Monday, January 26, 2015

Vison Quest Motion Picture Soundtrack



VVer #1 hit the Wheaton Library Bookstore to run through their tattered collection.  Never heard of this awesome place?  Go figure.  The most info you'll find is on the county library webpage, buried at the bottom:
"The Friends of the Library, Montgomery County, MD also sells books and other materials at its bookstores in Rockville and Wheaton.  The bookstores sell both donated materials and materials that have been deaccessioned from the library collection."  What an understatement!  Those librarians were probably just psyched to use the word deaccessioned in a sentence (as are the VVers).  This enormous store is a treasure trove of Linda Rondstadt, Barbara Streisand, Dan Fogleberg, Joan Armstrong, and piles (literally) of classical.  Had one the notion to do so, they could easily clean house on the entire discography of Neil Diamond.  This VVer on the other hand had more elusive prey in mind.  If you're willing to sift through it, there are gems and other interesting oddballs to be discovered.  For just one dollar a slab it is the perfect place to spend freshly minted unemployment money.  Hence the Vision Quest Motion Picture Soundtrack review you are about to read was born.  Is it a gem or just some dull pebble?  The VVers had never even heard of this movie before, but it has two Madonna songs on it so how bad could it be (cringe)?

Journey "Only the Young"
The VVers are both retired bartenders so even the thought of listening to Journey is forever tainted by hearing that one song (you know the one) over and over sung by drunken idiots in the early AM hours.  That put, "Only the Young" is only mildly painful.  It might encourage you to take a cat nap.  Call it "pleasantly harmless."  The guitar solo ever so briefly enters territory resembling hair metal, but the rest is just tepid.  Something about wildfires, blah blah blah.  Fade=lame.

John Waite "Change"
This almost rocks for a second or two.  Strong female back-up singers "Change!" and  some decent drumming.  The guitarists work here is shameful.  They do nothing.

The Style Council "Shout to the Top"
Liberace and Tom Jones had a baby.  Nobody loved that baby.  Some tempo changes in here are interesting for a laugh.  Nope, it is really just awful and the fade-out can't come quickly enough!

Madonna "Gambler"
Hey, nice high voltage bipidipidipa pop!  Other than an appearance on the VQ soundtrack, this dance single was never released in the US or on any of her LPs.  Oddly it made it into the top ten abroad.  This is a fast paced dance song but ... VVer #2 disputes that: "It did not make me want to get up and dance."  A little pedestrian for Madonna, but not entirely displeasing to the ears.  When cranked it briefly enters the fun zone, but it needs something more interesting to happen and the weird whistling fade-out isn't it.

Don Henley "She's on the Zoom"
Not bad.  This former Eagle is a decent musician and it's clear he knows how to craft a pop rock hook.  Too bad this song is buried on this soundtrack.  It's alright and would easily be the highlight on a Huey Lewis and the News b-sides compilation.  The track has funny female back up vocals and fairly amusing lyrics about going to home economics class and cooking "chicken a la king."  By the way, what does "on the zoom" mean?  Is that 80's slang that never caught on?  Does it mean another fade-out song?  Ugh.  Too much of that on this soundtrack.  VVer #2: "Can we... uh, listen to some good music?"

Dio "Hungry for Heaven"
The riff totally rips off "Baba O'Riley" by The Who, but hot damn does this song RULE!  No wonder it starts with the sound of angels singing!  But seriously, what a total rip off.  The majority of this song is great, but the chorus is just stupid.  Ok, it's so obvious now that it has to be an homage.  Oh, who cares listen to that guitar solo!  The tune ends with an impossibly long, overly drawn out fade-out.  It's as if they are rubbing it in.  MEGA-FADE!

Red Rider "Lunatic Fringe"
Hey, not bad!  This has a nice Pink Floyd a la The Wall vibe.  Nice "whoa ah oh oh" breakdown sing-a-long portion too.  Good one.  Oh... unnecessary sirens in the final synth metal segment.  Oh well.  At least no fade-out.  The VVers have never heard of these guys before and might just be on the lookout for an LP.  Nice surprise here.

Sammy Hagar "I'll Never Fall in Love Again"
This stinks.  Maybe for the purpose of a musical montage in the film it works, but... really this is dull.  Is anybody here even trying?  Oh crap, there goes the fade-out.

Foreigner "Hot Blooded"
Nobody really likes this song.  Maybe it would be cool at a strip club or something, but you would have to be absolutely hammered and it would have to be the 80's.  This is such an obvious half-hearted AC/DC rip.  The lyrics are just a joke.  "Are you old enough?  Will you be ready when I call your bluff?"  Dear lord, and fade-out.

Madonna "Crazy for You"
This is sort of a cute single.  Not Madonna's best and not really typical of her cannon of ballads.  Something about the corny instrumentation is so very 80's so it gets a bit of a pass.  At one point it sort of sounds like the theme to that Gummy Bears cartoon, and that's not a bad thing.  It's got a little bit of fun stuff from the backup singers during the chorus "bup bup bup bup ahhhh."  Nice directness where Madonna stops singing too and just plainly says "I'm crazy for you."  It's like she's talking directly to you.  That's kind of hot.  Here a fade-out sort of makes sense although really, it's a cheap shortcut and we all know this.  It must be STOPPED!

Final verdict for the Vision Quest Motion Picture Soundtrack?  Fade out of the collection.  Remove movie from Netflix queue.  Avoid associations with all parties involved.  Learn to live with feelings of shame.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

2014 in Vinyl

Best New Vinyl
The Faint Doom Abuse
Doom Abuse is packed with ear worms galore.  It doesn't hurt that the VVers also got to see them crushing it in concert this year where they 100% delivered the goods.  No small potatoes for a band just shy of twenty years into their career.  Read the entire review here.
Runners-Up
Ex-Hex Rips
Crocodiles Crimes of Passion

Worst Purchase for Completing a Musician's Run?
Kurtis Blow Back By Popular Demand 
There was really no reason to buy this album except for the sheer, demented, curiosity of the VVers to hear how bad it actually would sound, oh, and to complete the collection of all Kurtis Blow albums on vinyl.  Quite a feat, by the VVers, not KB.  He's really lowballing it here.  It's a shame because you can tell he still has skills... just zero things that are relevant to rap about.

