Sunday, December 1, 2013
Yep. It's getting to be that time of year. Terrestrial radio started playing Christmas music on November 13 here in Chicago. Way too early, in my opinion. Especially when they play the same 10 songs every hour.
Last year, Vinyl Voyage went all Christmas for a week in what we called "Christmas Music that Doesn't Suck." Get ready, the "2nd Annual Christmas Music that Doesn't Suck" is just around the corner.
Over the last several weeks, I've been scouring the local thrift stores for Christmas vinyl goodies. This year, we are adding a few more to the rotation that now exceeds 450 songs. That's a lot of Christmas music. I read last year that the local terrestrial radio station that plays Christmas music has only 150 songs or so on their playlist. And it is painfully apparent.
New this year:
I can't believe I didn't have this album: The Carpenters: A Christmas Portrait. This album came out in 1978 and features the oft-heard, "Merry Christmas Darling." But it has some other great tunes as well, including several instrumentals. Nothing beats the voice of Karen Carpenter, in my opinion.
John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together. This is a fun album, with some silly renditions of Christmas favorites, plus some serious tunes as well. I love the Muppet take on "Christmas is Coming."
Ray Conniff and the Ray Conniff Singers: We Wish You a Merry Christmas. Nothing says early 60s like Ray Conniff. This was one of the best selling albums of 1962.
Narada: The Christmas Collection, from 1988. This I just picked up the other day. Narada, of course, was the New Age label founded in 1983. The popularity of this album spawned other volumes of Christmas music in later years, all of which were released on CD. This is the only Christmas album that was released on both vinyl and cd. This is mostly synthesized music and the instrumentation is very 1980s. In what was cutting edge at the time, one song boasts of being played on a "Macintosh computer with Mark of the Unicorn Performer 2.0 software." Another song is played on a Commodore 64. Hey, I had one of those computers in the 80s, too!
Plus, I have many, many more. Mostly compilation albums. Back in the 60s and 70s, department stores sold Christmas albums. Firestone was one of the first. True Value was another. I Found a Montgomery Ward Christmas album the other day.
More to come. I am hoping to get that playlist over 500 songs. We will go all Christmas music for a week starting Friday, December 20, 2013.
Friday, November 29, 2013
In 1963, Dick Biondi was the first DJ to play the Beatles. The song was "Please Please Me" and the radio station was WLS-AM 890 in Chicago. Fifty years later, Dick Biondi still spins records on WLS. Although he has appeared on stations all over the country, Chicago has been his home for most of his career. Now 81 years old, Dick Biondi is a Chicago tradition. In fact, I have listened to Dick Biondi my entire life.
Avoiding the crazy "Black Friday" crowds, I decided to stop at my local thrift shop today in order to peruse the selection of vinyl. And there, in a stack of discs, a young Dick Biondi smiled up at me. He had thick hair back in 1968, large black-rimmed glasses and a suave smile. Here was the "Wild I-Tralian," as he liked to call himself.
In 1968, Biondi was spinning records on WCFL AM 1000, the first true rival to WLS, where he had worked for several years. The album I held in my hands was Big 10 Summer Gold, released by WCFL in 1968. It was a promotional album, featuring a picture of Biondi and the other djs at the station. The album was billed as a sampling of the "WCFL Hall of Fame."
In the picture, all are wearing WCFL long-sleeved t-shirts, trying hard to look as cool as possible. Biondi was the only one actually pulling it off.
The album features some great music from the late 60s. Tommy James and the Shondells, the Turtles, the Association, the Lovin' Spoonful, the Shirelles just to name a few. The album is actually in really good shape, considering it is 45 years old and found in a storage bin at thrift store. I forked over a dollar for it, brought it home and gave it a nice soapy bath. As I write these words, "Five O'Clock World" by the Vogues plays on the turntable, an occasional pop and crackle a pleasant reminder of the past.
A past that includes a Chicago icon.
Today, Biondi has the 11pm-2am shift on WLS-FM, 94.7. Much too late for me, but I am feeling rather nostalgic for the voice that I can still hear in my head with his signature sign off: "Be good to your fellow human beings."
