The Cosmic Psycho’s album Blokes You Can Trust is sheer gold from deep in the WOBC vault-mine. The Australian punk band is hanging by their threads to keep playing. Their ’91 album, off of Amphetamine Reptile Records was the first with guitarist Robbie ‘Rocket’ Watts, who died in 2006.
This one’s Angst with a capital A for sure. There’s a lot of easy, definitely relatable lyrics here. But these hard-drinking vulgarians from Melbourne are closet poets. In “Elle”, the last track on the album, we get ’I see you standing on the boat, shedding your clothes to stay afloat’, while the back vocalist groans, ‘Break my arm, break heart, tear my shirt’.
The rest is a little less romantic. ’Back at School’ is nice, moshy and grimey. Jump up and down for ‘Just good to be back at school’. Tons of shredding. ’Loser’ and ‘Nightshift’ follow suit. Come into WOBC’s vault for a listen!
WOBC has a lot of records. It’s a well-known fact that if you line up all the vinyl the WOBC vault has, it will circle the equator three times. If you stacked all of the records on top of each other, you will reach the exosphere. The weight of all of our vinyl will crush the Eiffel Tower. The combined speed of the RPM of our vinyl is enough to go back in time. So what to do with all these records? Well, sometimes they sit around on the third floor of Wilder — lonely… unseen… untouched. Sometimes, though, they get taken out and played on air! And sometimes, they’re corralled and examined and analyzed by “Vinyl Workgroup,” or “those geeky losers.” Well here’s a quick sampling of stuff you might not know is in the WOBC vault…
So the vault has, among other things, an incredible selection of Anthony Braxton records, something like 10 or 15 of his most important stuff from the 70s and 80s. This is fantastic. “For Alto” was maybe his first big record, from 1968 — it’s more than an hour of just him and a saxophone. An alto saxophone. I’m bad at writing about music I like, so I’ll just give it to you. This one is “To Pianist Cecil Taylor.” (We have some of Cecil in the vault too.)
There’s this section at the end of all the pop stuff that’s called “Anthologies.” Mostly it’s record companies in the 60s and 70s sending samples of their artists to WOBC. Warner and Reprise happened to do one of these in 1971 called, for whatever reason, “Non-Dairy Creamer.” There’s usually a reason these people needed some extra publicity on the labels’ parts, but it’s always a great artifact. Here’s a prog-rock band called “Curved Air,” and it quickly becomes pretty obvious that the song is called “It Happened Today.”
Clarence Clemons made a solo album. He actually apparently made quite a few, and of course in the vast ocean of mostly anonymous, mostly mediocre 80s rock the vault contains it would stand to reason that you’d find a Clarence Clemons solo album. This one is from his debut effort, with “The Red Bank Rockers.” This song’s called “A Man in Love,” and yeah, it kind of sounds like Springsteen. It’s not bad.
Chris Cornell, lead singer and songwriter of the grunge group Soundgarden, which broke up in 1997, came back to his audience with music that was much more different than what he had ever done before. His first solo album, Euphoria Morning, released in 1999, gave way to a new beginning for this incredibly talented singer after parting ways with his previous band. This album is nothing like his work with Soundgarden. By the time Soundgarden’s Down on the Upside was released in 1997, it was becoming a bit noticeable that the singer was looking for something different. Chris had already shown his aspirations as a solo artist with his contributions to Cameron Crowe’s film, Singles, in 1992. What this record showcases is not the typical sludge metal, grunge sound that is familiar in Cornell’s past. This is more of an experiment which pulls in influences from psychedelic rock. Euphoria Morning is not an over produced arena rock album like Soundgarden’s records, albeit they are all excellent. Cornell’s singing is more organic and much more intimate here. This is not to say that Euphoria Morning is not a big production, but it sounds more natural. Natasha Shneider and Alain Johannes from the band Eleven, are key figures on this record as both of them assist with all the production and most of the musical accompaniment. Euphoria Morning is a record that invokes several different moods and explores a vast landscape of emotion with superlative songwriting.
Tucked away in the far corner of WOBC’s music library lies the hallowed WOBC Jazz Vault, a sprawling history of 80s bebop revival, commercial blues, Count Basie’s entire career, explicit photos of Herbie Mann, and a few rare gems. The WOBC Jazz Work Group, a spritely group of young Oberlin jazzheads, dove headfirst into the vault to seek out the dustiest of the dusty, the rarest of the rare. Here’s what we came up with:
Oliver Nelson, Blues and the Abstract Truth
Released in 1961 on Impulse! records, this record is an absolute classic. Nelson’s lush horn arrangements are in a league of their own on this hard-swinging collection of entirely blues compositions. The lineup on this date is unbeatable: Paul Chambers, bass; Eric Dolphy, sax, flute; Bill Evans, piano; Roy Hanes, drums; Freddie Hubbard, Trumpet; George Barrow, sax.
Keith Jarrett, The Koln Concert
It is rare that commercial success aligns itself with the highest artistry, but the recording of Keith Jarrett’s legendary concert of solo improvisations in Koln, Germany is a standout exception. It’s one of the highest-selling jazz records of all time, and for good reason: Jarrett’s uninhibited emotion and limitless outpour of ideas on this record is simply stunning.
