Jazz legend Earl “Fatha” Hines had a little to say with this oddball single, released during the California gubernatorial campaign of 1966. His parody of “Mack the Knife,” a jazz standard taken from The Threepenny Opera, responds to the candidacy of Ronald Reagan, who at the time promised to “get the welfare bums back to work, and to “clean up the mess at Berkeley” (in the Gipper’s own words).

Hines speculated on the effects of Reagan’s budget proposals, which in fact did freeze and then cut funding to both the University of California, and Medi-Cal, the state’s medical assistance program. The flip side was an instrumental (“The Medi-Cal Blues”).

DSC06750Earl “Fatha” Hines was sixty-three the year he cast his vote for Governor Pat Brown, and had only recently come out of a lengthy retirement from jazz, during which he ran a tobacco shop in Oakland. Just a couple years earlier his friend and oftentimes manager, jazz writer Stanley Dance, had pushed the pianist to perform again, leading to a surge of recordings in the mid-60s which were highly praised by jazz critics all over the country (Downbeat named him the “#1 jazz pianist” in 1966 — the first of six times he would receive their venerated award). Dance is one of our favorite writers, and we last referred to his amazing contributions to the history of jazz in this post about Johnny Hodges pet monkey, Shuma. For his part “Fatha” became an essential link between early jazz and it’s modern children, performing with musicians from several generations extensively until he passed away in 1983 at the age of seventy-nine.

Highlights from Hines’ post-retirement career include a session of duets with Jaki Byard which is one of the most interesting explorations of jazz piano ever recorded, and a fun appearance on Ry Cooder’s Paradise and Lunch where the two perform Blind Blake’s “Ditty wa Ditty” [sic]. Hines’ other duets from this period include duets with Marian MacPartland, Oscar Peterson and Teddy Wilson. He also joined legendary bassists Charles Mingus and Richard Davis, drummer Elvin Jones and singers Peggy Lee and Dinah Washington on sessions in his seventies. “Fatha” was so important to the history of jazz that no less an authority than Count Basie called him “the greatest piano player in the world.”

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“Ron the Knife (The Ballad of Governor MacHealth”

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“The Medi-Cal Blues”

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“Ron the Knife (The Ballad of Governor MacHealth”

Today a classic country song which was a favorite of someone who passed away too suddenly, and left behind an awful lot — someone who undeniably shaped this record shop and someone who would appreciate the humor of posting this song.

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“Thank God and Greyhound” by Roy Clark

This Saturday we’re hosting an all-ages record release show for the Persian Leaps. , whose second EP was launched last Friday at the 331 Club. Drive Drive Delay is tighter and catchier than their previous disc, and just jangly enough to recall 70s power pop as surely as 90s indie rock. The band recorded at Neil Weir’s awesome Old Blackberry Way studio, and sound substantially more confident on the five new tracks, especially the hook-heavy “Pretty Boy” and the downright addictive “Truth=Consequences.”

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Nothing cracks the three minute mark on Drive Drive Delay until the richly satisfying closer “Permission,” which has all the rock and roll grandeur of the Buzzcocks’ longer jams and stretches out over nearly five minutes without losing its energetic drive. While the band definitely leans towards the classic lo-fi style of Guided by Voices, Weir gives them just enough shine to balance the sludgy riffs and the jingle-jangle.

The Persian Leaps join the legion of local bands taking good old fashioned rock & roll out of the garage for a spin this year — look for Mystery Date to release a full length LP later this fall, and check out ’14 singles by Lutheran Heat and Juvie if you’re uncertain. We welcome the energy these bands are bringing to clubs around town, and the invigorating records they’re making — Drive Drive Delay is an excellent disc of well-crafted, catchy rock and roll.

You may wonder what record the folks from Hymie’s are looking for since there are hundreds of thousands of albums packed into this place — well, until this week one album was the second record by the Upper Mississippi Jazz Band, a traditional group that recorded here in the 60s. We posted a bit about their outstanding clarinet player, Dick Ramberg, last year when we were sad to learn he had passed away, but we didn’t have a copy of both albums the group made. It’s one of those records that falls into the category of ‘difficult to find but not particularly valuable,’ and we’re glad to have one on our shelves.

