Monday, May 11, 2020

Record Store Tour: Argy's Collectibles

Location: 9-1604 St. Mary's Road, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Rating: 5/10

Today, a whole bunch of stuff opened back up after being shut down by the plague for two months. The only requirement was that provisions needed to be made for social distancing. All the thrift stores are still closed, but it appeared that Argy's Collectibles was open and I haven't covered them yet on the record store tour. So I figured I'd pop in, do my review and see what kind of goodies I could find.

Upon entering, I was greeted by a Minnie Riperton album playing. Personally, I didn't think any of her crap would have been worth listening to, but it could have been worse. It could have been Mariah Carey.

Also, I was in here a couple of months before the plague forced everyone to shut down, and it was a mess. You'd figure that the two month shutdown would have given Argy the time to do a good cleaning and organizing of the store, but apparently cleaning is for sissies. There are piles of shit everywhere.

I would have had a good look at the sun-bleach-spined CDs, but there was other shit covering about 75% of what he had. I had no desire to move all the shit around to look at his inventory.

Argy sells band shirts, posters, hockey cards, and probably some other stuff that I could care less about. He also seemingly had some decent turntables for sale, but I don't need any more of them. I saw a couple of Elvis 8-tracks underneath a pile of crap, but I already owned them.

Records are everywhere, especially on the floor where I had trouble avoiding kicking them while looking at the ones on the racks. I wanted to look at the "D" section, but I couldn't get to it because there was too much crap in the way on the floor. Records are also piled on top of other bins of records, and personally I would prefer to look at my records in bins instead of flipping through piles. If I wanted to do that, I would go record shopping at garage sales. Hell, there's a guy I buy from who sells records out of his garage, and even he's more organized with his bins.

Prices are all over the place. The cheapest records I saw were $3.99 each, but the average price seemed to range between $9.99 and $29.99. On the plus side, Argy seems to have some really good titles that I haven't seen at any of the other record stores, but you're not going to get any sweet deals on them.

There were quite a few piles of records on the floor that didn't have any prices on them. I would have considered buying this Alan Parsons album, but there's no price. No price = no sale. There really isn't any excuse for this. If you haven't priced it, it shouldn't be out for sale, let alone on the floor.

There seems to be one redeeming factor in the price and the apparent lack of time to organize the store. The record vacuum was going every few minutes. It would appear that Argy might be cleaning every single record he sells. I'm split on cleaning my records. If they really need it, then I'll give them a good bath or a wash with some record cleaner and a brush. Otherwise, just playing them seems to help dig a lot of the crap out of the grooves. In my opinion, records should only be cleaned if they really need it, and I generally won't buy a record that's filthy to the point of it being unplayable.

Hey look! I think I found the bargain bin! It's underneath Argy's coffee, a bottle of spray vodka, and a shitty Duke Ellington record. I carefully moved Argy's coffee to sit on the bin of records next over, hoping that it wouldn't spill. After digging through the bargain bin, I came out with absolutely nothing remotely interesting. Sorry everyone, it looks like Argy mainly deals in records that people actually want instead of trying to sell the garbage that makes this blog thrive. I can understand that, but it makes my trip a bit less interesting.

The Good Record: Streetheart - Live After Dark

I've been searching for this one for a few years now to complete my Streetheart collection. It's not common, and this one is in near mint shape, so I didn't feel too bad dropping $30 on it. It's also a double album. For those outside of Canada, Streetheart is a Canadian band from the 1980s. Their frontman Kenny Shields (who lived in Winnipeg) is in my opinion the greatest Canadian vocalist to ever grace us. The guy has an incredible octave range, a unique voice, and he put out some damn good songs too.

I had the privilege of seeing Streetheart live once. I also had a unique privilege to see Kenny Shields, George Belanger (singer of the band Harlequin), and The Headpins all do a blues number as an encore for a Headpins concert that I attended. After the show, me and my friend Noah were able to hang out with Kenny for a bit. It was a magnificent experience to see all these highly talented Canadians do a one-off song together. What I wouldn't give to have a recording of the song they performed!

Sadly, Kenny Shields passed away a few years ago. The last thing he ever put out was a solo album, and it was absolutely top-notch.

The Bad Record: None

Sorry, no sound clip or even a stupid record cover to look at. Everything was too expensive for me to frivolously buy some lame pieces of crap for your listening displeasure, and even then I wouldn't have any guarantee that it would be awful.

The bottom line is, if you're looking for a specific album, you might very well be able to find it here after a bit of literal digging, but you're not going to get it at a bargain price. If you just enjoy the experience of record shopping, you won't enjoy this place with all the crap everywhere. Sorry Argy, you had two months of being closed to clean up the customer's shopping space. There shouldn't be any excuse for the store to look like this. This could be a really great store, but the piles of crap really ruin the experience.

On the plus side, Argy complied with the social distancing requirements by putting some X's on the floor with tape. Putting some crappy Duke Ellington records on the floor with double sided tape would have been more fun.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

A Record for Mom!

