Showing posts with label String Driven Thing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label String Driven Thing. Show all posts

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Day After The Sabbath 115: Top of the Scott's (Badcat Records)

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unzip password:  tdats

TDATS 115: Top of the Scott's - Badcat Records interview by Rich Aftersabbath on Mixcloud

As many of you will have discovered by now, one of the greatest free resources on the net for finding out about obscure music is Rate Your Music (link). Although it seems to have been originally created as a way of rating and reviewing the records you personally own, due to its "wiki"-type ethos of user contribution it has become one of the best general catalogues in the world for all recorded music.

Scott Blackerby
I go there almost daily, and one contributor/reviewer who frequently comes up on albums and bands that I am interested in is a user that goes by the tag of RDTEN1 (link). He now has over 2500 reviews there! I have found leads from so many of his detailed reviews in making TDATS that I decided he fully deserved some praise here. When I made contact with him recently I was not surprised to find out that he has been an avid record collector and dealer for years, he has a lot of interesting things to say and he plys his trade under the name Badcat Records (link). His name is Scott Blackerby and he lives in Reston, Virginia. What I have done here is asked Scott to pick fifteen tunes for a comp, and say a little about each one. The majority of the acts he picked are brand new to TDATS so hopefully it will be an informative listen for you all. Following that is an interview I conducted with him, mostly regarding what it is like to deal in obscure rock and how he finds the nuggets and information for his reviews.

Scott ~ "Here are 15 of my favorite song finds from 2014. Musically they’re all pretty much rock, hard rock, or blues-rock oriented.  Admittedly there are some oddball choices; Irish blues-rocker, Quebec garage rockers, A German band, and one from Peru."

01. Bloody Mary - Dragon Lady (1974) from album 'Bloody Mary'
There's a rumour going around that Bloody Mary is either Sir Lord Baltimore under another name, or is at least connected in some way. Not surprising as the vocals do sound remarkably similar to John Garner...although he refutes any connection. Scott's full review can be read >here<. "Based on everything I'd read, I have to admit the percussion heavy opening came as a surprise to my ears, but once the lead guitar and keyboards kicked in (along with the screeching lead vocals), I felt more comfortable with the collection's hard rock reputation.   The opener actually boasted what may have been the album's best melody.   rating: **** stars"
02. The Fallen Angels - Room At The Top (1967) from album "The Fallen Angels"
Scott's full review here. "Penned by Bryant, 'Room At the Top' was a driving pseudo-garage tune that showcased Richard Kumer's powerhouse drumming and some Wally Cook sitar touches (actually it sounded like an electric guitar given an odd tuning).  The band actually gave the track a cool, pseudo-British feel (imagine Mick Jagger fronting a true guitar band).  Always loved the freak-out fade.  Roulette tapped the track as the lead-off single.    rating: **** stars"
03. Mitch Ryder - Ain't Nobody White (1979) from album 'Naked But Not Dead'
Scott's full review here. "The third 'Look Ma, No Wheels' composition, anyone who doubted Ryder still had his killer voice only needed to check out the raw, bluesy 'Ain't Nobody White'.    What a growl of a voice and the live version was even tougher than the studio take  !!!   There's an extended, slightly stoned performance of the song from the German RockPalast series (youtube)  rating: **** stars"
04. Rory Gallagher - Let Me In (1975) from album 'Against the Grain'
Scott's full review here. "Anyone who knew Gallagher has a hardcore blues artist was probably going to be surprised by the boogie-styled 'Let Me In'.   Maybe not quite top-40 material, but surprisingly commercial and accessible.  There's a clip of Gallagher performing the tune for a 1975 episode of Don Kirshner's Rock Concert. It's worth watching just to see a somewhat stiff Kirshner reading the introduction off of cue cards (youtube).  You had to wonder if Kirshner had a clue as to who Gallagher was. rating: **** stars"
05. Les Napoleons - Fou De Toi (1966) from album 'Les Napoleons A Go Go'
Scott's full review here. "Having been released as their debut single, 'For de Toi' was a blazing Kinks-styled garage rocker showcasing an amazing Jean Guy De Levo solo (Dave Davies would have been proud of the performances.  There's decent live black and white television performance of the tune, though the video and sound are out of sync (youtube)  rating: **** stars"
06. Flo & Eddie - It Never Happened (1972) from album 'The Phlorescent Leech & Eddie'
"When it comes to biting humor, Flo and Eddie are among the best acts out there.  Bolstered by a dark, folk-rock melody that snuck into your head and wouldn't leave, 'It Never Happened" was one of the best tunes on the album.   rating: ***** stars"
07. One St. Stephen - Junkie's Lament (1975) from album 'One St. Stephen'
Scott's full review here. "Well, with his ravaged vocal delivery, 'Junkie's Lament' literally did sound like a strung out addict wailing away on his last couple of breaths.  Iggy Pop on steroids?  Seriously disturbing tune.   rating: **** stars"

08. String Driven Thing - Josephine (1974) from album 'Please Mind Your Head'
Scott's RYM review here. "Always loved James Bell's churning bass line on this one  ...  nice Bad Company-styled blues-rocker that should have provided the band with a massive AOR commercial success.  rating: **** stars"

