Okay so now I have the gear but just a few Records: a guide to my top 10 Non-essential LP’s

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We’re all familiar with those “Top 10, 20, 25, 30, 50 etc…” essential buying lists for LP’s, records, or vinyl (I still call them records or LP’s). However, a quick scan of said lists quickly brings me to the realization that music is a deeply… deeply personal and subjective thing.

Like many of my generation I bought into the hype surrounding the arrival of the Compact Disc back in the early mid-80s and so discarded my record collection for the new medium. Somehow over the ensuing decades I lost all but a handful of my CD’s to divorce and other vagaries of life. Then along came Napster and later other digital download mediums that along with the ubiquitous YouTube pushed the desire for physical ownership of my music to the back burner. Nonetheless, and paradoxically it was YouTube that reinvigorated my desire for fidelity in audio and a spending spree reclaiming first CD’s and now LP’s.

Audiophiles such as Ron “Rockin’ Ronny” Beaudry and fellow Beatlemaniacs, Mean Mr. Mayo and the Canadian Studmuffin ignited the fires that seemingly died out forever in the 1990s. So why a non-essential list? Well, as I state above the whole music listening experience is so personal that what I might consider essential may include music that you can’t stand.   So with that said, and since in most cases I won’t be buying vinyl versions of albums I own on Compact Disc here’s my:

Nonessential Top 10 Records:

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1. The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

I own the 2017 Deluxe box set on CD – it is a real treasure and sounds amazing. So why buy the record? Well, I’m admittedly anal retentive and decided if I was going to buy any record then the first one had to be the Beatles. Moreover, the general consensus is that the LP sounds better than its digital counterpart. In my opinion they both sound wonderful. I’ll probably end up getting The 2009 remasters Beatles in Mono box set too.

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2. T.Rex: Electric Warrior 

I own the Rhino remaster of this one on CD too. However, once I was in the store (London Drugs in this case) and saw this staring back at me from the shelf I had to buy it. Released on 180 gram vinyl and published by Rhino it was a must-have for me. This is probably my favourite album cover and simply screams “rock-god guitar hero”. It’s also my favourite T.Rex album. The cover photo demands a large presentation that the LP delivers in a way the CD simply can’t. Sounds great too! Teenage memories came flooding back! Get it on and Bang a Gong!

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3. John Lennon & Yoko Ono: Double Fantasy

I bought this one simply because I own most of Lennon’s catalogue on CD already. This one I don’t have on Compact Disc. I also wanted to own a Lennon album before I grabbed a McCartney solo effort. I picked this one up at Walmart last night for $27 Cdn. I admit that I do like the cover photo. It’s an interesting and poignant album insomuch that John was murdered just after its release. I remember my excitement when I first heard “Just Like Starting Over” on the radio in the Fall of 1980. John’s back! And then the instinctive gut wrench as I literally woke up to the radio intoning… “John Lennon…. was shot and killed last night in New York City.” There was something in the way the DJ intoned “John Lennon” that told me he was gone before the announcer actually had time to speak out the awful news of John’s death. I cried all day. The edition of the album I own is a UK remaster from 2015 on 180 gram vinyl. It sounds wonderful. As an aside, my favourite John Lennon solo LP is 1973’s “Mind Games”

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4. Neil Young: Harvest

Although I own Neil Young’s Greatest Hits on CD I currently do not own a copy of Harvest in any format; and so with that in mind it appears high up on my Nonessential list. I’ll be looking for a good audiophile version on this and will research accordingly before I purchase.

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5. Sinéad O’Connor: Sean-Nós Nua

I’ve heard a few cuts from this album on YouTube and I have it in my mind to pick it up. I am proudly part Irish so this collection of traditional Irish tunes by the incredibly gifted and equally troubled Irish singer appeals to me. As with all my LP purchases I’ll be looking for the best/near-best available recording I can lay my hands on. I have to admit this is one quirky looking Album cover but could we expect anything less from Sinéad?

