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Top Records Of 2017

Posted by Alan Kovan on December 19, 2017 (1 Comment)

First time ever a tie for #1!

Here goes!

1. Australian Testing Labs- Music For Aircooled Motoring LP on Polytechnic Youth PY 40. This one dropped in out of nowhere and blew me away. Cinematic Krautrock if I have to label it.. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrKy7YMq04M

1. Free Slope- Daydream Melodies on Deep Distance DD 54.

Another amazing record. Think Spacemen 3 meet Krautrock/Manuel Gottsching/Ash Ra Temple and then some. This is tied for #1. A great record.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9j58uF91xxM

3. Moon Duo- Occult Architectures Vol.2 on Sacred Bones SBR 169.

Admittedly I was didn't get into Vol.1 but Vol.2 of the Occult Architecture series is a winner!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rP-9axxbO4

4. Kelley Stoltz- Que Aura on Castle Face CF 094.

One of my oldest record shop customers done good. Absolutely love this LP.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjY0vt0iVJg

5. Sula Bassana- Organ Accumulator LP on Deep Distance DD 37

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9Q3i3n1WTM

6. Alien Stadium EP (Steve Mason & Martin Duffy)- Livin' In Elizabethan Times on Domino DD 128TX.I am a sucker for anthing Steve Mason related and this does not disappoint.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJPudZxrbqs

7. Eat Lights Become Lights- Nature Reserve LP on Deep Distance DD50

Another driving Krautrock-esque episode in the ELBL canon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xddTYT6IHPU.

8. Mark Lanegan- Gargoyle LP on Heavenly HVNLP137. Lanegan. 'Nuff said. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7JCndWHBRg

9. Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band- Adios Senor Pussycat Lp on Violette VIO 025. 

Top Liverpudlian songwriter releases his first new record in eons. And it exceeds expectations.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqYLztpLw3k

 

10. Luna- A Sentimental Education LP on Double Feature 0013.

You would think an Lp of covers would just be another addition to your Luna collection but nuh uh. This is a great lp.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqHWi7tmpK0.

I need to include this clip from Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile as it was the best song I saw live all year. Courtney shines.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Bbe0oVyKcc

 

Not a fantastic year but some uber great records. Dig around for some of these LPs.

Some are really hard to find now. Some not.

Dock Ellis Records has some of the Deep Distance and Polytechnic Youth LPs left.

From London, Germany, Leeds & Detroit with love....

http://dockellisrecords.bigcartel.com/

 

 

 

 

 

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Always rooting for the underdog- A Tom Petty tribute

Posted by Alan Kovan on October 03, 2017 (0 Comments)

 

 

I know saying someone who has sold millions of records is an underdog is a bit contradictory however that is how I thought of myself when becoming a massive Tom Petty fan in the late 1970's. As far as American bands went anyway. It was all about Bruce Springsteen pretty much.

Being the underdog is more a sports thing. I am a huge sports fan but my passion lies in music. Sports is entertaining but fleeting. Music always gives back. Always.

Much of my musical taste was shaped this way. The Beatles vs The Stones? I chose the Stones. Elvis Costello vs Graham Parker I hitched my wagon to Graham Parker. Ditto when it came to Bruce Springsteen vs Tom Petty. I liked Bruce but I loved Tom Petty.

My first introduction to him was in the movie FM and track Breakdown. He was wrongly hyped as some new wave up and comer. Wrong. With that stoned look and those sneering vocals and ringing Rickenbacker guitars he was more like a punky Byrdsy breath of fresh air.

Those first two LP's, both released in 1978, are just about as perfect as you could ask for. Rooted in Americana yet something very forward thinking and fresh sounding.

The debut. Breakdown, The Wild One Forever, Fooled Again and American Girl. The rest of the album is frighteningly great too.

Next up You're Gonna Get It which is a stone cold classic! The title track, I Need To Know, Listen To Her Heart and Baby's A Rock N' Roller. All great as is the rest of the album.

Damn The Torpedoes is the record the rest of the world caught up with Tom Petty. Refugee, Here Comes My Girl, Even The Losers, Don't Do Me Like That? C'mon. I think this record sold a zillion copies. Good for him and the band.

Hard Promises followed up Damn The Torpedoes. He seems to stretch out a little on this LP and it worked a charm. The Waiting, A Woman In Love,  A Thing About You and You Can Still Change Your Mind. Another great record.

This completed a run of four amazing records that started Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers career. Find me many bands who's first four records are this strong. Not a very easy task.

After this point I lost a bit of interest. My focus was on punk and new wave. I also lost interest when Jeff Lynne got involved. Everything he touches sounds the same. Horrifically synthetic which was the opposite of how I look at Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. Their ease of sounding so natural, authentic,energetic and well American was why I loved them so much.

So many of my friends who are music obsessives swear some of the best records Tom Petty released were after this I need to go and rediscover records like Wildflowers etc. I did love Echo when I heard it especially once I heard Swingin'. I need to go back and play some of those later records.

