|The Pentangle – The Pentangle|
Reprise Records, RS 6315
Warner Brothers, New York, NY, 1968
Saturday, April 6, 2013
Alright, it's been two months (almost), I kinda quit (almost), but after I bought this Pentangle record last week for only 50¢—green tags were half off—I just had to share it, it was too good (almost) to keep it to myself. Now, I had never heard of the band Pentangle, but their two guitar players, Bert Jansch and John Renbourne, had been with me for as long as I was serious about my music I listened to. I was 16 and learning to play the guitar, and there was this John Renbourne tune I considered the apex of guitar playing. For years I'd study the piece, and I (almost) managed to conquer it. So the Pentangle are the who's who of British folk music (almost). For those of you who follow me here, or those who know me, know that I, when it comes to vocals, prefer a female voice over a male one. And I love Jaqui McShee, the singer of the Pentangle, she's like Sandy Denny (almost), but my pick to share with you today is the only instrumental piece on the album. It's not even the most virtuoso guitar playing (almost) that made me pick it, it's something I can't explain, there's just something magical about it. The track is simply called Bells, a title that rings magical—remember that great tune by the Dominoes, that one in which the lead singer burst into tears, or that fantastic free jazz gem by Albert Ayler—in Bells, the Pentangle hit that same kind of magic (almost). For those of you who follow this blog too: you must know that my scanner bed only goes to nine inches, cutting off three from a 12"er. With the Pentangle record here this fact resulted in cutting off the P, leaving the word "entangle" behind. If one uninformed listener were to guess about the title of this record, or name of the band, he or she could well opt for the name, or title, Entangle. (That's how utterly sophisticated the rhythms and melodies of Bells unfold.) See for yourself.
Sunday, February 17, 2013
|Anna Identici – Era bello il mio ragazzo/|
E quando saro' ricca
Ariston, AR.0537, Made in Italy, 1972
I have quite a large 45 collection but I don't buy many in thrift stores any more. Reason for this is that you hardly ever find them with their original jackets—most don't have one at all, which leaves the vinyl unprotected and all scratched up. It seems that a lot of 45s available in the US came out of jukeboxes and have therefore been played too often and are separated from their cover. When I do browse through the supply (not every thrift store carries 45s anymore). Hardly ever do I find one that is both interesting and in good enough shape. And when I do buy one it is almost always European. Apparently there's more of a 45-with-jacket culture in Europe, and almost all 45s in my collection stem from the time I was still living in Europe. But just yesterday I ended a long period of not expanding my 45 collection with the purchase of three Italian singles, the first ones of 2013. My favorite of the three is the one pictured above by Anna Identici. Both sides are really nice, they're happy and sweet, side A being the happier, while side B is the sweeter. I don't speak Italian, so my happy/sweet judgement may well be far of the mark, especially considering the bloody design of the jacket and the last word sung on side B which is "finita". And it is side B that I chose to share, the sweetest of two, it's called E Quando Saro' Ricca.
Sunday, February 10, 2013
Produced by John Boylan
Made in New York, 1970
The folk singer Odetta Gordon (1930-2008), known as simply Odetta, released a score of records between 1954 and 2001. Not that would like to collect all these but if I see one at a thrift store I'll pick it up for sure. I have about ten of them. My favorite is The Essential Odetta on Vanguard records released in 1973 as a package of earlier live albums. A few months ago I posted a song from her 1960 record Christmas Spirituals and today I'll do one from Odetta Sings, a 1970 record that I picked up at the Goodwill around the corner the other day. Neither of these records are "essential" but still a good listen. Odetta Sings is apparently her attempt to cross over into the mainstream as it is loaded with covers of popular songs of the time. It is also her only record on the mainstream Polydor label (most of her best work is on Vanguard) and contains renditions of Rolling Stones, Randy Newman, and Elton John songs among others. Half the record was recorded with session musicians in Los Angeles (Carole King is one of these), and the other half at the famous Muscle Shoal Studios in Alabama. The best songs on the record are the only ones that aren't covers but were written by Ms. Gordon herself: Hit or Miss and Movin' it on. You can listen to Hit or Miss below. The song was recorded at the Muscle Shoal Studios.
Sunday, February 3, 2013
|"Conjunto Obaoso" de Onelio Scull –|
Santeria-Cubana: Toques y Cantos Sanretos Lucumi
Santero LP-135, Made in Mexico
Don't Judge a Record by its Cover was the title of a piece I wrote on a Hungarian record back in December. That adaption of the adage was in the spirit of its meaning then, but that the adage also has to be taken quite literally is a well known fact among collectors of thrift store records. Even the girl behind the cash register will sometimes tell you to check the record. I always check the record. But if I like the cover I'll buy the record regardless. A nice cover is worth the 50 cents or dollar, and sometimes, if there's not even a record in it, they even might give it to you for free. I did check it too, when I came across this Santeria Cubana record in the Goodwill on Palm Beach Boulevard right near our house. And I knew, before I even checked, that the content wasn't going to match the cover, it was simply too heavy for that. I knew I was going to get two for the price of one. You can't be too picky when collecting from thrift stores. Not only do you have to accept that sometimes the record inside doesn't match the picture on the outside, you also have to take the scratches for granted. The content of this Santeria Cubana record had everything wrong with it but yet I was excited to buy it. The cover is beautiful and while I regret not having the record that's supposed to be in there (a record that promises this spiritual Caribbean religious practice that combines Voodoo with Catholicism, and all the drumming and chanting that comes with it), I still was excited to hear what was inside. It appeared to me that it would be in the spirit of the cover. The first record inside is called Santos Cantados con Nieves Quintero y Su Conjunto (Canta Luz Celeni Tirado) Y Coro on a label called L.P. Antillano (LP 25) from which I selected a track from side B Misterios Espriritistas. The second record is a rosario (a rosary prayer, I assume) that lasts more than 30 minutes. I copied the first 5 minutes of the Rosario en Honor a San Martin de Porres to share. Neither record has any information concerning place and time of recording on it. That said it didn't take too much effort to find Nieves Quintero on line. He's apparently a legend of Puerto Rican cuarto music. The rosary in honor of San Martin de Porres record yielded less information. The saint, of course, is well written about, but the recording remains a mystery. There's no name attached to the recitation, and Leonor (the record label) is not found anywhere on line. There is no additional information whatsoever printed on that label.