09. Terry Reid - Live Life (1973) from album 'River'
Scott's RYM review here. "Easily one of the best things he's ever recorded, 'Live Life' had everything going for it including a tasty, slightly Latin-esque melody (thanks to Willie Bobo's percussion), some first-rate guitar, and one of Reid's most energetic performances.  The video and sound quality aren't great, but there's 1973 performance of the tune on British television.  The live version was way funkier than the studio version (youtube).  rating: **** stars"
10. We All Together - Silly Roadman (1974) from album 'Volumen II'
Scott's RYM review here. "Even though something seemed to have been lost in the translation, 'Silly Roadman' had a cool, mildly lysergic, mid-'60s flavor that I find fascinating.   Love the segment about halfway through where the song shifted into heavy rock mode with Guerrero toughening up his voice while guitarist Cornejo and keyboardist Varvande got a chance to briefly stretch out.   rating: **** stars"
11. Fanny - Place in the Country (1971) from album 'Charity Ball'
Scott's RYM review here.  "Penned by Barclay, 'Place In the Country' was one of the album's best rockers.   Nice showcase for the group's harmony vocals.   rating: **** stars"

12. The Petards - Drive (1968) from album 'A Deeper Blue'
Scott's RYM review here. "Nice Beatles influenced rocker ...  how could you not like a German band that could work Florida and Georgia into their lyrics.   How many American bands have ever worked Bavaria or Niedersachsen"

13. Hudson Brothers - Hard On Me (1975) from album 'Ba-Fa'
Scott's RYM review here. "A typical hard rocker that you probably didn't want a ten year old to listen to ...  well today the lyrics are very PG.   Nice to hear them toughen up their sound a bit.   rating: **** stars"

14. Stephen Spano - Eye To Eye (1975) from album 'Eye to Eye'
Scott's RYM review here. "Featuring fuzz guitar, meltdown synthesizer, and full rock instrumentation, the title track was quite different from the rest of the album.  Rock, progressive moves, and even jazzy chords ...  it was all here.  One of my picks for standout performance.  My only complaint is the tune faded out just as Spano was beginning to showcase his tuneful lead guitar moves.   rating: **** stars"
15. John Entwistle - Ten Little Friends (1972) from album 'Whistle Rymes'
Scott's RYM review here. "Great little boogie rocker with Peter Frampton providing the blazing lead guitar.  As for the song, I've read different different stories including it was inspired by a gift of a pack of toy trolls that Keith Moon gave to Entwistle.  The trolls included a character named "Mr. Bones".  An alternative story traced the song to an autobiographical base - namely a reflection of Entwistle's musical dexterity on multiple instruments.  Regardless, it was one killer tune. rating: **** stars"

Interview with Scott

Hi Scott, thanks for your time! Before I start the questions proper - what's the significance of your RYM username, "RDTEN1"?

The tag (which was originally for my email address) is actually work related.  I work for the Navy and it relates to the kind of money I deal with Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation, Navy (RDTEN).   For some reason RDTEN wasn't available, so I grabbed the next best thing - RDTEN1.

True story - every now and then I'll get unsolicited email from people wanting a picture of me thinking it stands for red 10, or a hot looking redhead.   Amazing.  When I tell them I'm a middle aged white guy, many folks don't believe it.

Q1. Can you tell us some of the major events and influences in your life that lead you to start BadCatRecords?

So, BadCatRecords is a small on-line website that focuses on talking about and selling '60s and '70s vinyl.  I started it 2004 when I woke up one day and discovered I had somehow managed to accumulate some 30,000 albums.  A back-of-the-envelope calculation indicated that if I did nothing but listen to albums 12 hours a day, it would take me four years to get through the collection.  That was just way more vinyl than I ever needed and it seemed unlikely I was ever going to get that kind of spare time to simply listen to music, so I decided to set up a small website and start selling some of the stuff.

Q2. How long has it been going now? Can you tell us a little about your 
experiences of starting it and how it has developed since then? 

I started selling in 2004.  My initial plans were to list LPs in some of the specialized music publications favored by hardcore collectors (like Goldmine) but a friend at work taught me some basic HTML .  It was enough to let me set up a barebones, but functional website where I started listing vinyl  -   It took a couple of months to upload about half of my original collection and then it took a couple of years for the website to generate a steady stream of traffic and customers.  Today it averages 500+ hits a day.  I realize that's nothing in the overall scheme of things, and unfortunately most of those hits are simply people reading record reviews, or looking for information on a band.   Still, over the ten years the site has now had over a million visitors.  I realize Amazon gets that kind of traffic in a matter of hour, but for a small, homegrown site like mine, which gets virtually no publicity, that's still a neat accomplishment.  

A couple of months back I ran a query against the BadCatRecords name and was surprised at how many on-line references and links there were to the website.  

Ironically, on occasion people mistake BadCatRecords for a true storefront business.  Last summer I was cutting my lawn when a couple of young German collectors showed up looking for BadCatRecords.   Their English wasn't great and my German was equally limited, but they finally realized what I was saying.  Since they'd driven out to Reston,  I let them to browse the stacks.  They ended up buying about 100 soul LPs so it turned into a productive day for all of us.

Q3. Do you have any stories regarding extremely rare finds or particularly 
memorable finds and sales? 

With a regular day job and family obligations (soccer, music lessons, Boy Scouts, homework, etc. ), I don't have a great deal of time to go looking for stuff.  Still, like every collector I've had some nice finds.  

I was at a local community yard sale and  an older lady was selling a bunch of stuff including what appeared to be a stack of religious LPs.  I wasn't expecting anything, but scattered throughout the religious and easy listening stuff were some rare psych LPs (Food, Kak, Mason, etc.).  She was asking a dollar for each LP.  I asked her where she'd gotten the psych stuff and she told me it belonged to her older son.  She'd been asking him to clear the stuff out of her house for years and had finally decided to do it herself.  I told her the psych stuff was worth way more than a dollar. She seemed surprised and asked if I would be willing to pay $10 a pop.  I ended up buying 20 psych LPs for $10 apiece.  Yes, I know I probably should have paid her even more.  Virtually all of them sold online within a matter of weeks.

