THE TECHNIQUE OF RECORD BOXING

1443113209 h

We may be deep in a much ballyhooed vinyl revival but surprisingly, record cases haven’t seemed to have kept pace. With all these folks buying records again from their local record store Whole Foods, you would think there’d be more variety in boxes/cases available. RSD has nudged this along incrementally, especially with prestige releases that tout special packaging but compare the variety of vintage cases you might find on eBay or Etsy vs. new cases being manufactured now and you feel like there’s a missed opportunity.

The last time I saw anyone drop an interesting new case was Numero Group in 2012 for their massive Omnibus release. Even though I found the specs just a hair too tight, it didn’t feel like they were simply slapping a new skin on the same base case that everyone else uses.

I’m thinking about all this (again) because I recently got in the new Beat Bop Bundle from the folks at Get On Down. They already have some decent cases out there, including a faux reptile case that I use as my standard go-to 45 tote though I also like the canvas skin on their People Records case. Both are probably just skins-on-base-cases but the inner removable tray is a smart design feature for gigging out since it allows you to pack the case but then use the tray as a way of having twice as much room to rifle through your records.

This LP/12″ case that comes with the Beat Bop Bundle is something else though. Maybe it’s all that black but it just feels…substantial and slightly severe (in a good way). It’s certainly one of the bigger cases I have; even a couple of inches in height goes a long way. The reinforced corners, much like an anvil-style case (albeit this uses plastic corners) also makes you feel like this thing was built for abuse or the like.

This said, if I’m being candid here: it feels a bit bulky for its own good. It’s heavy just empty so I imagine that at full capacity (50 records/25 lbs), this would be a challenge to slog around, especially without a shoulder strap to even out the load. The lid is also substantial enough that if the case isn’t that full, the whole thing will tip over with the lid open; not ideal.

On the flipside, if you needed a case that could double as a blunt force weapon in a club scrum, this might come in handy. And if you were to combo this with a mid-90s Brooklyn throwback outfit – 20 below Timbos, black bubble goose – you’d be looking real proper. I know I haven’t even gotten to the music but while it’s cool to have a special edition of “Beat Bop”, complete with liner notes by Noz, it looks quite lonely inside that massive case. The disc feels like the bonus but the real package here is the box itself.


COS 015 bundle 675

I also recently got in Cultures of Soul new Brasileiro Treasure Box of Funk and Soul 7″ Box Set. Inside, you get seven 7″s, with about a third of them featuring songs that, far as I know, were never on 7″ single to begin with. That includes one of my favorite funky Brazilian cuts: “Bananeira” by Emiliano Santiago. I’m also feeling this one by Célia: “A Hora É Essa“. All in all, I didn’t know most of the songs on here so at the very least, I’m getting an education.

As for the actual box…eh. It’s ultimately a box for shelving purposes; it’s not designed for travel and odds are, you wouldn’t take the entire collection out to a gig but simply select a few 45s. I’m not a fan of the top-loading lid here, namely because it’s too shallow to allow you to flip through the 45s without first pulling them out. That’s a similar issue with “fold out” boxes (see below) but at least with those, you have cleaner lines on the front cover since you don’t have the lid breaking things up horizontally.

I also wish they had printed the track listing on the back. What they have is an insert that lines up on the back…if the box is still in the shrink. But once you take it out, the insert has no place to go (it’s slightly too big to fit into the box itself so it seems like you’re just meant to toss it).


Last but not least is the Big Box of Afrosound that Vampisoul released, with the curatorial help of DJ Bongohead. Musically, it’s the most generous: ten 7″s. And for me, it’s definitely the one that I vibe the most with sonically if only because I’m such a fan of the Afrosound, er, sound.1

I especially appreciate that more than half the songs on here were never on 45 to begin with, including “Salsa Boogaloo” by Sexteto Miramar, which I wasn’t familiar with prior. As with the Brasileiro box, even those songs that have been on 45 before aren’t exactly records you’re going to stumble across in your local U.S. store, especially standouts like Wganda Kenya’s wicked “Fiebre De Lepra” or one of my all-time favorite cumbias: “Cumbia De Sal” by Cumbias en Moog (which is as awesome as you may guess).

