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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.

B-Sides in the Bins #56 – Mt. Vernon, IA 8/20/2011 – Art Blakey’s Drum Suite

Drum Suite - Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers
My wife had a wedding makeup gig in Mt. Vernon on Saturday and since I didn’t have a lot going on I offered to come along and help her load in and out. I figured I’d check out the antique shops to see what books or vinyl they might have. Unfortunately, there used to be a really great record store in Mt. Vernon above one of the art stores. I guess the father of one of the owners of the store had a large record collection that they wanted to sell, so they ran a store for a while.

After helping Sherry, I parked the car and set out on foot to see what I could find. The former Mt. Vernon Middle School is now known as The First Street Community Center and this is where I found the one record I picked up. The school has been converted into a number of small shops and businesses– most of them antiques and gifts. On the second floor of the building I found a lone stack of  records in front of one of the shops. The stack was marked $2. So, I flipped through them not expecting to really find anything as the records were largely 60’s era ephemera like orchestra, some odd soundtracks and some foreign music titles. One I almost picked up was a University of Iowa title called The Songs of Iowa or something like that and had a selection of music from the various cultures– Mesquaki Indian music, Czechoslovakian, German, Dutch. But, just before I got to the bottom of the pile this familiar collection of African masks was staring me in the face.

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – Drum Suite (LP, Columbia CL 1002, 1957)($1.00) Wow! First, it is Mono and original Columbia Records “Six Eye” label, so it is an original pressing. The record was missing the inner paper sleeve, but the record itself was in pretty decent shape! It had some slightly incriminating scuffs, but I figured for a record over 50 years old, it wouldn’t be perfect, and the price was right. After a conversation with the nice lady who ran the little shop, and who attempted to just give the record to me, we arrived at $1.

When I got home, I gave the record a wipe with Gruv-Glide II (I highly recommend this stuff!) which did a fantastic job of cleaning out the groove of dust and debris and also provided an anti-static barrier. The record had a deep black sheen and it took some close looking to even see the original scuffs! The record played with very little noise.

Drum Suite is really two recordings. Side One is the three-part “Drum Suite” performed by The Art Blakey Percussion Ensemble which was made up of Specs Wright on percussion, Ray Bryant on piano, cellist/bassist Oscar Pettiford, Sabu Martinez on congas, and bassist Candido Camero. As is frequently commented about this release, it predates Afrobeat music by many years, and considered by many to be quite revolutionary at the time. Listening to it now, I notice how well the ensemble ties standard hard bop jazz with the world beats making it pretty listenable (“never descends into cacophony” was one review I read).

The second side of the record is a selection of songs by one of the many iterations of The Jazz Messengers. While enjoyable, is not in my opinion as strong as other Jazz Messenger releases like my personal favorite Mosaic.

When I heard the middle part of the Drum Suite “Cubano Chant” I found it to be familiar, so I looked into that track further. “Cubano Chant” was composed by the pianist Ray Bryant and included in his 1956 album on Epic Records The Ray Bryant Trio (Epic LN 3279)– which is sadly very out-of-print. The version on Drum Suite has some vocals (“Vamos a bailar la cha-cha-cha!”) where his version (and most other cover versions) doesn’t. Ray Bryant passed away in June at 79 years old. One of his noted contributions to the world of jazz is “Cubano Chant” which seems to be regarded as kind of a standard, considering how many people covered it. I found a pretty cool video of Steely Dan’s touring band from 2003 performing it as a warmup before a concert. I’m not exactly sure where I heard this before, but I guess it could be anywhere– but I’m pretty sure I heard it on “Dancing With the Stars” though I don’t know what season that would have been.

I managed to find a vinyl rip of Ray Bryant Trio (the Epic release, not the confusingly same-titled Prestige album from the same year– although some call that one Piano Piano Piano) on the internet which is pretty cool– but considering the apparent significance of “Cubano Chant” you’d think that they would have reissued this. It’s on my “wishlist”  to get on vinyl.

A bit of a side note: Ray Bryant recorded a single in 1960 called “The Madison Time” which was featured prominently in the first film version of Hairspray (not the John Travolta version, the Rikki Lake one). Here are the instructions for how you can dance “The Madison Time,” too!

