Tag Archives: The Vinyl Review

The Vinyl Review: ‘Sledgehammer’

I saw Peter Gabriel was on the Lithium satellite radio station the other day. I was surprised to see one of his songs included in the 1990s grunge offering.

My only knowledge of Gabriel’s music is “Sledgehammer,” which was a hit decades ago. That wasn’t the song on Lithium. I didn’t recognize, and subsequently forgot, the song’s name.

The point here is that it reminded me of “Sledgehammer,” a song I thought was safely etched into plastic, stashed in my vinyl collection.

After digging through my records, however, it came up missing.

I have a new target the next time I go record hunting. I don’t want an entire Gabriel record, just that one song on a 45. I have a feeling the B-side is going to be marginal at best.

As a result, I ended up listening to Joe Diffie instead.

(Another YouTube suggestion: The video for “Sledgehammer.” Draw your own conclusions.)


The Vinyl Review: ‘Magical Mystery Tour’

One of the better albums in my collection is a roughed-up copy of “Magical Mystery Tour.”

I have mentioned it before in AMPED. I think I found it about a year ago in a used record store and only now pulled it out for a second listen.
The Beatles, while not my favorite band, deserve more regular play.

Listening to the music and paging through the mini-book included in the album jacket takes the listener/viewer to another place and time. Strange pictures add to the unique music coming from under the needle.

The jacket adds to the experience, much like one of Alice Cooper’s artistic albums.

I plan to get on the tour bus more frequently.

(A British word seldom heard in songs by American bands, but used at least once by the Beatles: knicker.)


The Vinyl Review: Bob Marley

Winter Storm Stella hit the region like a sickness.

Common symptoms of Stellitis: The blues, anxiety, grouchiness and depression. There is no medical cure.

There is, however, musical treatment. I pulled my copy of “Bob Marley’s Greatest Hits” and threw it under the needle. The music instantly put me in Jamaica, at least for a little while, as the snow fell outside.

Music has the ability to impact more than just the auditory sense. Some people see different colors in response to certain sounds.

We only use a small percentage of our brains. I bet musical stimulation is one key to unlocking a deeper experience.

Mozart seemed pretty smart.

Even at 10 percent, the rest of us can get the most out of our vinyl collections to get us through the tough times, including annoying late-season storms.

No prescription needed.

(For instant relief from the winter blues: “Summer in the City” by The Lovin’ Spoonful.)


The Vinyl Review: Millennial musings

I have written about the recent record renaissance in past reviews — the renewed interest in needle on plastic. 

It’s a greatly different way to enjoy music than the various digital options available today. It’s somewhat surprising that young people — yes, millennials — are among those buying vinyl. 

But millennials are slowly starting to approach another stage of adulthood. Some of them are in their 30s. The biggest segment of society will soon be having families. They will soon be facing the diseases that plague middle-aged people. They will be fighting time with greater intensity than 20-year-olds. 

Biology and chemistry always win. 

Society tends to treat millennials like a group of people with everlasting youth. They will constantly be on the cutting-edge of technology. Marketers are always trying to find what they want now. 

But perhaps it’s what they will want when they are facing male-pattern baldness and menopause that matters most. What will this large, influential generation want from the world when they have experience and have faced the rigors of the passage of time? 

Maybe they will want records to listen to and a newspaper to read. Maybe they will be the generation that will want to slow down. Will they bemoan the fast-paced lives of their kids and grandkids? 

Older people from different generations seem to always have something in common — regardless of technology — and that’s a want for the world to stop spinning so darn fast. 

Records are always spinning at the same speed. 

(To those born in 1984: Technically millennials [by some metrics] but closer in philosophy to Generation X, these people are in a generational gap. But that’s just a matter of opinion.)


The Vinyl Review: The Doors Greatest Hits

It was time for a record reset.
I have been listening to a mixture of music from plastic spanning several decades during the last few weeks. Records featuring gospel, country and R&B have been under the needle. 

It was time to cleanse the plastic palate, as it were. 

I pulled my album of greatest hits by The Doors. I have documented the record before in past reviews. But it’s been a while. 

Nothing cuts through the silence of a cold morning like the opening guitar riff of “Break on Through.” I tested the speakers attached to my record player more greatly than any other time in recent memory. 

There’s nothing wrong with Willie, Waylan and the boys. 

It was simply time to get back to vinyl rock basics.

(Other ballyhooed resets: Russian, television, the dinner table.)


The Vinyl Review: ‘The Sand in your mind’

A Willie Nelson record I recently acquired included a song I didn’t expect: “Amazing Grace.” Nelson provides his unique touch to this song, which is an inspiration to many. 

