Sunday, March 22, 2020

The Style of Ann(e) Murray

I have a few piles of knock-off 8-tracks, so I figured I'd get some of them out of the way. First on the chopping block is Anne Murray.

Anne Murray is one of those celebrities who can apparently do no wrong. She's an activist, has her own charity, and she's a proud Canadian. Her songs are so innocent and virginal that she qualifies to be a nun even though she has two children. Her singing voice has always sounded like a middle-aged woman who does the dishes every night. Also, she's kept the same shitty hairstyle since birth.

The funny thing about Anne Murray is she recorded her debut album on my least favourite record label of all time. I can tell you that this is probably the only GOOD album that Arc Records ever put out. I also have no desire to invest my money into the rest of Anne Murray's catalog.



But we're not here to talk about the real Anne Murray. We're here to talk about Anne Murray impersonators.

Thunderbird Singers - Golden Hits In The Style of Ann Murray



I've covered lots of these Deville 8-tracks in the past. I believe they're the exact same record company as Fantastic F. I was certainly in for a surprise when I discovered how much the woman singing actually sounded like Anne Murray, although we're supposed to be talking about "Ann Murray", whoever that is. If I didn't know better, I would say that this is in fact the real Anne Murray.

Look at that nice cover. They probably stole the picture of the wagon from a can of dog food or something.

The back of the 8-track has the word "Thunderbird" written all over it. We have "Thunderbird Productions", "Thunderbird Recordings & Entertainment LTD", "(C)1978 Thunderbird" and "Artist: Thunderbird Singers". They could have gone a bit further and called each song "Thunderbird Theme 1", "Thunderbird Theme 2", etc.

I'm really quite surprised at how good this tape sounds. The audio is clear, clean, and sounds really good. But then there's program 3. The right channel is blank. How in hell do you fuck that up? Every other track is fine except for that one! Not only that, the last song of program 3 gets cut off at the splice. Why couldn't they do that on program 4 so it sounds like the Anne Murray impersonator gets shot at the end of the album? I would celebrate this tape if they did that!

So yeah, this one is quite impressive for a knock-off except for all those technical fuck ups.

Listen to Snowbird
Listen to Put Your Hand In The Hand (that gets cut off and has the blank right channel)


Thunderbird Singers - In The Style of Anne Murray



Yes, this is the same album except these are no longer golden hits, the right channel on program 3 isn't blank this time and fake Anne Murray doesn't get murdered. Either Deville/Fantastic F was bought out by Starburst, or they just changed their name. Instead of going for the "can of dog food" look, they just plastered a picture of Uncle Joe's old farm onto the label.


Hits! Made Famous by Anne Murray



Oh look! We get a picture of a goddam seagull. Is that supposed to represent a snowbird? I'm pretty sure if you unspooled this tape and fed it to a seagull, it would eat it. Those damn birds are nothing more than flying goats.

This isn't the same album because the singer sounds like Rita MacNeil, which makes sense because I think she was best friends with Anne Murray. If she wasn't, then they at least should have been friends since they wrote songs for the same shitty genre.

This one just isn't as Anne Murray-ish as the last one, but at least they spelled her name right.

Listen to Danny's Song


I have a stack of Engelbert Humperdinck tapes to tackle, so perhaps we'll do that in the next installment just to get them the hell out of my queue.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Record Store Tour: Vinyl Experience (Steinbach)

Due to the whole CORVID-19 outbreak which is killing jobs and freedom by the minute, the record store tour will be on hold. However, I have one more adventure to share with you...



Location: Highway 12 & 52, Steinbach, MB
Rating: 8/10

This store isn't in Winnipeg, but Steinbach isn't too far away. So what kind of a record store exists in a small city like Steinbach? Well, a pretty damn good one actually! I've shopped here a few times before and more times than not I'll walk out with something. The couple who run the store are friendly, pleasant, and they won't annoy you while you're shopping.



The inside is clean and organized very well. This is the first store on the tour that has a listening station which is a really nice touch! I haven't used it, but I could if I wanted to.



