Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto

Ghetto_And_Pike The Preample:

Summer here but it’s almost gone.  I’ve been spinning a shit load of vinyl, but have been out and about all summer and haven’t committed to typing a write-up.  This shit’s actually time consuming I’m finding.  The record’s done in under an hour but it’s 4 times that to post.  I was hoping using a computer would really speed up the process.  Anyways, playing a compilation tonight for the first time that I’m hoping will be worthy while sipping on my favorite whiskey.  I’m going to try and shave an hour or so, give me some hope of prolific posting come fall.

The Record:

Artist: Various / The Philadelphia International All-Stars

Title: Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto

Label: Columbia / Philadelphia International Records

Year: 1977

Catalog: PZ 34659

Country: Canada

Notes:

I picked this LP up last weekend at a garage sale, $2.  It seemed interesting enough, with the cover black and white strongly contrasting, and I’ve listen to enough funk compilations to know this just may be dirty funky.  The only bands I’ve heard about listed on the lower right cover are the O’Jays…figured that’s a good sign, right?  Both sides are a strong VG+ lightly played; the cover VG+ with a touch of wear.  No clue of on mastering and pressing plant…the matrix code hints at CBS Don Mills mastering, but there’s no faintly etched “DM” that’s common on Canadian pressings from Don Mills.

It’s a compilation, but The Philadelphia International All-Stars get top billing including caps along the top of the labels.

Matrix:

Side 1 – AL-34659-1A-2G:

Side 2 – BL-34659-1A-2G:

Barcode:

Mastering: ?

Pressing Plant: ?

Discogs: http://www.discogs.com/release/3041247

The Accompaniment: 

I can’t stop drinking it.  Pike Creek again (not Pike’s Creek which I’m prone to calling it).  It’s officially my favorite Canadian spirit; a staple in the cupboard.  And the best thing is the LCBO at Dufferin & Wilson scans at the wrong price!  Buy it there, and I guarantee $9.95 less than listed price…

The Listen: 

I had a buddy over for some vinyl and drinking tonight.  Spun some killer records and I polished off the last third of a bottle of Pike.  No worries…I see him to his cab, take a minute to say hi to the neighbor over the fence and crack open a new bottle.  I’m flying and anticipation is high as I drop the needle.  Lou Rawls opens up with Trade Winds, a smooth number (a little too smooth for my liking to be honest) reminiscent of an afro crooner.  The orchestration is kinda cheesy.  Actually it is cheesy.  Not liking this shit at all…this comp is no longer looking promising!  The sound is OK though, nice clear vocals and tacky instrumentation, with no insinuation of surface noise.

The title track, Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto, starts with a soliloquy…”Garbage 2 or 3 stories high”…fuck, imagine that.  Nice driving beat though, I’m feeling it before the song breaks into a disco funk jam.  I like it but this isn’t the best shit I’ve ever had in my pipe.  Too much disco and not enough funk.  Plenty of soul though.  The longer the song lasts (it’s a long one) the better it sounds, with a pretty cool trumpet solo and the same heavy beat.  Half way through the song, I conclude it’s actually amazing as the guitar solos and then a sax.  Awesome stuff!

Dee Dee Sharp Gamble’s Ooh Child is next and it’s a familiar tune.  Was it the Boyz In The Hood soundtrack?  A Hip Hop sample?  No clue, but the sonics are amazing.  Turning up the volume a pubic hair makes the shit sound even better.  Now Is The Time To Do It sounds “Shaft!” vintage, with lots of similarities.  “Shaft!” was never a favorite 70s sound of mine, and I don’t expect this song to be neither as there’s nothing special about it.  The last song is totally shit.  I’m not going to waste any time with The Three Degrees and Year Of Decision.  I want to fast forward and end the side.

Side 2’s opener is from a band I’ve actually heard of.  I can’t name off any songs form The O’Jays…but I’ve heard of them, so I figure The Big Gangster should be a good tune.  Nope.  TBG’s opening sucks and the song (and I’m realizing the whole LP) comes across as a public services declaration.  I want to fast forward again.

Crime Doesn’t Pay.

It does sound amazing though, but at this point it could very well be the whiskey talking.  New Day, New World Comin’ has a respectable opening, let’s see if it falls apart or not.  Vocals come in…still sounds good!  Thank you Billy Paul.  The trumpets on the left, guitar licks on the right and backup chick singers on the center all sound perfect.  Great sounding tune.  Not so much for Archie Bell & The DrellsOld PeopleOP opens with a quick, cool, panning drum across the speakers then descends into Love Boat theme crap.  I really want to just stop the record at this point.  The thought of taking this LP into the used record shop tomorrow for trade enters my head.  Some poor sucker will pay $10 for it…I paid $2…I just want my toonie back!

