Run-DMSteve’s Old Technology Shop

Posted: July 12, 2016 in Miscellaneous, music, Record reviews
Tags: , , , ,

The first estate sale I ever went to was in the 1970s, on a farm in Massachusetts. The parents had grown very old and moved to another home, or perhaps the afterlife. The children didn’t want anything inside the farmhouse or the barn, including stacks of 78 rpm records. They were stiff enough to throw and fragile enough to explode when Moe broke one over Curly’s head.

My folks had a turntable that could play 78s, but I didn’t want any of these platters.

There was a lot of religious music, such as “How Great Thou Art,” which I guessed was about God and not Reggie Jackson or Carl Yastrzemski.

There was the jazz of the 1920s and ’30s – by the artists who knew how to whiten up black music to keep you from getting overexcited. One name that sticks in my mind is Kay Kyser, “The Ol’ Professor of Swing,” and his College of Musical Knowledge. If he were alive today, Mr. Kyser wouldn’t be churning out international club bangers. He’d probably be music director for Coldplay.

And there were corrals of cowboy songs, including this haunting epic that was playing on a wind-up Victrola when I walked in:

He rides all night, just roundin’ up the cattle
On a $5 dollar horse, and a $60 saddle

This has been true for almost all the estate sales and garage sales (my late, beloved Uncle Morrie called them “tag sales”) I went to in the following years. The families kept all the music I wanted. Why were they so mean? They left behind only divas, Christmas songs, still more cowboys, and the lyricism of the Celts. (The Romans kicked the Celts all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, but today the Romans are gone and the Celts have conquered the world behind an army of PR flaks.)

But in these great times, people are surrendering their lives to Google and abandoning music in physical forms. Now I’m returning from a Saturday morning of browsing with dozens of dirt-cheap CDs to try, and don’t neg me for buying CDs. I have plenty of competition. At one recent sale I went to, as I arrived a dude departed with the four-disc The Story of the Clash. The seller probably gave it to him just to get rid of it. It’s not fair.

I recently found several hours of classical music. I won’t keep it all, but it was all interesting.

Felix Mendelssohn
Symphonies No. 3 ‘Scottish’ & No. 4 ‘Italian’
San Francisco Symphony
Herbert Blomstedt, Conductor

I like Mendelssohn because he’s always crouched on the window ledge of hysteria. Even in his quietest moments, he’s never more than three minutes away from flying off the handle.

This organizing principle makes Mendelssohn’s music perfect for Hollywood. I immediately recognized the ‘Italian’ symphony. I didn’t recognize the ‘Scottish’ symphony, and frankly there’s nothing about it that suggests my homeland.

But the four movements of the ‘Scottish’ made me think of cannonballs and wooden ships, sword fights, and midnight chases on horseback. My guess is that this music saw plenty of action in the movie soundtracks of the 1930s and ’40s – the way you can’t have a battle in space without ripping off or riffing on some section of Beethoven’s Fifth.

Maurice Ravel
Philadelphia Orchestra
Eugene Ormandy, Conductor

S’up, ladies! Maurice “Love Gun” Ravel is in the house. His ‘Bolero’ was once synonymous with sex. This disc has other tracks, but why listen to them? Would you buy The Baha Men: The Ultimate Collection for anything other than “Who Let the Dogs Out?”

Bolero is actually a type of dance music, but Ravel’s ‘Bolero’ is THE bolero for those of you who wait all year for the World Naked Bike Ride. The Philadelphia Orchestra’s reading will wake up your mama and turn your lamp down low.

Wynton Marsalis
The London Concert
Joseph Haydn, Leopold Mozart (Wolfgang’s dad), Johann Friedrich Fasch, Johann Nepomuk Hummel (who invented those ceramic figures no one wants to inherit)
English Chamber Orchestra
Raymond Leppard, Conductor

Wynton Marsalis plays the trumpet like a clear day on Mount Rainier. I don’t know how anyone can persuade such exquisite sounds to leave their home in heaven.

In The London Concert, Marsalis gives us four trumpet concertos from classical music’s “Classical” all-classics classic period. (If they can rename birds and fish, they really should rename that zone between “Baroque” and “Romantic.”)

This is not a particularly challenging lineup – you could play most of this stuff with the whistle of a steam locomotive – but Marsalis has the skills to detonate each of them.

Ottorino “MC Run Pain” Respighi
Symphonic Poems: Roman Festivals, Fountains of Rome, Pines of Rome
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Enrique Bátiz, Conductor

Ottorino Respighi was born in Bologna in 1879 and lived long enough to embrace the Russians who disrupted classical music. He was trained by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, the man who drove Rasputin into madness with ‘Flight of the Bumblebee.’ When Igor Stravinsky’s ‘The Rites of Spring’ had its infamous premiere in Paris in 1913, Respighi was sitting in the front row with two supermodels. When the riot erupted after the performance, Otto threw the first chair.

Respighi’s ‘Symphonic Poems’ starts in promising fashion with his death-metal vision of a typical Roman festival. Scholars have confirmed that there are aluminum baseball bats in the string section. I was stoked, but the rest of this disc is either an uninteresting cacophony or so quiet I can’t tell if we’re taking a nap or listening to The Cowboy Junkies.

No more perambulating through the secondary music market for me for a while – I’m off to Antique Parent Land! I’ll return in a week or two with a few words about jazz. Until then – stop hitting each other with those 78s!


  1. Laurel says:

    Your description of Wynton Marsalis alone should make you famous.

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