Let’s Go To The Record Store!
Sure, I love hoarding a hard drive full of digital music treasures, as well as the Spotify streaming behemoth, but it’s true when they say that nothing beats a trip to the record store. Here’s another post in a continuing series of vinyl hunts.
1855 Haight Street
San Francisco, CA
In late January, I went to visit my good friends Dan & Mandy (Dan’s blog, Public Transportation Horrors, is the tits.) in Oakland, where it rained for three straight days. It wasn’t that upsetting; luckily, my friends are very entertaining and you don’t need good weather to play pinball, eat good foodstuffs, go see comedy shows, witness art, watch a Jaws/The Taking of Pelham 123 double feature on a projector and drink beer in bars. Anyway, not running into Hammer on the streets of Oak-Town was far more of a letdown.
The one site I had my heart set on seeing was Amoeba Music, the music geek emporium about which I had often read. I was able to check it out with Dan while our ladyfriends adjourned to vintage clothes shopping. Amoeba was a magnificent site to behold. It would have taken me a couple days to properly explore its nooks and crannies, but with only an hour to spare, I decided to focus on Soul, my current record-buying obsession. I usually stick to old records of the cheaper variety, but I walked away from Amoeba with some choice reissued and new vinyl cuts.
1. McLemore Avenue / Booker T. & the M.G.’s / Stax Records
I was very excited to spot this record, having read about it years ago before its reissue. It’s Booker T. & the M.G.’s version of Abbey Road, McLemore Avenue being the street on which Stax Records is located. I’ve recently been on a mission with a friend of mine to put together a master playlist of The Beatles covering soul tunes and Soul acts covering Beatle tunes (the compilation will culminate with “Get Back,” of course, because it features The Beatles playing with Soul great Billy Preston), so this record plays into that theme perfectly.
Highlights include the organ hits on the “Here Comes The Sun” reprise that follow the rather tame verse/chorus interpretations; the jam thrown into “Something” that has nothing to do with the original, as if the boys just got tired of playing straight pop music and had to drop a funk bomb; and the funky Shaft-like lead-in to “You Never Give Me Your Money.” The grooves laid down on “Come Together” and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” are the real standouts, the latter reminding me of a similar rendition done by West Chester Soul gents The Sermon!, who recently wowed our wedding crowd with their sweet licks and deep grooves. Check’em out, pronto.
2. Doing It To Death / The J.B.’s / People Records
It’s great that Soul Brother Number One (referred to on this sleeve as “JAMES BROWN – THE HIT MAN – THE GODFATHER OF SOUL”) did a series of records highlighting his blazing dynamo of a band. Right off the intro, “Doing It To Death” lays down the sickliest of bottoms that never lets up once in 10 minutes, and we’re all off to have a funky good time. If I were to witness anybody listening to this record without an expression of pure bliss (or at least the onset of a neck twitch and an overbite), I may feel the need to dropkick them in the solar plexus. Fred Wesley and his J.B.’s blow it up on this record, as they did anytime they ever picked up their instruments to play, in my guesstimate. And then there are the “You Can Have Watergate Just Gimme Some Bucks And I’ll Be Straight” interludes… Apparently, S.B.N.O. did some work with The Dark One, but I’ll just assume, as was the case with Elvis, it was just the drugs talking.
Other highlights on this stellar album include Fred Thomas’s blistering bass solo and Brown asking his drummer if he can play in the key of F on “More Peas,” and the jazz odyssey that is “Sucker,” complete with bongo solo. All in all, yet another James Brown record I could listen to on infinite repeat.
3. The Stepkids / The Stepkids / Stones Throw Records
I recently named this #1 in my favorite jawns of 2011, and needed to experience it on vinyl. It’s such a lovely amalgam of Soul (60s and 70s) and Psychedelia with a healthy dose of Zappa ambiance, at its strongest in the vocals. Definitely a record that benefits from the vinyl treatment. Also, watch this again, for it is great:
4. Telling the Truth / Willie Wright / Numero Group
Willie Wright and friends deliver gentle tempos and piano flourishes that evoke the serenity of Nick Drake by way of Bill Withers. Lots of “Folk Soul” here (the sweetest song being “Son, Don’t Let Life Pass You By”), a bit too dragging at times, but the record picks up on “I’m So Happy Now” and “Love Is Expensive.”
Numero Group put together a lovely rerelease package here, one in a line of excellent Soul reissues, complete with gorgeous packaging, additional notes, studio rap sheets and a 7″ single. The original sleeve, included on the inner sleeve in this package, lists an awesome set of warnings:
-This is not a disco record.
-It’s designed for ADULTS of the world.
-TEENAGERS, this album may be too lyrically heavy for you, especially if you’re into fast music.
-YOU WILL, however, enjoy this record if you’re into GUITARS!
The sleeve also describes him as “One of the greatest singers of all times, and one of the most relaxed.” If you’re not a vinyl person and don’t get the appeal, let me say that old-school liner notes are always worth the purchase. If I ever started a record label, I would insist on writing all liner notes in the style of those written between 1955-1976.
5. The House of the Rising Sun / Santa Esmeralda / Casablanca
I reveled when I discovered a sequel to the Santa Esmeralda disco odyssey “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood / Esmeralda Suite,” and that it was a regular dollar-bin record! For their second album masterpiece, of course they decided upon “House of the Rising Sun / Quasimodo Suite.” It’s got just as much flavor, latin sass, hand claps and flamenco guitar hits as its predecessor, and I am am thankful to Quentin Tarantino for introducing me to this disco inferno in Kill Bill.
All in all, a wonderful trip to the record store. Now that I’m back home in Philly, I want something of the same magnitude to spend an entire day digging through. I think my next record store entry may involve the great Princeton Record Exchange. Stay tuned!