Sunday, March 1, 2015

Mr. Spock's Music from Outer Space

After learning of the great Leonard Nimoy's passing yesterday I felt compelled to dim the lights, and dust off this special thrift store relic for a spin on the hi-fi. As Vulcan serenades of yesteryear filled the air, I realized it might also be nice to materialize a quick record report tribute to the multi-talented actor and the unforgettable and ever fascinating Star Trek character he so convincingly portrayed.

Backed by some mildly spacey, sometimes surf-rock sounding sixties pop stylings, Mr. Spock soothes our illogical, worried human minds with his smooth and restrained baritone vocalizations.
At times, the more uptempo musical arrangements remind me of the sort of mainstream  "groovy" sounds typically heard during a teen dance party scene as depicted in a sixties TV show. At other times, it sounds like the sort of "space-age," easy listening background orchestrations one might hear while unwinding with an ice blue Andorian ale in the original U.S.S. Enterprise's lounge.

1967 Dot Records DLP 25794 (stereo)

Side One
Theme from "Star Trek" (2:04)
Alien (1:57)
Where is Love (1:50)
Music to Watch Space Girls By (2:17)
Beyond Antares (2:03)
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Earth (2:12)

Side Two
Mission Impossible (1:58)
Lost in the Stars (2:25)
Where No Man Has Gone Before (2:24)
You Are Not Alone (2:02)
A Visit to a Sad Planet (2:50)

                                                              Star Tracks

 The version of the Star Trek theme included on this LP is propelled by a driving bass line and insistent drums along with vibrato-laden "interstellar" guitar runs; and if you close your eyes, the spirited Hammond organ work might just make you feel like you've been transported to a vast roller rink on the outskirts of Alpha 5.

In the spoken word piece Alien, Spock describes for us some differences between Earth and Vulcan and the inhabitants of each world. Similarly, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Earth is also spoken word and tells about Earth and Vulcan.

Where is Love is a gentle ballad of love and longing sung with deep vocals. Spock's human side is definitely showing on this uncharacteristically emotive number from "Oliver!" (Nimoy starred in a 1972 production of the play).

You Are Not Alone asks: What will we do when finally we meet beings from another planet? Will we "greet them or turn them away?" Will we teach them war, will we teach them hate?"

The cautionary narrative, A Visit to a Sad Planet ends the album on a heavy note. It uses a U.S.S. Enterprise First Officer's log entry (and an ominous backing track) to describe a desolate planet in the Milky Way Galaxy where an apparently advanced civilization has been reduced to a smoldering wasteland of radioactive ruins because the inhabitants could not live in peace and destroyed everything with their fighting.

Thank you Mr. Nimoy for all that you've given our highly illogical, but fascinating world. 

 Watch Mr. Spock playing the Vulcan Lute as Lieutenant Uhura sings a song about him.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Music Machine

The year was 1977; millions were stricken with Saturday Night Fever; plucky prime time duo, Laverne & Shirley, had stolen the hearts of an enthralled (possibly drunken) viewership and merrily skipped to the top of the ratings chart, while The Fonz proved he was still the coolest by jumping a shark. 

Thousands of Pet Rocks – jettisoned by owners who could no longer care for them – had turned feral, formed aggressive packs and began instigating rockslides and blockading roadways throughout Southern California. 

Just when it looked as if life in the polyester-paved, 1970s fast lane could get no more dizzying, the gargantuan dancing robots began appearing.

The first reported sighting was in a strip mall parking lot outside Kalamazoo. Gobsmacked onlookers initially mistook the unsettling scene for a misguided (but harmless) radio station promotion. Before long, a massive robo-army began assembling mountains of space-age electronic equipment upon open lawns and flower gardens around the globe.

Condensed, high intensity bursts of often disparate original hits (by the original stars) issued from strategically placed, mega-watt speaker towers. This 'round-the-clock aural assault reached far into the ionosphere, fused with the gamma radiation present there and blanketed the Earth in a powerful, contiguous grid of self-oscillating electromagnetic energy that projected a previously unknown, biologically disruptive frequency; scrambling the minds of the citizenry and stymieing all attempts by law enforcement and the military to intervene.

Once the ensuing propaganda campaign was launched, it quickly became apparent that the flailing metal behemoths were controlled by sinister corporate conglomerate, K-Tel International, as part of their latest bid to subjugate the minds and pocketbooks of an impressionable populace.

Music Machine (1977 K-Tel TU 2560)
K.C. & The Sunshine Band, Kenny Rogers, Wild Cherry, Rose Royce, Abba and David Soul were key elements of K-Tel's nefarious master plan ... and then there was the seductive promise of not one, but two bonus miniposters(!) for all who would willingly relinquish a specified sum of money without resistance.

