Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas Has Arrived!

EmmetOtter

I’m quietly celebrating the holidays with a new addition to my vast Jim Henson library – this is the Record Store Day exclusive limited edition picture disc of the music from Henson’s 1977 television special, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas. The soundtrack was issued for the very first time for Record Store Day in 2018 and was limited to 2000 copies worldwide. This year a picture disc version was issued in a run of 2,500. Both editions were issued by the soundtrack record label, Varèse Sarabande.

Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas RSD 2019 Picture Disc 12-17-19

All versions of the soundtrack feature 15 tracks from the TV special, a previously unreleased song called “Born in a Trunk” that didn’t make it to air, as well as extended liner notes featuring interviews with the film’s puppet performers, and more.

The film was Jim Henson’s most complex endeavor to date. As Dave Goelz reflected in 2011:

“We built a 55-foot-long river that was about 10 feet wide and went all the way across the stage, and they built a radio-control rowboat for Emmet. It was so lovely and lyrical to see Emmet rowing his mom down the river. The idea that there was life along the river and that it was all interconnected was a great metaphor for people.”

The soundtrack features all of Paul Williams’ music from the special, including the fan-favorite, “Riverbottom Nightmare Band” and the heartwarming, “Where the River Meets the Sea,” the latter of which was featured on the classic John Denver & the Muppets: A Christmas Together LP in 1979.

Though I was too young to have seen the original television broadcast in ’77, I had the great pleasure of seeing Emmet Otter along with The Bells of Fraggle Rock together in the theater when they were featured by Fathom Events on December 16, 2018.

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Now I’ve added the picture disc to my library of 60+ Jim Henson-related LPs. (There’s one more Henson holiday disc I hope to secure, but as it has almost never surfaced on the resale market I’m going to keep it under wraps until one appears or a reissue is released.)

Happy holidays, everyone!

Just Keep Spinning – Reflections on Music Collecting

A friend kindly recommended my latest film screening – So Wrong They’re Right, a low-budget indie VHS documentary on offbeat 8-track collector culture and the 8-Track Mind zine. I’ve been exploring UK hauntological music and art lately so the retro subject matter fit right in. It was great to hear Wally Pleasant’s “Rock n’ Roll Yard Sales” on the soundtrack.

And serendipitously, while watching the film a related short appeared in my social media feed – an informational demo film to educate consumers about the upcoming compact disc format produced in 1982.

And WFMU just shared that Atlas Obscura published a feature yesterday called, “Inside the World’s Best Collection of Unintentionally Funny VHS Tapes” with this hilarious short!

Much like the VHS culture documentaries, Rewind This and Adjust Your Tracking, the 8-track film made me reflect on my own music collector hobby and how in the past year I’ve really put the breaks on my vinyl habit. Unlike vinyl, most 8-tracks are practically given away and as interviewees of the film profess, they’ve had to plead with Goodwill store managers just to get them to put their 8-track stock on the sales floor. (There are exceptions, of course. Discogs currently offers over 8,000 8-tracks in its marketplace, the second-most-expensive of which is a mint tape of Trout Mask Replica presently priced at $1,500.00.)

Captain Beefheart - Trout Mask Replica 8-Track Tape

But conversely, with vinyl, I’ve reached a point in my collecting where all the remaining titles on my wish list command $80-$550 apiece. And the days of scoring elusive original pressings of releases you’re after at your local VoA are long gone after the store’s inventories have been thoroughly picked over by eBayer resellers or by hipster employees who pull all the good stuff before it has a chance to hit the floor. And for my personal tastes, thrift shops have never been a good resource for the kind of content I seek.

Thankfully a lot of the rare early electronic, drone, and import tape music of the last century, and even of the 90s during vinyl’s darkest days, are being remastered and reissued by Dutch, German, and UK specialty labels, but with shipping you’re still looking at $60 minimum per release so I’ve resolved to reel in my habit and to spend more conservatively this past year.

It’s left me to wonder what the future holds for my hobby. I really enjoy the research and the unconventional subcultures surrounding the format, I just don’t know to what degree I can continue to participate in the acquisition and trade of the albums, themselves. And vinyl has been a significant part of my identity for many years, so I question how I’ll continue to occupy myself beyond this bizarre little pastime.

