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let it flow

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Let it Flow by Elvin Bishop is one of the best hot summer day records.

Local musician Willie Murphy’s dog Clyde jumped out the window of a car yesterday and has been lost ever since — it happened in the neighborhood just west of the shop on East Lake Street, on the other side of Hiawatha.

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Since so many of our readers seem to be from the neighborhood, we thought we’d share this. If you find Clyde, you can let us know and we can contact Willie, or if you know him you can call him yourself.

We will be open 12-4pm on the Fourth of July

A passage from one of our favorite histories of the United States – This is from Samuel Elliot Morrison’s lively and opinionated 1965 Oxford History of the United States:

It was America’s busy age, or one of them Eighteenth-century travelers scolded Americans for their indolence; nineteenth-century travelers criticized their activity. Each Northern community was an anthill, intensely active within and constantly exchanging with other hills. Every man worked, or at least made a semblance of it; the few who wished to be idle and could afford it, fled to Europe and dabbled in the arts or pursued some pallid branch of scholarship – the type of American expatriate immortalized by Henry James. Nothing struck European travelers more forcibly than the total want of public parks and pleasure resorts, of games and sports, or of simple pleasures like country walking. For the Northern American had no learned how to employ leisure. His pleasure came from doing; and as almost everyone worked for long hours six days of the week, and (except in New Orleans) the Puritan sabbath prevailed, there was not much time for recreation, and very few holidays other than Thanksgiving (still confined to the Yankee area), Christmas, and the Glorious Fourth.

So here’s a track from Night People, a late 70s Lee Dorsey produced by Allen Toussaint – It’s a good fit for this election year: a little bit cynical, a little bit jaded, but not downtrodden at all. Let’s leave all that hostility to the angry folks on the fringes so those of us with real shit to do can go on with our lives.

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(“God Must Have Blessed America” by Lee Dorsey)

Jake Manders is one of our favorite local musicians. His album is so filled with memorable melodies and stories and songs we love — we’ve been waiting too long for another. Along the way we’ve been fortunate to have him perform here a couple times, as well as some of our favorite local watering holes. Click on the link there and you’ll hear a few more songs from that album, and find an address to which you can send your request for more.

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“Time Machine”

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Folks around the Twin Cities are starting to feel like Noah at the end of this classic Cosby bit, with all the rain we’ve had recently.

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…but now you do. And now you’ve heard Johann Georg Albrechtsberger’s Concerto for Jew’s Harp, Mandora and Orchestra.

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As more and more young folks take an interest in collecting records, some of the things we take for granted as common knowledge merit a fresh explanation. There’s no reason to pretend we’re especially bright or clever for knowing, for instance, how to identify a mono or stereo pressing or what information might be gleaned from the matrix number on the record’s dead wax — this sort of information isn’t particularly valuable, being the sort of thing we learned growing up instead of the important stuff other kids were learning in school. And although inquiries around here are often prefaced with “May I ask a stupid question,” there are no such things around here — no one is going to make fun of the questions you ask around here or the records you buy, if simply because outside of the record store we become ourselves the people with the ‘stupid’ questions.

And so the first of these is ‘What’s the story with the holes in the corners of album jackets?’ Folks have usually found an example when they ask this one. Sometimes it’s a corner cut off the right side of the jacket, or slice right into the side. Ideally these never damage the record inside (though we’ve seen that). Records like this are called “Cut-Outs.” The reason they are so marked is that they were returned to the wholesaler, the same as is done with the UPC codes from magazines and books in large retailers to this day.

co1At a time when records were the predominate musical medium, record shops large and small took in far greater quantities of each title. Even a modest little neighborhood shop like ours might expect to sell a case of a new release by an essential act like the Rolling Stones. A friend’s father worked in the Musicland/Sam Goody warehouse here in Hopkins when Bruce Springsteen’s Live 1975-1985 was released, and to this day still resents the Boss for his enormous, heavy (five LPs!) and very popular release, which they hauled from truck to truck for weeks.

co4co2Besides the number of each release sold, the other difference between those heady days and our present miniscule (if growing) role in the industry is that record shops could return unsold stock. Those titles were collected by the wholesaler and marked as returned (with a cut or hole) and then re-marketed at a discount. Record shops had a “Cut-out” bin filled with releases that tanked at a third of the price or less.

Ironically, some of these records are more popular today. One of these photographs is of two Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson albums which are currently moest easily available as reissues. Other albums, oftentimes solo projects by artists in popular groups, never found an audience — for instance the copy of John Entwistle’s Mad Dog album, which is probably somewhat rare in a non-cut out state.

co5Today most vinyl ordered by small shops such as ours is non-returnable. With each new release we need to gauge how many we’re likely to sell so we don’t end up with too many extras. This is why a small shop like ours will sometimes run out of titles and then have to re-order them.

