Sunday, December 7, 2008

Today's Spins

One constant over the years has been my obsession with music, especially vinyl. At SUNY-Binghamton I was General Manager of Slipped Disc, the school's record store. It was a hotbed of musical activity and, for the most part, the place for high level discussions in the order of the relative merits of The Style Council v. Big Country (this was the early '80's). There were those who were buying the latest Asia or Lover Boy album, but usually they went to the Oakdale Mall to fill those needs. We stocked dreck like that, but only because we were all about the customer service.

Here are a few recent listens.

1) Here are The Chesterfield Kings. This 1982 offering from the Rochester garage rock troupe has always been a marvel. It took me until college to have my horizons opened by forgotten legends like The Standells and The Sonics. Certainly the early 1980's was time of revival for these sounds, The Pebbles LP series was a great vehicle for old band resuscitation. The Kings LP could have been cut 15 years before, it is that perfectly styled, as are their Byrds-like haircuts and clothes. On the back cover is a quote from John Lee Hooker. He says these boys sound just like the Rolling Stones, and old bluesmen never lie, do they?

2) Relaxin' with Chet Atkins - One of the true pleasures of eBay, and there are many, is that there are always used records sold in bulk lots. Not only does the per disc price drop, but postage is much more reasonable for a stack of discs than for one or two. The trick is finding the lot makes the most sense. Duplication is to be avoided and condition is a key, for the record more than the cover. One of the reasons that I don't mind cover wear or damage is that you find the most enjoyable items on people's record covers. Sure, there is the most commonly found "Property of Susie," or something like that, giving a glimpse into some sibling issues of the past. One person's stash of old jazz records, which is now part of my stash, has inner thoughts and poetry written all over the back covers. One man very scrupulously wrote where and on what date he bought his Porter Wagoner albums, useful information for some future archaeologist. Intact shrink wraps can provide the names of discount stores of the past, and as I have been buying lots of country and western platters, strange names from the South have entered my lexicon.
Which brings us to Relaxin' with Chet. It's a typically tasteful and fun Atkins affair, pop tunes like Sophisticated Lady paired with countrified takes on classical works like Czardas. I don't know if that is classical music, I just assume it is. Most Atkins LPs come with the aforementioned Dixie-centric store sticker, but not this one. This has a small rectangular label on the back cover, more like a return address sticker, from a place that sounds too good to be true - Music Man Murray's of Santa Monica, California. What Hollywood hipster was listening to Chet Atkins? Such is the mystery of each used album - they all have a back story that will remain unknown.

3) By Special Request. I haven't listened to this Chet Atkins-Hank Snow pairing just yet. I got a lot of Atkins records on eBay and they are vying with a ton of Buck Owens for my time. Having just cleaned this record, I can attest that it is the thickest record of the modern LP era. Regardless of whether this album is any good, having a record with the bulk of a tectonic plate was worth the price and the postage.

4) Classic Recordings: 1956-1959. This CD (yes, I realize I am diverting from the theme) is a 31 tune collection of Warren Smith rockabilly tunes recorded for Sun Records. I tend to set arbitrary limits on purchase prices, and this disc, on Germany's Bear Family label, was always too pricey at $18-20. I balk at spending that for any single compact disc. So, it was dutifully placed on my Amazon wish list about two years. I don't even know what sprouted interest in Mr. Smith, where I heard him. It's so long ago. When I saw one for $12 last week it was time for me to pounce at the opportunity. It's a very enjoyable set, with some studio talk interspersed that give it some historic weight. Glad to have finally gotten it, but I wonder if the the two year wait for $6 off was worth the tradeoff of lost discovery.

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