Smile Politely

Digging for vinyl

I’ve purchased quite a few records lately so I felt a roundup of some of my favorite finds was in order. Between a trip to Rantoul’s superb Backbeats, WILL’s Vintage Vinyl sale, and the offerings at Exile on Main Street and Parasol, I’ve loaded up with around 50 slabs of vinyl.

This year’s Vintage Vinyl was a bit of a letdown for me. The quality of the selection seemed to wane a bit this year. I did get there an hour late — at 9 a.m. — so it wasn’t surprising that the main room was picked over already. But the collector’s corner, which usually has a good deal to offer those willing to spend a bit more, was sadly bereft of many nuggets. Still, I had a pretty good haul for the day — mostly country & western records (listen to John Prine below) and a few old R&B cuts. I found a mid-’70s reissue of a Willie Nelson vault-emptying compilation titled Columbus Stockade Blues that features Willie on the cover in rare form: sans ponytail and scowling at the camera.

I also dug up an early pair of Last Gentlemen records circa 1985-86: A Kiss for All Seasons and Something to Someone. Last Gentlemen were C-U’s synth-pop tour de force featuring Brian Leach on vocals. Clearly they were part of a different scene than the one that reunited this past weekend at The Highdive. Check ’em out below. In true ’80s fashion, the dance floor filler I’ve chosen to share has one of those never-ending endings.

My favorite find at Vintage Vinyl was an admittedly rough copy of Brook Benton’s Home Style (1970), a great soul album that piqued my interest because Benton is backed by The Dixie Flyers on the LP. (The Memphis-based session group is a stellar arrangement of musicians featuring Jim Dickinson, a guitarist/producer who later worked with Big Star, The Replacements, and many others in the studio. Dickinson’s hard to find 1972 masterpiece Dixie Fried is well worth tracking down.) Check out the smooth delivery by Benton as he reinvents Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright.” And while we’re talking covers, give a listen to Lou Rawls covering Isaac Hayes’ “Your Good Thing Is About to End” from the David Axelrod-produced The Way It Was: The Way It Is. Axelrod was fresh off working with The Electric Prunes when he went into the studio with Rawls for this 1969 release.

In my other used vinyl haul from the past month, Backbeats was the dealer. The downtown store is moving next door into a larger space that will allow for a significant increase in the inventory department — good news for you and me. My recent trip there produced another fine batch of fairly-priced LPs in very good shape. For example, I picked up a clean copy of Aretha Franklin’s Aretha Now for $5 and Ministry’s With Sympathy for just $3. I spent a bit more ($16) on an incredibly clean copy of Isaac Hayes’ classic ’69 album Hot Buttered Soul. But I’ll gladly spend a bit more when I can grab a copy of Robyn Hitchcock’s brilliant solo debut, Black Snake Diamond Role, for five bones. Don Boskey, the shop’s owner, gets it when it comes to pricing used records: keep ’em affordable and the typical digger will spend a lot more cash and time in your store.

We’ll wrap up with a few new releases of note. Fat Possum bought the rights to reissue R.L. Burnside’s A Ass Pocket Full of Whiskey on thick vinyl, and you should definitely snatch it up while it’s around. I found my copy at Exile on Main Street. Both Ass Pocket and the subsequent Mr. Wizard were recorded with help from the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and while Burnside’s signature sound is suffocated at times by his hipster backing band on Ass Pocket, the whole is still worthwhile.

Another notable reissue is Death’s For the Whole World to See, a tidy seven-song LP from a trio of African-American proto-punks from Detroit. You may have heard about them in the Times. The hype is warranted, as this introduction to the band reveals common ground with Pere Ubu and MC5 and finds the Hackney Brothers mining some interesting territory for the early-to-mid ’70s.

Parasol also had a copy of the new comprehensive collection from Edinburgh’s The Vaselines, Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee. Kurt Cobain used to go on and on about the pop group and with good reason: the male-female duo were kinky, silly, and supremely catchy. These remastered recordings, titled Enter The Vaselines, come on three LPs and greatly improve upon the crappy sound of Sub Pop’s prior Vaselines compilation.

I’d also recommend giving some consideration to expanding your Serge Gainsbourg collection in a different collection. In ’71, Gainsbourg peaked (critically, at least) with Histoire de Melody Nelson, which gave him the ability to go in several abstract directions on his follow-ups. His next record, Vu de l’Exterieur, is all about the human body’s noisier functions. Then he recorded another playful concept record, Rock Around the Bunker, about the Third Reich. So why would it surprise you that in 1979 Gainsbourg released Aux Armes et Cætera, a reggae album recorded with Sly and Robbie (and featuring Rita Marley on background vocals). For real. It’s pretty good, too.

Enjoy the tunes.

John Prine – “A Good Time”

Last Gentlemen – “One Possession”

Brook Benton – “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”

Lou Rawls – “Your Good Thing (Is About to End)”

Robyn Hitchcock – “Meat”

R.L. Burnside – “Going Down South”

Death – “Politicians in My Eye”

The Vaselines – “Sex Sux (Amen)”

Serge Gainsbourg – “Relax Baby Be Cool”

More Articles