“His Master’s Voice”

We’ve all seen this iconic logo by the Victor Talking Machine Company, but did you know, rumor has it, or lore, really, that the original painting that inspired this historic logo (a direct lift, really) by English painter Francis Barraud has a bit of a heartwarming backstory. Sure, a questionable yet awe-inspiring story will certainly help you sell records, so take it with a grain of sentimental salt. Apparently, Francis’ brother Mark had passed away, and Francis inherited his brother’s dog Nipper, a terrier, along with a a cylinder phonograph (Edison, anyone?) and some cylinders with poor, deceased Mark’s voice on them. When little Nipper, as the story goes, would listen to his departed master’s voice projecting through the vibrant horn, he / she would peer at it with inspirational interest, spawning Francis to paint the iconic piece in 1899… but this time (suck it, Edison!) with a disc machine instead of the original cylinder apparatus, and the rest, as they say, and is clearly known, is history. Check out the painting and rogue history on Wikipedia. The photo above was taken, by me, from a recently acquired 78 sleeve, printed some 80-90 years ago. The more you kinda know?

Clarion 78

Another vintage 78 sleeve?! K’mon, man! Nope! I’m owning this! Clarion Records, whose logo owns a striking resemblance to the classic Grand Royal Records logo (one of them, at least), was home to such (who the hell are they?) artists as Ford Britten’s Comets, Eddie Younger’s Mountaineers, Louisiana Collegians, and Hobo Jack Turner (among many, many others). Predominantly active throughout the early 1930s, releases on the Clarion label are many, which is odd considering little to nothing about the label’s history can be found online. The logo is tops, though!

Hell and Back

First off, RIP Jam Master Jay. Secondly, back covers, or as I like to call them, album ass, can be just as enticing and worthy of discussion and attention as their popular fronts (in my humble opinion). Case in point, this lovely, squared-off, rear-end of Run-DMC’s 1986 Raising Hell. Bold, yes. Informative, sure. Track listing is a huge plus. Credits, both artistically and manufactoringly (sure, a bit of a stretch, but we’re going with it), are all present and accounted for. This is a monster album, worthy of ownership by just about anyone with good sense, and if you don’t already own it (which I’m sure you do), it’s certainly worth seeking out.

Pickwick

Ok, let’s jump ahead a few decades (four or so) and revel in the artistic advancements of well-designed record sleeves. Pickwick (as cheap of a product as they were… sorry, Pickwick), certainly took the overly simply approach to bold and effective measures. This pattern would make for some bomb wallpaper (desktop or otherwise), and I’m now thinking of lifting this look for some Groove-related goodies. Anyway, sleeves-a-plenty over here these days, so buckle up and enjoy the obscurity.

VTM 78

Sleeves advertising vintage record players (or in this case, classic Victrolas), are some of my favorites to discover. They’re not always in heavy supply, the sleeves, so when they rear their beautiful and fragile heads, it’s a bit of a pleasant surprise. That credenza looks pretty badass, in my humble opinion (again, the space issue), but to be honest, accurately reproduced sound has never looked so damn sexy.

Harmony 78

A (very) brief remembrance of Harmony Records, a has-been sister company of Columbia Records starting in 1925. Manufactured as a lower budget option for the 78rpm crowd (a quality product at a popular price, as they liked to say… apparently), Harmony was initially active nearly a hundred years ago in the 1920s and 1930s. Harmony was home to acts I’ve never heard of, and could only attempt to make up (The Dixie Stompers, University Six, Banjo Barons, The Savannah Six, Three Monkey Chasers), and this vintage sleeve, complete with groovy logo, has withstood the test of time, and has recently been welcomed to the (ever-growing) collection of one-off sleeves in the library… as if space wasn’t already an issue…

Slickers 2

Chicago Slickers Volume 2 1948-1955 may have single-handedly jump started, or violently unearthed a monster obsession I’ve had little-to-no experience with. That obsession being, the heart-wrenching, rhythm-driving atmosphere of good blues music. I could list the artists on this comp reissue, but I’ve never heard of any of them before… and that’s a fault I’m willing to own. Originally released back in 1980, this fairly recent reissue (2017) can be had for cheap (under $13, or under $10 in this case), and should be explored by any lover of classic rock rhythms. Enjoy with caution, enjoy often. All sales final.

Sales Pitch 101

So, what’s the deal with Victor Records? A thought that troubles each and every one of us as at some point (I assume), so let’s hear it straight from the His Master’s Voice:
Victor Records and Victrolas are scientifically coordinated and synchronized in the processes of manufacture and are made for use together. They should be so used to secure a perfect reproduction. The Victor Company’s pictorial trade-mark “His Master’s Voice” affords a ready means of identification; look for it – on the record labels and inside the lids of Victrolas. For best results this record should be played only on a Victor instrument.

Stereo Action Unlimited!

Apparently, there are no limits to the RCA Victor Stereo Action series (a collection of stereo demonstration releases by RCA Victor). The die cut cover suggests nothing short of ear-popping, Space Age Pop explosions of mid-century goodness, and the talent is second to none (Ray Martin, Marty Gold, The Guitars Unlimited Plus 7 to name only a few). Stereo Action Unlimited! is a high-quality easy listener with plenty of candy for your mind’s eyes, because after all, Stereo Action is “the sound your eyes can follow.”

Preserve Your Acts

For some reason, and I’m certainly not complaining, just observing, I owned, for quite some time, the 8-track of The Kinks’ 1974 album, Preservation Act 2 before I owned the double LP version. Luckily, this pristine copy leaped out at me at my local brick & mortar for a ridiculously reasonable price (something like $5 or $6). Though this era of The Kinks’ library is a little rough (especially considering the flawless six studio albums from ’66 to ’71), we’re one step closer to completing the full Kinks run. I’m looking forward to a back-to-back Preservation spin this evening.

Steady Rockin’ All Night Long

My 18-year-old self is pissed to high heaven for ordering the limited, color vinyl version of Mad Caddies’ Punk Rocksteady and receiving the standard black vinyl version instead. My 39-year-old self is only mildly annoyed. Classic pop-punk tracks by Snuff, Green Day, Lagwagon, Bad Religion, NOFX, Descendents… covered with a fine sheath of reggae-punk makes for a thoroughly entertaining listen, regardless of the medium’s color. For those of you lucky ones with the green vinyl version, kudos, and an 18-year-old me would like to have some words with you outside.

Portugal. The Memory

The problem with collecting records for so long, is the rather sad fact that from time to time, you’ll stumble across a record you have little-to-no memory of acquiring. Case in point, Church Mouth by Alaska-based indie band, Portugal. The Man. I used to frequent the bulletin board Vinyl Collective (I think it was called) affiliated with Colorado-based label, Suburban Home Records, and there was tons of buzz about this release back in 2007 (ok, it appears that I do remember this album now… interesting how that happens). Church Mouth was pressed into 1000 records, with a variety of random-ass colors. (Plum: solid w/ a drop of cream. Raspberry: solid with a drop of cream. Blue (blueberry?) with a drop of cream, and this, chocolate with a drop of cream.) All variants were limited to 250 pressings, making up the 1000 total because, math.

Islands in the Fun

I loved the steel drum as a kid. I think I saw a demonstration on Sesame Street or something, but the tin-y twang was a sound I’d never heard before, and it fascinated me. That was 30+ years ago, so imagine my excitement upon finding this 1965 Virgin Islands release by The Steel Bandits titled, Steel Band Bamboushay. I can say I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the steel drum in action twice, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to welcome 12 steel drum tracks into the library.

Tuesday / Tuesday

Chicago-based emo-pop punkers Tuesday released exactly one studio album in their short-lived tenure. Presented here is Freewheelin, then and now. On the left, the 1997 original from Asian Man Records, and on the right, the 2016 reissue from the same label. There were two variants with the reissue, a red / blue vinyl pressing limited to 300 copies, and this, a purple / blue vinyl pressing limited to 100 copies. For those of you Alkaline Trio fans who are unfamiliar with Tuesday, for shame! For those in the know, when was the last time you dropped the needle on this record? It still holds up! (He said with no hint of sarcasm.)

More, More, More, More

More, much more from George Thorogood and the Destroyers on their 1980’s blues-rock number, More, or More George Thorogood and The Destoryers. Covered here are classic tracks by Carl Perkins, Elmore James, Willie Dixon, and John Lee Hooker, but you know, with the abrasive and hairline drilling of Thorogood’s galvanizing guitar. There are no bad George Thorogood records (yes, I’m including 1993’s Haircut in this assessment), and More is certainly no exception.

All Sales Final (Chicago Slickers)

Chicago Slickers jumped into my arms faster than a wet dog desperate for warmth and unhinged affection. (Not sure exactly why we had to go down that road, but here we are.) Patiently waiting in the “need to listen to pile,” Chicago Slickers is a monstrous collection of Chicago blues dating back between the years 1948 and 1953. Though this copy is a 2017 reissue, the original was released in 1976 on Nighthawk Records, a Missouri-based indie label owned by parent Omnivore Recordings. I cheated and previewed a handful of tracks on allmusic.com, and I’m ecstatic with the results. This comp is going to be on heavy rotation for the foreseeable future.

Goodbye with Goodbye?

Gah, do I love me some sensual 80’s sax! Critically unacclaimed (I’m going with it), Goodbye Cruel World is widely considered the band’s worst effort, and apparently Declan Patrick MacManus (Elvis Costello) was quoted as saying this record would be his final professional offering. The album isn’t monumental, but it’s certainly not terrible, and lucky for all of us Elvis lovers, Goodbye would in fact NOT be goodbye after all, as he’s gone on to record a total of 30 studio albums to date, up to and including last year’s Look Now. Insanity.

Heavenly Body in Blue

In keeping with the celestial rhetoric of the glorious (and seemingly never-ending) genre-bending umbrella that is space age pop comes this electro-theremin-filled futuristic take on cosmic-themed songs of yesteryear. Titled Music for Heavenly Bodies, Paul Tanner with Andre Montero and His Orchestra assembled 12 tracks of euphoric, though slightly eerie bliss. Tracks like Midnight Sun and Up to Jupiter offer jovial and uplifting beds of comforted seclusion, while Holiday on Saturn sounds more like a warm-up theme to an impending intergalactic space battle, one for the ages, I’m sure. Presented here is Modern Harmonic’s 2017 blue vinyl reissue. Heavenly bodies aside, this is certainly music for those of us with an adventurous ear.

Another World

I knew little-to-nothing about Sid Bass prior to his 1956 release on RCA’s Vik label, titled From Another World, but I was instantly sold by its engaging space-themed cover art. I mean, look how happy this space lass is! Doesn’t it just scream space age shenanigans? The upbeat mix of jazz-pop-easy-listening intertwined with hints of atmospheric warbles has both feet firmly planted in 1956, and its head far beyond the silent stars. Another space age pop acquisition for a (very) reasonable asking price.