This just doesn't look right. 
Most Confounding Cover
The Gauntlet Soundtrack
This painted cover by renowned fantasy artist Frank Frazetta is stunning.  If it wasn't Clint's squinty face attached to somebody else's over-muscled bod it could be a masterpiece.  As a crate digger this VVer never expected to find this soundtrack and sort of wishes it could be unfound.  Good luck trying to unsee it.  However, the bleating-horn jazz on the album is not what is expected from this cover; it's actually not bad.

Best Live Recording
Queen Live at the Rainbow '74
Early Queen is the best and anything involving Queen II has this VVer's attention.  These previously unreleased recordings meld Sheer Heart Attack with Queen II:  think a "Stone Cold Crazy" "Ogre Battle" with off-the-rails, exploratory guitar riffing jams!  It helps that the recordings are spectacular and allow the instrumentation to really come through.  The stage banter from Freddie Mercury is suitably ridiculous.  And it came with a free purple tote bag!

Biggest Vinyl Record (Literally)/Best Justification for Having a Back-Up Player
The Jazz Messengers at the Cafe Bohemia Vol. 2
VVer #2 was checking this out at Gerosa Records in CT, and noticed the record was hard to get out of the inner sleeve and hard to get back in after.  The vinyl was in good shape, so not much was thought of the packaging difficulties.  Regardless, it came home with the VVers and was taken out to play.  The LP wouldn't spin cleanly on the turntable and there was a weird scraping sound.  What was happening?  Oh, the outer area of the record was just cut too large and hitting on the base of the needle arm when turning.  How bizarre!  Out came the portable record player on which it spun with ease.  GIANT RECORD!!!
Photos this size don't do this sleeve justice!

Best Package (Art and Vinyl) {haha, you wrote best package, haha}
Big Business Battlefields Forever
This album has the most beautiful cut paper (and glitter!) assembled cover and a crazy looking inner sleeve to boot.  The vinyl itself is a sludgy, dark green tie-die looking splotch.  Totally suits the sound of this monster album.
Runner-Up
Black Angels Clear Lake Forest
Upon a quick glance at the cover..."Ut, I just got high."  Swirly spinning record is pretty colors that you can taste with your eyes.

Best New Vinyl with Bells and Whistles
Jack White Lazaretto
Did you know there can be a hologram in a spinning record?  Did you know that depending on where the needle drops there can be two different openings, one acoustic, one plugged-in, for a track?  Who would have thought of a lock track at the end of a side of a record to actually MAKE you get up to flip it?  Mr. Jack White.  We applaud your unparalleled use of bells and whistles to create a gem of a record.

Best Vinyl Not Purchased for $100
At the last DC Record Fair, VVer #2 was eying Mingus Ah Um from a vendor who had it in their rare section and said he would knock $20 off it and sell for just under $100... ah um, no thanks.  Instead a shiny reissue was found at The Sound Garden in Baltimore for around $20, the going-rate for new vinyl.  The music includes familiar tunes that you can't pinpoint where you know them from.  Spiffy arrangements and bass lines from Mingus.  The VVers aren't too sure why all the original copies of this recording are selling for astronomical prices (maybe they are just rare), but the music is certainly worth it and the VVers are happy they can listen to it on their favorite format without having to empty your pasta sauce jar.  Hooray for reissues!

Best Gift Vinyl
Neil Young + Crazy Horse Ragged Glory
(The LP was wrapped and then hidden beneath the fake cover for Milli Vanilli Girl You Know It's True, with an even faker sticker "Test Pressing - Brown Vinyl."  Genius.).
It would be hard to put into the words the shock of receiving a Milli Vanilli album as a gift and then the added happier shock of it actually being this hard to come by 90's era Neil + the Horse album.  Let's say it made for a relieved laugh.
Sneaky!
A lot could be made of how great this album is; easily enough to fill a separate write-up.  For the sake of this "Best of" let's just focus on the song "Love and Only Love," a ten plus minute garage rock masterpiece of blissful guitar bluster stippled with the purest lyrical call to arms.  "Love and only love will endure.  Hate is everything you think it is.  Love and only love will break it down."  The rest of the album is great, but wowie-zowie ... this song has some mighty legs on it.  Frank Sampedro's guitar leads are the sort of crunchy goodness that must be heard to be believed.  Bravo!  If not for the rest of this fine LP you'd wish it was a twenty minute song.
Runner-Up
Faith No More The Real Thing

Best Used Vinyl
Creedence Clearwater Revival
People don't really shine-on about their debut album, but it's got the goods.  Well worth adding to your collection.  Funny, the back cover has a massive write-up from a Rolling Stone editor about how San Francisco was the center of the popular music universe at the time.  The write-up contains exactly one sentence about the band.  Well, allow this VVer to shine-on for a second and state that this slab is a prime example of early heavy blues Americana.  Originals and covers duel for supremacy here with classic cover "Suzie Q" being the winner by a hair over original "Walk on Water."  Tough call.
Runner-Up
Them Roots of Rock

Most Triangluar Record
Neil Young
Eyeballed at Long in the Tooth in Philadelphia, this triangular shaped record sleeve was hanging on the wall.  "What is that!?!"  VVer #2 needed to know if the vinyl inside was in fact triangular and how much this crazy thing would set her back.  The price was right and the  translucent red, triple-pointed slab of vinyl in the sleeve was in nice condition, thus the whole pointy package got to come home to the House of VV.  The innovative sleeve assembles into a pyramid shape when fastened correctly.  Not sure what the purpose of this is... Neil?  Although the tracks are from Re-act-or and the VVers already have this in their collection, this was a great one to add to the collection.  It's gorgeously weird.

