new issue for YOU to buy.  In addition to record musings, Vinyl Vagabonds #5 features a Globe Poster inspired, hand-screened cover.  Go-go your way over to Zine Fest and pick one up!  Not only do the VVers write about records, they also create fun mini-comics, and premiering in DC is VVer #1's collaborative "Thank You For Your Cooperation" a RoboCop 1987 fanzine.  Sweet!










In the interwebs world, while not a total revamp, the VVers did add some spiffy features to the blog, mostly on the suggestions of fellow readers.  Now, at the bottom of the page, you can:
(1) Sign up to follow the blog!  YAY!  (Why didn't the VVers have this sooner?  No one knows.)
(2) Order zines directly from us!  All you need is PayPal or a checkbook.
(3) Search the website.  Want to see if Kurtis Blow or Neil Young champion the most amount of write-ups from the VVers?  Now it's easy.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

DC Record Fairs


The VVers realized an event that they attend on a semi-annual basis involving their favorite thing besides pizza (read: VINYL RECORDS) has never gotten a fair write-up on this old blog.  Here goes:


recordfair_fall09The first DC Record Fair that these VVers got a chance to dig in the crates at was in 2009 at the then tiny Comet Ping Pong.  VVer #2 lived spitting distance from the venue and late in the afternoon the two VVers got up the gumption to go check it out.  Of memory (this is five years ago now!) is that the VVers learned that if you show up late enough you might just get in for free (the woman taking admission didn't have change and waved these lucky souls in) and be prepared to be elbow-to-elbow with lots of like-minded record heads.  At the time, Comet only had their main, front room and smaller back room (normally full of with ping pong tables).  It was jammed.  Luckily the VVers bumped into record buddy Rob (and past Vinyl Vagabonds contributor) who was working at Smash!  He was co-running their table at the event when he noticed VVer #1 checking out a particular oddity and exclaimed "that's a great one, weird and great."  The record in question?  Neil Young's Trans; now one of our favorite albums.  Trans is most certainly Young's oddest album.  Maybe it is because--as read in his autobiography, Waging Heavy Peace--Geffen really F-ed him and didn't allow him to make the videos to accompany this out of character electronic music.  Or is it that Trans is really made up of two separately recorded records (the styles of songs on this album vary greatly from vodcoder-induced, synth-backed tracks to country, honky-tonk tunes)?  In any event, it is a good one, and anytime the VVers get a chance to write about Trans, it's a done deal (more on that later)!  Smash! always brings it for these record fairs, and they are one of the VVers favorite vendors to buy from.  Not only do they have stellar records, but almost everything they bring is steeply discounted from the sticker price.  Score.


Other fairs have been held at the Black Cat, Fillmore, Riot Act (since changed to Penn Social), Artisphere, and some now-defunct warehouse on 14th Street.  Black Cat's upstairs is a good venue for the fair, though a bit strange to see the place (and the bartenders) with the lights on.  The Fillmore in Silver Spring, MD also came through as a good venue for the fair (maybe these VVers are biased because they were living walking distance at the time).  As noted before, Silver Spring IS a vinyl mecca, so it absolutely makes sense for the fair to be there.  A guy from the nearby printmaking shop was at the Fillmore doing on-the-spot printed "DC Record Fair" tote bags.  VVer #1 decided instead to go buy a blank t-shirt from around the corner and get the friendly printer to screen him a one-of-a-kind DC Record Fair shirt.  Neat-o!  Penn Social is smack downtown which can make for tough parking.  It's a split level venue, which detracts from the unity of the event.  Nice bar, but otherwise, meh.  There is also the random 14th Street show that the VVers reminisced about recently because that is where they found Neil Young's Time Fades Away.  Nearby customers encouraged VVer #2 to buy it and it was certainly worth it as the VVers haven't seen it anywhere since.  It's a record Neil has called "the worst record I ever made."  Ha!  Record fairs are full of moments of interaction with other customers and vendors with such obvious passion for music.  It is fun to remember the specific events and places involved with each record purchase!  Lastly, the most recent fair was at Artisphere in Rosslyn, VA.  Although it has been held here before, the VVers have never ventured west of the District for a fair.  It's a nice, big, open space with high ceilings and a great venue for the DJ's spinning old school go-go and hip hop.  One DJ even played PARTY TIME!?! (he must have known these VVers were in the house!).  Noticeably absent from this event was a cool DC Record Fair poster, which in past events, have been eye-pleasing.  What the VVers did stumble upon was none other than a maxi-single of "Sample and Hold" from Trans!  Extended Neil Young dance mixes!!!  Definitely never seen or heard before!

In many ways record fairs are like comic conventions.  Lots of older, somewhat sweaty collectors ready to tell you what's what and why you don't know squat.  Thankfully most of the vendors the VVers have met at these things are either really nice, or so obviously not nice that it's fairly easy to navigate away from them.  Many deals are to be had if a buyer picks up records in quantity (a good vendor wants to make the buyer happy with a deal and move the records at the same time.  Who doesn't like that?).  Bulk-buying can lead to buying some pretty random stuff in the effort to get a good deal.  A lot of that extra random stuff gets chucked or resold down the road, but a few interesting items penetrate the collection.  Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's LP The Message is a good example of this.  Never would have picked it up solo, but when the seller is trusty it's a go! 

The crowd can be a mixed bag.  It is usually filled with record collector weirdos (wait, is this about the VVers?) and hipsters who are just starting their collection.  They can be equally annoying to share the floor with, but both can offer insight into what is interesting for the ears.  You can listen to what the collectors and vendors are talking about if you are big into the rarities, and it's always fun to see what "aha!" moments the young'ins have when pouring over the dollar bins on the ground.  When getting advice keep in mind that plenty of folks have no idea what they are talking about and/or have wildly different tastes than you do.  During a recent fair (possibly in an effort to buy something out-of-the-box), VVer #2 heard a guy flipping through a crate and say, "now this is a good record" and put it back.  Eyeballing it and making note, VVer # 2 later went to that box and picked up the LP from Arthur Verocai.  Upon asking nearby folk if they knew anything about it, a few really talked it up as a good re-release of the Brazilian musician's funky, first album from 1972.  It looked just random enough and was on some funny record label "Luv N' Haight;" sounded like an ok bet, so it was bought.  Was it good?  On the first few listens, not really; the VVers are looking to ship it out.  Needs less lounge and more funk.

Two things that you will undoubtedly ask yourself while at the fair:
Why do they stack their boxes so far away!?!  Nobody has arms this F*#$^*#ing long!  I'm standing on my motha f#*(&(@$^in tiptoes for f@@(# sake!!!
Why did this guy pack these boxes so tight!?!  I can't even squeeze in a pinky!
Which is why you should follow these simple --
Vinyl Vagabonds Approved Rules of Engagement
1. Carry plenty of one-dollar bills, vendors don't carry credit card machines
2. Wear plenty of deodorant
3. Bring an LP-sized record tote for all of your finds
4. Decide if you're an early bird (first crack at the goods) or a latenick (best prices)
5. When done looking at a row of boxes, kindly step aside to let others in
6. Don't expect a deal, be pleasantly surprised when you get one
7. Remember to take breaks and enjoy a coffee or cocktail to help you through the day

Record fairs are well worth your time and trouble, and never have these VVers left empty-handed.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

It Lives Under the Couch

It lives under the couch.  It lurks around waiting for the right time to strike.  It's always there and for the good of all mankind, often forgotten.

