Monday, January 31, 2011

37. Bee Gees - Main Course (1975)

45 years, 45 LPs, 45 days...
Main Course (1974)
Main Course (1975) was a rebirth for the Bee Gees, who had been suffering a slow death on the music charts since the early 70's following a long string of late 60's hits. With Main Course the group shifted from their Beatlesque roots into a new R&B/dance groove that eventually evolved into unbridled Gibb hysteria on Saturday Night Fever (1977).

Main Course, produced by the legendary Arif Mardin, included three Top 20 hits that kept the Bee Gees on the airwaves for the second half of 1975. For the remainder of the 70's there would hardly be a minute when the brothers Gibb (including solo Gibb brother Andy) were not on the radio.
Main Course hype sticker
Of course with such mammoth success comes an eventual backlash, and the Bee Gees were absolutely crucified. It took them many years to recover, but these days the group seems to be affectionately remembered for the full body of significant contributions that they've made not only to pop music but to popular culture.
The view from my seat @ Bee Gees concert, 1989

In 1989 the Bee Gees returned to the top 10 with the single "One", followed by an album and a successful world tour. It was the only time that I saw the group live, but what a great show.  A highlight that I remember was the brothers gathered around one mic for an acoustic medley of their early hits. It showcased the incredible talent Maurice, Robin, and Barry had for impeccable harmony. When heard live it was a spiritual event, the kind that would make your mama cry.
Ticket stub from my only Bee Gees concert

Sunday, January 30, 2011

38. The Muffs - Blonder and Blonder (1995)

45 years, 45 LPs, 45 days...
Blonder and Blonder (1995)
I don't remember how I learned of The Muffs. I knew that the band's drummer, Roy McDonald, used to be in the classic Redd Kross Neurotica (1987) lineup, and I knew the album art for Blonder and Blonder was groovy.  So in the spring of 1995 I was in Duluth for a conference and picked up the CD during a Best Buy break. The first listen was one of those moments when I knew I had a new favorite band.
Red f'n vinyl!

A few years later my brother and I saw The Muffs headline at the 7th St. Entry in Minneapolis (I'm pretty sure the opening bands were Chixdiggit and Groovie Ghoulies). The Muffs totally rocked the house.

Blonder and Blonder, in my opinion, remains the Muff's masterpiece, although 2004's Really Really Happy comes really really close. Just this week the band released Kaboodle, which consists of formerly released songs,  plus some b-sides and new material (no word yet on a vinyl pressing).

Saturday, January 29, 2011

On my turntable: Prince & the NPG - Diamonds and Pearls

I just got home from the record store about 30 minutes ago with this under my arm. Diamonds and Pearls (1991) has been on my want list for years. Years. I've been close to buying it on eBay but I had set a limit of $20 that I was willing to pay, which is exactly what this beauty cost. The LPs are in absolutely double-plus near-mint shape. This fills a long existing gap in my Prince collection.

Still riding out the high (record nerds you know what I'm talking about!).

*sigh*

39. Osmonds - Crazy Horses (1972)

45 years, 45 LPs, 45 days...
When I think of my life in the early 1970's, Saturday morning television is one of the first things that comes to mind. Saturday morning was, without a doubt, the best part of the week (for both us kids and for our parents, who got some peace & quiet for a few hours).

Among my many fond memories of the Osmonds is the time I spent watching their Saturday morning cartoon show in 72-73.  1972 also was the year that the brothers released their fully self-penned and performed rock LP Crazy Horses.
1972: Saturday Morning TV stars
People often (unfairly, I think) make the mistake of comparing the Osmonds with the Jackson 5ive. Sure, the J5 also had their own Saturday cartoon show, and both groups of brothers made great pop records, and both had the youngest sibling experience break-out solo success, but I think that's where the similarities end. Where the Osmonds often get short-changed is that folks don't seem to know just how committed the band was to their craft of writing and recording great rock records.  The band's 3rd LP, Phase III (1971) hinted towards their talents as rock musicians, but it was the next LP that would really rock and challenge their image as a bubblegum act.
Saturday morning TV watcher, early 1970's

At least half of the Crazy Horses LP truly rocks hard, and when not rocking it is serving up sunshine harmony pop that likely influenced generations of future power-pop acts such as Jellyfish and Redd Kross. The album generated two top 20 singles, "Hold Her Tight", and the album's scorching title track, which featured lead vocal duties shared by Merrill and Jay. The song was banned from the radio in some parts of the globe, as some programmers thought it was a drug song (the tune's lyrics were not pro-drugs, but pro-ecology).

