Vinyl

HOW WE DIG – Steve Maupin

How We Dig is a fledgling article series profiling Canadian record hunters. We aim to pick collector’s brains about their holy grails, favourite finds, discovery methods, and sources. For our first installment, we’re paying a visit to Steve Maupin and his insatiable appetite for COMPILATIONS OF OVERLOOKED GARAGE ROCK GENIUS.

Start Here – Nuggets Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era

The stereo and record player are among the first things unpacked in Steve Maupin’s new home in southeast Regina. The assortment in his LP bins skews toward 60s and 70s rock n roll, garage-inspired music from revivalists like Billy Childish, and a smattering of debut final albums of bands passed over by popular acclaim in their time – like Chrysalis, a hippy folk group who jammed literally across the street from Frank Zappa. While he likes to play records at home, Steve digs all types of musical formats: “tapes, old cds, or whatever.” When absorbed in his work as an electrical engineer, long compilations keep the day flowing with a consistent groove and few interruptions. He’ll devour one or two compilations per workday, and he’ll have gleaned his favourite 30 songs by the weekend.

Steve’s comp-hunting started with the Technicolour Web of Sound. From there he moved on to the Nuggets garage comps which led to volumes of Nuggets-influenced multi-volume compilations, such as Pebbles, Boulders and Rubble – each set containing around 80 minutes of bands and songs missed by earlier treasure hunts. Steve recommends the Back from the Grave series, a ten volume set of garage punkers, which started in 1983 (volume 9 and 10 were released in 2015). There’s a lot of choice material on the Chocolate Soup For Diabetics and the Garage Punk Unknowns series, too. Debris comps out of L.A. are pretty hard to come by, but they’re fully worth the effort of tracking down if you are an ambitious hunter. For Steve, the rabbit hole goes on and on – new releases of un-compiled 60’s rockers are released every month, with so many of them still unheard. Next on Steve’s queue is the Gravel series, a U.S. compilation that follows in the Nuggets tradition.

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Steve’s hunt for good garage tracks often involves mining a lot of material tagged online as “psych.” Much of what is now labeled as psych rock from the 60s is much more accurately understood to be garage rock. It often has very little to do with drugged sounds in particular, and is often only psychedelic in terms of its historic context, the 60s as the paisley blur of later generations’ selective sense of history. Closer to the source of the music itself, the wave of garage bands that Steve is most obsessed to discover were all spawned in the wake of the British Invasion; when starting a wild rock band with three of your school friends became a commonplace middle-classed aspiration. Gangs of four guys writing and building a sound together, taking on the world, inspired by The Kinks/The Beatles/The Rolling Stones. To Steve, DIY songs that came from the British Invasion’s aftershock is garage distilled to its most elemental form.

The Count Five – Psychotic Reaction

Steve is excited about the late 60s material from some regions approaching public domain soon and he is currently working on the second installment of his own compilation series. He would love to rediscover more Canadian garage rock along the lines of Buried Treasures: Winnipeg Rock Gems (1958-1974) which, in his eyes, is nearly as good as some of his favourite comps, including Drink Beer! Yell! Dance! and Copenhagen Beat.

Highly recommended: Copenhagen Beat

On the discovery front, there are also many blogs of generous diggers that post hoards of amazing “uncomped” gems, however many of these blogs get shut down. An example of this is the earlier incarnation of Surfadelic put together by Mr Eliminator. There are other sources omitted from this article. With that said, many still remain, or are being discovered. Steve praises Paradise of Garage Comps, an Italian blog run by Caveman. We highly recommend checking out any of Caveman’s 40-some volume series titled I’m Losing Tonight but I’m Winning Tomorrow!

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When vinyl hunting Steve sometimes discovers gold on Ebay like a first pressing of Kaleidoscope’s Tangerine Dream or Firebeats Inc’s self-titled debut. He’d love to find a 45 of The Rats – Rat’s Revenge, a gonzo two-part spazz jam that sounds vocally like it belongs more to the burned out late 70s or the drunkest greaser blowout. Steve says, “I’d love to travel to NYC or Akron, OH, to dig through the dust of forgotten 45s, but I just don’t have the time. I’m grateful to those who are doing the real work of rediscovering this stuff.”
Steve uses Rate Your Music rather than Allmusic or Discogs, and has no time for most review sites other than Amazon. The growing supply of garage comps on YouTube puts a lot of undiscovered genius on his radar. He loves to read the responses of artists and their relatives whose web presence is often a surprise to them: “Hey my grandpa played on that!” or “I had no idea anybody liked our stuff.”