Best Concert
DEVO (Hardcore Tour) - Rams Head Live
The concert that should have been ho-hum turned out to be yum yum!  Not only is this band well into their grey years (too much?), but they are down two members (this mini-tour was actually meant as a fundraiser of sorts for the family of recently deceased Bob 2) and they were playing a venue that generally has been sour for these VVers.  Top this off with the fact that the band played almost entirely their pre-"Whip-It" back catalog of songs that are just as weird as ever.  Songs such as She Didn't Know I was a "Midget," "Mechanical Man," and "Soo Bawls" interspersed with a few well know hits like "Uncontrollable Urge," "Mongoloid," and crushing early single "Be Stiff."  Well guess what?  DEVO are super professional and have chops for miles.  Playing as a four piece the band sounded lean and full of energy.  Not only that, but the crowd was totally engaged and a lot of folks seemed completely stupefied by how strange it was.  This was the second time the VVers have had the good fortune to see DEVO and they are an enigma.  The second concert was just as creative and entertaining as the first; these guys are outliers in that regard.
Runners-Up
Crocodiles/Sisu/Shark Week - Comet Ping Pong
Queens of the Stone Age/St. Vincent/Brody Dalle - Merriweather Post Pavilion
Faint - 9:30 Club
As you can see, it was a great year for live music.

Best New 45
Shark Week Santurce
This local band hasn't put out a ton of music yet.  The two impeccably catchy tunes on this 45 have these VVers salivating for a full LP release, which should be coming in 2015.  Santurce is a blissful blast of surfer rock played with swagger and abandon.  "Go West" from the A-side (oh wait, double A-side 45) is full of snakey tempo shifts and kick-ass drum work.  The VVers are going to burn this one out!

Most Relevant Development in the Filing Department
Moving the 10" to their own section makes them easier to find.  The VVers discriminate by size.

Best Used 45
The White Stripes Conquest
Picked up at True Vine in Baltimore, this little disc packs a punch from Jack and Meg, with the help of some triumphant trumpeteering.  Beck (along with his living room) take credit on the B-side for the amusing ditty, "It's My Fault for Being Famous."

Artist Most Responsible for an Overcrowded Section of Storage and Depleted Funds
Mr. Neil Young
Almost an entire "cube" of the record shelf is devoted to a multi-sized collection of Neil Young vinyl: some flimsy 80s pressings and some giant, well packaged, triple-disc recordings (likely culprit of the depleted funds).

Most Divisive Record
Faith No More Motherfucker
VVer #2 does not want to hear this again in the house and very much dislikes the snarling wolf on the cover.
VVer #1 listens to it all the time when VVer #2 isn't home.  Granted, it is heavy, evil, and weird which is probably why VVer #2 enjoys it.

Upon reviewing the haul of 2014, the VVers realized that they have in fact done less vagabonding (aka crate-digging) and more new record purchasing over the past year.  This might just be a sign of the times; vinyl is back as a format and being pressed at such a rate that the few remaining record pressing factories can barely keep up.  While happy about the superior music format trending upwards the VVers have a budget to maintain; new vinyl isn't exactly cheap.  In the interests of getting back to basics, the VVers are going to try to concentrate on the pursuit of buried treasure in 2015.  Happy vagabonding!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Vinyl Bu$hleaguer

By The Vagabond Apprentice

As you know, I've been continually preaching that vinyl records are the absolute best way to hear music.  All other music formats sound flat, sterile, and dead.  Vinyl is "Alive!"  Which brings me to the reason I wrote this article.  Recently on eBay, I saw one of my all time favorite records for sale: Pearl Jam’s Live at Benaroya Hall limited edition, quadruple vinyl box set.  Only 2,000 were pressed, each individually numbered by hand.  The four LPs are a "Deep" "Blood" "Red Mosquito" color.  This record is the Holy Grail for Pearl Jam collectors.  The auction said it was "Mint" and in "Great Condition."  Wow!  That grading was music to my ears.  I had been saving up money for many months, so I felt comfortable typing in my highest bid, and rolling "God's Dice."  Let me state, eBay has been my main avenue for buying hard-to-find records over the past several years.  I never had a single problem buying LPs on eBay, so I assumed this auction listing would be no different. While I was staring and salivating like an "Animal" at the eBay item photo, I had an audio epiphany:  Can a vinyl LP record ever be in "Mint" and "Great Condition"?  Vinyl is a delicate, thin material.  When handling an LP, the slightest miss touch can scratch a record.  LPs also have static, which attracts dust and smoke particles, that can cause crackles, pops, and distortion in the fine grooves.  This is especially true of new vinyl which seems to be so full of static that it tends to attract factory and packaging scuzz (ewww!).  The way the vinyl is packaged when it is slipped into its inner sleeve also has occasionally left what looks like brush smudges on the record.  Hell, every time you play a record, it can wear down.  Why can't something so great last forever?  Ugh! My head is revolving like a 45 even thinking about all of this!

So back to the story:  "Hail, Hail!"  I did indeed win the eBay auction, and received the set in the mail days later.  Unfortunately, my disappointment hit me like a "Surprise Left."  Two of the eight sides of the LPs were scratched up, and you could hear the defects.  It kept going "Krickle, Krackle," and was lacking an “Even Flow” of sound as it should have.  Listen, I’m not some sort of whiner who is normally “Given to Fly” off the handle about a slight scratch, but this record was damaged!  "Rats!"  The vinyl was also missing the poster insert and smelled like tobacco smoke.  The grade I would give this LP set is “C - Average.”  Since I had a legitimate “Grievance,” I was able to send the records back for a full refund.  This Vinyl Vagabond wasn’t going to be treated like some “Jeremy”!  A better copy will have to remain on my “Wishlist.”

In conclusion, I don’t think a vinyl record could ever be in Mint condition, or close to it.  Every time I look in the “Rearviewmirror” I realize that music perfection may be just an unreachable dream.  All audio formats have their downsides, but as a total experience, vinyl is still my favorite.  Like all the audiophile elites out there, I will never stop spinning that “Black Circle.”

P.S.  Just as soon as the seller got his record back and I got my refund, "Off He Goes" and offers to sell it back to me for half the price.  Not that I wasn't tempted, but having seen/played his copy in the condition it's in I know it's not even worth half the price.  I'm not an "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town," or her "Daughter."  I'm going to be the "Better Man" and hold off till I find the copy that is right, but this an experience this Vagabond won't "Soon Forget."

Friday, January 2, 2015

Portland Vagabonds

Maine is full of vinyl records, it is true.  The VVers recently spent a long weekend in "The Pine Tree State" and for once, didn't put more than a token effort into seeking out record stores.  Even though our heroes were just there for the scenery and relaxation, in Portland the stores just seemed to magically appear everywhere!  Yeeeee!!!

It's a moose popping out of a record!
The trip began up the coast in Bar Harbor where Acadia National Park is located.  Not much up there in the vinyl department, but along the drive down Route 1, there was a strategic stop made in Brunswick where the VVers descended upon Bull Moose, one of several stores in this fantastic local chain.  They feature tons of new and used vinyl at really good prices and seeing as they are a  Blue Note 75th Anniversary authorized dealer, the VVers were compelled to buy a reissue, amongst other things.  Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage seemed like a good choice.  After a few listens, not much to say about the music other than "it's jazz alright!" 

While not technically vinyl, the air waves of Maine were also humming with good vibes.  On the drive back down Route 1 towards Portland, the VVers found WERU Community Radio which was playing fantastic reggae that morphed into some pretty interesting bluegrass.  Nice!

When the VVers made it to Portland, they checked out some live music at Blue which is on the main drag of Congress Street.  Whilst enjoying a night-cap they noticed a flyer for the bar's Sunday Vinyl Hour (actually it was their first ever Vinyl Hour).  Perfect; Sunday plans made.  The VVers found all sorts of other activities for the day and just made it to the tail end of the time.  Unfortunately, nobody but the VVers were there to groove to the tune-fest (the weather was quite nice; perhaps Portlanders [Portlandy-ites?] like to take advantage of that sort of thing?).  Luckily Blue's friendly bartender was into vinyl and not just a keen hand behind the bar.  With a dash of pride she was more than happy to share her eclectic vinyl collection with us while assisting in helping to slake the weary traveler thirst.  There was a distinct point during the conversation where she may have believed that the VVers made the trip to Portland for the sole purpose of seeking and writing about vinyl.  Yes, the VVers will write-off this trip as a business expense!

The Outfits - Just the Toe - 2013
While traipsing strolling along the edge of the historic Old Port district, this record was found at quirky local gift shop Pinecone + Chickadee.  Glow in the dark sleeve seven inch from a local band on translucent yellow/green vinyl?  Sure, what the hell.  The woman behind the counter couldn't really describe what it sounded like even though she said it was by her old band.  Real conversation went something like this:


  VVer #1 - Is it punk?
  Nice store lady - Wellllll...
  VV - Is it screaming at me or with me?
  NSL - Ummmmm...
  VV - Is it good?
  NSL - Sure, I guess.

Having given it the three minimum listens the VVers will concur that it is in fact music.  Giving it a fourth and fifth listen (for the purposes of the review) it can honestly be said that The Outfit sound somewhat like Patsy Cline being force-fed gravel by L7 recorded on scrappy gear.  Yay!

Last stop before zipping out of town was at a tiny basement bar, Maps, on the edge of the shopping district.  Really, the VVers didn't want their vacation to end and just wanted a happy hour drink before their flight home.  This bar (which was listed as a dive on some social media app, but was far from it) prominently featured records and a stellar turntable behind the bar.  Was the bar secretly modeled on the VVer's super-top-secret super-record-bar design?  Probably, since in addition there was a beautiful jukebox, warm atmosphere, great beverages, and a friendly tender of the bar.  After realizing what time it was and that there was a flight to catch, the VVers had to leave, but not before at least one send off song was played on the jukebox, as encouraged by the bartender.

A good way to end an unsuspecting "business" trip!


Friday, December 19, 2014

James Brown - Soul Power - 1971

Got-ta have it!
VVer #1 found this pathetic-looking 45 while crate digging at a cavernous used book store in the South Street area of Philadelphia.  The place resembled an old auto body shop and smelled about the same.  Scouring crates of 45s is not the usual thing, but VVer #1 was in the process of doing some traveling (sans car) and didn't want to load down too much with LPs.   Also it seems as of late that stacks of inexpensive 45s are everywhere these days.  Is this because so many of the jukeboxes of the world have been decommissioned in favor of those awful internet ones?  BARFFF!  The store in question had at least twelve milk crates full of these little guys just stacked to the gills.  Unfortunately "stacked" means literally vinyl to vinyl with no sleeves to provide protection between the little slabs.  BARRRFFF AGAIN!!!  After a good bit of persistent digging and some level of prayer, James Brown popped out with "Soul Power."   The somewhat faded paper label on it had a nice little logo "A James Brown Production" with Mr. Brown's trademark crooked grin at the center.  Alright.  Smashing Pumpkins did a super fuzzed out cover of this song in the waning days of the original line-up of the band so this was at least a sort of known quantity, but not the JB original.  The disc was scuffed and scratched up pretty badly, but no deep gouges.   Looked pretty rough, but hard to say how deep the scratches were.  Would it ever play again?  What the hell?  After all that digging it made sense to shell out the dollar and walk out with at least a scrap of a thing.

After giving it several goings over with a brush and some cleaning fluid the scruffy 45 is as good as it's going to get.  Surprisingly, it plays and sounds pretty decent aside from a little pop and hiss here and there.  Are 45s built to take more punishment than LPs?  Records of this size and from this era typically had a weight of only forty grams (compared to the typical 120-gram weight of an LP) which doesn't really give you a lot of groove (don't tell Mr. Brown that!).   Maybe that's less surface area to get damaged?  Maybe all those years in the relatively safe confines of a jukebox lessened the potential for the accidental scratch?  Who knows, but the dang thing plays and that is all that matters.  In fact, the natural wear of repeat playing and poor storage actually lends a gritty sound to this type of music that works in its favor.

