Further Charity Shop Adventures

So yes, I have again been in the charity shops but a different town this time. It is best to leave 2 to 4 weeks between visits so that some new stuff comes in, although a couple of shops I usually visit have stopped stocking CD’s at all and replaced them with greeting cards, I guess it must be more lucrative, less hassle.

As always I’ll pick up anything that is remotely interesting and this time I had a pretty full bag having also found an lp for £1:

The back cover isn’t great but the rest of it is VG+ and plays nicely. So that was good as nowadays it is very slim pickings in the vinyl bins, unless you are a big Easy Listening fan that is.

This visit did include Oxfam, who are much more expensive than other shops, with some of the CD’s being at almost full price, but I don’t go over £1.99 there and usually not over £0.99 a disc (the Oxfam in the picture is the actual Oxfam I go to). Anyway, here is what I got:

[Dave, the Graham Coxon is a duplicate, so yours effectively].

So, standout finds for me where Kendrick Lemar, Roots Manuva & Nick Cave but there’s plenty of listening pleasure there to get me ears into. I can’t remember what I played first, it may have been ‘Halsey’ as the shop assistant in the British Heart Foundation said it was really good and that she had a copy. Last time nobody guessed which one I played first, so I’ll tell you, it was The Antonio Carlos Jobim Songbook.

Hekla ‎– Á

Who the hell is Hekla Magnúsdóttir? Well, she plays the theramin, and who doesn’t love the theramin?………………………. Don’t answer that.

If you had to categorise her debut release you might very well go for something like ‘Icelandic ambient’, but no, she doesn’t really fit in that, she produces rather haunting electronica overlayed with a delicate voice, haunting even. It’s a strange listen and and times there is a creepiness about it but there is also great beauty. For me, one of the key indicators of whether this album is any good or not is whether I’m constantly thinking “Teramin, Theramin, Theramin” all the time as I’m listening to it, and I don’t. Some of the sounds and transitions between notes are unusual but she plays the instrument with such skill that there is no suggestion that there is anything gimmicky here. Hekla is an extremely skilled musician who can make her instrument bend to her will.

Obvioulsy I’ve made some assumptions here, so just in case, here is a quick rundown on what a theramin is:

The theremin (/ˈθɛrəmɪn/; originally known as the ætherphone/etherphone, thereminophone or termenvox/thereminvox) is an electronic musical instrument controlled without physical contact by the thereminist (performer). It is named after its inventor, Léon Theremin (Лев Термен), who patented the device in 1928.

The instrument’s controlling section usually consists of two metal antennas that sense the relative position of the thereminist’s hands and control oscillators for frequency with one hand, and amplitude (volume) with the other. The electric signals from the theremin are amplified and sent to a loudspeaker.

The sound of the instrument is often associated with eerie situations. Thus, the theremin has been used in movie soundtracks such as Miklós Rózsa’s Spellbound and The Lost Weekend, Bernard Herrmann’s The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Justin Hurwitz’s First Man, as well as in theme songs for television shows such as the ITV drama Midsomer Murders. The theremin is also used in concert music (especially avant-garde and 20th- and 21st-century new music), and in popular music genres such as rock.

If you wanted to buy one you can pay as little as £40 but the go to instrument appears to be by Moog and it is about £300.

I bought the album a few weeks ago, it was discounted to about £11 I think from £20 ish and this is the thought process that made me decide to buy it:

It’s quite cheap, oh Icelandic, Theramin! It will be terrible or brilliant. I’ll get it.

Tracklist

Hatur4:43
Í Hring4:22
Muddle4:29
Heyr Himna Smiður1:52
Arms4:19
Ekki Er Allt Gull Sem Glóir3:25
A Way4:13
Í Felum2:42
Slit2:40
Stondum4:30

Frank Sinatra – Come Dance With Me

Another 1959 record from the best of joins the shelves, and its Sinatra, so of course it’s good. I still think the cover photo is a bit creepy though.

