Hump Day Vinyl

To simply say it was “hot” out today, would be like saying saying a Carolina Reaper merely gives you “the sweats”.  At “feeling like 39°” it fucking sucks no matter how you choose to wrap it.

Thank the Lord Almighty for air conditioning!

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This evening’s dinner music is this ‘Uh-Huh’ album by John Cougar Mellencamp.

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This was one of the first albums I ever loved as a kid, largely because of the drums on ‘Crumblin’ Down‘.

For whatever reason, I just thought it was cool as fuck.

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Since ‘American Fool‘ illustrated that John Cougar was becoming an actual songwriter, it’s only proper that he reclaimed his actual last name, Mellencamp, for the follow-up, ‘Uh-Huh‘. After all, now that he had success, he wanted to be taken seriously, and ‘Uh-Huh‘ reflects that in its portraits of brokenhearted life in the Midwest and its rumbling undercurrent of despair.

Although his lyrics still have the tendency to be a little too vague, they are more effective here than ever before, as is his music; he might not have changed his style at all — it’s still a fusion of the Stones and Springsteen — except that he now knows how to make it his own. ‘Uh-Huh‘ runs out of steam toward the end, but the first half (more on that momentarily) — with the dynamic rocker ‘Crumblin’ Down‘, his best protest song, ‘Pink Houses‘, the punky ‘Authority Song‘, the melancholy ‘Warmer Place to Sleep‘ makes the record his first terrific album.

However, hindsight being what it is, I gotta say:  Side Two kinda blows.

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There I said it.

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I mean, ‘Play Guitar‘ is okaaaaaaaay, but the album takes a sharp downward turn into the shitter from there.

Sorry, John, but ‘Serious Business‘ makes me want to drive heavy spikes into my brain.

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Monday Vinyl

It’s still hotter than bejesus outside, and I’ve worked in every sweaty crack house, flop house and whore house in the greater downtown St. Catharines and Niagara Falls area today — and that’s a lot of sweat, folks!  I’m talking total greasy 1970’s Dog Day Afternoon inner city heatwave shit.

Got me?

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Let’s just say it’s pretty gross out.

But I’m home now, dinner is on the stove and we’re all relaxing in our nice, cool air conditioning listening to what might turn out to be my “Holy Grail”, this self-titled album by Mark Hollis.

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I popped into Niagara Records (conveniently located in downtown St. Catharines) quickly on my lunch break and, low and behold — THERE IT WAS!

I might have tinkled myself a little bit in excitement.

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This – the “solo” album by former Talk Talk frontman Mark Hollis – released on January 26th, 1998, was originally intended to be the next Talk Talk album under the working name ‘Mountains of the Moon‘.  It was recorded as part of a two-album contract with Polydor, along with the band’s 1991 ‘Laughing Stock, which also happens to be on my “Grail” list of albums to find still.

So, essentially, the album was a Talk Talk record in all but name

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And it’s just as sparse and beautiful as any of it’s Talk Talk predecessors and, boy oh boy, am I really enjoying this shit.

Heck, Kelly is even loving it too and and has asked for it to remain on the Hers side of the upstairs collection.

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The pastoral ‘Watershed‘ is colored by brushed cymbals, a sighing pump organ, and a trumpet solo from Henry Lowther (whose tone sounds remarkably similar to that of Miles Davis) while the swaying folk jazz of ‘The Daily Planet’, the album’s jauntiest track, features a soft symphony of woodwinds: clarinets, bassoons, a harmonica. And then there’s ‘A Life (1895-1915)‘, the albums centerpiece and the track that comes closest to recapturing Talk Talk’s dynamic grandeur.

It’s all gorgeous, really, and it’s sweet, cool free jazz feel is the perfect way to wrap up an otherwise hot, sweaty work day.

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Vinyl Sunday

I’m finally finished outside, the litter boxes have been cleaned, my lunch is made for tomorrow and so, finally, I can sit down and relax and begin our weekly “Vinyl Sunday” tradition.

Kick-starting it off is this ‘Straight North‘ album by Ted Wesley.

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This was another record earned by the successful capture and release of Skittles this past Friday.

Apparently, Skittles is just “the gift that keeps on giving” this weekend.

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Okay, so I like weird and interesting shit, and early 70’s folk albums about Canada’s Northwest Territories qualifies for me as “weird and interesting shit”.  I mean, seriously … look at Mr. Wesley sitting there on a rock in the middle of some remote bay.  How fucking Canadiana looking is this guy?

He makes Gordon Lightfoot look like a pussy.

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As it proclaims itself on the back cover:

This is a record about the North, but it is also a record for the North.

Okay, whatever Relic.

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However, as it turns out, this 1972 album does indeed have a rather interesting history.