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6. Piero Toso, I Solisti Veneti, Claudio Scimone 

From the music forum: https://www.vinylengine.com/

Q: Can anyone recommend a decent sounding copy of this [Vivaldi’s Four Seasons] please?

A: I have many versions and the best of the best is Piero Toso, I Solisti Veneti, Claudio Scimone (Erato NUM 75054/RC 180).

Thanks, Blue Angel!

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7. The Moody Blues: Days of Future Past

I have a Greatest Hits CD from these guys but I’ll be wanting this particular album on vinyl. Great youthful memories of listening to Knights in White Satin at the old Sportman’s Restaurant in the wee hours on Dunsmuir street in Vancouver, BC. Tuesday Afternoon is another favourite from this LP.

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8. Yes: Close To The Edge

I am a huge Yes fan going back to the mid-1970s. I’ve seen them in concert a few times and lament the passing of bassist Rick Wakeman whose autograph I have gracing a concert program, a Yes DVD, and a couple other goodies. Close to the Edge is probably my favourite Yes album… although I really enjoy them all. No excuses for this one. I own a couple of CD versions but I wouldn’t be happy without Yes on vinyl and Close to the Edge fits the bill.

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9. Paul McCartney: Band on the Run

*Sigh* I own this one on CD but it’s another album I’d definitely want on vinyl. I might as well throw in Venus and Mars too. Both LPs are among the very best McCartney produced. As is standing operating procedure I’ll be wanting to get a couple of hi-fidelity pressings of them.

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10. Badfinger: Magic Christian Music

Badinger’s contribution to the 1969 comedy “The Magic Christian” starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr. Pure nostalgia on this one. I owned this record and played it ad nauseum back in the 1970s. I have Badfinger’s Greatest Hits on CD but it doesn’t hold the nostalgic kick that owning this album again will bring.

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11. BONUS LP Led Zeppelin: IV  

I couldn’t leave off without adding in Led Zeppelin IV… another 70s wee hrs staple. Another one that I own on CD. Not sure which version to get – Ron Beaudry whom I mention above cannot abide the Jimmy Page remasters. I don’t have the same complaint regarding the CD but it does add a cautionary note to the LP purchase.

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12. BONUS LP #2 Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon

Ooooo! I definitely have to add a copy of this to the mix. Another 70s favourite that I own on CD. Nonetheless, a Vinyl version needs to be purchased. Money! It’s a hit!

That’s all Folks… for now… I’m kinda wanting the Rutles’ “All You Need is Cash” again too 😀

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Fricken’ Vinyl!! A Rega Planar II but is it a return to the true Audiophile Playground?!

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I caved… I admit it. But cut me some slack I’m old eh? and Canadian. I just picked up a British built circa 2016 Rega Planar II… and I love this thing – BUT…. it’s a pure luxury.

In point of fact, CD sound for me and many others is “technically” superior. However, CD’s simply lack the “snap’ crackle and pop” that defined a stylus on vinyl. In fact, that was a big “Whoa!” moment for those of us old enough to remember the big switch-over circa 1983. CD’s offer cleaner sound – no doubt.

BUT…. We missed that sonic needle “snap” and never realized it until the return…. AND… LP’s are indeed much warmer sounding… due in large part to the lower fidelity! Say wha????

Lower fidelity my friend and that’s all very cool and absolutely okay. But the science has been done and beyond question:

 Dynamic range. The difference between the loudest and softest sounds an LP can play is about 70 decibels (dB). CDs can handle over 90 dB. In practical terms, this means that CDs have more than 10 times the  of LPs.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2016-07-music-vinyl-cds.html#jCp

10 x the dynamic range???? In other words … Hi-Fidelity, kids.

That’s why the industry and the population of the day switched over en masse shortly after the new format was introduced.

I owned a beautiful Dutch made Philips Turntable back then… powered by a Yamaha amplifier and expressed through a gorgeous pair of Boston Acoustic A150s. Man! I was proud of that system. No. It certainly wasn’t the best money could buy  but it challenged my pocket book and I was genuinely proud of it. Queen: The Works, The Police: Synchronicity were just two of the final LP’s I owned… Oh, yes…. You can throw in, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, too.

