Tuesday, 8 May 2018

XXXRECORDS and a spot of Confusion


Having devised their instantly recognisable sound at rehearsals, Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker made their live debut as Cream on July 29th 1966, and gigged prolifically thereafter. One early performance was at the London club Klooks Kleek on November 15th 1966 (shortly after the release of their debut 45, and shortly before the release of their debut album). 

Someone recorded the show, which consisted of Lawdy Mama, Sleepy Time Time, Crossroads, Stepping Out, Sweet Wine, Meet Me In The Bottom and N.S.U.. Sometime thereafter, the recording was pressed onto vinyl, with no label or artwork, but the matrix codes ‘CJG LP 1A’ and ‘CJG LP 1B’ stamped into the respective run-outs. 

It can be seen on Discogs here:


Though Discogs has disallowed sales of bootlegs, copies of it occasionally surface on eBay; one fetched 50 GBP there on February 13th 2018, and can be seen here:


On April 9th 2018, the well-known UK record dealer Graham Cross - aka xxxrecords - sold an intriguing album on eBay, which fetched 576 GBP. It was, he wrote, the work of a band called ‘Confusion’, and can be seen here:



No band of that name was previously known to have been operating in the UK at the time. As if that weren’t enticing enough for collectors, he added that the disc was an ‘UNKNOWN PRIVATE PRESSING’ containing ‘AWESOME PSYCH BLUES’, and was ‘ONE OF THE RAREST LPs ON THE VERY SOUGHT AFTER DEROY LABEL’, and ‘A ROUGH LIVE RECORDING WHICH CLEARLY THE BAND MUST HAVE GOT MADE’. 

Cross confidently dated his discovery to 1966, and suggested that it had been pressed by Island Records, as well as Deroy. The only hard clue as to manufacture was that ‘MACHINE STAMPED ON EACH SIDE IS 'CJG 1 LP A' & CJG 1 LP B'.

Knowing of the Cream bootleg, you might assume that he was mistaken, and had somehow failed to identify one of the most famous bands in rock history as the performers in question – but you would be wrong. ‘CONFUSINGLY (THOUGH HE OBVIOUSLY ISNT PLAYING ON THIS LP!) THERE ARE REFERENCES MADE ON THE LP TO ERIC CLAPTON BY THE BAND, AND THERE ARE 2 OR 3 CREAM COVERS, AS WELL AS A FEW OTHER TRACKS I CANNOT IDENTIFY!!!!’ continued his listing.

For the time being, the identity of Confusion must remain a mystery; only one other copy of their album is known to exist. It was sold on eBay in July 2012 for 636 GBP (also by Graham Cross) and can be seen here:


Were you a member of Confusion? Do you know someone who was? Do you have a copy of this lost recording by them? If so, please drop me a line!

Thursday, 1 March 2018

THE VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO: the early US reviews


On Thursday, December 1st 1966, the Philadelphia Inquirer's New York correspondent, Leonard Lyons, reported that 'Andy Warhol just made his first Velvet Underground recording for MGM' (adding the odd statement 'He used his banana theme for the label's decor'). In fact, most of the album had been recorded that April and May, with Sunday Morning being added in November.

The LP was evidently ready for release in January 1967; on the 14th of that month, the weekly trade magazine Cash Box covered MGM's 'gala convention and product presentation' in Acapulco, where 'distributors were treated to tropical sun and swimming, and were also shown the new line of album products for the first quarter of 1967'. According to the piece, 'the second album from the Mothers Of Invention and a new Andy Warhol / Velvet Underground & Nico LP were received well'.

The album was advertised in Cash Box of January 28th, and went on to appear in various other places with the dumb tagline 'SO FAR "UNDERGROUND," YOU GET THE BENDS!' I think it's safe to assume that the band didn't have any input there.

Review copies seem to have been sent out in February. The first coverage I've seen appeared in the Tampa Bay Times (of all places) on Monday 27th. Its unrigorous author was named Chick Ober:


Next up was the Honolulu Advertiser, on Wednesday, March 1st. Its author, Wayne Harada, was one of the most consistently perceptive and open-minded pop critics of the time:


Also in Hawaii was this skimpy piece in the Honoloulu Star-Bulletin of Saturday, March 4th, by Dave Donelly (who covered the first West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band LP the same day):


On March 4th, Cash Box had this to say; as ever, their remarks were aimed at dealers and not consumers:


The same applies to Billboard, whose 'review' also appeared on March 4th:


It was back to Florida for this snide item, penned by the less-than hip Vance Johnston, which ran in the the Tampa Tribune of Sunday, March 5th: 


On Friday, 10th March, this snippet appeared in the Oil City Derrick in Pennsylvania. It was part of a syndicated column by Jeanne Harrison entitled 'Platter Patter' (so might have appeared elsewhere earlier), and lazily lumps the LP together with new releases by Ella Fitzgerald and Johnny Mathis:


A couple of weeks later, on Saturday 18th, and rather closer to the band's stamping ground, came this vapid dismissal by Don Lass of New Jersey's Asbury Park Evening Press. As well as dismissing their music, he confesses to having peeled the banana, like 99% of people who acquired the LP at the time:


The following day came an anonymous pundit's glib thoughts in the Pensacola News-Journal, back in Florida:


The April issue of the San Francisco underground rag Electric Frog offered this unsigned nonsense:


April 13th brought the opinion of New York's influential Village Voice, which was surprisingly equivocal, and presumably upset the band:


In the May 1967 issue of High Fidelity (on sale in April), Morgan Ames was typically conservative and reactionary:


The same month, an unnamed writer in the American Record Guide (which, I believe, was sent out to public libraries and other institutions) was much more thoughtful, delivering the most sensitive review the album received at the time:


The June 1967 issue of Jazz magazine (later Jazz & Pop) ran this:


Timothy Jacobs had this to say in the July edition of the Boston underground magazine Vibrations:


And then, on Saturday, July 15th, Fred Hulett of the Courier-Post in Camden, New Jersey, weighed in. His remarks typify the response of many critics at the time; already suspicious of Andy Warhol, they were only too happy to assume the VU was nothing more than his latest hype:


The September issue of the superb teeny magazine Hullabaloo (on sale two months earlier, as per its schedule) offered this assessment:


On September 28th, Bob Watkins covered the LP in the WSC Acorn (published out of Worcester State College in Massachusetts):


Finally, in the October issue of Crawdaddy! (by then being published out of New York), Sandy Pearlman reflected thus:


I hope this post will debunk the ubiquitous myth that the album was barely reviewed at the time of release. If you have other early US reviews, please send them along, and I'll gladly add them.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

DIMAGRAPHY & THE VELVET UNDERGROUND

Dmitry Demchenko is a familiar name to many record collectors and readers of this blog, because he has an unequalled ability to find copies of rare albums that come with rare promo stickers, which he then sells on eBay for enviable sums.

One of the most sought-after albums in the world is the original US white label promo of The Velvet Underground & Nico.

Click HERE to see a copy that was sold on eBay in December 2017 for $750, with the name 'CARLSON' written on the label (thereby diminishing its value and collector appeal).

Here are some images of that copy:



And click HERE to see a copy Dmitry sold on eBay a month later for just over $2000, with an 'ORIGINAL RECTANGULAR "D.J. SAMPLES PROMOTIONAL COPIES" WHITE  STICKER' on the label (thereby enhancing its value and collector appeal).

Here are some images of Dmitry's copy:



Both auctions clearly show an original copy - indeed, the labels in each are identical down to the same microscopic details.

As is so often the case with items sold by 'Dimagraphy', serious collectors worldwide are curious about the sticker in his listing.

Has anyone seen another WLP of this album with that sticker on the label?

The only other example I can find online was sold on eBay in April 2017... by lucky old Dmitry! You can see that one HERE.

Looking forward to your feedback!

Friday, 21 April 2017

ESSRA MOHAWK: 'a lot of different kinds of music'

Primordial Lovers is an intense, impassioned, personal and otherworldly record, about which little is known, so thought I'd post some odds and ends here.

Sandra Elayne Hurvitz was born in Philadelphia on April 23rd 1948. Her recording career began with a pop 45 (The Boy With The Way / The Memory Of Your Voice), released on Liberty under the name Jamie Carter in August 1965.


It sold poorly, and by 1967 she was in New York, where she ran into Frank Zappa on Bleecker Street, across the road from the Garrick Theatre in Greenwich Village, where the Mothers were playing their famed residency. They had a romance, and she joined his band under a nickname he gave her, 'Uncle Meat'.

One audience member at the Garrick was Laura Nyro, whose first album had appeared at the start of the year, and to whom Essra would frequently be compared. "She used to come listen to me play at the Garrick long before I ever heard of her, or heard her," contends Essra. "She got my number and called me, introducing herself. She was influenced by me. Not the other way around. She could only imitate a small part of me, as I am much more musically expansive than she was." 

Essra's first album was made the same year for Zappa's production company, Bizarre. Recorded under his auspices, but in fact (rather basically) produced by Ian Underwood, it finally appeared on Verve under the name Sandy Hurvitz, in December 1968. 



Sandy's Album Is Here At Last is quirky and openly emotional, with uninhibited vocals and piano-led songs that change tempo and mood frequently. It appeared in shops without her being informed. "It was released unfinished and without my ok," explains Essra. "I made up the title, not because the label took so long to put it out (they didn't take long at all... In fact I wish they had taken longer, like never!), but because I was finally making my first album. I had no idea at the time how bad it would go." It was barely reviewed, and sold next to nothing. She didn't record for Verve again.

