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.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

These Albums Were Bad Ideas

If you're wondering why I don't cover a lot of records on here very often, it's because I do a lot of blogging from a cafe and aside from using a Sound Burger record player (which go for hundreds of dollars on Ebay), there is no good option for a decent quality portable turntable. I've been keeping my eyes out for a cheap Crosley Cruiser that I can hack the shit out of and attach a decent tonearm. I have a pile of "for parts" turntables in the garage which would all make decent donor units, so I've got that part covered. Until I can get a cheap Crosley Cruiser, you're pretty much stuck with piles of cassettes, CDs, and 8-tracks. Anyway, onto today's garbage...

Back in Bluegrass - The Bluegrass Tribute to AC/DC

If you look around Youtube, you're likely to find a version of Thunderstruck being played on a banjo. That version is miles better than the version on here, but that's not to say that this album is all terrible.

Someone must have been drunk as fuck to come up with the idea of doing an entire album of bluegrass AC/DC songs. There'a blurb on the back of the CD that talks about Angus Young a little bit, but the rest of it doesn't make much sense. I think it's trying to justify why this album exists, but it fails miserably.

As for the songs, there's some absolutely enjoyable ones on here that actually kinda work such as Dirty Deeds, Highway To Hell, and Shoot To Thrill. The production on this album is stellar, and I need to give credit to the person twisting the knobs for doing a really good job. However, with the enjoyable ones, there's some on here that are almost unrecognizable such as Hells Bells, Thunderstruck, and You Shook Me All Night Long.. There's also one original song on here which is just a throwaway they tacked onto the end of the CD to show they have some talent other than ripping off AC/DC.

So yeah, half of it is good, the other half is just boring crap that barely sounds like an AC/DC song.

Listen to Shoot to Thrill
Listen to You Shook Me All Night Long

The Singin' TV Guys

They put an apostrophe in the word "Guys" on the spine of the CD because somebody is an uneducated hack.

Anyway, this is an album recorded by two guys who were TV anchors in Arizona. If you're able to read the news off a piece of paper, then you're talented enough to record an album, right? Well, these guys are only talented enough to not be excruciatingly horrible to your ears. They sing a lot of songs here nobody wants to remember and they also have a few original songs that nobody will ever give a damn about. We also get a guest appearance from Christi Paul (who's name is spelled wrong on the back) from Fox News. Yup, just tons of talent on here!

The back side of the cover is autographed because I'm gonna make tons of money selling this on Ebay once these guys are both dead.

Proceeds from this album go to the Arizona Humane Society. In other words, they received about ten bucks from the two guys who recorded this piece of garbage.

Listen to Don't Mess Around With Jim
Listen to Newsroom Blues

Savage & T-Bo's Heavy Metal Kazoo

You know this one is going to be fucking terrible. The problem with this CD is there's more talking and clips from the morning show that these two goofs hosted than there is kazoo music. Ever since Scruff Connors hosted the morning show in Winnipeg, I've never been able to enjoy any morning show hosted by anybody. Too many morning show hosts either try too hard to be funny, or don't put any effort into being entertaining. These guys are no exception and I found them to be boring as hell. All they have left to entertain me is the kazoo songs, and there's very little of that here.

So what are the highlights? Well, The Final Countdown actually works pretty well, but that's where the good ends. Whatever else there is for kazoo songs will drive you up the fucking wall. On the plus side, the proceeds from this piece of shit go toward research and recovery for prostate cancer. In other words, the Canadian Cancer Society received about ten bucks as well.

Listen to Dirty Deeds
Listen to Walk This Way

I've decided that I want to review all the record stores in Winnipeg. I'll be rating them on their appearance, prices, and my ability to find at least one good album and one shitty one. Winnipeg has some really good record stores along with a few terrible ones, so I hope you'll enjoy that. I've already done one, so all I need to do is get the entry together for your enjoyment. Stay tuned!