Thursday, July 02, 2020

What's in a number?

I went cruising in the car yesterday. No, not doing that! I was looking for charity shops with an open door. Yes, I really really wanted to dig. And I found one! And I bought some records too! Get the bunting out.

It did feel a bit strange, as I walked up to the boxes of records – reassuringly in the same place as always - I wondered if I was just supposed to gaze at them from a distance of two metres? I felt like I was being a bit naughty as I dug in. I was almost waiting for a tap on the shoulder and a voice saying “should you really be doing that, sir?”. I mean, all this riffling through records, picking the occasional one up for a closer look. Can this be safe? The feeling soon eased as I found some records that were worth a punt!

This particular chain of charity shops always puts a week number on the price sticker, so you know how long it has been in the shop. Which can be quite helpful. My first post-lockdown real world find (presented to you here) had week number 4 on it meaning it was first put on the floor in late January. So it was a pre-lockdown veteran, it's charity shop life had entailed being passed over by I don't know how many diggers for about seven weeks, and then being hunkered down it its box - with the likes of Mozart and Johnny Cash for company - in an eerie silence for the last three months or so. As such it was sort of comforting to know that it would certainly be virus free. Or would it? When did this shop re-open? And it was three in the afternoon – how many, potentially infected, diggers had already riffled through it or, perish the thought, sneezed on the whole box of records it was sat in?! I couldn't resist a dip into the pocket for a reassuring touch of my own personal mini bottle of hand sanitiser.

Madness ultimately results from such thoughts of course. So. allowing the paranoia to take a back seat for a moment, let's talk about the record I found. First things first, it is probably quite rare, but rare doesn't always mean valuable. I am sure this album will never be described as a “holy grail”, and it will never grace the wall of a record shop. I was attracted to it because a) I had never seen a copy of it before; and b) it was obviously some form of jazz record; c) it had a rather nice multi page gatefold sleeve; and d) it was in great nick. Simple pleasures.

The sleeve contains extensive details by way of a track by track personnel breakdown and there are some notes too (with some slightly inaccurate English spellings resulting from what was evidently a “home made” translation from Dutch). From all this I got the distinct impression this was most probably going to be trad or swing jazz. Not my favourite jazz landscapes, but my hopes were raised somewhat as I read the words “[the group's] enthousiasm [sic] made it possible to 'cut in wax' this diversity of songs and styles”. That was the clincher, into the buy pile it went. A little nugget or two of something more adventurous in the jazz world may lie in the grooves, I thought.

Alas no. Zenja Damm and the various band ensembles here give us fairly faithful reproductions of early jazz idioms throughout, with a blues touch here and there. So, nothing arresting, but no matter, the bands are very competent, Zenja Damm sings well, and the whole thing swings well. The sleeve notes tell me it was recorded in Holland, January 3-10 1979.

Looking at the back cover I think the charity shop staff have actually gone the extra mile with this particular record. It looks to me like they have given Madam Zenja a face mask to wear (she is, of course, just “wearing” .. er .. wear), and have also allowed her to venture into a pretty (if rather chilly) park, but reminded her she needed to do some serious social distancing.

As you can see as I walked down the road clutching my purchases and the daylight shone on the front cover this caused Madam Zenja to awake and ask “Was It A Dream?”

The other records I found have week number 27 written on the price sticker, meaning they were fresh stock. A completely different kettle of fish from a virus potential point of view (and musically too as it happens). Had they had the 72 hours lay over treatment as the charity shops have promised? Who knows? I think for my protection and yours it is best I do not speak of them further right now. They will spend a few days in a hastily dug hole at the bottom of the garden and I will reveal them in my next post.

Zenja Damm with Wik's Big Band – Stop, You're Breaking My Heart 1979

Zenja Damm with Wik's Big Band – I'm Pulling Through  1979

Monday, June 15, 2020

R.I.P. Bonnie Pointer

Over the weekend I caught up with the news that Bonnie Pointer passed away last Monday.

She was just 69, another one leaves us much too young.

