Archive for the 'Music' Category

(Upcoming Release) Friends Gather to Finish Last Game Theory Album – Supercalifragile Out 8/24/17

At the time of his death in 2013, Scott Miller of seminal power pop bands Game Theory and The Loud Family was working on a new record. He was in varying degrees of completed on a bunch of songs– some songs had vocals and guitar, some of them had detailed notes. His wife Kristine reached out to Ken Stringfellow of The Posies to help coordinate finishing this record titled Supercalifragile based on conversations she had with Miller about the album (which, incidentally always included collaborations of singers and co-writers). In May of  2016, a Kickstarter was established to help fund the completion of the record. By July 4th it was 161% funded! At the time of the launch of the Kickstarter, they had already been recording for over a year, so the fundraising was primarily to wrap up some of the sessions, get mastering done and the rest of the process to get physical and digital product completed and distributed.

The list of contributors to Supercalifragile include former members of Game Theory (Jozef Becker, Nan Becker, Dave Gill, Michael Quercio, Gil Ray, Donnette Thayer, and Suzi Ziegler) and notable guests including (of course) Ken Stringfellow (The Posies, R.E.M., Big Star), Jon Auer (The Posies, Big Star), Aimee Mann, Ted Leo, Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Will Sheff (Okkervil River), Doug Gillard (Guided By Voices, Nada Surf), Mitch Easter, Alison Faith Levy (The Loud Family), Anton Barbeau, Jonathan Segel (Camper Van Beethoven), Allen Clapp (The Orange Peels), John Moremen, Stephane Schuck, Chris Xefos, Dan Vallor (GT Reissue producer for Omnivore),  The inclusion of the former Game Theory members helps add continuity of this release to the Game Theory catalog, which has enjoyed renewed focus in the Omnivore Recordings reissues.

In a post to the Facebook group dedicated to Scott Miller, his wife has posted a lot of wonderful insight into how she and Stringfellow curated the release.

“This album is as close to what Scott would have created as is possible. I knew the artists he wanted to work with (he had even contacted a couple himself before he died as the artists confirmed this with me), and in a few cases which instruments he wanted them to play or which songs he wanted them to sing. Yes, he wanted guest vocalists and cowriters all over the record. Scott and I talked about his ideas and as he had worked with (and socialized and played tennis with) Ken Stringfellow, he proposed Ken help him organize and help produce this project. Scott spoke of having various artists bring their “arcs of influence” to the record. He said he would ultimately have veto power if anything got too out of hand (😉), but he was looking forward to having lots of great artists he admired and/or worked with to participate. (Scott even considered making track breaks mid-song when a new artist was introduced to the album. This was an idea we went with in the traditional sense by bringing on artists for entire songs. Not sure Scott would have brought this unusual idea to fruition or not.) So, in this case, with this record, completed without Scott’s final “veto,” no, we can’t possibly make the exact record Scott would have made. (And in fact, even Scott wouldn’t know what it would become until after working with everyone and it was done!) But with so much overwhelming respect for Scott’s work and in honor of his life, we all kept as much of it “Scott” as we could. All his ideas, all his lyrics, all his riffs, all his ideas for bridges and choruses…everything preserved and used as much as musically possible. In some ways, it might in fact be more “Scott” than the record Scott would have made. ❤️ And that’s why I think we all love it so much.”

In August of 2017 the finished product was shipped out to everyone who contributed to the Kickstarter and early reviews and posts to the Facebook group have been glowing. Now that the Kickstarters have been shipped out the team is ready to make the release generally available. In an email sent to people who signed up from the website, the album will be available on Bandcamp (the link isn’t available yet) this week: August 24th in download, CD and vinyl. I’ll update this post to reflect that link when it becomes available. I’ll post a review after I get it.

Tidal featured the first song from the album, a duet with Aimee Mann called “No Love” and it is striking how Mann’s vocals compliment Miller’s.

Here is a video of a rough take of “I Still Dream of Getting Back to Paris” shot at Abbey Road Studios in London during the recording sessions with Anton Barbeau on vocals. Miller (credited as The Loud Family) and Barbeau put out a kind of split release in 2006 titled What If It Works?