The prices were decent for records, generally ranging from 5 to 8 dollars each. Some of the more desirable and rarer titles are more, and the crap is perfectly priced at a dollar each. The really common stuff gets tossed into a $3 bin (Harlequin, Styx, Pat Benatar, Pat Travers, Trooper, etc).



(Yes, I bought that Stereo Test Record, but I won't be reviewing that here)

The bargain bin is quite extensive, and everything in it absolutely deserves to be there. You have great titles who's records have been cleaned repeatedly with a piece of tree bark, and if you need an accordion record, you'll have lots to choose from. However, choosing a crummy record out of here was a difficult task as I've been experiencing. I walked away with three, but I'm only covering one. We shall come to that soon.

The only reason why this store doesn't have a perfect score is it's lack of other formats. There is a very tiny section for CDs and I think I saw some cassettes there too, but prerecorded cassettes generally don't interest me.


The Good Record: The Royal Guardsmen - Snoopy and his Friends



One thing I've discovered about certain songs from the 1960s is their stereo variants have become somewhat difficult to find. The song "Snoopy vs The Red Baron" is one of them. I knew a stereo version existed, but every digital version I've come across is in mono. That being said, I would have left this record behind if it was the mono version.

Side one is 100% fun, filling the gaps between the three Snoopy songs with dialog. Side two is full of flowery powery bullshit songs which are both amusing and disgustingly awful. Some of the never-will-be-hits are "I Say Love", "So Right (To Be Love)", "It's Sopwith Camel Time", and "Airplane Song (My Airplane)". Absolutely terrible forgettable 60s stuff, but side one makes this record worth it. I also love how all the band members are represented as "barons" on the cover.


The Bad Album: The Elvis Medley



The crummy organ and bongo records I plucked weren't as terrible as the first song on this record from 1982. I generally don't cover anything released by large record labels like RCA, but they really shat out a turd with this one. They took six Elvis songs, glued them together, tried to add a Hooked On Classics style drum beat to it (and failed), and they put a few extra instruments in it. In fact, I can easily say that the only part of "Suspicious Minds" that they used was Elvis's vocal. It's probably the only Elvis song here that was new enough to have a multitrack recording. The whole medley is just a clumsy, clunky mess that really didn't work, unlike all the other medley songs that came out around this time.

The rest of the record is just a compilation of Elvis songs. Instead of pooping out another Elvis compilation, a 45 of this turd would have sufficed (and they take up less room in the trash can). This is apparently the "unreleased" version, and it probably should have stayed that way.

Listen to The Elvis Medley


Other Records I Bought:

Showdown - Welcome To The Rodeo



Well it's 40 below and I don't give a fuck, got a heater in my truck, and I had to skip the record show (because of the fucking Corona virus shit). Twice a year, my 5th grade teacher (no joke) holds a record show where a bunch of vendors get together and sell their stuff. It's a massive event that I haven't missed in the last 7 years or so, but I missed it this year to avoid getting the plague. Even though it's not an actual store, I was going to at least mention it for the record store tour but that may have to wait until the fall.

Anyway, I bought this album out of the dollar bin. It's a very lack-luster novelty country album, but The Rodeo Song absolutely made it worth the dollar.


Yes - Tales from Topographic Oceans



This is one of the few Yes albums that I didn't own. I really didn't know what to expect from it since reviews on it are mixed. Well, it's just okay. I don't hate it, but it doesn't jump out at me like some other Yes albums. It came right after "Close to the Edge" which is by far my favourite album by them, but it sits in the same category of mediocrity of the two albums that followed it (Relayer and Going For The One). At least it wasn't bad like Union was.

At eight bucks, I'm happy to own it.


Lady & The Tramp Picture Disc



I bought this for my kid since he loves the movie (and hey, I did too when I was young.) I have it on cassette, but he deserves the picture disc. He has a record player, and a pretty unique collection of records.

