Friday, November 14, 2008

Your Vinyl Destination

I have a great announcement- I have joined up with the team at as a writer and have already been published. I am very fortunate to be part of their team and just hope that I can write up some good material for them! Here is what they have to say on their "DJ" page:

"To spice up the Rock-it Radio Listener's Club Newsletter - Rock-it Radio in the 24 October, 2008 issue was able to get one of the top authorities on Collecting Vinyl Records to start writing articles on rare vinyl - Collecting and Preserving Old Records. We are lucky to have him! And we look forward to reading many new exciting articles of Robert's in the future."

Their format is right up my alley, as I have a true love for the 'oldies' and especially the doo wop sounds of yesteryear.

So come on over and listen to Your Online Station since 1995 with 1950's and Early 1960's Rock and Roll, Doo Wop, Rockabilly and Rhythm and Blues!

My feature is called "Your Vinyl Destination" and here is something I wrote up about a classic rock/soul group (after the passing of Levi Stubbs):

The Four Tops

With the late Levi Stubbs leading their musical parade, the Four Tops are one of Motown’s fabulous success stories. This American vocal quartet has a compelling musical repertoire including recordings in many genres including doo wop, jazz, soul, R&B, disco, adult contemporary and show tunes.

Originally called The Aims, the quartet of Levi Stubbs, Abdul “Duke” Fakir, Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Lawrence Payton started singing in high school at a local birthday party. They were signed to Chess Records in 1956, where they changed their name to the Four Tops (to avoid confusion with the then-popular Ames Brothers). After unsuccessful stops with Chess, Red Top, Riverside Records and Columbia Records, Berry Gordy Jr. convinced the group to join his growing Motown record label.

The result is pop music history, with the group amassing a catalog of soul standards that continue to inspire and bring pleasure to millions to this day. The group was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and it is estimated that the Four Tops have sold over 50 million records.

Their storied career started taking shape when the group signed on with Motown in 1963, where they recorded jazz standards and sang background on other Motown singles. In1964, Motown’s songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland created an instrumental track and crafted the song for the Four Tops. The result? The Four Tops’ breakthrough single and now a soul standard “Baby I Need Your Loving” (#11 in 1964).

After a couple of follow up singles did not have the same success (although “Ask The Lonely” was a Top 30 pop hit and a Top Ten R&B hit), the Four Tops success improved dramatically and the group contributed such pop/soul hits as the #1 hit “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)” (#1 in 1965), “It’s The Same Old Song” (#5 in 1965), “Something About You” (#19 in 1965), “Shake Me, Wake Me (When It’s Over),” which charted at #18 in 1966.

But their signature song, “Reach Out I’ll Be There” (#1 in 1966) put the Four Tops on the top of the Soul/Motown world and the group followed this remarkable record with two other Top Ten hits- “Standing In the Shadows Of Love” (#6 in 1966) and the classic tale of lust and jealousy in the 1967 #4 hit “Bernadette.”

Other Top 20 hits followed and the group was one of the most successful male Motown acts in the US and UK (second only to the Temptations). The Tops began experimenting with mainstream pop hits and scored with their versions of “If I Were A Carpenter” (#20 in 1968) and a song originally a hit for the Left Banke “Walk Away Renee” (#14 in 1968). But when the Holland-Dozier-Holland team left Motown in 1967, the quartet, along with most of Motown began to suffer.

The group worked with a wide variety of Motown producers during the late 60’s without any significant chart success. But their career was rejuvenated when they started working with producer Frank Wilson and their 1970 album called “Still Waters Run Deep” became an early ancestor to the concept album, and served as inspiration for the 1971 album by Marvin Gaye called “What’s Going On” (the title track was co-written by Obie Benson). They also scored Top 40 hits with “It’s All In The Game” (#24 in 1970), “Still Water” (#11 in 1970) and were paired with the Supremes in a remake of the classic Ike & Tina Turner hit “River Deep-Mountain High” (#14 in 1970).