Thanks, Dick Biondi.
Vinyl Voyage Radio was created because of people like you.
Dick Biondi was recently featured on NPR. Click here to listen to the story.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Sunday, November 3, 2013
I recently picked up this K-Tel album at our local library's book sale. It was in great condition for an album that is 36 years old. This is a classic---K-Tel's Stars.
The album, as usual, features an eclectic mix of music. From disco standards to pop ballads to rock and roll, this album cuts across genres and offers a great glimpse of the year that brought us Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Annie Hall. Most of the songs made it to the Billboard Year End Chart for 1977. A couple are on the 1976 chart. And one is on the 1973 chart.
Here's the commercial:
This is the album featured on Adventures in Vinyl this month. Join us for a music trip back to 1977 through the magic of K-Tel. We'll play the album in its entirety and discuss the music, movies and news of the day.
Adventures in Vinyl can be heard to the following time (all Central):
Sunday, 4 pm
Tuesday, 1 pm
Wednesday, 2 am
Thursday, 10 am
Saturday, 12 pm
Sunday, October 13, 2013
This album has 13 songs and, if you know anything about music in the early 80s...yes, this has an Air Supply song. In fact, you can't have a collection of "love songs" from that year without including Air Supply. They had 3 songs on the top of the chart in 1982.
The album also features "Cool Night," by Paul Davis, "You Can Do Magic," by America and a song that was played all the time in my house back when I was in junior high, "Key Largo," by Bertie Higgins. Plus Charlene, Quincy Jones, Mike Post, Dottie West and the Alan Parsons Project.
Adventures in Vinyl can be heard at the following times on Vinyl Voyage Radio:
Saturday, 12 pm (Central)
Sunday, 4 pm (Central)
Tuesday, 1 pm (Central)
Wednesday, 2 am (Central)
Thursday, 10 am (Central)
Saturday, September 21, 2013
Meet Me at the Edge of the World, Over the Rhine’s new release, finally arrived. Although I’ve been listening to it for a couple of months now, nothing beats hearing it on vinyl.
This album is strikingly different from the band’s 2010 release, The Long Surrender. That album was darker and harder hitting, with such songs as “The Laugh of Recognition, “Rave On” and “Undamned.” Save for the blues-infused “Gonna Let My Soul Catch My Body” and “Baby if this is Nowhere,” the bulk of these songs are more contemplative. This is pure Americana.
At the core of Over the Rhine is Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler, a couple who have been making music together for over 20 years. This album is inspired by their pre-Civil War farmhouse they lovingly call “Nowhere Farm.” The farm is located about an hour outside of Cincinnati, in Highland County. In fact, one of the best songs on the album is a love song entitled “Highland County.”
How did you find me
I can’t remember anymore
Along the Ohio
My wreckage washed upon your shore
Ohio figures prominently in these songs, even more than in their 2003 double-album release, Ohio. Most of the songs reference the state in one way or another. The song “All Over Ohio,” the first true duet by Bergquist and Detweiler, is the highlight of the album.
I still get shivers when I hear
You singin’ down the hall
I’m gonna kiss you all over Ohio
That song features lovingly penned allusions to Ohio and snippets of the couple’s biography. Detweiler sings about his father:
And the halleujah chorus
Used to make my Daddy cry
I still wonder ‘bout the ruckus
Angels make up there on high
In the meanwhile there are measures
We can take to get us by
Lay me down next to you in Ohio
And gives a rare, pointed commentary on current politics:
I have seen the slow corruption
Of the best ideas of Christ
In the pulpits of our nation
Gospel turned into white lies
If you preach a subtle hatred -
The bible as your alibi
Goddam you right here in Ohio
With music and lyrics steeped in imagery and emotion, these songs act like paint on a canvas. This may be the most poignant and mature album they have ever made. Never ones to underestimate their fans, Meet Me at the Edge of the World continues OtR’s tradition of making music that not only tells stories but feel as if they are late night conversations among friends.
