THE VOICE OF ENERGY VOL. 102
Up early in the morning. Don't ask why. Or do ask. It's fine either way. Been up early and in bed early for the last little while as I hit the Goodwill bins in search of resellable treasures. Today, though, I'm gearing up for a doctor's appointment and watching the first stage of the Tour de France. Have I ever sounded whiter? Probably.
Spent a quick couple of days in Los Angeles this week for a work trip that I can't talk about yet. Was able to spend some money at Amoeba Hollywood's new locale and catch a flick at the New Beverly Cinema. Not a bad jaunt at all.
Speaking of records, which this edition of the newsletter is focused on, I did my first record sale last weekend. Had a good time and did fairly well. I still have a lot of stock left over - and have added to it since. If you are a collector and are interested in checking out what I have for sale, reply to this and let me know. I have a spreadsheet set aside of all the records that are available. Don't hesitate to ask questions about condition, pressing, etc. I'm more than happy to cut deals with y'all. And I'll pay for shipping.
As it is basically the midpoint of the year, it's time when writers like myself take stock of the music released so far this year that we've fallen in love with. I'm no exception and am happy to share another spreadsheet with you where I keep track of the stuff albums / EPs and reissues (and TV) that has stood out for me in 2022 to date.
That's what I've got to start with, so please do read on and I'll return again at the end.
Eight Great Albums You Can Buy For $6 Or Less
As with most everything in this god forsaken time we are living in, record collecting has become something of a strain on one's back account and patience. Finding those rare gems for less than mortgage payment prices is a near impossibility, and the cost of new vinyl is ballooning rapidly.
Even as that trend continues, every record shop on this planet has a cheap-o bin packed with the kind of common core slabs of wax that feel more like clutter than essential listening. Even so, tucked among the various Ferrante and Teicher and Kenny Loggins LPs are some absolute treasures that deserve to be rescued from obscurity or the dumpster. This list is a celebration of those inexpensive marvels (each one should cost you $6 or less) that, if you don't already have them on your shelves, should be snapped up as soon as you can find them. (If you have suggestions for other entries in this rundown, reply and let me know. I'll compile them for a future edition of the newsletter.)
Scritti Politti: Cupid & Psyche 85
When "Perfect Way" became something of a surprise hit here in the U.S., Warner Bros. reacted by flooding shops with copies of Scritti Politti's second full-length. It helped get the record to #11 on the Billboard album charts, but it also meant many of the folks that purchased them wound up reselling them to a shop or at their spring '86 garage sale. That leaves ample opportunity for you to revel in the glossy wonder of this masterpiece. It represents leader Green Gartside's complete embrace of pop music after many years of avoiding it or skirting its edges — while still retaining his philosophical lyrics and arch point of view. If you adore Madonna or Michael Jackson or Duran Duran's work from the ’80s, you'll love this.
Buffy Sainte-Marie: Illuminations
Before landing an Oscar for co-writing "Up Where We Belong" and after establishing herself as a major presence in the world of folk music, Native artist Buffy Sainte-Marie paid a visit to the Electronic Music Studios at SUNY Albany, a space run by pioneer musician and programmer Joel Chadabe. Wtih his help and that of producers Maynard Solomon and Mark Roth, Sainte-Marie sent her guitar and voice through a tangle of oscillators and synthesizers. What came out feels like a wave pool constantly pushing against your expectations and comfort zone.
Haircut One Hundred: Pelican West
Yes, you've heard "Love Plus One" and "Favourite Shirt," but I promise you, the rest of this album is just as good. It's new wave via African highlife, a combination that a certain gaggle of Brooklynites called Vampire Weekend turned into blogosphere gold about 30 years later. I prefer this take on it due to front man Nick Heyward's unabashed romanticism and the abundant gush of the group's horn section.
The Osmonds: Crazy Horses
That's right. The Osmonds. The Mormon pop stars made a daring switchback from their bubblegum roots into the land of heavy rock. To explain further, I quote the mighty Chuck Eddy who included this album in his book Stairway To Hell: The 500 Best Heavy Metal Albums In The Universe: "Marie’s and Little Jim’s big bros open with a cannibalistic ‘Immigrant Song’ rip called ‘Hold Her Tight’ and keep up to date with rebellious teen trends by dressing up like drug-crazed Electric Company rejects."
Laura Nyro and Labelle: Gonna Take A Miracle
Space funk trio Labelle receives small font Coachella treatment on the cover of this 1971 album but they have an outsized effect on the spirit of singer-songwriter Laura Nyro. Working with the great Philly production team of Leon Gable and Kenny Huff, the quartet of female artists explore the funky corners of the R&B universe with renditions of "Jimmy Mack," "Dancing In The Street," and "Spanish Harlem," while also juicing up lesser known tunes like "The Wind" and Marvin Gaye's "The Bells."
Procol Harum: Home
Truth be told, I could have chosen any of the five albums Procol Harum released following the massive success of their 1967 self-titled debut. Everything they produced after that can be easily had for next to nothing. But I'm partial to 1970's Home, a fantastic collection of R&B-flecked rock that just barely masked the misanthropic heart and bleak soul of Keith Reid's lyrics, which read more like death metal than post-psychedelia comedown. "Take a mop to swab the floor and destroy the evil dream / Counting houses full of lead, the evil eye on high / The streets awash with blood and pus, the new moon's in the sky," Gary Brooker sings on "Piggy Pig Pig."
Difford and Tilbrook: Difford and Tilbrook
In the years after Squeeze split up, Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford, the creative partners at the center of that band, continued with their work on this lone album released under their birth names. Nothing about it sounds that far removed from their other project (which, incidentally, they reconvened a year later). The music is a tad sleeker and a little more reserved. But the core of Difford and Tilbrook's work — knowing, playful, literate lyrics matched up with unbeatably catchy melodies — is still very much in the picture.
Erroll Garner: Concert By The Sea
Even though he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and sold millions of records in his heyday, pianist Erroll Garner remains one of the most unjustly ignored talents in jazz, and I've never been entirely sure why. He didn't truly break any new creative ground with his work or make a splashy tune in 5/4 like some of his contemporaries, but he's a solid talent with a limber, spritely sound. While I heartily recommend all of his work, which you can get for a pittance at most record shops, this is the record you can find everywhere: a performance at the Sunset School in Carmel-By-The-Sea, California where Garner is joined by Denzil Best on drums and Eddie Calhoun on bass. Crisp, bouncy, and full of heart
That's what's up. I thank you for reading all the way through to the end. Do let me know if you have questions / comments / complaints. Back again next week with a couple of newsletters — one for the premium subscribers, another for all y'all. Working on a couple of interviews and some potential feature type stories. We'll see how the week goes. See you soon. Do no harm. Take no shit. Fuck the Supreme Court.
Artwork for this week is by Anna Sofie Jespersen, a Danish artist whose work is included in Politely Screaming, a group show on display through July 9 at Copenhagen's Gallery Poulsen.