Archive for the 'In The Bins' Category

(Upcoming Release) Electronic Duo Loess is Back! New Album Pocosin Out 2/17

I think the heyday of bands like Boards of Canada, Autechre, FourTet and Aphex Twin was in the early 2000’s. To be fair, all of these acts are still recording today, but I know I was listening to a lot more of bands that sounded like this back then. One band I discovered back then, through a friend of mine was a duo out of Philly/New Jersey called Loess. Something about Clay Emerson and Ian Pullman’s particular approach to this music really spoke to me, and to this day I still add songs from their catalog to my rotation. There is a loneliness or desolation to their music. Spare beats and distant melodies form the structure for loops of distressed samples. To me, it’s the audio equivalent of a Quay Brothers film.

The last release of all new songs from Loess was 2006’s Wind and Water, its sounds inspired by a relocation to a woodsier southern New Jersey. After a compilation release in 2009 that had some new songs and some rarities titled Burrows, we’ve had radio silence.

Until now. Seemingly out of the blue, we have the announcement of a new album from Loess titled Pocosin, and from the two tracks we’ve heard already it has the sound I’ve come to love over the years. Also, the album art is the trademark desolate and manipulated black and white photos that always fit the mood. The album is on n5MD, the label that also released Wind and Water.

Coming out on February 17th, we have a few different formats– digital download and CD, but also two different versions on vinyl. One is transparent and the other is a white with black splatter. You can listen to “Petrel” and “Striae” from the n5MD Bandcamp page, where you can order it. You can also order it from n5MD directly.

Pocosin Clear Vinyl

Pocosin white and black vinyl.

(Upcoming Release) A Reissue of John Cale’s Revelatory “Fragments of a Rainy Season” Album Out 12/9/16

cale-fragments-of-a-rainy-season

For me, the early Nineties sent Leonard Cohen crashing into my consciousness thanks to a couple of covers and a couple of soundtrack appearances. The Cohen song “Everybody Knows” was featured prominently in the 1990 Christian Slater film “Pump Up The Volume” both as the original Cohen version as well as the Concrete Blonde cover version. In 1991 we were treated to another in that very 1990’s tradition of tribute albums– this time the I’m Your Fan album, which I bought as a completist of the R.E.M. catalog due to their cover of “First We Take Manhattan.” Other notable covers on that soundtrack were “I Can’t Forget” by The Pixies and Lloyd Cole’s cover of “Chelsea Hotel.” But, the cover on here that would launch a million others was the album closer “Hallelujah” done by John Cale as a stripped down midtempo piano and vocal. According to an episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast Revisionist History, Cale heard Cohen do the song live and was moved to cover it himself. When Cale asked Cohen for the lyrics, he was faxed fifteen pages of lyrics. Cale edits the song into the version that is best known. From the podcast, “Cale says, that for his version, he took the “cheeky” parts. He ends up using the first two verses of the original combined with three verses from the live performance. And Cale changes some words – most importantly, he changes the theme and brings back the biblical references that Cohen had in the album version.”

This is the version that Jeff Buckley heard and was moved to cover for his debut album Grace, which is pretty much the gold standard as far as “Hallelujah” versions go.

Getting back to Cale’s version, it would also make an appearance on his 1992 live album Fragments of a Rainy Season, described by Trouser Press as an “auto-retrospective” of Cale’s career made up of solo performances from his 1992 tour. I happened to hear it being played in a record store in Dubuque and bought it on the spot. I was a fan of the Eno/Cale record from 1990 Wrong Way Up, (from which the version of “Cordoba” on this album comes), so I saw this release as complimentary to that. It’s an album I played a lot and still dig out on occasion. It’s a good distilling of Cale’s solo career in that he experimented a lot with sound over the years, so a compilation of his studio work to me would be uneven at best, and in the minimal solo acoustic setting, the vocals and lyrics really shine. Admittedly, Cale’s piano playing is rudamentary, and his use of repeating pedal notes can be a bit grating, but the energy and emotion Cale brought to those performances draws the attention away from that and still ranks as one of my desert-island discs.

So, it’s with a certain sad coincidence that Fragments of a Rainy Season is getting the much-deserved reissue in light of the passing of Leonard Cohen last week. Domino Records is handling the expanded-reissue on CD, download and either a 2 LP or 3 LP reissue. The 3-LP version adds alternate versions of some of the songs with strings and a Velvet Underground song “Waiting for the Man.” The 2-LP version has the same songs as the original 1992 album, but re-sequenced.

The 1992 CD version of Fragments of a Rainy Season kicks off with five performances that, for me really set up the energy of the album: “A Child’s Christmas In Wales,” “Dying On The Vine,” “Cordoba,” “Darling I Need You” and “Paris 1919.” For the upcoming expanded reissue of Fragments on Domino Records the track sequence of the album is dramatically changed up for an unknown reason, and as someone who listens to the album a lot, it’s jarring. But, not so much that it detracts, and in initial listens for me seems to also set the performances up. The album proper (not including the bonus tracks) still ends with “Hallelujah” appropriately.

I’m looking forward to having Fragments of a Rainy Season available in vinyl so I can play it in my living room along with other essential records in my collection. The version of “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” on Fragments kind of makes it a Christmas-y album a little. The song is a musical interpretation of the Dylan Thomas poem that was originally on his 1989 album of Thomas works Words for the Dying which was produced by Brian Eno.

Limited to one pressing, Fragments of A Rainy Season will be released on triple gatefold 12” vinyl featuring an LP of 8 previously unreleased tracks.On Heavyweight Vinyl With Download Card

DISC 01
Side A
01. A Wedding Anniversary (Live)
02. Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed (Live)
03. Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night (Live)
04. Cordoba (Live)
05. Buffalo Ballet (Live)
Side B
06. Child’s Christmas In Wales (Live)
07. Darling I Need You (Live)
08. Guts (Live)
09. Ship Of Fools (Live)
10. Leaving It Up To You (Live)
DISC 02
Side C
11. The Ballad Of Cable Hogue (Live)
12. Chinese Envoy (Live)
13. Dying On The Vine (Live)
14. Fear (Is A Man’s Best Friend) (Live)
15. Heartbreak Hotel (Live)
Side D
16. Style It Takes (Live)
17. Paris 1919 (Live)
18. (I Keep A) Close Watch (Live)
19. Thoughtless Kind (Live)
20. Hallelujah (Live)
DISC 03
Side E
21. Fear (Previously Unreleased)
22. Amsterdam (Previously Unreleased)
23. Broken Hearts (Previously Unreleased)
24. Waiting For The Man (Previously Unreleased)
DISC 04
Side F
25. Heartbreak (Previously Unreleased)
26. Fear (Previously Unreleased)
27. Paris 1919 (Previously Unreleased)
28. Antarctica (Previously Unreleased)

Pre-order Fragments of a Rainy Season:
Limited edition triple gatefold 12” vinyl from Domino Mart — http://smarturl.it/FragmentsReissue
Standard double 12” vinyl from Domino Mart — http://smarturl.it/Fragments2LP
Double CD http://smarturl.it/FragmentsReissue
Digitally http://smarturl.it/FragmentsDownload

Neil Young Archives Official Release Series Discs 8.5 – 12 Announced for Black Friday Release Day – New Thoughts on Next Box Sets

neil_young_official_release_series_discs_8point5_through_12_1024x1024

Well, I’ll give Neil Young and Reprise Records credit– they’re pushing the Official Release Series along. Today, out of the blue, I got an email from PopMarket about the pre-order of the 3rd box set of vinyl reissues from his extensive catalog. If you follow this blog, you know I’ve been reporting on this series since the first box set from 2009 and including often incorrect predictions about what would be in the next releases. The second box which brought us up to his 8th album set came out in 2014 for Back to Black Friday that year.