Come Dance with Me! is Frank Sinatra’s twenty-first studio album. This was Sinatra’s second recording with arranger Billy May, and it’s a great orchestra. The album reached #2 on the Pop charts and stayed in the chart for 140 weeks, apparently it is Sinatra’s most successful album but I’m not sure on what that is measured, still, it did well.

At the Grammy Awards of 1960, Come Dance With Me! took three awards: the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, the Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance, Male, and the Grammy Award for Best Arrangement. The second of which was given to Frank Sinatra and the third was to Billy May.

As one can gather from the title the album is a collection of songs related in some way to dancing, or as it says on the back of the sleeve “Vocals that dance” which is very late 50’s.

A1Come Dance With Me
A2Something’s Gotta Give
A3Just In Time
A4Dancing In The Dark
A5Too Close For Comfort
A6I Could Have Danced All Night
B1Saturday Night
B2Day In, Day Out
B3Cheek To Cheek
B4Baubles, Bangles And Beads
B5The Song Is You
B6The Last Dance

Julie London – London By Night

Another of the best albums of 1959 arrived this week, the wittily titled ‘London By Night’ by Julie London. While compiling the best of list for 1959 I listened to a load of albums on Spotify through noise cancelling headphones but playing the actual record is a much better listening experience. Having the sound vibrate the air molecules in the room, filling it up, bouncing off walls and filling my ears from multiple directions just feels so much better. Added to this the fact that I wasn’t doing something else while listening, just siting and listening, also helps to create a better listening experience.

My copy is a 1963 repress so not really very long after it was originally released and the entire process of recording, mixing and pressing would still have been analogue. Though my ears are not as good as they used to be, I,m pretty confident I can hear the difference. The sound is rich and full and it feels like it has a warmth about it which is often lacking when digital came along. This is not a scientific thing, I can’t really prove it one way or the other, it just feels like that to me.

On listening more closely to the songs they are a piece of social history and at times indicative of the place of women in the late 50’s. while sitting and listening to the lyrics rather than letting them wash over me I was struck by these words from “Just the way I am”:

If perhaps I’d been a little distant
If I tried to play a little hard to get
Do you think you might have fallen in love?If I’d been a trifle, inconsistent
If I hadn’t let you light each cigarette
Do you think you might have fallen in love?And if I’d wonder the way you like, him
Would I’ve been more appealing?
Had my chin been stronger
Had my kisses lasted longer
Would I’ve inspired that I adore her feeling
If I’d been little more, attractive
Had my power had not been so, overactive
Would you have not held that nose
Like some meek, sweet adolescent lad?
What a fool I was to ever believe
That someday you could love me,
Just, the way, I am

Written by a man, Bobby Troup, and sung by a woman. It is possible to read different things into the lyrics but it gives me the sense of things being entirely the woman’s fault. I decided to check if Bobby Troup was actually a man, and he was, he was also the writer of “Route 66”. When I looked up his songwriting credits I discovered this song was not originally sung by Julie London (although some of his songs were), but by June Christy 4 years prior, who I’ve never heard of but she has a nice voice.

Much of the above is just rambling, sorry, also I discovered Bobby Troup was the husband of Julie London.

Let me give you a special prize for staying with me this far. When I buy a used record I always hope for an inner sleeve that advertises other records as this was a sort of old timey music discovery route. Unfortunately this album had a plain white sleeve, however, I just discovered something inside the cover!

I don’t remember seeing an insert like this before, and it has the Peggy Lee/George Shearing album that is also in the top 30. I knew you’d be excited. I listened to tracks form some of the other albums by people I’d never heard of, like The Dinning Sisters, Glen Gray, Peters Sisters, Ray Anthony, didn’t like it. Harry James was ok, Sinatra, Garland, Cole and Kitt I already know, which just left Nelson Riddle, who I knew was often Sinatras band, so I gave that a listen, the band is great but I couldn’t listen to a whole album of songs that normally have vocals but are played as instrumentals.

I really should say a little more about who Julie London was, so here is the start of her wiki entry:

Julie London (born Nancy Gayle Peck; September 26, 1926 – October 18, 2000) was an American singer and actress, whose career spanned more than 40 years. Born in Santa Rosa, California to vaudevillian parents, London was discovered while working as an elevator operator in downtown Los Angeles, and began her career as an actress. London’s 35-year acting career began in film in 1944, and included roles as the female lead in numerous Westerns, co-starring with Rock Hudson in The Fat Man (1951), with Robert Taylor and John Cassavetes in Saddle the Wind (1958), and opposite Robert Mitchum in The Wonderful Country (1959).

In the mid-1950s, she signed a recording contract with the newly established Liberty Records, and released a total of 32 albums of pop and jazz standards during the 1950s and 1960s, with her signature song being “Cry Me a River”, which she introduced in 1955. London was noted by critics for her husky, smoky voice and languid vocal style. She released her final studio album in 1969, but achieved continuing success playing the female starring role of Nurse Dixie McCall, in the television series Emergency! (1972–1979), in which she appeared opposite her real-life husband, Bobby Troup. The show was produced by her ex-husband, Jack Webb.

A shy and introverted woman, London rarely granted interviews, and spent the remainder of her life out of the public sphere. In 1995, she suffered a stroke, which left her with permanent health problems, and died five years later of a heart attack.

Track List

1Well, SirBobby Troup, John Lehmann3:09
2That’s for MeRichard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II2:26
3Mad About the BoyNoël Coward2:11
4In the Middle of a KissSam Coslow2:19
5Just the Way I AmBobby Troup2:43
6My Man’s Gone NowGeorge and Ira Gershwin, DuBose Heyward3:50
7Something I Dreamed Last NightSammy Fain, Jack Yellen, Herbert Magidson2:36
8Pousse CafeNigel Mullaney, J. P. Jowett, Chris Foster2:53
9Nobody’s HeartRichard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart2:20
10The Exciting LifeEarl Hagen, Hubert Spencer2:31
11That Old FeelingSammy Fain, Lew Brown2:29
12Cloudy MorningMarvin Fisher, Joseph McCarthy2:13

And now for your listening and viewing pleasure, The Julie London Show from 1964:

What Does A Tenner Get You?

Armed with a £10 note, that didn’t have David Tennant’s face on it, I popped into a couple of charity shops today and walked away with 24 CD’s. Before you do the difficult arithmetic, I’ll save you the trouble, it’s about £0.42 a CD. As ever with these things there is not a great deal of quality control and I’ll pick up anything that I find moderately interesting, but several of these I’m really very pleased to have picked up.

Ten points to Gryffindor if you can guess which was the first I played.

Nérija ‎– Blume

The album for August I received today (actually 2 days ago now) from my Rough Trade Subscription is Blume by Nérija. I’m on my fourth listen and I absolutely bloody love it.

To my thoroughly untrained ear I hear a strong, resounding in fact, echo from the days of the Jazz greats intermingled with everything that has happened since then, with occasional seventies TV themes and a sprinkling of Afrobeat. It is a delicious cocktail.

Nérija were winners of the Jazz Newcomer Parliamentary Jazz Award 2017 and Jazz FM Breakthrough Act of the Year 2016 nominees, Nerija are are a collective of London-based musicians playing exciting and original music inspired by Jazz, Hip Hop, Afrobeat and South African Township. Featuring a line-up truly representative of the up-coming London jazz scene, the seven-piece band features rising players such as tenor saxophonist Nubya Garcia (Polar Bear, Outlook Orchestra, Steve Reid InNOVAtion Award Winner), trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey (KANO, Little Simz, KOKOROKO) and guitarist Shirley Tetteh (Maisha, Gary Crosby’s Groundation).