Until... the VVers chose to move into new digs and unearth the party-in-a-box!  What is this box?  It's the 80's box!  An instant party full of crap-tastic synth records, rainbow slouch socks, piano tie, hair crimper, Voltron t-shirt, and Transformers The Movie.

Lionel is so excited to be in the 80's box he pole vaulted out of his center spread using a giant bread stick.
Better than the electric boogaloo.
Created when VVer #2 decided to have an 80's party for her birthday a few years back.  80's records that had co-mingled with the collection swiftly got picked out and stashed in a separate pile in preparation for the party.  The VVers went on an extra record store binge to bolster the 80's offerings for guests.  Many of these records only have one or two songs worth listening to such as Cory Heart "Sunglasses at Night" or Thomas Dolby "She Blinded Me with Science."  When the dust had settled post party and all the Tab had been guzzled, the VVers were faced with a quandary.  What to do with all these crimped-out finds!?!  While the they try to stay neutral on discriminating between their musical tastes, the VVers do discriminate on 80's records; good ones that warrant frequent playing time get to stay and hang out in the world with the rest of the collection.  The rest have since been sentenced to a life under the couch.

First Offense,
you mean there was more than one album?
The 80's box is in fact an unassuming old, beige, boot-shoebox.  It was kept separate from the primary vinyl collection which was carefully packed away for the recent move.  Amongst stacks of heavy moving boxes the boot box was easiest to access and the VVers curiously opened it up.  Lacking other options, these gems (gems?) were played in their entirety while painting the new casa.  It was slightly painful and probably not a good idea to be on a ladder holding a paint roller and want to TURN OFF THE RECORD!  One such slab, Wham! Make it Big had never been played.  It had sat peacefully in obscurity under the couch waiting for this very moment to crush the tired and witless movers with its horrendous pop crapitude.  VVer #2 really despises some of the tracks that will remain unmentioned (ok, "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" IS the WORST song EVER).  Why keep it in the box?  Album closer "Careless Whisper" gave the VVers great entertainment when they coined an entirely new song about beige paint while most likely high on the fumes.  What does one follow that up with?  Turns out the answer is Heart's self-titled disaster of an eighth album from 1985.  VVer #1 wanted to have nothing to do with this.  "What About Love" and "These Dreams" are pretty horrible (and fun) upon re-listen, but not nearly as bad as the rest of the album.  What happened to Heart in the 80's?  YIKES.

Survivin' in the 80's BOX!
Other Box Denizens include:
Breakin' Soundtrack
Bobby Brown Dance...Ya Know It!
Lionel Richie Can't Slow Down 
Dire Straits Money for Nothing
Prince Purple Rain
Peter Gabriel So
Pat Benatar Live from Earth
Young MC Bust a Move 12"
Tears for Fears Songs from the Big Chair
The Cult She Sells Sanctuary

The list goes on and on, until the box is full.  You get the gist.  Tis' a mighty box, for a mighty party.  With contents this awesome and frightening, the box should only be unearthed on special occasions.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Neil Young - Re-ac-tor - 1981

The beginnings of Neil Young's awesome and much maligned 80's albums, a noisy precursor to Trans, and recorded with Crazy Horse.  What's not to like here?  Re-ac-tor is loaded with heaps of fuzzed-out electric guitar, from Frank Sampedro, ridiculous percussion from Ralph Molina, and thudding bass from Billy Talbot.

There's "a story of Surfer Joe, who caught the big one and let it go" that exemplifies Young's folky, storytelling talents.  This is only to be followed by the bold and brash, "T-Bone," where Neil sings about mashed potatoes and T-Bone steaks.  Yes, you read that right.  It's a pretty silly track, but who cares?  It's fun to listen to and very few lyrics.  Literally, "Got mashed potatoes, Ain't got no T-Bone" repeats endlessly over this nine-minute jam session with the Horse.  Yes.

Side-B is full of trains and cars.  The train-track, "Southern Pacific" sounds like it could fit easily on Neil and Crazy Horse's retro covers album Americana due to its rootsy pace, dark lyrics, haunting back-up vocals, massive guitar mashing, and bass line.  Some people might listen to "Motor City" and think it's strange how Young sings so crankily about his car, but seeing as cars are a giant part of his life the song makes total sense.  It's a funny and simple 50's style track with a great sing-a-long "who's driving my car now?"  From reading his autobiographical book Waging Heavy Peace, you would know how driving huge, old cars on the open road is just about his favorite pastime (after making music and playing with toy trains).  "Rapid Transit" is prescient of his yet to come Landing on Water, not sure why.  His vocals are playful; he's scatting a bit, and doing some lip drum rolls, and yowling too.

Album closer "Shots" could make a guest appearance on Le Noise, Young's recent album that sounds like a "feedback drenched apocalypse."  "Shots" is far ahead of its time.  Its grungy.  Really gritty.  All kinds of machinery sounds are made here with nasty guitar feedback.  Stunning.  Young's singing laid on this backdrop is spot on.  Neil and the Horse are in an intensely focused jam till the end of this track when it just crumbles in chaos.  Total destruction.

Re-ac-tor has howls, kazoos, oohs, ahhs, wood block, cow bell, hand claps, whubba whubbahs,  and the occasional whooh.  As an album it's brimming with reckless abandon.  It's messy at times and frankly lacks in musical focus.  It's Neil and the Horse possibly well loaded and joyously jamming out.  Crazy Horse brings out ripping sounds and fiery intensity on each and every one of these tracks.

Seems like a lot of the music here could perfectly fit into other great Neil Young albums that he later created.  Was this album ahead of its time?  Then why is it that Re-ac-tor is not highly regarded by the general public?  These VVer's don't care about that kinda stuff and like what they like.  It has been in their collection for quite a few years and there it will remain.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Well this Changes EVERYTHING!

Here is a true story of how the VVer's went truly analog (gasp!) in a herculean effort to confront their sneaking suspicion that the turntable was playing at less than satisfactory speeds.   This is how it went down:

The VVers were savvy enough to have purchased tickets for the sold out Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings show at the newly renovated Lincoln Theater on U Street.  Those Dap Kings and Miss Jones really brought down the house during their stellar set!  This spurred VVer #1 to buy a 45 at the concert (shocking!) of the super single "100 Days 100 Nights."  The following eve, upon first listen in the Casa de VV, Sharon's voice sounded decidedly off.  "This is not Miss Sharon Jones!"  Truth be told her vocals dragged, sounding all bass and lacking her signature zazz.  Did the turntable need a nap?  VVer #1 suggested listening to a YouTube snipet of the song to see if we could hear the difference.  With this it was immediately apparent that our turntable was not operating up to speed.  How long had this been going on for!?!  Had any 45 speed vinyl been playing at up-to-par speeds and how does one tell?  The standard method for testing and measuring the speed and  accuracy of your turntable is to use a strobe disc which you put on your player much like a record.  The strobe is a disc that has dots all around it and when spinning at the correct speed the dots are supposed to look as if they are staying still.  The strobe works due to a combination of how electric lights oscillate, plus the distance the dots are apart, times the actual speed of your player.  Sounds kind of dull, right?  Oh, you fell asleep just now?  Wake up, there's a turntable to fix here!

