2016 REPORT FROM THE FIELD — PART 1

Top Five Secondhand Record Purchases

It is revealing that there was more than enough material in the acquisitions book to produce a Top 50 list of secondhand records entering the Vinyl Connection domain during the past twelve months. We are talking fifty highlights, by-the-by, not gap-fillers, pass-markers and also-rans. So much good music and such sustained fervour of vinyl hunter gathering.

What follows is a selection of albums that brought well above average pleasure.

If we’d gone for the epic Top 50 list, my interest in twentieth century composed music and love of jazz would have been apparent. As it is, most of this material is in familiar VC fields; jazz, electronic, prog, rock; five records spanning seven decades. Hope you find something to pique your interest.

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Mose Allison — Autumn Song [1959]

September—Goldmine Records, Fitzroy

Having a couple of collections by the coolest white dude ever to sing and play piano simultaneously (sorry, Elton), I was pleased to pick up this UK Transatlantic pressing of Mose Allison’s 1959 album, made with Addison Farmer (Bass) and Ronnie Free (drums). Licensed from Prestige USA and recorded by Rudy Van Gelder, this copy is not pristine yet is easily good enough to enjoy the under-stated swing of Allison’s playing and his light, laid-back vocal delivery.

It’s odd to reflect that Mose is mostly thought of as a singer of droll, often acerbic songs (‘Stop this world’, for example) yet for the first part of his career he was solidly in the ‘pianist who sings’ category. The cover notes spell it out. Mose ‘is first and foremost, in his own evaluation, a piano player’. Sure, he’s deft and modestly inventive, yet the songs really do spring out at you. ‘Eyesight to the blind’ bounds along with a nod and a wink, while ‘That’s all right’ has has a low-GI world-weariness that makes you wish there were more than three songs on the ten track LP. Fans of his wistful voice and wry delivery would have to wait until 1963’s Mose Allison Sings for an album’s worth of this stylish and unique jazz-blues singer.

Mose Allison died on November 15, 2016, just after his 89th birthday. This review honours his passing and lasting contribution; a legacy far transcending The Who’s demolition of ‘Young man blues’.

Mose Allison - Autumn Song

Autumn Song Transatlantic label

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Flash — Flash [1972]

November—Quality Records…Plus, Malvern

Being known as the group that brought together two rejected members of Yes—Tony Kaye and Peter Banks—was probably never the best marketing tag-line. The band’s first two albums were known for their racy gatefold sleeves; the debut featuring a lady’s nether regions and the second an unclad upper section (nudity, but decorously hair-draped in Lady Godiva approved fashion). You might think that’s two strikes, and perhaps you’d be right, yet Flash (can you now guess the link between name and cover art?) produced an accessible brand of early 70s prog that is interesting, well played, and still enjoyable. I first heard them in the Rowden White Library at Melbourne Uni and liked them, but not enough to spring for the expensive import LPs. For years I had the In The Can (second album) but rarely played it due to a disabling warp. So finding the first two LPs a few weeks ago was one of those record-hunting highs that keep us tragics going.

I’ve been enjoying the debut album a lot. As you’d expect, the guitar (Banks) and keyboards (Kaye) are first rate. So is the bass playing (Ray Bennett). Lead singer Colin Carter has a high tenor voice which occasionally evokes Jon Anderson, just as some of the instrumental sections show Yes influences. Not surprising really—Flash have more justification than most for sounding a lot like their famous brethren.

Most of the songs have extended structures, with inter-related sections and musical development that repays repeated listens and makes the album worth coming back to. Probably my favourite is ‘Children of the universe’ with its gorgeous Tony Kaye synth solo, immediately followed by a Banks guitar solo that briefly quotes ‘Eleanor Rigby’. Then Kaye comes back on organ for a riffing return of the main vocal theme and we’re out with a cheeky guitar coda.

Other than the final slightly wet ballad, this is a terrific debut and one prog fans would enjoy. Probably only the muddy 70s production prevents this from being a fondly admired semi-classic.

Flash - Flash 1972 LP

Flash LP 1972 label

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Edgar Froese — Epsilon in Malaysian Pale [1975]

June—Salvos Opportunity Shop, Watsonia

The love round these parts for Herr Froese and his band Tangerine Dream are well known to regular Vinyl Connection readers. This solo album fits nicely with what the band were doing at the time (think Stratosfear) and is a really solid analog electronic album of beauty and invention.

Comprising two seventeen minutes sides, Epsilon in Malaysian Pale (whatever that means) certainly does not outstay its welcome. Side one is the title piece, mysterious in parts, luscious in others, wistfully melodic elsewhere. Halfway through this wander through lush foliage, what sounds like a synthesised aeroplane flies overhead, cueing a subtle change of pace to a more rhythmic, rolling section before we return to the dappled light and sudden avian colour of the jungle for the final section.

‘Maroubra Bay’ (side two) is a real place, but not in Malaysia. In fact it is just east of Sydney Airport. As I know neither the airport nor south-east Asia very well, I cannot comment on how accurate this is as program music, though I can say this is a more brooding, pensive piece closer to Phaedra in its nighttime feel. Classic Froese.

The analogue synthesisers are rich and smooth throughout. The pieces are subdued yet far from static. Sitting in the dark listening to this album is a trip I highly recommend.