However this was a transitional phase for Motown as the music giant began to change. In the early 70’s older acts such as Martha Reeves & the Vandellas and the Marvelettes were slowly being pushed aside so the label could focus on the newer acts like the Jackson 5, Rare Earth and Diana Ross (who had launched a solo career). Additionally, the company was in the process of moving its operations from Detroit to Los Angles (where Gordy had hoped to break into the motion picture and television industries). By 1972, Motown announced that the entire company would move to LA hoping all of its recording artists would follow. Some did, but many opted to stay in Detroit, including the Four Tops.

The group then singed with ABC-Dunhill and was assigned to the songwriting/producing team of Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter. With this team and their own Lawrence Payton serving as producer/arranger, the Four Tops were revitalized and scored their first Top Ten hit since 1967 with the song “Keeper Of The Castle” (#10 in 1972) and followed that with the now classic soul tune, “Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I Got),” which went to #4 on the Billboard charts in 1973. The group also had top ten R&B hits with “Are You Man Enough” (which also went to #15 on the Billboard charts), “Sweet Understanding Love” (#33 Billboard Top 40), “Midnight Flower” and “One Chain Don’t Make No Prison.” But after these hits in the early 70’s the group disappeared into obscurity in the late 70’s.

But after signing on with Casablanca Records in 1980, the Four Tops made a short comeback in 1981, scoring a #1 R&B hit with the cut “When She Was My Girl” (#11 Billboard Top 40).

In 1983, the Four Tops rejoined Motown and were featured on the company’s television special “Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever.” There they hooked up with the Temptations and decided that the Temptations/Four Tops pairing would be a great touring draw and the two groups (as of 2007) continued to play together.

Back with Motown, the group released the LP “Back Where I Belong” (with one side produced by the Holland-Dozier-Holland team) and the album included the Top 40 R&B single “I Just Can’t Walk Away” (#71 on Billboard Top 100). Two more albums followed including 1985’s “Magic” and 1986’s “Hot Nights.” But the group and label began to quarrel about marketing and musical direction. The Tops left Motown again and signed on with Arista records, this time buying back the masters they had recorded (for an album in progress). The result was the album called “Indestructible” and the title track would prove to be their last Top 40 hit (#33 in 1988).

However, since the late 80’s, the Four Tops have focused on touring, live performances and television and motion pictures. Their last LP was 1995’s “Christmas Here With You” and when 59 year-old Lawrence Payton died in 1997, the forty year career of this legendary Motown group tried to carry on as a trio (the group has never had a line up change until then). In 1988, former Temptation Theo Peoples joined on to restore the group to a quartet once again. In 2000, Stubbs had become ill with cancer and Peoples took over as lead singer. Singer Obie Benson died in 2005 and ex-lead singer Levi Stubbs passed away in October of 2008 (still residing in Detroit).

The Four Tops were one of Motown’s most successful male soul acts. Their legendary career has inspired many soul artists and their music will be forever remembered.

Four Tops discography

Early releases:

Year/Song title:
1956: "If Only I Had Known" (Grady Records, credited as "The Four Aims")
1956: "Could It Be You?" (Chess)
1960: "Ain't That Love" (Columbia Records, reissued in 1965)
1962: "Pennies From Heaven" (Riverside Records)

Motown releases (All the following songs were released on the Motown subsidiary):

Year/Song title:
1964 "Baby I Need Your Loving"
1964 "Without the One You Love (Life's Not Worth While)"
1965 "Ask the Lonely"
1965 "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)"
1965 "It's the Same Old Song"
1965 "Something About You"
1966 "Shake Me, Wake Me (When It's Over)"
1966 "Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever"
1966 "Reach Out I'll Be There"
1966 "Standing in the Shadows of Love"
1967 "Bernadette"
1967 "7-Rooms of Gloom"
1967 "I'll Turn to Stone"
1967 "You Keep Running Away"
1967 "If I Were a Carpenter"
1968 "Walk Away Renée
1968 "Yesterday's Dreams"
1969 "Don't Let Him Take Your Love From Me"
1969 "What Is A Man"
1969 "Do What You Gotta Do"
1970 "It's All In The Game"
1970 "Still Water (Love)"
1971 "MacArthur Park (Part II)
1971 "River Deep - Mountain High" (The Supremes and the Four Tops)
1971 "In These Changing Times"
1971 "Just Seven Numbers (Can Straighten Out My Life)"
1971 "You Gotta Have Love In Your Heart" (The Supremes and the Four Tops)
1972 "(It's the Way) Nature Planned It"
1972 "Simple Game"
1983 "I Just Can't Walk Away"
1985 "Sexy Ways"