But then compact Discs arrived… Dire Straits: Brothers in Arms! A revelation… the fidelity! Wow! And no – not vinyl…. CD, man! compact disc!

I remember George Harrison coming out saying that he hated CDs. He also hated OASIS. But I love Noel Gallagher and CD’s ain’t bad either… in fact, Sgt. Pepper’s on vinyl just ended and now I am thoroughly enjoying “The Essential Lou Reed on CD” It sounds amazing!

So what’s the vinyl buzz all about?

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My first two vinyl rebirth purchases -Sgt Pepper 2017 and T.Rex Electric Warrior 180 gram vinyl

Well, first and foremost – it’s an absolute blast! Paradoxically, that old and flawed hiss of the needle and those big ass album covers never could be matched by the CD let alone Mp3 etc… formats.   I was born in 1958; I can’t remember the last time I could read the liner notes off a CD. On LP… no worries. The medium immediately transports me back to our family room of the 1970s. Heck, there’s no way we had anything close to the fidelity offered by a 21st century turntable…. and this Rega Planar II is a sweet machine. It retails at $800.00 Cdn., which again is scratching the top tier of my disposable income. Want the next step up in a Planar III?? – be prepared to fork over roughly $1,500 Cdn!!!

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My new Rega Planar II joins my Marantz 6006 twins 

So what a 21st century turntable and remastered-remixed classic albums equal is a near perfect balance of old and new. The nostalgia kick is in but the records sound better than anything we had back in the day… at least better than anything I had.

CD’s will remain my main go-to audio choice. Their ease of use and load and forget appeal make for an irresistible draw. My advice is read the reviews, watch the debates and don’t be swayed by anything other than your own ear and desire.

And vinyl? Swing that tone-arm over baby and let er’ spin. It’s nostalgic, warm, and fun. CD’s were never designed to match LP’s in that regard.

Bonus material: The Youtube video that lead me to the Planar II over the Pro-Ject Carbon Debut (I still dig that yellow though) 🙂

HiViNyws channel’s

Other Vinyl and Music loving faves:

Larry Graves: The Canadian Studmuffin! (This guy has a huge heart)

https://www.youtube.com/user/canadianstudmuffin

Mean Mr. Mayo (Hello New York!)

https://www.youtube.com/user/MeanMrMayo

Fit to be Tie-Dyed (Canadian low key delivery- but straight up)

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCY_k-X9om8OXCMEAzRuuxuQ

Vinyl Eyezz (love this young guy’s moxy)

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2oq8RM-S7dBk_cwF-Vvv5g

Ron Beaudry (He’s been inactive for a while but his catalogue and reviews are top notch)

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzl5SwJssxP-4GPAOTHrjlA/feed

Hey VC! leave a comment (but be sorta kinda nice)  🙂

 

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Another Piece in the Audio Puzzle: The Marantz CD6006

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While being very happy with the sound of my recently purchased stereo system there was an obvious weak link in the chain; It centered on my old and reliable Sony Blu-ray player. There was nothing overtly bad about it and since I was unaware of the difference a good DAC can make I’d have been content to leave things as they were.

However, following a look at various YouTube videos (sadly, very little “real” content on the Marantz CD6006) and researching various reviews of a number of systems I thought I’d “gamble” on the Marantz. It was a logical choice to pair it with the Marantz PM6006 amplifier I had bought. To my mind, I thought it only logical that the Marantz engineers would have built the two units with the idea of joining them in concert as it were (pardon the obvious pun).

So to the question, does a dedicated CD player provide better sound than a Blu-ray player? Well, in the case of my older Sony Blu-ray and the 2016 Marantz CD6006 the answer is an unqualified yes!

It’s quite surprising the difference in quality – but it’s there and you can definitely tell. Many years ago when DVD’s began replacing VHS tapes a skeptical friend came over and asked to see the new technology I had purchased. Basically, he expected to be underwhelmed and ready with a “I knew it was all snake oil”. But, he was genuinely impressed. He could see the improvement himself.

