Friday, December 31, 2010

Michael Nesmith - The Prison (Pacific Arts Corporation, 1974)

Here's something. Michael Nesmith, formerly known for songs like 'I'm a Believer' and 'Pleasant Valley Sunday' shows a bit of his dark, edgy side with this release, 'The Prison.' The music on the album is actually intended to be secondary--it was released as 'a book with a soundtrack,' meant to be played while reading the story. The book is written in both English and French, and tells of a prisoner who ultimately realizes that he is confined not by the physical prison walls, but by the prison of his OWN MIND. Here's a little sample of Michael's prose:

"Jason was transferred into the prison one day when it rained. Ponderous and moody, he was nonetheless possessed of a keen spirit and wit which made him likable to some. It wasn't long before Jason discovered the hole in the wall. He noticed it one afternoon when he strayed from the rest of the inmates and their eternal games. It seemed unguarded. Jason stood startled. That such a break in the otherwise secure prison should exist with so much apparent unconcern from anyone struck him as strange. He peered through the hole but could only see a few yards. His vision was obscured by a mist which hung patiently outside."

I'm no literary critic, but this sucks. It reads like it was written in French by a teenager and translated into English by his little brother. Or Mickey Dolenz.

The label is pretty cool-looking. That's a dove on there carrying an olive branch, I guess to represent Michael's Peaceful Music Company. The album cover is black and white, so the green of the branch is the only color on the record art. And please, look at the words printed over that dove! 'Life, the Unsuspecting Captive.' 'Elusive Ragings.' 'Waking Mystery.' Who knew this kind of profundity hid beneath that green beanie?

Aside from the fiction element, this record is pretty awesome. It's not really like anything else I've heard. It's spacey, repetitive country with electric piano and rare percussion--occasionally some bongos turn up. The music is pretty subdued throughout, so it's a good record to put on while you make breakfast, relax on a Sunday evening, or sit alone in the dark, stupefied, as you realize that you, too, are living in the prison of your OWN MIND.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Iron Maiden - Piece of Mind (Capitol, 1983)

Brain on a plate.

This record most perfectly demonstrates Maiden's contemporaneous brilliance and idiocy. The music totally slays, but they seem determined to thoroughly exhaust their dull 'Piece of Mind' pun. First, on the cover, Eddie's chained up, in a straitjacket, and has a head wound repaired with a couple of screws, meant to inform you that his brain has been taken outta there. Lost his mind, you know. Then you flip the record over, and there's a verse from 'Revelations':

And God shall wipe away all tears from
their eyes; and there shall be no more
Death. Neither sorrow, nor crying.
Neither shall there be any more Brain;
for the former things are passed away now.

In the context of that familiar Maiden artwork, this verse seems unnecessary, but it's not totally out of place. The art's scary, the music is heavy, we're all gonna die and lose our brains, whatever. But then you slide the record out of the sleeve and see they haven't done anything violent or awesome with Eddie's brain, they just stuck it on a plate with boiled cauliflower and baby carrots. That's it, man. Brain on a plate.

This was also the first record Nicko McBrain recorded with the band, kind of a fortuitous occurrence, keeping your focus on the 'brain' theme and helping the band impress the idea of mind loss onto the very mind you're doomed to lose.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bill Wyman - Monkey Grip (Rolling Stones Records, 1974)

Bill Wyman is the worst Rolling Stone. This is Bill Wyman's first solo album, and the label features a comic representation of a monkey grip, which in the actual world can be a sad display of cognitive limitation--it's when a monkey continues to hold onto an object even though the object is causing some adverse effect. I think a monkey at the Lincoln Park Zoo lost an arm due to some monkey grip-related event, maybe a zoo-goer giving him a burger or something that just wouldn't squeeze through the bars. This is the concept/image Bill Wyman's first solo album boils down to. There may be some mildly clever conclusion to draw here, but it's really just another detail leading to the ultimate incontrovertible conclusion: Bill Wyman is the worst Rolling Stone.

