Bob Dylan – Bringing it all back home (1965)

bbiiallbbhhhPoetry is exactly what I don’t care about in both world politics and rock records.   So where to begin with Bob Dylan, or rather my distaste for the glorification of Bob Dylan?   I admit that as a 14 year old kid after burning through the discography of Billy Bragg, I thought the social political-ness of his Times they are a changing (1964) LP made for such a great record, and as such was disappointed with most of his subsequent discography – not for any narrow-minded “going electric” non-controversy, but rather his tunes were boring showcases for misguided lyrical ego.

And so at that time I resigned myself as being “too young to appreciate him”, and reserved a future date to “grow up” and one day like other Bob Dylan records.   Not that Bob doesn’t have some good songs buried among those records.  Then came his lame releases of the 1980’s (and the 1990’s (and the 2000’s (and the 2010’s…))) and/or the Traveling Dingleberries, and most recently that Nobel Prize – so that time will probably never come.

If ever there was a more over-appreciated idol in the baby boomer religion, Bob Dylan is it.   So deep is my contempt for Mr. Zimmerman that I even reluctantly laugh at the dreadful Simon & Garfunkel parody song : A Simple Desultory Philippic (Or How I Was Robert McNamara’d Into Submission) … enjoyed mostly out of spite.

Over and over again we hear journalists, critics and history revisionists proclaiming the genius of Bob and his lyrics.  But when his career is best know for lines like “Hey mr Tambourine man, play a song for me”, or “Makes loooove just like a woman” or moreso that subtle masterpiece: “Eeeverybody must get stoooned”, how can you even?

David Crosby writes: “the thing about Bringing it all back home was his words, that’s what Bob stunned the world with.  Up until then we had ‘oooh, baby’ and ‘i love you, baby.  Bob changed the map.   He gave us really, really good words.'”   While I realize David and his generation are the centre of their universes, but have they never heard of the Blues? or maybe even Shakespeare?

And what did Bob do to change anything, as the “ooh baby” of the past only morphed into such pop music poetry as Beyonce‘s”I’ve been drinking, I’ve been drinking/I get filthy when that liquor get into me”, and/or we still have lots of “ooh babies” all over today’s radio.

Or was David just mad at Smokey Robinson and his 1965 song “Oooh baby baby” and thinks that pop music should really be about his songs like “Triad” which he uses to justify cheating on his then girlfriend, and then gaslight her and shame into polyamory?  In between his drunk driving, arrests drug and firearm possession, and creating 6 (ooh) babies, David Crosby and that liver that Phil Collins bought for him spend their time critiquing the songwriting ability of Jack White – why has this guy not gotten a Noble Prize too?

Back to Dylan and his “really, really good words”.    Clearly what Crosby is crediting him for is the great evolution of the  pop music term “Baby” into the word “Babe” – freaking genius.

Songs like “It ain’t me babe” or  “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” must have blown the minds of a generation brought up on Ed Sullivan.  A dozen Nobel prizes were due for lyrics like “You will search, babe At any cost /But how long, babe/Can you search for what’s not lost?” – taken from the tuneless out-take “I’ll keep it with mine”, which makes the grand poetic statements for a pre-Velvet Underground Nico, who tellingly after sex vacationing with him in Greece immediately looked up Jim Morrison.   And just when you thought “Babes” were the thing, he tricks you by going back to the word “Baby” on his cromag skull smash hit  “Just like a Woman” (1966).   Clearly, as Crosby says, this is “changing the map” level freaking genius.

And maybe that is it, as other past recipients of the Nobel Prize also “changed maps”: Henry Kissinger, Mikhail Gorbachev, etc.