The box sets seem to stick with the 4 LP limit and that is further perpetrated with the “joke” in the title of the third box which says it has 8.5 through 12. I speculated back in 2014 that the next box set would take us through Live Rust, and this one does! My only question was whether Young was going to include the essential The Stills-Young Band album Long May You Run. Since the album was half Stephen Stills songs and given the strained relationship the two have had over the years I thought this release might not make a box. So, this box has 5 albums in it, with Live Rust as a 2 LP. This box has an MSRP of $149.99 so that’s pretty close to what the last box was. With 5 LPs and one a double, that’s a good deal. If you pre-order from PopMarket you can get it for $124.99. Less than $25 per title. Here’s what it incudes:

LP 1: Long May You Run (The Stills-Young Band)

1. Long May You Run
2. Make Love To You
3. Midnight on the Bay
4. Black Coral
5. Ocean Girl
6. Let It Shine
7. 12/8 Blues (All the Same)
8. Fontainebleau
9. Guardian Angel

LP 2: American Stars ‘N Bars

1. The Old Country Waltz
2. Saddle Up the Palomino
3. Hey Babe
4. Hold Back the Tears
5. Bite The Bullet
6. Star of Bethlehem
7. Will to Love
8. Like a Hurricane
9. Homegrown

LP 3: Comes A Time

1. Goin’ Back
2. Comes a Time
3. Look Out for My Love
4. Lotta Love
5. Peace of Mind
6. Human Highway
7. Already One
8. Field of Opportunity
9. Motorcycle Mama
10. Four Strong Winds

LP 4: Rust Never Sleeps (Neil Young & Crazy Horse)

1. My My, Hey Hey
2. Thrasher
3. Ride My Llama
4. Pocahontas
5. Sail Away
6. Powderfinger
7. Welfare Mothers
8. Sedan Delivery
9. Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)

LP 5: Live Rust (Neil Young & Crazy Horse)

LP 1

1. Sugar Mountain (Live)
2. I Am a Child (Live)
3. Comes A Time (Live)
4. After the Gold Rush (Live)
5. My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue) [Live]
6. When You Dance I Can Really Love (Live)
7. The Loner (Live)
8. The Needle and the Damage Done (Live)
9. Lotta Love (Live)
10. Sedan Delivery (Live)

LP 2

1. Powderfinger (Live)
2. Cortez the Killer (Live)
3. Cinammon Girl (Live)
4. Like a Hurricane (Live)
5. Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black) [Live]
6. Tonight’s the Night (Live)

So, a mostly strong box set in my opinion. I’ve never been a big fan of American Stars ‘N Bars, but it has some classics, in particular “Star of Bethlehem” through “Homegrown” (which introduces some of the Homegrown unreleased songs). Rust Never Sleeps is the first Neil Young album I ever bought and it’s still one of my favorites. Live Rust is pretty fantastic, and the accompanying film got a reissue this year.

My Modified Speculation on the future Official Release Series Box Sets

My previous speculation on the fourth box set left some wiggle room on whether Live Rust would be in it based on how they were going to handle The Stills-Young Band release. But, I think the next couple of boxes will be a tough sell as we start getting into Neil’s more experimental period and a litigious label switch to Geffen. We also start running out of “classic” Neil Young catalog, making the general interest in these releases until 21-24 pretty small.

The challenge I see here besides just sales of them, is the groupings of the Reprise and Geffen catalogs. I’m showing these boxes grouped by four chronologically, but the argument could be made to create a “Geffen Years” box collecting just Trans through Life making another 5 LP box (13-17). Then you end up with an improved 5 LP (17-20.5) Reprise box of this period containing Hawks & Doves, Re-ac-tor, This Note’s For You and Freedom with a bonus of the Eldorado EP.

The next box in that scenario would be a big-hitter with Ragged Glory, Arc/Weld, Harvest Moon and Unplugged, taking us to 1993 and over 25 LP’s.

Neil Young Official Release Series Discs 13-16 could include the following albums: Hawks & Doves (1980), Re-ac-tor (1981), Trans (1982) and Everybody’s Rockin’ (1983) bringing the first of the Geffen releases to bear.

Neil Young Official Release Series Discs 17-20 could include the following albums: Old Ways (1985), Landing On Water (1986), Life (1987), This Note’s for You (1988). The last album marks the return of Neil Young to Reprise Records and the end of a rocky relationship with Geffen Records that ended with a lawsuit from the label accusing Neil of releasing works uncharacteristic of his career. The alternative release for this box would be one that completely encompassed the Geffen Years– especially if 13-16 didn’t include Trans and Everybody’s Rockin’.

Neil Young Official Release Series Discs 21-24 could include the following albums: Eldorado EP (1989), Freedom (1989), Ragged Glory (1990), Arc/Weld (1991) This box represents a kind of renaissance for Neil Young and an embracing of the louder sound that he trademarked with Crazy Horse. It should include the Eldorado EP since it was a formal release (even though it was only available in Japan and Australia). I would expect to see a tandem release of Times Square— the lost album that ended up making Freedom, Eldorado and This Note’s For You. He could release that 20-minute version of “Crime in the City (Sixty to Zero)” as part of that.

With his now 2-year gap between these we’d have these through 2022?

 

(Upcoming Release) Seminal Athens, GA Band Pylon is BACK with Live Album Out July 25, 2016

Pylon - Live

By the time I first heard Pylon, they had already broken up.  They were featured prominently in the documentary film Athens, GA: Inside Out and its associated sountrack on IRS Records. I bought the soundtrack first– I had heard that R.E.M. had a couple of songs on it, so the completist I was, I needed to own the soundtrack.. The R.E.M. songs were good, and the band I had at the time did a similar version of “Swan Swan H” though we couldn’t really tackle the harmonies of “(All I’ve Got To Do is) Dream.”

But, the real eye-opener was all of the other unknown bands on the album. I really loved Love Tractor, and to this day is still one of my favorites, and The Squalls, and Dreams So Real (who were swept up by a major and then lost forever). I wasn’t sure what to make of the dissonant and angular music of Pylon, whose live version of “Stop It” was kind of the centerpiece of the soundtrack. It wasn’t until I finally saw the film on VHS that I really understood that Pylon was one of the early bands in the scene and all of the other bands really looked up to them, including my heroes R.E.M., who covered “Crazy” which was included in the odds-n-sods compilation Dead Letter Office. I started college later in 1987, and found friends who were really into the Athens scene and I borrowed the two albums Chomp and Gyrate and made a tape of them and was quickly a fan.

The band broke up because they were tired of the pressures that come with a band that was rising from obscurity. In 1990, seemingly out of nowhere the band was back. In an interview with Perfect Sound Forever, they said that they realized that interest in the band wouldn’t die, and they were all still living in Athens, so they decided to reform. The put together a “greatest hits” of sorts called Hits, and then recorded a new album Chain in 1990. By that time, their unique sound wasn’t as leftfield as it was earlier. In fact, bands like The Sugarcubes probably owed a lot to the groundbreaking Pylon. But, they wouldn’t stay together for long after that.

