Blasts from my past: The Guess Who, and another look at progressive rock.

Collecting vinyl is, for me at any rate, often nothing more than an exercise in nostalgia.  What was I listening to when I was younger, say junior high, and why don’t I have it in my collection.  Why don’t I have Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs, or Gary Lewis and the Playboys, or the George Baker Selection singing “Little Green Bag?”  Those were the days.

That’s a lie, of course, a self-deception, because my collection is ridiculously broader than what I was listening to in junior high, and my taste in music de-evolved when I was in high school and I’d never add most of that shit to my ever-expanding vinyl pile, but let’s just say nostalgia does shape what I seek for my record shelves.

A couple of records I’ve had on my Discogs wantlist for some time are Wheatfield Soul and Canned Wheat, by the wonders of Winnipeg, the Guess Who. Though they’d been around much longer in a variety of incarnations, their first big American hit, “These Eyes” appeared in 1968, when I was in the eighth grade.  Eighth graders.   I can’t even talk about it, though I spent five mostly happy years teaching them. For whatever reason, the band really stuck with me, and I relentlessly followed their string of hits into the early 1970’s when the band fragmented and they fell off the charts.

In the late ’70’s I picked up a re-pressing of American Woman, with its pounding title track, and “No Sugar/New Mother Nature” to continue the Guess Who hit parade. And that was pretty much it for 40 years.  But every time I went into Boogie Records, or High Voltage, or Georgetown Records, I hoped to find the two earlier Wheat titles, but always came up empty. I could have ordered from Discogs, but really wanted VG+ vinyl and it always felt like it was more than I wanted to spend.

Last week I made my annual trek to Bellingham for the summer student journalism camp at Western Washington University.  I was determined to stop in at Lost in the Groove, a record store in Mount Vernon.  Mount Vernon is a nice little town that is rapidly being subsumed by Puget Sound suburban growth.  I made a quick stop, with some definite items I was looking for and I began with The Guess Who.

Just a quick record store review here.  Lost in the Groove is on 1st and Montgomery in old downtown Mount Vernon.  It’s a great shop.  Lots of well-organized, well cared-for records, at prices a little less than one expects to find in Seattle or Tacoma. Lots of classic rock, but not limited to the usual suspects.  A nice R and B collection too.  Scott, the owner, is knowledgeable and very nice to talk to. I eventually walked out with six albums with all arms and legs intact. Would return in a heartbeat.

When I walked in, I went right to the Guess Who. Bingo.  Both of the desired records were there.  When I brought them to the counter to pay, Scott engaged me in a long conversation about the band and recommended two more, So Long Bannatyne and Live At the Paramount. The latter album was recorded in Seattle at the venerable movie palace in 1971. It was clear from our conversation, that he was also quite a fan with some intimate knowledge of their history-and it didn’t hurt that he was wearing a Burton Cummings t-shirt.  I made a mental note to stop again on the way back from Bellingham (after my allowance went into the credit union.)  I did, followed his recommendations, and also picked up Lady Soul by Aretha Franklin and The Look of Love by Dusty Springfield (be still my heart.)

The Show That Never Ends

The Show That Never Ends

When one utters the term Progressive Rock, one either receives modest acknowledgement, or is chased out of the room with a pitchfork. The musical form that originated in the early 70’s and died with the advent of punk has largely fallen into disrepute.

Too bad.  I’m a great believer that good prog rock is wonderful stuff.  Think early Yes, or Trilogy by Emerson, Lake and Palmer, or Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. And of course there’s lots more.  And then there is the wretched excess. ELP, Works Vol. 1 AND 2, anyone?  Tales From Topographic Oceans, really? And so many more.

Was progressive rock inventive and creative, taking advantage of new technology to breathe life into stale rock forms?  Or was it pompous, bombastic, and pretentious that simply put audiences to sleep, paving the way for disco and punk? (True confession, I actually did fall asleep at a Yes concert in 1979.)

Washington post political reporter David Weigel took a step away from his usual duties observing our 45th president and Congress to write The Show That Never Ends.  Weigel examines progressive rock and the criticism it has received over the decades, much of it, in his view, unfairly.

I haven’t read it yet, but have received my copy this week.  I’ll be taking it with me when I head to Astoria next Thursday.  Review to follow.

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Portland: receivers, records and a trip to the Mississippi district.

