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 some 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 2 & 3."  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 (read: 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 Joe's provide?  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
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 it might look fancy, but this is 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 the 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 quirky record store, 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 great vinyl spot, 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 it 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


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 and read about this LP 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
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!"  80's 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 riffs 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 clear connection to the tangerine on the cover other than 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 80's.  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!
  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 waived 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 and past Vinyl Vagabonds contributor, Rob, 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 the VVer's 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 by 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, the 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 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 while the rest have 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
Andre Cymone Survivin' in the 80's

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

Re-act-or:  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.  It's 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 your favorite vinyl enthusiasts 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 snippet of the song to see if any difference could be heard.  With this it was immediately apparent that the 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 it's 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 a listen to both 45s and 33s to determine if the various speeds 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.  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 the 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, "potentiometer."  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, you 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 success?  Good ole Guns N' Roses "Sweet Child O' Mine" which features that unmistakable 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 to 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 (surely you have stumbled upon the lucky coincidence that IKEA's Expedit is perfectly made to fit 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 was kind of a big deal; the keyboardist from the Doors.  Ray also happened to be a genius musician who, when left to his own devices, went 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.  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 - 1978

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 was having a one day sale of half off all the records in their rare section.  Figured why not?  Now the VVers 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, for instance 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 - 1981

For her solo debut, 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 no thanks.  Still, it's an interesting visual and has a rather Egyptian mystical thing going on.  The inner sleeve version is a 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 it's understandable 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 - 1973

"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 of listening to it and in fact, tried not to, but couldn't resist.  A short way into the spin, for sake of sanity, the VVers removed the needle from doing any more damage to the ears!  Funny that Attahk got played twice, but not Brain Salad Surgery.

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.  Understandably prog used to be more popular, but really?  The artwork is phenomenal.  Not only is it beautiful, but the production values for this package 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 - 1992

"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!  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**

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.