Some time in 2004, the band reunited again and enjoyed notoriety spurred on by the CD reissue campaign of Chomp and Gyrate by DFA Records (now out-of-print again, and going for insane prices).  The band played shows and, I for one was happy they were back. The band broke up officially again in 2009, following the unexpected death of Randall Bewley.

So, in 2016 we have some developments in the Pylon camp.  In March it was announced that a 1980 performance at Danceteria by Pylon in the archives of Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong as part of the Nightclubbing TV show from NYC that captured the early days of Punk and New Wave. There were select screenings of the show with Q&A from the band. Then, in April the band announced a 7″ of live tracks from their last show in Athens, GA in 1983 at the Mad Hatter. This show was captured to video and multitrack audio for a pilot for a failed PBS series called Athens Shows.

It turns out that the 7″ was a taste of what was to come. On July 25th– Randal Bewley’s birthday– Pylon is releasing a 2 LP and digital download version of the last show in Athens titled simply PYLON LIVE. Pylon was a force to be reckoned with live and this album captures them at the peak of their powers with a setlist that picks the great tracks from the 2 LPs and drops in a couple of rarities. “Party Zone” was only available on a rare DB Recs compilation and Pylonized cover of the Batman TV theme with new lyrics.

The vinyl package comes in three different colors– 200 on magenta vinyl (which compliments the cover well) and 200 on clear vinyl. The rest are on black vinyl. The LP’s are a reasonable $29.99 plus about $5 shipping. The digital download is $8.99. If you pre-order, you get immediate download of “Volume.” Here it is in their Bandcamp player:

PYLON LIVE is available for pre-order at chunklet.com, chunklet.bandcamp.com, iTunes, Amazon, and wherever digital music is sold.

Limited to 200 on magenta vinyl.
Limited to 200 on clear vinyl.
Unlimited on black vinyl.
Track List:

SIDE A
Working is No Problem
Driving School
No Clocks
Altitude
Gravity

SIDE B
Crazy
K
Cool
Italian Movie Theme
Buzz

SIDE C
Danger
Reptiles
Stop It
Feast On My Heart
Beep

SIDE D
M Train
Volume
Weather Radio
Party Zone
Batman

Neil Young Archives Official Release Series Discs 5 – 8 Announced for Record Store Day – New Thoughts on Next Box Sets

Neil Young Official Release Series 5-8 1

Neil Young Official Release Series 5-8 2

10-25-14 Update: This box set has been confirmed for Back to Black Friday on 11/28 by the official Record Store Day list. Bull Moose Records has the MSRP at $159.98 for the four LP’s which seems about in line with other single LP releases from Young– $40 a pop.  A few copies of this have leaked onto eBay through some Eastern European countries like Hungary and Croatia. I got the updated images from one of the listings with better pictures.

3-19-14 Update: This release has been pushed back to November. I’m assuming that it will be Black Friday Record Store Day 11/28/2014. I don’t have confirmation on this. The press release says, “due to several other projects that Young has in the works that he wishes to focus on.” 

The curious part of this is that these box sets would almost have to have been manufactured at this point to make it for RSD one month from now considering the complexity of the packaging, so I don’t know why they would hold it up on Neil’s availability, though he would have to have the last signoff I suppose. They don’t say what projects these are, but we know about Pono and his recent media blitz for that and the announced A Letter Home lo-fi album recorded with Jack White, he also apparently has a Sci-Fi book in the works to be titled “Special Deluxe.” According to this article at Billboard, he also wants to do an orchestral album– monophonic to one mic.

The original post:

This week Warner Brothers Records announced their Record Store Day (Saturday, April 19th this year, folks) special releases. In amongst the Tegan and Sara, Mastodon, Green Day and the regular avalanche of Flaming Lips there was a real eye-opener: Neil Young Official Release Series Discs 5 -8!

Possible Cover?

Unconfirmed Cover art for Official Release Series 5-8

The first Official Release Series  was announced in 2009 and included the first four albums in Young’s catalog: Neil Young, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, After the Gold Rush  and Harvest, representing the years 1969 – 1972. This release was timed with the first Neil Young Archives box set of his first recorded decade from 1963 – 1972.

The new Official Release Series has the next four LP’s in his solo catalog: Time Fades Away (1973), On the Beach (1974), Tonight’s The Night (1975) and Zuma (1975). From the Warner’s press release: “Each remastered from the original analog studio recordings at Bernie Grundman Mastering. The artwork is a historically accurate reproduction by Young’s long-time art director, Gary Burden. These classics are being reissued on 180-gram audiophile vinyl for the first time and pressed at the world’s premiere pressing plant, Pallas MFG Germany.” Bernie Grundman and Pallas were responsible for the first box as well. The release says that it will come in a “telescoping box” which I’d never heard of. From what I can tell, this just means that it isn’t a common slipcase style box (the Grateful Dead box for example), but a box just like the first Official Release Series where the “lid” of the box covers the bottom (think a typical board game box, for example). The box will be limited to 3200 and numbered.

In November of 2009, I wrote a post for this blog about the first Official Release Series and made some guesses as to how they were going to do the next Official Release box sets. With absolutely nothing to go on, I got some things right and some things wrong.

Back then, the predicted next Official Release vinyl box set was 2010, so in typical fashion the Archives was late to deliver. We still don’t have a release date for the Archives Vol 2. box, so who knows what is actually holding that up, or why Neil is holding that up.

I incorrectly assumed that the Official Release box sets would  be paired up with the Archives releases, which would be done to represent decades of Young’s career. The Archives Volume Two would likely represent 1973 – 1982, then. That represents 10 (well, 11, but I’ll get to that in a minute) LP’s and would need to be split up. I guessed it would come out as two five-LP boxes.

The eye-opener with this release is the inclusion of the contraversial Time Fades Away live album! I speculated in the 2009 article that it would not get the vinyl reissue treatment. There is a lot of information about this album available on line, but the reason this is surprising is that Young has expressed his dissatisfaction with this album and when he at long last reissued some of the “missing six” albums in 2003 on CD he left Time Fades Away out. All of the “missing six” got a remastering in 1995, but Young was famously dissatisfied with CD audio, so it took until the advent of higher-resolution HDCD and DVD-A for him to release On The Beach, American Stars n Bars, Hawks & Doves, and Re-Ac-Tor as part of his “Digital Masterpiece Series.”

Time Fades Away is referred to as being part of the “Ditch Trilogy” of post-Harvest albums which also includes On The Beach and Tonight’s The Night. So, this box set brings the trilogy back together.  These LP’s are so-named due to a quote from the Decade liner notes: “” ‘Heart of Gold’ put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch.” And, it was a dark ditch– the tour that made up all of the songs except for one was a mess. Neil had fired Danny Whitten of Crazy Horse ahead of the tour and Whitten OD’d right after that. The depression, funk and drinking that followed made for a very erratic and tumultuous tour for everyone involved. Factor in the new and faulty mastering technology that Young was trying for these recordings and you get an album that was doomed from the start.

Original copies of Time Fades Away on vinyl are generally pretty easy to get ahold of and most of them seem to be in really good condition. I guess that most of the people who bought it were expecting a continuation of the sound from Harvest. I’ve actually bought two copies in the last few years and didn’t pay over $10 for them.

