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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”

Harvest

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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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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John Lennon: Still an Iconic Genius

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I am not a fan of revisionism and it may seem strange that I feel somehow compelled to jump to the defence of the legendary John Lennon. Nonetheless, there have been a few echoings, a few pointed barbs that have called into question the measure of John Lennon’s musical legacy. Unheard of while he was alive, enough time has passed since the artist’s assassination in 1980 that some have felt emboldened to denigrate Lennon’s musical legacy.

Admittedly, much of the criticism is clouded by moralistic concerns over his absentee fathering of son Julian, his anti-Christianity stance, his self-destructive tendencies, and his own efforts to de-mystify the over-shadowing accomplishments of The Beatles. Certainly, none of the former Beatles are as controversial or divisive as John Lennon when it comes to public opinion.  I get all that. However, to undermine, to criticize Lennon’s musical legacy is simply a disservice not only to the historicity of the Beatles’ and his own solo contributions but to the plain truth of the matter.

So, putting aside moralistic concerns let us turn our attention to the criticisms of the critics.

Geoff Emerick (Engineer on the Beatles Abbey Road album, Sgt Pepper, Revolver and more):

Emerick has been outspoken about his favoritism towards Paul McCartney as being the Beatles’ “true” musician. He says as much during an interview available on youtube:

However, once one reads Emerick’s autobiographical “Here, There, and Everywhere” it becomes clear that the Beatles’ erstwhile Engineer has some demons of his own to exercise. As Publisher’s Weekly reported in its review of the book:

He [Emerick] concedes the group never really fraternized with him—and he seems to have taken it personally. The gregarious McCartney is recalled fondly, while Lennon is “caustic,” Ringo “bland” and Harrison “sarcastic” and “furtive.”

http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-59240-179-6

It should be noted that McCartney was Emerick’s best-man at his wedding and admits further that fellow “Apple” staffers saw him as McCartney’s man during the tension filled Apple Corps years of the late 1960s. So, take what you read regarding Lennon’s role in the Beatles with a large grain of salt when reading Emerick’s account of those days.

Other criticisms of Lennon cite a lack of originality and a musically derivative output. Check out listerverse’s
Top 10 Unpleasant Facts About John Lennon by Edward Benjamin for examples of this kind of thinking.

http://listverse.com/2012/05/12/top-10-unpleasant-facts-about-john-lennon/

To be sure songs such as Come Together have readily apparent connections to earlier works by other artists. In fact, Lennon settled out of court with publisher Moris Levy whose company owned the rights to “You Can’t Catch Me” the admitted influence behind the well-known Beatles hit. However, as Lennon himself said:

Come Together is me, writing obscurely around an old Chuck Berry thing. I left the line in, ‘Here comes old flat-top’. It is nothing like the Chuck Berry song, but they took me to court because I admitted the influence once years ago. I could have changed it to ‘Here comes old iron face,’ but the song remains independent of Chuck Berry or anybody else on Earth.

http://www.beatlesbible.com/people/john-lennon/songs/you-cant-catch-me/

This was nothing new for Lennon who said of his earlier hit” You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away”:

“That’s me in my Dylan period,…I am like a chameleon, influenced by whatever is going on. If Elvis can do it, I can do it. If the Everly Brothers can do it, me and Paul can. Same with Dylan.”

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/100-greatest-beatles-songs-20110919/youve-got-to-hide-your-love-away-19691231

Lennon remained decidedly unapologetic about incorporating sounds and ideas from other musicians. He is not alone in doing so, McCartney, himself, has said about his song, “Back in the USSR”:

I wrote that as a kind of Beach Boys parody. And “Back in the USA” was a Chuck Berry song, so it kinda took off from there. I just liked the idea of Georgia girls and talking about places like the Ukraine as if they were California, you know?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Back_in_the_U.S.S.R.

The Beatles influence on other artists is undeniable. The English rock group Queen has been quoted a number of times citing the Beatles and specifically John Lennon as being a major influence.  Does that then relegate Queen to the status of Beatles wannabes? And God help Oasis– as the joke goes:

Noel Gallagher: “I feel like giving it all up and forming a Beatles’ cover band”
Rejoinder: “I thought Oasis was a Beatles cover band!”

From a musical perspective Lennon is regarded by most musicians as a capable but not a brilliant guitar/piano player. Lennon himself made no claims to technical brilliance a la’ Jimi Hendrix:

 I’m really very embarrassed about my guitar playing, in one way, because it’s very poor; I can never move, but I can make a guitar speak. I think there’s a guy called Ritchie Valens, no, Richie Havens. Does he play very strange guitar? He’s a black guy that was in a concert and sang “Strawberry Fields” or something. He plays, like, one chord all the time. He plays a pretty funky guitar. But he doesn’t seem to be able to play in the real terms at all. I’m like that. Yoko has made me feel cocky about my guitar. You see, one part of me says, “Yes, of course I can play,” because I can make a rock move, you know? But the other part of me says, “Well, I wish I could just do like B.B. King.” If you would put me with B.B. King, I would feel real silly. I’m an artist, and if you give me a tuba, I’ll bring you something out of it.