Since mother's day is right around the corner, I figured it would be nice to do something for the old bag. So I dug through my blog crap and found this record I picked up at the thrift store a while back. They had multiple copies of this thing, and the description on the back convinced me to buy it...

"The vocals in all songs come from an unknown cassette found with computer parts bought at a garage sale in Canada. So far, it has not been possible to locate the originator of this material. Any information would be welcome."

This sounds exaclty like something I would do, although the smooth techno music is pretty mundane. From what I can tell, this tape is essentially a letter from a dad to his grown up kids, giving them shit for not doing anything for their mother on Mother's Day. I'm guessing "AFS" is the initials of the guy who put this together.

On this record, you get two different mixes of "Mothers' Day" a song called "Nest Flight", and "Mothers' Day Part II" You're getting three out of four of the songs since I think the radio edit is pointless, and I doubt this thing was ever played on the radio.

Listen to Mothers' Day Part I
Listen to Nest Flight
Listen to Mothers' Day Part II

One thing I've realized while digging for Mother's Day albums is that I need to put all my "holiday specials" besides Christmas into a separate location. I have all kinds of crap for Easter, St. Patrick's day, Valentine's day, and all your other favourite holidays, but I can never find them because they're buried amongst all the other crap. So there's a project for my future.

Anyway, enjoy your Mother's Day, and I'm sure this record will make it even better. Hell, burn it onto a CD and give it to your mom. I'm sure she'll love it more than flowers.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Fake Engelberts

And now, it's time for a Classical Gas Emissions FAQ!

Q: Everyone's trapped in their house. Why haven't you been bombarding me with entries so I stay entertained?
A: I still have a job to go to. I'm one of those "essential services" in the health care industry.

Q: OMG! How are you gonna do the Junq Tour with this plague going on?
A: I'm working on that.

Q: I really want to hear some shitty Engelbert Humperdinck covers. When are you going to satisfy my craving?
A: Right now!

Yes, we're going to cover the artist famous for songs such as "The Last Wartz" and "Les Bicyclettes de Fat Bottomed Girls". I'm by no stretch a huge Engelbert fan, but I know a few songs, so let's get on with one of the most knocked-off artists loved by horny old baby boomer women across the globe.

Tribute to Engelbert Humperdinck

So how do you know these have been sitting in my queue for fucking forever? Because I have two copies of this one. I repaired the easiest one (the one with the screw) and left the other one alone. No point in fixing both unless somebody rightfully recorded over one of them. However, it appears that someone actually repaired one of them by replacing the deteriorated pad with some yellow sponge. Why they would bother is beyond me.

Looks like Engelbert was going through his blonde woman look during the recording of this one.

The songs on this one are hit or miss. Some sound exactly like Engelbert, others not so much. However, the instrumentation on this one is pretty decent and the mix is good.

If you look closely on the cover, you'll see the following text:

Can you tell the difference from the original songs? 12 fabulous cover hits.

Is this album supposed to be a game? Did they sell this piece of shit in the game section? I highly doubt it. If anything, they were hoping that the dumbass buying this tape wouldn't see that text. Obviously, at least two dumbasses didn't see it and wasted their money.

Listen to Release Me

The Vale Orchestra Singers & Chorus Vol.2 - Tribute to Tom Jones & Engelbert Humperdinck

Boy, that title's a mouth full, isn't it?

Because neither of these artists had very many hits, it was only logical to cram them both onto one tape. I know about as many Tom Jones songs as I do Engelbert songs. Too bad Sex Bomb isn't on here, let alone What's New Pussycat.

The singer on the Engelbert songs is flat as hell. He probably wanted to make the recording session as painless as possible by sucking on a bottle of cheap gin before going in the recording booth. Whoever mixed this tried to bury fake Dinck with the bad instrumentation.

But here's the good news... You get a fake Tom Jones song as a bonus!

Listen to The Last Waltz
Listen to Delilah

Thunderbirds - Golden Hits In The Style of Engelbert Humperdinck

Yes, feel free to laugh at me. FOUR FUCKING COPIES. Why don't I just take my wallet and flush it down the toilet?

Each of them is different in some way, shape or form. The one with the winter scene has the tape twisted. One I attempted to repair had too much brittle plastic shatter. One has what appears to be damaged tape. Fortunately, I got one of them working, but there's some static on the first program. There's no winning here.

In the last entry, we listened to Anne Murray songs performed by the Thunderbird Singers. I have no clue if these Thunderbirds are related to them, but given that both of these pieces of shit came from "Deville" (aka Fantastic F, aka Music City, aka Starburst Music), I can only assume that they're the same group.

The tape sounds like it's playing too slow and the singer sounds more drunk than the last guy. And what is it with these Deville tapes being just a tad distorted? Yeah, let's just crank the record levels because this sounds so fucking good! So, feel free to turn this one up loud to add more distortion and maybe you won't hear how bad it is.

Listen to A Man Without Love

We have more 8-tracks to cover in the next entry. They're just piling up all over the place, so I figured I'd bang a few of them off. Try to keep the image of me banging 8-tracks out of your head and I'll see you in the next installment.

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.