I just bought a USB turntable and fell in love with it immediately. I’ve also found a local record store called “In Your Ear” that has tons upon tons of vinyl, most of which is 3 bucks or less. I went there last week and wound up with 31 albums, all of which are slowly making their way onto my iPod. Among the choices: “Still Crazy After All These Years” by Paul Simon, a ton of DeBarge (and El DeBarge solo stuff) and Marlon Jackson’s solo album. Yes, Marlon made a record. More on that some other time.

We are now up to 16,939 songs (show-off). Here’s today’s seven:

Track 1: “Baby Jane” by Rod Stewart: I can see how “serious” music fans would take everything Rod Stewart made after the mid Seventies and uniformly say “crap”, but damn it, my two favorite Rod songs are “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” and “Love Touch” (Mr. Cass, you’ve got to have my back here!). So bite me. “Baby Jane” was a hit single in 1983 or 1984, and had sort of a dance-rock flair to it. It’s a genre he mined intermittently throughout the Eighties, before he went the grizzled rock balladeer rout in the Nineties and turned into Barry Manilow with a raspier voice at the turn of the century. Listening to those standards albums, you appreciate his 80s music a lot more, don’t you “serious” music fans?

Track 2: “Notorious” by Duran Duran: OK, I’m a huge Duran Duran fan. I own all of their studio albums (minus “Medazzaland” and “Pop Trash”, two albums that only the most ardent Duran fans own). I own the (first) Power Station album as well as the Arcadia album. I even had the Duran Duran board game! But I have a question, music fans. Can anyone tell me what ANY Duran Duran song was about? Seriously, what is the “Union of the Snake”? “The Reflex”? (OK, I get “Rio”). This song is just as inscrutable, although it represented a bit of a change of pace musically for Duran. This song swings hard on a James Brown-derived guitar part and a feisty horn section. I was surprised as anyone when I saw them on “Soul Train” at the beginning of ’87 promoting this album.

Track 3: “A Letter to the New York Post” by Public Enemy: As a (former) New York resident, I was always more of a Daily News guy, and I interned for Newsday back in the day, so even if I didn’t hate their politics, the New York Post would always be my third option (I did like Peter Vecsey, though). This song, from “Apocalypse ’91” was apparently recorded after Chuck D and Flavor Flav took umbrage with the way they were portrayed after one of Flav’s many drug and/or domestic arrests in the early Nineties. Fellas, this is one time when I can’t ride with you. ‘Cause Flav was fuckin’ up. You don’t want people to write messed-up shit about you? Not being a crackhead usually helps.

Track 4: “I Specialize in Love” by Expose: I discovered the original version of this song (by an artist named Sharon Brown) when I was in my “wow, I am gay” period in the mid-Nineties and actually frequented a handful of gay bars in New York City (which was actually kinda fun since I was underage). If you got there early enough (before they started playing the repetitive nonsense that has passed for dance music the past 15 years), the Djs would warm the crowd up by playing classics from the Seventies and Eighties. This cover by Expose is pretty damn anonymous, with the only difference between this and the original song being the canned Eurotrash beat.

Apparently, Sharon Brown appeared on “The People’s Court” as the defendant in a suit filed by…disco singer Carol Douglas of “Doctor’s Orders” fame. Disco divas have fallen on hard times, huh? Bitch fight!!

Track 5: “Something You Wanna Know” by TLC: This song, from TLC’s debut “Oooh! On the TLC Tip!” was the trio’s attempt at an “I Need Love”-style rap ballad, and it actually works. Left Eye was quite obviously TLC’s heart and soul, and I’ve gotta admit that most of the songs that don’t feature her aren’t very good (actually, TLC was probably the most overrated R&B act of the Nineties). This song is also notable because it preceded “Baby-Baby-Baby” (which wound up becoming a huge hit) on the album and I’ll be damned if these two songs don’t utilize almost the exact same beat. Blame the L.A. Reid/Babyface/Daryl Simmons production team, who were well on the road to autopilot by the time this song came out.

Track 6: “Smokin’ Dopin'” by LL Cool J: This is one of several quite forgettable songs on LL’s 1989 “Walking with a Panther” album. This particular work kinda gets a bad rap (NPI) because it represented sort of a sell-out move after the success of “Bigger & Deffer”, but a) “Bigger” really wasn’t a good album, hit singles aside, and b) “Panther” is the superior work and would have been even better if not for the fact that LL saw fit to pad the album with damn near 20 tracks. Four or five songs could have easily gone and the record would not have suffered an ounce in quality. This is one of them. LL raps in his “I Need Love” relaxed voice, but the song’s chorus contains chanted vocals a la “Dear Yvette” and “Kanday”. By the way, how awful is this new LL album going to be? I saw the video for the new single today and it has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Whatever happened to the dude that made “Mama Said Knock You Out”?

Track 7: “Do You Feel Me?” by Anthony Hamilton: Anthony Hamilton is the best soul singer to emerge in the last ten years, bar none. His voice is rich and full in the way that Bill Withers’ was back in the day. He’s a strong songwriter, and he is one of the few people who have managed to reduce me to tears on the concert stage. This song has a bit of a retro vibe to it, probably because it was featured on the soundtrack to “American Gangster”, a movie that was set in the Seventies. This dude could sing about cockroaches and make it worth listening to. Hear for yourself.