His passing has had a huge effect on me. He was gracious after a show in June of 1980 when I turned up at his hotel after a show at Pine Knob in Detroit on the Damn The Torpedoes tour. A friend of mine and I hung out in the hotel bar and waited. One by one the members of Jefferson Starship, who were playing Pine Knob the next night, came in. They were puzzled why we just kept to ourselves and they approached us. After sarcastically going back and forth with them we just admitted we really weren't fans. We were waiting for someone else. Then Tom Petty turned up in a kind of grizzly mood. However he did pose for this photo. Stalking before stalking was cool.

Perhaps I am missing out on some more great records. This is something I plan on rectifying. Even if I didn't those first four records have given me so much pleasure over the past 40 years I owe Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers an eternal debt of gratitude.

Thank you.

Rest In Peace.

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There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

Posted by Alan Kovan on May 26, 2017 (1 Comment)

Those of you who know me know I am not very religious. Spiritual yes. Culturally Jewish yes. Religious not so much.

I go to Temple once a year to honor my parents who both passed away on Memorial Day weekend. I go with my sister. I usually say this is because I don't want her sitting by herself. Truth is I like to be there when my parents names are read on the anniversary of their passing. I feel my parents deserve that. They were great parents who always put their kids first.

I am comforted knowing my parents names will always be read together because they passed away 5 years and 5 days apart both on Memorial Day weekend. Regardless of what the Hebrew calendar says I choose to remember them on this weekend. I hear their names mentioned at Temple and I light their memorial candles together. Milly & Denny together. Forever.

Tonight the sermon was about the chaos in the world this week. Much of it was about the horrendous suicide bomb in Manchester England. The rabbi also touched on the other atrocities this week: Coptic Christians in Egypt etc. In her sermon she mentioned that somehow the group targeted in Manchester made it personal. Young kids who have been looking forward to this night for months. Also parents killed for the crime of picking up their kids up after the show. It is more personal to me because I love Manchester. I visit there once a year. I have very close friends in Manchester and nearby. Tough working class people with a soft inside. Also very proud people.

I went to sleep Monday night hoping no one I know was affected by this mass murder. I woke up the next morning to a WhatsApp thread and saw one of my closest friend's niece was close enough to the bomb to feel the heat from it. She also had to escape through the carnage the suicide bomber caused. This is way too much for a 15 year to have to deal with for the rest of her life. Or anyone for that matter. Then I thought about those lives lost and the shattered pieces their families now have to live with. It is almost too much to think about.

What made my heart melt was how the people of Manchester aka Mancunians chose to handle this. With an outpouring of love. Sikh taxi drivers shuttling around people with a sign that said "Free Taxi". So many turned out to donate blood they had to be turned away. Cafe's owned by Muslims offering free food and tea for emergency workers. A woman on her honeymoon sheltering 50 kids in her hotel room. Domino's Pizza delivered free pizza non stop to hospitals treating the victims. A Rabbi showed up to the Police station with a large box of cuppas(cups of tea). Knowing Manchester I wasn't surprised.

The end of the sermon tonight the rabbi mentioned the words scrawled on a balloon at the makeshift shrine in St Anne's Square which had the words "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out". She thought this sentiment summed it all up. What she didn't know(or maybe she did) was this is the title to a Smiths song. One of the most influential music groups ever to come out of Manchester.

This also served as a metaphor for why I was at Temple in the first place. To honor my parents for whom the words "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" never seemed more apt.

 

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The Beta Band family tree

Posted by Alan Kovan on October 26, 2016 (0 Comments)

Having recently returned from the UK with a trip based around two Steve Mason dates, Hebden Bridge Trades Club October 8th and Wakefield Unity Works October 14th, I cant seem to get these shows out of my mind.

Stripped down from a five piece band to a three piece band for this tour the songs played took on a much different feel(or so I am told). I was happy either way since the chance of Steve Mason playing the US are pretty slim. I do hope to eat those words.

I thought this would be as good a time as any to appreciate the Beta Band and their family tree: The Aliens, King Biscuit Time and the Steve Mason solo albums. All worthy of being in any fans collection.

We can start with the Beta Band- The Three EPs with monsters tunes like Dry The Rain, Dogs Got A Bone, Inner Meet Me, Dr Baker to name a few. It is a compilation of the first three eps put out by them. So good in fact is makes an appearance in the film High Fidelity.

Next up the 1999 self titled debut album. The band went on record saying they hated it but I didn't. Even sub par Beta Band(their view not mine) is pretty damn good. It's Not Too Beautiful and Smiling spring to mind.

2001's Hot Shots ll was an improvement over the debut with a more song oriented album. Squares, Human Being and Quiet stand out.

2004 saw Heroes To Zeroes released. Sadly this would be the last Beta Band studio album. Assessment, Simple, and Easy stand out among others. This was a great way to end this part of the Beta Band story if it had to end. Which apparently it did.

If this blog piques your interest this 2005 release The Regal Years 1997-2004 is a must. 6 CDs of studio tracks, live versions, radio sessions, demos and other material.

