Vinyl Vlog 140

Vinyl Vlog 140

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

A deeper look at the grooves pressed into the Trying To Become A Millionaire reissue LP by California Playboys, released by Manufactured Recordings/Omnian

I know I’ve said this before, but it’s a statement which requires regular reiteration: one of the best parts about records after they’re made and have come out is that they’re there – available to be found when potential listeners are ready to find them. It’s even easier now that the music industry is hurriedly reissuing so much music which has gone forgotten for so long in order to potentially make a few extra dollars. Such statements may be taken as a disgusted shot against consumerism, but (in this case) it isn’t intended that way; rather, as an audiophile and music history geek, I feel that much of the current reservoir of reissued material can genuinely enrich musical palettes and yield new inspiration to young ears and minds. A great example, in that regard, is the new reissue of California Playboys’ only album, Trying To Become A Millionaire.

“Who,” you ask?

California Playboys were originally a group of prodigiously talented players assembled as the backing band for R&B singer Lester Young. Young released a few singles with the band behind him before the Playboys released Trying To Become A Millionaire under their own name in 1976, and that was it – shortly thereafter, the bandmembers went their separate ways (all the members of the group had good careers as session musicians) and they never reconvened. There was no shocking reason why the California Playboys evaporated, it was just a matter of no one finding the time (so the story goes). It was an anticlimactic end for certain, but that the album and the music endured speaks volumes to its quality; copies of Trying To Become A Millionaire have reportedly sold for ridiculous sums.

While critics can (and probably will) argue endlessly about the collectability of this album, one thing can most definitely not be disputed: Trying To Become A Millionaire is a good and special sounding record, and the Manufactured/Omnian reissue absolutely does it justice. From the moment the title track blasts in to open the record, listeners will have a series of images overtake their mind’s eye; pictures of sun, swimming pools and the sort of sepia-tone which always seem to accompany images of the 1970s in general all snap into vibrant focus immediately. It’s pretty wild too, because the sound is obviously very transitional in nature; while it’s possible to hear strains of disco in the rhythm which drives it, the song is unmistakably descended of Soul as the horns support and swing around the drums and bass figures, and the rhythm guitar colors around the edges of the mix as a whole. The results are a sure classic in that the rhythm is able to gently re-write a listener’s bodily functions; even on first listen, those exposed will notice that they’re walking with a slightly different step and their muscles are flexing and relaxing in a more relaxed manner. That, without intending to overstate the point, is the kind of result that only truly inspired Soul can cause.

The Soul strains get even deeper through songs like “Double Love” which also appears on the album’s A-side, as well as in “Just Say A Four Letter Word” and “I’ve Got To Find Myself Another Girl” on the B-. In all of those instances, again, the obvious hints toward disco are present but the scales don’t quite tip; which makes the record feel really, really progressive now, forty years after its release. At every turn here, the desire is clearly just to make a record not necessarily to make a record that’s going to sell, because it never gives in to the obvious sales gimmicks which would have guaranteed sales and notice in 1976. The swing and swagger of the streets in Philadelphia shape these songs and there is also plenty of the disco inspiration which powered the dance clubs at the time but, even forty years later, it’s impossible to say that those two influences summarize Trying To Become A Millionaire; they inform aspects of the album, but there is more to it than just that and it’s engrossing for that fact.

With all of that said, it could only be regarded as a blessing that Trying To Become A Millionaire has been reissued on its fortieth anniversary. While some music connoisseurs would say that the reissue is a relief due to original copies of the album selling at auction for ridiculous sums, the truth is that the reissue is a blessing simply so that more people now have the chance to find it; Trying To Become A Millionaire is a great record which deserves to be heard by as many people as possible. [BILL ADAMS]


The reissue of Trying To Become A Millionaire is out now on vinyl and available as an mp3 download. Buy it here on Amazon.

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