On a snowy night in January I had an opportunity to see Rob Mazurek’s newest band in an incredibly intimate setting at Monk’s Kaffee Pub in Dubuque, IA of all places. Starlicker is a trio made up of cornet player Mazurek, Jason Adasiewicz on vibes and John Herndon on drums. The trio played a dynamic set of improvised jazz punctuated by frenetic and muscular solos by each. I had my appetite whetted for their eventual release titled Double Demon, which is due out on 5/17 on seminal jazz and blues label Delmark.
Double Demon represents another title in Delmark’s recent re-entry into the world of vinyl– Mazurek’s last release with his band Exploding Star Orchestra (of which Adasiewicz and Herndon are also members) Stars Have Shapes was part of Delmark’s first two releases, so it’s clear that they want to take advantage of Mazurek’s following, who may know of him from his Thrill Jockey releases as Chicago Underground and Isotope 217.
This Saturday, March 5th brings to the Mill Restaurant in Iowa City former V2 Records singer-songwriter Charlie Mars. Charlie is wrapping up a run of dates that started at the beginning of February of East Coast and Midwest dates in support of his latest album Like A Bird, Like A Plane which came out in 2009. The bio on Mars’s site says that Like A Bird, Like A Plane is almost a “new debut.” While this album is his 5th release dating back to his 1996 album Broken Arrow.
The path to his major label release in 2004 on V2 Records (now folded– once home to The White Stripes and Moby) was an uneven one. The 150-dates-per-year touring over three years took a toll on him resulting in needing to enter rehab for substance abuse. Following that he split for Sweden choosing to recluse himself in obscurity. But, it was this move that allowed him to watershed the material that would become his self-titield major label debut in 2004. The major label backing gave his career the necessary re-launching. “I had no manager, no band, I hadn’t toured for about two years – I thought my career was done,” he says.
V2 gave him the radio exposure, backing and critical praise. That ride ended in 2006 when V2 shuttered forcing Mars to reassess his career and start the daunting prospect of a follow up to what was his most successful release. He headed to Austin to assemble a band to record Like A Bird, Like A Plane.
The release has been out for over a year at this point and Mars spent most of 2010 touring in support of it. As I listen to the release, it strikes me as a solidly written and composed album. The album has a stripped down, acoustic approach with an almost Dub-like dissasembled percussion. The album is scattered with studio chatter and starts and stops that give the album a feel of immediacy and live performance. This is substantiated by the fact that Mars says that they tended to use the first takes and left in the “happy accidents” generated as they worked through the recordings.
The standout track for me is the slightly tongue-in-cheek “Listen to the Darkside” with its double entendre use of “darkside” to mean both the classic Pink Floyd record and possibly the advice of the narrator in the middle of a relationship. The song was featured in an episode of the made-for-Showtime series “Weeds” and benefits from a music video that features”Weeds” star Mary Louise Parker.
Charlie Mars will be performing at The Mill Restaurant in Iowa City on Saturday, March 5th at 9PM tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. Charlie House opens.
It was March of 2009 when Lyrics Born announced the follow up to the fantastic genre-bending Everywhere At Once. The album titled As U Were has had a sliding release window since then due to LB’s insistent and unrelenting demands for perfection. LB has cushioned the blow a bit by providing a steady run of leaked tracks and free downloads which has given us a pretty good picture of what the album will be like.
Today the LB camp announced that As You Were will be released on October 26, 2010 and offered up the cover art to prove it! The cover was designed by Brent Rollins who also did Later that Day and Everywhere at Once. As if that wasn’t enough, we are also given another track in the pumping finger-jab-in-the-chest spurned lover vent of “Lies X3.” “If something just ain’t right, it’s just plain wrong… You’ve been lying to me.”
As U Were also marks the move to Decon who has an established multimedia track record working deals in licensing and other creative new avenues for music. Aside from the high-visibility Diet Coke commercial a few years ago and songs showing up on the occasional TV show, I always felt that LB’s music was bubbling-under a bit. I hope that the Decon partnership will finally kick the lid off that boiling pot.
One of the things I love about Lyrics Born is that he isn’t afraid to step out of the straight rap role, and in “Lies X3″ he keeps a rhythmic pace in the lyrics, but he sings it all the way through. He’s expressed before that he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed into a predictable role and in the four tracks leaked from As U Were thus far, it is clear that Lyrics Born is again leaving a predictably worn MC path and stomping into the crunchy underbrush of his own direction.
Last weekend Sherry attended America’s Beauty Show for the third year running and I got the opportunity to have some quality time with Chicago’s record stores. Friday night we went down to a bar called This Must Be The Place in Lemont, IL to see Chicago R&B phenom The Right Now. We got into town late, so we needed to scoot to try and get there in time to get something to eat. Thankfully the folks there were very accommodating and the food was excellent!
The show was a lot of fun– it was the first time I’d seen the band since they played Mahoney’s in Cedar Rapids in 2008 as Eli Jones. The band has come a long way in their stage show. Now the guys in the band all wear matching suits and Steph looked great in a sequined dress and heels. This was the first time the band had played This Must Be The Place and there was a pretty low turnout. Some of the dinner crowd stuck around through the first set but by the second set the audience was made up of Sherry and I and the employees of the bar. The band followed a setlist for the first set, but after the break they decided to loosen up a bit and played some older songs like “Candlelight and Satin Sheets” and “Disco Smooth” and a couple of newly-written songs.
