Sunday, October 24, 2010

Weekend Music Roundup (Vintage Vinyl Edition)

Since last week ended up being mostly newer indie fare, I thought this week it would be good to review all old school vinyl that I've gathered over the the past several weeks. This list spans from the '50s to the '70s and includes all genres of goodness. Now I must confess that my hi-fi is not set up in the office, so these are albums that I don't listen to while working. But music is always inspiring whether in the moment or not. Some of these will be familiar to most, but hopefully there's something for you to discover as well.

Pete Seeger - Strangers and Cousins: I picked this up several weeks ago, mostly because Pete Seeger used to run a children's music camp up the road from where I currently live and figured I should represent. Released in 1965, this is a collection of songs recorded on his world tour and plays a bit like a college course with Pete giving a lot of history to these traditional folk songs from around the world. It's an interesting listen and fascinating to hear the similarities between songs from very different cultures. More for folk enthusiasts than anyone else.

Tanya Tucker - Greatest Hits: This is the country singer's 1975 Greatest Hits album that was released after only three albums (she's had a gazillion GH albums since). This one surprised me. I didn't expect to like it too much, but her voice is amazing. It's '70s country in the style of Loretta Lynn. Just solid songs that I'm sure Gram Parsons would have loved.

Jack Starr - Born Petrified: A Texas figure from the late '50s and early '60s, Jack Starr played a raw savage style of garage rock that is essentially proto-punk. Perhaps the most accurate comparison would be to his contemporary Texas rocker Roky Erickson. Both were obsessed with monster horror flicks and fast-paced rock. About two years ago, I found a digital copy of this album online and was very impressed, but the quality was terrible. When I saw the vinyl last weekend at a record store in city, I snatched it up. Hearing it clearly, I was totally blown away. "I Need Your Luvin", "Beat Doll," "Pain (Gimme Sympathy)" and "Love Me Today" are pure brilliance.

Brenda Lee - Bye Bye Blues: Brenda's output in her teen years ranks up with some of my all time favorite music. This album from 1966 really marks the beginning of her mid-career work and though not quite as magnetic as the earlier work, this is a very nice album. A little more Big Band Pop sound than the raw country sound, it's very nostalgic. But covers of "Yesterday" and "Flowers on the Wall" are amazing.

Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band - Jug Band Music: I'd never heard of this band before but when I saw it in the stacks, I picked it right up because I love anything with a jug. What I discovered is one of the best albums I've heard in a long time. This Boston outfit plays old timey music with a Beat Generation sensibility. Released in 1965, this album could be seen as a precursor to the San Fran sound of Country Joe and even Jefferson Airplane, but still unmistakably a '60s folk jug band complete washboard and kazoo. In fact there's a kazoo solo that will totally blow you away. Standouts include "I'm a Woman", "Morning Blues," a ragtime number "Vamp of New Orleans," and the perfect "Memphis." Stellar stuff.

Graham Nash - Wild Tales: Graham's second solo album is not unlike Crosby's "If Only I Could Remember My Name." It's the sound of the '60s folk rock legend trying to find himself in the suddenly bleak landscape of 1973. There has a nice mix of haunting moments and cheerful ones that come together to make a decent album but a bit unfocused. "Music gets you high" Nash sings on one song...that and the piles of drugs that clearly can be heard in this recording.

The Outlaws - Outlaws: This 1975 debut album is a southern rock album that emulates southern rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd. It's heavy on grooves and decent riffs, but suffers from weaker than needed vocals. Whereas Skynyrd tempers their rock with a sadness in songs like "Simple Man" and "Freebird", this album remains upbeat throughout and lacks that emotion. Still though, the playing is great and the songs keep a good rhythm. They certainly saved the best for last, with the fiery last track "Green Grass and High Tides".

The Monkees - The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees: Between November 1967 and December 1968, The Monkees released three of the best records of the decade. This one falls in the middle of that trilogy with Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. coming before and Head coming after. Like those two albums, this is just a perfect piece of pop rock. Side A is fun and catchy. Side B is slightly more experimental, something the Monkees did very well and aren't given much credit for.

Jim Croce - Photographs & Memories: Oddly enough, I'm not a big fan of greatest hits albums. My parents are though and both of the ones on this weekend's list came from the pile of albums in their garage. Now, I have all of the songs on here on other albums, but I loved this record. This is still one of those rare greatest hits albums where every single song is amazing. I really hope there's a Jim Croce revival at some point, this legend needs more respect and recognition as one of the best singer songwriters of the '70s.

Don McLean - American Pie: This is one of those albums like the Eagles' "Hotel California" that a large number of people LOVE and large number of people LOATHE. I'm somewhere in between on both, mostly because neither inspire that much passion in me. This is a typical sort of melancholy early '70s singer songwriter album. I'm admittedly a sucker for that genre and I found this to be a solid okay. The title track, though played to death, is still a hard song to hate and the other tracks are decent enough.


  1. Yeah Monkees! That Graham Nash cover is terrifying.

  2. The cover totally sold me on the Graham Nash album. My very thoughts: "With a cover like this, it has to be good."