Actually born in Abercomb, in northern Rhodesia (what’s now Zambia) to Polish immigrants, Ted Wesley and his family moved to England at age six, then to Fort McMurray, Alberta three years later. He moved to Yellowknife, NWT in 1961, lied about his age (still only 16 and had to be 21) to work in the gold mines. He also became known for his on-ice skills, playing for Discovery Mines’ Giant Grizzlies.

Not even knowing how to play it, he’d stolen his brother’s guitar when he moved, and within a couple of years was playing in the bar at The Hoist Room in downtown Yellowknife. He’d also met his future wife, and he and Leslie began singing duets together and competing in talent contests. Off and on over the years he’d find gigs to play throughout the north, then south after forming The Tundra Folk with Inuvik’s Andy Steen in time for Yellowknife’s Canada Centennial celebrations.

There he met Bob Ruzicka, known as “The Singing Dentist”,* who’d written a whole stack of songs about Canadian culture and arctic life, and was sidelining at nights playing music on CBC Radio. Wesley continued to perform off and on, and during the NWT centennial year in 1970, he was part of a group of performers who traveled on a barge down the Mackenzie River, stopping at every community along the way to perform.

In ’72, Wesley took a trip to Damon Studios in Edmonton and cut this debut album, ‘Straight North‘. The album release party was held in The Hoist Room, and featured a slide show of photographs taken by author and Catholic missionary Rene Fumoleau.

With Gary MacDonall producing, and along with a couple of tracks Wesley had written with friend Doug Leonard, the album’s theme was about the country way of life in Canada, and included ‘Big River‘ (about the Mackenzie, running northwest from Slave Lake, Alberta to the Yukon coast), to ‘Aklavik‘ (about one of the first Hudson’s Bay outposts in the region), and ‘Northlands Destiny‘. Although nothing broke nationally, the album did get some airplay throughout the prairies. It also featured the first version of Stompin’ Tom‘s top 40 country hit ‘Muk Tuk Annie‘, which Rusizka wrote on toilet paper during the recording sssions.

Now, how this record ever came to be found in a little drum case manufacturer in Stevensville, Ontario and leveraged as payment for the humane entrapment of local indigenous fauna… who the fuck knows?

However, it is what we’re currently chilling out to and, ya know what, it’s pretty fucking decent.  It’s hard to believe that ‘ol Mr. Wesley didn’t acquire a much larger following than he did.

Perhaps he should have left the Northwest Territories once in a while because this high north okie-folkie is great.

*You just can’t make this shit up!
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Paintin’ (Part 2)

It’s high noon and I’m back in the garage for today’s Round 2 of painting and getting shit done!

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This time, however, I’m listening to the ‘Black Eyed Man‘ CD by the Cowboy Junkies.

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Since my quiet time in the garage when so well this morning with the Junkies (click HERE), I’m trying that shit again and going with more of Canada’s premiere alt-country darlings, this time from 1992.

This album continues the band’s evolution from a spare country blues style (exemplified by the 1988 album ‘The Trinity Sessions) to a more mainstream country rock style.  ‘Black Eyed Man‘ is an excellent return to form following their disappointing third LP, ‘The Caution Horses‘.

Where Michael Timmins’ songwriting was stilted and overly self-conscious on the previous record, here his character studies are literate and finely-etched; like Robbie Robertson before him, Timmins’ Canadian roots allow him to view the rural American experience with unique objectivity, and narratives like the opening ‘Southern Rain‘ and ‘Murder, Tonight, in the Trailer Park‘ are told with compassion and cinematic detail. ‘Black Eyed Man‘ also broadens the Junkies’ musical horizons: ‘If You Were the Woman and I Was the Man‘, a duet with John Prine, is like a ’50s-era love song intercepted from an alternate reality; while tracks like the lilting ‘A Horse in the Country’ push the group closer to the folk-pop territory of 10,000 Maniacs.

At the same time, their country roots are further reinforced by a pair of outstanding Townes Van Zandt covers, ‘Cowboy Junkies Lament‘ and ‘To Live Is to Fly‘; sandwiched between them is Timmins’ own tribute, ‘Townes’ Blues‘.

There was a lot accomplished today, including the final finishing touches on the garden work bench, a couple bird feeders, a stepping stool, a vintage lamp and whatever the hell it is that I’m forgetting about at the moment.

GO ME!

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Paintin’ (Part 1)

It’s 7:00am in the morning and I’m in the garage already.

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I know, right?

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It’s supposed to be hot as fuck today, as it is for the rest of the week, so I figured I might as well try and experience a few quiet moments of Zen while it’s still somewhat cool and finish off some quick and easy painting tasks.

Helping achieve that moment of Zen was this ‘Lay It Down‘ CD by the Cowboy Junkies.

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Believe me, if you’re looking for something appropriate and perfectly suited for early morning painting, well … look no further for surely this is it.

