Monday, March 23, 2015

Joe's MAC

The photo above is of Joe's Music and Audio Club, a second hand record, musical instrument, book, magazine and well, who knows what else exactly shop in Kuala Lumpur.

Shopping for second hand records in places like Singapore (where I live) and Kuala Lumpur is always an interesting experience. As retail rents are high, and vinyl hunting is - despite its current trendiness - still very much a niche interest, you end up in far-flung shopping arcades and warehouses that don't tend to be in the Lonely Planet guides. You rarely find a record shop next to a Starbucks if you know what I mean.

Joe's MAC is a great place to shop in. It's a good bit bigger inside than it looks from outside, and it reveals itself gradually as you walk through it, a bit like the Alcazar in Seville, but with more copies of "A Hard Day's Night". Rooms lead into other rooms with crates of records labelled "New Releases".  In fact, it's a bit like wandering through a video game: you keep glancing for vases in the corner to search for gold coins. I liked that it was organised enough for browsing, but disorganised enough to spring a few surprises, such as finding the NWOBHM band Dark Star's debut album in the Motown section.

Anyway, I picked up Millie Jackson's "It Hurts So Good", "Slade in Flame" and "Now That's What I Call Music II". The Slade album is my favourite one of theirs: you can almost smell the mid 70s from it, and I reckon that all Rock drummers should look the way that Don Powell looks on the cover. The NOW album is from 1984, when pop music was on the turn, and it's patchy: there's still some good stuff on it ("Relax", "Michael Caine", "Radio Ga Ga", "What Difference Does it Make?") but they're distributed pretty sparsely across the two records. One interesting point is how late 1983 and early 1984 saw some big names from the 70s (Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Paul McCartney, Hot Chocolate, Slade) still having hits, but with songs that range from forgettable to dreadful ("Undercover of the Night", "Modern Love", "Pipes of Peace", "I Gave You my Heart Didn't I" and Lord help me, "Run Runaway"). It's the Millie Jackson album I'm happiest with though, I'd been looking for a it for a while and was pleasantly surprised to find it there.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Middle Age Lament '15

When do you stop buying the latest record from one of your favourite artists? I'm wondering if there's a helpful checklist or flow chart that I can follow to determine when it really is time to call it a day, remember the good times and have an amicable parting of the ways.

The question has been prompted by the news that Alice Cooper is about to release a covers album of songs by his peers from the 60s and 70s. Honestly, I don't like the sound of it. Covers albums tend to be the ignored stepchildren of artists' discographies, so why should this one be any different? To make things worse, it's got "special guests". Uh-oh.

The problem is that Alice and I go back a long way, about 30 years in fact. A long time that, one which has seen 5 Prime Ministers, 8 World Cups, 5 US Presidents and 256 Spurs managers. I've been listening to Alice longer than the guy from Smokie was living next door to him.

I must have over 30 Alice Cooper records. I've definitely got all the studio albums, this despite the fact that he's only made two really good ones since the 1970s: 1983's "Da Da" and 2003's "The Eyes of Alice Cooper". Having said that, there are surprisingly few clunkers in the catalogue: 1987's "Raise Your Fist and Yell" definitely qualifies: a shrill, Heavy Metal album which manages to contain music even worse than both its title and cover, while 2001's "Dragontown" and 2008's "Along Came a Spider" aren't much fun either. On the whole though, he's managed to keep going by constructing a discography using competent mediocrity as the primary raw material. And I've kept buying them.

Believe it or not, the music is worse than the cover.
Believe it or not, the music is worse than the cover.
But recently he's been testing my patience, with live album after live album recorded with the same band playing the same songs. I've stopped buying them and I really think I should do the same with the studio albums as well. At heart I realise that this is an internal struggle: do I let my irrational record collector side override my logical, decision-making side? Now, I've broken ties before; I've never felt any compulsion to own a Black Sabbath record that doesn't have Ozzy or Dio on it, and I gave up with Queen after "Made in Heaven". It feels like it's time to say goodbye here too.

What about you? I can't be alone here. How many long time Simple Minds fans found themselves in HMV staring at the cover of "Street Fighting Years" and thinking "Do I really need this?" John Peel stopped playing T. Rex records after realising that if "Hot Love" and "Get it On" had been recorded by other artists he wouldn't have been playing them. Ever changed your Facebook status with an artist?