 

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Masahiko Sato – Belladonna of Sadness Soundtrack (re 2017)

 

satohWho is/was Masahiko Sato? I first came across the work of Masahiko Sato (or Satoh) via Julian Cope’s Japrocksampler book, which  highlighted a list of the best records of the Japanese Psych rock genre, namely #7 was his Ammalgomation  LP.   Credited also to the Soundbreakers it was less of a rock record but more jazz, and it stood out from the Black Sabbath meets John Mayall vibe of the rest of Cope’s list.  Ammalgomation was an interesting record, but I only needed to listen to it once.  Conceptually I loved the tape collage machine gun fire drum beats but only for the first 20 seconds or so, but after 15 minutes I was done… forever.   Incidentally, all those Phoenix reissues of the Japanese psych rock were declared bootlegs and are now banned for sale on Discogs.   Does this mean official versions of Flower Travellin’ Band records are coming out soon?  I hope so.

satoh

 Then I stumbled upon a Toshiyuki Miyama and the new herd‘s record:  Canto of Libra  Reportedly a sequel to another somewhat difficult to find New Herd LP called Canto of Aries.   The cover credits this to : New Herd + M.Sato (aka Masahiko Sato),  unlike the previous Satoh record this LP offers many surprises and actually warrants repeated listening.   Satoh is masterful pianist, and subverts his sound with ring modulator effects. Great low end strings, layers of trumpets and other unidentified instruments, the different parts seem to be recorded in parallel universes.  Strangely cohesive but separate.

bellaFurther down the mysterious rabbit hole there was an amazing Finders Keepers reissue of the soundtrack to Belladonna (aka Belladonna of Sadness), a 1973 film by Eiichi Yamamoto.   Playfully referred to on the hype sticker as an “Italian” soundtrack, with a quote by the eternally respectable Jim O’Rourke (who might be Sato’s contemporary American version).   Not much weirdo free jazz here tho, as we get bachelor pad lounge meets soft psych a al Curt Boettcher.  It plays out like a mix tape, shifting stylistic gears sounding either late sixties pop or distinctly early seventies, and ultimately not unlike that Vampire Lesbos record (a late 90’s downtempo phenomenon which may have originally been released in 1969 as Vampires’ Sound Incorporation‘s‎ Psychedelic Dance Party).   Now I just have to track down a video of this, if only for the rumored flying penises.

 

 

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Sun Ra – Singles Volume 1: Definitive 45s Collection 1952-1961 (2016) and Singles Volume 2: The Definitive 45s Collection 1962-1991 (2017)

 

sra0095696040_10It is a great ,but expensive time to be a Sun Ra fan.  Case in point the recent collections of Sun Ra Singles Volume 1: Definitive 45s Collection 1952-1961 and Singles Volume 2: The Definitive 45s Collection 1962-1991.   Ignore the misnomer of having multiple volumes of a definitive collection, these releases total six exhaustive LPs of somewhat unheard material.  Leave it to an eccentric like Sun Ra to release 30-40 obscure Jazz singles from 1950-onward; an unusual format for the jazz genre as the 7″ format was largely a disposable promo tool for pop, top 40, or rock and roll – whilst Jazz was a serious genre served best by the 12″ record.   But fear not all you serious, bearded, middle age men, he has a lot of those too.

Volume one in this definitive collection series might shed a light on his choice of this format, as many songs veer into Doo Wop territory, assumingly suitable mostly for jukebox and radio play.   It seems he was making an effort to record hit songs, with a sort of just keep throwing stuff against the wall until it sticks philosophy, but time showed it still to be too slippery for general consumption.  The closest he seems to get to a hit single is the cuss filled “Nuclear War”, which won him new fans in the post-punk/pre-alternative, college radio crowd of the eighties, and possibly even more converts when Yo La Tengo covered it in 2002.

While shocking in the amounts of smooth jazz normality and song convention, Volume 1 as  a whole is tedious and uninteresting – the abundance of lame vocals drives my indifference home.   Songs repeats in different versions throughout.   While I am glad to know this era of Sun Ra existed, it is kind of like the Beatles prior to Revolver, I have no time for this pop pap.  *** (3 stars)

Meanwhile Volume 2 is fantastic.  Spacey jazz numbers, electronics, chants, plus an amazing version of what is essentially his other hit song “Rocket number Nine” (originally from 1966’s Interstellar Low Ways) and then re-recorded on Space is the Place (1973), and sampled/re-used by Lady Gaga on “Venus”.   Being definitive part 2 means it is far from perfect as there is no curation nor selection, so even the dreck gets full exposure… the aforementioned “Nuclear War” is there in a tediously long repetitive version, followed by some strange rambling poetry through a loudspeaker tracks (coming across like a failed Shadow Ring record).   Strangely a few of those doowop songs even show up in mutated forms on this volume too, in addition to a song about unmasking the Batman.  ******* (7 stars)