For some collectors the cut out is unacceptably damaged, although again the record itself is not damaged by the process. You may find with many releases, like the John Entwistle album, its unlikely you’ll find a copy with an intact jacket. Around here we are more interested in music than in records, so we don’t mind them when it’s an album we’re excited to hear or a favorite. At home our copy of War Live has a corner cut (can you believe there was a record store that sent back War Live?!) but it doesn’t seem worth replacing with another just to have the jacket 100% intact instead of 98.5%.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe is one of the most interesting figures in the history of American popular music. A year of so ago PBS’s American Masters biography series produced an episode about her life, which was filled with extraordinary accomplishments and fascinating contradictions.

From her early childhood Rosetta Tharp was a regular performer on the southern Gospel circuit, as famous for her guitar playing as her singing. She fell out with the older crowd for performing Gospel music in secular settings, like nightclubs, and just for being a woman who was an awesome guitar player in the first place.

Her music walked a line between Saturday night and Sunday morning — and the best of it presaged rhythm & blues and rock & roll, especially the 1944 song “Strange Things Happening Every Day” (which she wrote and performed with pianist Sammy Price). Chuck Berry, for instance, was influenced by her playing, not to mention artists like Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis and Little Richard.

Sister Rosetta’s career with Lucky Millinder’s Orchestra produced a number of hit records, but people speculate she didn’t have much say over what songs they recorded. By the end of her contract with the bandleader, she made one of several returns to performing strictly gospel music.

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“I want a Tall Skinny Papa” by Lucky Millinder’s Orchestra, featuring Sister Rosetta Tharpe on vocals

That 25,000 people paid to attend her third wedding at the Washington Senator’s park, Griffith Stadium in 1951, is a remarkable testament to her popularity. A souvenir 10″ record of the wedding which came out later still turns up here in the shop from time to time. That marriage (her third) like many of her business arrangements was controversial and not regarded by those close to her to have been a good idea.

In “The Children and their Secret Closet,” an essay by Anthony Heilbut in The Fan Who Knew too Much, published last year, we learn that a surprising number of influential black Gospel performers of the 40s and 50s were gay or identified by friends as “queer.” This included Alex Bradford, James Cleveland and, of course, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, whose personal relationship singer Marie Knight sparked speculation. Heilbut points out that the church at the time not only provided refuge for black gays, but encouraged their talents in a world which otherwise wouldn’t have done so — Rosetta Tharpe’s life is particularly remarkable because she was one of the first performers to break out of the insulated southern Gospel circuit and face a larger audience.Today it is not controversial for a woman to accompany herself with a guitar, for two women to tour without a male escort as Tharpe and Knight did, or for an artist to perform spiritual music in a secular setting. To do all of these things in time, Sister Rosetta must have had enormous confidence and courage.A traditional song which was re-worked by Sister Rosetta Tharpe in 1956 has been a favorite encore closer for our friend Charlie Parr for years. He is an example of an artist who can work spiritual and secular subjects into a set — here is Sister Rosetta’s version of “Can’t No Grave Hold my Body Down”:cant no grave

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Now where can we get an ice cold Drewrys?

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When last we posted some records by author, composer, television personality, and bon vivant Steve Allen (here) our selection presented only a fraction of his enormous catalog. Allen’s discography of more than sixty LPs runs the range from beat poetry and electronic experiments to what old folks would call cocktail piano and riotous novelty records. All of these are largely ignored by collectors — it’s telling that our most recent edition of Jerry Osbourne’s Price Guide to Records omits Allen entirely.

One thing they’re missing is Allen’s late sixties collaborations with jazz musicians associated with legendary jazz producer Bob Thiele. These included a series of albums with arranger Oliver Nelson and this record, which features Hungarian guitarist Gabor Szabo.

gentle peopleSongs for Gentle People was recorded after Szabo had begun his series of great albums for Thiele’s Impulse! Records, incorporating Gypsy and Eastern European folk music into his interpretations of pop hits (check out his take on “The Beat Goes On”). Also contributing to this album is Wrecking Crew drummer Hal Blaine — it’s just one of the thirty-five thousand or so pieces of music he has worked on in his amazing, and ongoing, career. When this album was released in 1967, Blaine was just beginning his streak of playing on six consecutive “Record of the Year” Grammy winners.

On this album Allen is credited as playing “an ALLEN ELECTRONIC HARPSICHORD.”

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“Flowers and Love”

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