About two years ago I bought an Ultra Violet LP with an Andy Warhol designed cover.  I found it buried in the discount bin  at a local used record store for a dollar.   Musically it's one of those clear-out-the-party kind of LPs, but the Warhol cover and the fact few copies were pressed makes it a collectible.   It was gone literally an hour after I listed it on line.   

To be honest, most of the music I buy is based on it being something that looks interesting to me.  I've purchased albums for the cover art.  I've bought albums because of the label they were issued under.   I've bought albums because I recognize a band member.   Sure, I'll buy something I know I can resell for a profit ("Dark Side of the Moon" with the posters and stickers), but the vast majority of my collection was purchased because it looked like something that would be cool to hear.   Moreover, most of what I buy is on the cheap side.  While I'd love to spend $200 - $300 for an LP, that's not really in the family budget.

As for sales, I list albums on the BadCatRecords site, but also sell on MusicStack, GEMM. Amazon, and a couple of newer sites.   Deep pocket collectors tend to buy directly off the BadCatRecords website.  There are some collectors who seem to have immense resources at their disposal and I've even dealt with a couple of European and Japanese collectors who buy rarities as an investment.   I've had people spend thousands of dollars on vinyl.  I had a guy spend close to $1,000 on a sealed Peter  Grudzien LP.  Perhaps he got a bargain since it is rare, but those kind of purchases are simply mind-boggling.   Personally I can't image spending that kind of money on an album.   Maybe when I win the lottery.  That said, for every buyer who drops the equivalent of a mortgage payment on vinyl, there are a hundreds who are spending $10 - $50 to buy a slice of their past.  Those are the folks who make up most of my sales.   

I somehow got interested in tax scam albums (you can look the topic up on the BadCat website - link) and about a year ago got a call from a local guy who found some tax scam LPs and wanted to sell them.  He gave me a great price and they quickly sold off my website.  Wish I had more of that happen.   LOL 

Q4. Are you originally from Reston, Virginia? Have you always lived around 
there? How has living there influenced your musical tastes and pursuits, or any 
other places you have lived?

Born in Southern Alabama.  My father was a Department of Defense civilian who had a series of overseas postings.  I spent 14 years living with my family throughout Europe.  Virginia became the family "home base" between overseas assignments.   

The Washington DC area is where many of today's jobs are located.  I would be hard pressed to make the kind of salary I earn here were I living somewhere else in the country.   Admittedly you pay a steep price to live in this area, but it has a very cosmopolitan feel.   If you're into culture and music, there's always something going on in this area.  If so inclined, you could literally see a concert every night of the week.  Doesn't happen in my case, but if you're a young hipster with disposable cash, the opportunities are there ...

It tends to get overlooked, but the Washington DC area has long had an active musical scene - there are some impressive 60s (Fallen Angels), 70s (Artful Dodger) bands that called this are their home.   Go-Go music may not have caught on nationally, but the late Chuck Brown remains an icon in this area.  Think of all the hardcore bands that called this area home - Bad Brains, Slickee Boys, Teen Idles, Fugazi ...   I love all of those bands.  The other thing Washington DC had when I was a teenager was WHFS.   WHFS was this funky little FM radio station that had DJs like Damian Eistein and Jonathan "Weasel" Gilbert.  The station let the DJs pick what they wanted to play which meant it was literally  everything and anything other than top-40 material.    I can't even begin to count the number of albums I bought after hearing something played on WHFS.

Living overseas as a teenager certainly impacted my musical tastes and consumed a big part of my limited disposable income.   As much as I loved Armed Forces Network (AFN) and top-40 rock, I loved European radio stations, including Radio Luxemburg, and Radio Caroline.  Whereas AFN had a pretty regimented play list, European stations were all over the musical map.   There are literally dozens of bands I never would have heard on American radio - some good, some not so good, but all different from typical American top-40.   It certainly opened my ears to a musical sounds far beyond the top-40 most of my friends lived in.   As a teenager I spent a couple of years living in Belgium.  A buddy of mine (hi Mark), introduced me to record libraries.   I'd never heard of the concept, but the way it worked was you paid a membership fee, brought in your record stylus for them to check, and then you could check out a dozen LPs at a time.   I'm still selling albums that I "discovered" living overseas - Bees Make Honey (pub rock), The Boots (German garage rockers). Irish Coffee (Belgian rockers),  Taste (Irish blues-rockers).   The list goes on and on and on ...

Q5. Have you ever been a musician yourself? If so, what do you play and were/are 
you in a band?

Bought a bass in high school and took the instrument to college, but was smart enough to realize there were people far more talented than I was.  I think I read somewhere music critics are all frustrated wannabe musicians.   That would certainly capture it for me.   Maybe when I retire I'll have time to learn how to play an instrument.   Luckily both of my kids seem to have the musical talents I didn't get.

Q6. You appreciate and appraise a very eclectic range of musical genres. Could 
you tell us what your favourite styles in old rock are, and why? 

I looked at this question and wondered about it for a couple of minutes.  I actually looked through a pile of records on my desk and it dawned on me that yeah, my tastes are pretty eclectic.  The current stack has a copy of the new AC/DC release (vinyl), a couple of tax scam LPs, an obscure soul LP, and a copy of an album by the Dutch band Pussycat.  I guess that is  diverse.  Musically I'm willing to try pretty much anything.  I have an eleven year old and I'm surprised at how much of the contemporary stuff he listens to that I actually enjoy.  Yes, I'll admit to having some rap and even Lady Gaga on my iPhone.   