The Rolling Stone Interview
http://taz4158.tripod.com/johnint.html

And that’s part of the answer. Obviously, musical taste is to a very large extent an exercise in subjectivity. Nonetheless, the fact that Lennon influenced so many others, including Paul McCartney speaks to something bigger than mere subjective impressions. In Rolling Stone Magazine’s List of 100 Greatest Singers John Lennon landed at number 5. No less a personage than Jackson Browne wrote passionately of Lennon saying:

There was a tremendous intimacy in everything John Lennon did, combined with a formidable intellect…it was a stunning thing — he always told the truth. He felt he had the right to talk about this stuff, and that gives his voice a singular identity. It’s not the chops of a heralded singer — no one goes on about his actual technique. He went right to what he felt, what he had to say.

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/100-greatest-singers-of-all-time-19691231/john-lennon-20101202

Jackson Browne gets it! Ironically, the very same quality of raw, unpolished, brutally honest musical communication is what Geoffry Emerick is critical of. However, that is the essence of Lennon’s appeal for those of us that continue to enjoy the genius of his musical gift.

Many of Lennon’s hits stand the test of time despite a conscious effort to write about what he liked, what he was interested in and not what his listening public necessarily wanted him to sing about. Lennon’s poignant meeting with a “fan” in 1988’s “Imagine” reveals Lennon’s own take on his music:

Fan: You weren’t thinking of anyone in particular when you were singing all that?
JL: How could I be? How could I be thinking of you man?
Fan: Well, I don’t know maybe I don’t care me but it’s all it’s all somebody you know
JL:  I’m thinking about me, or at best Yoko, if it’s a love song, but that’s it. I’m basically singing about me I’m saying you know I had a good shit today and ah this is what I thought this morning and ah you know I love you Yoko whatever— I’m singing about me and my life you know and if it’s relevant for other people’s lives that’s all right.

Fortunately, for the rest of us Lennon’s music was and remains relevant for our own lives. Below are a few Lennonism’s I keep handy as they reflect truth for me and I find them coming to my consciousness when encountering certain people and situations relevant to myself:

One thing you can’t hide is when you’re crippled inside—
John Lennon “Crippled Inside” from Imagine

I use this as a reminder for myself that my dysfunction shines through and is easily seen by discerning folks around me. It also comes to mind when I notice another person swimming in their own dysfunction.

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.—
John Lennon “Beautiful Boy” from Double Fantasy

A reminder to expect the unexpected— to be humble as you never know what unexpected changes may come your way.

Woman is the slave of the slaves—
John Lennon “Woman is the Nigger of the World” from Sometime in New York City

A profound song that reminds us all of the ongoing plight of women throughout the world. Every woman is either someones daughter, mother, sister, daughter, aunt, or grandmother.  How can such violence and discrimination be shown to the sisters of the woman you care about. It makes me weep.

And Finally my top ten John Lennon songs list— some because of their lyrical content, some for the creative artistry expressed therein and some simply because “it’s got a good beat, Dick and I can dance to it.”

1. Strawberry Fields Forever
My proverbial “you’re on a desert island and can only take 5 singles with you” scenario. This would be my number 1 choice.

2. I Should Have Known Better
Features jangling Rickenbackers— one of my favorite Beatles tunes— ear candy 🙂

3. Revolution
The rocking B side to Hey Jude version. Pure Rock n’ Roll

4. A Day in the Life
A Lennon and McCartney composition but the main song structure is Lennon’s

5. Working Class Hero
One I identify strongly with— alienation from the “system”

6. Mind Games
Brilliant melody and features the steel guitar wizardry of the late “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow

7.  Give Peace a Chance
A simple chord structure but powerfully anthemic

8. In My Life
Sentimental and nostalgic. I love it!

9. Girl
Cleverly nuanced with multiple meanings. Lennon said it’s in part a knock at Christianity

10. Starting Over
Not so much for the song, itself, but the song capsulized the hope and promise of a freshly energized John Lennon ready to take on the newly born decade of the 1980s. I remember being so excited when I heard this on the radio for the first time. I couldn’t believe I was hearing a new Lennon tune following the singer’s lengthy self-imposed exile from the music business.

JOHN LENNON
“‘How long are you gonna last?’ Well, you can’t say, you know. You can be big-headed and say, ‘Yeah, we’re gonna last ten years.’ But as soon as you’ve said that you think, ‘We’re lucky if we last three months,’ you know.”

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