Released in 1996, this album definitively answers a question that has occasionally plagued the Cowboy Junkies: yes, they sound good, but can they rock? Though still laden with the melancholia that has marked previous efforts, this album is sonically dense, guitar-drenched, and good at high-volume levels.

Honestly, it was the band’s first real album that could be described as straight-ahead rock, rather than country rock, alt-country or even the blues.

Margo Timmins’ voice has never been more expressive, and the lyrics shimmer with intensity. Although the band has occasionally touched on quiet moments reminiscent of fellow Canadian Neil Young, little they have done before this album approached the emotive wail of his louder efforts for here, the Cowboy Junkies have proven their versatility while retaining their unique sound.

(Edited: 30 seconds later)

Just in case you’re interested to know how I followed this album up for the rest of the touch-ups before heading inside for breakfast … click HERE.

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Friday Vinyl (Part 3)

Another album I acquired today is this rather odd eponymous album by The Trout.

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I’ve never heard of them either, so when the proprietor of NOMAD Cases offered me this oddity to take home and listen to in order to see if I liked it first, well … what an honest trapper to do?

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But, seriously … look at this record!

Especially this guy:

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What’s his fucking deal and what’s he so pissed off about?

Honestly though, I’m actually embarrassed that I haven’t seen this album in the store before.

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First of all, the bands actual name is “The Trout”.

Yup … not just “Trout”, but “The Trout”.

Okay, got it.

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Next, just take a fucking gander at the band members on the back cover:

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What else is there to say, but …

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Dem’s sure some weird looking hillbillies!

Image this crew on the cover Rolling Stone.

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As it turns out, this weird WTF? record was released in 1968 on MGM Records and is tagged on Discogs site as being Rock, Folk, World, Country, Folk Rock, and Psychedelic Rock … so, basically, this album (much like that motley bunch on the cover) is apparently having an entire personality crisis.

I have to find out what flavor of lemonade these freaks are peddling.

And what an interesting brew it is too, a mix between weird children’s television show music, Carnival music, and what God knows what reason, creepy touches like the few seconds addition of ‘Teddy Bears Picnic‘.  I’m not exactly sure I agree with any of the above Discogs tags but I’d like to venture “Limp Rock” for consideration perhaps?  While still managing to be catchy at odd moments, it is definitely clear why in 1968, there wasn’t exactly a large fan base for The Trout.

Perhaps that’s what the big hillbilly on the front cover is so pissed off about?

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Just sayin’ is all.

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Friday Vinyl (Part 2)

Okay, so maybe the whole “COVID Party” thing was a bit of a rumor but, seriously … were you really surprised?

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Yeah.  Me neither.

Anyway, next up on the turntable this evening is this ‘Lionheart‘ album by Kate Bush.

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However, before we get going, I think it is pertinent to point out that being released in 1978, this album predated the popular Jean Claude Van-Damme movie of the same name (click HERE) by exactly twelve years so, hey, maybe ‘ol JVD got his inspiration from Ms. Bush?

Hey, anything is possible!

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I came by this album just today as a matter of fact, as a “thank you” from NOMAD Cases in Stevensville for removing this little guy from their establishment:

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I call him “Skittles”.

You know how much I love old dusty vinyl as payment, so one early Kate Bush album in exchange for one successful trap and release?

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Proving that the English admired Kate Bush’s work, ‘Lionheart‘ album managed to reach the #6 spot in her homeland while failing to make a substantial impact in North America which, I suppose, isn’t all that surprising given the current and general poor aptitude of the mass American public.

I’m still looking at you Alabama!

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The single ‘Hammer Horror‘ went to #44, and pirouette with Bush’s vocal dramatics, most of them dissipating into a mist rather than hovering around long enough to be memorable.

Her fairy-tale essence wraps itself around tracks like ‘In Search of Peter Pan‘, ‘Kashka From Baghdad‘, and ‘Oh England My Lionheart‘, but unravels before any substance can be heard. ‘Wow‘ does the best job at expressing her voice as it waves and flutters through the chorus, with a melody that shimmers in a peculiar but compatible manner. Some of the tracks, such as ‘Coffee Homeground‘ or ‘In the Warm Room‘, bask in their own subtle obscurity, a trait that Bush improved upon later in her career but couldn’t secure on this album.

Lionheart‘ acts as a gauge more than a complete album, as Bush is trying to see how many different ways she can sound vocally colorful, even enigmatic, rather than focus on her material’s content and fluidity but, still … it’s still a pretty fucking awesome score for an honest days work, don’t cha think?

Thanks, Skittles!

