I’m not sure how to mentally or emotionally process listening to 50 new records over the course of two months, but it feels like I’ve barely scraped the surface of the crates that are floating around. Usually, I really space out new albums so I can absorb the experience without it being cluttered with other memories and sensations. I dedicate myself to a thing that someone made, and try to give it respect. Maybe that way of approaching art is too limiting; maybe you can appreciate something as much in an hour as you can in a week.
I think there’s a point when listening to so much music just becomes processing information, if you let it. So this is a way of giving that purpose. Even now, unless an album is just thoroughly unappealing, I listen to it at least twice so that it’s not judge too quickly.
At the same time, I’ve found a large box of radio station DJ promo 45s from around 1972 in my old house. Nobody knows how they got there, but it’s an experience of even more new, unfamiliar things in even shorter, electric bursts. Finding 25 new songs, 25 bands you’ve never listened to before, in a single evening, is the distillation of all of this into a marathon. But putting on a few new albums every few days has become the highlight of the summer. Even though we’re now free to roam, and quarantine isn’t really as large of an issue anymore, I’m not sure what else I’d rather be doing. It’s thrifting through a collection that was set aside for a time of meditation, and now’s that time.
It feels like a meditation; on art, on music, on the weight of objects.
A true singer-songwriter, and one I’ve somehow been sheltered from my whole life. This is the album that reminds me why records are so great : they contain a lot of stuff that never really had a huge footprint in recent times, and it’s just easier to listen from start to finish than to try to find the groove for the next track, so it teaches a lot of patience that often pays off. I think that maybe an LP is the best way to experience an album for the first time; if you like it, put it on your digital listening dingus and curate away, but the patience of an LP is where I’ve found some of the best stuff I’ve ever heard.
But what about this album, specifically? There’s such a glut of singer-songwriters that it’s easy to dismiss most of them as disposable or cookie cutter, but getting to listen to Tom Rush from start to finish really revealed a guy as good as anyone of his contemporaries. Rolling Stone noticed this guy and credited him as being the prototype for the singer-songwriter. He also recorded one of the earliest music videos, but like so many artists who arrive early and define a style, he never got the household notoriety he earned.
Keep or toss? Unfortunately, the record is warped enough to make it sound weird, but I found a new guy to listen to. And he’ll probably make me cry a lot. We’ll see if he can jerk more tears than Colin Hay.
You know at least one song by Ambrosia, and it’s this one. It’s the very definition of adult contemporary, and I think it’s been in at least three commercials. I don’t know if it’s just because I’m pushing 40, but this song that absolutely repulsed me when I was 15 actually kinda grooves now. Maybe it’s the flicker of nostalgia for growing up in a place so remote that all it got was the high-powered adult contemporary station WHUD, but liking this today comes as a surprise.
What’s even more surprising is that the weirdo “Kamikaze” on the reverse side almost feels like a pretty solid Police song. It’s just the slightest sliver of New Wave, and a little bit Prog Rock, which are the two greatest genres. You’d never think that the same band did both songs, but here they are and I’m hooked.
I really only picked up this album because it fell into my ‘Handsome Daniels’ category – records with dudes on the cover that are way too front and center, and a who look a little self-possessed. Turns out they earned it.
Keep or toss? Unexpectedly keeping this one.
The definition of ‘one hit wonder’, this album’s “Ride Captain Ride” hit number 4 on the Billboard charts. This was the second of three albums, all released in 1969 and 1970. Despite the fact that this album doesn’t really do much out of the ordinary, it’s perfectly fine. Many of the band members went on to do some really interesting things, even though this might be considered standard stuff.
Mike Pinera went on to join Iron Butterfly and play with Alice Cooper. Joe Lala did a ton of voice acting in addition to continued music and collaborations with tons of music superstars. Frank Conte joined Three Dog Night and wrote a sci-fi movie which may have never come out. Kent Henry joined Steppenwolf. So, if this was the launching point for all of those things, great.
Keep or toss? Fine album, not into this genre. It’s worth about $15, so I think I’d rather have that.
When I found the Dixie Dregs album back a few weeks ago, I didn’t know I had another one in my collection. That one was pretty intriguing and at first, it sounded just like it looked : Southern-fried rock – but it became much more than that. This one starts in a completely weirdo jazz/prog rock space with “Assembly Line“, making a much more unique first impression, and the follow-up, “Crank It Up” is a standard rock song with hints of glam. It’s their last album before they disbanded for a little over a decade, and it’s all over the place in terms of genre, but it’s not a bad thing, because every bit of it is interesting. It may feel like an iPod on shuffle rather than feel like a coherent listening experience, but the unexpected is fun.
