Tag Archive for 'Vinyl'

The It’s Time to Play B-Sides Top 20 Albums of 2017

2017 to me felt like a transition year in many ways– personally, politically, culturally and certainly musically. For me personally 2017 will represent the year that my wife and I made the biggest steps away from 2011 when I was unemployed for eight months following a 13-year run in IT middle management. We bought a house after renting for over six years– the house hunt was a crazy one with lots of ups and downs. But we found a house that we love and it ends up being kind of perfect for being a place our grandson can come hang out and listen to records with Papa.

2017 was another year in a troubling pattern of musician deaths. The biggest of these is the unexpected passing of Tom Petty which for me was as big a loss as Prince was in 2016. I discovered Petty in 1986 with the release of Southern Accents. Although I had heard the big singles on the radio up to that, Southern Accents was released when I was searching for music that spoke to me. In that regard I look at Tom Petty as being “my Beatles.” The Beatles were a big part of my musical rearing, but they were already broken up by the time I started striking out on my own musical tastes. Petty was someone whose career set a benchmark for everyone who made guitar driven rootsy rock and roll. Petty continues to be something I can put on at any time and never tire of listening to. I was fortunate to be able to see him during his 40th Anniversary tour this summer in Des Moines and it was kind of full-circle as I was there with my dad and my brothers– just about 30 years after the first Tom Petty concert we saw in Chicago.

As far as new notable albums for 2017, I’m kind of out in left field again. My other writing gig as album reviewer for Little Village Magazine ends up determining what I listen to the most at any given time as I crash-listen to new Iowa-based or related albums and that is reflected again in my list.  That said, these are all really strong releases that hold up against the deluge of new major releases. Albums that others are including in their lists that I probably need to give at least a cursory listen to include the new Foo Fighters album Concrete and Gold, Queens of the Stone Age’s Villains, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s The Nashville Sound, Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. Some releases that nearly made the list were the new National album, the new Fleet Foxes album, and the new War on Drugs.

Here’s my Top 20 for 2017 (In no particular order):

Beth Bombara – Map & No DirectionBeth Bombara has been cranking out really solid albums for a while now. She’s a gifted songwriter and musician and her releases are always really strong. With her 2017 album, she has taken her spin on folk, Americana and rock and turned the “rock” knob up a bit putting out a record that is up there with the best releases Sheryl Crow put out. Bombara is kicking off 2018 with her first tour of Europe which will give her more deserved exposure.

Pieta Brown – Postcards – Brown’s latest album is a collection of “musical postcards” which are made up of collaborations with folks like Calexico, Mark Knopfler, The Pines and David Lindley. The resulting album still sounds like a Pieta Brown album which is always a good thing. You can read my interview with Brown for Little Village Magazine here.

Charlie Parr – DogDog is Charlie Parr‘s second release for Red House Records and he’s continuing the full band trend for releases. Dog doesn’t have Phil Cook and friends behind him like Stumpjumper did, but the album still has the same energy and blistering slide guitar and picking we’ve come to expect from Parr.

Crystal City – Bartenderly – Iowa City’s Crystal City is primarily the duo of Dave Helmer and Sam Drella who stylistically occupy an intersection somewhere between John Prine and Paul Westerberg. Their latest album Bartenderly is a celebratory salvo of headbuzz rock for the bruised blue collar. You can read my review for Little Village Magazine here.

Deer Tick – Deer Tick 1 & 2 – This couple of albums from Deer Tick is as close to a #1 as I’m willing to commit to on this list. Aside from John McCauley’s stint in the supergroup of Middle Brother with Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes and Matt Vasquez of Delta Spirit I really hadn’t listened to any Deer Tick until this two LP release this year. The band took a four-year hiatus while the members did things like start families. They came back together and pulled a Use-Your-Illusion two album release this year. The band says that these are not to be considered as one release, but really it would be tough choice to only buy one of them. The band said that they were always kind of two bands: an acoustic folk band or an electric rock band. So, this is what we got, an acoustic album in Vol 1 and a rock album in Vol 2. These records are both full of brilliant songs– no filler (unlike the Guns ‘n’ Roses pair mentioned earlier).

SUSTO – & I’m Fine TodaySUSTO is a “friend of Codfish Hollow” band that’s played there a few times and I managed to catch them during the first GARP Festival in 2016 and was really impressed. They played a few songs from this album, so I was interested in hearing it when it came out this year. & I’m Fine Today is an album that slides around stylistically with ease and comfort making this album musically more interesting than their previous releases to me. This album was on a very regular rotation for me in 2017 and one that I never get tired of spinning. The song that rips me up every time I listen to it is what I consider to be the spiritual successor to “Smalltown Boy” by Bronski Beat : “Gay In The South.” Brilliant song.