VVer #2 had already been formulating a crazy idea in her mind of how to test the speed of the turntable sans strobe and suggested, "oooooor, we could just count how many turns the record makes in one minute, if its 45, then we are good."  BUM BUMM BAHHH!  Brilliant!  VVer #1 was all in for this crazy experiment.  It went sort of like this:

VVer #1 demanded we listed to both 45s and 33s to determine if the speeds for both were off.  LPs had been sounding fine, but it seemed appropriate to be thorough.  VVer #2 queued up the stopwatch and VVer #1 put a part of a post-it note on the very edge of a 45 and ... GO!  Strange, it got to almost exactly 33 rotations in a minute ... and, oops, the player was set to 33!  These VVers sometimes have problems adjusting to the correct speed as elaborated on here.  Upon a re-count at 45 speed, it got to 42 rotations in a minute.  Not great, it was in fact playing at 3 rpms too slow.  Horrors!  Now this might not seem like a lot of rpms to the lay person, but a lot of oomph can be attributed to a few missing rpms!  Where do the speed challenged VVers go from here?

Post-it note sliver

Turns out they break out their ace in the hole; the vintage portable suitcase record player.  Just last year it was dropped a few dollars on to have professionally serviced, a near guarantee that it plays at the right speed.  Time to play all our 45s and hear them for the "first" time.

Tools of the trade
But in reality, this is just a solution to mask the problem.  The newer table must be fixed!  Upon calls to AudioTechnica and a drive belt replacement (free and easy thanks to some reasonably quick tech support via email), a re-test still sounded slow.  When timed at 45 speed, it took one minute and three seconds to get to 45 rotations.  Still slow.  The VVers were still determined to fix (or at least try to fix) this themselves and had a hunch that the problem had more to do with the motor than the belt.  Seeing as these are the times of the inter-webs, and that there is a lot of information out there, VVer #1 did some digging, and found a useful thread that pointed to this word previously unknown to man-kind,"potentionmeter."  Isn't that the scientific term that describes the exact measure for the possible good that lives inside every one of us?  Noooo.  Turns out it is apparatus that connects the speed doodad to the table framastat.  Accessible through one of the two minuscule holes on the underbelly of the turntable, a steady hand can choose either 33 or 45 to adjust.  Who needs instructions!?!  Apparently not the VVers!  Problem is, you need some sort of tiny tool and tiny hands and tiny light to be able to adjust this little widget.  With a steady hand and a fair amount of bravado anything is possible!  With this in mind the VVers enlisted an eyeglass size screwdriver and head lamp.  After about 20 tries of turning this tiny screw inside a tiny hole, covered by a tiny foam sliver, and then testing the speed each time, the turntable was fixed.  Huzzah!  The 45 that assisted and then ultimately proved our success?  Good ole Guns N' Roses "Sweet Child O' Mine" which features that unmistakeable opening solo.  If you can't tell the speed accuracy from that then you probably should stop reading now.

Some of the 45s we tested our turntable with
Thanks to their daring ambition, the VVers had managed put off dropping a pile of moolah on any new, fancy, high-end system (WOW there is a lot out there) for awhile and can continue to run their current one into the ground.  This whole series of events encouraged some research on technical aspects of turntables and the audiophile kingdom.  As intimidating as that was to do, it encouraged them to at least purchase a new needle for improved sound.  It's a small thing the VVers can do to reward their fix-it-yourself victory!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How To: Downsize

Ever pick up a box full of records?  Did you pull a muscle?  Are you still wincing in pain?  Do you have insurance?
Vinyl Vagabonds are clearly the first ever to acknowledge that vinyl records pose a very real threat to your health. These seemingly innocent platters can stack up and, in quantity, they are HEAVY.
The VVers actively had to confront this demon when the move to a new condo loomed.

VVer #2 "Holy !@$($#&^ we have a #$^&%(^ ton of records"
VVer #1 "Yeah!  Isn't it great!"
VVer #2 "Holy #$(%$&^ we're gonna have to move all this $#)^*%$%^*)"
VVer #1 "Ohh... ($#&%)$@%("

After letting this concept settle in for a day or two or ten, the VVers engaged in a carefully orchestrated plan to cull the chaff from the wheat (WHAT?).

The slightly less loaded Expedit.
A system was chosen that was relatively straight-forward.  Each VVer picked a section or cube (if you have stumbled upon the lucky coincidence that IKEA's Expedit is perfectly made for vinyl records) and pulled out records that either have not been listened to in over six months or that the VVer actively despises, attempting to take into account the alternate VVer's tastes as to not offend too much (haha, not really).  In doing this, some pretty obvious stinkers have been jettisoned.  These seemingly harmless platters have worn out their welcome in the House of VV!  A few needed multiple spins to make absolutely sure an informed decision was made: example, Dusty Springfield Stay Awhile - I Only Want To Be With You and Big Brother and the Holding Company self-titled.  Both not bad, but would they ever be sought out for another listen?  Doubtful and goodbye.

One record that had kept getting passed over that got some well needed attention during this culling was Ray Manzarek The Golden Scarab.  Do you know Ray?  Of course you do!  The VVers have written about his solo music before: good and bad.  He's kind of a big deal; he's the keyboardist from the Doors.  Ray also happens to be a genius musician who, when left to his own devices, goes hog wild in the studio.  The sound on The Golden Scarab bounces joyously between disparate styles.  Samba, heavy rock, salsa, lounge, folk, electronica, psych; for better and for worse it's all here.  Ray's voice is somewhat similar to Jim Morrison's in style and tone.  He doesn't have the depth of the Lizard King and often his cadence makes him sound sort of like a swaggering Elvis. If Ray is trying to convey some type of message about the meaning of life in Golden Scarab's lyrics, it's hard to take him seriously with his show-boaty, lounge-singer vibe.  The swinging tempo mixed with the introspective, poetic jib-jab is certainly unique.  Take for example opening track "He Can't Come Today," where he sounds like a game show host set against a marimba rhythm.  "What is your question? What will you ask him? What will you want from the truth? ... Where did we come from?  Where are we going? What are we all doing here?"  Why am I listening to this song? Why do I own it? Will it stay in the collection? 


The album's weirdness continues on a tremendous instrumental called "The Moorish Idol."  This nearly six minute spaced-out jam undulates with laser beams, propulsive percussion, and a galloping bass line.  Massive amounts of Ray's deft keyboarding create this amazingly futuristic sound.  Don't be afraid, the whole album isn't this unconventional, there are plenty of highly listenable tracks; "Downbound Train" is a powerful bluesy/evil sounding take on a Chuck Berry tune.  On a few songs Ray does some spoken word poetic scatting and shouts out various Egyptian gods and goddesses, which probably seemed like a good idea at the time.

