I got the book Dust and Grooves for Christmas and loved it. It inspired me to do some digging and opening up to new things. I found this in the dollar bin at 7th Heaven and have jammed on it all year. One time the exercise bike came off its stationery mount and I made a Dan-shaped hole on the gym wall while pedaling to this. This record sounds like a no-frills Earth Wind and Fire bar band, recording their jams live in the studio, tight as you know what, and the trombone player is great. I'm pretty much an ignoramus when it comes to anything but well-known R & B/disco so this felt like an obscurity to me, but Brick was a pretty popular national act, and alive and well on the dance floor today. At least they were at The Ship, night before last.
Juicy - It Takes Two
Another 7th Heaven dollar bin find, this has all the tacky joy of vintage 80's r & b with cheap beats, slap bass, and a swooshy electronic atmosphere. The song "Sugar Free" was close to a hit, I think, and it's an amazing track, taking the caloric value of an absent lover metaphor to the max. It definitely went on my workout playlist. The uncomplicated pop funky sexy innocence of this is really fun and I know there are worlds of music like this just waiting to be discovered. I am making a pair of manly leg warmers to go with it. The brother-sister bunk bed cover is fun!
Donna Summer - The Wanderer
I got this from my neighbor Susan when she styled us out with her old turntable and amp, a Kenwood tube bomber that was gathering dust in her attic storage. Thank you Susan! This is a pop-rock departure for Donna Summer, produced by Georgio Moroder. It's a brave leap for a great disco artist, rest in peace Donna. Some of it is very cheesy and dated-sounding, and some of it is good hooky pop. The gospel song "I Believe In Jesus" sits in the midst of all the glitter and gated snare and is very moving and inspiring. "Running For Cover" would be great if covered by Soul Asylum in 1988, and that's no joke!
Rufus featuring Chaka Khan - Ask Rufus
Someone left a massive pile of pop and jazz and r&b records in my neighbor Malick's garage. When he got a sweet new ride, it was time to tidy up, so Scot Sperry and I went through them. Thank you Malick! They were pretty moldy but I found this one, another disco-era record that I really like. The compositions are pretty sophisticated and I learned that Rufus and Chaka weren't just making disco fluff to showcase her radically sexy pipes. My favorite tune is "Hollywood", though the instrumental number with the unbelievable title of "Slow Screw Against The Wall" is gorgeous too.
The West Bridge Band - Kibera Esbera
This is a home-recorded album of traditional Kenyan music, some of it played on homeade instruments, and recorded in a kitchen. It is really raw and energetic and if you are into the soothing sounds of African blues and tribal music, this has some punky grit that will disrupt your alpha waves. Joe Strummer would hang with these guys--this is not an NPR production. 2015 Record Store Day find at 7th Heaven.
Duke Ellington - Jazz Party
I listened to the autobiography of Clark Terry, a wonderful Audible production with a great narrator, after watching the Netflix documentary Keep on Keepin' On (also wonderful). My brother-in-law Jonathan gave me a Clark Terry record in high school and it was one of the most traditional jazz records in my collection for a long time, as I went more for Ornette Coleman and stuff like that, along with punk rock and indie music. Anyhow, I learned about Terry's tenure in the Ellington band and wanted to hear some of that so I found this classic at Josie Records for a fiver. It is Ellington--classy, a little goofy, virtuosic, playful, impeccably arranged, how can ya go wrong. And Terry plays some solos on it but maybe only one.
Clark Terry - In Orbit
A synchronistic reissue find at Mills Records, on gorgeous red vinyl no less. This is remarkable for having Thelonious Monk as a side man on it, so there's a nice blend of Terry's good-natured, mellow, jouncy sound, and a little edge from Monk. My neighbor Scot says "Clark Terry has the most joyful sound in jazz." And it's true. He's the sound of your uncle bringing you a box of baseball cards, or everybody having a good time hanging out in the kitchen. He pioneered the mellow sound of the flugle horn and on trumpet, was not brash or ear-piercing. As an educator he made a huge difference in thousands of lives. You feel the spirit of a good human being when you listen to Clark Terry.
David Bowie - Blackstar
I had to special-order this at 7th Heaven after they all got snapped up in the weeks after Bowie's death. This record has a cool, galactic atmosphere, with a generous heart beating within. Lyrics are cosmically tossed off and somehow evoke mortality and the big questions, with great emotion. "I Can't Give Everything Away" is my favorite song.
