2020

I have gotten into the habit of documenting my listening habits over the spaces of time to seeing if I could glean anything meaningful from those statistics. With over 500 unique albums listened to over the course of 2020 I had some sifting and sorting to do.

So…?

Did I?

Did I find anything worth writing about? I think there are some insights that can be gleaned from these lists. For instance, which albums did I listen to the most based on the year they were originally released?

The top spot in that category was taken by the year 2020 with 96 unique albums listened to. This statistic did not surprise me in the least because I like listening to new music. Second place was 2019 with a significant drop to a mere 19 albums, not as many as 2020 but these were still relatively fresh and deserving of another spin around the turntable.

For third place I took a big jump back to 1971 and 1978 with 18 albums released in each of those years that I listened to. The next three most listened to years are all in the 1970s, which came as no surprise to me. In 1970 I turned 16, got a summer job and bought some records with the money from my first foray into the working world. In 1973 I graduated from high school and two days later got a full-time job with a decent salary that helped feed my appetite for music. After the 1970’s my listening jumped all over the place from 1958 to the present.

The next stat is for how I listened to all that music. Thanks to Covid-19 and isolating at home I decided to go through our vinyl collection, starting at A and going through the alphabet. I didn’t listen to every album but I did listen to 210 slabs of vinyl. iTunes came in second with 146 albums that I listened to. I only listened to three cassette tapes in 2020 and no 8-track or reel to reel tapes. I should mention that these statistics are all for full albums, I do not keep statistics for single releases or album samples.

The next category is for the most listened to artist in 2020, and the winner is Pink Floyd, with eight albums in 2020 that I listened to. ‘A Momentary Lapse of Reason’ was the only album with two listens, which is interesting to me because I am a huge DSotM fan, 1973 right!

A line of hospital beds stretch into the distance on an overcast beach. A man sits on one bed holding a mirror. The sky is slightly purple.

Second place was Daniel Amos with eight albums and two listens to their album ‘Mr. Buechner’s Dream’. These two come as no surprise to myself or anyone who knows me, the two artists are longstanding favourites for me.

The most listened to album goes to ‘Greatest Hits’ by Various Artists. This happens every year, for some reason I like listening to compilation albums such as this one from K-Tel, which I bought in 1973 from the Hudson’t Bay store in Grande Cache shortly after I graduated from high school, if my memory serves me well there were only about a dozen of us in the grad class.

After that there was a log jam for the most listened to albums of 2020 with these all tying for the top spot:

‘Hermit of Mink Hollow’ by Todd Rundgren

‘Lateralus’ by Tool

‘Shades of Deep Purple’ by Deep Purple

‘Western Swing & Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs’ by Colter Wall

‘The Beatles’ by The Beatles, aka ’The White Album’.

The final observation is for the 2020 album of the year award.

Wait, I don’t do album of the year awards.

What we do have are some of my favourite listens from 2020, with a heavy emphasis on the word some.

Bob Dylan: ‘Rough And Rowdy Ways’. I saw him live in concert in 2017 and that was not a pleasant experience, this album restored Dylan to my good books.

Gwenifer Raymond: ‘Strange Lights Over Garth Mountain’. I had never heard of her before this album came out, and now I can’t stop listening her. An achingly beautiful album.

Colter Wall – ‘Western Swing & Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs’

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Colter Wall came roaring out of Saskatchewan playing honest country and western music and with this, his third release, he builds on what the first two laid down and then upped the ante.

Speaking of good C&W music, Sturgill Simpson – ‘Cuttin’ Grass ‘, entertained me for hours.

Sturgill Simpson is like Colter Wall in that I have been listening to his music since he released his first album back in 2013. His newest, ‘Cuttin’ Grass’ is both a departure and a return. It is different from his last release and similar to his first. I have played this on vinyl, and it sounds incredible.

Lucinda Williams – ‘Good Souls Better Angels’ I am a latecomer to Lucinda Williams’s music but having found it I only want to hear more and this release sounds might fine.

Neil Young – ‘Homegrown’ I have been listening to Neil Young’s music since the day before forever. This is reminiscent of some of his early stuff, more acoustic and folky.

Steve Earle and the Dukes – ‘Ghosts of West Virginia’ All I knew about Steve Earle was his big hits, Guitar Town and Copperhead Road. Until last year, when I started streaming some of his music, and then this album came out and now I have my ear glued to his music.

The Avett Brothers – ‘The Third Gleam’ I keep ‘Emotionalism’ and ‘The Carpenter’ in fairly steady rotation, at least once a year and now this recording will start that round dance with them.