Minneapolis has always been a hotbed for traditional jazz, even though we’re on the opposite end of the Mississippi from New Orleans — We have a couple favorite bands in town that are playing and recording New Orleans style jazz, and both have regular gigs you should really check out if you love ‘the good stuff.’ The Southside Aces perform the second Thursday each month at the fabulous Eagles Club ballroom, and they even raffle off records from our shop. Patty and the Buttons is the other band, and they appear at the Aster Cafe for a Sunday brunch (11-2pm). They’ve also just finished recording a new album of classic tunes and originals called Mercury Blues.

Patty has produced a parody of the crowd-funding crazy which may or may not be a serious attempt to raise money to press the album. We really can’t tell. They’re calling it “$hitstarter” and we’ll let Patty himself explain it:

pattyYou are probably eager to hear XXX, the disc of vintage smut recorded by the band as an incentive. Check it out on their bandcamp page here. You can also find copies of their new disc here at Hymie’s, wrapped in a brown paper bag.

Musicians in the 20s and 30s produces a surprising variety of explicit songs — many were recorded by famous performers, such as Ukelele Ike (ie Cliff Edwards, the voice of Jiminy Cricket) whose “Give it to Mary with Love” we posted here this summer.

One of the interesting things to come out of the 60s folk revival, from a record collector’s point of view, is the large number of compilation album collecting vintage 78s that begin to pop up during the following decade. The movement began with Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music in 1952 — the six-LP Folkways series exploring the breadth of America’s forgotten or dismissed traditional music. We have previously listened to tracks from the legendary compilation here. Many of its songs became standards or were reinterpreted by the folks singers who followed, including famous figures like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Doc Watson and Dave Van Ronk.

In 1961 Columbia Records compiled sixteen sides by Robert Johnson onto a single LP, King of the Delta Blues Singers. The collection is considered one of the most influential blues albums of all time, helping to shape both the Chicago electric blues sound and the British blues boom. The record also established the modest commercial potential of archival releases, which the label tentatively explored the following year with an album of recordings by Leroy Carr with Scrapper Blackwell, Blues Before Sunrise. By the seventies they had issued an extensive compendium of Bessie Smith split over five double-LP sets, and other labels were following the example. RCA, by this time the owner of the Bluebird catalog, issued collections of music ranging from the Monroe Brothers to the collected Benny Goodman (split over at least seven volumes) — while never big business, archival collections of obscure 78s became a record shop staple in the seventies.

In fact, some of it was very small business. The archetypal archival label was Yazoo, which was run out of New York City apartment by a Harry Smith-like character named Nick Perls. The Yazoo collections are again in print on LP — you may have noticed some of them here in the shop, if only because several include vibrant covers by cartoonist (and 78 enthusiast) R. Crumb. Perls was known for his ability to get the cleanest recording of a vintage record, and his label’s catalog collected such essential recordings as Mississippi John Hurt’s 1928 recordings for Okeh and Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground,” a song that was chosen by the Voyager Project to be included in the “golden record” which has been cast out into interstellar space like a message in a bottle.

Getting back to our original subject, Patty and the Buttons’ new collection of vintage smut, we turn to Stash Records, a seventies label which issued twenty-five fun LPs. Their first collection,  Pipe, Spoon, Pot and Jug, was filled with riotous drug songs like “Reefer Man” and “Don’t You Make Me High.” Their second release was Copulatin’ Blues, filled with the sort of smut the Buttons’ have recorded on their new disc, and it has been followed by a variety of similar records.

copulatin bluesHere’s a little sample of songs from Yazoo and Stash compilation albums:

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“New Rubbin’ on the Old Darn Thing” by Oscar’s Chicago Swingers (1936)

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“Please Warm My Weiner” by Bo Carter (1935)

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“Adam and Eve” by Tommy Bradley & James Cole (1930)

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“If You Don’t Give me What I Want” by Lil Johnson (1936)

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“Shave Em Dry” by Lucille Bogan (Bessie Jackson) (1935)

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“You Put It In, I Take It Out” by Papa Charlie Jackson (1934)

