It grieves me to say this but this week's trip to Madison in search of things to take home may have been the most disappointing since finding only one cd in 1996 but back then I wasn't looking for records. So, this was the most disappointing bargain hunt ever. Competing with the scavengers out there, the pickings were very slim; even less than the trip that I made up there last July. It's really beginning to make no sense to even suggest going to their Goodwill's or Salvation Army. None, nix, nothing found at all three Goodwill stores and the Army. There was a resale store on Washington that had about 6 boxes of albums (no 45s) and the anticipating of finding anything worth nothing, quickly became disappointment unless I was into Anne Murray. Then I would have completed her discography on this trip. Or have about 1000 classical albums to listen to.
The continuation of stores closing, Savers was closed on the west side which meant the east side had most of the garbage there. I liked the west side store better although the location wasn't quite the best place to have a business, plus it was 3 doors down from Best Buy, which continues to shrink even more cd area to the point it's not worth going there anymore. The only thing worth nothing was the new live Van Halen album but then I didn't see the need to buy it so I didn't. The best record store in Madison is Strictly Discs; they have gotten much better in having decent music than Mad City Music X and Sugar Shack Records, which I spent about two hours trying to find something to buy. The clerk up there was very nice to me but there was this dude who would vacuum the carpet and then would spend countless times at the counters playing with the pennies on the counter. I also couldn't figure out why the records were not in their sleeves either. It's annoying not to have the CDs in the jewel cases, even more when the vinyl is locked up. So in the end, the only notable singles i got was With Pen In Hand by Billy Vera (Atlantic 2526) and a copy of Little Bit O' Soul by The Music Explosion (Laurie 3380) which is interesting that the record has Little Bit O Soul as the B side with I See The Light the A. To which record programmers thought the B was a better hit single. And they were right. I tried to snap a few pictures inside, but the GD flash went off and shocked me and the end result was a fucked up picture. However I did get the front of the store without any problem.
Mad City Music X had lesser stuff of note and even their 45 selection was picked over and the 50 cent stuff is total played to death jukebox records or just plain crap and better just to leave out front with a free records sign. The mercy CD sale was The Best Of Belly. Even the loads of dollar albums, they had nothing I really wanted and I begin to wonder if coming up to Madison was even worth the drive of finding bargains. In general it's been like this anyplace I go to, no shortage of Country or pop stuff of the 50s or 60s. Anything rock and roll and it's trashed. Just like going to Savers and seeing a Vee Jay Beatles 45 of Please Please Me/From Me To You which would have been the find of the day had the record been in better shape. Bargain hunting is a crap shoot, this time out instead of hitting a jackpot, I ended up with snake eyes and not a lot of things to write home about. There was a Sally Jane Hoakum MGM 45 I would have liked to have but the record was warped. So much for that.
Which lead to Half Priced Books and the east side had large amounts of Bobby Darin 45s but I pretty much had them all and I really didn't see the need of Mame by Louie Armstrong. Found nothing at the east side but the west side had a few things of note, a Best of Lee Dorsey one of them Pre Played would have had the find of the trip with Robyn Hitchcock Fegmania! but the second song fucking skips in the cd player and i can't find anything out of the ordinary. Of course the Pre Played folks like to buff them up after you buy them and I wish they would cut that out. That might be the reason why it skips, which means I might have to go search for a better copy on Amazon and hope that somebody has it reasonably priced. It might be one of Robyn's best albums ever. And the song it skips on Another Bubble rocks.
Last July I donated about 50 singles to the Williamson Street St Vincent De Paul Thrift Store and believe it or not about a quarter of them are still up there (go figure). I guess nobody wanted the Firefall nor Silly Milly by Blue Swede or What Kind Of Fool Am I by Rick Springfield to which the scavengers took the damn sleeve off the record, so I put it back on there. I guess that Grand Funk Railroad is not in big demand for my copies of Walk Like A Man and Shinin On are still there, picture sleeve in tact. But even as I sorted through the usual suspects I did come go home with 5 singles, nothing earth shaking either unless America's Horse With No Name or Bread's Mother Freedom trips your trigger. And I'm not sure that I Wanna Go Back from Eddie Money was one of the 50 that I donated last July but I took it home all the same. Unlike the Davenport singles most of the 9 singles I bought, most are just plain Meh. And Pawn America's Cd section is now basically down to a one side of the usual crap nobody wants. Either Pawn America isn't taking CDs in anymore or people aren't bringing them in. I thought about buying a Paiste Signature 14 inch glass crash cymbal for 50 dollars (that is a steal; on a side note, I seen a few more Paiste cymbals of note and cheap too, a innovations crash cymbal, a high end Signature ride for 250 dollars (still cheap) and a 10 inch Rude splash). But since I'm winding down on my drum playing career, I didn't think it was cost effective to purchase something that would gather dust after a while. Pawn America has been great in getting Paiste cymbals in on the cheap, for CD's however, five years ago it was the place to be; five years later it's not. The CD era is over and Pawn America isn't taking anymore in.
