Monday, January 13, 2014

The Warrior

View the NEW Premise & Ground Rules for Revisiting Vinyl.

What I Spun:
The Warrior (45) by Scandal
Best Use of This Record:
In the immortal words of Disney’s Tale Spin, “Spin it!”
Random, Bizarre Line:
Your eyes touch me…physically”
Let’s play a little word association.  What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when I say, “shooting at the walls of heartache?”  Was your answer “bang bang,” or was your answer “BANG!!! BANG!!! I A-AM THE WARRIOR!!!”  I’ll give you a few seconds to finish out the chorus…aaaaand “if you survi-ive.”  There we go.  Now, let’s talk about professional wrestling.
After University of Kentucky basketball, professional wrestling was my grandfather’s favorite sport.  Most evenings, you could find him sitting in his recliner, sipping rum and watching gladiatorial competition inside the squared circle.  His fanaticism rubbed off on me until I to became a Hulkamaniac.  I was also a Jake-The-Snake-Roberts-amaniac and a Hacksaw-Jim-Duggan-amaniac, etc.  I watched their cartoons.  I had their toys.  I learned their moves.  I knew their names.  I sang their intro music.
One of them happened to call himself The Ultimate Warrior.  And, back in his early pro days, his theme music was The Warrior by Scandal.  That made me happy.  Now, if a female-empowerment anthem that reduces its listeners to teenage girls singing into hairbrushes seems like an odd choice for a testosterone-driven beefcake (who was not Brutus the Barber), then allow me to share a few factoids about The Ultimate Warrior:  (1) He wore a lot of spandex (2) he painted his face (3) he had big, teased AquaNet hair (4) his color palette consisted exclusively of hot pink and day-glow. 
Dude looked like this:
Trust me, there couldn’t have been a better pairing of music and product short of Johnson’s baby shampoo using Ozzy Osbourne’s No More Tears as their jingle (which would be awesome).  Bang bang.  Bang bang, indeed.

Monday, January 6, 2014


View the NEW Premise & Ground Rules for Revisiting Vinyl.

What I Spun:
“American Pie” (LP) by Don McLean
Best Use of This Record:
Play track three repeatedly.
“Frameless heads on nameless walls with eyes that watch the world and can’t forget…”
The song American Pie is so ubiquitous that I can’t remember the first time I heard it, or even the first time I started to get what it was about; it has just always been part of my consciousness.  My single strongest memory of it is probably that abomination of a cover that Madonna did, and I don’t want to write about that.  Instead, I want to write about my first encounter with another great track on the same album.
When I first began collecting music, I started with what I knew.  Something that had always been part of my consciousness made sense, so Don McLean was one of the first twenty or thirty CDs I picked up.  (Yes, CDs.  I had some records and cassettes when I was younger, but when I started buying things for myself, it was CDs).  Since I only knew the one song, I opted for the greatest hits (I figured you could get a good sampling of what an artist did; also, for older artists, compilations seem to be cheaper than regular albums – go figure).
Understandably, American Pie was the first track on the disc.  I spent eight minutes in the warm embrace of familiarity and sang along as the levee went dry.  But then…another song came on – a fragile, half-broken, quietly angry and delicately beautiful song that rattled me as it insisted to be heard. 
Vincent, McLean’s tribute to Van Gogh, flooded my mind with the artist’s imagery and the singer’s disdain for those who can’t/won’t acknowledge such art.  I have always had a soft spot for songs about people whose art went underappreciated – Jimmy Buffett’s Death of an Unpopular Poet, Skynyrd’s The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Tom T. Hall’s The Year Clayton Delaney Died – the list goes on and on.  But Vincent is different somehow.  It balances such a sense of beauty and such a sense of rage all at once that it’s almost unbearable.  And that is exactly the point.
As soon as the song ended on my greatest hits CD, I played it again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  I still play it today.
Whenever American Pie comes on the radio now, I sing along because it is part of my consciousness, but I always pause and smile as I think of that other Don McLean song – the one that affected my consciousness.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Crowded House

View the NEW Premise & Ground Rules for Revisiting Vinyl.

What I Spun:  "Temple of Low Men" (LP) by Crowded House

Best Use for This Record: Explore it, it's worth exploring.