But the question remains:

Is there actually a definite Sun Ra record?  I had spent a large part of recent years giving deep consideration as I make my way casually through Sun Ra’s giant discography.   And so as I continue to search for the best Sun Ra records, I should probably update my previous post with more reviews : https://shelfdwindle.wordpress.com/2016/07/31/sun-ra/

In the meantime I  developed a formula to score the best of a sprawling discography:  (P+J) x (E (B-M)) – (V/C x F) = for a total possible score of 314,159,265

Wherein a definitive Sun Ra record might contain one or more of the 7 elements:

a) lo fi primitive energy (listeners certainly don’t go to Sun ra for high precision chops as they might for say for the soul-less hi-fidelity vacuum of a perfect Miles Davis performance), b) exoticness (good Sun Ra records always have an exotica vibe, not a Hawaii-vacation cocktail schmaltz, but a laid back loungy groove, with ballroom ambience that is mildly tribal in nature), c) Jazz, and obvious element, some listeners come for the groove and solos, d) electronic elements (Sun Ra used moog keyboards early on, but he also introduced spacey effects like delay and feedback),  e) chants (vocals are often my least favorite parts of a Sun Ra record – but I assume some people like this, hence the popularity of his SNL costume ensembles, or 70s Funkadelic-ish records), f) Free Improv (but not too free!) a mild/wild sax/keyboard solo is always grounded in some kind of traditional framework, as is to say there is still humans born of gravity albeit floating in the dark void, or g)  Surprises (good as in Strange Strings, or ungood as in the doo-wop/do-whaap of the aforementioned volume 1).

And so we can insert some kind of spreadsheet, chart with all this data and score all his records into eternity and beyond.    On that chart you would see high scores for My Brother the wind pt. 2 (occasionally unlistenable******), angels and Demons (too predictably diverse*********), and Magic City (too predictably undiverse *******) and low scores for Universe in Blue (ugh***), Bad and Beautiful (blah**), or Super Sonic Jazz (meh***); who is bothering to reissue the mediocre anyways, when there are dozens of really good records?

But Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy  (1967) might be the definitive Sun Ra record – it has all the elements above in perfect balance, but not so perfect as to overshadow the totality.   It fits at a perfect middle point of chronology with greatness and terribleness both behind it and in front of it.  It is hard to write a review on perfection, except to say it has: Bleep, bloop, skronk, chill, whoa, whoosh, ahh and blap.   ********** (ten stars)

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Flaming Lips – Oczy Mlody (2017)

oczyAre the Flaming Lips now so devoid of credibility that I might enjoyably listen to them again?  The short answer is: no.  The long answer is: no, not yet.

The last few records did next to nothing for me.   For years I cringed every time I saw photos of Wayne Coyne in his Hamsterball in mainstream magazines.  But I will shamefully admit  I occasionally find myself enjoying Oczy Mlody as it weaves further inwards with smooth electronic keyboards as if to channel Steely Dan , or at worst to coldly parody synthpop of Still Corners or Alison Wonderland.  The Reggie Watts spoken word segment is abysmal but forgivable, but then the record completely tanks at the wanky bass solo near the end of side one.   Things pick up again on side two, with aSoft Bulletin formulaic piece “the Castle”  but when that record already exists, what’s the point of more?

The prominence of synths and drum machines on this record is an interesting development but a terribly predictable one.  Keyboards showed up on darker albums like the John Carpenter-isms found within the Terror (2013), or on the rough around the edges Silver Apples vibe from the often brilliant Embryonic (2009), but now with Oczy Mlody we are left with few blatant but decent references, just a low end thump and the empty pop of Miley Cyrus as a reference point.  There is a cold childishness that defines this record – but it lacks any exuberance; kind of like when you take more Ecstasy not because you have any serotonin left inside you, but just cuz there is nothing better to do this weekend.

