Time was when I would get home with a new batch of records and jump headlong into it, giving everything a hasty first evaluation so I could decide what to slap on cassettes for the car.
I’ve had my newest pile of 11 records since Saturday and I’ve only listened to one so far. Habits change when you get older, I guess. (No more cassettes, for one thing.)
So I can’t tell you much about the highlights or the skips on these albums. But I can tell you what I picked out and why I brought ’em home with me, in case you’re interested.
Willie Alexander and the Boom Boom Band: In preparation for my return to the Boston area this weekend, I picked up this 1978 album by one of the city’s great rock n’ roll cult heroes for the rousing sum of $3. The record (dedicated to Jack Kerouac) doesn’t have Alexander’s anthemic “Mass. Ave.” on it, but I suspect it’s going to be great fun anyway.
Present and accounted for is lead guitarist Billy “Loose” Loosigian, possessor of one of the great names in rock history. If you are hiring somebody to play guitar in your garage-rock band, a guy named Loose is always a solid choice.
Graham Parker and the Rumour, Stick To Me: Seventies Graham Parker for a buck? Absolutely, even if the album reportedly suffers from a rushed recording job. (I am sure this copy must be pretty worn down to sell for $1. But if the production values are low to begin with, it won’t matter as much. Will it?)
Charles Ives, Symphony No. 4, performed by Leopold Stokowski and the American Symphony Orchestra: I love everything about Charles Ives; I would listen to Alzheimer’s patients playing Charles Ives. This was the first (and so far only) LP of the stash I’ve actually listened to. I put it on loud on a sunny summery afternoon and it sounded eccentric and big and warm and only gently staticky. America!
(Speaking of which, Ives’ status as a pioneering American composer sometimes inspired record-company art departments to great spasms of red, white and blue. CBS’ designers outdid themselves with this record cover — mansions and tall grass and flag-draped statues. America!)
Ives’ Symphony No. 4 was not performed until 11 years after his death, in 1965. I am not sure if this recording is the actual world premiere, or a studio version cut shortly afterward. The front cover says the former but I still suspect the latter. Stokowski formed the American Symphony Orchestra in a bid to make classical music more accessible to Americans. It didn’t work; we’d still rather listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd. America!
Bernstein Conducts Ives (featuring the New York Philharmonic performing several Ives compositions): Everything I just said, only twice, including the red-white-and-blue cover art (shivering wintry this time).
In addition to a “DEMONSTRATION: NOT FOR SALE” stamp, the back cover of this record carries a fascinating bit of radio history. The record jacket is stamped: “CONCERT NETWORK INC., 171 NEWBURY STREET, BOSTON, MASS. 02116 / MAY 11 1966.”
I had no idea, until Wiki told me, that Boston’s legendary alternative/modern radio station WBCN played classical music before adopting its underground rock format in 1968. The ‘BCN call letters originally stood for “Boston Concert Network.”
So this album might have been in the collection of one of Boston’s most renowned stations — albeit before it gained such lofty status. (There is a timing mark of 24:50 next to the listing for Symphony No. 3, another suggestion that this record might have been played on the air.)
That’s pretty damn cool.
Also cool: In the bottom right of the back cover, there’s a tease for “Other recordings of Ives’ compositions you might enjoy” … and the first one listed is the Stokowski recording of Symphony No. 4. This record is wicked awesome.)
Keith Jarrett, Backhand: It’s Back Hand on the front cover, “Backhand” in the track listing and Backhand on the record label. It’s also compatible with quadraphonic systems, not that that helps me a whole hell of a lot.
I have heard parts of this record before so I look forward to the rest, particularly because I have a fondness for Jarrett as a creative force that’s not dissimilar to my fondness for Charles Ives.
Mahler, Symphony No. 4, Bruno Walter and the New York Philharmonic: I have heard secondhand that used vinyl stores are lousy with high-quality classical recordings … entire box sets by well-known orchestras going for $1, just ’cause no one seems to want them.
