There are many aspects I love about listening to my records. One such aspect is that it enables me to enjoy and appreciate a full album. More specifically, I wanted to sit down and listen to full studio albums of original music.
Anytime I discovered a new artist I would earmark some notable studio albums to acquire. The desire to experience music in this way is not uncommon among record collectors and music lovers of all kinds. Recently, I have begun to delve into cassettes as well as records. My favorite part of interacting with cassettes is making mixtapes (usually sourced from my records). The enjoyment of these self-made compilation albums made me realize how comps (as LPs) are taken for granted.
Through discussion of various compilation albums/series, I would like to accentuate why they are a cornerstone of record listening and music discovery.
One such example of a great compilation series is Flamingo Funk. The Flamingo Funk albums are put together by My Pet Flamingo. My Pet Flamingo (MPF) is one of the premiere Vaporwave labels, consistently releasing tons of albums on a variety of physical formats (vinyl, mini-disc, CD, and cassette). These comps reflect their choices in other physical releases, with a veritable who’s who of Vaporwave producers amongst some of the best rising stars of the genre. MPF has released two editions of Flamingo Funk, one each of the last two years. From what I understand, they plan to release a new volume each year if possible (with a large portion of the profits going to charity). I was lucky enough for the first volume to come out just as I was fully immersing myself in the scene. The album helped introduce me to some of my favorite producers such as TVVIN_PINEZ_M4LL and Runners Club 95. If you are looking for an entryway to Vaporwave, especially if you like the more danceable side of the genre, this is a fun starting point.
Sometimes, a compilation album helps to provide music that would be difficult or next to impossible to find on vinyl otherwise. One compilation series that fills this need is Love, Peace & Poetry. The Love, Peace & Poetry albums cover Psychedelic Rock music from the 60s and 70s. This theme can get tired as there are many compilation series with similar themes. However, this series is unique as each volume covers Psychedelic Rock bands from a particular country/area (Africa, Latin America, Chili, Turkey, etc.). The albums come in a beautiful gatefold complete with wonderful liner notes regarding the artists. In addition, next to each song the source album (complete with publication information) is listed. The interactive listening experience that entailed researching the artists online and searching for the albums on Discogs is a memorable one. We All Together, a Beatlessque Peruvian band (whose song “Tomorrow” is on the Latin American volume of the series), left a particularly significant impression on me. I was lucky enough to secure a Peruvian first press of their s/t first album online. The album has become one of my favorites and is a staple of my collection. I can safely say the likelihood I would have discovered the cult band from South American any other way is exceptionally low.
The section of music where I have obtained the most compilations is probably World Music. There are so many different genres and sub-genres under its scope. It can get exhausting and overwhelming in knowing where to start. A compilation can be a great jumping-off point for discovering music that can prove difficult to find on vinyl otherwise. One great album that fits this mold is I’m Not Here to Hunt Rabbits. I’m Not Here to Hunt Rabbits is a compilation of Botswana guitar music. Botswana guitar music is an amazing sub-section of Folk/Blues incorporating various local styles of music. The music involves a unique playing style with an over-the-top left hand and a four-stringed guitar. The music was brought to the masses when one man began to video the local musicians and post them on his YouTube channel. It wasn’t long before those in the music industry tracked down these YouTube sensations. Most of these musicians made their living with music, however, none had ever been formally recorded. What resulted was a fun, catchy, and original mix of songs that otherwise would have never been pressed to wax. The album comes with a 36-page booklet that describes the series of events that led to the albums making, a quick history of Botswana, the background story behind all the artists/songs, and pictures of all those involved. The aforementioned booklet helped to provide a rich and intimate listening experience. I felt like all the artists were old friends performing just for me. I hope that one day I will be able to get more of this sub-genre on vinyl.
I personally had always thought of Jazz as an album-specific art. The fact that I got into the genre around the same time I restarted collecting and listening to records probably has something to do with it. This next compilation series, Spiritual Jazz, proved me wrong. The Spiritual Jazz series is made by Jazzman, a U.K. label that focuses mostly on Jazz. They also press records of many wonderful contemporary artists as well as represses of hard-to-find O.G. albums. Spiritual Jazz is a series designed to highlight vintage Soul, Spiritual, Modal, and Avant-Garde Jazz. They have highlighted famous Jazz artists such as Wayne Shorter and John Coltrane as well as deep cuts from artists even the biggest Jazz-head is not familiar with. A unique thing about the series is that each volume has different themes, however, the themes aren’t always related. Sometimes the theme is a country/location (Japan or Europe), sometimes a label (Steeple Chase or Blue Note), other times it’s a certain style of Jazz (deep underground Jazz or Vocal Jazz). Every album is impeccably pressed and comes as a gatefold with interesting, contextual liner notes on each song. I am excited to see what the next volume holds and what new Jazz artists/albums it will help me discover.
In one instance a compilation even helped me discover a new label and reinvigorate my interest in a genre(s). The album, called Synergy: New Salsoul Generation, is a tight tracklist of 90s House remixes. The remixes are sourced from songs on the label Salsoul Records. Salsoul Records is a now-defunct label from the 70s and 80s, known for its Disco, Boogie, Funk, and upbeat R&B. After listening to this album, I could not get the infectious grooves out of my mind. I sat down and did some research on the songs the house DJs were sampling. That led to research on the artist behind the songs and the label behind the artists. I became consumed with the “Salsoul Sound” and such artists as Inner Life, Instant Funk, Skyy, and First Choice. This preoccupation led me to place real importance on obtaining 70’s and 80’s Boogie, Disco, and Funk for my collection. When I think back on it, none of this lane of personal discovery would’ve happened if I never throw that album on.
One last series of compilations I would like to mention is put out by Mississippi Records. Basically, it is a series of professionally made mix-tapes by the staff at the label. There is a wide range of themes highlighting such genres as World Music, Ska, Reggae, Outlaw and Classic Country, Doo-Oop, Deep Soul, Blues, R&B, and Rockabilly. While this series is done on cassette, all the songs are sourced from vinyl. I guarantee you will fall in love with a few artists you have never heard of before after listening to one of these tapes. Each tape comes complete with J-card adorned with a photocopy of a hand-drawn picture on the front complete with a well-thought-out title to match the theme of the tape. Some of the cassettes even have handwritten liner notes on the inside. These tapes have personally increased and reinvigorated my interest in Rockabilly, and Country music. I highly suggest picking up a few volumes should you ever consider the cassette format.
Compilations are great for discovering new artists, albums, and labels. I would say they are essential for increasing your knowledge and enjoyment of genres and sub-genres of music.
Other times, it’s nice to enjoy a variety of songs organized with a well-thought-out tracklist. Next time you are flipping through stacks at your local store, grab that interesting-looking compilation in the new arrivals. When you get home, throw it right on your turntable. You won’t regret it.
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