B-Sides in the Bins #55 – Around Memorial Day Weekend 2011

Over the long weekend, I was hoping to get in on some of the sales that were going on– specifically Guitar Center in Cedar Rapids, and the full-weekend 20% sale at Half-Price Books. While I didn’t actually get over to Guitar Center, I did hit HPB, but also managed to see David Lowery and Johnny Hickman tape a Java Blend session in Iowa City with my friend Erik, which also resulted in a great trip to The Record Collector. I also visited Moondog Music in Dubuque on Thursday and picked up some “missing titles” and hit a Half Price Books in Chicago on Saturday (whew!)

Record Collector, Iowa City:

Bob Mould – Workbook (LP, Virgin Records 91240-1, 1989)($8.00) HUGE SCORE! Found in the “Recent Arrivals” bin (much to Erik’s dismay). Promo-stamped and notched cut-out with a “When You PLAY IT, SAY IT!” sticker prominently on the front cover. The record is in overall good condition, but there was a very visible scuff on tracks 3 and 4 on side 2. It doesn’t affect the play a lot except for a slight tick. I heard this album being played at a party in college and went out and bought it the next day. The first time I ever heard Mould, incidentally. Though I was a fan of Minneapolis bands like Soul Asylum and The Replacement, I hadn’t dove into the Husker Du catalog. I started getting into their catalog posthumously after this album. This is still my favorite Mould record, though Black Sheets of Rain is a close second.  (Note to self: add Black Sheets of Rain to my vinyl wishlist).

Van Morrison – Moondance (LP, Warner Brothers 1835, 1970)($12.00) Also in the “Recent Arrivals” bin. Amazingly clean copy and early pressing! Well worth the slightly more expensive price. Not much to say about this release other than it is probably the most consistent record in Van the Man’s catalog. Nice mellow jams for early evening consumption of red wine.

I had also grabbed a collection of Talking Heads records which were on my wish list, however, when I got to the counter to check out I spotted a copy of Neil Young’s Zuma in the glass case for $20. Realizing that this is a tough one to find, I put the Talking Heads back…

Neil Young with Crazy Horse – Zuma (LP, Reprise Records MS 2242, 1975)($20) Brilliant record all the way through. Of the “bigger songs” in Neil’s career, this has “Cortez the Killer” on it. First album following the “Ditch Trilogy” of Time Fades Away, Tonight’s the Night and On The Beach. I guess it is a little crazy for me to pay $20 for a record that will allegedly come out on the next Neil Young Archives LP box (cue laughter from die hard Neil Young fans). Cover in good shape with some slight staining which is typical of the matte covers of this vintage. Includes lyric sheet.

Big Star – Radio City (LP, Stax/Concord Music Group ADS-1801, 2009)($13.00) New. Wasn’t planning to pick this up, but I entered into a conversation with Kirk about the $50 original pressing of Big Star’s #1 Record that has been on display for a while. I mentioned the reissues that had come out and he went back to the bins and came back with this. I’m a big fan of Big Star and had been planning to pick these up at some point. This is a reissue done by Concord Music Group which owns the licensing of the Stax and Ardent catalogs. Interestingly, aside from the very small “Licensed By Concord Music Group” at the bottom of the back of the jacket, you couldn’t tell easily that this was a reissue. Recorded and mastered at Ardent Studios in Memphis and mastered by Larry Nix whom I worked with on the vinyl pressing of The Right Now’s 2010 album Carry Me Home. Nix told us stories about working with Big Star and how Chris Bell nearly destroyed the plates for the vinyl version of #1 Record! I’m thinking I need to get that #1 Record

Moondog Music, Dubuque, IA:

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (LP, Columbia PC 33453, 1975)($12.98) Hot stamped with “For Demonstration – Not For Sale” on the back cover. Sleeve in VG condition with some slight ringwear and the LP is VG condition– no scuffs or scratches, but seems to need a thorough cleaning as it has a some crackles. The recording sounds great other than that. BL 33453-3F 1T matrix information on both sides. Also came with original “Monosee Lake” postcard!

R.E.M. – Murmur (LP, IRS Records, SP 70014-1, 1983)($5.98) According to the internet, this is a later repress as the catalog number changed and it has a barcode on it. Vinyl just needed a quick brush with the anti-static brush and a wipe with 91% isopropyl alcohol. Cleaned up with no surface noise! Sounds great and reminds me why I loved them so much back then. R.E.M. has always been a band that changes its sound every few albums, and the Chronic Town, Murmur, Reckoning set of albums defined that Southern jangly sound that so many bands that followed emulated.