I talked to the soundguy at the break a bit, and he said that the owner of the bar is trying to establish This Must Be The Place as a place for musicians to meet– sort of like The Green Mill or the Empty Bottle downtown. It is a lofty goal for sure as Lemont is about 45 minutes south of the Loop on I-55, and I think that getting the bands to come out of the Loop is a tough proposition. That said, the Metra runs down there so it isn’t an impossibility. It is a really nice venue with a great soundsystem and stage and the food and drinks are good. I’d come back if there was a good band there.
We got to hang out and talk to the band after the show– I was happy that Sherry got to meet them, and we talked a bit about the upcoming Iowa shows the weekend of 4/16 (Iowa City, Davenport and Cedar Rapids).
On Saturday, Sherry attended the first day of the conference at McCormick which started around Noon and I parked in the first floor lobby and worked on blog stuff. On Sunday she went to the second day of the conference and I decided I wanted to hit a Half-Price Books as I had the 50% Off One Item coupon. There are a few Half-Price Books in the Chicagoland area, but all of them are way out in the burbs. The closest one to McCormick Place was down in Countryside, IL off I-55 (pretty close to Lemont, really). So, I dropped Sherry off and hit I-55– it’s exit is right near McCormick Place.
The Countryside HPB has a pretty substantial collection of vinyl as it turns out– and a decent selection of obscure and Chicago-local bands. Unfortunately, I didn’t find a lot of stuff I was looking for. They had a Japanese pressing of the Blind Faithalbum for $30 that I was really interested in. It had the alternate cover featuring the band instead of the topless underaged-girl photo. It had a pretty deep scratch on it otherwise I would have bought it with my 50% coupon. They had two copies of Dave Brubeck’s Time Out– both appeared to be original pressings and one of them was a very worn Mono. I almost bought the Mono, but the wear and the seam-split cover had me passing on it. Plus, I have a very mint Stereo Columbia 6-eye I cherish, so I don’t need another copy, really. They also had Marti Jones’s second album Match Game on LP. Match Game was produced by Marti’s husband Don “Praying Mantis” Dixon. I have this on cassette, and would have liked to have this on vinyl, but it was missing an inner sleeve and was pretty worn. Here’s what I picked up:
Men At Work – Business As Usual (LP, CBS Records, FC 37978, 1982)($0.50) This was clearance-priced, and has a VG cover and vinyl. Fairly quiet on the turntable after I cleaned it. I listened to this and Cargoa lot in junior high school. Three pretty big singles in “Who Can It Be Now?”, “Down Under,” and “Be Good Johnny.” It was their appearance at the US Festival on “New Wave Day” that really helped establish the band and make them the MTV darlings. This album is strong all the way through– the singles are scattered throughout the record and serve as familiar landmarks through the rest of the songs. Men at Work were often considered a band that copied The Police– and quite a bit of this album with it’s bouncy ska rhythms and jazz influences certainly supports that idea. One of my favorite non-single tracks is “Helpless Automation” which recalls a new-wavy Devo. I included this song in a mixtape that I played all the time in High School. I need to get Cargo, next.
The Time – Ice Cream Castles (LP, Warner Bros. Records, 25109-1, 1984)($2.98) This is a title I don’t see very often (though, coincidentally would see again on Monday…). The story goes that Prince was trying to transition from the pop-funk sound that he established leading up to Controversyand apparently had a lot of music he still wanted to release in that vein. He puts his childhood friend Morris Day in front of a Minneapolis funk band called Flyte Time and creates The Time– on record, at least was mostly Prince and Day. By the time Ice Cream Castles is released in 1984, Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam had been fired by Prince for missing a show and Morris Day quit to pursue an acting career propelled by his appearance in Purple Rain. Although the album cover shows the post-Lewis and Jam version of the band– which has a shockingly-young St. Paul Peterson on the cover. If his birthdate in October of 1964 is correct, St. Paul was 18 when he played in the Time. He wasn’t on the album, however and only apparently played two live gigs in the Twin Cities and he appears in the movie Purple Rain. After Morris Day leaves The Time, Prince gathers the remaining members and his then-girlfriend Susannah Melvoin and creates The Family. The Family are re-united as F Deluxe (Prince denies them the use of the name The Family– apparently still bitter about St. Paul leaving the group). Ice Cream Castles has what amounts to the biggest songs from The Time– “The Bird” and “Jungleland” which are both featured prominently in the Purple Rain movie. The production is credited to “The Starr Company” which is effectively Prince, who sometimes used the alias “Jamie Starr.” The original album inner sleeve is black plastic, interestingly.