ABC-Dunhill releases:

Year/Song title
1972 "Keeper of the Castle"
1973 "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)"
1973 "Are You Man Enough"
1973 "Sweet Understanding Love"
1974 "I Just Can't Get You Out Of My Mind"
1974 "Midnight Flower"
1974 "One Chain Don't Make No Prison"
1975 "Seven Lonely Nights"
1975 "We All Gotta Stick Together"
1976 "Catfish"
1976 "I'm Glad You Walked Into My Life"

Casablanca releases:

Year/Song title
1981 "When She Was My Girl"
1981 "Don't Walk Away"
1982 "Let Me Set You Free"
1982 "Back to School Again" (from Grease 2)
1982 "Sad Hearts"
1982 "Tonight I'm Gonna Love You All Over"
1983 "I Believe in You and Me"

Arista releases:

Year/Song title
1988 "If Ever a Love There Was" (with Aretha Franklin)
1988 "Indestructible"
1989 "Loco In Acapulco"

Four Tops Albums:

Motown releases:
1964: The Four Tops
1965: Four Tops' Second Album
1966: On Top
1966: Four Tops Live!
1967: On Broadway
1967: Reach Out
1968: Yesterday's Dreams
1969: The Four Tops Now!
1969: Soul Spin
1970: Still Waters Run Deep
1970: Changing Times
1970: The Magnificent Seven (The Supremes & Four Tops)
1971: The Return of the Magnificent Seven (The Supremes & Four Tops)
1971: Dynamite! (The Supremes & Four Tops)
1972: Nature Planned It
1983: Back Where I Belong
1985: Magic
1986: Hot Nights
1995: Christmas Here With You

ABC-Dunhill releases:
1972: Keeper of the Castle
1973: Main Street People
1974: Live & In Concert
1974: Meeting of the Minds
1975: Night Lights Harmony
1976: Catfish
1977: The Show Must Go On
1978: At the Top

Casablanca releases:
1981: Tonight!
1982: One More Mountain

Arista release:
1988: Indestructible

Levi Stubbs- 1936-2008

Levi Stubbs of the legendary Motown Pop/Soul group the Four Tops, passed away on October 17, 2008. Let’s explore this legendary voice:

Levi Stubbs began his singing career in 1954 with his friends, Abdul “Duke” Fakir, Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Lawrence Payton who called themselves the Four Aims. After signing with Chess Records the group changed their name to the Four Tops to avoid confusion with the popular singing group the Ames Brothers.

Over the years the Four Tops endured a series of unsuccessful tenures with Chess, Red Top, Riverside Records and Columbia Records. Undeterred, the group toured constantly and developed a polished stage presence before signing on with Motown Records in 1963. By the end of the decade the four friends from Detroit were among a number of R&B groups that helped define the “Motown Sound.”

Some of the most popular Four Tops hits were with Levi Stubbs as the featured vocalist including “Baby I Need Your Loving ,”(their first Billboard Top 40 hit in 1964), “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)” which was a number one hit in 1965, “It’s The Same Old Song” (#5 in 1965), “Reach Out I’ll Be There” (#1 in 1966), “Standing in the Shadow of Love” (#6 in 1966), “Bernadette” (#4 in 1967), “Still Water (Love),” which peaked at number eleven in 1970 and the classic Soul number “Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I Got),” which reached number four in 1973.