While admittedly less dramatic than the jump from VHS to DVD video quality the audio equivalent is apropos.  You can hear the difference! Now, I am the first to admit that my system is far removed from the crème de la crème of high-end fidelity BUT it certainly qualifies as a solid entry level system to the world of high-fidelity. I am more than satisfied.

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Highest marks earned from What HI-FI? and a 2016 Award winning product

Head over to What Hi-Fi? for a more technical and detailed review of the CD6006

The first CD baptised in the new system was the 2017 Mono mix that came as part of the 50th Anniversary Sgt. Pepper Deluxe Edition. I always play the Beatles first whenever I am about to break in a new sound system… and it’s always the Beatles (or a John Lennon solo tune) that I like to play as the first song I hear to greet a new year.

The bass and overall audio presence was raised more than a few notches with the improved performance brought in by the CD6006. I followed up the Beatles with Klaatu’s 3:47 E.S.T. 40th Anniversary Edition, The Cure’s Greatest Hits, The Yes Album (remastered), Who’s Next, and Abbey Road. My age places me comfortably in the Classic Rock period and it is that genre of music that most frequently finds its way onto my CD player.

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Two ends of the production spectrum – the lovingly (reverently) remixed Sgt. Pepper (2017) and 1989’s The Ventures All-Time Greatest Hits. The Marantz CD6006 serves them both well. 

For fun, I threw on a cheap discount CD just to see if the Marantz could make something of it. I chose for this purpose The Ventures All-Time Greatest Hits (released on CD in 1989).  Even here, I could hear the separation of the instruments and enjoy the straightforward production afforded their 1960s recordings.

My son is purchasing the Fleet Foxes new album,  “Crack-Up” released yesterday so later today I’ll reluctantly turn control of my system over to him for a few hours.

Finally, I should add that I purchased all the components and wires for my setup from Victoria, BC’s venerable Sound Hounds. I have bought all my very best gear from them since the 1980s. Their customer service and product line is first-rate. I recommend them as Vancouver Island’s “go-to” hi-fidelity source.

Thanks as always, Sound Hounds team 🙂

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Sound Hounds @ 1532 Pandora Ave, Victoria, BC V8R 1A8 (courtesy of Google Streetview)

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Everything OLD is NEW again – A return to the venerable COMPACT DISC

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Neither expansive nor exhaustive a review I simply wanted to acknowledge a renewed interest in collecting CDs for my listening pleasure. With a resurgence of vinyl and the now mainstream accessibility of digital downloads the poor old Compact Disk seems destined for the historic trash heap. Nonetheless, the CD medium seems perfectly suited for my own needs.

In the 1980s I first caught the audiophile bug and pushed (as far as my limited budget would allow) for a quality music system, the cornerstone of which were my Boston Acoustic A150 floor speakers.

A divorce at the millennium’s turn and many years later the desire for a return to some quality sound prompted me to purchase a pair of Book Shelf Speakers; the speaker size dependent upon and dictated by a smaller room setting.

I settled upon a pair of ELAC B6 Debut Series 6.5″ Bookshelf Speakers by Andrew Jones. To power them I purchased a Marantz PM6006 amplifier. Finally, in lieu of a dedicated CD player I just hooked up my Sony Blue-Ray player circa 2002. I bought a pair of Sony MDR-RF985 Wireless Stereo Headphones. However, I was a bit underwhelmed by them. Back in the day I owned a pair of Koss HV/1’s that I loved and so searching about the net I stumbled upon Grado’s line of headphones and purchased a pair of SR125e’s.

Check out each of these components as there is lots of information on the net and the reviews are generally quite favorable.

