Whoulda thought it? When the compact disc was first introduced in the eighties, we were told by the fat cats in the music industry that the reason CD albums cost a lot more than their vinyl equivalent was due to their superior sound quality and indestructibility. In other words, what they were offering was perfect sound forever!
Over thirty years later, that claim has been exposed as just another case of shameless, music industry profiteering, a lie designed to sell gullible music fans the music they already owned and charge double for the privilege. It didn’t take too long to discover that in practice CD’s scratched, skipped and snapped almost as easily as their distant cousins, yet they were crushingly soulless, lacking both the sonic warmth and aesthetic cool of vinyl. How ironic then that now vinyl is making it’s big comeback, it’s in a similar position as the most expensive, premium, audio format with plenty of folk only too happy to pay top dollar for albums still available on CD for next to nothing.
What with downloading, streaming and all that, I must admit I offloaded all my CD’s years ago and have resisted the dubious pleasure of rooting around in the bargain bins of charity shops, record fairs or my local HMV for more than a decade. But seeing as how I’m always keen to promote cheap music in whatever format, I thought it was about time Green Inc celebrated the current state of the back catalogue CD; one of the cheapest options around if you want to buy an actual touchy feely, physical artifact with built in artwork.
As those of us of a certain age know only too well, second hand CD shopping used to be a regular Saturday afternoon killing adventure that occasionally revealed the odd treasure or two, but for the most part was a wasteland of sad rejection in cheap plastic, jewel case form. Nonetheless, with the bottom starting to fall out of the CD market, now is the time to take advantage.
So, in a one off visit to my local Oxfam music shop, I set myself the unenviable task of discovering if it was possible to find ten decent CD’s for the average price of a new vinyl album, currently standing at around £18.50. After a couple of hours flipping through literally thousands of CD’s ranging from Alisha’s Attic to Zucchero, here’s what I went home with.
£0.49 BASEMENT JAXX / THE SINGLES (March 2005)
FAVOURITE TRACK ‘Magnificent Romeo’
At 49p The Singles was a fantastically cheap place to start, the first in my eclectic grab bag of compilations and albums. In the early noughties, Basement Jaxx were my wife’s favourite dance pop duo due to their almost permanent position in the UK top thirty. I didn’t take a lot of notice so the hits on disc one act as a handy reminder of what they were about. But it’s the second disc of B Sides and remixes that really holds my attention, especially the mash up of 2001’s ‘Romeo’ with The Clash’s ‘Magnificent Seven’. I’d have been happy to pay 49p for that track alone.
£1.49 BIG AUDIO DYNAMITE II / THE GLOBE (June 1991)
FAVOURITE TRACK ‘Rush’
Poor old Mick Jones has never got the praise his post Clash work deserves, least of all from me. In the troubled, armagideon times of the late seventies, Joe Strummer had been the voice of hope and reason, Mick Jones his posey, muso, sidekick. I was wrong of course, because musically in 1985 Mick Jones was as forward thinking as it was possible for any ex-punk rocknrolla to be. Yet following the death of his short lived eighties version of Big Audio Dynamite, he disappeared so far off my radar that I remained oblivious of his return with BAD version two, so making The Globe an essential bargain bin buy. An expanded, retooled edition of the UK only album Kool Aid (no I’ve never heard of it either), it is irresistible, if only for the playful tension between Jones the punk and Jones the would be, hip hop, dance funkateer. Totally original and thoroughly enjoyable, ‘Rush’ and the title track are making their way onto my iPod as I write.
£2.99 BOSS REGGAE: 40 REGGAE SCORCHERS (2012)
FAVOURITE TRACK ‘Revenge Of Eastwood Vers. 1 & 2’ The Prophets
What more could balding, white blokes of a certain vintage want for their poxy £2.99 than a nostalgia fest of forty reggae tunes from the late sixties and very early seventies soundtracking the bovver boots, turned up Levi’s, Fred Perry’s and braces of the original, rude boy inspired, skinhead generation?
£0.89 TRAVIS BLAQUE / THE MANY FACETS OF… (June 2006)
FAVOURITE TRACK ‘Who R U’
If British hip hop is a shy, elusive species, Travis Blaque’s only album is an endangered animal rarely spotted within the confines of a local charity shop bargain bin or anywhere else for that matter. The alter ego of one Fabian Stephenson, a highly regarded producer and session MC whose involvement with hip hop goes back to the breakdancing of the eighties, The Many Facets Of must have been a welcome alternative to the mysogynism and brutality so common in the mainstream American hip hop of the era. Stephenson’s old school flavour and delivery isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it does have a strong, classically British, social conscience that in this day and age sounds surprisingly refreshing.