“Sacred Ground,” the third song on the album, tells the story of the veins of coal that stretched through southern Ohio and the many hands that have toiled bringing the coal to the surface. It is hauntingly sung by Bergquist and Detweiler with beautiful harmony.
Love me like a memory held too long
Like the need to feel some forgotten song
Kiss me to chills like there’s only me
Like it’s hard to kill the last cottonwood tree
Love me later when the stars fall down
A burning light for a wedding gown
They stole the blood right out of this ground
They’d still kick a flower when it’s down
Help me trace the scars on mountains
The sun that sets in a bloody fountain
Take me home and lay me down
On the hungry earth (Love me, love me)
On the sacred ground
Although it’s nice to hear Linford taking his turn singing on some of the tracks, Karin Bergquist has never sounded better. She has a voice infused with soul; an ability to pull emotion and hit one in the gut with a turn of phrase. In “All of It Was Music,” she hints at the couple’s tumultuous past and admits that it was music that held them together, especially in their early days living in the Over the Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnati:
The night was bending in a grin
As streetlight shadows tattooed skin
Whatever we were tangled in
All of it was music
The bed sheets were our whitest flag
The war became a game of tag
We surrendered all we had
And all we had was music
The humming of the window unit
The street noise often sang right through it
A drunken song somehow we knew that
Even it was music
The newness of uncovered skin
Your messy hair your goofy grin
Your shattered places deep within
All of it was music
In the opening track, “Meet Me at the Edge of the World,” Karin Berquist invites us into their world, reminding us later in "Called Home" to "leave the edges wild." The album careens around themes of home, love and loss and offers up a couple of Linford’s instrumentals. It then ends with the beautiful “Favorite Time of Light,” that moment when the sun is just about to dip beyond the horizon, casting the sky in a radiant warm hue. It is those moments that are most important, when we stop and gaze upon the beauty of the world, holding our loved ones close and forgetting, for a moment, our worries and fears.
Leave the dishes in the sink don’t overthink it
Close up the brokenhearted piano
Join me on the porch if you can swing it
Let’s dream an ocean in Ohio
You’ve been working so hard I can feel it -
The clean and honest sweat upon your skin
I wanna see the rosy light on your face
Is this evening free or did it cost us everything
It’s our favorite time of light
Just before the day kisses the night
You see the redwing blackbirds fly
The sun’s a big ol’ lazy eye
And when the day is bending low
And rolling fields begin to glow
Feels like we traveled all this way
Just so I could hear you say
It’s our favorite
Our favorite time of light
I wanna see you smiling
On Sunday afternoon
I want your soul to sing you
An everlasting tune
("Earthbound Love Song")
("Earthbound Love Song")
Meet Me at the Edge of the World Track Listing:
1. Meet Me At The Edge Of The World
2. Called Home
3. Sacred Ground
4. I'd Want You
5. Gonna Let My Soul Catch My Body
6. All Of It Was Music
7. Don’t Let The Bastards Get You Down
8. Highland County
1. All Over Ohio
2. Earthbound Love Song
3. Against The Grain
4. It Makes No Difference
5. Blue Jean Sky
7. Baby If This Is Nowhere
8. Wildflower Bouquet
9. The Birds Of Nowhere Farm
10. Favorite Time Of Light
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
After an extended summer hiatus, Adventures in Vinyl is back with a very special K-Tel album from 1972. First of all, this album is brand new--never opened. You'll be hearing it first played on AiV.
Secondly, this album was a K-Tel album, but also a "Top Star Festival" album, which was the record label of the United Nations. Yeah, that United Nations. They had released several albums in the 60s and early 70s with all proceeds going to refugee aid. As far as I know, this is the only one released by K-Tel.
The album came out in 1972 and was advertised like any other K-Tel album on television. It contains hits from James Taylor, Elton John, the Osmonds, Rod Stewart and many, many more--another great sampling of music from the time.
And, as a special treat, it also has a very rare recording of Aretha Franklin covering Frank Sinatra's "My Way." This was never released until 2008. How K-Tel got a hold of that recording, I do not know.