musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Posts tagged ‘Love Tractor’

200 Reasons to be Happy!

There was a feature in Uncut magazine last month, listing the 200 Greatest Albums of All Time. Greatest, Best, Finest, Most Influential; no matter what how you want to define it, a selection like that is more than a bit subjective, isn’t it? Many of the Uncut selections were fairly predictable. Not that the albums themselves were boring —- most are pretty much classics that are guaranteed to please — it’s just that we’re all used to seeing familiar choices such as Pet Sounds, Blonde On Blonde, Astral Weeks, Forever Changes, Ziggy Stardust, Kind of Blue, Tapestry, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, A Love Supreme, Exile On Main Street, What’s Going On, Are You Experienced?, and After the Goldrush on these sorts of lists, so there weren’t many true surprises.

tarneyspencer

But the Uncut list got me to thinking about my own Top 200. By no means would I dare to label my choices as a “Best” or “Greatest” list, rather these are simply my favorite albums, those proverbial Desert Island Discs that I’ve played endless times over the years and ones that I could never willingly part with. In the realm of list compilers, I suppose I cheated a bit, picking some hits/best of packages, various artist collections, live albums, and even a couple of boxed sets. But hey, they are my favorites, so I won’t apologize.

featsdontfailme

Like most listeners, my taste in music was heavily influenced by the music that I heard when growing up, mostly songs on the radio. In my case, the “formative” years were in the 1960s when I started listening to the radio and in the early 1970s when I started buying music. But I’ve maintained a very heavy listening and buying habit in the ensuing decades, so you’ll see a smattering of more recent recordings on this list too. What can I say; I’m a music addict!

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I own thousands of albums and I agonized over whittling this list down to “only” 200. I’m sure that I’ll kick myself for missing a few, but looking over the choices, I’m pretty satisfied with them. But confining the list to 200 meant leaving off many great albums, including ones by some of my very favorite recording artists, such as the Temptations, Drive-By Truckers, George Jackson, Allen Toussaint, Otis Redding, Sly & the Family Stone, Joni Mitchell, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, the Go-Betweens, Booker T & the MGs, Glen Campbell, Isaac Hayes, Talking Heads, Lou Reed, the Byrds, and so many others.

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These albums are not ranked in order of most favorite, just alphabetically by album title. I’m certain that there are more than a few picks that will strike you as odd or perplexing. My choices could be as obscure as the great Tom Foolery album or the fantastic debut recording by Love Tractor, or something as mainstream as Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, or Agents of Fortune by Blue Oyster Cult, but these are the albums that remain the nearest and dearest to my heart.

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The first pick on my list is a good example of my loose criteria: the first two albums by Big Star. I had both albums as a 2-LP import record back in the early 1980s, and now I own the 2-CD package, so in my mind these two albums are inseparable, just one complete blissful listening experience that can’t be divided.

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Big Star #1 Record/Radio City
20/20 20/20
Magnetic Fields 69 Love Songs
Jimmy Buffett A-1-A
Blue Oyster Cult Agents of Fortune
Richard Lloyd Alchemy
 

crackthesky_an

 

 

Crack the Sky                    Animal Notes

Marvin Gaye Anthology
Ramones Anthology
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark Architecture and Morality
Squeeze Argy Bargy
Van Morrison Astral Weeks
Cheap Trick At Budokan
Allman Brothers Band At the Fillmore East
nrbq_ys

NRBQ           At Yankee Stadium

 

 

 

Daryl Hall & John Oates Atlantic Collection
B-52’s B-52’s, the
Warren Zevon Bad Luck Streak In Dancing School
Paul McCartney & Wings Band on the Run
Band, the Band, the
Bob Dylan & the Band Basement Tapes, the
 

beatretreat

Various Artists                     Beat the Retreat: Songs By Richard Thompson

 

 

 

Hollies Best of the Hollies
Kimberley Rew Bible of Bop
XTC Black Sea
Bob Dylan Blood On the Tracks
Michael Murphey Blue Sky Night Thunder
 

spoolq_blue

Swimming Pool Q’s       Blue Tomorrow

 

 

 

Ry Cooder Bop Till You Drop
Bruce Springsteen Born To Run
U2 Boy
John Hiatt Bring the Family
 

prine_bruised

John Prine       Bruised Orange

 

 

 