Public records of K-Tel's Music Machine operations were swiftly and systematically suppressed by certain government intelligence agencies and remain classified to this day. Most surviving eyewitnesses claim to have "forgotten" everything they saw or will freeze up and blankly stare off into the middle distance as soon as the subject is broached.

Recently, a piece of damaged broadcast footage surfaced on YouTube via a mysterious private archivist known only by the code name "Genius7277." This chilling, but historically significant document is the only reliable account we have of those bleak, terrible days.

Additional Data:

View complete track list at Discogs
Canadian pressing with alternate track list

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Robin Trower - B.L.T.

I hope everyone (or anyone) is hungry for more Tales From the Thrift Store because after a long hiatus, this blog is back in town with an all new, action-packed, whopper of a report for you to sink your teeth into!

Power Lunch Trio

One-time Procol Harum guitarist and all-around master of the Stratocaster, Robin Trower, brings his impressive songwriting skills and soaring, Hendrix-inspired guitar work to the table on this 1981 collaboration with legendary Cream frontman, Jack Bruce (bass/vocals) and drummer Bill Lordan. Recorded at Konk Studios in London, B.L.T. is a superb platter of hard-biting rockers and soulful ballads.

Truth be told, I expected a batch of hastily concocted, largely forgettable uptempo jams that would get monotonous by the third track, but I'm happy to report that everything is well written, memorable, and definitely worthy of repeat plays. I particularly liked the ballads, which were mostly sandwiched in-between the more rockin' songs and kept things nicely balanced much like the complementary pairing of juicy, ripe tomato with strips of salty, smoked bacon.

The Art of the Sandwich

I've accepted it at this point, but I immediately thought the whole "BLT" gimmick with the giant bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich on the cover was an ill-advised (if appetizing) idea, and one that didn't really inspire me to dig right in to the record. As a result, I left it on the back burner for quite a while before finally giving it a chance. I also had some trouble remembering who B. L. and T. were and I kept thinking it was a Bill Bruford album. 

Strange Days

This record was part of my all-time biggest thrift store record haul. That's the good news. The bad news is that after what went down at the store that night, I would have to lay low and stay out of there for quite some time, and just to play it safe, to this day I employ a revolving series of clever disguises and masterfully executed foreign accents to conceal my true identity from the watchful scrutiny of that vigilant thrift store staff: "Vaht? Speak in ze ear trumpet eef you please ... Ohhh, nein, nein, my name ist Hans, ja, und I travel all ze vay from Munich only Tuesday zis veek to visit for family und buy ze thrifty polka records, ja..."

Read on as I attempt to piece together the shattering events of that evening...

With an eerie orange glow, the moon emerged from the shrouds of a cloud-choked late autumn sky to cast strange shadows as I made my way through deserted, leaf-strewn back streets into town. Though my mood was light buoyed by visions of dusty vinyl treasures that might lay at journey's end it felt like something surprising, shocking, even sinister could be lurking just around the next corner...

[~~~~~cue TV show "flashback warp" effect~~~~~]

After bursting into the store shortly before closing time and toppling the revolving magazine rack near the front door to announce my arrival (as was my custom at the time), I soon found the record section was awash with new arrivals, and not the usual crusty, junk records that so often hang around the store forever, cluttering the place up like the towers of decades-old newspapers and empty food containers at your crazy aunt Edna's house. This was a large collection of clean, well-preserved rock albums — including many less common titles. It was like the whole year's worth of good "finds" sitting there all at once! It was almost more than I wanted to deal with. Almost.

The Time to Hesitate is Through

Racing against the clock, with store closing warnings trumpeting from above every few minutes, the air was fraught with tension and an inescapable sense of urgency as I tried to cope with the miles upon miles of LPs that stretched as far as the eye could see (or at least as far as the adjacent book and VHS sections). 

There was no time to wallow in the mire ... or even to spend more than a couple seconds assessing each album, and once the dreaded command to "please bring final purchases to the register NOW" came blaring from the overhead loudspeakers I could almost feel the window of opportunity slamming shut on my greedy, grimy fingers ...this is it...the chance of a or day or die...hurry hurry hurry...don't pass this up...must act set of steak knives...go go go, now now now ...
Robin Trower - B.L.T. / Chrysalis Records CHR 1324
Then it happened: all the years of hustling and grappling for dominance within the high-pressure, low-stakes, dog-eat-dog world of the thrift store record game had finally taken its toll and I cracked like a shellac disc in a Frisbee tournament. 

