Tag Archive for 'LP'

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New Tortoise on Record Store Day Special Release

Cover by Crosshair

Cover by Posttypography

Cover by Posttypography

In celebration of National Record Store Day, Thrill Jockey is getting in on the action by releasing a very limited edition (900 copies) LP (really more of an EP) called Records Toreism which will be blessed with catalog number Thrill 12.30. [Note: Thrill 12.29 was the Thrill Jockey 15th Anniversary Trey Told ‘Em MegaMix]

Thrill Jockey is using the occasion to showcase some of their newest acts as well as include a new track from Tortoise’s upcoming release (now pushed to June) and a Trans Am track. Here are the tracks as Thrill Jockey calls them:

A
1. Mountains “Windows”
This is a new song that does not appear any place else. It was recorded with love for the record store.

2. Tortoise “High Class Slim Came Floatin’ In”
This is a new song. It will also appear on their new album in June. Released early with love for the record store.

AA
1. Double Dagger “Stagger Lee”
This is a new song that does not appear any place else. It was recorded with love for the record store.

2. White Hills “Eye to Eye”
“Eye To Eye” was previously released on Abstractions & Mutations, a limited edition CD-R release put together for a tour in September of 2007. Released for the first time on LP with love for the record store.

3. Trans Am Featuring Tim Soete “Wounded Monkey”
This is an unreleased song recorded and mixed March 28, 2005 at MAINZ in Auckland, New Zealand. Tim Soete (from The Fucking Champs) on lead guitar and lead vocals. Released with love for the record store.

The covers (shown above) are meant to portray the alternate possible futures of record stores– one is if we don’t continue to shop the local indie store, and the other is the optimistic future afforded us from spending money not at Best Buy, but at our favorite Indie store. The covers will be handmade, and hand printed by Crosshair.

Of course, yours truly is drooling over this release. The trick is going to be to figure out which stores will carry this. Neither indie store in Iowa City is participating in Record Store Day on April 18th. However, two stores in Dubuque are, so maybe a trip to my old stomping grounds and the store that I spent many a Tuesday over lunch Moondog Records (known as Co-Op Records back then…)

Click Here for Record Store Day Information

Click Here for the post on the Thrill Jockey boards about Records Toreism

B-Sides in the Bins #41 – Wendy & Lisa Interview

Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman– collectively known as Wendy & Lisa are probably best known as the creative songwriting force in Prince’s 80’s backing band The Revolution. It’s my opinion as well as others that it was Wendy & Lisa who were a strong (and necessary) compliment to Prince and that relationship fostered the creative energy of the three that spawned music that was more than the three could have achieved individually. After Prince dissolved The Revolution Wendy & Lisa stuck together and continued to work through the 90’s on their career as a songwriting duo. While the four albums released through 1998 had been received well critically, none of the albums really took off for them– quite a bit of it due to label switching that was outside their control and it was this experience that formed their approach to their new album.

In the ten-plus years since their last album, the pair have stayed together focusing on studio work, songwriting, production and some significant soundtrack scoring for shows like HBO’s “Carnivale,” Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie” and NBC’s “Heroes.” At the end of 2008, Wendy & Lisa self-released White Flags of Winter Chimneys which seems to be a new declaration of purpose with a vision towards the next phase of their partnership. It may prove that the long gap between releases is enough for the pair to be judged upon their own merits as artists and musicians rather than continuing in the shadow of their work with Prince.

I had an opportunity to talk to Wendy & Lisa during a short break in their busy schedules last week to talk about their new album, the promise of an upcoming tour, and their unique distribution model. They were very cool to talk to– funny and excited to talk about their new work. They had me on speakerphone and it was a lot of fun talking to them. They are kindred spirits with me in a lot of respects, their tastes in music are as varied as mine and their passion for their work is infectious as I found myself re-energized to focus on this blog!

Me: A lot of bands are looking into a self-distribution model. Yours is unique in that you are selling it from your website first and then moving to other electronic distribution channels– is it going to get regular distribution as well?

Wendy: It will get regular distribution later, yeah. We’re doing this in steps right now because we’re trying to make a little cash so we can get to the next level because we are distributing it ourselves in a little room with our little postage machines and our little weighing machines and our packaging and this-and-that. We bypassed getting a regular distribution deal because a lot of times the artist ends up having to pay back a lot of money to the distributor because the distributors ordered way too much product. So, we opted to not do that and just to do it as it’s being ordered. So, the best way to get a sense of what is being bought is to take it one step at a time. Basically, our manager Renata who is the computer genius in the family came up with this model– that we go ahead and release FLAC digital downloads and 320Kbps mp3’s and offer it at a reasonable price on the website first to get an idea of what was being sold. And, actually, it’s coming back that we are doing quite well on that. So, the little bit of money that has come in from that is being put into packaging now and getting more product out to people. On February 24th when it is on digital download sites like iTunes, Amazon, and Rhapsody–

Lisa: we have to mention TopSpin who has been with us since the very beginning and helped us get this up and going.

Wendy:  That’s right.

Lisa: I think it is important for people to know that what’s been really cool is that we’ve offered all of these different packages– including just single-song downloads– you know– to just the get things going. All we needed was just the first bit of artwork to have some design up on the webpage. So, you can download a single song, you can download the whole record, you can download the record plus order the CD when it becomes available– you can order the beautiful vinyl which we made a limited amount of– this blue-and-white splatter vinyl which is going to be FANTASTIC!

