We will be open 11-4pm 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.

trio jeepyBetween his performance on Sting’s first solo album and recurring appearances on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, there was a time when it was hard to take Branford Marsalis seriously as a jazz musician. And while we love what he brought to the Grateful Dead (especially “Eyes of the World“), his trip with the troupe didn’t help his jazz image.

His early albums as a leader — the ones you’re most likely to find in a record shop like ours — are hit or miss affairs. But Branford had serious chops from the beginning. In fact, his 1988 album Trio Jeepy is a favorite of ours.

The trio is grounded by bassist Milt Hinton, a veritable jazz veteran who made his recording debut fifty years earlier, and pushed into new directions by Jeff “Tain” Watts in an early, voracious moment in his career. This is definitely an album to look for if you are interested in small combo jazz.

The trio takes a particularly memorable crack at the standard “Stardust,” which according the the album was not included on the CD (this was probably a big deal in 1988, when people were chucking albums and collecting CDs). The three work best together on this familiar tune.

Beethoven started working on what became his 5th Symphony in 1804. If he’d finished it earlier, it would have supplanted the fourth. It was not debuted until December of 1808, and in the long interim he composed many other works: his Violin Concerto, his Appassionata sonata, three string quartets, his Fourth Symphony and Fourth Piano Concerto, and a first draft for his sole opera, Fidelio.

bernstein beethovenThis entertaining LP explores Beethoven’s composing process. In it, Leonard Bernstein provides insight by performing many of the sketches on the piano, as well as with the New York Philharmonic. Think of this as the “alternate takes.”

We are personally very partial to Bernstein’s recordings of the nine symphonies in New York. We are also well-known to be partial to Beethoven altogether, and own several recordings of each symphony. Bernstein’s study on this album reveals his sincere enthusiasm.

This exploration of a single movement touches on many of the remarkable qualities of Beethoven’s oeuvre, in particular the passion which propels his symphonies forward with unbridled passion.

This particular copy is in pretty poor condition, but we imagine there are many out there who will enjoy hearing it regardless. The second side of the album contains the contemporaneous recording of the symphony conducted by Bruno Walter, which can be easily found in much better condition than this copy.


While not as unusual as the concerto for Jew’s harp, mandora and orchestra we posted a while back, The Virtuoso Harmonica definitely belongs filed under “Classical music you never knew existed.”

Here for your enjoyment is Adalberto Borioli performing Vivaldi’s Sonata in C Major for Harmonica.

virtuoso harmonica

A new book from the University of Minnesota Press by Rick Shefchik explores the history of the sixties rock scene in Minnesota. Customers tell us Everybody’s Heard About the Bird is a great read for fans of local music and we’re looking forward to getting a copy over at Moon Palace Books, our favorite book shop in town.

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.

soma records

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.

— 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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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.

sex education


sex education 2

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.

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