I would also like to mention that sounds on this album are SO MUCH WORSE than you could possibly imagine. I mean, you could look at the song titles: (1) I Wanna Get Me A Gun, (2) Crazy Woman, (3) Pussy, (4) Mighty Fine Time, and (5) Monkey Grip Glue, and say 'Man, those are lousy song titles," then assume the record sounds like a bunch of Stones B-sides. That's not the case. The music is lame, boring, and repetitive, the lyrics are awful, and anytime a melody turns up, it sounds like more like an intro to a goofy sitcom than something you would listen to on purpose. 'Pussy' is a standout on the album, a bluegrass ditty with a bunch of humming and Bill singing something about how you should not put your pussy down. It looks like I paid $2.00 for this record in the first place, but knowing what I know now I would say it's worth at least $2.50 to hear music so uniquely stupid. I chose to feature this label because I doubt many people are aware of Bill Wyman's career as a solo artist. It is now part of your consciousness.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mountain - Nantucket Sleighride (Windfall, 1971)

I think this is a good place to pick up form Chris Royalty's posts, because I bet a LOT of dudes who owned that Grand Funk 45 also owned this Mountain album. I say 'dudes' because it is impossible that the music on either of these records could have appealed to any 'lady.'

This label is interesting for a bunch of reasons. First, it looks super cool. Second, there seems to be some inconsistency between the words and the image on this label. The record is called 'Nantucket Sleighride,' which is when a harpooned whale drags a whaling ship in its wake until the whale tires out and dies. This concept is perfectly inconsistent* with the tiny-pupiled druggie bird whose image droops into song titles like 'The Animal Trainer and the Toad.' If these ideas cohere in any way it's totally lost on me.

Third, it's really weird that a band like Mountain got to design the label of their album. If you look through your record collection, most records from the early and mid-seventies have standard labels. But somehow Mountain convinced their label that this funky bird needed representation not only several times on the album's cover, but also on the label. I don't know how many records Mountain sold with this effort, but I know 'Who's Next' has the standard MCA rainbow label, and it sold at least a gazillion copies. Windfall Records folded shortly after making this executive decision.

*The woman who designed this album cover, Gail Collins, was the wife of Felix Pappalardi, a Mountain member who had produced several Cream albums. Ten or twelve years later, Ms. Collins shot Mr. Pappalardi in the neck and killed him. My impression is that Ms. Collins and Mr. Pappalardi didn't really 'get' each other, and this album artwork appears to be early evidence of that. If Mr. Pappalardi had recognized this schism in '71 or so, he might be alive today. Just sayin.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Grand Funk - Shinin' On b/w Mr. Pretty Boy (Capitol, 1974)

Both the frustration and the promise of record collecting is that there are sooooo many records in the world - rare records to discover, classics to make your own, favorites to keep coming back to. And its that same inexhaustible nature that thwarts any attempt to truly be a completist.

It's in that spirit that I post my last record - one that I don't remember how I got and one that I'm sure I've never even listened to. But damn, that is a hell of a cool label.

Thanks Alexander - this has been fun!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

New Order - Power, Corruption & Lies (Factory, 1983)

I bought this in my hometown shortly after college from a thrift store that benefits Habitat for Humanity. LPs were only $.50 - I still consider this the best cost-to-quality purchase of my entire life.

This scan is from the Canadian pressing, which, like the UK edition, wisely omits "Blue Monday."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mayo Thompson - Woof b/w 4'33 (Drag City, 2008)

7" inch that came with the reissue of Thompson's full-length wonder "Corky's Debt to His Father." Side A is a terrific spry snappy instrumental jam (also released on a Red Krayola singles comp); side B is a cover of the John Cage classic. Crucially, it's not simply silent grooves, but four minutes of room tone, cars outside, and accompanying atmosphere.

It took me a while to realize that the label art isn't a minimalist reinterpretation of the American flag, but instead a cropped version of the Texas flag. Patriotic either way.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Zs - Hard EP (Three One G, 2008)

One-sided 12" that plays at 45 rpm. Side A is a single taut and skronky 15 minute composition; side B is an etching of the John Dwyer (Thee Oh Sees) cover art, pressed on rich medium gray vinyl.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Kraftwerk - The Man Machine (Capitol, 1978)

Kraftwerk more or less wins label design with this one.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Slits - Cut (Antilles, 1979)

Island Records logos are frequently the ugliest. While I like the bubble-script-minor-league-baseball vibe of the Antilles logo, the Island visual elements ruin this - the centerhole disrupts the illusion of the sun (now it looks more like the Tropicana orange), and the palm tree looks like a synthetic buoy floating on a thin ocean by itself.

But somehow the inclusion of the band's name and silhouette redeems the label overall for me - it's charming and goofy rather than heinous.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Alps - Le Voyage (Type Records, 2010)

These labels don't just look like the cover; they also look like the album sounds. A review somewhere described "Le Voyage" as a fake soundtrack to a European travel film, and that's apt not just because of the title. Expansive but not endless, each cut more of a set piece than a "song", varied from track to track but related as a whole, pleasant but also a bit emotionally removed. This record has snuck up as one of my favorites from this year.