What do I really enjoy ?   I think it's only natural that we gravitate to what we grew up with.  In my case I I love '60s soul, power pop, '70s FM rock, new wave, AOR bands.  The list goes on and on.  I've even been trying to understand jazz.   Is there anything I can't deal with ?   Sure there is.  Can't say I'm a big fan of old country,  bad disco, or Musique Concrete.  Auto-tuning drives me crazy.    True story - For years I'd read articles about Lou Reed's "Metal Machine Music".   I remember thinking no album could  be that bad. There had to be a reason the album kept showing up in so many media stories.   I tracked a copy down in college and, yes, it was that bad.   I've only been able to listen to the double LP once.    

Q7. Who are some of your favourite artists from those styles, famous or not? 

I could go on for pages and pages.

Rory Gallagher, Danny Gatton, and Roy Buchanan are all favorite guitarists.  Sadly, all have passed-on, though I was lucky enough to see Gallagher play - once at a street festival in Brussels Belgium.   Gatton and Buchanan were both local artists (Buchanan lived in Reston for a couple of years).  While each released some enjoyable material, they were supposedly even more impressive in a live setting.

I'm a big soul fan.  Wilson Pickett (who lived and died in Northern Virginia),  Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell, Laura Lee ....   There's a whole universe of soul artists out there who are all but unknown today.   It's always struck me as ironic that I sell more soul to Europeans and Japanese customers than Americans.  It makes me wonder how Americans can be so blind to their own culture.

I love 60s and '70s pop psych bands like Anonymous, Big Star, The Byrds, Colours, Ellie Pop, Flat Earth Society,  The Leopards ...

I'll admit to having a long standing taste for blues-rock bands like Bad Company, Free, Taste, and yes, even AC/DC.   After a crappy day at work, a couple of AC/DC tunes are a good way to re-set your balance.

Q8. Personally, I think the short period between the late '60s and early '70s 
for psych/prog/hard rock was the most creatively interesting time in rock 
history. What are your opinions on why there was such a creative explosion 
during those times.

Sounds like a grad school thesis waiting to happen.   I'm a little too young to have been socially aware during that timeframe, but there's probably something to be said for that thesis.   Why did the lines start to come down?  Not sure, but that "golden" period  certainly didn't last very long.  I can remember while I was in high school you would hear all sorts for musical genres played on the same radio stations (The O'Jays followed by Firefall), followed by George Harrison).  By the time I graduated from college that kind of genre mixing was largely gone with radio becoming more and more homogenized

I don't list to a great deal of radio these days, but when I do, I hear a more open and eclectic playlist coming back.  When my kids listen to the radio you're liable to hear a fairly diverse mix that includes rap, country, pop, dance tunes, hard rock, etc.   Musical diversity is so much better than hearing a single genre all day long.

Q9. What other periods and genres which are markedly different do you listen to, 
up to the current day? 

Pretty much whatever is playing is okay with me.   My eleven year old complains if I have an oldies rock station on.   To be honest, what little time I spend in my car tends to be spent listening to NPR. Shows you what cutting edge tastes I have.

Q10. Your appraisals and reviews are very well-informed and written.  What are 
your main methods of gathering the information, and have you ever studied, or 
worked in, any domains other than your record business, that have helped you 
develop your skills? Had you ever considered journalism?

Thanks for the compliment.  I try to research the groups I write about, but in many cases there simply isn't a great deal of reference material out there to work with.  As such, a lot of the stuff I've dumped on the BadCatRecords website and other places is little more than speculation.  Fact of the matter is that a lot of what I've written is probably wrong, but until some comes along and provides the actual facts, that's the best you can do.  I also try to avoid popular bands.  Does anyone need to hear what I think about "Revolver" or "Hotel California"?   Probably not. 

In my real life I work for the US Navy and the job I have entails a lot of writing, so there's a clear overlap.  Hopefully the music stuff is more interesting than some of the business stuff I write.

Years ago Goldmine published a couple of items I wrote and some material I wrote ended up in an obscure book music reference book (The Acid Archives) published by a Swedish music collector by the name of Patrick Lundborg.  Sadly Patrick passed away in June 2014.    Do I have a great a American novel in me ?  If so, it has never shown any interest in getting out.   There are a bunch of topics I'd like to write more about and publish on the website.   I'm still interested in tax scam records.  What a great concept - let's release music that we purposely don't want to sell in order to get a tax break.  How American can you get?   I've got a bunch of material on banned record covers.   There are other obscure topics as well.

Q11. How often do you get in touch with the artists themselves? Do you have any 
interesting or particularly memorable stories on doing so? For instance, times 
when you got some valuable information by some effort, that nobody may have ever 
discovered other-wise.

It seems I hear from someone I've written about at least once a month.  Most of the times it will be someone happy to see they've been remembered and offering to provided information, or correct factual errors I've made in a write-up.  Frequently they'd like help in reconnecting with former band members.   Occasionally I can help.  Someone contacted me a month ago looking for an ex-husband. Many want to buy an album they released, or were somehow affiliated with.   Musicians seem to suffer a lot of broken marriages and house fires.  I've made at least a half dozen sales to band members who effectively lost everything  associated with their prior lives.  

Every now and then I'll hear from someone who thinks I'm an asshole for having written something critical of their work.  I try not to be mean-spirited when I write something.  Occasionally I lose that battle and if someone calls me on it, I'm at least willing to look at the topic again.  I won't reveal the person's name, but I wrote a scathing critique of a song this individual had written.  It was one of the most irritating hits I've ever heard.  The writer wasn't amused and let me know that I was a no-talent loser.   That's fine, but after listening to it, their song still sucks.   Anyhow, I'm thrilled to hear from all of these folks. The fact they took time from their busy lives to contact me is a treat and I still marvel that they somehow managed to stumble on to the BadCatRecords website.

So within the last two months I had two exchanges that left a lasting impression on me.

