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."