And so Oczy Mlody combined with its fake live album companion Onboard The International Space Station Concert For Peace, suggests something in the band is about to break.  Hopefully badly.   There are so many reasons to hate the Flaming Lips these days:  infidelity controversies, a racist drummer, festival overexposure, a desperate christmas record, a confetti crowd surfing excuses for performance,  a failed out-takes LP disguised as the Electric Werms,  a waste of time movie, but the most disturbing of all is the ongoing heroin-on-a-stick dangled in front of their highly functioning musical addict Steven Drozd.

But I cannot help but hope if their popularity could only wane far enough, perhaps a glorious rebirth will occur.  I fear not though, as they probably have their investment portfolios all in order and they will never be hungry enough to be relevant again.

 

 

 

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Boutique Record Stores

As part of this decade’s vinyl renaissance, we have seen the rise of a new breed of shop: the boutique record store.  Generally these are popping up in odd urban spaces often low rent, soon to be gentrified neighbourhoods, featuring small inventories of overpriced records of varying quality.   A strange byproduct of this boutique record shop phenomenon is the general rise in value of what were once common thrift store records, elevating prices of  the Miami Vice soundtrack to Steely Dan levels.

Don’t confuse these boutiques with your regular independent record store, as I did on a uncomfortable experience at one such un-named shop.   I hesitate on writing a less than flattering post about a subculture I love, but my experience was so confusingly compelling on that day when I tried to trade in some records for store credit; trading in records is an inevitable situation most music nerds find themselves in, eventually your collection gets too big, and there is stuff you haven’t listen to for years, so you trade in a bunch in for store credit, but ultimately end up spending more money and having evermore too many records.   Mostly I visit a couple record stores to deal with owners I trust, but every once in a while I try to branch out my searches at new stores.

Rewind back to last week, when I stopped into a little boutique record store that had been recommended to me.   It is closed on Mondays and also seems to shut early on the random days.   I don’t go into the big city very often,  but one day I happened to see it: OPEN!   BUY SELL AND TRADE! Great, I had about 15 minutes to look around and I picked out a kind of beat up, ex-library Bollywood record for $30 – I chatted to the owner about Polish free jazz, scarcity of Fall pressings, and prog rock, & I asked if he would be interested in seeing any of the records I had in the car for a trade – he takes a look at the pile and picks out 2 records (Fela Kuti and Husker Du) and offers me $20 in trade.  (Sure – sounds fine, the rest of the stuff is indie rock and not really what he stocks… the Fela Kuti record still has the shrink and “new” price sticker on it for $24.99).   Decent enough transaction, despite the Bollywood record being overpriced for the iffy condition but great thanks, bye!  At best, these little record stores can help nurture a community, and herein I thought perhaps was such a place.

Fast forward to today, I had the day off and thought “Ok, now that I know what his store specializes in, I will bring in some relevant (African, Post-Punk, Avant Garde, and Prog) records to trade.   So pack up a bunch of records and head on down to his shop… he takes a quick look and see his eyes light up: “Master Drummers of Dagbon, I have this at home!  I love this record!”   “Bridgette Fontaine, and a Japanese pressing… cool! …I just sold one of her records to a friend and he was really happy with it.”  “The Fall! great… I..ummm…”  Pause.  At this point I don’t think he had meant to lose his composure, as he suddenly gets a very serious tone and furrows his brow: “Oh….whatever…. I stocked their original records but nobody ever seems to buy the ones I have.”   Having heard the opposite story last time, I knowingly glance away and try to joke that while the Fall may have like 30+ records but only 20-25 of them are totally essential.

I look around the shop’s Rare Groove sections for a bit as he scrambles to price everything out using Discogs on his smartphone (btw, he also sells records in his online store  – we will get to that later…), when I noticed him looking up prices I was smiling a little inside because I knew there was a couple African records in that pile that were so rare that they had no discogs entry – I was curious to know how he would handle that.   The store was hot and he was sweating profusely as I awaited his calculations while casually browsing.  He was clearly struggling, time dragged on, and to show some compassion I suggested I would leave, go get some lunch and come back in a couple hours to shop more.  Relieved he said “Yes, come back later and I will have a total for you.”

When I returned a couple hours later he started to complain of an inner ear issue.   I asked if he was okay and needed anything, he said he didn’t… Okay.

