Thursday, April 01, 2010

“The Junkmaster Returns”

c. 2010 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Let it be known: junk is good!

Browsing at thrift stores and flea markets used to be a common activity in the Ice household. But in recent years, this routine faded. While pursuing career interests, the necessary resources of time and money evaporated. Unbelievably, my visits to Goodwill and Salvation Army locations became rare.

This awkward detour from normalcy made life less colorful than before.

Yet as the New Year awakened, this old habit began to awaken, at last. While trudging through snow and sleet, I tried to remember being a junkmaster.

Vinyl records? Old books? Beer signs? In yonder days, such items held much appeal.

I needed to reconnect with myself.

Over the last weeks of winter, I visited two or three stores before making a purchase. Then, a nugget of collector’s gold appeared that seemed to call out for attention. And another… and another…

By the time spring arrived, many new vintage vinyl treasures had begun to crowd my office floor:

ZENITH PRESENTS THE FOLK ALL STARS / Various Artists (Columbia, CSP 324) – A compilation of artists popular during the 60’s folk music revival. Included are The Brothers Four; Pete Seeger; The Clancy Brothers; The New Christy Minstrels; The Back Porch Majority.

NEW FRONTIER / The Kingston Trio (Capitol, T 1809) – Well known in the 60’s, this group was both prolific and timely. John Stewart’s liner notes preface the upbeat theme of their music. “Looking back through history, there have been key phrases that have long outlived the men who have said them. They have helped us win battles and have formed thoughts that have influenced countless lives. Horace Greely said ‘Go West, Young Man,’ there was ‘Remember the Alamo’ and ‘Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death.’ To me, ‘The New Frontier’ is such a phrase.” The song was a nod to the optimism of John F. Kennedy. Also featured here are compositions such as ‘Greenback Dollar’ and ‘Dogie’s Lament.’

PICK A HIT FEATURING ‘THE WHEELS’ / The String-A-Longs (Warwick, W 2036) – An instrumental collection of popular songs from the period. Heard here are notable tunes like ‘Walk, Don’t Run’ and ‘Torquay.’

CONNIE FRANCIS SINGS ‘NEVER ON SUNDAY’ AND OTHER TITLE SONGS FROM MOTION PICTURES / Connie Francis (MGM, E/SE 3965) – This raven-haired beauty rivaled Annette Funicello as a heartthrob during her era. The liner notes touch on this theme. “When pretty Connie Francis turns her vocal spotlight on the music from great films, it’s an event to really get excited about. And the favorites are all here… well as many as she could fit in one record.”

ITALIAN COMIC DIALOG / Rocco De Russo – Mary Sampieri (Colonial, LP 191) – A collection of funny routines from a gentler era. The cover alone makes this album worth purchasing. It is modernistic with pop art illustrations offered in lime green, salmon, and white.

ROCKERBOX – Chilliwack (Sire, SASD 7511) – A vinyl-borne slice of mid 70’s Rock that still reverberates with meaning. Not well known perhaps, but well liked by genuine students of the genre.

THE COWSILLS PLUS THE LINCOLN PARK ZOO / The Cowsills (Mercury Wing, SRW 16354) – This group was young, fresh-faced and geeky. Listen to ‘Love Theme From Haight Street’ and understand how out of step they really were with the prevailing counterculture rebellion. Liner notes on the record jacket echo this unavoidable perception. “In an age when hippies have the music field under their hard rock spell, who could have guessed that a wholesome, happy singing family from New England would catapult to the top of the top of the Hot 100 list… hear the music of today – vital, alive and electric…”

CLIMAX FEATURING SONNY GERACI (Bell, RR 3506) – Geraci was heroic in Cleveland, even then. This recording provides historic documentation of his talent.

OHANA, KABELAC / The Percussions of Strasbourg (Limelight Mercury, LS 86051) – A strange experimental platter. The sort of vinyl document prized by collectors because of its oddball concept and true obscurity. Liner notes included here offer a mission statement of sorts. “The Percussions bring the fascination and excitement of some 140 different percussive instruments into play on this Grand Prix International du Disque recording. This music is truly unique, as The Percussions is the only ensemble of its kind in the world.”

COME TOGETHER / The Now Generation (Spar, 4806) – An amusing product, with cheesy pop music and faux-realism. But best of all are the liner notes. “We’ve come out of the golden 60’s and into the magic of the 70’s and the magic of the space age that will accompany it. To help bridge the gap, here’s a completely new collection of your favorite hit songs… albums, 8-track tapes and stereo cassettes have become a household word in homes throughout the world.”

20 ORIGINAL HITS OF THE 70’S (TVP Springboard, TVP 1024) – Amazingly, this compilation is not from KTEL. Featured are songs that now comprise everyday listening on MAJIC 105.7 FM, like ‘Don’t Pull Your Love’ by Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds.

JUST TURN ME LOOSE / George Maharis (Epic, LN 24037) – This performer is best remembered for appearing in the television series ‘Route 66.’ Here, he demonstrates vocal surprising vocal abilities. The back cover of this LP offers a roster of celebrity endorsements from people like Shelly Berman, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Merv Griffin.

MUSIC FOR BATON DRILLS AND POM POM ROUTINES (Kimbo, KEA 8030) – An insane purchase perhaps, but well worth having for its dated, bland-blue cover. In a nod to 60’s hipness, the album features Henry Mancini’s ‘Pink Panther Theme.’

COUNTRY STYLE / Slabach Sisters Quartet (Zondervan, ZLP 619) – A good-spirited gospel platter by four sisters from Dalton, Ohio – Elsie, Sylvia, Ruthie and Bonnie.

DUSTY IN MEMPHIS / Dusty Springfield (Rhino CD re-release R2 75580) – Best known for featuring ‘Son of A Preacher Man.’ This recording is a must for any collector. This sultry songstress sounds good, even in the digital era.

My junk quest concluded with another long-lost ritual – taking stock of what I’d purchased over a cup of coffee.

Now, only one question remained unanswered: Where was my turntable?

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