The Big Box had fold-up/out lid which is a decent compromise in terms of keeping the cover art intact and still allowing you to flip through the 45s from right to left once fully opened. If I had to nitpick…not a big fan of the cover art but c’est la vie.

There you go: a few boxes (literally!) for you to sample.

  1. Full disclosure, I helped Bongohead with this project at a very early stage though I can’t remember if it was with “Mammy Blue” or a different Fruko song that didn’t make the cut.

THE FLIPSIDE OF STAX

Never To Be Forgotten: The Flip Side Of Stax 1968 – 1974

Light in the Attic created this 7″ reissue set for Record Store Day and it’s a very cool way to 1) pay tribute to one of the greatest labels in soul history and 2) break true fanatics off with 10 reissued 7″ singles, ranging from some of their better know hits (“BLind Alley”) to lesser known gems (“Them Hot Pants”). Killer packaging and a really impressive set of liner notes that features testimonials from Jim Stewart, Al Bell and others).1 I recently rapped with Light in the Attic’s Matt Sullivan about the story behind this set:

The Stax catalog is one of the most well-compiled in the history of soul music; why choose it for the focus of a 7″ box set?

No question. Surprisingly though, there’s never been a proper 45s box of the label. In 2010, we spent a month in Memphis and fell in love with the city and the people at Stax. It was also an excuse to once again work with our favorite writer on the planet, Memphis native Andria Lisle.

Given how massive that catalog is too, how did you choose the singles that would finally go in?

It wasn’t easy and felt incredibly daunting trying to limit it to ten 45s. We chose to focus on the later half of Stax and singles that we’re more off the radar. Musician and KEXP DJ Johnny Horn helped narrow it down, picking many of his choice favorites. Patrick Montier at the Stax fan site kindly helped out as well.

Was there every a temptation to deviate from the original A/B-sides? In other words, you could have paired a different set of Emotions songs rather than reproduce the original one.

We must’ve went back and forth on that idea for months, actually well over a year. In the end, deviating from the original 45s felt a little like ‘we’re not worthy.’ Maybe we’re purists and couldn’t stomach altering the past.

Excellent liner notes and testimonials; was it difficult to get folks like Bell and Rauls to contribute?

That was pretty much all Andria. She’s close with many of the Stax alum (and the best damn tour guide in Memphis), having written about the label over the years. As for Phillip Rauls, I reached out to Phillip, who was the Promotions Manager for Stax starting in ’68 till the bankruptcy. He runs a fantastic blog where he shares memories and photos from his days in the business. Initially I contacted Phillip for permission to use his photos for the booklet, but once I spoke with him on the phone I realized that he had great stories to share, so Andria interviewed him for a separate section about the label’s ambition plan to release 27 albums and 30 singles in a 12 month period.

Why a 7″ set? Who do you see as the prime audience for this set?

We love 45s. The audience? Collectors, DJs, indie rock kids, old timers…


Check out sound clips and order the set directly from LITA.

  1. Full disclosure: I was asked to submit a mini-testimonial on the Melvin Van Peebles 7″ in the set.

THE SIDEBAR #4: LEO SACKS, PRODUCER OF “TAKE A LOOK”

201101_Aretha-box-image.jpg

A few weeks back, NPR’s All Things Considered ran my review of the new Take a Look: Aretha Franklin Complete on Columbia, a massive, 12 disc boxset that assembles 10 hours of recordings that Aretha put together in her years at Columbia in the early to mid 1960s.

I’ve been, in some form or another, been writing about this catalog for years now so it was a delight to have the set come out and have at least one more swing at talking about it. A few days later, I received an email from Leo Sacks who, among other hats, happened to be the producer of Take a Look and he was gracious enough to take some time out this past weekend to talk to me on the phone about putting together the set and what it says about Aretha’s larger legacy.