“So, I am prepared to offer you…40 dollars.”

I imagine I looked bewildered, because he then turned red and looked embarrassed.    “$40? ” I said. “That seems a little low.”   I looked at the pile of ten records I had brought in behind his counter and thought I would be better off keeping them at if they are only fetching 4 dollars a piece.

“I think I have offended you. Let me recalculate”.

While I waited for him to re-calculate I flipped through the new arrivals and found the same Fela Kuti reissue I had traded in last week – I purposefully pulled it out knowing that he-knew-that-I-knew what is was:  he had put a “new” price tag on it for $29.99!  Huh?  I had bought it new for $24.99 – had traded it in with the shrink wrap and original price sticker still on it… he had taken that old sticker off and was now selling it for a higher price!   Oh my,  I thought to myself, this is going to be interesting.

“This Fall record is worth nothing”  he grumbles.

“Really?”

“It’s like only worth 4 dollars at best”

“Oh.  You mean you’d sell it for $4 in your store?”  casting my eyes over to the $100 David Bowie bootleg on the wall.

“Oh, but I’d never sell it for that price!”

Confused, I continued flipping through the new arrivals bin, noticing the lowest priced items he had in there were thrift store type Exotica records for $7.99, while Neil Young ‘s Harvest was priced at $29.99. Whoa.

His next target was a rare Stockhausen record I brought in: with a scowl he says “So this Stockhausen, but it isn’t even like Electronic music?”

For the record, though he has vast discography Stockhausen only has a few “electronic” records, but I reply respectfully “Much of his early stuff was for just piano and orchestra”.   I initially thought he was interested in the subject, so I mentioned some more early Stockhausen trivia to no response…  but I realize later this was a veiled attempt to put down the record and make me feel like it was a worthless piece of plastic.

It didn’t clue in to me because I knew the record’s value – despite him roughly putting it onto his in-store turntable and yelling “No-one will buy this!  It sounds like is like nothing on it!” then repeatedly dropping the needle in random places of quiet abstract piano passages.    I think to myself “Is that how he treats records he hasn’t paid for yet?”    But I felt confident in the quality of these records and resigned to forgivingly ignore his crass negotiation tactics.

At his point I was cringing as he appeared to be on the verge of destroying my record, I suggested maybe I should keep both the Stockhausen and Fall record and let me know what kind of trade I could get for the rest.   I extend my hand and he says: “Wait a sec, wait.”

His next target is the New Phonic Art record, where he promptly insults with:  “I bet this is this one of those records by people who can play instruments really well, but all they do is make farting noises!”

I uncomfortably smile and reply: “Yes, I think they call that Improv.”

I really thought he was kidding (spying a used Sun Ra Nubians of Plutonia reissue on the wall selling for $25 – I assumed his non-joke was funny because he overly values jazz records), but later realized he was trying to insult the record so I would give it to him for next to nothing (see argument #1 below).   Don’t get me wrong, I know times are tough economically and stores have rent to pay, so I am willing to forgive a little hustle in the process of making a deal, but this just felt abusive.

Same process with the other records as he manhandled them on his turntable, now making me realize why would I ever buy records from a guy who treats not only his own record stock, but other people’s records so roughly?

He then tells me that the guy that owned a record store on Salt Spring Island record sold his business, but secretly took all the Jazz records without the new owners knowing, and then had sold them to him… “And you bought them knowing this?”  I wondered, thus cementing his reputation with me.

I managed to collect the “worthless” Fall record from his counter but he was still holding all the rest back.  He comes back again with a surprising new total for store credit (now minus the Fall record)… $40!   Huh?

BUT now he has two more arguments:

Argument #1:

“Most people bring in a box of stuff and there are only like 2 records I can really use.” He is holding up my Fela Kuti record and a strange Japanese press of an African record, he stated he had listened to this during the two hours I was away from his shop, all the while  flipping it over and over again, examining it carefully and holding back a smile.

He looks at me and says: “You know most people just give me the rest of the box and I sell their junk in the bargain bin or take it straight to the thrift store for them.”

“So then do you want to pick out the ones you can really use then?” I ask.

“Well, I can only use this one.”

“So, how much for just that one record then?”