Wendy: Yeah, and the mastering on the record is FANTASTIC– it’s almost sounds better than the CD as far as I’m concerned.

Me: So, can you tell us a bit more about the vinyl pressing and who did the mastering?

Wendy: Yeah, Paul du Gré did the mastering of the vinyl and he’s from North Hollywood. He’s one of those guys who’s just done everything for ages– he’s a classic engineer, mastering and an audiophile kind of guy. You can Google “Paul du Gré” and find all kinds of wonderful things he worked on. The pressing is being done by Pirates Press using GZ Digital Media in the Czech Republic. There was a problem with doing the splatter– we found a plant that could pour the paint by hand instead of using machines. There is a whole environmental consideration and things like that. [It’s important to note, also that this first limited pressing will be in a gatefold sleeve. -ed]

To get people to pre-order these things over the website has allowed to finance getting these things done. I think it is helpful for other musicians to know that are trying to put things out– that you can start lining your ducks up and start selling things and it will help finance things like producing the product.

Lisa: For me, I feel like this is more satisfying than having a record deal.

Wendy: It really is, and more has come from this in satisfaction for us than any record label we’ve ever been signed to– and we’ve been signed to A LOT. And dropped from every one of them… This is so much better and I highly recommend it! Haha!

Me: So, did you create a label for this?

Wendy: Yeah, we just created our own thing.

Me: What is the label called?

Wendy: It’s called “Lisa Coleman/Wendy Melvoin” hehehe. Literally, that is what it is called. We don’t have a label name. It is just “L. Coleman/W. Melvoin”

Wendy: That’s it– we aren’t going to put out anyone else’s records.

Me: Well, yes I suppose you aren’t going to make a “Paisley Park” or something.

Wendy: Nah, it’s not going to happen for us.

Me: Will you be selling the LP without the CD at some point?

Wendy & Lisa: Oh, yes! Absolutely!

Me: It seems that the other part of the equation for working bands is touring and, in some cases the album is promoted by the touring. Do you see the success of this preventing the need to tour? Are you going to tour?

Wendy: We’re going to need to tour. All of this is leading into the two of us hopefully getting out this summer to do some gigs. We have so much work to do before we can even put our eye on that– but our sights are on being able to tour. I’d love us to be able to spend at least three months– six weeks here in the States to do just some key places and six weeks in over in Europe would be fantastic.

Lisa:  Yeah, it’s not a matter of even needing to tour, we really would like to tour.

Wendy: Yeah that’s true…

Lisa: …And play this record out and play these songs and give them a life. But, we don’t have the financing to rehearse a band and pay for hotels and travel and things like that so we’re trying to raise the money first. Maybe find some smart ways of doing it– maybe pairing it with another band or a promoter or something that makes sense.

Wendy: Or what we talked about before is that we have this group of musicians that we have this band with called Edith Funker. It has members of the Roots– ?uestlove on drums, Erykah Badu on vocals, My brother-in-law on guitar Doyle Bramhall [Wendy’s sister Susannah Melvoin is married to Doyle -ed], with [Susannah] doing vocals and guitar, James Poyser on keyboards with Lisa, me on guitar, this really phenomenal record producer-musician named Mike Elizondo on bass. And, we want to go out possibly as each other’s band.

Me: Oh, like a package tour!

Wendy: Yeah, a package tour. So, for like 45 minutes we’re Eryka’s band, and for 45 minutes they’re Wendy & Lisa’s band, and for 45 minutes we’re Doyle’s band– you know what I mean? Kind of do that. We’d love to make that happen.

Me: That would be really great!

Lisa: We think that would be the ideal thing, but you know it would be pretty hard to coordinate. Everybody’s doing their records and tours and things like that. We’re hoping maybe by summertime. Also, that’s when the TV season ends because our day job, of course, is scoring TV.

Wendy: “Nurse Jackie” and “Heroes.”

Lisa: Yeah, so after the TV season is over and everybody kind of gets done doing what they’re doing right now…

Wendy: Which is the end of April…

Lisa: Yeah, we’re going to try aim for late June or something around there to try to get out and do something like that.

Me: Are you going to try to hit the festivals?

Wendy: You know, if we could get that group of people together, I don’t even know that we have to do the festivals. We could probably get a venue on our own and make it a two-and-a-half, three hour event with all of those people– bypassing the festivals.

Me: By the way, I think that White Flags is a brilliant record. You have somehow managed to hit a lot of the buttons I care about in music.

Lisa: Oh wow, Thank you!

Me: I had a pretty tough time describing it while writing the one paragraph I did write for the article talking about the upcoming release. The record either sounds like it’s been a long time coming or– I don’t know. It’s all over the place and it has one sound– a consistent production value. I’m going to call it “shoegazer” because I don’t know what else to call it.

Wendy: Yeah, and I related to your comparisons, I do listen to Lush a little bit and My Bloody Valentine and Radiohead– of course and I feel those things when I hear this record as well.

You know, this has been a long time coming for us, this record.  We needed to start fresh. We didn’t really use anything that we had in the can from ten years ago, but we opted basically to let all that got to define who we are right now. After being in film composing and TV composing for this long and producing for other people and being on a million other records during this time and writing for other people. And, when we got the writer’s strike– for good or for bad– the strike allowed us the opportunity to get in our room, shut the door, turn the red light on and keep everybody out and make this record. We were lucky for the time– really lucky for it because I’m really proud of this record. When my kid’s a teenager, I wouldn’t hesitate handing him this record and say, “here, give this a listen.”