I really hope that The Vinyl Experience is able to weather the mess that this COVID-19 outbreak has created. This also goes for all the other stores that I've reviewed thus far. As for the remaining ones I haven't visited yet, it will be interesting to see if I'm able to visit them when all the stores start opening back up.

And to go completely off topic, you may recall, I recently, I did the "Bridge Over Troubled Water" show with Kent Davies. You can listen to it here if you missed it.

As for the Junq Tour, who knows? There may not be one this year. It really depends on the status of the plague in August.

For those who wonder where I'm going to get material to review for this blog with all the thrift stores being closed, you need not worry. I have five bins of shit sitting here waiting for my attention. You won't be bored (and neither will I) while we weather through this unique and strange experience together. I hope you all remain safe, healthy, and pull through this economic and global nightmare without much hardship. Take care, and we'll see you in the next entry.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Record Store Tour: Sunrise Music (Polo Park)

I was going to combine all three Sunrise Records stores into one entry, but after visiting the one in Polo Park mall, it seems that their product is a bit different from the store in Kildonan Place mall.



Location: Polo Park Mall
Rating: 8/10

For this review, I had to keep in mind that this is a retail store. Sunrise Records generally sells new products, although I've seen them sell used cassettes. They carry CDs, Records, DVDs, band shirts, and there's a few surprises wedged in between.



The bargain bin at this store was the shits. There was maybe about ten records in it, and with exception of the Mudhoney record, the rest was unknown crap that was still too expensive.



On the plus side, there's some decent CDs here are a good price. Two for ten bucks is right up my alley. I would have bought these two Smiths albums, but I honestly don't know which ones I already own and I'm getting pretty tired of buying duplicates. These shall wait.



The worst thing about Sunrise Records is they mainly cater to albums that have sold well in the past. There's a lot of greatest hits compilations to buy, so if that's your thing, you'll be in heaven. For people like me who already own all that stuff and/or every album recorded by these best selling artists, it's difficult finding things to buy.



Here's the Flesh For Lulu album I bought at The Sound Exchange. It seems I ended up with a pretty good deal there.



This was a surprise! I never thought I'd see a Florence & The Machine album release on cassette. However, I can likely record myself a better copy for less than $16.99. They don't make Cr02 cassettes anymore, so this was likely dubbed on a plain old Type I cassette without dolby noise reduction. The only value you're getting here is genuine packaging and nothing else. I'd be happier if record companies sold cassette inlays and maybe nice labels for the copies you made yourself, but that's coming close to piracy.

There were a few other albums on cassette along with a small local artist section (which I forgot to take a picture of). What a strange world I'm living in today!

I only walked out with two items, so here they are:

The Good Album: The 2 Live Crew - As Nasty As They Wanna Be



When I was a teenager, copies of this album were getting passed around school on 4th and 5th generation cassettes. I really wanted to get myself a genuine copy, but the album was banned from being sold in stores and apparently retailers were getting arrested for selling it. Over the years, I'd occasionally look into acquiring myself a copy, but every copy I've seen has been way overpriced. Finding it at Sunrise was like completing a 25 year long mission.

This album is probably one of the most offensive things I've ever listened to, but that's the appeal of it. The best songs on here are "Me So Horny", "The Fuck Shop", "Get The Fuck Out Of My House", "Dick Almighty", and I could probably keep going and list nearly every song on the album. I need to find the two albums 2 Live Crew has released. I already own the follow-up album "Banned in the USA" and it's fucking terrible due to them using it to constantly bitch about "Nasty" being banned.

The Bad Album: Sorrier



There were quite a few local artists to choose from, so I mainly had to base my choice on the album cover because I was only going to buy one. I ended up choosing what looked like an album with the least amount of effort put into it. You have a picture of a guy at the park with a really generic name. There is no website information on the cassette. As an artist, it's a bad idea to give a great big "fuck you" to yourself and your own promotion. After some digging, I found this guy's bandcamp page, so here I am to fill in the blank.



