Saturday, May 27, 2017

Angel Vladković Group

Artist: Angel Vladković Group
LP: ABC
Song: "Bananas"
[ listen ]
Song: "Disco Fever"
[ listen ]

The following afternoon I had about three hours to check out two Helsinki record stores that were about a block apart. I had planned to split my time between the two, but by the time I got out of Redhill Records, I only had about 15 minutes to look through the other store. According to the Redhill Records website, "Our staff can always help you find the record you need." What they don't include is a warning that their staff will always help you find about 58 records you need! 

The guy who was working when I went in was super helpful, one of the best customer service record-peddlers I've come across at any record store ever. Initially, when he asked what kind of music I was looking for and I said I was hoping to find some Finnish disco-pop from the 1970s, he kindly advised: "I don't know if anyone has told you, but Finland is a heavy metal country." You know, I wish somebody would have told me that before I bought my ticket.

Nevertheless, since the store is evidently one of the only ones in Scandinavia with a listening station and I was the only customer there (well, one guy popped in to ask if they have any Dave Matthews Band records—they don't), we basically had a record-listening party for an hour and 45 minutes. He would bring over instrumental Russian disco-synth LPs, Finnish funk records from the '70s (which were great, but around 200€ each, so I simply couldn't afford them), and more. He always knew the best tracks on every LP; if I picked one up he would say, "Check out track three on side two," for example. By the time I left I had a stack of wonderful and bizarre LPs and 45s that I simply couldn't do without. 

The guy (I wish I knew his name) said that they have lots of neat Russian records, since Finland and Russia share a border. When Finns visited Russia in the '70s and early '80s, there were no souvenirs available so they'd buy Russian records to bring back as a memento. But they hardly ever actually listened to them, so now Finnish record stores are full of great old Russian LPs in excellent condition! 

This Yugoslavian disco record from 1979 is one of the ones the sales clerk extraordinaire brought over to the listening station, guiding me toward "Disco Fever" (track five on side one). I've just discovered that the song is a cover of this one by Tina Charles; the LP also includes terrific Eastern-Europey-sounding disco covers of "How Deep Is Your Love," "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," and others...but I go absolutely "Bananas" over track one on side two. 

[ Redhill Records — Helsinki, Finland ]

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ami Arvola

Artist: Ami Arvola
LP: Ami Arvola
Song: "Kun Silmiin Katsellaan (Here We Are Falling In Love Again)"
[ listen ]

I'm back! Before exploring Norway, my sister and I dropped by Helsinki, Finland for a few days to visit our friend Kenneth who has been living and working there for the past decade or so. He showed us around the lovely old city, took us to dinner where I ate my very first reindeer meat, and he directed me to several of the Helsinki record stores I'd put stars next to on my list; the first one was Green Grass Records

By the time I arrived there I only had about an hour to browse before they closed (well, by the time I re-arrived after running pell-mell down the street to the nearest ATM to get some Euros, since the store doesn't accept credit cards). I found some terrific gems at Green Grass, including this 1977 Ami Arvola LP. I was certain I'd gravitated toward one of the most popular Finnish heartthrobs of the 1970s (just look at what a natural he is when a camera gets pointed his way!) but it seems he only released this one LP and then was never heard from again. I did find this though, which includes some Ami info I can't understand. Anyway, this nice album-opener is a cover of a 1976 Neil Sedaka song that I'm also being introduced to for the very first time.

 [ Ami Arvola ]


[ Green Grass Records — Helsinki, Finland ]

Sunday, May 7, 2017

a-ha

Artist: a-ha
LP: 7" single
Song: "Take On Me"
[ listen ]

So I'm heading off to Norway, where I hope to meet up with a-ha. I've done some research so I'll be sure to have things to talk about when we're together...but I think the hardest part will be getting connected with them in the first place.


I'm not holding my breath for a date with Mags, since he likes The Beatles and The Doors, loves junk food, goes wind-surfing and doesn't have a favorite author. He's obviously straight. But a date with Pål or Morten is not out of the question. Pål's favorite music is Judy Garland's "Over the Rainbow," which is code, you know. And Morten enjoys growing orchids and still adores his mother's cooking! So basically, I'm going to pontificate loudly in several popular Oslo cafes about my fascination with writer Knut Hamsun, expounding as well on my love of goat cheese and the early music of Judy Garland. I'll also be asking around to see if anyone knows where I could pick up some fresh, locally-grown orchids. This will surely result in an introduction to the fellows in a-ha, since there just aren't that many people in Norway to begin with!