As a long-time fan of Scott Miller’s work, I’m really looking forward to getting this release. Like many, Miller’s sudden and unexpected loss was painful; too early in a career arc that certainly would have generated more significant releases. Supercalifragile brings some closure with this release in that regard and should provide influence for future artists the way the Big Star catalog has.

(Upcoming Release) Charlie Parr Returns With Another Full-Band Album “Dog” Out September 8th

Red House Records‘ recent signing of Duluth, MN blues and folk master Charlie Parr yielded what I think was the most fleshed-out and imagined album in his catalog Stumpjumper. It made my Best of 2015 year end list. Most of Parr’s catalog has focused on solo or very stripped-down arrangements, so Stumpjumper was a departure, and with help from Phil Cook the album was a winner from beginning to end.

This week Red House announced that Parr is back with another album, and this one is also with a band. Titled Dog, it was supposed to be a solo record, but he changed his mind and brought in experimental folk artist Jeff Mitchell, percussionist Mikkel Beckman, harmonica player Dave Hundreiser, and bassist Liz Draper (who according to the Red House PR was asked by Parr to play electric bass instead of her normal upright bass). Parr explains:

“I was going to do it completely solo,” Charlie says. “I was going to go to this barn in Wisconsin, sit there and play my songs. And I was practicing them and I thought, this is devastating. These songs are hard to hear in this format. I would never be able to listen to them again. And then my friend Tom Herbers, he saw something was wrong. We talked, booked time at Creation” Audio, and made a plan to flesh out the album with a backing band.”

The first track we get to hear is the title track which reminds me of a more contemplative version of “Over The Red Cedar.” It’s a real heart-tugger for anyone who ever loved a dog since it questions whether dogs have souls. “How do you know that I don’t have a soul? How can you look me in the eye and tell me ‘no?’ A soul is a soul is a soul is a soul.”

The album shares a couple of songs with the 2016 Record Store Day 10″ EP release I Ain’t Dead Yet. The tracks “Hobo” and “I Ain’t Dead Yet” get a new life on Dog. BTW: copies of the RSD EP are still available from Red House Records for $15.

You can listen to samples of the tracks at the Red House Records page for Dog. Dog comes out September 8th on CD, vinyl and mp3.

Here is the tracklisting:

TRACK LISTING:
1. Hobo
2. Dog
3. Salt Water
4. LowDown
5. Sometime’s I’m Alright
6. Rich Food and Easy Living
7. I Ain’t Dead Yet
8. Boiling Down Silas
9. Another Dog
10. Peaceful Valley

The Right Now Debuts “Nice Boogie” Remix of “Up All Night” By Buscrates x Nice Recs – Up All Night Mixtape

photo credit Seth Thompson Epiglotic Photographic

It’s pretty exciting to see the momentum of a band building in support of a new album– the renewed energy and mission to get the new music out to the fans. One of the hardest working bands around is Chicago’s R&B and Funk powerhouse The Right Now and on the heels of their latest release Starlight they’re already beating the pavement with hit-and-run shows through the Midwest and making appearances on Chicago TV and radio.

For the last album, the band worked with some Chicago remixers which resulted in some of my favorite dance remixes in recent history. Now for Starlight, we have the first remix of the anthemic “Up All Night” by Buscrates and Nice Recs from Pittsburgh Electro Funk group East Liberty Quarters. The remix largely leaves lead singer Stefani Berecz’s vocals intact while providing a subtle bubbling-under synth beat that would sit comfortably in a mix with Eighties divas Chaka and anything Jam and Lewis produced including Janet’s best work.

When I asked Brendan O’Connell about how he got hooked up with these guys he said, “We’ve known Buscrates since 2010 or 2011 when we used to play Shadow Lounge in Pittsburgh. We reconnected in Pittsburgh when we played there in March. We’ve all kept up with his remix and production stuff online in the interim. He’s great. Heavy shit!”

Heavy shit indeed. I’ve already spun this track a dozen times. Get it in your ears. If you’re a DJ who’d like to include it in your set, hit the band up at their website.

