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Monday, January 26, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 16.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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A Vinyl Cave holiday smorgasbord

Due to various record sales lately, a lot of oddball records have been piling up here in the Vinyl Cave. I think it was Ralph Nader who once said records that cost a dime or a quarter are unsafe at any speed. Or maybe not. Either way, here's a Thanksgiving weekend pile up of some random titles that have hit the turntable this week.

The Eaton Bros.: What We Are
What they are is a '70s duo made up of brothers Marc and Skip Eaton. The album was recorded in Florida and produced by L.T. Josie, who I'm guessing is '60s songwriter Lou Josie, best known today for the Grass Roots hit "Midnight Confessions." It's also a guess that the Skip half of the Eaton Bros. is likely the same Skip Eaton who currently performs in Las Vegas and was half of early '80s Nashville duo Skip and Linda. Whether either of these surmises is correct, What We Are is a surprisingly solid disc, which after beginning with a couple slightly wimpy keyboard pop numbers is a fine mix of country-ish rock and harder material. For the era, it's also blessedly free of disco influences, and sounds overall more like an album from far earlier in the decade. (Gorilla, 1977)

The Silkie:You've Got to Hide Your Love Away
The Silkie hit the top ten in late 1965 with the title track, helped immensely by having three of the Beatles in the studio for the recording session. Afterwards, the band promptly disappeared. Some of its later singles are excellent so I took a flyer on this LP, but it turns out the album only has two originals... and eight Dylan covers! It's well performed and pleasant, if inessential, British folk rock. (Fontana, 1965)

David Allan Coe: Darlin' Darlin'
A renegade even by outlaw country standards, the quality of Coe's albums is often in direct proportion to how many original songs they include. This one only includes two Coe songs, along with three standards in divergent genres: country ("My Elusive Dreams"), rock ("The Call Me The Breeze") and soul ("My Girl"!?!). Produced by Billy Sherrill, it's about as countrypolitan sounding as I've ever heard Coe -- which isn't really a good thing. (Columbia, 1985)

Old 97's: Wreck Your Life ... and Then Some: The Complete Bloodshot Recordings
Just what the title says, but now on LP! Wreck Your Life was the Old 97's second album and one of the first releases on Bloodshot. The double-vinyl package includes that album and the Early Tracks comp, along with a few other stray songs. The bad news -- the mastering on the Wreck tracks here is often flat and muddy, and the album is presented out of order. I've tried it on a few different turntables (and volume levels), without much sound improvement. Interestingly, the second LP of this set sounds much crisper. Despite the sometimes weak audio, it's great to have this finally make a bow on LP. (Bloodshot, 2009)

The Monkees: Changes
By the release of The Monkees' final album during their original run, it was down to the duo of Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones. That may seem like a dire situation... but this album is far from a disaster. Enlisting the services of then-hot bubblegum songwriters like Jeff Barry, Andy Kim, Bobby Bloom and others, the duo comes through with a decent pop disc, though the eclecticism brought to the band by Mike Nesmith is sorely missed. Dolenz sings the majority of the tracks, though Davy gets the hardest rocker for once, with "99 Pounds." (Colgems, 1970)

Bright as Night Records Presents: The Bright Side/The Night Side
The Portland, Ore., label Bright as Night, run by former Madison band Vanishing Kids, unleashed this compilation LP about a year ago, following up on a CD-R release earlier in 2008. There was a local release show this past February that slipped under my radar, but the album has finally made its way to me. Along with tracks by the Vanishing Kids and a few of the group's Portland side projects, there's a treasure trove of new and older songs by Madison bands, including some grungy circa-2000 goodness by Merrick and "Coyote" by the much-missed X-ray Mirror. Noisy fun all around. (Bright as Night, 2008)

Pete Seeger: The Rainbow Quest
Folkways put out zillions of Pete Seeger records, before and after the McCarthy era blacklisting of The Weavers. This is one of the more unique albums I've heard, with the topside being sort of a long medley of songs and readings strung together, some as short as two lines -- 19 titles are listed on the back cover in all. The medley includes everything from the original recorded appearance of "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" to a reading of Joe Hill's will. Seeger later used the album's title for a self-produced '60s television show he hosted featuring many legendary and less well-known folk, country and blues performers. When the Smithsonian museum acquired the Folkways catalog from founder Moses Asch's family in 1987, they pledged to keep his legacy alive -- and all his past recordings in print. So, surprisingly, this album is currently available on CD. (Folkways, circa 1960)

Buffalo Springfield: Again
The three albums by rock's prototype supergroup are all somewhat haphazard affairs. The first features a relatively unified folk rock sound but is marred by indifferent production courtesy of managers Charlie Greene and Brian Stone; the last was cobbled together after the fact by Jim Messina and founding member Richie Furay. Middle child Buffalo Springfield Again is equally haphazard sounding due to its musical schizophrenia, as all of the members save oft-absent bassist Bruce Palmer are seemingly pushing the group in different directions. Somehow, it all works to pull together as their most satisfying disc overall, from Dewey Martin's soul freak out "Good Time Boy" (oddly, written by Furay, the group's most country-inflected member) to Neil Young's stunning collaborations with Jack Nitzsche, "Expecting to Fly" and "Broken Arrow." Thankfully, consummate archivist Young spearheaded a release of a more coherent presentation of their recorded legacy than the original albums, the Buffalo Springfield box set released in 2001. (Atco, 1967)

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