(Ignoring me) “…but then there is this one, and this thing, and then this one… such interesting stuff, but I could never sell them in here.”

“So how much?”  I think he wanted all those records for the price of one.  He had obviously looked up all their online value and wasn’t giving up by giving any back… which leads us into his…

Argument #2:

“I could never sell these sorts of records around here, they are sorta worthless here.  If it was in Vancouver no problem!”

I earnestly reply: “Really? I should take these into Vancouver?  That is probably a good idea!  Like maybe Red Cat or … ”

Note: I was actually being sincere here, but in hindsight I doubt it came across this way  as he shots me a grumpy scowl.   When I get home later I learn, while it may be true that he has a hard time selling interesting records in that little shop,  he does actively sell tonnes of prog, jazz, world, avant-garde and rock records online through Discogs under a different name than his storefront (he charges in American funds, and adds Canadian taxes –  even an extra and mysterious 5%”tax” on all international orders!), so really that “worthless around here” argument was totally an attempt to swindle me.    Not cool.

A few times I say “I am probably better off just keeping these” and extend my hand to get them back, but he just won’t let them go.

“I. am. going. to. pack. these. up. and. go. now.” and just reach across the counter to start packing my records up –  I am trying not to say anything in response to his continued insulting hustle.  As I go out the door, he hollers back: “You probably won’t, but I hope you will come back one day.”   Huh? Creepy.

Epilogue part 1 : Dear record store owner, For the sake of this post,  I went home and priced out the records I brought to you in that day on Discogs (conservatively graded and based on the previous sales and omitting the 2 rare LPs with no entries) and those online sales would have totalled between $180.00 to $392.00 ( Bear in mind that is in American funds, so if you converted the $40 in Canadian currency you had offered me in your store credit, it would equal $30.79 US. meaning for stuff he “couldn’t sell here” but if sold online would have cleared a profit between $149.21 to $361.21 US.)

 

Epilogue part 2:  My favorite part of the story comes in the form of this text three hours later: “Stephen, it’s ______ from _______.     Scott____ passed me your #.  Please accept my apologies, I really low balled you on those LPs.   Trade value should have been much higher, perhaps even double.   I have a fever from this inner ear infection, it must be affecting me today.   Anyhow again, I’m sorry about that.”

Whoa stalker! Your integrity should have been much higher, perhaps even double.    So he remembered I mentioned last week that my out of town friend had recommended his shop, so this week he calls some other dude named Scott, who then gets my phone number from our mutual friend, so he can then text me this sweet apology/medical explanation.  How do you even respond to this?

 

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10 favorite things of 2017

Last year I rambled on about year-end lists and/or hating music, so much so that I swore I would not write another such list for a blog that almost nobody reads.  But having said that, I really did enjoy a few things this year:

#10 “Velo” by Four Winds brewery was the best drink of the summer and the best thing in cans.   You would be correct to think a salted lemony beer is a horrible idea, but it wasn’t.   It made those tedious days sitting outside in the sun barely tolerable.

#9 Nino Nardini: ‎“Musique Pour Le Futur” (WRWTFWW 2017).  a reissue of the almost unavailable 1970 experimental French record.    It has a glow in the dark silk screened cover from my favorite Swiss record label whose beauty was matched only by the spacey electronic musique concrete pressed into the grooves – if I had watched the eclipse earlier this year I would have chosen this as the soundtrack.

#8 Ennio Morricone‘s Un Uomo Da Rispettare (Superior Viaduct reissue 2017) the updated cover design pictures Kirk Douglas looking like molten aluminum, and the soundtracks runs through a bunch of dark jazzy suspense themes.   Tense but beautiful, kind of like a cab ride through a dystopian urban future.

#7 Fieldhouse brewing “Dark Saison” (subtitled Sour Fennel and Hyssop Farmhouse) the best thing I drank all year.  Complex, fruity, sour.   I have tried a number of the Fieldhouse products since and none of them are even half as good as this was.

#6 Advance Wars (2001), for the Game Boy advance – when you move out of your house and put everything into storage and then live in an old abandoned house on your girlfriend’s parent’s property, you are grateful for any obsolete, battery powered, non-wifi electronic distraction –  also playing Dr Mario, Rampage Puzzle Attack and Bookworm on the gameboy were how I spent those four months in limbo, but this game was the best of the bunch.

