Friday, October 13, 2017

In out, in out.....

I was planning to write this post last weekend but then the weather intervened. It was a glorious day last Sunday - sunshine and an almost complete lack of wind lent the day a wonderfully serenity. Just had to get outside and enjoy it. We’ve had plenty of calm days so far this month and I seem to remember a similar pattern last year. September has always been my favourite month, but it seems October maybe becoming the new September.

I’ve written about the certain serenity that September brings before, and I think then I featured Johnnie Taylor’s song It’s September. What’s that in the picture? It’s a Johnnie Taylor album. But what is it doing next to a Ruby Turner album?

Fifteen years apart in release date but they do have some things in common: (the trivial) both are still partially in their shrink sporting dollar denominated price stickers - I keep albums in their shrink long after I should just accept the shrink is too torn and should just be ditched. The thing is I see the shrink as an integral part of the album’s history so it is very difficult to part with it - ; both albums have been buried deep in the collection without seeing the light of day for a fair few years; (the not so trivial) both feature singers I hold in very high regard.

The two albums are featured here, however, because they are a perfect representation of where I am with my record collection right now. I have once again reached maximum capacity and I’m in purge mode. This time I’m trying to be a bit more ruthless with my purging. As I said both these singers have great voices and I love them dearly but even so they have been tentatively put in the out pile. I say tentatively because I admit to being very anal over this and so ‘ruthless’ still entails a process. Even though these albums have sat in my collection for a fair few years without a play (let’s face it some of the records I am pulling out I may never have played before!), and realistically they are not likely to get a play anytime soon – ever? – I cannot bring myself to put them straight into the outbox. So the process is I play them once, or just needle drop, to see if there are tracks that grab my attention. If there are enough strong tracks I then proclaim the album to be a hidden gem, and keep it (patting myself on the back for being so discerning in picking up the album in the first place). If there is nothing of note then easy – into the outbox it goes. If there are one or two tracks of note I record them in wav format with a view to putting them on a mix CD and then outbox them. That’s the theory. Of course it does make purging a slow process. But actually for the most part not a painful one. It makes me listen to albums I’ve picked up (for pennies mostly) but possibly never given a proper chance, I find some new gems, I manage to distil down some worthwhile tracks, and then one way or another I feel I’ve had my money’s worth.

Of course there are grey areas.

Johnnie Taylor’s album for example I found to contain as many as four decent tracks when I put it through the “process” the other day. To be honest I was surprised. Johnnie Taylor is one of my very favourite male singers, but this album was recorded in 1976 by which time Disco and slick production was sweeping good honest soul music aside. (There are so many JT songs to enjoy from his 60s-70s Stax period). There was also the problem of record companies increasingly calling the tune resulting in more frequent releases, without necessarily having the quality songs to fill them. Consequently my expectation wasn't high, but there are more decent songs on this album than I was expecting, and Johnnie’s voice wins me over time and time again. But in the end Eargasm is a patchy album. For that reason I doubt I would ever play it all the way through so it is going in the outbox.... Ha! Except as I wrote this I gave it another listen and Johnnie's voice is so beguiling he's won the day and now I'm keeping it!

Ruby Turner is now close to National Treasure status after her years with Jools Holland’s Rhythm & Blues Orchestra. She has been involved in the music business for many years, a fact that I'm so glad to see was recognised last year when she was awarded an MBE for services to music. She has a fantastic voice. The Other Side was an album released in 1991 and production wise is very much of its time. A Soul to Soul / Mantronix vibe permeates many of the tracks This and its generally commercial production values I think restricts Ruby's ability to fully showcase her magnificent pipes. This album was targeted very much at the US audience I believe to follow up on three top 30 US R&B single hits she had in 1990. The album did nothing though. Ultimately it is much of a muchness I think, but it is fairly even throughout. Again I'm going to keep it, because in the end there are hidden forces at play – sentiment. I believe it is the first album I ever bought on foreign soil, 13 years ago now I picked it up in the US, which just happened to be 13 years after its release. I picked out the track below to share, then, as I was writing this, I suddenly had this little memory nudge that perhaps I had written about Ruby before. Sure enough back in 2009 I did, my comments on the album were very similar, and I shared the same track then! At least I'm consistent (or should that be boring!).

So, in light of the above, is my process actually resulting in any purges?, I hear you ask. Yes, the outbox is a fair size and it's full. Now a second box is lined up waiting.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Spinning again

Three months away from this little indulgence is long enough. Let's straighten it out and get posting again.

Summer's over, the great outdoors doesn't beckon so much, and the nights are drawing in. There must be time for some blog meanderings again surely?

Surprise finds in the charity shops and car boots often spark a post here, and one reason for the lack of posts has been the lack of finds this year. For want of sounding like a broken record my hunt for vinyl in the wild has once again taken a turn for the worse. This year's trawling has been worse than last year, which in turn was worse than the year before. Vinyl may be back but it's gone AWOL in the fields of England, at least in my experience.       

Gwen McCrae's 1978 album Let's Straighten It Out was one welcome find a couple of months ago. It's not the strongest album I've heard, but has a number of redeeming features. There is Gwen's voice of course, and a great picture of her on the front cover - foxy lady! The Cat label in the middle of an album is a nice thing to see too. I've always loved Latimore's version of this song (the original?) and Gwen's take on it here is gorgeous.

Gwen McCrae - Let's Straighten It Out  1978