VINYL VIEWS: WEEK OF 03/22/21
Vinyl Views is our weekly blog where we feature album recommendations from our store team (Shayne and Jaxon) and reveal picks from guest contributors. This week we have a special twist to celebrate women’s history month.
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Last weekend, The Oak Park Art’s District celebrated “Women Owned Works”, which is a shopping event designed to celebrate the abundance of female-owned businesses in the Oak Park Arts District. Val’s halla was founded by an amazing, influential woman and supporting this event aligned with our core mission and values. To have some fun in the store, we created a musical “scavenger hunt” which featured ground-breaking women in music artists. How did we pick those amazing women artists? We asked three amazing women who have been contributors to our weekly blog, Vinyl Views. Thank you so much to Jennifer Malone, Ana Cubas, and Sandra Escobar. These were so good that we decided to share them here in our Vinyl Views this week, so if you weren’t able to make it to the store this past weekend, you can still enjoy their contributions.
Janis Joplin (contributed by Ana Cubas)
To listen to Janis Joplin is to have a religious journey, to fully experience a palette of emotions within seconds. Joplin doesn’t just sing: she cries, she shouts, she sings both lovingly and sorrowfully. She leaves no room for mildly-felt feelings. She has the power, voice, and emotion of a traditional blues singer, and it’s apparent in every song she performed. For an aurally enriching example of this influence, listen to her vocals on “Kozmic Blues” on I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama! or “Raise Your Hand” from her set at Woodstock.
By watching or listening to any live performance of Joplin’s, the physical force of Joplin’s voice is obvious. My favorite is “Cry Baby.” Her voice has the kind of power that seems to take over her body, reach what you think is her peak, and then, her voice would explode. Honestly, there is no bad Joplin recording of this song. Her vocal capabilities are remarkable every time.
Her voice commands, and she commands. Joplin’s stage presence is as riveting as her voice. Many of Joplin’s live recordings are not short of entertaining both before or after the song even starts. In a Crawdaddy concert review of Big Brother & the Holding Company and Janis Joplin, the reporter recalls someone shouting, “Hey, which one of you is Big Brother?” Janis playfully responds, “I am, baby!” She was witty, confident and unafraid of rock’s male hierarchy.
Janis expressed the female experience with conviction. She continually shared her longing for liberation, equality and respect in her music, unapologetically. The honesty and moxie Joplin exuded, in recordings and on stage, engrains itself in the listener for, at least, the length of the track. She demands attention. Her voice is almost representative of the power she held as a groundbreaking woman in rock, both socially and musically.
Do yourself a favor and listen to Joplin. There is no better way to celebrate Women’s History Month!
Song Pick: Cry Baby
About Ana Cubas
Ana Cubas grew up in Riverside and is currently a student at New York University. She is pursuing an individualized degree in music criticism and journalism, with a minor in music business. Ana is the music editor at NYU’s student newspaper, Washington Square News, and the Associate Music Director at the University’s radio station, WNYU. She also hosts a weekly radio show on South American rock from the 60s through 90s every Friday morning at https://wnyu.org.
Chavela Vargas (contributed by Sandra Escobar)
If you have ever experienced heartbreak, heartache or longing, Chavela Vargas has a song that will help you heal. Born as Isabel Vargas Lizano on April 17, 1919 and known as ‘Chavela’ in the Mexican and Mexican American communities, her song ‘Paloma Negra’ is sung by many at family gatherings when the bottles have emptied and the singing has commenced. ‘Paloma negra’ translates to ‘black dove’ and is about getting over a lost love and finding the strength to move on.
Desolation and heartbreak are heavy themes in Chavela’s discography. Famous for her unique delivery of traditional, Mexican ranchera music, Chavela came to be a major figure of the LGBTQ community in South America and Spain later in her life, with most of her songs dedicated to the women she loved during her lifetime.