I’m certain that the inclusion of Time Fades Away in this box set signals the inclusion of it in the next box set. The 2-channel masters of the original pressing of Time Fades Away don’t exist, so this pressing and subsequent versions would have to be honest-to-goodness remixed and remastered versions from the original 16-track tapes. It’s possible that the masters used here would be based on the 1995 remasters. It isn’t clear whether Time Fades Away will also get a CD release, though it would be time to capitalize on this. Young didn’t release Journey Through The Past as an individual release (also part of the “Missing Six”), but it was in the Archives Box. According to Wikipedia, Young mentioned a Time Fades Away II that would be included in the next box which would be made up of songs from a different part of the tour that had a different band.

Based on an online music store that had it listed (and now taken down!), the MSRP on Official Release Series Discs 5-8 will be about $160. That’s $10 more than the first box, and based on the crazy prices for new Neil Young vinyl, I guess that is about in-line. That makes all four single-LP’s about $40 apiece.

Since I have the first box set (got it as a gift from my wife!) I’m interested in getting this one as well– I’m a fan of all four albums. I have original pressings of these except for Tonight’s the Night.

My Modified Speculation on the future Official Release Series Box Sets

So, what do we know based on this release? Well, for one thing, the boxes are 4 LP and don’t directly coorespond to the Archives Releases (meaning they don’t cover the same time period by box). The releases are primarily Neil Young solo albums. We didn’t get any CSNY or Buffalo Springfield LP reissues as part of this– though this might be because the catalogs for these bands are not completely owned by Neil Young. This draws into question whether the 1976 Stills-Young Band album Long May You Run would be included in a future box.

Neil Young Official Release Series Discs 9-12 would include the following albums:  American Stars n Bars (1977), Comes A Time (1978), Rust Never Sleeps (1979) and Live Rust 2 LP(1979). I like the arrangement of this box because it keeps Rust Never Sleeps and Live Rust together as they are companion releases. If they decide to release the Stills-Young Band album, then it would be part of this box set– then they could push Live Rust to the next box.

Neil Young Official Release Series Discs 13-16 could include the following albums:  Hawks & Doves (1980), Re-ac-tor (1981), Trans (1982) and Everybody’s Rockin’ (1983) bringing the first of the Geffen releases to bear. An alternative version of this might be to put Live Rust on here in the scenario where they included Long May You Run in the third box. Since Live Rust is 2 LP’s, then they could truncate this box at Re-Ac-Tor, ending the box with the last three Reprise releases. An argument for this box including up to Everybody’s Rockin’ is that 1983 ends the 2nd decade that could be included in the second Archives box set.

Neil Young Official Release Series Discs 17-20 could include the following albums: Old Ways (1985), Landing On Water (1986), Life (1987), This Note’s for You (1988). The last album marks the return of Neil Young to Reprise Records and the end of a rocky relationship with Geffen Records that ended with a lawsuit from the label accusing Neil of releasing works uncharacteristic of his career. The alternative release for this box would be one that completely encompassed the Geffen Years– especially if 13-16 didn’t include Trans and Everybody’s Rockin’.

Neil Young Official Release Series Discs 21-24 could include the following albums: Eldorado EP (1989), Freedom (1989), Ragged Glory (1990), Arc/Weld (1991) This box represents a kind of renaissance for Neil Young and an embracing of the louder sound that he trademarked with Crazy Horse. It should include the Eldorado EP since it was a formal release (even though it was only available in Japan and Australia). I would expect to see a tandem release of Times Square— the lost album that ended up making Freedom, Eldorado and This Note’s For You. He could release that 20-minute version of “Crime in the City (Sixty to Zero)” as part of that.

Obviously, no one can predict what Neil Young will do– every time you think you know what he will or won’t release, he changes it up. What the hell happened to the Homegrown “lost album” release, for example? Young is an artist more interested with new releases than focusing on his past. For the faithful, that means he’ll keep cranking out new albums until he can’t do it anymore.

As far as the Archives and Official Release Series are concerned, he’ll need to step up the pace of these. Five years between them (based on the first two) would put 21-24’s release date in 2034!?






B-Sides in the Bins #59 – Moondog Music and Mail Orders Week of 9/21/2013

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted one of these. I guess it’s because I tend to post about individual albums via other social media outlets like my Instagram which cross-posts to Twitter and Facebook. But, this week had a lot of new additions to the collection, so I thought I’d collect them for the blog.

I was in Dubuque yesterday helping with some wireless network issues at the family business so I thought I’d run over to one of my favorite record stores, Moondog Music. I had intended to pick up the new sophomore release from Justin Vernon’s (Bon Iver) collaboration band with members of Collections of Colonies of Bees Volcano Choir. Titled Repave, it’s a more cohesive release than their first album. Even though Vernon is the frontman in this band, it isn’t exactly Bon Iver part 2. More direct rock on this album and less vocoder falsetto vocals. I was also hoping that the vinyl version of Wise Up Ghost by Elvis Costello and The Roots would maybe be in the bins ahead of this Tuesday’s release.

Moondog had Repave for $19.99, but they didn’t have Wise Up Ghost on LP (they did have the CD). I had Volcano Choir in hand and was going to buy it until I started digging through the used and came up with a few surprises!

The Smiths – Louder Than Bombs (2 LP, Sire Records, 1987) ($19.98) WOW! On my wish list for YEARS. Really nice and clean copy of this album, which is probably my favorite Smiths album even though it’s technically a compilation of non-album singles. Initially, this was a US-only release used as a way to bring these tracks stateside. The UK had a couple of singles comps on Rough Trade– The World Won’t Listen and Hatful of Hollow— and Louder than Bombs was the vehicle to bring some of those tracks here. UK Smiths fans being what they are, they started importing this release to the UK, so Rough Trade ended up releasing this over there which solidified its position as a regular catalog release.

My friend Julie in college turned me on to both the Smiths and Depeche Mode letting me borrow The Queen Is Dead and Black Celebration— bands very different from my jangly guitar preferences at the time. I distinctly remember buying Louder Than Bombs and Def Leppard’s Hysteria on the same day on cassette. Odd to think that these albums are both from 1987!

The Smiths – Rank (LP, Sire Records, 1988) ($14.98) And, as soon as I get into the band, they break up… Bombs was released in March of 1987, the Smiths’ final studio album Strangeways Here We Come was released in September, 1987 and by that time the band had officially split up. I have the entire studio releases of the Smiths on cassette and CD plus Bombs on cassette and CD and Hatful of Hollow on CD (it was in a used bin otherwise I wouldn’t have picked this up as I consider it to be redundant). When Rank came out in September of 1988, I had pretty much moved on as far as paying attention to new releases and I didn’t think a live album was essential. I still haven’t listened to it, but will. The recording is a distillation from a BBC-1 live concert from 1986. The album was released as a contractural obligation. I decided to buy this because it is rare to find any Smiths in used bins around here and the new 180g Rhino reissues of the Smiths catalog are $35 which is pretty steep for my budget, so I’ll continue to keep an eye on the bins to complete my Smiths collection.

Gift of Gab – Escape 2 Mars (LP, Cornerstone Recording Arts Society/Quannum, 2009)($16.98) An unexpected find– the R&B and Hip-Hop selection at Moondog is usually very thin. I’ve been building my Quannum/Solesides vinyl collection lately– lots of gaps since I had really been focusing on CD’s up until five years ago. That said, I didn’t have this on CD either. Gift of Gab is more recognized as the MC for Blackalicious– his effort with producer Chief Xcel,  but has had a run of solo work that is notable. We listen to 4th Dimensional Rocket Ships Going Up quite a bit in the house, so I imagine that this release will be as good– I totally slept on this release so it will be good to get caught up.

