Sometimes bargains are dangerous, particularly if one is musically curious. A record sale on Willy Street Fair weekend came through with a special "two dollars for as many as you can carry" blowout ... and a big stack of LPs going home. Here's a selection of what can be easily found at that sort of price point!
Jerry Jeff Walker: Walker's Collectibles
I've seen this album a number of times before, but assumed it was a compilation. Assumption FAIL. In fact, Walker's Collectibles is one of his best albums. It's always a good sign when most of the songs are written by either Walker or his band. This one is all over the map musically, from Dixieland inflections to a cappella to blazing country rock to acoustic numbers to drunken goofing -- sometimes in the same song, and all as filtered through Walker's easygoing flow. It's a definite keeper, though this copy is a typically lackadaisical '70s MCA pressing, off-center enough to cause heavy distortion here and there. (MCA 450, 1974)
April Wine: Animal Grace
I really like some of this Canadian hard rock band's discs from the early '70s, but had never heard any of their '80s material beyond the radio hits. Animal Grace is about what one would expect from a veteran group seeking further radio hits in 1984, but not in a overwhelmingly egregious way: There's some keyboard cheese, but not to an ear-infection level; there's some light Rush-y prog-ish moves; there's some mid-tempo power balladry. Highlights are the guitar-centric "Rock Tonite" and "Money Talks." But overall, it just sort of sits there, so it's not completely surprising the group broke up after this album. However, April Wine reunited in 1992 and have remained a popular concert draw ever since. (Capitol ST-12311, 1984)
To be brief: not my thing. To present a counterpoint to my slams, the following is an email exchange with Kyle Motor. Welcome to music nerd wars. It's sort of like Game of Thrones but without the killings ... usually.
Vinyl Cave: Kyle, I picked up an Angel album, since it was in the "2 dollars for as many as you can carry" section. It better not suck, or I'm going to put it on your car when you least expect it.
Kyle Motor: Which Angel album? I already have all of them.
I don't know... it's the white one.
That's one of the good ones. I believe track two is "L.A. Lady." Perfection. If you don't like it, I'll get you more copies.
EGREGIOUSLY HORRID KEYBOARDS ALREADY. This better get better quickly. I do like that the original store price sticker is "3 for $1.00."
Oh yeah, the synths start out pretty prominently, but once the big drums and guitars kick in it's rockin'.
It's like vaguely butt-rockin' with synths just crapping all over it, and a wimpy sub-Steve Perry singer. Oh great, now some cheezy barrelhouse piano. This thing might be slamworthy. It may be getting thrown at your work building shortly, actually. I wonder if I can get it to fly all the way across West Wash?
By focusing on the synths, you are missing the great rhythm section making everything chug along. Bob: Why do you hate rock 'n' roll?
It's too bad there weren't any songs or rocking on top of the rhythm section. This makes Kiss' lyrics look like Gertrude Stein.The third song is passable bubblegum once the synths go away and the handclaps start.
That's a great bubblegum song. Are you seriously listening to an Angel album and expecting revolutionary lyrics? You are looking at this album way too hard.
"Smarter than Kiss" is not a very high bar, Kyle. Nice Sweet "Fox on the Run" rip off on song four.
Do you even party?
Angel is not making me want to party. It's really more a queasy sort of feeling, like when a you get a letter about a registered offender moving next door.
That's weak writing. Talk to me about rock 'n' roll when you stop hating rock 'n' roll.
Angel clearly hates rock 'n' roll, that's for sure.
Angel IS rock 'n' roll.
No. Bob Seger is rock 'n' roll.
Your hilarious wrong ideas are adorable.
They'd have to be wrong first. I'm not the one arguing that Angel is good. So, it seems like the punky songs are at least fun; the rest is pretty horrendous. [The discussion briefly moves to April Wine being better than Angel.]
You don't understand Angel, therefore you have a very shaky grasp on what makes a "Kyle song."
I completely understand Angel, I just think it mostly really sucks. There's a big difference. What I don't understand people liking is 90 percent of what's on Z104.
You do not understand Angel, nor the concept of "Kyle songs," because about 1/3 of that Angel album is made up of Kyle songs.
Did I ever say it wasn't? I can't help it if your taste is suspect.
My taste is perfect. BAM!
(Casablanca NBLP 7127, 1979)
Marty Robbins: Marty After Midnight
Well, here was a surprise. I love Marty Robbins' voice, but am often left somewhat underwhelmed by his many, many LPs. I love the '50s country-billy and have a soft spot for Western balladry, but am not so into the schlocky pop, am generally nonplussed by the Hawaiian material, and am often not engaged by his post-'50s straight country material. Essentially, the man could sing anything -- and did, obviously -- but with varying results. Marty After Midnight was one I had not seen before, so I took a flyer. Turns out, this is a bit of an outlier even in Robbins' diverse catalog: It's a set of mostly jazz standards, played essentially straight by a small piano-anchored combo (and somewhat extraneous vocal support from The Jordanaires). Robbins really shines in this setting, and the album makes me wish that when he worked for the pop music crowd he had gone in this direction more than once. Of course, maybe he did and I haven't heard it yet! (Columbia CL 1801, 1962)
The Romantics: Rhythm Romance
Though "What I Like About You" is far more universally known today, it wasn't a big hit when it originally came out. Detroit power poppers The Romantics had their biggest success toward the end of 1983 with "Talking in Your Sleep," incidentally one of the first singles I ever bought. But the band's time in the Top 40 would be short-lived. By 1985, the Rhythm Romance single "Test of Time" stalled out on the charts, as did the album, and the group seemingly faded into the ether. However, The Romantics never really broke up and can still be seen to this day; they played this year's Taste of Madison, for example. To these ears, the fade from the national scene is at least partially explained by Rhythm Romance. It's not bad, but it's inescapably mid-tempo, slickly generic '80s rock, missing the fiery performances of earlier albums (but definitely still more guitar-based than many other records of the time). It just sounds as if the group was running on fumes a bit -- "Test of Time" is very reminiscent of Motown staple "The Same Old Song," the title track is sort of a sideways re-write of "Talking in Your Sleep," and there's a faithful cover of "Poison Ivy." Those looking for an energetic power pop fix will want to stick with the band's earlier albums. (Nemperor FZ 40106, 1985)
Del Reeves: Struttin' My Stuff
Occasionally I get intrigued by '60s country LPs, particularly when the price is right. Del Reeves was a major C&W star in the '60s and still big enough in the '70s to have his own syndicated television show, but I've only heard a few scattered singles here and there. Struttin' My Stuff is from a couple years after his No. 1 breakthrough "Girl on the Billboard," and it's a solid if unsurprising platter. The best song is co-written by Reeves: "This Must Be the Bottom." Ralph Emery's liner notes pimp the novelty number "S.W.A.K." as the hit of the bunch, but it turns out that's just a Roger Miller rip-off. Indeed, from this limited exposure, it sounds as if Reeves had a knack for picking up on the characteristics of other singers without being a carbon copy tonally, echoing the cadences of Bill Anderson and Johnny Cash on "Listen to My Song," and elsewhere sounding very influenced by the phrasing of George Jones. It's also worth pointing out that this is mostly relatively straight country and not countrypolitan -- there's occasional choral backing, but no strings -- another point in Reeves' favor. (United Artists UAS 6571, 1967)