Style Council Café Bleu
Lucinda Williams Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
David Byrne Catherine Wheel
Creedence Clearwater Revival Chronicle
Neil Diamond Classics: The Early Years
Jean-Michel Jarre Concerts in China
 

999_concrete

999      Concrete

 

 

 

Steely Dan Countdown To Ecstasy
Feelies Crazy Rhythms
Echo & the Bunnymen Crocodiles
Tom Petty Damn the Torpedoes
Bruce Springsteen Darkness on the Edge of Town
Dream Syndicate Days of Wine and Roses
R.E.M. Dead Letter Office
Neil Young Decade
 

utopia_deface

Utopia       Deface the Music

 

 

 

Sade Diamond Life
King Crimson Discipline
Atlanta Rhythm Section Dog Days
Elton John Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Piano Player
 

mcduff_downhome

Brother Jack McDuff        Down Home Style

 

 

 

Nektar Down To Earth
Waylon Jennings Dreaming My Dreams
Josh Rouse Dressed Up Like Nebraska
Bongos Drums Across the Hudson
Squeeze East Side Story
Wally Badarou Echoes
 

gpechoes

Glenn Phillips       Echoes: 1975-85

 

 

 

Everything But the Girl Eden
Jimi Hendrix Electric Ladyland
Pete Townshend Empty Glass
Gang of Four Entertainment
 

garland_escape

Garland Jeffreys       Escape Artist

 

 

 

Isley Brothers Essential
Rod Stewart Every Picture Tells a Story
Yo La Tengo Fakebook
Little Feat Feats Don’t Fail Me Now
Snow Patrol Final Straw
 

heartsfield_foolish2

Heartsfield        Foolish Pleasures

 

 

 

Jackie Leven Forbidden Songs of the Dying West
Crosby Stills Nash & Young Four Way Street
Devo Freedom of Choice
New Musik From A to B
Nick Drake Fruit Tree (Boxed Set)
 

ec_gethappy

Elvis Costello       Get Happy

 

 

 

Gil Scott-Heron Glory: The Gil Scott-Heron Collection
Randy Newman Good Old Boys
World Party Goodbye Jumbo
Elton John Goodbye Yellowbrick Road
Gordon Lightfoot Gord’s Gold
Paul Simon Graceland
Green On Red Gravity Talks
Al Green Greatest Hits
Chi-Lites Greatest Hits
 

wrecklesseric

Wreckless Eric       Greatest Stiffs

 

 

 

Doll By Doll Gypsy Blood
Pylon Gyrate
Jimmy Cliff Harder They Come, the
Smiths Hatful of Hollow
Poco Head Over Heels
 

mf_heroes

Fleetwood Mac       Heroes Are Hard To Find

 

 

 

Rolling Stones Hot Rocks
Stevie Wonder Hotter Than July
Richard & Linda Thompson I Want To See the Bright Lights Tonight
Nada Surf If I Had a Hi-Fi
Eurythmics In the Garden
Velvet Crush In the Presence of Greatness
Van Morrison Inarticulate Speech of the Heart
Various Artists Indestructible Beat of Soweto, the
Stevie Wonder Innervisions
 

ozark_shines

Ozark Mountain Daredevils

It’ll Shine When It Shines

 

 

 

Jonathan Richman Jonathan Goes Country
Steely Dan Katy Lied
Mink DeVille Le Chat Bleu
Wet Willie Left Coast Live
Replacements Let It Be
Elvin Bishop Let It Flow
Railway Children Listen On: The Best Of
 

grover_bijou

Grover Washington, Jr.       Live At the Bijou

 

 

 

Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band Live Bullet
Bob Marley & the Wailers Live!
Clash, the London Calling
 

ccody_ozone

Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen

Lost in the Ozone

 

 

 

Kitchens of Distinction Love is Hell
Love Tractor Love Tractor
Horslips Man Who Built America, the
Television Marquee Moon
James Taylor Mudslide Slim and the Blue Horizon
R.E.M. Murmur
 

longryders_ns

Long Ryders          Native Sons

 

 

 

Red Rider Neruda
Rod Stewart Never A Dull Moment
Gin Blossoms New Miserable Experience
Charlie Daniels Band Nightrider
Nils Lofgren Nils Lofgren
Ronnie Wood Now Look
 

guyclark_1

Guy Clark        Old #1/Texas Cookin’

 

 

 