I found an obscure album at a flea market.  Though I'd never heard of the band I bought the album because I knew a little bit about the label it was released on.   Anyhow, I started looking into the band and discovered it wasn't really a band, rather was the work of a single guy.  To protect his privacy I won't name the individual, but he's become a Grammy winning composer, producer, and writer.  I tracked him down and sent him a note asking if he'd ever heard this album. Turned out he wasn't even aware of the LP.   It was apparently some material he had recorded as a demo and unknown to him some unscrupulous folks had released it under a different name without his knowledge.  I sold him one of the two copies  I had.   It was a nice feeling reuniting the "creator" and his music.

Again, I'll protect the person's privacy, but about two months ago I got an email form a lady living in Majorca.  Her father was visiting her and they had somehow ended up looking for his name on the internet.  He'd been in an obscure English '60s band and they ended up at the BadCatRecords website because I'd written a review of the band's one and only LP.   The review included photos and links to a couple of the band's songs that I'd found on YouTube.   Here's where the story turns sad, but also kind of uplifting.  The father suffers from dementia, but when they were looking at the band photos and the song clips, he regained his focus and started telling the daughter about his days in this band.   
It was touching for her to take the time to write me to tell me how nice it was to have regained her father, if only for a few hours.  She was also nice enough to pass along some of the information her father had provided on the group.

As I said, most of the interactions are positive, though there are some exceptions.  I've had some artists tell me I'm a douchebag for writing less than sterling reviews.  I always remind them comments reflect one person's opinion.  Nothing more than that and the fact of the matter is very few people are ever going to see one of my reviews.  Over the last decade  I've been threatened with a couple of lawsuits.   One relatively unknown band apparently hired a legal firm to protect their legacy (not that they had one).  They came after me apparently under the impression BadCatRecords was reissuing the group's albums.  I was selling a single used copy which was well within my rights.   The law firm went away after I suggested they were wasting their time.  Another artist demanded I turn over a rather valuable copy of her album as it belonged to her.   I suggested she get a lawyer and take me to court.  Haven't heard back from her.  Still have the LP for sale.

Again, most of my dealings are very positive.  The thing you walk away with is what a tough life music is.  Virtually none of these folks made much money and few of them are known beyond hardcore collectors circles.  The lucky ones moves on to the next stage of their lives and kept music as a hobby.   Others have held on to the dream, even when there's no chance of making it.   Just speculation on my part, but if there is an afterlife, I would not be surprised to discover there are lots of music managers, A&R folks, and record label presidents occupying some of the lower and hotter tiers of that afterlife.

Q12. What is the future for Bad Cat Records? Do you have any further plans 
regarding your love of rock music; maybe a book, or your own label, or other 
types of project in mind?

I've sold about half of the collection so there are only another 15,000 LPs to go.  Well, there would be 15,000 if I stopped buying.  The fact this is a hobby rather than a business makes a big difference.  If I had to depend on this for a living I would be in big trouble.  There's certainly money to be made in vinyl, but you'd have to scale up to a massive level and you'd have to constantly be looking for new stock at a time when more and more people are getting back into collecting records.  I can't help but feel that if it were a job, it would lose much of the joy I associate with it as a hobby.  Besides, with a real life and a family, I don't have the time, the interest, or the personal drive to do this on a full time basis.  

So BadCatRecords will remain a hobby.  The extra income has helped the IRS pay down the national debt, and allowed us to pay some of our older kid's college tuition costs, as well as allowing us to pay off the mortgage on a rental property.  That's about the right level of intensity.

Q13. Do you watch much live music? For instance old bands from the days of the 
records you sell, that are still around. Or old-styled/retro bands, around where 
you live or further afar? 

I typically see a couple of bands a year.  As I mentioned, the Washington area is full of clubs an music venues.   We live ten minutes away from WolfTrap Farm Park which has a wonderful summer concert program covering everything from opera to surprisingly contemporary group - Ke$ha played there this past summer.   Opera and Ke$ha.   Who would have thought?    Jiffy Lube Pavilion is 30 minutes away.  The down side is that as much as I enjoy a concert,  ticket prices are simply stunning these days.   Paul Simon and Sting were in town a couple of months ago and while I was interested in seeing them, the asking prices were simply insane.  There's no way I'd pay $100 to see anyone.   

That means my wife and I tend to see local acts such a Mary Ann Redman (a wonderfully talented Washington area singer) and older groups that are no-longer prime sellers (Doobie Brothers, Peter Frampton, Rush, Steely Dan, ZZ Top).

Q14. Could you tell us about any other favourite established or new artists from 
your local area, or anywhere around the world?

Sure, though these aren't going to be The Day After The Sabbath  oriented metal acts, but so what.

As mentioned, there's a local singer named Mary Ann Redman whom I think is great.  She has an amazing set of pipes and has a loyal local following.  My wife and I  see her once or twice a year.  Here's a link to her website: (maybe she'll send me a pair of tickets to a show).

Sadly she died in  1996, but Eva Cassidy was a fascinating Washington area singer.   She recorded an amazing album of duets with the late Go-Go musician Chuck Brown.  Her cover of Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready" is stunning.   One of Cassidy's cousins runs a tribute website: 

He's not a local musician, and while he is well known to 60s pop fans, few other folks have heard the name Emitt Rhodes.   He's way to pop for most The Day After The Sabbath followers, but Rhodes  is simply one of the best pop artists to ever record.  I won't spend a lot of time detailing his musical career, but the guy recorded some of the best Beatles- esque albums ever released before basically dropping out of performing.    He's a longtime favorite and I would love to see some established act give him a helping hand to re-invigorate his career.  Here's a link to his website: 

Q15. Are there any bars, venues or record stores or other music fan haunts that 
would be good to check out for anyone who finds themselves in Reston or wider 

The area is awash in bars, but as a 50 + year old dad, I'd be hard pressed to tell you what this month's in-place is.   If you're looking for a low key place that serves wonderful chilli dogs, a decent selection of beers, and doesn't have a dress code - Vienna Inn in Vienna, Virginia (couple of miles down the road from Tysons Corner).
Whitlows On Wilson is located in Arlington, Virginia and has a cool vibe and a younger crowd.
Bier Baron Tavern; Madam's Organ, Church Key - all nice places in DC.