In April, my stereo had a little incident.  My receiver developed a loud hum.  I left the power on while I was away at a four day conference and came back to the loud noise. It was stupid, and far more abuse than a piece of 40 year-old electronics deserved. I was too busy to do anything about it, but in June my friend suggested a day trip to Portland, where he was going to take his Kenwood to be repaired at Audio Specialists.  He thought I should bring mine along too.

Yesterday (July 20th) was the appointed day.  We would head to the audio shop first, and then hit some of the many record shops in downtown Portland. In all it was a delightful day, beginning with our rainy drive south.  Traffic, once south of JBLM was easy cheesy, and we arrived at Audio Specialists right at 11:00, exactly as planned.

Tim walked through his stereo problem first.  Then it was my problem.  I brought in the venerable Kenwood, and Doug, the owner/operator thought it was likely a fried capacitor, about a $130 repair. Having looked at his supply of vintage receivers for sale, I offered him my unit in trade for a nice looking Pioneer SX-850. When he offered $40 for my receiver bringing the cost of the Pioneer to $180, and no sales tax, it was a no brainer.  I picked up an additional 30 watts of power, from the Kenwood’s 35, It was worth the cost to me.

Pioneer

Pioneer SX-850 is 65 watts to replace my Kenwood 5400 at about 35 watts. The Pioneer is a monster, and needs a bit of work on the cabinet. I’ll be working on it this weekend, and have it ready to blare some tunes by Sunday.

From there it was on to the Hawthorne District.  Sadly, as the Hawthorne gentrifies and rents increase, there are fewer record stores than there once were. But we did make it to Jackpot and Exiled, both located right on Hawthorne.

Jackpot Records

jackpot records portland

Jackpot Records on Hawthorne had a very nice selection of new and used vinyl and reasonable prices.

Jackpot was the first of the shops.  They have a nice selection of new and used records.  I had a budget for shopping for the day, and as always in any record store, it’s like being a kid in a candy store. I picked up three great records, though there were many more I could have grabbed (Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs almost had me with Little Red Riding Hood.)

There was a Shirelle’s anthology.  Shirelle’s albums aren’t super common in the Northwest.  They are less well known than many of the other girl groups, and while I don’t usually bite on anthologies, sometimes it’s a must.  This is a 1963 record with some oldies but goodies: the Luther Dixon-George Green hit, “Soldier Boy,” and the Goffin-King tour de force “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.”  Good stuff for four bucks.

The second album was Uprising by Bob Marley and the Wailers.  It was the last studio album the band did during’ Marley’s lifetime and contains “Redemption Song.”  It is my favorite Bob Marley song.  It’s been covered by so many artists, but it’s Marley’s version that is best. Not a cheapie at $15.00, but my most expensive record purchase of the day. It’s an honor to add it to my collection.

Last, I bought a record for my dear Patrick and Rachel.  They love the name Vera and named their kitty Vera Lynn.  You might have heard of her. She was a British singer during World War II, who buoyed the country’s spirits during the darkest days of the war with songs like “White Cliffs of Dover,” and “I’ll be Seeing You.”  Her contributions to the war effort were recognized by several orders of knighthood, including Officer of the Order of the British Empire.  She recently celebrated her 100th birthday. She, famously, is the topic of the song “Vera” from Pink Floyd’s The Wall.  Jackpot had a very clean copy of This is Vera Lynn for five bucks.  I couldn’t pass it up.

Exiled

Exiled Records

This is a record store and record label.  Didn’t quite feel like I fit in here.  Don’t feel like the woman behind the counter loved me, my music or my money.  But I did find a few albums that were quite cheap and was happy to add to my collection.

First up, is the first self-titled album by Kate and Anna McGarrigle. I love the McGarrigle sisters.  They were great songwriters, with a fun, quirky sense of humor, and could harmonize with the best of them. This 1975 record includes “Heart Like A Wheel” that Linda Ronstadt covered on the album by the same name. It’s all made a bit more poignant with the knowledge that Kate, mother of Rufus Wainwright, is gone. At a mere $2.50, I didn’t have to think twice, and it will join their 1980 album French Record on my shelf.

I also nabbed a copy of Revolution! by Paul Revere and the Raiders.  There is a certain nostalgia to this purchase, as I added it to my tiny record collection when it came out in 1967. This is the first album after Revere hosed the original band of bassist Phil Volk, drummer Mike Smith, and lead guitarist Jim Valley over what, I’m not sure, but rumor has it marijuana was involved. Replaced by Charlie Coe, Freddie Weller, and Joe Correra. As a record, it’s not as good as Spirit of ’67, but definitely not bad, with the hit “Him or Me (What’s it Gonna Be?)” Four dollars to complete my sense of personal history?  Worth it.