Not sure why this LP  kept getting ignored for over a year it has been sitting on the shelf.  Maybe the cover has something to do with it.  He just looks... awkward.  Maybe a little too much LSD led to him having this cosmic Egyptian freakout?  Look at that back cover.  He should have named the album The Golden Sideburns!  FREAK OUT!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Do Not Judge a Record by Its Cover; Especially if It's by HR Giger

His artwork is incredible!  Tell me more VVers, tell me more.

Magma - Attahk
Guy at the store when VVer #1 was looking at this thing: "Yeah, that one is pretty out there.  The main guy is like a savant of prog jazz.  All the songs are in his own invented language."  Joe's Record Paradise had a one day sale of half off all the records in their rare section.  Figured why not?  Now we know why not.

Orgo and Borgo on the cover look suitably sweaty and gross.  They resemble characters from Giger's early work on production art for the Dune film that David Lynch eventually made.  More examples of that sort of thing are here.

The sound on this thing is just ape-shit crazy.  Chrisitan Vander, the French fellow behind the making of this thing, is a fine drummer and composer.  As the guy at Joe's warned that all of the songs are sung in the invented "Kobaian" language which sounds like some sort of German and African conversation gone wrong.  A ton of musical expertise is on display here and it's too bad the resulting effort is mostly a cacophony.  A few songs sound a bit like early Devo and are just barely listenable.  Most resemble some sort of funked-up, disco-scatting fitness music from the land of Christmas.  The tempo is crazed to the point that if you are doing something else while listening, like cleaning the bathroom, you will be scrubbing that shower fast fast fast!  Scrubbing and listening; a little tortuous on both ends.  Impressive amounts of falsetto are on this thing; it's gotta be some sort of a world record.  Final track on the album "Nono" sounds like what would happen if the Muppet's remade that victory music for the finale of Return of the Jedi.  Not really understanding how the music and the album art mesh here... not at all.  Goodbye.

Debbie Harry - Koo Koo 

For her debut, solo album while on break from Blondie, Harry makes some pretty unconventional choices.  First and foremost the album is produced by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of 70's disco group Chic.  Backup vocals are handled by two members of Devo.  And of course there is the album cover to discuss.  Giger presents a torture/porn image of Harry stabbed with strange, super nails from forehead to neck.  If this is acupuncture, then I'm not interested.  Still, it's an interesting visual and has a rather Egyptian mystical thing going on.  The inner sleeve version is more eviled up version of the cover, but with a subtle Alien-esque skin layer superimposed onto her face.  Half of the image is also under a layer of what looks like film strips of a microchip.  It's the far more striking image, but perhaps a little too freaky for the cover.

Surprising about this album is that the music is not really that weird.  It's pop, hip-hop, and disco with just a whiff of Blondie swagger.  Not much that this evil artwork would prepare you for.  A fun album that just barely matches up with its art.  She's a professed fan of his work so I get why she wanted the Giger images.  It would have been cooler for her to have made music that matched up with it more-so.  Now just imagine what that would have sounded like!  For those into YouTube, there are two videos that Giger did with Harry for this album.  The video for "Backfired" is a great example of this strange mix of disco, sci-fi, and darkness.  "Now I Know You Know" is a little more evil sounding to match the goth style of the artwork, but still ...  Both pretty fun, here and here.

ELP - Brain Salad Surgery

"I want to get it, frame it, put it on the wall, but god forbid anybody ever think I listen to it."
Bee boo boo bee boo boo bahhhhhh. Zee boo boo bee zee zoo zahhhh!  Recently acquired at El Suprimo! in Baltimore, the VVers picked this one up strictly to contribute to this write-up and to ogle the cover a bit.  There were really no intentions on listening to it and in fact, we tried not to, but couldn't resist, for our sanity, removed the needle from doing any more damage to our ears!  Funny that we somehow got through Attahk (twice) but not Brain Salad Surgery.  Are we really missing anything here?

Ok, so VVer #1 again takes one for the team and listens to the entire album.  Imagine evil Christmas with some aimless organ music.  Hark!  For about two minutes on side one an actual song happens.  Not bad.  The rest is laughably awful.  Why did Giger contribute this stunningly beautiful artwork to such a pile of drek?  It boggles the mind.  I get that prog used to be more popular, but really?  The artwork is phenomenal.  Not only is it beautiful, but the production values are what takes Brain Salad Surgery to the next level.  Gatefold front with a giant fold out inner booklet.  Primo stuff until you look at the glamour shots of the band.  Ugh.  Goodbye.

Danzig - III How the Gods Kill

"How do I not own this album anymore?  It is awesome!!!"  VVer #1 used to have this on CD, but has no idea what he did with it.  Pretty gnarly and the art actually makes sense with the music here.  What a concept, Giger!  You figured it out!  We've never seen the vinyl out there in the world.  According to Discogs it has never been released on vinyl in the US.  Maybe this is the one to track down! 

You can check out other album covers by Giger at this link.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Brooklyn Zine Fest 2014

This weekend brings the Vinyl Vagabonds to the fair borough of Brooklyn to table at Brooklyn Zine Fest.  At the fest the VVers will be debuting their brand-spankin-new, hand-screened copies of Vinyl Vagabonds #5!  Also available to peruse will be the VV back catalog (yes, we're allowed to say that now because we have five whole issues).  These earlier editions are disappearing fast so don't be late!  Purchasers will be entered to win exciting vinyl prize packs curated by the VVers.  Oh Boy!


BZF 2014 postcard back

VVer #1 will be debuting "Thank You for your Cooperation" a RoboCop collaborative fanzine. He will also have many other mini-comics for you to spend your hard earned dollars on.  VVer #2 will have some pickle-icious mini-comics for sale, adorned with puffy paint covers that glow in the dark.  No kidding! 
Remember, Vinyl Vagabonds, who is us, will be tabling on Sunday only.  Does that mean you should miss out on the Saturday folks as well?  Nooooooo.  Come visit BZF on both days!  More event info here.
Below are several pictures of the printing process. We did a three color screen print which sounds pretty complicated right?  Well, not imposibly so, but not exactly easy.  Thankfully we had the portable turntable along for the printing day.  It certainly helped things move along and made us the envy of the entire studio!
Blue squeegee
Two out of three colors printed and drying on the rack 
Pink vinyl in the screen printing room





Tuesday, March 25, 2014

For the Fish that Has Everything

Are you the proud owner of a fish for a pet?  Does that fish love records and helping you pick out the best ones to play?  Don't you wish your fishy pal could enjoy that vinyl when you're not home?  Don't you wish that fish could flip the record for you while you relax on your couch or love seat? Unfortunately, fish have yet to learn how to get out of the tank, pull out a record, place it on the player, turn the player on, adjust the volume, push play, and then flip the record.  Poor little fish!  What is he (or she, sometimes it's hard to tell) to do?

