Leadbelly – Shout On – 1972 – XTRA

Leadbelly - Shout On - 1972 - XTRA

This was the first Leadbelly album I ever bought. I was a teenager in high school back then. I’d read about Leadbelly but had never heard him before. Back in those days I didn’t know anyone who liked the music I liked and there was no internet and radio stations weren’t catering to my tastes so the only way for me to hear new sounds was to buy the records. It wasn’t like these days with Spotify or Youtube or things like that. There’s more accessibility to obscure music now than there was then. Back then it was a chore just to be able to hear the stuff. I can’t remember where I bought this record from, probably one of the secondhand record stores that were on Pitt Street. Most of them are gone now but there used to be a little pocket of record shops all together. I used to fossick through them regularly. It was heaven. When I took this home and first listened to it I was amazed. Leadbelly was great. His voice was incredible and his guitar playing was good too. The first thing I noticed was that he wasn’t a regular blues singer. In fact he wasn’t really a blues singer at all. He seemed to be singing songs that were older than the blues. It was a revelation for me, a teenager growing up in the 80s, to hear these recordings from the 40s of a performer who in many ways was archaic back then. Though he was great Leadbelly wasn’t that successful in his day partly because the material he was doing was seen as out of date. It is a shame. The songs were great, like nothing else I’d heard. John Henry, Ain’t Going Down to the Well No More, You Can’t Lose a Me Charlie. Amazing songs. This record really opened up many doors for me. It pointed the way down so many musical paths I could follow. It also got me thinking a lot about Leadbelly and his life. The few things I knew about him made it sound like a really difficult but incredible life and it had always seemed like the greatest irony to me that Goodnight Irene became a huge hit for the Weavers about 6 months after Leadbelly died. It still seems like a strange twist that he never got to experience that success. But anyway, I digress… One of the interesting things about these recordings was that they were live radio broadcasts from New York station WNYC-FM. They were from 1948, just a year before Leadbelly died. In the liner notes Fredrick Ramsey Jr talks of taping these at home with his Brush Soundmirror which was an early reel to reel tape machine. It always amazes me when there is one person out there who just happens to preserve something like that. So these recordings are sort of bootlegs in a way, though the album itself was licensed through Folkways. Thank you Mr Ramsey for preseving these. They opened my ears to so many musical possibilities.

Leonard Cohen – Songs of Love and Hate – 1971 – Columbia Records

Leonard Cohen - Songs of Love and Hate - 1971 - Columbia Records

I was about 16 when I first stuck the needle in the groove on this record and heard Avalanche and it was like, well, I’ve felt this before but no song has ever made me feel this. That was a great moment. It was the first time I’d heard Leonard Cohen. This was the first record of his that I owned. You’ve got to remember that growing up in the 80s there was no internet and not many people had CD players for a while (and CDs were really terrible back then anyway) so everything was either cassette, which was crap, or it was vinyl which was great, sort of… The sort of was because, you see, it cost a lot more to press a record than to make a compact disc so back then record stores mainly just had top 40 stuff and a just a few other things (not like now when you walk in and it’s pretty easy to find a lot of stuff you’re looking for) plus I was a teenager and didn’t have much disposable income. You could order stuff in but, hey, that cost money (plus 80s pressings of things tended to be pretty poor anyway compared to earlier pressings, the grooves didn’t seem as deep so they skipped a lot plus the cover art was normally not as well printed as earlier editions). So, I bought 95% of my records secondhand at record stores like Ashwoods on Pitt Street and at op shops like St Vincents. It meant that I’d read about someone’s work and think, hey, that sounds interesting, and then I’d search for their records (along with records by a whole lot of other bands I wanted to hear) and maybe 6 months, a year later I’d find some. I bought Songs of Love and Hate from North Rocks deaf and blind school markets for about 2 bucks. I didn’t know what to expect… It hit me quite hard… in a good way. A lot of my friends at high school thought he was crap and softly derided me for liking him though I showed my friend Paul Gregoire this record within a week of getting it and like me he’d never heard Leonard before and he understood it right away and had a very similar reaction. It was nice to know that someone understood. Those friends who derided me for liking Leonard Cohen soon were to sing his praises. I think the Natural Born Killers soundtrack plus Jeff Buckley’s version of Hallelujah altered their thinking on the matter. Funny that.