I wasn’t sure whether to add B.B. King In London, but decided it couldn’t be bad.  King did lots of live records, including San Quentin, Kansas City and host of other locations.  This record with Ringo Starr, Alexis Korner, and Peter Green in his backing band couldn’t be that bad, could it?  Cost me $6.50 to find out.

Mississippi Records

Mississippi Records

I heard of Mississippi Records for the first time in this Washington Post story. I was determined that if I went to Portland, I at least had to go here.  I don’t know Portland well.  This is my first trip since 2010, and I know my way around the neighborhoods not at all.  I probably couldn’t have made the trip without Tim.  For a place that has become kind of  a hipster haven, there is nothing at all pretentious about this record store.  It makes Boogie Records seem capacious by comparison.  But it’s really the records and their affordability that make it special.  First, I was bound and determined to pick up a copy of either of the two albums REM guitarist Peter Buck recorded on Mississippi.  Done.  Excited to hear 2014’s I Am Back To Blow Your Mind Once Again. While shopping, I heard some glorious blues in the background, sung by Mississippi artist Jessie Mae Hemphill, and grabbed it.  The two records were 12 and ten dollars respectively. New. Sealed.  Further searching turned up a copy of Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get it On for $12.  Given that the record is a sealed copy of the 1988 pressing of the album, that’s pretty freakin’ amazing.  I also snagged a raggedy copy of Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps for two bucks.  The best find was the record I didn’t buy.  The self-titled Howlin’ Wolf from 1962, was re-pressed in 2014 and is a spendy $30 or so.  It was $18 sealed and new. Alas, I had just paid for my purchase, and left only $6 in my pocket.  Remember, when you go to Mississippi Records, it’s cash or check only.  No credit or debit cards. ]

We wrapped up our day a mile or so away at Mississippi Pizza on Mississippi Street.  This is a very cool neighborhood with lots of cool shops, including Black Box, a vintage guitar shop.  The street is loaded with interesting eateries, including many that are simply located in houses that line the blocks. It was a very enjoyable day.

Friday Harbor, Carrie Brownstein and three shedding dogs.

A week ago Lorri and I departed for Friday Harbor.  For those who don’t know, this is a small town located on San Juan Island. It’s the largest of the group of islands located in north Puget Sound/Strait of Juan de Fuca that lie between the Washington coast and British Columbia.  Vancouver Island is easily visible from the west shore of the Island.

For those not in the know, San Juan Island is the site of one of the great military stand-offs in American history, the Pig War. Great Britain and the United States claimed the island and the shooting of a farmer’s pig nearly brought the two nations to war in 1859.  It was jointly occupied by military encampments until a settlement was reached in 1874. Any visit to San Juan Island should include the National Historical parks of English Camp on the north end of the island overlooking Griffin Bay, and American camp at the south end of the island.  They are separated by about ten miles or twenty minutes of driving. Each has a visitor’s center, occupy gorgeous real estate, and are a pleasant walk on a nice day.

Views of English Camp.  The blockhouse frowns out over the bay. Lower right is the view of the garden and blockhouse that border the parade ground from the site of the officers quarters on the hill. The large structure lower left is the visitor center. 

We took the hour ferry ride from Anacortes to Friday Harbor on a spectacular, warm but not oppressively hot day.  It was a sparkling 70 degree day.  Missed any whale sightings that are common this time of year. The ferry dock is in the middle of the Friday Harbor commercial area of about five square blocks.  It is bustling with tourists during the summer months.  If you’re thinking about visiting, be sure to make ferry reservations or you may have a long wait on the ferry dock for an opening.

The two and a half hour trip to Anacortes and ensuing ferry ride was made more interesting, for a lack of a better word, by our decision to take our three Australian shepherds with us. Just to be clear, none of the three-Rusy 8, Amos 6, and Lola, 4-has ever liked riding in the car. They all pant with anxiety and can’t wait to exit.  And they shed. A lot. They all really need grooming and are still losing their winter undercoats. You know what they say about Aussies.  They shed twice a year–for six months. Riding in the car, they simply seemed to spew fur.  The luggage was covered with it.  Lorri was covered with it, the car was covered with it.