Lisa: It was like opening the flood gates for us, too. After having the responsibility to write music all the time, having the freedom to write music was a totally different experience. The things that came out of us were– and we’re guilty of being all over the place anyway because we love so many different kinds of music– we like to groove and we like to be introspective, we like to trip out and then we like to get really classy or intimate. So, all these things just started pouring out, and when we hit a certain song or a certain place after a month or so of writing we knew we had stumbled upon the sound that could carry through. There was even this Mellotron “voice” sound that I think we used on every song or as a way to segue between songs was the emotional thread through the album– like it was one story.

Wendy: Michael, when you listen to the LP, we actually made this– segued this so it would sound as if you were having the LP experience. It’s been so many years since people have had that mindset and boy do I miss it!

Lisa: To listen to a whole record and to have it be different– so many times I put on a record and then it’s kind of the same song over-and-over again. I’ve never liked that– I like records that have different feels on it, like it takes you on a trip.

Wendy: Yeah, like one of the coveted LP’s that I have is the Bill Evans/Claus Ogerman Symbiosis. Side A is all of the horn arrangements that Claus Ogerman did– Bill isn’t even playing on side A! Symbiosis is this composition where side A is playing at double-time and side B is an orchestra and the Bill Evans Trio playing it at half time. That’s a fucking LP experience to me! That, to me, is a high achievement.

Me: Was that a Prestige title?

Wendy: I think maybe it was.

[Although Evans famously recorded on Prestige, this 1974 release was originally released on the German label MPS. It was re-released on CD in 1995 on Verve Records and is now sadly out-of-print, however you can download mp3’s at Amazon. -ed]

Me: It sounds like I need to find that one– I like Bill Evans.

Wendy: You need to find that. It’s breathtaking. Michael, this LP is BREATHTAKING, it’s so beautiful! Side B– that’s the heartbreak side. Side A is more like the bible of harmonics.

Lisa: It’s almost Supersax, but really um…

Wendy: It’s more Steve Reich-ian meets Supersax.

[I had to stop myself from talking about Reich’s “Different Trains.” I saw the original configuration of Kronos Quartet performing this in Madison, WI in the early 90’s.]

Lisa: Way more sophisticated harmonically. It’s really, really cool.

Albums are so much better when they aren’t just a collection of singles. Even though there is a place for that– you can go buy the “greatest hits.”

Wendy: In defense of a lot of records out there, I think it is just the Pop stuff that is geared towards that. I listen to plenty of CD’s right now that aren’t a collection of singles. It’s too blanket of a statement– it’s just not true.

Lisa: Well, I just think with the failure of the record companies (assumes stuffy documentary voice) “in our historic times”– record labels have completely failed the art and it makes the art difficult to master. When you’re making a record, you’re not sure what you’re supposed to be aiming at. I think that Wendy and I in this situation had the perfect opportunity to not care about that. We had our studio already set up, we had been scoring TV, and the writer’s strike hit and we had nothing to do.

Wendy: It was a perfect storm.

Lisa: Right, exactly, so we were “snowed in,” had all this gear, all this inspiration and nobody to answer to except each other and we just started writing and it was such a gift to be able to do that.

Wendy: Even our engineer kept looking at us and saying “What kind of music is this? What is this?” Just go with it man, just go with it.

Lisa: “Is this supposed to sound like a rock record? Should I make it tight or loose? Should I use echo?” We said, “Just make it sound cool.” He has great taste and great ears and great techniques.

Wendy: We just guided him and said, “Stay there! Don’t move! That’s just where we want to be!”

Me: So, you did this in one sitting, effectively? It’s a bit astounding that you could achieve this record like that.

Lisa: Yeah, it was easy– well I shouldn’t say that and jinx myself! With the exception of “Niagra Falls,” which we re-recorded, yeah. We just have a lot of music in our bones. It just comes out.

Me: I haven’t had this record to listen to that long, but the two songs that stand out for me are “Niagra Falls” and “Sweet Suite.”

Wendy: Yeah, those are the two that a lot of people are gravitating towards.

Me: I have to say that out of the whole Revolution catalog “Sometimes It Snows In April” [from Parade] is probably my favorite song.

Wendy & Lisa (in unison): Wow, thank you!

Me: So, I hear “Sweet Suite” and I kind of hear that in there.

Wendy & Lisa: Yeah, for sure, definitely.

Lisa: “Sometimes It Snows In April” was really the pinnacle of our relationship together [with Prince]. The three of us had kind of a love affair. And when we wrote that song– again– it was just the three of us sitting together in a room. I really loved it, and I had hoped we would follow that trail further, you know? Like make a whole record like that or something. But, that didn’t happen.

Wendy: He opted out.

Me: And there was that B-Side to “Mountains” What was it, “Alexa de…”

Wendy: “Alexa de Paris.”

Me: Yeah..

Lisa: Oh, wow, yeah…

Wendy: That whole Parade record, that was a great time. Parade, and Sign O’ The Times. Actually, the three albums: All Around The World In A Day, Parade, and Sign O’ The Times, those were incredible records to make…

I’ll tell you what my friend– we don’t want to– but, we have to go. We have to deliver thirty minutes of music for “Heroes” for tomorrow morning and we’ve only done one reel out of five! We have a deadline…

Me: I really appreciate the time, ladies, and it was really great talking to you at the beginning of this phase in your career!