Colter Wall, Sturgill Simpson, Lucinda Williams, Neil Young, Steve Earle and The Avett Brothers are all to the Country and Western music of today in same way that Willie and Waylon and the boys were to the Nashville establishment back in the ”70s. Outlaw country isn’t dead; it’s alive and well in the hands of folks such as these.

Kronos Quartet & Friends – ‘Long Time Passing: Kronos Quartet & Friends Celebrate Pete Seeger’ The Kronos Quartet hasn’t laid down a lousy album, ever. This record is story telling at its finest.

Shabaka and the Ancestors: ‘We Are Sent Here By History’ This album is jazz, new jazz, attention-getting jazz. Smooth and raw and emotional. It is good music, nothing more and nothing less. I also nominate this for album artwork of the year. It is stark but it conveys a message by forcing us to focus on what is shown.

This brought to mind the album cover of ‘Unknown Pleasures’ by Joy Division, stark but striking in the same way. I also listen to ‘Unknown Pleasures’ frequently.

I hope you have enjoyed your 2020 musical experience, if nothing else it provided a soundtrack to the year through the gift of music. Some of these albums created a distraction away from the shit show that 2020 was. Demi Lovato created the best commentary on 2020 with her song ‘Commander In Chief.’ Music also provided more than a few moments of pure pleasure. For each of the artists in this list and to all of the artists that I listened to but who didn’t make the final cut, thank you.

pee.s. this picture disc was number 500 for 2020

Kijiji Music

Some of my favourite listens have been records that I have harvested from thrift stores as well as tons of good CD’s. Vinyl is tricky due to the nature of the beast, it is easily damaged, plus the fact that if it is in a thrift store it may not have been taken care of very well. Nevertheless, I have had some good finds, and I would like to share some of those gems with you along with some witty banter about the singers and the songs.

First up we have The Jim Reeves Collection, on Tee Vee Records. A double album best of that came out in 1974, ten years after his death. His music has some good staying power. While not technically a thrift store find, I found this on Kijiji. I purchased four boxes of about 200 records from a seller on Kijiji. The original 200 albums were culled down to about 75 LP’s and 35 or so 45’s. I will note a few from this collection first, as it is still fresh on my mind.

There are twenty-four tracks of memories on these slabs of vinyl, such as “He’ll Have To Go“, a staple of classic country music and kind of a creepy song. Like, who tells a woman to “pretend that we’re together, all alone”? And this question: “Should I hang up, or will you tell him he’ll have to go?” What happens if I don’t tell him? Never mind, I enjoyed the song.

Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?“, this is one of the best love songs of all time. Written by Scotty Wiseman for the 1944 musical film, Sing, Neighbor, Sing and performed by Lulu Belle and Scott and recorded by a who’s who list of recording artists ranging from Gene Autry in 1945 to Ringo Starr in 1970. This song charted seven times from 1946 for Red Foley to 1968 for Red Foley again, this time with Kitty Wells. That is an incredible streak for Mr Foley, charting twice with the same song 42 years apart. Jim Reeves does a credible version of the song.

At his last recording session, in July of 1964, Jim Reeves recorded a version of a song called “Make The World Go Away“, which became the opening track to his 1965 album The Jim Reeves Way. He passed away on July 31, 1964, at the relatively young age of 40.

A song should be charting in 2020 is, “Make The World Go Away“, it would be a good theme song for a year that had Donald J. Trump telling everyone that the Covid-19 pandemic would go away. Then there was the reality television of the election in the USA. There were fires burning out of control all over the world. We had too many hurricanes to name them all, and the list goes on and on. Please, “Make The World Go Away“.

Trivia time! Jerry Jerry and the Sons of Rhythm Orchestra, a Canadian alternative rock band, released a song entitled “Jimmy Reeves” on their 1992 album “Don’t Mind If I Do”.  Jerry Jerry and the Sons of Rhythm Orchestra are a band that slide under the radar but have a steady following of people such as myself who have been listening to them since the ’80’s and still play their records. I actually found a CD of their excellent album “Battle Hymn of the Apartment from 1987. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxb8o6Wb79U&list=OLAK5uy_lkB7JWM8PLwATQQkLrQs6XEyOkTe182nA

Next, we have a pair of gems, informally know as the Beatles Red and Blue albums, formally know as  The Beatles – 1962-1966 & The Beatles – The Beatles / 1967-1970. I don’t buy music as a retirement hedge fund. The market is too volatile, and I don’t have deep enough pockets, however, if I did this would have been a good investment. These two go for about $25 each, so they take a fifty dollar bite out of the original investment of two hundred and fifty bucks, one-fifth of it. They were a good listening experience, as well. I still enjoy listening to the Beatles, even 50 years after I started listening to them. My first purchase of The Beatles was the White Album, on cassette, alas, I no longer have that purchase, but I do have these two nice finds.