From upper left. No Amos is not driving, he is projectile shedding. Dad and kids at English camp.  Yes they rode in the car like this everywhere. Pops and Lola trying to get the sand out of my shoe. King Amos, lord over all he surveys 

But the puppies did well once we were settled at our Air B n B site. It is at a 15 acre farm called Yankee Creek a couple of miles out of town. The owners are dog lovers and have four friendly cocker spaniels our pooches came to like. Lola and Amos were good campers who enjoyed exploring and begging the neighbors for treats. Rusty took a little longer to get used to his new surroundings, but as he enters senior citizenship, changes to his routine are harder for him to accept. We took them for a ride every day, tried to give them an opportunity to run in the surf-which they refused-and of, course more chances to coat my car with fur.

Lorri and I made daily trips into Friday Harbor.  There are delightful shops and restaurant/bars all over the place. We discovered our favorite ever bad food–crab tots at Downriggers on the waterfront. Crab rolled in mashed potatoes and Panko crumbs and deep fried.  They are terrible for you, but are melt-in-your-mouth awesome.  We accompanied ours with cold sparkling rose, but I can imagine them going well with a pitcher of margaritas too. We’re getting ready for a remodel of our bedroom later in the summer and as always we shopped for a piece of art from our trip for the space.  It was fun, and we settled on an original water color that is being framed and will be shipped to us.

Outdoors at the Downrigger, Friday Harbor on Wednesday night.  Indoors Tuesday for lunch. Tots and fish tacos as we made a mad dash to the Downrigger to say good-bye to our new favorite vacation spot. 

We relaxed as much as we could, though our nightly sleeps in a queen sized bed decorated with three medium sized dogs was challenging. Both of us spent a lot of time reading during the delightful days that seemed to pass quickly.

The only snag was the drive home.  Six hours in the car with the anxious Aussies, slowly plodding our way through Puget Sound traffic.  When we turned into our development and our cul-de-sac, an excited Rusty somehow managed to step on the rear window control, opened it and jumped out.  We were only 100 feet from home, but it still scared the shit out of us.  He’s fine, but not anxious for another car trip. (News for you buddy–groomers on Tuesday.)

* * * * *

One activity I planned for relaxation was reading.  I dragged along a couple of books, as well as my iPad which is loaded with books. The first night I finished reading Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.  It was interesting and enjoyable, but didn’t quite meet the expectations I have for anointed classics of American culture.

While we were in town the next day, I popped into the little bookstore on Spring Street, Griffin Bay Books.  Definitely worth the visit, and could have easily left with five or six books by Al Franken, Michael Eric Dyson, or Mark Bowden.  But I passed.  I was ready to escape unscathed when my eyes settled on Carrie Brownstein’s 2015 memoir,  Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl. 

Sleater-Kinney left to right–drummer Janet Weiss, guitarist Carrie Brownstein, guitarist/lead vocalist Corin Tucker

Who is Carrie Brownstein?  Most of you will know her as Fred Armisen’s partner on Portlandia, the slightly goofy, indie look at Portland life. She’s great and Portlandia is funny, but the show gets exactly one mention near the end of the book. Before the show was conceived, Brownstein was the lead guitarist in Sleater-Kinney, a punk band rock critic Greil Marcus called the greatest rock band in the world in 2000

The book is a chronicle of Sleater-Kinney, the riot grrrl trio Brownstein shared with Corin Tucker and Janet Weiss, but it is really so much more. It’s a look inside Brownstein’s soul, a born performer, whose addiction to music, urge to express her radical feminism, and innate musical nerdiness masked an inability to access her own feelings.

Brownstein grew up in beautiful Redmond, WA in the days before the Microsoft invasion.  Her childhood was marred by an increasing dysfunction in her parents’ marriage, with mom hospitalized for an eating disorder and leaving the home when Brownstein was 15.  Dad, a successful attorney, experienced his own challenges, coming out as a gay man when he was 57.  For Brownstein, music was a way for her to express her energy, creativity and anger without confronting the feelings she developed as she matured.

It’s a fascinating read about the riot grrl era as it blossomed in Olympia.  Brownstein’s own story is likewise interesting as she relates the challenges of being in a band, the personal struggles she faced as Sleater-Kinney’s chemistry steadily changed, and staying sane through time in the studio, touring, and the intervals in between and ultimately the reasons this very important band went on hiatus from 2007-13.

