Friday, August 27, 2010

Day 12: Let's Go Bowling "Mr. Twist" and the Olympia 1994 Preview Disc

I've mentioned before that the Albatross is full of lies and disappointment. Today it dished up a particular kind of lie and disappointment with a Fake Out. What I thought I was preparing to ingest today was the debut album from The New York Ska-Jazz Ensemble, but the Albatross had other plans. Instead, it dealt up Let's Go Bowling's Mr. Twist. I should at least be thankful that it kept in in genre. Must have been during one of those heady moments where I tried to organize the Albatross and it didn't take.

Without further ado...

Let's Go Bowling
Mr. Twist
This is the second instance of music I bought on purpose, and strangely enough it can be linked back to the same uncle, which honestly didn't occur to me until I started to write this.

This doesn't trace all the way back to Junior High School, however, this happened when I was already an adult. I was visiting my uncle and he showed me a few tracks of the California Ska-Quake compilation of third wave ska. Sure, it was catchy, it was upbeat beat, but deep down the truth of it more than likely is that if you put horns in something, I'm in. A genre of music with saxophones? Sold.

So I went exploring. What I found was that I had a definite preference for what seemed to be labeled "third wave" or "California" or "West Coast" or whatever they settled on. But what I learned most of all was that ska was at its best when it was doing covers. I discovered this by buying albums like this and the album like this that the case belonged to. I genuinely like the New York Ska-Jazz Ensemble, another 'super band' of ska players from other big time bands doing jazz standards with reggae influenced dance beats.

And honestly I can get by on this for the most part. I mean, saxophones go a long, long way. But it never really hooked. I bought a few of the albums from the artists on compilations that I seemed to like, but I don't really remember many of these CDs making much of an appearance in whatever kind of regular rotation.

Let's Go Bowling seems to have carried over a lot of 'second wave,' if I understand the distinction. They seem like they could perform some English Beat and be fairly faithful.

It's been so long that I really don't remember what song it is I identified with or liked. I'm hoping I"ll hear it and it will jog some memory and it will all come back to me. But perhaps not.

I haven't been listening to the lyrics as much, but what I have listened to hasn't had that sense of whimsy I usually associate with ska. But their horn parts are a little more involved than just horn blasts here and there, as well as plenty of solos. And an organ.

All good choices, but I don't find myself as into this as I think I should be. I remember having this feeling when I bought it and ended up listening to the Ska-Jazz band instead. All the pieces are here, I'm just not and was not as into it as I would have thought.

Various Artists
Olympia 1994 Preview Disc

Probably the biggest contrast so far in the project, this, obviously, was the yearly preview of all the upcoming classical releases from the Olympia label. I wish I could say I remember much about them, but I don't. The sticker on the back indicates that they were distributed by Allegro, which I seem to remember were a rather small distributor, but had a lot of stuff I like, so maybe some of that came from Olympia.

I guess the part that jumps out to me the most is the date. I can never remember when I started at the record store, but clearly I was there by at least 1994. That was a healthy chunk of my life spent helping people find Usher and Pearl Jam CDs.

I was hired initially because of my knowledge of classical. I'm by no means a total aficionado, but I was a music major, I had just left college with my music history classes fresh in my mind and my newly seeded appreciation for 20th century composition. I was also hired for my knowledge of jazz, which was much more developed, but there was another jazz expert hired at the same time. He would have, by comparison, liked The JazzTimes Superband a little more than the James Carter CD and therefore his tastes were more in line with the commercial interests of the store.

Being the store's 'Classical guy' had some amusing moments. First of all, there were four people with my first name, so we all went by nicknames. Mine was given to me by another friend on a separate occasion and as soon as the staff of the store heard it, I was forever Walrus. In addition to that, I sported (still do) long hair and a narrow three inch long goatee that was at times died green and even experimented with a handlebar mustache that, before I stopped, was done up like Salvador Dali. I worked at a record store, my boss had a purple mohawk, it was the time to try that kind of stuff.
What all of this meant is that, when someone had a classical question, the employee would tell the customer to hold on, then go to the intercom and say, "Walrus to the classical section." And then when this help, apparently named Walrus, would show up, he'd be a green-goateed, handlebar-mustached, long haired guy. The reactions varied between disdain, disappointment, shock...very infrequently a shrug. But ultimately I think stuff like that was part of the record store experience. I mean, again, I am by no means the expert to beat all and there are a lot of cats who know more than me, but I still knew my stuff, and I knew that section pretty well. So if you needed help, chances were pretty good I was going to be able to help you.

What I'm finding sad is that sixteen (Christ...) years on from getting this CD I'm not retaining as much about Classical as I once knew. I think what I liked about Allegro was that they had some of the less accessible stuff, modern composers or under-performed works. In with the Beethoven, Rachmaninov, Liszt, and Shostakovich there is Roussel, Kabalevsky, Vainberg, and Gorecki.

Gorecki had the closest the classical section (before Chant) had to a break out hit. And he is a modern composer, so I was much more happy with that. For a brief time, his Symphony No. 3, a dark and brooding piece of minimalism, was a hot seller. I wasn't sure where people were hearing about it, but it sold at a regular pace. And when people had trouble finding it, I was able to push other modern composers like Arvo Pärt, Gavin Bryars, and John Tavener.

The earliness of this CD I think is the only reason I got it. By the time I left I had gotten the person who eventually ended up managing the store into 20th century compositions and he had a natural inclination towards Eastern European composers. This CD focuses on both rather well, including composers from the 19th century (Glinka) and 20th century (Gorecki and Vainberg (Weinberg)). Had this come in later I never would have gotten it. He might have listened to it a little sooner than I have, but he's one of the people whose "Albatross" was much larger than mine. I remember visiting him a few years back just after he had dumped thousands of CDs in the trash because he just didn't want to deal with it anymore. And he still had a sizable collection. This CD has a piece from the soundtrack for a 1965 Polish movie about a soldier in World War II (Salto by composer Kilar) followed by the Soviet Anthem. He totally would have taken this CD later on.

And hey, that part of the soundtrack is actually pretty cool. A hint of Mancini in it, really. I like this stuff, I just don't know as much about it as I used to. I used to be surrounded by it all the time, absorbing some bit of it on a regular basis. Now I just drag it around from place to place not knowing it's really there...

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