Monday, January 10, 2011

Singles Scene #16: Brantford

I’m driving out to Brantford with a purpose: I’m looking for an 8-track player. A couple of years ago I was at the Cross Roads Trading Post, a great junk market in Brantford. It was easy to find the first time, and I’ve even been back, so a quick trip in and out and I should be good.

Two hours later, I haven’t a clue where this place is, can’t remember what it’s called and have about an hour left before the stores start closing down on this Sunday afternoon. My wife called to ask me to pick up milk, and I mention I haven’t a clue where I‘m supposed to be. She pulls out The Wayback Times and gave me an address in about thirty seconds. It’s a Bingo, and I arrive at the Trading Post just after 4:00.

The Crossroads Trading Post is a one storied, horseshoe shaped building with a plane on the roof, an outdoor market in the courtyard, and a mass of electronics, furniture, old phones and assorted antique/collectible/junk. It may be January, but the outdoor stalls are still full of old tools and household items. I move around it quickly, find no 8-track player and get inside opting not to, in Ebeneezer Scrooge‘s words, “conduct my affairs in the teeth of inclement weather.”

Inside I find a few spots that are promising, including literally a stack of electronics at the back. In the quadraphonic pile-up, a couple of old stereo systems with built in 8-tracks. It’s not what I’m looking for: either a stand-alone unit or a smaller component. As tempting as it is to re-buy my first stereo, a Lloyd's unit with turntable AM/FM radio and 8-track player/recorder, it‘s not what I need. There is one, a small unit, with built in radio, but it is outside of my price range and I’m not willing to move on the budget I gave myself.

I may have crapped out on the 8-track player, but around the corner and two stalls away from my first stereo lies a box of singles. If I can’t get what I want, I‘ll take what I need.

There’s a couple of hundred here, not sorted, at $1/per. The range is varied, from Stealers Wheel’s Stuck in the Middle to Joe Dolce’s Shaddap You Face. Picking through it, I buy a couple of non-Canadian’s: Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock and Roll and, believe it or not, Captain and Tennille’s Love Will Keep Us Together (one day I’ll have the coolest jukebox). Somewhere between Dolce, Joe and Seger, Bob, was a couple of pieces of Canadiana.

Besides some local stuff, Celebrating Brantford sort of thing, I find four Canadian singles: Prism’s Young and Restless, Gino Vannelli’s Black Cars, Dan Hill’s Can’t We Try and the obscure title of the day, Kitchener’s Charity Brown’s You Beat Me To The Punch.

Raised in Kitchener, Charity Brown returned last year during the Kitchener Blues Festival to a full and enthusiastic crowd. Singing blues songs now, in the 70’s she was doing contemporary pop, with pictures of a very, very cute Charity Brown staring out from the album covers. The song she is most known for is Take Me In You Arms, which sadly, I didn’t find.

What I got was has her second single, You Beat Me To The Punch on side one, and side two has her first single, Jimmy Mack. You Beat Me To The Punch is on old Smokey Robinson song, and has all the earmarks, and sound of a pre-Beatles rock and roll song. It’s alright, but out of place as a 70’s pop hit. The other single, the old Martha and the Vandellas song, Jimmy Mack, works much better. It is still a Motown song, and Brown has a clean, clear voice that handles the song beautifully. The sort of thing you could play at a dance or party and get away with it.

Dan Hill, on the other hand, your not playing at too many parties, and at dances only to get the couples snuggling. Can’t We Try was a 1987 release, ten years after “that” Dan Hill song. What’s surprising is it’s a duet with Vonda Shepard, who would earn fame in the 90’s as the singer at Ally McBeal’s favourite drinking spot. It is a reasonably standard Dan Hill ballad: the duet format works and it is a pretty song.

Prism Young and Restless is a more known entity, and I like both this band and song. Regardless of their overly 80’s keyboard, Prism always had a strong pop sensibility with a solid rock edge. It’s been a while since I heard this song, and I enjoy it. The b/side, Deception, is more of a rocker is a pretty good song.

Last up is Gino Vanelli. By 1986, Montréaler Vannelli had been a been recording for over ten years. He had early success in the United States, particularly Grammy nominated song I Just Wanna Stop. Black Cars was a phenomenally successful song for Vannelli, but it must be said, I never liked it. This kind of 80’s electronic/keyboard music was never to my taste, and listening now I still only got halfway through the song. Black Cars is, for better or worse exactly what you remember it to be. For me, that for the worst.

As I drive away, not in a Black Car, from Brantford, four Canadian songs (plus two non-Canadian) to the better and $6.00 to the worst, I’m feeling pretty good. The Charity Brown, The Prism and maybe even the Dan Hill will get played again. Black Car, on the other hand, only comes out on 80’s night, which may never come.

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