Tuesday, April 22, 2008

“Discovery Shop Pit Stop”

c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

I’ve written often in this space about my personal adventures at the Discovery Shop in Chardon. Run to benefit the American Cancer Society, the store has long been a favored point for local browsing and bargain hunting. But in recent months, it has evolved beyond simply being a community thrift outpost. Now, it boasts the cheerful décor of a new-to-you boutique.

Visits without a purchase are rare for those of us in the Ice Household. We are dependably able to locate unexpected treasures at this friendly place. A recent pause netted several compact discs for our home library, costing a mere pittance in pocket change:

BILL WYMAN’S RHYTHM KINGS: Double Bill (Koch / KOC-CD 8287) - A joy to discover! This two-disc set features the former Rolling Stones bassist jamming with an all-star roster of performers. Present are Albert Lee, Gary Booker, George Harrison, Chris Rea, Andy Fairweather Low, Martin Taylor, and many other noted musicians. The atmospheric feel here is confident, yet relaxed. Everyone sounds jazzy and blue, with no regrets.

CHARLIE BARNET: Big Bands (TIME-LIFE / TCD 0011/R960-11) – A perfect soundtrack for working at home. These vintage recordings evoke thoughts of black-and-white movies, big-fendered automobiles, and bygone Americana. A native of New York, Barnet became a bandleader known for his prowess on the saxophone. He gained fame in an era populated by musical greats like Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Try not to smile when playing this gem – it can’t be done!

CLEM SNIDE: A Beautiful EP (spinART / SPART 136) – Modernistic, alternative rock. Not so appealing as R.E.M. or They Might Be Giants. But the material here carries an exuberant tone of garage-band sensibility mixed with artistic earnestness. A sincere, if failed, attempt to reach the intensity of Johnathan Richman or Freedy Johnston. Note a cover version of Lou Reed’s ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’ and a tune that references British songwriting hero Nick Drake.

FRANK BLACK: Teenager of the Year (Elektra / 4ADElektra 61618-2) – A punky and energetic disc. Black is well known for street-level artistry, and a vocal style reminiscent of a panic attack. But the music carries more subtlety than is obvious upon first listening. Black is a crude, but effective composer.

LEVEL 42: (Polydor / 821 935-2) – A successful group, especially in Europe. Their sound is pop and modern jazz. Incredibly, Phil Gould, Mark King and Wally Badarou were once members of M, the collective responsible for the New Wave radio staple ‘Pop Muzik.’

The Discovery Shop visit also yielded a few tasty slabs of vintage vinyl during our walk-through. Included were familiar relics of ‘Baby Boom’ culture that were a pleasure to find:

BILLY ‘CRASH’ CRADDOCK: (Capitol / ST-11758) – From the cover photo, Craddock works his best faux-Elvis mojo here. In fact, he delivers a rousing version of ‘Jailhouse Rock’ with all the swaggering southern pride inherent in the original version. He embodies the redneck energy of down-home music, with a Rock edge that predates the current trend toward commercialized Country recordings.

MARK LINDSAY: Arizona (Columbia / CS 9986) – After leading Paul Revere and the Raiders to great success in the 1960’s, Lindsay embarked on a profitable, but short-lived solo career. This album is notable for its inclusion of ‘Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down’ which was written by Kris Kristofferson, and made popular by Johnny Paycheck.

ROLF HARRIS: The Original Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport & Sun Arise (Epic / BN 26053) – This is the classic offering from Harris, an early hero of Australian music. Long before AC/DC, he brought the world a taste of down-under culture. His memorable ‘Kangaroo’ has become a staple of novelty collections, around the world.

SONNY AND THE EAGLES: Everybody Monkey (United Artists / UAL 3311) – In the Golden Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll, a simple dance craze could spawn recordings from coast to coast. Often they were knock-off albums intended to generate quick revenue from a minimal artistic investment. But this LP is better than most. The cover even features a series of photographs intended to demonstrate the dance itself. As the liner notes say… “Charles Darwin was sure that man was descended from the monkey but it’s a safe bet that he never imagined that one day the teen-agers would dance like one.”

CITI: Roller Disco (De-Lite / DSR 9515) – This is another attempt to sell records based on the fleeting popularity of a teen craze. Roller Disco must have lasted about three minutes in the national consciousness. Yet Lee Genesis, Nadine Bracey, and Shirley Dixon seemed to reckon that their own take on the fad would last a bit longer. Though this record ended up in a cutout bin (an ugly hole is punched in its jacket) the platter retains value as evidence of how the industry evolved from Hippie abandon to slick commercialism throughout the 1970’s.

The treasures listed here would have been enough to satisfy our collector’s desires. But the load of affordable goodies even included a pair of 8-track tapes:

TODAY’S SUPER GREATS: Original Hits Original Stars (K-tel / 8ST-1) – In 1973, the world was very different from today. No one laughed at the idea of having Cher, Donny Osmond and Sammy Davis, Jr. on an album with The Raspberries and Derek & the Dominos. And people actually bought slick, low-buck compilations from K-tel International, like this…

YOUR PARADE OF15 HITS OF THE 50’s: (Pickwick / P8-1211) – In the 70’s, there was a wave of interest in Doo-Wop culture, thanks to the success of American Graffiti, Grease, and Happy Days. This collection features many popular songs from that period, including Charlie Brown, Witch Doctor, Bye Bye Love, Tequila, and Wake up Little Susie.

Admittedly, every trip to the Discovery Shop has been different for us – sort of like spinning a roulette wheel as part of a charity auction. We’ve managed to come home with books, framed art, clothing, glassware, vintage electronics, and even furniture after looking around the store. But each pause has been worthwhile. Not only for goods to buy, but for conversation with the friendly staff of volunteers.
The only question that has gone unanswered is… what will we find, next?

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