The 50-cent bin at Double Decker Records seemed to bear this out; there were a fair number of classical recordings that appeared to be in decent shape. I snapped up a couple just on general principle. This was one of ’em.
(I have said in the past that I prefer solo classical performances to orchestral settings. I still do. But for 50 cents I can broaden my horizons a little bit.)
The back cover bears the handwritten inscription “February 1946 (May 1967),” which I’m guessing refers to the recording and release dates. But that’s just guessing.
Ralph Vaughan Williams, Pastoral Symphony No. 3 and In the Fen Country, Sir Adrian Boult and the New Philharmonic Orchestra: “In The Fen Country,” alas, is not another tie-in to Boston.
Y’know how some albums — especially from the ’60s and ’70s — had that nubbly cardboard? Once you got into the ’80s it was all kinda thin and glossy. But in earlier years, sometimes you’d get an album that had that gently textured, somewhat thicker-feeling cardboard. It felt sturdy and reassuring and analog and awesome.
Yeah, I might have laid out 50 cents for this on account of the nubbly cardboard. 😉 As for the tunes … well, it’ll be an education.
Music of Delius, Sir Thomas Beecham and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra: Not factory-sealed but still in the plastic (which I don’t think is a good thing, but so be it.)
I have no clearly explicable reason why I bought this. Vinyl is a hell of a drug.
Robert Noehren, 16th and 17th Century Organ Music: I dig classical organ music and this was recorded in Buffalo, so, bing, another two of my hard-earned quarters won their wings.
The Interwebs tell me Robert Noehren was an interesting guy: In addition to playing classical organ, he also designed the instruments. Buffalo’s First Presbyterian Church had a Noehren organ, as did a church in Milwaukee. Alas, the instrument being played here is not of Noehren’s own design.
Peaches & Herb, 2 Hot!: Yeah, I don’t have a great explanation for this one either, except that it breaks up the litany of classical LPs pretty nicely. I think I was hoping for some brainless disco grooves … and then I remembered this pair specialized more in ballads. So I might have to put my boots on and sog it out.
This LP pretty much captured P&H’s moment in the sun: It hit No. 2 on the U.S. album charts in 1979 and included their two big hits, “Shake Your Groove Thing” and “Reunited.” If you need a Peaches & Herb album, this is the Peaches & Herb album you need. At least that’s what I keep repeating to myself.
Rickie Lee Jones, Pirates: I’d seen some strong reviews of this record — some proclaiming it one of the best of 1981.
But it seemed in my experience to have fallen behind the shelf. I didn’t know it and didn’t know anyone who did. So I said sure, why not?
The lyrics suggest Jones pretty much covered all the same ground she covered on her first record. So I might not be dazzled. We’ll see. Donald Fagen’s on the record somewhere, apparently, playing synth.
Firesign Theatre, Dear Friends: A former colleague in Massachusetts (there’s that state again) indoctrinated me into the cult of Firesign by letting me borrow a couple of LPs from his college years.
They could be pretty dopey (read that any way you want) sometimes, but I respect them at their best. The first time I heard Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers, I was simultaneously touched by the ending and convinced that, were I to spin the record again, it would be totally different. (It was altogether a deeper reaction than I ever would have predicted from a record called Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers.)
Anyway: Dear Friends is a collection of bits recorded from the live radio shows Firesign hosted in Los Angeles (“the city of … Emphysema!”) between September 1970 and February 1971. I’ll bet enough of them still hold up to be worth my 50 cents. And there’s hamburger all over the highway in Mystic, Connecticut …
And finally, Todd Rundgren, Runt. More or less Rundgren’s first post-Nazz solo album. (“Runt” was briefly made out to be a band at the time, but TR wrote and sang all the songs, and he’s alone on the album cover.) Includes the endearing wide-eyed piano jive of “We Gotta Get You A Woman,” which landed our lad on the Top 40 for a couple weeks. America!
I owned a copy of this years ago and traded it in, for reasons I cannot remember. Perhaps with my first spin, they will all come crashing back.