Now I admit I’ve been known to complain loudly about the sorry state of used record hunting in London. But lately, the tides down on the Thames have shifted for the better. Once again, it’s raining second-hand records ’round these parts! Here’s a rundown of a few LPs I scored for 99p in recent weeks:
1. ASGÆRD “In the Realm of Asgærd” (Threshold Records UK, 1972) – Almost passed over this one, thinking it was one of them early KING CRIMSON LPs I’ve consciously overlooked for the past quarter century or so. But then it hit me: just who the fuck are ASGÆRD? I don’t know what an ASGÆRD is, and I’ve never, ever heard even a peep about this ASGÆRD record before. Perfect reason to buy it! And low and behold but this is decent folk/fantasy (rather than classical/symphonic) prog rock in a lighter URIAH HEEP vein. They do lay the vocal harmonies on thick, but they don’t go overboard with the mellotron and they ain’t afraid to rock out (albeit politely), so I’m happy. Oh and they do a song about Austin Osman Spare wherein they “kiss the cloven hoof.” Yes there are still little treasures buried deep within this fair isle.
2. JUDY HENSKE & JERRY YESTER “Farewell, Aldebaran” (Straight Records US, 1969) – Is this even on CD yet? It’s a winner fr sure, all the way through to the end. A real ZAPPA gal, this Judy H. was – in the sense that she saw nothing odd in belting out a ball-busting JANIS J. blues number back to back with a sweet flower-pop jingle tailormade for the second STRAWBERRY ALARM CLOCK LP, and then: follow it with a harpichord-drenched misery ballad that RICHARD HARRIS coulda made a bundle on as a follow-up to his “MacArthur Park” cash-in. Yeah it’s these kinda juxtapositions (non sequiturs?) that the Straight Records crew always excelled it. Hard to pick the best, but I’d say that’s the Chinese cowboyisms of “Raider”, which sounds like something that coulda brightened up one of them later MOBY GRAPE LPs. If only the GRAPE had thought better of LA.
3. THE RUNAWAYS “Live In Japan” (Mercury Records Japan, 1977) – I’ll be honest: when I reach for a RUNAWAYS disc, half the time I’m thinking not of a album, or a song, or even a riff. I reaching for an image. Like those vaguely creepy portraits of the gals on their first LP that Kim Fowley labeled with their ages. Nuts! Or the amazing cover photo on this record. Here THE RUNAWAYS are looking more like 70’s Japanese kiddie superheroes (I’m thinking Himitsu Sentai Go Renjā) than anything hard rock. But hey this was Cherie Currie’s last stand, so it’s gotta be hard, right? Well, not exactly. I know Joan & co. got lumped in with the punker thing at the time, but sonically speaking, here they come across as THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY trying to bang out THE SWEET songbook. And that, dear Cherie, is not a good mental image.
4. GEOFF & MARIA MULDAUR “Pottery Pie” (Reprise/Warner Bros. Records US, 1970) – Now this was a coincidence, seeing as I’ve been saturating my ears with GEOFF’s kinda-recent work (The Secret Handshake & Beautiful Isle of Somewhere from the ’90s) as of late. No this ain’t Geoff & Maria’s best – that would be their gorgeously lazy Sweet Potatoes LP – but it’s still damn, damn fine. It’s got their recording of “Brazil”, around which Terry Gilliam based his great flick of the same name. It was produced by Joe Boyd. It features lotsa tasty Bill Keith pedal steel. And oh! It’s got Geoff’s voice – one of the 100 Essential Musical Keys To Spiritual Enlightenment – prominently exhibited for all to oogle. I couldn’t ask for much more.
5. ORNETTE COLEMAN “Who’s Crazy? 2” (Atmosphere Records France, 1979) My copy is beat, but so what. These were further soundtrack recordings that THE ORNETTE COLEMAN TRIO (O., Dave Izenzon, and Charles Moffett) made for soundtrack to the Belgian flick “Who’s Crazy?” back in ’66. And even I, a guy who burned out his jazz receptors way back in the early ’90s, can tell: this is hot. The trio format stripped what little fat there was from Ornette’s early ensembles and left his harmolodicisms to float up into the stratosphere like wispy dollar bills set aflame with a trusty Zippo lighter. Though Dave I.’s bowing bass does help ground everything in something thicker than the muddy banks of the Mississippi. This record could potentially rekindle my once-mighty passion for all things jazz. Rhapsody Films has reissued amazing footage of this music being created in real time, ca. ’66 – I’ll definitely have to see that sometime soon.
6. THE WHO “The Ox” (Track Records UK, 1970) – aka Backtrack 14, this is an odd comp. of ’60s WHO songs all penned by John “The Ox” Entwistle. The fact that he also sings all over these swinging, musichall-ish tunes helps me forget I’m actually listening to THE WHO for long stretches. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I’d think this was some weird SMALL FACES rec I somehow missed out on back in my inexplicable fascinated-by-Ronnie-Wood phase. My pick is the creepy “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” but none of this is what I’d call embarrassing. Anybody out there wanna try and get me interested in The Ox’s 70’s solo career?