Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Terry Bér

Artist: Terry Bér
LP: Through the Eyes of Terry Bér — Songs of Terry Bér & Other Poets
Song: "Wouldn't You Like To Be Clothed Like a Tree"
[ listen ]
Song: "A Lullaby To Wander By"
[ listen ]

Here's some lovely and uplifting folk music for a warm and sunny final week of May here in Seattle. Both songs posted are written by musical folk gypsy and poet Terry Bér, though she also includes covers of songs by Leonard Cohen ("Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye" and "Tonight Will Be Fine") and Donovan ("Colours") on her 1968 LP, which I picked up at The End of All Music in Oxford, Mississippi on my road trip last year. There's not any info on the web about Terry Bér that I could find...unless this is she. (If so, sounds like she's a little more settled than she was in the late 1960s; she's got a musical family and she's still writing songs!) But if that's not the same Terry Bér, then I don't know what's become of the lady who released this beautiful LP. If anyone's got any leads I'd love to hear from you. In the meantime, have fun perusing the liner notes, included below. They're some of the neatest, most personal I've ever read.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Garland Jeffreys

Artist: Garland Jeffreys
LP: 7" single
Song: "Matador" 
[ listen ]

Earlier this weekend I took a bunch of 45s I'd pulled from my collection into Bop Street Records, one of my local neighborhood record stores. This 1979 Garland Jeffreys single is one of the things I picked up in trade. A top-ten hit in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Belgium and The Netherlands, "The Matador" failed to appear on charts in the USA or, ironically, even in Spain, where matadors are a part of everyday life, like traffic signals and shopping

Speaking of shopping, Bop Street has lots of neat records. If you visit when Dave, the owner, is there, you will no doubt find him talkative and friendly. He will inform you that someone from The Wall Street Journal once named his store "one of the five best record stores in America" (the quote is immortalized on a plaque behind the register, in case you forget) and he will point out that it is his own face that's depicted above the store's entryway in stained glass, lit by the sun. Dave gave me a quick tour of the area where the 45s are stored (I was mainly interested in swapping singles for singles) and I spent several hours digging through numerous boxes; I came up with some interesting stuff. Unfortunately, Bop Street is one of those places where much of the inventory has no price on it; the cost of a particular record isn't decided until you've dug it out of the bins and have expressed an interest in purchasing it, which, of course, automatically increases its value. In this particular case, Dave additionally pulled a few obscure singles out of my stack before pricing them, saying he wanted to listen to them first to see if he really liked them. "If you really like them, will I have to pay more?" I asked with a smile. "No," Dave replied, "If I really like them then you can't buy them because I'm going to keep them for myself." 

It's too funny to get upset over, really—one could even say it's endearing. But I did find myself wondering if the guy from The Wall Street Journal was aware of the fact that the owner of Bop Street might not let you buy some of his records if he liked them too much when he called the place one of the five best music stores in America. If you ask me, this bizarre and subjective policy—and the fact that all copies of all of The Partridge Family's LPs are priced between $20 and $25, regardless of their condition—would knock the store down a few notches, making it one of the top 155. Still, Bop Street has an incredible amount of inventory, including lots of rarities, and they gave me a pretty good deal on trade, so I really can't complain. I recommend stopping by if you like vinyl, even just to thumb through the bins and to meet Dave the record guy.

[ Garland Jeffreys ]

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Lena Zavaroni

Artist: Lena Zavaroni
LP: Ma! He's Making Eyes At Me
Song: "Take Me Home, Country Roads"
[ listen ]
Song: "River Deep, Mountain High"
[ listen ]

I'm back from Alaska—aka. The Land With No Record Stores. (Not in Ketchikan, Juneau, or Skagway anyway.) I did find one thrift shop that had a few records though, Rendezvous Thrift Store in Ketchikan, the first stop on my Ruby Princess cruise. All LPs were just 25¢. This 1974 Lena Zavaroni album is one of the ones I found there.

[ Rendezvous Thrift Store — Ketchikan, Alaska ]
As a label known for Southern and Memphis Soul, Stax Records released music by artists like Otis Redding and Booker T & the MGs, so it's hard to imagine what executives might have thinking when they signed Scottish 10-year-old Lena Zavaroni to the label in 1974. (Wikipedia says "a number of factors" caused Stax to close shop in the mid-1970s; it's nice that they don't mention Lena Zavaroni specifically.) I also find it hard to imagine how Lena Zavaroni's Stax record ended up in a junky little thrift store in Ketchikan, Alaska. But there it was.