The Osmonds took their musical vision one step further with their next album, a Mormon rock opera titled The Plan (1973).  Unfortunately The Plan proved to be too heavy for the Tiger Beat crowd that comprised most of the group's fanbase (mostly because of Donny's solo success).  For The Plan's follow-up, Love Me For a Reason (1974), The Osmonds had been "relieved" of most of their creative control. Although the radio-friendly ballad "Love Me For a Reason" reached the Top 10 of the singles chart, the days of the Osmonds as a heavy rock unit were officially, and sadly, over.

Friday, January 28, 2011

40. O+> The Gold Experience (1995)

45 years, 45 LPs, 45 days...
The Artist Formerly Known as Prince: The Gold Experience (1995)
The mid-1990’s saw our man Prince going thru some tough times. Despite having recently signed one of the most lucrative record deals in the history of the music biz, he was becoming publicly agitated about (as he saw it) Warner Brothers’ mistreatment of him as an artist. Some have speculated that Prince’s problem had little to do with how he was being treated, that the issue was more about WB’s refusal to release the quantity of music that
Limited edition, #257
Prince was generating at such a fast pace, fearing that it would saturate the market with product and dilute sales. It didn’t help matters that neither the public nor the press regarded Prince’s recent output to be as strong as past efforts. His most recent incarnation of the New Power Generation (NPG) featured 2nd rate rappers and dancers (OK maybe not 2nd rate; More like 3rd rate), along with Prince’s sorry attempt at adopting a new “gangsta” persona. The result: record buyers were starting to view Prince as a joke rather than a serious artist. He was at a crossroads, where his finances were dwindling and his artistic reputation was at stake.

The Gold Experience cassette
Prince’s response to his problems was certainly unprecedented: He changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol (O+>), eventually taking on the ridiculous title of “The Artist formerly known as Prince”. He began releasing music independently through his own NPG records, scoring a surprise number one single (“The Most Beautiful Girl In the World”). Rather than capitalize on the momentum of the single’s success by releasing a full-length album, O+> decided to hold a new album (The Gold Experience) hostage  from Warner Brothers. Instead, he released a new “Prince” album titled Come (1994), a collection of tracks reportedly culled from the vaults and released “posthumously”. The cover even included “1958-1993” under Prince’s name, a dramatic attempt at emphasizing that Prince as we once knew him was no longer with us. Yawn. Whatevs, P.

Fast forward to fall, 1995, when the much talked about Gold Experience finally gets released. Response from the general public was tepid to say the least, resulting in another chart dud for “The Artist”. Fan reactions ranged from “He needs to release Purple Rain part II
Fall 1995, visiting U of M-Duluth. Very sick with Crohn's disease.
to “This is his most brilliant work in years!” I fell into the second category. The Gold Experience was an exciting and consistent record that did not require multiple plays for the listener to “warm up” to it. I was on a trip from Mankato to St. Paul when The Gold Experience came out, so I bought the album on cassette and listened to it in my car. A few years ago I finally got a limited promotional copy of the album (pictured, above), pressed on double gold vinyl.

Sadly, The Gold Experience did little in 1995 to save Prince’s sinking fortunes. His career fell into considerable obscurity for the remainder of the decade following his departure from Warner Brothers. In 2001 he reclaimed his old name to little fanfare and independently released The Rainbow Children, a musically interesting album about his Jehovah Witness faith. Fans and critics both loathed and loved the record (personally, I love the album). Regardless, it was a first step for Prince in getting his career back on track.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

41. Beck - Odelay (1996)

45 years, 45 LPs, 45 days...
Odelay (1996)
I was pretty firm in my decision to not like Beck. I thought "Loser" was obnoxious, especially after it made the jump from college radio to heavy rotation on MTV and pop radio. Even though I thought  Odelay's first single, "Where It's At", was a creative leap forward,  I remained adamant about being anti-Beck.