In her song ‘Adoro’ she sings about all of the things she adores about her lover: ‘adoro, el brillo de tus ojos, los dulce, que hay en tus labios rojos…eres mi luna, eres mi sol, eres mi noche de amor’ (I adore, the brightness of your eyes, the sweetness in your red lips…you are my moon, you are my sun, you are my night of love). In ‘Obsession’ she sings about the obsessive nature of falling in love: ‘amor es el pan de la vida, amor es la copa divina, amor es un algo sin nombre, que obsesiona al hombre por una mujar’ (love is the bread of life, love is the divine cup, love is something without a name, an obsession of man for a woman).
In ‘Ojala Que Te Vaya Bonito’ she sings well wishes to the love of her life as she prepares to let them go: ‘ojala que te vaya bonito, ojala que se acaben tus penas, que te digan que yo ya no existo, que conozcas personas mas buenas’ (I hope that things go well for you, I hope you forget your sorrows, that they tell you I no longer exist, that you find better people).
Originally from Costa Rica, Chavela spent many years as a street musician during her youth before becoming a professional singer in her thirties. She was radical and refused to conform to the gender norms of her time. She dressed like a man, smoked cigars, carried a gun, and was known for her characteristic red ‘jorongo’, which she wore in performances until old age.
Chavela gave all of herself in her singing and performances, which is why so many people continue to be drawn to her voice and her music. Singing her songs can feel like therapy.
She died on August 5, 2012 at the age of 93 in Cuernavaca, Mexico, the beloved country she called home.
Song Pick: Paloma Negra
About Sandra Escobar
Sandra is a research scientist and epidemiologist whose work focuses on advocating for the most marginalized communities in Chicago. Originally from Los Angeles, Sandra’s love for music started early on, listening to Spanish speaking artists with her mom, and classic and alternative rock with her dad. At age 13, Sandra taught herself how to play the guitar by listening to Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged album and practicing songs from the album over and over and over. She eventually formed her own band with two high school girlfriends (called The Sheryls) and their short musical career resulted in two original songs that they played at talent shows and high school dances. Sandra continues to delve into artistry and self-exploration through music, whether it be by listening to artists who highly align with her values or ethnic roots, dancing and moving her body for fun and stress relief, or writing and composing songs which allow her to just have fun and play. Sandra lives in Oak Park with her husband, sister, dog, and lizard.
Patti Smith (contributed by Jennifer Malone)
Patti was born in Chicago but is ubiquitous with the New York City art and early punk scene. Her mother was a jazz singer and waitress and her father, a machinist. Early artistic influences on her life were Bob Dylan and Harry Belafonte, as well as poets Rimbaud, Keats, and Blake. Smith made her way to New York City in 1967 and began a prolific engagement in the Arts across disciplines. She was a member of the St Mark’s Poetry Project, a launching pad for experimental spoken word poetry. She co-wrote “Cowboy Mouth” with playwright and actor, Sam Shepard. However, her most significant relationship was with her beloved partner, roommate, and collaborator; photographer and visual artist, Robert Mapplethotrpe. Together, they began frequenting Max’s Kansas City and CBGB, which were clubs beginning to showcase proto-punk acts. The pair collaborated extensively on visual art, including painting and photography. Mapplethorpe’s iconic photos of Smith are used as the cover art of The Patti Smith Group albums, of which Horses and Easter are the most acclaimed. Her book about their relationship, “Just Kids” won the National Book Award in 2010.
