Friday, August 28, 2009

A gourmet meal at the pasting table

This year I have quickly become a regular visitor to car boot sales in search of vinyl. Why I didn’t get into this habit years ago I have no idea. It’s got a lot going for it – the vinyl of course, but also the fresh (and often country) air, and it gets me up early on a Sunday morning. In fact I’m in trouble again with Mrs Darce as I am now setting the alarm clock on Sunday mornings. On the working days of the week Mrs Darce will naturally get up earlier than me, whereas I am an owl and always need an alarm clock to get me up. The first time the alarm went off on a Sunday for an early morning “boot” she automatically got out of bed in a panic thinking she had overslept and it was time for work. It is fair to say I was not popular when she realized her favourite lie in day had been disturbed!

Thanks to these boot sales I find I am now buying records faster than I can listen to them. I’m doing a very good job of catching up on all the albums that were on my wish lists in the 70s (and, to a lesser extent, 80s) but never quite reached the top. A lot of these fall into the general pop/rock category. But of course I’m also on the lookout for tasty soul, funk, and reggae.

For example my haul from a couple of weeks ago was fairly typical:
Rod Stewart – Never A Dull Moment (LP, with inscrutable sleeve in mint condition)
Kate Bush – Never For Ever (LP)
The Style Council – Café Bleu (LP)
Nina Simone – 1982 Charly compilation (LP)
Long John Baldry – Let The Heartaches Begin (LP)
The Equals – Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys (President 45)
Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band – Hi! (UK Piccadilly mono EP)

(total outlay £6)

Last Saturday’s haul, however, was a bit different. I spent a miserly £2.50 and only bought four records, but it was definitely a case of quality not quantity!

An O’Jays 45 from 1975 pairing “Give The People What They Want” with “What Am I Waiting For” proved to be a good honest starter. Both sides prepared to perfection.

By way of a pallet freshener I settled on David Sylvian’s “Brilliant Trees” album, his first after separating from Japan in the mid 80s. This turned out to be the only record on the menu that wasn’t black orientated. I don’t really know what genre you would place David Sylvian’s music in. I’ll just call it beautiful – in a bleak and windswept sort of way.

At the same time I chose the wine to go with my anticipated main course. A perfect accompaniment to fine food is a good glass of red wine and would you believe it for 75p I found an album called “Red Red Wine”. The cover of the album looked like it had been designed by a five year old on their first excursion with PhotoShop! Except that PhotoShop hadn’t been invented in 1969 when this album was released. The Trojan logo and the tracklisting on the back cover pointed to the fact there was obviously reggae of some form in the grooves. Tony Tribes’s original reggae version of “Red Red Wine” was listed, and most of the other tracks were credited to Dandy or Audrey. I guessed, correctly as it turns out, that Dandy was Dandy Livingstone and a bit of research has now told me that Audrey is Audrey Hall. The record itself is good quality heavy vinyl, typical of UK releases of the time and the label – Downtown – was one of a number of Trojan offshoots started in the sixties. The whole album is wonderful – the unmistakable sound of sixties reggae. Most tracks are covers, including Audrey Hall’s cover of the great Barbara Lynn’s “You’ll Lose A Good Thing”. All in all, a fine vintage.

Now for the main course. I have to say I struggled a bit with the menu at this point. In front of me on the edge of a pasting table were three piles of 45s. As I looked through the first pile there was nothing that caught my imagination. The second pile proved no better and the way they were stacked made it difficult to look through them easily. My appetite was waning, maybe it wasn’t worth looking through the final pile. But then I thought – “What am I here for? And the third pile is a bit smaller. And what I have seen so far hasn’t been totally predictable, just not in any way mouth watering”. So I carried on and there, in the middle of the pile, I found the perfect platter. I knew the track (thanks I think to Scholar from one of his older posts), I love the track, I have it on mp3, so in a way you could say I had already savoured the aromas of it cooking. But here it was in my hands, the prefect main course. And it had an extra bit of spice, because I thought this track had only ever existed on a US released album. But here it was in 45 form, and on a UK label that I had never heard of before! A record so rare it’s blue? And it was on the menu for only 50p! So it is that I have been gorging myself ever since (with no hint of indigestion) on Kellee Paterson’s (sic) sumptuous take on Barry White’s “I’m Gonna Love You A Little More Baby”.
(I have now learnt that this did get a US 45 issue - on Shadybrook, and that there is at least one other copy of the UK Mint release in circulation as Manship has one for sale at £100! – I’m happy!).

I’m off for a post prandial nap!

The starter:

The O'Jays - Give The People What They Want 1975

The main course:

Kellee Patterson - I'm Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby 1976

The wine:

Audrey (Hall) - You'll Lose A Good Thing 1969

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Heads or tails, here and there

I have learnt to accept that the majority of vinyl hunting visits to charity shops will yield nothing as an end result. There is enjoyment to be gained nevertheless - both in the anticipation of what may be found next time, and from the buzz that occurs when actually riffling through the records in the shop (yes, that’s an addict talking). In my case that buzz, of course, momentarily goes off the scale when amongst all the Mantovani, Jim Reeves, Paul Young, and Top Of The Pops comps I actually find a proper soul - or funk, or reggae, or jazz - record. (I’m sure diggers in the USA will come across such genres more regularly, but from my experience I can say that UK charity shops too often are a metaphorical Sahara as far as “black music” is concerned).

The other day looking through the records in one of my favourite haunts (not a lot of vinyl, but all the albums seem to be only 49p, and I’ve had some good finds in the past) I experienced that special frisson of excitement as my eyes alighted on the name Wilson Pickett. Then I studied the front cover and had second thoughts – this looks like a late seventies album, years after Pickett’s hey day, late seventies = disco, this has all the makings of a mundane affair. Then I turned it over to study the back cover. The buzz returned: I read the magic words “recorded at Fame Recording Studios, Muscle Shoals, Alabama”, and I noticed side one track three was entitled “The Night We Called It A Day” – with a title like that the track just had to be good.