Keep or toss? It’s in pristine condition, and even though I can’t completely wrap my head around what’s going on here, I’m going to keep on trying to figure it out.
Seconds of Pleasure
Rockpile released a single studio album and a handful of live albums. This studio album is a pretty good example of standard pub rock, which is just a code word for ‘stuff anybody can play after like a weeks of playing an instrument’. Pair that with the song “Knife and Fork”, which just tries to make fun of overweight women, and this doesn’t really feel great. The album’s title seriously overpromises on a premise it just doesn’t deliver.
Sure, there are some pretty talented people on here, but much like The Traveling Wilburys, this is less than the sum of its parts. Fight me on that one. It’s stuff you have to listen to in your stepdad’s car on your way to someplace you don’t even want to go and the whole time the car smells funny.
Keep or toss? My girlfriend actually really likes Nick Lowe, so this will find a new life there.
Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge
It’s Canadian heavy metal, as if the cover didn’t make that entirely too clear. The coolest thing about the band is that it’s heavily rumored that Michael J. Fox once auditions to be the replacement bassist in the early 80s, but didn’t get the job. Imagine what could have been.
The second coolest thing is the band’s logo, so it pains me that I’m not super into this album. It’s super clean hard rock without an edge, so I’m sure that has a place somewhere. Maybe it’s just not in regular rotation.
Keep or toss? Given the choice between $5 and this, I’ll take the $5.
Unlike the last two, Zebra is nothing like what you might expect from the cover. It looks a little like self-important hard rock — which is actually why I bought it — but it’s actually super cool prog rock that I found myself listening to multiple times. So, finding out that they started out as a cover band that played Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Jethro Tull (one of my all time favorite bands) wasn’t too surprising. It’s super ambitious, and you can hear shades of all of those in here, without it sounding like it’s just rehashing what’s been done.
They released only three albums in the 80s, with a fourth in 2003, so there isn’t a lot to explore, but this is probably one of the highlights of the last 60 or so records.
Keep or toss? Keep & find more.
Subject Aldo Nova
Looks like New Wave, sounds like hard rock by a guy who wrote a bunch of songs for Celine Dion, because that’s what he did. I think I was probably spoiled by my own hope to find some cool New Wave outer space stuff, but ballad-y hard rock just all ends up sounding the same.
A little bit of poking around shows that his most well-known song is “Fantasy“, which is (despite being on his first album) is still pretty representative of this album : leopard jumpsuits, higher-pitched voices, and a concerted effort to express badassery that probably felt super cool in the 80s.
Keep or toss? Maybe there’ll be a day when this brand of rock, which feels centered entirely upon the groin, will fit into my life. Not now.
Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express
Discogs calls this jazz-rock and jazz-funk, but it’s really New Age Jazz. Brian Auger himself has a hard time defining exactly how to define what he does. From this album, ‘Spice Island‘ is a strangely over-the-top cool track, and the first side is pretty interesting, but on side B, there’s at least one Weather Channel jam. It’s another one of those albums that’s hard to pin down, but unlike the earlier Dregs, I’m not sure if this one is for me.
Keep or toss? There’s a couple of jumps on the first track of Side 1, so there’s just enough working against this to not want to carry it around through a move.
Walter [Wendy] Carlos
I’m still learning about the lords of synth, thanks to the Jon & Vangelis selection also found earlier in this collection, I’m 2/3rds of the way there with this notable contribution by Walter Carlos. Anyone who’s seen the film knows that most of this is hyper-synthed-out versions of well-known classical songs. It’s hard to listen to this version of the William Tell Overture without thinking of Alex’s high-speed prostitution marathon, but this is an iconic work. I’m not sure if it’s something you’d put on every day, but it feels like one of those recordings that’s an important landmark in the evolution of music and cinema alike.
Keep or toss? It’s a pretty common record, so there’s no real value here, but it feels like a basic part of any real record collection.
C. David is a writer and artist living in the Hudson Valley, NY. He loves pinball, Wazmo Nariz, Rem Lezar, MODOK, pogs, Ultra Monsters, 80s horror, and is secretly very enthusiastic about everything else not listed here.