Grant Hart - Good News For Modern Man
This one got past me back in the day. Like the second Nova Mob album, I don't think it was distributed all that well. By the time this came out, I was in the depressed thrall of alt-country and it was a long time before Guided By Voices jumpstarted my interest in more high energy, joyful pop sounds. A decade and a half later, reissued with new and much better art, this one leaped off my turntable, a great collection of left-of-center 60's pop with just enough post punk vibe and drive. Kitchen-sink psychedelic details make it fun. There are some gems on here. Also a 7the Heaven find.
Savages - Adore Life
Tracy heard about Savages on the radio and wanted this, and I'm always game to get records based on something other than my selfish whims. Records between friends mean a lot more (this is so much more true between the ages of 12 and 22) even though it's true that record-collecting is a pretty introverted thing, mostly for nerds. This is probably my favorite record of the year. It has intensity, and like Bowie's record, great passion in a coolish, dry, sonic atmosphere. When a band plays unique arrangements, holding a violent, unified front, without frills, that's always a good thing. Live-sounding, anthemic, with a challenging, vulnerable poet on the mic. Lyric fragments of this are stuck in my head on regular basis while I make coffee and get ready for work.
Herbie Hancock - Secrets
Tracy got this for me for my birthday after I listened to Herbie Hancock's autobiography on Audible. I really enjoyed the sound of his voice, telling his story, especially his spirituality, and honesty about some of the screwed up times. He came up in Dust and Grooves more than once, and I was on the prowl for his 70's records. Disco, fusion, electronic r & b, jazz--I didn't really have the emotional capacity for it early on. My heavy German cogitation machine (hat size 7.5) and some of the personal pain I was working through made it hard for me to get into this kind of groove. Punk rock punctured the shell but listening to music from the waist down wasn't really happening. It was hard to let my backbone slip. As a musician, when I listen to music like this, I feel like I have been playing with asbestos oven mitts on. But we all have our way through things, so let the joy keep growing.
Bob Mould - Patch The Sky
Lucky for KC, Bob is bringing his terrific power trio to town a week from tomorrow. This record is the third in a trilogy of trio records, and is the livest and most aggressive-sounding yet. He's a big hero to me and getting all musicological about it seems like a waste of breath. Husker Du was very impactful for me on a lot of levels as they were for many, many others. The ferocity and melody and honesty live on. This one I found at Mills Records with zero browsing, dithering, or beard-stroking. I walked in, went to the M section, and put the money down.
Shriekback - Big Night Music
Dave Snider sent me this in a gift package. I was unfamiliar with Shriekback and it is a welcome change up when it comes on my vinyl playlist. Shimmery jazzy dancy UK pop, the closest I get to this is David Sylvian. There is something so great about getting a random record from a friend and learning about something new. "Gunning For The Buddha" is a cool song.
NoMeansNo - Mama
When I said Dave Snider gift package, I meant GIFT PACKAGE. This very early NoMeansNo record is naked and razor-sharp and totally weird. The guitar is clean in the D Boon mode, and the art and progressive rock influence is fully evident, making this punk as f*ck, because that was extremely uncool in the early 80's, and no one else was doing really long progressive art rock/punk songs that I'm aware of. Not with balls out hardcore virtuosity like this. If there's a world congress of representatives of GOOD MUSIC no matter the genre, NoMeansNo should be at the table.
Sun Ra And His Myth Science Arkestra - Cosmic Tones For Mental Therapy
Sun Ra's creative world, like Robert Pollard's world, is one where anything can happen and a lot of it sounds kind of damaged and weird, but it's the limitless that is fun and liberating. His rhythm sections often have a pre-garage rock urgency, a little trogolodyte repetitiveness to them, that doesn't bounce and flutter around like a lot vintage post-swing music. I'm always down for the Egyptian lounge vibe, and like Pollard's music, it's still for clubs and hanging out and having a brew.
Well, I'll be damned, that only scratches the surface! This is what I do on Labor Day instead of grilling burgers. I will have to revisit this project. When the new year comes around, this will have to stand in as my year-end list. I don't have an exhaustive view of new releases. I work 45 to 50 hours a week and the music I run into is partly whim, partly chance, party my own inclinations, and gifts from friends. I would like to set up in a bar and play some of these records while people drink and have a good time, but it would have to be early.