Greg Brown – Freak Flag (LP, Yep Roc YEP 2244, 2011) ($19.98) 180g vinyl! Cool that the man who lives analog would get his new album on new label Yep Roc pressed into virgin vinyl. Produced by Bo Ramsey and recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis after a lightning storm destroyed the original recordings done in Minneapolis! Read my review of Freak Flag in Little Village Magazine.

New Order – Movement (LP, Factory FACD 05, 1981)($12.98) Still sealed! Was in the bins there since 2004. Has the light blue cover indicative of the non-US Factory Records versions. Looks like a Canadian pressing I guess, but the matrix information looks like it is based on the original UK pressing. I need to look into this a bit more. Not my favorite New Order album, but still worth having in the collection.

Simple Minds – Sparkle in the Rain (LP, A&M Records SP-6-4981, 1984)($4.99) This is one of my favorite Simple Minds albums, second probably only to New Gold Dream. Sparkle in the Rain is considered Simple Minds’ breakthrough release in the US. Side A has a fantastic procession of songs– “Up on the Catwalk,” “Book of Brilliant Things,” “Speed Your Love to Me,” “Waterfront” and “East At Easter” most of which are on the excellent live album Live in the City of Light.

Steely Dan – The Royal Scam (LP, ABC Records ABCD-931, 1976)($5.98) This is an “upgrade” from a later MCA Pressing I had of this. Great record, though it doesn’t have the big hits on it. It also seems to embody the snideness of Steely Dan. Sometimes Steely Dan hates the subjects and characters in their songs, and never more than they seem to on The Royal Scam. Classic Dan songs on here, though. “Kid Charlemange,” “Don’t Take Me Alive,” “The Fez” and “Haitian Divorce.”

Half Price Books, Village Crossing, Niles, IL

Derek & The Dominos – Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (LP, Atco SD 2-704, 1970)($14.99) While Sherry was doing makeup for a wedding in Chicago, I busied myself with a trip to the closest Half Price Books. They had a lot of “essential” titles in the bins of varying quality and I nearly picked up a couple of Who titles, but ended up finding this really clean original pressing of the classic Derek & The Dominos album.

B-Sides in the Bins #54 – Half-Price Books, Bloomingdale, IL 3/13/11

Sherry and I were back in Chicago last weekend for her yearly America’s Beauty Show conference at McCormick Place. My goal was to spend some time working on some writing and possibly do some record shopping. We were also planning to see The Right Now open for L.A. R&B band Orgone at Schuba’s.

Because I was concentrating on some writing, I primarily stayed holed up in our hotel room in Oak Park, but I ventured out on Sunday morning after dropping Sherry off at the show. I had been meaning to hit the Half-Price Books up in Bloomingdale and the hotel was relatively close to there. As far as Half-Price Books stores are concerned, this one is a pretty well-stocked one. The vinyl section was very large and had a very good selection of titles. The rule of thumb for pricing vinyl at HPB in Cedar Rapids is to use the Goldmine Vinyl Pricing Guide and charge 50% of that. So, when Neil Young’s Harvest shows up in the guide for $10, you can count on it being $5 or $6.  In my opinion, the Bloomingdale prices seemed on average a little higher than I’d see in Cedar Rapids, but not oppressively so. I ended up getting some collection fillers– Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd which was cool. Those titles tend to be kind of rare in Cedar Rapids, so I want to snag them when I see them. I also got some odd college rock releases, too.

Led Zeppelin – Coda (LP, Swan Song/Atlantic 90051-1, 1982) ($9.98) Coda was the 9th and final LP from Led Zeppelin, post John “Bonzo” Bonham’s death. Assembled by Jimmy Page of studio and soundcheck outtakes recorded between 1970 and 1978. The album is largely dismissed by most as a non-essential Led Zeppelin release. At my house Coda was actually played quite a bit. We became fans of Led Zeppelin around the time I was a freshman in high school and bought all of the albums on cassette. My brother Steve is a drummer and was a big fan of Bonzo at the time. I think out of all of the tracks we played the drum instrumental “Bonzo’s Montreux” the most which we saw as the sequel to “Moby Dick” from Led Zeppelin II. In fact, the first big CD boxset of Led Zeppelin included a medley of both “Moby Dick” and “Bonzo’s Montreux.” The sleeve for this LP is a nice embossed 2-pocket gatefold. The LP fits in one pocket, but I don’t have anything in the second pocket– am I missing something?

