Frank Gutch Jr: Vinyl: It’s What’s For Christmas…..

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Christmas.  It’s the time for joy and camaraderie and faith.  It’s the time of giving and sharing and, for most, receiving.  Debts are forgiven at Christmas, and people too.  Indeed, the power of Christmas could almost save the world and would, according to Hollywood, if given half a chance.

You can take the most evil people and turn them into angels with a little positive prodding (not of the cattle variety) and God knows we could use more positive in this world.  Business thinks so, at least as regards their bottom line, because they banded together to jumpstart the holidays before Halloween this year, a much earlier start than the heretofore pre-Thanksgiving dates which outraged the more pious among us in earlier times.  Nothing says positive like a bigger bank account, eh?  Oh, it’s not all about business, I suppose, but at times it certainly feels like it.  Then again, it all depends upon your attitude.

My attitude the Christmas of ’63 was one of greed, I admit.  I had given a list of 45s to my mother— potential presents— and The ImpressionsIt’s Alright was on it.  It didn’t make the final cut, I remember, and I wasn’t all that disappointed but I should have been.  The Impressions and even more importantly, Curtis Mayfield, became a core of my collection as my education in music progressed.  It could have all started on that Christmas day but didn’t.

You young people are probably tired of hearing this, but you don’t know what you missed.  For those of us who really loved music, there was no better gift than records (and in those glorious days, there were only records, tapes and digital somewhat of a dream in the back of some mad genius’s mind).  I mean, just seeing those flat 7” and, a few years later, 12” packages under the tree was a thrill!  Sure, I knew what it was, I just didn’t know what was on it.  It was a guessing game, but not of the shake-the-package variety.  For me, it was way better than that!

elvis-presley-rip-it-up-rca-victor-4

My very first “real” record was Fats Domino‘s Blueberry Hill.  I didn’t have to ask Momma for that one.  She knew.  That same Christmas, a friend of the family gave me ElvisRip It Up EP.  That was it, but that was enough!  I played those records through to the other side, I loved them so much.  Later years would bring me Conway Twitty‘s It’s Only Make Believe, Tommy EdwardsIt’s All In the Game, The CasinosThen You Can Tell Me Goodbye, Paul Revere & The RaidersJust Like Me, and The Association‘s Cherish along with many others.  Album-wise, it was Leroy Anderson/Conducts Leroy Anderson and a series of Arthur Fiedler & The Boston Pops albums along with oddball albums like Gene Krupa/The Gene Krupa Story and The Living Strings/Play Songs of the Sea (a favorite to this day).  It was grab-bag-time and I loved it.

The way things are shaping up this year, it could be grab-bag-time for the youngsters as well.  While the music industry will never be again what it once was, vinyl is making a comeback thanks largely to the same media which killed it the first time around.  If I’ve seen two or three articles on vinyl the past few weeks, I have seen a hundred-plus (God forbid, missing out on a fad, even one you know so little about, you media hogs) and they will make an impact, as small as it will appear to those of us who grew up in record stores.  In this day of superstardom-or-nothing, we will be bombarded with the major label blitz, plugging everything and everyone from Beyonce to Usher to Taylor Swift and numerous reissues of the hits from the vinyl era from artists like Van Morrison, Thin Lizzy, and Yes, not to mention box sets.  That is not necessarily a bad thing (outside of the outrageous prices the various labels will charge), but too safe for me.  I would rather see the consumers (that be you, Skeezix) blaze their own paths.  In that spirit, please allow me to suggest a few items I have found buried but more than worthy of consideration.

But first, let me allay fears of those who have not yet taken the vinyl plunge.  Unless there is a sudden dearth of oil products world-wide (and I can’t see the omniscient asshat Koch Brothers allowing that to happen), vinyl will be around for the immediate future and beyond.  Indeed, the scarcity of certain albums and 45s listed herein will guarantee a future collectors market quite beyond the one which now exists.  There are no large quantities being pressed by the DIY Indies, my friends.  They can’t afford it.  To sweeten the pot, many artists have pressed only as many as they need for self-promotion with a few left over for sale to the common man (and woman).  I checked with a few to see what they thought.  Some are planning vinyl releases which unfortunately won’t make the Christmas deadline, but the plans are definite.