We discussed some of the lingering questions around how Aretha’s Columbia catalog should be seen and I thought Leo was both candid and philosophical about its strengths – and shortcomings – but ultimately wanted people to listen to the set less as a “before vs. after” comparison but more as an evolution over time that includes remarkable moments of transcendent music-making regardless of which label adorned her records. Here’s the main interview, complete with examples drawn from over a dozen songs.


The Sidebar #4: Leo Sacks, Aretha Franklin producer/compiler
 

Subscribe to this and future podcasts.

I also have some bonus material. Leo spoke at length about the “making of” the boxset as well as what he sees as his duty/responsibility to “legacy” recordings. Peep:

Bonus Material: Leo Sacks on the “making of” Take a Look.
 

Subscribe to this and future podcasts.


In addition to the songs on the podcast from Take a Look, we also included “pairings” with songs from Aretha’s Atlantic catalog, all of which can be found on The Queen of Soul: The Atlantic Recordings.

Related links:

  • The video promo for Take a Look
  • The Raymond Myles documentary being written and directed by Leo Sacks.
  • Aretha performing “One Step Ahead“, live.
  • My 2005 podcast on Aretha’s Columbia years.
  • Obituary for pianist, bandleader and Aretha’s first collaborator at Columbia, Ray Bryant.
  • 2010 REVIEW (NEW)

    ALBUMS. Major caveat: over the last few years, I’ve really relinquished any claim to being a “pop critic” in the broad sense of the term. I don’t make a living nor pursue a hobby in staying on top of pop music trends (and truly, even at the height of my freelance career, I was always writing about specific genres, never “pop” at large). That’s not to say I’ve abandoned pop at all; I love pop music but I feel no compunction to be in the mix with every major release. As a result, this list below is highly personal but isn’t meant to be a definitive statement as to “the best albums of 2010.” They’re just my favorites.

  • Erykah Badu: New Amerykah Part 2 (Return of the Anhk) (Motown). The previous installment might be more critically acclaimed but song-for-song, I don’t think I enjoyed any album more than this one. Loved how the album simultaneously nodded to the ’70s and ’90s.
  • Joe Bataan: Singin’ Some Soul (Fania/Codigo). Also available on vinyl. I’m obvious biased here since I wrote the liner notes but this is easily the best pure soul album released during the whole “Latin soul” era and until this year, hadn’t been re-released on vinyl, ever.
  • The Black Keys: Brothers (Nonesuch). My bad – I’m actually annoyed at myself for neglecting to write this up earlier in the year because it was a surprisingly delightful discovery on my end (even though the band isn’t new…just new for me). These two Akron brothers went down to Muscle Shoals to record this and the result might get labeled “blues rock” but it’s a much more impressive chimera between garage, psych, funk and soul.
  • Chicano Batman: Chicano Batman (Unicornio). This EP from a trio of local Angelinos scored the summer of 2010 in all the best ways: dreamily languorous and melancholy.
  • Cut Chemist: Sound of the Police (Stable Sound). Not just a capstone for all the incredible African-themed material released this past year but the fact that Cut put this together so seamlessly with one turntable + a foot pedal is a mindblowing feat of mixing.
  • Syl Johnson: The Complete Mythology (Numero Group). A new gold standard in career anthologies?
  • Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings: I Learned the Hard Way (Daptone). Every album has been a step forward for the crew and this fourth outing is no different. Vinyl hounds are highly advised to get with the 7″ boxset version of the album.
  • Tammi Terrell: Come On and See Me (Hip-O Select). For the first time, a complete collection of Tammi Terrell’s solo material. Way overdue and completely revelatory to anyone who only thought of Terrell as “Marvin Gaye’s singing partner.”
  • V/A: Good God! Born Again Funk (Numero Group). The Syl Johnson is the more thorough package but this second installment in Numero’s gospel funk series got far more rewinds from me. More volumes please.
  • V/A: Luk Thung! The Roots Of Thai Funk (Zudranama, 2010). I know The Sound of Siam (which I haven’t spent enough time with) is a more prominent release given the Soundways connection but I can say, without hesitation, that Luk Thung! was a revelation and that, if you like either comp, you should absolutely grab the other. The blend of styles and rhythms with Thai singing is so striking and memorable and the custom packaging may be gimmicky but that doesn’t mean it’s not still good.