Below is a full-album stream of Wendy & Lisa’s new album White Flags of Winter Chimneys:

 

Frank Zappa – Hot Rats Re-Released on 200g & 140g Vinyl 1/23/09

Via the e-mail blast from Acoustic Sounds, it appears that there will be two pressings of Frank Zappa’s 1969 post-Mothers of Invention album Hot Rats coming out on 1/23/09. The releases will be handled by Classic Records with a 140g and 200g pressing. According to the Classic Records page on the release, it was mastered from the original analog master tape under the supervision of Zappa’s wife Gail by Bernie Grundman.

This comes as a blessing to the Zappaphiles and audiophiles as apparently the remastering that was done when Zappa moved his entire catalog from Reprise to Rykodisc in the late 80’s he took the opportunity to make new mixes of his catalog. Never content to leave things alone he in some cases created new versions of the songs. The additional length afforded by the compact disc allowed him to make longer versions as well. Unfortunately, the 1986 mastering technology for digital was very new and the result were recordings that sounded different and apparently worse than the originals.

This is apparently the case with Hot Rats. So, this pressing gives people the chance to hear how Frank intended the album to sound in 1969, anyway. Debatably he may have preferred the work he did in the ’80’s, but we won’t know.

My familiarity with Zappa’s catalog kind of starts and ends with Joe’s Garage as it’s the only one I own. When I was following Phish I became familiar with “Peaches en Reglalia” as they covered it frequently in concert. This prompted me to seek out Hot Rats, which is the album that song is from. Hot Rats is pretty well regarded as one of the albums someone should listen to when starting to get into Zappa. Certainly it’s a bit easier to stomach for the average listener than some of Zappa’s mammoth catalog as it doesn’t have any of his trademark scatalogical humor or political views. In fact this album only has one song with vocals and that is the bluesy “Willie the Pimp” with Zappa’s friend Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart. When I listen to Hot Rats, I’m pretty amazed that this was recorded in 1969. While it sounds dated, it doesn’t have the late sixties production one might expect. Hot Rats is alleged to be the first recording that uses 16-tracks. The Beatles were recording Abbey Road around the same time Zappa was recording this album and they were using 8 tracks!

Apparently Gail Zappa is using this reissue of Hot Rats to gauge whether there would be interest in releasing the rest of the catalog on audiophile vinyl. Based on the chatter on the boards, I think this release will be very popular!

Click Here to order the 140g pressing of Hot Rats from Acoustic Sounds ($24.99)

Click Here to order the 200g pressing of Hot Rats from Acoustic Sounds ($32.99)

B-Sides in the Bins #39 – What I Got For Christmas! (12/24 & 12/25)

Stevie Nicks - Crystal Visions 180g 2 LP

2008 was the year of new vinyl for me. Between my 40th birthday and Christmas I ended up with some cool pieces for the collection. Likely, my family is breathing a collective sigh of relief as I think I was a bit difficult to buy for when someone would get my name from the gift exchange drawing. Since I don’t really buy that much new vinyl for myself– I tend to stick to used– pretty much any title that they would like, I would probably like, too. I got a couple of CD’s as well. I keep my Amazon wish list up-to-date which is pretty helpful for gift selection as well.

Jurassic 5 – J5 Deluxe Re-Issue (2 CD, 1 DVD, Decon DCN65, 2008) (gift) My daughter got me this from my Amazon Wish List. I totally forgot about this release, so this was a nice surprise! The J5 Deluxe Re-Issue is a reissue of the first Jurassic 5 album from 1997. The original album was released on Interscope and had apparently been out-of-print since 2004 and held up due to contractural disputes. The original album is here along with a second CD full of hard-to-find and previously unreleased stuff. The DVD has a movie from J5’s first world tour, some concert footage from Brixton Academy and the “Concrete Schoolyard” music video. Nice to get back to this– I stopped listening to J5 after Cut Chemist left and they released Feedback, which was not great. When the hell is 2na going to release his solo joint?

Vince Guaraldi – A Charlie Brown Christmas (3 CD Collector’s Edition Tin, Madacy Entertainment TC2 53161) (gift) This was a stocking-stuffer. A festive metal tin holding two Fantasy CD’s– The 2006 remaster of A Charlie Brown Christmas with the bonus tracks, and Charlie Brown’s Holiday Hits which has some of the songs from Christmas, but has songs from A Boy Named Charlie Brown, the wonderful “Thanksgiving Theme” from the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special, “Great Pumpkin Waltz” from “It’s The Great Pumpkin,” and others. The third disc is the David Benoit Jazz tribute  40 Years – A Charlie Brown Christmas with some notable assistance from The Rippingtons, Chaka Khan, Dave Koz, Brian McKnight, Toni Braxton and Vanessa Williams. A neat collection in a tin that shares the artwork with the 2006 Christmas release, which used the original 1965 artwork. Unfortunately, the liner notes for Holiday Hits don’t do a good job of explaining where the songs that aren’t from Christmas and A Boy Named Charlie Brown came from. A little digging turned some information up. Special thanks to Vince Guaraldi’s Peanuts Song Library at fivecentsplease.org which is the insanely comprehensive Peanuts site.

