The Stories Behind The Cratedigger Classics In The VMP Store

On July 14th 2020 » By Vinyl Me, Please Staff

Headdder

One of our goals at Vinyl Me, Please is unearthing—with the help of labels we work with—long-lost albums that haven’t had a reissue, and deserve to be heard. Sometimes, these albums sell for exorbitant prices on Discogs, if they’re sold at all. We’ve recently put a bunch of these titles in our store, so to help you keep which albums are which straight, here’s a breakdown of some of these titles.

James Booker’s Classified

James Booker was an iconoclast of New Orleans music, a guy who lost his eye in a fight, but who never missed club dates if he could help it. He was a local celebrity in New Orleans that everyone thought should be a huge star—his piano playing and showmanship was the thing of legend—but no label would take a risk on him, given his drug addiction and loose cannon reputation. He’d be in-and-out of studios all over the U.S. during his career, and would cut a handful of solo records, but the one that most captures him in his finest form is 1983’s Classified, released just before his death on Rounder Records. Everything you like about Professor Longhair or Dr. John Booker was doing just as well, and Classified should be in every collection that values gumbo and po’boys. Grab our edition here and stream the album below.

Sonny Sharrock’s Ask The Ages

Sonny Sharrock was arguably the finest avant-garde jazz guitarist to ever live, someone who expanded the sounds of jazz into free-jazz and near-noise rock, who never met a musical form he couldn’t bend and alter to his will. Ask The Ages might be his masterpiece, and it’s certainly one of the few canonical jazz albums to be released in the ‘90s, one that goes toe-to-toe with anything released in the ‘50s, ‘60s, or ‘70s. Trying to describe the experience of listening to it feels like trying to read The Matrix as it passes by on a screen, but if you know, you know. Until 2019, it had never been on vinyl at all, and until our edition, it had never come with its original artwork. You can stream it below, and grab our edition right here.

José James’s Blackmagic

The most recent album in our recent drops of cratedigger/unreissued albums, José James’s Blackmagic turns 10 this year, but it still sounds like it could have come out today. It’s blend of jazz, soul, funk, and hip-hop made James an artist to watch, and established him as one of the most adventurous R&B artists working today. Blackmagic went out of print on vinyl, and sold for as much as $150 on the secondary market. You can grab our edition right here, and stream the album below:

Harold Alexander’s Sunshine Man

Harold Alexander recorded on the legendary Flying Dutchman with acts like Gil Scott-Heron, Oliver Nelson, and Ornette Coleman, but his presence wouldn’t be felt till loops from his best album, Sunshine Man, popped up in rap music, featuring in songs by the likes of Blackalicious and DJ Shadow. Alexander’s jazz—a blend of smooth beat rhythms and flute and sax experiments—was out of left field, and for his part, he hated the music business, dropping out after a half-decade run and never recording an album after 1974. This album is considered his masterpiece, and original copies fetch a pretty penny on Discogs. We have an exclusive color edition here, thanks to our pals at Tidal Waves Music, and you can stream the album below.

Margo Guryan’s Take A Picture

Like Harold Alexander, Margo Guryan found the music business to be less than desirable. When, after she recorded this, her stunning, and only, studio LP, she refused to tour and refused to dress and act like her label asked her to, which lead to her label ceasing promotion of the album and more or less dropping her. She instead faded into the background as a sometime songwriter, with performers like Glen Campbell, Astrud Gilberto and more covering her. In the 52 years since its release, however, Take A Picture has gained a cult following thanks to its ahead-of-its-time sound, so much so that demos of Guryan’s have seen release in the last 20 years, to augment her trove of released material. As such, Take A Picture has become sought after on vinyl, particularly its excessively rare mono edition, which fetches upwards of $500 on the open market. The mono edition is featured in our new reissue, which you can buy here. Listen to the album below.

Loleatta Holloway’s Cry to Me

In the late ‘70s, Loleatta Holloway was one of the queens of disco and dance music, as her songs like “Hit and Run” and “Love Sensation” became monsters on dancefloors from New York to Paris. But earlier in the ‘70s, she had a career as an brassy-voiced R&B singer, singing wounded, beautiful ballads. Her finest was “Cry to Me,” the title track from her sophomore LP, which hadn’t been reissued on vinyl in more than 40 years, which was a shame, since the album is a perfect slice of early ‘70s R&B that more people need to experience. You can get our exclusive color edition of the album right here, and stream the album below.

Walter Bishop’s Coral Keys

Founded in Oakland, and running for 4 years in the ‘70s, the spiritual jazz of the label Black Jazz has remained unreissued and hard to find on vinyl, and expensive on the secondary market, until now: Real Gone has the rights to the catalog and is reissuing a pile of the label’s 20 album output. We’re partnering on a handful of color exclusives for some of these albums, and the first is Walter Bishop Jr.’s Coral Keys. Bishop Jr.’s piano playing was central to the label’s sound and ethos, and this album was the label’s second-ever release and established the spirit of Black Jazz from the beginning. Own this piece of spiritual jazz history now, and stream it below.

So there you have it: the background on seven albums you might love. Happy spinning!

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