My plan was to hit another Half Price Books and spend my 50% coupon, but the next closest one was another 35 miles away. I did a quick Google Maps search for nearby record stores and found one called The Record Dugout(6055 West 63rd Street, Chicago, IL 60638-4317). The Record Dugout is technically in Chicago– although really far south in Chicago. It’s a moderately-sized store that specializes in vinyl LP’s dating up to the 80′s, comic books and sports cards. The day I was there, the guy who handles the vinyl part of the store was working. His name is Bob Miner and he hosts an acapella radio show on The University of Chicago radio station WHPK which airs on Sunday evenings and is called “From the Subway to the Streetcorner.” The store was literally packed with vinyl. There was one row of sorted Rock in record bins, another shorter row for Jazz and folk/country, another “discount bin” with $1-$2 records, and a meticulously-organized bin with 7″ records– the majority of which was R&B from the 50′s/60′s/70′s. Other areas included a “Wall of Shame” as Bob called it, which showcased the more expensive records– rare 7″es with sleeves, etc., a table which had unsorted piles of cheap records in varying degrees of shape– most of which had damaged sleeves, but had serviceable records in them, and two areas on the floor which had $1 and $2 records piled up.
I found most of the haul below in the sorted bins, but the ones for $1 and $2 I found by digging. Bob buys whole collections of records from people looking to get rid of them, so if he hasn’t gotten through them, the good stuff might not be in the bins. Everything seemed to have prices, however. It’s important to note that The Record Dugout only takes cash and the nearest ATMs charge fees, so bring cash. Also, if you buy a lot of stuff, Bob will work with you on price. I spent about three hours here, and probably could have spent more time. I’ll certainly come back!
R.E.M. – Lifes Rich Pageant(LP, IRS Records, IRS-5783, 1986) ($4.00) I might have paid a bit too much for this one. The sleeve was not split, but kind of rough on the corners and the paper sleeve was replaced with another sleeve. The record is pretty clean, and after I gave it a thorough wipe with 91% Isopropyl Alcohol to get it cleaned, it sounds really good– the surface is a bit hazy, however. R.E.M. is tough to find in the bins, so I’ll pick these up when I find them. Lifes Rich Pageant was the follow-up to Fables of the Reconstruction, which was the album that pretty much changed my music listening. R.E.M. called this their “John Cougar Mellencamp album” because it was produced by Don Gehman at Mellencamp’s studio in Indiana. Classic R.E.M. sound on this one– “Begin the Begin,” “Hyena,” “Fall on Me,” “Superman,” “I Believe” are all strong tracks in the R.E.M. canon. The song “Just a Touch” was a song resurrected from the early days of the band and a number of bootleg recordings from the early 80′s have this song.
Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – Nine Tonight(2 LP, Capitol Records, STBK-12182, 1981)($2.00) I found this one in one of the piles on the floor– hence its $2 price. Fabulously clean cover and LP’s! My dad bought this cassette when it was new and we used to listen to this a lot riding around in the car. A live album comprised of songs recorded in Detroit and Boston in 1980. All of his classic tracks are here– “Hollywood Nights,” “Tryin’ to Live My Life Without You,” “Night Moves,” “You’ll Accomp’ny Me,” “Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “Mainstreet,” “Fire Lake,” “Fire Down Below.” Probably the only album of Bob’s I would care to own, although I’d need Live Bullet to get “Turn the Page.”
Various – The Breakfast Club- The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack(LP, A&M Records, SP 5045, 1985)($2.00) Another one from the floor. Cover is in good condition and the record looks decent, but there seems to be a lot of groove wear on this one– particularly on “(Don’t You) Forget About Me” by Simple Minds. This was a soundtrack that my brother Steve and I listened to a lot– in fact, I think the cassette was actually his. My band in high school with Steve used to cover “(Don’t You) Forget About Me.” Fantastic drum beat in that song, which is why it is so timeless. It’s a kind of well-known story that Simple Minds didn’t write the song– it was penned by Keith Forsey who also wrote “Flashdance… What a Feeling” for Irene Kara. After being turned down by Billy Idol, Bryan Ferry and Simple Minds– it was encouraged by A&M that Simple Minds record the song. It becomes their biggest hit which help propel their career for a couple of albums. This soundtrack always struck me in how different it was to other John Hughes soundtracks in that while it had a huge single in “(Don’t You) Forget About Me,” it was really lacking in every other respect. I became familiar with the other songs by Wang Chung, E.G. Daily, Jesse Johnson, and Karla DeVito but aside from “Fire in the Twilight” from Wang Chung, which frankly sounds like an outtake from Points on the Curve, everything else seems like bargain-basement licensing– particularly if you compare it to the powerhouse soundtrack to Pretty in Pink, for example. The instrumentals by Forsey, while largely forgettable, work really well in the context of the movie.
In the 80′s it really seemed like you couldn’t have a soundtrack to a teen movie that didn’t include songs by E.G. Daily. She contributed her unique vocals to movies like Better off Dead — where she performs her two songs in the movie, Summer School, Thief of Hearts as well as The Breakfast Club. She’s a pretty talented lady, and is a regular for voiceovers. It is she who voices Tommy Pickles in Rugrats, for example.
Talking Heads - Speaking In Tongues (LP, Sire Records, 23883-1, 1983) ($2.00) Another one from the floor piles. The cover and inner sleeve are in tact, if a bit beat up. I have no Talking Heads on vinyl– well except for a bootleg called humorously enough Gimme Heads which has some studio outtakes and live tracks on it and a 12″ to “Blind.” After cleaning this one up, it plays pretty well, but I’ll be on the lookout for better copies. Last year’s Record Store Day had a Rhino reissue for 77– so I was hoping for some other reissues on vinyl. The Dugout also had True Stories on vinyl, but it was in pretty rough shape so I passed on it. Speaking In Tongues is pretty much the Talking Heads pinnacle release with the massive “Burning Down The House” single as well as secondary hits of “Girlfriend is Better,” and “Naive Melody.” Of course, these songs would show up in a bunch of movie soundtracks. I remember “Naive Melody” standing out in the soundtrack to Wall Street, and “Swamp” shows up in Risky Business. These tracks are featured prominently in the Talking Heads concert movie Stop Making Sensewhich was directed by Jonathan Demme.
