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

Posts tagged ‘Wet Willie’

Music CDs at Dasa in Bangkok

Well, somebody had to do it.

After several years of thinking about it, debating the pros and cons, and talking it over with my business partner, I defied conventional business wisdom and forged ahead last month, adding secondhand music CDs to the product mix at Dasa Books, my shop in Bangkok.

dasa_CD6sm

My decision to “try it and see what happens” has pretty much been my way of doing business. Throughout more than thirty years of managing or owning various retail businesses, I have consistently defied conventional wisdom and simply done what I wanted, or what I thought customers might want, regardless of popularity or trends. I’ve found that if you cater to a niche market and know your product you can succeed.  And CDs have become one such niche market. But nowadays, even in a city as large and cosmopolitan as Bangkok, finding a good selection of music on CD, either new or secondhand, is becoming more and more difficult. Frankly, the selection in local shops sucks. To find CDs that I want, I have to either buy them when I go to Kuala Lumpur (where the Rock Corner branches still have a good selection) or order from online dealers.

Statistics in recent years show that CD sales are declining, of that there is no doubt. Thus many “experts” have declared that CDs are now obsolete, convinced that all music lovers are suddenly going to abandon their CD collection and start downloading and streaming music instead of buying actual discs. Well, hold on there, all you geniuses, maybe that’s not quite the case. Many music addicts still prefer buying and listening to music on compact disc. You can weigh the pros and cons of CDs versus vinyl, or even throw in downloads into the argument, but the fact remains that many people who buy and collect music still want CDs.

dasa_CD8

So yeah, I like CDs, and I buy several hundred each year to satisfy my addiction, but I am a dying breed? I was excited about finally selling music in my shop, but frankly I wasn’t sure how much of a demand that there would be for CDs. If you listen to all those experts and doomsayers, they will tell you that digital is the future and “nobody buys CDs anymore.”

Thankfully, I discovered that’s not the case. We started selling CDs in mid-November, and for our opening stock I plucked about 500 “non-essential” CDs from my personal collection (How many do I still have? Let’s just say that didn’t make much of a dent in my collection!). Since that time the stock has continued to grow as customers have sold us more discs. We now have over 1,300 CDs in stock and the total would be higher, but a strange thing happened: we’ve already sold nearly 400 of the darn things! No market for CDs in this digital age? I beg to differ. Needless to say, I’m happy with the CD sales thus far, and judging from the feedback we’ve gotten, many diehard music lovers are very happy and excited to have another place in Bangkok to buy CDs.

Meanwhile, here are the CDs that I’ve been playing a lot at home and at work recently, reading to close out this year with a sonic bang!

lesambassedeurs

Les Ambassadeurs du Hotel de Bamako

Lee Hazlewood – Poet, Fool or Bum/Back on the Street Again

The Idle Race – Back to the Story

Ryley Walker – Primrose Green

Wet Willie – Manorisms/Which One’s Willie?

 

detroitfunk

Various Artists – Detroit Funk Vaults: Funk and Soul From Dave Hamilton 1968-79

Leon Ware – Moon Ride

Shawn Colvin – Uncovered

Game Theory – Real Nighttime (30th Anniversary Edition)

Various Artists – Loose Funk: Rare Soul from Sound Stage 7 Records

 

haitidirect

Various Artists – Haiti Direct

Frankie Lee – American Dreamer

Continental Drifters – Drifted: In the Beginning &  Beyond

Neil Diamond – The Bang Years 1966-1968

Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – The Travelling Kind

 

hottunaburgers

Hot Tuna – Burgers

Various Artists – Super Funk 3

Justin Townes Earle – Single Mothers

Bombay Bicycle Club – A Different Kind of Fix

Jeff Lynne’s ELO – Alone in the Universe

 

passionpit

Passion Pit – Kindred

Red Garland Quintet – Soul Junction

Icehouse – Man of Colours

Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – Stranger in Town

Bob Welch – French Kiss

 

squeezecradle

Squeeze – Cradle to the Grave

Goldberg – Misty Flats

Various Artists – Step Inside My Soul

Catherine Howe – What a Beautiful Place

Jefferson Starship – Red Octopus

 

funkinchangin

Funk Inc. – Hangin’ Out/Superfunk

The 9th Creation – Bubble Gum

Marlena Shaw – The Spice of Life

Various Artists – Los Angeles Soul: Kent-Modern’s Legacy 1962-71

Johnny Hammond – Gears/Forever Taurus

 

inperfectharmony

Various Artists – In Perfect Harmony: Sweet Soul Groups 1968-77

Tame Impala – Lonerism

Roy Wood – The Wizzard

Various Artists – Howie B: Another Late Night

Todd Rundgren & Emil Nikolaisen– Runddans

 

Advertisements

Country Side of Life

One of many great songs by the band Wet Willie was a tune called “Country Side of Life.” The song reverberated in my head — okay, it was actually playing on my MP3 player at the time — as I was cycling around the countryside outside of Nyaungshwe in Shan State one day last month. 

