Thursday, 20 June 2013

Vintage Trouble (and Strife)

It took me a while to warm to Vintage Trouble. I tossed Classic Rock magazine's freebie sampler CD onto the reject pile after one play and forgot all about them. Then, last year, I happened upon a cheap copy of their The Bomb Shelter Sessions album on vinyl and figured that I could always sell it on if it failed to move me. It's going nowhere: what a fantastic LP!

Combining elements of Soul, Blues and Rock, but with the emphasis most definitely on Soul, The Bomb Shelter Sessions is a complete breath of fresh air in an era where most backwards-looking bands settle for apeing their Sixties and Seventies heroes rather than using them as the inspiration for creating something new and vibrant.

Classy on record, in a live setting Vintage Trouble prove that they are undoubtedly world class. It's no accident that both The Who and The Rolling Stones have been falling over themselves to enlist them as special guests on their respective tours. I dragged the (vintage) trouble 'n strife (Mrs Shelf-Stacker) along to the Electric in Brixton on Monday night to check out their show. And a show it most certainly was, with a captivating, perfectly-paced set that delivered soul, groove, humour and strutting sexual energy. The band seamlessly combined material as diverse as the intimate and delicate protest song Not Alright By Me with the rocking fireworks of Blues Hand Me Down without ever abandoning the Soul at the core of their DNA.

Vocalist Ty Taylor has a once in a generation voice that is equal parts Al Green, Otis Redding, Terence Trent D'Arby and Ben Harper. His boundless energy and between song patter make him a thoroughly arresting frontman. Don't be fooled into thinking that his musical accomplices are a faceless backing band though, not with such engaging personalities to complement their musical chops and unwavering groove. Special mention must go to Nalle Col's slide guitar on Run Baby Run and to drummer Richard Danielson's moustache which looks like it was stolen from the set of Deadwood. Spectacular!

Monday night's gig was one of those where the audience hung on every word, sang along to every lyric, punctuated every beat with their raised hands and noisily acknowledged the band's stellar performance. I can't claim that everyone in attendance on Monday night was united in their enthusiasm. Sadly, Mrs Shelf-Stacker spent half the evening thumbing her Blackberry. If only that was some kind of a sexual euphemism! But no, she just didn't get it. Not one bit. Obviously there weren't nearly enough galloping riffs, songs about Satan or moments of foot on the monitor posturing! Perhaps Vintage Trouble could address these issues before they tour again.

What better reason to bring the Face Fungus-ometer out of retirement than that magnificent 'tache!

An aptly Deadwood honouring, Western-themed Magnificent Seven!

Monday, 10 June 2013

Panning For Charity Shop Gold

(£150) Record Collector RRPG 2014
Nothing increases the pleasure of adding a rare vinyl treasure to my collection like getting hold of it on the cheap. This eventuality seems ever less likely when my local Cancer Research Shop thinks that a copy of Phil Collins' No Jacket Required LP deserves a price tag of £15 - I kid you not! I can't think of any scenario in which an album as ubiquitous as that could demand that sort of money (unless there's a twenty quid note tucked in the sleeve.) However, overpriced Phil Collins albums not withstanding, I did have a spot of luck three years ago when I stumbled into a charity shop on a morning when someone had clearly chosen to offload the carefully selected LP purchases of a misspent youth. My heart pounded in my ears as I flipped through classic after classic from the late 1960s and early 1970s. These weren't reissues either! Part of me feared that it was all a set-up, some kind of a candid camera stunt: no sooner would I carry the LPs to the till than their presence in the shop would be revealed as a honeytrap to get cheap laughs at the expense of this gullible vinyl junkie. Of course I wasn't thinking straight as it would have made for terrible TV. Amongst the 26 LPs I skipped home with that day were two copies of the Rolling Stones' Between The Buttons, a hologram-covered Their Satanic Majesties Request, a mono Beatles For Sale, a pink Island label copy of Fairport Convention's Liege & Lief,

(£150) Record Collector RRPG 2014

a first pressing of Tommy by The Who, Donovan's A Gift From A Flower 2LP box set, a first pressing of Nick Drake's Bryter Layter and, most excitingly, a beautifully-preserved, mono, first pressing of Pink Floyd's Piper At The Gates Of Dawn (worth £700 according to Record Collector's Rare Record Price Guide).

(£400) Record Collector RRPG 2014

(£700) Record Collector RRPG 2014

At a quid a throw, I'm obviously going to hell if I ever sell any of these and don't make a charitable donation. The same shop, five months later yielded first-press Led Zeppelin, Free, Hawkwind, Family and Quintessence LPs. Since then, nothing more thrilling than a Mrs Mills Hammond Party album.

The trouble with being a vinyl junkie is that, like all junkies, I'm always looking to revisit the perfect high. I had started to think that the serendipity of discovering rare records in the land of scratched Des O'Connor LPs was a once in a lifetime, never to be repeated, piece of good fortune. I figured that I could add it to a bottle of reflux-inducing tombola-prize Pomagne and a £5 scratch card win to my back-of-a-postage-stamp list of good luck moments. I seem to remember scraping away at the winning scratch card on the hard shoulder of the M1 while waiting for National Breakdown to rescue me and my terminally ill VW Scirocco, so strike that one from the list of lucky moments. However, Lady Luck has smiled on me once more, or rather, my dogged perseverence has paid off, because a few weeks ago I scored a near mint first pressing of Dark Side Of The Moon (easily identified by the solid blue triangle on the record labels and the A2/B2 matrix), in a West London charity shop for a tenner.

(£500) Record Collector RRPG 2014
Perhaps this comes across as smug and boastful. It's not intended that way. The point I'm trying to make is that collecting records is like panning for gold: you have to have the patience to sift through endless run of the mill dross in order to stumble upon these little treasures. In the end, the music's what really matters, but hell, I do love the thrill of the chase!