When I asked him for a list of songs that influenced “Up All Night” O’Connell said, “I’ve been to listening to a fair amount of disco and 70s R&B over the past few years and it directly inspired me to write “Up All Night” (and seek out Buscrates to remix it).  Here’s some tunes I can’t get enough of.

“Betcha Wouldn’t Hurt Me” by Quincy Jones

“Haven’t You Heard” by Patrice Rushen

“(Funny) Bone” by Chic

“Runaway Love” by Linda Clifford

“You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else” by The Jones Girls

“Hold Tight” by Change

“I’m In Love” by Evelyn Champagne King

“Keep On” D-Train

“Light Up The Night” by The Brothers Johnson

I put together a mixtape of these songs and included the Buscrates remix picking some choice remixes and adding some edits resulting in a shimmering, thumping throwback Disco/Funk mix. Enjoy!

 

(Upcoming Release) RSD Exclusive 2 LP Colemine Records Singles Compilation Soul Slabs Vol. 1 Collects the 7″ Gems

I usually try to post about the nuggets in the Record Store Day releases. When this year’s Record Store Day list posted yesterday, I was admittedly underwhelmed by the releases. I saw some compelling ones, like the third part of the Complete Big Star Third collection, the 2nd release of the CSC Funk Band on Electric Cowbell (their first release Funkincense came out as an RSD exclusive, which I have and love). The Fleetwood Mac Alternate Mirage is interesting, if ultimately non-essential as a vinyl release.

But, deeper in the list, down in the compilations was the new RSD exclusive Soul Slabs Vol. 1 compilation of the legendary 7″ R&B/Soul/Funk releases from the Ohio-based Colemine Records. In 2014 Colemine released a compact disc compilation of singles called 20/45 in celebration of their seventh birthday. Soul Slabs is an update of that compilation, bringing the collection up to 2016. There is a pretty big overlap of the two releases, but since this is on vinyl and updated, it really is the more essential release in my opinion. It doesn’t miss the big cuts: Ikebe Shakedown’s “Hard Steppin'” is pretty much an R&B classic at this point– Colemine reissued the single for RSD a couple of years ago and reissued the Hard Steppin’ EP on vinyl. Orgone has been a force for a few years, and the releases on Colemine are an essential addition to their catalog– their release Beyond the Sun is positively breathtaking and should be in everyone’s soul collection. That goes for Durand Jones and the Indications new LP as well. Damn. Colemine started a subscription service of sorts where they email you about new exclusive releases and they give you a chance to buy it before it goes totally public. A lot of those releases are on this comp too: Soul Scratch, The Ephemerals, Kris Lager, Gene Washington & The Ironsides.

TRACKLISTING:
1. Jungle Fire – Comencemos
2. The Droptones – Don’t Get Caught
3. The Rugged Nuggets – Yo Todo Tu Yo
4. Dojo Cuts – You Make Lovin’ Real Easy
5. Ikebe Shakedown – Hard Steppin’
6. On The Spot Trio – Suction
7. Monophonics – Like Yesterday
8. Los Sospechos – Jano’s Revenge
9. The Jive Turkeys – The Reggie
10. Fat Night – Things You Do
11. Alan Evans Trio – Authoritay
12. The Grease Traps – Street Sweeper
13. Gene Washington & The Ironsides – Next To You
14. The Sure Fire Soul Ensemble – City Heights
15. Kris Lager Band – Money & Loneliness
16. In Motion Collective – Jesse’s Jing
17. Orgone – Do What You Came To Do
18. Durand Jones & The Indications – Smile
19. Leroi Conroy – Remember When?
20. Soul Scratch – Pacified
21. Ephemerals – Things
22. The Gripsweats – Ziggy’s Walk

Here is a YouTube Playlist of all of the tracks. ENJOY!!!

Anyway. Go get this. Seriously.

(Upcoming Release) Chicago R&B Powerhouse The Right Now Return With a Pop Twinkle in Starlight (out 2/24)

Never content with staying in one particular sound, Chicago R&B band The Right Now, has embraced a classic R&B sound over the years, but has also included more updated R&B elements. Even on their debut album Carry Me Home, there were stabs of synths and electronic percussion over the proceedings. Their following 7″ “If I Wanted To“/”I Am Who I Say I Am” we get a gritty and even distortion laden track maybe akin to a more soulful Black Keys. When they returned in 2012 with Gets Over You, most of the tracks had a distinct later-period Motown and Stax bent to them, but outlying track “Call Girl” was straight up late 70’s disco and even got the remix treatment from the Deep and Disco crew.