Filed Under: Post-Wave (Australian)

Would Go Well With: John Lennon, The Talking Heads, INXS, toad the wet sprocket

If You've Never Heard This Band, Start With:
Better Be Home Soon, Locked Out, Something So Strong

I remember when Better Be Home Soon came out.  I only heard it a few times, but I really liked it.  Those were the days before I became obsessive about learning who was singing any song that piqued my interest, so I just knew it as that simple acoustic thing resonated with something in me, sung by... somebody.  [shrugs.]  But soon, as is the nature of pop music, it lapsed out of airplay and thus faded from my memory like The One Ring from the thoughts of Middle Earth's inhabitants.  Eventually, I forgot this song had ever existed. 

I'm sure it must've popped up periodically on adult contemporary or flashback radio stations, but we failed to cross paths again for twenty years.  Until...

VH1 Classic is one of my favorite TV channels.  I was juiced when our cable provider finally added it.  It's still my go-to for background music when I'm in the living room.  And one day when I had it on, I heard the singular voice of an over-reverbed acoustic guitar that could have only existed in the late eighties or early nineties.  Ahhh.  "That's a sound that takes me back and just cradles me in a warm place," I thought.  Then the lyrics came in, and here was where the great power of music shown through.

Like I said, I had totally forgotten about this song; I literally hadn't heard it in two decades.  But by the end of that first verse, I knew exactly what it was.  And I was grinning because I knew what was coming next.  "And I know I"m riiiiiight for the first time in my liiiife!"  I belted it out along with the TV.  That secret, buried nugget that I would have sworn had vanished had only been lying dormant, waiting to take me back to something I had long thought forgotten.  Here was a new song for me to love with the added bonus of also being a song I already knew.

Armed with that joy, I always kept Crowded House on my radar when I started collecting vinyl, and have picked up a few of their records.  It turns out that they had several singles I had really relished singing along to when they came out -- I had just never known this was the band that made them.  So, old and new at the same time again.  It also turns out that they had a lot of really interesting album tracks that are new discoveries when I play one of their LPs.  So, new good stuff too (new to me anyway).  That combination is part of what makes spinning records so great.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Let My Love Open the Door


“When everybody keeps retreating, but you can’t seem to get enough...”
What I Spun:“Empty Glass” (LP) by Pete Townsend
Best Use for This Record:
Listen to it, it’s pretty good.
Thank you, Random Number Generator! I really can’t think of a better place to start the new leg of “Revisiting Vinyl” than with this.  I remember exactly where I was the first time I ever heard the song Let My Love Open the Door.
At best, I’m only a casual fan of The Who.  At worst, I’m a detractor who thinks they have one of the most obnoxious fan bases of all time.  (Seriously, when you became famous thanks totrendy rich kids on scooters, where do you go from there?)  So, my knowledge of their catalogue is pretty much limited to whatever plays on classic rock radio and oldies stations.
And movies. 
1997 marked the point when we were far enough removed from the eighties that nostalgia for the decade became appropriate and chic.  Movies like “Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion” and “The Wedding Singer” offered little more than (Mira Sorvino’s cleavage and) “hey, remember this thing from fifteen years ago?”, but the formula worked really well.
My favorite film from that weird little genre is “Grosse Point Blank.”  It’s not just a reminiscence of the eighties.  It’s also about a hit man returning to his hometown to complete a job.  And it’s about the oddness of going back home after you’ve changed, but those who stayed really haven’t.  But mostly, it’s about music.
I have mentioned before that another John Cusack film, “High Fidelity”, is just one big love letter to pop music.  “Grosse Point Blank” is clearly the rough draft for that.  Music pervades every aspect of the movie.  The best joke in the picture is nothing more than a Guns n’ Roses song, and it’s a great joke.  “GPB” marries sound and image so beautifully and absolutely that I will never hearUnder Pressure again without seeing a smiling baby.  And that happens with several of the songs used in the film.
Every time I hear one of those songs, my memory bank instantly uploads a visual cue – people dancing or a car driving down the highway or an odd-looking thug getting slammed into a locker and stabbed with a pen.  Okay, so sometimes it’s a little weird, but it’s also kind of fantastic. 
I can’t really explain it, but the story is at such a great place when Let My Love Open the Door’s little synth intro starts, it just makes you smile uncontrollably.  It’s a good scene that has been building for a while, but when you add the perfect piece of music onto it, it transcends to something amazing.  I highly recommend checking it out.  There are too few things that just make you smile uncontrollably. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Premise and Ground Rules - 2014

