Sunday, December 27, 2009

Owl (1966)

I don't know anything about Owl except that they were in Boulder and put out Tod Dockstader records. However the Dockstader stuff I have from them is absolutely, positively, without a doubt, the best avant-garde tape/electronic music I know of. This album has him working with a soundtrack composer and orchestra. The liner notes explain that he composed little passages using a synthesizer and tape loops, and then had the composer work them into a score and record it with an orchestra. Then Dockstader took the taped recordings and went to town with a razorblade and splicer. It's not even his best work, but it puts most every electronic "remix" of live recordings to shame.

The owl on the label looks simultaneously calm (left eye) and completely in shock (right eye) in regard to the sonic insanity in the groove that surrounds him.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Enterprise (1969)

This copy of Hot Buttered Soul is pretty banged up, but the Enterprise font and logo is nice. Enterprise was part of Stax Records that released Isaac Hayes-related albums.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Decca (1971)

This is such a nice design. A+ work, Decca!

This album is a lame football-themed comedy record. The "David A. Axelrod" credit jumped out at me when I came across it in a record store in DC. I knew he had a couple of records on Decca, but had never heard of this one before. Everything on the A side and most of the B side are garbage, silly football banter. But when you hit the last cut, "Run for Daylight," it's a groovy Axe jam. The vocals are a bit awkward and the whole thing has a slightly under-rehearsed feel, but the classic Axelrod production hits hard. It even has a short open drum and vocal break. If you have ever wished that your interests in football and David Axelrod could come together, this track is for you.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chess (1972)

This later Chess label makes me think of Lion-O from Thundercats.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cadet (1968)

Chess/Checker/Cadet is one of my favorite labels, but I think that the design of this label could be a lot cooler than it is. The horse head logo is so classic, but it seems under-appreciated here. Basically, I want a label that has the horse logo printed to fill the entire thing, white on navy blue. And if I REALLY had my way, there wouldn't even be any text on one side, like the Vertigo label. Just that logo, printed large and crisp, spinning around. Now you're talkin!

This Ramsey Lewis album is one of my most favorite records. There's few albums I pull out to listen to as often as this one. All Beatles covers, but Ramsey OWNS each track. Instrumental versions of tunes you know, via Ramsey's soulful piano and an orchestra, plus spaced-out Moog effects and tight funk drums.

Actually, I think I'm going to put this on right now...

Monday, December 14, 2009

GRT (1970)

GRT (General Recorded Tape) bought Cadet in 1969, which meant they got to put out all of the Chicago talent on this classic soul album - Minnie Riperton, Ramsey Lewis, Charles Stepney, Phil Upchurch, Maurice White. As much as the classic Cadet logo and design has my heart, I have to admit that I also really dig the businesslike GRT logo.

Charles Stepney is one of my favorites. This album carries forward a noticeable soft-psych pop vibe from the Riperton's previous band, The Rotary Connection, but with a strong soul flavor. Overall it's a really satisfying listen, but it veers into moments of saccharine indulgence that I suspect inadvertently capture what was going on culturally at the time. Take for example the opening track Les Fleurs. The opening bars are understated, groovy and downright sublime. The first time I heard those opening 10 seconds of this album, I thought it might be the best piece of music I ever heard. Minnie's famous voice is impressive, but by the time it hits the first crescendo at about 1:30, I'm reaching for the volume knob. Whoa! Let's cool out a minute. The track pulls itself together with a catchy "la-la-la" ending that always sticks in my head. I think this track pretty well sums up what's going on with the big picture of the album. Killer talent, amazing moments of arranging and musicianship, but a nagging feeling that ambition is getting the best of the whole exercise. This is 1970, the 60's are over.

"The 80's will trash the 70's for garbaging the 60's." - Ed Sanders, Fame and Love in New York

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Groove Merchant (1973)

This Groove Merchant label has several notable elements: the nice overall layout; the cool circular Groove Merchant logo; and, the fact that this label says "Two Giant Organs Come Together." Yikes. (On the sleeve, the title is, "Giants of the Organ Come Together," which is somewhat less obscene.)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Blue Note (1969)

A later Blue Note style. I think the curved text looks great on here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Reprise (1966)

Nice colors and great smoke on the classic Reprise label.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Prophesy (1972)

I'm a fan of the crisp silhouette and color scheme on this label. Reminds me of the cutout style of The Adventures of Prince Achmed.

My initial assumption was that Prophesy was on some kind of religious thing. Later, I saw that in addition to this Quincy Jones LP (which has a couple of nice samples on it) Prophesy also released an Amon Duul record. Seems pretty secular to me. Cool name though.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Charisma (1972)

"The Famous Charisma Label" has a great Alice In Wonderland theme. I noticed that this is the second Lord of the Rings related label I have posted, but I don't want to give the impression that I'm a Middle Earth enthusiast. This Bo Hansson record is a really good instrumental album with an eerie jazzy/proggy psych style. I think it's less rare than I imagine it is; I actually see the record fairly often, but every time I do I feel like I should buy it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Virgin (1974)

Here's a really excellent label. Wow!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Vertigo (1974)

Vertigo label from a few years later. It seems telling to compare the bug-out psychedelic Vertigo label in the very early 70's with the more restrained sci-fi fantasy illustration style here. This could probably be used as key supporting evidence for some sort of a PhD thesis about what happened to psychedelic culture in the 70's.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Vertigo (1971)

This fantastic label seems to be based on Marcel Duchamp's Rotoreliefs, which are a set of circular designs that produce an effect of depth when rotated. Check out the Vertigo label in action here. Duchamp suggests viewing with one eye closed for best results.

I read something that called Vertigo the Blue Note of 70's rock, which I this is a great analogy. Even the weak stuff they put out is pretty good.

This design just knocks my socks off!

Friday, December 4, 2009

SSS (1971)

The banded colors on this label make me think of Oskar Fischinger's animated cutout abstractions, like Composition in Blue. The music is sassy rock interpretations of Beethoven with a couple of nice drum breaks along the way. If only Fischinger had been animating in the early 70's, he could have used this bitchin' stuff instead of boring ol' Bach.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Uni (1971)

"Lucifer" is one of the recording names of Mort Garson, the freaked-out psych Moog maestro responsible for Electronic Hair Pieces, which are Moog interpretations of the musical Hair; The Wozard of Iz, which is a bizarre take on the Wizard of Oz along the lines of Bruce Haack's Electric Lucifer; and the amazing Plantasia, which is supposed to help your plants grow. Probably the best of all of his records, though, is The Zodiac: Cosmic Sounds album he did on Electra. All of his stuff is great.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Volt (1972)

Volt was part of Stax Records, and put out Otis Redding's music. The Bar-Kays are on a kind of groovin instrumental soul-rock flavor. They were Redding's backing band, sort of the other Stax house band besides Booker T. This is the second incarnation of the band.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Verve (1967)

Classic Verve label. For some reason, these seem to be printed off-center fairly often. At least the ones I have. This Gil Melle record claims in the liner notes to be the first "electronic jazz" album, with synthesizers and stuff.