A Day Full of Wonderful Music!

This morning I took a trip to my old hometown of Rochester and made my routine pilgrimage to my favorite record store – The Bop Shop. The owner, Tom put a record in my hands and told me that I had to own it.

Tom has always been a wonderful source for musique concrete, minimalist works, early experimental electronic recordings and other lovely treasures of the avant-garde. Many of my favorite LPs are original pressings from his personal collection.

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The LP he held was John Cage • Christian Wolff, a 1963 album featuring Cage’s side-long “Cartridge Music” – one of Cage’s earliest attempts to produce live electronic music by manipulating turntable cartridges. I’ve known Tom for years and he has never steered me wrong and this latest LP is no exception. Wonderful stuff!

I also spotted a box set in his shop which I snatched up without hesitation. Readers may recall my copy of Cyril Ritchard reading Alice in Wonderland which included a facsimile clothbound hardcover copy of the 1865 first edition with all of the original illustrations. Today in store, I discovered that Ritchard had produced a reading of Through the Looking Glass as well! And it too included a copy of the 1872 hardcover. How could I pass it up?

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Upon returning home I was struck by a recollection that a Kickstarter project had been initiated for a first-ever “Earthling Edition” of the historic Voyager Golden Record, (our message to the stars). As the Kickstarter page describes:

The Voyager Golden Record contains the story of Earth expressed in sounds, images, and science: Earth’s greatest music from myriad cultures and eras, from Bach and Beethoven to Blind Willie Johnson and Chuck Berry, Senegalese percussion to Solomon Island panpipes. Dozens of natural sounds of our planet — birds, a train, a baby’s cry — are collaged into a lovely audio poem called Sounds of Earth. There are spoken greetings in 55 human languages, and one whale language, and more than one hundred images encoded in analog that depict who, and what, we are.

The closest I’d come to the Voyager disc was the limited edition “A Glorious Dawn” single from Third Man Records. The single was composed and performed by Symphony of Science and credited to an auto-tuned Carl Sagan singing about the magnificence of the universe. And etched upon the second side of the disc is the image of the Golden Record.

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As a tremendous fan of Carl Sagan’s work and his legacy, and as a “cultural curator” of historically significant recordings, this anniversary Voyager project was something I knew I had to support, and to claim a copy for my library if at all possible.

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The beautiful box set is being remastered by Timothy Ferris – the original producer of the Golden Record, and will include:

  • A cloth-covered box with gold foil inlay
  • Three translucent gold, heavyweight vinyl LPs in poly-lined paper sleeves
  • Three old-style tip-on jackets, black ink and gold foil
  • A hardback book showcasing the photographs and art featured on the original disc
  • A lithograph of Voyager Golden Record cover diagram, gold metallic ink on archival paper
  • A full-color plastic digital download card for all audio of the record in MP3 or FLAC

What a wonderful way to celebrate our message to space!

And it turned out that my hunch was aptly timed, as I found there were only five days remaining in the Kickstarter campaign, and pledging to the project is the only way to claim a copy of this special release! I pledged immediately and look forward to the album’s launch in 2017.

Check out the short official video for the project and pledge while you still can!

Record Store Day (Revisit)

It’s been a busy week – I’ve picked up 50 new albums and am working on a post that will highlight a number of them.  In the meantime here’s a forgotten post from Record Store Day 2010 which fell through the cracks in the months between my old blog and the new site.

I hit various record shops in NYC that morning with a specific plan of action.

Record Store Map

Captain Beefheart - Trout Mask Replica
Trout Mask Replica (1969)

“A squid eating dough in a polyethylene bag is fast ‘n bulbous! Got me?”

I was blown away when I found this disc.  It’s been on my wish-list for quite some time, but it’s long out of print and highly sought-after, so I never thought I’d actually own a copy myself.

Matt Groening had this to say about Trout Mask Replica:

“I took it home and put it on… it was the worst drek I’d ever heard in my life. They’re not even trying!  They’re just playing randomly! And then I played it again and thought, it sounds horrible, but they mean it to sound this way. The third or fourth time it started to grow on me. And the fifth or sixth time… I loved it. And the seventh or eighth time I thought it was the greatest album ever made and I still do.”

The legendary John Peel once said that Beefheart “is the most important figure to emerge from the rock era of the 1960s and 1970s.  I heard echoes of his music in some of the records I listened to last week. And I’ll hear more echoes in the records I’ll listen to this week.”

He also called him “rock’s only real genius.”

Carl Sagan - A Glorious Dawn
Carl Sagan – A Glorious Dawn 7″ etched picture disc (2009)

“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”

Symphony of Science is a musical project designed to deliver scientific knowledge and philosophy in musical form.  For the song “A Glorious Dawn,” speech recordings of astrophysicist Carl Sagan and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking were auto-tuned and set to music.  The result was not a kitschy novelty track, but a beautifully philosophical tune that stands quite well on its own.

As an added bonus, the b-side of the disc is etched with the image that appears on the Golden Record which was sent into space on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977.  (Sagan directed the committee that selected the sounds for the Voyager LP.)

Voyager Record

Barbara Feldon - "99" single
Barbara Feldon – 99/Max (1966)

A strange and unusual item… Barbara Feldon played the spy 99 on the ‘Get Smart’ TV show back in the 1960’s with Don Adams. Here she sings seductively about her prowess, and then, on the B side, about her secret passion for Max (Don Adams). The music is in the same vein as Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Boots Are Made For Walkin’.  I also have a recording of Beck performing this song live.  “99” is the most rare of all my Get Smart collectibles.

Fred Wesley & the Horny Horns - Say Blow by Blow Backwards
Fred Wesley and the Horny Horns – Say Blow By Blow Backwards (1979)

The Horny Horns involved many of the members of Parliament Funkadelic, with Fred Wesley on trombone, Maceo Parker on tenor and alto sax, and production by George Clinton and Bootsy Collins.  I found this disc beside a stack of Bootsy LPs, but I had to draw the line for the sake of my wallet.

Parliament - Chocolate City
Chocolate City (1975)

Another original pressing to add to my collection of all things P-Funk.  “God bless Chocolate City and its vanilla suburbs.”

JBs - Doing it to Death
J.B.’s – Doin’ It To Death (1973)

Just as I was leaving the shop where I picked up Trout Mask Replica, I took a quick look through the milk crates of “bargain bin” cheap LPs on a small table outside the store.  Astonishingly, stashed among the mostly disposable LPs was this copy of Doin’ It To Death, marked at $3!

This album also contains favorites like “More Peas” and “You Can Have Watergate Just Gimme Some Bucks and I’ll Be Straight.”