Pink Floyd – The Wall (2 LP, Columbia 36183, 1979) ($14.98) This was a bit on the pricey side, but the sleeve was in excellent condition as was the vinyl. Essential for any Pink Floyd collection– I’m still building my vinyl collection so I’m keeping an eye out for these releases. My dad bought this on cassette when it came out and I didn’t really pay any attention to it aside from “Another Brick in the Wall (part 2)” which was a #1 single in 1979. It wasn’t until the summer between my 8th Grade and Freshman year of High School in 1983– almost four years after the album came out– that I would really embrace The Wall. My first girlfriend (more of a summer fling, I suppose), coincidentally with the last name of “Watters” wanted me to copy the tape for her. I wasn’t a fan, but she insisted that it was an amazing album.  Back in these days one would have to sit through the dub process– I had two individual cassette decks– not even the dubbing cassette deck that I have today. Press play on one and record on the other and wait. On this particular night I laid in bed with the headphones on listening to it as it copied. It was at that point that I understood what the fuss was about and it opened my eyes to the utter majesty of The Wall and at that point caused me to be a fan of Pink Floyd. Considering that I was pretty much raised on a steady diet of the Beatles, The Moody Blues and Fleetwood Mac, The Wall was revolutionary.  That Christmas I asked for Animals and Dark Side of the Moon for gifts. As was usually the case around the house, whenever I would start getting heavy into a particular band the rest of the family would follow suit and it seemed like we were listening to The Wall in the car all the time usually singing along with songs like “Mother” as disturbing as that seems in retrospect. Our family had planned on seeing one of  the rock laser shows at Five Flags as was the rage at the time, and they regularly did one for Dark Side of the Moon. In a last-minute decision we decided to buy a Betamax tape of The Wall Movie under the idea that it would cost about the same as the admission to the laser show was about the same price as the movie. I remember inviting the art teacher from my high school, Dave Eischeid over to watch it one afternoon. It was kind of a big deal at the time and people hadn’t really even seen the movie.

Pink Floyd – The Final Cut (LP, Columbia QC 38243, 1983) ($9.98) While not generally regarded as their best effort with Waters, the copy was in such good shape I thought I should pick it up. Really, though, people probably didn’t play The Final Cut as much as any of their previous releases, so I suspect that most of the copies in the used bins are in good shape. The Final Cut was as much a reaction to the events surrounding The Wall as it was kind of a sequel to it. The only single from the album was “Not Now John” which seems to me also very related to “Young Lust” from The Wall. I had “Not Now John” on a mix tape I used to listen to a lot in my car in high school and it still stands as a great track in my opinion and the only one on the album to feature David Gilmour’s vocals, but he shares vocal duties with Waters.

Paul Simon – Graceland (LP, Warner Bros., 25447-1, 1986) ($4.98) Finally a copy of Graceland that was in really great shape! Lots of copies of Paul Simon’s brilliant return to the top of the music charts and winner of two GRAMMYS. Graceland was an early CD purchase for me– I got my first CD player in the early 90’s and it was part of the first ten or so CD’s I bought. I don’t have a lot to say about the album that hasn’t been covered. It’s one of the all-time great albums as far as I’m concerned.

Camper Van Beethoven – Telephone Free Landslide Victory (LP, Independent Project/Rough Trade IP016, 1985) ($7.98) WOW! Big find! I was really happy to find this one languishing in the bins! CVB’s debut record which would establish the band with it’s best-known song, “Take The Skinheads Bowling” (best known next to their cover of “Pictures of Matchstick Men” anyway). Wonderful blend of ska/Eastern Bloc instrumentals and relatively straightforward “college rock.” A very welcome addition to my collection indeed, and the beginning of my vinyl collection of CVB.

The dB’s – Like This (LP, Bearsville/Warner Bros. 25146-1, 1984)($9.98) Another great college rock find! I saw the dB’s open for R.E.M. during their Document tour on October 31st, 1987 in Davenport, IA. What little I remember about their performance includes a pretty great version of “Amplifier” which was on Like This and their previous album. Like This is a great album even though it is missing Chris Stamey. Produced by Chris Butler of the Waitresses and the dB’s. The LP credits and the deadwax show the LP was mastered at Sterling Sound by Greg Calbi.