Being an old timey classic rock gal my first new CD purchase was the Beatles CD remasters box set in stereo. Wow! This set represents the crown jewel in my growing music collection. The sound quality is phenomenal and the packaging quality of the overall product irreproachable. Some may question my choice of Stereo over Mono since the Beatles’ catalog was initially released in Mono with the Stereo recordings considered a mere after-thought. But for me the versions of the Albums I am most familiar with are the stereo recordings and so I am eminently satisfied with my purchase. I have never heard the Beatles sound as good as they do in this collection.

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After the Beatles I began picking up the 2014 Jimmy Page remasters of the Zeppelin studio releases. Audiophile, Ron Beaudry has panned them mercilessly. Ron is a vinyl guy and has a number of fun and informative reviews of youtube. He is definitely worth checking out. However, I am very satisfied with the 2014 remasters and the sound quality is great. Of course, all of this is subjective so you may find yourself strongly disagreeing with me; No worries, for as the old saying goes “your mileage may vary.”

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The last CD collection I wanted to mention is YES – The Studio Albums 1969-1987 Remastered & Expanded CD BOX SET. This collection arrived at my door today via Amazon and it prompted me to do a review; initially just about the Yes collection, but then I thought it more useful to discuss CD’s in general and a return to collecting music in this format.

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The Yes set presents the Rhino remasters from 2003 and I am “very” happy with the sound quality here. The packaging is “okayyyy” but not great. It comes in a nifty little box that looks good (Roger Dean good) but hampers my access to the CD’s. So I keep the box out and displayed for aesthetic purposes but I have removed the CD’s and have them stored for easy access guaranteeing that they’ll be played more; which undeniably is what it’s all about.

Clearly, digital access to music is the most efficient when it comes to muss and fuss. Most of us can get a quick musical fix by logging onto YouTube and hearing essentially anything we want (Bob Dylan being a notable exception). Vinyl is great and the ultimate nostalgic fix for an aging baby boomer. But in all honesty, I’ve been spoiled by the easy access afforded by the digital age. Admittedly, LP’s are one of the greatest OCD experiences you could possibly hope for — cleaning the record’s surface with a lint free brush or cloth —swinging the tonearm over and gently lowering the stylus to your song of choice really can’t be matched by any other medium.

However, CD’s still afford the collector the ability to hold in his or her hands old familiar Albums (albeit in reduced scale) and see Marc Bolan and David Bowie looking eternally young in top hat and Ziggy Stardust lightning bolt. Compact Discs afford the consumer the reward of physical ownership of a property they can actually call their own — and there is something nicely cathartic in all that.

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Lorne Greene (no, not “that” Lorne Greene) and the birth of British Rock n’ Roll

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Lorne Greene at my sister’s place in Port Alberni, August 30 2016

This past summer I had the opportunity to visit with my bio-mom and siblings up at Port Alberni. For those that don’t know, I was adopted at 2 weeks old and through a combination of DNA and good old fashioned detective work I was able to find both my birth mother (still living) and learn the identity of my biological father, Louis Joseph Lee 1926-2004. For those interested in all that feel free to check out my Genealogy blog at: Williams – Thomas – Doran : A Genealogy Page.

But I digress, (as I often do). While there, I was introduced to Lorne Greene (born December 24, 1938 in Port Alberni), a family friend and a man with a very interesting musical pedigree. Lorne had the good fortune to find himself in London, England just as the English Rock n’ Roll scene was taking off in the early 1960s.

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Lorne at left as one of Donn Reynolds’ “Boys” 1958

He is, by his own admission, first and foremost — a country music lover-player. Above, closer to his roots, Lorne toured with fellow Canadian and country music star Donn Reynolds in 1958. However, his chosen instrument of guitar made him a highly sought after commodity in London’s  burgeoning  1960s pop and rock music scene. He soon found himself in the company of a number of soon to be famous rock legends.