Fleetwood Mac – Mirage (LP, Warner Bros. Records, W1 23607, 1982)($3.00) Very clean vinyl– cover has a suspicious wear spot, like someone used water to take adhesive off the cover. Also a Columbia House pressing. Clearly I didn’t look very closely at this one. I don’t like to take Columbia House pressings normally due to the uncertain nature of what they used for masters. That said, it is very clean and plays well, and is one of the better copies of Mirage I’ve seen, even with those flaws. The Mac tries to come back from the Titanic expensive failure that was Tusk (still my favorite, however). I really like Mirage– the band comes back to the style and sound of Rumours. The album had six singles released worldwide, but the biggest singles were “Hold Me” and “Gypsy.” The album makes it to #1 on the US charts, so it is clear that their audience wanted another album, but in the canon of Fleetwood Mac, Mirage is not one that people remember.
My first Fleetwood Mac concert was for the Miragetour in 1982. My family saw them in Cedar Falls with Glenn Frey of the Eagles opening on his first solo tour. I’ve seen Fleetwood Mac three more times since then– once during the very sad Time tour with Dave Mason and Bekka Bramlett on guitars and vocals in Dubuque, once for The Dance tour and once for the Say You Will Tour.
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – Live/1975-85(5 LP, Columbia Records 40558 LP, 1986)($15.00) This one was a cool find. I bought this new on cassette back in 1986– and still have it. I’ve seen it on CD over the years used, but never on LP. A great collection of Bruce live goodness from what most people would consider the high-point of his career. I think that they should do an official release of the legendary Winterland 1978 show. The version of “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” heard at Christmas time is from that show. This box set does, however, include the version of “Fire” from that show. The Winterland 1978 show had been bootlegged many times over the years– since it was aired live on the radio, lots of folks taped it. Wolfgang’s Vault helpfully has the show in their archives, but it is not one that is purchasable. Listen here.
The vinyl on this box is pretty much pristine, even if the box itself isn’t. One I’ll want to kick back and listen to with a glass of wine some night.
Booker T. & The MG’s – “Hip Hug-Her” b/w “Summertime”(7″ Stax 45-211, 1965)($4.00) I hadn’t really planned to pick up any 45′s, but they had a dedicated section just for Stax! So, I flipped through it and they had a few Booker T. & The MG’s singles. I picked this one because it was on the massively cool light blue Stax label. The record is in great shape for being 45 years old!
Wilson Pickett – “Funky Broadway” b/w “I’m Sorry About That” (7″, Atlantic Records, 45-2430, 1967)($3.00) This one is one of the singles I really dig from Wilson Pickett– on the red Atlantic label. Super-clean and in an Atlantic paper sleeve.
The Dangtrippers – “The Masquerade” b/w “Lover’s Again”(7″, Dog Gone Records, DOG 0005-7″, 1989)($3.50) Why is it that if I want to find rare Iowa bands in the bins I need to leave Iowa? The Dangtrippers were Doug Roberson of The Diplomats of Solid Sound’s 90′s band. I still remember seeing The Dangtrippers playing the Loras College gym when I went to school there. The band got signed to Dog Gone records which was the record label started by Jefferson Holt who was the manager for R.E.M. This is the single to the only album released for The Dangtrippers on Dog Gone before it went under (see below). “Lover’s Again” is a non-album b-side!
Prince and the Revolution – Around the World in a Day(LP, Paisley Park W1-25286, 1985)($3.00) A Columbia House pressing, but in superb shape! I’ve never seen this on LP before! I have this in this crazy longbox trifold CD I picked up at a Discount Records in the early 90′s in Chicago. The LP cover is sort of a trifold with a short flap that folds over. The cover art is a painted scene which has in it representations of each of the songs– a tambourine, a ladder, an American flag, a raspberry beret– the ones I found anyway… A pretty progressive album– lots of psychedelica and strangeness– Prince at his most experimental. “Pop Life” and “Raspberry Beret” were the big singles off this album, but I think that most people ignore this album. I liked it back when it came out, but admittedly haven’t listened to it much since the 80′s. Giving it a spin the other night, I’m struck by some of the songs. In fact, I like all of the album other than the track “Temptation.”
The next day I dropped Sherry off at the conference again and I headed up to Lincoln Square to hit Laurie’s Planet of Sound, which I had hit back in October of 2007. The store was pretty quiet when I got there. They changed the parking meters to be able to take credit cards, which is convenient, but still really expensive. I blew $3 to get a couple of hours of parking. Laurie’s has a new arrivals section for their CD’s and LP’s and has a section dedicated to new vinyl as well. Their vinyl prices are higher than places like the dugout, but comparable to places like HPB which is attempting to charge market prices for some.
Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals – Burn to Shine(2 LP, Virgin Records America, 7243 8 48151 1 0, 1999)($9.99) This was in the new arrivals section and appears to be a cutout of sorts as the barcode is crossed out. Probably a promo or a giveaway, but is in great shape. I hadn’t really paid much attention to Ben Harper until I saw him as part of that 3D concert movie “Larger Than Life” back in December. I was impressed enough to pick up Harper’s new record White Lies for Dark Times on vinyl. Burn to Shine is considered to be one of his good releases so I thought it might be a good gamble. I gave it a spin when I got home, and it’s a good one for the collection.
Bumps (2 LP, Stones Throw Records, STH2157, 2007)($12.99) This was a new purchase. Bumps is the side project of the Tortoise rhythm section of Bitney, McEntire & Herndon. This is a record of beats, essentially. This is a really cool 2 LP version that was price cut from $15.99 to $12.99. This is mostly as a completion for my Tortoise vinyl collection, I don’t see myself playing this often.
Cougar – Law (LP, Layered Music/Play It Again Sam, LR013, 2007/2008)($4.99) Although it isn’t really listed anywhere on the artwork and the LP itself only lists 4 tracks, this appears to be the full Lawalbum that was released in 2007 in the UK by Layered Music. Madison, WI band Cougar is classified as “emergency” music although I think they fit under the “post rock” area. Having your debut album mixed by John McEntire of Tortoise doesn’t hurt this classification either.
The Dangtrippers – Days Between Stations (LP, Dog Gone, DOG 0005, 1989)($2.99) Wow! Another Dangtrippers find? The cover is a bit trashed on this one, but I didn’t know that this was even available on LP! I see on eBay there are a couple of LPs– one for $14.99 and one for $19.99, so $2.99 is a good deal. The vinyl is very clean. As I stated above, The Dangtrippers were a band from Iowa City from the 80′s and early 90′s that got signed to Dog Gone Records. They had this album out on Dog Gone before the label went under. Their second album Transparent Blue Illusionwhich came out in 1991 was only available on the Australian label Zero Hour. The Dangtrippers had a 60′s jangly rock sound that owed a lot to bands like The dB’s. In fact, the song “Talk About Love” on Days Between Stations sounds a lot like The dB’s and it’s pretty much my favorite track on the album.
That song reminds me of a very bad trip to Florida in the early 90′s with my then-girlfriend to visit some friends of hers. The trip started out okay– it was Florida in late December and her friends had a gorgeous house with a pool and a Porsche 928 that was ours for the borrowing. We visited a mall that had a discount book store or something and I found Days Between Stations on CD there in the bins!
The trip took a turn for the worst as she started giving me the silent treatment and wouldn’t talk about why she was upset. So, I was stuck in Florida with someone who clearly didn’t want to be there with me. We had a painful trip to Disney World followed by a really uncomfortable New Year’s Eve get together. By the time we flew back to Chicago to drive back to Dubuque I had enough of this ridiculous situation where she wasn’t talking to me about why she was upset. So, she was rewarded with four hours of “Talk About Love” on repeat in full volume. The relationship didn’t last much longer– she didn’t like not being the center of attention with her friends and I apparently drew some attention from her. I still dig the frustrated energy of that song.
Click Here to hear “Talk About Love” from Days Between Stationsby The Dangtrippers.
Love Tractor – Around the Bend (LP, DB Recs, DB67, 1983)($4.99) This was another very cool find! Of course, this is where I’ll alienate some of the readers. I found out about Love Tractor due to the documentary Athens, GA Inside/Outabout the music scene in Athens leading up to 1987– R.E.M. is just getting to be a big deal in college rock– it was released before Document with “The One I Love” on it– so the movie happens at an opportune time. Included in the movie is Love Tractor who perform a live version of “Pretty” from Around the Bend. The album is largely instrumental with some sparse vocals. I had Around the Bend on a double-cassette which included their debut self-titled album and the follow-up Until the Cows Come Home. I find their unique style to be pretty similar to Athens contemporaries Pylon.
I actually owned the soundtrack for Athens, GA Inside/Outfor a long time before I ever saw the movie. The soundtrack included two acoustic tracks from R.E.M. “Swan Swan H” and a cover of the Everly Brothers song “All I Have To Do is Dream” so I had to get it. By the time the movie came out on VHS, I was very familiar with a lot of the songs in it, including “Pretty.”
Click Here to listen to “Pretty” from Around the Bend by Love Tractor.
I also bought a bag of 100 mylar LP bags for $20. I never seem to have enough of those. I could get these cheaper online from Bags Unlimited, but since I was thinking of it, I thought I’d buy them.
As I was walking back to my car I happened to catch someone out of the corner of my eye– it was Chris Corsale from The Right Now sitting in a window of a sandwich shop playing acoustic guitar and singing! He was suprised to see me as well! So, I moved my car to a side street– which is free and doesn’t require a permit after 11AM. Then I came back to the restaurant and ate lunch hanging out with him in between sets. It was pretty cool– Chris has a pretty wide selection of covers he does and made for good lunchtime entertainment. A great coincidence that sort of made for a good wrap-up of the weekend.
After lunch I made my way back to McCormick Place to pick Sherry up and head home.
It seems like forever since the sophomore Grace Potter & The Nocturnals album This is Somewhere came out. In fact, in Internet and music blog years, August 2007 was forever ago! In my review of This is Somewhere, I observe that Grace Potter and her band were, “an earthy, honest, and grounded band excited for this opportunity to take their careers to the next level.”