Thankfully, I have more music at present than I could experience in a lifetime, so at the very least I can kick back and enjoy exploring my archives. And I can continue to supplement my web-based research with more contextual studies from books specializing in my favorite genres. My next read will be Mars by 1980: The Story of Electronic Music by David Stubbs and should provide hours of reading enjoyment and hopefully an intimate understanding of a century of electronic sound.

Whether as a collector or just a researcher, this is indeed the finest time to be alive. Sites like Discogs and RYM provide instantaneous access to release data and listener reviews which previously took days or weeks of calls and form submissions to the LoC to obtain, and every day more and more fans upload thousands of hours or rare and exotic content from their collections to YouTube and file-sharing networks. It’s a curious phenomenon because when everything is accessible, nothing is rare. So, arguments for the paradox of choice aside, this is the greatest time in history for the inquiring listener. I plan to keep reading and listening, and maybe one day score a few of my remaining white whales.

Whatever your preferred format, be it 8-track, LP, cylinder, cassette, CD… just keep spinning.

MASSIVE Experimental Music Haul!

This past week I was bitten by the avant garde bug and dropped a few hundred on all the milestone recordings I had read about in my travels. It was excellent timing as I was surprised along the way when several rare but essential discs landed at my local antique mall and at the outstanding record shop in my old home town.

Morton Subotnick - Silver Apples of the Moon
Morton Subotnick – Silver Apples of the Moon (1967)

This was one of the first early electronic records I heard back in college and I suddenly decided that I needed it and everything like it. At that point the only New Music recordings in my library were Charles Dodge – Earth’s Magnetic Field and a few works by John Cage.

Morton Subotnick - A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur

Morton Subotnick – A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur (1980)

While youtube browsing Subotnick’s other recordings I found “A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur” which is a virtual assault on your table’s cartridge. It’s a ceaseless rapid-fire onslaught of quick, staccato mechanical tones described as “a ghost score – gesture sketches on magnetic tape.” This beautiful disc turned up at the antique mall that very weekend beside a selection of John Cage and Iannis Xenakis works and I snatched it up instantly.

Steve Reich Music for 18 Musicians
Steve Reich – Music for 18 Musicians (1974)

This album goes without saying. It is one of the most widely recognized minimalist pieces, on par with Riley’s In C from 1968.

League of Composers - Electronic Music Winners

Electronic Music Winners – First Recordings of the League of Composers – ISCM International Competition (1976)

(From the cover: ) In the autumn of 1974, the League of Composers-International Society for Contemporary Music organized an International Electronic Music Competition, the first undertaken by the organization. Tapes of electronic music compositions were solicited from the composers and electronic music studios all over the world. A distinguished panel agreed to select the winners.

When I dug deeper for information I discovered that parts of the Lansky and Krieger pieces were sampled by Radiohead in “Idioteque” on Kid A!

Electrosoniks - Electronic Music
The Electrosoniks – Electronic Music: A New Concept of Music Created by Sonic Vibrations (1962 PROMO Stereo)

This is the single most phenomenal experimental work I’ve ever encountered in my travels. It has everything – glorious explorations of bizarre, alien noise and free jazz (such as “Twilight Ozone”), Cage-like treated piano works (particularly the finale, “Pianoforte,”) and hints of synthesized melody that recalls the short “bleep bloop” playfulness of Perrey and Kingsley. It’s out there, but enjoyable at the same time. The only copies I found online were listed at over $200 but I happily swung this clean promo from an antique dealer’s collection for $30.

When I got it home and dropped the needle on it for the first time I discovered something even more exciting.  As the second track, “Moon Maid” began I found myself singing “The Martian Hop” by The Ran-Dells.  I stopped the record and cued up the novelty hit and sure enough, the entire opening of the song was lifted directly from the first thirty seconds of “Moon Maid.”  I scoured the internet, the Wikipedia and the Ran-Dells official webpage and it appears that for the last 50 years the sample has been credited to the Ran-Dells as “the first pop record to use additive synthesis from sine wave generators.”  I promptly revised the Wikipedia entry to acknowledge the work of Tom Dissevelt and Dick Raaymakers, (aka Kid Baltan) – The Electrosoniks!

Stockhausen - Electronic Music

Stockhausen: Electronic Music – Gesang der Junglinge & Kontakte (1962)

Produced by the electronic studios of West German Radio, Cologne, 1962

When I walked into my hometown’s finest record shop and inquired about Stockhausen, the owner turned to me and asked, “Do you have any yet?”