But more than anything this is Brownstein’s story, and it is remarkable.  She is a gifted storyteller and I found it difficult to put it the book down. It has moments of deep truth in which she observes what it’s like to be a fan, how it is to be a performer, and ultimately the challenges of finding beauty in her life.  Relatively short, it moves right along and sucked me right in.

My summer in music and books

It’s 11 days until summer break.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a decent school year, but I’m all in and looking forward to a little break.  With the yearbook distributed, the final issue of the newspaper out, and the senior awards evening gathering complete, my last evening obligations are over. I can finally begin planning for some down time.

It’s actually a busy summer, with some vacationing with Lorri.  No cruises, but a couple of local trips to the San Juans and Astoria.  There’s also journalism summer camp. at the end of July and plenty of preparation before then.  But I’m really looking forward to some peaceful work in the yard, painting figures and general down time.

Chris Cornell Songbook

Chris Cornell’s solo acoustic record Songbook is at the top of my list of future acquisitions. Tough to get in the wake of his death.

I’ll also be looking to add to my record collection (what else.)  The two artists I’d really like to focus on are Chris Cornell and Marvin Gaye. Cornell’s death last month hit me especially hard.  His work with Soundgarden and Audioslave, together with his solo efforts are so interesting and varied, I feel foolish for not paying closer attention to his work before his death. Because some of the vinyl is spendy or non-existent, I may actually have to invest in some CD’s.

Managed to snag What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye and United in which he teamed with Tammi Terrell.  A few more records by this master who left us too soon are on my wantlist 

I finally ordered my first Marvin Gaye record.  That’s silly, because he is another performer with a long and varied career.  He’s probably my favorite Motown performer.  Gaye had a wonderful voice and his musical style really evolved with changing times.  It’s a shame that I’ve neglected him. It’s not a surprise the first record I’ll have is What’s Going On, but I refuse to let it be a token album.  He was just too good to let it go at that.

I’ve also decided to acquire the Motown Anthology series.  I’m generally not big on anthologies, but 1974-76 Motown published a series of 2 X and 3 X LP collections for many of their major artists. Generally they do a good job of covering the careers of their stars up to the press dates.  A few acts that suffer are Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, who continued to perform well into the 80’s.  The records can be as cheap as $5-10 for performers like the Four Tops or the Marvelettes, to a $25 or more for the Jackson 5 or Gaye. Here are the artists with Anthology albums

Martha and the Vandellas          The Marvelettes

Diana Ross and the Supremes    Smokey Robinson and the Miracles

Gladys Knight and the Pips         The Four Tops

Marvin Gaye                                   The Jackson 5

Stevie Wonder                                The Temptations

My goal is to have at least one album for each artist in addition to the Anthology

Summer Reading 

For me, summer is an important time of year.  I try to get a little exercise.  Listen to more music.  Paint some more figures.  Take on household duties.  Pay more attention to my Aussie buddies.  But I also read a lot more. I have a number of books lined up for summer reading.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

I’ve never read any of the Beats.  With On the Road set to come out as a movie, thought I’d get a jump start on things.  I’ve started reading and so far am enjoying it thoroughly.  Am anxious to finish and see if it is everything it is supposed to be.

The Wise Men by Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas

Overview of six men who shaped the post WWII world-Averill Harriman, Dean Acheson, George Kennan, Robert Lovett, John McCloy and Charles Bohlen.  Really intrigued by this group of men and how they shaped America’s post-war policies from Truman to Nixon.  Isaacson and Thomas promise a readable approach to an interesting topic.

Fear Strikes Out: The Jim Piersall Story by Jim Piersall and Al Hirschberg

Jim Piersall passed away a few weeks ago.  He was one of baseball’s “characters.” But his story was magnified by his fight with bipolar disorder.  This is a book I’ll buy as a Kindle e-book, but I’m really excited to give it a read.

Al Francken, Giant of the Senate by Al Francken

Francken’s book has gotten good reviews for his honesty of his appraisal of the workings of the Senate, and, of course, his humor.  Another e-book.  I’ve read some of his other books and they were funny, but quite partisan.  I know this will also be partisan, but I’m hoping it’s subsumed in Francken’s wit.

Hue, 1968 by Mark Bowden

Bowden was the author of Blackhawk Down.  I’ve already purchased this as a Kindle book (because it was so freakin’ cheap.) I am anxious to read this because, like Bowden, I believe 1968 changed the course of recent American history and Hue, as part of the Tet Offensive was at the center of it. The book was only released a couple of weeks ago, and is Bowden’s first book since Blackhawk.

