Though I’m a fan of the historical importance of its existence, and early Simon & Garfunkel is damn-near perfect, hardcore folk music has always been one of those illusive and rarely sought-after genres I’ve made attempts to all but avoid throughout my “listening career.” It’s my ignorance, really, or my desire to “waste” my time listening to music of much better quality (again, ignorance rears its daft head), but The Kingston Trio’s 1960 album String Along nicely fits this unwelcomed void, so much so that it’s making me question the sadly inevitable, “getting into folk” chapter of my life. Coming as a “must-have” suggestion, mainly for the side 2 track, To Morrow about a small town in Ohio where the “suggester” spent his glory years, I fear this key is unlocking a folk-sized door that my ears (any my patience) have always intended to ignore. A welcoming error in judgement on my part, we’ll see how long this new storm cloud lingers.
It was a sad 10-15 years after the release of R.E.M.’s epic Automatic for the People that I finally realized that Led Zeppelin bassist and multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones contributed orchestral arrangements on Drive, the award-winning Everybody Hurts, The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight, and Nightswimming… which represent a good 1/4 of the album. If you’ve got it, and haven’t spun it in a while, have another listen and keep an ear out for Jones’ work. There’s a bit more comfort within these arrangements now that the full picture is in view, at least, from the perspective of these ears. Plus, it’s an excuse to relive your 1992 years. You’re welcome.
Watermelon Man Mongo Santamaria unearths his namesake 1963 hit (Watermelon Man) for a slightly extended version on his 1965 album, La Bamba. This Latin Jazz collection of 12 tracks is an uplifting, cha-cha-inspired insta-dance party on two, 33 1/3 rpm sides of wax. It also contains both flute and tenor sax contributions from the famous Hubert Laws, WELL before the time of his famed CTI Records success. This record is solid from start to finish, is perfect for mid-afternoon shuffles around the office or living room, and is well worth the hunt.
It’s sad that I only recently discovered that the first appearance by The Steve Miller Band (then just The Miller Band) was on a live Chuck Berry record from 1967. Titled Live at The Fillmore Auditorium, this Berry-led onslaught is a classic of R&B numbers made famous, in large part, by Mr. Chuck himself. Johnny B. Goode, Driftin’ Blues, C.C. Rider, and I Am Your Hoochie Coochie Man all get the Chuck & Steve treatment. With Chuck (obviously) taking the lead, the yet-to-be-internationally-famous Steve Miller offers backing vocals and harmonica in addition to his lewd, and Joker-less guitar. As debut albums go, The Steve Miller Band really couldn’t have asked for a more prolific and profound opportunity, than to record with the great Chuck Berry. If you haven’t already, check it out.
Unbeknownst to me, this 1951 10″ by Mexico City’s own, Pérez Prado is considered his first “proper” album. Released the year before as a 3x 7″ box, Plays Mucho Mambo for Dancing houses both Mambo No. 5 AND Mambo No. 8, and although this particular copy skips more than an 8-year-old at a semi-finals hopscotch tournament, it was a no-brainer for a cool $1. Dollar bin hunter level up.
Chalk this one up to another of those “you should get this” records. I think I paid something like $4 for this, stupidly, I might add. The wife likes it, so that’s really all that matters. Actually, though there’s little-to-no Latin flair (ok, sure, the title is LIGHTLY Latin…), the Choral Director for this 1966 release was Ray Charles, and really, Perry Como didn’t put out a bad record, so in hindsight, the “you should get this” suggestion was a solid one (he said, reluctantly).
(Reads title.) You do? Good for you, but don’t you think you could have come up with something more, I don’t know, jazzy for the title of this 1955 comp? Titles rarely deter from the music within, and this is no exception. I just had to chuckle at how on-the-nose and unorthodox this title was, while at the same time, and rather quickly, adding it to my hefty pile of dollar bin treasures. One doesn’t go wrong with mid-century Columbia Records jazz artists.
What’s your dream soundtrack? Do you have a specific playlist for naps? Have you ever given it any thought? If you haven’t, by all means necessary, do not consider CBS Special Products’ 1966 sleeper, Music to Dream By. Filled with a slew of Percy Faith, Ray Conniff, and Guy Mitchell’s of the time, Music to Dream By was a “Collector’s Album of All-Time Dream Hits” compiled specifically for the GE company and their “famous” Sleep-Guard Blankets. Blankets… yup, you read that correctly. This here is a bona fide blanket record, and it will put you to sleep faster than a mashed potato sandwich. Proceed with extreme caution.
