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Posts tagged ‘Boston’

The Return of Lunch Break Lacquer (Boston Edition): Inhabiting Planet Records

At my old job I used to work in the London borough of Camden. Right next door to Camden is London’s Soho. There are all kinds of used record shops in Camden and Soho. During lunch I would head out of the office…not to eat, mind you, but to visit some of the nearby used vinyl vaults. Hey, I have my priorities. Food…vinyl…vinyl…food…I’d eat vinyl if I could taste the music. 

Whenever I made one of these lunch time record runs, I would write a blog post about it. I called it: Lunch Break Lacquer. It is about time we trotted out that segment again. 

I’m in Boston for work this week. I am staying in Harvard Square in Cambridge. I usually stay in this same hotel when I visit Boston. Harvard Square is full of activity, nightlife and good bars with great beers on tap. Everything I need is within walking distance: gym, bars, sushi and, best of all, Planet Records…a used vinyl joint. 

This is one of my first stops as soon as I check into my hotel. I arrived here Sunday night and by the time I checked in and ran over to the shop, it was closed. Crap. Plan B: get a ridiculous amount of takeaway sushi and watch the Eagles vs. the Redskins back at the hotel. Tomorrow is another day.

Tomorrow is here and today I decided that I would drop by Planet Records at lunch time; a perfect opportunity to post a Lunch Break Lacquer update…U.S.A style.

Planet Records has been in Harvard Square for almost 30 years. They also have an eBay and Amazon shop; convenient, but nothing beats flipping through vinyl bins. I flipped through bins for close to two hours today. I found some buried treasure, too. I am curating a vinyl collection that focuses on two things: breadth and album quality/vinyl listening worthiness. I want to have a variety of albums that are either classic, multiple listen albums and/or albums that are great vinyl experiences. 

I think I covered that criteria for the most part. Here is what I picked up today. 
  • Astral Weeks, Van Morrison: I have the recently released, “Live at the Hollywood Bowl” version of this classic; it breaks my mind every time I listen to it. I had to get the original studio version…long overdue. (I just paused from typing to put this on the headphones. Damn, I love this album…cue the chicken skin). I am seeing Van on the 24th of October at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Can’t wait to hear his pipes fill that palace. 
  • More Real Folk Blues, Sonny Boy Williamson II: I always check the blues section of any vinyl vault first. I have a “list of finds” with a number of blues albums on it. This one by Sonny Boy wasn’t on it, but nonetheless, it was a no brainer. Sonny Boy…original Chess pressing…the blues. Yep, had to be done. 
  • J.Geils Band, J.Geils: Hey, I am in Boston…gots ta buy some J.Geils. Actually, I have made it a tradition to buy at least one Boston band used vinyl when I am in town. This album cooks with gas. It has so much raw energy, you could power a small village with it. There are two bands that I would have loved to have been in: early Geils and The Band. 
  • Leon Russell and the Shelter People, Leon Russell: this is the guts-balls of Ol’ Leon. If he was a cow, this would be his prime cut.  
  • Easy Tiger, Ryan Adams: I am Ryan Adams fan. I’m not a fan of all of his schitzo-efforts, but I think this album ranks near the top of his heap. Halloween Head is a sick track.
  • Trans, Neil Young: When I was here last, I almost bought this from Planet Records. I have been thinking about it ever since. Now I don’t have to. I love the album cover. The name of my macbook pro is “Syscrusher“. Yes, I am a fool. Neil is fucking cool. 
Speaking of Neil Young and Trans…have you ever seen this video of Neil & Devo slashing and dashing through “Hey, Hey, My, My”. NO?! Buckle up ’cause the ride is about to get treacherous. This is 9:53 of some sick shit. “This is a story of Johnny Spud” and Devo and Neil tell it like it is. The story of how this came to be is cool, too. Devo thought Neil was an old fart…Neil showed them otherwise. Listen to Neil just hammer that riff into submission. YES!

   

So, all these albums for less than $40. Not bad, eh?  Believe you me…the damage could have been significantly worse. I put a half a dozen more of these black beauties back on the racks. Not too worry, I’ll be back for more. 

I am sitting in the window of my hotel room typing away. It is raining. The neon lights of the street below are reflecting off the puddles. I am halfway through Astral Weeks. Life is good.

 

6149 Turn-Ons: Paul Pena is one of the THE hidden folks in the lore of music

In 2000 I was living in Boston, MA. I was still listening to terrestrial radio back then. Boston has a long history of pushing boundaries in radio. I grew up listening (from over in good ol’ New Hampshire) to WZLX, WBCN and many, many college radio stations. Between all of those, I felt like I was in prime position to be turned on to any new sounds and any sounds that were older, but new to me.  By 2000, radio was changing and Boston radio was no exception. Even though corporate had crept in and changed the experience, discovery was still happening. 

