Saturday Single No. 144

Originally posted August 8, 2009

This week, we finish catching up with historical July, checking out the records that found their ways to my home during Julys since 1990. (This will necessarily be an overview, as I began to find my vinyl madness during these years, for a time bringing home more LPs each month – sometimes thirty or more – than could be easily listened to.)

As July of 1990 began, I was living in Conway Springs, Kansas, planning my exit to Columbia, Missouri. I found ten LPs to bring home that month, all but two in Columbia, with the first batch being garnered on a trip there to find a place to live and the latter group coming to me after I’d moved to the city. The best of the month?  Rick Danko’s 1977 self-titled solo debut, by a large margin. The least compelling? Probably Gord’s Gold Volume II, Gordon Lightfoot’s second hits package, on which the Canadian singer-songwriter offers newly recorded – and ultimately lesser – versions of his better-known songs from about 1976 on. One of the songs thusly diminished is the classic “The Wreck of the Edmund Fizgerald.” The record was made essential for Lighfoot completists, however, by the inclusion of a newly released track, “If It Should Please You.”

In 1991, July was a month of transition. I was completing my reporting project for my master’s degree in Columbia and traveled to Minnesota for a high school reunion and to find a place to live come August, as it was time to get back home. On my way in July, I stopped first to visit a friend in Menomonie, Wisconsin. It was my first visit to that university town, and of course, I checked out the record shops, finding a couple of LPs by Bonnie Raitt and a few other things. Once settled back in Minnesota, I added just one more record that month, a dismal outing by singer-songwriter John Dawson Read.

Finally ensconced in 1992 on Pleasant Avenue in south Minneapolis – a place I would stay for seven years, the longest I’ve stayed in one place during my entire adult life* – I began to explore my new neighborhood’s vinyl assets, including Cheapo’s, just five blocks away. I brought home only nine records that first Pleasant July. The best of them was likely Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow, a 1967 release I’ve loved for years. Or maybe Sandy Denny’s Sandy. (I should note that one of the LPs I found that month was the Beach Boy’s Pet Sounds, which many critics and listeners place among the top ten or fifteen albums of all time. I don’t agree.)

By the summer of 1993, I was in the middle of my years at the Eden Prairie newspaper, and the vinyl was beginning to crowd the books off my shelves. The records I got that July were good but not superb, with the best being maybe Emmylou Harris’ Evangeline. A Taste of Honey’s 1978 self-titled disco fest was likely the least compelling.

The pace had accelerated by the time July 1994 came through, with twenty-six records coming home with me that month, the vast majority of them from Cheapo’s, which was still – I believe – just five blocks away. (Sometime during my last years on Pleasant Avenue, Cheapo’s took over what had been a Best Buy store on West Lake Street, moving about ten blocks further from my home. I didn’t let that stop me.) The best of July 1994? Either Buffalo Springfield or Buffalo Springfield Again, although I do have an odd affection for the Fine Young Cannibals’ The Raw & The Cooked. The least interesting? Likely Cat Stevens’ Buddha and the Chocolate Box.

The summer of 1995 found me preoccupied with switching jobs, leaving my suburban reporting job and taking on the position of editor at a weekly based in downtown Minneapolis. Although I loved working downtown, neither the job nor the weekly were right for me, and the decision to make the move was, frankly, one of the worst I’ve made in my life. In any event, I bought only two records during July that year: One was Bob Dylan’s Uplugged. I was relieved to find the album on vinyl, as Dylan’s two preceding albums, World Gone Wrong and his third greatest hits package, were not released on vinyl; they were [at that time] the first – and, I think, only – Bob Dylan albums so distributed. The other LP was Wendy Waldman’s Gypsy Symphony, a decent singer-songwriter record.

By July 1996, I’d left the weekly paper downtown and was beginning a little more than two years of scuffling and temp jobs. Eleven records came home with me that month. The best? Maybe The Beatles Live at the BBC or maybe Dylan’s Bootleg Series, Volumes 1-3 [Rare and Unreleased] 1961-1991.** There really was no worst; all the records I got that month were pretty good; the least significant was likely an Atlantic R&B anthology titled Super Hits.

July 1997 found twenty-two new records on my shelves. The best was likely Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall, although Little Richard’s The Rill Thing is pretty darned good, too. The most odd? An instrumental album by Benedict Silberman titled Traditional Jewish Memories. My sister had owned a copy of it when we were young, and it brought back fond memories. Ringo Starr’s traditional pop excursion, Sentimental Journey, was a little strange, too.

By 1998, vinyl madness was at its peak. Forty-eight newly found records came to my shelves that July. The best? Ann Peebles’ I Can’t Stand the Rain or maybe Don’t Leave Me Here, an anthology of country blues from the late 1920s and early 1930s. The most disappointing? Love, the 1966 psychedelic workout by the group of the same name. Over-rated.

By July of 1999, I was packing to leave Pleasant Avenue for Bossen Terrace, a location further south in Minneapolis. I brought home only thirteen LPs that month. Tops on that list might have Smokey Robinson’s Being With You. The least compelling? The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Rick Wakeman. Also over-rated.

In my new location, I found new record shops to frequent and new neighborhoods in which to find garage sales. The seventh month of 2000 found twenty-two new LPs on the shelf. The best was likely Aretha Franklin’s This Girl’s In Love With You, and the least worthy was probably Juice Newton’s Greatest Hits.  I moved to the suburbs in June 2001 and then to St. Cloud in the autumn of 2002, and my record buying became much less frequent: Five July albums in 2001, with Asylum Choir II by Leon Russell and Marc Benno being the best. (I’ve generally looked past anthologies for the “best of the month” choices here, but I should note that July 2001 was when I picked up the Beatles’ One, which would certainly be in the running for the title of best anthology of all time.)

I bought some vinyl online in July 2002, and the Texas Gal would surprise me with the occasional LP or set. The month saw thirteen new LPs, most of them very good. The best was either Cold Blood’s First Taste of Sin or Mississippi Fred McDowell’s I do not play no rock ’n’ roll. As I was being very choosy, and as the Texas Gal knows my tastes very well, there was nothing from that month that was a disappointment.

And with the exception of a Loggins & Messina LP and one from Three Dog Night, both in 2004, that’s it for all the Julys past. So what do I pull out of this wealth of madness today?

Well, since I’ve shared the Rick Danko solo album here, and since I don’t see a lot listed here that’s not widely available, I can make an idiosyncratic choice. (As if I never do that, anyway.)

So here’s “Visions” from Cold Blood’s 1972 album, First Taste of Sin, today’s Saturday Single.

*That statement about the Pleasant Avenue apartment being the place I lived for the longest time in my adult life no longer holds up. I was there for a little more than seven years (1992-1999); the Texas Gal and I lived in the house on the East Side of St. Cloud from September 2008 to February 2018, not quite nine-and-a-half years.

**I continued to acquire Dylan’s work on vinyl into the 2000s. The last album of his that I obtained on vinyl was 2001’s Love & Theft. Since then I have acquired a nearly complete collection of Dylan’s work on CD.

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