I'm bringing my promo-only 7" single of a-ha's international smash hit "Take On Me" with me to Norway so I can get it autographed. The video for the song was way ahead of its time in offering a warning about becoming too absorbed in comic book fantasies, about choosing to live vicariously through romantic and agreeable made-up drawings instead of facing the real world that's filled with real people who can sometimes be difficult and who have emotional baggage and all that. It's been a while since I've actually seen the video, but here's a play-by-play, as best I can remember, using the inserts that accompany my promo single as a guide:


A moderately-attractive young blonde woman from the '80s is habitually engrossed in the comic-book adventures of her favorite dashing young hero, who is a little on the reckless side and looks a lot like the lead singer of a-ha.


Suddenly her charcoal-drawing heartthrob reaches out from the pages before her and beckons her to join him in his next thrilling adventure! Could she be dreaming? True, she had just taken three Tylenol-pm capsules followed by a large glass of Merlot, but she had nothing planned for that afternoon anyway, so why not accept the invitation? What has she got to lose?


First, she cheers her hero on at an exciting motorcycle race, with contestants hitting speeds at least 30km/hr over what is generally considered a safe speed of travel on the roadway. He won! They celebrate with champagne.


Swept up in the thrill of victory, our hero and his new heroine embrace, their faces close and warm. They don't pull away. What are these feelings? Could it be love? The post-race awards banquet begins; the melodies of the popular local Norwegian party band sweep over them.


But there's something standing between them. "We're from different worlds!" they agonize together in unison. "It's just not possible that..." Their attention turns to the harshly-drawn character, still in racing gear, who approaches them. It's the guy who came in next to last! He's none to pleased with the way the race's handsome victor is carrying on!


They are in danger! They are pursued. They flee! "Look out, he's got a wrench!"


Just as they are about to meet an untimely demise, our heroine tumbles through a portal that leads back to the real world from which she came. But where is her fantasy lover!? I don't remember how, but somehow she drags him through the portal too. He beats himself against a wall a few times which turns him into a real boy—albeit one with little-to-no experience with the real world or how it operates. That's just the way she likes them! They live happily ever after—or at least they share an apartment for several years before things turn sour and he runs off to Paris to pursue a music career, while she stays behind with her collection of comic books and a bottle of gin.

[ a-ha ]

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Society of Seven

Artist: Society of Seven
LP: Simply Ourselves
Song: "I Gotcha"
[ listen ]
Song: "Love Theme from 'The Godfather'"
[ listen ]

"Society of Seven" has become a household word around my apartment over the past 48 hours, ever since I found this LP of theirs in the bargain bin at Sonic Boom in Ballard the other day. And they're still performing! ...as you can read here. "I Gotcha" is actually kinda' rapey, and "Love Theme from 'The Godfather'" actually sounds more like the theme to a low-budget early-'70s Bond film, but it's still got a sort of rinky-dink classy kind of charm.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Target

Artist: Target
LP: Target
Song: "You Need a Woman"
[ listen ]

Not to be confused with the Kroger-owned superstore of the same name and similar logo, this Target was one of the most popular rock bands in Memphis, Tennessee in the 1970s. They released two LPs on A&M Records; this self-titled one from 1976 was the first. You can read a bit about Target and what became of bassist Tommy Cathey in a 2011 article from the State Gazette here.

"You Need a Woman" whisks me back to memories of awkward moments spent with my mother in the early '90s in Provo, Utah, right after I came out to the family.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Alberto Vazquez

Artist: Alberto Vazquez
LP: Como No Creer...
Song: "Spring Again"
[ listen ]
Song: "Como No Creer En Dios"
[ listen ]

I'm not usually the matchmaker type, but something tells me Alberto would get along really well with Patsy. One thing I admire about Latino men is that even some of the straight ones decorate their homes in a style I call "wedding-cake chic." You have to have a lot of confidence to do wedding-cake chic successfully and, as one can tell from his facial expressions on both sides of this LP, lacking confidence has never been an issue for Alberto.


There's not much written on Wikipedia in English about actor-singer Alberto Vazquez, but if you go to his Spanish-language page the whole world opens up to you. Alberto celebrated his 77th birthday ten days ago; his "Como No Creer..." LP came out in 1978, when he was 38 years old. "Spring Again" is the sole English-language track on the record; the rest of the songs are sung in español.


[ Alberto Vazquez ]