I was driving home from work one day on RT.128. I had the dial pegged to 92.9 WBOS. I was cruising along when I heard a song that forced me to pull the car into the breakdown lane and listen. That had never happened to me before while I was driving. Right from the outset this song popped out of the dashboard and grabbed my attention. It was just so damn alive and real that I felt compelled to give it my undivided listening attention. 

That song was “Gonna Move” by Paul Pena. Wow. As soon as it was done, I exhaled and then got back on the road and made a bee-line for the record shop. I bought Paul’s album and sped off, racing home to listen. Little did I know, but this guy was a native son, born in 1950 in Massachusetts. Little did I know that this guy had a lot of rock and roll history on him. Little did I know that this album would be one of the coolest finds I had in the first decade of the new century…and it was almost 30 years old even though it was a new release
I’ll let this 2000 promo vid tell Paul’s story. I hope that after watching it you want to know more about and listen to more of, Paul Pena. His story is fascinating and effects your listening in a warm and rewarding way.

This is the album in question, “New Train“. Here is the excellent allmusic reveiw. In it they said:

New Train sounds fresh, essential, and invigorating, even 27 years after it was recorded, establishing this as one of the most magnificent, previously missing albums of that, or any, era. 

Please pause to have a listen…

http://listen.grooveshark.com/widget.swf

Here is a 2001 live performance on Conan O’Brien. Paul does his version of “Jet Airliner”. Of course you know the Steve Miller version…now hear the writer tell the tale HIS way…because the story in the song is Paul’s.

Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi are big Paul fans having covered him in live shows many times. Here is Derek and crew doing the song that pulled me over, “Gonna Move”:

http://listen.grooveshark.com/songWidget.swf

 

Homegrown’s Alright With Me: Back To Basics in Beantown

I’m about to head over to Logan Airport to fly to London. Before I do, here is a bit of old school posting from my perch atop a bar stool at the old towne tavern.

I went notebook on this one. Hope my five-pint chicken scratch is easy to read.

Cheers to you…figuratively and literally.

Cheesey at Cheers: the Beantown Send-Off

My last hours in Boston before I hop a flight back to London will be spent playing tourist.

I’m at the Cheers tourist trap in Boston’s Faneuil Hall. I’m surrounded by memories and merchandise. If I get drunk enough I will buy a t-shirt.

I’m drinking a delicious Sam Adam’s Boston Brick Red and eating a bowl of chilli. “You don’t miss yer water, ’til yer well runs dry”.

New England vs. Old England…no contest. Maybe I could delay my flight…

(Aerosmith’s, “Mama Kin”, just came on the tune box. Perfect)

Wishing all Those Old Things Were New: “First-Feelings”

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I was standing out infront of my old apartment in Boston yesterday. I last lived there in that specific spot in 2000.  “Wishing all these old things were new” is a song by Merle Haggard. It is off his 2000 album, “If I Could Only Fly“. The song is less of a lament than it is a reflection on those “first” feelings. I was thinking about this song while standing out infront of my old Boston place. My time in Boston was chock full of first-feelings. 
 
It is Monday morning. I spent the weekend in Boston on a journey through my past. I ran into the ghost of many first-feeling while I was there. I caught up with old friends and retraced some steps that I took when I was Beantown bachelor. One of my fave first-feelings I tried to recapture was attending a Red Sox game. When I lived in Boston I went to dozens of games. I love taking a Sunday Boston Globe sports section to my seat, sipping on a ice cold beer and watching the Sox “Play Ball!”. I remember the first Sox game I went to when I was a kid. I might as well have gone to Jupiter to meet aliens. Everything about it was awe-inspiring, overwhelming and flat-out thrilling. 
 
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Of course, I couldn’t hit that same raw nerve again yesterday, but it was still a great feeling to be out there in the stands backing the hometown team. In between innings at games they play random songs. They played a lot of country songs yesterday. I was surprised, but maybe I shouldn’t have been. Country is a consistent seller these days. Today’s country is a lowest common denominator play: BBQs, Gap influenced cowboy and cowgirl garb, cheesy lyrics and a pop sound. It’s not my thing, but then again, I am not part of the lowest common denominator crowd. 
 