"Soul Power" is a ripping tune with a tight chugging bass; ready for booty shaking.  James Brown sings about soul power "we got to have it," "we want it," "we need it," and a lot of other stuff he raps in his gruff shout/singing voice.  Most of it isn't particularly interesting lyrically; it's the way he performs it that makes the big impact.  James is throwing himself at this full force with the righteous assistance of his band, the original JBs.  The call-and-response between Mr. Brown and the band mirrors that of the back-and-forth within the horns section on this track.  All of that is ferried along nicely by a persistent blues guitar riff.  This single has a pretty slick B-side, Soul Power Parts two and three.  Are the parts really that different from one another?  Well, no but there is plenty more "let's take it to the bridge one more time!," "AAAOwwww!," "good god!," and "houuugh!."  Apparently there is a twelve minute complete version out there, but you'll never fit that onto a 45 for jukebox use.  At that speed you can only squeeze four and half minutes max onto a side.  That's rough for any musician who wanted to release an extended jam as a single.  Not happening.

Though Mr. Brown is the godfather of soul, these VVers admit that they are often mystified when they come across this soul/funk category, be it a record shops or a DJ night, mainly because it is unexplored territory.  Exploring it through a little crate digging seems like a reasonable approach.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Inner Sleeve of DOOM!

Garbage bag, meh.
Garbage bag:
Neil Young and Crazy Horse - Life - This record purchased at the DC Record Fair in Rosslyn,VA got the VVers one step closer to completing their 80's Geffen-era Neil Young collection.  Life is a decent album with a good variety of synth weirdness, pop, folk, and songwriting excellence.  The inner sleeve however looks like a black garbage bag and not even the heavy duty type of bag at that.  It's some super-thin scrap which would never protect that delicate vinyl.  Horse-apples!  It looks like hell and is probably disintegrating into the grooves at this very moment.  The thought process from the record label must have been "hey Neil, I hate you" and that's how the garbage bag happened.  Thanks David Geffen.

Sleeve shortage:
In the early days the VVers were highly focused (really?) on gathering totally random and unusual looking records with little concern for what condition they were in.  We're talking maximum a dollar per LP (and often less).  Thrift shops and bargain bins provide plenty of fodder for the budding vinyl enthusiast if you don't mind the dust of a crumbling sleeve getting on your sweatshirt.  The vast majority of these early purchases got ejected from the VVers home stash very quickly, and those that made the cut were usually lacking an inner sleeve.  The cheap records probably melted them.  Bargain bin gems will do that you know!  So the VVer's asked at local Joe's Record Paradise to buy some replacement sleeves and what did we get?  Ten cents each for used sleeves in various states of decay.  Can't complain... but these modern day, upscale VVers have moved on to ordering brand new static free sleeves.  Classy!

An inch of paper:
Faith No More - The Real Thing - VVer #1 has been pining for this LP for so long.  He grew up on the CD and really wanted to get his pathetic, little, grease-stained mitts on it.  It's one of those albums that was practically the soundtrack for his sordid youth... and it's amazing so don't judge!  After many a failed attempt to get a copy in person VVer #2 took pity on VVer #1 and found a sharp looking promotional copy on Discogs.  YAY!  The inner and outer sleeve both look amazing until you actually try to remove the vinyl from the sleeve.  Alas, the inner sleeve is perforated on all sides by the LP.  Thin paper and sharp, skinny 80's vinyl don't seem to get along.  This is made more so when the paper is cheap "it's 1988 and we're a record company that could care less about vinyl anymore" quality.  About an inch of unripped paper on the corners is the only thing keeping this thing from splitting wide open.  Handle with care.

Plastic sleeves:
Just like handles on heavy paper grocery bags, plastic inner sleeves never hold up.  It's the absolute worst thing you could ever do to your beloved LPs.  It's like wrapping a freshly made sandwich in duct tape.  Yeah it holds it together, but would you ever try to put it back in?  Would you trust it to not leave residue all over the place?  Would you try and print liner notes on it?  Noooooo.  These things are wrinkly in every which way imaginable which makes inserting and removing your cherished vinyl a major chore.  It can be so frustratingly awkward to get the plastic to lay flat that most times the VVers just recycle the plastic and risk going "sleeveless" till they can get hands on a paper one.  It's the right choice.

Paper picture sleeve = perfection
45s:
Why bother!?!  How many times lately with new vinyl have you run into this?  It's such a pain to have to deal with these little, itty-bitty inner paper sleeves!  They are so mini it's like being trapped in the microverse.  Even worse with 45s is when the inner barely fits into the outer sleeve and gets all wiggly and caught on the edge of the outer sleeve!  This is just bad planning.  C'mon people!  This should not be so difficult.  All people want is a nice picture outer sleeve and the 45.  Double paper seems like a waste.

Overly complex sleeves:
Was this the precursor to those stupid CD security spine stickers that absolutely suck!  All you want to do is listen to the music!  Overly complex sleeves that you can't figure out which way is up and which side unfolds in what direction are the pits!  Sure, at first glance might look fancy, but they are actually a deterrent to playing the dang record.  Too much thinking.

Outer outer:
So this particular blog is about inner sleeves, but it seems this is as good a place as any to mention outer plastic sleeves.  While there is some virtue in preserving the paperboard on a valued record it's got to be mentioned that plastic outer sleeves are highly annoying.  Not knowing a good alternative we vinyl enthusiasts are stuck with them.  What makes them so bad?  Well, for starters they almost always bunch up when being shelved.  When the shelves start getting tight this becomes a major bummer.  Think of a condom that won't stay where it's meant to.  It's sort of like that.  Ewww.

Tune in next time for "The Inner Sleeve of Greatness!"

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Do Your Thing aka Side Four

Hey, John Shaft (and Isaac too)!  Do your thing!
Side Four: "Do Your Thing" is the pinnacle of the Shaft soundtrack.  Somehow it has managed to stay in our collection ... for now.

Do what thing?  Do YOUR thing!

VVer #1 picked up the double LP soundtrack to this famous 1971 blacksploitation flick on the cheap.  It's in lousy condition (hence the cheap), especially the sleeve which is in full decay.  The vinyl is roughed up too, but manages to play all the way through (most of the time).  The VVers gave it a full listen to see if it would make the cut or go into the purge box (that sounds wrong).  After the spin, the only song that really stood out was ... guess which one ... mainly because VVer #2 could continually use it as an answer to anything VVer #1 would say.  
"I'm gonna flip the record" : "Do your thing"
"Time for a beer" : "Do your thing"
Pretty groovy until: "I'm not going to do the dishes tonight" : "Do your thing"
Haha, that's fun, but not enough to keep the thing.