I’m not even paying attention to the music anymore.  Sorry Intruders and Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, but I ain’t even gonna talk about your songs.  It’s just background noise at this point as I check out the cover…turns out this here’s a charity record.   I change my mind…I will say something about the last 2 songs…Save The Children is a boring song (written by Gil Scott-Heron couldn’t save it).  It just doesn’t have any redeeming qualities to necessitate a repeat listen.  Everybody’s Talkin’ sounds like an older 60s tune, the right channel’s guitar’s enjoyable as are the left channel’s drum; it’s the vocals that make this song crap.  Can’t stand it.

The Postamble:

Not recommended.  Overall, except for the Philadelphia International All-Stars and Dee Dee Sharp Gamble on Side 1, the LP was disappointing.  As a fan of 70s black music I must say this album sucks.  The music has no rawness or edge; it’s just a bad black soul disco album.  Still…the records does sound great from a sonic perspective.  I wonder how much change came from this record’s sales, cuz now’s the time to do it.  And eerily, looking at the front cover, the 12 year old girl looks to be dressed like a nun.  I wonder if it that was on purpose.

As for the Pike Creek, highly recommended.

The Fine Print:

This was not a review of the aforementioned vinyl LP or alcoholic drink, but a personal reflection on my experience of listening and imbibing.  Such factors such as vinyl condition, pressing, intoxication, room size, rig, stylus wear and mastering may result in a different listening experience.

M B V

front with drink

The Preample:

MBV.  Whereas last week I fretted for days on what I’d write about, this week was very easy.  Spent the last night with Pete yesterday listening to tunes on his rig with a copy of this LP waiting for me.  I found a VG- copy of Led Zeppelin II a few days before at Executive Stereo with RL initialized on both sides (Presswell with narrow deadwax!) and it was part of a barter that also saw a few Santana records I had doubles  change hands as well as a beer to be paid in time.

The crazy thing is I haven’t even listened to any songs from this album yet…not even a sample!   MBV has always been one of my favourite bands and I’ve waited half my life for this mystical follow up to Loveless  (fuck I hope it’s not another Chinese Democracy!)  If this was released 4 years ago when I was still digital I would have followed the rest of the kids to Pitchfork when the live samples were released, then to my beloved torrent site for the leaked release, followed by 2-3 weeks of listening to the mp3 album a hand full of times before my next ipod sync relegated the songs to the “ipod shuffle”, giving it 1 to 40,000 odds one its songs hitting my ears next.  By the time the actual album hit the music stores it would have been “so last January”, but so is life in the digital download orgy world.

So I guess this makes this LP a watermark moment on how I consume music at midlife…from my past mass mp3 download era where the music became a commodity of bits & bytes on a NAS box hidden in a closet in my basement…towards now where dropping $30+ on 40 minutes of music is the norm, yet the listening experience so moving that one feels inclined to write and share the experience with others.

As a warm up I decided to play the first two MBV LPs beforehand.  Alas, they are the critically panned Plain reissues.   Widely whispered to be redbook transfers onto vinyl, it’s not hard to believe this to be the case as I listen to them now.  Overall the instruments and vocals sound muddy (yes, I know some of this owes to the original mixing) and turning up the volume and taking the grills off the RX6’s don’t add much to the sound.  I want to borrow original CDs to compare the Plain LPs to, but where the fuck will I play them?  In my car?  (I don’t even know if it has a CD player to be honest!)  If I do I’ll have to bring them down to Executive Stereo for a demo.  Regardless, this is very familiar music and I think I feel a boner coming on as Side 2 of Loveless approaches the end.

Saying I’m really looking forward to this listen is an understatement.

The Record:

Got this one sealed.  As mentioned earlier, I received it as part of a trade with my buddy Pete who picked it up at Kops.  The gate folded LP also comes with a CD and CD booklet.  The jacket, LP and CD are all a true NM and the vinyl although not advertised as 180g certainly is “hefty”.  Overall the package feels like a UK release, especially due to the flimsy (when compared to US style) cardboard jacket.  Several of my recent vintage vinyl purchases are imports but to be honest I can’t remember my last imported “new” vinyl.  It’s refreshing to buy an indie pressing not from United or Rainbo…my anticipation continues to grow…

Artist: My Bloody Valentine

Title: M B V

Label: MBV Records

Year: 2013

Catalog: mbv lp 01

Country: UK

Notes: gatefold, comes with CD

Matrix:

Side 1 – MBV 01 A-2

Side 2 – MBV 01 BS-2

Mastering: Noel Summerville

Pressing Plant: ? (perhaps a Pallas pressing?)