This is where the fork in the road happens. Well maybe it happened a bit before. 1999 saw the release of King Biscuit Time's (basically just Steve Mason) No Style EP in the US which compiles two UK CD singles. For starters I Walk The Earth is worth owning this for. There is more. I Love You and Time To Get Up also fantastic.

There is also this 2007 release which isn't that easy to find. A little searching would pay off with some amazing tracks: Kwangchow, All Over You and Rising Son. There is even an uber limited version with an instrumental CD included.

Also a 2007 release is this awesome slice of whimsical psychedelia. The Aliens- John McLean, Robin Jones & Gordon Anderson. Setting Sun, I Am The Unknown & She Dont Love Me No More stand out. This is a light hearted fun record from start to finish.

One year later this masterpiece was released. 2008's Luna is fantastic from start to finish. I am not going to pick out any stand out tracks. It is just superb from the first song to the last. Not difficult to find unless you are a vinyl die hard. Then not an easy one. I may be able to help you there.

There was 4 track EP released n 2006 Alienoid Starmonica as well as other singles.

This is where Steve Mason went off on his own in 2010. Under his own name this time. This was the first sign of more amazing music to come. The All Come Down video. More amazing tracks: Boys Outside, a very personal song about depression and Hound On My Heel. There is also a bonus CD with a Dub reworking of this album with Dennis Bovell.

This is a heavy album. Very political. Very angry and cynical. Also right on point. 2013 Monkeys Mind In The Devils Time is another Steve Mason classic. There are elements of psychedelia, hip hop and everything else in this record. Tracks I would point out: A Lot Of Love, Lonely, Oh My Lord, Fight Them Back & Come To Me. Unforgettable listening.

Here we are in 2016. Meet The Humans is a pop record. I read in an interview Steve Mason wanted/needed to lighten things up on this record. This is my #1 record of 2016 by some distance. Several songs stand out on this album. Buy it. Cd, LP, download. You wont regret it.

I am so happy to have seen those two UK shows earlier this month. Steve Mason is quite an entertainer. Witty, funny, self deprecating, and quite a performer. It feels good when you walk out of a gig and just smile. Especially the encores Hardly Go Through and Dry The Rain.

Maybe this little blog will turn someone on to Steve Mason. I hope so. What would really be great is if anyone used this blog as a road map to some of the best music released in the last 18 years.

Others not covered in this blog but related are:
Lone Pigeon, Black Affair, Django Django, Brothers In Sound. Just depends how deep you want to get into this Beta Band family tree.

 

 

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Somebody Up There Likes Me- A David Bowie tribute

Posted by Alan Kovan on January 15, 2016 (1 Comment)

Like everyone else I know who woke up Monday morning with that gut punch of the news of David Bowie's passing it caused me to reflect. Immediately my phone blew up. First from my friends in the UK and Scotland specifically Leeds and Stonehaven and then my friends here and the devastation this news caused. These are some of my closest friends and fiercest musical comrades and even though we have had lengthy discussions and disagreements over the Bowie catalog I still had no idea just how much he meant to them. It then dawned on me how much he meant to me but I realized I was nowhere near the fans these two are. Why is that?

I recall a poll of David Bowie's top ten albums about 10 years ago and Station To Station topped the list. So many people name check that album and I just don't like it. After a spirited email exchange I decided to try it again. I walked into a record shop and looked at it and not one of the songs interest me. Sorry.

Even weirder is the fact I rate Young Americans so highly. YA just seems ..well.. more organic. It is just as soulful. Probably more so. What other album has Luther Vandross and John Lennon on it? The title of this blog pays homage to one of my favorite David Bowie songs ever, Somebody Up There Likes Me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xoXX5XX32xY

I am also one of the only people who rates Scary Monsters & Super Creeps as their favorite David Bowie album. The guitars on that record are incendiary at points. It's No Game, Teenage Wildlife, Because You're Young, Kingdom Come. Just nailing it.

Also Heroes. All of it. Yes that includes side 2.

Herein lies the beauty of an artist like David Bowie. There is, or should be, something for everyone in his catalog. I carved my own weird path. Others their own. No one is wrong. It is all the more fitting. David Bowie made it OK for you to follow your own path. In fact I would say he started that path.

This leads you into just what a monumental figure he is. Who else influenced Music, Art, Fashion, Sexuality so much? He was a true trailblazer. Constantly changing. The early years to Ziggy to Aladdin Sane to the Berlin years to the soul/funk era. Always pushing boundaries. Especially in the fashion world.

What really sets him apart in my eyes is how had his finger on the pulse when it came to groundbreaking music. He championed the Velvet Underground before anyone else. Ditto Iggy & the Stooges. He saved Mott The Hoople by giving them All The Young Dudes to record. They were about to throw in the towel as a band and along come David Bowie with a song that becomes a massive hit. There are probably more stories like this. People like this don't change. Once a mensch always a mensch.

I particularly love the way some Detroiters paid tribute with various billboards. I have yet to see one so I am not sure if these are real or photoshopped. Either way some Detroiters thought of it. Another reason to be proud to be from here.