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Carl Anderson, a Nashvillain via Charlottesville, told me that he is planning to release both of his albums on vinyl sometime after the first of the year.  His first, Wolf Town, is a folk/country/pop gem a la maybe Greg Laswell and Ted Pitney,  and he is preparing his new album, Risk of Loss, for release as I type.  Possibly Spring.  So no vinyl yet, but don’t miss them when they hit the street.  Anderson is one of the best of the lesser knowns.

Grass-Tops Recording is getting into the vinyl game next year, too.  Kyle Fosburgh, who records on as well as runs the label, tells me that vinyl will play a major role from here on out.  “We have one more CD release,” he said, “and then it will either be CD/vinyl or exclusively vinyl and digital.”  Grass-Tops specializes in acoustic music and has a stable of artists from Robbie Basho to Fosburgh to Hayden Pedigo, who has a vinyl album available on Debacle Records (click here).  If you love acoustic guitar, this is a place to visit.

As indie labels go, Signature Sounds Records is pretty hot right now, thanks to an artist roster which would make any label envious.  I mean, you’re looking at everyone from Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer to The Winterpills to Lake Street Dive to Zoe Muth & The Lost High Rollers, and that’s just skimming the surface.  And , thank the gods, they have vinyl.  Not The WinterpillsEcholalia, unfortunately, which has been dominating my playlist  lately (sure, it consists of covers, but I am very impressed with the arrangements), but there are two fine Winterpills albums on plastic— Central Chambers (click here) and All My Lovely Goners (click here).  Add to those Zoe Muth‘s latest, World of Strangers (order it here); two excellent Lake Street Dive albums (Lake Street Dive and Fun Machine in a double LP set, and their latest, Bad Self Portraits— plus a single— What Am I Doing Here b/w Wedding Band) (here is their merchandise page); plus albums by Kris Delmhorst, Erin McKeown, Josh Ritter, Eilen Jewell, and Miss Tess.  To my knowledge (meaning as far as I know), all of the Signature Sounds albums are streaming on their site which is evidently attached to bandcamp.  You want vinyl, just click on any of the above.  If you want CD or downloads, here is the page you want.

warhenSpeaking of labels, Charlottesville’s tiny WarHen Records is selling off some of their product at a discount in an effort to fund a couple of projects they have been working on.  You get three 7” 45s (The Fire Tapes/Skull X Bones, Red Rattles/Uh Huh, and Sarah White & The Pearls/I.L.Y. B/w Married Life) PLUS Dwight Howard Johnson‘s Take Anything LP for a mere $20.  Virginia raised and homegrown.  If you haven’t heard any of these, I suggest you hie to WarHen’s bandcamp page and take a listen.  Very limited quantities.  And just so you know, I have every one of these and dig them all.  I only wish I had been smart enough to have picked up The Fire Tapes last album (Phantoms).  That one entered collectorsville out of the box.

If you’ve never heard of Modular, don’t feel alone.  Oceanographic Records has gone out of its way to keep it a secret, or so it seems.  The group is comprised of three monster session men— Dan Phelps, Viktor Krauss, and Matt Chamberlain— who I first heard on Jess Pillmore‘s outstanding 2005 album, Reveal.  They must have made a connection because a few years ago they joined up to produce this beautiful package which includes two 12” LPs and a book.  You can listen and read the details on their bandcamp page (click here), but let me say that if you have a friend or relative who enjoys the experimentative side of music, a la the progressive movement of the early seventies, this might be the ticket.

I knew Hymn For Her when they were two-thirds of Philadelphia PA’s Maggi Pierce & EJ, three people who should not have made as much music as they did (the band sometimes sounded like a stage full of all-stars).  When that band ran its course, Pierce & Maggi, now calling themselves Lucy Tight & Wayne Waxing, created a two-person force-with-which-to-be-reckoned and set out to conquer America (and Europe) one person at a time.  It is hard work but they are doing it.  Features cigar box guitar and one crazy attitude.  Every time I see these guys, I am amazed.  And I’m throwing in the first video just to catch your attention.  The second one too.  These guys rock!  Oh, and you can find the album here.

