Today was a Random Rekkids Day–these happen when my other foci are unbreakable. I was back to work after a spring break staycation; I had a bit of planning to do for my students’ research unit; I had students and peers wandering in and out of my office for conversation; we had to hustle to get our walk on before rain hit; we were an episode behind in Jessica Jones (a little goofy in Season Two with its amateur–and professional–sleuthing ridiculousness). As Nicole offered, if Jessica farted once it might smack the series upside the head. A wet bourbon fart.
Anyway, I did listen to some stuff. I have Rhino’s nice two-disc Love Story, ’95 vintage, loaded out in The Lab, which documents the rise and fall of that unique Los Angeles band. I’m quite a fan, but I hadn’t broken them out for awhile, and I deeply enjoyed their progress from the faintly menacing Bacharach-David cover (it’s the bass line, and something about Lee’s way of ending the last word of the chorus) “My Little Red Book” to “Stephanie Knows Who,” which peers over the ridge into the valley of Forever Changes. It was like starting a night with cheap beer, taking someone up on some mescaline, grumbling “Nothing’s happening!” then feeling the green fuses that drive the flowers sprout from your pores. In a purely music-metaphorical sense…
I also finally got to a wondrous gospel compilation my garrulous yet curmudgeonly friend Clifford passed along to me, Lord Have Mercy: The Gospel Soul of Checker Records. Consistently spot-on through 27 cuts, my current favorites are “Soon I Will Be Done,” by the East St. Louis Gospelettes, the political gospel blues “I’m Fighting for My Rights,” by Lucy Rodgers,” the true gospel-soul “Lend Me a Hand,” by The Kindly Shepherds,” and the street-stalking “Crying Pity and a Shame,” by the intense Salem Travelers. Please note: the post-Cooke Soul Stirrers and Detroit’s fabulous Violinaires are also on this comp, and they don’t match the obscurities, not quite. Essential.
Finally, I got home from work to find a used copy of Charlie Feathers: Get With It–Essential Recordings 1954-1969. I knew most of the material, and I had some of the songs already either on CD or in digital form. Honestly, I bought it because I have long admired Revenant’s reissue program and packaging: the art’s gonna be neat, the notes are gonna be eye-opening. The Feathers set, in one way, prophesied our current reissue boom, which labors mightily to make giants out of merely admirable (and/or quirky) (and definitely obscure) strivers, baiting shoppers with 180 gram vinyl editions, archival photos, and admirable and indefatigable scholarship, then crosses its fingers, hoping that (as is true in too many cases) they don’t notice the artists may have been obscure for a reason. The 42 cuts on the Feathers set include (to my ear) 10 indubitable classics, a couple worthy curiosities (including a strange vocal group stab), and a borderline historic but very, very loose pair of mess-arounds with North Mississippi hill country legend Junior Kimbrough (this is ’69). That’s about a third of the set; the rest (Feathers enthusiasts–and they are serious people–may shit here) are…meh. Still, the notes are courtesy of folks like Tosches, Guralnick, and (big kicker for me) Jim Dickinson.