But it wasn't a total waste of time. Strictly Discs had the best deals and I found the latest Status Quo and the recent Tony Joe White Complete Warner Brothers Records in the used bins. The Tony Joe White the bargain of the day, seven dollars for the two cd set. Plus at least they had some decent albums in the dollar bins. The major vinyl is downstairs and I managed to while away the hour looking through their collection, but not buying anything else. Which means the next time Strictly Discs will be one of the places to stop at, Mad City Music X as well. Anyplace else outside the thrift stores would be a waste of time and effort.
I didn't do State Street this time out. I basically just rented a bike and did about 25 miles of bike riding up and down the bike trails all around Madison and managed to have a better time watching the girl joggers and bike riders ride on by. Springtime brings out the best views it seems. I only watch, I'm just too old to really go after somebody. It's not easy being 30 years older and can only watch from afar. But its probably better that way.
Since Iowa raised the gas tax, gas prices in Wisconsin were about the same or a few cents cheaper. The cheapest was PDQ's gas for 2.31 a gallon. And of course there was the usual supper at Cracker Barrel next to the motel I usually stay at. Hardly anybody was in my part of the building, so it was very quiet. The biggest news was the Tony Robinson incident, with his mom going to Washington to do a protest. I've seen the makeshift memorial where Robinson's life was ended and there was a report that his mom called 911 when Robinson was going through a mental issue but somehow the policeman managed to give Robinson a pep talk and got him out of his funk. The second time later on would provide a more negative end result.
Monday's weather was cloudy and cool, Tuesday was slightly warmer and better bike riding weather. On the drive up to Madison, I did come across the area where they got a foot of snow and a week later from Platteville to Mineral Point the fields were still covered in snow. Thankfully it was all melted when I made it to Madison. I did stop at the Platteville Goodwill and although I found no cd or records of note, I did find a book, The Diary of Frida Kahlo; A Self Portrait. I bought the book because of the Mexican place in Solon called My Frida, and somehow the book interests me. She led a very interesting but a hard life which she portrayed in her paintings and her thoughts. I guess that book may be the bargain of the trip, certainly it kept me up late trying to decipher her meanings. Worth the 1.57 that I paid for the book.
It was a good thing that I postponed the trip a week, the original day I was to go up there, a freak snowstorm dropped about a foot around Prairie Du Chein and about 7 inches around Mineral Point and Platteville, four inches fell in Madison. Snow was still on the ground around Mineral Point but Madison's snow melted by then. Monday ZZ Top played there and on Saturday Belle And Sebastian will be there to play. If I've known that I may have waited till Saturday to go see B&S. Outside of the usual one or two dumbass drivers and wayward bicyclists, the trip was uneventful. Even with the Tony Robinson issues, things were according to plan. However the Chinese buffet at World Buffet in Monona was awful. For 14 dollars you'd think they would keep some fresh chicken and broccoli in the damn buffet area. Good service though.
Another blog site to tell you about in Blogspot. This is Jamie Lee Fritze's Sound Woman site. She's a big lover of records and music. Sounds like the perfect woman for me but she's taken. You can read about her latest vinyl adventures here: http://asoundwoman.blogspot.com/
It escaped my mind at the time but it was 10 years ago that Sony BMG gave us the copy protect CD to which you could not make duplicates (there was a way that you could and some did), beginning with Velvet Revolver's Contraband and lesser known and forgotten bands like The Dead 60s and Van Zant to name a few. EMI did this as well for certain albums (Idlewild's third and less interesting album) but this technology along with the rootkit virus that renders computers useless if you played the CD in your computer really begin the the consumer being fed up and CD sales slid big time and have never recovered from this problem. Today DVDs are still copy protected, but the rootkit problem forced Sony BMG to recall the problem discs and replaced them with regular unprotected cds. By then it was too late but that was happening back in April of 2005. Doesn't seem that long doesn't it. When you're on the computer it isn't.