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“My Daddy Rocks Me (With a Steady Roll)” by Tampa Red’s Hokum Jazz Band (vocal by Frankie Jaxon) (1929)

please warm my weiner

 

sixfamiliesMMjohncageOur friends Six Families are back with another mind-expanding program here at Hymie’s. First they’ll screen a documentary about composer John Cage, and then perform several pieces afterwards — all starting at 6pm tonight. The performances will be:

Composed Improvisation for Snare Drum is a 1989 piece combining elements of improvisation with aleatoric composition. The performer is given instructions to use chance operations to split an 8:00 time interval into three sections, each of which is similarly split into 1-8 “events”. It is determined, again by chance operations, how many “sonic occurrences” may be within each event, and then the performer is free to improvise within those parameters.

Aria was written in 1958 for a solo singer with any voice range.  The score is a combination of black lines with color, these differences represent 10 different styles the singer must assign to each combination.   The text uses sounds and words from Armenian, Russian, Italian, French, and English.  The notation represents time horizontally and pitch vertically.

Living Room Music is an informal piece written for a quartet to use any household objects or architectural elements as percussion instruments.  One of the movements is group reading of a Gertrude Stein poem.

Yesterday’s explosive post continued our ongoing “smackdown” series by putting 70s folkies America against 80s rockers Europe. Neither band is a particularly big seller in the used records market anymore, but each has their memorable hits. We concluded by asking which was more likely to beat 80s prog rock supergroup Asia. Of course, all of these comparisons fall into the apples n’ oranges field, because America really belongs to a different era than the other two groups. While Asia and Europe were burnin’ up the charts in the early 80s, America was in the September of its career, winding down to a comfortable life on the classic rock circuit. This is part of why we chose them in yesterday’s post: Europe and Asia are awfully similar, although superfans of either group might argue that conclusion. From the perspective of a record browser flipping through the classic rock bin, America feels different. Exploring their catalog became a great experiment all its own, because they are like so many other 70s relics, a reminder of a less cynical, less commercial era in pop music.

Asia, on the other hand, was a supergroup formed by members of major progressive rock bands who were, at the time, disappearing from the charts and the stadium circuit (members of Asia had previously performed in Yes, King Crimson, Uriah Heep, Roxy Music, UK and Emerson, Lake & Palmer). The band was essentially put together by a record executive at Geffen for the purpose of creating an enormous hit, and this experiment was a success: Their monolithic debut album sold more than four million copies in the US.

America vs Asia

Biggest bummer:

Asia’s first album was an instant and enormous commercial success upon its release in 1982, but a disappointment to fans who expected something of a prog rock revival. Here and there the self-titled record sounds a little like Relayer-era Yes, but nothing contains the expansive arrangements or instrumentation of a King Crimson album. Most of it, in fact, sounds like the arena rock of contemporaries like Boston and Journey.

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“Heat of the Moment” by Asia

asiaNothing on Asia hit that mark as solidly as “Heat of the Moment,” a natural hit that topped Billboard’s rock chart and propelled its 4x platinum sales. It’s pretty awesome arena rock — better, if you ask us, than anything in Journey’s catalog.

“And now you find yourself in ’82,” sings John Wetton, whose solo album hadn’t received much notice just a couple years earlier. “The disco hot spots hold no charm for you.” These were lean years for classic rock fans, and especially prog fans. King Crimson and Yes were seemingly defunct. Genesis without Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett had transformed into a pop band, which is what would happen to Yes in a year or so. Others like Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull were either fragmenting or trying to reinvent themselves as well. Asia probably inspired a lot of these guys by assuring them they could start to make some serious bank again by playing to a post-punk, MTV audience. And that was probably a pretty big bummer for fans of the quartet’s 70s work.

America went through a line-up change around the same time the major prog rock bands started breaking up and changing direction. Dan Peek left the trio in 1977 to pursue a successful solo career in Christian pop, signing to Pat Boone’s Lion & Lamb label. Bunnell and Beckley sang some backup vocals on “Love Was Just Another Word,” a song from his first solo album All Things Are Possible. It was the last time the trio performed together.