This is a bit spooky really. Only about two weeks ago I pulled out her debut solo album from the collection and gave it a spin. Since then she has been sat on a chair next to the turntable looking at me. I think I better put her back into the file again, next to her sisters, where she may gain some comfort.

I have always been a big fan of the Pointer Sisters, especially their 70s albums, when Bonnie, Anita, June and Ruth were all together. It seems Bonnie made the wrong move going solo in 1978, it was not long after that her sisters really hit paydirt with a string of more commercial songs that were big hits – Automatic, Slow Hand, etc. After signing Bonnie, Motown didn't seem to pull out the stops for her. Only two albums appeared and both contained versions of many old Motown songs, the second album being almost full of them. Her first album – the “Red album” (the one pictured here) - was the better of the two I think. It seemed to be very much an album of two halves. Side one was upbeat, production heavy, and aimed at the dancefloor. Side two on the other hand was much more stripped back and reflective and much to my liking, and I wonder if this was the true Bonnie trying to make her mark?

Here is a track from that side:

Bonnie Pointer – I Wanna Make It In Your World 1978

And here, from 1974 when she was together with her sisters, is Bonnie singing (live) Black Coffee, which appeared on The Pointer Sisters album That's A Plenty

Rest in Peace Patricia Eva “Bonnie” Pointer (July 11th, 1950 – June 8th 2020)

Saturday, June 13, 2020

The bubbles are forming

For all of you in your little bubbles tonight.

This was just about the last record I bought in a charity shop, back in March, seemingly a lifetime ago now.  

Saturday, June 06, 2020

Stop! My Soul boxes need more love

Listening to a a mix/radio show on Mixcloud the other day this a jumped out. I thought: I've got this. A dive into the Soul boxes confirmed the thought.

This is such a great record. I've definitely had this in the collection for at least twelve years now, probably longer. My immediate thought was that it would have been one of my earlier ebay purchases, but then in the back of mind something is telling me this may have been a real world purchase that went back quite a long time. Whatever, it has languished in the boxes unplayed for far too long. As have so many others. Why do I keep pursuing more records when I have so many great ones like this already?

Playing it again after so long on my system – and really listening - I was struck by the real quality of the musicianship behind Howard Tate's great vocal. It sent me onto Google to do a bit of research . Howard had a run of consistently solid singles released on Verve in latter half of the 60s, and I have a few of these. They were produced by Jerry Ragavoy who used a number of New York session musicians including Paul Griffin, Chuck Rainey, Richard Tee, Eric Gale and Herb Lovell. Some familiar names to me there – Rainey, Tee, Gale at least – those names must adorn the back sleeves of a significant number of jazz-funk albums in my collection, as well as some in other genres too. All those albums would have been recorded in the 70s and into the 80s, when these guys were really go to session musicians. And that would have been when I first became aware of them; I hadn't previously explored their careers to understand they went back further. Now this has me wondering how many other singles in my collection they are playing on.

I did know the basics of Howard Tate's life story, very much one of ups and downs, but it was good to get a refresher here.

The bass guitar was one instrument which leapt out of the speakers at me when I played this single, so that was most probably Chuck Rainey playing. I've learned something today.

This little episode has also taught me my Soul boxes need more love. I don't need a reason to do that but of course there is a simple one staring me in the face anyway – dig 'em out and share 'em here. After all, it's not as if I don't have the time. Could I be organised and dedicated enough to do that? Hmmm.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

In our lifetime?

It feels like we've stepped back in time, to the 1960s. A rocket went into space and it made the news. But that was just happenstance. What really makes it feel like we've gone backwards is another event – George Floyd's awful murder, and the resulting protests that are happening across America - and the world. It seems like a lot has changed in the last fifty odd years but nothing has changed. I have always found it difficult to believe that in my early lifetime segregation still existed in America, and horrendous acts of racism seemed commonplace (not only in America I'm sure, but it was supposed to be the land of the free, democratic, a seemingly advanced and developed country, so that makes it all the more difficult to understand). 