The Right Now returns in 2017 with a new album Starlight with a renewed sense of direction and passion. While the band still hangs on to the horns and brings the funk, they also are approaching the new album with an “all-killer, no-filler” album with an eye towards a modern R&B sound. CFO (Chief Funk Officer) Brendan O’Connell explains,

“Our goal was to fine-tune the songs and production to make every note count, every chorus big and memorable, and craft something really special,” says keyboardist/guitarist/bandleader Brendan O’Connell. “While I love what we achieved on the last album, I felt it was important to try to transcend the ‘retro soul’ genre and concentrate on writing the best songs I could for (lead singer Stefanie Berecz)’s voice.”

The album is available for pre-order from the band’s website, and includes a limited edition transparent blue vinyl pressing! While you’re there order the last two albums and the 7″es!

(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.

We Talk to Mysterious Viral Dreampop Band Idle Hands from Mexico City

Love it or hate it, social media is the vehicle for finding out about “new stuff.” Sometimes we find out about really great stuff– like this week when David McClymont formerly of Scottish post-punk pop band Orange Juice shared out a video of an obscure Mexico City band Idle Hands practicing a song from an upcoming debut EP with the comment, “No, this isn’t a Glasgow bedroom circa 1980, it’s a Mexico City bedroom now.”

The song, titled “Carolina St.” is a glorious bright and chiming guitar instrumental reminiscent of, well, Orange Juice. This song has gained thousands of views in a couple of days– over 6,000 at the time I’m writing this! So, who are these guys? I reached out to them to see what’s going on.

From their bio: “Idle Hands is a south of Mexico City-based musical project formed by Fernando Torres and Diego Figueroa with the objective of creating sincere, smart and dreamy pop music.”

They also have a mission statement:

“We started to write music in the fall of 2015, responding to the need of obtaining an emotional and artistic expression away from the established scenes in our country. We take inspiration from the experiences, people, music and situations we love and hate. We try to tie together the good with the bad aspects of life while being aware of who we are and where we are heading, with the aim of avoiding stagnation, apathy, resentment and desensitization. These things are making Mexico a dangerous place for the people who live here and a terrible environment for art to bloom.
With our work we’d like to bring back ideas from the music we find profound and constructive, to inspire and share with our contemporaries.

Idle Hands music is written, played, recorded, produced and mixed by us.”

It’s Time to Play B-Sides: Hi! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today. “Carolina St.” is a great track– I can’t wait to hear more! Will you be singing on some of the tracks, or will this be an instrumental effort?

Idle Hands: Yes, almost all of our songs have lyrics 🙂

Will “Carolina St.” have lyrics or will stay an instrumental?

Yes, it’ll have singing. It’s a love song, haha.

I read in your comments that you are looking for distribution for your EP. Will you release it digitally first or wait until someone signs you?

We will make a digital release first, but we are looking for a label to release a nice physical release.

Are you close to finished recording it?

Yes, sort of… we are quite perfectionists haha. We are finishing the recording process. The art and mixing are still on planning.

It’s amazing to see all of the shares on that video. When I saw it yesterday there was only a few hundred!

Yes, we are very impressed and grateful with everyone. We didn’t think that a rehearsal video would be so warmly received 😮

David McClymont from Orange Juice wrote a fantastic quote about us…

Actually, that is how I found out about you. One of my friends on FB shared the video with McClymont’s quote.

It’s incredible to see how the Young Sound of Scotland is alive and kicking. And the best thing: crossing seas and breaking walls!

Will the EP lyrics be in Spanish or English?

No, the lyrics are in English. It’s quite a political thing… haha. We feel quite rebellious against the musical scene of Latin America.

I’m not too familiar with the Latin music scene other than some of the bigger exports.

We don’t feel identified with much of the local stuff. Almost always the people who succeed in music in Mexico are from wealthy families and they don’t have struggles to get a record deal, gear or education.