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Friday Vinyl (Part 1)

Thanks to (it can only be assumed) inbreeding, the youth of Alabama have decided to take the levels of human stupidity to new height by hosting “COVID Parties”, where the entire point is to actually catch the coronavirus … and, no, this is not some misguided concept like the “chicken pox parties” our parents used t throw for us as kids back on the day — sadly, this is even far more ridiculous and asinine that that.

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Apparently, at these organized soirees, attendees are purchasing tickets where at least one party member is a secret COVID carrier, and the entire evening is dedicated to the other party guests to try and contract the virus from the mystery carrier.

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So, basically, it’s a “Murder Mystery” party where there is a very real chance you might die.

Well done, youth of Alabama!

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(Ass hats)

Personally, forget the wall to protect Americans from Mexican immigrants, how about building a wall around Alabama?

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Just sayin’ …

Anyways, such lunacy demands something equally sarcastic and punchy, like this ‘Bad Luck Streak In Dancing School‘ album by Warren Zevon.

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This is the second of three records that I rescued from a … err, nevermind.

Let’s just say that they are safe now.

 

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Excitable Boy‘ earned Zevon a hit single (‘Werewolves of London’) and the mainstream success he richly deserved, but his new fame came with a price; the hard-living Zevon did not react well to the temptations that come with rock stardom, and in the wake of ‘Excitable Boy‘ he had developed a severe drinking problem.

Bad Luck Streak In Dancing School‘ was cut as Zevon was working hard to stay clean and sober and put his career back on track, and it projects an ambition and strength of focus that was decidedly absent from ‘Excitable Boy‘. The album’s rockers hit harder and cut deeper than any of his previous work, especially the twisted Southern gothic of ‘Play It All Night Long‘ and the mercenary’s anthem ‘Jungle Work‘, while ‘Bed of Coals‘ and ‘Wild Age’ found Zevon bravely addressing his own failings and expressing his need for a greater maturity in his life.

While the album was still short on subtlety compared to 1976’s ‘Warren Zevon‘, ‘Empty Handed Heart’ proved Zevon could still write a straightforward song about love (not a happy one, but no one expected that from him anyway), and the two interludes for orchestra gave credence to Zevon’s claims that he planned to write a symphony some day (and that it might even be worth hearing). And if ‘Gorilla You’re a Desperado‘ was a throwaway, it was a better waste of time than ‘Night Time in the Switching Yard‘ on ‘Excitable Boy‘.

While ‘Bad Luck Streak In Dancing School‘ didn’t quite return Zevon to the top of his game, it made clear that the quality of Warren Zevon was no fluke.  And from my perspective at the moment, the biting satire displayed in the album definitely suits my mood of contempt at the moment for the entire human race.

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Killin’ Bugs (Part 2)

Hot and gross task #1008 today is walking around and spraying the entire premises of the Niagara Hospital and spraying it for ants in the stupid° heat and humidity.

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FML.

My next motivational soundtrack today is this ‘Pebbles 16‘ album.

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This is the 16th compilation album comprised of early Like Wow, Man! “Garage Rock” and songs from the various artists and LP’s in the Pebbles series.  This particular volume was released in 1985 and was actually kept in print for many years.

If this doesn’t get my He-man juices flowing, then I don’t know what does!

And seeing as how this last job on the day is going to be at least 90 minutes in the unexposed Sahara-like elements today, I can use all the He-man juices I can get — sweat aside that is.

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Killin’ Bugs (Part 1)

It’s currently 34°C (feels like 40°) which, really, it just a more specific way of saying it’s fucking gross out, and I still have another seven hours of sweaty work to accomplish.  So, my hot and gross task #1″ this morning is treating three hoarder units for bed bugs (and anything else I might find).

My musical companion is this ‘Wonderwall Music‘ album by George Harrison.

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I’m not sure where I originally got the idea to listen to this album, but I think it might have been one of those that was discussed in the ‘Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970book by David Browne. 

Whatever, I”m listening to it now while killing me some bugs.

This is the often over-looked debut solo album by ól Georgie Boy  and the soundtrack to the 1968 film Wonderwall”, directed by Joe Massot.

Released in November 1968, it was the first solo album by a member of the Beatles, and the first album issued on the band’s Apple record label. The songs are all instrumental pieces, except for occasional non-English language vocals, and mostly comprise short musical vignettes.

Short … punchy … trippy as fuck.

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Following his Indian-styled compositions for the Beatles since 1966, he used the film score to further promote Indian classical and World music by introducing rock audiences to instruments that were relatively little-known in the West – including shehnai, sarod, tar shehnai and santoor. The Indian pieces are contrasted by Western musical selections, in the psychedelic rock, experimental, country and ragtime styles.

In other words, it’s some seriously cerebral shit to kill bugs to!

I’m just sayin’…

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Anyway, now that hot and gross task #1 is complete, time to get a move on to the rest of my hot and gross tasks fro the day.

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