I caught Mad Anthony‘s act in Cottage Grove, Oregon last summer and my admiration for what they do has been growing ever since.  They pounded out a set (or was it two) which had my head spinning.  When I wrote a review, I mentioned guitarist Ringo Jones‘ ability to appear like one of those crazy cartoon characters, his body parts separating at the joints as if on-cue.  By the time they finished, I was sold.  Fellow DBAWIS writer Roxanne Tellier was the reason I went.  Ringo called her Foxy Roxy.  I think for a reason.  Catch the video below and see if anyone you know would be interested.  You can order it here.  This is going to be a real collectors item.  You can quote me.  And if you ever get a chance to see them live, don’t pass it up.

hotknivesYou may have missed it, but music freak Jeremy Cargill has been digging for treasure and came up with a beauty.  An issue of the privately-pressed album by Hot Knives, a Bay Area band which featured former Groovies’ members Tim Lynch and Danny Mihm.  They do have a slight Power Pop sense to them but do not limit themselves to the genre.  Did not, actually.  They haven’t been together in some time.  For the collector and Pop freak.  Collector’s edition.  Very limited run.  Here’s the link.

I never would have guessed that New American Farmers would be kicking ass on The Farmocology Sessions, at least after listening to their earlier EP.  They pulled out the stops, though, putting together a full band sound to be proud of.  Lots of guitar and jams on this one.  You can listen to it here and order a VERY LIMITED copy on vinyl, but let me explain that, for some odd reason, the band did not allow streaming on the four best tracks.  The Door Into Summer is a freaking killer of a song as is Rain In the Summertime, but The Garden makes up for the exclusion of those.  Very early seventies retro sound.  If you don’t like this one, you’re probably dead.

Why should I wear myself out writing about music when I can plagiarize the words of Jaimie Vernon?  Here’s what the music guru has to say about a superb piece of vinyl by the duo Chris and Gileah:

And if you’re looking for something from a co-ed duo other than the moribund Civil Wars I highly recommend the new Chris & Gileah self-titled album. They’ve turned the hipster thing inside out and offered up a sincere set of love songs as a long-form love letter to each other in 10 chapters. What could have been a treacle and sap non-ironic parody of the romance novel comes this generation’s Bogart & Bacall or Tracy & Hepburn in musical form. I also give them extra points for the fantastic Gatsby-era costumes and motifs.

The only thing I could add is that the package is one of the sweetest I’ve seen since vinyl regrouped itself, the pressing as pristine as a new baby’s bottom.  This is beautiful stuff— for those who appreciate melody and harmony, their voices blending together as well as any two could.  Buy this one for someone you love, be it a son or daughter or your significant other.  Here is the link.

I confess to having been listening to The Verge, one of Canada’s Sirius/XM stations, and they have been playing a string of bands which impress the hell out of me, not the least of which is Napalmpom.  This is straight up rock done well enough to dent my ears and I have to tell you that I can be a tough sell.  Cool thing is, they might as well be invisible down here in the lower 48— a real selling point if the person you are purchasing for wants to one-up the kids on their street.  You can check it out and purchase one of a limited edition  of 500 albums on vinyl at this link.  Very cool.

Remember all the screaming I was doing about Ticktockman a couple of years ago?  Those guys freak me out, they’re so tight.  Well, I just had an urge to check and guess what?  Their first album, self-titled, is still available on vinyl!  You even have a choice of colors!  Red or black!  That blows my mind!  They’re the real deal, music junkies!  Watch this and tell me they’re not a step above.  You can order the LP from this link.

The gift of giving spreads its wings in December.  Just ask the people at Green Monkey Records, who are going all out this year (as they do every year) for charity.  And how about this?  Chicago’s The Luck of Eden Hall— psyched about their new single, The Happiness Vending Machine b/w Arthropeda Lepidoptera— are donating all proceeds in December from the downloads for the single on bandcamp (click here) to charity.  If you want the vinyl 7”, it is a bit expensive at $12, but it IS imported from The Netherlands and comes with sleeve and everything.  That is music with heart.  Search the bandcamp pages for other vinyl offerings including Crystal Ship 7” EP, the Victoria Moon vinyl LP (only 55 of 500 left, according to the page), and the vinyl version of Butterfly Revolutions Vol. 1 & 2.  These guys have been around for awhile and just keep getting better.

Frank is back with the lovely Moselle, who I can attest surfs the drums, with a new album (Teeth) and it’s Crushed Out‘s best yet.  Randy Burns turned me onto Frank Hoier years ago because he had a real touch on the guitar.  When Frank finally decided to head out on the road, he teamed up with drummer Moselle Spiller and rocked the bars spantastic.  They are one hard working duo and have one vinyl LP plus some downloadable tracks to their credit.  If you ever want to have some fun and they’re in your part of the woods, be sure to catch them live if only to see Moselle surf.  You can stream the LP and pick up a vinyl copy here.