£1.99 TRICKY / BLOWBACK (June 2001)
FAVOURITE TRACK ‘Excess’
Tricky’s first three albums described the profound, unspeakable feelings of despair, confusion, guilt and lust I was struggling with in the mid-nineties and how I had to bury those feelings just to give myself a reason for getting out of bed in the morning. Maxinquaye, Pre-Millennium Tension and Angels With Dirty Faces were perverse, paranoid and painfully personal, but when Blowback arrived in 2001, not only was I in domestic bliss with a new partner, daughter and home, I allowed the torrent of criticism the album received to cloud my judgement, meaning I didn’t even get to see it, let alone hear it, until my fingers alighted on a pristine copy slotted alongside Travis’s weedy The Man Who.
Widely regarded as Tricky’s ‘radio friendly pop album’ and packed with pointless ‘star’ guests, Blowback is certainly different yet musically, in much the same way as its illustrious predecessors, it mirrors what was going on in my own head at the same time; the sound of someone crawling out from under the debris of their life, away from the burden of self-seriousness and the doldrums of their existence to breathe in the clean air and find a little happiness. Pop my arse! I only wish I’d dared to hear it sooner.
£4.59 THE BEST OF DISCO DEMANDS (November 2011)
FAVOURITE TRACK ‘Why In The World Do They Keep On (Funkin’ With Me)’ Executive Suite
The power of a strong sleeve design should never be underestimated. Having spent the last decade listening to music on my trusty iPod with nothing but tiny thumbnails, the photo adorning The Best Of Disco Demands proved wonderfully enticing. Honestly, in these supposedly enlightened times I’m surprised anyone would use the image of a beautiful, bare breasted, black girl to sell anything, yet by buying the damn thing I guess I proved the sleeve designer right, not that I didn’t question my own skewed moral compass first. Praise the Gods then that despite using up a sizeable chunk of my £18.50 budget, most of the five discs and 45 timeless tracks of seventies, disco obscurities are great too.
£0.99 TOOTS & THE MAYTALS / REGGAE GREATS (June 1998)
FAVOURITE TRACK ‘Time Tough’
Toots & The Maytals are reggae staples, at least they are on classics like ’54-46 (That’s My Number)’, ‘Pressure Drop’, ‘Time Tough’ and ‘Funky Kingston’. Even so, when I got it home, Reggae Greats proved hugely disappointing. Failing to notice beforehand that it only contained twelve songs rather than the twenty plus I was expecting, apart from the handful of essentials, it includes some truly horrible Toots solo stuff from the eighties and an excruciatingly grim version of ‘Take Me Home Country Roads’ that merely begs the question ‘Why?’
£1.79 LATE NIGHT TALES: NIGHTMARE ON WAX (May 2003)
FAVOURITE TRACK ‘Midnight Marauders’ DJ Fitchie Feat. Joe Dukie
You can’t go wrong with the Late Night Tales series and so it was with George Evelyn’s Nightmares On Wax edition, another reliable, very personal mixtape of bargain bin, car boot sale funkyhiphopreggaegotsouljazz obscurities with DJ Fitchie’s ‘Midnight Marauders’ and Dusty Springfield’s ‘Spooky’ the mandatory lost nuggets.
£1.99 THE HERBALISER / SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES (March 2002)
FAVOURITE TRACK ‘Something Wicked’
At this point in my trawl through the flotsam and jetsam of other folks CD collections I was seriously losing the will to continue. Two hours in, with eight CD’s in the bag, flipping through endless copies of late period Manics albums and REM’s ubiquitous Monster (I counted twelve) was so depressing that when I spied Something Wicked This Way Comes the relief was overwhelming. New millennium British hip hop with a difference made by a bunch of London based funk and jazz musicians who refused to rely on samples, like Travis Blaque it’s a throwback to an earlier age, but this time to an era of bell bottom swinging, stack heel tapping, Blaxploitation soundtrack grooves.
£1.19 COLETTE NUGGETS VOLUME 2 (March 2011)
FAVOURITE TRACK ‘Mad. Ave. Perfume. Ad’ Charles Wilp
Tucked within Oxfam’s orderly rows of discarded dross, Colette Nuggets singular graphics shone like an undiscovered jewel, and with just £1.29 remaining of my £18.50 budget, paying £1.19 to successfully complete my task was a no brainer. Not that I knew more than a handful of the twenty contributors or that Colette is a super trendy Parisian concept store. Nonetheless, it does provide a fascinating insight into the mind and archive of fashions go to sound designer Michel Gaubert, Lyndsey De Paul’s 1972 hit ‘Sugar Me’ rubbing shoulders with J Dilla, Ladytron with 1981 indie pop spy theme ‘The Dossier On Virna Lindt’. Elitist as fuck, ending up in a charity shop in a town as unfashionable as Reading was presumably the last thing either he or Colette had in mind.