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Lorne at left pulling duties as guitarist for “The Dukes” in 1958

Lorne played with a number of folks that were well known in the UK but much less so in North America. I found a very brief mention of Lorne on a page dedicated to early English Rockabilly artist, Terry Wayne:

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Terry Wayne circa 1960, Source: http://www.rockabillyhall.com/terrywayne.html

In 1959, Terry appeared twice on the popular BBC Light Program radio show, “Saturday Club” with his band, the Dukes, featuring a whole host of rock and roll favourites including “She’s Mine”, “Mighty Mighty Man”, “Boppin’ the Blues” and “Just Because”. These live recordings can be heard on the aforementioned Rollercoaster CD “The Terrific Terry Wayne” (RCCD 3030) available from Rollercoaster Records, Rock House, St. Mary’s, Chalford, Gloucestershire, England, GL6 8PU or visit the website http://www.RollercoasterRecords.com. Terry also recorded some private sessions for Bernie Andrews, the show’s engineer. Bernie was taken with Terry’s guitarist Lorne Green[e] when he realised they had a mutual interest in Chet Atkins. [emphasis mine] These recordings can also be heard on the Rollercoaster CD. The bass player with the Dukes was Lennie Harrison whom Terry met on the “Jerry Lee” tour. Lennie was playing with Chas McDevitt at the time but joined Terry later in 1959. At last, Terry had an authentic sound with Lennie’s upright bass and Lorne’s appreciation of Chet Atkins shining through on guitar. 

Reference: The “Terrific” Terry Wayne (Terry was best man at Lorne and Ina’s wedding)

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Chet Atkins at the Devonshire Hotel, London 1962 (Trying out Lorne’s Gretsch)

Chet Atkins remains Lorne’s favourite guitarist and like so many of his contemporaries, Lorne made it a mission to obtain a Gretsch guitar. Lorne recalls that during a recording session at the BBC studios in 1962 one of his band mates told him that some guys had entered the studio and had cracked open his precious Gretsch guitar case. Alarmed, Lorne arrived to see his Gretsch in the hands of four young men who were admiring it. As you might have guessed, these “four young men”turned out to be the Beatles! Like Lorne, George Harrison was also enamoured of  Chet Atkins and so the lure of Lorne’s Gretsch must have proved too much for the young Beatle.

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The Beatles -pre mop-top but as they must have looked when Lorne caught them admiring his Gretsch guitar

Lorne also found work with the legendary, Billy Fury. He appears on one of the early promotional posters for the 1962 film, “Play it Cool” with black Gretsch in hand. The period from 1961 to 1962 was a particularly productive time for Lorne as he also played and recorded with the Outlaws, and Carter-Lewis and the Southerners.

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Lorne 2nd from left performing with Eddie Calvert (1922-1978) in 1963

In a recent phone conversation I had with Lorne he states that he played first with Carter Lewis and the Southerners prior to his stint with the Outlaws. He also spent time with an outfit called the “Night-Riders” featuring fellow guitarist, Ken Allen. Other performers Lorne lent his guitar skills to included notable horn player, Eddie Calvert as well as Johnny Duncan, and Terry Kennedy.

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The Night-Riders in Hamburg 1962 (Lorne at far right)

One quirky fact regarding Lorne’s career is that following his departure from the Outlaws he was replaced by Ritchie Blackmore and after leaving Carter-Lewis and the Southerners he was replaced by Jimmy Page! Both artists are hailed as being amongst the very best of their generation.

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Left- Ritchie Blackmore legendary guitarist for Deep Purple and Rainbow, and at Right, rock-god, Jimmy Page co-founder of Led Zeppelin

At some point during 1963, Lorne had grown homesick for his native Canada. He and his newlywed Scottish bride, Ina, made their way to Canada where the couple raised their family.

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The Outlaws 1962 (Lorne at far right)

Lorne is a quiet and humble guy. His obvious talent (he still plays guitar) would have carried him far had he remained in the UK. However, he has no regrets. His profile might have been raised somewhat had not fellow Canadian and television-recording star Lorne Greene eclipsed him so completely by virtue of their shared name.

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Helen Shapiro showing some decent “Footie” form as Lorne (rear left) looks on approvingly.  Photo taken at Great Yarmouth 1963

And so I  created this brief biographical entry on this Lorne Greene- a Canadian guitarist present at and an active participant in the birth of British Rock n Roll. I feel strongly that Lorne’s contributions should not be forgotten.