“You can have your buildings and your heavy arithmetic
I don’t need no crowded streets or city slicker tricks
I just need to be someplace where I can move around
Look down at my toes and I can still see the ground
Gimme that country side of life … “

 

I had budgeted a full week in Nyaungshwe, but between teaching classes at Tat Ein village, taking the students on a field trip to Pindaya, cycling over to Shwe Yan Pyay monastery several times, and visiting my friends Htein Linn and Ma Pu Su,  I came to the realization that I didn’t have a whole lot of free time at my leisure. But during one of those rare free afternoons, one when it wasn’t raining, I cycled over the little bridge west of the big canal and just meandered around the countryside for a couple of hours.

 

Some other cyclists and a few pedestrians were on the same dirt road, but thankfully I didn’t encounter many motorized vehicles; certainly no clunky trucks or gaudy SUVs. A few children were walking back home after school, one young man was dribbling a soccer ball down a narrow path cut between rice fields, a couple of monks were chatting outside their monastery, and a herd of cattle was making the dusty journey home. Lush green fields framed by craggy green mountains, intersected by little canals and creeks. A quiet, scenic, rain-free, and altogether blissful afternoon.

 

And I can’t let that initial reference to Wet Willie slide on by without rambling a bit more about how wonderful a band they were. They had a huge hit single with “Keep On Smilin’’ back in 1974, and enjoyed moderate success with other singles and albums during the rest of that decade, but to my mind they never really received the proper acclaim that they so justly deserved. Wet Willie was much more than a country-rock band or some sort of one-hit wonder. Perhaps their main “problem” was that they were musically diverse and their sound was too hard to pigeonhole. They fused elements of country, soul, rock, and blues to create an intoxicating brand of music. When the keyboards, guitars, drums and bass converged, the musical stew got steaming hot, and came close to boiling over when lead singer Jimmy Hall started wailing on his saxophone or harmonica. Shout Bamalama!

 

I was lucky to see Wet Willie in concert at the Great Southern Music Hall in Orlando back in the late 70s, where they played two spectacular shows. Jimmy Hall was one of those naturally gifted lead singers, capable of keeping the audience spellbound throughout his energetic performance. One of their “hits” compilations will turn you on to a representative selection of their best songs, as would one of their steamy live albums, Left Coast Live (the CD contains a bunch of bonus material that wasn’t on the original vinyl release) and Drippin’ Wet. The wetter the better indeed!

 

 

Atlanta Rhythm Section

 

In the much neglected genre often dubbed “Southern Rock,” there were many fine bands that came to prominence in the 1970s. Some had a definite country edge or exuded a bit of soul, while others were folk influenced or had definite blues roots. Just because they came from the South didn’t mean these bands were all tobacco-spitting cowboys or hayseed rednecks. Thus, the term “southern rock” was not always a desirable label to be stuck with, and it certainly unfairly pigeonholed many an artist.

Artists such as the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Poco enjoyed their fair share of commercial success and critical acclaim, but many other good bands like the Marshall Tucker Band, the Outlaws, Blackfoot, Henry Paul Band, and Heartsfield never experienced much more than regional popularity despite consistently producing memorable music.

A few other excellent bands from the South were lucky enough to have hit singles: “Keep on Smiling” by Wet Willie, “Jackie Blue” by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, “Amie” by Pure Prairie League, “Third Rate Romance” by the Amazing Rhythm Aces, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by the Charlie Daniels Band, and “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” by the Elvin Bishop Band, but these songs were not necessarily representative of the band’s overall sound. And having a bit hit, as many have noted, can be both a blessing and a curse. Such sudden fame only ended up burdening the band with expectations of producing bigger hits, caused their old fans to accuse them of “selling out,” or saddled them with the dreaded tag of “one-hit wonder” when they never charted again. Sometimes you just can’t win.

One of the more underrated Southern bands was the Atlanta Rhythm Section. Although they also enjoyed moderate success with hit singles such as “Doraville,” “So Into You,” “Imaginary Lover,” and “Spooky,” they never really gained the critical acclaim that they deserved, or were dismissed as “lightweight” by critics. But for the better part of a decade ARS had a run of consistently excellent albums: Third Annual Pipe Dream, Dog Days, Red Tape, Champagne Jam, and Rock and Roll Alternative. I own all those albums on CD and when I saw that the band’s first two albums —- Atlanta Rhythm Section and Back Up Against the Wall — had finally been re-released as a single disc, I eagerly ordered a copy.

Like many Southern acts, ARS were tough to categorize. Their musical palette consisted of southern boogie, more jazz influenced numbers (a cover of Grant Green’s “Blues in Maude’s Flat”), some blustery blues (“Outside Woman Blues”), soothing pop (“All Night Rain”), and even a western swing country piece (“Jukin’/San Antonio Rose”) or two. They were indeed a top-notch rhythm section, and Ronnie Hammond’s whiskey-smooth vocals only helped to make them sound that much better.  

Those first two albums had been extremely hard to find, even on vinyl, so I was delighted to find this reissue. The first album, released in 1971, featured Rodney Justo as lead vocalist. By the time the second album came out in 1973, he had been replaced by Ronnie Hammond, who handled vocals for the rest of the band’s run. Listening to these songs four decades after they were recorded, I was surprised at how strong the material still sounds. They could perform long guitar jams or short pop masterpieces with equal dexterity. Most of the band’s classic albums have been reissued by BGO as two-for-one packages, similar to this album. All are worthy purchases.

Tag Cloud