One song that came blaring out of the speakers was the Stones, “Jumping Jack Flash”. I hadn’t heard it in a long time. I have heard it countless times. Hearing it yesterday was jarring and exciting. It sounded fresh. You here old songs that you have listened to so much that you build up a callous to them. You forget how damn good they are and how much you like them. They don’t hit bone like they used to.  Yesterday’s serendipitous Stones song surprise felt like a first-feeling. 
 
http://listen.grooveshark.com/songWidget.swf
 
Music, unlike other media (movies, books, magazine articles, photo books, etc.) has repeat use. You play certain songs to invoke memories, to fuel a workout, to send a message to a lover, to kick-off a Saturday night’s partying…you fave tune is always a play button or needle dropping away. You can’t replicate the first feelings of a first listen. You can try and conjure them up when you fire-up that fave song.
 
After the game I went back to my hotel room and trolled through my itunes library and played some other old faves. The difference this time is that I listened to them. I listened for those bits that struck sparks with me so many listens ago. It felt good. Do that this week. Go find old faves and actually listen to them as if you’ve never heard them before. It is a refreshing and exciting. 
 
I thought back to my old Boston apartment again.  It was amazing to me to think about what I’ve done since I lived there. In eight short years, I got married in the Dominican Republic. I moved to Florida. I moved to Australia and lived and worked in Sydney for five years. I moved to London where I live today. I have traveled to many cool places around the world. There are lots of first-feelings mixed in there. I’m not big on living out my past over and over again. The past is just a record of where you’ve come from. I’m most interested where I am going next…looking for more firsts. 
 
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Tell the folks back home this is the promised land calling…

“Los angeles give me norfolk virginia, 
Tidewater four ten o nine 
Tell the folks back home this is the promised land callin’ 
And the poor boy’s on the line”

 
– Chuck Berry’s “Promised Land” 

I live that song. Actually, I love that song as sung by Johnnie Allan. I found myself singing it as we “taxied to the terminal gate” when my London to Boston flight landed yesterday. I am back in town for work next week in NYC and Boston. I front-ended the trip with a bit of fun, too.

 
This is only my third trip back to the US in five and a half years. All three of these trips have taken place in the last eight months. It is feels good to come back, especially to a city you have a history with. History, and the past, can be cool so long as you don’t live in it. I don’t, so revisiting it every now and then is a treat. 
 
I’m staying in Harvard Square at the Harvard Square Hotel. It smack-dab in the action here in Cambridge. It was a hot summer evening and the vibe was relaxed, but Alive. People were out and about and I joined them.  As I walked out the door I has Stevie Ray’s version of “Things That I used to Do” playing in my mind’s juke box. Yeah, I knew the plan without thinking about it: record shop, sushi and live music. 
 
I stopped into a record joint I used to frequent, Planet Records. I flipped through the vinyl for about a half an hour. EVERYTHING looked good…all my friends” were there. I wanted to take them all back to London with me. I settled on three choice pieces of the black gold: The Best of Clarence Carter, Jimmy Reed’s “Big Boss Man” and, this I felt was a must seeing as to where I am right now, J.Geils, “The Morning After”.  That J.Geils album is my fave of theirs. It may have one of the all-time moovin’ and groovin’est Side 2’s of all time (yes, remember that records have a side 2).

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I took my prized purchases to the nearby sushi bar and settled in for a heaping helping of sashimi and sake. This is where my plan got changed…and for good reason. I was halfway through with my meal when I got a message from an old friend. He was at the Red Sox game with more mutual friends and their wives. I made doubled time with my chopsticks and then hopped a cab to Fenway Park.
 
Like I said, it is great to dip back into the high-waters of the past…even better when it is a serendipitous exercise. We drank beers, slapped backs and traded stories for a few hours until they had to head back to Rhode Island. I headed back to my room at in Harvard, but not before I stopped in to a local haunt, “Charlie’s Kitchen“. My friend George told me that they have an excellent juke box on the second floor. I couldn’t resist checking out. George knows his shit, especially when it comes to local Boston and music. Hey George, you were right. 
 
I played a mix of well-heeled classics and not-oft-heard nuggets, “You Got the Silver” and “Every Picture tells a Story” representing the former and Link Wray’s, “Chicken Run” and the MC5’s, “Kick out the Jams” representing the latter. 
 