Around this time, the vice-president of Warner Brothers Records, Mo Ostin, saw her performing at Steve Paul's Scene in Manhattan, and signed her up to their Reprise label. Her second LP was recorded and mixed in Los Angeles that year. Almost all the sessions took place at Elektra, where her producer and husband Barry Friedman (aka Frazier Mohawk) worked.

Beautifully recorded and featuring a small army of sympathetic session players, including Lee Underwood, Dallas Taylor, Doug Hastings and Jerry Penrod, Primordial Lovers is a deep, even psychedelic experience that gently unfolds over multiple plays.

For some strange reason, a handful of advance copies were sent out in a red sleeve in early 1970. (The music and running order on these is identical to the commercial release.)




Primordial Lovers was released in the US and Canada in April 1970 (no foreign pressings are known to exist), in a striking gatefold sleeve designed by Ed Thrasher, showing the Mohawks' entwined bodies.



Also included was a plump little lyric booklet:


Here's the press release and accompanying photo that were sent out to radio stations and reviewers:






It also appeared on 8-track cartridge:


The only advert I've seen was shared with several other Reprise releases, and crassly drew attention to the 'erotic packaging', as well as wrongly stating it was her 'debut':



Few reviews appeared, and those that did tended to emphasise her superficial similarities to Laura Nyro. Oddly, as far as I am aware, no mainstream music magazines covered the LP.

Here's what Entertainment World wrote in their May 8th issue:


 High Fidelity magazine had this to say in August:


Here's a five-star review in Down Beat of November 12th (review by Mike Bourne):


And, finally, here's a typically sniffy assessment from the American Record Guide's December issue:



No single was extracted, though mono and stereo versions of Spiral were sent to radio stations along with the LP. (It has been suggested that Spiral was also issued with a track called Image Of You on the B-side, but I have never seen a copy.)

Despite having cost a small fortune to record and manufacture, the LP was clobbered by poor distribution and promo, and sold poorly, as did a non-LP 45, Jabberwock Song / It's Up To Me, which appeared in May:



That, unfortunately, was that; a silence of five years was to ensue before her next recordings appeared.

As a final note, it has been claimed by Mojo and numerous others that Rolling Stone hailed Primordial Lovers as 'one of the 25 best albums ever made' upon its release. In fact, they didn't review the album at all. However, in 1977 a RS writer referred to it in passing as one of his personal best 25 albums of all time, something that is now quoted out of context whenever the album is mentioned, as if it were the result of a critics’ poll.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

DIMAGRAPHY AND THE ART OF ORGANOLEPTIC EVALUATION

One of the most important lessons a record collector can learn is that you never know what might turn up - even things you might think couldn't possibly exist.  
   
Until last year an eBay seller based in the US named 'marc_arel11' was selling sealed copies of classic 60s and 70s LPs, with previously unseen promo or 'hype' stickers on the sleeves. When that account suddenly went idle, a new one emerged, using the handle 'dimagraphy', and is still going strong. This seller appears to be named Dmitry Demchenko, and the listings say he's based in Garden Grove, California. Are his LPs from a record industry source, a radio station, or a reviewer? Or is he simply very lucky at sourcing such treasures? No one knows. But the truly amazing thing about his listings is that many of the stickers - which are almost all in remarkable, as-new condition - have also never been seen before, even by old-school collectors.    

In February of this year he raked in an impressive $2,154.00 for an original August 1966 paste-over copy of the Beatles' Yesterday & Today LP. It boasted a sticker that not only referred to the sleeve as a 'butcher cover' - therefore being the first documented use of the term - but also described it as '2nd state' (again, the first documented use of the term).     

Here's the beautiful vintage sticker found on that copy: 


You can click HERE for the auction listing.

On and on it goes - all in lovely condition, mostly previously unknown to hardcore collectors. For example, who knew that the shrink on US first pressings of Led Zeppelin II came with track listing stickers in two different colours? All the ones previously known were pink, with sharp corners (as seen on the right here), but Dmitry's copy (on the left) is black, with rounded corners - and in wonderfully clean condition:


You can see that listing, which netted him an enviable $1313 - by clicking HERE

His greatest coup so far has surely been to find an original, sealed promo copy of the Rolling Stones' 1967 Their Satanic Majesties Request LP, bearing a promo sticker for Polygram records - a European company to which they were not signed, and which did not exist until 1972. 

Here's the beautiful vintage sticker on that one:


and HERE is the original listing, which unsurprisingly hauled in a whopping $1009.

Cynics might cry foul, but Dmitry offers this assurance: 'BASED ON OUR EXPERIENCE AND ORGANOLEPTIC EVALUATION ALL OF THE ELEMENTS OF THE ISSUE LEAVE NO DOUBTS THAT IT IS THE ORIGINAL FIRST PRESSING.'