There have been some amazing things said about what a gentleman he was from those who knew him. Those who interviewed him. There is this from Pegi Young. https://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pegiyoung/videos/1128420060516557/?fref=nf

It is a very strange feeling when you know you are a music obsessive or a music snob and it take 40 years to realize just how much you do love an artist. You are just as big a fan. You just didn't know it. Glad I bought all those Bowie records years ago. After 5 days of stories, videos, posts and tributes I have let it all sink in and I am in awe of the career of David Bowie. Specifically how he was able to keep his illness private and was able to say goodbye to his fans with one last gift. We could all learn a lesson from him.

May his star shine brightly forever!

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Why I Love Spiritualized

Posted by Alan Kovan on July 06, 2015 (1 Comment)

spz shoes

This goes back a long way. Pre Spiritualized in fact. My employees kept me on my toes at my record shop. A few of them kept asking for Spacemen 3 records which were not easy to find in the late 80’s in the US. At least not on a regular basis. I would pick up what I could find on buying/trading trips to London. The main shop I traded with in London, Vinyl Experience, was part of The Chain With No Name so we got plenty of bronze embossed Recurring LPs among other things.

Then came the split. Many would argue the split already happened on Recurring. One side Jason. One side Sonic. Not sure what to make of this then we were told of the first offshoot Spiritualized.

When Anyway That You Want Me came in I immediately played it and thought to myself yeah…I like this. The next single was Feel So Sad. I remember this like yesterday. We opened the box of imports and immediately put this on. It was warm here that day and not a cloud in the sky so this was in the summer. As soon as the record ended I declared Feel So Sad my single of the year. The year was only half over. We took our year end lists seriously in my shop so this was a bold statement.

Next up Lazer Guided Melodies. This was a lot to absorb. Much like other records that have remained close to my heart over the years this took a bit of getting used to outside of Shine A Light which floored me the first time I heard it and continues to this day. Then track by track I realized just how special this record was. I still feel 100% this way 23 years later.

002I walked into Dedicated’s offices in Notting Hill Gate and asked if they had any promo posters I could have for my shop. They were amazing and amazed that someone from a US record shop was in the lobby asking for these. While I was in reception I noticed the two ceramic figures used for the LGM cover. The angel and the devil. They were at least 12 inches tall. Maybe taller. Each one on a 5 inch by 5 inch black base. No one I know has ever seen or heard of these. I wonder where they wound up? I was happily given five of the huge red 5 ft by 3 ft fly posters and a roll of the smaller blue posters by the Dedicated staff. I still have one of each.

Pure Phase continued this as well. Another amazing album and the first glimpse of some amazing packaging with the luminous CD case. What was also nice for a record shop owner(not so much for fans as it became expensive) were the singles on various formats that were released.

let itThe hilarity of my being in London when the Let It Flow triple pack CD was released I will never forget. I went everywhere like a frickin’ obsessed madman. Virgin, HMV, Our Price, Sister Ray, Selectadisc, Vinyl Experience, Rough Trade and every other shop I could find. I put together 33 sets. I came back and only sold them as sets and while a few people complained I had to explain to them if you knew how hard these were to get you would gladly pay the asking price which was $35. Each extra $10 would end up paying for my flight. Otherwise we would only have ever gotten like 5 of them thus never making it out on the floor in the shop.

fuckedI vivdly recall when Fucked Up Inside was released as a mail order only CD in the UK. I freaked out I must have annoyed the hell out of the Dedicated UK offices making sure we got these. They are so lucky this was pretty much pre email. Ultimately a US distributor Dutch East got them and we wound up selling nearly 200 copies of this.

I then saw my first Spiritualized gig on the Rollercoaster tour with the Jesus & Mary Chain and Curve at the State Theater in Detroit.  Whoa! An intensity I had never seen before and I was hooked. The second time I saw them they opened for Siouxsie & The Banshees at the same venue. They were meant to stop by my shop before the show and sign records until we got a call from their manager informing me this was not going to happen. I was really pissed off. Then we asked if they would come by after the show and they agreed. This was by far the best night ever in my shop. The band stayed from 9:00 pm until 2:00 am signing everything and just having a great time. Over 250 fans came thru after some impromptu flyering at the show and some well placed phone calls.

sioux

spz pia

Thus began my relationship with Jason Pierce that continues to this day. After the Acoustic Mainlines show in Toronto I was taken upstairs to see Jason and he smiled. He asked “How long have we been friends?” I was pretty stunned. Jason and I email back and forth occasionally but the fact he considers me a friend meant a lot.

Jason has always been willing to go the extra mile for fans. Especially here in Detroit where he has become close with some notable local bands the Detroit Cobras and the Dirtbombs. He does have a big fan base here which helps. Not only because of the support of the local shops but his willingness to meet, greet, sign or just talk to his fans. 30 or so gigs later there is no better night out than a Spiritualized gig. Especially in Detroit as it becomes a reunion with my former employees and customers.

