Selections From Our New Top Albums by Women Section

We love lists at Bart’s Record Shop. And why not—what music lover doesn’t love lists? The greatest movie about record stores ever, High Fidelity, centered around Top 5 lists (and if you haven’t seen High Fidelity, stop reading right now and go watch it). Passionate music fans are perpetually crafting lists in their minds and defending them against invisible, perceived objections. At Bart’s you’ll find a number of lists: New arrivals and reissues on the blackboard in the northeast corner of the store; picks of the month from store employees on the east side of the store; and Rolling Stone’s Top 100 albums of all-time, placed in order in a bin right by the register. To these lists, we have now added a new one: NPR’s recently-released Top 150 Albums by Women.

 

To help you navigate this new section, here are my takes on five of the top ten, all of which were in stock the last time I checked:

 

Joni Mitchell – Blue (#1)

While Joni Mitchell’s 4th release is universally recognized as her best, it was not a radical departure from its predecessor, Ladies of the Canyon. So why was Blue the record most-likely-to-be-overplayed-by-your-older-sister and most-likely-to-come-out-of-a-college-coed’s-dorm-room in the ‘70s? No doubt because its highly confessional lyrics chronicle the emotional journey from first love through a painful breakup, and its stripped-down production allows Mitchell’s intoxicating mezzo-soprano voice to soar above the music. Singing about current- and failed-relationships with rock stars Graham Nash and James Taylor probably didn’t hurt; for a multitude of reasons, Blue has brought a little piece of Topanga Canyon to millions of households and dorm rooms since its 1971 release, and is the cornerstone of any folk music collection.

 

Aretha Franklin — I Never Loved a Man The Way That I Love You (#4)

What can you say about that voice? It’s no surprise that Rolling Stone ranked Aretha as the greatest singer of all-time; she sings with an expressiveness and a soul that break through all barriers and render her truly timeless. And yet through her first nine releases, Aretha never reached a wide, multicultural audience. I Never Loved a Man changed all that; whether she was championing feminism in “Respect,” begging for love and reciprocity in “Do Right Woman” or belting out her feelings for a new lover in the title tune, R&B never sounded the same again after she sunk her voice into it. This masterpiece though, which crowned her queen of soul, didn’t come easy. The first sessions for the album were created at the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, but a jealous blowup between Aretha’s then-husband and the session’s trumpet player forced much of the recording North to Atlantic Records’ New York studio (see The Muscle Shoals documentary for a vivid retelling of the session and the ensuing fistfight outside Aretha’s hotel room).

 

Patti Smith – Horses (#7)

Punk wasn’t about art until Patti Smith came along. Bands like The Ramones and the Sex Pistols were mostly about venting youthful energy and democratizing rock to the point where anyone who knew two chords could play an hour-long set featuring 30 songs that all sounded the same. With her debut, Patti Smith elevated the genre, most notably by adding resonant, poetic lyrics to punk’s sonic fury. No surprise that decades later, Smith became a celebrated author. Her nights at the Chelsea Hotel, her passion for art and her desire to take punk to new places made Horses a totally-unique revelation upon its release in late ’75, and while she’s made many fine records in the ensuing decades, Horses is still, start-to-finish, the rawest thing she’s done. Just Kids, her National-Book-Award-winning autobiography, is the best rock memoir of this decade (sorry Keef).

 

Janis Joplin – Pearl (#8)

Like Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin is a member of the infamous “27” club, rock stars who never made it to their 28th birthday. Other notable members include Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Brian Jones and Jimi Hendrix. Inclusion in the club invariably means limited output from the artist while alive followed by buckets of posthumous releases of everything ever produced, often regardless of quality or merit. Pearl, Janis Joplin’s swan song, was released three months after she passed, and couldn’t have been more popular if she was around to promote it. Her 4th release—and her first pure solo album—it distilled her gutsy, pain-soaked blues wail into the more accessible pop material, and turned “Me & Bobby McGee” and “Mercedes Benz” into two of radio’s most played songs of 1971. For pure psychedelic energy, Cheap Thrills (recorded with Big Brother and the Holding Company) is still probably her best record, but Pearl turned Janis into one of the biggest stars of the ‘70s, even though she never lived to see its release.