Tracklisting for Charlie Brown’s Holiday Hits:

1. Joe Cool (2:03) apparently not the version from “He’s Your Dog Charlie Brown.”
2. Surfin’ Snoopy (1:09) from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” where Snoopy is decorating his doghouse (1965)
3. Heartburn Waltz (2:36) from “Be My Valentine Charlie Brown” (1975)
4. Track Meet (2:37) from ? (this song and the next one don’t seem to be in the TV cue list but seem to have been recorded at the same time.)
5. Camptown Races (2:22) from ?
6. Oh, Good Grief (1:56) actually “Schroeder” with Lee Mendelson’s son Glenn’s sixth-grade class singing.
7. Charlie Brown Theme (4:19) on A Boy Named Charlie Brown, but included in a bunch of the specials.
8. Schroeder (1:50) on A Boy Named Charlie Brown
9. Charlie’s Blues (1:20) from “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” (1973)
10. Great Pumpkin Waltz (2:26) from “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” (1966)
11. Thanksgiving Theme (1:59) from “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” (1973)
12. Linus and Lucy (3:03) from A Charlie Brown Christmas
13. Christmas Time Is Here (vocal) from A Charlie Brown Christmas
14. Christmas Time Is Here (inst.) from A Charlie Brown Christmas

Mudcrutch – Extended Play Live! (12″ EP & CD,  Reprise 516850, 2008) (gift) In a similar fashion to the Mudcrutch LP, this EP came with a “full dynamic range” CD. This means that the CD isn’t suffering from the compression that a lot of releases have today. Mudcrutch was the band that Petty along with Heartbreakers Tom Leadon, Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell were in before Tom formed the Heartbreakers in 1976. Rather than succumb to fans requests for releasing Mudcrutch’s “lost album” Tom brought the band back together and recorded a new album which used some of the original tracks recorded for Shelter records. This live EP is made up of songs recorded over three shows in April and May of 2008. I need to go get the Mudcrutch album, too.

Various artists – Music from the Motion Picture Pulp Fiction (LP, MCA 0008811110314, 1994) (gift) This is the first of the new “Back to Black” pressings I have– at least the first with that identified on it. Looking at the Back to Black website, it would appear that the new Police Live album is a Back to Black as well. 180g vinyl in the original packaging– which doesn’t mean a lot since it wasn’t a gatefold cover or anything exciting like that. I wasn’t aware that this soundtrack had been on vinyl originally. One of my favorite movies and certainly soundtrack with its fun blend of surf tunes and 60’s songs. Mastered by Steve Hau at Future Disc Systems.

Stevie Nicks – Crystal Visions… the Very Best of Stevie Nicks (2 LP, Reprise 100363-2, 2007) (gift) All I can say about this is… “wow!” Everything about this release is an audiophile’s dream: 2 180g LP’s in lined paper sleeves housed in a gatefold with beautiful artwork and very flattering photos of Stevie at various points in her career. In addition, there is a 1-page sheet with the credits that is in the pocket with the first LP which also includes Stevie’s notes on each song! The compilation draws mostly from her very successful solo career, but also has some choice Fleetwood Mac tracks. Again we get “Silver Springs” which was rescued from certain obscurity during the Dance tour and album and has been restored to every pressing of Rumours since. We get a recent live version of “Rhiannon” and the 2005 clubby remix of “Dreams” (which apparently has new vocals). We get a couple of live tracks performed with the Melbourne Symphony including “Landslide” and a nine-minute “Edge of Seventeen.” The album is bookended by two versions of “Seventeen”– it opens with the original album version from Bella Donna, and closes with the live version. Although the live version is longer and involves the symphony, it really isn’t dramatically different than the orignal song since it has drums and electric guitars. Half-Speed Mastered by Stan Ricker, Plating and Pressing at R.T.I.

B-Sides in the Bins #38 : On A Charlie Brown Christmas by The Vince Guaraldi Trio

"A Charlie Brown Christmas" on my turntable

I made a quick stop in at Half-Price books last Thursday. Sherry needed me to stop at GNC for some flu-fighting stuff on my way home from work, so I took the opportunity to stop in. I saw a couple of interesting pieces in the Rock section that I need to get at some point including The Knack’s Get the Knack, and Isaac Hayes Hot Buttered Soul, but I didn’t want to pick up a bunch of stuff. I walked around to the Jazz section and I was really happy to see A Charlie Brown Christmas in the nearby Children’s section! The cover has no ringwear, but the sleeve was curved which has seemed to cause the printing to separate from the sleeve and wrinkle a bit. No matter, the vinyl is in fantastic shape and with the season upon us, I laid out the $2.98.

A Charlie Brown Christmas is a very important album in my life in that it was the gateway to my appreciation of Jazz music today. I wish I could say that my Jazz listening started with something much more complex like Miles Davis, or Thelonious Monk or even John Coltrane– all of which I listen to today– but it started with the seminal Peanuts Christmas special.

In 1965, the pairing of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” the TV special and Vince Guaraldi was initially met with resistance from executives from the show’s original home at CBS. They felt that Guaraldi’s West Coast Jazz was not a good fit for a children’s TV show. According to the Wikipedia article on Guaraldi, Lee Mendelson– the producer of the show– had heard “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” which was a huge single for Guaraldi and felt that his style was the right fit for the show. In retrospect, it was this innovative decision that lends to the timeless charm of the show and defined popular Christmas music for the generations of people like myself who make it a tradition to watch the delightful show year-after-year. It was the choice of the signature Guaraldi sound that would define all of the Peanuts specials made (sixteen!) until Guaraldi’s untimely death in 1976 shortly after he wrapped up “It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown.” Guaraldi was only 47.