Smith is noted for her whirling stage presence and wild improvisations. Her first studio album was 1975’s Horses, produced by John Cale (of the Velvet Underground), recorded at Electric Lady Studios soon after she was signed to Arista Records by Clive Davis. Smith called the album, “three-chord rock merged with the power of the word.” Anchoring the album is Smith’s radical re-imagination of Van Morrison’s “G-L-O-R-I-A”, which incorporates her voice as a writer as well as a vocalist and eviscerates the misogynistic viewpoint of the original track, in which the eponymous young woman is something to “get” and “have”. Her ability to build on and draw out meaning from a track conceived by someone else is also evident on “Dancing Barefoot” (Easter, 1978), a song Bruce Springsteen cut without verses early in the process of his Darkness On the Edge of Town sessions. He shared a Producer and studio with Smith, who was encouraged to take the song, which she filled in lyrically and put her stamp on. It became a chart hit for Smith, who shares co-writing credit with Springsteen. They have performed it together live. Waves’ “Dancing Barefoot” has been widely covered and recorded, perhaps most notably by U2, who claim Smith as an influence on their own work. “People Have the Power ” is one of her most popular songs in concert and is a paramount example of art as a social and political expression to affect change. Smith has been a lifelong activist and rebel. She continues to perform regularly at a high level and has also had considerable success as a photographer, author, and actor as well. She is a multi-talented musician, songwriter and performing artist who is uncompromising in her work and approach to life. She is considered to be a feminist hero by many and has had a broad influence on music and popular culture that has endured for decades and continues as emerging artists are turned on to her body of work. For a great look at her life and impact, check out 2008 Documentary, “Patti Smith, Dreams of Life” and the 2018 Concert Fim, “Horses: Patti Smith and Her Band”.
Song Pick: People Have the Power
Highlights of Patti Smith
Born: December 30, 1946
Years Active: 1967 – Present
Instrument(s): Singer, Songwriter, Guitar, Clarinet, Poet, Visual Artist, Author, Actor, Photographer
Genre(s): Punk, Proto-Punk, Art Rock,
Notable Songs: “Because the Night”, “G-L-O-R-I-A”, “Dancing Barefoot”, “People Have the Power”
Awards & Commendations
● Commander of the “Ordre des Arts et des Lettres”, French Ministry of Culture (2005)
● Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts, Foundation Cartier pour L’Art Contemporian (2005)
● Inducted into Rock N Roll Hall of Fame (2007)
● National Book Award for “Just Kids”, about her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe (2010)
● Number 47 on Rolling Stone’s list of “100 Greatest Artists”
● Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts, The Pratt Institute (2012)
● Polar Music Prize (2011)
● International Humanities Prize conferred by Washington
Artists/Acts She Influenced
Michael Stipe, Courtney Love, U2, Sonic Youth, The Smiths, Madonna, KT Turnstall, the Florence & the
Machine song, “Patricia” is about Patti Smith
Kim Gordon (contributed by Jennifer Malone)
Kim Gordon was born in Rochester, NY but was raised in the Los Angeles area from the age of 5. Her father was Dean of Faculty at UCLA and she was able to attend a progressive school associated with the university. She is a graduate of Otis College of Art and Design, where her focus was fine art. She moved to New York City to make her way in the art scene and ended up drawn to the No-Wave music scene that to her, seemed a step beyond punk in that it was really deconstructing rock music and its myths completely. She had never played an instrument before but that was not a detriment in an experimental scene that focused more on playing with notions of noise and melody to break open constructs. The nihilism and freedom of the anti-form was attractive to Gordon and so she picked up a guitar and began exploring her voice as an instrument. In 1981, she formed Sonic Youth with her partner, Thurston Moore, and Lee Ranaldo.