Interestingly, Stubbs was a natural baritone and most of the group’s hits were written in the tenor range lending to a sense of urgency in his vocal style and making their definitive Four Tops’ sound. His powerful, expressive voice was an inspiration to many other vocal groups and his good nature and soulful voice will be missed by millions.

Your Vinyl Destination

The Four Tops

The Four Tops have some rare and valuable 45’s including:

Chess (1623) “Could it be You” (1956) $150-200
Riverside (4534) “Where Are You” (1962) $75-100
Chateau (2002) “I Just Can’t Keep My Tears from Tumblin’ Down” (1956) $75-100
Grady (012) “If I had Only Known” (1956) (as the Four Aims) $500-600

While most of the Four Tops LPs in the 1960’s have a price of between $10- 25 there are a couple of LPs that have significant value:

Workshop (217) “Breaking Through” (1962) $1000-1500
Workshop (217) “Jazz Impressions by the Four Tops) re-titled reissue (1962) $500-1000

The Beatles “White Album” On Sale at Ebay

One of the rarest records ever made was the Beatles’ White Album. Although officially released as “The Beatles,” this record is considered one of the rarest albums in history. Copy number 0000005 is now on sale on the UK version of Ebay. Apparently, the first four editions of the album went directly to the Beatles themselves.

According to the seller, there is an interesting history behind the album.

"Some years ago, this album was taken into the collectors shop named ‘Vinyl Revival Records’ in Newbury, Berkshire, England by a musician (they did not disclose who) who had visited John in the flat that he shared with Yoko in late 1968 (that was owned by Ringo) at 34 Montague Square, Marylebone, London W.1. The musician saw a pile of White Albums on a table and asked for one. John readily agreed, but said ‘Don’t take No.1 - I want that’. Instead he took No. 5′.The album then passed into the hands of Beatles specialist dealer ‘Good Humour’ who then sold it to its current owner who has now commissioned me to sell it on his behalf.”

I will be interested to see what the final price will be, although I have my doubts that the reserve may not even be met.

The Vinyl Revival

I love these stories about local record shops and here is another for your enjoyment

The local vinyl revival: Don't throw those records away just yet!

By Daniel Lazarus

It makes no sense. They're heavy to move, and tough to store. They're finicky and delicate. They warp in the heat, scratch easily, and are never the same afterward. But, if you, like many other baby boomers, have been reluctant, unwilling, or unable to part with a dusty, old, milk crate full of your beloved Led Zeppelin, Cream, and Grateful Dead albums, despite the fact that you haven't listened to them in decades, and, probably haven't even owned a working turntable since Reagan Administration, take heart. The wait may be over. Your impractical but tenacious hoarding of those 12-inch black polycarbonate vinyl love letters to your past may have been surprisingly farsighted, after all. Simply put, vinyl records are back. What goes around, comes around, and with increasing frequency is being spun around again (at 33 1/3 and 45 revolutions per minute) on turntables all around the area.

Technically speaking, vinyl records never went away completely. Even after the introduction and wide acceptance of CDs in the early '80s, there were always a few independent record stores (mostly in larger cities) that stocked records for a fringe group of devoted listeners. Some vinyl fans didn't want to, or couldn't afford, to invest in new technology which seemed to change with the season. Others simply wanted to hear to their music as it was originally issued. Ukiah record collector and audiophile Matt Eifert, 37, remembers that as late as "1986-1987-1988, all three formats (cassettes, CDs, and records) were pretty healthy." Then, he says, music companies, bowing to clear consumer preference for the lighter, tougher, compact disks, all but stopped issuing any new vinyl at all. Eifert calls this period, from the late '80s until about 1993, "the dark days." Then, in the early '90s, "grunge rock" happened and defiantly retro bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam began issuing their music in record form again, and almost like "Rocky" the beleaguered format, regarded as all but dead, began punching it's way off the ropes.