Forget about ever sifting through one more box of malodorous records now; with a newfound sense of purpose and clarity of mind, I dropped the late-era Foghat LP I'd been clutching and zeroed in on the bizarre, life-size amateur painting of a clown that's been holding court over the bric-a-brac department for the past week (and was obviously born of evil). 

That deceitful smirk, that treacherous leer ... that haughty little tutu-clad chihuahua doing a handstand on his shoulder. This horror show needed to be dealt with. Right here and now.

Long-repressed childhood memories of being menaced by a disgruntled clown at a run-down amusement park suddenly came flooding back as I lunged at the sinister abomination with a great howl of fury, and in one swift motion, it was ripped off the wall and impaled on a nearby "salty old sea captain" table lamp.

Fortunately, along the way, I had been able to swiftly push to safety the handful of unwitting bystanders mindlessly lingering in the shadow of the ball-nosed fiend — thus saving them from any permanent clown-related psychological trauma. Those poor souls seemed to have no inkling of what was really going on there; so veiled and insidious was the grinning demon's influence. Why was such an unwholesome thing ever given free reign to exude its creepy, malevolent charms in a public area full of wide-eyed children and fragile seniors to begin with? Why did it take this long for someone to do something about it? Where can I find some lighter fluid and a match to finish the job?

There was no time to contemplate the answers to these questions or any others, because to my surprise, instead of rushing to reward my heroic deed with a fistful of store coupons or perhaps even that well-used foot spa I'd unsuccessfully haggled over earlier in the day, I suddenly had the distinct impression the store employees now cautiously circling, crouched and at-the-ready like gladiators about to pounce on a cornered beast, actually meant to cause me harm!

These people were farther gone than I had thought, and probably suffering from some form of PDCP (post-demonic clown possession) syndrome, so I decided it'd be best to depart by whatever means possible at this point as my presence now seemed to be acting as a trigger mechanism of sorts, enabling everyone in the room to release their previously pent-up negative energies directly onto me. That may be well and good for them to get it out of their systems at last, but there are limits to my humanitarian endeavors and at some point I simply must consider my own welfare.

Scanning the scene, It only took a split-second to formulate an infallible exit strategy, and springing back into action like an overwound jack-in-the-box, a hail

of Richard Simmons exercise tapes, used golf balls and Tom Clancy hardbacks filled the air like junk drawer machine gun fire as I cleared the way and took my leave — barrel roll style — through a plate glass display window where an odd assemblage of dolls were apparently engaging in sacrificial rites with a stuffed purple donkey ... or maybe it was just an innocent tea party, I don't know, but those twisted little faces and soulless, staring eyes still haunt my dreams.

Oh, yeah, the record haul ... well, when the befuddled store employees began rudely pelting me with albums through the empty window frame as I was still shaking off glass fragments and trying to get my bearings, I managed to rescue most of those carelessly discarded LPs before hightailing it back to my lair for a spot of tea and well-deserved evening of relaxation and quiet contemplation.


Okay, okay, the dull reality is that I managed to unobtrusively rifle through all of the records, paid for my selections (a little over 100 LPs) and calmly exited the building the same way I came in: without incident.

Visit the official Robin Trower website

Visit the official Jack Bruce website 
Visit Bill Lordan's page on
Coulrophobia is no laughing matter 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Summer Movie Soundtracks

Be sure to check out our latest Slideshow Corner presentation. The theme for this installment is Summer Movie Soundtracks. All of the included soundtracks are from movies released during the summer months (here in the northern hemisphere).

You'll find soundtrack LP cover art for famous blockbusters such as Back to the Future and Jaws, along with some cult classics and obscure titles like Sorcerer, More, Easy Rider, and The Strawberry Statement.

Find out which of the listed soundtracks feature the music of Tangerine Dream; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; The Jimi Hendrix Experience; Pink Floyd and other great artists. You'll also find facts such as release dates of the films, record label and catalog number info, plus some quick comments about the films and records.

Just click on the slideshow (located in the top-right corner of the sidebar) to access the captions and view each image separately, or click the link below for direct access to the slideshow photo album. Eventually, a new corner slideshow will be put into place, so in the future the link below will be the only way to access this movie soundtrack one.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Jethro Tull - Aqualung (Hecho En Mexico)

While Aqualung is certainly a worthy thrift store record find, it is also a very common, extremely well-known album you can easily read about at a thousand other places. To keep it interesting, we delved deep into the most remote, cobweb enshrouded passages of our cavernous archives chambers to bring you exclusive details of a rather obscure pressing of this popular record.

