Archive for the 'Greatest Hits Records' Category

16
Jun
16

Nicholas Frank “Greatest Skips”

Not denying the irresistibility of a title such as “Greatest Skips”—my overwhelming hope was that inside this album cover with six pictures of people getting their picture taken (the inside sleeve is six corresponding pictures of people taking the pictures of the people on the cover, presumably) I would find a dozen well-crafted, personal, heart-wrenching songs performed by Nicholas Frank, perhaps with the help of additional musicians. For a moment, then, when immediately the familiar sound of a skipping record assaulted my ears, I thought PERHAPS this record has a skip right at the beginning, either coincidentally or as a kind of initiation joke, after which you’d move the needle onto the dozen well-crafted songs. But no. It’s a an entire record consisting of a collection of record skips. After looking around for a Nicholas Frank substitute to throw through the wall, for awhile, I relaxed a little and soon found myself enjoying the sound for what it was, as well as thinking about a few things.

I’ve never really thought about it, but the length of a record skip should be exactly the time it takes for the needle to get around the record once, right? And the record is turning at 33 1/3 times per minute, or so we’re led to believe. But when the needle gets down to the inside of the record, where it has less distance to travel to get around the record, shouldn’t it take less time? So how does that work? Why don’t records get progressively higher-pitched as they go along? It’s bad enough I’ll never REALLY understand what’s going on in those grooves, now I’m even confused about the speed. Anyway, it then occurred to me that in that this is a collection of record skips, played in succession, Mr. Frank had to make a decision on just HOW MANY skips (normally, one hears the number of skips it takes for you to realize the record is skipping, pull yourself out of the beanbag chair, spill your beer, and get to the turntable) he was going to allow us to hear before moving on to the next one, as well as the order they are presented. One wonders if the skips are a collection he compiled over a period of time or if he was able to manufacture or re-create record skips at will. And if, upon repeated listenings, I would be able to discovers a narrative or a message, or even a deep, weird secret, or instructions to unearthing a treasure.

I have to admit, I have my own collection of record skips, on a cassette tape that I kept handy for many years, available to pop in the recorder any time a skip randomly happened. I never listen to it, of course, but wouldn’t sell it for a million dollars. I also have a cassette tape I made from Lee Ranaldo’s lock-groove experiment record, “From Here to Infinity.” It would have been better to just buy the record, but cheapie that I am, I illegally home-taped it, but was then met with a decision to make on each track: how long to record the lock-groove? Now I’m thinking, how many people put lock-grooves on the end of their records, throughout history? There must be a list on the internet somewhere. And one more thing, it just occurred to me. What if THIS record gets an ACTUAL skip in it sometime? What exactly would that be like? I mean, besides annoying, would it blow your mind, if even for a few minutes? How does one create a skip in a record… peanut butter or something? But no, I won’t do it, this is not my record. I’m cat-sitting. But I suppose I could pick up my own copy somewhere, and figure out how to make REAL skips. It could be a project for a rainy day.

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18
Apr
08

Aerosmith “Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits”

It’s 1980 and time to be old. This record looks like they were feeling old, or else being pressured to pay their coke bill. There are enough good songs from their 2nd and 3rd album to make a single greatest hits record, sure, but the problem is trying to come up with songs from the rest of them. Though, actually, “Dream On,” which starts this collection, sounds better to me now than it ever did. “Last Child,” from Rocks, which I’ve never heard before, sounds okay. “Back In The Saddle,” however, is something I’m afraid I HAVE heard before but had stored in some dark recess of my mind where things like images of repair guys’ butt cracks and squashed animals, and backed up public toilet smells, and TV shows from my childhood go, hopefully never to be dredged up.

Even as late as the late 1970s, I guess popular musicians weren’t able to escape the Lennon/McCartney cover curse, as in EVERYONE had to do one, and they are usually the most unlistenable songs on the record. “Come Together” isn’t horrible, it’s pretty much exactly like The Beatles version but about ten percent less fresh. That they included “Kings and Queens” on this record completely baffles me, but hey, a few days ago I’d NEVER heard it, and now I’ve listened to it several times, so I guess the jokes on me! “Remember (Walking in the Sand)” could pretty much mark the beginning of the Eighties, lamest decade of all time, or the End of Rock’n’roll, or the end of Aerosmith, or the end of all humanity, or it could just be a series of bad decisions (writing it, learning it, playing it, recording it, putting it on a record, putting it on THIS record).

The best two songs, “Sweet Emotion” and “Walk This Way” happen to be from Aerosmith’s best record, Toys in the Attic. This is why I love the internet; listening to “Walk This Way” compelled me to search for “cowbells in music” and I pretty much spent a couple of hours then reading crazy people writing about how great the cowbell is, including in this song. Of course, I agree– and I’ve always thought that little cowbell bit was what made a good song a great song. Boy, they really knew how to not overdo it, on this song, as excessive as it is in many ways.

You always have to wonder what it would be like to do some kind of art, like say playing rock music, and suddenly find yourself a commodity. To have some completely soulless money counters putting out a “greatest hits” of your work. I mean, I can’t imagine how weird it must feel! This record kind of documents, for me, the problem of the whole endeavor. Listen to side one, then side two—it’s an amazing illustration of what LEAN sounds like, and what BLOATED sounds like, side by side.




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