I live near the Reston Town Center which is an upscale area full of happening restaurants and bars.  Very young and fashionable demographic which means I don't have much need for it, but so what. 

Music venues I can do a little better:
The Birchmere - very eclectic list of bands
State Theater - nicely restored  old movie theater that had an interesting mix 
of local and national bands
Warner Theater -
9:30 Club - saw ZZ Top here a couple of years back -
WolfTrap yes it's a national park with concerts !!!

Q16. What have you learnt from your experiences of running Bad Cat? Do you have 
any useful advice for rock fanatics who do something similar, or are considering 
starting something similar?

Wish I had some silver bullet piece of advice that would make everyone successful.  I don't.   Things I've learned include:

Keep good business records for the IRS
Be nice to the post office staff (I see them so often I know them by their first names)
Treat customers the way you would like to be treated
Don't over-grade vinyl; if an album is VG, don't describe it as being mint
If someone asks you to take a picture of the 'B' side matrix of an album groove, tell them you've already sold it.  Someone that obsessive simply cannot be pleased.   They're not worth the time and frustration.
Focus on what you enjoy.   If you hate Scandinavian death metal, why would you sell it?
Buy sturdy LP mailers and buy them in bulk (500 or more at a time in order to keep the costs reasonable)
Try to put your family and friends before any of this other stuff
Try not to lose the joy that brought you into the business.  I guess it sounds kind of saccharine, but the fact of the matter is I still get a thrill out of hearing a new album. There's just something incredibly cool about hold the album sleeve; reading the liner notes, and enjoying an album on a good stereo system, or with a quality pair of headphones.

Q17. Finally, do you have anything further to say to The Day After The Sabbath  
followers who will be reading this and listening to your picks?

I'd actually spent time on The Day After the Sabbath website, I remember reading an article on Fred Cole and Zipper, and have to admit I was surprised you'd have any interest in BadCatRecords.   Your comments about having read many of the BadCat online reviews certainly made me smile.   You always kind of wonder if anyone knows you have stuff out there.  Anyhow, thanks for the nice comments about the site reviews, and for the opportunity to answer your questions.  It was a blast.

Thanks for your time Scott, and all the best!

Rich signing out. Check out Scott's site at and his RYM activities at

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Day After The Sabbath 99: Isolation Waltz (violins)

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Welcome to The Day After The Sabbath volume 99, approaching the full century! This episode brings you heavy rock and prog that uses violins. Hearing that, some of you may be thinking of making a quick exit, expecting a lot of country and folk. While there is some classical and folk influence here, I have looked also for tracks where the riffs are rock-styled, but played on violins. Showing the international appeal of the instrument, this set includes a wide spread of nationalities, including the UK, The US, France, Germany, Spain, Belgium and even Argentina.

What has the violin brought to rock music? It is certainly an instrument famed for conveying emotion, especially those of a maudlin or introspective nature. Conversely, one of the stirring qualities of violins is how they can promote speed and vitality. A versatile instrument indeed, with many available techniques like picking, bowing and strumming. Some violin runs are played so fast that they can compare easily to the most technical parts in progressive rock, or even the fastest of technical and thrash metal. Let's get fiddlin!

01. Saint-Preux - Le Gouffre Amer (1972)
       from album 'le piano sous la mer'
02. Sinto - Things I See (1972)
       from album 'right on brother'
03. Darryl Way's Wolf - Isolation Waltz (1973)
       from album 'canis lupus'
04. Asgærd - In The Realm Of Asgard (1972)
       from album 'in the realm of asgaerd'
05. It's a Beautiful Day - Creed Of Love (1971)
       from album 'choice quality stuff / anytime'
06. Esperanto - The Duel (1974)
       from album 'danse macabre'
07. Ñu - Profecia (1978)
       from album 'cuentos de ayer y de hoy'
08. Jud's Gallery - Catch The Fly (1972)
       from album 'swf-sessions volume 1'
09. Joe Soap - Get Out From Under (1973)
       from album 'keep it clean'
10. Zoo - Four Strings (Single version) (1972)
       from album 'i shall be free'
11. Raymond Vincent - Do It Now While You Can (1972)
       from album 'metronomics'
12. Miguel Cantilo y Grupo Sur - La Leyenda del Retorno (1975)
       from album 'miguel cantilo y grupo sur'
13. String Driven Thing - Heartfeeder (1973)
       from album 'the machine that cried'

references | | | |

le piano sous la mer'
Saint-Preux - 'le piano sous la mer'
The comp begins with an instrumental from the second Saint-Preux album. Saint-Preux (real name Christian Langlade - born 1950) is a composer of contemporary classical music and on his 1972 album he invited some guest musicians who added a hint of rock. On three of the tracks Claude Engel, who was in between stints of playing with Zeuhl legends Magma, played some great heavy guitar, and on Le Gouffre Amer (trans: “The Bitter Chasm”) it was accompanied by the violins of Michel Guyot and Patrice Mondon.

Sinto - Right On Brother LP

We move on to Sinto. They were a German (München) fusion band fronted by jazz violinist Hannes Beckmann that started in 1971. They included members of krautrockers The Rattles (see Vol49), Embryo and Between. With a diverse mix of ethnicities in the band, German to African to Cuban members that Hannes met while playing in a Brazilian ballet orchestra, they made fast music with the violin taking a leading role in the riffs. “Things I See” is a great example with it’s violin shredding right up front.