I realize Ladies & Gentlemen is the record most name check as their favorite. It is by far Spiritualized’s most popular. It means so many things to so many people. I will just leave it at that. Ditto for the rest of the catalog. I am not going to go into each album and you may scratch your head wondering why I stopped after Pure Phase. The reason is I love the noisy era Spiritualized. This is how I became a fan. Those early shows? They came out and blew your head right off. Two shows in one night at The Shelter underneath St Andrews Hall in Detroit remain two of the most amazing shows I have ever seen. By anyone. By any band. This was between Pure Phase and Ladies & Gentlemen. The first show was blistering. The second show even more so. They played two fewer songs at the second show yet it was 20 minutes longer. Really giving the songs space to breathe live.

At one point in 1993-ish one of my employees noticed a classified ad in the back of Record Collector magazine advertising loads of Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized rarities. I called and spoke to Pete who referred me to Mark. Turns out Pete was the dub and reggae expert half of Runcible Records. Mark was the Spacemen 3, Spiritualized and Sonic Boom expert. We started trading records. After a few trips we became friends. After a few more we became really good friends. Now we have been thru births, deaths and everything in between. I have watched his kids grow up. I was at his wedding. We celebrated my “big” birthday together at a party he hosted in 2009. He has become a very important part of my life. Common thread? Spacemen 3/Spiritualized/Sonic Boom.

What really impresses me are the fans of the band. I am a moderator on the Spiritualized message board. What I have witnessed over the years is incredible. It has become such a diverse place to post or read on everything from current events to blow by blow reviews of shows to a running thread on the Premier League. The unbelievable wealth of musical knowledge from those who post there is astonishing. In fact I need not look any further than the band recommendations from the message board to expand my musical horizons.

Every once in awhile you realize just how important this message board is in the daily life of the fans who read and post. A few years ago the message board went down for a few weeks. We couldn’t understand why. Eventually it came back and I know a lot us realized just how important it is in our lives. We even helped a forum member’s family sell off his record collection thru the message board after the forum member passed away suddenly thus making sure the records were going to good homes and at the same time helping defray the funeral costs.

While I have met several forum members face to face I feel like I know a lot of people from the years we have been posting. I love the photos of get togethers pre or post show around the world. I know how close other forum members have become as well.

I have put up forum members here, I have happily shown forum members around Detroit and I have been a guest at other forum members homes. This past May three of us got together near Leeds for a few days of catching up and general mayhem meeting up with another forum member while running riot in Leeds on a Sunday. Just look at this photo. Sheer joy!

Leeds

2014

2015

Here is an addendum to this blog that took place less than 1 month ago. In June 2015 it was announced that Spiritualized were doing a special one off warm up show at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds on September 25, 2015. It was a warm up for the Liverpool Psych Fest the next day. I bought a couple tickets and booked a flight. As anyone knows you never know what you are gonna get. Whether you are flying overseas for a gig or or flying to a sporting event.

I arrived on September 22. I had a Yom Kippur fast to contend with as well as jet lag. No problem. Fast completed. Feasting resumed. I must credit my dear friends and hosts in Leeds Judi & Mark for feeding me 5 star meals every night. No one has ever heard me complain about the food in England because the truth is I eat far better there than I do here with my limited cooking skills. Our friend Barry from Stonehaven( in Scotland) to which no trip overseas would be complete without seeing joined us on the Thursday.

On to the gig. In my wildest dreams I could not have hoped for a better show. Spiritualized were amazing as well as the new light show. It was nice seeing some folks I have met thru the band and meeting others for the first time. What happened after was even better. I was with some people who have been fans since the Spacemen 3 days. One had sold Jason an Lp at a record fair in the late 80's or early 90's and the others had never met him. What happens to most people is over time you build this myth in your head of what a person is like. Aloof? Difficult? Not approachable? Jason took the time to meet everyone and dispel any myths that may have been built up about him in fans minds. In fact he remembered which LP he bought off my friend and became emotional when another related a story to him about one of the Acoustic Mainlines tour shows in Manchester. He accepted a batch of CDs of crucial music from my friend Barry as well. Just blowing them all away.

On a side note huge props the the Leeds Brudenell Social Club for not aggressively kicking out everyone after the show. Allowing those who wanted to speak to the band all the time they wanted. I wish all clubs would take a page out of the Brudenell's book. Treat  people nice, keep the bar open, sell more drinks and everyone is happy.

People always ask me why I always go to Leeds when I have time and money to travel. Even Jason asked that after the show. "You came all the way over and you are spending all your time in Leeds"? he asked. I said I have loads of friends here and all that is thanks to you. Spiritualized and Spacemen 3. Had it not been for these bands I would never have become friends with all these folks.

Credit to Judi for the photo above perfectly capturing some fantastic moments in time. Not sure how this became the Facebook cover for this blog link but it has an incredible spirit. Fitting I think.

It really is amazing that whom I consider a few of my closest friends I have met thru Spiritualized. While I love the music I also love how much more Spiritualized have given me and truly enriched my life way beyond the music. Never underestimate the power of music.

 

This gets me back to the title of this blog.

This is why I love Spiritualized.

Please feel free to comment at the bottom. I would love to hear stories from anyone taking the time to read this.

None of the instores would have happened without the help of our local BMG office who also worked Dedicated Records. Laura & Mike.