I confessed that I didn’t.

It was like a red alert went off. He looked up and called out, “Hey, he doesn’t know Stockhausen! Get the West German Radio Recordings!”

As I prefer strange electronic sounds I remembered Kontakte and Gesang der Junglinge being two memorable tracks from youtube and the 75 LP-rip megatorrent I picked up of his work. This was an original German pressing in unplayed condition so I didn’t pass it up!

The Copper Plated Integrated Circuit - Plugged in Pop

The Copper Plated Integrated Circuit: Plugged in Pop (1969)

This was a novelty recording produced by Sear Music Productions, Inc and released on the Command label. I already own Dick Hyman’s Age of Electronicus and Electric Eclectics (both released that same year on Command) so I trusted that the label wouldn’t let me down.

Can - Tago Mago (ltd colored vinyl edition)

Can – Tago Mago 2LP (1971)

Limited edition heavy colored wax reissue on United Artists. One of Can’s most experimental adventures. “Peking O” is a wild standout track.

Can - Future Days

Can – Future Days (1973)

Limited edition reissue on colored wax

Here Can journeys into proto-ambient territory with a lengthy and memorable title track. This is the album that introduced me to Can.

Can - Peel Sessions

Can – Peel Sessions 2LP (recorded 1973 – 1975)

Ltd edition colored vinyl reissue

These improvised recordings from John Peel’s studio are affectionately referred to as “the lost Can album.”   Thank you, John Peel for the hundredth time.

Can - Ege Bamyasi

Can – Ege Bamyasi (1972)

Yet another limited colored vinyl reissue

Features “Vitamin C” and “Spoon,” which I believe are some of their most famous tracks.

Each of the Can reissues are out of print but I was able to pick them all up at once from a single seller, each at cost and all with free shipping!  You can’t pass up an offer like that.

Terry Riley - A Rainbow in Curved Air

Terry Riley – A Rainbow in Curved Air (1972)

Spectacular melodic ambient minimalism. Each track is a side-long. Side B, “Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band” has turned up on a number of psychedelic compilations.

Perrey & Kingsley - The In Sound from Way Out

Perrey-Kingsley – The In Sound From Way Out!: Electronic Pop Music of the Future (1966)

As soon as this appeared on my record shop’s Facebook page I raced to the phone and asked them to hold it for me. It actually came in with a pile of early synth albums.

The In Sound is officially the first electronic pop recording. (1966) If you liked the humor and fun of Raymond Scott’s Manhattan Research, Inc you’ll LOVE Perrey & Kingsley.

There is a compilation set called The Out Sound From Way In which is much easier to come by, and it includes Moog Indigo which features the classic synth track, “E.V.A.”

Jean Jacques Perrey - The Amazing New Electronic Pop Sounds of

The Amazing New Electronic Pop Sound Of Jean Jacques Perrey (1968)

This was right behind The In Sound and I wasn’t about to miss my chance to take them both home. Again Discogs currently lists copies of this album for $53 but I got both titles for a total of $35.  Even better, the money went to support my favorite record store.

Pierre Henry and Spooky Tooth - Ceremony

Spooky Tooth / Pierre Henry – Ceremony: An Electronic Mass (1969)

While digging for avant garde albums the store owners handed me this gem and said they were confident I’d be taking it home. They were right. They explained that this collaboration ended the career of Spooky Tooth. It is, indeed, OUT THERE.

And finally, right up there with The Electrosoniks for explorations of the bizarre, I ordered this last but critically essential album.

Louis and Bebe Barron - Forbidden Planet

Louis And Bebe Barron – Forbidden Planet (1956) – 2012 National Record Store Day green vinyl ltd ed reissue

After previewing just the first minute online and reading that it was the first completely electronic score ever produced for a film, I just had to have Louis And Bebe Barron – Forbidden Planet (1956).  The original pressing was limited and most copies were signed by the musicians.  I quickly learned that the 2012 reissue reportedly cleaned up much of the surface noise that was experienced with the original PLANET label pressing.  To my surprise the copy I picked up turned out to be the limited edition 2012 transparent green Record Store Day issue; only 500 copies worldwide!

These eighteen classics are a wonderful start to my experimental music collection.  My new McIntosh pre-amp and power amp will arrive soon, and I’ll be sure to post an update testing my finest LPs with my new Ortofon 2M Red.