Take whatever you want — just please leave the Tito Puente records!
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“Never Felt Better” by Big Quarters
We’re all so excited for the Record Store Day block party this weekend. In addition to the great bill of bands playing on the stage in the shop as well as the stage on 39th Avenue – scroll down to see for yourself – we’ve invited back some of our favorite local artists. Screen artists Dwitt, who created a new poster for this year’s block party, will have a huge selection of posters, and Ben Krikava will be selling pottery. You probably remember these guys from the last couple block parties. Vinyl Afterlife will also have an expanded selection of the record label coasters and notebooks they make and sell here in the shop. The good folks from Gardens of Eagan will have seedlings for your garden, and Mother Earth Gardens has given us some “seed bombs” to give away – don’t worry, they aren’t dangerous and they don’t explode! It’s a little packet of soil and native wildflower seeds, and you can toss ‘em anywhere in your garden.
Another annual tradition of our Record Store Day block party is to have the awesome artists’ collective Rogue Citizen will be here to create art before your astonished eyes. We absolutely love these guys. Yesterday we took pictures of the art they left us with last April – you have probably seen these around the record shop.
These painters, illustrators, muralists and graphic designers can also, in their own words, be called upon to “assume the roles of promoter, printmaker, writer, agitator, or pub crawler.” Stop by and help them do these things. But don’t take them to the pub, take them to the Merlins Rest Pub beer garden, which will be set up on 39th Avenue and pouring local brews – from Harriet Brewing and Northgate Brewing – and cracking cans of Pabst from 1 to 7pm.
And earlier in the day, from 10:30-1, the Open Eye Figure Theater will bring it’s pedal-powered “Driveway tour” puppet theater by the block party to entertain the kids and adults alike. We’ll also have thousands of LPs and 45s outside for 10¢ apiece, so crate diggers are sure to have fun. DJ Truckstashe will be spinning records outside all day, so be sure and stop by and request a Roger Miller song or two.
And here, folks, is the bill for this year’s live music. We really couldn’t love all these folks any more than we already do, and we’re excited to have them all part of the party! The sound system is provided by our sponsors, Twin Cities Sound.
39th Avenue Stage:
12:15 The White Whales
1:45 The Prissy Clerks
3:00 Audio Perm
4:45 Big Quarters
6:00 Southside Desire
11:00 Jake Manders
12:30 The Ericksons
2:00 Ben Weaver
5:00 Martin Devaney
7:15 Chastity Brown
8:30 Wizards Are Real
For the second year in a row the folks at Noiseland Industries have produced a free compilation LP that features tracks from some of the many albums they’ve pressed for local artists. American Buffalo 2 will be available at several shops in town on Record Store Day, including ours.
They’re pressing so much good stuff up there it’s hard to keep track – We just noticed that one of the Record Store Day releases we’re hoping to hear, the first Yonder Mountain String Band vinyl release, was pressed by Noiseland (maybe the lucky customer who gets a copy will loan it to us sometime after the block party). And that new Charlie Parr album, Barnswallow, which we’ve been spinning almost every day in the shop? Also made by Noiseland. Not surprising that several of our favorite records and CDs last year (no less than four albums on the “top ten” list we posted in December!) were pressed by Noiseland. And our review for two of them – Swallows’ Witching & Divining and Big Cats’ For my Mother – specifically note how great they sound on vinyl!
So we’re pretty excited to be giving out copies of American Buffalo 2 with any purchase of a new local LP on Record Store Day, courtesy of Noiseland Industries. Each participating store will be given one copy of the album autographed by all of the bands included, but we haven’t figured out how to give that awesome gem away yet (and we’re open to suggestions).
In the meantime, here’s a sampling of tracks from the compilation which haven’t been posted on the Hymie’s blog before. Also on the compilation are tracks from Big Cats, Gay Witch Abortion, Haley Bonar, Greg Grease, Fathom Lane, Mixed Blood Majority, bloodnstuff, A.Wolf & Her Claws, The Pines and Gospel Gossip!
