Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Things we like: Panther City Vinyl edition

So last weekend, I filled in at my buddy Dan's record store while his partner Ted was out of town, and was reminded that I love selling records as much as I do playing and listening to music. Also, that it's a bigger kick finding something serendipitously in a bin, or hearing it played in-store, than it is having your coat pulled via social media (at least for me it is). And at the end of the weekend, I left with four items, any of which would have been a "find o' the week" on its own. Hooray!

18 King Size Rhythm and Blues Hits -- Compiled for Columbia back in '69, this Valentine from one great Jewish indie record guy (Seymour Stein) to another (Syd Nathan) covers the whole waterfront, from vocal groups (Hank Ballard & the Midnighters, the Five Royales) to instrumentals (Bill Doggett, Freddy King -- whose instrumentals canny marketer Nathan had the audacity to repackage as surf music!) to embryonic soul men (James Brown, Otis Redding).

Everything You Always Wanted to Hear by Dion & the Belmonts...But Couldn't Get! -- Twenty songs by my favorite early rockaroller ("Presley or Penniman?" "DiMucci!"), which embody the swagger of the Italo-American cats I grew up around (even though a guy from the Bronx who taught at my high school claimed Dion was laughed out of the 'hood for shaving his legs "to fit in those pegged pants!") and include some classic lines ("Here's the moral of the story from a guy who knows," "With my two fists of iron but I'm going nowhere"). Dion said Jesus saved him from junk, and he still had the goods in his millennial blues phase (I treasure a CD-R of a recording of his live NPR broadcast). Now I need to hunt down the "Abraham, Martin and John" single for its Bronx blues flip, "Daddy Rollin'," and the '67 Together Again with the Belmonts, for the OG "My Girl the Month of May" (covered by Richard Thompson with the Bunch).

Stooges: Highlights from the Funhouse Sessions -- The Rhino box set was too much, like being brainwashed with 23 versions of "Loose" (in the same manner as the Sony Robert Johnson box, where someone unwisely sequenced all the alternate takes together, which makes sense as scholarship, but not as record production). CD-era completism gave me a finer appreciation for the art of curatorship. (Relevant quote from Francois Truffaut: "The direction is a critique of the scenario and the editing is a critique of the direction." Un autre: "Many of Welles' recent films give the impression that they were shot by an exhibitionist and edited by a censor.") This distillation of good mature takes, minus overdubs, is in essence a well-recorded live album (because it was cut in a room with all the players together and Iggy singing through a PA). I'm saving the 17-minute "L.A. Blues" precursor "Freak" for a special occasion.

Sonic's Rendezvous Band: Sweet Nothing -- Twenty years ago, when it was new (and the music it documents already 20 years old), this thing steamrollered me like Live At Leeds. In some ways I am still there. At once the final fruition and last gasp of Detroit high energy, fulfilling every promise of Funhouse and the first side of Kick Out the Jams (not to mention the Rationals' great LP), this is hard rock as trance music, and no one will ever know what recent West Virginia Hall of Fame inductee Fred "Sonic" Smith was singing on "City Slang." (Scott Morgan's a better singer, but Fred sounds like a hoodlum, which fits the music's gritty menace better.) A friend of mine heard this music and bought the LP on eBay even though he didn't own a turntable. (Someday before I croak, he and I will play "Slang" onstage together.) Here again, sweet, sweet vinyl beats CD because it omits a less-than-snazz cover of Mick 'n' Keef's "Heart of Stone."


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