After the release of an EP in 2016, their eclectic repertoire has appealed to the UK jazz scene as well as giving them a presence at rap and pop-focused festivals. They have toured across Europe and the UK and performed alongside top UK jazz musicians such as Nathaniel Facey of Empirical, pianist Zoe Rahman, and supporting Jazz Jamaica at the renowned Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club. Recently signed to Domino records and having performed at Ronnie Scott’s, the Barbican and jazz fetivals in the UK and Europe, Nérija are truly part of the buzz.

SXSW Band Write UP

My copy is three sided orange vinyl with the fourth side etched, which is sort of nice as it means it hasn’t had the crap compressed out of it to get it onto 2 sides, even though etched sides are a little pointless, it’s better than blank I guess. Oh and it’s limited to 1200 copies.

First Ever Record

I would very much have liked to have bought a really cool first record, but I didn’t, at least not from most people’s point of view. I can’t remember exactly what year I bought my first record, a 45, but I think I would have been 6 or 7 years old, so somewhere around 1973-4. The reason I was thinking about this recently is because I stumbled across a video from 1980 which very briefly has a shot of the Woolworths in Aberdare, South Wales, where I bought the record.

My Dad, my brother and I went to the shop and my brother also bought a record I think but I don’t remember what it was, but I remember well what I bought. The shop is in the video below, but I did a screen shot underneath in case you can’t be bothered to watch it.

I had a search for the record and found some pictures of the cover, which was very special to me at the time. Here is the front cover:

I had this record hanging around for years before, at some point, I threw it away, but the thing that made it extra special was the back cover, which allowed me to colour in the Diddymen, and colour them in I did, really badly, but still, it was a fun feature at the time.

I don’t expect that many people to remember the Diddymen, or even have ever known about them, but because I know that by now you are most probably very excited about the above, I will share some history. The Diddymen are the inhabitants of the small village of Knottyash. Where they work the Jam Butty Mines, The Snuff Quaries, the Broken Biscuit Repair Works, The Treacle Wells and the Moggy Ranch. Nigel Ponsonby Smallpiece is the Owner of the Jam Butty mines and Dickie Mint is the foreman. The other Diddymen were Mick The Marmalizer; Wee Hamish McDiddy; Harry Cott; Sid Short; Weany Wally; Little Evan.

They were a creation of Ken Dodd and had a series on TV starting in the 60’s and running all the way through until 1977. In my young mind Knottyash was quite near me, just across the valley near Mountain Ash and anytime we went that way in the car I always had one eye open for a road sign.

Quite poignant to me about all this is that my late father used to have a nickname for me, which was Dickie Mint, I’m not entirely sure why, but he would still call me it occasionally when I was approaching 50 years old. I’d forgotten it was one of the Diddymen.

And now, what you have all been waiting for, the actual song, sorry to have kept you waiting so long:

Love it? Yeah, of course you do, what’s not to love?

Milano – Daniele Luppi & Parquet Courts

At the same time I bought this incredibly cheaply: Wild – Streets Of Laredo, I also picked up Milano by Daniele Luppi & Parquet Courts cheaply. It was on sale for £8 and I took a chance on it at that price. I did try and have a quick listen on Spotify but there was no data reception so I just got it anyway.

Line Of Best Fit – Review

Luppi draws his inspiration from another city that’s played an important part in his life; the achingly cool buzz of high-fashion 80s Milan. MILANO combines the yin and yang of slacker punks Parquet Courts and brash energy of Karen O. It seems an incompatible pairing, however Parquet’s slurring discordance and O’s frenetic purr make for an intriguing proposition.

O only appears on half of the album, and in her absence the Parquet-only tracks are wired with all the nervy DIY hallmarks that have made their own albums so thrilling. “Mount Napoleon” is off-kilter and downtuned with a laxity and jittery undertone that recalls Silver Jews or Pavement, while on opener “Soul and Cigarette”, Luppi intersperses keys that twinkle through the ramshackle, buzzsaw guitars like lights in glitzy department store windows.