Now, vinyl is vibrant again. Michael Roumbanis, owner of Dig Music at 362 N. State St. estimates that 10 to 20 percent of his sales come from records, and the trend is up. Used albums sell better than new, but, he points out that more and more artists are putting out new product on vinyl and the average price point - now about $20 per record - is coming down. Among recently issued LPs displayed on his wall are new records from AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Amy Winehouse, and Bruce Springsteen, among others. Dig Music, has also been a long time supporter of AFI (A Fire Inside), a major punk/alternative band with Ukiah roots, a worldwide fan base, a rich catalogue of vinyl recordings to their credit. On one of his walls, Roubanis displays a framed, early (now collectable) AFI single, worth he says around $1,000.

What sort of vinyl is most popular? Classic rock sells consistently at Dig Music, but "reggae, punk, and blues go so fast, and they're hard to get - nobody gives them up, basically," says Roumbanis. For a good selection of hip hop records, though, and knowing his store can't cater to all tastes, he refers his customers to DJ Pinoy at 591 S. State St.

Dig Music also sells turntables, both basic and some with USB ports, which allow the owner to plug into a computer, and burn CDs or create digital files from records. This feature is attractive for some because much of what was put on record has never made the journey into the digital world. Others simply want to transfer their old records onto an iPod, so they so they can enjoy the music they've already collected in a more convenient form.

The store has also played host to some vinyl-supportive special events. Matt Eifert has come in and taught a gathering how to properly set up their turntables for maximum performance, and during Ukiah's monthly downtown Art Walk, Roumbanis set up a gallery-like exhibition and discussion of classic and distinctive LP cover art.

Down State Street, co-owners of Jitter Box Music, Jim Tuhtan and Mike Zarkowski, have each been toting around their personal collections of hundreds (or thousands) of records for years.

"I measure mine by the pound," says Zarkowski. The two musicians echo each other in their affection for the old vinyl. Both talk of the fidelity lost with "a chopped up" digital signal, and the fact that so much material on record simply can't be found in newer formats.

"Plus," says Tuhtan, "I've always liked vinyl records because I like the jackets. They're big enough to see."

Around Ukiah, the vinyl revival has taken many forms. Since January 2005, radio station KMEC at105.1 FM has been home of the "Vintage Vinyl" show hosted by Barry Kirkpatrick. Three nights a week, Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays from 9 p.m. to midnight, Kirkpatrick sits in the studio at 106 W. Standley St., spinning records, taking calls, and telling yarns. His personal record collection has formed the core of his playlist, but he sometimes borrows from other collectors or has friends come into the studio, sit down, and play their discs on the air with him.

Not every record he plays is in mint condition, Kirkpatrick admits "My first consideration was that for them (the listeners) the scratchiness of a record would be a distraction, and I would ask someone if that was a bother, and they would say no, that's what makes it real."

"One day," Kirkpatrick recalls with amusement, "some young people were standing right outside the door of the studio. A girl saw me set the needle down on a record, and she asked, How does he know where to set that down?' There are no lines on a CD, and she'd never seen that before. That was a totally legitimate question."

Meanwhile, at the Ukiah Brewing Company, out on their patio, there is a turntable and stereo system set up, a new canvas canopy overhead, and a stack of mostly well-worn albums inside for anyone who wants to play DJ for awhile. Or, people can bring their own collections and spin them for the generally appreciative crowd gathered outside at any given time. The idea for the do-it-yourself human jukebox came from Redwood Valley resident Titus Sanborn, who, in the fall of 2007,was working his way through the death of his wife, and eating at the Brewing Company every day. He spotted an old single speaker wooden hi-fi unit at the Goodwill store, bought it, set it up on the patio, brought in some records and soon found himself presiding over a nightly "scene."

"It was an immediate sensation," says Titus. "This music is a delight to people."

The set-up on the patio has evolved since then. The original vintage, wooden, plug-and-play unit has given way to a more contemporary component system, and Titus now adds a professional light show on some nights, but the "patio scene" is still cathartic for him and others. Some nights he likens it a "beach party," and at other times it's more like a gentle bonding among friends. Records, he says, are aptly named.

"They're records of a place, a time, and a circumstance, and without those records, the memories are lost."