The labels are blow-ups of the similarly indistinct sleeve images. Though the album's production is clear and precise, there's still a slight fog on some tracks, a soft distortion around the edges or the equivalent a medium film grain, and the label art reflects that nicely. The labels relate to the cover without simply duplicating the same image on a smaller scale, and the art relates to the sound in a non-literal manner. Lovely usage of Futura medium too.

Gang of Four - Entertainment! (EMI, 1979)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Public Image LTD - Album (Elektra 1980)

An aspect of record design I intend to explore here over the next week(s) is the relationship between cover art and label design. It's odd that "Raw Power," "Bitches Brew", and "Blood on the Tracks" all look the same - but it makes more sense that Talking Heads and Ramones share the same Sire label.

On one hand, there's a sense of continuity - despite the changes in styles over time, each work is part of a modernist continuum, an addition to the catalog of human achievement. And there's also a legitimacy conferred - "this is like that", so it's going to be similarly good. But then fundamentally, they sound different and look different on the outside; why don't they look different on the inside?

"Album" (or "Cassette" or "Compact Disc" [unfortunately it's listed as "Album" on iTunes, and not "Download") exemplifies a close relationship between the cover and the label. There's no mistaking which sleeve this goes in. I love its literalism. I also particularly appreciate how the songs are subjugated to the album - on the the sleeve, the tracklisting is a small row of single words separated by commas. This object is not "Collection of Songs" or "The One with Rise" - it's "Album."

Monday, December 13, 2010

? and the Mysterians - 96 Tears/Midnight Hour (Cameo 1966)

The clearest musical memories of my childhood revolve around Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing" video, a Beach Boys cassette tape we listened to on family vacations, and my dad pointing out the piss-stained monolith on the cover of "Who's Next." It would be only a slight exaggeration to say that my interest in records stems from that last moment.

In that spirit, I'm going to begin my time at this blog with a song I remember clearly from my childhood. Whenever this came on the radio, my dad would impress on me how cool it was that the guy's name was a symbol. Greil Marcus said this should be our country's national anthem.

This copy actually belongs to my mother-in-law; we were digging through her records last Christmas and she graciously loaned this to me.

Collector Not Completist One-Year Compilation (2010)

To celebrate the first anniversary of Collector Not Completist, we put together a compilation featuring tracks from collectors who have posted on the blog in 2010. Each collector contributed one track, and they're ordered sequentially as they appeared on the blog. It's an exquisite corpse of smooth soul, bizarre sound effects, spoken word, sludgy rock, and synthy new age. Included with the download are notes on each track, provided by the collectors who contributed them.

For your listening enjoyment and year-end pleasures, here's the Collector Not Completist One-Year Compilation.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Various Mississippi: Pandit Prannath - Earth Groove, "70s Thai Orchestra"

In the last couple of years I've had many cranky conversations about Mississippi Records. This is another one, probably one-sided, unless there's comments.

While I've never heard anyone argue that Mississippi puts out bad stuff, the strongest complaints often are based around records like the two I've posted here. Nowhere on the sleeve or the LP is there any indication that this is a Mississippi release. No man, it's basically the same thing as the original. Of course, we're all supposed to know better and just enjoy it (the low prices usually help me forget my qualms).

As the stacks in record stores start filling with more and more product like this, from Mississippi, the Euro phony reissue labels, pirates, and now, Mississippi-inspired labels, the record store becomes as bogus as the Itunes store. Every record store on the planet has the same amazing deep cuts at deep discounts. Is that why there are now 4 Reckless Records in Chicago? Many of the Mississippi releases are retreads of Arhoolie releases. I can only assume they are legit. Arhoolie had the good taste to repackage things, create a new aesthetic with a little help from Crumb and others. Like so many other things, Mississippi is the hot record label (still hot?) that this generation deserves. Virtual bullshit, but it's cool right?

Various Get Back: Simply Saucer - Cyborgs Revisited, Pere Ubu - Terminal Tower, Comus - First Utterance

These are three of my favorite records. Maybe with the exception of Comus, I love them without any consideration of their appearance. The label of all three, Get Back, tends to put out reissues and packages of never released stuff that I almost always like. The LP covers are usually just the original cover, archival photos with Norton or Rhino style anti-design for the typography, or sort of approximately appropriate new art design.