“Live On” by Dan Israel
“Nice Flight” by Solid Gold
“Vibrant” by BNLX
“Bird Song” by the Murder of Crows
Here, friends, are some really interesting records we have recently found. Each 12″ disc is made of shellac like the 78s of yore, but plays at 33rpm. Even more interesting is these one-side discs are inside-start record (you put the needle at what is usually the ‘end’ of the side and it plays towards the ‘beginning’). On the back of each is the RCA/Victor imprint (at left) you have probably seen on one-sided 78s before, even though the label of each says “Columbia Pictures Corporation.”
And that leads to the most interesting thing about these records: each is the soundtrack to a cartoon from 1935. Here is Scrappy’s Ghost Story, the cartoon for which a theater would play the disc in the first picture above.
Sadly, some of the cartoons for this stack of a half dozen records are lost. Nobody has a copy anymore. One lost cartoon is Monkey Love, which is about a boy monkey who meets a girl monkey in the jungle. He serenades her, wins her heart and takes her home. Then he is confronted by a jealous gorilla, who is new sweetheart clobbers. It must be awesome.
(Soundtrack to Monkey Love, 1935)
And we couldn’t figure out if you can still see this next one or not – nobody has posted it on Youtube, which is of course where we found Scrappy’s Ghost Story. It’s a Krazy Kat.
(Soundtrack to Peace Conference, 1935)
In this cartoon a League of Nations-type conference is slicing up a map of the world, while up on Mars the god of war eagerly anticipates the carnage. Enter Krazy Kat with a ray gun that shoots American pop music (song titles include “Jazz Band” and “Hot Music”), bringing about peace to the chagrin of the Martian god. It must have been the best cartoon ever!
“(I Wanna go to) Hollywood” by the Wallets
Steve Kramer, who sang and played accordion for the Wallets, probably came from another world. What else would explain how he was so awesome? Kramer passed away last week suddenly, shocking friends and family in the Twin Cities. He was an incredible musician and on the two Wallets records on Twin Tone, completely ahead of his time. Dan Newton had just mentioned that in an interview Dave did with him for the City Pages‘ blog last month (here). Today the Minneapolis scene has lots of bands that feature accordions, so in his own way Steve Kramer was a trailblazer. He was also an awesome singer and songwriter, and it’s heartbreaking that he was just embarking on a new project when he passed away last week.
On the recommendation of a customer, I checked this book out of the library this week. Did you know that Minneapolis’ largest branch library is right here on East Lake? And you can request any book in the Hennepin County Library‘s catalog and have it delivered to your neighborhood branch.
If you have even a modest collection of jazz albums, you likely have one with a photograph by Pete Turner on the cover. Although he is best known to shutterbugs as one of the most important innovators of color photography, he is known to people like us as the artist who created the look and feel of Creed Taylor’s distinctive line of jazz productions for A&M Records and his own CTI Records in the 60s and early 70s.
This book, The Color of Jazz, covers his ubiquitous work for jazz producer Creed Taylor, which spans twenty-five years and includes many of the most popular jazz LPs that pass through our shop. When Turner approached Taylor about collaborating their photography and record production in 1958 the later was working for Impulse! Records, a new subsidiary of ABC-Paramont that was dedicated to contemporary jazz (an early and enduring Impulse! slogan was “the new thing in jazz”). Creed Taylor was responsible for bringing John Coltrane to the label in 1961, but did not produce the thirty-plus albums Trane recorded there. He was the producer for such favorites as Oliver Nelson’s The Blues and the Abstract Truth and Gil Evans’ Out of the Cool, albums which suggest the direction his work would press when he moved to Verve Records – Pete Turner photographed the cover of Nelson’s seminal album, and like-minded photographer Arnold Newman photographed the cover of Evans’ album.
Taylor’s legacy is controversial to some jazz listeners because of the growing influence of pop, easy listening and even classical on his style of production – his work also introduced bossa nova to the United States and lent a sophistication to jazz previously overlooked by the middle-60s growing leisure class. His albums were packaged in deluxe gatefolds with glossy covers. Many did not list the tracks or performers on the back, but inside the fold, an unusual innovation. In addition to Verve’s explosively popular run of Brazilian albums by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Astrud Gilberto, Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd, Taylor produced records by Bill Evans, Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery. Pete Turner created the photographs for many of these records, including the cover of Stan Getz’s Focus, one of my favorite jazz LPs on the label. On that album the tenor improvises over dramatic and exciting orchestra arrangements by Eddie Sauter.