I love music.  Period.  There are two rooms in my housed dedicated to it - jammed full of tapes and CDs and vinyl, packed with guitars and amps and drums, laden with artwork and books and the like.
I love music.  Period.  I am unable to process the statement, “I don’t like music.”  Furthermore, I am unable to process the statement, “I like music.”  You should love it! 
Music helped me get through the hard times.  Music made the good times better.  It has always been there for me, without fail, willing to offer up whatever I needed from it.  Music obliges without judgment or condescension - even if what I want at a particular moment happens to be Mambo Number Five by Lou Bega. 
They say smell is the most powerful sense attached to memories.  I must respectfully disagree.  I have soooo many memories associated with a specific piece of music or song – each one its own unique Venn diagram of the five basic emotions. 
And that is my new goal with “Revisiting Vinyl.”  I want to talk about my strongest memory associated with a particular artist or album or song.  Sometimes, it will be the first time I heard him / her / it / them.  Others, it might just be my favorite or most vivid encounter with him / her / it / them.
So, that’s the game plan.  Here  are the rules:
Nothing is off limits.  It can be old or new.  It can be an LP or an EP or a 45.  It can even be a mixture of music and spoken word (comedy LPs and the like).  Compilations and soundtracks are back on the table.  (Now I don’t have to worry about justifying “Purple Rain” if it comes up…)
I will continue to use the random number generator for my selections, but I am giving myself some limited veto authority.  So, if I’m just not feeling Lynn Anderson or smooth jazz at the moment, I may reroll the virtual dice and see what happens.  I might also decide if I want to hear 33 1/3 or 45 RPMs beforehand.
As before, I may take some detours and tangents, but I will always attempt to relate my strongest personal memory regarding whatever I spin.  I want to share what has made music so intrinsically important in my life because, the truth is, I love music.  Period.

Monday, September 16, 2013

"What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye (1971)

"Talk to me, so you can see what's going on."

I have been spinning (but for some reason not writing about) a LOT of good music lately.  Actually, I've been spinning a lot of required listening lately -- from Dylan's "Bringing It All Back Home" to R.E.M's "Document" -- and it has been a blast.  But something magical happened when I played this record.  This LP is beyond required, it's soul-enriching.

"What's Going On" is a record for all times that is absolutely of it's time.  This work details one individual's account of a very specific struggle, and yet it is as universally relatable as any art could ever hope to be.  Inner City Blues rings true forty years later to a country boy in Kentucky.

This is what happens when an iconoclastic artist has so much to say that words alone won't suffice.  There is a feel -- an essence -- to these recordings that seeps into the core of your being and just hovers there, acknowleding and daming all the problems while simultaneously assuring you that it's going to get better.

"What's Going On" is brimming with unabashed, profound humanity.  It shows the best of what we can be by shining a light on the worst.

Monday, July 15, 2013

"All Things in Time" by Lou Rawls (1976)

“Mmm mmm mmm, Baby.”  (Trust me, when Lou Rawls says it, it’s awesome.)
Disco Hit Dedicated to the Ladies:
You’ll Never Find another Love like Mine
My Overall Rating of the Tracks Separately:
Highly Recommended (3.5/4 stars)
Unlike the last entry, this one was one of those great surprises.  Going in, all I knew was that the big disco hit (and that was mostly from an episode of The Simpsons).  It ended up being forty minutes well spent that I’m sure I will revisit again.
A big chunk of what makes “All Things in Time” so good is that willingness to mix and match – a prerequisite for quality silver age R&B.
The vocals have the automatic depth of soul blended with the introspective heart of standards and torch songs.  The sounds are built with the energy of bebop laid over the formality of the blues.  The tracks intercut the dancibility of disco with the steamy heat of a sauna.
When all of that is combined with a voice so smooth you could skate across it, it adds up to a really good time.
On a different note, what’s up with so many seventies artists covering songs from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”?!  Is it, in fact, the “Wizard of Oz” of its generation?  That being said, this version of Pure Imagination made me smile the whole time it played.
So, is it an album?  Yes.  All of those pieces are expertly melded within each song.  There’s never a jolting transition or any sort of disconnect, despite all of the influences apparent on the record.  Instead, “All Things in Time” just sails along on top of that wonderful soup.
Up next, I get to hear another amazing voice.  This time, it’s Emmylou Harris with “Blue Kentucky Girl.”