>Cut to summer, 1996< I'm driving across Wisconsin for an annual camping trip when suddenly "Devil's Haircut" comes on the radio. I think to myself "Wow - this is a catchy number. I like it. Watch - with my luck it'll be Beck." >end scene<

Summer 1996, exploring the lovely village of Saranac Lake, NY
The more that I heard from Odelay the tougher it became for me to resist its shiny brilliance. I waved the white flag in surrender and bought the CD, and soon after that the LP.  I remain a Beck fan and consider him among a small handful of artists who continue to create exciting material with each new release.

For me personally, 1996 was a big year. I completed my masters degree on time and began the job search. I did a number of in-person and phone interviews with colleges across the country, including North Country Community College (NCCC) in Saranac Lake, NY.  I immediately fell in love with the small village in the Adirondack mountains, about 10 miles from Lake Placid.
North Country Community College, Saranac Lake NY

I received a job offer from NCCC, which I accepted.  One week before I was due to depart for NY I received another offer closer to home, which I accepted.  Sometimes I wonder how life would have been different had I gone to NY, but I have no regret over my decision.  Things happen the way they do for a reason; Who and where I am today are the result of a series of life choices, and so far I'm pretty happy with how things have turned out.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

42. Beastie Boys - Paul's Boutique (1989)

45 years, 45 LPs, 45 days...
Paul's Boutique (1989)
A stoned-out hip-hop masterpiece.  

In 1989 the Beastie Boys were on a new label, having switched from Def Jam to Capitol for their 2nd full-length release. Paul's Boutique hit record racks a year or two prior to the The Turtles v De La Soul court case that would require future releases to give credit to all records sampled, but in '88 it was fair game and the Beasties raided the vault. Boutique is so dense with samples that it's a challenge to even identify them all. The group had set a new creative standard for hip-hop, thus changing the landscape for future generations.

From the inner sleeve of Paul's Boutique
The Beastie Boys managed to reinvent themselves while staying true to their Brooklyn roots. Capitol Records was apparently 100% behind their latest artist acquisition, packaging Paul's Boutique in a lush eight-panel gatefold sleeve (the label re-created the original packaging with the recent vinyl reissue of the LP).   Three years later the Beasties would re-invent themselves again by integrating real instruments and becoming a band on the fantastic hip-hop/punk hybrid Check Your Head (1992).

I was fortunate to see the Beastie Boys at First Avenue in '92 when they toured in support of Check Your Head. It was one of those moments when I sensed I was witnessing an important show by one of the most innovative bands of my generation.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

43. Stone Temple Pilots - Tiny Music from the Vatican Gift Shop (1996)

45 years, 45 LPs, 45 days...
Tiny Music from the Vatican Gift Shop (1996)
Tiny Music was among the first batch of new LPs I bought when I started getting back into vinyl in the mid-90's. I was not an STP fan prior to this album, and I might have never become a fan if it weren't for the LP's crunchy first single, "Big Bang Baby".  Aside from being an album packed with great tunes, Tiny Music has cover art that deserves to be 12x12. If I hadn't bought it on LP at the time, I'd be scouring eBay today trying to find it.

Some time after Tiny Music's release, it was announced that Stone Temple Pilots had earned the highly coveted slot as opening act for the 1996 KISS reunion tour, quite possibly the biggest event of the century (outside of maybe Live Aid and The Beatles on Sullivan).

But alas, the trainwreck that was Scott Weiland's addiction troubles
Boating in Red Wing MN, early summer 1996
derailed the band's tour the moment he entered rehab. After a much needed break and various side projects the band reformed and has continued to release inventive and highly charged records, including last year's self-titled release (which I highly recommend - on vinyl, of course).  


Monday, January 24, 2011

44. Scissor Sisters (2004)

45 years, 45 LPs, 45 days...
Scissor Sisters (2004)
I am sure I wasn't the first person to hear the "Take Your Mama Out" single and think "holy crap this sounds like vintage Elton!".  It was the real deal, not manufactured prefab posturing.

Much like The Go-Go's navigated uncharted territory in 1981 as the first breakthrough all-female band, Scissor Sisters blasted onto the music scene in 2004 as the first predominantly gay band. Their debut was a dizzying blend of pop, rock, retro funk, and disco.  In early '05 Scissor Sisters earned a Grammy for their falsetto cover of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb".

2004: Outside the Piggy Banks Museum, Okayama Japan
Two significant events stand out for me when I think of 2004. First, Leo and I made a fantastic visit to Japan. It was my first trip abroad, and truly an incredible experience.

