VINYL VIEWS: WEEK OF 9/14/20
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 hear album recommendations from ABC7 video producer (and friend of the store) Zach Ben-Amots.
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Zach Ben-Amots is a video producer for ABC 7 Chicago, where he reports and produces stories on human interest topics. He did an amazing piece on Val’s back in November. He has a passion for cultural stories and social justice topics, and he recently produced a short documentary about the killing of a black man in police custody in the 1940s in rural Georgia. “The Lynching of Henry Peg Gilbert” will be air and released on ABC 7’s website in October.
Artist: Sly and the Family Stone
Album: Small Talk
“Small Talk” was released just before Sly and the Family Stone dissolved in the 70s (not withstanding later comeback attempts), and it is by far Stone’s most intimate record. Dedicated to his wife Kathy Silva and newborn baby, Sylvester Jr., the tracks of “Small Talk” are more meditative and restrained than much of his other work. In “Can’t Strain My Brain,” Sly’s vocals feel almost fragile while always staying confidently, perfectly tuned-in to the mood. The engineering on “Wishful Thinkin’” perfectly demonstrates of the Family Stone’s uniquely well-matched talents. From Sly’s searing vocals to Larry Graham’s groundbreaking bass playing, the Family Stone was a definitive funk band made up of exceptional musicians who reinvented the genre as they experimented with its boundaries.
Check out the track Can’t Strain My Brain.
Artist: Aretha Franklin
Song: Amazing Grace
50 years after its release, Amazing Grace remains one of the best selling gospel albums of all time. You listen to this record to hear Aretha at her freest – free from studio recording constraints, free from the restrictions of popular acclaim. And, of course, you listen to this album to hear the definitive version of “Amazing Grace.” Aretha is the standard-bearer for all who attempt this spiritual classic. Her voice is completely unrestrained and she proves herself the greatest singer of all time. Don’t just check out the album, though. Watch the documentary about the recording/performing of “Amazing Grace,” released nearly 50 years after it was filmed. With behind the scenes access that she rarely granted – we see Aretha not just as a goddess, but also as a human being.
Check out the track Amazing Grace.
Voodoo found D’Angelo at the peak of his musical powers. As a bandleader, he stretched the idea of ‘tightness’ to its limits. The band remains perfectly together, step-in-step, even as drummer Questlove drags the beat to remarkable levels. “One Mo’Gin” stands out for creating an insatiable groove through patience and sensuality, as does the timeless “Untitled (How Does It Feel).” With his inaugural album “Brown Sugar,” D’Angelo had introduced himself to the world as a singular musician, one who played and sang with a talent far above many contemporaries in the genre of Neo-Soul. The much-later released “Black Messiah” found D’Angelo experimenting with the limits of popular R&B through a fragmented blend of poetry and instrumental genius. “Voodoo” is the perfect middle ground: experimental but still accessible, mind-bending but still centered, and of course utterly beautiful.
Check out the track One Mo’Gin.
Artist: Alice in Chains
Album: Alice in Chains
An under-appreciated gem from maybe my favorite of the grunge bands. The recording of their third album was, well, complicated to put it lightly by lead singer Layne Staley’s heroin addiction. Despite that this is in my opinion the best of their albums and I can’t understand why I’m still waiting for a vinyl re-release.
Check out the track Grind.
Artist: My Bloody Valentine
The masterpiece that maybe bankrupted a studio. While Slowdive is my top dog shoegaze band, this is largely considered the crowning achievement of the genre. Meticulously if obsessively constructed and produced the result is a gorgeous and unique album that stands as one of the defining records of the era and one of the greatest of all time.
Check out the track I Only Said.
Album: Again Into Eyes
When this album dropped 9 years ago it was the most excited I’d been for a new artist in a while. Despite being released so recently you could slip this into a mix with Echo & The Bunnymen and The Cure and no one would question it. Unfortunately the band broke up shortly after and never even got around to touring in the US. Gee thanks fellas.
Check out the track Whitechapel.
Artist: Ultimate Spinach
Album: Behold and See
This is one of my favorite psychedelic rock albums. The band signed with Alan Lorber, who was trying to push a new Boston psychedelic scene marketed as the “Bosstown Sound”. It was a commercial failure and for good reason. Most of the bands being marketed were pretty mediocre compared to the amazing music coming from the Bay Area in the same period. But this band was something special. Behold and See is filled with spacey, slightly jazzy passages that give this album a unique atmosphere. I love it and would recommend you check out the lengthy centerpiece of the album, Mind Flowers.
Check out the track Mind Flowers.
Shayne and I have been joking about how many amazing albums were released in 1972, and this album is just one of the amazing albums from this stupidly amazing year. And the band’s name, which means new in German, is not a lie, because it sounds like almost nothing before it. This krautrock masterpiece is very atmospheric and droning, with a great underlying rhythm. It uses repetition to its advantage, creating a sense of familiarity.
Check out the track Hallogallo.
Artist: Nick Drake
Album: Bryter Layter
This 1971 release could easily blend in alongside the modern wave of sad singer songwriters. And this isn’t to say it’s bland – far from it. This album is probably my favorite release from one of my all-time favorite singer songwriters. It is also probably the best introduction to his music, as it is the most cohesive of his releases and it is a folk-rock masterpiece.
Check out the track At The Chime of a City Clock.
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!