Spiritualized message board address:

http://forum.spiritualized.band/

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Link Wray 1971 S/T LP Polydor 24-4064

Posted by Alan Kovan on July 06, 2015 (0 Comments)

link 1971

Link Wray’s Polydor debut from 1971 sounds kinda like The Band meets The Rolling Stones, with a healthy side of Van Morrison playing gospel blues somewhere in the Mississippi Delta.

When someone gives a description like that I would hope this would be a record people would want to hear. I had always assumed Link Wray was just the rockabilly dude who wrote Rumble. Ever since a nondescript burned CD arrived on my doorstep from an angel in Scotland by way of Jason Spaceman my life changed musically.

This LP, Polydor 24-4064, is one of those gems that needs to be introduced to all your friends who appreciate any form of rock, country, blues or psych. It ticks all those boxes and more. This record and it’s brethren Mordicai Jones and Beans & Fatback that make up Link Wray’s Three Track Shack trilogy are played with such honesty and feeling they jump right out of the grooves. Oh yeah, they get funky too.  All this recorded in a converted chicken coop. I know right?

The opening track, La De Da, is a heartfelt gospel-ish song and when you close your eyes you imagine a full band with backup singers just romping and stomping their way thru this all with giant smiles on their faces. Kinda like one of those Saturday night get togethers you read about that happened all over the south and Appalachia. People just showing up with whatever instrument they own and joining in.

Take Me Home Jesus is a flat out gospel ballad sung with such honesty and conviction you immediately believe.

Juke Box Mama. This is as funky as this record gets. Link digs even deeper for the vocals on this track. The bass sets the tone here and the rest of this song falls right into place. Juke Box Mama actually swings with that funky ass bass.

Rise And Fall Of Jimmy Stokes is 1970’s country storytelling. This however goes way beyond country storytelling. Again the bass is the pulse of this song. It paces this track along at an even keel. Not far off from Link Wray’s first rap track.There is an amazing instrumental interlude with Link’s guitar and bass dueling against one another.

Fallin’ Rain is just a flat out gorgeous ballad. Link’s voice even sounds different on this track. When the back up vocals come in your heart just melts. This whole song is played seemingly effortlessly. Just a joy.

Fire And Brimstone is a stomper. This time Link’s acoustic guitar leads you into a land below the Mason Dixon line. His vocals are more guttural. F&B just takes off and doesn’t stop. There is an instrumental mid section that does not slow the F&B down one bit. Wear comfortable shoes for this track. Your feet wont stop moving(or stomping).

Ice People is soft yet dark. Once again so convincing and wonderfully played.

God Out West rocks. God Out West rolls. It makes you believe once again. You get that signature Link Wray guitar midway through the song. Best track on the LP in my opinion. Singing Hallelujah!

I cant decide if Crowbar is country storytellin’ or a Blues song. It is a microcosm of this whole LP. It meshes so many styles it almost defies description. Wicked guitar on this song too!

Black River Swamp is a country gospel song. Beautiful in its simplicity and exquisitely played. Another song in which Link Wray’s vocals stand out like yet another instrument.

Tail Dragger has the most aggressive electric guitar on the record. Yet there is that funky bass. Link’s vocals are also at their most aggressive here. Yet another confounding track as it swings along albeit aggressively.

This record entered my life out of nowhere. Being a disciple of all things Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized I never heard Jason Spaceman name check this LP in any interview. Thank god my friend Barry in Scotland was listening and picked up on it. Now I cant imagine my life without it.

I have turned on a lot friends to this record and it’s popularity is growing with each person doing the same. I am not sure what it is. Maybe the amazing honesty and conviction within the grooves. Maybe because it was recorded in a converted chicken coop and not at Muscle Shoals or in any studio. Perhaps it is because it sounds so effortless and like everyone playing is grinning from ear to ear knowing full well they are part of something special.

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Pay It Forward

Posted by Alan Kovan on July 06, 2015 (0 Comments)

records

I am taking a break from the music related blogs to write about something I have been thinking a lot about lately.

Paying It Forward.

You hear that phrase a lot. I hope it doesn’t sound trite or overused. I do feel it is important.

I try and start out every day doing something nice for someone. It could be letting them in in traffic, holding a door open, giving someone short change at the register some money so they can complete their purchase or just helping anywhere I can. It makes me feel my day is starting off on the right foot. Many days the person that started the day bears no resemblence to the person arriving home later on. Such is the world we live in.

A few stories. Those who know me know I scour record shops and thrift stores looking for things to re-sell. I love spreading my luck to friends. Living in Detroit there are a lot of thrift stores and if you happen to walk in at the right time, before any other dealers or collectors get there, it is an amazing feeling. Like, Eureka! I have a lot of friends in the UK and here in the US looking for certain records that are either really difficult to track down or way too expensive. I enjoy spreading the luck or love or whatever you want to call it.

I have sent an original Neil Young- Tonight’s The Night LP, an original Miles Davis- On The Corner LP, a few Rolling Stones- Exile On Main St(original US flap sleeve w/postcards), a few Link Wray- S/T 1971(there is a DER blog about that LP here), Big Star LP, the first two Band LPs, Durutti Column flyers, several Spiritalized items to people all over. Maybe what I get back is “record karma”.