In the over two years since the release of Somewhere, a lot has transpired for the band. They have been touring pretty much non-stop in supporting and headlining roles. They endured the replacement of original Nocturnal bass player Bryan Dondero with original Cardinals bass player Catherine Popper. They gained rhythm guitarist Benny Yurco as well. They’ve been in a bunch of live TV appearances and has played most of the big summer festivals over the years. They did a Daytrotter.com session and an iTunes EP of live tunes.
It’s clear that with all of this exposure and hard work the band has made it to that next level in my opinion. The band has a winning formula: hot lead singer with even hotter vocals as well as guitar and keyboard chops, a road-seasoned backing band and a strong sense of identity as a band.
On June 8th, Hollywood Records is releasing Grace Potter & The Nocturnals. The cover art above is a slightly retro take of the band with a brightly lit Grace taken by photographer Adrien Broom. Adrien toured with Grace Potter and has a very cool album of shots he took of the band. The album is produced by Mark Batson who also co-wrote six of the thirteen tracks with Grace Potter. Batson’s résumé includes work with Dr. Dre, Eminem, Jay-Z as well as Dave Matthews, so clearly the band (and label) is bringing in a big gun producer– an investment for the success of the album for certain. Part of the delay of this album was due to scrapping work that had started with T-Bone Burnett in May of 2009.
Track Listing for Grace Potter & The Nocturnals with Archive.org links to recent live performances of the songs (build your own!)
Grace does her best Grace Slick in this video of their cover of the Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” which is included in the soundtrack to Almost Alice which is a companion piece to the Danny Elfman score to the movie.
Grace Potter & The Nocturnals are going on tour, with a stop at the legendary Antone’s in Austin for SXSW.
March 11 North Adams, MA Mass MoCa
March 12 Ridgefield, CT Ridgefield Playhouse
March 13 Sugarloaf, ME Sugarloaf Ski Resort
March 18 Austin, TX Antone’s – SXSW
March 21 Aspen, CO Snowmass Mountain
March 27 Jackson Hole, WY Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
April 25 Phoenix, AZ McDowell Mountain Music Festival
May 14 Richmond, VA Browns Island
Click Here to visit the Grace Potter & the Nocturnals Website
When most people think about Moby’s career, they are probably aware that he is an artist of the electronic variety– samples, beats, synths, dance music, techno. In 1999, when Moby released Play, songs from it were everywhere due to some very innovative licensing of every song to movies, television, and for use in commercials. At the time he was criticized by his peers for what was then seen as artistically and literally selling out. I remember some comments from DJ Shadow at the time in an open chat forum where he commented along those lines (I can’t find my backup of the chats, and Solesides.com doesn’t have them linked). Moby said at the time that he did this so that people could hear his music. Considering that he wouldn’t get any radio play in most markets it was a smart move to gain exposure. Looking at it these days licensing is really de rigueur with any release, and DJ Shadow as well as many other acts have resorted to some licensing.
Since the release of Play, Moby has recorded four more albums– 18– released in 2002 could be considered a continuing of the formula Moby established with Play, and indeed enjoyed the same success– 2005′s Hotel which was recorded with live vocals and instrumentation, Last Night which was a tribute of sorts to 80′s and 90′s techno, and Moby is currently touring in support of his latest album Wait For Me. Wait For Me is a mournful, introspective record. His goal was to make a “very personal, very melodic, very beautiful” record, and I think he’s achieved that. On most of Moby’s records he will throw in a slow emotional track or two– “God Moving Over The Face of the Waters” is one that comes to mind for me as a favorite– so it isn’t much of a stretch to have a full album of these songs.
In 2008 following the release of Hotel and the subsequent tour, Moby formed a band called The Little Death with singer Laura Dawn and guitarist Daron Murphy and drummer Aaron A. Brooks. Laura provided lead vocals on Hotel and was part of the Hotel tour with Murphy. Since the album had live instrumentation the tour had a full band. My wife Sherry and I saw the Hotel tour show at First Avenue in Minneapolis. Unfortunately, Laura Dawn was sick and couldn’t perform that night, but the show was high-energy and I felt that Moby’s catalog really translated well to live instrumentation.
The first thing that I noticed with The Little Death’s self-released debut album was that it sounds very little like a Moby album. It is funky and bluesy with Laura Dawn pulling out her Dusty in Memphis blues belting. The album kicks off with a nice guitar lick carrying Laura’s opening monologue, “Love can be the most beautiful thing in the world… but it can also tear your heart out…” which kicks into a groove that would sound at home on a Black Crowes album. “Children gather round ’cause I’m going to tell you how it works out” a cautionary tale of love’s blinding effect. “Raise your hand if you’ve known love,” she commands.
“All basic tracks were recorded in one or two takes, live in the studio to 2-inch tape, with the whole band playing together in one room. No songs were harmed by auto-tune, click track, or multi-band compression in the making of the album” — from the liner notes to The Little Death.
In a recent interview with TapeOp Magazine (#73, p. 32) Moby said, “When I recorded Hotel, I really wanted to record everything the ‘right way.’ Everything was recorded flawlessly. Unfortunately it had very little character.” It seems to be this reaction by Moby which provides the modus operandi for The Little Death. The whole album builds with a constant groove built of the great catalog of R&B riffs delivered like a band with years of time together. The albums payoff comes from the immediacy of the performances captured directly to tape.
