Sunday, 8 January 2012

Toronto Tim Says: Closing Sale; A Record Store Lament

Here's where I offer up these pages to my great mate Tim Patrick in Canada.
Tim is a real enthusiast who just loves to love... stuff.
He's got great taste; I couldn't agree more about his choice of Joe Henry's 'Our Song', like a disaffected Carver short that breaks your heart; as does Joni's rework of 'Case of You' which is incredibly moving; and old lady's retelling of a youthful tryst.
I also confer on Marc Jordan's inconsistency; one minute jazzy schmaltz, the next he's nailing it with beautifully rendered ballads: 'When Rita', 'Lula, The Acrobat', 'I Must Have Said Your Name Out Loud' 'Tell Me You Love Me' and (the clincher for me) 'Tears of Hercules'. 
Anyway, here's Tim...
The last surviving independent record store closed up last week here in my home town... it was kind of sad. I've spent thousands of hours in similar little shops over the years, scouring the bins for that last CD that fills a 'hole' in a certain artist's discography, something recommended in Mojo, Uncut, Paste, Q or other music rags; heard in a movie/TV/sat radio; or just instinctively looking for something that may be a secret treasure... sometimes just by album art, producer, familiar name... haphazard blind purchases. Of course, it's a trivial pursuit; Amazon is so easy (maybe too easy?), but there's a certain adventure in weeding through thousands  of CD's, being careful not to flip past what may be something precious. Memories too: 
First 45: "Sweet Caroline" (Neil Diamond)  
First LP: "Best Of The Guess Who" (Guess Who) 
First CD: "Shamrock Diaries" (Chris Rea)
First EP: "Love & Regret-extended version" (Deacon Blue), and countless in between...

To be honest, the local shop wasn't a great place: limited selection, a little sterile, lacking the ambiance ofthe old-time grungy, chaotic places that I truly revel in. There is still one of those great little places 
deep in the heart of the city called Vortex Records, very reminiscent of the one in "High Fidelity".
Located above an Indian take-out restaurant, creaky crooked floors, stifling hot in summer
claustrophobic, with obscure CD's, LP's, DVD's jammed into every nook and cranny, lots of 'character'. 
The owner is a typical, eccentric music snob, often crusty and indifferent; other times surprisingly sociable, eager to chat about all sorts of music and film. After 35 years of running a business going the way of the dodo, he's always threatening to close it down. But then soberly mutters, "But what would I do?"  I love that place, the fragrant aroma of curry...

Anyway, the shop closing nearby, was selling most leftover stock (new and used) for 2 bucks... 
I felt kind of guilty, like a vulture picking the bones of a dying animal.  A final visit, leaving with a random handful of CD's and one DVD. As usual, surely a few disappointments off to Goodwill, and hopefully a few pleasant surprises! 
Wistfully, I have to accept that brick and mortar stores are very nearly a thing of the past...
Here are a few samples of some good "finds" from my recent trivial pursuit

MARK JORDAN: "MAKE BELIEVE BALLROOM" - I haven't listened to Marc Jordan since "Reckless Valentine" back in the 90's. 'Little Lambs' is a real heart-breaker about orphans and more. 
He never had any success even here in Canada, so he then became something of a "gun for hire" songwriter for the likes of Rod Stewart, Josh Groban, Bette Midler, Bonnie Raitt, Diana Ross and ugh... Cher and David Hasselhoff! Yeah, sounds pretty treacly and unpromising doesn't it? But I remembered that Cassidy loved Marc Jordan, and the great lyric, "I wish this pain would just go away, I wish that dogs had wings..."  So when I came across "Make Believe Ballroom" I hesitantly added it it to my stash. Turns out to be a solid jazzy album, and 'When Rita Takes The A Train' is a marvelous track! Thanks for the tip off, TJ!