For best record flipping results, owning
a sucker fish is highly recommended.
The VVers' is named Giuseppe.  He likes The Clash.
Fret not pet owner; the ultimate gift is now available!  Yes, for twenty payments of only $9.99 you can get your underwater dwelling buddies their very own, fully functional, submersible turntable!  Any 45 rpm or 7 inch in your collection can now be enjoyed by your fine finned pal at their leisure.  No more will you have to leave the tank to dull music-less days while you're out of the house.  With the flip of a fin your fishy friends can hear their favorite tunes any time they like!

The revolutionary Vinyl Vagabonds In-Tank Turntable© includes built-in amp, speakers, top-of-the-line needle, and fully waterproofed casing. Available in aqua, salmon, and sea foam.

Not recommended for salt water tanks or guppies.  Also not recommended for any 45 costing more than a dollar.  Act fast, limited supply, buy immediately, why are you still reading this!?!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Mystic Man

Peter Tosh - Mystic Man - 1979

What's so great about former Wailer, Peter Tosh's fourth solo album?  Reggae and disco.  Yes, this is a reggae album, but it's also so much more!  DISCO! (Simmer down, you have to wait until Side B for that.)

Our copy -
printed on the flimsiest material ever -
possibly tissue paper
Mystic Man features stunning lead tracks on both sides.  Side A's title track is loaded with swirling, off-kilter chords, congas, and horns.  The drums are insane and all over the place: spare at times, wild in others, and downright bad for a few frames.  Flute flourishes and backing soprano vocals complete the package.  Lyrics on "Mystic Man" are sharp and highly quotable, especially during breakfast.  The first stanza indicates that Mr. Tosh "don't drink no champagne, don't sniff them cocaine, don't take a morphine, and don't take no heroin," but each thing he don't do is perfectly **echoed** by the chirping female vocalists.  He then busts out clever --responses--:

I man don't
Eat up your fried chicken
**Eat up your fried chicken**
--Not lickin'--

I man don't
Eat up them frankfurters
**Eat up them frankfurters**
--Garbage--

I man don't
Eat down the hamburger
**Eat down the hamburger**
--Can't do that--

I man don't
Drink pink, blue, yellow, green soda
**Soda pop, soda pop**

He's "a man of the past, living in the present, and walking in the future."  Quite the model man.  This should not be mistaken for anything other than a muscular reggae manifesto.  He's "got to be a mystic man."  Frankly, him listing all of things that a Mystic Man don't do, you have to wonder: what's left?  Me thinks it's the ganja.

To get Side B rolling (rolling what you might ask), ominous congas start, followed by bass chords, Tosh's electric guitar, enter some keyboards, and full on horns to create the epic disco track of "Buk-In-Hamm Palace."  Reggae and disco, in the same song.  Cats and dogs, living together.  MASS HYSTERIA!  Why have the VVers not discovered more of this!?!  It is impossible not to groove out to it as you are immersed in the eight minutes of reggae-disco fusion that Tosh creates here.  You, and anyone else within earshot, will be dancing.  It is totally unique and is a large part of the "wow" factor to this album.  The music itself is the "wow," not even the fact he is singing about smoking out Buckingham Palace.  If you aren't too busy grooving and can cut through his thick Jamaican accent, the lyrics will make you giggle.  Ha, you have the giggles!  The VVers wouldn't expect anything less from the anti-establishmentary Tosh.  The remainder of the album tracks are solid reggae that hew more closely to Tosh's other albums themes about equal rights, political freedom, and especially non-commercialism.  "Fight On" is a call to arms to "fight on and free your fellow man" accompanied by "shooby-doos."  Good PMA on this one.  "Crystal Ball" has a stark message about the evils of oppression.  Of his albums, the VVers consider this Tosh's best, second only to Equal Rights.  The combination of powerful lyrics, catchy reggae beats, and playful style makes it pop!
**soda pop, soda pop**

Interesting fact, Tosh was an avid unicyclist as pictured on the back cover of Mystic Man.  Not everyone can do that you know.  Album photos by Annie Leibovitz by the way.  The VVers' copy is the original Jamaican pressing (Discogs told us so) on Intel-Diplo H.I.M. (Tosh's very own record label).  They might have printed it on cereal box stock cardboard as it is the flimsiest sleeve the VVers have ever owned.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Rebel Yell

Billy Idol - Rebel Yell - 1983

The VVers have had this one in the collection for a while, but it took an impending, no expectations concert at Wolf Trap to get us really spinning it.  Billy and company totally delivered at that show as does this excellent LP.  Before this album, VVer #1 used to think of Billy Idol as a singles kind of guy.  Great radio tracks from uninteresting full lengths.   Still, he's very likable and, having seen him play live at the 2005 HFStival once before, this VVer was compelled to check out some of his early releases.

Billy breaks "punk" into the mainstream by singing with a hint of Elvis, and more than a few dashes of Jerry Lee Lewis.  His snarl and scream is equaled out by a low pitched, conversational delivery.  As a frontman it's his contrasting between howling and crooning that makes him stand out.  Axe-man Steve Stevens and producer Keith Forsey reunite on Rebel Yell, the follow-up to Idol's self titled first LP.  The title track is a screeching, opening single with Stevens' blistering guitar torching everything in its path.  It has so much propulsive energy and catchy hooks that it almost totally overshadows the remainder of the album.  That said, it would be a crime not to survey the other great material here.  The jazzy and seductive "Eyes Without a Face" has the requisite synths and keyboard hand-claps you would expect from an 80's hit.  To just mention the hand-claps is not doing this song justice.  It is in fact the synth hand-claps that make the song.  No hand-claps = "Song Without a Soul."  According to VVer #2, "when I think of hand-claps tracks, I think of this song."  We dig the hand-claps.  Got it!?!  What's more, the peak of the track has a rap like portion done over a shredding, slow riff which then careens into a weird siren squeak.  It's gnarly.  Stevens' guitarmanshipness (new word!) shows an amazing capacity for pop and heaviness from moment to moment.

Don't let Stevens' guitar riffage or Idol's yells mislead you however; there is a fair amount of 80's fluff on this album, especially heard on "Blue Highway" -- also known as the most forgettable song on the album.  Rebel Yell has some upbeat tinkling guitars peppering the songs -- almost like a harp at times.  Side B songs "Flesh for Fantasy," "Catch My Fall," and "Do Not Stand in the Shadows" all share this continuity of tone.  Add in some nicely rounded guitar bends, Billy's oohs and ahhs, and some majestic synth percussion and you've got pop rock of the 80's.  The chug-a-lug tempo of "Do Not Stand in the Shadows" will possess you with the urge to do your best Clair Standish dance.  (Interesting that Keith Forsey also produced the soundtrack to The Breakfast Club.)  The track is laced with Stevens' pyrotechnics along with glimpses of 50's do-wop flip-flopping with heavy metal.  It's an odd combo that works surprisingly well.  Lyrically Billy keeps it lean.  It's easy to sing along with, not too deep, and generally fun.  Exception to this is "Dead Next Door," a super slow ballad that comes on like a lullaby... about dead people?  It's a strange way to close out the album considering the thunderous start.  They play it 100% straight.