Sonic Youth carved a niche for themselves as innovators and outsider musicians, who wrote beautiful and often haunting melodies that they would layer with noise and feedback that would create its own instrument and atmosphere. The band had a prolific output when combining all 15 studio albums, seven extended plays, 21 singles, three compilation albums, 16 soundtrack appearances, and 46 music videos. Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore were married in 1983 as the band was getting their sound together. They released several small label records and were signed to Punk/Indie giant SST Records in 1986, and put out Evol, which gave them their first critical acclaim, followed by Sister, and then they moved over to Enigma, for whom they recorded classic and haunting double-LP, Daydream Nation, which was in every very cool kid’s collection in 1988. They made their major-label debut and their first foray into mainstream success with 1990’s Goo, which featured breakout single, “Kool Thing”, a compilation with Public Enemy’s Chuck D. Much of the record deals with female empowerment, pop culture, and the underground music scene that was about to explode. Sonic Youth embarked on a tour in 1991 with Nirvana, Babes In Toyland, Dinosaur Jr, Mudhoney, and Gunball. A documentary of the tour potently called, “The Year That Punk Broke”, chronicled the quickly changing popular music scene. Sonic Youth was suddenly thrust into the spotlight as a part of the scene that spawned Grunge and Riot Grrrl. Gordon became known as the epitome of cool and she became a fixture of fashion magazines. She started her own streetwear clothing line, X-Girl. Gordon produced the debut record By
Hole (Courtney Love), Pretty On the Inside, and co-directed the video for The Breeders’ hit, “Cannonball’, with Spike Jonez. Sonic Youth put out another two commercially successful albums in quick succession; 1994’s Experimental, Jet Set, Trash, and No Star, which featured lo-fi single “Bull In The Heather” that is one of the finest examples of Kim’s effective and moody-sounding alto, and 1995’s Washing Machine. Gordon was also active in side projects, Harry Crews, Free Kitten and The Supreme Indifference with Jim O’Rourke.
Gordon and Moore split up in 2009 and dissolved Sonic Youth the same year. Gordon began exhibiting paintings again and founded limited-edition fashion label, Mirror/Dash, which was inspired by daughter (with Moore), Coco. She has appeared as an actor in TV and film projects, including Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstien’s Portlandia. In 2015, she released a memoir, “Girl In a Band”. Her
experimental band, Glitterbust, performs regularly. Gordon’s first solo art exhibition was in 2019 at the Andy Warhol Museum titled, “Kim Gordon: Lo-Fi Glamour. She has inspired countless young women in and out of the music industry and is an icon of pop culture. As Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys said, “wherever Kim ends up, she is the coolest person in the room”.
Song Pick: Bull in the Heather
Highlights of Kim Gordon
Born: April 28, 1953
Years Active: 1981 – Present
Instrument(s): Guitar, Voice, Visual Art, Fashion
Genre(s): Alt Rock, Experimental, Art Rock, No-Wave, Noise Pop, Grunge, Riot Grrrl
Notable Songs: “100%”, “Kool Thing”, “Teen Age Riot”, “Bull In the Heather”, “Superstar”
Sonic Youth famously customized their instruments, amps, and pedals to the point where when their gear was stolen in 1999, they were not able to play their catalog of music the same way ever again.
Artists/Acts She Influenced
Courtney Love, Kathleen Hanna, Sofia Coppola (Director), Riosin Murphy
About Jennifer Malone
Jennifer is a four-time School of Rock AllStar director and has served on content and innovation boards at the corporate level over her many years with the company. Jennifer is a voice teacher who loves coaching students of all levels to perform at their personal best through personalized training, biodynamics and stage prep. She performs regularly with the bands 1976 and Hedgehog and the Fox. She has a long performing resume that includes musical theater, jazz, roots, rock and punk. She lives in Oak Park with her husband and two kids and spends her free time volunteering and engaged in social justice.
How Do I Order Music (Or Other Things)?
Val’s is now open again (safely)! Bring a face mask and we will sanitize your hands on the way in. Social distancing, of course. Val’s halla has worked hard over this quarantine period to launch its Online Store which has thousands of titles for you to choose from. We will continue to add inventory everyday, but just let us know what you are looking for! We are happy to look through our off-line inventory of over 50,000 titles to see what we have for you. Also, we place orders with our distributor every Monday which means we see them in our store by Tuesday (most of the time). We sell records (as well as turntables), CDs, cassettes, 8-tracks, DVDs and more. To get started, you can Click Here to access the Online Store, or fill out the form below to let us know what you are looking for.
What About Delivery?
Val’s is offering Curbside Pickup and No-Contact Delivery Service to customers who live within a 5-mile radius of the Oak Park Arts District. Orders can also be shipped to customers outside that radius for a flat fee of $5. Order as much as you want – still $5 shipping! Stay safe and be well!