As for terribleness, the cassette is plain pink with a small cut-out label stuck on it that's peeling at the corner. Absolutely lovely. The music? It's not the worst thing I've ever heard. It's just him, his guitar, and his plugged nose trying to become the next Elliott Smith. The songs aren't completely awful, although they kinda sound the same after listening to all five in a row. The last song has him talking in it, so that's kinda unique in an Elvis kinda way.

The recording quality isn't terrible for a plain old shit-brown Type I cassette, but you're not going to find any Dolby noise reduction here, although using Dolby on a Type I cassette makes it sound like it was dipped in mud. Side 2 is blank, so you can record some real Elliott Smith onto it if you put a piece of Scotch tape over the record hole.

It came with an MP3 download code which I could easily use to put a song up for you guys to hear, but I figured it would be more fun to pull it directly from the cassette.

Listen to Don't Be Alarmed. Call Me Tomorrow.

I probably could have found something worse, but I'm not going to spend my hard earned money on retail prices for experimentation. Everyone should just mail me their album for free and I'll make fun of it at their expense.

Guess what? After a very long break, I'm making an appearance on Amateur Hour again! Time to book your flights to Winnipeg so you can tune in to 95.9 FM at 5:00 central on March 11th. We will be doing a spring flooding special.... Yes, at long last, you get to hear a whole hour of terrible versions of "Bridge Over Troubled Water". We will have appearances from such CGE favourites as The Banner County Singers, Barbara McAfee, Teo Mance, and many more!

If you're too cheap to fly out to Winnipeg to hear this hour of wonderfulness, then I suppose you could stream it live here.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Record Store Tour: Planet of Sound

It took me a bit of contemplating of what is going to qualify as a record store for this mini-tour. There's a lot of places (especially in Winnipeg) that sell records. I came to the conclusion that I would focus mainly on places that sell physical formats of music as one of their major reasons for being in business, and they must have a store that has somewhat regular business hours. Therefore, places like flea markets and thrift stores are pretty much exempt. I'm also eliminating gray-area stores such as Red River Bookstore who actually have lots of records and CDs but mainly focus on dealing in books. It's actually a very fun store to dig through if you have a few hours to waste (due to it being massively unorganized), but they're primarily a used book store.

Today we're visiting Planet of Sound.



Location: 1109 Henderson Highway, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Rating: 7/10

If you blink while driving down Henderson Highway, you'll miss this place. It's sandwiched between a couple other places who's existence I could care less about.



When you walk in, you're greeted by a ton of CD and DVDs, very much like the Entertainment Exchange. This place is also very well organized, clean, and the guy who I'm assuming is the owner was friendly and funny.



This place has a much bigger section of records which was nice. They have some sitting on rails on the wall which double as decoration and advertising. This is where I found the one and only good album I walked out of the store with which I'll get to in a bit.



The first place I headed for was the bargain bin which is located on the floor underneath the records. It's a somewhat inconvenient place to have the shit you're desperately trying to dump, especially if there's some other asshole in your way trying to find another copy of Fleetwood Mac's Rumors. Not only that, there's a ton of stuff in there which took a fair amount of time to go through.

Like the Entertainment Exchange's bargain bin, I had some difficulty finding some true trash for my shitty album find. There was a ton of compilation CDs in there which weren't that bad, and it made me angry to find two albums I searched for years to find priced at a dollar each. But that's how it goes when you're a music junkie.

After the bargain bin, I made my way to the regularly priced CDs.



This LA Guns CD would have been nice to add to my collection, but not for 19 dollars.
(And in case you're wondering, yes, I re-injured my hand)



Here's an album by The Knack which I purchased brand new about three years ago from Dollarama. It's called "Dollarama" because it's not "Tendollarama".



Okay, this is just getting stupid. I didn't even pay this much for my vinyl copy of this album which is much harder to find.



I own this. I paid a dollar for it. Planet of Sound is charging ten dollars. This Ukrainian polka album is easy to find in thrift stores and cheapy bins at the flea market.



