This past November, Record Raid threw down at the Peoples Health New Orleans Jazz Market on Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. Countless vendors showed off their wares: one guy had a large focus on two-dollar records, another vendor from Atlanta had rare blues records from his personal collection going for $75 and up. But what’s the fun if you could just buy whatever you want? That’s why I went to Record Raid with only a $25 budget. What deals could I find? Do you get a well cared-for vinyl for $10 or a banged up copy that plays well enough for $5 (or less)? It’s a game of compromise, and this is a rundown of what I got.
(1980, COLUMBIA) PAID: $5
Written off as Dylan’s “Jesus record,” Saved is one of the albums sadly overlooked because the hipsters would prefer to remember the poet-songwriter for his folk revisionism. The arrangements are sonically rich, and Dylan sings with an inspiring gospel grace. This copy has a little fuzz from some wear, but it actually works for the record, the way it builds sonic tension before each track, especially side two’s opener, “Pressing On,” easily one of the most overwhelming songs in Dylan’s catalogue.
Of all the double albums that vendors offered (a pristine Something/Anything?, a copy of Sign o’ the Times), of course I gravitated toward a disco record. And Summers never sounds as funky. But isn’t Bad Girls her epic of female empowerment and “love- my-way” thrills? Understanding this record as a sprawling exploration of emotions and drives is key to knowing why it’s so important, and holding the hefty double-vinyl in your hand makes that clear.
This was easily the cheapest find of the lot and maybe the best deal. This is a frequently overlooked record when people discuss the Ian Anderson group (please tell me people remember more than just Aqualung), and the warm tones of vinyl play the heartstrings like a fiddle. Track one, “With You There To Help Me,” overwhelms the soul with Anderson’s haunting, bleating flute during the verse. And “Nothing to Say,” one of the greatest pop breakup songs, has never been more touching than the clanging piano chords that reverberate the way music only can on vinyl.
RICHARD & LINDA THOMPSON
SHOOT OUT THE LIGHTS
The last album between now-divorced Richard and Linda Thompson is a deft yet highly expressive thesis on broken promises and love lost. The simple arrangements provide a marvelous backdrop for Richard Thompson’s lyrics, which shine through Linda’s and Richard’s traded-off vocals on vinyl. (Did I just never notice that the vocals are louder in the mix, or is this special for the vinyl pressing?) Richard’s guitar bleeds on “Walking on a Wire” while Linda confesses an accidental-death metaphor, yet the track never feels like a session of marriage counseling. Side two explodes with the dynamic “Shoot Out the Lights,” a turning point I’ve never had the chance to appreciate on CD, iPod, or Spotify.
Winter’s cut of “Good Morning, Little School Girl” has always been my favorite rendition of the classic tune, and he flirts with a spiritual richness on “I’ll Drown in My Tears.” As for a vinyl particular, the back of the album jacket includes a note from Steve Paul, credited as “Spiritual Producer” for the album, in which he says that regarding blues, “Johnny feels [it’s] emotional. Rather than technical. Even emotional rather than musical.” That’s what makes this record so rich: Winter changes styles at any given moment. That context, which I doubt is available with your iTunes download, is essential for understanding what a killer record this is, because it refuses to be just a “blues” record.