Archive for October 12th, 2007

Masterpiece: Bitches Brew

12 October 2007

[Today: Miles runs the voodoo down…]

I found a used copy of this album in a seedy Back Bay record store for $6.95 while visiting Boston during the summer of the year I graduated from college. It and a dozen dollar records that I found that day (including Dark Side Of The Moon and Traffic’s self-titled second album) formed the early backbone of my record collection. But Bitches Brew was definitely an oddity among the Doors/Hendrix/Floyd/Zeppelin pu pu platter that I was serving up musically at the time.

As that summer turned to fall, the realization that I needed to find a real job began to settle in. To that end, I made the move to Portland. This was huge for me – my first time living in a big city, and in a cool apartment right off of Burnside near Northwest Portland. The one major catch was the economy – ’92 was a tough time to be looking for a job, especially for a green young whippersnapper like myself. As the days turned into weeks I began to look beyond white collar jobs and seek out any opportunity that presented itself – fry cook, security guard, delivery man, janitor, house painter. Yikes! Nothing was happening and my money was starting to evaporate.

The one upside of this unemployment is that I had TONS of free time. And by ‘free time’ I literally mean time spent doing stuff that was free – walking around the city (Portland is beautiful and pedestrian friendly), jogging, drinking lots of water, reading books I already owned, and listening to music. Django’s – a legendary local record shop – had a 3 for $1 bin that I raided mercilessly to add some depth to my record collection (hey, 33 & 1/3 cents a pop is pretty close to free). Another bonus was an unexpected Indian summer that kept the temperatures warm through October, while Portland hosted a myriad of street fairs and celebrations.

It was by no means a great period of my life, but some of those fall evenings, with the temperatures dancing upward, and electricity hanging thick in the air, I’d lounge around that apartment with Bitches Brew languidly spinning away, and listen to the sounds of the city lilting through my open window on the slightest breeze. The car horns and laughter mingled with the horns and drums and organs on the record, and I sat there and soaked it all in and wrapped myself in the first stirrings of freedom and sophistication, and forgot about the iron fist of poverty that was knocking down my door.

Listen: Miles Runs The Voodoo Down

Another Day At The Flea

12 October 2007

The P and I were out at the flea market last Sunday, and while it wasn’t my most successful vinyl shopping day on record, I did find a few things that put a smile on my face. In addition to the Gabor Szabo and ZZ Top that have already been noted, here are 10 more albums I pulled from the proverbial scrap heap:

Joao Gilberto - album

Joao Gilberto * The Boss Of The Bossa Nova The album title was appropriated for a 1996 Walter Wanderly compliation, but Gilberto is the real boss. The man who more or less invented the genre gives a master class on the Bossa. Gilberto’s hushed but luscious songs are a must for any serious collection.

Bar-Kays - Light Of Life

Bar-Kays * Light Of Life This is where the Bar-Kays started tipping into disco. The sound bears more than a little resemblence to P-Funk (and the album cover depicts a spaceship touching down in a meadow) but the Kays wear it well, and this is a totally enjoyable funk/disco hybrid that deserves some spins.

JB - album

James Brown * The Payback There’s just one little problem with the copy of JB’s classic 70’s blaxploitation joint that I bought – it’s a double album set and mine came with only one record. It’s probably worth the $2 I spent regardless, but – d’oh! – it’s a good reminder that I need to check for more than scratches when I’m looking these records over.

B.B. King - album

B.B. King * Singin’ The Blues I’m not sure if this is the album that will turn around my lukewarm feelings about B.B. – but at least I’m trying.

Xavier Cugat - album

Xavier Cugat * Viva Cugat! Xavier Cugat and his latin orchestra are totally over the top, but as the P will attest, ‘over the top’ has never been a problem for me. It might mean less frequent doses of Mr. Cugat, but his frenetic orchestral stylings will always have a place in my life.

Nina Simone - album

Nina Simone * Black Gold Nina Simone is what I think of as a ‘phone book’ singer – that is, she could sing the phone book and it would still amount to enjoyable music. In that regard she’s an artist who’s hard to go wrong with, and Black Gold is no exception. Great album art too.

Phil Spector - holiday music

Various Artists * Phil Spector’s Christmas Album Once upon a time Furr played me a cassette copy of some outtakes from Phil Spector’s Christmas Album that were prank phone calls – complete with profanity – that anticipated both the Jerky Boys and Bart Simpson prank calling Mo’s. So I bought this album for two bucks, hoping against hope that some of those shenanigans would be found here, on the run-out groove or something, but no dice. But it is a pretty fine collection of Motown-style Christmas tunes.

And if I’m not mistaken, I’ve seen photos recently of Mr. Spector wearing that fake beard on top of his head…

Johnny Watson - album

Johnny “Guitar” Watson * Ain’t That A Bitch The album cover features Watson on a 70’s style leather couch with his (let’s assume) female dog, while two ladies writhe on the floor at their feet – classy! Perhaps unsurprisingly, this album has been both praised and pilloried. It’s definitely Watson’s disco album, and it’s pretty good music, but that cover just hurts. On a dumb side-note, the vinyl I purchased is flecked with gold spray-paint (once again, d’oh!), but check it out: it plays PERFECTLY! Who knew? Besides Johnny Watson’s dog, that is…

Stockhausen - album

Karlheinz Stockhausen * Momente I haven’t even listened to this one yet and my ears already hurt. Sometimes I wonder why I do this to myself – perhaps to spawn an “Albums That Will Finish Your Party II” post? We’ll see…

Sugarhill Gang - album

Sugarhill Gang * Sugarhill Gang The Sugarhill Gang have seen their street cred seriously questioned over the years, but there is little dispute that this is the first true hip-hop LP to ever see release. So even though it’s not the greatest album of all-time, I thought it was a pretty sweet bargain for a buck.