Janet Jackson – Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 (LP, A&M Records SP 3920, 1989)($2.98) While I never owned this on CD or cassette, it was a record I had a lot of respect for when it came out. The easiest way to create a funk masterpiece is to bring the Minneapolis sound– Jam & Lewis. Seven singles in the Top Five is a record that has yet to be topped. Great record and I’m happy to have this in my collection– especially in this condition. Slight ringwear on the sleeve, but the record itself is pristine.

Full Fathom Five – Smoke Screen EP (12″ Link Records 021, 1989)($2.98) A red vinyl pressing for the “Smoke Screen” single from the Iowa City band Full Fathom Five’s major label debut 4 A.M. on Link Records. I picked up the vinyl version of this at Cheapo’s in Minneapolis back in 2009. This HPB tried to get $9.98 for this back in June of 2009 according to the layered price stickers, and then dropped the price to $4.98 in October of 2010, and then dropped the price again in February of this year to $2.98. A pretty cool piece and a nice companion to my 4 A.M. vinyl. “Smokescreen” is on side 1 and side 2 has two non-album tracks, “What We are Missing” and “Take It To the Station.”

B-Sides in the Bins #53 – Rubber Soul Restoration

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Over Christmas I took on a project– the restoration of a Mono Beatles Rubber Soul.

A couple of years ago, my sister-in-law Sarah gave me a stack of LP’s that she picked up at a thrift store in the Twin Cities. The stack was a colorful collection of 60’s, 70’s and 80’s pop, tropicalia, hair metal and Phil Collins. I pulled out the records that I thought I’d want to keep and got ready to carry the lot of discards to Half-Price Books. Thankfully, I looked closer at the Firefall sleeve in the pile as it had The Beatles Rubber Soul on rainbow Capitol label in it! As happy as I was to find this treasure, I was saddened that it was missing its jacket. I found a paper sleeve and put it in a crate with other records that I don’t store with my main collection.

In December I was doing some work in the room where we have our furnace and storage and happened to notice the record. I picked it up and looked closer at it and realized that it was not just a 60’s Capitol Beatles release, but it was also a MONO!

The reason why the monaural release is desirable, is that it is generally accepted in the collector’s circles that the Capitol monaural versions of the Beatles catalog are superior to the stereo releases. To explain why, there is some history to cover.

The Beatles had kind of a shaky start in the US as far as record labels were concerned. They were signed to EMI/Parlophone in the UK and when EMI’s US counterpart Capitol was initially approached to release the Beatles albums, they declined– thinking that the US teenagers were more interested in the clean-cut portrait of The Beach Boys (on Capitol) than they would be with the shaggy snapshot of the Beatles. The center of the mess was a man named Dave Dexter, Jr. who is quite possibly the most controversial person in the history of the Beatles recorded output. Dexter’s job was managing EMI’s releases in the US for Capitol and was  the guy who was in charge of screening the releases, and ultimately made decisions about everything from cover art, to production and mastering to what tracks were included on a given release.

Incidently, Dexter was also the guy who made the decision that initially squashed releasing the Beatles on Capitol. This is why the first Beatles album released in the US was handled by a typically R&B label out of Chicago called Vee-Jay (which is a whole other story). Eventually, Capitol couldn’t ignore the force of the Beatles and signed them in November, 1963.

Capitol and Dexter felt that the way EMI was releasing the albums in the UK was not what their customers wanted and changed almost every packaging of Beatles material up until Sgt. Pepper’s when the Beatles renewed their contract and blocked this practice. Capitol changed track lists, generated new “greatest hits” collections and the most egregious aspect of all was the remixing of the music that George Martin and his engineers so masterfully recorded at Abbey Road. EMI/Parlophone would release singles and LP’s in the UK and then tapes would be shipped to the US for packaging and release by Capitol.

When the Beatles would finally make it to compact disc in 1987, it established that the standard for their catalog would be the UK EMI/Parlophone/Apple versions. Well, and stereo for those releases that were in stereo.

Rubber Soul ends up being the poster child for Capitol’s changes to the Beatles releases with a dramatically different track listing than the UK version in sequence and in content!

The “proper” UK version of Rubber Soul tracklisting (from Wikipedia):

No. Title Length
1. Drive My Car 2:25
2. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) 2:01
3. You Won’t See Me 3:18
4. Nowhere Man 2:40
5. Think for Yourself(George Harrison) 2:16
6. The Word 2:41
7. Michelle 2:40
Side two
No. Title Length
1. What Goes On(Lennon/McCartney/Starkey) 2:47
2. Girl 2:30
3. I’m Looking Through You 2:23
4. In My Life 2:24
5. Wait 2:12
6. If I Needed Someone(George Harrison) 2:20
7. Run for Your Life 2:18

So, this brings us to my copy of Rubber Soul, which as I stated, is a Capitol mono original pressing from 1965 (Catalog number T-2442).