I have an extensive collection of vinyl records by The Ventures which are all in very good condition. I have this one on 8-track, but not on vinyl, so I was thrilled to find it here. However upon further inspection, it was just a bit too marked up to spend ten dollars on it. Five perhaps, but certainly not ten. I was a bit disappointed to pass this one up, but If I wanted fine grit sandpaper for my turntable, I'll go to Home Depot.

As you can tell, I'm not excited about 75% of the prices here. The average decent CD was priced around $8.95, and when you can go to a place that sells brand new CDs for $5-$10 each, buying them here simply isn't worth it. You're better off going to Walmart or even Sunrise Records.

However, not all is lost. Here's what I walked out with...

The Good Album: The Tornados - The Original Telstar



Hell yeah! I love my 1960s instrumental bands, and this one just reached out to me and begged me to buy it. The condition is actually better than the Ventures album I looked at, and it was reasonably priced at $4.95. It's not the cleanest, quietest vinyl record I own from the 1960s, but I expected that because it's not mint, and it's from 1962.

This album is upbeat, twangy, fun, and a bit odd. Personally, I prefer The Ventures' take on Telstar, but you have to have respect for the original version. I enjoyed the rest of the album as well. The other highlights are The Breeze and I, Love and Fury, and Earthy.

This is also an interesting album for a few other reasons. Aside from it being part of the beginning of the instrumental rock n' roll movement of the 1960s (which eventually morphed into surf music), The Tornados were a British group. Telstar was the second British song ever to enter the US charts. Also, the band's name is incorrectly credited as "The Tornadoes" on the cover, while the label correctly lists them as "The Tornados".

In case you didn't know, the song "Telstar" was named after the communications satellite which was launched into orbit one month prior. It was the first satellite to transmit a transatlantic TV signal. Telstar died six months later due to space radiation, but it's still currently floating around the Earth rotting away in orbit. (How can you tell I'm somewhat fascinated by satellite stuff?) Incidentally, why isn't there a company manufacturing models of old satellites? I'd be happily dangling them from my ceiling.

The Bad Album: Strong Like Tractor - The Savage Sound



This album has an ape on the cover and pictures of John Deere equipment on the back. There's barely any other information on this album other than "Tractor" being the last name of all three members of the band.

These guys would almost be good if they would spend more than five minutes writing a song. Some of them start out catchy and then they're ruined by extremely stupid lyrics. The other songs are just garbage. The band should have been called "Cow Shit Getting Run Over by Tractor". Personally, I'd rather listen to a tractor, including a non-running one.

Listen to Damage


The Other Crappy Album I Bought: Chicken Soup for the Soul - Yoga



This is miles better than the Tractor album. It's just synth noises with some simple plunky piano parts thrown in. As an instrumental album, it's not as interesting as Telstar, but it's not going to cause me to say "I really NEED to hear that Chicken Soup album!" The last track has one of the creators of this company and/or brand reading something. Wow. Excitement. Is there anything that this faddish brand didn't market? The thrift stores are littered with their shitty books. Surprisingly, the whole Chicken Shit Soup thing is still around.

So the bottom line is, Planet of Sound might be worth going to for finding that odd gem. Other than that, it's a bit too overpriced for my liking.

And in case you couldn't tell, I'm enjoying my record store tour. On to the next!

Monday, February 10, 2020

Record Store Tour: Entertainment Exchange

Before I dive into my first record store on the tour, I'm going to give you a little summary of what I hope to accomplish. I'm judging the store on their overall presentation, and my goal is to come out with at least one good album and one terrible album. Everything in-between is a given. So here we go...



Location: Grant Park Mall in Winnipeg, Manitoba
Rating: 8/10

The Entertainment Exchange was my first stop for my record store tour. I've been here before, and they've swindled me out of plenty of my money in the past by selling me some damn good albums. Today was no different. They used to have two locations (one being on Regent Avenue) but eventually merged them both into one. I was really wondering how well they were going to survive over the years, but it looks like they're still doing well, and deservedly so. This store mainly caters to CDs and DVDs, two physical formats that have been fighting to remain relevant over the past couple of decades.