Spoon – Transference (LP, Merge Records, 2010)($9.98) While I was digging through the used section I saw a whole bunch of nearly-new indie releases. Looked like they were opened and maybe played once? Some Sundazed releases, a few Sub Pop releases all for under $10. I didn’t find out what the story was on those, but I picked a couple of great ones including this one from Spoon. Transference wasn’t as good as Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, but still pretty great. I remember listening to this a lot in the car in early Winter 2010. We had a major car breakdown that had Sherry and I commuting together in one car for a few weeks– she was getting her Professional Makeup training so I’d drop her off in the morning and pick her up at night.

Sebadoh – Bakesale (LP, Sub Pop Records, 1994/2011 Remaster)($7.98) Another of the mysterious “new” LP’s in the used bins at Moondog. A grey marbled vinyl release as part of the reissue campaign for the Sebadoh catalog. I loved this album when it came out– I listened to it repeatedly. In 1994, I was working in Dubuque at the time and I think living with my parents following a failed cohabitiation with a girlfriend. I was on the road installing computer systems in the Midwest and East, with a lot of road time, so my CD’s were constant companions. Brilliantly flawed but accessible album. At the time I definately thought that Sebadoh was a better band than Dinosaur Jr was (the band that Lou Barlow used to be in with J Macsis). I’m really happy to have this in my collection– I need to pick up the Harmacy reissue as well.

A really great haul from Moondog Music! While I was there they were playing the new album from Iggy Pop and the Stooges titled Ready to Die which sounded pretty good, may need to check that out.

In the mail this week:

Calexico – Ancienne Belgique Vol. 2 (2 LP, Our Soil, Our Strength, ) OSOS9, 2013)($20 + shipping) 2012 and 2013 has been a year of many releases from Calexico— the brilliant Algiers came out in September of 2011 which included a live album titled Spiritoso if you ordered the box set. This eventually came out as a numbered release for Record Store Day in April in the US. Soon after that the band put out a 2 LP live sequel to Ancienne Belgique (which got the vinyl treatment as part of the Road Atlas box set as well).  Then they announced a Europe tour-only 5-track EP of covers titled Maybe on Monday.  My copy of Ancienne Belgique Vol. 2 delivered this week. I had pre-ordered it in June (I think). They were supposed to have copies of this on tour, but they weren’t done in time for the Iowa City show. (I was out of town and missed that show anyway). Another really nice addition to my growing Calexico collection.

Arcade Fire (as The Reflecktors) – Reflektor 12″ (12″, Sono Vox/Merge Records, MRG484, 2013) ($8.99, free shipping) Merge put some copies of Arcade Fire’s mysterious “Reflektor” single in their online store. Released under the pseudonym The Reflektors, it was timed with the announcement of the album and single of the same name on September 9th at 9PM (9/9/9). Lots of speculation and rumor about the announcement leading up to the time and an accurate leak of the song the day before. The 45 RPM 12″ has the full version of the song and an instrumental version on the flipside. The song was produced by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and features guest vocals by none other than David Bowie. It’s a pretty decent song and apparently points to the direction of the new album due out October 29th as being, in the words of Win Butler as a “mashup of Studio 54 and Haitian Voodoo.” (S.I.C.)

I also received four of the Daytrotter split LP’s this week, including the amazing Gary Clark Jr. split with Son House, and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. We’re up to 13 of 14 of the preorders shipped (still waiting on the Maine one which is #13) I got the PHOX one ordered and will order the Tegan and Sara one in the next couple of weeks.

(Upcoming Release) Calexico – Spiritoso LP – Record Store Day Release

spiritoso

In the list for the Record Store Day 2013 (April 20, 2013) releases I noticed under LP’s that there will be a LP + CD release of Spiritoso by Calexico. The notes say that this was originally available only as a vinyl release on tour. While I’m not sure about that, it was part of the special box set release of Algiers— Calexico’s most recent album release. Here is what City Slang (Calexico’s European label who put out the box set) said about it:

Spiritoso [is] a full album of superb live recordings from two shows in Vienna and Potsdam [last] summer, with full symphonic orchestras. Here’s the tracklisting:

1. Frontera /Trigger *
2. Epic **
3. The News About William **
4. Black Heart **
5. Minas de Cobre **
6. Inspiracion **
7. Two Silver Trees **
8. Para *
9. Quattro (World Drifts In) **
10. Crystal Frontier **
11. The Vanishing Mind *
12. Fortune Teller **

* Live with the Radio Symphonic Orchestra Vienna
** Live with the Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg

Here is a video of “Para” with the Radio Symphonic Orchestra Vienna.

Calexico is normally a band with a very complex sound, but having them backed by a symphony is a whole new experience as you can tell from the video above. If you didn’t order or missed out on the box set that included this– here is your 2nd chance!

(Upcoming Release) Miles Davis – “The Kinda Blue Sessions ’59” 180g LP + CD- Record Store Day 2013

Kind of Blue Sessions '59

At this point the importance of Miles Davis groundbreaking work on his 1959 release Kind of Blue is well-established. Recorded over two dates in 1959 (March 2nd and April 22nd at Columbia’s 30th Street Studio) and featuring the legendary “First Sextet” lineup of  Davis, Julian Adderley, John Coltrane, Wynton Kelly/Bill Evans (Kelly was on “Freddie Freeloader”), Paul Chambers and James Cobb. This is the band that Davis started his experimentation with modal jazz and the move away from his hard bop style. Though Kind of Blue is heralded as the pinnacle of modal style, Davis had already been working with it on his 1958 release Milestones, suggesting that Coltrane was the catalyst of this move.

Kind of Blue stands head and shoulders above many other jazz releases in popularity– depending on who you believe, it may be the greatest selling jazz release of all time. It certainly represents an important release in my jazz collection. When people who are unfamiliar with jazz ask me where to start listening, it is a safe bet to suggest Kind of Blue. So much about the album lends itself to being a springboard of sorts to more jazz– Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Bill Evans’s participation alone will send the newly motivated jazz investigator down some very important and landmark releases in the jazz canon.

Of course, these facts are not lost on the label custodian of Miles Davis’s catalog– Sony/BMG. I don’t think I can even count the reissues of just Kind of Blue that have happened over the years. For the 50th Anniversary of Kind of Blue in 2008, Sony Legacy released a beautifully-packaged release that included a clear-blue vinyl stereo LP (which fixed the long-standing mastering error that had side 2 at the wrong speed), 1 CD of Kind of Blue with an alternate take of  “Flamenco Sketches” and session chatter, 1 CD with five tracks from a May 26, 1958 session and a live version of “So What” from April 9, 1960 in Holland. There was also a DVD documentary of the album, and a beautiful book, posters and photos. This is the version I have in my collection.

So, I was surprised to see in the Record Store Day list diligently maintained at Wax Poetic the mention of an LP called The Kinda Blue Sessions ’59. Some quick googling turned up some information about it, but not a lot of details. It is on Birdland Records and distributed by RedEye. (Birdland also has an interesting Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers Munich ’59 live release). At SpinCD’s website, they provide the tracklist and credits:

Side One
1.Freddie Freeloader session
2.So What session

Side Two
1.Blue in Green session
2.All Blues session.

Musicians: Miles Davis – Trumpet, John Coltrane – Tenor sax, Bill Evans – Piano (S1 T2. S2 T1&2) Wyn Kelly – Piano (S1 T1), Julian Adderly- Alto Sax (All except S2 T1), Paul Chambers – Bass James Cobb- Drums

Based on the research I’ve done, I suspect that this is possibly a partial release of the bootleg commonly known as Kind of Blue Studio Sessions and Outtakes.

