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Vinyl

Vinyl love (revisited): Spirit of the West “Go figure”

(I started my Vinyl Love posts pretty much right after the launch of this blog to share photos of my growing vinyl collection. Over time, the photos have improved and the explanations have grown. And looking back at a handful of the original posts in this series, I found myself wanting to re-do some of them so that the posts are more worthy of those great albums. So that’s what I’ll be doing every once in a while, including today…)

Artist: Spirit Of The West
Album Title: Go figure
Year released: 1991
Details: Original German pressing, signed, numbered, includes a signed certificate from the band, band photo from their final show (also signed)

The skinny: Spirit of the West is one of my all-time favourite bands and one that has a special place in my heart, given that my wife and I got together at one of their concerts. 1991’s “Go figure” was my first introduction to the Canadian folk rock group and the CD copy I had of it followed me from high school into university and beyond. After carving out a celtic folk rock niche in the 1980s, John Mann, Geoffrey Kelly, Hugh McMillan, and Linda McRae ventured into alt-rock territory with “Go figure”, enlisting drummer Vince Ditrich to fill out their sound. I had been dying to track down any of their albums for my shelves ever since I began collecting vinyl again, so snapping up a copy of this album from the band’s website when they put it up for sale back in December 2017 was a no-brainer. It’s an original pressing that they found a few copies of left over from long past tours. The band all signed the cover, included with it a ‘certificate of authenticity’, as well as a signed photo taken at the band’s last ever concert in 2016. This is a treasure indeed.

Standout track: “D for Democracy”

Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 1993: #25 Primus “My name is mud”

<< #26    |    #24 >>

In Oshawa, Ontario, Canada*, there used to be an infamous record shop called Star Records. It was started by Mike Shulga, the child of Ukrainian immigrants, who rebranded himself as Mike Star and became a big player in punk and underground music. His record store sprouted a record label (the first home of The Forgotten Rebels) and a renowned music venue, but it was the shop that would see the longevity. It opened its doors in 1974 and didn’t close until the year after its founder’s untimely death in 2015. It was temporarily replaced by a Kops Records chain location but I don’t know what’s there now.

I mention Star Records today as a nod because it will forever be connected with today’s song of focus, given that the one time I ever purposely went to the store was in the summer of 1993 and it was that very day that I first heard “My name is mud”.

I didn’t actually collect a lot vinyl when I was younger. I had a bunch of Disneyland 45s, as well as the “Pete’s Dragon soundtrack” and “Mickey Mouse Disco” LPs. On the cooler side of things, I had an early 7″ of Human League’s “Don’t you want me”. I also had a copy Bangles’ “Different light” that I won in a contest and a really warped copy of The Cure’s “Mixed up” that I bought because I couldn’t find it on CD. But that was it. In 1993, I was moving from cassette tapes into compact discs and vinyl for me was already in the past. So I didn’t find much cause to wander into the famous shop that often drew members of The Ramones whenever they passed through the ’shwa, especially given that I lived in a town 15km away and didn’t often have access to my own wheels.

But on that day, I jumped on the GO bus into Oshawa on the hunt for a specific CD that I couldn’t find anywhere, a CD which I will not name today because one of its songs will surely appear a little later in this list. Of course, I found what I was looking for immediately, picked it up, and then, went back to the A section and perused the rest of the store’s compact disc wares. I found plenty else that I wanted to buy in the hour and a half that I tarried but the other CD I left the store with was Primus’s “Pork soda”.

It was a purchase that I made without having heard any of the songs from it beforehand. I had fallen hard for “Jerry was a race car driver” and “Tommy the cat” off their previous album, “Sailing the seas of cheese”** and I loved the claymation pig head on the album’s cover***. I actually chose to slip this CD into my discman rather than my other purchase for the GO bus ride home later that afternoon and after a brief ditty of an introduction, was met soundly by “My name is mud.”