Into the out-bin to go to music store mecca the Sound Garden in Baltimore to be sold the next day.  No reason to keep a record (much less a crusty double) with only two or three great songs on it, right?  Why not get a few bucks in store credit?  At least that's how these VVers roll.  Well, the Sound Garden passed this gem up, along with a number of other allegedly inferior platters, so around the corner the VVers went to Own Guru to see if the man wanted the goods.  No go (on anything); "wrong titles, poor condition."  At least he sold these VVers a cool Leadbelly record.  Last chance for this record to have a new home in Baltimore was at El Suprimo! where the owner took ZZ Top's Tres Hombres, but left poor Isaac Hayes and his Oscar/Grammy winning soundtrack in the box.  Thus, it went into the "garage sale" pile ... until the VVers couldn't get this damn song out of their heads and popped it on during Halloween costume paper mache-ing.

Side Four starts off slow; so slow that the VVers thought they had made their signature mistake: playing the record at the wrong speed. (The memory of this song was fast and funked-out.)  "Do Your Thing" just had to get warmed up first, right?  The song begins with some loose, but thought provoking lyrics sung over a slow burn funk line.  An example, "if there's something you wanna say, and talkin' is the only way, rap on, oh, rap on." After a few minutes things start to rev up with all sorts of drum jamming, psychedelic guitar, and horn section riffing that seem to go on for a good fifteen minutes or so.  Things are getting pretty warm up in here!  Still no tempo shift though.  You have to wait at least twenty minutes (it seems) till you get to that point, but oh is it worth it.  When it finally goes down, funk guitar leading the way, you'll be squinting and head shaking like an idiot in no time!  The instrumental jam gets layered with vocals repeating "do your thing" in a fast, echoey chant.  The track weaves in and out of tempo with several false returns then ultimately careens into several cosmic cascades of funky jamness (it's a word, look it up).  Distortion and apparent ambience leads to an abrupt screeching halt that sounds exactly like the needle just flew off the record (really!).  Thus closes out this epic.  Is it supposed to sound like the needle flies off?  No one knows, but record, you "do your thing!"  A few beats of silence and then gentle morph into the flute laden reprise of the Shaft theme song.  Solid.

"Side Four, you have earned our respect."

Friday, October 17, 2014

Savages - Silence Yourself - 2013

Do bands that start off an album with an extended, quiet intro, in reality, use it to get the listener to turn the volume way up so that when the loud music kicks in, they are blown right out of their loafers?  The VVers think that is the case with Savages Silence Yourself.  Sneaky!

Lead singer, Jehnny Beth's vocals include screaming, but a rhythmic-screaming, not just angry yells.  She is totally in control of her effortlessly powerful yowl.  She has a deep-toned voice reminiscent of Grace Slick, a growl of muscular prettiness akin to PJ Harvey, and especially channels the arty-poetressness of  Patti Smith.  She can run up and down the scales too!  The all out moaning shouts at the end of "I Am Here" certainly are accurate to the song title.  When she sings the lyric "silence yourself" during the closing song "Marshal Dear" she poignantly pronounces it - seelence.  Is it because she's French?  Punk is what it is, so anything goes.

Silence Yourself is mostly super high-energy, but with plenty of slower tempo drawls, guitar distortion, feedback, and deep bass lines.  The eerie, heavy sound is very much like 1990's Tool.  "City's Full" is a great example of Savage's raw intensity and musicianship coupled with a masterful understanding on tension.  Plenty of space is left between instruments and vocals here adding to the dank vibe.  "We dance all night, but when comes sunlight, you say, I'm going back home... OH!"  You will be slam dancing in no time.

The spare sleeve reveals that the band recorded in London with Duke Garwood.  He plays the almost cartoonish clarinet solo that ends the album.  It sounds just like the more melodic cousin of the dilapidated escalator at the VVers' nearby metro stop.  Mr. Garwood's name recently entered the home collection as he partnered on Mark Lanagan's Black Pudding.  How bout that?  The cover artwork is a hyper noir photo of the band on a manilla background.  In case there was any doubt, these are some noir ladies.  A serious poem adorns the front which for a debut album is pretty stark.  Fine print on the back of the inner and outer sleeves states "Don't let the fuckers get you down."  They must really mean it because it's there twice.

The VVers knew nothing about Savages until this debut LP was holiday gifted from VVer #2's brother, who, on occasion, is known to have the inside track on some quality music.  Along with the equally heavy Melt Banana this album made up half of a vinyl present that the entire family wouldn't enjoy during the holidays.  What were the vagabonds to do?  Save it for when the folks aren't around so they could really crank it!  Loud, loud, loud!

When VVer-brother was asked for any insight on the album as inspiration for this write-up, he responded "It's good."  Profound!  The VVer's predicted last year that they would spend a lot of time listening to this one and that's been an understatement.  Each spin of Silence Yourself reveals different sounds more rewarding than the last.   Repeated listens are no small thing in the VVers' lair of vinyl.  It is good.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Faint - Doom Abuse - 2014

Listening to The Faint on vinyl is a must and this clever band actually makes albums that fit into LP format.  Not a double LP; how novel!  The Faint make a brand of industrial, dance pop that is hard, fast, and direct; it begs to be played LOUD (sorry neighbors)!!!  The VVers have seen these guys in concert a few times and it's insane how well the records match up with the intensity of their shows.  For the most recent concert at the 9:30 Club the VVers had a few reasons for some built-up excitement.  First, they were just simply pumped to see the show (why else buy tickets ya underwear face!?!).  Second, there was a chance to score the new record, Doom Abuse, straight from the band.  Now this might not seem like such a big deal, but from the perspective of the band, they typically make a much bigger profit when they can sell directly to the fans without a middle man.  Third, and most importantly, was a high expectation to hear teased tidbits from the last show in full developedness.  An explanation - step back to the prior The Faint show (a mere year and a half before this one) where VVer #1 was fortunate enough to snag a copy of the small-batch tour 12" EP (the copy is stamped with 988 of 1000, whew!).  Two of the four EP tunes were performed that night and were absolutely highlights of the show.  The tour disc is a house favorite, but totally spare with no artwork, no title, no frills.

