Tuesday, January 11, 2011



Like so many of you music fans out there, there's nothing I enjoy more than flipping through the bins at a favourite store, looking for that treasure. Usually this involves fruitless searches lasting upwards of a couple of hours, but patience is rewarding. Every once in awhile, you walk away with something you didn't know about, for a cheap price. My plan is to tell you about the good ones I find in my shopping trips, and maybe you'd like to add some of yours in the comments section as well.

We start in one of my all-time favourite stores, Taz Records in Halifax. The store has been around since I was a kid shopper in the 70's, run for years by the remarkable curmudgeon Bob Switzer, until his passing a couple of years back. New owners have made it a fine-looking spot, and I almost always pull something out of the bins, whether its some fun 7-inch picture sleeve 45's, or a CD I've had on my want list for awhile. This time though, it was something I hadn't seen before, or had least forgotten.

Flipping through the Nick Lowe section, this was a used disc marked "Rare Nick Song", which was enough to grab my attention, as well as it's cheap $7.99 tag. The disc is a charity release from Toronto's Q107 station, dated 1996. There are plenty of such collections, often released only in the market where the station exists, and if you're lucky, they are like this one. It's made up of 18 tracks taken from the station's live concert program of the day, when artists would drop by and play "Concerts In The Sky", from the station's 15th floor. Usually this involved stripped-down arrangements, often just a singer and an acoustic, occaisionally some more instruments, and of course, making these instant collectables. This one has a great track listing. Yes, Mr. Lowe was there, performing his time-honoured greatest hit, What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love and Understanding, a far darker take on the tune than the boisterous Elvis Costello arrangement of fame, the author bringing out all the irony in his downbeat acoustic version.

One such track alone is often reason enough for me to buy one of these, but on inspection, it was a goldmine for rare cut enthusiasts and completist collectors. First off, it's chock full of artists included in The Top 100 Singles and Top 100 Albums books. Tom Cochrane delivers Good Times, with typical passion. Our Lady Peace gets all acoustic for Naveed. Jim and Greg do a rare duo version of Is It You. My favourite though is a Burton Cummings performance at the keys, of the poignant and meaningful Sour Suite, a great glimpse into the successful musician's world, and a reminder that we're all human. The track reminded me of how fine a singer he really is, and how connected he is to the material.

There's more good Canadian material too, from Rusty, The Watchmen, Gowan, and David Wilcox. And if that ain't enough, the rest of the performers are a drool-list of mid-90's songwriter favourites, including John Hiatt (Perfectly Good Guitar), The Jayhawks (Waiting For The Sun), Matthew Sweet, Sheryl Crow, Pete Droge, and Charlie Sexton. This is the kind of package that has kept me flipping in the bins my whole life.

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