That explains yesterday’s haul. A short day hitting three record shops and two thrift shops. What I dug out of the thrift shops is probably worth 30 times what I paid. Then I get to give back in my own way.

 

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Take this record, Paul Jackson- Black Octopus. Ultra rare Japanese only pressing. Also cut Direct To Disc. The cover is fantastic. The name is even better. Record is mint except for the promo sticker removal on cover. Turns out this is a $100 record. A Jazz Funk classic. Also rescued from a box of 45’s hidden under a table at a thrift store were about forty 60’s promo singles that look unplayed for the most part. This includes a few psych gems. Since I was never a Jazz/Funk/Fusion fan I will sell or trade these records and pay it forward in some way by gifting a record to an unsuspecting friend. Same with the 45’s.

Here is another story so crazy and touching I need to re-tell it. Apologies to FB friends who have heard this already.

There is a thrift store chain locally called Value World. A couple of times a year they run coupons for 50% off your entire purchase. They are available in the local free paper here and come in your junk mail. I was standing in line at one and there were two women in front of me. They were buying mens clothes. An entire outfit. I simply asked if they had a coupon. They said no. What coupon? I said here take mine. They started crying. I thought to myself it is just a coupon and I had under $5 worth of items. They had like $25 worth. Not a lot but in a thrift store it is. Not the reaction I expected. One of the women grabbed my arm and said “Thank you so much. I want to tell you something. We are buying these clothes to bury our father in. He lost so much weight while he was sick none of his clothes fit. Neither of us work and we have very little money which is why we are shopping here. That coupon means so much to us”.

This is a true story. The cashier started crying too. Then other people in line started talking to me and thanking me. The moral of the story is you never know how doing a nice thing for someone affects them. In this case it was instant.

Life is complicated enough. It can grind you right into the ground. Somehow or other to be able to come out the other side and do something nice just makes the world a better place.

Bottom line- Pay It Forward.

 

We would love other stories. Comment below.

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10 Landmark Records at Play It Again Records

Posted by Alan Kovan on July 06, 2015 (0 Comments)

mby flyer

 

These will be in chronological order.

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1. Simple Minds- New Gold Dream

Blame this band and this album for my opening a record shop. I was mildly obsessed with Simple Minds and wanted access to all the imports LPs, and singles. Glad I did it. And I still LOVE them!

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2. Echo & The Bunnymen- Ocean Rain

Biggest band in the shop, at least thru the Southfield years. Any Bunnymen news was huge. Especially tour news. Ocean Rain was the biggest selling Bunnymen record in the shop. And I still LOVE them!

upside

3. Jesus & Mary Chain- Upside Down UK 7″

This is where things took a giant left turn. John Huston scoured the NME & Melody Maker every week. He asked me to order this. Then the Segal brothers came in and asked about it. Eventually I hired Michael and he and John took the store in a totally different direction then I would have. I have them to thank and blame(ha ha) for this. This is where the whole UK Indie thing started in the shop.

hatful

4. The Smiths- Hatful Of Hollow

The Smiths were obviously big news in the shop. The first few singles, This Charming Man and its gazillion mixes and then Accept Yourself, but the first album was just so underwhelming at least production wise. Then Hatful Of Hollow was released and at a really fair price for a gatefold import. This is where things really took off for the Smiths at the shop. The production was more stripped down and the effect was immediate.

It was also the Smiths that introduced us to the Warner Brothers Alternative Marketing department. These folks made it so much fun to work in the shop. Countless promos, meals, travel and lifelong friends. Jo, Bruce and Cathy whom had she not locked her keys in the car outside my shop we may have never bonded like we did.

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5. Spacemen 3- Playing With Fire

This was the first Spacemen 3 record we could get in on a regular basis. It used to bum me out to constantly have to tell people we were out of Perfect Prescription or Sound Of Confusion never knowing when we would see them back in stock. This is also a fantastic record. Which helps. Life changing.

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6. Mercury Rev- Yerself Is Steam

I remember the day this came in. Michael immediately put it on and I though to myself out loud this may be too noisy. Then track by track I just loved it. It was at this point I realized to keep my mouth shut and listen to my employees. Eventually we sold shitloads of Mercury Rev records. Only to be screwed every time they toured they stopped before Detroit.

loveless

7. My Bloody Valentine- Loveless

This could easily have been Isn’t Anything and maybe it should. We sponsored the Isn’t Anything tour show at St Andrews. See flyer on top of page. I hope the roughly 100 people liked it. While Isn’t Anything has this beautiful yet brutal sound Loveless has a more feminine pretty sound. Soon anyone? Genre changing.

screama

8. Primal Scream- Screamadelica

I suppose this was the shop’s foray into dance music sort of. Such a happy record. It reminds me of the scene in High Fidelity where John Cusack says “watch me sell three copies of the Beta Bands’s 3 EPs”. You could do that with Screamadelica. Such a happy record.

lgm

9. Spiritualized- Lazer Guided Melodies

Not sure what to add to just how important this record was to the shop. It still is to me. So much so I wrote an entire blog on Spiritualized on this site. We all fawned all over this record. We became friends with the band too. I would say this was thee most important record in the history of the store.

voyager

10. Verve- Voyager 1

The story. 1000 pressed by Hut. Made to look like a bootleg. 400 destroyed by heat in a warehouse. We wound up selling 275 copies of this or nearly half the entire pressing. Why are there no used ones floating around Detroit? Too damn good probably.