Darryl Way
Violinist Darryl Way was a founding member of UK prog band Curved Air. His post-CA band “Darryl Way's Wolf” included drummer Ian Mosley who was later a member of UK 'neo prog' band Marillion, and guitarist John Etheridge who went on to join Soft Machine. Wolf made three albums of accessible prog, all lead by Way's considerable fiddling skills, and in the later '70s he made contributions on Jethro Tull's "Heavy Horses" and Gong's "Expresso II". Darryl has continued to make solo albums and his most recent was last year. This compilation's namesake, "Isolation Waltz", is noteworthy as Darryl plays a viola, which is larger than a violin and has a deeper sound. The constantly descending riff stomps it's way along to a heavy ending.

Asgaerd were one of the first bands to be signed by the Moody Blues' label Threshold. The "Asgard" of ancient North European mythology means 'castle of the gods'. The band consisted of guitarist/vocalist Rod Harrison (ex-Please and Bulldog Breed - see Vol74), vocalist James Smith and drummer Ian Snow (who were both in the excellent 'Stonehouse' - Vol29), vocalist Ted Bartlett, bassist Dave Cook and violinist Peter Orgil. One of Rod Harrison's songs, "Austin Osman Spare'', was actually recorded separately by Bulldog Breed and Asgaerd.

In The Realm of Asgærd LP (1972)
They released a 45 in 1972 containing 4 tracks, and then a year later Threshold produced their one and only LP, entitled "In the Realm of Asgaerd", which has been likened to the early sounds of US bands Kansas and Styx. The track I have selected, "In The Realm of Asgard", is an epic tale of Thor and Asgard, and the music matches this grandueur with a powerfully-orchestrated, sweeping progressive rock ballad.

It's a Beautiful Day
It's a Beautiful Day - David LaFlamme (L)
David LaFlamme was the violinist in It's a beautiful Day. Since then he's has a sideline career as a character actor "the Annoying Fiddler", appearing in Frazier, Ellen and Wings, among other shows, as the strolling musician who stands right at your table in a restaurant, sawing away on his violin. David grew up to be a soloist for the Utah Symphony.  After serving in the army he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and became an icon in the underground scene performing with people like Jerry Garcia and Janis Joplin. After his short-lived Electric Chamber Orkustra, he joined It's a Beautiful Day in 1967. The their biggest hit was "White Bird" from the 1969 debut LP.

While being a very commercial sounding band, they rocked now and again, the best example being some tunes on side one of their third album called 'Choice Quality Stuff / Anytime". This is where "Creed Of Love" is taken from, David LeFlamme's roaring distorted violin sounds great over the funky riffs of guitarist Billy Gregory and the rest of the band.

Esperanto was the band that followed on from the earlier solo efforts of violinist Raymond Vincent, who's background will be filled in later when his track appears. His band Esperanto was a unique and complex symphonic prog band but that description does not do them service as they don't really sound like anything else I know. Their music is accessible but displays great technicality, with strings always at the forefront and musicianship to compare to any of the progressive greats of the '70s, as "The Duel" deftly shows. The track effortlessly turns on a dime from totally manic layered strings to enigmatic interludes with the ethereal backing vocals of Brigette Du Doit. The full-frontal violin attack is performed by no less than three fiddlers, with Tony Harris and Godfrey Salmon backing up Raymond Vincent.

Cuentos de ayer y de hoy
Cuentos de ayer y de hoy LP
Ñu started in Madrid in 1974, and had an adventurous outlook, incorporating flute, violin and folk influences into hard rock that had a hint of Sabbath heaviness too. On the first album, 1978's "Cuentos de ayer y de hoy"  (Trans: "Stories of Yesterday and Today"), from which I have used the opener 'Profecia', the violinist credited is Frenchman Jean François André. He is also credited on the second Ñu LP, after which it seems he left the band. Unfortunately he died in 2002.

Carlos Molina José
Carlos Molina José
The band still performs but with just one founding member, singer/flute player Carlos Molina José. In their early years the band's progress was stifled by label problems and other difficulties of maintaining a rock band in Spain at the time. I used an earlier Ñu single on the first Spanish comp (Vol39) and since then have discovered that the original guitarist Rosendo Mercado was annoyed to find he'd been replaced after returning to the band from military service in 1977, so he quit and formed Leño, another great Spanish band that I used on Vol39.

Ñu - Jean François André
The track 'Profecia' is a stunner, sounding like Tull and Sabbath on stage together. Alas, by all accounts, Ñu did not make another album like this and although becoming technically better they lost the heaviness on record and became a vehicle for Carlos Molina José. For their recent re-appearances however, their image seems to be cashing in on the huge heavy metal market that now exists.

Jud's Gallery
Jud's Gallery
We pass the halfway mark now and move on to some krautrock. Jud's Gallery came from Offenburg near Strasbourg. They formed in 1971 as a vehicle for singer/bassist Jürgen "Judy" Winter, with a revolving door line-up. During their three plus year history only one other member, guitarist Peter Oehler, was constant. The only music available is an archival release from Longhair records, which collects sessions that were recorded at Southwest German SWF Radio (now SWR) in Baden-Baden, 1972.

An interesting side story regarding this band is that Jurgen Winter successfully sued Gary Moore for plagiarism, accusing him of copying the guitar solo from their "Nordrach" track and using it on his 1990 hit "Still Got The Blues". The justification for this claim was that Gary's roadie, live-mixer and good friend at the time William Hindmarsh, did work with Jud's back on live shows in the seventies.

The Jud's Gallery violinist was Hannes Greminger, he was also in a band called Open Voice which made an album in 1984. On 'Catch The Fly' he does an amazing job of creating all kinds of spacey sounds over the band's hard krautrock, with different techniques like picking, this tune is a real trip.