On the other end of the spectrum, technologically speaking, is Ukiah schoolteacher Matt Eifert. Music has always been a big part of his life, and like most in their late 30s, his musical journey started with cassette tapes. From there, he got into CDs in a big way. In fact, he owned what he describes as "the best CD player in the world at that time" and possessed only one record album, when he bought his first turntable for $70. On playing a vinyl for the first time, Eifert said, he became "slack jawed" at the difference. Records, to his ear, sounded richer, fuller, warmer, and more true to life, leaving his CDs sounding, "flat, two dimensional, and small." Soon, he was hooked, and 20,000 records accumulated later, Eifert says, "I like everything about the format - it's more compelling to me."

But, even that may understate Eifert's love affair with vinyl records. Because in order to maximize his listening pleasure, the Ukiah resident undertook the building of a special acoustically designed room-within-a-store, filled it with top notch audio equipment - just the turntable, cartridge and tone arm, alone are worth $20,000 - and now invites friends over for some of what surely must be some of the most sublime vinyl listening sessions in anywhere.

So don't throw those old vinyl records away, quite yet. If you've held on to them this long, retrieve them, dust them off, and enjoy them again. They may not sound as good as new, but maybe that's a good thing.


Classic Rock Videos

The Beach Boys - Little Deuce Coupe

Limited Edition Vinyl Pressing Of "All Aboard: A Tribute To Johnny Cash" Released

My friend Virgil is in the news again!

The 2nd pressing of the All Aboard: A Tribute To Johnny Cash vinyl is now available at This new pressing is on brown vinyl and only 1,000 copies are available. Anchorless Records is donating all the profits of All Aboard: A Tribute To Johnny Cash to the Syrentha Savio Endowment (SSE), a non-profit organization that provides financial assistance to underprivileged women who cannot afford the expense of fighting breast cancer.

The vinyl version of All Aboard features an alternate version of "Delia's Gone" by Ben Nichols of Lucero.

All Aboard: A Tribute To Johnny Cash Track Listing:

Man In Black: The Bouncing Souls
Country Boy: Fallen From The Sky
Wreck Of The Old '97: Chuck Ragan (Hot Water Music)
Let The Train Whistle Blow: Joe McMahon (Smoke or Fire)
Delia's Gone: Ben Nichols (Lucero)
God's Gonna Cut You Down: The Gaslight Anthem
Cocaine Blues: The Loved Ones
Give My Love To Rose: OnGuard (feat. Jason Shevchuk of Kid Dynamite and None More Black)
I Still Miss Someone: Casey James Prestwood (Hot Rod Circuit)
Hey Porter: MxPx
Cry,Cry,Cry: The Flatliners
Ballad of a Teenage Queen: The Dresden Dolls feat. Franz Nicolay of The Hold Steady
Folsom Prison Blues: Chon Travis (Love = Death)
There You Go: The Sainte Catherines
I Walk The Line: Russ Rankin (Good Riddance, Only Crime)
Bonus Track/Vinyl Only: Delia's Gone (Alternate Version) Ben Nichols (Lucero)


Album Cover Art

Let's look at #39 on the list of the sexiest and dirtiest album covers:

39. REO Speedwagon: ‘Hi Infidelity’ REO Speedwagon is an American rock band that grew in popularity in the Midwestern United States during the 1970s and peaked in the early 1980s. REO Speedwagon hits include "Keep On Loving You" and "Can't Fight This Feeling". Both songs are power ballads, the former being prototypical of the genre and appearing on the group's most commercially successful album, Hi Infidelity, which also included the hit "Take It on the Run," a song that peaked at number five on the U.S. charts. It went on to become the biggest selling rock LP of 1981, eventually selling over nine million. Six songs from this album hit Billboard charts, including "Keep On Loving You" which was the band's first Number 1 hit.

Since the band released its first record in 1971, Reo Speedwagon has sold 17 critically acclaimed albums, as well as scoring 13 Top 40 singles (which included two Billboard #1 hits). All together Reo Speedwagon has sold over 40 million records.