Second, and far less fun, was the demolition of my childhood mall Apache Plaza. While it was a mildly traumatic experience for me, I learned I was not the only one who mourned the mall's demise. By designing a memorial website for the mall (which I started in '03) I found a whole online community of folks who were seriously saddened by the loss of what used to literally be the "Center of the Community".  A couple of months before the mall closed for good my own apacheplaza.com had become Apache's "official" website. The site turned out to be the perfect outlet for me to both say goodbye to the mall and keep its memory alive online.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

45. Burt Bacharach - At This Time (2005)

45 years, 45 LPs, 45 days...
At This Time (2005)
At This Time was my favorite album of 2005. In '05 our country was dealing with a horribly corrupt administration that misled us into an illegal and unjust war. With At This Time Bacharach boldly addressed this state of affairs with a brave and original work that also served as a musical reminder of what made him a living legend in the first place.

In an 11/11/05 blog entry I wrote:
"Bacharach's use of horns and strings is so smooth, like mayonnaise on Wonder bread. Only a handful of artists have an original sound that is so unmistakenly theirs, artists like The Beatles, The Ramones, Manilow, and Burt Bacharach. All of the classic sonic elements are on this album, plus a few new ones, such as beats from Dr. Dre which are used on a handful of tracks. Overall, this is a very classy and poignant album from the king of the swingers."
Below: pics of Leo and myself at the pumpkin patch, Fall 2005

Friday, January 21, 2011

45 Years, 45 LPs, 45 days...

So on March 9th I turn 45 years old. To commemorate what feels like a milestone birthday I am doing two things: 1) Getting a tattoo of a 45 adapter on my arm, and 2) Counting down my Top 45 favorite LPs of the past 45 years.

I'll begin showcasing one LP per day starting this Sunday the 23rd, which is 45 days from my birthday. I compiled the list one night a few weeks ago when I was unable to sleep, and then ranked them earlier today. Seeing as I've bought a hell of a lot of records in my short 45 years, this list took a lot of thought and retrospection. 

Stay tuned, and as always, thank you for reading!!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"Light"

This was toss-away footage of a light fixture that I found on my camera. Rather than delete, I used it as an exercise in color manipulation & editing. The far-out music you hear is THE FREE DESIGN.

Monday, January 17, 2011

On my turntable: Guess Who's Coming To Dinner (OST)

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner (1967)
I watched this film today for the first time.  Let's just say I now fully understand why it is considered a classic.  In 1967, the year in which "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner" was released, it was still illegal in 17 states for interracial couples to marry. Sound familiar?  While watching this film I couldn't help but notice what I thought were glaring parallels between the attitudes about African Americans in 1967 and the hatred and bigotry held today towards GLBT Americans.

As of this writing there are constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage in most U.S. states,  the result of allowing "the people" to vote on the civic rights of a minority. This is morally and ethically wrong, as well as being unconstitutional. Despite all this, I am feeling more confident that time is on the side of equality. It might be a long time, but it will happen. Until it does happen, however, we must all continue to stand up for ourselves and what we know is right.  We are and will continue to make change happen.

A special thank you to Dr. Martin Luther King, whose powerful voice and unwavering sense of purpose continue to have an impact on the lives of those who are willing to listen.

"A Fancy Box of Go-Go's"

Yes I've been doing a lot of video lately.

The Go-Go's were highly influential to me as a teen. OK I'll say it - they changed my life. I remember the night I was babysitting in 1981, watching Solid Gold, and The Go-Go's lip-synched "Our Lips Are Sealed." I remember the urgency, that I must have that record.  Unfortunately the domestic 45 had not yet hit the shops. Fortunately Minneapolis has always had great record stores, so within days of seeing the Solid Gold performance I had an import 45 (on pink vinyl) that I found at Harpo's Hot Licks. Over the years I bought every single the band issued, and took very good care of them.



So I made this little video of my Go-Go's 45's. One interesting thing about this clip is that the video you see is actually reversed--when I was shooting the vid I was taking the 45s out of the box, but what you see is the opposite.  I like the way it turned out (even though the lighting could be better).  The most prominent thing that stands out, I think, is the fact that The Go-Go's write damn catchy songs!