Initially I was a little concerned that this would be a release of only the additional tracks on the first CD of the 2008 Sony Legacy release of false starts and studio sequences. In fact, these are in exactly the same order, but it’s missing the tracks from “Flamenco Sketches” making this a release that– including the “Flamenco Sketches” chatter and false starts would have only been 10 minutes long!

7. Freddie Freeloader studio sequence 1 from the 3/2/59 sessions (0:51)
8. Freddie Freeloader false start from the 3/2/59 sessions (1:25)
9. Freddie Freeloader studio sequence 2 from the 3/2/59 sessions (1:26)
10. So What studio sequence 1 from the 3/2/59 sessions (1:53)
11. So What studio sequence 2 from the 3/2/59 sessions (0:59)
12. Blue in Green studio sequence from the 3/2/59 sessions (1:59)
13. Flamenco Sketches – studio sequence 1 from the 4/22/59 sessions (0:42)
14. Flamenco Sketches – studio sequence 2 from the 4/22/59 sessions (1:09)
15. All Blues – studio sequence from the 4/22/59 sessions (0:18)

But, the notable absence of the “Flamenco Sketches” sequences and the one outtake that they released on the Legacy release of  “Flamenco Sketches” would make this, although interesting from a collector’s standpoint, a pretty lame release out of the context of full songs. Especially at $29 MSRP.

The Kind of Blue Studio Sessions and Outtakes notes lists this track listing:

Tracks 1,2,3 > March 2, 1959 (2:30pm to 5:30pm and 7:00pm to 10:00pm)
Tracks 5,6 > April 22, 1959 (2:30pm to 5:30pm)
Columbia 30th Street Studio, New-York, USA

Tracks:

1. FREDDIE FREELOADER SESSION (13’38)
2. SO WHAT SESSION (12’53)
3. BLUE IN GREEN SESSION (11’13)
4. FLAMENCO SKETCHES SESSION (24’10)
5. ALL BLUES SESSION (11’53)

Since we know that an LP can be at the most 24 minutes per side, if  you take out the 24 minutes of “Flamenco Sketches,” it would fit on one LP. Though, they could include “Flamenco Sketches” as a bonus track on the CD they are including.

The only caveat I’d mention here is that these recordings are direct dumps of the safety masters of each of the sessions (Columbia 62290, 62291, 62292, 62293, 62294) and include the tape starts and stops and have some cut outs– possibly from the tape edits? I suspect that due to the very few extra full takes available, this may include takes that were used on the official release of Kind of Blue, which begs the question about the legitimacy of the release.

Based on the wonderful Miles Ahead Sessions Information database which articulates all of the details of the sessions down to the studio chatter, here is what I know about the possible tracks:

1. Freddie Freeloader Session – This is Take 2, Take 3, Take 4 – An Edit of Take 4 was used on the official release.

2. So What Session – This is the full Take 3- An Edit of Take 3 was used on the official release. The bootleg includes Cannonball Adderley singing “with a song in my heart…” at the end.

3. Blue in Green Session – Take 2, Take 3, Take 4, Take 5 – An Edit of Take 5 was used on the official release.

4. All Blues Session – Take 1 – An Edit (faded) version was used on the official release. The bootleg includes the unfaded end with Paul Chambers panting at the end and saying “Damn…” part of  “Damn that’s a hard mother!”

If this release is the Kind of Blue Sessions and Outtakes version, I’ll be happy to have this in my collection! The sound is incredible– which isn’t surprising considering the source, but certainly one I’d play. It’s great to hear the musicians working through what would become one of the most important jazz albums in history.

Read this interesting piece on NPR called “Between the Takes” by Ashley Kahn which was also used in the hardbound book included in the 50th Anniversary box of Kind of Blue.

B-Sides in the Bins #58 – Neal Casal Interview

Neal Casal is a musician who you discover when you start digging into his career, has a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon-esque connection to other musicians. The fact is that Casal’s personal mantra is to live a life of creativity, and he achieves this in spades through his own extensive solo career with 11 albums dating back to 1994, sideman work in countless recording sessions and stints in other bands including high-profile runs in Ryan Adams‘ Cardinals and currently Chris Robinson’s Brotherhood (which has an album coming out this year) as well as a blossoming photography career.  Casal’s latest solo record Sweeten the Distance will be released on Royal Potato Family on April 10th. Neal was a generous interviewee, and I came away from the conversation very inspired about my own music collecting, performing and photography.

When I called Neal, he was in busy painting a bedroom. He had to turn down the music he was playing to hear me. After introducing myself, I opened by asking him about his ties to the resurgence of the “Laurel Canyon” scene that started around some jam sessions at Jonathan Wilson‘s house.

Yeah, I have a few of those connections for sure… Wilson is a friend of mine, yeah, we’ve played music a bunch, been around his studio and seen a lot. We’re all part of the same music scene really.

I played on Mark Olson’s solo record Many Colored Kite, I was asked to play bass on the Gary Louris solo record Vagabonds by Chris Robinson who produced it, but I couldn’t because I was in the Cardinals at the time and we were getting ready to go on a long tour for Easy Tiger. But, I also play some bass on the new Jayhawks record.

A great record– I’m so happy they are back together.

Yeah, I was a long-time Jayhawks fan– back in the early-90’s I used to see them play all the time. I loved them, they were a big band for me. So, I was really lucky to get to know those guys and to play with them a bit.

Let’s talk a little bit about your record collection, I assume you’re into vinyl?

I’m definitely into vinyl. I have a whole living room full of vinyl and I buy stuff all the time. I played in L.A. last night, actually, and there is a great record shop called Origami Vinyl and I bought the Michael Chapman Rainmaker reissue, which was his first album for the Harvest label in ‘69– amazing sort of skewed English folk with some Rock elements in it.

I listen to vinyl all day long, I buy vinyl all the time– I don’t even know where it begins and ends, you know?

Was vinyl a resurgence for you, or were you into it all along?

I started collecting vinyl well over 20 years ago and it just never stopped– it never died for me. I never let go of my collection or anything like that. It’s cool that vinyl is at an all-time high with all of the reissues and attention to detail– it’s amazing. And, now that I’m in the Chris Robinson Brotherhood the vinyl obsession goes even further. Chris is an avid music listener and he and I get along so well musically and in every town we play– we are in the record shops. So, last year touring around the country we were spending our paychecks on stacks of vinyl. It was great!

Did you end up shipping the records back or did you bring them on the bus?

Oh, they were on the bus! There was no where to even sleep in my bunk! It was just so full of records.

So, yeah, I’m listening to records all the time– in fact, I was listening to Captain Beefheart on the turntable and painting a room as you called.

Which Captain Beefheart record was it?

I was listening to a record called The Spotlight Kid. It isn’t exactly my favorite, but that was what I was listening to just now.

In your collecting do you tend to focus on any particular genre, or are you a completist in anything?

I’m not really a completist, although at the moment I’m trying to find every single Robbie Basho record there is. Robbie Basho was an acoustic guitar player in the John Fahey tradition or style who made records in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. I’m currently obsessed with him and would like to get all of his records, actually.

I’m only just recently getting into John Fahey. I feel like I’m kind of late to the party.

John Fahey was amazing– he had his own record label called Takoma Records and Robbie  Basho was on Takoma for a while. He wasn’t like Fahey, but he was kind of in that vein. Completing my Robbie Basho collection is hard, though because some of them are really rare– they’re quite expensive now.