Fantasy Records issued A Charlie Brown Christmas (Fantasy 8431) that same year as the soundtrack to the show and added “The Chrismas Song,” which wasn’t in the special.

In the liner notes for George Winston’s 1982 release December– itself a hallmark of Christmastime music– he says,

“There is a great wealth of traditional and contemporary music to draw from in doing an album for the winter season. These five albums have been very inspirational to me in conceiving of this album for the seasons.”

Of course the first album listed is A Charlie Brown Christmas. I first heard December standing in the Musicland in Dubuque when I was in high school around Christmas and bought it immediately. When I got it home and read the liner notes I took note of the A Charlie Brown Christmas mention. George Winston would go on to record a complete album of Guaraldi compositions called Linus and Lucy: The Music of Vince Guaraldi in 1996.

In 1988, Fantasy finally released A Charlie Brown Christmas on CD (Fantasy FCD-8431). I picked it up a couple of years after that, and that is the version I have on CD today. The 1988 release of the CD and the LP included the song “Greensleeves” which was recorded during the sessions but not included on the original release. In 1997 Fantasy made a Starbucks Exclusive edition which was faithful to the original release by omitting “Greensleeves.”

My pressing of A Charlie Brown Christmas is a 70’s issue. It has a new cover that uses the original illustration, but has a different font and that It has the newer “circle-F” logo on the LP label, but doesn’t have that logo on the front cover– unlike the 1988 release. The front cover has “The Original Sound Track Recording of the CBS Television Special” across the top. This is the same cover that was used in the 1988 remaster (aside from the logo change).

In 2006, Concord Music Group– which has Fantasy Records these days– reissued and remastered A Charlie Brown Christmas and added some bonus tracks in the form of alternate takes of  “Christmas Is Coming,” “The Christmas Song,” “Greensleeves,” and the vocal take of “Christmas Time Is Here.” Unfortunately, during the remastering process they used the wrong takes for “Linus and Lucy” (actually half of a take as the standard “Linus and Lucy” is made of two takes) and “Christmas is Coming.” They initially offered a replacement for people who got the “bad” disc. I think that if I had gotten one of those, I would have kept it! This release also extended some of the original songs that were edited. “O Tannenbaum” was missing the intro, “Christmas Time Is Here (Instrumental)” was missing the last chord of the song, and “Skating” gains an additional ten seconds restoring the bass solo at the end. They also brought the original cover back which gets rid of the “CBS Special” line at the top of the front cover.

Of note also is the 2006 remastering done by legendary mastering engineers Steve Hoffman and Kevin Grey at AcousTech for Analogue Productions. This was available in a limited (1000 copies)  numbered series of two 180g 45RPM records and is faithful to the original release by not including “Greensleeves.”  A quick search on the ‘net yields none to be had at the moment (although they apparently were available until earlier in December– DRAT!). I’ll have to keep an eye out for one of these. Click Here to see other titles that were and are available from their Fantasy Jazz series of reissues.

The special was aired the night before last on its new home at ABC and even though I own it on DVD, I was transfixed to watch it on TV. One thing I noticed that I’d never noticed before was the song “Skating” is not played during the skating scene in the beginning– it is “Christmas Time Is Here.” I think– like most people who’ve grown up since 1965– the Charlie Brown Christmas special represents the beginning of the holiday season. I usually break out the CD shortly after Thanksgiving (much to my wife’s dismay) to help get into the season. It’s also the ’60’s bebop Jazz sound of A Charlie Brown Christmas that moved me to look for other artists who shared a similar sound like Dave Brubeck and Bill Evans for the piano sound, and Miles Davis’s years on Prestige Records which led me to John Coltrane. Although I listen to other Jazz styles, I tend to come back to this style most often.

A cool find in the used bins in time for the holidays.

Update: Acoustic Sounds found another crate of these in early 2009, and I bought a copy. I traded my 1970’s copy to a friend for an early pressing of Led Zeppelin II.  On Christmas Day 2010, it looks like Acoustic Sounds has these in stock again. Click Here.

Umphrey’s McGee Mantis Madness / Mantis Bonus Watch

On January 20th, 2009– Inauguration Day– Umphrey’s McGee will be releasing their next studio album, Mantis. According to their press release, Mantis is different from their last studio albums in that it is entirely new music written in the studio as opposed to songs that had been given workouts on the road. The band considers this the “centerpiece of a new era” and extending the notion of innovation, they have set up a unique pre-order for Mantis.

So, hang tight– this gets a bit complicated. I have done my pre-order already, and recommend that if you’re interested you do, too. Here is the shizzle:

First, there are three versions of Mantis. In addition to the CD and mp3 versions you’d expect, the band is pressing a very limited number of 180g LP’s! That’s right! VINYL! The vinyl is included in the Deluxe Package which includes a CD and mp3 download plus other goodies.

The CD version of the album is will be the “key” to unlocking exclusive bonus content that the band will be providing throughout the year through Push Entertainmentincluding live versions of the Mantis songs, rehearsals and impromptu “bus jams” and more. This content– referred to as “Bonus Part II” will be available to anyone who buys the album either as a pre-order or after the release date.