#5 New Kingdom – Paradise don’t come cheap, (Gee Street 1996).   My favorite hip-hop record of all time was not re-issued, but 21 years later I finally found myself an original vinyl copy.   If you don’t know it, think Cypress Hill meets Killdozer at 16 RPM.  One day the future world dwellers will discover how brilliant this hazy piece of non-ganster, golden age hip hop is. ( https://youtu.be/JhaqZEfbHGs )

#4, #3, #2  Lee Hazlewood: Forty, Cowboy and the Lady, and Requiem for an almost Lady (2017).  Those three Lee Hazlewood reissues on Light in the Attic are all so great.  Why anyone ever dissed the Ann Margaret collaboration is beyond me?  Sure, Nancy Sinatra was an irreplaceable fox, but Ann Margaret is pretty great in her own right.   I love Lee’s grand showbiz/showtune aspiring songs delivered with a tight budgeted rock fervor.  I imagine this is what old fat Elvis would have sounded like if he worked with old fat Rick Rubin.  I might have reserved a 3,4, or 5 spot for (or at least given honorable mention) to other reissues like Lucio Battisti or those Califone LPs, but they all turn to meh in Lee’s shadow.

#1 Alice Coltrane : The Ecstatic Music Of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda (Luaka Bop 2017), not quite a reissue, unless it really did get released on a new age cassette in the 80’s, regardless this music is phenomenal.  Electronic spiritual trance jazz.   I am a huge fan of all her work, but tend to be disappointed by anything after her 1971 Journey into Satchidananda LP, so this “unreleased” gem came as a total surprise, it might be my second or third favorite of her entire discography.  I love David Byrne more than ever now.

 

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Yoko Ono – Fly, 1971 (reissue 2017)

There was a pile of recently reissued Yoko Ono albums released on Secretly Canadian this year, which were received with a mix of  joy and apprehension.    I had been searching in vain for a copy of Fly for about 15 years, after I reluctantly passed up on a copy at a little used record store.   I only had so much money that sad day and I thought I needed to buy some underground hip-hop records that would go out of print – whether in hindsight this was a blessing or a mistake remained unresolved until a reissue of Fly appeared in the new bins at my local shop three weeks ago.

First scanning the back to make sure it wasn’t a dodgy “4 Men with Beards” product – I snapped it up without a consideration to the price.   It features a nice gatefold sleeve, poster and white vinyl pressing with a defiantly grapefruit label design.  Great package.

I’ve been slowly playing one side of this record per day for about three weeks now.  So much so my partner told me this morning that she could put up with 6 months of only listening to the Fall, but will not put up with 6 months of Yoko:  Then she said: “I like her as a visual artist, but her…”

(Interrupted mid-disclaimer)

“Yeeyeeyeeeyeeeyeyeyeeeyeee!!”

(a strange yodel shriek leapt from the speaker)

“Oh, Come on! See what I mean?”

And while I agree somewhat with her statement/review, there is actually a lot to enjoy on this record.  Each side presents a different side of “Yoko the musician” – from her John Lennon associated rock and roll on side A (interestingly much of the record was recorded simultaneously to Imagine and features Ringo Starr, Klaus Voorman, etc.),* to the avant garde tracks composed on custom Fluxus instruments (bringing to mind Harry Partch)then almost proto electronic ambient music (the aptly named track “Fly” is just that, a buzzing fly vocally interpolated by Yoko for about 22 minutes).  As a whole, it is a strange but occasionally very listenable record, one that lands somewhere between Can‘s Tago Mago and the No-Neck Blues Band‘s Intonomancy.  

And while those comparisons are two bands I adore, I am not sure it is anywhere near as good as either.   This record is certainly better than her later efforts like feeling the space or Double Fantasy… so when my partner is not home I am going to keep  listening to this record because I feel like there is still something wonderful waiting to be found.

end note:

*I still like to insist that Yoko broke up the Beatles, if only for the irony that Love might have destroyed them, especially in an age where baby boomers have proven time and time again that all you need is greed.

 

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