Monday, July 20, 2015

Close But ... Not Even Close

Trying to complete a run of albums by a particular artist is a truly daunting endeavor.  You have to ask yourself a few questions before embarking on such a hazardous quest.  Is the artist still active?  Were albums ever released during a time when vinyl was scarce (early 90s to mid 2000s)?  Did the artist ever "jump the shark" and make music that stank mightily?  Some items to ponder while hunting for those final vinyl vagabonds.

Consider also that completing a collection by an artist can very easily dilute your listening experience.  Every artist has laid at least one egg in their career.  Remember that one?  You know the one.  Why add that mediocre fare to your collection?  As well, storage is most certainly an issue.  How important is it for you to make room for that last LP that you'll never listen to?  Be honest with yourself.

In favor of being a completest?  The concept of listening to an artist's entire catalog has its merits.  Experienced end-to-end it can be quite compelling; even listened to out of order you will gain amazing perspective on their career.  Unless they sober up.  Those albums are usually pretty bad.  Sorry, but it's true.  As well, artists can also get a little off-the-rails with the non-sobriety.  Watch out for those also.  Regardless of the reasons, you are bound to find peaks and valleys in even the most heralded musician's discography.

Where did they record the album?  Was it done on the cheap?  Who produced it and how quickly?  Was there a major label bigwig pressuring the them to do something novel or something they didn't want to do?  How about the final product?  Did the studio chiefs chop it to bits and shoehorn it into a pop-tacular package?  That final product might be arriving at your inner ear after a long, strange trip.  Don't worry, the Vinyl Vagabonds are here to help.

Several examples:

Faith No More - Completing the run of albums by FNM is an interesting idea, but actually getting most of the LPs will make a considerable dent in your wallet.  Each could easily set you back $30 and good luck finding an original pressing!  Why do it?  A back-to-back album listening session lets you hear how the band changed so dramatically along their career--mind blowing!  Totally different lead singer?  Yes.  Totally different sounding same singer?  Yes.  Complete change of guitar sound?  Yes.  Complete change of guitarists?  Yes.  The very first album, We Care A Lot from 1985, sounds as if it was recorded in the Stone Age compared to records from the 90s onward.  That's not a gripe, as the album is crushingly great, warts and all.  The very definition of completion is that if you love a band then the back catalog is must-listen material, no matter who plays on the album.

Kurtis Blow - For the VVers to finally complete this run was painfully difficult because Mr. Blow seriously ran out of creative juice along the way.  The purchase of his last album was something they put off for several years.  One VVer would see it in a store and tap the other on the shoulder, "Are we getting it?"  "I'm scared..."  "Me too."  Why they finally broke down is anybody's guess.  Still, it was an accomplishment and the VVers are willing to own being KB's #1 fans (even though they never listen to Back by Popular Demand--there was no popular demand Mr. Blow, none).

Peter Tosh - All studio albums plus one live album live on the VVer's shelf, spanning 1976's Legalize It to 1987's No Nuclear War.  Of course not all of these are created equal (Equal Rights being the superior, Wanted Dread and Alive, consider the title and draw your own conclusions), but there hasn't been a huge rush to break up the collection.  Still, the VVers should have probably quit while they were ahead.

DEVO - Haha, there are two later records that seem... not interesting.  Why hold off when those are fairly inexpensive and not too hard to come by?  The completest would buy them, but a crappy album can, and should, be avoided.  The VVers are trusting their instincts here.

Talking Heads - The VVers keep avoiding "Ape Face" album, also known as Naked.  All seven other records are accounted for, but not this one.  It could very well be the greatest LP of all, but something about that cover is just creepy.

The Clash - Although only six studio albums, the complete Clash discography will actually set you back some shelf space, Sandinista! is a triple and London Calling (both of which took some seeking-out and wallet-opening) is a double.  By some strange turn of events, the VVers already had the Clash's least exciting albums, Give 'Em Enough Rope and the horrifyingly dull Cut the Crap in their collection for quite some time.  Those should probably be jettisoned, especially the latter which apparently was made by the producer almost entirely without the actual band.  While the VVers were recently house cleaning and working on this here write-up, they decided to drop the needle on Cut the Crap since it has literally been years since it had seen any action.  The substantial layer of dust that needed to be cleaned off of the record proved that!  After a half-spin, the VVers decided the dust should remain so that this record doesn't get played again.  This blog is helping the VVers cut the crap, out of their collection.

Queen - Do not become a Queen completest.  Most of Queen's albums past the mid 70s are just too full of stadium/radio pop, goofy experiments, and over the top ballads.  Those albums just have way to many gaps.  The exception being the Flash Gordon Soundtrack which is mostly instrumental, just sayin'.

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Five out of seven, and only the good ones.  Missing the last two, does it matter?  No.  Done.  This just wrote itself.  Actually, it does matter.  Recently the VVers, against their better judgment, got carried away and picked up Mardi Gras at a local shop, CDepot in College Park.  At the time, it was thought that this was the last album to finish the CCR run.  For a measly $3.99, why not give it a spin?  The VVers will tell you why not: they cringed through about three tracks and decided it was way too country and way not-Fogerty-vocals enough to keep it.  The sly VVers slipped it into Vagabond Apprentice's record bag as he was packing up to head back to New York.  Goodbye bad record!  Banished to another state, hopefully never to be spoke of again.  Not only was it a disappointment that the album was lametastic, but they also discovered there is still one more album to check out, Pendulum.  Pheh, no thanks.

Neil Young - The idea of getting every album by Mr. Young will kill you.  He's recorded around thirty-eight studio LPs to date.  That is not a typo.  That's more shelf space than the entire VVers jazz section.  Don't even think about including his live albums, soundtracks, compilations, or band albums--Buffalo Springfield, CSNY--impossible.  Avoiding being a completest with Neil is actually not that hard.  Some of his LPs just do not appeal.  For example, he's done several straight country albums which are never going to enter the VVers inner sanctum (living room).  He's also been on a recent tear, putting out six albums since 2000.  The modern records (post 1990s) are in no way affordable.  No way!  Now the nice part about trying to track down records from Mr. Young has been seeking out the weirdo ones from the 80s that nobody seems to love.  Many of these albums came out at a time of vinyl abundance.  Therefore, these fun finds, Landing on Water being a strange standout, are very affordable.

Completalest in Summararium (that's Latin you know)

Molto Bene (that's actually Italian):
  • Get a full picture of the artist.
  • Bragging rights of owning every release (this actually might not be a good thing).
  • Satisfying your inner-completest-ness (curiosity).
Molto Male:
  • Find yourself buying records that are not good, diminishing love for that artist (can also be funny).
  • Take up precious real estate on the shelf.
  • No money left for snacks.

No comments:

Post a Comment