    SINGLES

  • Akwid: Esto Es Pa Mis Paisas. La Raza for 2010 w/ banda tuba, ftw! RIP Bobby Espinoza.
  • B.o.B. (feat. Bruno Mars): Nothin’ On You . I didn’t care much for the actual lead artist on this but Bruno Mars’ hook is one helluva earworm.
  • California Swag District: Teach Me How to Dougie. This beat was bubblegum, so I had to chew it.
  • Cee-Lo: Fuck You. Forget “Forget You.” (Don’t sleep on Dennis Coffey’s version!)
  • Fat Joe: Slow Down (Ha Ha). Every few years, Fat Joe will hook up with the right producer and kill. Last time around, it was with Just Blaze. This time, Scoop Deville flips Soul II Soul something lovely for this heater.
  • Mayer Hawthorne: I Need You (Stonesthrow). Slow release year for Mayer given his touring but at least he and Nottz blessed us this lovely little summer slow jam. (Still avail on 12″)
  • Lil Wayne (feat. Cory Gunz): 6’7″. Is it time to retire the 808 clap? Only if this track makes it under the wire.
  • Lord Echo (feat. Lisa Tomlins): Thinking Of You. It’s hard to improve on anything that Niles Rodgers and Bernard Edwards put together but New Zealand’s Mike Fabulous aka Lord Echo makes a pretty good case with his cover.
  • Quantic: Dre En Cumbia. Totally self-serving of me to include this since I’m claiming (partial) credit for its inspiration. C’mon though; it’s pretty frickin’ cool, no?
  • Kanye West (feat. Pete Rock, Jay-Z, Charlie Wilson, Kid Kudi): The Joy. My first reaction when I heard this over the fall was to say, “man, Pete let that Curtis loop go too long. But then I heard Kanye’s album, with its endless codas and I forgave Pete and then some. This sounds so much better after suffering through 8+ minutes of “Runaway.” This would never have fit into the album; another reason to applaud the GOOD Friday series.

    BOOKS

    Dan Charnas: The Big Payback. You already know what’s up.

    Jay-Z: Decoded. More about Jay-Z than you’d thought you’d ever want to know.

    Nasher Museum of Art: The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl [Catalogue]. Makes you want to drive out to Durham, NC to see this incredible show about the art and culture of vinyl records; for those who can’t make it in person, this is the next best thing.

  • MERSEY, MERSEY ME

    Once upon a time, there were these four lads from Liverpool… and, well, you know the rest. Pretty much, they conquered the world, and music hasn’t been the same since. It’s quite a testament that 40+ years later, people are still going nuts over them. (Could the same be said for one of today’s contemporary artists in 2050?) This past week, Beatlemania swept the USA (and possibly the rest of the world) again.

    While I only got heavily into them about 3 years ago albums-wise, I was immediately taken in by their depth and songwriting from songs I hadn’t heard on the radio growing up. So my listening experience has been limited to the 1987 discs. Until the remastered albums came out this week, I had no idea how muddy the ’87 discs were.

    Tuesday night, I received a sampler in the mail featuring 32 of the songs (2 songs from each of the stereo discs) from the remastering project . Now I’m no hardcore audiophile, but it doesn’t take one to hear how crisp the snares and hi-hats sound. Additionally, the bass and low-end is greatly enhanced. Did you know they had a bass player in the band?