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L-R John Williams, Lorne and Wayne Price August 30 2016

Above, Lorne indulged my son (also a Chet Atkins fan) with a turn on Lorne’s White Falcon Gretsch. Lorne’s frequent musical partner, Wayne Price, has a great voice and is a fair guitarist in his own right.

I’d also like to express my sincere appreciation to Lorne and Ina for sharing some of these amazing photos from their private collection with me. They are published here with their express permission.

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The Welcome Death of Marvel Comics

 

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The Red Skull providing a politically conservative take on the “Refugee Crisis”

It’s a comfort to know that comic books no longer hold the mass appeal that they did in an earlier age. For the most-part, you need to travel to a specialist shop as they are no longer available off the rack at the local drug store. Sales are dropping and I think the reasons are pretty obvious.

Trite plot-lines and themes taken out of a politically left agenda tend to alienate the majority of readers. My love for Marvel’s universe stemmed from first rate characterization and originality that birthed and denoted what we now call the Silver-age of comics. All that has taken a backseat to gimmicky, paper-thin, politically driven pap that fails to inspire and ignite the imagination.

None of this is new of course. On some level, Marvel and its chief rival Brand Echhh … er., DC Comics have always addressed some measure of social justice and related causes… drug addiction, racism, and alienation were tackled as long ago as 1963 when the Fantastic Four defeated “The Hate Monger” an evil despot who turned out to be Adolf Hitler! Oops! forgot to add in the spoiler alert 😉 Later in the decade it was Peter Parker’s pal, Harry Osborn getting hooked on pills and the Green Arrow’s side-kick, “Speedy” getting hooked on heroin.

In an effort to bow before the twin idols of tolerance and diversity Marvel has been tweaking and reinventing familiar characters. Basically the formula has been to highlight a character’s sexual orientation or identity, change their sex (more often than not symbolically rather than literally i.e., have a female don the costume and mantle) and to change their ethnicity so that they are no longer Caucasian but a visible minority of one stripe or the other. All this is rather predictable as the movie representations merge with their comic book counterparts.

One particularly egregious example stems from a new series called  “Captain America: Steve Rogers”. In the first issue  Cap’s longtime enemy the WW2 Nazi super criminal Red Skull appears reciting the standard politically conservative opposition to unchecked immigration.

The problems with the above depiction are numerous to say the least. Simply put, it is erroneous to equate legitimate concerns Westerners have with regards to large-scale Muslim immigration and the Nazis of WW2.

As a conservative minded Westerner it’s a bit disconcerting to have the Red Skull become Marvel’s representative for people like myself. It’s beyond twisted of course but that’s the result when Marvel hires a former politician to pen a comic book. Nick Spencer is the mind behind this disposable trash and yes you can “Google” him.

By the way, and this is a spoiler…..

ALERT

ALERT

ALERT

ALERT

ALERT

ALERT

ALERT

ALERT

ALERT

oh what the hell….

It turns out Steve Rogers has been a servant of Hydra for years and that he has internalized conservative values i.e., Nazi values. So I guess I can take some solace in the fact that the personification of America’s fighting spirit is as guilty and fundamentally evil as I am.

I honestly debated even writing this article. I mean what’s the point… it’s pretty much pissing into the wind. But it’s a slow moving Friday….

I am obviously not alone in my criticism of Marvel’s PC branding. Here’s a few choice quotes from other industry observers:

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On the sorry state of the industry

From Comic Book creator, Matt Battaglia:

Back in the desert, a group of presumably illegal immigrants are crossing the border, and the Sons of the Serpent arrive [ a 1960s created Avengers villain organization fueled by racist ideology] .