Peter Gabriel Peter Gabriel (3rd Album)
Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti
Knitters, the Poor Little Critter on the Road
Emmylou Harris Portraits (Boxed Set)
New Order Power Corruption & Lies
Shoes Present Tense/Tongue Twister
Pretenders Pretenders
Who, the Quadrophenia
 

jacobites_ragged

Jacobites (Nikki Sudden & Dave Kusworth)

Ragged School

 

 

 

Tom Waits Rain Dogs
Deacon Blue Raintown
Jayhawks, the Rainy Day Music
R.E.M. Reckoning
Willie Nelson Red Headed Stranger
Mekons Rock ‘n Roll
 

rockersOST

Various Reggae Artists

Rockers: Original Soundtrack

 

 

 

Ben Folds Rockin’ the Suburbs
Tarney-Spencer Band Run For Your Life
Jackson Browne Running On Empty
Neil Young Rust Never Sleeps
Clash, the Sandinista!
David Bowie Scary Monsters
Marshall Tucker Band Searchin’ For a Rainbow
 

dexys_youngsoul

Dexy’s Midnight Runners

Searching for the Young Soul Rebels

 

 

 

Lynyrd Skynyrd Second Helping
Rosanne Cash Seven Year Ache
O’Jays Ship Ahoy
Ry Cooder Show Time
UB40 Signing Off
 

linnlinn01

Linn Linn       Sin Za Ba

 

 

 

Buzzcocks Singles Going Steady
Records, the Smashes, Crashes, and Near Misses
Interview Snakes & Lovers
Robert Palmer Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley
Todd Rundgren Something Anything
Jam, the Sound Effects
Dan Fogelberg Souvenirs
 

spinners

Spinners       Spinners

 

 

 

Graham Parker Squeezing Out Sparks
Grant Green Steet Funk & Jazz Groove
Talking Heads Stop Making Sense
Lynyrd Skynyrd Street Survivors
Curtis Mayfield Superfly Soundtrack
Camper Van Beethoven Telephone Free Landslide Victory
 

ars_3rdannual

Atlanta Rhythm Section

Third Annual Pipe Dream

 

 

 

Moody Blues This is the Moody Blues
Replacements Tim
Tom Foolery Tom Foolery
Neil Young Tonight’s the Night
 

araces_toostuffed

Amazing Rhythm Aces    Too Stuffed To Jump

 

 

 

Reivers, the Translate Slowly
Elvis Costello Trust
Fleetwood Mac Tusk
Pure Prairie League Two Lane Highway
U2 Unforgettable Fire
 

pongsitunplugged

Pongsit Kampee & Lek Carabao

Unplugged (Plug Loot)

 

 

 

Fountains of Wayne Utopia Parkway
Durutti Column Valuable Passages
Ultravox Vienna
Jerry Jeff Walker Viva Terlingua
Joan Armatrading Walk Under Ladders
 

strummer_walker

Joe Strummer       Walker Soundtrack

 

 

 

Guadalcanal Diary Walking in the Shadow of the Big Man
Ian Hunter Welcome To the Club
Doobie Brothers What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits
 

herbalpert_wc

Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass

Whipped Cream & Other Delights

 

 

 

X Wild Gift
Emmylou Harris Wrecking Ball
Vulgar Boatmen You and Your Sister
Tom Petty You’re Gonna Get It

 

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BT in BKK!

The BT Express pulled into Bangkok this week, and it’s been a wild and most amazing reunion. Sometimes known as “The Human Jukebox” or in a previous incarnation, “The Haunted Laundromat”, my friend BT is indeed a one-band of sorts. An incredibly creative musician and artist, we grew up in the same neighborhood of Orlando, Florida, the area known as College Park, and ran in the same circles of music-minded people for several decades. I’ve known him for a long, long time.

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But I had not seen BT since I moved to Thailand, over 18 years ago! While I was in Bangkok, he moved to Atlanta for a few years, and then did a cross-country migration to Los Angeles for over a decade, but we always managed to stay in touch via e-mail. After a few months in Germany this year, he packed his bags again and headed to Southeast Asia for the first time. He spent the first couple of weeks in Malaysia, visiting Kuala Lumpur and Penang, and then arrived in Bangkok this past Monday. Welcome to the Big Mango, baby!

When you haven’t seen a friend in the better part of two decades, you’re not sure what to expect. Would he be the same? Look the same? Act the same? How we would get along? Well, we’ve all aged, but BT didn’t look that much different, and as soon as he walked into my bookshop and started chatting, it was like we were back at Murmur Records 30 years ago and hadn’t missed a beat. No awkward lulls in the conversation at all, just instantly clicking once again.