As if that isn’t cool enough, anyone who pre-orders the album in either CD format (for $19.99) or as part of the Deluxe Package ($49.99) will have access to “Bonus Part I.” This is where it gets interesting. If you pre-order the album, you will get a free download of the album in mp3 format to make sure everyone who pre-orders can listen to the album on its release date in case there are unpredictable mailing delays. In addition to that, the band will be making available up to 8 Levels of bonus material encoded as 160Kbps mp3’s that will be available on January 20th as well. The number of levels made available will be based on how many pre-orders are placed of either of the versions. Pre-orders were taken starting October 27th, and as of 11/5, five of the eight levels are unlocked. The special Mantis page has a progress bar at the top of the page that shows how many levels are unlocked and floats a box with what is included in each level. On December 4th Level 1 will be available for download to all who pre-order.

Anyone who pre-orders will also receive a lifetime subscription to the digital edition of Relix Magazine, and be entered in a drawing for a “RelixBand” which is a bracelet made from guitar strings from Jake and Brendan used in a live performance.

When the pre-order opened, there was initially only going to be 500 of the Deluxe Package, but they sold out in TWO DAYS! So, the band increased the number to 1000. At this moment, there appear to still be some available for order. The Deluxe Package has a bunch of great content, and totally worth $50. You get the CD of Mantis, the mp3 download, the 180g vinyl, a special DVD of the 10th Anniversary Retrospective that was shown at last years’ New Year’s Eve shows plus some other video content, a Mantis poster plus other goodies from UMHQ all in a box signed by the band! Apparently, every box will have slightly different extra goodies added by the band themselves.

Here are the levels for the pre-order Bonus. The band scoured the Internet boards to see what rare content was most in demand, so that determined what they’ve included. As cool as the pop-up boxes on the website are, I’ve decided to type it up here, and I will be updating this as the new levels are added, so check back or subscribe to updates on this article to stay up-to-date.

Level 1(8 tracks total, and available in December to pre-orders) unlocked

  1. 1 track from Greatest Hits Vol. III – The long out-of-print first record selected via a fan poll.
  2. 4 tracks from annual Acoustic Christmas Show 2005
  3. 2 tracks from Jake Cinniger’s home studio 4-track archives -One track you’re likely to recognize and one you’re not.
  4. 1 track from inside the studio control room during an album tracking session – Fly on the wall perspective.

Level 2 (8 tracks total) unlocked

  1. 1 track from ‘beat guru’ Andy Farag -Andy often spends his spare time cooking up a variety of hip-hop and r&b beats that are rarely released for public consumption.
  2. Jake’s original demo version of feature track ‘Made to Measure’ with different lyrics. Long before this song evolved into its current state, Jake sang about the joys of man’s best friend.
  3. ‘Made to Measure’ alternate take with scratch vocals.
  4. 2 acoustic tracks from the soundtrack The Trip There written and performed by Brendan Bayliss.
  5. 2 ‘Solo’ audio stems from the title track “Mantis” – Hear instruments and vocal arrangements of this track with everything else stripped away, a microscopic view inside a dense Umphrey’s composition.
  6. 1 potential album cut that was ultimately left unfinished.

Level 3 (7 tracks total) unlocked

  1. 2 control room montage tracks – Experience what it’s like to be a fly on the wall inside the control room of our studio. Hear songs come to life (or be put to death) as the recording process unfolds.
  2. 3 tracks from UM sound checks – “What songs are we going to screw up if we don’t practice them?”
  3. Early sketch version of album track #4.
  4. 4-track studio version of the song EAT, recorded in Jake’s home studio.

Level 4 (7 tracks total) unlocked

  1. ‘Dance Remix’ of album track 5 from Andy Farag
  2. ‘Work in Progress’ track – Listen to the conception of album track number 7 from an improvisation during a live show. Follow it through adolescence and beyond!
  3. 4 tracks from Acoustic Christmas 2006.
  4. ‘Birth of a Song’ – Listen as an album cut is constructed, deconstructed, written, rewritten, tweaked, and birthed from recordings taken from basement tapes, pre-production writing sessions and ‘Grammy take’ sessions.

Level 5 (8 tracks total) unlocked (as of 11/5)

  1. 2 live tracks from the mythic ‘Taper Appreciation Nights’ at Shank Hall, Milwaukee, WI
  2. 2 tracks from Jake Cinninger’s home studio 4-track archives.
  3. Early demo version of album track #6
  4. Mistake Montage – Listen to the less glamorous side of being in the studio with UM.
  5. 2 ‘Solo’ audio stems from album track #4 – Hear various instruments and vocal arrangements of this track with everything else stripped away.

Level 6 (8 Tracks total) unlocked (as of 11/16)

  1. “Radio” edit of an album track
  2. “Work in Progress” – Listen to the conception of album track #9 from an improvisation during a live show. Follow it through adolescence and beyond!
  3. Early 4-track versions of track #7 including Jake’s first scratch version from 1994. Yes kids, 1994.
  4. 3 tracks from the Acoustic Christmas Show 2005.
  5. Time Relevant Track – The original solo guitar audio that became “Wizard Burial Ground” recorded during album brainstorming sessions.