“My name is Mud
Not to be confused with Bill or Jack or Pete or Dennis
My name is Mud and it’s always been”

A loud twang on a bass string serves as the wake up call. This is Les Claypool’s show after all. Then, he jumps right in with a punishing bass line that’ll have you jumping up and banging your head right along, no matter how much hair you have on your head. The first couple of riffs almost feel like a drum beat themselves but then, Herb Alexander jumps in to destroy his kit with a rhythm that merely shadows Claypool’s bass. Finally, Ler Lalonde adds some dirty guitar flourishes that augment the noise and serves as a dichotomy to claustrophobic white space. Dark and light, noisy and quiet, sharp and soft, it’s all waves, hypnotic and nauseating, a sea of flying bodies – hands, arms, heads, legs – all a sweaty mass of moshing.

I don’t know if Mike Shulga ever heard of Les Claypool and his band, but I can’t help but think he would’ve approved of their originality.

*Oshawa is the city where I was born and grew up for the first ten years of my life.

**I’ve already told the story on these pages about how I purchased a copy of “Sailing the seas of cheese” used in a store in Toronto before going to see New Model Army at Lee’s Palace and then, promptly misplacing the album, along with Buffalo Tom’s “Let me come over”, at Bathurst subway station after the show.

***Who else remembers the days of buying albums based the awesomeness of the album covers?

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1993 list, click here.

Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 1993: #26 The Waterboys “Glastonbury song”

<< #27    |    #25 >>

“Glastonbury song” is the very first song I ever heard by The Waterboys. In fact, I heard it and fell for it well before I ever heard of the band and their driving force and ringleader Mike Scott.

I’ve already told the story of my real introduction to the band when their fourth album, the now iconic “Fisherman’s blues”, appeared at number three on my Best albums of 1988 list. After finally giving in to the haranguing of my work colleague Chris, I downloaded the title track off of Napster, back sometime in 2000, using dial-up internet speeds*. When that marathon finally finished up, I listened to the MP3 a few times before going to see a film called “Waking Ned Devine” at the local repertory theatre and coincidentally, its opening credits featured the very same song. If I wasn’t already in love with “Fisherman’s blues”, that little bit of serendipity really did me in.

I purchased the album on compact disc shortly thereafter and had to admit to Chris that he was absolutely right. The Waterboys were right up my alley. It didn’t take too much convincing from there for me to check out their other work, which in itself was an interesting exercise. Much like how the band’s membership changed with pretty much every album, so too did their sound. And imagine my surprise when, in amongst all of these tracks that I was sampling, I hear this song that I used to note when heard on the radio seven years earlier but one for which I had never seemed to track down its name, or its purveyor.

“Yeah, I just found god
(I just found god)
Yeah, I just found god where he always was”

Mike Scott busted up the band after 1990’s “Room to roam” was recorded by pretty much the same personnel and continued the same themes and sound as “Fisherman’s blues” but wasn’t nearly as successful, critically or commercially, and really, as an album. Scott figured it was time to change things up but the rest of the band, especially fiddler Steve Wickham, weren’t on the same page so he recorded the next album, 1993’s “Dream harder”, pretty much by himself**. It was a more straightforward rock sound as a whole but still had Scott’s literate and storytelling lyrical style, name-checking Keats and Hendrix, paganism and religion.

Nowadays, the name Glastonbury seems to be synonymous with music and hedonism, the town being near the site of one of the longest running and perhaps most famous music festivals in the world. So it would be easy to look at this song as finding religion and having a spiritual experience at such an event. But I’m pretty certain that Scott had more ancient history in mind when he wrote the words, as is evidenced by the cover art for the single when it was released.

“Glastonbury song” is crashing drums and roaring guitars that are reined in and soothed by airy synths and Scott’s bohemian bard vocals. You can almost see him standing by himself in the sunshine, surround by green, hilly fields, dressed all in white, eyes closed, and soaking it all in, accepting the blessing bestowed upon him.

“There is a green hill far away
I’m going back there one fine day”

It sounds to me like a place where we would all like to go, one fine day.

*Some of you may recall the time commitment that this might’ve taken.

**There might have been session musicians involved in the recording as well…

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1993 list, click here.