Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Records bought 4/23

I have a notebook I keep in my car. It was a gift, actually, a "swinger's journal" or something like that, with fake red alligator skin cover and all kinds of cheesy retro/lounge/vegas/space age graphics all through it, making it of no practical use as a journal. So I've used it as a sort of guide to L.A., where I write down every eatery, book or record store, or other thing that sounds worth checking out some day. It's organized by neighborhood, and even has a table of contents. Incredibly geeky. So Saturday, as I planned my return to the Torrance Library to return these hip hop CDs I checked out, I noticed that there was a used record store that I would be driving right past, which I had never been to: The Record Recycler.

Record Recycler is a nice little place. The owner was actually standing there, cleaning new records. I'd like to think that revealed a great love for the form, but most likely it's just evidence that the ever-shrinking consumer base for old records, now consisting primarily of DJ's, requires such action. Unlike Record Surplus, nothing is broken down any further than the letters of the alphabet, so you have to dig through each letter to find what your looking for, which is kind of a hassle, but also more fun, and increases the chance of coming across something you want but weren't looking for. It's always funny seeing what records come up over and over. They must have had half-a-dozen copies of Sopwith Camel's album. 80's Stones records seem to be incredibly common. But even stranger is seeing albums by 80's and 90's alternative bands that at one time had some measure of buzz behind them, but have since been buried by the sands of time. Doctor's Mob? Damn, I forgot about those guys! Giant Sand? Sounds vaguely familiar...

I was almost near the end of my search, without having found anything I really wanted. I was gonna just pick up a few cheap REM and Stones records that I didn't really need, but would have filled up some gaps in my collection (like It's Only Rock n Roll for $1.99. It's not a great record, and I'm not sure I'd ever listen to it, but it's good enough that I ought to have it, ya know?), when I came across this:

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James "Blood" Ulmer - Black Rock (1982). This has been on my list for a long time. From the references I'd read to it, I thought it would probably be somewhere along the lines of Last Exit: noisy jazz-funk fusion, but that's not what it is. What it really sounds like is Zappa in jam mode, without all the weird time-signatures. Blood doesn't have Zappa's chops, but he plays some pretty crunchy shit. I'm not sure fusion is the right category for this--if it was a bunch of white guys, it would surely be considered progressive rock, or jam rock, or something. The drummer, Grant Calvin Weston, has Neil Peart-level skills, but doesn't play any of that prog bullshit, and the bassist, Amin Ali, plays a heavy-duty thump similar to Les Claypool. I would have loved to see these guys share a bill with The Minutemen.

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Also picked up The Ohio Players - Fire (1974). I wish I had a good scanner so I could show the hilarious, irony-free poses these guys strike on the inside of the gatefold. The most famous anecdote about them is that they used to have beautiful girls come into the studio, strip down buck nekkid, and pour honey over themselves in order to get the mojo workin'. All their covers feature photos of sweaty, naked black women. Their stuff is pretty guitar-heavy, and the climax of this particular record is "What The Hell," a funky heavy metal workout with blazing guitar solos that further gives the lie to the idea that you can draw some kind of clear line between "rock" and "R&B" without checking skin color first.

Book update:

Finished Ulysses Sunday morning. I'm on page 63 of Finnegan's Wake, and should be able to finish chapter 3 by the end of the month.


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