 

Chris Cornell-Fell on Black Days

chris-cornell

Slept a little later than usual, thank God, popped a pod in the Keurig, and fired up my iPad.  As I opened the WaPo, the Twitter feed said everything I didn’t want to hear.  Chris Cornell dead at 52.

I lay no claim to the biggest Cornell or Soundgarden fan.  I don’t think I’ve listened to more than three Audioslave songs in my life.  But I’d have to be deaf not to know Cornell’s octaves-spanning voice as it took over whatever song he was performing.

What if Paul McCartney died? Or Mick Jagger?  What will the headlines say when Dylan is gone?

No, Chris Cornell will not be remembered with any of them, except around here. Soundgarden was through and through a Seattle band. Cornell grew up in Shoreline and attended high school at Shorewood, not far from my childhood home. Of the Seattle bands of the “grunge” era, Soundgarden formed earliest in 1984, they were also first to sign with a major label.  Cornell’s story, and his band’s success is the city’s success. No he wasn’t McCartney, or Townsend, or Jagger or Dylan, but he’s one of our own.

Word came mid-day the Detroit authorities ruled Cornell’s death a suicide. Hanging. He’d performed with Soundgarden a few hours before.  The news was a shock to his friends and family.

What leads a man to take his own life while still in his prime, on top of his game and on top of the world?  We can’t know.  We can never understand.  As one who has had a family devastated by suicide, it is a deep black hole for everyone concerned, and no light of understanding escapes from it. For his bandmates and friends, for his wife and three children, I offer my deepest sympathies. For Cornell I can only hope things are better on the other side.

Now if only I could find my copy of Euphoria Morning. Shit.

 

 

Record Store Day Leftovers and my Journey to the Hall of Fame Induction

I’ve made my feelings about Record Store Day known, and I’m sticking to my guns . . . sort of. But sometimes interesting records do get re-pressed and then . . . my addiction kicks in.

Turn On

The Music Machine . . . 1966 . . . “Talk, Talk” . . . Turn On.  Remember them?  Probably not. I was a kid, watching “Where the Action Is” one afternoon when these long-haired semi-musical guys appeared and grunted their only hit song.  “Talk, Talk” was less than two minutes of snarling garage rock and proto-punk.  I ran out and bought the single.

Wonder what happened to that 45.  Gone, many decades gone, but I still love the song. When I started collecting vinyl again, I looked The Music Machine up on Discogs.  One LP, Turn On, last pressed in 1993 on the Performance label.  It’s an easy fifty bucks for a good copy.  Well over a hundred for an original mono copy in quality condition.  Sigh.

The day after RSD X I was poking through eBay just for grins to see what the new releases were doing.  I’m happy with my Doors record. But as I’m laughing and gasping at the price some of the flippers are asking for their tunes, my eyes ran across the re-release of Turn On.  1500 copies, mono pressing, and the price starts at twenty bucks. I pulled it up on Discogs from a New York seller asking only $17 with very reasonable shipping. Done (though I had to explain it to my exasperated wife.)

It arrived Tuesday, and I was able to listen to it a couple of times.  Yes, it’s everything I hoped it would be. Of the twelve songs five are covers, including perfectly competent versions of “Taxman” (one of my favorite Beatles songs,) “Cherry, Cherry,” “96 Tears,” and a stirring “See See Rider.”

But the real treats are the seven Sean Bonniwell compositions that make the record unique. Though none of the other songs have the fire of  “Talk, Talk,” all share that song’s sense of alienation and the pressure to conform to a changing society’s social norms. Of the original songs, the most interesting were “Masculine Intuition” and “The People in Me.,” though the others were fine.

Bonniwell’s vocals always kept The Music Machine listenable.  When they threw in a touch of Mark Landon’s psychedelic guitar work so much the better.  But instrumentally, the record is dominated by Doug Rhodes’ work on the organ.  Taken as whole Turn On is a solid listen with one brilliant, fiery song.

Journey and the Rock Hall.

HBO telecast the 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction from a few weeks ago.  Produced by Playtone, Tom Hanks’ production company, I’m always amazed at what a great job they do.  I’m also amazed at all the endeavors that man has his fingers in.