 

Amy Winehouse — Back to Black (#9)

While Amy Winehouse’s 2003 debut made her a star in her English homeland, it was her second—and final—release that made her a global star. The credit in part goes to producer Mark Ronson, who added a Motown sheen to her lovelorn R&B. And while her well-publicized soap-opera lifestyle, her highly erratic live performances, and her ravenous drug habits built her legend for better and for worse, it was her truly unique voice and styling that gave her widespread appeal. Back to Black spoke with an originality and an accessibility that garnered fans across all genres, and is unquestionably one of the best albums of the aughts. We’ll never know how she would have built upon Back to Black, but she still opened the door for many soulful Brit female crooners (I’m looking at you, Adele).

 

Written by: Randy Goldner

Randy Goldner, Bart's Record Shop

Favorite New Albums for 2017

By Randy Goldner

I’m Randy and no weekend is complete for me without serious time perusing the stacks at Bart’s Record Shop. So I’m excited to introduce my new monthly column, wherein I’ll help you find the best new (and old) music and enhance your shopping experience at Bart’s. In 40+ years I’ve progressed from 45s to 33s to cassettes to CDs, with a move back to vinyl last year thanks to the Pro-Ject Turntable I purchased at the store. It’s been a thrill bringing my old albums out of retirement and expanding my vinyl collection (even when re-purchasing an album I sold to Bart’s back on West Pearl). For sound, presentation and quality of experience, there really is no substitute for vinyl; no surprise it’s the fastest growing segment of the music industry.

Although we’re only halfway through 2017, there have been an amazing number of great albums released this year. I had to struggle to come up with five releases I truly loved in 2016, but 2017 has presented no such obstacles. Here then are my Top Five releases of 2017 as of this writing, all available on 180 gram vinyl at Bart’s (in alpha order):

Father John MistyPure Comedy

Feist, Pure ComedyTruly an album for our times, Father John Misty is nothing if not provocative. Pure Comedy was crafted during the 2016 U.S. election season, and it shows. Call him clairvoyant, but Pure Comedy reads like a road map for navigating the end of the world. Whether he’s singing about being desensitized by VR, surviving the collapse of civilized society or abandoning L.A. at sunrise on New Year’s Day, Misty (nee Josh Tillman) wraps his words around Harry Nilsson-esque pop melodies and one of music’s most powerful baritones. Love him or hate him—it’s hard to be neutral—Pure Comedy is the best thing Tillman’s ever done, no small feat considering the strength of his last two records.

FeistPleasure

PleasureMost people first discovered Feist (aka former Broken Social Scene member Leslie Feist) when Apple used “1234” in a commercial, and she has been running from fame ever since. Pleasure is even less commercial than Metals, its stunning 6 year-old predecessor. With a stripped down approach that barely allows for percussion on most tracks, Feist sings about love, loss and the passage of time with passion and subtlety. The album rocks hard in brief spurts, but largely sticks to simple melodies and a sparseness that put the focus sharply on the lyrics. Listen for Pulp leader Jarvis Cocker’s turn on “Century,” one of the album’s best cuts, and for a reprise of the title track emanating from a passing car at the end of “Any Party.”

 

Aimee MannMental Illness

Aimee Mann, Mental IllnessCalling her album Mental Illness may be tongue-in-cheek and a nod to those who would describe her as overly depressing, but Mann has crafted her best release since 2005’s The Forgotten Arm. Her new music eschews her electric-guitar-based tendencies in favor of more delicate, soft ballads, albeit with the same hyper-literate lyrics that are her trademark. Here you’ll find songs about lonely hotel rooms (“Goose Snow Cone”), being stood-up at the altar (“You Never Loved Me”) and friends who steal (“Lies of Summer”), all rendered with delicacy, intelligence and Mann’s distinctive, nasal voice. If you’ve enjoyed Mann in the past, you’ll love Mental Illness; if you haven’t, you’re missing out on one of America’s greatest songwriters, the closest lyricist we have to Elvis Costello.