Pic of the day: Technics

1.15.2011, originally uploaded by jeff's fancy blog.
A photo I took yesterday of my turntable's cartridge headshell.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

On my turntable (video edition): Bay City Rollers - It's A Game

The latest in my fancy video series. This is a Japanese pressing of what I consider to be the best Rollers LP (See below for previous comments I'd written about this record).

"(It's A Game) has always been my favorite Rollers album. It's unfortunate the the band's teenybopper image overshadowed this record, because it is easily their best work. Anyone doubting the pure power of the Rollers should pick up Rollerworld - Live At The Budokan, Tokyo 1977 (2001), a live recording from this period that proves once and for all what a kickass band the Rollers truly were." (blog entry from 10/1/2005)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

video: 7 Inch Art

This is a video project that I quickly shot and edited tonight. It is evident by watching the video that I do not own a tripod, which explains why the images are not as stable as they could be.  I enjoy "editing to form" (something I learned as an undergrad when I studied video production), in this case using the art of colorful 7-inch singles.


The soundtrack is a "mashup" I did a few years ago, built primarily around bits from the following:
  • Weezer - "Keep Fishin'"
  • The Monkees - "She"
  • Sister Janet Mead - "Gloria"
  • Yoko Ono - "Kiss Kiss Kiss"
I may do more of these, especially if I find a good way to stabilize the camera!

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    NYC 2010 (Hey Manhattan!)

    I finished this video earlier today using footage shot during my visit to NYC last summer. It was such an amazing trip; I'm eager to go back again soon!

    Top selling vinyl LPs of 2010

    These numbers are reported by Soundscan, so they may not include sales figures from some indie stores that do not report units sold (this used to be the case at least -- if this has changed feel free to correct me!).
    1. The Beatles, Abbey Road (35,000)
    2. Arcade Fire, The Suburbs (18,800)
    3. The Black Keys, Brothers (18,400)
    4. Vampire Weekend, Contra (15,000)
    5. Michael Jackson, Thriller (14,200)
    6. The National, High Violet (13,600)
    7. Beach House, Teen Dream (13,000)
    8. Jimi Hendrix Experience, Valleys of Neptune (11,400)
    9. Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon (10,600)
    10. The xx, The xx (10,200)
    (Thanks to VinylFanatics.com for posting this data!)

    Sunday, January 09, 2011

    New R.E.M. Cover art!

    The new R.E.M. album, Collapse Into Now (2011) is their first collection of all-new studio material since 2008's incredible return to form, Accelerate. The CD is slated for a March 8 release (one day b4 my birthday - thanks R.E.M.!). I have not been able to confirm whether a vinyl version comes out on the same day.

    Saturday, January 08, 2011

    On my turntable: Heart - Greatest Hits/Live

    When Heart's Greatest Hits/Live (1980) first came out I thought it was a double live album. Not being a fan of live albums in general (unless I saw the actual tour) I was always quick to dismiss it, until I took a chance on this clean used copy a few years ago for $2. Turned out only one of the LPs is live, while the other is one of the most solid hit-after-hit records ever assembled.

    For those of you were weren't alive at the time (or who lived in a cave where transistor radios didn't get good reception) there was a period between 1976-80 when the recipe for summer included at least one kickass Heart hit blaring from the airwaves. The string of hits began in the summer of '76 with"Magic Man", which I recall hearing every time I got my roller boogie on at Disco Skate. I played my personal copy of the 45 (on the cool Mushroom records label) so much that the surface noise eventually became louder than the song itself.

    Seriously tho, when spun back-to-back these songs are a powerhouse: "Barracuda", "Crazy on You", "Straight On", "Even it Up", "Magic Man", "Heartless".  After finally buying this album I started venturing out to others in the band's catalog, and have since developed considerable affection for LPs such as Dreamboat Annie (1976) and Dog and Butterfly (1978).  Heart released a new CD last fall called Red Velvet Car (2010), and while there remains no confirmation of a vinyl version, the band did release a super cool & limited heart-shaped vinyl single (in time for summer, of course) called "WTF" that rocked pretty damn hard.

    Friday, January 07, 2011

    The Crosley Revolution Portable USB Turntable

    OH BOY do I want this fancy little do-hickey machine.
    Retail price = $149.

    10:33 AM

    The view from where I'm sitting.

    3:30 AM


    1.7.2011, originally uploaded by jeff's fancy blog.
     A fitting tune considering I'm wide awake.  Rather than lie around restless I figured it would be be more fun to get up and listen to records.