In 1970 Syl Johnson released his album It It Because I'm Black. On that album was a track written by bassist Bernard Reed – Together, Forever. The book Move On Up: Chicago Soul Music and Black Cultural Power (Aaron Cohen) tells us that Bernard wrote the song after an incident on a Michigan Avenue bus where, while travelling with members of the band Pieces Of Peace, he was accused by a white passenger of being a thug. Bernard chose to write a song of hope. I wonder if Bernard's hope has run out yet. Fifty years and counting, I think we still have a way to go. 

Friday, May 29, 2020

Scratching my itch

Once I had completed my project to document the 12” single collection on 45Worlds the obvious next step was to address the 7 inchers. Over the years I have made good inroads in documenting those on 45cat, but there were random boxes and piles still to do, so that has kept me busy in the last week or so and that task is now just about complete – until I come across another pile of little ones I had forgetten about in some cupboard somewhere! As of today my 45cat collection stats tell me I have 2703 little ones.

This process had me digging into the furthest recesses of the collection, which served to scratch an itch that had developed. Our lockdown has, like most of us I guess, eased a little in recent days. We have been reacquainting ourselves with the car for instance. Driving again takes me past charity shops. Closed still, of course, but that started my itch for them, and car boots, to be reopened. It seems charity shops will be opening again by the end of June, but quite what the experience will be like I am not sure. The charity shop sector hopes that with not much else to do in the last couple of months we have all been sorting stuff out and decluttering, which in turn will lead to an avalanche of donations. I can dream of lots of fresh vinyl stock to riffle through. But hang on, it sounds like browsing will be actively discouraged in our new Covid-19 aware new normal, so am I to be expected to buy that little stack of vinyl in that crate tucked under the size 16 skirts and partially obscured by some natty looking home crocheted cushions BLIND?

Hmm, my itch eased a little with that thought. It was however eased some more by the discovery the other day of this wallet of sleeveless, and scratchy, records I found in one of the bedroom cupboards. 

I had forgotten I had these records, which I would have found over the years at car boots and in charity shops. So it was almost like a charity shop dig and has scratched my itch – for the moment anyway.

There is nothing spectacular in this wallet, at the same time I think its contents must be the result of a previous sort, of sorts, I must have made some years ago as it also contains no rubbish. As I said all a bit scratchy, but nice records to own in any event, mostly 60s a mix of soul and beat. It reminds me that it is a few years now since I have turned up records like these with any regularity out in the wild.

Here is a nice piece of blue eyed soul from the late Sixties. I could have used an Audacity tool to remove a lot of the surface noise – this is a mono recording I believe, but I notice the pops and clicks are in stereo :) - but I thought to make sure the itch stays scratched a little longer the scratches should remain.

Tony And Tandy – The Bitter With The Sweet 1969

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Tapping My Feet #19

Mrs Darce is thankfully almost fully recovered from what we assume was a dose of this dreaded virus. She was wiped out for three weeks and says it was the most ill she has ever felt. She has managed a few walks over the last few days, but is still pretty pooped afterwards. As I mentioned here (twelve days ago now) I also wasn't feeling too good. Fortunately my symptoms didn't develop and after four days I was feeling OK again and have been since. I did manage to get a test in the end, although by the time I took it (a week ago now) it was six days after I had first shown symptoms and I was back to feeling fine. I did test positive though. So I think we can safely assume Mrs Darce was also positive, and I would appear to have got off very lightly. I would like to think we now have some immunity, but you just don't know.

The cataloguing of my 12” singles collection is now complete (at least until I buy another one!). 45 Worlds tells me I have 411 of them. I finished this task a few days ago and I am missing it already. I shouldn't need a reason to interact with the various nooks and crannies of my record collection but somehow that was the way it was with my 12s. Lots of memories were stirred and it was great to be immersed in so much feel good music. It has always annoyed me that bandwagon jumpers gave Disco a bad name. There was so much great music that came out of the Disco era, tightly produced, beautifully arranged. And it was uplifting, carefree, joyous, celebratory music - and we could certainly do with some now in these strange times. Dance your troubles away.

The cataloguing exercise has confirmed something I already knew - I bought a lot of 12” singles, particularly in 1979 and 1980. Here's one...