It’s that time of year!
People ask me the same things all the time about my music collection:
a. How do you listen to them all?
b. Why don’t you just digitize them and carry them all on your phone?
c. Isn’t it easier to just find music on Amazon or eBay than to go shopping for it in a store?
My answers are all fairly well thought out:
1. I do listen to them, eventually!
2. I have too much music to digitize everything and, besides, I like the physical releases which are often easier to put on than cuing up a digital file.
3. No, it’s not necessarily easier to shop for things on line and more importantly its generally not as much fun!
Fun, in fact, is really at the core of my music collecting hobby. I started collecting records as a kid after falling in love with a song I heard on the radio and then not being able to hear it again right away. I discovered the frustration of having to wait until they played it again, sometimes hours or days! In the interim you had to endure endless commercials and boring news reports. Bleh.
At age five I bought my first single and there began a journey into music obsession that has taken me happily into (gasp) middle age. I loved the thrill of going into a music candy store that held all this joy on 7-inch and 12-inch black licorice colored discs. I still get a buzz going into a good music store, be it Rooky Ricardo’s Records in San Francisco or Scotti’s Records in Summit, New Jersey.
I have no regrets about collecting music. There are certainly worse things one could get addicted to! And its not like I only “do” music (tho’ it must seem that way to many); yes, I like to travel, go to concerts, museums, movies, theater, hiking, shopping and love going out to restaurants (I’m a foodie).
Music is however a continuum in my life, a happy balance that chases away the blues, raises the happy factor at parties and offers a soundtrack to my day to day life. I love music so much that I started writing, recording and performing my own original music.
That soundtrack is forever surprising me with wonderful and weird discoveries, old an new. Many of the coolest obscure recordings are very out of print yet not necessarily “rare” in a collectors sense pricing wise — they are affordable if you want to pick them up.
In fact, here are some recent finds — both in and out-of-print — which you might enjoy (and can probably purchase easily with the money in your pocket):
POPULAR ENOUGH FOR REISSUES
Doin’ It To Death – This album by The JB’s is really just an extended slab of James Brown jams featuring one of his smoking early 70s band. This $13 reissue is pressed on pretty and mostly-quiet purple vinyl which matches the original period labels on the obscure People Records label. My copy came admittedly a bit warped, but it plays fine and since I’m not likely to find another purple copy any time soon, I’m holding on to it for now. The grooves are what this one is about and worth the price of admission for the 10 minute title track. Try not to dance around on your listening room playing this funky good time disc.
Those Shocking Shaking Days – I bought this compilation on CD a year or so ago at the recommendation of one of the guys working at Streetlight Records and became an instant fan of this collection of vintage psychedelic rock from the 1960s and early 70s by artists in Indonesia! The album was recently reissued on vinyl and the three — count ’em, 3! — LP set sounds really nice on well centered, quiet and rich black vinyl. It sounds noticeably better than the CD and only cost $25, which is very fair. It also comes with a download for the whole album and the 64 page booklet from the CD. That latter point is the only disappointment. I have to keep the CD now just for the nicely done and informative book. But if you dig reading things digitally, maybe the download will suit you fine.
The Doors of Perception – No, this isn’t an album by that band, but is a cool slab of 1970 trippy pop jazz by a fellow named Dave Pike who apparently came to prominence playing with flautist Herbie Mann (who produces this). Released on the obscure Vortex Records subsidiary label of Atlantic Records subsidiary Atco Records (got that?), this reissue comes on thick (perhaps 180 gram, though not marked as such) well centered and mostly very quiet black vinyl and only cost me $12 new. That it features alto sax legend Lee Konitz should be enough for many people to seek this album out but its really a fun disc, with some swinging post 60s jazz themes as well as more out there improvisations and jams. Cool stuff.
]]>OBSCURE ‘n OUT OF PRINT
Louis Paul – Ok, so I bought this album for the cover art (it was $1 in the bargain bins at Amoeba Records) and that it was a promo copy. The look of the sad star-faced clown on the cover makes me wonder if the boys in Kiss saw this 1973 album on the Stax label subsidiary Enterprise Records (the label that was pushing Issac Hayes at the time). The makeup doesn’t quite match the music but its still got some fun and sometimes funky good rock ‘n roll this side of Todd Rundgren and Mott The Hoople. Really, the opening number, “Leave The Door Open Where You Found It” is an instrumental ala some vintage Santana but it then breaks into this Mott the Hoople styled section before coming back to the groovy jam finale. Its pretty cool how they pull that one off somehow (of course, killing its chance at airplay, but that is another issue entirely). “Hey Mr. Moon” is a nice post-Dear Prudence flavored country western pop song. The music on this album is all over the place, and that is probably why it got lost in the sauce in the first place — lack of focus. I however will take the side of the artist and attribute its failure to weak marketing efforts. None of this matters to you, dear reader, who might want to check this out today — you can find this really nice album and imagine the hits that might have been. Oh, and about that Kiss like artwork? Yeah, that seemingly has nothing to with the record really but its kinda cool and extends into the inner gatefold photos of the artist and his band playing in the recording studio. The albums is even up on iTunes today!
Soul Shake – Another bargain bin trial find, this fine southern soul album from the early 1970s by Peggy Scott and Jo Jo Benson is worth picking up for some fine performances of songs like “Pickin’ Wild Mountain Berries” and “Soulshake.” I really like the gospel tinged “‘Til The Morning Comes.” Hey, checking the Wiki, these folks were not so obscure — three tracks from this album hit the Top 40 and Ms. Scott seems to have had a career renaissance in the 90s when Jimmy Lewis helped her record a solo debut that hit the charts.
See, you are learning new things already!
Electric Black Man – On the cusp of Woodstock and the growth of Jimi Hendrix and emergence of Richie Havens and Joe Cocker into gravel-voiced superstars, labels were no doubt keen to sign other artists to capitalize on this seeming trend. I picked up this 1969 album by one Eric Mercury in the bargain bins out of curiosity as it was on the Avco Embassy label (the label that pressed many great sounding LPs by The Stylistics!) and featured liner notes by Blood Sweat & Tears vocalist David Clayton Thomas. The back up band on this record was killer too including Harvey Brooks on bass and on guitar Elliott Randall as well as a post McCoys Rick Zehringer (aka Rick Derringer!). The album is, appropriately, a mix of groovy late sixties hard rock, pop soul and gospel tinged southern comfort this side of Otis Redding and even the sort of slinky soulful strings that Willie Mitchell used so successful in launching the career of singer Al Green that same year. Great stuff!
Mark Smotroff is a freelance writer and avid music collector who has worked for many years in marketing communications for the consumer electronics, pro audio and video games industries, serving clients including DTS, Sega, Sony, Sharp, AT&T and many others. www.smotroff.com Mark has written for EQ Magazine, Mix Magazine, Goldmine/DISCoveries Magazine, BigPictureBigSound.com, Sound+Vision Magazine and HomeTechTell.com. He is also a musician / composer who’s songs have been used in TV shows such as Smallville and Men In Trees as well as films and documentaries. www.ingdom.com Mark is currently rolling out a new musical he’s written: www.dialthemusical.com.