A million hair metal slow dances later and you have to wonder how they pull off all the merging styles.  Sure, pure punk fans won't be swayed.  Billy and company break way to many rules for that.  Just look at how pretty the glamour shot photos are!  Metal fans were also likely confounded.  Pop folks looking at the colorful and in your face album cover were probably the most curious and confused.  "What is this?"  To better understand how it all works one must only look at Billy's background coming from the original English punk movement, first as a fan, but shortly afterwards fronting the defining late 70's group Generation X.  They were punk in many ways, but also felt a tremendous influence from 60's pop and a massive pull towards glam rock and what would become 80's hair metal.  Such a blend could only work if you were a sneering, spiked blonde haired, leather clad bastard.

Of note on the inner sleeve and LP the sides are labeled 3 and 4.  An implication that Billy, Steve, and Keith were merely continuing their work from the generally fun but inferior first album; continuing the work and massively improving upon it.  There are a few moments on Rebel Yell that border on corn, but the bulk here is instant classic.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Louis Armstrong Plays W. C. Handy

Louis Armstrong Plays W. C. Handy - 1954

Starting off this stellar record is "St. Louis Blues."  You won't be able to get enough of this rendition.  We play it again and again.  The horns churn up a rocking tempo for this dusky number.  Clocking in at nearly nine minutes it is full of frequent back-and-forth vocals.  Jazz vocals usually don't make the cut for the VVers, especially not female vocals.  However, the W. C. Handy classics played by Louis Armstrong and his band set the scene for some flawless bluesy-jazz singing.  Besides Armstrong's always-pleasing, grizzly voice and distinct personality, credit must go to frequent collaborator, Velma Middleton.  Her rich old-timey voice (it probably didn't sound "old-timey" then) is the perfect accompaniment for Armstrong's tooting trumpet.  Although it's "the blues," it sure does sound like these two singers are having a grand time.  Speaking of Armstrong's trumpet, it is powerful enough to provide a narrative in most of the songs; lyrics aren't needed.

"Yellow Dog Blues" follows with a slow start that gradually morphs into a closing "Cha cha cha chaaaaaaaaah, tooot!"  A swinging version of "Loveless Love" is about as "oldie but goodie" sounding as they get, reminiscent of "When the Saints Go Marching In."  There are some slower tracks as well to even out the tempo like "Aunt Hagar's Blues" and "Beale Street Blues" (seven of eleven tracks on this albums have "Blues" in their title, so you know it's the blues).  What is clear in these songs is that every piece of the music is played with purpose.  Bleating horns or piano flourishes are integral parts of the whole, not just there just to fill out the songs.  "Long Gone" is just a fun one, full of story-telling and even laughing during the lyrics.  You can hear the rest of the band in the background "Whoo-yeah!" -- the modern equivalent of getting juiced for a guitar solo -- when Louis and company are set to rip into a finale.  These guys are pumped up!  There's an up-tempo, walking bassline that leads into a drum solo on the quick and tight "Ole Miss" that is about as catchy an anything these VVers have ever listened to.

Back cover notes, by celebrated producer George Avakian, are solid.  They are dense.  Possibly even printed in 4 pt font.  Regardless, if you have to use a magnifying glass, the back cover gives exacting back story of the songs that Armstrong chose from Handy's collection.  It's good stuff, but not for this blog.

Hard to believe this record is 60 years old this year.  The recording has aged extremely well -- sounding just a lively as when it was first committed to wax.  Full disclosure is that we haven't knowingly heard any of Handy's music before.  We are really just taking this album for what it is.  A masterpiece of composition, talent, and energy.  It is a joyous blues classic.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

KB LIVE!

Just when you thought the VVers couldn't possibly write anything else about their favorite wordsmith Kurtis Blow ... BOOM!  He books a show with DC go-go legends EU at the newly refurbished, historic Howard Theater!  How could we not go?

EU plays a killer set to open for Kurtis Blow.
VVer #2 is notoriously leery of seeing musicians after their hey-day (or in this case, three decades after) and with the added tidbit about KB having turned minister (founder of the Hip Hop Church!), things could get ugly.  But, seeing as this was THE Kurtis Blow, and he was playing right in our backyard, there were no excuses to not show up.  Plus, there was a strong possibility that he would play tracks from the one and only PARTY TIME?  Not initiated?  It's the only KB album in his oeuvre that is great Side A and B and it's also the only one of his albums to feature as backing band... wait for it ... EU!

Feeling semi-nervous we sidled into the beautifully restored Howard on a Tuesday night for the show.  It wasn't exactly packed, but there was a moderate crowd.  What ensued was pretty tight!  His flow was strong and he kept up his energy the entire time even as he giddily danced and moved all over the stage.  He even brought along his troupe of NYC 80's style break dancers to light up the floor.  At one point he went on a little preaching moment about the Jesus, but thankfully it was brief and not too over the top.  The set was pretty short and in a serious missed opportunity, none of "Party Time" was played.  In fact, EU didn't even play through KB's set, they just skedaddled on out of there after a brief overlap where they introduced him.  Does the Jesus not approve of Party Time?!

We should remind folks that it is in typical KB fashion to end on a bad note.  On his albums he usually ends up singing some sort of awful, schmaltzy tune on Side B.  In this case he finished the show off by rapping through a crazy hip-hop covers montage (think Naughty by Nature, 50 Cent, and Jay-Z among others).  This was extremely odd and corny.  Even still, he was able to pull it off thanks to his impressive delivery and earnest goofy vibe.  Was it good?  Well, let's just say that it helps to have low expectations sometimes  He decided to finish the show off with his so-called "smash-hit" that the VVers despise, "Basketball."  Of all songs to use for your finale!  And why all the covers?  KB -- have you looked at your backlog of totally awesome (and not-awesome) songs lately?   There are at least twenty songs that would have been better than that montage or "Basketball."  Ick.

KB, even with all the ups and downs, we were hyped to have seen you do your thing as one of the originators of hip-hop.  Vinyl Vagabonds = fans for life.  Next time call Vinyl Vagabonds before the show; we would gladly help you improve your set list.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

2013 in Vinyl

Thanks for checking us out here at Vinyl Vagabonds for another year full of variety and record hunting.  Please try to check out some of the albums that we wrote about; we think it will be worth your time.  Also, make sure to "follow" the site so you never miss a post.

Now, the list.