Sunday, January 27, 2013
|Music from the Far North|
The Living Tradition series
produced by Deben Bhattacharya
ARGO, ZRG 533, Made in England, 1967
They're not quite the true academic field recording records, but much more authentic than the Souvenir from... records tourists used to gather. They're field recordings that are sold commercially. They're an important part of my record collection which is becoming more and more like a stamp collection that doesn't have a topic but holds stamps from all over the world. A collection that's more about diversity than about depth. Records like the one above were owned by people that had a serious interest in some geographical entity, not quite an academic interest but certainly well beyond a tourist's interest in the music of a region. They're records of traditional music, typically played not by the areas biggest stars, but not by the remote and isolated rural population either. The musicians are the in-between musicians, semi-professional, well regarded locally, that would perform in regional cultural festivals. Music from the Far North features traditional music out of Finland and from Sweden. It features the solemn Finnish music on the kantele, and some wild fiddling gatherings from Sweden. There's enough excitement in the music on this record to last a midsummer night but I chose to share here today the two Lappish joiks that are featured at the end of the record. They're not the most interesting joiks I've ever heard, they're not the best tracks on the record, but they're joiks. There aren't that many joik recordings in the world. Joiks are the age old musical singing traditions of the Sami people of Northern Scandinavia. The singing sounds a lot like the chanting of Native Americans. The Sami are remote descendents of the Chukchi people, a handful of whom are believed to have crossed the Bering Sea and are the common ancestors of all American Indians.
The singer of the joiks featured here is Karin Stenberg. She was recorded by Deben Bhattacharya in or before 1967 in Arvidsjaur, Sweden . The first example is a joik about reindeer and the second about mountains.
p.s. I've never been to Sweden but I have a Volvo. I learned yesterday that if you buy a new Volvo, directly from the factory, they'll fly you over, put you up, and ship the car back for you. Now my Volvo is getting pretty old...
Sunday, January 20, 2013
|Chief Commander Ebenezer |
Obey and His Miliki Sound
Decca, WAPS 78
Made in England, 1973
Here's then the second entry concerning Nigerian records found in Florida thrift stores. As promised last week I'll share a song from an album by Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey. The song is Alowo Majaiye, it's the opening track on the album. As with Anyinla Owomura's last week, I only estimated the break between the first two songs as all tracks are woven together medley style. At that point I faded it out, hoping not to cut off anything from the track in question. Really, both side one and side two are just two continues songs that happen to have multiple titles. Kinda like an opera, except that it doesn't sound anything like an opera. It's all about Obey's guitar breaks. The guitar playing throughout this record is magnificent.
Sunday, January 13, 2013
|Ayinla Omowura and His Apala Group, Vol. 8|
Procuced by Taoreed Adedigba
Nemi (LP) 0110, EMI, printed in Nigeria
There's gotta be a few notes written in the margins of the above statement because "a whole history of music" turns out to be a very subjective term. The statement holds the people of a city or region in very high esteem when the truth is that especially those people that are represented in the collection of thrift stores are not as expansive and discriminate more than one would hope. Africa is arguably the continent with the most interesting (and on average highest quality) of commercial LPs. Yet records from this continent arrive in thrift stores few and far in between. Occasionally you will find one produced in the West for the Western market (either by Africa's biggest selling stars, like Miriam Makeba, or else compilations of traditional music, both of field recordings and of commercial intent) but hardly ever records plucked from the streets, popular by locals but unknown beyond. The last time I found some of the latter was about five years ago, when I got two Nigerian records in a thrift store in Saint Augustine, Florida. One is by Ayinla Omowura, the other by Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey. Obey is fairly well known in the West but of Omowura I had never heard. Both records belonged to a certain Bergmann. As always when I find multiple records that once belonged to the same person, I am curious about the circumstances. Bergmann got his (or hers) in the US I think. I don't think Bergman bought the records in Nigeria because the Obey one has an import sticker on it from an African market in Brooklyn. The Obey record was pre-owned when Bergmann got it. That's all the clues I have to the Bergmann puzzle. The two records are remarkably similar in production and content. Both records are recorded in medley style, apparently produced for dancing. The songs that are listed as being played are not separated by any noticeable clue (the sound clip below is faded out somewhere in the second song of side A of the Omowura record). It feels like they could be playing forever. In fact Omowura's record is Volume 8, and I wouldn't be surprised if all eight records were recorded in a single or maybe two recording sessions. The opening seconds of both records are spectacular instrumental introductions by (I assume) the respective instruments of the bandleaders: Obey's guitar and the talking drum of Omowura. From an objective point of view these opening seconds are probably all you need to know about, the rest only becomes interesting when you engage in it (like dancing). Next week I'll discuss Obey's (my favorite of the two) some more. The songs you can listen to below are the opening minutes of the medley on side A; Akigbo wo awon and part of Chief Adeniyi Idowu. The word "Yoruba" printed on the label of the vinyl probably refers to the language used in the lyrics. I estimate the recording to be from the early 1970s.