Hiss Golden Messenger – Hallelujah Anyhow – If you’ve been following my Year End posts, it shouldn’t be surprising to see this album on here, since M.C. Taylor has been a favorite of mine since before he launched Hiss Golden Messenger. His partnership with Merge Records and with Phil and Brad Cook (formerly of Megafaun) has created a music juggernaut: touring nearly incessantly and creating four albums in three years of head-nodding rhythm and groove albums which draw inspiration from the golden era of Van the Man and The Dead. Releasing Hallelujah Anyhow so soon on the heels of the double album Heart Like A Levee and Vestapol is counter-intuitive based on the typical album release/tour/album release cycle. Taylor said that when he and manager Brad Cook were talking about wanting to release an album right away, they thought it felt good to do it and Merge was amenable to the idea, and certainly it was the right time because this album fires on all cylinders.

Game Theory – Supercalifragile – Prior to his unexpected passing in 2013, Scott Miller of Game Theory and The Loud Family was working on a new album of collaborations. To be titled Supercalifragile, it was going to be the first album of songs under the Game Theory moniker since the 1988 album Two Steps from the Middle Ages (itself was reissued in 2017 as part of the massive Omnivore Records reissue campaign). Miller’s wife Kristine took the mantle of finishing the album by taking the notes and her memories of what he had planned and called in friends, former bandmembers and collaborators in to finish the album. The songs were in varying degrees of completeness: some had demo recordings Miller had created, some just notes. The resulting album is bittersweet: equal parts official posthumous release and tribute to the fallen songwriter. I find it to be a fitting closure. You can read my post on this site here.

Grateful Dead – Cornell 5/8/77 – When the Grateful Dead archivist David Lemieux announced that Cornell 77 was going to be released as a Dead Archives official release, I was really excited (as many were). Cornell was one of the first full Dead tapes I ever heard and was really amazed by how good it sounded– both performance and recording itself. I had pretty much been avoiding Dead tapes due to how much of a mixed bag they were. As luck would have it, one of the early peer-to-peer trading networks (pre-dimeadozen) had the full cache of the Betty Boards tapes, which included the legendary 5/8/77 show. These were early rips of the reel-to-reels done by a close-knit group of Dead fans who bought the contents of the storage facility that she’d let lapse. Eventually the Dead pulled electronic trading of soundboards, but I had the show I cared about downloaded. I managed to snag one of the 5 LP box sets of which 7700 were pressed used on eBay. It had a crumpled box corner, but the contents were in fantastic shape. They did a fantastic job of cleaning up this recording and somehow even fixing the first missing couple of minutes. The bootleg that circulated had spliced in part of an audience recording which created a really annoying transition. The box has has re-energized my interest in the Dead, and I’ve added some LPs to my vinyl collection and I’ll continue to do that, I’m sure.

Ryan Adams – Prisoner B-Sides – 2017 brought the newest album from Ryan Adams titled Prisoner. It was his third release since his signing to Blue Note Records, and second album of original work (his full-album cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989 was also on Blue Note). In many ways Prisoner was kind of self-titled part 2. Most of the songs to me seemed like outtakes from Ryan Adams. Pretty good, but ultimately just more of the same 80’s influenced power pop mixed his trademarked Americana. For me, Adams is most interesting when he’s experimenting, and to that end, the massive 17-track collection of “B-Sides” from Prisoner is far more satisfying a listen. He still brings on the Smiths-influence here, but I just like the songs more. The B-Sides were released as a box set of 7-inch singles (that I should consider picking up at some point) and digital download. I’d love to see the 17 tracks released as a 2 LP (hint, hint Blue Note).

Loess – Pocosin – 2017 brought the glorious reunion of Clay Emerson and Ian Pullman as Loess. Their particular spin on electronic music comes from the Boards of Canada and early Autechre diced up and distorted ambient influence. I have loved everything that Loess has put out and Pocosin was an exciting addition for me this year. You can read my article about the release here.

The Right Now – Starlight – Chicago R&B and Soul band The Right Now’s third album came out this year and it veered a bit away from their more classic sound towards a sound very influenced by more recent disco and funk. While still fronted by the signature powerhouse vocals of Stefanie Berecz, the update is a welcome one as the push in this direction has inspired some of the best songwriting to date from the band. All Killer No Filler indeed! Here is my article about the release on this site. Here is an article about a remix from Starlight that has a 60 minute mix of songs that inspired the album, Here is an article I wrote for Little Village Magazine about a show at The Mill.

Gloom Balloon – Drying the Eyes of the Goddess of Gloom, Underneath the Stars and the MoonGloom Balloon is the moniker for Des Moines producer/artist/label head Patrick Tape Fleming. This album ends up being kind of the sonic brother from another mother of Christoper The Conquered’s album I’ve Given Up on Rock and Roll. I love this record– it sits somewhere around The Flaming Lips and ELO for experimentation and bombast at times. My review for Little Village is a good place to start reading about what I think.

Har-di-Har — we will will you – Julie and Andrew Thoreen released their first full length album as Har-di-Har in 2017. They used to live in Cedar Falls, but relocated to St. Paul a few years ago. we will will you is an album that captures a marriage in a precarious state of doubt. The resulting album is a compellingly personal album featuring their signature vocal harmonies and spiderwebby chord and percussion infrastructure.