I see. Speaking of gear, I’m impressed with the sound of that Starcaster [a budget Fender guitar line below the Squier brand]– sounds better than I thought it might.

We are condemned to play with the cheapest we can get haha. But we have the habit of improving our instruments.

I was wondering about that. Must be different pickups in there?

No way! Pickups are expensive as our guitars in México.
The secret is in the strings.

We use D’Addario Flatwounds to achieve a cleaner and smoother tone

Interesting. You use flatwounds on the Jag, too?

Yes, we have all of our guitars and basses with flatwounds

Wow. I have to say I’m pretty surprised! I would never have guessed that. The clean tone coming from those single coils sounds really nice in that video.

Yes, Squier guitars are the most trusty axes we had throughout the years.

Any effects pedals?

No, we used to had a few, but we had to sell them. And now with the “peso” devaluation we are struggling harder to get gear.
But we made our minds up. We’re trying to make the most of the cheapest things.

Well, maybe this video going viral will help sell a lot of your EP!

Haha thanks, idleness made us… We would rather make a crowdfunding for a vinyl release than selling digital music.

Well, as a vinyl junkie I would love to see that!!

Thanks a lot!

When first I saw your video I thought it sounded like Manchester scene– The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen, etc. Though, the Orange Juice and Aztec Camera sound people are mentioning isn’t far from that.

Yes could be. Haha, we have a lot of influence of UK and Scottish bands. From the 60’s to the 80’s.
We also love soul, disco and Afrobeat.

That should make for some interesting future releases!

Yes, actually we have a lot of unreleased demos of experiments with other genres… You’ll listen to them eventually haha.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today– it’s been a lot of fun!

Thanks to you Michael, it’s been a pleasure. Love from México – Fernando & Diego ❤

Follow Idle Hands on Facebook

Follow Idle Hands on Instagram

The It’s Time to Play B-Sides Top 20 Albums of 2016

2016 was the 10th birthday of It’s Time to Play B-Sides, as unreal as that seems. This blog started as an offshoot of the regular conversations about music I was having at work with my friends and co-workers. At the time there wasn’t the proliferation of music sites that there are today, and informed or researched information about music was tough to find. With encouragement from my friends, I started this as a way to capture some of the tangents we’d get into at work. It also ended up being a return of sorts to doing a music website after shuttering the somewhat popular website I was running about DJ Shadow.  The name of the blog came from the signoff post I made to the DJ Shadow boards and was also a line from “Burning For You” by Blue Oyster Cult which always represented the desire to dig a little deeper into music– to flip the record over and listen to the songs on the B-Side.

The focus of It’s Time to Play B-Sides has morphed a bit over the years, some of it due to the amount of time I have to dedicate to writing on it, some of it is because I have focused a lot of my music writing since 2009 as a contributor to Little Village Magazine. This also explains why this list includes a lot of Iowa artists since that’s what we review. That said, there are some really amazing bands in Iowa and even after I review the albums, they stay in regular rotation for me and earn spots on my list.

As many will note, 2016 was a really strange year for music– sadly, mostly notable for the striking number of losses: Glenn Frey, David Bowie, Sharon Jones, Greg Lake, Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell, Merle Haggard, Maurice White, and Paul Kantner. The one that really hit me hard was the loss of Prince. Prince represented for me the first artist that I discovered on my own. Most of my formative music taste came from my father and that music is still a big part of the foundation of what I think is good in music. Prince came onto the larger music scene for me with Purple Rain, and from there I followed his career, and bands he worked with closely. I don’t think that we’ll see another artist quite as influential or as boundless in talent and genius again. I hope I’m wrong, but I feel like part of his ability to branch out was due to the fact that he hit it big during a time when the music industry was creating  huge stars and he could afford to make some albums that were more daring and experimental.

The list below is in no particular order, but represent the albums that I listened to the most in 2016.

