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A while back we put together a goofy post of lesser-known dance crazes, and today we have another to add to the list: “The Bend”!

We first found it on this 45 by former I Dream of Jeanie star Barbara Eden, but the song was earlier a huge European hit for a group comically named Dave Dee, Doozy, Beaky, Mitch and Tich.

Their recording of “Bend It!” topped the German single chart. The song incorporated the bouzouki sound popularized by Zorba the Greek by using an amplified mandolin. It received little airplay in the United States because the lyrics were considered suggestive, so the band re-recorded it with different lyrics.

Barbara Eden made a few records in the sixties which are campy collector’s items today. Her version of “Bend It!” came with a picture sleeve that had instructions for “The Bend” on the back, so now you can dance along at home!

 

We’re saying farwell to the year of the monkey by sweeping all the bad luck out the door. While we can do little to make the world a better place by being a neighborhood record shop, we’re honored for the opportunity to continue doing our little part of it all.

And as a welcome to the year of the rooster, here is a timely song about a rooster and a courageous border-crosser who carries him. It is sung by the great cowboy poet Tom Russell.

Thanks for reading and we wish you a happy new year!

 

concerto-for-bluegrass-group-and-orchestraLikely to be filed in the “Classical Gasp” section of our shop alongside Johann Georg Albrechtsberger’s Concerto for Jew’s Harp, Mandora and Orchestra, here is a blending of genres we had never thought to consider.

Phillip Rhodes’ Concerto For Bluegrass Band and Orchestra is performed on this album by the McLain Family Band and the Carleton Orchestra. It is divided into three movements, titled “Breakdown,” “Ballads” and “Variations.”

icarusThis recording of Gene Gutchë’s experimental composition Icarus was recorded by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra in 1977.

We chose to post it today in recognition of Indigenous People’s Day, which was (here in Minneapolis) formerly recognized as Columbus Day until August of 2014. This change is slowly being made all around the United States, and as we have posted every October for more than half a decade, it is long overdue.

However, Gutchë’s music celebrates Christopher Columbus, who is alternately recognized as the New World’s first slave trader and genocidal murderer. His remarks on the composition (below) reveal the often absurd inaccuracies indelibly left by the way we have taught history for generations. The phenomenon is entertainingly studied in an early chapter of James Loewen’s classic study of American history textbooks, Lies My Teacher Told Me.

Setting aside his naive view of Columbus, Gutchë’s remarks express an optimism which offers an impetus to praise this country, rather than suggest it is in need of repair. Gutchë was an immigrant, having come to the United States in 1925 at the age of eighteen and settled permanently here in the Twin Cities mid-life.

This year, more than previous Octobers, we are best to remember that America remains as great as ever, in part because we have welcomed immigrants like Gutchë.

In the album’s notes, composer Gene Gutchë describes the work, and here is an excerpt:

Essentially, Columbus, a seafaring adventurer, measures his wits against the sea and comes to grips with rebellious men. Against these obstacles is the promise of a vast new continent. In context with its title the music is austere and assumes a raw physical power. Power can mean many things to different peoples. Wealth is a power. Position can direct our lives. Ideologies have destroyed civilizations. Today we need the strength Columbus implanted into our world.

It is the strength Washington/Lincoln/Kennedy possessed. A deliberate aim to set all me free. By this mean we become powerful.

I don’t know about you but I love this country. Tolerate everything. Dismiss the doubt. Accept. Overlook. Break many cups. In compassion is joy.

One of these days our earth shall be likened to the moon. When that happens another Icarus will rise and take us to a new star.

 

Lenny Bruce is best known for his blue material, but “The Djinni in the Candy Store” is a beautiful bit (mostly) suitable for listeners of all ages. The Common Sense Media organization would probably knock down its star rating for Bruce’s joke about “income property” and make some remark about its ethnic stereotypes, but “The Djinni” is mild compared to most of Bruce’s material.

the real lenny bruceFrom time to time we think of Bruce’s Djinni, when tackling a big project in our own store. The whole bit, first recorded by the comedian in 1958, is just an elaborate set-up for a groaner of a line, but as often happens in Lenny Bruce’s best material the Djinni becomes a memorable character. The only one who makes us laugh more is poor Cardinal Spellman, who must explain the ways of the Church to Christ and Moses when the return to Earth in a later routine.

 

In a seventh season episode of The X Files, the supernatural monster discovered by Agents Mulder and Scully is revealed to be a djinni who has spent millennia a prisoner of her powers. With each new master she watches tragedy unfold as the wishes become nightmares, until she receives her freedom when Agent Mulder wishes for it.

Lenny Bruce’s Djinni seems to enjoy his work, although he describes his bottle as “a glass prison.” He grant’s Sol’s second wish without using his magical powers, and we imagine he wanted to run the candy store. It recalls Yakov Bok, the eponymous hero of Bernard Malamud’s The Fixer, a prisoner who “begged for something to do. His hands ached of emptiness.” Yes, the Djinni seems to take pleasure of the minutia of running the small shop, bringing in the milk and the rolls and so on.

Twice, when doubted, the Djinni is indignant: “I am the Djinni, I can do anything!” He is nothing like the sneaky, manipulative djinni in The Thief of Baghdad, who seems to have inspired Bruce’s hilarious voice. The only thing we don’t like about “The Djinni in the Candy Store” is its brevity. We wish he’d had a few more adventures, perhaps in other settings from Bruce’s albums. Perhaps he could have visited Lima, Ohio or Enchanting Transylvania. Or the Djinni could have helped educate people about gonorrhea and raised funds for the Brother Matthias leper colony in Guiana. After all, he is the Djinni and he can do anything.

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.

— Stevie

 

talking book

secret life of plants

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!

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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.

ngdb circle volume 2He’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!

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