The Rationals: The Rationals (1970)

Sometimes you take a chance. It’s not quite like the old days when you would stroll through a record store and something would catch your eye: a name, some art. But it’s close, and as I was flipping through the Record Store Drop releases at my local shop I saw the reissue of the sole record from Ann Arbor’s The Rationals. The hype sticker drew me in as much as the colors on the album art: you put the words “Detroit R&B Garage Band” on your sticker and you’re going to hook me. I’m glad it did because it turns out The Rationals delivers precisely on the sticker’s promise: down and dirty rhythm and blues that has a foot firmly in the 60s while calling out to the more rock-centric power the 70s would deliver.

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zz top's first album

ZZ Top: ZZ Top’s First Album (1971)

Day 20 of the #mayvinylchallenge asks for an unpopular album by a popular band. It’s crazy that as popular as ZZ Top, are there’s not a lot of talk about their debut, wonderfully titled ZZ Top’s First Album, as if they were certain there would be more. One listen to that singular guitar tone and I can understand why. There may not have been a huge hit on the album (their second, Rio Grande Mud, would kick off with “Francine” and “Just Got Paid”) but you can already hear that Gibbons’s tone is there, and the rough and tumble electric blues they would come to dominate for decades was fleshed out if not fully formed from a songwriting perspective from the get-go.

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mainhorse

Mainhorse: Mainhorse (1971)

Day 16 of the #mayvinylchallenge celebrates the halfway point of the endeavor and asks for a random pick from your collection. I shuffled through my recent acquisitions and came upon Mainhorse, whose sole eponymous album from 1971 begs a certain question: there are so many lost or forgotten bands out there, are all of these band lost gems, or is there a reason they’re buried? Is this really as good as a lot of the more successful and popular prog rock bands out there, or is it that I’ve heard the popular stuff so much that something relatively obscure sounds like a diamond? I think with Mainhorse the answer is a little of both.

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ramones - ramones

Ramones: Ramones (1976)

Day 7 of the #mayvinylchallenge asks about an album with a cool story or “a-ha!” moment. The story isn’t cool, but I did have an “a-ha!” moment when after playing my copy of the debut album from the Ramones I realized that Side B was actually a re-press of Side A, meaning I only got one half the album. When the album is as perfect a rock and roll statement as Ramones is it would be nice to have the entire thing. That was quickly rectified with a great Portuguese pressing, but still…the “a-ha!” was I got shafted. Anyway, no matter: let’s briefly gush about the perfection of this album, shall we?

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bob dylan - blood on the tracks

Bob Dylan: Blood On The Tracks (1975)

Day 6 of the #mayvinylchallenge asks for records that go together, whether on a mixtape or just complement each other. This one may need a revisit down the road, because how do you talk about one of your favorite albums of all time, especially an album as acclaimed and steeped in mythology as Blood On The Tracks, the fifteenth album by Bob Dylan without resorting to cliché and hyperbole? What can you say that hasn’t already been said? Probably nothing, so rather than try I’ll make this one brief and talk about the impressions going through my mind as I take another listen to an album I’ll never get tired listening to.

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miles davis - live evil

Miles Davis: Live-Evil (1971)

You can say someone is your favorite artist or musician, but in the case of someone like Frank Zappa or, in this instance Miles Davis, it’s near impossible to be well versed in every aspect of their discography. How do you gain a level of understanding broad and deep enough to qualify/quantify the man is your favorite when there are literally troves of live, alternate, and side performances to sift through? I often find myself settling back to the 10 or so “home base” recordings that solidified my love for Davis, but the beauty of someone with as many records as he has is the joy of returning to less tread waters, exploring albums you’re not nearly as familiar or comfortable with. Hence Live-Evil, which ironically was the first Miles I found and purchased on vinyl.

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