Bon Iver – 22, A Million – Justin Vernon got back on the horse. It really seemed like he wasn’t going to do another record as Bon Iver– he was burnt out of the attention and visibility he got from his Grammy-winning second album. He debuted a couple of the songs at the inaugural Eaux Claires Festival in 2015 with a glorious live show. It took the prodding of his friend Ryan Olson (Gayngs, Polica, etc.) to make him finish (or even keep working on) it. The resulting album seems related to the last album, but the textures and production are unexpected and frankly jolting in comparison, which was exactly his intention, I think. Lots of samples, and heavily affected recording techniques. I expect that this album will influence a lot of artists going forward. At the root of the album is still the perspective of Vernon. His losses and heartbreaks, the stories

Kalispell – Printer’s SonKalispell is the name of Shane Leonard’s solo music when he’s not working with other bands like Field Report and JE Sunde. Printer’s Son is a beautiful record, period. From my review on playbsides: “Printer’s Son is one of those rare records that is so completely imagined and executed that when you first listen to it, it seems to drop unexpectedly out of the ether. It’s a record that defies any convenient genre classification. Elements of ambience and folk and jazz come together to help deliver a grippingly emotional and personal album.”

Lissie – My Wild West – Rock Island-native Elisabeth “Lissie” Maurus becomes homesick and moves back to Iowa and self-releases an album based on the experience. Full of hooks, driving and anthemic, it’s a great start to a career back home. Here’s my review from Little Village.

King of the Tramps – Cumplir con el Diablo – A later addition to the list. King of Tramps from Auburn, IA packs a lot of classic guitar-driven rock remniscent of Black Crowes into their latest effort (which comes in a super-cool transparent vinyl version). Here’s my review from Little Village Magazine.

Durand Jones and the Indications – Durand Jones and the Indications – New release on the fantastic Soul and R&B label out of Ohio, Colemine Records. In 2016, Colemine Records started a kind of subscription series where they email you upcoming releases to allow you to opt-in to the special first-pressing variations. This is a much better approach to this idea than the forced-in versions that are the trend today. They let you listen to the releases and you can decide to be part of the drop or not. One of the releases was the debut release of Durand Jones and the Indications on transparent blue vinyl. Fantastic classic R&B in the tradition of Stax/Volt and Otis Redding. Check out the video for “Make A Change.”

Hiss Golden Messenger – Heart Like A Levee – MC Taylor’s second full-length on Merge started as a project to create musical accompaniment to an exhibition of photographs taken by William Gedney in 1972 of an Eastern Kentucky coal-mining camp. Initially the songs were going to be based on the photographs, but eventually took their own direction. The album is distinctively HGM with Taylor expressing the developing perspective of a man coming to terms with balancing a family life and a music career. I’ve been a fan from before the first release as HGM and eagerly await the next releases.

Steve Gunn – Eyes On The Lines – I found out about Steve Gunn through his connection to Hiss Golden Messenger– a one-off collaboration called Golden Gunn. His 2016 release is his debut on Matador Records. To me, his music is influenced by the great UK guitarists like Richard Thompson and Michael Chapman (whose upcoming release 50, he produced and played on).

William Tyler – Modern Country – Nashville guitar wizard William Tyler, who works with a lot folks including Hiss Golden Messenger and Lambchop, released another album of his particular atmospheric guitar acrobatics. For me, his albums add a wide cinematic soundtrack to whatever I’m doing.

Scott Hirsch – Blue Rider Songs – Scott Hirsch is the silent partner in Hiss Golden Messenger, but for his debut solo album (which has been a long time coming, frankly) he delivers a breezy laid-back album that sounds like JJ Cale’s best work.

Bo Ramsey – Wildwood Calling – Bo Ramsey returns with his first album since 2008’s Fragile. This album, recorded in his kitchen is instrumentals showcasing his distinctive country blues style he is reknowned for. Read my review in Little Village Magazine.

The Pines – Above the Prairie – It’s safe to say that any time The Pines release a new album, it will be on my favorite albums for that year. Their signature atmospheric take on folk and blues has developed slowly over the releases to the point where it is nearly its own genre. I can’t think of any other bands that sound quite like The Pines. Read Matt Steele’s review in Little Village Magazine.

