Sunday, November 6, 2016

SPHINX "JUDAS"




Artist: Spinx

Album; Judas
Year: 1977
Label: Raas
Catalog: 2933 105
Condition: VG+ cover / VG+ LP






I'll admit it - I'm addicted to buying interesting looking albums by bands I know nothing about.   Most of the time they turn out to be crap, but once in awhile I stumble across something that's good, or at least interesting in a bizarre fashion.


Well, this one certainly fits the latter category.


Alec R. Costandinos started out as a singer, but enjoyed his initial international successes working with the band Aphrodite's Child and Vangelis in his solo career.  By the mid''70s he was also dabbling in disco and with partner Don Ray made this bizarre album.  Released in 1977 at the zenith of disco madness, "Judas" featured two side-long songs - "Judas Iscariot" and "Simon Peter," basically setting the story of Judas' betrayal of Christ.to a disco beat. The disco arrangement's aren't anything you haven't heard before (okay the Gregorian chants are a little out of the ordinary), but the theme ... well hard for me to picture coked out dance patrons shaking their groove things to this one.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

EVER HAD A SONG CREEP INTO YOUR HEAD?

My father died about 20 years ago.  He's buried in a small cemetery in Leesburg, Virginia.  His grave is in the cemetery's older section, surrounded my a mixture of older and newer graves.  Overlooking this section of the graveyard is a majestic, old Maple tree.

Anyhow, I had a physical this morning and after getting through it unscathed, I decided to take the day off.  After doing a couple of other chores I suddenly decided to drive out to Leesburg to say hello and make sure his plot was clean.  

It was one of those wonderful Fall  days.  Bright blue skies; warm sunshine; green, green grass, and that Maple tree just beginning to change colors.  Anyhow, as I was standing there trimming the grass around the grave James Taylor's 'September Grass' climbed into my head.  It was the perfect soundtrack for the afternoon.  Simply one of my favorite Taylor tunes:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7vsh-YZxFw


Saturday, October 1, 2016

ROCK'S WORST VOICES

I writing this knowing full well I have no musical talents.  After all, how many folks do you know who have been kicked out of seventh grade recorder band? 

Against that backdrop I have zero credentials for criticizing other folks.  'Course that's not going to stop me from putting this list on the web.

# 10 - Tony Bird

Bird's a white African born in Malawi, living in New York.  He's recorded sporadically since the mid-'70s with a couple of obscure albums seeing an American release (1976's "Tony Bird", 1978's "Tony Bird of Paradise", and 1990's "Sorry Africa").   Imagine a mash-up of old Bob Dylan and "Graceland" era Paul Simon and you'll have a rough idea of what Bird sounds like.  His voice is something else.  Thin, dry, and nasally, he sings as if infected with a nasty lisp.  His accent (apparently a mix of English and Afrikaans) makes it even harder to figure out what he's singing about (though the themes are often activist in nature related to his home country).  

Admittedly the sound quality isn't particularly good and this is a live performance, but this clip from a 1983 performance at the Winnipeg Folk Festival will give you a taste of Mr. Bird:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyJRQ2JWkEg

Monday, September 26, 2016

WHEN YOU SEE THE UNFORTUNATE, WHAT'S THE ANSWER?

My wife will tell you I have the sensitivity and awareness of a brick.   Usually she's right.  I tend to be pretty oblivious to most things.

Anyhow, after seeing a photo reflecting how much weight I'd put on, for the last year I've made it a habit of trying to walk whenever I can. One of the places I'll walk is to my local library. It's about two miles each way so I'll put on my earbuds and listen to NPR, or a Pod episode while I make my pilgrimage.


Sunday I walked into a situation I'd never encountered before. I was a couple of blocks from the library and I saw a young woman sitting in a wheelchair in the middle of a side street. She looked bewildered and was in tears. Like a lot of people I tend to shy away from engaging with folks I don't know. In this case I was walking by her and stopped to ask what was happening and if there was anything I could do. The girl (her name was Haley), was probably in her early 20s. Long hair, pretty face, very quiet and demure. It turns out she and her boyfriend were staying in a Fairfax County shelter which happens to be located right next to the library. Her story was that she and the boyfriend had a massive fight and he stormed out of the shelter. She followed him in her wheelchair, but he started running and she couldn't keep up. When she finally stopped she discovered she didn't know where she was. That's when I crossed paths with her.

Even though she didn't realize it, Haley was only a block away from the shelter and so I told her I'd walk back with her. She was clearly upset by the episode so we didn't say a great deal during the walk. She wheeled herself along the sidewalk and I walked along with her and in five minutes we were back on familiar ground. As we were waiting to cross the street to get to the library and the shelter, I asked her what she was going to do. Her response was to text the boyfriend, but her phone had broken so she'd use one of the library computers. At that moment her chair was sitting in the middle of a busy library parking lot so I asked her to let me wheel her across the lot, up the handicap access ramp into the library. She agreed and that's what I did. Last I saw of her she was heading for the library computers. After I check out some new books I looked around, but she'd seemingly already left so I walked home.