New Album We Plan To Spend a Lot of 2014 Listening To
Savages Silence Yourself
We got this one from VVer #2's brother for x-mas.  He's typically pretty low key, but he has a great ear for new tunes.  He picked us out a few winners over the years and this one might be the new top banana.  Silence Yourself evokes elements of Patti Smith, PJ Harvey, and Sonic Youth.  It's dark and rageful at times; not exactly a "FUN" record, but certainly a lot to chew on.
Silver Medals - Mark Lanegan and Duke Garwood Black Pudding, The Julie Ruin Run Fast, Kurt Vile and the Violators It's a Big World Out There (and I am Scared)


Most Local Album
Charlie Byrd Trio Travellin' Man at the Showboat, Washington DC
VVer #1's parents used to go check this guy out when he played at a now defunct Silver Spring basement club named "The Birds Nest."  From the performance you can tell he's a classy guitar man, adept at jazzin' it up.  At times he gets way up on the Django scale.  Oh, by the way it's a suitcase.  Also, how can you be a "Trio" and a "Man" at the same time?  It's impossible... or is it?
Silver Medals - The Shirks Action Men/Gimmie Less/Chinese Heels, Trouble Funk Live in DC, Deathfix self-titled

Album Your Parents Will Hate
Melt Banana Fetch
Haha.  VVer #2's mom: "Why do they sound like chipmunk's?"  Hardcore, long form, sing-a-long, Japanese, punk, experimental... MEOWCH!  Take that, face!
Silver Medal - Melvins Live at Third Man Records

Album Cover Most Likely To Offend Your Grandma
Devo Hardcore Devo Vol. 1 and also Vol. 2 
Deep hurting.  These are two rich collections of rarities and early takes of some of Devo's biggest early hits.  It's a mixed bag of punk, experimental sound effects, and goofballery.  Very catchy too.  What's with the crazy album covers?  Bondage sex weirdness.  Are we not men?
Silver Medal - Big Band Polkas Helena Polka Band
VVer #1 thought with a cover this awful there would be some redeeming value hidden within.  Total fail.

Best Album to Complete the 10 for 1 Purchase
Stevie Wonder In Square Circle
It's true, on occasion Joe's Record Paradise will have an insane sale.  All records priced $2 and under: 10 for $1.  The best way to finish off your booty?  Buying a Stevie Wonder album only because it has "Part-Time Lover" on it.  Hooray for synth 80s!  In truth we were stocking up on (choke) Christmas vinyl for the holiday visit of VVer #2's brother, aka "MR. CHRISTMAS."

Most Embossed Cover
Antibalas self-titled
We caught this world-music ensemble at the Black Cat a few months back.  Not bad. Album cover is beautiful!  Strikingly staged and lovingly embossed.  Shiny even!  Exceptional tactile-ness!
Silver Medal - Europe The Final Countdown, Stevie Wonder In Square Circle

2012 Album That We Forgot About Until Just Last Month
Neil Young Sleeps with Angels
VVer #2 snagged this rare disc on a business trip to Northampton and we sort of lost it.  Most likely because the plastic sleeve got wedged too far back on our shelf (but more likely it's that we just have way to many Neil Young records!) it's been hiding in the shadows.  Thanks to some recent house cleaning it was unearthed.  Sleeps with Angels is a dark toned and resonant album with several long form compositions loaded with ambient distortions and feedback.  It's pristine Crazy Horse sonic territory, though not as crushing as their last few 80's collaborations.  It has a bit of that early After the Gold Rush feel.  Next to last track "Piece of Crap" is more of a punk sort of thing, weird.

Best Basement Find
A Tribe Called Quest Revised Quest for the Seasoned Traveller
Hippity-hop remixed and found in a basement in Brooklyn; does it get any better?


Album that Caused the Most Arguments
The Muppets The Frog Price
VVer #1 is too close to this record to be partial.  It is damn adorable.  VVer #2 isn't interested in a second spin.  Let us never speak of it again.

Best Cover to Feature Wings & Things
Johnny Hodges & Wild Bill Davis Wings & Things
The finest in slouch-core jazz.

Best Moral Quandary Record
The Black Angels Indigo Meadow is a stellar album.  Problem is, thanks to the digital download card that came with the vinyl, VVer #2 find herself listening to it mostly on her pod instead of on the VVers obvious preferred format.  This little, evil card that now is ubiquitous with newly released vinyl is neat-o to have and allows you to enjoy music EVERYWHERE, but is this really necessary?  It doesn't sound as good as the format you intentionally bought it on.  When looking for a record to play, Indigo Meadow often gets skipped over because it was just listened to it on the bus on crappy headphones.  But, when it does get put on the spinner, it sounds amazing!  Quandary!

Best Anchorman Reference
RDGLDGRN self-titled
This local band from VA who's 45 features "I Love Lamp" and "Million Fans" is a nice combo of hip-hop and pop.  Kudos for the Anchorman shout-out, but in truth the B-side is the preferable song.  Strangely the band wants us to play their 45 at 33 1/2 speed, at least that's how it is printed on the label.

Best Handmade Cover
Barkitecture Quarry
Beautiful hand screened cover for local band playing some serious instrumental jazz/rock.  The vinyl itself is white/green marbled.  Purty.
Silver Medal - Static Eyes/Drugs Dragons

Most Rewarding Record
Judas Priest Rocka Rolla
Prepared for some drudge metal and we ended up with something altogether different and richer.  A surprise.


Best Find of the Year
Manu Dibango Soul Makossa
The VVers already wrote about this one.  Read it.  Listen to the record.

If you're still reading you might be asking yourself "did these guys just list the records they bought this year and come up with awards for them?"  The answer to that is, sort of.  Many albums came into our possession that we did not write about this year and of these most were put immediately back out into the world through trade, sale, or donation.  Some are still in the house waiting for another spin; their fate is uncertain...

Monday, December 2, 2013

Rocka Rolla

Judas Priest - Rocka Rolla - 1974

First riff of the album makes you think "Here Comes One Bad Motherfucker."  That theme continues throughout.

Rocka Rolla is the first album from speed metal heroes Judas Priest.  It's not what you expect if you've even listened to their hits.  This album is mostly not fast and more reminiscent of Black Sabbath than what lay down the road.  It has a general lack of the brag-and-swagger style of later material, a more introspective tone.

Lead song "One for the Road" has guitars that are jagged and crusty at the same time.  Similar to punching your fist through a pane of glass and what comes after.  The feel of this one is angular and steeped in funk.

Title track "Rocka Rolla" starts off promising enough with a dark, down-tuned, heavy guitar; yet another good lead-off riff.  Without the words it would be far less corny.  The musicianship has some nice twists and turns; it's catchy enough that you'll be humming it later in the week.  It's classic rock pumped up by Halford's power pipes.

"Winter" sounds like it leapt straight off of an early Soundgarden album (but in the time-continuum, the opposite is likely true).  Interestingly, this song is referred to as a "cover" as it was written and presumably recorded by the band's original leader/vocalist Al Atkins.  Penned before he left the band (they weren't making any money yet, he needed to support his young family so he decided to go get a job in the straight world) and replaced by operatic howler Rob Halford.  The song creeps in with a swirling low-end whisper of vocals that rockets into a grunged out Black Sabbath-y death-riff and Halford yelping towards the end of the world.  All promising and over far too quickly as drums take over and all alone set the somber rock tone for the remaining guitar flurry.  In comes Halford again belting line after line about the suffering of a seeming homeless wanderer.  It's over quickly and we're left with "Deep Freeze," which nicely circles back to the beginning echoey entrance of "Winter."  This section sounds like a slow motion buzz-saw fed through a blender.  It could easily be the guttural grunting and huffing of a savage beast.   Spent, it then leads to the cooler and more mellow "Winter Retreat" which would fit in easily on Pink Floyd's Meddle.  It's a brief repast that serves to heighten the skanky-metal touch of "Cheater," the last portion of this song suite which opens with yet another dark riff.  Hail Satan!!!  Ok, not really, but it sounds evil, so he might have been involved.  Halford doubles up here on muscular vocals and some keen harmonica.  Guitarist K.K. Downing does his level-best to throw in quick and nasty licks at just the right spots.  It's inspired blues metal of the highest order.