Within minutes he had me laughing and grinning, thinking about the people we knew all those years ago and the places we hung out and travelled, not only in Orlando, but also in Atlanta and Athens (that’s the place in Georgia, y’all!); Meiner’s Pit Barbeque, South Orange Blossom Trail (OBT!), Freddie and Ray at Rock & Roll Heaven, Fred Schneider, the mysterious Gunther, the various Jims and Daves, the Clermont connection, Chuck’s Jamaican restaurant, R.E.M. and the Athens scene, the religious loonies we know, Mark and Armistead from Love Tractor, Retro Records, Dubsdread, Danny Beard and Wax ‘N Facts, Wuxtry Records, the Fairvilla Diner, April the mortician, Colonial Plaza, Bobby and Adria, Jad Fair and Half Japanese, Quan and  Eddie and Mitchell, Ken and Marty and Paul from Stumble, Nadeem and Anne Marie, the folks in Pylon, Edgewater High, Record Mart, Molly Hatchett and Lynyrd Skynyrd, Northgate Shopping Center, Tom Smith and Peach of Immortality … ah, it was all so overwhelming that my head was spinning. But really good memories.

BT has a 60-day tourist visa for Thailand and he plans to make the most of it. He’ll stay in Bangkok for a few weeks and then maybe head up North to Chiang Mai. He’s already travelled up to the suburb of Pathum Thani, an area he described as a “farang-free zone,” so he’s starting to see different sides of Thailand, not just the bustling tourist zones of Silom and Sukhumvit, all peppered with 7-Eleven branches on every block — or sometimes three to a block. Honestly, sometimes you look around the concrete jungle that is Bangkok, you’d swear that you WERE back in Atlanta or some other large American city. But then the sight of a som tam stand or the waft of an approaching squid vendor shatters that illusion entirely. No, you’re not in Florida anymore. Bangkok truly is a different and magical place.

30 Years Ago … a Murmur

Thirty years ago R.E.M. released their first full album, a collection of alluring, jangly, mesmerizing songs titled Murmur. The band made many other fine albums during their multi-decade career, but to my ears nothing else they recorded (except perhaps their following album, the equally excellent Reckoning) boasted as much musical magic as Murmur.

 R_E_M__-_Murmur

Smitten by that album, thirty years ago this week, in October 1983, I opened my first retail shop, Murmur Records, in Orlando, Florida. The location where I operated the first three years was a relatively small space, but I packed it with tons of records (most of them bought on consignment from my D.J. friend, Mike Cooper, in Atlanta) and cool posters covering the old walls, along with plenty of enthusiasm and — needless to say — lots of great music playing each day. I took risks, I listened to requests, and I worked long hours (open to close every day, no days off for the first two years), and was lucky to develop a loyal base of customers. Eventually I outgrew the first space and moved to a larger location (with working air conditioning) a few blocks away. Once I had enough money to able to hire people to work for me, I was rewarded to have quality folks like Jim Leatherman, Eddie Foeller, Tim Skinner, Beth Ann Sparks, Quan Nguyen, De De Branham, and so many others (off the top of my foggy head; hello to April, Julian, Kareem, Cory, Paul, Sovanna, Michael, Mitchell, and the other Jim) who were valuable additions to the crew. Those Sunday softball games with friends and customers were a lot of fun too.

To inaugurate the record shop when it opened in 1983, we had an in-store concert by Love Tractor, a band that I knew from Athens, Georgia. Nine years later, when I decided to change the name of the shop and add books to the mix, Love Tractor also returned for a final show in the back of the store, along with an amazing performance by opening act Billy “The Human Jukebox” Taylor. In between those dates Love Tractor also played a special Fifth Anniversary birthday party that we threw in a downtown Orlando club. As it happened, Love Tractor was in the middle of a tour with the B-52’s that month, and a couple of members of the B’s (including Fred Schneider) dropped by the club and sat in on a few songs. I wish I had a recording of that show; Fred singing versions of “Born to Be Wild” and “We Are Family” tore the roof off the sucker.

 LT01

In addition to Love Tractor, I booked a few other bands to play in local clubs and halls, including the Swimming Pool Q’s, Replacements (that show at a VFW Hall ended up getting raided by the local police!), and True West. We were also lucky to have in-store appearances from The Ramones, John Wesley Harding (also a novelist known by his real name, Wesley Stace), The Ocean Blue, the Silos and many other national and regional bands.