So now I'm wondering if there's anything else I could have done, or should have done for Haley ...

Saturday, September 24, 2016

HONEY LET'S GO TO A HOME IMPROVEMENT SHOW - NEVER AGAIN

Not sure why, but a couple of weeks ago we got a couple of free tickets to a home improvement show here in Northern Virginia.  Given we've been thinking about undertaking some renovations we decided to check it out in the hopes of getting some good ideas and seeing some of the new materials and products available on the market.

This particular show is held at this gigantic old box store that's been converted into a site for all kinds of shows and conventions.  You walk into the gigantic open space and there are literally a couple of hundred displays lined up into about a dozen aisles.

What we didn't expect was to be accosted by dozens of vendors and contractors looking to sell us everything from new windows, to some new brand of power drink, and everything in between.  Insurance?  LED lit shoes?   Body massages?   Candy?   What in the world ?  As we wanted up and down the displays we were literally attacked by desperate vendors anxious to give us an opportunity to save money on this product, or that product, while getting a chance to win $10,000, $100,000, a new car, an old car, a vacation, etc.   And there was the sale material.  You could turn around without some stuffing a sales brochure in your hands.  As fast as people have me stuff I threw it into the garbage cans helpful placed at the end of each aisle.

The most common approach seemed to be "Sign up for a chance to win xxx ..." or "So what's your next renovation effort?"  We quickly discovered the way to disengage and move on was to tell them we were interested in tile.  Most of the vendors weren't selling tile so they had no interest in us.  On the couple of occasions we were confronted with tile dealers we said we were interested in pest control.  Between those responses, walking in the center of the aisle, preferably behind older people, and keeping our eyes on the ground, we managed to navigate the last half of the show/obstacle course without too much pain.

And here's where it got even stranger.   There was a guy selling tile that looks like wood flooring.  We're actually interested in putting it in our bathrooms.  We wanted to find out more about the product - styles, colors, costs.   The vendor had zero interest in us. Basically blew us off.   

Good news is we were in and out of the place (including a bathroom break) in less than 45 minutes.  Went to Old Town Alexandria for the rest of the day.   Much more fun.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

YES, I'VE BEEN PART OF THE KARDASHIAN PROBLEM

A couple of weeks ago I discovered I was reading a Yahoo story about one of the Kardashians - something to do with one of them being fed up with a former basketball player husband.  I guess there are a couple of them in that position.  

This evening I noticed that three of the top-40 banner articles on AOL are about the Kardashians.  Pardon my language, but WTF?  I'll admit they're all attractive, but I know next to nothing about them. They're famous for something, though I don't have a clue what it is, other than one has a butt that's insured for $1M, or something along those lines.  I've never seen their television show(s).  I've never bought any of their products.

So as one of $330 million Americans, I'm done with the Kardashians.  I don't care if the whole family shows up at my home naked and throwing hundred dollar bills at me.  I'm not going to pay attention to anything that carries a Kardashian tag.

There are simply too many other things going on in the world to waste my limited time on these folks.

So my small, insignificant life is now officially Kardashian free. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

A BEER FOR VINYLHOLICS

Admittedly I'm not a beer snob.  I tend to avoid brews that are flowery, or appear to be a fruit juice, rather than a real beer, but If it is cold, I'm liable to indulge.   

Anyhow, a couple of weeks ago a friend who knew about my vinyl addiction gave me a six pack of a product manufactured by the Great Lakes Brewing Company (Cleveland Ohio) - Turntable Pils (a Czech-styled Pilsner).  I live in Virginia which probably explains why I'd never heard of it.


Anyhow, the beer wasn't half bad - nice summer beverage.  The label is the crowning glory. Perfect for any of you that suffer the same addiction I have.  By the way, that was the last of the six pack.  Will have to search around for some more.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

AND YOU THOUGHT ONLY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WAS A MESS - AMAZON ISN'T FAR BEHIND

I have to admit I think Amazon is a pretty amazing company, but anyone who thinks the Federal Government is the only messed up organization is wrong. Amazon has more than its share of issues.

So first let me tell you I have a small sellers account on Amazon where  I sell used records albums. If you're under 30, there's a good chance you won't have a clue what an album is. Ask your parent, or grandparents about record albums. They'll tell you about the old, pre compact disc, or MP3 files world. Anyhow, I sell used albums. Most were pressed in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, well before the introduction of Universal Price Codes (those little black and white bar codes you see on virtually every product known to mankind).

Back to Amazon. If you have a sellers account, when you add a new product to their sales inventory they want you to provide a UPC code, or something similar like an International Article Number (EAN) identifier. I fully understand the concept.  Makes sense for a retailer to have that kind of product information.

