Tag Archives: Ray Charles

Goodbye Borders

Not that it really comes as a surprise, but Borders announced its Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and plans to close 30% of its stores.  The digital age has already taken its toll on the record industry, and now bookstores are beginning to feel the heat as well, since e-books the literary equivalent of an Ipod.

Before I moving to Baltimore, Borders was essentially the only place where there was a large selection of CDS.  It was either that or Best Buy.  But Best Buy didn’t have the back catalogues of most of their artists, and they also only displayed artists with track records of moving copies.  It was also one of the few places that I was allowed to drive to by myself when I was in high school.

I would spend hours at a time just browsing through the CDs making mental notes of which artists I needed to eventually check out.  Borders was also one of the first places I remember that had a listening station for new CDs.  Usually the description of the album was off-base, but at least you were able to actually hear what you were about to purchase.  Many of my favorite albums were purchased from Borders – London Calling, Sticky FingersZiggy StardustRaw Power, several Pearl Jam bootlegs, etc.  The bargain bin (selected albums were $7.99) was also my first introduction to Sam Cooke and Ray Charles.

When I wasn’t looking at the CDs, I would wander off to the music book section and read through many of the rock encyclopedias, and memoirs.  If you’re ever wondering where most of my knowledge of artists comes from – it’s a direct result of that.  At the time, I desperately wanted to be a rock critic (still do actually) and I figured the best way to do that would be to study up on the subject.  Before I listened to Iggy Pop, I knew of his affection for peanut-butter on stage.  It was in a Borders’ chair that I first learned about the legend of Robert Johnson making a deal with the Devil at the crossroads.

Because I was there so often, many of the cashiers knew me.  When I went to purchase a copy of The Velvet Undeground & Nico , the girl at the counter seemed genuinely interested – she had never heard of them before. When I explained to her what they sounded like – shocker – she didn’t seem as interested in anymore.

Since moving to Baltimore, I hardly ever go to Borders – Soundgarden is about two miles away from my apartment – but whenever I go back to visit my parents I almost always stop by.  The last few times I’ve been have been extremely depressing.  The CD section has all but been taken away.  There are no more back catalogues of artists – shit, even Target has a better selection of artists and albums these days.

I haven’t listened to it in a while, but perhaps I’ll break out my copy of Quadrophenia tonight.  It was one of the first albums I purchased at Borders.

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Soul Music

If you’re looking for a good introduction to Soul Music, I’d suggest the four Disc Boxed set Soul Spectacular! The Greatest Soul Hits of All Time  It’s slightly pricey, but totally worth it.  A few Christmases ago, I was given a $50 gift card to Record & Tape Traders (which sadly by the time I move down to Charles Village that location has closed).  I’m not sure about anyone else but when I’m given a gift card, my mind goes blank.  Me, the person who always want to buy music, is totally blank.

I thought about buying the Phil Spector boxed-set Back to Mono, but it seems to be out of print.  (I wonder why.  But seriously, if anyone can help me out with that – I’d be greatly appreciate it.)  I decided to go for Soul Spectacular, because even though I do love soul music, my collection was severely lacking in that department.  Ever since I go it, it’s been on my “go to” list for whenever I can’t decide on what to listen to.  And believe me, this happens.  

Among the highlights:

Stand By Me – Ben E. King.  Everybody should have a copy of this song.  King’s voice is both wounded and hopeful.  Most romantic and love songs seem cheesy to me, but this is probably the “Amazing Grace of Soul”.  No hyperbole.  

Heat Wave – Martha Reeves & The Vandellas.  Just as it titles suggests – the perfect jam for a warm day.  Propelled by pounding drums and piano this song never lets go.  And it’s not just your regular call and response song, either.  The last 30 seconds contain some of the best “yeahs” ever put to vinyl.

Where Did Our Love Go – The Supremes.  Is there any other song that relies on the hand-clap more than this song?  (It also contains foot-stomps as well.)  One of Diana Ross’s best vocal performances, which is interesting because it was originally supposed to go to Gladys Horton of The Marvelettes.  

I Want You Back – The Jackson 5.  This song is little more funk than the rest, but who cares?  It’s not as popular as ABC, but the ad-libbing of Michael Jackson makes it worthy inclusion alone.

You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles.  One of the best famous intros in soul music – with its famous bass.  Anyone who tries to come up with Top 10 Bass Songs and doesn’t include this one doesn’t know what they’re talking about.  

One quibble with the boxed set – Ray Charles’  What’d I  Say.  While it contain the longer version at 5:26.  So you do get the famous call and response – it’s still not the complete version.

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