    Wednesday I was able to score a Stereo box set (even after a mix-up from the store I had pre-ordered from) and even more fortunately was able to get a hold of the Mono box set from a Best Buy on another side of town (a HUGE thank you to Stacey for holding it for me!). Aside from the Past Masters releases, I’ve made it through the rest of the stereo releases. So far I’ve only spot-checked a few of the mono mixes, but what I’ve heard so far – “Helter Skelter,” “She’s Leaving Home,” “I Am The Walrus,” and “I’ve Just Seen A Face” to name a few – have sounded fantastic. While longtime collectors and listeners are still arguing the merits of the original vinyl releases versus the remasters, according to Allan Rouse, the leader of the project, these are the most true-to-form representation of the master tapes.

    Aside from the music, the packaging is fantastic. The Mono set faithfully recreates the album covers and packaging even to the most minute detail such as a replica of the paper sleeve in each release (you even get the Sgt. Pepper cut-outs!). The Stereo set has never-before-seen photos as well as excellent liner notes on high-gloss paper in each release. Hands down it’s the best packaging I’ve ever seen for a CD release, beating out Bear Family’s “Blowin’ The Fuse” series – my previous vote for best packaging of a set.

    Barring an all-out remix to these tracks, these are the definitive versions of The Beatles. Unless you’re a collector of all things Beatles, you can trade the ’87 discs in for store credit toward the purchase of the new releases (or put them on your Christmas list) and not feel one bit bad about it. For those of you like me who have never gotten to hear the mono versions, we can hear The Beatles in a “new” way. Now is the most affordable time to hear them, but act fast as the Mono set is limited (although another small run is being manufactured due to the high demand) and was already on backorder from most retailers even before release day.

    SOUL SIDES BOXSET #2 – NOW AVAILABLE!


    It took a while but the second Soul Sides boxset is finally available. The first one was an in-depth look at Aretha Franklin and this latest tackles one of my favorite genres: Latin boogaloo.

    Included are a full, downloaable playlist of songs, a selection of compilations, a small set of videos and recommended other reading. All annotated in an edutainment tradition by yours truly. Now that this boxset is finally launched, I’ll use it as an excuse to get back to a few boogaloo themed posts here on Soul Sides.

    What I need from ya’ll is to help support the Boxset series by posting comments there (not here!). The more interactivity I can generate, the more I can justify my future work for Uber on the Boxset series.

    Presenting the Soul Sides Boxsets…

    Soul-Sides.com is very proud to introduce the first volume of the Soul Sides Boxset, a partnership with Uber.com.

    The story behind the Soul Sides Boxsets (SSBS) is that I’ve been looking for an opportunity to write longer, more in-depth, pseudo-encyclopedic entries that highlight specific artists or genres or labels, etc. and do so with sound, text, videos and more.

    I should add though: these are, by no means, meant to be definitive entries. For example, with this Aretha post, there’s a lot I don’t discuss (her entire Arista career, for example). The Boxsets, like Soul Sides itself, are written with an editorial vision/direction and some may find that too narrow, too broad, too stupid, whatever. You get my point.

    Regardless, it was a project that was hard to pull off just for Soul Sides without some outside support. That’s where Uber.com came in – as an arts-oriented social networking site, it made good sense to partner with them to help host the Boxsets and they have the kind of design and multimedia-friendly capabilities to assist us.

    The focus of the first Boxset is Aretha Franklin (I alluded to this in the previous post). The reasons are numerous, not the least of which is that it made sense to kick off Soul Sides Boxsets with the Queen herself. That plus I had been stacking some good videos and book recommendations for the occasion.

    Hopefully, this will become a monthly feature on Uber and that’s where I could use your help. The future success on this is dependent on people checking it out, telling others to peep and building a following. So please, take some time to visit, check it out, drop a comment on the Uber page, and pass the good word along.

    Thanks for all your support, as always,

    O.W.
    Oct. 2007