Selection from “I’m Late I’m Late” by Stan Getz and Eddie Sauter
It is the covers for A&M Records that contain Turner’s most memorable, evocative work. Taylor worked briefly for A&M before founding his own subsidiary there, CTI Records (Creed Taylor Industries) which eventually became an independent label with its own distribution. Wes Montgomery’s last three albums were recorded for A&M and produced by Taylor. Turner provided the cover photographs for this triptych of lush jazz/easy listening hybrids.
“A Day in the Life” by Wes Montgomery (from 45 split into two parts, which is why it fades in and out in the middle)
Pete Turner’s photographs for CTI are some of the most distinctive-looking jazz records of the 70s. Stop by the shop sometime and flip through our jazz section and you will find many of them (they were top-sellers in their time so they are often easy to find today). One page includes the covers for Gabor Szabo’s Rambler – one of our favorite CTI albums – and George Benson’s Body Talk. Another features an eye-cathing picture of ostriches against a sunset. Turner explains that he was on assignment for South African Airlines when he saw the giant birds, but to get the picture he wanted he had to enlist some help to herd them together. The picture provided the cover for Milt Jackson’s Sunflower.
We’ll return this to the library soon so you can check it out. It’s an enjoyable read for jazz listners and photographers alike, filled with interesting stories about each. It will also probably get you going to your record shelf to pull out those beautiful, shiny gatefold albums.
Each recorded from this copy I grabbed from our clearance bin on my way out the door last night. It’s been there – priced 50¢ – for weeks.
The Victor Talking Machine Company is inseparable from the history of recorded sound and records. They were not the originator of flat records (that would be the Berliner Gramophone Company), but they were an influential technological innovator. The records they made included some of the earliest “super hits” as well as recordings that are still enjoyed by millions today. The company was purchased by the Radio Corporation of America in 1929, creating the RCA/Victor label you’re familiar with because of your large collection of Ames Brothers recordings.
6 – The first million-seller!
In 1904 Enrico Caruso recorded an aria from Ruggero Leoncavello’s opera Pagliacci which became the first record to sell a million copies. One must have found its way into the home of William “Smokey” Robinson, who twice made reference to Pagliacci in classic Motown hit (his own “Tears of A Clown” and “My Smile is Just a Frown Turned Upside Down,” which he wrote for Carolyn Crawford).
This is an example of early acoustic recording, predating the use of electric microphones. As a a result the frequency range is greatly limited compared to recordings Caruso would make later in his career.
5 – Fritz Kreisler is a great composer as well as a performer
Violinist Fritz Kreisler is commonly regarded as one of the greatest violinists of all time, and his encores were said to be sublime. Three of his original pieces, collectively called Alt-Wiener Tanzweisen, remain popular today, especially “Libenfreud” (heard here) and “Leibesleid.” Kreisler originally attributed them to Austrian composer Joseph Lanner. In September 1910 he copyrighted them in his own name.
It was not until 1935 that Kreisler claimed credit for the many encores he had attributed to other composers. In response to criticism, he said, “the names changed. The value remains.”
Kreisler recorded with famed composer Sergei Rachmaninoff in 1928 (performing Beethoven’s Sonata no. 8 in G Major). Rachmaninoff transcribed two of Kreisler’s Alt-Wiener Tanzweisen melodies for piano and recorded them himself in 1931.
The performance of “Leibenfreud” you hear below was recorded in 1915.
4 – Sergei Rachmaninoff himself performing his famous prelude
Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Prelude in C Sharp Minor” is so popular as to be recognizable far outside the world of classical music. Paul Revere and the Raiders and Ekseption based classic rock tunes on it. The Beastie Boys and Blackalicious sampled it. Charles Mingus weaved it into the jazz standard “All the Things You Are” in his composition “All the Things You C#”. Harpo Marx played it with such passion in A Day at the Races that the piano explodes.