Delta Moon-Low Down (Jumping Jack 2015)
The continuing saga of Tom Gray and Mark Johnson continues. In the past 10 plus years of doing Delta Moon, they continue to travel the backroads of southern swamp blues and rock, this time out adding a bit more of a Little Feat sound to which I'm sure Franher Joseph was inspired by Sam Clayton of the Feat. The last two albums they were under Red Parlor but now back to Jumping Jack. The covers are Down In The Flood by Bob Dylan and Skip James' Hard Time Killing Floor Blues. This time out The Moon incorporates more background singing and the ladies return, Anna Kramer and Francine Reed, the latter adding more gospel soul to Flood and Nothing You Can Tell A Fool. As always Tom Gray continues to show his dry sense of humor on tracks like Open All Night and Wrong Side Of Town and as always Mark Johnson adds some of slickest guitar slide leads and so does Tom. In a nutshell this comes across as blues but for myself I still look at Low Down as well as the rest of their albums as good old fashioned swamp rock blues, somewhere to the left of Tony Joe White and to the right of CCR with an wink and a nod to the old bluesmen of long ago and far away. I love this band and basically everything they have done I love just as much. And was quite flattered when I ordered up the Cd last week and they got it here in three days and everybody autographed it. And God Bless Tom Gray, one of the best musicians out there that really cares a great deal about Delta Moon fans. And on the bucket list; to have them play here in this neck of the woods. They always put on a fun show.
Status Quo-Aquostic: Stripped Bare ( Fourth Chord/E.A.R. Music/Eagle 2014)
Overlook the sight of sixty something nude rockers and you got a fairly nice album of unplugged Status Quo numbers that ranged from their best known Pictures Of Matchstick Men to which a combination of strings and acoustics turned it into a more modern number, that's even better than what Camper Von Beethoven did years ago. While Francis Rossi is still in fine vocal form, Rick Parfitt sounds a bit strained. Perhaps 22 songs over 70 minutes does lean toward overkill but if you're a fan of Quo and for that matter Rockpile, Aquostic is a nice addition to your Quo collection. For that matter, none of the songs go over 4 minutes and The Quo revisits songs up to Rock Till You Drop, to which that song really doesn't fit and perhaps taking five songs off their 1973 Hello album is about three too many. I passed on the reunion Original Quo Live album simply because nobody had it in stock and this CD was a promo copy. Without the trademark Quo electric boogie rock, the unplugged album opens up a new insight, that after album 50 years together The Status Quo can unplug and rock out, but they never sounded more country either. Credit guest accordion wiz and former Dave Edmunds helper Geraint Watkins for that.
Tony Joe White: The Complete Warner Brothers Studio Recordings (Real Gone 2015)
It's easy to see why Elvis loved Tony Joe; an excellent songwriter and storyteller. Polk Salad Annie keeps the money and the memories going. After being on Monument for the hit, he moved over to Warner Brothers for a uneven five year career, the best having Peter Asher produced his WB debut and then White continued to strip his sound down to barebones acoustic swamp blues. Not that the second album The Train I'm On is bad, or the even more stripped down Homemade Ice Cream, which sounds like picking on a open camp fire and fishing. Even Trolls Like To Rock And Roll is that storytelling humor that we come to expect out of Tony Joe, or They Caught The Devil And Put Him In A Jail In Endora Arkansas. And then there's love song of I Got A Thing About You Baby, which Elvis did turn into a top 30 hit. But still Tony Joe White is at his best, with horns backing him up on the funky Don't Let The Door Hit You In The Butt, his final Warner single and fitting finale to a label that became indifferent to him. If you want a better overview, Warners still has the best of TJ White with his Monument sides and hits but it left out Don't Let The Door. The Real Gone has all of the Warner Brothers stuff, all three albums and all singles collected. And anything associated with Gordon Anderson, it's well put together and annotated. As they say, real music from the swamp.
Israel Vibration-This Is Crucial Reggae (Sanctuary/Ras 2005)
One of the more offbeat vocal reggae bands, this compilation album is during their stay at RAS in the 1990s. A decent harmony group but by 90s standards they were behind the times although they had nice harmonies. For a mix cd overview, this is nothing special, most of the songs go skanking by like a warm summer breeze. Run But You Can't Hide and the live Strength Of My Life are the highlights but this is not something I'd play on a regular basis.