 

SpoonHot Thoughts

Nine albums in, Spoon defies expectations and shows marked improvement. Maybe it’s because I visited Japan this year, but Hot Thoughts speaks to me personally, whether Britt Daniel is singing about someone trying to pick up his girlfriend in Shibuya or visiting an Owl Café (a common sight in Tokyo). Hot Thoughts rocks hard with an overabundance of sticky melodies that you’ll find impossible to dislodge from your frontal lobe. The title track and “Can I Sit Next To You” may be getting all the airplay, but “Do I Have To Talk You Into It” is probably the best rock song by anyone so far this year, and “Pink Up” sounds like the soundtrack to a great, to-be-filmed movie. Last time I was at Bart’s, they still had the Hot Thoughts RSD release with cover of Elvis Presley’s “Love Letters” on the flip side.

 

The xxI See You

London’s The xx have always been known for their dour British pop. Perhaps no other group is better at creating pop for wannabe goths that like their music a little more mainstream. With their 3rd release, The xx have taken a massive step forward and created what is far and away the best pop album of the year. Vocalist/guitarist Romy Croft and vocalist/bassist Oliver Sim each wield captivating voices that blend seamlessly, perfect for songs that share a common theme of romance. Whether celebrating new love (“Dangerous,” “Lips”) or lamenting dying embers (“Say Something Loving,” “Performance”), The xx wrap their beautiful voices around the catchiest melodies you’re likely to hear, with surprisingly resonant words. I See You sets the bar for pure pop in 2017 at a level few are likely to approach.

 

Honorable Mentions: Dear Evan Hansen Original Cast Recording; Hurray for the Riff Raff – The Navigator; Rhiannon Giddens – Freedom Highway; Ryan Adams – The Prisoner

 

outpost magazine,utrecht vinyl market mega planet record fair

Utrecht Vinyl Market

Outpost Magazine just published our field notes from the world’s largest record fair in Utrecht, Netherlands.

outpost magazine,utrecht vinyl market mega planet record fair

 

Bart’s Record Store: Greatest Personal Hits of All Time!

Yes, you can buy vinyl and CD’s on Amazon, but why are record stores thriving?  It’s the human interaction around a passion like music that can never be replaced by the internet or compressed music formats.  Bart Stinchcomb, the founder of Bart’s records, sculpted a business from love.  When asked about the highlights of owning a brick and mortar music store for twenty-five years, Bart has some easy answers:

  • His wife. Christina came walking into Bart’s early location near Nick and Will’s looking for her lost dog.  But he actually got her number when she came back and placed a special order for “Kind of Blues.”
  • “All the people! What a joy!  What a blast!”  Bart has kept in touch with each and every employee.
  • The old “in stores” where musicians played to intimate crowds inside the store. One such exchange that touched him deeply was a late night conversation with Sam Bush and his wife, Lynne in 2006, telling stories of Bill Monroe.
  • His kids grew up in the store. First they were captive in play pens and then they made “houses” under the storage bins, stopping by after school and finally working there as their first jobs.
  • Landlords who were like family. Anne Beck and Carter Dorrell who owned the Pearl site (where Ozo’s coffee is now) were like family, dropped by plates of cookies at Christmas time.  Very special people.
  • The human interaction has been priceless. Bart says that he has customers who come in and remember that Bart sold them their copy of Abbey Road and the year.  You can’t get that on Amazon.  Music connects us.
  • And finally to see the legacy live on with the new ownership. He has found a new owner in Will Paradise who has so much enthusiasm and love of music.

We love you, Bart!  Thanks for all you’ve done to make Boulder a great, very human place to live.

david bowie pandora training

Training David Bowie

By Elizabeth McNie

It’s taken weeks. Sometimes I question my commitment. Am I too involved? Is this a sign of deeper problems?

david bowie pandora trainingTraining my David Bowie station on Pandora is no easy task. Picking which songs to like or dislike takes time and commitment. Early on, Pandora slipped in too much Beatles and the David Bowie station was fast becoming a British Pop Invasion station. “She Loves Me”? Please, no. Can you imagine the Alladin Sane Bowie singing that, maybe on the Ed Sullivan Show? And, “Imagine,” by Lennon, had me in a quandary… I love the song but was it to optimistic? Too cliché for a David Bowie station?  Then there was Tom Petty… I liked the song, “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”, but not for a Bowie station. The rock vibe was to mainstream. I’ve pressed the thumbs up and down buttons so often I have tendonitis, yet the station has grown up nicely.