Back to Doom Abuse!  This LP includes brand new versions of those two coveted EP tracks that were amazing live and have been played over and over in the House of VV.  "Evil Voices" is a song about being caught up in your own negativity/misperceptions.  It also happens to be extremely fulfilling to shout/sing along with.  The version on the LP is basically the same as the EP, with the new version throwing in a few more abstract synths and sharper production.  DEVO influences are apparent in the use of bleeps, bloops, and electronic noise.  "The Unseen Hand" is the other extremely catchy one that got reworked from the tour disc.  The Doom Abuse version sounds like it's been amped up considerably and a bit overproduced.  Consider this one the kitchen sink version.  It's loaded with a ton more effects, cracked-out beats, and is a good deal faster.  Both versions are interesting in their own way, but the tour disc is a lot creepier and darker - the version the VVers prefer.

"Animal Needs" and "Help in the Head" on side A are both quick tempo bangers that are relatively straight forward at first listen.  While "Animal Needs" seems to just simply list things that humans don't "need" it actually does a pretty nifty job of getting the listener to contemplate how deeply civilized we've made ourselves; how far the human race has strayed from what our basic needs truly are.   It's an interesting reflection that somehow manages to fit into the package of a tightly paced track. "Help in the Head" seems to simply be a "tell off" song, but as the listening piles up it's hard not to think that as a famous singer you must meet a lot of highly deranged fans who may take things the wrong way.

"Lesson from the Darkness" and "Damage Control" help close out side B.  Both are insanely catchy.  The VVers continue to find themselves humming, whistling, singing these well after the disc has stopped spinning - did The Faint write the Doom Abuse track "Mental Radio" for this sole purpose?  "Damage Control" takes is distinctly slower than the rest of the album, which after all of that thrash and dancing is somewhat a relief.  The song has some weird, high pitched slinky synth line that repeats up and down the scale throughout the track.  Singer, Todd Fink, recounts conversation gone wrong with the closing refrain "Last night was the worst, I said a million things I shouldn't of said" as the slinky synth distorts into oblivion.

Unlike many albums, Doom Abuse holds up on multiple formats.
Also, this pie chart sort of looks like a record, right?
While listening to Doom Abuse you may have a hard time concentrating on anything but the most mundane activities.  VVer #1 has found it to be a quality garden weeding soundtrack.  The music will likely have you air-drumming, head-bobbing, and your personal tempo will increase dramatically.  In less skillful hands this record could easily go wrong, but The Faint have a knack for sharp production, sly writing, and originality that works extremely well here.  Each beat, blorp, and crunch sounds like something new and retro all at once.  Lyrics about anti-consumerism and mental health are all over this album.  How the band manages to say as much as they do with all the music's noise and chaos is impressive.  Usually a waste, the download card has come in handy for some mobile listening and lyric parsing.  The Faint's album artwork is not subtle, but continues their trend of using interesting and somewhat jarring collage to adorn their LP covers.  It should be added that this is no b-list collage; the plush photos and words are englossed against the lipstick red background.  Shiny.

The initial excitement for the show and anticipation for the LP was so high it seemed impossible for The Faint to meet expectations, but somehow they did.  The VVers salute The Faint for not being underwhelming.  "Kudos Gentleman!"

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Appetizing?

For your reading pleasure, a sampler of tasty platters from the VVer's collection.

What's with all the pairing of music and food?  Is it perhaps that the two leisurely activities go hand-in-hand?  What's good food without top notch tunes?  Does yummy looking food and captivating music elicit a similar brain response?  I'm Ron Burgundy?

Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery - The Dynamic Duo - 1966
The cover of this LP is what single handedly inspired this here food themed write-up.  At first glance, it appears as if this "dynamic duo" is sharing a hot dog.  However, upon closer inspection, it's not like that scene from Lady and the Tramp; they are in fact eating their own sandwiches.  Look how much fun they are having!  What could have possibly inspired this arms intertwined manwich photo?  The cover is so amazing that it makes the vegetarian VVers want to eat a bologna sandwich.  The music?  Jazz guitar from Mr. Montgomery and electric organ from Mr. Smith.  "Jim and Wes are puttin the pot on so they can really 'cook'." says the liner notes.  Cookin' up some jazzy, uptempo swing is really all this album has to do with food.  Sandwich!

Fat Boys - Self Titled - 1984
Clearly this needs a mention because of their name and the cover art, but no double dipping allowed, feast your eyes on the cover art and read about it here.

Rolling Stones - Let it Bleed - 1969
This VVer spies a cake.  And a pizza!  And ... a tire?  Featuring the Stones as cake toppers, their music on this album is, well, iconic.  Every track is amazing on this stunningly classic record.  Blues, bluegrass, jazz, rock n roll, swagger; the band is at their peak.  Let it Bleed takes the cake.

Johnny Hodges and Wild Bill Davis - Wings and Things - 1965
As frequent collaborators (the VVers wrote about this duo before), these two on alto sax and organ, respectively, combine their jazzy skills on this loose LP.  There's a call and response between the two on title track "Wings and Things" and on "Imbo" which defines their sound on this Verve platter (which doesn't seem to have ever been put out on any other format than vinyl).  "Spotted Dog" gets those fingers snapping over the seven-minute jam.  Back cover liner notes draw all the connections between the music and featured food for the reader, mostly by using many an adjective.  Of note about the title track: "There's a swinging restaurant with this name in Washington, and the band here salutes the eatery and the food with this rhythmic romp."


Supertramp - Breakfast in America - 1979
This is a seriously tight package of prog pop rock thing stuff music whatnots.  Side B has a few duds on it, but by and large it's a great listen.  Definitely the first time VVer #2 heard this one, she recognized most songs such as "The Logical Song," "Goodbye Stranger," and "Take the Long Way Home" but never knew they were all jammed onto this one LP.  What a fantastic cover also!  Our orange juice waitress a la Statue of Liberty stands affront Manhattan made of assorted porcelain dish-ware and breakfast served as Battery Park.