I just happened to be in Portland when Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside played a record release party at Music Millennium and have to say that I was impressed.  Not so much when they started, but the girls have a way of slowly convincing you that they are a viable music entity.  By the end of the six or seven songs, I was convinced.   I don’t even know how it happened, truth be told.  At the beginning, I was thinking, yeah, okay.  By the end, it was yeah.  I was a bit surprised to see how much music they have available on bandcamp.  You might want to check it out.  Here is the link to the the album, vinyl-wise.

If you want to rock out a little, two of my favorites at the moment are Lo-Pan and Sandrider.  I missed the first Sandrider album on vinyl and regret it.  It was solid and had one long song (The Judge) which knocked my socks off with its groove.  Godhead is much in the same vein, though, full of metal hooks and rhythmic pyrotechnics.  This is one turn-it-up gem.  (click hereLo-Pan has had a few albums out but this is the first I’ve heard of them.  Their just-off-the-mark guitars and driving rhythm section have me hooked.  The new album is titled Colossus and it rocks! (click here for link)  A heads up.  Colossus will not be available until the end of December, or so the page states.  So you would have to preorder it.  Let me tell you, this one will be worth waiting for.

The Vinyl Search…..

You would think labels would have a template somewhere not unlike the old Phonolog catalogs stores used to have— lists of product available alphabetically by artist or song or album title.  You would think that there would be some kind of consensus regarding information and ordering processes.  You would think.  But there doesn’t seem to be.  I ran across numerous problems while looking for albums on vinyl— record labels which listed artists alphabetically by first name (boy, did THAT make my eyes roll), which made no distinction between formats until you were at the end of the purchasing process, which had left out product which was available and listed product erroneously.  Some labels were next to impossible for me to negotiate and I have been dealing with catalogs for decades.  I cannot even imagine the problems one might have who is not used to the music business.  I would never send anyone to Amazon to buy music and yet can see why some people prefer it to dealing with a label.  The situation astounds me.  I can only guess that many labels hire incompetent employees or maybe just employees who know little or nothing about music.

cdbabylogoIf you are considering searching for yourself, there are ways to start looking, even if you know little.  Both Bandcamp and CDBaby, for instance, have vinyl pages which separates the vinyl from the chaff.  If searching for a specific album on vinyl, it helps to put “vinyl LP” in parentheses at the end of the search line.  And don’t give up.  Some of my best search requests turned up very little and sometimes nothing when I tried, yet I knew the albums were available.  What can I say?  The search engines themselves have an agenda, I have been told.  And there is always the “garbage in-garbage out” syndrome.  As vinyl moves in the direction of its former glory, it should be easier.  Let us hope.

Here’s a suggestion which could solve many of your problems.  Hit up your local record store(s).  Talk to the clerks.  Befriend them if need be.  Bleed them for information.  Ask what they listen to and listen when they tell you.  I know things will never be what they once were, but a step toward that can be a huge step in that direction.  I mean, imagine a world in which everyone is not plugged into a smartphone…..

Christmas used to be fun and music had a lot to do with that, I think.  Perhaps we can get back there, partially if nothing else.  Just take note.  Someone who really knows music and who knows the person they buy music for will seldom make a mistake in their choices.  It’s a sharing thing.  And it’s Christmas.  NotesWhat could possibly go wrong there?

Notes…..  There are some amazing things coming out of the Glitterbeat Records fold.  Like, for instance, Dirtmusic‘s new video.  This is photographic imagery to my liking.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/PE7YUXCZjSI” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe

Seattle!!!  It’s almost here!  Just announced!  The Son of Man Reunion!  Man, I’m thinking about this one.  It would be a long drive but this is something I have waited for.  THIS is the band I thought should have gotten a fair shot (out of all the bands which did).  I have been following Pothead, the band from Germany fronted by SoM lead guitarist Brad Kok, Lavacado (SoM lead vocalist Tal Goettling), and even John Reischman & The Jaybirds, a bluegrass band for which SoM bassist Nick Hornbuckle has been playing banjo.  Now, I have a chance to see the original SoM lineup.  Even drummer Top Jap (Mike Patterson) will be there!  Happening at The Mix in the Georgetown section of Seattle on Sunday night, December 14th!  They are hoping to solidify a couple more dates as well, possibly even one in Portland.  This is BIG NEWS!  Pass it along!

=FGJ=

Frank’s column appears every Tuesday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonFrank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.” 

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