Some lines from the Serpents: “By invading this sovereign land, you defy the laws of God, nature, and the United States Constitution… until the mighty wall is built, you come here for employment that is rightfully ours! And if denied it, you seek welfare paid for by our tax dollars! … look who it is, y’all! Captain Socialism … apologizing for our country’s greatness that you have time to come down here and flout still more of our laws…”

Seriously, this is what the villains are espousing. It’s a lot of conservative buzzwords given a murderous edge, and that’s that. Together with the overall tone and narration of the issue, conservatives have every right to be angry.

Going back to Captain America’s earlier observation that “this country is a divided as it’s ever been,” we agree. Mainly because one side of the argument unilaterally paints the other side as racist, murderous monsters who are “spouting intolerance and fear” and “drowning out common sense.” 

See: http://thefederalist.com/2015/10/21/its-true-captain-america-is-now-captain-leftist/

And the headline says it all from an article by Douglas Ernst of the Washington Times:

‘Captain America’ comic likens critics of Syrian refugee programs to Nazis

See: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/may/23/captain-america-comic-likens-critics-of-syrian-ref/

And finally the aptly titled: “Why Comic Books Suck” blog (love the title)

See: http://whycomicbookssuck.blogspot.ca/

It’s comforting to know that the sinking ship called Marvel Comics may finally go the way of the dinosaur. The fact that both DC and Marvel have tried to reboot their anemic franchises every few years is tacit admission that their relevance is lost and they are culturally moribund.

My advice? Collect Marvel Masterworks… the company’s brilliant Silver-age output and remember what was.

 

 

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Book Review: The Complicated Geography of Alice by Jules Vilmur

The Complicated Geography of Alice by Jules Vilmur

The Complicated Geography of Alice by Jules Vilmur

In the early years of my transition from male to female I was a daily participant on a few select gender identity boards; notably the Transgender Canada Forum and the apparently defunct “GID forum” based in the U.S. I also flirted with “Twitter” and although my account is all but dormant these days (for the morbidly curious I post as CanadaGirl58) it did afford me the opportunity to connect with Jules Vilmur. Under the name of “@Laurustina”, Jules allowed some of us on Twitter to view selections from a book she hoped to publish one day. That book of course turned out to be “The Complicated Geography of Alice”.

Jules’ memoir of her daughter, Alice’s own journey from male to female is a harrowing, out-of-control ride into the depths of drug abuse and chronic addiction. You’ll want a pharmaceutical lexicon to keep track of the seemingly endless list of chemicals young Alice managed to consume. The book is brilliantly written and Jules’ struggle to understand her daughter’s conflicted, and decidedly complex psyche becomes the reader’s own.  There’s a real temptation to try and “fix” Alice and the author’s frustrations with a chronically ill-informed medical profession shackled by assumptions and prejudices too numerous to mention will have you shaking your head.

Despite opposition from various quarters— including members of their own family, Jules and Alice find a measure of support, (some of it simply outstanding) from members of the GBLTQ community. Religious prejudice plays a role here but the author rises above it and treats “spiritual” opposition to her daughter’s transition with a notable lack of rancor and a healthy dose of grace. The book features a colorful cast of supporting characters but at the center of it all is the person of Alice.

Fortunately, you cannot help but love the cocky, stubborn, willful— yet sensitive and fun-loving, mercurial mix of iron and clay that is, Alice. The author masterfully communicates her roller-coaster emotions of rising hope and optimism followed by gut-wrenching fear, concern, and despair.

This is an intensely personal book but one that will resonate strongly with people from all walks of life by virtue of its fundamental humanity. Its essential truth reveals a story fueled by a mother’s unquenchable love for her child. I smiled, I winced and I cried… a lot… but the book is compelling; and yes it will stay with you long after the last page is turned.

A modern tale of a modern family that manages to transcend by far the boundaries of Transgender biography. 

Available for purchase at Amazon.com

TITLE: The Complicated Geography of Alice

Product Details
Paperback: 332 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (December 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1503021769
ISBN-13: 978-1503021761
Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
Shipping Weight: 1 pounds

Follow Jules Vilmur on Twitter @Laurustina and on Facebook: Laurustina.com

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Filed under Publishing, Transgender