Jimmy Heath, Love and Understanding
Tenor sax man and multi-instrumentalist Jimmy Heath was at the forefront of the movement towards a new funkified spirituality in early 70s jazz. Love and Understanding is a classic example of Heath’s compositional style during this period, not to mention a killer band backing him up: Curtis Fuller, trombone; Bernard Fennell, cello; Stanley Cowell (Oberlin alum), piano; Bob Cranshaw, bass; Billy Higgins, drums.
Yusef Lateef, The Diverse Yusef Lateef
Brother Yusef Lateef: woodwind virtuoso, master composer, spiritual guru. This album is a great summary of Lateef’s style: it’s got swing, funk, free improv, and some deep spirituality. Yusef plays a menagerie of instruments on this date: tenor sax, flute, bamboo flute, Chinese globular flute, Buddhist flute, tamboura, Chinese cymbals, and other percussion instruments. In the depth of his influences and originality, Lateef is virtually unmatched, especially on this Atlantic recording from 1970.
Roland Kirk, Funk Underneath
This is the beloved, playful, seriously swinging sax man Rahsaan Roland Kirk at his best. This record features the masterful hammond organ playing of Jack McDuff, supported by Art Taylor on drums and Joe Benjamin and bass. Most of the tracks on the record are Kirk originals, showcasing the soulful and bluesy tendencies of both his solos and his compositional style. Recorded in 1961, Funk Underneath is a surprisingly progressive and groove-oriented release from Prestige Records, and a rare pull from the cavernous depths of the vault.
If you’re in the station anytime soon, look in the jazz bin to check out all of the above records and more rare vinyl finds. In this digging session, we only scratched the surface of WOBC’s jazz collection. If you want constant access to all this tasty wax, you should apply for a jazz show in the fall and sign up for the workgroup!
Jimmy Heath, Keith Jarrett, Oliver Nelson, Roland Kirk, Yusef Lateef
The James and Susan Neumann Jazz Collection is the largest privately owned collection of jazz materials in the United States, and possibly the world. James Neumann, proprietor of the collection and an Oberlin Alumnus, decided last year to donate all of the materials to Oberlin. So far, the school has received about 45,000 vinyl LPs along with thousands of jazz periodicals and collectibles, which does not event amount to half of the entire collection. The recordings will not be available for students for some time, which is why WOBC has decided to give followers a regular taste of the collection’s rare gems. Disclaimer: Information and music posted are sourced from WOBC copies of albums also included in the Neumann Collection.
This week’s dig from the collection is a beauty: an original pressing of John Coltrane’s masterpiece A Love Supreme. This particular vinyl copy of the album is in its original monoaural format, kept in absolutely pristine condition since its pressing in the year of the record’s release, 1965. The amount of A Love Supreme copies of this kind probably amounts to a few thousand—but in terms of copies that are still in perfect condition, there must only be a handful in existence.
A Love Supreme was originally released on Impulse! records in February 1965. The whole record was cut in one session on December 9th, 1964 at the studio of master engineer Rudy Van Gelder in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. The personnel on the record consists of Coltrane’s legendary quartet of the early to mid-1960s: McCoy Tyner on Piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, Elvin Jones on drums. The music is a suite in four parts: I. Acknowledgment; II. Resolution; III. Pursuance; IV. Psalm. Each movement is dedicated to a different aspect of Coltrane’s newfound devotion to God in the 1960s, and his deep spirituality is viscerally apparent in every moment of the record. Musically, each movement is based on a simple modal chord structure, over which Coltrane plays a short theme and then engages in a more or less “free” improvisation with the other members of the group.
The design and layout of this particular printing of the album is unique for Impulse! records. Most Impulse! releases bear a colorful photograph on the cover, the signature black and orange label on the side binding, and a foldout that includes liner notes, additional information, and photos of the featured musicians. The original release of A Love Supreme, however, bears a stunning black-and-white photo of Coltrane’s face in a position of meditative repose, a matching black-and-white side label, and a foldout that is filled up by a hand-drawn image of Coltrane playing his instrument and personal inscription from the saxophonist/composer proclaiming his love for The Almighty.
It’s clear from the design of the whole package that the record label felt this release needed special treatment. Impulse! turned out to be correct in its projection of the album’s importance: it is one of the best-selling jazz records of all time, and is held as a centerpiece of inspiration by countless musicians. It goes whithout saying that Oberlin is extremely privileged to own an original, mint-condition record of this historic album.
Have you scavenged through the folk vault recently? Dusty but thrilling. These compilation records are a real jam for those admirers of alternative country from the late eighties. The albums were released separately and a few years later combined in CD form. (Note: Volume 3 was also released but not in the WOBC vault) The musicians featured were rising alt country stars in Bakersfield, California. Bakersfield has cultivated the sound of a few notable country music stars, Buck Owens and Merle Haggard for example. The city is even noted for a ‘Bakersfield sound’ which originated in honky-tonk bars in the 50s. Take a listen.