Things really fall apart on the LP label, and the source of the problem is the Get Back logo itself. Scan back up to the images and your eye will find it quickly. If you weren't already familiar with it, from now on it'll be the first thing you notice anytime you see an LP from Get Back. In this sense the design succeeds as branding, great. The problem here is what the logo and the name of the label does to anything they release. It smears a stink of good-timey phoniness all over the record. It's very similar to the title sequences on latter day Disney and Warner Bros cartoons. The proscenium and the curtains allude to the old cartoon cinema, but the assumption that after all this time we'll be thrilled by Bugs' new drapes just makes me wish the movie was already over. What are we to "get back" to? The sort of rocknroll traditionalism of muscle cars, sweet tats, and big amps? This stuff bums me out.

Just check this junk out:
Yeah, there's a lot of cool stuff here, but I think you only need to hear the band Detroit's Lou Reed cover "Rock'n'roll" to get what I'm talking about.

To me there is an implication in the Get Back logo that record collecting is almost a reactionary activity. Would the Detroit dudes approve? We need to get back to the riffs of our fathers, etc.

Of course there are other ways to "get back". Instead of looking back, maybe the past can simply exist ontop the present, PKD style. Take it from my favorite Detroit man, second only to my dad.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Black Vatican - Oceanic Feelin'

This one is much more successful. For the Black Vatican LP "Oceanic Feelin'" I wanted to have a more graphic oriented design. I started with a basic mason wheel and then gave it some more context. Basically it's split at the horizon line between land and sky. The land sort of breaks across and does a little graphic dance before returning to the lower half. The feeling of the LP is summarized in that image. I really like this.

Here are some other versions and drafts from when I worked on this design:

Black Vatican - Black Vatican/True Primes Split

After all of these posts, most of my readers are probably starting to lose faith in me, wondering if I'm not just talk. I often have this effect. On my first day of teaching, a student rose to his feet and yelled at me, "You're a joke, man! A fucking joke!" Was he right? Was I a fool to have a reading assignment after the first class meeting? This young man was truly objective. He wasn't even enrolled in my class. He just happened to be using the computer lab where the class was held when outrage moved him to enter history.

He challenged me and I had him removed. Don't test me.

This is the first example of my work in LP label design. It's for a split LP my band Black Vatican did on Locust Music. Some elements of what I've talked about in my other posts are visible. The crisp text, evocative song titles, essentially all the information needed to whet the appetite of a listener's fantasy. For those not yet ready to dream I prompt with a photo, yes, an allusion to narrative.

Does it work? I've never heard a single comment about my label design besides the notes I received from the label. The cover I designed, in contrast, has been panned. On the cover currently has 0 thumbs up and 7 thumbs down. Not exactly the hottest meme, but the verdict is absolute. The only less liked photo for Black Vatican on the website is one that depicts Owen and me shirtless. 1 thumb up, 12 down.

Roedelius - Selbstportrait Vol. III " Reise durch Arcadien"

In the early days of my friendship with my bandmate Owen he introduced me to Roedelius and Cluster. At this time I was somewhere near the end of college and he was still in high school. Owen knew about everything. He had a sort of academic thoroughness to music even back then. Plus he was just past the generational split a few years younger than me where people really knew how to use the internet in a complete way. I was still dependent on the old ways of learning about music, meanwhile he had downloaded the last 50 years of music.

Anyway, one day we were shopping at Moondog Music in Dubuque. Roedelius was shelved in the New Age section at that store. They had one of his later selbstportrait recordings on cd and Owen picked it up. He told me about the music, but all I could imagine was something from Music From the Hearts of Space. In fact, it probably was played on that radio show, but I didn't yet have room in my psyche for a reformed understanding of that sound.

We popped the cd on in the car and drove to a park on a bluff overtop the Mississippi. We were driving across the ridge of Clarke Drive when Owen noticed that the cd was actually released by a Dubuque record label, a record label located on Clarke Drive. We were driving right towards it, maybe two blocks away. We didn't stop by the label guy's house, but we should have. The feeling that came over me listening to that music and feeling that kind of synchronicity matches exactly with the sort of soaring design of Sky Records' LP Label. Something else so perfect about its design is that the sky itself is so placid and plain, a real Dubuque miracle sky.

