On the Virtue of Moderate Vice
Nah, I'd just ignore this post, which is both substandard and self-indulgent. See you tomorrow!
You will have noticed that I like to collect box sets. Why is this? Because I am the ideal sucker identified by Big Music back in the early '90s, when the music industry started to go south. At the same time, it dawned on them that they made more money from their back catalogs than from new product, and with the conversion to CD, it was an opportunity to re-sell everything to aging boomers -- precisely the demographic that regarded music as a substitute religion and albums as a kind of sacred object.
They know my weakness. They know that I could never be satisfied with just having my music on my computer or in the cloud, whatever that is. Rather, I must have the physical object. It's the same way with books, of course, but there's a good reason for that, since my books are my files, what with all the gnotes and thoughtlets contained therein
Have I ever recovered from this curious illness of my youth? No. However, I place it under the heading of "moderate vice." That's a phrase Dennis Prager uses to describe the legitimate human need to let off steam, or waste one's time, or be selfish, or engage in stupid or indulgent things.
If we try to be perfect, we will of course fail, or just get frustrated, or feel guilty. But we can't just stop trying, and give ourselves over to the dark side. Therefore, Prager advocates moderate vice as a way to manage our subrational impulses. In his case, I know he spends a queer amount of time at the camera store, ogling the products. And he too spends too much money on music and audio equipment.
But in my case, I actually sell quite a few things on amazon -- either that or trade them in for credit at Amoeba, my favorite record store, which reduces the guilt. But sometimes I just can't stop myself, especially when I see a Fantastic Bargain.
Example: I've had a particular item in my shopping cart for months, hoping the price would come down. It was a 10 CD box set of Jerry Lee Lewis from the legendary Bear Family Records in Germany, renowned for its loving reissues of CosmoAmerican music. The list price is like $250, but someone was selling one for close to $100. So, how was I supposed to resist? Even so, Mrs. G. doesn't need to know about this, okay?
For those of you who only know Jerry Lee from the handful of hits in the 1950s, you don't know Jerry Lee, for in latter half of the '60s and into the '70s, he became the finest interpreter of country music ever. Some people think it was George Jones, but he just doesn't do much for me. Too hick sounding. To my ears, Jerry Lee is the Sinatra of country music, so inimitable is his phrasing. He is such a stylist that he can inhabit any song and make it his own -- even signature songs of others, for example, Me & Bobby McGee, or even Somewhere Over the Rainbow (he sings it with such weariness and resignation).
Jerry Lee is without question one of a handful of touchstones of CosmoAmericana, others being, for example, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Dylan, Brian Wilson, Aretha, Sinatra, James Brown -- people who stand so far above the crowd, that they are consistently coming from some transcendental place. You know, where the soul of man never dies.
Hmm. Rather than the best releases this year, how about the best Cosmo-American releases ever -- the ones that would be the foundation of any comprehensive collection?
How about this four CD collection of Aretha's legendary Atlantic recordings, Queen of Soul. It is just insanely great, and I envy the person hearing her for the first time. Lots of chills & tingles.
Or how about Ray Charles' seminal Atlantic recordings, The Birth of Soul? Again, it's coming from some other place, either beyond music or the source of music. Neither he nor Aretha ever reached this pinnacle after leaving Atlantic.
James Brown? Best place to begin is no doubt Star Time, although I ended up trading that one in and collecting the complete singles, at least up to volume seven. That's 14 discs, and still only scratches the surface of his output.
Well, out of time. Maybe I'll continue this at a later date, if anyone is interested.