Merry Christmas to everybody, and a happy New Year!
It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post — again. I was busy, really busy indeed. In comparison to my usual workload at the university, I ended up doing 1.5x the courses I usually do. But it was fun, certainly. I even got to teach kids as part of my pedagogical studies.
However, lots of stuff happened in music as well. I began to spend my money on CDs. I have a growing collection of around 20 albums now. It’s an undescribable feeling, when you own music. CDs give music a material form, something to grab with you, something to look at, album art, lyrics, descriptions, labels, credits. It’s like collecting ancient treasure.
I partially feel like I have lost to all the copyright companies that shut down grooveshark. After all, here I am buying music, and that’s exactly what they want. If they only knew they wouldn’t even get a dime out of me if not for my musical education on grooveshark, in a brilliant community together with all other marvellous people. They have no idea.
But I don’t care about that now. My own enjoyment is what matters more. What I do respect however is the work of those clerks at the record store. How they manage to categorise all the discs and listen to the endless requests of the customers that all sound so obscenely similar. I say, I’ve been observing.
The record store I’ve been frequenting, Keltainen Jäänsärkijä. I used the picture from their website — with their blessings, I hope.
A record store is a temple of music really. A gallery of album covers and mysteries of what lies inside the box. It’s a place where a man can seclude himself in his own thoughts and breathe in the magestic air of thousands and thousands of hours these musicians have spent to shape their feelings into music. And once in a while, pretty often even, at the “oldies” department you come across an old friend of an album and you smile. “How do you do”, you ask, and it replies to you, with a similar smile: “I’m as great as ever pal. You should drop by for dinner sometime.”
And at times, you meet a long lost one, a distant, forgotten traveller, a rare bird at that. In your early years you might have exchanged some of those passionate glances at each other and felt the pleasant tention in your silent conversations, but your paths walked side by side never crossing each other, and both of you went your own ways before too long. But this time, you meet her in person again, and in a moment of bliss you hug each other by reflex and recall all the past moments you had. And she still looks beautiful after all these years.
Some days, as you continue walking around, you bump into a stranger. You apologise in a discreet manner, when you are suddenly captivated by the depth in his eyes. It feels like a gamble, but you go out of your way offer him a drink, and since the moment you walk out of the store, for that very night you become the best buddies; there’s so much you want to know, and he has lots of unique wisdom to give. He offers you a drink back, and it turns out he lives in a close neighbourhood and would love to have another chat soon. You promise to come and visit him often. And this time you know your promise is going to hold.
It is perhaps needless to say that my regular stops at the record temple began since I had made up my mind on buying the new Linda Hoyle record (read my post about that here). It was the first time I felt like I wanted to support an artist. It’s amazing how one album might change your life like this, isn’t it? It’s beyond music already — it’s not like The Fetch was any close to the best albums I’ve had to listen. However, it was Linda‘s power, the undying hope and the connection with the past that I felt from it, all feelings that I treasure a lot now. Spectacular, I say.
My first visit to the temple wasn’t quite yet successful, as I couldn’t find that particular album in the store. However, there was a label named Affinity/Linda Hoyle with two albums under it. They knew who she was, I thought! And her first solo album was there too. So I bought it, Pieces of Me.
While I was at it, I asked the clerks for her latest album. They didn’t even seem to have heard about it before. I felt very important for a while, as a harbinger of news, a boy in his prime whose knowledge finally exceeded that of wise old priests and surprised them as they wrote the name of the album down on some tiny piece of paper, which one of them produced from behind a vinyl pile.
For now, however, I had to retreat from the battlefield — with a trophey alright, yet not the main goal still. But the pleasure was already there, as I listened to the album one time after another, each time finding new things from the CD and from inside myself. The whole treasure was there for me to exploit, to touch it, to feel it, to see it, to hear it.
One month later, I dropped by the store again. I didn’t even have the intention to buy anything, but when my gaze did behold Linda’s latest album! — brand and new — oh! How grand was my own surprisement, how majestic my excitement, how immeasurable my amusement. I had changed the world, and there it was for me to claim — and I grabbed it with my palm, payed my respects and marched out of the sacred temple, proud and victorious, yet most thankful. If only all people would listen to requests like these gentle priests do in their domain.
Now what about those strangers I met? Here’s one that I got acquainted with just a week before Christmas. I was searching through old used records, literally recognising each and every album, when suddenly, a raven hit my eye. Most puzzled, I pulled out the CD case and examined it. When the Raven has come to the Earth. The cover, it mesmerised me and called for me. The band’s name? Strawberry Path. Neverheard.
I made a quick search on the Internet for the band, but found nothing sufficient. And then I made up my mind — I shall have it. Actually, I had already made my decision as soon as I saw the cover and was simply gathering courage for it. This is how people treated music back in the 70s, it seemed to me. If the record looked interesting — they bought it. It feels ungraspable now, but bands like Caravan, Uriah Heep, Pink Floyd — all started as no-name bands. There was no Internet to explore the bands beforehand. You had to take a chance and have your mind blown after. Which most certainly happened with Strawberry Path.
Turns out, it was a Japanese band. And boy did the Japanese know how to make good music at the time. Somewhat similar to German krautrock, they incorporated the features of the hard rock and prog rock wave and made them their own. Bands came out of nowhere and vanished a couple of records later back to wherever they came from. Japanese rock scene from the 70s is full of riddles.
As I walked back out the store, I didn’t have a bag to carry the CD in, so I put it in my pocket — and I have a habit of keepin my hands in the pockets as I walk, especially during winter. This way I was continuously reminded of the disc and trembled with excitement the whole way home, which happened to be a particularly long one. The desire to find out what was on the disc was tormenting, yet spectacular. And after all this suspension, I finally got to throw myself back on the couch, put the disc in and listen to it, indulge into the pleasant realm of music and to realise it was good, almost too good; all this was quite something. That happened around 2 am.
I never suspected the disc to be so good. There were hints of Hendrix in the guitar, driving chords and swift melodies. Woman called Yellow “Z” worked great with its heavy riff, but it wasn’t until the drumming tsunami of Spherical Illusion that I got blown away. The next morning I put the disc right in again and tuned up the volume. The party continued and my enjoyment was reassured as I understood that the disc was more than just the sum of its parts. I had found a new friend.
This concludes the tale about some of my best music-related experiences this autumn. Yet this is just the beginning — I’ll continue paying my visits to the temple and find new targets of worship. Moreover, since I do have those bought records in my shelf now, it would be odd not to provide some reviews on them. As a farewell Christmas/New Year gift, I leave you with the Strawberry Path song below, which I would urge you to listen in its entirety. So long, and until we meet again!
Exploring the band further on progarchives.com, it seems like it is classified as progressive rock. I wouldn’t really agree — this album is pure rock, with some very imaginative passages nevertheless. Though one year later, this band grew into Flied Egg, indeed a prog band, one that I’ve heard of too. This could be the reason why some people might regard Strawberry Path as a prog band.