This album is at its very core tales of love from a woman’s perspective, and we get the whole picture from lifting, hopeful wishes to biting, cursing (literally– if you don’t like colorful language and innuendo you may want to avoid this release), scornful warning , to hot impassioned eros all surrounded by throwback guitar bass and drums and the supporting harmonies of The Death Threats (backup singers Jamie Rae and Cherie Martorana). A symphony of the female condition, perhaps.
As with anything that Moby works on, The Little Death doesn’t escape his mark. In addition to all of the passion conveyed, there is an underlying spirituality and gospel delivered by The Little Death. The torchy ballad “Won’t Ever Let You Down Again” would sound at home on Play if the vocals were delivered by a scratchy old 78 of field recordings made by Alan Lomax. Certainly its love-during-the-apocalypse theme has that timelessness about it. “Let me hold you while the ground shakes,” Laura sings, “the buildings keep a coming down.”
The Little Death isn’t breaking any new ground with their first release– there are a number of strong-female-lead bands with their roots in the ground where Janis Joplin once stood– Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals come to mind– but for The Little Death coming out of the gate with such a strong and clear declaration of purpose and with the experience and guiding hand of Moby only great things can come.
The Little Death’s album is available now as a digital download from their website and out on 1/26 in physical release.
Umphrey’s McGee is a band that embraces technology. This is one of the things that really impresses me about the band. You can download every show within days of the performance at umlive.com in mp3 and FLAC formats with cover art, you can purchase a CD of the show at the show if you prefer. They have done subscription simulcast video over the internet, they twitter, they Facebook, they MySpace, they blog. They support taping and they have a very extensive archive of live shows on archive.org. Not to mention the bonus material afforded to the purchasers of Mantis via Push!
As a result there is a lot of content readily available from the band. Even before a potential new fan would need to purchase anything they can get a pretty good sampling.
MP3HD is an attempt to provide a compressed, yet lossless file format (think a .WAV file) while maintaining the ubiquitous compatibility with mp3-capable software and mp3 players. This is achieved by providing mp3 compressed data along with the lossless data inside the file. This makes the mp3 player think it is playing a regular mp3 file, but devices and software that is mp3HD-compatible will be able to play the higher-fidelity lossless content. Even with the stacking of the file content they are able to achieve on average 4X compression over the uncompressed .WAV version. This is primarily because the mp3 portion tends to be very compressed. The Umphrey’s show has 128Kbps mp3′s, which by most people’s standards is pretty lossy bitrate. Amazon.com provides mostly 256Kbps or in some cases 192Kbps mp3 from their store for example.
Certainly one might question the need for MP3HD. Anyone who has been dealing with lossless music files over the years have been using FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Compression) to do their bidding, and FLAC is free– that is no one is paying to provide that support– all software and hardware that is able to play mp3′s today should be paying licenses to Thomson. Both Microsoft and Apple provide their own version of lossless compressed files, too– Apple’s ALAC, and Microsoft’s WMA Lossless. But, as you might imagine, neither of those formats are supported directly on the other’s media players, and neither player supports FLAC.
As a result, if I want to have the lossless versions of Umphrey’s McGee shows, for example, I would download the FLAC files, and either burn them to a CD if that was my medium of choice (my CD burning software support FLAC) or I would have to convert them to mp3 using a utility or extract to WAV and convert with iTunes or Windows Media Player. (Note: There are other ways to achieve this but I’m not interested in providing a primer on making mp3 files here) I can then put these on my media player of choice. This is a lot of messing around to get to the final result and most people aren’t interested in doing all of that work so they will just stick to mp3′s. The other issue here is that I end up having to manage two or more copies of the music. The lossless version in addition to the one that is the copy of the mp3′s for my media player.
I don’t mind juggling the files around as I’m pretty used to it by now, but the ability to only have one file that has both compressed and lossless is very appealing to me. I don’t like 128Kbps mp3′s, however, and I don’t have any devices that can play mp3HD so I have to convert them anyway to get a higher bitrate. I looked at the tools provided by all4mp3 and it appears that one can choose a higher bitrate for the mp3 data– of course this would be at a sacrifice of the 4X compression.
So, we’ll see if this takes off I guess. I think ultimately this is the right idea, but there is a lot of consternation surrounding the licensing. I would rather that Apple just added FLAC support to the iPod/iPhone/iTunes, really. (Another solution would be the open source project Rockbox can be installed on an iPod providing FLAC support which isn’t a solution for most iPod owners).
Getting back to the Umphrey’s show, it is a pretty good performance. The Murat is a very friendly location for the band to play– and they say so during this show. It also explains why they chose The Murat for their live album. The songs shared make up most of the second set and the encore from the 3/13 show. Looking at the setlist database at umphreys.com it looks like they edited out the “Another Brick in the Wall”/”Thriller” mashup second set closer, which is probably due to licensing the song. The Jimmy Stewart from this set is a vocal Jimmy that is pretty good, too. (A “Jimmy Stewart” in the band parlance is an improvisational performance).
