Christmas Eve in Dallas – weird. It’s rainy and sunny and warm and windy as if it can’t justify Christmas without snow and cold, as if it feels guilty having such an array of Christmas decorations in T-shirt weather. It’s not as weird as Christmas in Australia with the fake snow sprayed onto the windows, but it’s all about what you are used to, I remember as a kid being so snowed in that we couldn’t open the doors to get out of the house because the wind had blown drifts into walls of snow. That was living 2000 feet above sea level between Marple Bridge and Glossop with a view of Kinder Scout out of our front window – happy days growing up in the English countryside before the move to the Liverpool area.
We decided that today we would go to Half Price Books, which is a mega-giant second-hand and new book and record warehouse and open till 6 PM to see if we could find some records and books for Christmas. Haha, as if we couldn’t. I found a few records – a Christmas treat and the opportunity to get records in America that I can’t ever find in Europe, especially in Portugal. I tried not to spend too much because we are trying to save for the In Deep Music Archive – Phase 3, but I also have to get records when I can – so here’s the list:
First of all, it was the most expensive one, $22 and the only new one, sealed, XTC – Mummer (1983), reissued with the cover they didn’t use. I’m not sure how hard it is to find, but it is the first time I’ve ever seen it. All the records before this were ranging from $3 to under $10, great prices for original records you can’t get in Portugal.
Ray Thomas – From Mighty Oaks (1975), a solo album from the flautist from the Moody Blues, possibly very mellow and middle of the road, but I always liked the soppy For My Lady on Seventh Sojourn (1972). He wrote Dear Diary from On the Threshold of a Dream (1969) and Legend Of A Mind from In Search of the Lost Chord (1968) and This Morning: Another Morning on Days of Future Passed (1967) amongst others.
Rare Earth – Ma (1973), signed to Motown and produced by Norman Whitfield, who made those great Undisputed Truth and Temptations albums. I already have this record, but not with the embossed cover. This must be one of the first pressings of the album. Side 1 has one song, the title track, 17 minutes, love the early seventies.
Quicksilver Messenger Service – Comin’ Thru (1972), a nice original pressing on Capitol Records with classic early seventies artwork in a gatefold. Renowned guitarist John Cipollina had left in 1970 and it is considered their worst album, but the artwork and the time capsule are worthy and that organ on the final track, Don’t Lose It, is super.
Mott the Hoople – Mad Shadows (1970), their second album and not well received in the review that I read, which usually means there’s something good about it – how could you not like a song called Thunderbuck Ram? It was a Mick Ralphs-penned and sung song, whereas the rest of the album is Ian Hunter, so an odd start. I already have it, but it’s nice to have another US copy of this hard-to-find record in such good condition.
Bill Nelson’s Orchestra Arcana – Optimism (1988), perfect condition Bill Nelson album on Enigma. One of only two albums released under the name Orchestra Arcana. Bill is always on his next adventure and from Be-Bop Deluxe to his noodlings, he’s always doing something interesting. On this record, he is kidnapped by a drum machine.
Lydia Pense – Cold Blood (1974), this is when Cold Blood had evolved into Lydia Pense’s Cold Blood. It’s a funky rock soul sound, not for new wavers or post-punkers. It’s hard work even for me, but there’s generally a cracker somewhere, When It’s Over is as close as it gets, it sounds like the band playing in the background on an episode of Columbo.
The Hollies – Greatest Hits (1967), US version, US cover released a full year before the UK version, their only UK number 1 album. The US and UK albums don’t only have different covers, they also have different tracks. Classic sixties hits on both.
The Grass Roots – Leaving It All Behind (1969), American sixties pop with brass. The LP has a song listed on the cover that isn’t on the album (Hold On To What You’ve Got). Originally a vehicle for songwriter P. F. Sloan and producer Steve Barri (Sloan wrote the sixties classic Eve of Destruction), it has a very interesting music history. The Grass Roots outgrew Sloan, although Barri produced this album and carried on for many years as a popular nostalgia act. Leaving It All Behind was their highest charting album, reaching No. 36 in the US charts.
Gentle Giant – The Missing Piece (1977). An American copy of a quintessentially English group that had success (somehow) in America. They were weird, but really good at it, some kind of experimental prog that grew out of a sixties soul band, Simon Dupree and the Big Sound, that had a hit in England with Kites in 1967. Odd arrangements, talented musicians and Derek Shulman’s distinctive voice did the trick. This is an odd album as they leant a little towards the new sound that was gracing the charts in 1977, but it still has the uncommon trickiness. The song Betcha Thought We Couldn’t Do It, sounds more like sixties R ‘n’ R than punk, but I suppose that was the problem, the old guys didn’t know how to compete with simple energetic youthfulness that was taking over with great three-minute songs and better haircuts.
Mimi & Richard Fariña – Celebration for a Grey Day (1965) is a classic American folk album released on the Vanguard label, which contains both vocal and instrumental songs. Mimi was Joan Baez’s younger sister, her husband Richard went off with a guest at Mimi’s 21st birthday party on the back of his motorbike for a joyride and was killed, the other rider survived. This was two days after his now legendary book with its memorable title Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me (1966) was published.
Doris Day – Cuttin’ Capers (1959), I hadn’t realised what a great singer Doris Day was until I heard her first recordings on You’re My Thrill (1949). Since then, I’ve always bought her early albums. This is her 18th album if you include the ten-inchers. It’s one of those big band albums with the forgotten Frank De Vol, great arrangements and one wonders how they even recorded albums like this when you consider the technology.
Freddie and the Dreamers – self-titled (1965). As it happens Freddie and the wacky lads from Manchester, famous for their silly dancing, only had one album that charted in England in 1964 with two albums in the US charts in 1965. Silly then, silly now and yet beyond the silliness there is that great vibe of the sixties, you just have to close your eyes and not watch the YouTube videos.
Indian Film Favourites (1960), an old compilation of music from Indian films of 1960, what could go wrong?
For more music recommendations, check out this video: