When I began this whole, “I’m taking vinyl seriously” business I complained about my lack of space to house my records. It’s one that is rapidly moving toward crisis. I’ve picked up 24 records in the last two weeks, which, I’ve been assured by both my spouse and my wallet, cannot continue. The only way I can keep on keepin’ on is to make room, and that means parting with something and that something will be large quantities of my CD’s.
CD’s are disposable. I can rip them on to my computer, and put them in iTunes playlists so they are there to synch on to my iPad and iPhone. It’s not like I have to lose them. And I refuse to just give them away, though it may come to that in some cases. No, on Tuesday, I’m taking a hundred or so discs to High Voltage and trade them in for store credit–which I will of course convert to desirable vinyl. I have no illusions about their value, and am hoping I can average a buck each or so per disc.
I will likely have room for 150-200 CD’s when it’s all said and done. Last weekend I picked up a Denon DCD-820 single tray CD player at thrift store, plugged it in to the Kenwood aux jacks and it all works fine together. The cost was $13. I haven’t had CD capability since I brought the Kenwood home and parted with my crappy little JVC all-in-one. The point is that I can now play CD’s in my den of shame (currently overrun with all kinds of miniature wargame crap everywhere.) So the question is what do I keep and what do I part with.
It’s been a tough decision. I’ve parted with all of my Led Zepplelin CD’s, except II and IV because I have some albums on vinyl, and I have the classic Zeppelin boxed set. Boxed sets are holy and I’ll keep those-Clapton, The Zombies, the Rolling Stones, Monterey Pop, they’ll live with me. I had to ask myself what I’m likely to listen to in the car. I expect to get a new one by the summer, my 18 year old Subaru will be replaced by a new Subaru with a 21st century wireless, digital sound system, but will still likely play compact discs. There are some CD’s for which there is no vinyl counterpart-Tom Petty’s Wildflowers had a very limited vinyl release and has one of my all time favorite songs “You Wreck Me”. It’s used cost is about $175 and up. I’ll be keeping my CD. Some I’ll keep until I get vinyl replacements, Waiting for Columbus by Little Feat, and Regatta de Blanc, by the Police. Others such as Astral Weeks by Van Morrison I’ll wave good-bye to (but I’m keeping Moondance.) In any case, there are decisions to be made, and some already have been.
Sometimes I just like to look at records and peruse Discogs, and I’m always amazed at things I didn’t know, but probably should have.
I explained in my last post that I picked up Judy Collins’ 1968 Who Knows Where the Time Goes. I’ve always really enjoyed her stuff. The classically trained Collins made a string of very good, very successful records beginning with A Maid of Constant Sorrow, in 1961. Her music followed the arc of many folk singers of the early 60’s, eventually moving into more politically aware, edgy stuff. Who Knows is one of my favorite Collins offerings, chiefly because of what’s on it. But a look at the liner notes offers a glimpse at her 1968 friends. One of her accompanying guitarists is Rock and Roll Hall of Famer James Burton. Burton accompanied a who’s who of great rockers, starting with Ricky Nelson and leading to John Denver’s band. Joining Burton on guitar is Steve Stills. Stills immortalized his affair with Collins in “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” on the first Crosby, Stills, and Nash album in 1969. He was between projects as he watched the disintegration of Buffalo Springfield and before the formation of his project with David Crosby and Graham Nash.
Somewhere is still very folk-influenced and features the tragic stories of the “Poor Immigrant” and “Pretty Polly.” But my two very favorite Judy Collins songs are on this record. The first is “My Father,” a tale of the singer’s miner father who dreams of taking his children to France, where they will leave a carefree life far from his grueling working life in Colorado. Though her father doesn’t reach his dream, the singer, the youngest daughter makes it her own dream,
And I live in Paris now
my children dance and dream
hearing the ways of a miner’s dream
in words they’ve never seen
It always causes me that moment of quiet introspection and reflection to consider my own life and my own dreams, and how my sons consider my life. Sigh.
“Someday Soon” is the other song on this record I truly love. It’s so much stronger than the digital recording of the country influenced song. A story about a young girl in love with a rodeo rider, and the disapproval of her parents, and her fears of pending heartbreak is just a showcase for Collins’ clear and beautiful voice. Backed by pedal steel guitar and just enough twang in her voice to show she can sing whatever she damn well chooses, “Someday Soon” is a great Ian Tyson country song.
Another album often overlooked, is 1987’s Sentimental Hygiene by Warren Zevon. I have this record on CD, and was considering whether or not to make it a priority to replace it with vinyl. When I was just out of college I practically worshiped this man. He was nothing if not a brilliant songwriter-literate, witty, dark, and smart. I really enjoyed the singer-songwriter era of the ’70’s, and the only other artist who comes close to his talent is Randy Newman. Unfortunately, after some brilliant offerings, Zevon drifted into addiction, and his career suffered. He entered treatment, and Sentimental Hygiene is his first record after emerging from his effort to clean up.
Sentimental Hygiene, typically, has lots of great offerings. Just out of treatment, Zevon looks at his own experiences in “Detox Mansion,” where he’s “rakin leaves with Liza, me and Liz clean up the yard.” “Bad Karma,” and “Trouble Waiting to Happen,” follow a persistent theme in Zevon’s music that, shit just seems to happen to him. Sad, really, but often a gun-toting addict’s lament.
But there are two real gems on this record. One of these is “Boom-Boom Mancini,” about the career of lighweight champion Ray, Boom-Boom, Mancini. Mancini’s hard-scrabble rise to fame is chronicled in the song, which also includes the notorious death in the ring of Korean boxer Duk Koo Kim. Zevon, as usual gave his unflinching scrutiny:
When they asked who was responsible
For the death of Du Koo Kim,
He said someone should have stopped the fight,
And told me it was him
They made hypocrite judgments after the fact,
But the name of the game is be hit and hit back.
Zevon climbs out from behind his keyboard to play guitar lead on this song, and it has one of those tasty, closely picked solos I just love. Maybe the best sports song of all time.
The other song I really love is “Reconsider Me,” one of Zevon’s magnificent love songs. We always remember him for his off-kilter, pseudo James Bondish songs like “Lawyers, Guns, and Money,” or “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner.” But all of his records have at least one beautiful, aching love song, and this is the one on Sentimental Hygiene. This is an addict, begging for a second chance and a new life with the one he loves:
If it’s still the past
That makes you doubt
That was then
And this is now
And I’ll never make you sad again
And I swear that I’ve changed since then
And I’m never gonna make you cry
Zevon has a posthumously published collection of his love songs called Reconsider Me, including this one (duh!) but other forgotten or seldom heard mini-romances like “Tenderness on the Block,” and “Accidentally Like a Martyr,” and the heart-breaking “Please Stay,” with Emmylou Harris from The Wind.
One last interesting factoid about this record is the supporting cast appearing on this record. Dylan steps in to play harmonica on The Factory. Heartbreaker Michael Campbell plays guitar on Reconsider Me, while Don Henley sings backing vocals. Stray Cat Brian Setzer is a guitarist on Trouble Waiting to Happen, while Neil Young plays lead on Sentimental Hygiene, and the entire cast of REM appear throughout the record. These are buddies, friends, dedicated to helping their pal reclaim his career. This is a great disc. I think I’ll keep it.