By this time, by London time, I had been up for over 24 hours. I was tired, but this was good process to grab the jet-lag by the short and curlies. I woke up at 11:30am today feeling ready to rip. I’m jumping a bus to Nashua, NH to see some old friends and then on to the Acton Jazz Cafe in Acton, MA. Tonight Peter Parcek is going to shoot bolts of lightening from his fingertips and I want to be there to see it. 
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As I write this I am looking out my window in my Harvard Square hotel room. I couldn’t help but think of lyrics from Bob Dylan’s, “Blind Willie McTell”
 
I”m gazing out the window of the St. James Hotel
And know no one can sing the blues 
Like Blind Willie McTell
 
I had to alter them a bit:
 
I”m gazing out the window of the Harvard Square Hotel
And know no one can play the blues 
Like peter Parcek, my old blues pal

 

Lightening in a Bottle: One Fan’s Story About Catching a Live Peter Parcek Gig

My friend, Peter Parcek is releasing a new album on Tuesday May 18th. I wrote a piece over on his facebook fan page notes blog. Peter is a phenomenal guitarist. He hails from the Boston area and has been blowing the roofs off joints in live performances there for near four decades. If you are lucky enough to be in the area when he is playing…GO! I have seen him 50+ times and he always gives me a case of the chicken skin. 
 
The album hits street on Tuesday the 18th. You can sample the the tunes here on Amazon “The Mathematics of Love” (not an affiliate link).
 

Here is a video of Peter absolutely dismantling and rebuilding a Lucinda Williams cover and rebuilding it into a explosive display. Peter works up Lucinda’s country, hop-step-y, jaunt into a sinewy, muscular, guitar romp…without bruising it or sacrificing the root of the song at the guitar-hero alter.
 
Before you watch/listen to Peter’s version, have alisten to Lu’s original. Peter’s version is a country mile a part; true vision.

 
 
 
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Here is the piece I wrote for Peter’s blog:
 
Lightening in a Bottle: One Fan’s Story About Catching a Live Peter Parcek Gig
 

Hello, my name is Judd and I am a friend and fan of Peter’s. I have enjoyed his friendship and his music for close to twenty years. There was a period, when I lived in Boston and New Hampshire, that I would see Peter play at least once every couple of week…if not more. Those were the days.

I live in London, England now. I haven’t heard Peter play live since I left Boston back in 2002. I am crawling walls for some live Peter Parcek. Or at least I was until I heard his new album, “The Mathematics of Love”.

As soon as I listened to the opening track, “Showbiz Blues”, I could tell that this album was going to bring me as close to those special live moments we shared…as a musician and fan do…way back when I was clapping and whistling for one more song so many, many times before.

Peter and his band mates Steve and Marc, along with his producer Ted Drozdowski and everyone else who had a hand in this masterwork, should be extremely proud of this album. I could wax on with layers of superlatives and adjectives about it, but I think Peter describes it best:

“My first album was called Evolution, but this album really is an evolution for me. It’s the most focused, emotionally complex and complete artistic statement I’ve made under my own name.

Well said, well played and well done, Peter.

I am not a musician. I am a fan. As a fan it is my role to inspire and support the musician to do what they do best…make the music. One way to do this is to attend the gigs. As I said, I have attended many of Peter’s live gigs. There was one in particular that has always rang true for me, and I’d like to share it with you…

LIGHTENING IN A BOTTLE…

I was already exhausted. I didn’t play a lick, but I gave that three-plus hour performance everything I had. I cheered at all the right spots. I cajoled the band with standing-o’s, foot stomps and fist pumps. I clapped for every searing solo and storming crescendo they played. When the time came for the customary call for the encore…I led the charge. As a fan…a true fan…a heart on his sleeve, lost in the moment, sign on the dotted-line-fan…this…this,…was my end of the bargain.

Little did I know, I was about to get more than I bargained for…

The band came back up onto the stage floor and the place up and erupted at the first sight of the geetar-man pulling his axe up over his shoulder. Could he actually have more juice left in the tips of those fingers?!? Could he…the band…have any more guts left to spill on the floor?

Hell, yes.

I was twenty-one, then. That was seventeen years ago. When I think about that exact moment, I still get the chicken skin. Moments like that are never lost. They get bottled up in a time capsule and with every year that passes, that memory, like the finest of reds, gets better with age. Don’t get me wrong; my memory of that exact moment has not been diluted by time and hyperbole. What I felt then and what I feel now are as true as tomorrow’s sunrise.

I am a music fan. I am a fan not just because of the sounds…but, also, because of the stories behind it and the significance that a single note or extended solo can have. As a student of music lore, I have read of many of these stories and moments: Dylan “going electric”, Hendrix’s Woodstock Star Spangled salute or Keith and Crew closing out the ’60’s at the Speedway in Altamont. These are all moments that will live on for an eternity…and if you were there, you were lucky enough to catch lightning in a bottle.

I have always wanted to be part of a “moment”…to catch my own lightning. Little did I know that my moment would come as close to home and as close to the bone as it did.

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