 

There are some honorable mentions:

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Ride- Nowhere

Another HUGE band in the shop. Those early singles were so good. That built up to this. Massively popular. So much so we had a nickname for a customer Ride Girl.

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House Of Love- Destroy The Heart 12″

Another great UK band who’s early singles sold well but this one exploded out of the box. We were so into it we chose sides over the b-sides. Blind or Mr. Jo.

primitives

Primitives- Really Stupid 12″

Sounds nuts doesn’t it? Well this was a massive single in the store. We were so into this band we had all their UK tour shirts for sale hanging like flags from the ceiling in Southfield.

Remember that?

Still sounds amazing.

lips

Flaming Lips- Hit To Death In The Futre Head

First major label release by the Lips. What a great record this is. That Ronald Jones era was amazing. Played the hell out of it at the store. Our American pet band with Mercury Rev & Eggs.

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Screaming Tres- Buzz Factory

Pre grunge. Anyone could sell Nirvana records or Sub Pop stuff. I always loved Screaming Trees and it started with Buzz Factory. They knew how to add the right elements of psych and hooks yet still retaining that heavyiosity.

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Pixies- Surfer Rosa

Another record I thought might be a bit too noisy and they just took off.  I recall taking Michael to a Red Wings game where he kept pulling the tape out of his pocket and looking at it.

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Galaxie 500- Today

I wasn’t sure what to make of this when it came in and got a lot of play. Eventually it crept into my subconscious and I became a fan. I love this record and it was certainly different than what was huge at this point.

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Verve- She’s A Superstar 12″

This is one magnifcent 12″. The extended version of this could go on forever as far as I am concerned. We sold a lot of it because this was the only way you could get it. That edited version on the Verve EP just doesn’t cut it. Nice try.

fucked

Spiritualized- Fucked Up Inside

This is where my OCD got a little out of hand. Someone saw a blurb about this mail order only live LP/CD. I must have sent Dedicated’s office in London so many letters(pre email for the shop) and made way too many calls. Eventually we got the CDs and sold over 100. Then I found a shop in London that had them on vinyl and every trip I would buy 10 copies. This went on for 3 or 4 years. Could be the most beautiful sleeve ever.

low fi

Stereolab- Low Fi 10″

Stereolab deserve to be on this list somewhere and this is my favorite release by them. They were an important band in the late stages of the shop. With all those limited edition things they did. Collectors heaven.

yc2 yc1

You Cant Hide Your Love Forever fanzine.

John Huston, Dave Segal & Michael Segal.

If you want a glimpse into just how much these guys knew and how passionate they were about music look no further than this fanzine. It still ranks as some of the best music writing I have ever read. To have it associated with the shop in any way was a huge feather in Play It Again’s cap.

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Friendship

Posted by Alan Kovan on July 06, 2015 (0 Comments)

d and mWho says you cant learn things from your elders even at 55 years old. That is exactly what happened to me yesterday.

I attended the funeral of one of my father’s best friends. This group of guys met in elementary school in Detroit in the 1930’s and became best friends for life. In my father’s case 60+ years with best friends he never fought with. In the case of these two gentlemen 70+ years of best friendship. http://www.clickondetroit.com/news/2-michigan-men-share-70-years-of-golf-and-friendship/26764550

These friends had a weekly golf foursome that carried on for over 60 years. They also had a 5 man pinochle game that lasted the same number of years. Sure they had disagreements but they never fought. As a kid growing up in my parents house this was taken for granted. I just thought everyone had friends like this. Was I wrong.

It became pretty evident as I got older the depth of this friendship my Dad had with these friends. It also taught me over the years you cant make new “old” friends so be careful when you draw that line in the sand when it comes to your friendships. You have to treasure those you have become close friends with. I certainly know who I can lean on. I have friends close by and far away that I lean on. Some of whom I have never fought with and some I have but I knew these were not friendships to throw away.

What happened yesterday had such a profound effect on me. The last remaining member of my father’s friends came over to speak to my sister and I and he was visibly emotional. His eyes red and wet, voice breaking he said this to us. ” I am so lucky, so blessed, that by chance I was seated at a table with those guys in elementary school. It was the beginning of a life long friendship that I am so grateful for”.

What he didn’t say but we knew was the extraordinary depth of this friendship and in this moment of saying goodbye to one of his best friends he had the grace to be so eternally grateful for that random meeting of his two future best friends. Friends who have been through all of life’s happy moments and sad moments and everything in between. It was a conversation I will never forget.

It also taught me a valuable lesson. I am going to call my friends today. You should too.

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