Discogs: http://www.discogs.com/release/4331747

The Accompaniment:

Pike’s Creek 10 Year Old.  My favourite Canadian whiskey, although admittedly I haven’t tried many besides Crown Royal and Canadian Club.  Bought this on a whim a few months ago and that led to repeat business.  Although it may not convert a self-important scotch drinker, it will surely make whiskey lovers take note.  Similar to its nose, the whiskey opens with a sweet taste reminiscent of bourbon but followed with a brandy-like finish …obviously imbued with its finish in vintage port barrels (after 10 years of aging in bourbon casks).  I love it and it’ll remain in my trophy cabinet indefinitely.  And at under 40 bucks a bottle, an any day sipper.  Sweet nose, sip and finish.

The Listen:

I polished off a few doubles of the Pike’s Creek by the time Loveless finalizes.  I decide to take the dog for a walk beforehand.  I cue up the needle and 10 minutes later it’s dropped and I find a place on the carpet floor to experience the Kevin Shields Front To Back Analog Experience.  She Found Now …the sound title resonates like a sequel to an earlier song in their discography, and indeed opens with a familiar sound even if with the vocals further back then I remember.  Fuck, about a minute in and surface noise creeps into the left channel, but only lasts for 30 seconds.  Now I’ll be hyper-sensitively be keying into that channel the rest of the side.  It doesn’t return, the song finishes and I feel like I’ve heard this song before…

It’s at this point I notice that Kevin Shields is the only band member with credits on the LP cover.  Who the fuck is playing drums?  Only Tomorrow opens as another pleasing tune, a bit less familiar, like a Loveless B Side.  The fuzzy, interlaced guitars indeed sound analog and coherent but with the sound stage narrow and centered.  So far no return of the left channel surface noise.  Holy man!  Who Sees You is another song you can slip into both Isn’t Anyting or Loveless without notice.  Pretty good song (third in a row I might add!).  Sweet guitar solo, at one point it sounds like Shield’s is doing his scales with clouds!

Shit…the phone rings.  Wife says it’s too loud.  I say give it 30 seconds baby.  Luckily it finishes without me having to touch the volume knob.  The last song on the side, Is This And Yes, initially sounds like church music.  It comes across as the first song heading in a different direction.  In fact, it sounds like Stereolab, especially when the vocals come in.  A so so Stereolab song in fact.  It’s the first cut on the record that doesn’t immediate grab me, but the first where the drums take me to la la land.  The side concludes and it’s a winner.  I’m sure I’ll be playing this one a few more times before the week withdraws.  I’ll have to give it a listen before taking the dog out also.

Took a quick 10 minute break to chat the wife up before Side 2.  It opens with If I Am which is another female led vocals and I immediately like it better than ITAY.  The song’s got the similar throw back feel as the flip side before New You opens with an interesting sequence before the song kicks in.  Alongside ITAY, this is the album’s second song that delivers a new sound…perhaps with a hint of things learnt from Instrumental B.  This one’s got a certain poppiness to it, and do I hear a “do do do”?  Yes I do.  In Another Way sounds average enough…hopefully not a sign of the LP petering out?  Fuck.  Another call from the wife upstairs.  This time I turn down the volume.  Not a terrible song, just average.

Nothing Is opens with an 80’s metal riff skipping on your deck.  Inevitably there will be lots of people that LOVE this song…sadly I will not be one of them.  It comes across as a novelty listen, not a song.  I will however BLAST this song at MAX volume later this week when I find myself home alone.  Promise.  Next up is a techno beat overdubbed with a jet plane taking off.  Nope, guitars not a jet plane.  Although I do not love Wonder 2, it’s another song I swear to blast on the system later this week.  But sadly it seems as Kevin has run out of material although there’s definitely atmosphere, different than anything beforehand owing to the driving drum beat.

The Postamble:

The LP presents itself as two distinct sides.  Side A may remain in high rotation but Side B will definitely be returned to.  Although I do think half way thru the second side I wonder if the album has lost its way.  Being an “analog album”, sonic qualities will always be on trial.  Largely, the sound does have a spatial quality that is superior to the Plain reissues I listened to beforehand but were the drums anywhere near a speaker (I know, I know…it’s a guitar album)?  Nevertheless is this really the best modern analog has to offer?  The sound is still a wall, not an enveloping embrace.

The whiskey, highly recommended (I think I may have drank half my bottle tonight hehe).  Taking the dog for a walk also decidedly endorsed.

The Fine Print:

This was not a review of the aforementioned vinyl LP or alcoholic drink, but a personal reflection on my experience of listening and imbibing.  Such factors such as vinyl condition, pressing, intoxication, room size, rig, stylus wear and mastering may result in a different listening experience.