Years later Owen and I played a festival with Cluster in Baltimore. Both of our groups spent most of the day hanging out in the lounge backstage. At some point Owen's girlfriend came in to see us. She was drinking a huge bottle of Old English. Roedelius immediately noticed this beautiful girl. He stood up. He's enormous, and he leaned back down towards her. "What is that?"


"May I?"

Roedelius took the bottle and took a long, delicate sip. He straightened up back to his full height. Then he smiled with big white teeth, a smile beautiful like Kinski's, Beuy's, or even Althoff's.

"It is delicious."

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Brigitte Fontaine - I'm Single

This one, as posted, isn't quite right. Normally the images on this blog are from scanned vinyl. The image here was taken by my cell phone. I saw it while I was on tour with my band in Montreal. I didn't buy it. It was a rip. I love Fontaine, but when I asked the guy behind the counter about this unknown single I think he may have referred to it as "bullshit tango music". Maybe that sounds better now but it didn't push me over on a snap purchase. The sleeve for this 12" was the same banner of "I'm Single" in white text on a process yellow background. It just looked so good I had to take a picture of it.

Liliput - Die Matrosen/Split

I was inspired to post this one because of something that happened this morning. My family was in town and we got brunch together at a hotel in Greektown here in Chicago. As soon as we sat down, a flash of recognition came over me at the sight of the man at the table next. It was Dan Graham! It sort of looked like he was part of a breakfast following a Saturday night wedding. After he left, I tried to explain to my family who he was. I started to try to explain what "Rock My Religion" was, but I don't know if I could do that even after I've had my first meal.

In the book he writes about Liliput in a way that compelled me to track them down. I've loved the group ever since.

This single is again, a pretty straight forward text based design. However, I almost wish in this case the band had continued the inspiring cover design to the single label, or maybe even to a picture disk. Here's a possible version of that idea:

Judith Mahlberg - Sings Norse Songs

I sort of hinted at the milieu of this record in my post about Friend and Lover. Since junior high I was friends with a boy named Peter whose mother was a Norse folksinger and storyteller. She was an incredibly kind lady. I was aware of her before I met Pete. Judith had came to my school once or twice in elementary school to perform her program. I grew up listening to folk music so I was eager to hear her strange stories of weird trolls. She sang Norse ballads that were very fine and beautiful. I only use the past tense, because I'm no longer in contact with her. The last I heard she'd retired to Miami.

I realize this is another post with very little mention of design. The exercise of posting to this blog has made it clear to me how much I simply prefer basic text on an LP label. Even written in a language I cannot read, the titles on these tracks set my mind to dreaming of what the record might sound like.

I've placed at the bottom of this post an imaginary label for this record, a straw man. The image is sampled from the front of the LP cover. This character is a troll that is preparing to harass a little blond pig-tailed doll. While I love his face, isn't such narrative allusion better fit for the cover?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Maggotron - The Invasion Will Not be Televised (Cos' We Don't Have a Video)

During the summer when I was 13, my sister and I drove around Dubuque for a couple days looking for jobs. At some point we started pulling up to graveyards and pitching ourselves as a brother/sister lawn mowing team. Our Dad had done such work solo in Detroit when he was young. The way he talked about it, I couldn't wait to start mowing those stones. All I remember about this part of the day was the absolute disinterest of the cemetery foremen in our enthusiasm. Once we had canvased every graveyard in town the two of us hit some thrift stores. On that afternoon I found this Maggotron LP at the Dubuque Blind Society at the bottom of a wooden crate filled with National Geographics. Immediately I thought this thing was hilarious and strange. The cover of the LP is a crude painting that looks like a black superhero bursting through a television set. A bored, muscular white man watches from the couch. It may even be that our hero is crashing the set of Black Flag's TV Party cover shoot. For years I was convinced this was a really valuable record.

Side 2 has a pretty cool cover of "Caroline No" by the Beach Boys.

The Grateful Dead - Aoxomoxoa

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Woody Allen - Standup Comic 1964-1968

I love to listen to comedy records in bed so I can fall asleep mid-laugh. For a few years Woodrow was my reliable bedtime tuck-in standup. When I slide this LP on the player I always take a moment to stop and look at the label. There's something about this one. It's so incongruous with the material. The LP sticker sort of looks like the gates of heaven done up in golden age Hollywood style. This isn't dreamland, Andy, this is permanent. The rest of the LP design features several different shots of Woodman bowing his head, maybe getting ready to go on stage, maybe thinking up another joke for bedtime, or maybe just thinking about what he's done. My mind wanders to the film "Defending Your Life" when Albert Brooks goes to a purgatory called Judgement City. Or what if the Golden Girls were all already dead and the shows endless repetitions were little more than the last synaptic firings of Dorothy Zbornak, or Rose Nylund's dementia? The moose joke. I "looked into the soul of the boy sitting next to me." And I'm asleep before the side's done.