Side one
No. Title Length
1. I’ve Just Seen a Face 2:07
2. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) 2:05
3. You Won’t See Me 3:22
4. Think for Yourself(George Harrison) 2:19
5. The Word 2:43
6. Michelle 2:42
Side two
No. Title Length
1. It’s Only Love 1:55
2. Girl 2:33
3. I’m Looking Through You 2:31
4. In My Life 2:27
5. Wait 2:16
6. Run for Your Life 2:18

You can see from these two track listings that the UK and US releases are substantially different! According to sources, the US release was deliberately resequenced to make Rubber Soul more of a “folk rock” album in hopes of cashing in on the emerging genre which included popular releases from bands like the Byrds and Dylan which were both having an effect on the Beatles new– and I think– more mature writing style. As a result, the more upbeat, and likely representative of the “Rubber Soul” moniker– songs were removed from the track listing and would be released on the following US-only compilation Yesterday… and Today. These songs “Drive My Car” and “Nowhere Man” which are considered notable songs in the Beatles canon, as well as “What Goes On” and “If I Needed Someone.” These songs were replaced with two songs removed from the UK version of Help! (the US version of Help! was also different in the US where it served more as a soundtrack to the movie and included score music)– “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and “It’s Only Love.” The result drops the album to just under 30 minutes in total.

There is a debate that continues over whether the Capitol changes actually improve the album. One side of the argument is that it does. The replacement of the pumping piano kickoff of “Drive My Car” on the UK version with the acoustic guitar-driven immediacy of “I’ve Just Seen a Face” is a vote for a more balanced release. The counter-argument is that it varies too much from the UK release in favor of an album that seems to clumsily try to pander to the US market. For me, the differences are more of an interesting curiosity. My first exposure to Rubber Soul was with the 1987 CD releases, so my experience is a stereo UK version for all intents and purposes.
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After I stumbled across the lone sleeveless copy of Rubber Soul in my basement and realized what it was, I thought that it would be nice to find a cover for it. It was a gift, and it was in pretty good shape for a 44-year old record– some slight scuffing, but otherwise the vinyl had a really nice black luster to it. On play, it has some slight crackle, but the recording itself is loud enough to hide it.

It was as if the universe wanted this record to have a new jacket. The first search I made for a Capitol Rubber Soul jacket turned up ONE eBay auction from a seller in Arizona whose ID was “scampy”– it was for a mono, too! It was a Buy-it-Now for $39.95 plus $4 shipping. It was kind of expensive, but if the condition was good, then it would be worth it because the record plus the jacket would have a greater value than either alone. The seller and I exchanged a couple of messages and he pointed out that mono sleeves were rare and that this sleeve was in very good shape. I was sold, but I also wanted a period-correct inner paper sleeve.  On a whim, I asked him if he had a correct inner sleeve. He responded that he thought he did. He quickly responded that he had one!

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I found the correct one, it lists albums up through the #2355. It is in real nice shape except a small split at the bottom that is hardly noticeable, it also has the pitch to upgrade your old albums to the new stereo discs that was only put on the mono ones. I will include it at no charge.”

Wow! That was a lucky coincidence! He quickly shipped the package to me and I had it in my hands within the week– it was in amazing shape with very little ringwear. I was able to assemble the record, sleeve and jacket to a set that I was very happy with!
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It is noted in the Wiki article on Rubber Soul, that the sleeve colors in the US were a variation on the UK sleeves due to some color saturation differences, resulting in the title logo being more of a brown or gold than the UK orange logo. I like the color of the sleeve I got a lot– maybe more than an orange one.

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According to the Spitzer book on the Beatles on Capitol, the “5” in the lower right indicates that the record sleeve was printed by Modern Album in Terre Haute, IN.

Overall, this was a very satisfying project for me. Maybe the word “restoration” overstates the effort, but that is what is really is, I think. I have a small vinyl Beatles collection that was started for me by my aunts back in the early 80’s– on purple Capitol label but didn’t include Rubber Soul, so this sits proudly next to those releases, but a mono Yesterday… and Today I picked up on Black Friday last year.

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