Poor Lena Zavaroni—singing with her father in a fish-n-chips joint in the Scottish highlands one instant, then suddenly hitting the UK top ten, being whisked off to Stax headquarters to cut a record, and then on to Los Angeles, California to appear on "The Carol Burnett Show" the next. What a whirlwind! Of course little Lena went bonkers. Just because you can be famous doesn't mean you should be. After suffering from anorexia and extreme depression that started in her early teens and stayed with her for years, Lena died of pneumonia in 1999, at the age of 35. You can read more about this pint-sized singing dynamo on Wikipedia here. I've included a link below to Lena's 1974 appearance on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson, along with a 1989 interview clip with Lena and Peter Wiltshire, her new husband at the time (they split up 18 months later), and a beautiful, heart-breaking video of Lena singing "Help Me Make It Through the Night" on her wedding night...in her wedding gown. 
Lena Zavaroni on YouTube:
[ "The Tonight Show" w/ Johnny Carson ]
[ Interview from 1989 ]

[ Lena Zavaroni: November 4, 1963 — October 1, 1999 ]

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Harry Simeone Chorale

Artist: Harry Simeone Chorale
LP: It's Alaska
Song: "We're On Our Way/Come See a Land"
[ listen ]
Song: "It's Alaska"
[ listen ]

Well I've packed my fishing pole, my canoe and my harpoons; I've put the cat out and left a note for the milk man because today I'm going to Alaska! I need to find a land where my children can grow. I'll be getting to Alaska via something called the Ruby Princess, which I'm worried may be a little like being trapped in the Southcenter Mall with 3,000 other shoppers for an entire week. I've posted this record before, but now it has entirely new meaning. Bon voyage!

[ The other Ruby Princess. ]

Monday, April 27, 2015

Mari Wilson

Artist: Mari Wilson
LP: Showpeople
Song: "Just What I Always Wanted" 
[ listen ]
Song: "Wonderful To Be With" 
[ listen ]

I was hoping to post something cheery and springlike this afternoon to celebrate such a warm and sunny day in Seattle (it was glorious!)little did I realize it would nearly be tomorrow by the time I finished editing the gazillions of photos included on this wonderful (and cheery and springlike) 1983 Mari Wilson LP. I remember reading about Mari Wilson and seeing her hair in one of my issues of Star Hits magazine, but her songs never got much airplay in the USA—not in Yakima, Washington, anyway. The songs from "Showpeople," Mari's only album released in the 1980s, hold up remarkably well today. (un?)Fortunately, Mari isn't one of those obscure '80s artists who have been suddenly resurrected by contemporary youth, who then ruin their music by playing it to death, pretending they've been into it all along. That said, doesn't "Just What I Always Wanted" totally seem ripe for overuse as fodder for car commercials? You can read about Mari Wilson on Wikipedia here and go here to find her 2015 UK tour dates and to see what other things she's been up to lately.

[ Mari Wilson in 2014—still glamorous without the hive. ]

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Spiders Webb

Artist: Spiders Webb
LP: I Don't Know What's On Your Mind
Song: "Spider's Webb" 
[ listen ]

A spider on my screen door, a new documentary about session musicians in 1960s L.A. and this 1976 funk album with a sexy cover all came together in a strange series of coincidences over the past week or so. I had taken photos of this Spiders Webb album over a year ago intending to post it here, but for some reason I never got around to it and the pictures sat in a folder, unused. A little over a week ago I came home from work to find a neat-looking spider crawling on my apartment screen door and I posted this picture on Facebook. 

People left comments like "ewwww" and "ick," and my sister wrote, "Better on your screen door than on your pillow!" Then last Wednesday my friend Ryan invited me to see THE WRECKING CREW, a new documentary about a group of professional musicians in Los Angeles in the 1960s who did arrangement and instrumental work on most of the hit albums of the era, without ever receiving any sort of credit or recognition for their valuable and incredible work.

It's a good film and it brings some interesting facts to light, but the main attraction for me was the sole female member of the Wrecking Crew, the extraordinary bass player Carol Kaye. She looked amazing, both in the 1960s and at the time the documentary was made, and she just seems to be filled with pep and verve. 

Yesterday my friend Lindsay from work left a new comment on my Facebook spider picture, which reminded me of the comment my sister made about having a spider on my pillow, which reminded me of the spider crawling on the sexy lady's thighs on the cover of my Spiders Webb album, which reminded me that I never did post the record on my blog, which inspired me to dig up the photos I'd taken and the record itself, which prompted me to read the album's notes a little closer than I had before, which informed me that the main duo behind Spiders Webb are jazz drummer Kenneth Ronald Rice, known professionally as Spider Webb, and his wife, session musician Carol Kaye, who I had been mesmerized by on the silver screen just a few days before! I was flabbergasted. 

Digging further, I learned that Carol was born just up the freeway in Everett, Washington back in 1935. She grew up in the Port Angeles area before heading south to California to live and work in a much bigger city of 'Angeles.' Ironically, Carol doesn't play bass on most of this Spiders Webb record, since she's playing lead guitar instead. She does pick up the bass for "Spider's Webb" though, the track I've featured here. Sadly, though Spiders Webb was played by DJs and on dance floors across America, the album didn't cross over to become a mainstream hit, and both Carol and husband Spider returned to doing session work after its release. You can read more about the group Spiders Webb here; go here to find Spider "Kenneth Rice" Webb on Wikipedia and find Carol Kaye's page here. You can visit Spider's webb page here and go here for the official website for Carol Kaye. There are some neat quotes here about Carol, her playing and her professionalism from a host of musical celebrities of the '60s, '70s and '80s.

[ Spider Webb & Carol Kaye ]