Saturday, August 31, 2013

Johnny Cash

Clearly vinyl records are cool.  Duh.  You know how we know this?  Because even the U.S. Postal Service gets it!  Check out this new one-sheet of Johnny Cash stamps, the second release from the USPS "Music Icons" series.  Front side:

He's looking pretty good, right?  Now the stamp side:

What's that pokin' up at the top of the sheet you ask?  It's a fake record!  They mocked a sheet of stamps into a 45 in a sleeve!  "Designed to suggest a vinyl disc sliding from its cover."  Respect.  Bet every philatelist is going to want to write about this.  What "music icon" should the VVers start a letter-writing campaign to the USPS for?  Devo?  Kurtis Blow?  The Ramones?  Ideas?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Milwaukee: The Best Place? We're Vinyl Vagabonds?

Whilst visiting the fair city of Milwaukee, thou shalt imbibe large quantities of delicious local beer, huff down cheddar cheese, bike everywhere, and listen to piles of vinyl records.  Check. Check. Check. Check.  The last may be the more challenging of the activities seeing as beer and cheese are amazing, affordable, and available everywhere, and everyone bikes (this may not be the case during snowy wintertime, but that will be another trip).  Thanks to Pabst Best Place tavern, we were able to satisfy our last criteria. Miraculously, the VVers were able to enjoy an amazing all vinyl music night.

How did this amazing event happen you might ask?  While looking up things to do in Milwaukee in advance of the trip, we came across Best Place at historic Pabst brewery and just so happened to notice a "Retro Vinyl Night" the first Thursday of the month.  They had not yet scheduled the August events yet, but the spark had been lit!  Out of pure nothing-to-lose enthusiasm, VVer #2 emailed to request a vinyl night for our upcoming visit; letting them know we are in fact the Vinyl Vagabonds and we love Milwaukee.  Not only was the reply yes, but we got a choice of music that we wanted: albums from the 60's-80's or mostly 45s with a Motown vibe.  We opted to have Best Place arrange for either DJ that was available and let them know we would be sure not to miss out.  Basically, pick "the best one."  The VVers had a late arrival since we were busy catching up on free late-night art over at the incredible Milwaukee Art Museum, but we eventually made it to find quite a nice set-up.  Steve Kauth, our DJ, brought in all his handmade wooden crates of vinyl (maybe 15+) as well as two humongous movie theater-type speakers, stereo rig, lava lamps, and turntables.   He encouraged us to go up and rummage through the records and pick out some stuff that looked "interesting."  Steve was very welcoming and stated that he goes through all of this trouble (this was a huge amount of gear for one guy to lug) because "I enjoy it, sharing this with people."  After a short time he also asked "where are your people?" and seemed a little disappointed that we didn't bring in a crowd.  Apparently the Vinyl Vagabonds don't have much pull in Milwaukee just yet ... sorry Steve.

First record pulled out from the crates featured GODZILLA and KING GIDORAH on the cover!  AWESOME!

We ended up picking out a few interesting things and having a goofy/fun night. Unfortunately Steve refused to play the Godzilla record Slitherama (billed as teen trash from psychedelic Tokyo circa 1966-1969) and instead played these other vinyl guys' recent purchases.  It is worth mentioning that the other guys were well toasted and highly enthusiastic about their newly bought records so it seemed best to not interfere.  Who are we to harsh on people and their love of newly purchased vinyl?  Godzilla is the only one allowed to judge.

Oh, you want more stories about our record escapades in Milwaukee?  Ok, well we should mention that we also went and checked out No Bails and Static Eyes at Circle A.  This small, homey bar in a northern neighborhood was pretty much as close as you can get to being at a house show; literally in the living room of a house.  After the awesome show we picked up a Static Eyes/Drugs Dragons split single with a hand screened cover that also is the artwork for the 45.  Friggin a!  Haven't heard of Static Eyes?  The VVers randomly caught them at a Windian record label show in DC a while back and VVer #1 remembered they were from Milwaukee.  Garage punk sound; check them out.  Seeing them live is a psyched out experience, not for the meek.  From their Facebook description: "SNOTTY, FUZZ STOMP FROM THE MIDWEST! ROCK AND ROLL, STRAIGHT UP, NO FILLERS, NO SWEETENERS."

