Thursday, 20 November 2014

Drowning in Jim Reeves!

Yep, Jim Reeves made (and sold) a hell of a lot of albums and, briefly, I seemed to own pretty much all of them. Them and a bunch of Top Of The Pops cover version LPs as well as albums by Dolly Parton, Barry Manilow, Leo Sayer, Showaddywaddy, Jive Bunny, Roger Whittaker, Bucks Fizz and Val Doonican. My taste can take unexpected turns occasionally, but trust me, none of those got anywhere near my turntable. Thing is, I lucked out again a few weeks back when I responded to one of those all too rare ads for a record collection offered gratis on Gumtree and managed to get my reply in before anyone else. And yes, despite the Jive Bunny LP I did get lucky because, amongst the hundreds of diabolical 'as advertised on TV'-type compilation LPs and other landfill favourites, there were some vinyl gems.

I did wonder about the quality of the records in the collection when I turned up at a modest West London address on a rainy October evening to find the records all boxed up and ready to go, stacked and packed in such a way as to offer little chance to idly flick through them. The couple offloading them couldn't get them in the back of my car fast enough. The collection, described in the advert as being a mix of styles including Sixties and Seventies rock, reggae and punk, had me fantasising about pristine first pressings of The Beatles, The Stones and Hendrix, with a smattering of Sex Pistols rarities. When Mr Offloader let slip that the collection contained a lot of his mum's old records, the Songs From The Emerald Isle LP that drew my gaze suddenly looked to be a harbinger of doom. Still, I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, even if that horse is of the Trojan variety and covered in thick dust and the odd stray pube.

As I drove home with records filling every last nook and cranny in my car, each red light offered the chance for a quick flick through the crate of vinyl on the front passenger seat. Black Lace's Party Party featuring Agadoo. Oh Jesus! Max Bygraves' Singalongamax. Noooo! Then, my fingers walked their way to a copy of The Open Window album on the Vanguard label. Not so long ago I got outbid on this LP on eBay. Result! I decided at that point that even if there was nothing else worth hanging onto - the rain, the dirt, the heavy lifting, the inevitable trip to offload everything else at the charity shop - this album alone made it all worthwhile. The blurb on the rear sleeve attempts to sum up the bizarre and intriguing music on the LP:

"The Open Window has been described by reviewers as a chamber-rock-jazz trio, a pop-classical ensemble, and a folk-rock-raga group, and all the names fit, except that they leave out the honky-tonk piano rolls and the Russian chants."

The release date (1969) and the cover art should give you some idea that, intentionally or otherwise, the Juilliard School of Music-educated musicians on this LP find themselves paddling in the murky, indistinct edges of psychedelia. Perhaps drugs played no part in the creation of this music, but it would most definitely provide a suitable soundtrack to the ingestion of perception altering substances.

It wasn't going to be easy hiding a car-load of vinyl from the missus, so I didn't even try. I think she was just so relieved that I hadn't come home with another pair of speakers that she barely passed comment. Forgoing the surgical gloves and chemical warfare suit that the job demands, I immediately set to work and began searching for gold amongst the crud. At least 200 LPs and as many 7" singles found their way into the charity shop pile without a second glance, but soon I started to find the odd interesting item. The promised punk materialised, albeit not in any great quantity. Apart from a pair of Clash singles and some punk-lite from Toyah, I discovered a couple of Oi! LPs, an Angelic Upstarts album and two Sham 69 albums, both of which have been signed by Jimmy Pursey.

Jimmy Pursey autograph

When not in the mood for Jim Reeves, it seems that Reggae, ska and 2-Tone were the order of the day at Mr Offloader's pad: Specials, Bodysnatchers, Selecter, Madness, Desmond Dekker, Judge Dread and various Trojan label releases, as well as a few interesting soul, funk, beat and folk albums.

I was chuffed to find both stereo and mono US pressings of Deliver by The Mamas and the Papas as well as their If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears LP.

Another US pressing is this album by Spanish band Los Bravos. The title track is one of those that has been aired so often that it's impossible to listen to it objectively, but the rest of the album is surprisingly good Beat / Garage Rock.

The most interesting finds came from rooting through the singles. Amongst the Eighties pop dross and Seventies novelty tunes were lurking some beauties, including South African pressings in picture bags of seven inchers by The Tremeloes and The Square Set. Despite having the same title, they are completely different songs. These don't crop up every day, especially in the UK.

The real treasure in the collection though, has to be an advance promo copy of the ridiculously rare 7", and sole release, by Canadian garage band The 5A.M. Event, who can lay claim to being the only Canadian band to have played at The Cavern Club in Liverpool. According to Popsike, the cheapest copy of this to sell on eBay made £220.

Out of the 400+ albums and 500+ singles in this haul, I've saved about 50 LPs and 150 seven inchers. Of those LPs there are about a dozen that'll find a place in my collection, the rest I'll either sell or trade. One of my local charity shops has gladly taken everything else. Surprisingly, the none-more-metal Mrs Shelf-Stacker asked to keep The Very Best Of Barry Manilow to file alongside her Iron Maiden and Anvil albums. She's full of surprises!

Maniloi! Part of an eclectic collection

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