John Tennent and David Morrison
Tennent & Morrison
Joe Soap
On to some more conventional rocking with a Stonesy number from Joe Soap. This band was a project of singer/guitarists John Tennent and David Morrison, who had released an album the year before as the duo 'Tennent & Morrison', which included a lot of musicians from Stone the Crows. Along for the ride came guitarist Jimmy McCulloch (Thunderclap Newman, Stone The Crows, Wings), violinist Mik Kaminski (ELO), drummer Gerry Conway (Jethro Tull, Fairport Convention, The Pentangle) and Jeff Pearce on bass.

The folk influences from some of this impressive lineup come through, but mostly the album is upbeat, fun and immediately likable rock, and rock it does in many places. Mik Kaminski's violin is not mainly at the forefront, but grooves away in perfect unison with McCulloch's cocky riffs to make it impossible to sit still listening to tracks like "Come Out From Under", which integrates the violin in a similar way to East of Eden on tracks like "Northern Hemisphere" (See Vol74).

Zoo - Hard Times, Good Times
single (1972)
Zoo was a quirky band that had elements of psych, soul, prog and jazz but is not easy to describe, having a unique sound over all. They mixed violins and a brass section in with some-times hard rock, but at all times there was a sense of fun and unpredictability. Original vocalist Joël Daydé ('68-'70) had left to start a solo career by the time of the album from which I have taken the instrumental here, "Four Strings". By now they had taken on English singer Ian Bellamy, to compete in a scene where they were sharing stages with the likes of Pink Floyd and The Nice. The violinists on Four Strings were Daniel Carlet and Michel Ripoche, and they battle it out over some heavy prog-jazz from the rest of the band.

By 1975, due to a lack of the success they had worked for, Zoo had been finished for a while. Brothers André Hervé (keyboards) and Michel Hervé (bass) started Z.O.U. with two further brothers Joel Hervé, Stephan Hervé, along with singer Maria Popkiewicz. After this André, Michel and Maria all had a spell in the afore-mentioned Magma.

Raymond Vincent
Raymond Vincent
The Belgian violinist Raymond Vincent appears twice in this volume, firstly as part of Esperanto, and here with a track from his solo album 'Metronomics'. Before both these efforts he was in the London-based Belgian pop troup "Wallace Collection". After WC split he played for a short period with Dany Lademacher and Roger Wollaert (who had both left Kleptomania), then with Waterloo's Dirk Bogaert. See the Belgian Vol61 to hear all three of these bands.

Metronomics LP
Metronomics was to signal the sound that he and keys man Bruno Libert would take further with Esperanto. Unusually, Metronomics was funded by, and used to promote, an alcoholic drink called Izarra, which is a popular sweet liqueur in French Basque Country and elsewhere in Europe. Metronomics is generally upbeat, and often likened to the Cantebury prog sound. "Do It Now While You Can" has lots of frantic fiddling, which is put through various effects and sounds really cool.

Miguel Cantilo y Grupo Sur
Nearing the end now and the penultimate track is from an album called “Miguel Cantilo y Grupo Sur” (trans: Miguel Cantilo and South Group). The first thing that struck me about it was the mesmerising psychedelic cover art. Something with a cover like that, from Argentina in 1975, was bound to be at least interesting. I wasn't disappointed, and I was surprised that the album doesn't seem to be one of the more talked-about from Argentina, a country with a great reputation for kick-ass ‘70s rock.

Miguel Cantilo
Miguel Cantilo & ‘El Bolsón’
Band leader Miguel Cantilo had been around since the ‘60s, starting out in a pop duo called “Pedro y Pablo” and continues to make music to this day. In 1975 he released the album that he was unable to realise while in the duo, making bombastic rock that he says was influenced by Led Zep and Deep Purple. As the LP’s inner sleeve pictures show, Miguel was involved with a Patagonian hippie commune called ‘El Bolsón’ at the time, and there are also lots of communally-sung folk tunes that seem to fit the imagery. In reality, only the last three tracks really rock out, but they are great! The track I have chosen, “La Leyenda Del Retorno” is one of those. It begins in rip-roaring fashion with the violin-lead riff right up front, starting as it means to go on and it does indeed have the bravado of an immediate Deep Purple track like Speed King. It reminds me strongly of another album from Argentina, "Miguel Abuelo & Nada", which I used a track from on the Latin Vol43. The Argentinian violinist was Jorge Pinchevsky. Just after this he would join Gong (there's that name again) during their Shamal LP era.

String Driven Thing
String Driven Thing - Heartfeeder LP inside
String Driven Thing is a well-known folk rock band, possibly a little too much so for TDATS, but this tune is perfect as a closer for the set. It is a dark, emotional and powerful track. The reason for this is said to be that it was written by leader Chris Adams while he was in hospital, recuperating from surgery for a collapsed lung, during which he says he was conscious while the surgeon was drilling into his breast plate.

The violinist of String Driven Thing is Graham Smith, who was also in a brief incarnation of Van der Graaf Generator simply called ‘Van der Graaf’, and contributed on the UK folk-prog Greenslade album “Spyglass Guest”.

Taken from the band’s third album, our closing track is called ‘Heartfeeder’, and that was what Chris intended the name for the album to be too. It is a harrowing track, that uses the skills of Graham Smith to beautiful, emotional effect with the ever-longing pathos of the violin. Unfortunately the record label were not happy with the disturbing direction that the music had taken compared to previous work, and the LP's title was changed to “The Machine That Cried”. They also insisted that the longer track's play times were edited down. There is an interview with Chris Adams and Graham Smith here at psychedelic baby webzine:

Thanks for listening! Rich

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