Chrash – Things My Friends Say – Chris Bernat of 90’s alt rock band Tripmaster Monkey released their first album of angular pop rock on Quad Cities indie label Cartouche. From my review in Little Village Magazine: “Things My Friends Say is an album that distinguishes itself in the landscape of new releases by the determinedly outsider approach to songs which, in the end, are damn catchy.”

Freakwater – Scheherazade – This reboot of Freakwater was a long time in the works, but turned out one of the best albums in their catalog. Scheherazade is a more rich and expansive version of their sound thanks to the band, which includes Jim Elkington of seemingly every band related to Chicago. Read my interview with Janet and Catherine in Little Village Magazine (Part 1, Part 2).

Halfloves – (self titled) – The Iowa band The Olympics reboot with the guiding hand of Brendan Darner to create a dark pop record of singular vision and execution. Read my review in Little Village Magazine.

SIRES – Soul For Sale – Another rebrand/reboot of an Iowa band– this time the former Dylan Sires and Neighbors become SIRES and also work with Brendan Darner to create a moody masterpiece (I think I see a trend here). Fantastic record, though– from my review in Little Village Magazine, ” They’ve crafted an album packed with smart, bright classic hooks as well as dark, lusty bombastic rhythms: an impressive juxtaposition in contrast.”

Max Jury – Max Jury – After a run of amazing singles and an EP, Des Moines native Max Jury releases his debut album, and the anticipation built by the singles was justified. Max Jury is a jaw-droppingly solid album. From my review in Little Village Magazine, “a balanced delivery of Spector-esque wall-of-sound and an updated take on early ’70s R&B and soul.” It’s too bad that it’s going to take Jury moving to the UK and blowing up over there before his native country takes notice.

TWINS – Square America – More Sires, please. This seeming dynasty of anyone with the last name Sires cranking out amazing pop rock continues with Cedar Falls band TWINS, whose second album on Maximum Ames takes their guitar rock guns and point them at 70’s big hitters like Cheap Trick and KISS. These guys continue to slug it out on bar stages, but could easily fill an arena with their big sound if given the chance. Read my review in Little Village Magazine.

Devin Frank – The Vanishing Blues – Devin Frank of Poison Control Center releases an album influenced by 60’s psych. “With The Vanishing Blues, Frank has made a refreshing stylistic statement by using a sonic palate derived from psychedelic rock’s dawning era — using bits of Syd Barrett, Donovan and the Zombies. This makes the album a delightfully unique and compelling standout in the landscape of releases this year.” – from my review in Little Village Magazine.

The Multiple Cat – Intricate Maps – This was an album I feel like I waited a long time for. I first heard these songs when Pat Stolley brought the band to Mission Creek Festival in 2015 opening for The Sea and Cake at The Mill. Really fantastic album that is tough to summarize. Lots of vintage tones in the guitar sounds, but not really a retro record, “It’s tempting to suggest that Stolley’s use of these elements makes Intricate Maps somehow retro. However, this stitched fabric of sound is more than the sum of its parts. It is a polished work that both honors the tradition of alternative rock and puts a current spin on it with Stolley’s signature production work.” from my review in Little Village Magazine.

Christopher The Conquered – I’m Giving Up On Rock & Roll – Dramatically bold anthemic rock that can barely be contained in a record. Christopher the Conquered is a one-man tour-de-force of pop, funny poignent and self-aware. Here’s my review for Little Village Magazine.

(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

Prince Greatest Hits Collection “Prince 4Ever” With Vault Track Out 11/22/16 – Comparison to 1993 “Hits”

prince-4ever

Warner Brothers Records in conjunction with NPG Records announced today that they’re releasing a new 40-track greatest hits collection titled Prince 4Ever. Due out strangely on Tuesday 11/22 (the release day in the US was moved generally to Fridays), this marks the first posthumous new release for Prince since his untimely death in April.

This release marks the first of the legendary “Vault” of unreleased recordings seeing the light of day since his estate has been taken over. Prince had released some things in the past– notably on the Crystal Ball box set as well as the Warner Brother contract-obligation release The Vault: Old Friends for Sale.

