Budget shopping, bin scouring for bargains and just good ol'fashioned wheelin' and dealin'. . .
Nicola Conte — Jet Sounds Revisited volume 1 (2002)
On a whim, Dave notified me of a cutout deal on this double ten inch EP. The price was too good, so I couldn't say no. At the time, I thought I would just be getting something I already had on CD, but in a quirkier format (and I had never heard this stuff on vinyl, so hey). When I got the thing home, I was pleased as punch to discover that, despite there only being five songs spread across the two ten inch records, two of those songs were not included on the CD version of this album (of which I had and have enjoyed for many years). Indeed, the Dining Rooms' beat heavy, trip-hoppy remake of 'Jazz Pour Dadine' and the Freeform Arkestra's trippy, very outwardly-tuned "Traffic Replay" of 'Trappola Mortale' are like brand new tunes to me. Couldn't be happier, as after a bit of research, it seems volume 2 of the vinyl issue of the album contains nothing that's not already on the CD. Fate, as it were.
Mike Oldfield — Ommadawn (1975)
Indeed, Mike Oldfield, indeed. I've had a sort of mindshift in the last few months in regards to this guy. After I watched this (because I am, let's face it, an absolute whore for music documentaries; whether I care about the music being discussed or not), I was intrigued. I already knew and liked 70's Yes. But, why was Mike Oldfield being discussed? Isn't he a new age guy? The pieces from Tubular Bells played in the documentary didn't sound like new age music (at least not the crappy sort). So, a flip through a thrift store record shelf and I had me a copy of Tubular Bells for fifty cents. Brilliant stuff. Went back a few days later and grabbed the copy of Hergest Ridge for the same price. Liked it just as much, if not more. And now, this one. It's a bit more of a hard nut to crack off the bat. But I do like it. There seems to be a nearly overwhelming sense of melancholy to the whole thing, although it does contain some right beautiful passages on side two. This album, and the other early Oldfield works, very much remind me of things that I already love: floatier John Martyn, early Durutti Column, even Tangerine Dream at some points, etc. Great stuff, indeed.
Leonard Cohen — I'm Your Man (1988)
Leonard goes. . . synth-pop?! Actually, yes. I mean, why not, really? He was essentially an outsider to the folk-rock world that welcomed him in the late 60's, so why shouldn't he sound just as much like an outsider in the 80's, seemingly trying to sound like the Pet Shop Boys? I like how ridiculously dated it sounds. Primitive sequencers, completely out of place background vocals and everything just generally sounding like it belongs in an episode of Miami Vice (ok, maybe Miami Vice after smoking a few joints). The uber-dated sounds don't really derail Leonard's wry, husky baritone vocals and poetic (and predictably great) lyrics. Definitely a time period piece, but Leonard's vocals are the sole reason that anybody could listen to this in 2011 and still be engaged with the material.
David Bowie — Pin-Ups (1973)
I've long had a soft spot for this Bowie album. It's a covers record and, if nothing else, it illustrates just how captivating the Spiders from Mars were as a band, because, even though most of the material remains unchanged from the originals, the songs still take on a new life; a rockin'-out-and-lovin'-it sort of vibe that just plain works. Not his best anything, but I still find myself going back to it most frequently out of all the Ziggy-era albums. This is the version on Ryko which includes one b-side and one outtake. Bonus tracks, hooray!
Miles Davis — Amandla (1989)
After going back to Aura recently and finally venturing into the last third of this book (after years of just not caring), I went for the last studio album released while Miles was alive. I've written off this period in Miles' catalogue for so many years, admittedly without actually hearing much of it (I guess I just saw smooth jazz covers of 'Time After Time' and 'Human Nature' and panicked, wouldn't you?). After actually going in and listening to this album (and Aura), I can say I like at least some 80's Miles. This album does have gratuitous sequencers and synths, but there's really a sense of getting back to grooves and a sort of free funk sound. There is a very cool go-go undertone to most of the album and while Miles isn't in top form, he at least is having fun and doing more than just stating melodies. The closing song 'Mr. Pastorious' finds Miles playing be-bop again for the first time since the late 60's. It is one point where his playing sounds in top form again and it's a rather moving ballad performance. Colour me pleasantly surprised.
Miles Davis — Live at the Fillmore East March 7, 1970: It's About that Time (1970)
The only existing recording that includes this sextet (Miles, Jack DeJohnette, Airto Moreira, Wayne Shorter, Dave Holland and Chick Corea). This was recorded between two opening sets (one for the Steve Miller Band, for Neil Young and Crazy Horse; talk about mismatches) in the weeks before Bitches Brew was released, but a few months after it had been recorded. This is just ace stuff, all the way through. Absolutely scorching renditions of 'Spanish Key' are included on both discs, while 'Miles Runs the Voodoo Down' on disc two sounds trippier than anything either Steve Miller or Crazy Horse could've presented to the hippie audience. Besides Chick Corea's electric keyboards and Dave Holland playing a bit of electric bass (he mostly sticks to acoustic), this was an all acoustic band still. Exceptionally colourful and far reaching music, considering that context. Just killer stuff.