JOE HENRY: "CIVILIANS" - My impatience allowed me lose track of Joe Henry when he drifted into jazzy Wait's style sonic experimentation, but I decided for a couple of bucks to give "Civilians" a shot... Organic and tuneful, it turns out to be a winner! One of the most moving pieces I've heard in a long while is 'Our Song'. An observed narrative (fictitious?), about a discreet encounter with octogenarian baseball player Willy Mays testing garage door springs in a hardware store may not seem like great songwriting fodder, but this is much more; actually a profound allegory about the inherent brokenness of America. Besides being one of greatest ballplayers of all time, Willy was the epitome of quiet grace and class... some might say, the antithesis of Muhammad Ali. Both felt the sting of racial inequality and strife, and each chose different paths. I don't know if my Euro-friends can empathize with the characters, the DIY tech metaphors or sentiment of this one, but for me this one is a genuine "dart to the heart." 


NATALIE MACMASTER : "IN MY HANDS" -  A Canadian gal from the Maritimes, an area of Celtic heritage and music, she is primarily a Celtic fiddling purist, traditional jigs and reels; not my favorite genre , but occasionally strays into quasi-pop territory. When I first saw her a few years ago, she had a CBC Showcase special, and I was charmed by her humble grace and beauty. She had a few guests, the Chieftains I recall, a talented Canadian musician Bruce Guthro with whom she played a lovely tune called "Fiddle and Bow." She then brought on Alison Krauss to sing "Get Me Through December," the melody taken from the traditional 18th century air "Lament For The Death Of His Second Wife," by Scottish fiddler Niel Gow. Alison sings like an angel, Nat's fiddling subtle and gorgeous, and the arrangement heavenly. A sad, moving song that I always intended to buy, but was probably hesitant to pay full price for one tune and a bunch of fiddling. Here was my opportunity. Worth it for the one gem!
I couldn't find NATALIE MACMASTER's version so here is Alison Krauss's version of:

ELECTRONIC : "TWISTED TENDERNESS" - I enjoyed the first Electronic release, but the follow-up was a bit of a sophomore slump. Hadn't heard great reviews about this one either, but to my happy surprise it's actually a very good record; Johnny Marr rocking as hard as I've ever heard him play. Jimi Goodwin of  Doves on bass, and Bernie Sumner reliable as ever. Crank the volume to "11" for this one !

JONI MITCHELL - "BOTH SIDES NOW" - Another Canadian gal, an icon this one. Many months ago there was a short film on the Arts Channel. A modern dance concept piece, a series of dance performances accompanied by Joni's mostly orchestral numbers, tracing the journey of a modern romantic relationship - from first meeting, through the full cycle of ensuing dramatic experiences. I had never heard the updated versions of Joni's classics, and was blown away by their majesty, accompanied by the sensual visuals of the dance choreography. I bought "Travelogue," Joni's symphonic make-over CD, but had yet to get "Both Sides Now," containing a bunch of so-so covers of old non-Joni "standards." Also there were new orchestrated versions of 'A Case Of You' and 'Both Sides Now'... both beautiful. I've heard a few narrow folk call this version of "A Case Of You" blasphemous, bombastic overkill, preferring the homely dulcimer driven original.  I believe it's one of Joni's most soulful performances. Her voice has matured beautifully, and the melody, lyrics and orchestration... timeless.


THE REAL TUESDAY WELD - "THE LONDON BOOK OF THE DEAD" - I don't know anything about this band. But I watched a movie, "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist," one which I wouldn't recommend. I can only recall some kids looking for some band named "Fluffy," and vomiting. Oh, and a song on the soundtrack called 'Last Words' that caught my ear. I'm not too crazy about the rest of the album, very quirky stuff, but this one is pretty cool. Sure to find a place on one of my "Square Peg" mix CD's. Here's the accompanying cheesy video...



  1. Pleased you mentioned "Tears Of Hercules" in the intro. I really wanted to use it as a clip but there was nothing on Youtube. Love the song! Wondering how you became aware of Marc?
    I'm still not sure how the specificity of "Our Song" will resonate with many folk. I don't think that Henry is an "ordinary Joe", but he seems to know the heart of one.
    "Ghost of Song"... is there a track listing posted somewhere?
    Thanks again for polishing my humble turd.