The album really shines though when O steps up to the mic and accordingly, Parquet Courts spike up their guitars to complement her kittenish exuberance. Jagged riffs thrust, needle and stab on “Talisa” and “Flush”, while O’s vocals strut, prowl and drip with unapologetic sexuality. “Touch yourself!” she orders brattishly on “The Golden Ones”, later breathlessly asking “do you like it when I dance for you like this?” on “Pretty Prizes” amid ragged Magazine-esque riffs.

On paper MILANO should be a mess, but it’s a resounding triumph. Luppi has crafted a fast-paced and fashionable record which taps into the lifeblood of his beloved Milan; seductive, hedonistic and super stylish.

So in the spirit of supreme lazyness I agree with all of the above, certainly about Karen O who fits in really well on the tracks which she guests on.

I’ve listened to the album several times now and it’s a grower for certain, mostly because I’ve become used to Daniele Luppi and his voice now.

The Tip

I had to drop some rubbish and recycling off at the local tip yesterday. They have a portacabin there which sells things that people have thrown away so I popped in for a little look. It is organised chaos to be honest but I found three piles of records, all seemingly by Max Bygraves, and several areas where CD’s had been piled (One was in a plastic box outside and had been rained on quite extensively, so I didn’t look in there). There were probably 300 CD’s in total, many of the usual one finds in charity shops and some that you don’t see so often. I picked out 20 and then put 8 back as they had no CD’s in them.

These are what I picked up, £4 for 12 CD’s. I wasn’t necessarily desperate to get all of them but at that price why not? These would probabaly go to landfill had I not taken them and each is worth £0.33 for at least one listen, and I’ll get more than that out of them.

Odetta – My Eyes Have Seen

So my quest to find copies of every album in my Best Albums of 1959 continues with a copy of My Eyes Have Seen by Odetta. I had thought this one was going to be more difficult to find than it eventually was, all the copies seemed to be in the U.S but one popped up for £4 last week and I jumped on it, so now it is in my possession and another ticked off the list. I currently have 19 of the 30 in the list, so well on the way to finding them all.

So, Odetta, this was her fourth album release and, as far as I can see, it has only been re-released once since 1959 on vinyl, back in 1973 in Italy for some reason. As far as I can tell my copy is from 1959, it’s in OK shape but far from perfect, as long as it plays OK that’s fine though.

Odetta Holmes (December 31, 1930 – December 2, 2008), known as Odetta, was an American singer, actress, guitarist, lyricist, and a civil and human rights activist, often referred to as “The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement”. Her musical repertoire consisted largely of American folk music, blues, jazz, and spirituals. An important figure in the American folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960s, she influenced many of the key figures of the folk-revival of that time, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Mavis Staples, and Janis Joplin. Time magazine included her recording of “Take This Hammer” on its list of the 100 Greatest Popular Songs, stating that “Rosa Parks was her No. 1 fan, and Martin Luther King Jr. called her the queen of American folk music.

The rear of the cover contains a paragraph explaining each song, in the language of the time, which I’ll share with you now:

SIDE ONE

  1. Poor Little Jesus – One of the most powerful Negro Christmas spirituals, Poor Little Jesus draws its strength from the contrast between its exulting melody and its lamenting text. It is far removed from the traditional, “sweet” carol as a plantation is from the meadows of the English countryside. Odetta ironically adds a modern reference which is deeply moving in its underlining of the seemingly endless tide of suffering.
  2. Bald Headed Woman – In this Negro prison song, a boasting air becomes both a comic mask to cloak the tragedies of prison life, and assertion of defiant strength. Songs of this kind, created under conditions whereby they must be carried by the human voice alone, attain a stark, classic line, and it is thus that Odetta sings it, unaccompanied, the silences as potent as the sung phrases, and with punctuation provided by her own hand claps.
  3. Motherless Children – This song is a variation of the better known spiritual, This Train. For the listener, Odetta’s version is a deeper one, since it juxtaposes the jubilation of the gospel train with the tragedies of life.
  4. I Know Where I’m Going – A tender and beautiful love song, which has become a favourite in the repertoires of ballad singers on both sides of the Atlantic.
  5. The Foggy Dew – An old Irish ballad that has been collected in various form. This haunting version celebrates the Easter rebellion against the British rule in 1916, which ended in defeat of the citizen army by the “long-range guns” of the British troops. The extraordinary accompaniment, with its mood of foreboding at the opening, and of the mournful defiance at its close, is a tour de force by Odetta’s guitar and the bass of Bill Lee, her accompanist.
  6. I’ve been Driving On Bald Mountain and Water Boy – Odetta’s linking of these work songs results in a sum greater than the parts. Here is a rhapsody on Negro labor which overwhelms the listener by its alternation of moods and the richness of its characterizations. Opening with the depiction of the proud, John Henry-like steel-driver, Odetta introduces his “buddy” who got hi “learnin’ ” on the Big Bend Tunnel, and shows the mutual respect of these masters of the sledge and spike. The tempo accelerates to a climax at which the mood of freedom suddenly breaks and we find the worker on the chain gang calling for the “water boy”. A mood of bitterness and anguish pervades the first verse, where the dull repetition of rock-breaking is reflected in the hardness of the voice. Then the prisoner’s memory awakes and a rich sense of the loss of freedom is unleashed in the “Jack of Diamonds” verse. Memory is erased in the tempo of labor which engulfs both singer and audience in a dramatic close.

Side Two

  1. Ox Driver Song – This is a song of the American Southwest frontier, of the pioneers emigration by covered wagon or prairie chooner west from the Mississippi. The drive through mud and over steep hills required a granite-like fortitude and it is this quality which Odetta’s perfromance captures, with its unstoppable momentum and cumilative intensity.
  2. Down On me – Oddetta first heard this song in a Library of Congress recording by Vera Hall, as collected by Alan Lomax. The lyrics, with the outcry “Looks like everybody in the whole wide world is down on me” are secular, but the influence of the spirituals is not hard to perceive. A rich body of folk song, created by wandering singers, embodies such a bridge between the spirituals and the blues.
  3. Saro Jane – This is a song of a Negro rouster, a stevedore, who served on a U.S. gunboat that harassed the Confederate supply lines during the Civil War. It was collected by Dave Macon in 1887 from Negro singers in Nashville, Tennessee, and is considered the first example of the “roustabout” songs which arose on the great rivers of the centrsl United States. Filled with good humour, its finest irony is its claim that the stevodores have “nothing to do but sit down and sing”.
  4. Three Pigs – With the inflections that Odetta gives to this children’s song, it becomes a fable for grown ups.
  5. No More Cane On The Brazos
  6. Jumpin’ Judy – Tqo Negro prison songs, which express quite different emotions, No More Cane speaks openly and literally of suffering and degradation, expressing personal sorrow and mood of resignation. It is poetically the more profound lyric, especially in its ironic opening statement. Jumpin Judy, which shares some verses in common with Leadbelly’s Midnight Special, is a comic fantasy, in which ribald ellements effectivly mask the resentments and bitter sarcasm.
  7. Battle Hymn Of The Republic – The melody is of folk origin, despite authorship claims of several 19th-century composers. The words are by Julai Ward Howe who wrote them in December 1861 after hearing Union soldiers singing John Browns Body as they went to battle near Washngton D.C. The Battle Hymn was first published in the Atlantic Monthly of February 1862 and became the anthem of the Union forces.

Upon listening to this album twice as I wrote out the above I am genuinely suprised that it isn’t more well known, revered even. Perhaps it is but I’m just not aware of it. Though it may not be your normal listening choice I do urge you to put half an hour aside and just listen to it from start to finish, it is a wonderful collection of songs beautifully performed.

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