Some of the Fahey records are getting reissued, so maybe some of Basho’s stuff might get reissued, too.

Yeah, exactly. For a while I wanted to complete my Incredible String Band collection, which I finally did, which is cool. But, it isn’t really about being a completist as it is about finding cool stuff and discovering what new music you can, you know?

When CD’s came out in the 80’s I jumped on that bandwagon– so most of my collection until the last decade or so was made up of that– I have thousands of CD’s…

Oh, we we’re all on that one, you know– me too, believe me. My CD collection is now– I got rid of almost all of the cases, and I just put them all in books. So I still have most of my CD collection and I have stacks of CD books as well, so…

Yeah, I’ve always had a turntable and my vinyl, but during the CD years I’d only pick up vinyl when there was something I wanted that was only available on vinyl– like maybe a remix or something and it has only been in the last decade or so that I started getting back into vinyl, and really in the last three years I’ve tripled my collection of vinyl. Thankfully, the majority of people still don’t seem to think that vinyl is a going concern, so you can still find good deals on some pieces. It seems like I’m spending a lot of time replacing albums from the 90’s that I originally bought on CD.

Yeah, CD’s as a format you can just see is just not very timeless, you know what I mean? CD’s are not wearing well as we move down the years. That’s a problem– the artwork doesn’t last, it looks like shit, they look horrible in your house– they don’t display well. They sound weird, too– they skip and they get all fucked up. They’re still around, of course, but they are just not a timeless medium. It’s amazing to see that with vinyl, they got it right the first time.

I completely agree with what Neil Young has been saying about CD’s for many years— that the sound isn’t what it should be. So, for your own albums, how are you doing it? Tape to LP? Digital and then mastering to LP?

I recorded my last two records digitally, and that’s fine. I think that recording digitally isn’t particularly a problem if you do it right. I work with really great people who know what they’re doing with all of that stuff. But, I still like to work on tape as well. Recording digitally is a fact of life that I totally accept, and digitally recorded records can be mastered to vinyl beautifully.

Sweeten the Distance will be on vinyl, and the last Hazy Malaze record Connections is available on vinyl, too, right?

Yeah, actually all three Hazy Malaze records are available on vinyl. The first Hazy Malaze record was recorded on tape and mastered to vinyl– so that is a record that is completely analog which was really cool.

Speaking of Hazy Malaze, the two other members Dan Fadel and Jeff Hill are the rhythm section of the new record. They have played on my last three solo records records in addition to the three Hazy Malaze records which we all co-write together. Those two guys are  are such a huge part of my musical life. they’re a team and we’ve done so much musical work together.

Also, two of my albums from the 90’s are coming out on vinyl as well.

The reissues that Fargo did?

Yeah, and they did a really great job with those. But, I’m most excited with Sweeten the Distance. Thom Monahan, the guy who produced it was a big key to the sound. He is such a great producer and he works with so many people: Vetiver, Fruit Bats, and he did the Chris Robinson Brotherhood record we just finished, and he also co-produced that Gary Louris record Vagabonds with Chris Robinson. And, Thom also worked with Jonathan Wilson on his album Gentle Spirit. So, you can see how all of these roads cross with this circle of friends we have going on here.

Yeah, I first heard about Jonathan Wilson about the time I started getting into Dawes and heard about the get togethers he was having at his place in Laurel Canyon.

Yeah that was fun. That is where I met Jonathan and those guys– a really good scene. Jonathan was also really good friends with Jonathan Rice who is in Jenny and Johnny— have you heard their record?

Actually, no. I’m more familiar with Rice’s solo stuff.

Jonathan Rice has done two solo records, but his girlfriend is Jenny Lewis who was in Rilo Kiley and they are in Jenny and Johnny together. I used to play with Jonathan Rice many years ago– so this scene just kind of came together from people who knew each other. And, there is another guy name Farmer Dave Scher who is in Beachwood Sparks.

And, you toured with Beachwood Sparks, right?

Yeah, and they just make a new record with Thom Monahan that I play on as well. Crossing streams, you know.

There must be something in the water up there– it’s almost a corollary to the 70’s Laurel Canyon scene– Jackson Browne working with the Eagles, the Eagles working with Linda Ronstadt, Linda Ronstadt working with Neil Young and James Taylor…

Yeah, it’s people around– all in the same place doing stuff– people with songs– and it’s a good idea to get together. I don’t think anyone really thought about it, but when you look back on it, you’re like, “wow, we really did a lot of stuff together.” No one set out saying, “we’re going to make a new Laurel Canyon scene.” That would have been incredibly pretentious. It just started to happen.

When you get ready to work on your solo stuff, do you find yourself maybe water-shedding with your records?

Well, actually, I try to get away from my records, actually. So that it’s not so much like I’m trying to cop another thing, you know? For me, the record collection is useful as a subliminal influence. In my off-time I’m listening to records constantly, and I’m just absorbing stuff. But, when it comes time to really write or really record– that’s when I put the records away. Try not to make any direct references. I used to do it when I was younger– bring a record to the studio when you’re making a record and you tell the producer, “I want the record to sound like this.” That’s just stupid, it never really works. To try to cop something directly is not a good idea– you just need to do your own thing– you have to look for your own voice. My 60’s and 70’s influences come across strongly in my music, I admit– but I don’t sit around with Thom Monahan playing Jackson Browne records trying to replicate them. The fabric of who I am as a musician comes from my record collection, but it is absorbed in a much different way– a much more subtle or internal way. That said, when I worked on the Chris Robinson Brotherhood album, we did have a turntable in the recording studio– in the live room– and everyone brought in records, but that was just so we could listen to records on break and have fun.

How long had you been working on the songs on Sweeten the Distance? I know that you had an album out in 2009…

I started working on songs right after Roots and Wings, which was my last album. Just over the last two or three years. I’m just always working on music.

Looking at your career, I’m impressed at how capably you jump between your own music and helping other people with theirs.

I love doing a bit of both– it keeps things fresh. I love working with other people and I bring a little that back to my own music. Sometimes working on my own stuff can get to be a little isolating, so I love to be a guitar player for other people or bring in some harmony vocals. I just want to be playing music all the time. I like it to be an open thing. It doesn’t have to be just my music– it can be someone else’s as long as it is really good! I have so many friends that it just makes sense to go play with them. There are no rules that I should just do my stuff– I just want to do– I just want to do stuff and I want to be involved.

You do seem pretty adaptable– when I compare the music of the Cardinals, for example, to your music I don’t think that they are necessarily very similar.

Well what the Cardinals did and what I do fall under the broad umbrella of American music. Playing with Ryan was an amazing experience. He is so unbelievably talented, and such an absolute great songwriter that I was influenced by him. Again, though, not so directly, but more like raising the bar in terms of quality of songwriting and song quality in general and the desire to be great. But, I didn’t come out of that experience sounding more like Ryan. Before I had joined him, I had already been making my own records and had my own style. Part of the reason he wanted me to join his band was because I had my own style.

I read a comment that you made about how your photographs are in essence the songs that you couldn’t or haven’t written yet. It’s an idea that really intrigues me as an amateur photographer and musician myself– the idea that two different art forms could be tied together.