    Tim (no longer anonymous!)

  2. An Italian friend (Max Massimo) turned me on to Marc.
    I'll email you 'Ghost of Song' track list.
    Please keep the (sweet) turds coming...

  3. Well, I thought I would take the opportunity to respond to my good friend Tim’s blog on the closing of a local CD/Record store. First I should explain that this is my first ever blog entry (and I’m nervous)…The reason I have never done this before is not because I have anti-social media tendencies or am a luddite, rather it's simply because I'm always at work and have not found time to get my home computer fixed even though it has been almost three years now. Oh well, enough about that...

    The reason for my first foray into the blogosphere is to compliment Tim on his blog. Well done Tim! You captured the feelings and memories perfectly of those long lost days. For many, many years the first stop after cashing my pay cheque every Friday afternoon was the old Record Rack in Aurora, Ontario, Canada to search for hidden gold or if I was lucky, platinum. Searching through the miscellaneous sections from A to Z was the best. When the Record Rack was looking for some part-time help I convinced them to hire me. I told them that they already knew I was going to show up every week and I would just spend my earnings on records was a classic win-win situation. Even back then, in 1987, I recall one of the owners saying that he could already see "the writing on the wall". What he was referring to was actually only the old "Columbia House" mail order program. As a full-time mailman he could see more and more people purchasing records that way. Perhaps that was the forerunner of internet shopping. It makes me wonder if sometime in the future if there will be a nostalgia filled blog-equivalent about the demise of mp3 internet downloads. Hmmmm.

    Oh well, back to reality. In response to Tim's article I have tried to recall some of my first musical milestones and the best as I can remember they are as follows:

    First 45 - Alone again Naturally - Gilbert O'Sullivan

    First LP - The Best of Tony Orlando & Dawn (give me a break...I was probably only 9).

    First EP - maybe "Cars & Girls" by Prefab Sprout.

    Last LP - ?

    First CD - Songs from the Big Chair - Tears for Fears.

    Thanks again Tim!

    P.S. Many thanks to you as well Trevor! I love your music and stories and they have gotten me through many long days at work. If you check your website and see the I.P. address of someone listening to your music over and over again…that’s me at work at a tile store! Oh well, I have to go…I think the boss is coming. Gee, I hope tiles never go digital.


    1. Ok its 21 months since this post, but I've gotta ask: is this Eric whose father nailed a piece of 2x4 to the side of your Nova (?) to keep the door shut when it wouldn't latch? If so, it's Stu from The Record Rack. One of the best jobs I ever had. Course I didn't make a cent, but I had an amazing music collection....


    2. Hi Stuart...

      If you happen to read this, that was indeed my best pal, big Eric's comment you replied to. His one and only on the entire internet!!! Although he's a computer genius, he doesn't do the social networking thing at all (except this once!). However, he remembers you well, and has fond memories of the good old Record Rack. He was blown away when he saw your comment here. The million dollar question is... HOW???

      PS: Not sure how you did it, but you've come to the blog of the world's best band... Miracle Mile. You must check them out!

  4. Thanks Eric, nice that you've broken your duck here.
    Humble and happy that MM are part of your daily life, cheers!
    Interesting 'firsts'; I've a soft spot for Gilbert O'Sullivan, used to get quite emotional as a kid when he sang his sad songs, particularly 'Alone Again...'
    Not sure about Tony Orlando; was he the 'Tie a Yellow Ribbon' guy?
    If so... I'm not sure about Tony Orlando...
    Prefabs always rank on my best of lists (Steve McQueen esp) and Tears for Fears were great until their hair got bigger than their music.
    FYI my firsts were:
    First 45: 'Without You' Nilsson
    First LP: 'The Osmonds Live' (I was 9 also...)
    First EP: 'Twist and Shout' The Beatles
    First CD: 'Tango in the Night' Fleetwood Mac which was £16.99 back then!
    Keep visiting and commenting Eric, good to chat....