I’m proud of the work we’ve done and now I have a mostly well-behaved station that includes the likes of Lou Reed, The Sex Pistols, Queen, The Ramones, Led Zeppelin, The Clash, Velvet Underground, The Kinks, Jimi Hendrix, The Talking Heads, and yes, The Beatles (only the older years). I keep waiting for a Patti Smith or Joan Jett to pop up but as of yet, nada, to my surprise. The Pandora algorithm could use some feminine energy. Inexplicably, sometimes an hour or more passes without hearing any Bowie songs and yet I’ve pretty much ‘liked’ every one that gets played.

Training never ends. I have to be vigilant. Intruders lurk behind the next song. Just today Pandora tried slipping in a Rick Springfield song, “Jessie’s Girl,” and I almost got whiplash reaching so fast for the thumbs-down button. Just an hour later Pandora started playing “Sweet Home Alabama.” That’s when I asked, “What would David Bowie Do?”. Pretty sure Lynard Skynard wasn’t on his iPod. And then Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Down on the Corner” had me in a pickle. That song has serious emotional meaning for me. My Dad and I used to sing along to his 8 track and “Down on the Corner” was our favorite. I know every CCR song by heart. But the sound is all wrong for a David Bowie station so I reluctantly thumbs-downed it. Gone bluesy rock, but hopefully, not for good.

The best part of my training effort is that I get to learn about new albums that will have to become part of my collection. Albums like “Bowie at the Beeb: The Best of the BBC Radio Sessions 1968-1972.” In this fantastic album, Bowie covers many songs from his Ziggy Stardust album. The sound is more soulful, intimate and robust than his studio albums. Another gem I discovered is “David Bowie Live Santa Monica ‘72” which includes a great “Queen Bitch” rendition. I’ve rediscovered other artists I haven’t listened to in years, like Iggy Pop (in fact I was never into Iggy Pop so count this more as a new discovery). His “Anthology” will be a good place to start which includes an edgier “China Girl” than Bowie’s version and “Passenger” which has a timeless soul and takes me right back to my teens driving through the hills of Oakland and Berkeley. Other pleasant surprises include hearing Zeppelin’s “Tangerine” probably for the first time, and digging deeper into The Clash’s “London Calling” with songs like “Spanish Bombs” and “Rudie Can’t Fail.”

How would you train David Bowie? What songs would make the cut? What’s missing from my station? Training David Bowie has been a chore, but definitely worth the process to discover new albums that I need to get at Bart’s.

 

Colson Whitehead acknowledges his musical muses in his National Book Award Winner

For most readers, Colson Whitehead’s novel The Underground Railroad kept us riveted up until the very end as it chronicles all the ways that slavery was translated from the plantation to the secretive medical experiments to the faux freedoms.  As we read the pages we feel how we all got here – to this place that needs to find healing.  I finished the 2016 National Book Award winner curled up in a ball.  But why am I writing about this on a record shop blog?  Well, for starters, I want everyone to read it.  And then, the acknowledgments make my record-shop-owning-heart quicken.

And I quote, “The first one hundred pages were fueled by the Misfits (“Where the Eagles Dare [fast version],” “Horror Business,” “Hybrid Moments”) and Blanck Mass (“Dead Format”).  David Bowie is in every book and I always put on Purple Rain and Daydream Nation when I write the final pages; so thanks to him and Sonic Youth. And finally, …”

Seriously, he always puts on Purple Rain for the final pages?  His novel never left the 19th century, yet his characters were powered through the emotion and pathos of Prince, of Bowie.  I have been thinking about this for months.  Is it Prince’s lyrics or rhythms or symbolism that help him bring his writing home, tying it all up in National Book Award winning fashion.  Admittedly, I haven’t read any of his other books, (but I intend to now) and I am inspired that these artists of his formative years drive every plot.  That’s genius: touching the artist’s emotion and letting it flow from genre to medium and back around.  It’s all the same yearning, we just express it in the way we can.  I wonder how many other artists of various mediums create while jamming to Sonic Youth?

And I love that he felt compelled to mention them in his acknowledgments, sandwiched between his editors and his family.

Go read the book.