Bunnell and Beckley carried on as a duo, but their first album without Peek, America Live, falls far short of the high standards of a 70s live record (it’s not even a double album) — the first indication that America had run its course even though they weren’t giving up. That only one song from their last LP as a trio (Beckley’s “Sergent Darkness”) was included suggests they were headed towards becoming a ‘here’s our hits’ revue. The biggest disappointment came at the concert’s end, where their biggest hit loses the atmospheric rootsiness that made it memorable six years earlier.

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“A Horse with no Name” (live)

DSC06843Best Album Art:

America’s 1975 greatest hits LP features cover art by Phil Hartmann, who later dropped an “n” from his last name before become actor Troy McClure. We remember him from such films as Give my Remains to Broadway and The Revenge of Abraham Lincoln. His painting features a variety of references to America’s first several albums, including the car from Holiday, the Golden Gate Bridge (seen on the cover of Hearts) and a portrayal of Peek and Bunnell which is similar to the one on the poster inside original copies of Hat Trick. Hartmann included a sharp rendition of London’s Elizabeth Tower (known in 1975 simply as the “Clock Tower”) to reference the band’s British heritage.

historyHartmann’s other record art has already been featured on the Hymies blog (here), but so has the work of Asia’s cover artist, Roger Dean. He created one of the most distinctive bodies of work found on LP jackets, his designs and lettering the subject of countless imitations. The most famous of these being the blockbuster film Avatar, which borrowed heavily from the imaginary landscapes Dean created for Yes album covers in the 70s (we first wrote about the similarities, and Dean’s subsequent lawsuit, here).

Dean’s work on the first three Asia album covers reflect a less organic world than the one born in Yes’s Fragile and Yessongs. An advanced civilization appears to have developed alongside the surreal landscape, it’s inhabitants perhaps the spooky creature seen on the cover of Astra in 1985. Asia absolutely wins this round, especially considering the legendary Dean is still creating cover art for their albums as recently Gravitas, their album released this year.

asia2astraBest video:

You’d think this round would be easy for Asia to win, since their career coincides with the rise of MTV, a time when America was past their peak. Their 1982 video for “Heat of the Moment” was an early Godley & Creme production and it’s innovative and fun, even if the images chosen present an absurdly literal interpretation of the lyrics.

Asia’s Geoff Downes, we should mention, was one half of the english pop duo the Buggles, and a co-author of their single hit, “Video Killed the Radio Star” — a song with the distinction of being the first featured on MTV.

Thevideo for the other single from Asia, “Only Time Will Tell,” is an equally goofy gem from the era (check it out) but the video for “Go” from their third album, Astra, flops altogether while attempting to realize Roger Dean’s bizarre art by telling the story of the eerie creature seen on the album jacket. The result looks more like a Lazertag commercial than the surreal world in Dean’s painting.

America’s official video for “A Horse with no Name” mixes live footage with the band, predictably, wandering around in the desert. Periodically wild horses are seen running in the hills, but nothing really matches the hazy, drugged mood of the song (an interpretation Bunnell has long denied, incidentally). Still, it is what it is, and the live footage makes America look pretty cool, on a stage that is half Merv Griffith Show half Muppet Show. It is, unfortunately, no match for Asia’s cool “Heat of the Moment” video.

Best skeleton in the closet:

A single from America’s seventh album, Harbor, attempted to revive their lackluster sales with a light dance-floor jam, “Slow Down.” It is one of the last songs Peek wrote the group before leaving, and could likely be seen as the songwriter’s message to himself.

The song didn’t chart, and its disco was already not cool anymore by ’77.

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“Slow Down”

DSC06842In this scene from The 40 Year Old Virgin, Steve Carrell’s character Andy is mocked by his friends for having an Asia poster. “You know how I know you’re gay? You like Asia.” Ouch. The truth hurts, and America wins this round.

Best song that sounds like something else:

From the very beginning, “A Horse With No Name” was mistaken for a Neil Young song, something that surely bristled the budding band in 1971 as they celebrated a first success. As it happened, when their single hit #1 on the US singles chart, the song it displaced was Young’s “Heart of Gold.”

