Soma Records is synonymous with sixties Minnesota rock and roll. The label released stacks of singles in several genres, but hits by garage rock bands like the Trashmen, the Gestures and the High Spirits are the label’s lasting legacy. In its heyday, Soma released a couple compilation albums (Big Hits of Mid America) but these are long out of print. The awesome reissue label Sundazed Records distributes three collections of singles from the Soma catalog, which include some songs which were previously unissued.
The High Sprits’ cover of “Turn on Your Lovelight” has always been one of our favorites from the label. Also included here for you to enjoy is “I Can Tell” by the Chancellors, which is one of the previously unissued songs included in The Soma Records Story. They were probably best known for their cover of “Little Latin Lupe Lu.”
The first pressing of Stevie Wonder’s classic album Talking Book include braille text embossed on the jacket beside his name and the title. Whether you find one of these copies or a reissue without the braille text, we think its one of the best albums you could possibly add to your collection.
Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants, Wonder’s album of seven years later, is much less of a fan favorite, although it merits an emphatic endorsement in Questlove’s book, Mo’ Meta Blues. This album also contained braille text on the jacket. This time there was a complete message, which reads:
Here is my music. It is all I have to tell you how I feel. Know that your love keeps my love strong.
Collections with braille labels added to jackets are not uncommon. We added a couple hundred such albums to the shop just last week, including this copy of Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life. While it had the cool labels, it was unfortunately missing the bonus 45, just like most copies these days!
It’s become rare we pick up a copy of The City Pages on our way out of the record shop at the end of the day (unless we’re going to be carving a pumpkin) but this week we read Bryan Miller’s clever portrait of Mystery Science Theater 3000. One of our favorite parts was Bill Corbett’s description of the fun the crew had finding the short films they’d use to round out an episode when the movie was too short. These were the public service programs on subjects like marriage and juvenile delinquency. “They’re like little archaeological digs into mid-20th-century America, and they are pretty tight-assed.”
In the same spirit we’ve often posted educational records here on the Hymies blog (a click on the tag “Educating you so you don’t educate yourself” will line up a cue of posts for you). Other times its songs which touch on subjects like sex education. Peculiar public service records offer a candid look at the past, and are often one of the best rewards for diligent crate digging.
Today we offer When Your Child Asks About Sex, a mid-sixties LP produced by the Illinois State Medical Board. Today’s listeners are unlikely to get through this album without cringing. We hesitate to inform you the album also comes with a fully illustrated booklet.
We first heard Minnesota troubadour Larry Long‘s song “Living in a Rich Man’s World” years ago, when we found a copy of the 1979 album of the same name in the local section of the old Hymie’s, back when Jim was still behind the counter.
Since then, of course, a lot of things have changed, but not so much the opportunities afforded working people around the world and here in our home state. We moved the record shop years ago, and once in a while Larry stops by to talk about what he’s up to these days. Several months ago he sent us a link to hear a few songs he was recorded with his cousin, Melvin James, and we were blown away by this new version of that favorite old song.
He’s releasing a new album, Walking Like Rain, later this year, and Bob Trench of Fahrenheit Films produced this video of “Living in a Rich Man’s World” to get the word out.
We chose a different kind of song to post this year on Father’s Day, because Grandpas are father’s, too. John Prine first wrote “Grandpa Was a Carpenter” for his 1973 album Sweet Revenge, which is probably our favorite of his records. It’s a little less cynical than most of his records, and even (as on this song) downright sentimental.
He’s performing the song here some years later with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, from Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Volume II.
The series of three albums by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band were all about connecting generations through music, probably inspiring Prine to chose this particular song, a loving portrait of his Grandpa.
Wishing you a happy Father’s Day with your family on this beautiful sunny day here in Minneapolis!
Physical copies of Radiohead’s new album, A Moon Shaped Pool, are in stores throughout the country today. The album was first made available online last month and quickly became a new fan favorite. The band has provided live streaming events since its debut, including an entertaining description by artist Stanley Donwood on how to paint the album cover.
We’ll have copies of the new album here at your friendly neighborhood record shop, but not until the UPS truck arrives, so don’t rush in!