Too Much Mustard?!?
It's fair to say that while en route from Chicago to Milwaukee a stop in Madison (not exactly on the way) is worth your time.  The lakes, school campus, terraces, downtown, and National Mustard Museum are all amazing.  On the outskirts of the downtown is Strictly Discs.  Apart from having a stellar ground floor area well stocked with a plethora of new and used vinyl, they have a basement.  VVer #2 tried to warn VVer #1 not to go in the basement.   "You don't want to go in the basement!  Nothing to see here."  There was no way VVer #1 would heed the half kidding warnings.  Although hours could have easily been spent down there we made sure to set a reasonable time limit and then VVer #1 proceeded to ignore that.  The subterranean cellar was incredibly well organized and stocked with unusual discs.  We managed to pick up a copy of Urge Overkill Now that's the Barclords/What's this Generation Coming To? from the Sub Pop singles club circa 1991.  On transparent yellow vinyl, only 5,000 ever printed.  It's a neat-o find that happens to sound completely different than the LP release and happened to also fit easily into our luggage.  We also managed to find a cool vinyl wedding present which we cannot disclose any information about at this time, except that it also was luggage appropriate.  We'll let them post about it after our friends get hitched.

Are you catching the trend that the VVers are very conscientious about the weight of their luggage and seem to only pick up 45s while visiting other cities?  It's a great policy to follow.  They are portable, not going to set you back a whole lot, allow you to get a wide variety of music (usually local), and don't weigh as much as those damn 180-gram monstrosities.

Oh, by the way, Vinyl Vagabonds, who is us, now have issues 3 and 4 of our handcrafted zine on sale at Chicago's very own Quimby's (shout-out for them actually reading our zine and writing a mini-blurb about each issue!).  Haven't been?  It is a store.  It has books, comics, and zines.  You may like it.  Go now.   Browse books.  Crease comics.  Peruse and thumbprint zines.  Purchase the best ones.  Best!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Buddy Miles Live

Buddy Miles Live - 1971

Wowy.  This is some serious recording.
We picked this one up at the most recent incarnation of the DC Record Fair, knowing only that we already had A Message to the People from the same year which is a stellar funk-rock solo album from Mr. Miles: drummer, main vocalist, and band leader.  This self-produced, double-disc album was recorded while on tour in 1971 in Seattle, Santa Monica, and Bakersfield (where the...?).  The cover, donned in a psychedelic, blue-purple landscape accompanied by a flying, fiery heart (we're talking real heart here with veins, arteries and all), sealed the deal to give this record-set a new home.

Horn flourishes open up "Joe Tex" the funky crowd warm-up (probably served the purpose of making sure people made it to their seats for the good shit later to come).  This is a solid instrumental lead-in track which cleanly segues into the James Brown-esque "Take It Off Him and Put It On Me" full of whaaaoos, steady bass, and stellar riffs by lead guitarist Charlie Karp.  Karp tears it up in the second half here with the rest of the crew straining at full force to keep up.

Hello curve ball.  A song the VVers instantly raise a curious eyebrow to: Buddy Miles covering Neil Young's "Down by the River" to polish off the first record's A-side?  Yes, indeed.  It's got a bleating trumpet interlude, catchy horn riffs, and a lonely tuba.  The horntastic tooting on this majestic homage will get you going.  Wandering, esoteric, and jazzy horn solos give some respite in the mid-section of this tune.  Besides that, it is a true-to-form rendition with Miles sounding uncannily similar to Young.  It isn't until late in the performance where you can distinctly hear Miles' fiery baritone belt through.

A Batman-esque duddah duddah duddah dduahha duddah duddah duddah dduahha bass-line is heavily featured in the Isaac Hayes cover "Wrap It Up" which encompasses all of record one, side-B.  The hypnotizing bass riff combined with a dominant horn section carries through all the funkiness that is this epic track.  The lull in music could have you thinking the set is about to end, POW! the band pops right back to life, stronger than before to bring it. i.e., "the funk."

Side A of record two is "The Segment;" a 12-minute epic with so many slight returns it puts the concept to shame. The band is completely in sync and Buddy is in full-on crooner mode.  He goes from sweetly toned to snarling James Brown with little effort.  How is he making all this mayhem and drumming at the same time?  The horn section rolls with ominous tones that really help to set the drama and punch things up.  It all comes thundering down at the end with a mighty call and response jam out. POW!

Apparently James Hendrix Sr. was in the audience the night "Them Changes" was recorded, as Buddy gives a big shout-out to him and the accomplishments of his recently deceased son, Jimi.  Buddy then proceeds to call up the whole Hendrix family to the stage.  In case you didn't know, Buddy was a former member of Jimi's Band of Gypsys from 1969 to 1970.

These recordings are super jam-out sessions, completely loaded with chunky grooves and boogie.  Buddy shows a fierce earnestness in his delivery.  Really good stuff and apparently never released on CD.  Seek out that vinyl!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Here's Ten Random Records...