The inside of the store is clean and organized. There was nothing for me to trip over, and there isn't any piles of crap for me to move around in order to see their stuff. The genres are clearly marked along with the artists that they have lots of. What I usually do is pick through the sections that don't have their own artist because I listen to all kinds of weird crap that nobody else has ever heard of.



The bargain bin is fantastic. I have raided this bin many times over the years and have come out with mitts full of great stuff that nobody else wants to buy for one reason or another. I pretty much knew that I was going to find my terrible album in this bin which I did after a LOT of digging. It seems they try to keep their grade of stuff somewhat higher than the trash I usually review on this blog.

The one downside with this store is it doesn't cater much to formats other than CDs. There is a small bin of records to dig through, but I didn't find anything amazing in there. There also aren't any cassettes or 8-tracks. If you're into CDs (which are my preferred format), this is a great store to find them.

The Good Album: The Posies - Dear 23



I've been after this album for a few years. I have a downloaded copy, but I always want to have the original. This is a fantastic album and there isn't a bad song on here. The biggest hit The Posies had was "Dream All Day" which isn't on this album. This is power pop at it's best. It's full of acoustic guitars, strong hooks, great songwriting, and an abundance of talent. The best songs on here are Golden Blunders, Suddenly Mary, and Everyone Moves Away, but the whole album is great.

Watch a terrible cover of "You Avoid Parties" on Youtube done by a tone deaf guy who looks like a pedophile, has no sense of rhythm and never blinks.


The Bad Album: Be Your Own Pop Star '92



Most of the time, I avoid karaoke CDs. However, the pickings for a shitty album were actually quite slim in the bargain bin. Most of the ones that looked terrible had UPC codes which means the artist had actually put some significant effort into releasing their album which *may* mean they have some sort of talent. The runner up for the shitty album was a band called "Maryland" who released their masterpiece on Panty Records. To my surprise, the album actually turned out to be somewhat decent.

Half of "Be Your Own Pop Star '92" is tracks featuring music hard left and vocals hard right. The other half is stereo versions without vocals. What I've started to notice about some of these CDs that are "karaoke" or "instrumental" versions is they are actually knock-off albums that were released years earlier, and this one is no exception. The only song I had previously is the version of Amy Grant's "Baby Baby" which was released on a cassette called "Rock Calendar '91". I bought this cassette new at K-Mart probably around 1993 and I've been meaning to cover it on this blog. I think I tried making a CD copy of it at one point, but the cassette surprisingly runs longer than 80 minutes.



To be honest, I kinda prefer this version of "Baby Baby". Hey, I'm allowed to like one once in a while, aren't I? The version on this CD with the vocal fades out earlier than the cassette. The stereo version without the vocal doesn't fade out at all and stops suddenly as if it got hit by a truck. In other words, none of the three versions have the same ending. However, it was nice to have a version of this on CD because the tape stock they used for the cassette is full of dropouts and hiss. To get an actual digital copy of this, I took the vocal track and mixed it with the stereo music track. Unfortunately, I had to do a speed fix to line them up. For me, mixing my own copy was kinda fun and I'm pretty happy with the result.

The only other decent track on here is the cover of Alannah Myles's "Black Velvet". There's a bunch of the other songs I don't know because the early 90s was filled with a lot of garbage pop songs. The version of Roxette's "Joyride" is pretty bad with it's singers that sound nothing like the original. The most atrocious is the cover of Londonbeat's "I've Been Thinking About You". With the vocal track not being mixed in with the music, you can really hear how fucking terrible the singer is.

Listen to my mix of Baby Baby
Listen to Joyride
Listen to I've Been Thinking About You


The Other CDs I Bought



I ended up purchasing a couple others that I was happy to find. I bought Flesh For Lulu's first album. I had previously heard only one song by them, and this album is pretty damn good. I also bought The Strumbellas "Hope" which is also pretty decent. Both of these CDs were a good price.

So that's it for my first installment of the record store tour. It's a decent store. If you like CDs and you're in Winnipeg, this is a good one to visit.