I operated the record shop (more of a CD shop after the first three years) until 1992 when I had the “brilliant” idea of revamping the entire concept. I added new and used books to the mix, stopped stocking louder and more “abrasive” music, and changed the name of the shop to Alobar Books & Music, convinced that the growing number of grunge rockers was ruining the atmosphere of the shop, or at least making it much less fun than it had been. Unfortunately, the more “mature” mix of music and books that I stocked didn’t attract as many customers as the old “alternative” blend of music that I specialized in. Plus, the advent of deep-discount chains like Best Buy was putting a hit on the CD business. But that didn’t matter so much in the grand scheme of things; I was still having fun and enjoying the camaraderie of cool customers and employees. The “end” came in 1996 when I moved to Thailand. But the store still didn’t die. I sold the shop to Quan, one of my longtime employees, and he brought back the Murmur name one more time.

Nowadays, I live in Thailand and sell used books instead of used records. Instead of returning to visit the Sunshine State I’m more likely to be found wandering around monasteries in Myanmar’s Shan State. But I remain an incorrigible music addict and still try to keep up with any noteworthy music that’s being released, and digging deeper in the archives of stuff that’s been released in previous decades. I continue to be amazed, and pleased, with the music I’m discovering this late in life. I’m also one of the declining numbers of people who still purchase real CDs. A downloader I’m not.

But this week I’ll be breaking out the beer and toasting all those amazing employees, customers, relatives, and musicians who helped make Murmur Records such a success, and played such an important part in my life. I think I’ll also be play R.E.M.’s Murmur a few more times too!

 

Music for the Road

About two years I succumbed to the lure of taking along a portable music player in the form of an MP3 device when I went on trips outside the country. No, not an iPod, or any other sort of multi-tasking iThing, but simply a small device that played only music. Seeing as how I’m constantly listening to music when I’m at home or at work, I felt like I needed some tunes with me when I was on the road too.

 

I still bring paperback books along to read (no tablets or other “handy” reading devices, just real paper products, thank you) when I travel, but the music makes for a pleasing accompaniment, particularly when waiting around in airports, taking long walks or bike rides, or just relaxing in my hotel room (I can only stomach so much cable TV news, and have zero interest in watching vapid movies).

 

Music has become an inspirational soundtrack to my trips. When I think about cycling down a lonely dirt road in Shan State, hoping that I wouldn’t round a bend and run into a herd of cattle, I recall that I was listening to some vintage Springsteen tunes. When I was navigating the chaotic streets of Mandalay, Steely Dan kept a smile on my face. For my latest trip to Myanmar I stuck with some travel-tested favorites rather than put anything brand new on my MP3 player. I’ve found that trips aren’t a good time for “test driving” new music, but for enjoying the old familiar. I also included some music from Myanmar favorites such as Lay Phyu, Linn Linn, and Iron Cross, local tunes to make the atmosphere all the more authentic. Here are some of the albums that kept me moving and grooving on the road.

 

Rosanne Cash – Rules of Travel

Steely Dan – Countdown to Ecstasy

Bruce Springsteen – Tracks (4 CD set)

Nada Surf – If I Had a Hi-Fi

Gil Scott-Heron – Evolution (and Flashback): The Very Best of

 

Curtis Mayfield – There’s No Place Like America Today

Joan Armatrading – This Charming Life

Gordon Lightfoot – Gord’s Gold

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Second Helping

Patti Griffin – Flaming Red

 

James Taylor – Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon

Al Green – Deep Shade of Green (3 CD set)

Atlanta Rhythm Section – Dog Days/Red Tape

Glen Campbell – Meet Glen Campbell

Love Tractor – Sky at Night

 

Poco – Head Over Heels

Carole King – Her Greatest Hits

Grant Green – Live at the Lighthouse

Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti

Bruce Hornsby – Greatest Radio Hits

 

Marvin Gaye – Trouble Man

Gabor Szabo – The Sorcerer

Doobie Brothers – What Were Once Vices are Now Habits

Stevie Wonder – Hotter Than July

Tabu Ley Rochereau – African Classics

 

Drive-By Truckers – The Fine Print

Betty Wright & The Roots – Betty Wright: The Movie

UB 40 – Signing Off

Booker T. Jones – The Road from Memphis

Neil Young – Rust Never Sleeps

 

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