It’s all part of one creative flow for me. Taking photographs is like what we talked about– it’s like playing with other people. Instead of just making my own songs, I play guitar with other people, and in addition to playing guitar with other people, I take photographs of those people. It’s the way to make life creative– a creative flow 24/7– all the time. You can’t play music constantly– so when I take a break from that, I pick up a camera. It’s interesting that my photographs end up looking like my music sounds. The same aesthetic that I have in one thing, I bring to another– and that’s very interesting to see. Like I might use space photographically the same way I do musically. You bring your personality into whatever you do, so things can kind of look and sound the same way. It’s not the medium– it’s YOU. In some of my music there is a kind of quiet aspect to things and I find myself doing that with a camera as well. I’m reaching for the same thing photographically as I am musically. I think that maybe my photographs are more diverse than my music, but there is a certain melancholy or introspection and that is a part of my personality that I’m working out and I do that with photographs as well. What is my psyche pushing me towards? That is one my my main revelations in my pursuit of photography.

My pursuit of photography started out as a way for me to document what I was doing– I  was on tour constantly and I was losing track of time– I was never ever home– nor did I want to be at home at that time. But, being on tour can be really tedious. Not boring– but you don’t have control over your day. So, I started taking photographs to pass the time, but also so I could remember where I’d been. When you are on tour that much, I noticed that it was difficult to keep everything straight. So, I started taking photographs to make being on the road more tolerable. Also, to bring more creativity to being on tour– otherwise you end up in hotel rooms and coffee shops all day, and I can’t handle that. Then, it became a passion when I realized that I had a knack for it. That is what photography has done for me– It has make my life so much bigger than just music. (chuckles) I’m just trying to have a rich experience here!

What is on your vinyl wish list?

Let me look at my phone… I always have a running list of stuff. There’s so much…

Steve Hillage – Fish Rising : Chris Robinson played me that record…
The Collins Sisters – Anthems in Eden
“The Wicker Man” Soundtrack
Dr. Strangely Strange Records
Any Roy Harper records I can find
Robert Nighthawk – Bricks in my Pillow
John Martyn – The Tumbler
Robin Williamson (from ISB) – Myrrh – Really rare, I don’t think I’ll ever see it.

 Neal, I really want to thank you for your time, this was a great conversation! I should let you get back to painting your room!

Actually, this is perfect timing– I was painting while we were talking and I’m now done!

Neal Casal’s new album Sweeten the Distance will be out on April 10th on compact disc, digital and glorious vinyl on Royal Potato Family Records. Click Here for the pre-order!


B-Sides in the Bins #57 – Record Collector, Iowa City 8-13-11 : An Explosion of 90’s Rock!

I made a quick run to Iowa City last week– mostly with the intention of picking up the August issue of Little Village Magazine so I could have a hard copy of the review I wrote for it (Rockygrass band Finnders & Youngberg’s new album FY5). While I was there, I stopped into the Record Collector to see if there was anything worth picking up. Of course, there was. One great aspect about the Record Collector is that they have a pretty extensive used vinyl section that has a lot of 90’s college rock in it! Like a lot of collectors, I seem to be spending a lot of collecting time rebuying things I bought back in high school and college– I’m building an R.E.M. collection for example, and finding obscure releases like Love Tractor. I came away with some really great nostalgia releases on this trip:

Angry Samoans – Yesterday Started Tomorrow (EP, PVC Records, PVC 6915, 1986)($20) I kind of spent a lot on this particular release. Anyone who hung out with me in high school got to hear this EP a lot. Back then, the only way I was exposed to most new music was through KUNI the closest public radio station (now part of Iowa Public Radio), and I would wait anxiously for Night Music to start. In fact, I used to tape it so that I could listen to it the next day in hopes of finding some new gems. One early find was the Angry Samoans through their great song “It’s Raining Today.” Though I didn’t know it at the time, The Angry Samoans were contemporaries of seminal LA punk bands like X, The Circle Jerks and Black Flag, which I became aware of through late-night showings of “Urgh! A Music War” and “The Decline of Western Civilization.” Though, Yesterday Started Tomorrow was a departure in sound for the band– choosing to embrace its love of 60’s garage rock. A great record that still holds up today.

Love Tractor – Themes From Venus (LP, DB Recs, DB92, 1988)($5.00) An obscure band– likely only known from people who lived in Georgia at the time or people who saw the documentary Athens, GA Inside/Out. A band I’m always keeping an eye out for. I’ve managed to pick up three LP’s of their vinyl career thus far. Themes From Venus was a return to their original label home DB Recs after a one-record stint at minor-major label Big Time Records which had distribution by BMG and RCA in the US with their album This Ain’t to Outerspace Ship and it’s single– a cover of  “Party Train” (almost the precursor to “Love Shack” by the B-52’s!) Love Tractor started as a band that only occasionally had vocals, but over time that changed. Maybe they learned how to sing and play their instruments? Here is “Venus” from Themes From Venus.

The dB’s – The Sound of Music (LP, IRS Records, IRS-42055, 1987)($7.00) I became familiar with The dB’s when they opened for R.E.M. on the Document tour in Davenport at Palmer Auditorium. Though The dB’s are known for the writing partnership of Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey– much in the tradition of Chris Bell and Alex Chilton of Big Star or Chris Difford and Glenn Tillbrook of Squeeze– The Sound of Music was post Stamey’s departure from the band. Holsapple tried to carry the mantle of The dB’s for two more albums before they gave it up. The album is a blend of jangly Byrdsian guitar power pop with country influence like a lot of bands at the time — we call it Americana I suppose these days, but back then it was just rock. I always loved “Never Say When.” These days both Stamey and Holsapple have solo careers and release the occasional album together.

Tom Petty – Full Moon Fever (LP, MCA Records, MCA-6253, 1989)($7.00) Firstly, big props to Record Collector for pricing this record very reasonably. Recently, I was visiting one of my other favorite record shops and they were asking $40 for a copy of this record– not nearly in this nice of shape either! The justification by the kid behind the counter who did the pricing at that store was that there are copies of this on eBay going for $40. Sadly, they will probably get that price for it from someone who isn’t willing to do a bit of searching. As it is, I’ve seen nice copies on discogs.com for less than $20. Plus, it is just a matter of time before the big remastering project that is well underway for Petty’s catalog will eventually hit this record and create a completely new 180g version with bonus tracks. Anyway, what is there really to say about this record that hasn’t been said– HUGELY successful release from Petty during the period when Jeff Lynne of ELO had infiltrated a bunch of camps with his production: The Traveling Wilburys, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison. So, you end up with these guys all hanging out and working on each other’s records as well as collaborating on the Traveling Wilburys. If you see Petty in concert these days, he seems to do more songs from this album than almost any other in his catalog. All the big hits: “Running Down A Dream,” “Yer So Bad,” “Free Fallin’,” “I Won’t Back Down.”

Ultra Vivid Scene – Joy 1967-1990 (LP, 4AD/Columbia C4 6227, 1990)($8.00) This was one of those “holy shit!” moments flipping through the bins. One of my very favorite albums coming from the astonishingly fertile 4AD camp in the early 90’s. The Pixies blasted the doors open and bands like UVS, The Cocteau Twins, The Breeders and Lush found themselves with major label deals in the US. UVS is pretty much the project of Kurt Ralske. He had three albums as UVS before moving on to other things. These days he seems focused on graphic arts. This album was the breakthrough for him and largely due to the single “Special One” which featured prominently Kim Deal from the Pixies, as did the video for it which got some MTV rotation. Kurt was a lucky, lucky man in 1990.

Stuff I put back: Camper Van Chadbourne, plus a reissue of Blind Joe Death by John Fahey on Takoma– apparently a recent reissue.

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