ESP Sampler

"How would you like to have your mind caressed?/Can't you feel that I'm possessed/With Psi Power?"
--Hawkwind (not on this sampler)

This might be the only record where the label truly was what snagged me. This one was in my parents' collection. Around 6th grade I became interested in the record collection that was housed in the entertainment center underneath the TV. Before I started listening to them, I'd run my toes across the spines of the LPs when I laid on the ground watching Mr. Belvedere, Mr. Wizard, and Mr. Spock.

The ESP sampler has a relatively subdued cover design. The title was interesting. I thought this was maybe a key to PSI powers my parents had deemed too PG-13 for my young mind. When I opened it up the label was just a huge list of words, probably names, but I wasn't even sure if they were song titles, names, or what. The record is a true sampler. Tracks only last a short while, fade-in in the middle, fade-out a little deeper into the middle. Some of it is music, some of it talking, and some of it "music". I was pretty sure it was the coolest record in the house. It took me years to learn how to understand the words on the label.

The peak of western civilization is summarized in list form on this LP.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Friend and Lover - Reach Out of the Darkness

"It's so groovy now/People are starting to get together"

I had a friend in high school whose mother was a traveling Swedish folk musician. She would go out on tour through Minnesota and the Dakotas for a month or two several times a year. Each time, she’d enlist a friend to watch her son as a live-in minder. His house was usually a free zone for him and his friends and it got better when he was being watched. The place was a big stucco house full of harps and papier-mâché troll and goat masks.

One of his watchers was the friend and lover of the male singer from this group. This was the nineties. He was no longer in that group. He had followed the trends and was now a Mark Twain impersonator. Anyway, he was a nice, wily old hippie on the couch upstairs. I was a little star-struck. This guy was known as a real sixties person in our town, and he too was a massive figure in the thrift LP piles I was searching those days.

When we finally had an introduction in the kitchen one day, his response to my name was sort of typical of guys his age (guitar store people, record store people, teachers). “Your name’s Roche? You mean… ROACH!” After a brief conversation I left to rejoin my friends. The singer called for me, “Hey Roach?” I came back. With a weird grin, “Hey Roach, I’m gonna smoke you.”

“Reach out in the darkness/Freak out in the darkness”

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Hemlock Singers - We're On The Move Again

My house is full of LPs, most all of them my girlfriend's. She's the collector, not me. I try never to own more than 3 crates at a time. The exchange rate for in store credit feels like a scam in every record shop in the world. Still, I do it every time. Even if its 6:1, trade-in is a better thrill than cash. So most record purchases I make are in a "fun money" head space. In recent years I've met so many people who are heroic collectors. One really has to dig through every record in the shop and try every possible misspelling for Ebay searches. I'd rather be hit by the bus. My feeling is that records should simply happen to you.

When I lived in Iowa, I still thought I had it in me to maybe become a great record collector. The fundamental difference back then, the real source of possibility, was that I knew next to nothing about anything I found in the stacks in record stores and St. Vinnie's. I was always learning and my taste was largely shaped by accidental finds and loans from friends. In all those days searching I only really scored twice. Once at the Blind Society in Dubuque I found a copy of Maggotron on LP. Another time in Madison, I found Lora Logic's Pedigree Charm for 10 cents.

One record that regularly turned up in my early attempts at digging through the thrifted LPs is what I've posted here. The Hemlock Singers was a folk group from the town of Epworth in rural Dubuque County. The group was on the sunny, vocal chorus end of the folk revival thing. The stuff was pretty clean, but probably no more so than what was typical of that genre and era. Although they were seminarians at Divine Word College, the music wasn't religious. In fact barely any of the guys in the group went on to become RC priests. One of the non-priests eventually became my father, so this should explain why I've zeroed in on this one, basically obscure LP. If your father put out a self-released LP in the town you live in, a trip to the thrift store is bit like being the kid of some classic rock person in a normal record store. My dad's music was permanently in stock.

The design of the label on The Hemlock Singers 2nd LP is really basic. Dad is listed as the artist on the jacket, but I don't think he did the label. It sort of looks like a default design, but perhaps he picked out the colors, in which case, cool color feel Dad!