Edgar Froese - Epsilon Malaysian Pale LP

Froese - Epsilon Malaysian Pale LP label Virgin

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Jeff Beck — Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop [1989]

July—Quality Records…Plus, Malvern

At its best, there is a purity and focus to the rock trio that is exciting and highly energetic. With a trio there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Despite the absence of a bass player, these characteristics are admirably demonstrated on Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop. Beck teamed up with Zappa alumnus Terry Bozzio on drums and keyboard whiz Tony Hymas (formerly a Jack Bruce sideman) to produce an instrumental album brimming with melody, variety and grunt. The wailing guitar of opening track ‘Guitar Shop’ gives way to the classic rock instrumental ‘Savoy’ before there’s a change down to the reggae-primed ‘Behind the veil’. The latter isn’t at all cringe-worthy as the space provided by Bozzio’s economical rhythms and Hymas’ spare keyboards is delicately filled by the leader. But the name Jeff Beck really means wild guitar played with bravura strength and rock-solid confidence and the album has a satisfying number of tunes in this category. I love the sexy swagger of ‘Big block’ and ‘Stand on it’, which work even better thanks to the evocative pieces such as ‘Two rivers’ and the elegiac ‘Where were you’ which evokes Steve Hackett’s finesse. There is even humour in the treated spoken bits of ‘Day in the house’. ‘Nothing is being done!’ It is, actually, and being done damned well. The UK guitar legend ended the eighties on a high with this rip-roaring album.

Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop LP

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Field Music — Field Music [2010]

April—Dixon’s Recycled, Blackburn

The music of Field Music (doesn’t that read oddly?) has been described as ‘brainy’ and you can tell why. The arrangements are thoughtful and complex, yet deft enough that the songs themselves do not sound pendulous but taught and trim. Tight vocal harmonies enrich many of the songs, which could be described as art-school, 60s tinctured, 70s draped, post-rock flights of fancy. If you can have progressive alt-rock, this is it. Sometimes I think of Super Furry Animals, sometimes a less angsty Radiohead. Brothers David and Peter Brewis have produced a fascinating body of work and I was right chuffed to find a vinyl copy of this, their third album.

Check out a sample here.

Field Music 2010 Measure LP

Field Music Measure LP label

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The 2016 Report continues…

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23 comments

  1. Love that ‘Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop’ cover!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great, isn’t it?
      Just check the suspension, mate…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Glad you enjoyed such a bounty of second hand finds this year. Look forward to the next part!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. aussiebyrdbrother · · Reply

    Sadly I’ve never heard that Edgar Froese album, Bruce! Always on the lookout for it, though!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. These all look like great finds. I also scooped up that first Flash LP this year. Think I will check to see if I can hear some of the others online.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A good year of foraging.
    I hope to listen to a few of these (probably courtesy of YouTube) over the next few days.
    Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It should be said that I really enjoy the opportunity to discover previously unknown worlds and sounds via your entries here, Bruce. A truly wonderful education.

    I’ve owned that Jeff Beck for years – also a secondhand find for me – but am reminded by your post that I’ve yet to delve into it. “Melody” and “grunt”…. what in the world has held me back?

    My Mose Allison knowledge begins and ends with Live at Leeds. Am curious to know whether the “demolition” of Young Man Blues as noted in your post should be read as criticism or hip praise?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Regarding your question, depends on the day. I’m a bit hot and cold with Pete’s band generally.
      Would love to hear back if you (a) dig out the Beck; (b) check out some Mose.

      Like

      1. (a) I did eventually dig out the Beck, but the moment may not have been right as it didn’t take.

        (b) On the other hand, I listened to Autumn Song three times through while at work yesterday and, man, it took, it really took. Thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. For more Mose, try Back Country Suite, his first album from way back in 1957.

          Like

  7. Lovely!

    Question: Is that actually your journal of records bought (top pic)?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I think it’s safe to say my interest will be piqued by any group comparable to SFA/Radiohead!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Only familiar with Jeff and Field Music here, but the others also sound intriguing. Looking forward to seeing what other treasures you found…

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Sorry, just paused to check out those lady pants on the Flash LP there.

    Surely you must have all the records now, Bruce? or at least all the ones you want (and some you don’t!) … just like me.

    Autumn Song is the one I envy you most, I’ve loved his greatest hits for years now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s the essential problem with diverse tastes, isn’t it? You can never have everything and you inevitably accumulate dross. Sigh. It’s a thankless task, but somebody his to do it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Personally, I’m really looking forward to vinyl’s popularity dropping again and (hopefully) 2nd hand prices also dropping back again.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Fair enough. Now take a deep breath here, Joe, cos in the interim, CDs are available dirt cheap pretty much everywhere. Just like vinyl was in the early 90s when we were all (well, most of us) besotted with the little silver things.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Nope, sorry, couldn’t read that.

          Liked by 1 person

  11. PS – Follow-up post request: your 5 worst purchases of 2016.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Was drafting a post called “Top 5 expensive buys I wish I’d resisted”. Would that do?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Totes. (as both my kids say)

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Have the Flash album(s). The Beck album. Lots of Mose but not that one. Yeah i wanted to be MA when I was younger or half as cool. Seeing him was a concert fave. ( Check out Greg Browns ‘Mose Allison Played Here’ studio version off the ‘Slant 6 Mind’ album. Find it on Spotify or soundcloud). Will look into those other records you scored.

    Liked by 1 person

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