Another hit single by America is just as easily mistaken for another artist. It’s almost impossible to hear the opening of “Sister Golden Hair,” their second #1 hit, without thinking of George Harrison — folks have long speculated if the legendary producer George Martin, who produced America’s Hearts and several other albums, pulled some strings to have the Beatle sit in, since its one of the only such appearances of the distinctive slide guitar style on an America LP.

Gerry Beckley, for his part, sounds an awful lot like George on the song, although the lyrics are clearly more Jackson Browne than George.

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“Sister Golden Hair”

Pretty much every song on Asia’s second album, Alpha, could be mistaken for any other arena rock band of ’83. Shades of Journey, Foreigner and even REO Speedwagon are all this contrived attempt to recreate the first record’s success — one song, “The Heat Goes On,” even tries to tap the success of their breakthrough hit. Guitarist Steve Howe, still best known to fans for his long tenures with Yes, left the supergroup after this album and hardly contributed to it. His only songwriting credit is on a b-side appropriately titled “Lyin’ to Yourself.”

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“Don’t Cry” by Asia

Where are they today?:

Like the progressive rock bands its members started with, Asia contained huge personalities that weren’t able to share the stage with one another for long. In fact, by the millenium, Asia only included one original member, Geoff Downes. When he left to join the re-formed original lineup in 2006, there remained a band led by bassist and lead singer John Payne, who by this time owned a share of the name “Asia.” Eventually a legal settlement allowed him to continue touring and recording with a band called “Asia Featuring John Payne.” The re-formed original Asia, meanwhile, released Phoenix in 2008, their first album together in decades.

The result of all of this confusing business is that Asia is one of several classic rock bands that exists out there in two completely different forms, as reflected by their different official websites: Original Asia and Asia Featuring John Payne. Payne, it seems worth noting, is also a former member of ELO Part II.

America continued after Dan Peek left in 1977, but the highest they’d ever chart again was when Janet Jackson sampled “Ventura Highway” in 2001. The remaining duo has augmented their sales with a number of career retrospectives and live albums, and even a Christmas album in 2002. Meanwhile, Peek never returned to the group but continued to record sporadically until he passed away from pericarditis in his sleep in 2011.

In July of this year America announced the retirement of their long-time drummer, Willie Leacox on their official website. Leacox, from Iowa, had played with the band for forty-one years. America’s longtime lead guitarist Michael Woods had also retired this year. The band is currently touring, including a three night stand in Hawaii later this month.

So who won?

In the world of international diplomacy and war, there often aren’t any winners.

In a lot of ways, Europe is the only band whose music reflected the continent for which they were named, sounding undeniably like a Scandinavian hard rock act on nearly every track. For the life of us we can’t figure why Asia was named Asia, except that Roger Dean’s lettering of the name looked sweet. Of the three they’re the only one enjoying enduring success, having finally pleased fans by turning towards their progressive rock roots in their records since reuniting in 2006.

We probably couldn’t fill a mix tape with songs we love by these three bands, so once again the true loser of the smackdown is us, the listener. Then again, we had a lot of fun digging through these albums, some of which probably hadn’t left their jackets in years. And if its not fun, why work in a record store. If it’s not fun, why go to a record store. We hope you enjoyed reading.

 

Click on “smackdown” in the tags below the title of this post, and you can wander back through the Hymie’s archives to read past battles of record store nerd-dom. Follow the bloody trail far enough and you’ll find the first ever “smackdown”: Boston vs Chicago. It was the only time we allowed two bands to represent their hometown, in part because we never found a band lame enough to lose to Baton Rouge, but mostly because these conflicts of geography inevitably become larger and larger. Eventually, it all leads to…

America vs Europe

If you’re struggling to name a second song by either of these groups, we don’t blame you. Both bands were major players in their respective eras, only to be forgotten by successive generations of record collectors. When Neil Young sang “It’s better to burn out than fade away” in 1979, he started a discussion that’s never really been resolved, although many of those who joined the fray in have done one or the other. So long as there are places like your friendly neighborhood record store here, “rock and roll can never die” (to quote another line from Young’s song “Hey Hey, My My”) since there are going to be shelves busting at the seams with one-time favorites like America and Europe, and as we shall see at the end of this post, another band largely ignored by record collectors…