So, head or tails? A definite tails. (You may well ask - at 49p what was my dilemma anyway?!)

And what is the album like? Well it is late seventies (1978) and some tracks do have a distinct disco leaning. But Wilson Pickett is in fine form, his voice undimmed, and the quality of the musicianship and arrangements shine through. And what about “The Night We Called It A Day”? Well, listen for yourself, I think I was right.

Wilson Pickett – The Night We Called It A Day 1978
(from the album “A Funky Situation”)

As an aside, whilst I was searching the Internet for more info on this album and the writers of the “Night” track (Feldman & Grazier) I came across another song with the same title and these lyrics:

There was a moon out in space
But a cloud drifted over its face
You kissed me and went on your way
The night we called it a day

I heard the song of the spheres
Like a minor lament in my ears
I hadn't the heart left to pray
The night we called it a day

Soft through the dark
The hoot of an owl in the sky
Sad though his song
No bluer was he than I

The moon went down stars were gone
But the sun didn't rise with the dawn
There wasn't a thing left to say
The night we called it a day

There wasn't a thing left to say

The night we called it a day

Written by Tom Adair that is something special, isn’t it? The song was originally performed by Jo Stafford and The Pied Pipers with the Dorsey Band in 1942. More recently Frank Sinatra, Jo Stafford(solo) and Diana Krall have also recorded versions. I thought I might find it on YouTube, but no. There are plenty of other Jo Stafford tracks on YouTube though. She was famous before my time but I knew the name, and maybe I have heard some of her songs before (most probably on Parky’s old Radio 2 show). I think I need to hear more now, she had a beautiful voice.

From Wilson Pickett to Jo Stafford – just another average day in the life of a committed vinyl hunter and internet trawler.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Beam me up

Over two weeks since my last post. That’s a long time, even by my standards. I’ve been around all the time, except that it feels like I’ve been on another planet. A planet that exists in a highly contagious cyberspace, is in total darkness, and is covered in laminate flooring!

I’ll explain the flooring first. That was a DIY project to lay a laminate floor in our daughter’s bedroom. Emptying the room was a major logistical exercise to begin with – our daughter is a hoarder (takes after me, then) and scattering her belongings all over the house to reveal the floor was like a game of Tetris on a giant scale. It’s the first time we have attempted to lay laminate and, well, let’s just say it didn’t start well. Rubber mallet and expletives flying through the air, it was al going on, or, more precisely all going “Pete Tong”. However, Mrs Darce proved to be a calming influence – as usual – and so in the end it all turned out rather well – even if I do say so myself.

While this “major” project was going on our daughter’s laptop got a virus and then, a few days later, our son’s laptop presented a “black screen of death”. I count myself lucky that so far I have encountered very little trouble with our home PCs. Until now that is. It is unbelievable how much time computer problems can take to sort out. Both machines are up and running again now thankfully, although the inbuilt wireless network card in our daughter’s laptop doesn’t want to play ball anymore.

I thought, with Vista, the dreaded “blue screen of death” was a thing of the past. Well I suppose it is but I now know it has been replaced by something altogether more sinister – the “black screen of death” (BSOD for blue KSOD for black I have learnt). This KSOD appeared to have been caused by, of all things, a Windows Update – thankyou Microsoft! (And we were not alone, we knew two other people who experienced it on the same day). A KSOD leaves you with no clue as to what is going on – all you have is a black screen and a cursor that you can move around - and restores don’t work. Aaaagh. After a lot of research, and finally some inspired straw clutching, I at least managed to run Notepad of all things (from a command line – good old DOS) from where the file browser worked and I could at least copy my son’s data off. Then I had to admit defeat and do a complete system reset.

It brought to mind a haiku that I remember seeing years ago, which went something like this:

A black* screen of death?
Turn it off and start again.
Windows is like that.

(* Composed back in the days of Windows 3.1 or 95 in the original it was, of course, blue).

You’re bored now, I can tell. I can assure you I was too after a number of consecutive evenings in computer hell.

Let’s get back to the music. From computer hell to 12” heaven. And I might even talk about the music next time!

Wilbert Longmire – Black Is The Colour 1978

(A version can be found on Wilbert’s first album “Sunny Side Up”).

Note the red sticker covering up the Tappan Zee-Columbia name. I have seen this on other US imports and assume it was for contractual or branding reasons as Columbia were known as CBS in the UK?

Saturday, August 01, 2009

A sweet tooth

As befits my age I no longer take sugar in tea or coffee. On the other hand I can’t get enough Candi.

I took this picture last night at the Bristol Harbour Festival (it was my son’s camera and I didn’t know how to use it, so it is amazing that anything half way reasonable came out. And who is that on keyboards? - Mick Talbot).

I can’t quite believe it – until this year I had never seen Candi Staton live, now I have seen her twice, both times in my home town, and heard her utter the words (full of soul, of course) “I love you Bristol”!

We love you, Candi.

I know Candi has a strong faith, and I think she demonstrated that last night – true to form for another disappointing summer in these parts it was raining in Bristol, but as she came on stage the rain eased off almost completely, only to return to the really wet stuff after she completed her set!

Be assured, at 66 Candi is still sockin’soul to you!

Candi Staton – Do It In The Name Of Love 1972

(For some reason only the B side of this single was included on Honest Jon’s essential 2004 compilation of her Fame output. The only CD compilation I know this track is on is “Candi Staton – Top 20 Greatest Hits” on Black Tulip, if you can find it. But Candi’s original singles can be picked up for very little money, so go on, buy vinyl, you know it sounds even better that way.)