Music geeks often have a strange selection of things they revel in. Today’s report of the used treasures I picked up may reveal far too much about my music-geek factor than I really should be admitting . . .
Genesis: Calling All Stations – When I got laid off in the summer of 2001, I was faced with a dilemma – either stop buying music altogether, or sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice. I chose the latter. With all that time on my hands, listening to new music at the sacrifice of old music was a pretty reasonable idea. In the end, however, I wound up trading back things that I had an odd love for, such as Genesis’ final album, Calling All Stations. Fans and critics alike pretty much ripped this album to shreds when it came out, as it seemed to please no one in particular. The old fans didn’t quite get the full-on prog-revival Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks promised, and newer fans wouldn’t touch it without Disney’s current go-to guy, Phil Collins, fronting the band. In the considerable shoes of former vocalists Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins, how was a stranger like Ray Wilson to make an impact? Wilson’s warm, throaty delivery departed from the characteristic and often downright odd vocals (at least in the early, non-pop years of the band) of Gabriel and Collins, being neither quite as defining nor as charismatic. The music too suffered from a lack of identity – was this the pop-powerhouse Genesis of the 80s and 90s, or the genre-defining prog Genesis of the 70s? The album attempted to tred a thin line between the two, going further into heavy prog territory with long songs and complex instrumental passages than the band had since Abacab, but it also contained a fair number of the radio-friendly, simpler songs that the band focused on in the years following that quirky album. And, so, no one really responded, leaving record stores and the label with batch after batch of this commercial dud. I, however, applied my usual critical stance – if it didn’t have the “Genesis” legacy to live up to, would I have enjoyed it anyway? Yes, I likely would have, and so I did. There are some awkward moments, like the purposely eclectic “Alien Afternoon,” schmaltzy “If That’s What You Needed,” and the completely out-of-place, dated, and unnecessary “Small Talk,” but there are enough solid moments, like the dramatic title track, or the velvety ballads “Shipwrecked,” “Not About Us,” and enough non-offensive filler that it’s an occasionally intriguing listen. Not to mention that I, at least, particularly enjoy Ray Wilson’s smooth-as-gravel voice. Price today? $8.99
Pixies: Surfer Rosa – I know. I know, okay? Being a big music fan, I should own everything by the Pixies and have it all committed to memory, but the fact is that, until relatively recently, I just didn’t care enough. I don’t particularly like Kim Deal’s vocals and really hated the Breeders, so that functioned as an excuse to ignore them for a while – regardless of the majority of songs helmed by the nasal Black Francis (or Frank Black, whatever – make up your mind, dude!) For a couple of years now my collection has had a warm spot for Doolittle, and I figured whenever I ran into something else of theirs used I’d commit myself to picking it up. Today was that day. Price today? $6.99
Tin Machine: Live: Oy Vey, Baby – I think Tin Machine was unfairly dismissed. Consisting of two studio albums and one live disc (being what I bought today) and featuring David Bowie and guitar-genius Reeves Gabrels (who would accompany Bowie in his solo works through the 90s,) Tin Machine’s output was slammed for being woefully out of touch at the time they were released. Too rough, too angular and quirky, the mainstream music world just wasn’t ready for this sound. Had it been 5 years later that the self-titled first TM album was released, it might very well have been a success. Up against the sound du jour, big hair metal, Tin Machine sounded distinctly different, odd even, and even Bowie’s fans had a hard time swallowing this one. The stripped down, raw, back to basics approach Tin Machine took just didn’t have a niche to fill at the time, and it’s surprising that Tin Machine II even saw the light of day. How this live album was released is a complete mystery – I’m not sure who they thought this was going to appeal to, but as one of the few admitted fans of the band, I’m glad it was at least released, even if it did go quickly out of print. To prove just how few people were interested in this, the copy I snagged today appears to be virtually unused in the twelve year’s since it’s release – no significant scuffs on the case (not even shelf-wear,) nothing on the disc, and the artwork is in mint condition minus a corner having been cut from the booklet. Price today? $6.99 – totally worth every penny.
Nellie McKay: Get Away From Me – This spunky 19 year old is a lot smarter and has a much more mature ear than her age indicates. Incorporating everything from saccharine Bacharachian melodies to husky jazz to edgy hip-hop, it might seem that Get Away From Me is all over the map sonically. It’s McKay’s smooth, seasoned vocals and wry, subtle sense of humor that bonds it all together. She’s having a lark on all the overly serious, melodramatic pop-divas (and even earnest songstress Norah Jones – check out that title again,) and, as I mentioned to the record store clerk today, from the number of used copies in the racks, few are picking up on her humor. How she convinced Columbia to release one hour of music on two discs is beyond me – and it’s probably an extra cost the label is regretting now (regardless of how effective it is splitting the album into two halves.) Do yourself a favor and give her a shot – this album is, without a doubt, one of the most joyously fun and intriguing releases of the year. Price today? $8.99, and there was at least four more at this price. Be careful – the label, in their infinite wisdom, also released a “clean” version – cute and sweet as she looks, Nellie’s got a bit of a mouth on her, but it’s a smart one.
(Now here’s a smart one: the beautiful lull.)