Level 7 (7 Tracks Total) unlocked (as of 12/11)

  1. ‘Birth of a Song’ – Listen as an album cut is constructed, deconstructed, written, rewritten, tweaked, and birthed from recordings taken from basement tapes, pre-production writing sessions, and ‘Grammy take’ sessions.
  2. 2 alternate versions of Jake’s guitar solo from album track #6. Listen to the options we sorted through before deciding on this monstrosity.
  3. Umphrey’s Round Table Pt. 1 – A discussion of all things Mantis.
  4. 2 tracks of solo grand piano from Joel’s Holiday show in 2006
  5. Early rough version of the title track ‘Mantis’ recorded in Joel’s attic in early 2007.

Level 8 (video + 7 Tracks Total) unlocked (as of 1/05!)

  1. ‘Puncle Wally’ – Video the lone performance at historic CBGB’s in NYC.
  2. 1 track of solo grand piano from Joel’s Holiday show in 2005
  3. 2 tracks from Joel, Jake & Andy from Joel’s Holiday show in 2006
  4. Mantis Ghetts – Just wait and see. Guaranteed to please!
  5. 1 track from the mythic ‘Taper Appreciation Nights’ at Shank Hall, Milwaukee, WI
  6. Unreleased track from the Acoustic Planet Tour ’06 featuring Bela Fleck
  7. 2 tracks from Acoustic Christmas 2008

Level 9 (1 Track + Video + 1 Live Set) Unocked (as of 1/7/09) A new level added after 8 unlocked to drive more presales!

  1. FOH Jam – Video from the soundboard jam on 12/31/07
  2. Early scratch version of album track 1348
  3. Entire set from the 1/19/09 CD Release show at the Vic Theatre

I have to say that in the last year since I became aware of Umphrey’s McGee, one thing I have been really impressed with is how they’ve embraced new avenues for keeping the fans up-to-date and providing content as well. They have had regular podcasts with interesting songs from shows, their site provides RSS feeds, the band as well as their soundman regularly blog with photos, you can purchase every show, they allow taping and trading as well. They have also implemented an interesting TXT service via kadoink that sends updates to your cell phone and provides the ability for the band to send recorded messages and music to your phone. This new approach to releasing an album is just another step. It’s clear that Umphrey’s McGee understands their fanbase and seems to cater to them. The Mantis website has an embedded player that is getting updated daily with recent live tracks and has an embedded chat tool as well that the band seems to check.

Click Here to visit the Mantis Website and pre-order Mantis. While you’re there sign up for updates from UM, and be entered into a contest for the “Ultimate Umphrey’s Package.” The grand prize is tickets to any and all 2009 UM shows, a signed copy of Mantis and a signed lithograph of the Mantis artwork, ten first prizes are tickets to three shows and the signed album and litho, and ten second prizes are a signed Mantis and litho.

Click Here to subscribe to an RSS feed of this article to watch for updates.

B-Sides in the Bins #26 – Cedar Rapids Half-Price Books

Wanting to take advantage of one of the coupons I got in the mail for 40% off one item, I stopped off at Half-Price Books in Cedar Rapids last night. Half-Price Books has a deal a couple of times a year where they send out one week of coupons where you start out with 40% off and it decreases 10% every two days through the course of the week, but then ends up with a 50% coupon on Sunday. There wasn’t much in the CD bins this trip, but there was a lot in the vinyl area and I had to make some judicious selections. I’ll be back on Sunday with some stuff to sell to take advantage of the 50%.

Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison (LP, Columbia CS 9639, 1968) ($2.99) This was the one I got the 40% off on since it was a $4.98 one. Is anyone else noticing that the prices are going up at Half-Price? The record is in very good condition with only a slight bit of surface scratches. The sleeve has some edge wear and some face wear, but no ring wear which is incredible considering this record turned 40 this year! This record was a popular one around the house growing up. Dad was a big Johnny Cash fan in the 50’s and 60’s. I love this cover with Johnny big as life on the cover looking askance and sweat running down his face. On the back are hand-written liner notes describing the day-to-day of a prison inmate in the 60’s as well as explaining how he had to convince Columbia to release a live recording made in a prison. In retrospect it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but I guess it must have been kind of shocking at the time. The movie “Ring of Fire” uses this show as its point of departure for the flashback that makes up the movie of Johnny’s life. This record is pretty interesting from the standpoint that it doesn’t have all of the “big” hits on it. In includes classics like “Folsom Prison,” “Jackson,” and “Orange Blossom Special” but doesn’t include “Walk the Line” or “Ring of Fire.” When this was remastered and re-released on CD in 1999 they added the missing songs “Busted,” “Joe Bean,” and “The Legend of John Henry’s Hammer.” A brilliant, landmark record that really transcends time and the genre of Country music.

Neil Young – Harvest (LP, Reprise MSK 2277, 1972) ($3.98) Wow! This was a big find. This copy is pristine! In a dust jacket, NO sleeve damage, includes the lyric sheet. The paper sleeve is torn, but there isn’t any printing on the sleeve so no art loss. What is there really to say about this record that hasn’t been said before? Brilliant record, regarded by most to be the pinnacle of Neil’s career and certainly his commerical high-point with the #1 single “Heart of Gold.” The story goes that Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor were appearing on the Johnny Cash TV show in 1971 and Neil coaxed them to come over and put vocals on “Heart of Gold” and “Old Man.” The country/folk-ish formula that created Harvest was so successful that Neil was able to base his 1992 album Harvest Moon from it and in my opinion repeated the commercial and critical success.

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