This post features the best music I picked up in Seattle during the last week of July along with the reading and listening highlights from August. I was in full-on acquisition mode for much of the month and reading like crazy, so I really had to narrow things down to avoid doing a three-part post. A lot of great titles were left on the cutting room floor, but here’s the best of the best:
(let’s call it 15%)
Beth and I were sitting around one evening listening to one of my all-time favorite recordings, Ella Fitzgerald‘s studio version of Rodgers & Hart’s “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered.” I mentioned that although I had Ella Fitzgerald’s Cole Porter songbook and much of the one dedicated to the Gershwins, what I really wanted was The Complete Ella Fitzgerald Song Books box set that I’d seen in person a couple times back in the 90s before it went out-of-print and started selling for ridiculous prices. The box set includes meticulously reproduced versions of all eight of Ella’s original songbooks…Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hart, Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, the Gershwins, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern, and Johnny Mercer. That’s more than 250 songs spread out over 16 CDs.
And then I found it two days later at Everyday Music! The box was complete and everything was in excellent shape, so I decided to buy it even though it was quite expensive. I don’t regret it at all. It’s just about the best thing in my collection and I have no doubt that it’ll provide me with years of enjoyment. In case of fire, grab Ella (and Lucy).
We also stopped by the Jigsaw Records shop while I was in Seattle. Although their impressive selection of indie pop, twee, and power pop recordings from other labels sometimes outshines the work the Jigsaw label does itself, I emphasized their releases when I visited the shop. Sitting on the red box are three terrific Jigsaw CDs I picked up that day: Skywriter Blue by the Skywriters, A New Dimension to Modern Love by Popincourt, and Have You Ever Heard of Cozy Catastrophes? To answer the question posed by Cozy Catastrophes, “No, I have never heard of you.” I bought you anyway because the Jigsaw guy played you in the shop and your song “Coworkers in Love” felt like something I’d need to hear again. Thanks for that.
From there we move over to the first book of the post, The Abandoned by Paul Gallico. It’s my favorite of the eight (yes, eight!) New York Review Children’s Collection titles I read in August. It’s about a feline-loving boy named Peter who finds himself transformed into a cat after getting struck in a traffic accident. He soon becomes friends with a stray cat named Jennie who takes it upon herself to teach Peter how to be a cat. There are a lot of rules, and I thought the book was at its best in the scenes where Jennie is trying to explain them. It’s a great book, but also remarkably sad at the same time. Peter and Jennie are strays, after all, and people and other animals aren’t always kind to them. The are some particularly vicious cat fights that might be reason enough for some gentler readers to avoid The Abandoned. Still, I enjoyed it.
Next comes my homemade Clishmaclaver cassette tape. It includes both of the duo’s late-80s, early-90s releases, Hearing Double and Roots Entwined. It’s traditional American and Celtic tunes sung by two of the loveliest folk voices I’ve heard. I really wish someone would set up a Clishmaclaver Bandcamp or something; I’d love to have legit copies of these songs. My car’s tape deck has a reputation for chewing up and spitting out tapes, so I’m not sure how many times I can risk playing this one.
The tall book is the first volume in Drawn & Quarterly’s Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip series. Despite having a Moomin keychain, I really had no idea what a Moomin was before I checked out this book from the library. Having read the thing, I still don’t know what a Moomin is exactly–maybe a Finnish hippo?–but I certainly enjoyed the comic and look forward to reading the other four volumes. Tove Jansson eventually turned over the strip to her brother Lars. I might read some of his version, as well. It depends on how hooked I get.
The white square box with the drawing of the girl playing guitar on it is the C87 box set put out by Cherry Red Records. It’s a sequel to the C86 box set from 2014 (which was, of course, an expanded version of the C86 cassette compilation from 1986, which was the sequel to C81, and on and on). Beth gave it to me for my birthday. It’s mostly great British indie from 1987. I say “mostly” because the first four or five songs on the third disc are awful. I made the mistake of using that particular CD as my wake-up music one morning. One minute I was asleep and dreaming and then the next minute a truly terrible song was blaring in my room. My first thought was to jump out the window. My second thought was to reach for the remote. Fortunately, I went with the second.
The biggest reading surprise of the month was Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne. It’s the script to a two-part play that officially opened in London at the end of July. I didn’t think I would care for it as I was never a big Harry Potter fan to begin with (although I’ve read the series and seen the movies). And I hate plays. Well, I found myself curious by all the attention and hub-bub the book was getting, so I decided to buy a copy. Although it took me about 30 pages to get used to the script format, I quickly got hooked by the story and ended up loving the book. I loved it so much, in fact, that I only waited about a half hour before starting it over and reading it a second time. It became only the third book in my life to merit an “immediate re-read.”
Let’s finish up with another surprise. Despite the fact that I barely care at all about the Smiths, it turns out that I like Morrissey. Not as a human being, of course, but as a singer. In particular, I like six of his songs that I first heard on an EP called Colin Meloy Sings Morrissey. After hearing Colin Meloy’s versions, I wanted to hear Morrissey’s originals. Unfortunately, the were scattered all over the place on b-sides. After a couple months of looking, I finally found them all on a possibly dubious collection called The Parlophone Singles ’88-’95. The best part is that I even like most of the songs that weren’t on the Meloy EP.
- Here’s a lyric video of the Ella Fitzgerald song I mentioned in this post. Listening to it really is one of the best ways to spend seven minutes.
- Here’s the first song off C87, “Pristine Christine” by the Sea Urchins. It’ll give you an idea of the kind of music the box contains.