The inductees for 2017 included The Electric Light Orchestra, Joan Baez, Yes, Tupac Shakur, Journey and Pearl Jam. Each of the inductees has a stunning introduction by an admiring musician or group of musicians, and the opportunity to perform. If you haven’t seen an induction and are a fan of rock music, you should, because they’re emotional and very fun. Because some bands are inducted as a specific line-up from years ago, and haven’t played together in years, there are some tricky and awkward moments as they go on stage together to receive their honors, but their place in the band is taken by another.

Of note for 2017 was Yes.  Yes  now tours as two separate groups.  They were eligible some years ago for induction, and the band members are well into their 70’s.  Outstanding bass player Chris Squire passed away in 2015, and the subtext that the Hall waited too long was expressed by guitarist Steve Howe. Yet they performed “Roundabout” and “Owner of a Lonely Heart” magnificently with Rush bassist, and Yes fan Geddy Lee filling in for Squire.

Tupac’s award was even trickier, because he’s been gone a long time.  But Snoop Dogg presented and was superb.  As a non-rap person, I learned lots I didn’t know, but most importantly had the opportunity to appreciate Tupac’s work in ways I didn’t before.

However, the moment that turned my head most was when Journey was introduced.  Like many, I’ve kind of pooh-poohed Journey all these years.  Formulaic, light-weight, uninteresting-I’ve heard it all before.  Hell, I’ve said it all before. But, on reflection, they were good, really good.  Neal Schon is a wonderful guitarist.  Steve Perry had great vocals.

If power ballads were endemic after Journey left the scene, well at least Perry, as the progenitor of the power ballad, was also the master.  “Lights,” “Who’s Cryin’ Now,” “Open Arms,” “Faithfully” are all great songs.  Not only that, but now they’re in the Rock Hall. So you know what that means–Journey records must now live in my collection. So I’ve put 1978’s Infinity, 1979‘s Evolution, and 1981’s Escape on my wantlist.

At least they’ll be cheap.

Saturdays can be great: RSD 10 and The Zombies

Colin Blunstone 2

Colin Blunstone and bassist Jim Rodford fire up the crowd for the first half The Zombies performance April 22 at the Showbox at the Market. 

As a working dude, I really look forward to the weekends.  The last six weeks were so busy with so many demands on my evening time I valued every minute of weekend down time.  Unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of weekend down time.  Yes, I did have spring break off a couple of weeks ago.  It was deliberately restful and quiet.

So after another week of late nights as the JagWire staff got an issue of the paper off to the printer, I was really looking forward to this weekend and some down time.

But wait!  As often happens, there was plenty planned.  We had some birthdays to celebrate on Saturday, but the family festivities coincided with a couple of fun activities.  Saturday was the tenth annual Record Store Day, as well as a long-planned Zombies concert in Seattle.

First, Record Store Day.  Usually I avoid the vinyl version of Black Friday.  This is the list of records available to retailers for the event yesterday.  It’s lengthy, but that doesn’t mean your local record store will have any of those that interest you.  They are of very limited production, and some seem to be directed at very specific geographic regions.  The album that interested me most was The Meters box, but I knew there was virtually no possibility of getting a copy because only 510 copies were produced and it was aimed a specific region–likely the New Orleans area where The Meters are worshiped like gods.

No, Record Store Day is often mostly about standing in line to be disappointed when I.  find the five or six records I’m interested in are all sold out or hideously expensive. Record shops tend to be small, with tight quarters and the entire process of purchasing is difficult.  I do think the local shops profit from the extra traffic, but the big winners are the designer labels that offer albums twice a year to addicts and collectors who can’t stand being left out.

Boogie Records, my local record shop, a fairly small enterprise struggling to get started, hosted its second annual Record Store Day.  In connection with the festive nature of the day, they brought in bands to play all day in the parking lot.  They had extra help in the shop and at the coffee bar.  They truly did their best to make the RSD experience more than just about hawking spendy niche records, and I commend them for their efforts.  Note: In an effort of transparency, I am a regular customer at Boogie Records and consider the owners friends of the family.

Doors Live at the matrix

I did my part.  I arrived about an hour before opening, got my number 6, and dutifully took my place in line.  I did get one record on my list–The Doors Live at the Matrix.  I believe the Matrix was Jefferson Airplane founder Marty Balin’s club in San Francisco, the band was recorded live in 1967.  The LP is essentially a live version of the their first, excellent album, The Doors. It’s great.  Everything you’d expect, “Light My Fire”, “Back Door Man,” Twentieth century Fox,” “The End,” are all there.  Vocalist Jim Morrison is in fine style and seems quite sober.  I was able to get number 763 of 10,000 pressings.