The most fun to find? The Smurfs (2) – The Smurfs All Star Show. Not a go-to album for me but an interesting find just the same.

Best Album From This collection: HolstSir Adrian Boult · New Philharmonia OrchestraAmbrosian Singers – The Planets. We have six versions of “The Planets”, but this one riveted me to the chair while I immersed myself in the music. I don’t know what made this one so much better than any of the others? I don’t know. Three of these are even versions of the same recording, but this one set itself high above the others. It might have been the time of day. It could have been a better pressing. I don’t know why it sounded better, but it sure did.

The most painful listen from this batch was The Carpenters ‎– The Singles 1974-1978. I started listening to this, but I had to lift the needle on the second song from this album, Jambalaya (On The Bayou).

What made it so unlistenable for me? Well, I think it is a low quality pressing for starters, and then there is the fact that I don’t appreciate the Carpenters music regardless of which album was playing. It could also be that I know the Hank Williams version by heart and have been listening to it since I was a baby listening to my Dad sing it. There is an emotional connection to the music, and The Carpenters fell short on this one.

To quote another great song “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way”? No, he didn’t do it like The Carpenters, he did it this way:

Best Surprise from the Kijiji box? Various – The Monster Hits Collection. This was a nice clean copy of a record that gave me a nice trip down memory lane. It also had the best cover art of the bunch.

Fun on forty-fives:

Dwight* & Buck* – Streets Of Bakersfield, this is a toe-tapping tune with Dwight paying homage to his mentor, Buck and the two of them come together on a contemporary country song that keeps a finger on the pulse of its heritage.

Waylon Jennings – Luckenbach, Texas (Back To The Basics Of Love) / Belle Of The Ball is a great single from the excellent album Ol’ Waylon, by Waylon Jennings of course. This song is a standard of the outlaw country movement and a goto record for me.

So, there you have it. A collection of enjoyable listens from a diverse group of music found on Kijiji at a reasonable price in my opinion.

Me, 1969-1973

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1969 I bought my first LP, Best of Bee Gees, easily identified by its bright yellow cover. I have to resist the urge to write it as Best of the Bee Gees; there is no ‘the’ in there. I played that album over, and over, and over. I knew every word to every song. I can clearly remember laying on the floor with my head in the middle of the two speakers on my parent’s record player. I don’t recall them ever complaining about listening to it so often, mind you Dad was away from home most of the time, Mom kept herself busy, and I didn’t turn the volume up to 11.

That was the only album that I bought that year, but I did purchase other albums from 1969 later on. Some of those albums that are still on my turntable include The Guess Who with Wheatfield Soul. Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline and Crosby, Stills and Nash, the story of that is below. The Rolling Stones compilation Through The Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2), Isaac Hayes phenomenal album Hot Buttered Soul, Abbey Road from the Beatles, and closing it with some more Guess Who, the crop is Canned Wheat this time. Some call 1969 the penultimate year of rock and roll. It closed the door on the 1960s with the Beatles dissolving as a band, the hippy era drawing to a shadow of its former self ( it never really went away), and rock and roll reinventing itself going into the 1970s. I may have only purchased one LP that year, but it was still an excellent year.

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In 1970 I was travelling more, bin flipping in more record stores and with a bit more coin I was able to take home more music. I also was good at sticky finger shopping. A memorable addition to my music library from that year was a copy of Déjà Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. I was introduced to this band by the clerk in a record store in Montreal. During layovers between flights, I would take a taxi to a nearby shopping mall that had a nice little record store, and the guy always had something good on the turntable that I would invariably take home. In 1969 he had Crosby, Stills & Nash on the turntable but I was short on cash so I just filed that away and in 1970 he had Déjà Vu up and playing, so that came home with me, Stills, Nash & Young would arrive later. Another special purchase that year was In the Court of the Crimson King by none other than King Crimson, although I heard it first in that same record store in 1969, like CSY, I had to wait a year to bring it home.

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The list of albums released in 1970 is long, the list that I bought in 1970 is short, the two albums already mentioned and Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More. I have a confession; I agreed to trade Woodstock to my friend Greg in exchange for the purple nazi helmet he had. I got the helmet, but he never got the album, and I have not seen him since then to make it right. If you ever read this, Greg, contact me, and I will ship the album to you. I do not have the helmet or the album as I write this. I also stole Suitable for Framing by Three Dog Night from the youth centre in Churchill Falls, Labrador. I don’t know who owned it, which makes restitution difficult. Some noteworthy albums from 1970 that I didn’t swipe and I am still spinning include Moondance by Van Morrison and The Who Live at LeedsAtom Heart Mother by Pink Floyd is notable for its excellent cover art and a long-standing relationship between The Pink Floyd and me.