Click Here to download the Umphrey’s McGee 3/13/09 Murat Show in mp3HD at all4mp3.com
So it seems with all of the people he has worked with in the past that he can call in favors– and on this album the payback came in the form of help from Meshell Ndegeocello on bass (you might remember her duet with Mellencamp on a cover of “Wild Night” by Van Morrison), Marc Ford from the Black Crowes, Jon Foreman from Switchfoot, Zan Najor from the Greyboy Allstars and others.
Brother’s Keeper is Denson’s 12th release since 1992 (not including Greyboy Allstars releases) and it finds him in fine and funky form as evidenced by our free track “Shake It Out.” Said Denson about the new album, “I’m not one to live in the past. I am very much a forward thinker. [This record] is a continuation of my world view [and] a culmination of all my life’s work up until now.”
Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe is on tour and will be at RIBCO in Rock Island Saturday, September 19th, followed by a Des Moines show on Sunday night at People’s.
Click Here to listen to or download “Shake It Out” from Brother’s Keeper by Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe.
The Police – Certifiable : Live in Buenos Aires (3 LP, Cherrytree/A&M Records B0011945-01, 2008) ($24.99) You’d think with all of the time that I spend reading about music, things like this wouldn’t take me by surprise. Thank goodness for the Sunday BestBuy flier which informed me that today there would be an exclusive Police Live CD/DVD of their live concert from Buenos Aires called Certifiable. The Police played there two nights, December 1 & 2, 2007. I can’t find anything that tells me which “especially hot night” (quote from the press release) it was. There would be a limited 180g 3 LP version of this album. Well, sort of limited, the flier said “a minimum of three per store” and according to this Wikipedia article, there are 962 stores. When I called this morning, Cedar Rapids had five copies. When I got there a guy was there with a copy under his arm chatting with an employee about digging his turntable out for the first time in ten years recently and listening to Quadrophenia by the Who. The records weren’t on the shelves, so I had to ask this employee where the records were. He had to go to the warehouse to get it. This guy wanted to pull on my ear for a bit about how excited he was to listen to vinyl again after all these years.
The three records are in a massive gatefold with a collage of photos from the tour. In addition to the records, there is a single sheet with another collage of photos and a code for an mp3 download. The resulting download are 256Kbps mp3′s which is acceptible. The mp3′s are handled by same folks who do the downloads for the new Beck and the new Ryan Adams.
I turned forty this year and Sherry wanted to throw a big party for me that included family and friends. My family wanted to know what to get me so I advised Sherry to tell them “vinyl.” What I meant was “go to a record store that has used vinyl and pick something out– even if I might already have it.” What I got for vinyl was all new vinyl, but some very cool stuff nonetheless!
Black Mountain – In The Future (2 LP, Jagjaguwar JAG90, 2008) (gift) This one was a complete surprise! While I was familiar with Jagjaguwar (home of blog-friendly bands like Okkervil River, Oakley Hall, Bon Iver, and Sunset Rubdown) but not Black Mountain. I’m floored by this album! Psych/Folk/Metal– would be a good companion to Thrill Jockey bands Arbouretum or Pontiak. 180g in a sweet gatefold. Also comes with 192Kbps mp3 download. I’ve listened to this album 5 or 6 times already on the iPhone, but I need to spend some time with the vinyl, for sure. The song “Wucan” was included in the Spiderman III soundtrack.
Beck – Modern Guilt (LP, DGC Records B0011630-01, 2008) (gift) Right now this is my favorite Beck album EVER. Produced by Dangermouse of Gnarls Barkley fame. Just brilliant, whatever. Comes with nifty 320Kbps mp3 download that they claim was ripped from the vinyl master, but I have my doubts. They could have added the needle drop and pickup noises afterwords. Still, way cool. 180g
The Traveling Wilburys – The Traveling Wilburys Collection (3 LP, Rhino R2 167868, 2007) (gift) Sheesh, this is the motherlode! This is the 180g vinyl boxset version of the much-awaited re-release of the Traveling Wilburys catalog. Most folks know the story: Petty and Jeff Lynne were working together around the same time George Harrison was working on Cloud 9 and ended up working together with Dylan on “Handle With Care.” This spawnned the most unlikely supergroup ever when they included Roy Orbison. The first album took off with two huge singles. Orbison passes away but the group decides to carry on and record the sarcastically-named Traveling Wilburys III. Time passes, the catalog goes out-of-print, Harrison passes and Petty feels like he shouldn’t perform any of the material until Harrison’s widow requests it. This starts the ball rolling to get the albums back in print. Thankfully, too, as the eBay prices for the album were approaching $50, not to mention all of the bootlegging that was happening. This box includes both of the albums plus an LP of bonus material from the singles and b-sides. The box includes a booklet of history and non-history of the band. The LP’s are in their original sleeves, and the box includes a set of postcards that must have been used to promote the records when they first came out.
Ryan Adams and the Cardinals – Cardinology (LP, Lost Highway B0012195-01, 2008) ($17.95) I’ve written about this on the blog before. This is the very limited pressing of Cardinology that comes with special artwork done by Leah Hayes. It is pressed in Red, clear vinyl and came with a special 7″ and a comic that illustrates the lyrics of the album. Amazing version of this album and completely blows-away the likely “robot cardinal” black-and-blue cover of the future pressings. Comes with the same 320Kbps “vinyl rip” mp3 download. According to posts Ryan has made to his blog, he is considering making his next release a vinyl-only release, which would be interesting.