Rachmaninoff first performed the prelude in 1892 at the Moscow Electrical Exhibit. He was nineteen years old. He recorded it for Victor thirty-six years later, which is the recording you are hearing below.
3 – Harry Belafonte introduces America to Jamaican music
In a performance that he would follow him for the rest of his life, folk singer Harry Belafonte sang “The Banana Boat Song” with its distinctive “Day-O” chorus on NBC’s Colgate Comedy Hour. The following year his third album for RCA/Victor, Calypso, became the first LP to sell more than a million copies. Although “Day-O” (as it was called on the original album) was a traditional Jamaican song and not a calypso number, the balance of the album introduced Americans to a favorite new form of music.
2 – Arturo Toscanini brings the classics right into America’s living room
Arturo Toscanini was born in Italy but beloved in the United States, where he was one of the most famous conductors of his time. The notes to 60 Years of “Music America Loves Best” says that Toscanini was initially adverse to “mechanical music” (ie recordings), but he became, through television and radio, one of the most innovative classical performers of his generation by introducing the classic repertoire to millions in an accessible way without compromising integrity.
Toscanini made all but a handful of his recordings for RCA/Victor, who last spring issued an astounding 84-disc box set compiling his work (actually an affordable $120 on Amazon). He is known for his precision and many of his recordings are still highly regarded. This writer is particular fond of his recordings of Beethoven’s symphonies and of the great 19th century operas, especially Verdi. Many of his recordings lack the warmth of concert hall recordings because the NBC studio where they were made was intended primarily for television broadcast, not classical music (this is true of his Beethoven’s 9th for sure), but the performances are outstanding. Toscanini performed the premiere of many operas, notably the 1892 debut of Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavello, which was discussed in our first selection up above.
In the late 40s, Toscanini pioneered the performance of lengthy pieces on live television. These performances were simultaneously broadcast on the radio. Included in his series of ten productions for NBC were the first televised presentation of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, and a complete performance of Guiseppe Verdi’s Aida (featuring Herva Nelli and Richard Tucker). This recording of Wagner’s Prelude from Act III of “Lohengrin” was the first of these televised specials, an all Wagner program broadcast on March 20, 1948. For many people all over the country, this was the closest they would ever come to enjoying a world class performance of the classics.
1 – Marian Anderson defies the Daughters of the American Revolution
Marian Anderson, born in 1897 in Philadelphia, is often misrepresented as an opera singer. While she did often include arias in concert, she was almost entirely a concert performer. She was the first African-American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera, sang at two Presidential inaugurations, and christened a nuclear submarine.
In 1939 the Daughters of the American Revolution refused Anderson permission to perform to an integrated audience in their Constitution Hall (in Washington DC), bringing Anderson into an unexpected international spotlight. President Roosevelt and Walter White, the secretary of the NAACP, orchestrated a performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday, 1939. The performance attended by 75,000 people and heard by millions over the airwaves. Anderson began the program with “My Country tis of Thee.” Also performed was this recording of Schubert’s moving “Ave Maria,” one of the seven songs the twenty-eight year old Schubert based on Walter Scott’s epic poem, The Lady in the Lake in 1825.
An alternate scoring of this piece (for a full chorus) was recorded by Leopold Stokowski the next year and used by Walt Disney in Fantasia, and has become one of the most familiar recordings, but Anderson’s performance that Easter Sunday was surely remembered by each of the millions who listened.
(The famous image of Nipper the dog looking into the cone of a Victor Talking Machine is itself the subject of a long history. Nipper was an actual dog who lived in Bristol, England and bit the ankles of visitors (hence the name) and died in 1895. Francis Barraud, his owner, painted a picture of him looking into an Edison-Bell cylinder phonograph. After being rejected by the Edison-Bell company as a potential logo (actual quote: “Dogs don’t listen to phonographs”) the painting was purchased by the Victor company and their English counterpart, HMV, and registered as a trademark in 1900.
I am entirely done trying to get Irene to pose like this.)