The Pines – Pasture IIThe Pines returned with a second EP of covers. This time we get covers of a Bo Ramsey and a Pieta Brown tune. Read my review for Little Village here.

TIRES – LP1 – Phil Young is in a whole bunch of bands in and around Des Moines including The Wheelers. His instrumental side project TIRES put out their debut album in early 2017. It comes from the same “emergency rock” post rock space as bands like Trans Am and Cougar and I dig it a lot. The vinyl has a hand-screened cover, which is really cool. Here is my review for Little Village.

Colleen – Vol. 1 – Cedar Rapids synthpop duo Colleen put out their debut EP in 2017. Reminds me of Polica or Portishead. They have a new EP already recorded and should come out pretty soon. Read my review for Little Village Magazine.

NAOMI – Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish – Iowa band NAOMI is named after its lead singer and cranks out “snarky pop rock” which is as apt a description of the proceedings as any. A fun, anthemic guitar driven album that picks up where Avril Lavigne and No Doubt left off in the early oughts. Check my review for Little Village here.

Ryne Doughty – Date Night – Ryne Doughty has been crafting is particular singer-songwriter folk for a few years. I happened to catch him opening for The Pines at CSPS a while ago. He openly admits to worshiping at the temple of Greg Brown and that influence is obvious, but he’s got his own style and really we don’t have enough of the storytelling songwriters around. Read my review of Date Night for Little Village.


The Dawn – WoolyThe Dawn are the jam band ambassadors for the Quad Cities. Their latest album Wooly is the first for Cartouche Records and, I think is a bit of a departure for them. Wooly draws more R&B influences– specifically Prince into the mix which makes this album my favorite of their catalog to date. Here is my review for Little Village.

(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, Shelley LaFreniere, 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.

Click Here to Order

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.

Order CD, LP or digital at Bandcamp:

(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

(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.

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

cale-fragments-of-a-rainy-season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LP 2: American Stars ‘N Bars

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

LP 3: Comes A Time

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

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

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

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

LP 1

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

LP 2

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

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

My Modified Speculation on the future Official Release Series Box Sets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Expressions Trace A Template of Loss in Kalispell’s Printer’s Son

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Kalispell on the turntable, as The Multiple Cat looks on.

Kalispell is the side-project from Shane Leonard who, among other projects, is part of Field Report. He just released his second album under the Kalispell band name on Davenport, IA label Cartouche Records — home of recent releases by The Multiple Cat, Land of Blood and Sunshine, Brooks Strause, J.E. Sunde, and Daytrotter.com illustrator Johnnie Cluney’s band Bedroom Shrine. Fantastic releases all, and you should check them out, and be on the lookout from releases by Devin Frank (of Poison Control Center) and Chrash in July.

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. The album reminds me another album that slips from the grasp of genre: David Sylvian’s 1987 landmark solo record Secrets of the Beehive. For his second release Sylvian took another step away from the New Wave-ish synthpop of his band Japan. He enlisted some Jazz artists including Ryuki Sakamoto and Mark Isham which gave that album a delicate ambience. Printer’s Son carries a similar jazz folk vibe. Additionally, the dry production of Leonard’s vocals suit the intimacy of the album.

Printer’s Son owes some of its woody atmospherics to the fact that it was partially recorded at Justin Vernon’s April Base Studios and was engineered and co-produced by Brian Joseph, who was on the boards for Bon Iver’s 2012 Grammy-winning album. Bon Iver is another album that similarly made beautiful soundscapes out of impressionistic personal stories and accounts. Leonard takes recent painful events and uses them as the basis for Printer’s Son. He talks about this on The Current show Radio Heartland:

I had this wildly unforseen year of just this radical change. I thought I had my path pretty set– music was going well and I was living in Chicago. All within this year, my dad was diagnosed with cancer, and his passing forced me– ultimately I think in a really important and helpful way even though very difficult– to reconsider a lot of assumptions I had. And, right after he passed our family dog died and then my dad’s father also passed. It was all at the same time and I was moving and also moving away from a relationship that I had been in a long time. So, it was like the world got turned over and then I just started thinking differently as a symptom of that.

Some albums have stories that we can identify with.  On Printer’s Son, I feel the sentiments, the memories, the connections. Leonard tells his stories and like a good book or film, they become part of the listener’s own fabric. I can picture that canyon climb with the banded walls in “Windfall.” I feel the ghost itch from the overgrowth scratching skin on the fading road in “Parting Ground.”

David Sylvian’s Secrets of the Beehive has become part of my permanent soundtrack. I feel that Kalispell’s timeless tapestry of folk and jazz in Printer’s Son is destined to be another album that I will hold onto.

Listen to Printer’s Son below and be sure to order yourself a copy from Cartouche.

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

Pylon - Live

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SIDE B
Crazy
K
Cool
Italian Movie Theme
Buzz

SIDE C
Danger
Reptiles
Stop It
Feast On My Heart
Beep

SIDE D
M Train
Volume
Weather Radio
Party Zone
Batman

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