We sold out of the Record Store Day™ Black Friday releases quickly yesterday and returned to the normal business of albums that people actually want to hear, rather than re-sell online. We thankfully don’t have to hear from the Record Store Day™ mafia again until April.

This year’s list of un-necessary reissues contained a rare interesting release — a 7″ record featuring both sides of the 1946 single by Wynonie Harris that has gone down in history as the first appearance of Sun Ra. “Dig This Boogie” was distinguished by the son of Saturn’s boogie woogie style, but the single has been out of print for more nearly eighty years.

Hearing the earliest recorded document of Sun Ra’s time on our Earth inspired us to look into other pre-Arkestra recordings. One of the things we learned from the Wikipedia page about Sun Ra was that he performed in an un-recorded trio with Coleman Hawkins and Stuff Smith in 1948. The same page says that a home recording of Ra and Smith appears on Sun Sound Pleasure, and we went digging through our disorganized record collection for that album.

Sun Sound Pleasure is a unique Sun Ra record owing to its selection of standards instead of Ra originals, but sadly our copy does not include their recording of the 30s ballad, “Deep Purple,” recorded on an early paper-tape machine. The album is one of many albums originally issued on El Saturn, the label run by Ra and Alton Abraham, which is now in print after decades in obscurity. As Sun Ra’s recordings have become more widely available, his audience has grown.

The violinist known as Stuff Smith was born Hezekiah Smith in 1909, making him about five years the senior of Sun Ra, if we are to believe the biographical data regarding the self-proclaimed “Sun One.” Smith was a successful swing-era soloist and songwriter, and he hardly embraced bebop although he performed with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.

Though lesser known than Stéphane Grapelli or Jean-Luc Ponty, Smith was a pioneering jazz violinist. He was the first to explore amplified effects and his style was more in line with the solos of swing artists who transitioned to the modern era such as Coleman Hawkins. We think of him as second only to Joe Venut as a contemporary, and second only to Billy Bang as the greatest jazz performer on the violin.

On the 1965 session reissued on this budget-label album, Smith is joined by Grapelli who is a more conventional soloist. Smith is featured as a vocalist on “Blues in the Dungeon,” a tune which we believe Sun Ra must have enjoyed.

And yep, we have a selection of Record Store Day’s Black Friday releases. There’s some great reissues and some great new material.

We thought the double LP 40th anniversary of Blank Generation looked pretty cool, and also the new collection of Sun Ra recordings titled Exotica. Neil Young’s Harvest Moon has been one of the more asked about Record Store Day releases this year, and there is also a reissue of Willie Nelson’s Spirit and a collection with some of Waylon’s last demo recordings.

Anyways, we also added a whole bunch of great used albums in every section of the shop. It’s a beautiful day outside, so we don’t imagine anyone wants to spend it all bustin’ doors but we do hope to see some familiar faces this weekend!

Rejoice!

rejoice pharaohIt’s a holiday week! Many of us will enjoy some time off with our families this week, and we’re looking forward to one of the very few days of the year that we close up your friendly neighborhood record shop.

We’ll be open normal hours this week except for Thursday, and on Friday we’ll have Record Store Day’s official Black Friday releases for those on the lookout! Until then, hope you all have a great week here in the most wonderful city in the world!

Glyn Johns may be the most successful recording engineer and producer of his generation, if not all time — you’ll find his name in the notes to everything from Abbey Road and Let It Be to old AM radio staples by Led Zeppelin, the Who, Eric Clapton, the Eagles and Bob Dylan. His extraordinary resume makes it all the more amazing that he has said that the best album he ever worked on was Joan Armatrading’s self-titled third record.

That Armatrading’s breakthrough 1976 album is not endowed with the exalted status of those other records is a sign of the institutional racism in the realm of rock journalism. We arriving a little late to the dance, but look at Rolling Stones‘ much-lauded list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” and consider the absurdly infrequent appearance of women. Armatrading’s third album may be one of the list’s most glaring omissions.

To borrow a phrase from one of Armatrading’s contemporaries who did have a pair of albums on the list, and who unlike Armatrading was also included in the magazine’s authoritative “Greatest Songwriters” list as well, “You don’t like strong women ’cause they’re hip to your tricks.”

In a 2014 interview promoting his memoirs, Sound Man, Johns was asked about the song “Down to Zero” which opens the album. While he had little to say about working with, for instance, the Eagles, Johns expressed regret he did not get to work with Armatrading more. And when the interviewer praised “Down to Zero,” he lit up:

It’s good, isn’t it? That woman is absolutely remarkable. She was like a breath of fresh air. That’s not the right phrase, but it’ll do for the moment. When I first discovered her, she took me down a musical road that I had no idea that I could even identify with. Fortunately for both of us, not only did I identify with it, I was able to help in some small way. But I learned a tremendous amount from working with her. She’s an exceptional musician. She’s a great guitar player, never mind about a wonderful singer and songwriter.

Another song from the album, “Love and Affection,” gave Armatrading her first charting single, and our personal favorite was picked for its b-side. “Help Yourself” is a timeless tune which feels especially relevant these days as inequities such as Rolling Stones‘ narrow list are being called out.

The second side of this awesome album opens with “Join the Boys,” in which Armatrading, with her characteristic confidence, describes starting a band which will “succeed where others failed” and “take the world by storm” (the song became a set list staple). “Join the Boys” features her uniquely percussive guitar playing and uncommon approach to rhythm — sounding like no one else, Armatrading may well be addressing the industry when the song opens:

Are you for or against us?
We are trying to get somewhere
Looking around for a helping hand

In one of his comedy records, Steve Martin uses his mock naïveté to explain to the audience that “it’s like those French have a different word for everything.” This joke came to mind yesterday when we were listening to this instructional record, on which Nazir Ali Jairabhoy delivers a lecture introducing his audience to Indian classical music. You could say that they have a different note for everything.

Jairabhoy’s lecture is accessible and we thought it really added to our understanding of the music, also commonly called Hindustandi classical music.

If you were to file Brian Just‘s latest album in your parents’ record collection you might put Changing Traffic Lights in between Donovan and Quicksilver Messenger Service. Or maybe alongside a some lesser-known psychedelic classic — in a post earlier this summer we compared the album to J.K. and Co., a late 60s gem on White Whale Records, but we could just as easily suggest a similarity to Gandalf’s cover of the Turtles “Me Without You” or a number of other trippy rarities. You could also store the new Brian Just album alongside your Yo La Tengo albums, or without taking too much of a leap some of the local psych-sters like Magic Castles.

Truthfully, Changing Traffic Lights isn’t directly derivative of anything and the most remarkable success of this album is how well its ten tracks flow while drawing from disparate sources. Tunes like “Staring into the Sun” (below) capture the celebratory sense of the Brian Just Band’s live sets, and each side ends with a lush chamber pop piece arranged by Adam Conrad. You can hear one of these, the title track, in a video posted here.

We can’t recall the first time we heard one of Just’s songs, or for that matter the first time he walked through the doors of this friendly neighborhood record store, but we also can’t imagine a world without his music. His albums have been the backdrop of life here for so long they almost reverberate off the posters and records on the walls.

Brian Just and his band have performed here a number of times over the years and will be returning this Saturday for a show with ZNAG have been eagerly anticipating.

And just who is ZNAG? Two of the band members are our own Gus and Nova, joined by Andre and Zola, two friends they met at the Music Lab‘s band camp this summer. If you have kids interested in music, we encourage you to click on that link and check out the Music Lab! They will be performing their entire repertoire (two songs)!

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