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Willy and the Poor Boys - 1969 (affectionately known as Duck Kee Market)
VVer #2 doesn't really remember the actual name of this album when requesting to hear it and always refers to it as Duck Kee Market (which she actually thought was the name of the album for some time).  The store on the cover is in Oakland, CA, nearby to CCR's hometown, El Cerrito.  Could it be the corner from the famous "Down on the Corner" track opening this album?  Or, is it just meaningless and good place for a photo op?  The music on this one is top notch, and perhaps the VVer's favorite CCR platter.  The shimmying, slow-burner of "Feelin' Blue" would make a fine backdrop for a swamp hoedown.  Fast paced rocker "Fortunate Son" and sing along "The Midnight Special" are great in their own right, but "Effigy" is really where it's at. Its deep E-chords give the somber track gravity and help round out this fantastic LP.  Also, there is a great lyric right before the musical breakdown about "no food on the table" on the song "Midnight Special."

DEVO - oh, no! it's DEVO - 1982
Well this takes the potato as the weirdest cover to feature food in the VVer's collection, but does that surprise you?  It's D-E-V-O!  Their super-electronic album is full of fast paced silliness including a track titled "Peek-a-Boo!"  80s aerobics anyone??  The mega-synths and peppy tempo are almost too much for these VVers; they are truly out-DEVOing themselves.  The LP jacket has a nice little doodad feature on the back - a fold out stand so that you can sit the record up as a display like a picture frame.  The boys of DEVO often refer to themselves as spud boys, and are known for their potato-iness, so this cover is highly appropriate.

Booker T. and the M.G.s - Green Onions - 1962
This LP is so loaded with classic tunes that you'll probably know at least half from movie soundtracks and pop culture.  Booker T. wails away on his Hammond M3 organ and Steve Cropper contributes some serious funk riff on nearly every track.  It's obvious these guys could just jam all night and it's a sort of tragedy to have fade-out after fade-out end the fun.  Title track "Green Onions" is one of those tunes that you're going to wish was longer. This is the sort of record that will whet your appetite for further Booker T. and the M.G.s.  Might the VVers recommend Melting Pot, the last full album put out by the classic line-up of this group?  On the back cover liner notes "There is no guarantee that the wave of publicity Booker T. has kicked off for Green Onions will increase the consumption of that potent vegetable, on the other hand, it is certain that more and more people will be digging Booker T.'s Green Onions sound."  Dig it!

Dexter Gordon - Tangerine - 1972
On the tenor sax, Gordon bebops his way around this album with drummer Louis Hayes keeping beat on the cymbals.  Solid scat and bopping jazz on this one, but with no real connection to the tangerine on the cover.  Back sleeve credits "Electric tangerine by Boots," whatever that means.

Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass - Whipped Cream and Other Delights - 1965
An infamous album cover or a great Halloween costume idea?  "She's super chesty and covered in whipped cream" says VVer #1.  VVer #2 is just disappointed to have to see Herb's face on the back cover instead of Chesty McGee!  Whipped Cream and Other Delights is full of bubbly elevator music that's surprisingly listenable, should the mood strike.

Meat Puppets - Huevos - 1987
"Automatic Mojo" is a straight ahead bass driven rock track (VVer #2 disagrees and just fell asleep whilst listening).  The rest of this album is just crazy town.  The brothers meat (Cris and Curt Kirkwood along with awesome drummer Derrick Bostrum) have been cranking out psycho, country-tinged, weirdo rock since the  early 80s.  This, their sixth album, is a little closer to mainstream at times and a fun listen.  The vocals can occasionally be a little rough, bordering on atonal yelping; surprisingly Huevos is not a breakfast album.  The tenor of the LP is that of a boozey jam session; a good late-nighter.  Beautiful painted cover and weird interior drawings are all by the brothers.  By the way, the song "Paradise" has the lyric "ivory whales high on corn bread."  A good example of how very, very weird these guys are.

Mongo Santamaria - Stone Soul - 1969

It appears that the VVers have never listened to this one.  Why, you may ask?  Not only does the cover feature a proper southern meal (ham-hock, black-eyed peas, etc.) but when the vinyl was pulled out of the cover, it looks like that very meal was served on this album.  With a little elbow grease, it cleaned up enough to find out that the brassy, hip-shakin "Love Child" has probably been featured in the triumphant closing credits to some schmaltzy spaghetti western.  LP closer "Cloud Nine" has some zazz and true form afro Cuban action.  The rest of the album could use more ham-hock.  "Maybe it needs more of that table cloth" says VVer #2.  This one is on the way to the compost bin.

Beastie Boys - Hello Nasty - 1998
The boys of beastie are wedged into a giant sardine can hurtling towards the sun.  Opening lyric on "Super Disco Breakin'" begins "fifty cups of coffee and you know it's on!"  Don't they know that sardines and coffee are not a good combo?  Thankfully the random assortment of musical styles the Beastie Boys whip up on this lengthy LP do mix well.  In fact they do it all on Hello Nasty jumping from funk, hip-hop, lounge, bossa-nova, latin, and that doesn't even cover the spaced-out computer voiced monster hit "Intergalactic."  The Boys may also be the masters of food lyrics: "so what if I'm a ham and cheese on rye, I gotta do my things and that's no lie" and "I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast, but I'm intercontinental when I eat French toast."

Sesame Street - C is for COOKIE! - 1974
Amazing!  This album is so scratched up from years of love from some little kids, it has never been played in the House of VV.   "It's gunked up, we can't listen to it, a child has had it."  Strange that there are no crayon marks on it.  Imagination is the only way to hear what it sounds like.  Ok readers, imagine for a moment what the song "If I Knew You Were Coming I'd've Baked a Cake" sounds like... pretty good right?  It's Cookie Monster, he makes the cut and he chomps on the letter C.  Done!

Missed Opportunity:
The Gaylords - Let's Have a Pizza Party - 1956
What happened to the pizza!?!  Instead you feature and Italian-esque fountain and Vespa?  The VVers surprisingly approve.

(Disclaimer: For the sake of clarity, beverages don't count.  Food only.  A write up including beverage albums would easily have doubled the length of this list!)

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.