Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Vinyl Vacation: These Are A Few Of My Favorite Singles

Once again I must apologize to On Warmer Music readers for my de facto summer vacation  (although it really wasn't so much a vacation as a "work somewhere else time" which has less of a ring to it and paid just as nothing as this blog). As a way of easing myself back into the ol' bloggin' mode, I thought that I'd share with you a smattering of what's been gracing my turntable these past few months as I've been pleased (and my wallet's been dismayed) to dive further and further down the fetish-property hole that is vinyl music. The more I listen the more I sound like one of those people you hate who tell you how great it is to be able to own a physical artifact and how much better the records sound and blah, blah, blah. So I'll just say that while all that is true, every song here sounds pretty baller, even if you're cuing it up on the most electronically-created iPod playlist know to man. Enjoy!

"This Summer" - Superchunk  Buy the single.
I know that summer is almost over (and what a long scorching, dry, miserable one it has been) but I'm still getting every last pre-Labor Day spin that I can out of this one. Knowing I'm sucker for summer jams, Superchunk hit all my sweet spots with this one, it's a road trip fantasy with a mammoth echoing guitar riff and slacker-chic lyrics straight outta 1996 (and if you didn't catch that vibe at first, let the couch cushion cover art remove all doubt). The white vinyl and Bananarama cover on the b-side are the kind of extras that makes the physicality of vinyl so alluring - a great purchase.

"Baby Let's Burn Down The Cornfield" [Randy Newman] - Lou Rawls  Buy it.
This Randy Newman cover would have escaped my notice, had not I been browsing at the musical haven that is Laurie's Planet of Sound in Lincoln Square, which astutely labeled this Lou Rawls single not by it's slightly-insipid a-side ("You Make Me So Very Happy") but rather by the inspired cover that backed it. The Rawls version of this song was released before Newman's and, it must be said that the soul singer's smooth delivery sells it far more than Newman's diffident drawl. The song itself is a surrealistic fantasy where the singer entreats his lover to commit agricultural arson, then make love while the flames roar. The spooky instrumentation including a muffled, ominous guitar and far-off sax add to the disturbing eroticism and make it the perfect pre-Halloween song to either intrigue or repulse a potential romantic interest, depending on their disposition.

"She's Acting Single (I'm Drinkin' Doubles)" - Gary Stewart  Buy it.
There's nothing like country to distill heartbreak into 160-proof, two-and-a-half-minute increments of perfectly melodic but equally eviscerating experiences. This Gary Stewart single mixes "fuck-my-life" misanthropy, drippy musical backing and almost too-clever self-denigrating lyrics to create the perfect ballad of woe. Sung by a man unable to prevent his woman from steppin' around on him right in front of his face, Stewart peppers his lament with lines that bleed utter despair and self-pity. One could argue that his heartbreak is perhaps peppered with a bit too much lyrical verve such as the hokey title or his lament about his lover that "while she pours herself on some stranger / I pour myself a drink some more" but I'm willing to cut Stewart some slack. It's a great sad song, or just one to sing along to when when you're two-and-a-half sheets to the wind but not quite fully there yet. It's finds like this for fifty cents at a flea market that are sometimes needed to bring joy into the life of a broke writer.

"Berry Please" - JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound  Buy it.

This was an impulse pickup at my beloved Saki and it was a good one. Recorded live at Euclid Records in St. Louis, this is a JC Brooks & Co. original that imagines themselves as a rising '60s soul act (not too hard to picture) trying to grab the attention of the legendary Motown Records hit-maker Berry Gordy. "We can dance like the Tops, and we'll preen like the 'Premes" Brooks promises over a driving beat, swirling organ and slinky guitar. The fact that this was an early Uptown Sound recording makes it all the more perfect, as the band has done everything possible (well, at least in the age of the blogosphere) to live up their promise. They assure us that "we are the sound of young America", and even if, strictly speaking, they're probably more the sound of young America fifty years ago, when I spin this at my house parties, I'm sure that myself and guests will be happy to dance like that the statement is the scout's-honor truth.

"Dancing With Myself" [Generation X] - Hudson -I don't think Hudson has a website, and for that, let us all be grateful.
Not all record purchases turn out perfectly, as I found out this past winter after an outing the Logan Square's oddball used book/vinyl shop Bucket O' Blood. I loaded up on a number of singles and EPs based solely on band/release names and album artwork. They were all $3 and under and I figured, "what's the harm?" Well I'll tell you what the harm is - being stuck with records that you can't quite bring yourself to throw away, never want to listen to again and are therefore stuck with. The one exception from this hall is the last song on the Out Of Gas [EP] by an energetic but ultimately doomed punk/hardcore outfit by the name of Hudson. The rest of the record is terrible, but it ends with a cover of Billy Idol's "Dancing With Myself" that I can't help myself but to love. It's a shitty song with a decent hook and all Hudson does is give it the "same song with amphetamenic guitars and sneering lryics" treatment, but that's really all it needs to be a guiltless dance-floor filler. It's fun, recognizable and too crappy to be taken seriously, which, I believe, is the perfect mixture for enjoying a Billy Idol cover. 

"Let's Do It Again" - The Staples Singers  Buy it.

If ever there were a song to justify itself through its own internal logic, it would be this one. A '70s soul classic from the Staples Singers, this is a song that doesn't pretend to be anything more than what it is is - baby-makin' music. It rides in on a sweet, unassuming bassline and goes down easy with some honey-dripping strings and just a hint of scratch guitar, all of which announce that this is a third-date anthem, made to be played next to Luther Vandross and Marvin Gaye. Perhaps this is another nostalgic mid-year pick but lines about the "sweet breeze in the summertime" conjure up images that are romantic in every possible way and impossible to resist. Both this and the b-side, "After Sex" were written by Curtis Mayfield, reaching back to his softer '60s proclivities amidst his Superfly '70s period and are one of the best soundtracks to fall asleep to with the windows down and the fan on that I can think of, whether alone or with company.

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