Best name:

While Europe started their career in 1979 as Force, America never went by another name. The trio, founded in London, chose their name with pride — all three were the children of American GIs. The group eventually relocated to California (hence the Bay area image they pushed with albums like 1975′s Hearts). Even at the height of their success, Europe was eternally routed in the Scandinavian metal tradition — the band might just as well have named themselves Sweeden. America can’t win this round — their name is essentially a marketing ploy, even if it’s logo-fied version was something you were more likely to draw on a your jean jacket or notebook cover in ballpoint pen.

america logo europe logoBest Breakthrough hit:

America spent years being mistaken for Neil Young after “A Horse with No Name” was certified gold in 1972. People still come into the record shop once in a while and ask which of his albums has the song (they’re usually seem a little disappointed when they find out it was on an album in their dad’s collection). “A Horse with No Name” is a great song, almost entirely in spite of itself. Dewey Bunnell’s description of the desert fumbles for imagery (“There were plants and birds and rocks and things,” “The heat was hot”) while the trio’s harmonies hold the dry, minor key tune together. The song was good enough to knock ol’ Neil’s “Heart of Gold” out of #1.

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At over forty years old, “A Horse with No Name” is still a classic rock staple, as well as a song often heard in commercials, television, film and video games. It has appeared in The Simpsons.

“The Final Countdown” topped the charts in twenty-five countries, but not the United States, where didn’t get higher than #8. Technically it probably sold a lot more copies than “A Horse with No Name,” it was just a lot harder to top the American charts in 1986.

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The synthesizer introduction to “The Final Countdown” is ubiquitous stadium fare, finally entering retirement after decades of rallying the crowd behind the home team. Not a lot of people jam to the rest of the song, at least as far as we can tell by its lukewarm reception here in the shop, where folks snicker when they hear the opening (probably remembering it from some sporting event) and shrug their shoulders when they remember the rest of the song. Wikipedia tells us its lyrics were inspired by David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,”and it deserves to be a list of all-time awesome rock and roll songs about space travel (maybe between Bowie and Deep Purple’s “Space Truckin’”) but for all its use at football games it has never appeared in The Simpsons.

America ties it up by winning this round.

Most Obscure First Album:

Europe-europe_(album)

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America’s self-titled debut was released by Warner Bros. in 1971 to a modest reception in England. The following year the band jumped up the charts with “A Horse with No Name,” a stand-alone single that was quickly added to a re-issue of the album. Having sold fairly well without the hit single, original copies do show up in the shop pretty often, and most folks might not even notice the difference between copies with or without the hit single. It’s actually a pretty good folk-rock relic either way.

Europe’s first three records, on the other hand, were issued on the Swedish label Hot Records. Each was welcomed by Scandinavian hard rock fans (and the Japanese), but wasn’t a hit in America. Once in a blue moon we see a copy of their second record, Wings of Change, but rarely will you find a copy of their self-titled first record, or the soundtrack that was their third album. Europe handily wins this round — folks in Minnesota who loved hard rock were much more likely to pick up punk and new wave albums from the continent in 1983, making this an uncommon import in the collector’s market around here.

Most completely ignored recent album and how cheap is it on Amazon:

America’s Here & Now, released in 2007 was the last new studio record the group has made. In spite of a slew of guest artists (Ben Kweller, Ryan Adams, the guy from My Morning Jacket) it spent only a week on the album chart, stalling at #52. You can buy a used copy online for about six and a half bucks, but it should be noted there are a couple different versions of this album.

Europe Bag of Bones 2012 was certified gold in Sweeden, and about as successful as America’s Here & Now in their native England, but sold sluggishly everywhere else on Earth. You can get a CD for about six bucks on Amazon, but you’ll have to pay about four times that for an LP. Europe wins this round, if anyone cares — at least their home country still loved them.

Best Record Collector Surprise:

Producer George Martin (of Beatles fame) remixed songs from the first three America LPs for the compilation History: America’s Greatest Hits. Several songs benefit from the changes, notably “A Horse with No Name,” which takes on a heavier, bass-drive feel. Complete-ists are compelled to own the collection, and the re-mixed versions have replaced the originals in FM radio play.