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Throwing together his picks from favourites of other garage freaks, Steve is beginning to put out his own compilations of underappreciated old school garage rock gems. His first one is titled Garage Punk & Moody Losers. Only a few friends have CDR hardcopies of this labour of love. There’s a fair amount of acetate dub surface noise with some of the rarer songs, but it’s a high quality cross-section of Steve’s taste for garage rock. A few of his musically-gifted friends including Saskatoon’s The Garrys and Regina’s Herb and The Humans have responded favorably to the compilation. To hear most of the extended mix for yourself, it was recently posted to Soundcloud, here:

Garage Punk & Moody Losers is Steve Maupin’s debut compilation

There’s seemingly no end of recommendations of stellar comps and labels from Mr. Steve Maupin:
Fuzz-Tone Shakedown 
Mr Hotshot’s R & B Review
Surf Legends (And Rumors)
Wavy Gravy
Texas Flashbacks
Sixties Archives
Highs in the Mid Sixties
Crypt Records (The Back from the Grave series for sure)
The Sundazed label

We hope you find something above that draws you deeper into garage rock. Keep your eyes peeled for Copenhagen Beat copies or Debris comps in used bins wherever you hunt. Let us know if you find one.

If you have treasures or hunting methods to show or share with your fellow collectors in a future installment of How We Dig, contact Steve Reed here: howwedig@gmail.com. Whether your collection is deep or streamlined in volume, or broad or narrow in scope, we’d like to cover a diversity of collector backgrounds and interests, so don’t hesitate to reach out.


Steven Reed collects heavy weirdness from the abyss and ethereal planes. You might recognize his hooded scowl as a former synth wizard with Saskatoon’s Shooting Guns a few years back. By day he’s a housing support worker with Carmichael Outreach, Inc. He also works Thursday nights at T+A and loves it when friends and strangers tip him off about great albums of any kind. Put your favourites on his radar in person, by email, or on Instagram @stevedwightreed

ALBUMS TO OUTFITS – RFF 2015 edition

Regina Folk Fest edition 2015. All items are for sale this weekend at the Regina Folk Fest, Aug. 7-9.

“The Shit Disturber”

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“The Highwayman”

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“Tupelo Honey”

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“Kool Legged Babe”

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“I Get Wild”

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“My Favourite Vegetable”

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Manu Dibango – O Boso (London, 1972)

Manu Dibango has been churning out his soulful blend of jazz, funk and afrobeat for over half a century, despite in the Western Hemisphere being remembered often simply as a session player in Fela Kuti’s Africa 70, or more likely, not at all. Dibango, arguably the most important saxophone player alive in Cameroon, if not the whole of Africa, deserves more of the recognition that he so aptly received, with the release of O Boso, over forty years ago. His most successful album, released in the middle of his career—he actually has been active since the 50’s—offers a multitude of musical styles that defy easy categorization and a clear time-stamp. Lead single “Soul Makossa” practically invented disco, but looking back at this untarnished masterwork, which introduced the dance mantra “ma-mako, ma-ma-sa, mako-mako ssa” (refrained from Lafayette Afro Rock Band to Michael Jackson to Kanye West, and anyone with a passing interest in shaking a leg), is reflecting on the beginning of modern dance music in the late 20th century. Despite the single’s rarity in the Bronx upon its quiet release, it was a short time before the record went from coveted radio and dancehall gem to being covered by anyone who wanted to keep a beat longer than the then-standard three and a half minutes. The rest of O Boso is equally lasting, despite offering some somber turns in contemplative afro-folk tracks like “Lily” and the unlikely jazz fusion bellwether “Hibiscus”. Dibango has released countless albums, all worth seeking out, but this is the diamond in the rough worth coveting for a musical lifetime. Timeless and peerless, O Boso was a perfect glimpse of bright things to come in propulsive 4/4 time.

Vincent Zed

De La Soul – Three Feet High And Rising (Tommy Boy/Warner Bros., 1989)

One quarter of a century down the road that has been hip-hop’s journey from its
golden era to boom-bap selling pretzels in Rold Gold commercials, De La Soul’s
debut is holding up very well, thank you. It was a watershed moment in rap, only
partly thanks to the fresh stylings of members Posdnuos, Trugoy the Dove and
Pasemaster Mase. Their “Daisy Age” style and the era it beckoned arrived fully
formed, and had the three eschewing standard profanity and boasting for positivity
and inclusiveness. (The closest they get to shock rap here is referring to a female as
a “garden tool”, and only facetiously—not exactly a tact shared by contemporaries
NWA or 2 Live Crew.) Before the 90’s brought In Living Color, Do the Right Thing
and Cross Colors overalls, the three young wordsmiths, backed by initiate Prince
Paul, represented one of the most vibrant movements in the much smaller hip-hop
universe at the time, and America in general. Prince Paul, who produced the
entirety of the album and its many template-setting interludes, deservedly has been
immortalized for his deft filtering of samples through a rose-tinted lens. Whereas
the Bombsquad, responsible for building Public Enemy’s early and best beats out of
gnarly funk breaks, created a minefield for Chuck D to issue commands over, PP
stitched together a picnic blanket of sound. Never do the tracks threaten to taken
center stage, but rather embrace each vocalist in a supportive hug. Seriously.
Whether it be “The Magic Number”, “Eye Know” or “Buddy” (featuring fellow Native
Tongues members Jungle Brothers and Q-Tip), the love is palpable and the rhyme
delivery and production, positively lofty. Twenty-five years on, this near-perfect
introduction to De La is still rising.