What happens for those millions of items that don't have UPC, or other codes ?  Well for books you can ask Amazon for an exemption from the requirement. You fill out a short form; send it in, and when Amazon approves your request, if you go to sell an old book that doesn't have a UPC code,  no problems.

Well, just like books there are millions of pre-mid-'80s record albums that don't have a UPC code. Shouldn't be a big deal to get an exemption for old albums right?   Wrong. Amazon will not grant you an exemption for records. Their suggestions are to buy UPC codes for older item.  Now I'll readily admit I did not know you could buy UPC and EAN codes. Turns out there are a slew of companies that will sell them to you. A typical UIC code will cost you roughly $1.29 (I'm sure there are discounts it you buy lots of them at once).

So Amazon wants me to pay an added fee to get a UPC code and the privilege of doing the work to add a new item to their inventory, in addition to the privilege of paying them the existing fees they collect on sales ... Maybe it's just me, but something doesn't seem right here. Am I going to pay $1.29 to get a UPC code for a used album that I bought for $2.00 and will sell for $10.00? I don't think so.

So where's that leave me?  Well from here on out I will only list albums that are already  listed on Amazon since I won't need to worry about a UPC code for an existing item. That means the more obscure and expensive albums I own and would like to sell, will not be listed on Amazon. Those items will get listed on MusicStack, CD and LPs, and Discogs.  Those companies will get their cuts of the sales,  That means Amazon won't be getting their slice of the sales for those items. Not that Amazon cares one way or the other. Still,you've got to wonder. If they can't get this little thing right, what hope is there for the rest of the system?  


And as for those helpful folks staffing Amazon's customer service group ...   Ever had to talk to the IRS about a tax issue?   Well, my experience with the IRS was more helpful than dealing with the Amazon folks.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

WAS (NOT WAS) "KNOCKED DOWN, MADE SMALL (TREATED LIKE A RUBBER BALL)"


Knocked Down, Made Small (Treated Like a Rubber Ball)   (Don Was - David Was) - 3:05 
 
With Sweat Pea Atkinson handling the lead vocal, the soul-meets-rock mash-up results were staggering. I remember hearing the tune on the radio one afternoon and wondering who the world these guys were.  I then saw the MTV video and was equally stunned.  I may be way off target, but I always thought the tune was about spousal and child abuse and I remember the original MTV video (with some serious bad mid-'80s production work), having a plotline that seemed to support that contention.  The video was subsequently edited deleting the abuse part of the story, 

Regardless of the song's intent, one of the classic '80s tunes.  By the way, YouTube has both of the promotional videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGgRipOH0nY 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nqKOFNA6dg


The tune was tapped as a single:
   7" format
- 1983's 'Knocked Down, Made Small (Treated Like a Rubber Ball)' b/w 'Man Vs. The Empire Brain Building' (Geffen catalog number 7-29407)

  12" format
- 1983's 'Knocked Down, Made Small (Treated Like A Rubber Ball)' and 'Bow Wow Wow Wow' b/w 'Smile' and 'Shake Your Head (Let's Go To Bed)' (Geffen catalog number PRO-A-2079) 
 
  

Sunday, January 3, 2016

BETTYE CRUTCHER "UP FOR A LITTLE DOWN"

Bettye Crutcher only recorded one album during her life and for some reason I thought I'd sold my a couple of years ago.  Crutcher was better known as a songwriter, but she had a great voice and if you ever get a chance to buy it, pick up a copy of 1972's "Long As You Love Me".  Anyhow, discovering I still had a copy of the album I decided to give it a spin to see if it was as good as I remember.  For the most part it was.   The one track I didn't remember being as good was 'Up for a Little Down'



If you're a certain age (say your mid-'50s like me), then you're liable to have fond memories of some of the Bacharach-David tunes Dionne Warwick turned into mega hits.  Admittedly many of their collaborations leaned to MOR, but it was quality MOR with hooks that were beyond reproach.  Why am I mentioned this?  Well this breezy tune could easily have come from the same source - if you've ever smiled when hearing 'Do You Know the Way To San Jose', or 'I Say a Little Prayer' you were liable to get the same feeling listening to this one.  Another track where you had to wonder how Stax missed the ball.

Friday, January 1, 2016

WEST "JUST LIKE TOM THUMB'S BLUES"



Funny how this one caught my attention ...  Someone was interested in buying the parent album.  I pulled it from the stacks, but they never followed up with payment.  I was about to re-file it when I started looking at the liner notes and remembered the band's cover of this Dylan tune.




While the Dylan original is a classic, West's version is simply one of the best unknown Dylan covers out there - almost as good as anything The Byrds ever did.   They gave the tune a killer country-rock twang and the group vocals are breathtaking.  When I hear this track it just oozes that unique mid-'60s vibe that is so special.  

Here's a link to a YouTube clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTP9CU9_onk