This release reminds me of the 1993 releases The Hits 1, The Hits 2 and the 3-CD collection The Hits/The B-Sides.  The way I remember those releases was that The Hits 1 was considered a “clean” release, and The Hits 2 was more of a “dirty” release, so people could choose to avoid the racy songs. I can’t find any reference to that being the case, but if you look at the tracklists, certainly 2 has the racy singles on it. Sadly, the epic anthem “Purple Rain” is on the 2nd disc, so it would be disappointing to just buy one of the CD’s. The 3-CD version has both 1 & 2 and adds a third disc of B-Sides. As a collector of Prince 7″ and 12″ singles, I was delighted to get CD versions of those songs, which were often as good or better than the album songs.

Prince 4Ever’s track list, as you might imagine is very close to that 1993 collection. The 1993 collection was based on the single versions of the songs instead of the album versions. I don’t have track times to compare it to verify, however. I think that Prince 4Ever does a much better job of featuring a wider selection of the Warner Brothers catalog. The 1993 collection seemed to stay away from the deeper tracks on All Around The World In A Day and Parade and we get a few more here.

Also interesting about this collection is that it stops at the same year the 1993 collection does– with tracks from the 1992 Love Symbol Album. It does not include the four contentious Warner Brothers albums that followed: Come, The Black Album, The Gold Experience, Chaos and Disorder, or The Vault: Old Friends For Sale. Admittedly, those albums didn’t have many big singles on them, so stopping at 1992 marks the last of the big singles period for Prince. Below is the tracklist of Prince 4Ever and I’ve indicated what tracks were not on the original compilation.

1. 1999
2. Little Red Corvette
3. When Doves Cry
4. Let’s Go Crazy
5. Raspberry Beret
6. I Wanna Be Your Lover
7. Soft and Wet
8. Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad
9. Uptown
10. When You Were Mine
11. Head
12. Gotta Stop (Messin’ About) ** on The B-Sides, non-album single from 1981, but was B-Side to “Let’s Work”
13. Controversy
14. Let’s Work ** not on Hits
15. Delirious
16. I Would Die 4 U
17. Take Me With U ** not on Hits
18. Paisley Park ** not on Hits
19. Pop Life
20. Purple Rain
21. Kiss
22. Sign ‘O’ The Times
23. Alphabet Street
24. Batdance ** not on Hits
25. Thieves In The Temple
26. Cream
27. Mountains ** not on Hits
28. Girls & Boys ** not on Hits
29. If I Was Your Girlfriend
30. U Got The Look
31. I Could Never Take The Place of Your Man
32. Glam Slam ** not on Hits
33. Moonbeam Levels ** not on Hits – the lone song from the Vault on here.
34. Diamonds and Pearls
35. Gett Off
36. Sexy MF
37. My Name Is Prince ** not on Hits
38. 7
39. Peach **debuted on Hits as a non-album single
40. Nothing Compares 2 U

This compilation is in many regards a better compilation than Hits was. I like the songs that they added to this, and some of the songs that Hits included are not missed: “Adore,” “Pink Cashmere (debuted on Hits 1),” “Pope” (A tribute to comedian Bernie Mac. Not a bad song, but certainly not really a great single from Prince.). The loss of the essential “Dirty Mind” is unfortunate, and I think that “Do Me Baby” is essential in the catalog. “I Feel For You” is probably better known as a Chaka Khan track than a Prince one.

The lone Vault track on here is “Moonbeam Levels” a song originally recorded in July of 1982 for 1999 and re-recorded for the aborted Rave Unto The Joy Fantastic (not to be confused with Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic which was released in 1999, or Rave In2 The Joy Fantastic released in 2001). Incidentally, “Pink Cashmere,” from Hits 1 was also a track considered for the aborted album.

According to Wikipedia, The Hits/The B-Sides sold 40,000 copies following Prince’s death, allowing it to re-enter the Billboard 200 at #6. With the Warner Brother reissue campaign in full swing, it makes sense to capitalize on Prince’s catalog with a new compilation of his best-known songs. Just in time for the holiday rush, and before Black Friday, it’s sure to end up in stockings and under trees. The only pre-sale information I’ve seen lists this as a 2 CD. I have to believe they’ll do vinyl, but It would have to be 3 or 4 LP’s.

Related Posts with Thumbnails