My latest vinyl find….part one of a possible series
A few months ago, I was hanging out with some friends when I came across seven very large boxes of vinyl albums sitting in the middle of a sidewalk. The boxes had the word “free” written on them with a marker, and, as you will see again in my next blog post, I am not one to turn down free music. So I pulled my car up and we loaded the records.
The albums were very diverse, but the owner seemed to have gone through a big folk period in the mid-’60s and a garage rock period slightly later than that while also having quite a few country, classical, and pop records. I will now attempt to do mini-reviews of a few of the records I found. Many of them I heard for the first time, while some I merely rediscovered.
Bee Gees- Idea (1968): This one is a fairly average rock album from the late ’60s, which means it is much better than the average rock album today and much better than their “disco” work in the next decade, but they still seem to be more of a singles act than an album act. With that being said, “Let There Be Love” and “In the Summer of His Years” are standouts and show the songwriting prowess of the Gibb brothers. While the title track and “Kitty Can” seem to be sincere nods to the Beatles. The album also contains two bona fide classic singles: “I Started a Joke” and “I Gotta Get a Message to You”. Give this one a listen if you come across it like I did, but don’t go out of your way to search it out. Just buy a hits collection, preferably one that skips the Saturday Night Fever period.
Burl Ives- Coronation Concert recorded at Royal Festival Hall, London England (1955): A great example of what it must have been like to see Ives live in concert. Seeing as this is a live recording from the 1950s, the sound quality is severely lacking however his personality and abilities as a performer help the listener overcome this. Ives plays a selection of well-known (“Big Rock Candy Mountain”, “Frankie and Johnny”) and more obscure (the beautiful “St. John’s River”) accompanied by only his acoustic guitar. I highly recommend this one.
The Kingston Trio- New Frontier (1963): A mostly upbeat collection of folk tunes including the modest hit “Greenback Dollar”. The harmonies are great as would be expected and other standouts include “Some Fool Made a Soldier Out of Me”, the Trio’s interpretations of “The Long Black Veil” and “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”, as well as the title track which is a lost classic.
Frank Sinatra- The Concert Sinatra (1963): First of all, this is not a live album. The title refers to the very large orchestra producer and arranger Nelson Riddle gathered to make this album. The album consists mostly of show tunes, with roughly half of them coming from the Rodgers-Hammerstein songbook. Sinatra turns in great performances here and highlights include “I Have Dreamed”, “Ol’ Man River”, and the eight-minute “Soliloquy”. The only flaw I see is that the version of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” found here does not come close to the version by Elvis Presley. Still, it is a great song and a great performance.
Alice Cooper- Alice Cooper goes to Hell (1976): A concept album from Cooper’s classic period (roughly 1971-1977), Goes to Hell shows Cooper at the top of his game. The track “Go to Hell” sets the stage for the album, which is literally about his journey into Hell. The autobiographical “Guilty” and the ballad “I Never Cry” are two highlights from the album which is highly recommended to classic rock fans.
Donovan- Catch the Wind (1965): This album was released in Europe as What’s Bin Did and What’s Bin Hid? and that is the title on which it can be found on CD. However, the record I found was the original American release titled Catch the Wind, so that is how I will review it. I always considered Donovan to be in the same league as Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs and on this, his debut album, you will see why. “Josie”, “To Sing for You”, and “Ramblin’ Boy” are all among his best work and very little needs to be said about the title track which is perhaps the greatest love song I have ever heard. Elsewhere on the album he covers Woody Guthrie and performs some traditional American folk songs. This album is almost essential for anybody interested in folk music.
Tom T. Hall- In Search of a Song (1971): I can think of very few country songwriters better than Tom T. Hall and this is perhaps his crowning achievement. There’s not a bad song on the album, which begins with the hit “The Year that Clayton Delaney Died” and from there goes on to story-telling ballads like “Trip to Hyden” , “It Sure Can Get Cold in Des Moines” and the albums best track “Kentucky, February 27, 1971” which demonstrate Hall’s skill at observing people and places and how that plays into his role as a great lyricist. Elsewhere you will find the upbeat honky tonk number “Tulsa Telephone Book” which includes great lines such as “I was in Tulsa and didn’t have anything goin’/She lived in Tulsa and didn’t have anything on” that could have came from nobody else.
Neil Diamond- Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1972): The soundtrack to the film of the same name, this one is very interesting. I will neither recommend it or try to convince you not to listen to it, but I will just say that it is unique among Diamond albums. It is pre-“You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” which means it was before his career took a nearly 30-year detour into easy listening territory and on his early hits the most important aspect was having a melody that would stick in your head. Therefore, it isn’t really that much of a surprise that the album is mostly instrumental. What is a surprise is that this is mostly orchestral music composed by Diamond and that he, therefore, does very little actual performing on the record. Still, tracks such as “Be” where he does sing rank among his best work.
Joan Baez- One Day at a Time (1970): Recorded in Nashville with experienced session musicians, Baez covers everybody from the Rolling Stones (“No Expectations”) to Pete Seeger (“Carry it On”) to Willie Nelson (the title track), while also adding two originals (including “Sweet Sir Galahad”, one of her most haunting numbers). To keep it short, Baez is one of the best singers in the history of recorded music and if you come across this, or any of her other albums then by all means pick it up.
Rush- 2112 (1976): At least one side of this album is essential listening. Side one consists of the seven-part title track which tells the story of a future where music is banned. The Ayn Rand-inspired lyrics and the heavy metal meets prog rock music makes this a rock classic. However, Side B, while featuring decent enough material, is by default something of a letdown.
If you would like a second part of this, let me know. There are still many more albums to go through. These are just a few that caught my eye at first glance.