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“Ventura Highway” (History remix)

historyEurope doesn’t re-mix songs. They’re too busy rockin’ the fuck out. At the peak of their fame, Europe did an unannounced gig at the Whiskey A Go Go as Le Baron Boys. The widely bootlegged disc of the same name does not, unfortunately, contain a recording of the show, just a bunch of scuzzy demos that sound like a watered-down Bon Jovi. America wins this round.

Best Cover Art:

America’s 1975 “best of” compilation History (above) featured cover art by their manager’s brother, Phil Hartmann. You may have seen his art on other albums (most of Poco’s catalog for instance), or recognize his name, with one fewer “n,” from film and television. Phil Hartman was much mourned after his death in 1998 by fans of Saturday Night Live, News Radio and of course The Simpsons, where he played the roles of attorney for hire Lionel Hutz and actor Troy McClure. He is also remembered by record collectors for his successful first career as an artist.

final countdownOn the other hand, The Final Countdown shows Europe in what appears to be the “Phantom Zone,” Krypton’s extra-solar prison presented in the Superman films as a sort of giant two-dimensional pane of glass. One can only imagine what would have happened if the Man of Steel would have released Sweden’s finest hard rock band instead of General Zod — of course, what did he think he was doing in the first place, hurling a nuclear bomb like that? Pretty careless for Earth’s greatest hero if you ask us. Europe wins this round in spite of Superman’s completely reckless disregard for the Phantom Zone.

Fun fact round:

Except for their self-titled debut, all of the America albums by the group’s original line-up have titles that start with the letter H: Homecoming, Hat Trick, Holiday, History, Hearts, Hideaway, and Harbor. Their eighth album, the first without founding member Dan Peek, was titled Silent Letter.

holiday

Hymie’s has not sold a copy of Out of this World, Europe’s follow-up to their enormously successful Final Countdown, in years. The same copy has been languishing on the shelves here since we moved the shop four and a half years ago. Whether someone has ever taken it to the listening station is anyone’s guess.

europe is sad

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“Let the Good Times Rock”

America wins this round because their fun fact isn’t sad.

Tie-breaker round: Who is more likely to beat Asia tomorrow?

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“Tin Man”

America is one of those 70s bands that every used record store has in surplus. Several fine songs are sprinkled over them, and you can hear most of those on History, one of the most popular greatest hits collections of its time. We probably have a different feeling for the because we grew up in Europe’s age, so old hits like “A Horse with No Name” and “Ventura Highway” were songs we heard when Mom and Pop picked the radio station. They’re songs that have aged well, no more ‘moldy oldies’ than albums by Crosby, Stills, Nash and sometimes Young, as well as other folk-rock hits from the same time. You’re sure to see an America album in the 50¢ bin, or on our next “Free Records Day” (coming soon!) and it wouldn’t kill you to give it a try. After all, they’re named for your country. Unless you hate America. You don’t hate America, do you?

Europe, on the other hand, is a band whose appeal has steadily shrunk since around the time labels shirked away from producing LPs in the late 80s. The Final Countdown is pretty easily found by record collectors, and it’s as much a surprise when we sell a copy of it as it is when we sell an America record. There aren’t a lot of people who loves The Final Countdown who don’t already own it. And they don’t have the magic nostalgia of Guns n’ Roses or the weird appeal of 80s KISS, they’re just one of those embarrassing bands out of the big budget metal days.

Hell, Joey Tempest made a series of contrived singer-songwriter albums before exploring electronic pop before finally reuniting Europe. That’s just not a very metal thing to do. Observe the slow, mellowing decline:

If Europe had stayed the course of Wings of Change they might have won this battle, but the fact is we don’t believe their keyboard-heavy pompous arena rock can defeat Asia’s keyboard-heavy pompous arena rock. If we take nothing else from the life of General Joseph Stillwell (or The Princess Bride) let’s all hold dear to the advice “Never fight a land war in Asia” as we enter tomorrow’s smackdown …

America vs Asia

asia 2

Tune in tomorrow… if you dare.

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