Friend and VV contributor shows up in the CT for a VVer #2 summer family BBQ and he brought this stack with him.  Apparently his aunt unloaded this pile of goodness from her personal collection.  Assuming we are the bloggers and we know stuff (big assumption), he leaves them in our trusting hands to do what we want with them.  Is this a joke on us?

Oh. Dear. God.  In.No.Particular.Order.

1.  Peter Frampton I'm In You.  CREEPY.   Seriously, just look at the cover, the title, silken pantaloons, and foofy sleeved blouse/shirt!  Perhaps the record is good?  Problem is, before it even gets to the turntable, a pamphlet falls out.  What's in said pamphlet?  I think only pictures can tell... (Note: I'm In You Necklace)

And no, the pathetic cheese music in no way saves this one.

2.  Jo-Ann Kelly Self-Titled.  First reaction "Is this a guy?  I thought the name was Jo-Ann." Oh wait, the back cover will answer all our questions, "the first and only white blues singer of sufficiently awesome skills . . . Jo-Ann is young, British, and feminine.  Her sounds are brawny, black, and Southern."  Mmm hmm.  This must not have been written in English, definitely written in Estonian and the translation is just not carrying over.  No one talks or writes like this.

3.  Love Out Here is sort of psyched out at times and then also corny and boring at times.  It's  a double from 1969 so it's gonna need more attention.  The cover art painting of a lone seated blue flame figure is really what makes this one.  VVer #1 keeps trying to try to give it another try, but VVer #2 says, AAAAGGGGHHHHH!!!

4.  Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies The American Metaphysical Circus.  Side A interesting, possibly even better if extremely high.  Side B however turns into a family sing-along (literally; it's called the "The Sing-Along Song") prompting VVer #2's brother who hasn't gotten off the couch in nearly three hours, without warning, to finally get up to TURN OFF THIS RECORD.  This song makes him feel "Not Happy."  Even though VVer #1 said we are in the middle of a "happening" after reading about the "happening-producer" Joe Byrd.  Possibly the weirdest record ever.  Wait, there's a "Sing-Along Song Reprise"!!!

5.  Black Uhuru Anthem from 1983, a great year to be born, but not a great year for reggae albums as witnessed by the recent purchase of Jimmy Cliff's The Power and the Glory. But really not bad. Yet. 1983 also happens to be one year after Neil Young's techno-influenced, computer-voice heavy album Trans.  The influence is palpable on the good tracks.  Needs more Trans.

6.  The Copper Plated Integrated Circuit Plugged in Pop is "plugged in pop presented on the Moog synthesizer and other Electronic Instruments by Sear Electronic Music Productions, Inc."  Yeah, we gathered that from the title.   In fact, there are no names taking the credits in the liner notes except this Walter Sear fellow.   Was this the dawn of electronic music?  Mehhhh.  This is what VVer #2 playing the keyboard sounds like.  VVer #1 actually shouts from upstairs "Is that you playing?"  It's like one-fingered picking at a keyboard.  What a scam.

7.  Randy Newman Little Creatures best known by our 11 and 8 year old cousins (who were dancing around the basement till we put this one on) for being the guy who did the songs from the Toy Story soundtrack.  Sort of Bob Dylan, but no... not really.  In fact VVer #2 is so un-interested she is outside hula-hooping right now.

8.  Colosseum The Grass is Greener is probably the best of this bunch.  It's improvisational rock/jazz/blues/disco: a little Spirit, Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac, a little Allman Brothers.  Genre-shifting music.  The singing is at times atonal and often weighs things down.  The instrumentation is impressive though.  Horn sections, sax solos, jazz drums, and a potent guitar assault combine into a rich soundscape.  "Butty's Blues" would be one to check out.  The album cover art would fit right into the 90's alternative music scene.

9.  Juice Newton JUICE.  Hey, she wrote one song on this one.  Remember that one song?  What is this drek?  Oh, hey!  She wrote that other song also?  Wow... please turn it off.

10.  Commodores Natural High is pretty solid for what it is.  Disco, funk, and pop all rolled into a totally harmless but well crafted LP.  Thanks Motown.  "Three Times a Lady" has not aged well at all, but the rest really hits.  Lionel Richie and crew are at the peak of their powers, and looking at the back cover, pretty fly as well.  Possibly worth a spin or two if the stars were aligned just so.

[Disclosure: Some of these records were barely listened to by the VVers and some probably deserve another listen.  But not for this blog.]