Though I was deprived of my longed for copy of The Cars Live at the Agora, I did make myself feel a little better by snagging a couple more records from Boogie’s growing and increasingly well organized stash of used records.

I’d been thinking before heading down to the shop, wouldn’t it be nice to pick up a copy of Devo’s excellent Freedom of Choice, and lo there was one.  Best known for the song and accompanying video “Whip It,”  the 1980 album is just a great record. I also had my eye on a very nice 1968 re-pressing of The Genius of Ray Charles.  Recorded in 1959, it features Charles playing with elements Duke Ellington’s and Count Basie’s jazz bands on side A.  Charles is remarkable and the musicianship is superb.  Side B was recorded in Seattle, and arranged by a young Quincy Jones, again with jazz accompaniment and strings. And while none of this sounds like “Hit the Road Jack,” or “Georgia on My Mind,” I was really surprised at how good Charles sounded, and his ability to crossover between genres.  A great acquisition.

The Zombies 

My badly light-washed photo of Rod Argent on the left and Colin Blunstone on the right.  Though there was much more to the band than just these two, they certainly captured the audience’s attention. 

As great as Record Store Day and seeing the family was, Saturday night was our long awaited night to see the Zombies at The Showbox in Seattle. I have one of those life-long connections to the British Invasion band.  in 1968 I was a Seattle Times paperboy.  One of the super popular songs I always heard on the radio was “Time of the Season.” It is so different from many popular songs of the time, with its big Rod Argent organ lead, and Colin Blunstone’s breathy vocals. To this day, the song probably lands in my top 20 songs.

Last night was not my first experience with the band.  In 2006 The Zombies traveled with Little Steven’s Underground Garage tour.  They played El Corazon in Seattle to about 100 concert goers.  I got to stand about eight feet from Blunstone.  I went with son Patrick and his then-wife Michelle, and it was one of the most wonderful concert experiences of my life.  Blunstone was very good, and the energetic younger-than-his-years Argent was superb.

But that 2006 performance saw a band that was still finding itself, much as the audience was re-discovering what a great band The Zombies were. They seemed to lack polish and the confidence that came with playing together over an extended period of time.  The original band member only lasted for a few years, and now it was nearly fifty years later.

In the years since 2006, the Zombies became much more popular.  Their 50th anniversary tour to commemorate The Odessey and the Oracle, widely recognized as a minor masterpiece, drew crowds wherever they went.

At our annual Christmas gathering in December, we saw the Zombies were making a return to Seattle in April, so Patrick, Rachel, my brother-in-law Paul and I bought tickets that minute.  We cashed them in on Saturday night. The band that appeared at the Showbox at the Market on Saturday, was a much more experienced, very polished outfit compared to the band I saw ten years ago.  The stage set-up offered two drumkits as well as two mellotron and keyboard sets.  Weird, but would all be clarified later.

The set was divided into two halves.  The first set featured well known Zombie songs, such as “She’s Not There,” “Tell Her No,” and “I Love.”  At first notice, two things were evident.  First, this is very much Argent’s band.  The banter between songs was all Argent.  Inevitably the band went on to play Argent’s one big solo hit from the 70’s, “Hold Your Head Up.”  Decent energetic song, well-played, but it did go on for an excruciating ten minutes. The second big observation is that Blunstone’s voice is, if anything, stronger than it was when I last saw him. Pretty amazing for a guy who is now 72 years old. With Tom Toomey on guitar and Jim Rodford on bass, and Steve Rodford drumming, it was a very enjoyable set.

When the band emerged twenty or so minutes later it was straight on to Odessey and the Oracle.  The band changed as original bassist Chris White stepped in for Jim Rodford, and original drummer, Hugh Grundy joined Steve Rodford at the kit. A second keyboardist joined the band–but his name escapes me, and my sources aren’t helping much.

While the first half the show seemed well-paced and relaxed, with enough banter to be informative and interesting, the Odessey half felt needlessly rushed.  From “Care of Cell” to “Time of The Season,” all 12 songs were over and done with in forty minutes and it was on to the encore.  Don’t get me wrong, all were well performed by a very professional, very polished group of musicians who knew their stuff.  It just felt like they had a taxi outside with the meter running.

A great show, thoroughly enjoyable.  I count myself fortunate to have seen this band more than once.