This particular copy is something of a curiosity owing to the fact that it's a Mexican release with the song titles printed in Spanish. What's more, the back cover layout is completely different from the US (and probably all other) versions. It lacks the usual gatefold style cover and accompanying interior artwork as well.

label from Jethro Tull - Aqualung (1971 Reprise/Gamma GX 01-459)
Jethro Tull - Aqualung (Mexican pressing)
1971 Reprise/Gamma GX 01-459
An early pressing on the Reprise label, it was manufactured and distributed in Mexico by Gamma Records. Also worth noting is that it features the old, original "tricolor steamboat" label design supposedly retired by Reprise at least two years before Aqualung's release.

Recorded with new bass player Jeffrey Hammond, and with Benefit LP session keyboardist John Evan now contributing as a full-time member, Aqualung hit the shelves in 1971 to mostly favorable reviews. It would go on to become Jethro Tull's best-selling album and is often regarded as their finest hour by critics and fans alike.

Jethro Tull - Aqualung (1971 Reprise/Gamma GX 01-459)
Back cover of Aqualung, Mexican pressing
(click to enlarge)
"Hymn 43" was the only song from Aqualung offered up as a single. But the evocative title track, with its distinctive main guitar riff and haunting acoustic interludes, along with the hard-driving "Locomotive Breath" (aka "El Aliento De La Locomotora") emerged as the most popular cuts from the album, and perhaps from the entire Jethro Tull discography — at least if how much a song has been beaten into the ground... er, I mean chosen for airplay by big "classic rock" radio stations is any way to judge its overall popularity.

Metal Confusion
More jeers than cheers, along with confusion and disbelief filled the air in 1989 when Jethro Tull shockingly eclipsed widely projected winners, and shining stars of metal, Metallica, and took home the first ever Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance with their admittedly un-metal, not-so-hard rockin' Crest of a Knave album. Well, they would have taken home the award that night had they actually been at the ceremony to accept. Figuring there was no chance they could actually win, the band's record company told them not to bother making the trip out to LA. In this recent interview, Ian Anderson reflects on those heady, tumultuous days when he and his band became the reigning kings of metal.

sticker on cover of Mexican pressing of Jethro Tull - Aqualung
Jethro Tull may not have been the best choice for that particular award, but their music has undoubtedly inspired more than a few metal musicians over the years. Iron Maiden bassist, founder, mastermind and longtime Jethro Tull fan, Steve Harris, for one, cites them as an early favorite and an important influence on his songwriting style.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Tip for Restoring White Record Covers

Are some of your favorite white LP covers looking shabby and dull?

You've tried washing them. You've tried bleaching them. You've tried throwing things at them. You have even tried putting them in a hermetically sealed, gold plated energy pyramid suspended betwixt a triumvirate of old-growth sacred cedar trees on the eve of a total lunar eclipse—all to no avail!

Are you at your wits' end with nowhere to turn? Have you been told the situation is hopeless? Take heart, friends, you are not alone. Even the finest albums from the most well-kept collections can end up severely blighted in time. I am here to tell you help is just around the corner. No longer do you need to live with the frustration and woe of black ring marks, marring, and blotchy discoloration.

 Even the severest cases of ring-around-the-cover are speedily cured!
Read on and you will see that a quick, easy, and cheap solution is well within reach. Also be sure to check out the included video where you will witness two classic album covers regain the luster of yesteryear before your very eyes.

Rubbing Off and Shining On
As you've probably already gathered from the photo below, our great white record cover revitalizer is simply a common pencil or pen eraser.

Eraser used on the Wish You Were Here cover
Now, there are many types and brands of erasers to try. Some are more abrasive than others and also will be more or less effective on different surfaces. So far, I've worked with three erasers: the classic pink/red pencil eraser we are all familiar with, a Papermate brand ink/pencil combo eraser, and a "kneadable rubber eraser" made by Prang. Ideally, you would assemble an arsenal of different ones and experiment on some records borrowed from a friend before attempting to restore your own prized covers. Just kidding about that last part. The great thing about thrift store records is, they are so inexpensive, you don't have to worry so much about damaging them and you can always pick up a few you don't care about at all if you just need a guinea pig for cleaning experiments.

White, White, White is the Color of Our Cover
With very little preparation or planning, I grabbed two very popular, very common, and in this case, very shabby looking records: Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here and The Beatles' self-titled "White Album" and (rather haphazardly) went right to town on them with two of the erasers (see video).

Some observations and findings:
The Papermate eraser worked exceptionally well on the Pink Floyd cover, but had trouble gripping the surface of the Beatles jacket (which has a distinctly different sort of glossy surface). For that cover, the Prang rubber eraser did the trick.

