Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Al primero

So i'm in the process of wrapping up a mixtape for JRS. Rhythm Master's "Rhythm Magic" (Mosaic 1984) is spinning in this picture, while Rapmasters + DJ 2 "Backstabbers" (Beautiful Sounds 1988) plays the back, on top of Gary Numan and the Tubeway Army's "Replicas" album (Atco/Beggar's Banquet 1979). Foreground is one of a pair of Armenian jazz records which have some funkish groove to them in spots.

Working backwards..
The Armenian records-- i can't even figure out who they are, much less replicate the characters of that language. My friend Christina was clearing out her old house, which belonged to her Armenian grandmother. Among some bad 70's hits collections (I kept one for some reason which came in a big multi-LP box, with random orchestras like Percy Faith's doing versions of big 70's tunes) there were a decent stack of Armenian records. Working my way through them it seemed like most were on the same label; it's possible that it's a state label due to Armenia's Soviet past. All of them were worn and scratchy, but 2 were worth keeping in that vague 60s/70s mild funk way. Christina didn't have any interest in keeping virtually anything from the house, despite whatever value it might have had to her still-alive grandmother.

Gary Numan + Tubeway Army.. hmm, not sure on this one. Might have come from the late Record Hog in Somerville, MA. Good stuff, but good stuff that easily gets refiled with the idea of "gotta come back to this one." I definitely like it more than First Album by them, but it's such celebrated stuff that i will have to come back to both albums.

Rapmasters and DJ 2. This was a blind purchase from a great place that i believe no longer messes with records. Dollar-A-Pound is the ghetto relative of the Cambridge Mass mainstay, The Garment District. Whereas the clothing, which is bundled on the floor and meant for customers to root through, is generally rather suspect (the late great Mikey Dee swore several times he'd picked up conjuctivitis there), their collection of records was at times quite good. For several years they were doing pretty well with the detritus of other records stores that had gone down the tubes. For example, Pipeline Records lasted for a little while in Union Square Somerville after leaving Harvard Square Cambridge, but after the owner gave up he dumped many of his records here. And a record dump it was, total digging paradise. So much crap that there HAD to be something good there once in a while.
They used to go so far as to have sections by genre, 45s and a great "just arrived" section. They even had a listening station at one point. Someone there was adamant about making it into a kinda shabby record store, and i ALWAYS found something there. A US Apple Corps 45 called "Elijah Stone" came from there, and i remember the look i got from whomever rang me up when i pulled out a clean copy of Liquid Liquid's "Cavern" 12"-- that look seemed to say, "I don't know what this is, but I'm sure 4 bucks is not nearly enough." Over time, they cut back a lot and just threw all the browser racks into a back section of the store, did everything for a dollar then 3 for a dollar. They even tried to sell raw vinyl kits they had made for people to shape bowls out of records by heating them in their ovens. About 2 months ago i got an email from my old roommate saying they they were throwing it all away and it was all free. I imagine it's just another spot to forget about but i'll have to take a trip there sometime soon to be sure.

The Rapmasters 12 was a blind purchase, like one a few years earlier called Cop Bop by Portable Patrol. Both are local Boston rap records (Cop Bop is much more disco) and Rapmasters is really damn good, reliant on the O'Jays sample that the song is named after. Very aggressive, chunky production courtesy of what has to be an SP-12. Not much great rap out of Boston back in the 80s, but a few 12"s have come to light in the past couple of years franzy for obscure late 80s rap. Dave Tompkins ("Random Rap Files") speaks highly of this record in an issue of the british GrandSlam magazine, which i once had a link to when it was called Big Daddy.

Rhythm Master. Slept on by me for years, this was one of the golden collecting experiences. This Latino cat, i think his name was Tony, worked for my father for a minute when my dad still had his first restaurant. Tony was a cool guy from the Bronx and at that time (93 or 94) he was in his mid-30s and supporting a family. I think he worked at a hospital and came up to Rye, NY to waiter. We worked together and got along well, mostly. I couldn't understand why he got all revved up talking about Christ, but that was just me. He'd be entirely deadpan, serious as anything when he said, "the world just HAD to be created by Him.. it just HAD to be... it... look at it.... there's no other way!"
Anyhow, i found out that he'd been a DJ in the period between 82 and 84. Not rap, more period dance. Now, recall.. this was when beat-diggers and funk collector people weren't organized as much in the states, and the stuff that i'd read about in terms of "rare groove"was pretty adamant about looking for beats and whatnot within a '69-'74 frame. But it sounded cool and Tony told me that they were just in the crates in his basement in the Bx, and he was worried about them getting water-damaged. He seemed to have no problem giving them up, since he knew that at that point i was really really record hungry and down to just paw through stuff. We talked about money, but perhaps he was fine with giving his boss' son stuff for free (maybe he was just happy to give them to someone who'd take care of them, but i gotta be realistic!). So i'd asked him about it and he forgot a bunch of times, time passed on and i was working other places, and i think he wasn't working that many weekends at the restaurant. I'd pretty much given up on the whole idea when one day, in my parents garage, a plastic crate just showed up sitting on the floor. Now, i had NO idea that this was going to make its way to me, nor that Tony was even around anymore. In fact, i NEVER asked anything about the crate, since i figured that my dad had taken it home for me after Tony'd asked him to do it. So it's only an educated guess that this crate (was it 2?) was in fact Tony's. I was excited about it, at least at first.
At that point in time, i'll admit that i wasn't really that understanding of a lot of the music from that time. What i did, besides get a bit disappointed in many of the records being what i considered soft, generic 80s R&B, was to put it all aside and shelve it. There was some good stuff mixed in, no question, but the real prize was all the material that i pulled out of it years later. I went to college, learned more about dance music and read volumes more about some of the styles. For instance, i'd always loved electro, but learning about it in print made a lot more sense. I'd go visit my parents and dig through those records and find "69 Cancer Sign" by Vericheri or Chris "The Glove" Taylor & David Storrs' "Tibetan Jam" b/w Ice T's "Reckless". Some very ill records from that time period came from that collection, not to mention promo copies of a The Human Body 12"--which was Roger Troutman's group before Zapp. Tony did his work and got promos of a lot of stuff, including lots of doubles, but i should have known by his sartorial, clean-cut demeanor. These records were almost entirely NEAR MINT. No finger prints, no sleeve scuffs, no rounded cardboard, no nothing. It was amazing, even if i am still working through that collection. It's nothing like any DJ collection i've ever seen, and it seems as if Tony didn't get a lot of work DJing. I'd still like to thank him one day.

Rhythm Magic is a great early 80's funk bomb. It made the One-Crate mix that is going into JRS' next package.

Second picture- stepped back from the mess. Far left on top of the TV is Mystic Moods "Erogenous" (Soundisc 1975). More of the Armenian record's cover is visible to the right of the Mystic Moods. On top of the crate on the right is T-Connection "S/T" (Dash/TK 1978) on top of a Stompin' bootleg comp of rock and roll. The mess and general bedlam is, of course, the entire room.


Anonymous Still Starving said...

Thats a nice collection there. Too bad I had to start all over again. I had some gems, too many moves and being broke. Never again, once I get them back They're never leaving me.

9:25 PM  
Anonymous Petrovic said...

I saw you have some ''armenian'' records from former USSR
If you need,I can translate titles from cyrilic letters into latin letters.
Do get in touch via my FLICKR place,if you'd like.
Also, theres a great site for music from former USSR:
there you will see dwnld section with many titles(not only russian)
Your blog is great, keep on!
Cheers from Serbia !

4:36 AM  

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