This week I noticed that Vinyl Connection was about to turn four. There have been a few stutters, but we are still spitting out regular posts on everything from 60s folk to twenty-first century electronica, from funked up Miles Davis to European Prog. Along with periodic celebrations of album cover art, of course.
Vinyl Connection has never cuddled Kylie Minogue, rocked with the Rolling Stones, or been in Dire Straits. Yet despite spending precious little time in the broad middle of the popular music highway, a persistent band of fellow travellers have chosen to wander the winding VC path, and for that I’m most grateful.
The week’s second realisation was how obscenely profligate I have been in buying music this year. One hundred and twenty sunsets into the year, the VC catalogue has grown by an album a day. It’s a bit scary.
Still, I thought it might be fun (and not in any way a pathetic attempt at justification) to share some acquisitions from the first third of the year. Best to do it now, as I’ll probably go on an extreme vinyl diet from here on in. Stranger things have happened.*
17 INTERESTING 2017 ACQUISITIONS
1. Kate Bush — Before The Dawn 
Ms Bush’s 2014 concerts sold out so quickly it broke the internet. The luckies who scored a ticket received a lavishly produced and impeccably staged conceptual art rock-theatre piece. This huge set records the concerts over eight sides of vinyl. It is a lot of music. The repertoire is drawn from Kate’s later albums—no Wuthering or Babooshkering here—and features lots from 2005’s Ariel. Given how strong that album was, the selections are no bad thing. Playing is outstanding throughout, the sound is extraordinary for a live recording and the album packaging is lavish and interesting. Immersing yourself in the Bush of live ghosts is a mesmerizing experience.
2. New Violin Summit 
Some would know the original Violin Summit album from 1967, featuring four master violinists including veteran Stéphane Grappelli and a young Jean-Luc Ponty. This follow-up changes all the players bar Ponty and delivers an exciting fiddle-driven dose of jazz and jazz fusion across four sides. As I wasn’t blown away by the first Summit, it was a half-hearted extraction from the browsing shelves…until the other players caught my eye: Drums—Robert Wyatt, Guitar—Terje Rypdal. Say wha?
This Sons-of-Grappelli Fest would entertain anyone interested in the violin in a jazz/fusion setting. When the cache and intrigue of Robert Wyatt’s participation is added in, New Violin Summit becomes a bit special.
3. Emmylou Harris — Wrecking Ball [Deluxe Ed. 2016]
I know many music-collecting fellow bloggers love the deluxe re-issue lark and revel in the alternate or rare tracks included. For myself, I’ve drifted away from this particular aspect of completism, not because I have any criticism of my colleagues but because there simply isn’t time to get through what I already have (and continue to buy, see current article). So I um-ed and ah-ed about this three LP re-issue of 1995’s Wrecking Ball… until Nonesuch had a sale. The generous reductions tipped the balance and I’m very glad. This re-issue is a gem. The alternate versions are alternatey enough that you hear something new in each song, while the bonus tracks enhance an appreciation of both Ms Harris’s gifts and the Daniel Lanois production. Fabulous.
4. Albert Ayler — Spiritual Unity 
A classic of ‘spiritual jazz’ I had to dig quite deep for, but am kind of glad I did. Albert Ayler’s style is about as far from Kenny G as it is possible to get while inhabiting the same universe, yet the album, for all its squawks and challenging dissonances, has a certain beauty consistent with the sub-category ‘spiritual’. I hope I grow into the music.
5. David Sancious — Transformation (The Speed of Love) 
What a joy this discovery was! I knew the name Sancious (he was a member of Springsteen’s E Street Band) but had nothing by the keyboard player as leader. This is a prime slice of 70s jazz-rock. Propulsive in parts, romantic in others, the keyboards (including lots of analogue synths) are forefront throughout, which suits these ears just fine. Loved this one.
6. Richard Pinhas — Reverse 
7. Public Service Broadcasting — The Race For Space 
These releases rub shoulders alphabetically and musically, sharing electronica connections and a high invention index (albeit in very different ways). Both are marvellous and deserve individual presentations. Two more for the ever-expanding ‘Posts To Write’ list.
8—10. Grateful Dead
Dick’s Picks Volume 1  / Dick’s Picks Volume 3  / Dick’s Picks Volume 4 
The Grateful Dead wrote the book on archival concert releases, a substantial chunk consisting of the Dick’s Picks series (36 multi-disc volumes). At the last Record Fair, a chap was selling his vinyl re-issues of these live recordings. Of course one box would have sufficed, but I suggested a price with a reminder I’d be lugging home 5kg of Dead rather than him. He agreed.
What’s the sound part-way between a yelp of pleasure and a sigh of resignation?
11. Klaus Schulze & Pete Namlook — The Dark Side of the Moog Vol. 1–4 
Four CDs plus a bonus disc. Klaus Schulze produces product in quantities verging on the overwhelming. Have enjoyed parts of this, but am yet to spend sufficient time with the set to make any incisive assessment. Pink Floyd fans might get a smile out of the disc titles (though the music has nothing to do with the UK progressive behemoth):
1: Wish You Were There
2: A Saucerful of Ambience
3: Phantom Heart Brother
4: Three Pipers At The Gates Of Dawn
12. XTC — Transistor Blast 
One of those late night internet purchases that somehow finds its way into your cart when you are searching for something else. I did get the something else (Grayfolded, in case you were wondering, a unique album up for its own ‘Curiosity Corner’ post).
This 4CD box has two studio sets for the BBC and two live sets from 1978/79 and 1980. Full of youthful energy (not to mention piss and vinegar) it will delight fans of the early, punky XTC.
13. Eden — Erwartung 
Seems like only yesterday when you could take a punt on some interesting looking LP for a few bucks and delight in its wonderfulness or shrug philosophically if it was a dud. I bought this album on the above premise, but for six times what it would have cost a decade ago. Have other things gone up in price by that much? What did a litre of petrol cost in 2008? In dollars or deutschmarks? Machts nichts. This is a very pleasant slice of German symphonic prog from a band I was unfamiliar with. Some parts remind me of Eloy, others of Novalis, even some Yes seasoning. Most enjoyable.
14. Grateful Dead — July 29 1966 [Record Store Day 2017]
Another expensive live Grateful Dead set. Just what I needed.
15. Dick Hyman — The Age of Electronics 
Stoked to get a clean copy of this early moogsploitation LP. Mr Hyman was a pioneer of synthesisers and this album brims with invention and good humour. Great cover too.
16. Bruton Music — Cocktail Time 
The swag of library LPs from a charity shop not long back are providing great entertainment. Another idiosyncratic sub-genre to collect. Or is that idioticidiotic. Hm. Time for a cocktail.
17. SOUNDTRACK — Stranger Things 
Bought on the recommendation of JHubner—he who keeps abreast of new releases in the electronic arena with dazzling thoroughness—this collection of incidental music for a television series is, on the first couple of listens, quality electronica. And it looks terrific, even if you haven’t seen the show (as I have not, and probably won’t. It could be creepy).
That’s it. There probably won’t be any ‘acquisition’ posts for at least a year as I’m totally committed to that vinyl weight loss program. Don’t look like that. Stranger things have happened.*
* But not many