Tony Coulter here, with a new batch of vinyl finds -- all acquired since moving to Portland, OR almost six months ago. While previous posts were focused on records from the Northwest, this time 'round I've thrown aside geographical constraints -- i.e., I found 'em here, mostly in thrift stores and dollar bins, but they're from all over. After presenting my favorite tracks from seven of these LPs, I'll finish up with two imaginary record covers.
Various Artists: The Vinyl Days (Brute Force Cybernetics, 1976)
Let's start with a compilation released by Cincinnati radio station WEBN, featuring eleven "unsigned" local acts. Over the years, I've made it a habit to pick up this kind of album (as opposed to radio station--endorsed collections of hit songs), because surprisingly often, one or two tracks turn out to be quite good -- or at the very least, enjoyably typical of their era and no worse than the stuff the "big guys" cranked out. This particular collection -- perhaps not surprisingly, given its 1976 date -- features a fair amount of proggy goings-on, just as I was hoping. One track in particular, however, really stands out: Apocalypse's catchy and altogether nifty "Hoovite Landing," which mixes prog with a late-model psych sound reminiscent of the Doors. Did Apocalypse ever release anything else? I have no idea -- but if not, they should have!
Various Artists: Brown Bags to Stardom (KIKI, 1981)Next up is another radio station compilation -- but this time, a much stranger one. Released by Honolulu station KIKI in 1981, Brown Bags to Stardom showcases the musical talents of Hawaiian high schoolers (I guess "brown bags" refers to the lunches their mothers packed for them). I've selected two enjoyably absurd hard rock numbers: Brain Damage's wonderfully shambolic cover of AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" and Black Rose's "Rockin' Roller," the latter gaining added punch from the fact that both vocalists sound around 10 years old. (Not sure if Black Rose's number is a cover or not. Anyone know?) I've also chosen Nameless Faces' cover of the Michael Schenker Group tune "Tales of Mystery," which actually sounds quite good to me -- certainly more moody and mysterious than the original. Oddly, given that Schenker found fame with the Scorpions, Nameless Faces' version brings to mind the great Hawaiian psych band These Trails. I do have one question, though: Is the lead vocalist a boy or a girl? Beats me.
By the way, the two folks pictured below are KIKI DJs:
The Master's Musicians: Who Will Turn the Key? (no label, 1982)
Next, let's turn to the first of two "Jesus rock" (AKA "xian") releases I've selected: the Master's Musicians' Who Will Turn the Key?, which sports a slightly R. Crumb--esque cover. Recorded in Cranston, Rhode Island in 1982, this album is distinguished by surprisingly ambitious and interesting guitar playing, and oddly compelling melodic lines, occasionally buoyed by subtle choral counterpoint. The execution may be rough -- much of the singing is gratingly off-key and the drumming is none too steady -- but the ideas are strong.
Good Shepherd Youth Choir: Portrait of Love (LRS, 1977)
Next is one of the countless custom-press high school and college choral LPs that are lying unnoticed in dusty heaps in thrift stores and junk shops across the country. This particular one, recorded by the Good Shepherd Youth Choir of Pittsburg, California, not only is housed in a jaw-dropping cover, it also features a highly appealing version of "Love Song," written and recorded by Leslie Duncan, but made famous by (and, surprisingly, not massacred by) Elton John. Incidentally, my favorite cover of this song -- and indeed the first version I ever heard -- is by the band Aleithia. But this version is pretty good too.
The Good Shepherd Youth Choir at rest:
East Valley High School Choral Department: Featuring "Magic" (RPC, 197?)
To prove my point about their ubiquity, here's another custom-press choral LP, containing a fine and unique arrangement of "Ticket to Ride," which in their version sounds more like the Mama's and Papa's than the Beatles. Don't know when this was recorded, or even which of the many East Valley High Schools it was connected to. Nancy Amend, are you out there?
Mary Louise Smith: Me and Willie the Kid (Sing Me Records, 1980)
The next album under consideration is a set of songs written and performed by one Mary Louise Smith, of Nashville, Tennessee. To these ears, the crown jewel of this self-released album is the track "I Guess I'm Not a Kid Anymore," a mediation on aging that in another singer's hands might have been kitsch, but somehow ends up being quite poignant. Of course, the fact that I'm not a kid anymore might have something to do with my reaction!
By the way, the "kid" doesn't really play on the album -- unfortunately.
Dale & Vicki: His Wondrous Love (Vanco, 197?)
Here's a second xian LP, this one by the Vancouver, Washington duo known as Dale & Vicki. Recorded sometime in the late '70s or early '80s (or so I'd guess), His Wondrous Love features a set of songs composed by Dale (Hutchinson), as well as striking cover art based on a painting by Vicki (Wolf). Most of the songs, unfortunately, have a country pop/easy listening flavor that holds little attraction for me -- but one number, "Long and Winding Road" (not the Beatles song!), has a strange, trance-inducing and slightly desperate quality I find quite appealing.
Turning from obscure LPs to imaginary ones, I give you three pieces of art by someone named Ben, who I met a number of years back at a FMU record fair. Ben was fond of making up bands, and indeed put together a discography of non-existent psych and prog groups. Ben also drew covers for many of these invented albums, a few of which ended up in my hands, as you can see below. By the way, the second and third images represent the front and back of the same record.
That's it for this blogpost -- I'll be back in two weeks' time.....