"We're never satisssFIED!"  Some juicy lyrics and a pummeling bass make "Never Satisfied" one of the strongest tracks on the album.  Very reminiscent of T. Rex's The Slider from two years prior.  It's a simple song that encapsulates the potential Judas Priest to come.  Coming soon to an arena near you.

The bluesy "Run of the Mill" sounds at times like a melancholy Floyd tune.  At 8:30 it is the longest track on the album and this is a good thing.  The patient unveiling of all the various tempo and instrumentational shifts is rewarding.  As it slowly churns on, it becomes more sad and evil.  The mournful cadence, searching guitars, and Halford's yearning vocals all come together beautifully.  Psychedelic guitars and bass interweave bringing you into a cathartic release of operatic yowling from Halford (these are not the proper words to do it justice).  You owe it to yourself to check it out as nobody makes sounds like this guy.  He is simply soul crushing as he hits those high notes; hits them through your skull.  And you will like it.

This can only be followed up by Halford doing something completely opposite than soul-crushing falsettos by dropping it down a few octaves in "Dying to Meet You."  Another dark and nasty one?  Yes.  The tune is pretty downbeat, but halfway through, the song seems to end.  Instead it busts out into a more speedy full on double-guitar riff.  This mid-point tempo shift makes it a very strange track with the beginning and end totally unrelated.

"Caviar and Meths" is brief and you have to wonder; where is the rest of it?  Apparently there is fifteen minutes more to hear, just not on this record.  One of several reasons that the band stated they were disappointed with how the record company handled this release.  Not knowing this stuff you might just shrug at the last song on the album.

Jury's out as to the connection between the bottle cap cover art and the actual music.  C'mon, it's not that clever a connection: Rocka-Rolla -- Coca-Cola.  Seems like the 1987 re-issue cover with an in-flight monster dropping bombs more appropriately fits the music. VVer #1 had a video game in the 90's with the same cover art.  Neat-o!

Reviews of this record have been pretty middle of the road, but both VVers could not disagree more.  Sure, it's not what they became to sound like and there are some moments that could stand some polish/remastering.  Ultimately though the musicianship and raw talent on display here far outweighs any of that poo-pooing.  Bravo.  Twelve stars.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Magic Basement

The magic basement?  Here's how it went down.

In case you weren't in the know, the VVers make a highly arted-out, physical version of this here blog which you can acquire in person at several stores in the DC/Baltimore/Chicago area as well as the DC Conspiracy Distro.  It's why we trekked to Brooklyn for the second annual Brooklyn Zine Fest (hosted by the awesome Matt and Kseniya, makers of I Love Bad Movies and other fine zine type books you should be reading).  BZF was going well -- many zines were sold and much coveted record prize packs distributed.  VVer #1 had invited an old friend from the 'hood to come visit, however, by the afternoon, the venue was so crowded that she couldn't even get in!  Plans were made to meet up that night post fest.

It's fair to state that the VVers like Brooklyn Zine Fest for a myriad reasons, but one nice perk has been the close proximity of a bar with tasty cocktails mere steps from our seller table.  Been to a zine fest before?  Often they are held in non-alco venues like churches and community centers so this is a real switcheroo.  Tasty libation aided us through the day-long onslaught of quirky zinesters.  By the time we were set to meet my friend and her guy we were both a little wobbly.  That in no way stopped VVer #2 from ordering several stiff drinks that evening at Extra Fancy (hey, we were on vacation and flush with zine monies!).  As we chatted about this-and-that it slipped out that the owner of the bar my friend worked at was moving to the west coast next week and was ... wait for it ... selling off his entire vinyl collection.  How nice ... WHUT!!!???!!!  The rest of the evening was pleasant enough.  Honestly though, interest was 100% focused on making sure the VVers would get a crack at that stash.  Via text we arranged to meet up in the morning for a look at the goods.  The brownstone was not hard to get to and our record fella escorted us down into a stark white basement set up like a mini record store.  Slap a few posters on the wall and a sign out front and there you go.  About twenty rows of boxes on tables were arranged by category against one wall and he explained that he had already sold some, but was looking to part with much of the rest before his big move.  We chatted for a minute and then it was head first into the crates.  VVer #2 lasted about two minutes before she started to show greenish gills and politely escorted herself out to the fresh air.

With nobody around to chat with, I embarked on a full on crate dig.  I sifted through the many DJ-type records, hip hop and other oddball mish-mash.  I walked out with a pretty solid stack and our record fella gave me half off his sticker prices which were already pretty reasonable.  As we had come to NYC with our record-centric zines to sell, it seemed pretty appropriate to leave with a stash of vinyl to listen to and write about.

The best of the bunch has been Revised Quest for the Seasoned Traveler by A Tribe Called Quest.  This 1992 release of rare remixes is chock full of unusual re-dos and weird-o clubby arrangements.  Interestingly, many of the remixes are by ATCQ themselves and the quality shines brightly on those tracks.  One stand out is the "Vampire Mix" of "I Left My Wallet in El Segundo" with remix credits going to ATCQ, the Jungle Brothers and one Mr. Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim).  It's a head spinning, dubbed-out, Mexicali horns version that gives lots of breathing room to the goofy/alt lyrics.  Super catchy and a little evil.  Remixes of "Can I Kick It?" and "Scenario" -- classics in their original form -- are just as powerful here.  The "Young Nation Mix" of "Scenario" has an ominous bassline, horn bleats, ATCQ's usual flowing lyrics, and most importantly, Busta Rhymes' "oh-my-gosh-OH-MY-GOSH dungeon dragon" guest appearance.  Classy.  Not everything is funked-out though.  "Mr. Muhammad's Mix" of "Check the Rhime" is tinkly and very pretty sounding.  Not what you'd expect at all for this old school jam and somehow it works!  As a remix package it's lacking in the typical flow of a regular LP, but it's pretty tolerable in this regard.  This is a testament to the fact that ATCQ, unlike a lot of 90's hip hop, has really held up.  Even the mixes on here that are a little bit of a stretch sound great.  What a find!  Apparently VVer #2 in her impeccable state of mind looked at it and put it back.  Oooops!  Thank Brooklyn somebody was on point that morning and swooped this up.  Warning: the "Bonita Applebum - 12 inch Why? edit" that starts off the record has a lot going for it with 80's synths so you might not be prepared for the sex noises that close out the track.  Not for mixed company.

Other titles from that morning include Busta Rhymes and his unheralded crew Flipmode Squad The Imperial, GZA Liquid Swords, Star Wars Empire Strikes Back (not just the soundtrack, but the entire spoken movie crammed into one record...but not quite), The Goats Tricks of the Shade (since sold on Discogs), and some jazz record that VVer #2 insisted on getting before excusing herself and since can't remember what is was.

On the drive back to DC the VVers once again lamented the fact that we did not have an in-dash record player.  Bummer we didn't find that in the magic basement.