[…continued from last post]
This was not an efficient year if music acquisition. Once again, I missed the anniversary sale at Harvest Records, where everything is a dollar or less. So that skewed the costs upward a little. But I did have a generous reader send me a cache of rather amazing records out of the goodness of their heart; which never hurts. And a few promos came over the transom. That did not hurt either. I struggle with the accepting promos all of the time. The cheapskate with no money in me wants free promos. Technically, I am “press” after all of these years. But the person who identifies with the struggles of the artist would prefer to pay full retail for everything that I knew came from a struggling artist. And most artists struggle. Almost all of the artists I prefer struggle. That’s just the nature of things. But should I not review something I did not have the money for right now? But they are willing to front me a promo? It’s something I struggle internally with.
If it’s a DL in question, and I sample it and like it, I usually buy it right then and there for the review. I can then put it on my device and listen in the car; a critical factor for writing a review worth anything. Bandcamp usually will let me pay more than asking for a DL release and I always pay up by around 50% since the costs asked often seem low to me. But not always! I bought a DL this year where that was not an option. That’s down to the preference of the artist.
The cheapest thing I bought was a Rolling Stones 2xCD for $0.25. The most expensive was the “New Gold Dream [81, 82, 83, 84]” SDLX box for $49.00 and that was very well timed because that ship is sailing well on its way to three figures a year later. Used media accounted for around 75% of the intake. Down from 85% the previous year. But this was a year of buying more things directly so… good music karma. I got 12 titles from 2019. The same as last year.
2019 Top 12
- Gary Daly: Gone From Here
- Prince: Originals
- Shriekback: Some Kinds Of Light
- Barry Andrews: Contaminated Pop
- Rain To Rust: Flowers Of Doubt
- Simple Minds: Live In the City of Angels DLX ED
- Head Noise: Uber Fantastique
- Sparks: Please Don’t Fuck Up My World
- Anum Preto: Inferno Interno
- Gary Daly: Gone From Here Remixes
- Graham Parker: Squeezing Out Sparks Solo Acoustic 40th Anniversary
- House Of Waters: Rising
Gary Daly of China Crisis gave me the album of the year with his solo album. It was a humane, accomplished selection of tunes given a sensitive and emotive setting. Next, I was probably most excited by the selection of Prince material written for others. Sure, sure. The Kenny Rogers tune was still a Kenny Rogers tune, but the rest of it beguiled, and on material like “Make Up,” I was hearing best of breed Prince for these ears!
The twin suns of Barry Andrews with and without Shriekback had a very productive year in 2019! His solo album was at least a half step away from the Shriek-zone and the latest Shriekback album was hot on the heels of their last one for being very satisfying modern Shriekback. Which means that they are a finely tuned music machine at this point. Carl Marsh really brought his game to the table strongly and went neck-and-neck with Andrews for carrying the beast forward with great material that couldn’t be said to be dominated by either writer; the ideal situation for me as a fan of both. The last three songs were simply amazing. Such clarity of vision at building a powerful mood.
There were three indie releases with the right stuff that reached my ears this year. I like to hear a new generation having a try at the sound that I find so beguiling after 40+ years. I need to pay heed to those musicians knocking on my virtual door because there are probably more people in their rehearsal rooms ready to make the kind of music I want to listen to now than at any other period in the last 30 years.
Perennial faves Simple Minds released a full recording of one of their concerts last year along with almost every song rehearsed for the tour on four discs. I would not mind that being done by this band for every major tour. Old favorites like “Glittering Prize” were seriously deflated with pallid takes while personal favorite “I Travel” got a new lease on life for my ears. And I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the original arrangement. The rest fell in between, but even the worst here was miles better than anything on “Live In The City of Light.” And having Cherisse Osei drumming was a big change from the sound of Mel Gaynor for so many years. If anything, her lighter, percussive attack recalled Mike Ogletree’s brief time at the stool, and was of interest to me.
And Sparks have released the single of the year with a song that is increasingly sitting next to Jarvis Cocker’s “Running The World” on a very short shelf of vitally relevant tunes that reflect life in the 21st century with brutal clarity.
There were some amazing reissues this year! I got three reissue titles. I guess I don’t buy too many because more reissues these days are vinyl only. There’s not much point in that by my perspective. In most cases, I already have the LPs, thank you very much! I saw two albums on vastly separate ends of the commercial spectrum both get reissued in perfect packages; yet either disc was something I really thought would never happen! For that reason the top two are tied for this year.
- The Passions: Sanctuary DLX RM/Skafish: Skafish DLX RM
- Stephen Duffy: I Love My Friends DLX RM
Both The Passions and Skafish got ideal reissues; they sounded and looked great and allowed me to enjoy CDs of material that were only on wax in my Record Cell; an ideal situation. For The Passions, I only ever found the [superb] bonus material to buy on wax! In fact, earlier this year, I had bought a second copy of the great “African Mine” 2×7″ in the hopes that the vinyl would sound better than the copy I’ve had for decades. The “Sanctuary” album had thus far evaded my grasp so I was thrilled to finally hear such a great album.
I had bought the Skafish albums this century, confident in the idea that I would make my own CDs of them as I could not imagine anyone else doing the job. What I did not take into consideration was the tenacity of the artist himself, Jim Skafish. First he spent time battling with I.R.S. for the rights to his masters. Then he swam upstream to possibly remaster from vinyl before securing a tape master and the talents of a pro to put it on CD, with the help of a very successful crowdsource campaign. Now he wants to release more for the benefit of our ears and minds. Bring it on, I say!
I was happy with my 90s CD of Stephen Duffy’s great “I Love My Friends” album but obviously I was in the bliss of ignorance. Last year the album was re-issued in the form the artist had originally wanted with a bonus CD of contemporaneous material making a great thing even better! And the label putting it out took its name from a Duffy song! Could it get any more perfect?
So last year, I concluded by saying “I’d like to buy only things I really want to the tune of maybe $700-800 tops” and I managed to hit way below that mark at less than $650 spent, so I’m sated on that level. There was only one month with no purchases but rare was the month where spending topped $100. That feels great. I wish I could spend more time digitizing records that I already have but last year saw no vinyl played for the last nine months of the year. But this is poised to change this year. Hopefully. And I dearly wish I could find a little time to make a few CDs. The last few years have seen Click Repair software making the de-noising process almost instantaneous to my astonishment. But between the lack of pricey archival media, and the almost two years of buying upgraded hardware and software with which to make CDs [not to mention many other personal priorities taking precedence], the vast reduction in the time needed to remaster vinyl to make CDs [it’s the design process that is now the longest part of the equation] has yet to pay me any dividends.
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