I noticed very fine, light scuff marks were left on the Pink Floyd cover by the Papermate eraser. The scuffing is not very noticeable unless you are really looking for it and holding the cover at an angle under a light. I'd say it's not a bad tradeoff when you recall how the cover looked before the eraser was used on it. I think both the pencil and ink sides of the eraser worked fine, but I might have noticed the ink side working a little better (it may have been more abrasive too?)

Before and after shots of Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here cover

I've since tested the Prang kneadable rubber eraser on the back of the Pink Floyd cover and could not detect any scuff marks from it. I also tried it on a non-gloss white cover (Aerosmith's Draw the Line) and it proved both effective and non-damaging. I would say that the kneadable rubber eraser was maybe all-around best, as it seems to be the least abrasive/damaging while still being effective on a variety of surfaces. The worst thing about it was its tendency to crumble and shed relatively large bits of itself. The standard pink/red pencil eraser was the worst performer. It required some extra rubbing and pressure for it to work, and at the same time, I think it could wear away more of the cover's surface in an uneven, damaging manner. It was more difficult to control the action and outcome with that one.

"Kneadable rubber eraser" at top
For this demonstration, I just gathered some erasers I already had around, but if I were looking to buy another one expressly for cleaning covers, I think this Sanford Magic Rub Non-Abrasive Vinyl Eraser might be a good prospect. My Prang rubber eraser is about 20 years old, but it looks like the same kind is still available. Update: I have now also tested a Sanford Design Artgum eraser and while it was non-damaging, as described, it also did not really work so well for this purpose.

You'll generally want to stay on the white background and avoid rubbing over—and consequentially erasing—any printed areas of a cover. But with a light and careful enough touch, using the right eraser, it may be possible in some cases to also safely reduce or remove some marks without causing great harm to the underlying artwork. Just be very careful and choose your battles wisely. Once that ink is erased, it's gone forever.

For the final buff & shine, I just used a solution of white vinegar and water, wiped off with a paper towel. Some might tell you to never apply liquid directly onto a cover, and that may not be bad advice, but spraying a mild cleaning solution (typically in a fine mist) and immediately wiping dry has not caused me any trouble. Use extra caution when dealing with older non-glossy covers.

This thrift store sourced 1968 pressing of The Beatles' "White Album" will
remain in the "poor" grading category due to the torn section along the bottom,
but it now shines a whole lot brighter and whiter after getting the eraser treatment

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Red Flower of Tachai Blossoms Everywhere

China Record Company have done it again! This is the one to acquire! All the big hits on one record! From the smash single that burned up the charts and warmed our hearts: A Long, Long Life to Chairman Mao, to the song we were all humming in that magical and productive summer of '67: Delivering Public-Grain to the State. Yes, they are all here in one glorious collection! 

The inspirational Conquering the Typhoon will have your foot tapping as your spirits soar. Then, let the gentle, relaxing sounds of Spring Comes to Yiho River and The Flower of Tachai Blooms at the Foot of Kunlun wash over you and be transported to a place of majestic, ancient landscapes and time-honored traditions ... or, as the cover art depicts: a place of modern concrete dam projects, well organized farm plots, and efficient workers. Finally, you'll want to put the pedal to the metal and increase the volume level because the closing song Galloping Across the Vast Grasslands is the perfect soundtrack for cruising the open road; wind in your hair, sun at your back, and best girl by your side.

Seriously, I've long enjoyed hearing traditional Chinese music (but never owned any), and was very pleased to find this record and add it to the collection. Now, not only can I create a more enchanting atmosphere for sipping fragrant tea on those quiet evenings at home, but the next time a boisterous party guest shouts a request for "Delivering Public-Grain to the State," I'll be ready!

The Red Flower of Tachai Blossoms Everywhere
China Record Company M-1019

Released on the state-owned China Record Company label, this is a ten inch record that plays at 33⅓ rpm. Exact release date is unknown, but I think sometime between 1965 - 1975 would be a very safe guess.
Here is an interesting article about a Chinese record collector and the history of the record industry in China. I like the early name given to records there: chang pian, or "singing disc." The piece ends with a really nice quote from the collector about his love of music and records.

Former Genesis lead guitarist, Steve Hackett salutes traditional Chinese music with the song The Red Flower of Tachai Blooms Everywhere. While his song's name is nearly identical to the title track of the record featured in this report, it isn't a note for note cover version. Released on his Spectral Mornings LP, as well as on the Time Lapse live album, it is a brilliantly done tribute composition that displays the guitarist's appreciation of this beautiful music.