Vincent Zed



Nicolas Jaar—Space Is Only Noise (Circus Company, 2011)

Nicolas Jaar’s Space is Only Noise is a slow-grower that somehow manages to gently fit the sonorous musings of Leonard Cohen and Robbie Robertson into a framework of modal techno and downbeat micro jazz.  There is a bit of saxophone, French spoken word, classical piano and café-compatible mood music here too, so one can be forgiven for initially writing this off as trivial background stuff to decorate your apartment with.  But really, this is headphone music of the highest order, weird and extremely re-playable.  “Problems with the Sun” is as quirky as it is ruminative and sounds like what DJ Screw would have managed if he pitched way down African-American work songs of the early 1900’s instead of Houston hip-hop.  Somehow, when time slows down to a syrupy crawl like this, one can balance worries about not getting enough accomplished with the fact that the clock is broken and it is impossible to keep track.  Space is Only Noise is a world apart from contemporary EDM and you can expect Jaar to get the time right more than twice here over its fourteen tracks.  These decidedly minor (some long, some extremely short) pieces that he cobbled together from years of recordings are miles apart from his work alongside Dave Harrington as Darkside, but resonate just as strongly.  Once that side-project ceases this fall, if Jaar is as prolific as has been intimated online, I have high hopes for future patchwork LP’s which may just still sound like what was once best about Isolée, Matthew Herbert, Deadbeat and even Mr. Cohen.  For now, Jaar is still our man when it comes to nearly uncategorizable electronic music so small that you could practically sweep it under any rug—one that you would gladly then dance upon.

Vincent Zed

Haircut One Hundred – Pelican West (Arista, 1982)

Judging by Haircut One Hundred’s relegation to the discount vinyl bin that time forgot, it is easy to place this early 80’s assembly as a new wave also-ran. But revisiting this important debut by an under-appreciated band yields plenty of comforts for someone pining for simpler times of plastic, polyester and bright-eyed optimism. Hardly the stuff of Margaret Thatcher-era England, mind you, but the soaring spirits of these preppy post-teens is far from milquetoast. Compared to the effervescent work of Culture Club and Spandau Ballet—also new wave, new romantic chart runners of the era who deserve more respect than they are now allotted—the first iteration of “the 100” is positively muscular, palpable pop. “Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)” could have been titled “Band Meets World” had there been longevity and foresight in the voice and heart of lead Nick Heyward. He is iridescent throughout the track’s take on Talking Heads-style afrotronics, several years before that became a thing with Byrne and cohorts’ Speaking in Tongues. This lead single, followed by the tropical crooner “Love Plus One” and two others, cracked the Top 10 in England, bringing the band brief radio play and prominence. Sadly, Heyward was too big for his Haircut and wool sweater; soon after Pelican West exhausted its singles, he attempted an unsuccessful solo career. Haircut One Hundred had one more album in them (the relatively dull Paint and Paint), but with a new, inexperienced lead, they never quite took off again.

Vincent Zed

 

John McLaughlin – Devotion (PIP, 1970)

Caught in a pocket of time between sojourns in Miles Davis’ fusion groups and the towering presence of Mahavishnu Orchestra, John McLaughlin’s Devotion is a pivotal instrumental work.  It is also a snapshot of the lyrical guitarist at his most raw and unadulterated.  The sunny idealism of the Summer of Love had soured into something more sinister and heavy by this time, and it shows in the prescient licks of this talented session guitarist and expert arranger, with a little bit more sweat and blood than usual.  McLaughlin has never had a heavier hand independently before the Devotion sessions, which occasionally elevate the composer and his crack team of musicians to heights later occupied by Mahavishnu.  While the latter perfected the push-pull of deft improvisation and beautifully ornate song structure, Devotion is a firm fist in the face that only incites the listener.  McLaughlin is coruscating here, and it may be hard to imagine that the rhythmic guitarist of Shakti—McLaughlin’s later Eastern spirituality-driven acoustic side project—could be capable of the horizontal dirge of “Devotion” and “Don’t Let the Dragon Eat Your Mother”, but there was a time when this multifaceted guitar instrumentalist had it in him.

Vincent Zed