Peanut Butter Knife

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Dig: Part III, Vol. 1

Last weekend was one of my most extensive digs in months. Friday we made an impromptu stop at Square Records in Akron, who had just gotten a boatload of new titles in, then Saturday we hit up several shops on Cleveland's west side. Suite Lorain (their website appears to be down, otherwise I'd post a link), a sort of mid-century modern antique store provided the best thrills of the trip, but I was still able to find a few gems everywhere I went. I suppose the main problem with buying vinyl at thrift shops/antique stores is that the quality of the records are not always checked and many LPs are missing inner sleeves, scratched to hell, etc.

I found enough stuff over the weekend that I really haven't had a chance to listen to it all, so this edition of The Dig will be done in multiple installments.

Thin Lizzy Jailbreak (Mercury, 1976) This one probably seems out of character for anyone who knows me well. It may just be nostalgia for my days working at Thrill Jockey when inevitably someone would play this album in the office about once a week. In any case, this is one hard rock album that I can totally get into. Perhaps I like this because unlike a lot of other classic rockers of the era, Thin Lizzy placed a good deal of emphasis on songwriting and melody. When things get heavy, its never bombastic or over the top, everything is done in service of the song. And the songs are irresistible. "The Boys are Back In Town" is one of the rare classic rock staples that doesn't sound stale after 30 well-worn years on FM radio. That song, together with the title track, should be included right along with Big Star, the Raspberries and Cheap Trick as blueprints for power pop. On the album's more tender moments like "Romeo and the Lonely Girl", the band captures a melancholic suburban rainy day feel and it's easy to see how bands like Belle & Sebastian can also lay claim to Thin Lizzy as an influence.

Another fun fact: The mid-70s Mercury Records logo features an image of the Chicago skyline!

Syreeta One to One (Tamla/Motown, 1977) Sometimes there are records that you are really excited to find, but then once you take them home that excitement wears off. After watching the movie Junebug, I became fixated on the sweet island flavored pop-soul song that played over the opening & closing credits. "Harmour Love" was written by Stevie Wonder who appears on this album (Syreeta is Stevie's ex-wife). With the song stuck in my head days after seeing the film, One to One quickly made it to the top of my "find!" list. When the album turned up in mint condition for $1 at Half Price Books in North Olmsted of all places, needless to say I was pleased. Unfortunately the album, as a whole, does not stack up to "Harmour Love". Anything released after 1975 is a gamble, as productions became slicker and the influence of disco begins to creep in. One to One suffers from both these traits plus an overreliance on slower gospel inflected numbers, which is not really my cup of tea. Still, "Harmour Love" sounds great on wax!

The Blackbyrds City Life (Fantasy, 1975) It's been a long time since a music magazine has really excited me and turned me on to new sounds, but since I started reading Wax Poetics a few months ago I'm feeling like I did when I was in high school discovering punk and indie music for the first time. Whole new worlds of sound are being opened up and this month's feature on The Mizell Brothers is no exception. The Blackbyrds were a jazz-funk group founded out of an association with trumpeter Donald Byrd's backing band. Like Byrd, they were produced by the Mizells and during the mid-70s their presence means that unlike many other jazz artists of this era, The Blackbyrds' music eschewed any stuffy academic pretenses, instead offering a stunning aural portrait of urban America circa 1975. The minimal lyrics were simple, almost chanted phrases that weaved in and out of the fluid rhythms and tight improvisational interplay of the musicians. Anyone who digs funk needs this album in their collection.

Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions ABC Collection(ABC, 1976) Last month when my car was broken into, I think more than having my stereo stolen, the item I was most upset about losing was my 2 CD Curtis Mayfield anthology. That collection has been in heavy rotation on my stereo for years since I found it used at Reckless Records in Chicago. This best of collection might not have some of the amazing tunes from the early years of Curtis' solo career, but it does me good to hear songs like "Gypsy Woman", "Keep On Pushin", "It's Alright" and others once again. The picture above is not the actual album cover, but it is the photo that the ABC art department used as part of its garish design.


  • At 2:01 PM, Anonymous kj said…

    When are you gonna start podcasting these great, great finds?

    I am just jealous.


  • At 2:28 PM, Blogger 54cermak said…

    KJ...I'd need to invest some time in figuring out how to do a podcast and probably some equipment to hook up a turntable to my Mac.

    However, I would like to start posting some mp3s sooner rather than later. I think you've given me some homework for the weekend!

  • At 2:36 PM, Blogger Stevo said…

    great read, yes u needed this outlet - i know where you're coming from, keep it up


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