The record appears flawless; however, the song on my copy starts with a few skips. The plastic rebounds and finishes strong. 

I am sure there is vinyl-themed inspiration there somewhere. 

My favorite Nelson songs are probably his secular boxcar-style of country and folk music. 

But it’s always nice to hear a legend sing a legendary song. 

(Other amazing things: Ketchup, vacations — and Spider-Man.)


The Vinyl Review: A Sad Year

I recently read a list of artists who died in 2016.

The list, unfortunately, is pretty long. George Michael, Prince and Merle Haggard were among the names. 

David Bowie is also on the list. Haggard aside, Bowie is the only musician whose work is part of my vinyl collection. I wrote about Bowie when he died last year. 

His work will likely always be a part of popular culture. The same is true for most of the artists who died in 2016. The list is a sad one because they are gone. But a fitting tribute for the new year is to add at least one piece of vinyl to my collection from each of the musicians. 

The collection will be better for the effort. 

(A New Year’s resolution: Become informed, read a newspaper.)


The Vinyl Review: ‘The Best of Merle Haggard’

If I could have given the Donald Trump campaign one piece of advice, it would have been to play Merle Haggard during and after his rallies instead of The Rolling Stones.

Let’s continue this review with the understanding that it is politically neutral — not taking any sides here. This is just an honest observation based on an in-depth listen to “The Best of Merle Haggard.”

Songs such as “Okie From Muskogee,” “Workin’ Man Blues” and “The Fightin’ Side Of Me” seem much better representations of the president-elect’s message than the Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

“Fightin’ Side” is a song about defending the country against critics. The message in “Workin’ Man Blues” is self-evident. And working men and women are a group of people Trump vowed to defend.

This suggestion for campaign background music is far too late and, as they say, hindsight is 20/20.

(Politically correct revisions to Haggard hits: Change “We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee” to “We smoke Marijuana in Muskogee, but only for medicinal and recreational purposes”; Replace “Man” in song title “Workin’ Man Blues” with “Human.”; Change song title and lyrics of “Fightin’ Side Of Me” to “The Slightly Agitated But Willing To Compromise Side of Me.” )


The Vinyl Review: Willie and Merle

Willie Nelson performs at the 30th Annual Bridge School Benefit Concert at the Shoreline Amphitheater on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016, in Mountain View, Calif. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)

Someone once told me they thought Willie Nelson’s voice sounded like an instrument. 

That didn’t seem like a major breakthrough, as a voice is often considered an instrument. But upon closer listen to Nelson — and fellow country crooner Merle Haggard — I am beginning to see what my friend meant by the comment. 

If you listen to these voices, there is a quality about them that brings to mind a guitar or some other instrument being played. This is entirely different from how Peter Frampton made his guitar “talk.” 

It’s hard to describe with words. I recommend picking up a copy of Nelson or Haggard’s work — on vinyl, of course — and focus on their voices. I have recently acquired some of their albums and will talk about specific songs in future reviews. 

They certainly have unique voices — and they know how to play them. Unfortunately Haggard died in April at age 79. 

(Some other good voices and an unsolicited endorsement: If you are looking for a different take on the holiday classics, pick up a copy of a Straight No Chaser Christmas album. The a cappella group features great voices and a funny twist on some of the best holiday songs.)


The Vinyl Review: Hall & Oates

Daryl Hall and John Oates, perhaps better known simply as Hall & Oates, are making a debut in this review, but they are one of the more prolific duos in rock music. They have played together since the 1970s. 

In fact, you might call them dynamic. 

I have a 45 with “You Make My Dreams” on it. It’s has been a jukebox classic for decades. Most readers have probably heard of it. 

Those inclined to dancing might feel the need to do so when this one is under the needle. For the rest of us, it’s a solid song to throw on the player the next time you are touring your 45s. 

I don’t know a lot of music by Hall & Oates, but this small sample has me interested in a full album. 

(Foreshadowing: I recently acquired some Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard — look for them here in coming weeks.)


The Vinyl Review: Chet Atkins

Christmas isn’t Christmas without some twangy guitar. 

Enter Chet Atkins. 

I found a 45 with “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” and “Jingle Bells” recorded on it the other weekend. These are not versions of the popular songs that radios play very often. But they are classic versions. 

Mostly instrumental, it is good background music for when it’s time to throw up the old (plastic) pine. Stop at the Wine & Spirits store, pick up a bottle of hard eggnog and put this one under the needle. 

It’s the only time of the year that combination makes sense. 

(A warning you should heed: Alcohol should always be consumed in moderation. This rule is especially true for hard eggnog.)