Themes for African Drums sounds exactly like one would imagine by one, the title, and two, the striking cover. So I’ll admit, it was in fact this forceful cover art coupled with year of release (1959) that prompted my immediate attention on money, but what I found was that the music within requires more than just a few modestly casual spins. Rhythm and horns, kids… rhythm and horns. The Guy Warren Sounds would release only one other record throughout their career, a French 7″ featuring two of this albums’ tracks, Waltzing Drums and Blood Brothers. Now, I can understandably see how this collection of 8 tracks could be considered a novelty, or theme record, but I speak from experience when I say, this makes for some damn good dinner music.
50 years in the making (not really, but sort of), this recent (as of late last month) behemoth of a celebration to The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society comes with everything you see here, and if you were one of the lucky first 1000 to preorder, you received a limited 7″ for Time Song, b/w The Village Green Preservation Society (Preservation Version). If you’ve got the space, this fully-loaded box of essential goodies is a Kinks lover’s dream.
What coffee-loving, record-spinning, speed-freak doesn’t need this album, am I right?! Leave it to Morton Gould and His Orchestra for taking the mundane and creating a soundtrack for it. It’s like Music to Dream By (aka How to Destroy Your Needle), or Music for Faith and Inner Calm, both of which actually exist. What exactly songs like Jamaican Rumba, Besame Mucho, and Mexican Hat Dance have to do with my morning, coffee-drinking routine, I’ll never know, but this record came (mildly) recommended from a guy who (basically) knows nothing about good music, so, it was worth the $1 spin. #sniff
Like countless labels before it, and many after, SST Records (owned by Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn) offered specially priced compilations showcasing their label’s talent, aiming at nothing more than to spread their goods, and take your money. With a special list price of only $3.39 ($7.99 today after the inflation adjustment), cheapskaters could further explore the likes of Saccharine Trust, the Meat Puppets, the Minutemen, and even Tom Troccolil’s Dog for next to nothing. The comp series was called The Blasting Concept, and you’re looking at the back of Volume II.
I didn’t find this album to exactly portray its title, but I was nearly 25 years away from the release of Otto Cesana & His Orchestra’s 1955 Ecstasy, so really, what the hell do I know? Sounding immediately like a heavily orchestrated series of montage scenes for mid-century silver screens, this easy-listening-mood-setter is actually a comp comprised of two 10″ records titled Ecstasy, and Sugar and Spice. If you’re looking for a wistful, easily ignorable bed of hopeful mood music, consider a bit of Ecstasy.
Question: What would a soundtrack to a dramatic thriller composed by master vocal manipulator and genre-bending pioneer sound like? Answer: Well, if you’re talking about the potent Mike Patton, it would sound exactly like The Place Beyond the Pines (Music from the Motion Picture). Ominous, foreboding, dismal, with a hint of underlining grim, this 2013 soundtrack makes it eerily clear that any place beyond the tree line is about as uneasy and unsettling as anything imaginable. Now, I just hope the film holds up to this record.
I should have started with cleaning this very dingy, 60+ year-old 10″ of classic, mid-century Jazz greats featured, and showcased by the late, great Stan Kenton (and His Orchestra). I think track one alone, Art Pepper featuring Art Pepper on alto sax, must have skipped a total of six times. My fault for not following the rules: Step 1) Clean. Step 2) Enjoy. Anyway, simply titled Stan Kenton Presents, this little 10″ is getting a duplicate if I can’t clean the 60 years off ‘er, because this is an essential listen, in unskippable form. Another $1 find, kids!
Skipping or not, a 10″ Latin jazz EP by Perez Prado and His Orchestra is always worthy of your $1. Titled Mambo By the King, this 1956 release featured a sister, pressed as a 12″ (which also contains four additional tracks). This, slightly shorter version still manages to contain some of Prado’s well-known, and unforgettable classics (Perdido, Cuban Mambo, and Mambo Jambo come to mind). Released the same year as his famed Havana, 3 A.M., By the King was one of the many (extremely cheap, yet skippable) gems I recently found in the bargain bin at my local hut. Let the fun begin.
I can’t tell you how I discovered this, but I recently found out that Modern Harmonic is offering the colored vinyl pressing of Sun Ra’s otherworldly comp, Exotica at a dirt-cheap retail price (20% off now, for some strange reason). I received my copy just yesterday, so ignore the $65+ price tags for used copies on Discogs, and get yours straight from the source!
For straight-forward, late 50’s country with all the twangin’, fiddlin’, and general “hurtin'” that invariably comes with it, Ray Price’s Greatest Hits is a deserving catch-all for those able to stomach the early genre (early being the optimal word, here). With 12-tracks, including the #1 Country Hit, Crazy Arms, RP’s GH has both feet firmly planted within this country legend’s early material (the album having been released in 1963), and is a pretty good representation of the time, and the talent.