William Bell-The Soul Of A Bell (Stax 1967)
You can't go wrong when you have Booker T and the MGs back you up and for the journeyman Bell, he's best known for the 1961 soul single You Don't Miss Your Water, redid for this album. First side is slow jam soul and although he tries his best, he can't top Otis Redding's I've Been Loving You Too Long and Otis made Bell's You Don't Miss Your Water his own. A bit too many ballads I think but Bell does add more soul on Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye than the Casinos did, and finally the rest of the album goes more uptempo on later songs like Any Other Way and You're Such A Sweet Thang although I am certain that's Issac Hayes helping out backing vocals. Bell does sound like Eddie Floyd and like Floyd was resigned to the back seat to Otis but overall, The Soul Of A Bell is a nice minor soul classic.
Nina Simone: Saga Of The Good Life And Hard Times (RCA 1997)
Paul Williams re imagines some of the unreleased songs that Nina Simone did back in 1968, considered by some to be her most radical and best period. Simone at times could be good and at times be erratic, especially during her later years but I think the reason why most of the songs were not released was that they weren't as good as the released stuff that she did with Silk And Satin or Nina Sings The Blues to which the alternative take of Do I Move You appears. The Martin Luther King Suite featuring her Mississippi Goddam does cook and so does her banter of telling folks to get into it. The later version of Ain't Got No/I Got Life is more moving although I do think the song is somewhat goofy. The songs with Nina alone with piano are fine listening for a couple times and even the organ solo on Music For Lovers is unique in a Muzak sort of way. Just like the rest of the album.
Liz Damon's Oriental Express (White Whale 1970)
Madison was devoid of anything in value for records at the thrift stores and I spent wasted hours going through boxes and boxes of crap nobody wanted at a resale store, and I decided to spend a dollar on the last artist that charted anything for White Whale Records, the label famous for The Turtles and fucking them over. Liz Damon is not rock and roll, she's easy listening muzak all the way, somewhere along the lines of Up With People or Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66 without the latin groove. White Whale didn't permit much, no mention of who played and sang, a picture of Liz in front and the band playing live at a casino on the back cover. And we get muzak covers of the hits of 1970 be it, Close To You or Everything Is Beautiful and the obligatory Beatles songs off Let It Be (guess which ones). I can't slam this record, it's relaxing and perfect for winding down after a long day at work but again it's not rock and roll. Damon will forever known as that one hit wonder 1900 Yesterday to which is probably the most lively thing on this record except for that electric guitar lead on Let It Be. To which after the song is over, you can turn off the light and fall asleep. It's mellow.
The Life And Times Of: : Butch Walker
Upon the few artists that have managed to make an impact in rock in the late 90s, Butch Walker is an enigma. At times, he can make a fairly listenable album and on the next one make a forgettable turd. Originally part of Marvelous 3, their two Hi-Fi/Elektra albums I tend to favor Ready Sex Go over The Hey Album. The latter having minor hit Freak Of The Week and the other a better song selection. While critics rave over Walker's solo period, you really don't need to look no further than the aptly titled Left Of Self Centered, his one and only Arista album that is the most consistent. Walker does borrow some Cheap Trick here, some glam there and a touch of grunge and power pop and it does have a sense of humor. Not so with the dull and boring Letters, one of a handful of albums Walker did for Epic. Butch rebounded with The Rise And Fall Of Butch Walker And The Let's Go Out Tonites, a handful name to name a band. But I believe it's his best next to Left Of Self Centered. Although credited as a wonderkind producer, he did jinx The Donnas on their 2nd Atlantic album Gold Metal, which did not live up to the name in record sales or reviews and The Donnas' faded from view. He has figured in producing the likes of Weezer, American Hi Fi, Pink and Avril Lavigine to name a few. He continues to do solo work and his last couple albums was with The Black Widows. I haven't paid much attention to those albums or the ones when he was in SouthGang, which had two albums out on Virgin before the band got tired of the label's bullshit and split up. In terms of pop music nowadays (or at least in the late 00's) chances are you would have heard Butch Walker production in Fall Out Boy and even country with Keith Urban. To me, Butch's albums to get are the Marvelous 3, Ready Sex Go and Left Of Self Centered and all can be found in the cheap bins. As for fan interaction with Butch, I heard complaints of him using their photos of him without given credit, a sure sign of a left of self centered rock star. He tends to be overrated but if he checks his ego at the door, he does know to craft a good album from time to time.