The lower half of a right ear underwater.

1971, a new year and some new music, I was back in Alberta and access to new music was a bit difficult living in the little town of Czar. I managed to snag Aqualung by Jethro Tull, which triggered an interesting event. My Mom, who was super religious and my Dad, who was super narrow-minded about music, challenged me about Aqualung, so the three of us listened to it and talked about the lyrics. I don’t know why they did that. It was a weird experience. Another memorable piece of music that I acquired in 1971 was Imagine by John Lennon. It was my birthday present from Mom, she didn’t like this one either, but we didn’t sit and listen to it together. After Aqualung they let me put the stereo in my bedroom, so they didn’t have to hear it. 1971 makes for a long list of releases that I still listen to, including 4 Way Street by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, an album that I consider one of the best live recordings of all time. Sticky Fingers by The Rolling Stones, another example of great cover art with its iconic zipper. It Ain’t Easy by Long John Baldry, and I brag that I managed to see him live at a show in a bar in Red Deer. I had a signed copy of the album cover from that show but lost it along life’s highway. A few other albums worth mentioning are A Space in Time by Ten Years After which I loved to listen to on the quadraphonic sound system that I briefly owned. The music surrounded my head and was very trippy, nod, nod, wink, wink. Who’s Next and Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy a pair of albums that year by The WhoMeddle by Pink Floyd and Pawn Hearts by Van der Graaf Generator kept my psychedelic groove going. Van der Graff Generator is an often overlooked band that I got into early in the 1970s and still enjoy listening to, especially the Pawn Hearts album.

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Getting into 1972 I started the year with an oddity, Jamming with Edward! by The Rolling StonesNicky HopkinsRy Cooder and others. I can not describe this record; you need to listen to it, and even then there is only a 50/50 chance that you will get it. RockpileDave Edmunds first solo record, I have a dozen of his solo albums and many others that he appeared on a guest. For some reason, I just liked Dave Edmunds. Harvest by Neil Young, doesn’t everyone have a copy of this one? Something/Anything? by Todd Rundgren, the song Black Maria is a standout for me on an otherwise good album. Machine Head by Deep Purple gave us several significant pieces, including the iconic Smoke On The Water. Obscured by Clouds another great album from Pink FloydKris Kristofferson gave us Jesus Was a Capricorn which I still think is one of the best albums ever made. In any genre. In the psychedelic genre, I was rocking to The Magician’s Birthday by Uriah Heep

I’ll close this brief disclosure on what I listened to as a young man. As a young boy, I heard my Dad play mostly Hank Williams, and we had a handful of country and western records that seldom got played. It was when I hit about 15 years old, 1969, that I got into serious listening. I’ll close out this era at 1973, the year that I graduated and transitioned from a schoolboy buying records with money from allowance and part-time jobs to a working man with a steady income. That steady income meant buying more records to play on the stereo that I bought so Mom and Dad could have theirs back. They had given it to me as a bribe to keep me in school till I graduated. It was a good investment. The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, I’ll let Wikipedia explain it. 

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The Dark Side of the Moon is among the most critically acclaimed records in history, often featuring on professional listings of the greatest albums. The record helped to propel Pink Floyd to international fame, bringing wealth and recognition to all four of its members. It has been certified 14× platinum in the United Kingdom and topped the US Billboard Top LPs & Tapes chart, where it has charted for 950 weeks in total. With estimated sales of over 45 million copies, it is Pink Floyd’s most commercially successful album and one of the best-selling albums worldwide. In 2013, it was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress for being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.”

I bought this as an LP in 1973. I added an 8 track copy and a cassette later that year. As of today, October 12, 2020, there are ten copies of it in our music library in all of those formats. I can remember driving around town with the windows down and the volume up listening to DSotM over and over. Little has changed. I am a bit chubbier and have fewer hair follicles, and what hair I do have it is a lot shorter. Other than that, I still enjoy hearing this album, and I occasionally can yet be seen driving with the windows down and the volume up on DSotM.

There is one other album that defined 1973 for me, that album is Bachman–Turner Overdrive. It doesn’t grace the turntable as often as some of the other era albums, but it still brings a smile to my face and good memories.

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That closes out this definitive time of transition in my life. I travelled extensively, gathered plenty of good experiences and listened to a lot of good music. Many, many good albums didn’t make it to this blog. I didn’t want this to be a long and tedious list; it is a snapshot of me. Me from 1969 to 1973. Happy listening and play safe.