Gold Record Studio – “Live at Laney Flea Market”

Up until now, I thought Negativland had the market cornered on bizarre covers of “My Favorite Things.” That was true until I heard Mary, Jon, Jonathan, Priya, Elembe, and Lisa do their version. Alongside a plodding waltz beat; the sextet calls out global warming, noses, and schnitzel-covered space geese. Are they poised at the brink of fame? Probably not– they just happened to be down at the Laney Flea Market last year, when some fun-loving folks decided to set up the Gold Record Studio.

The studio, in reality a record cutting machine plopped in the midst of an otherwise-mundane flea market, offered free recording to anyone who wanted it, and the instruments to make it happen. From the presence of the “sales pitch” opening the first disc (it’s a double set!), it is clear that most market attendants were in capitalism mode. “What’s the catch?” was surely heard many times over by all involved.

Enough about that– there’s a lot of fun music here. I can’t pick out all the names, but there’s more than one track sporting a known musician or two. Rent Romus, Eddie the Rat, Inca Ore, and a former DJ for the Ghetto Boyz all make appearances. Completists take note!

Now I don’t know about you, but if something like this happened in Southern Illinois, you’d have one disc of people singing “Jesus Take the Wheel,” and another split between wannabee rappers and some guy trying repeatedly to pick out the opening bars to “Sweet Child of Mine.” This doesn’t seem to be the case in Oakland. Aside from a handful of American Idol castoffs who go for the “big finish,” and the tone-deaf guy absolutely butchering “Let It Be,” the 83 tracks of “Gold Record Studio” are filled with nothing but originality.

Naturally, there are numerous sub-audiophile moments– bass guitar peaking, a dog barking at one bit of electronic improvisation, and at least one stubborn youngster who will only sing when the art moves her– but that’s all part of the fun. This is a weird ride through eight weeks of Sundays, surely one of the more entertaining compilations you can get your hands on.

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