(Upcoming Release) Giant 6 LP Boxset Compilation of John Hughes Film Soundtrack Songs – Life Moves Pretty Fast – The John Hughes Mixtapes Out November 11th, 2020 – A Deeper Dive

No single filmmaker captured the zeitgeist of the 1980’s better than John Hughes. His catalog of films loom large on the landscape of what we think of as 1980s culture with big blockbusters of the teen condition like “Sixteen Candles” (1984), “The Breakfast Club” (1985), “Pretty In Pink” (1986) and the immensely quotable “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1986).

Hughes wasn’t the only filmmaker making movies targeted at adolescents in the 1980s, but for that run of films he certainly set the standard for what they should be– heartfelt and funny, often involving a cross section of teen culture, which ultimately allowed those of us who were teenagers at the time the ability to see ourselves in the characters– even if it was largely a whitewashed one.

Hughes was more than his teen movies, however. He got his start writing for National Lampoon, and his first big hit was “National Lampoon’s Vacation” (1983). By 1987 he stepped away from teen films with the epic road adventure starring John Candy (with whom he would create a number of films) and Steve Martin “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” He would continue to make films through the early 1990’s before finally retiring from writing, producing and directing in 1994. Hughes passed away of a heart attack in 2009 while on a trip to New York City visiting his son James.

One constant through Hughes films was the placement of music and often the soundtrack albums were as popular as the films themselves. Like many, I found out about bands like The Psychedelic Firs (“Pretty In Pink”), New Order (“Shell Shock”), Kate Bush (“This Woman’s Work), Oingo Boingo (“Weird Science”), Simple Minds (“Don’t You (Forget About Me)”), Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (“If You Leave”) from these soundtracks. One beef I always had was that the soundtrack albums didn’t have all of the songs from the film on them or sometimes the album simply didn’t exist, or focused on the score. In most cases when the soundtrack did exist, they would include the most prominent songs, and albums for the soundtracks to “The Breakfast Club,” “Pretty In Pink” and “She’s Having a Baby” are all great standalone listens.

Before record labels and rights holders got aggressive about takedowns in the early 2010’s, the collective efforts of soundtrack fans on the Internet would create comprehensive soundtracks for many films. One notable site that suffered the takedown fate was The Inferno Music Crypt, which started as a way to collect rare soundtracks to horror films which by and large may never have had a soundtrack release (these days this effort continues, and labels like the amazing Terror Vision label resuscitates lost music from bands like Tangerine Dream!). The Music Crypt complete version of the Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Soundtrack had a few iterations before landing on the final version which had 320Kbps mp3’s of all of the songs as well as samples of film dialog and even alternative versions of some of the songs as bonus tracks (his version included the vocal version of The Dream Academy’s cover of The Smiths “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” for example). His version also included the Star Wars Theme (used when the parking attendants took the Ferrari for a spin), the “I Dream Of Jeanne” theme, and even parade songs: Wayne Newton’s “Danke Shoen” and The Beatles “Twist and Shout.”

So, when I heard about a massive box set of soundtrack songs from the John Hughes films titled Life Moves Pretty Fast : The John Hughes Mixtapes (out November 11th), I was really excited! Initially, the preorders were only from the UK– Demon Music Group, who produced this set, is run by the BBC, but now the compilation is available as a pre-order from Pop Market for around $142.00 as a 6-LP box set with book. There is also a CD box set which comes with a 14-track cassette and 7-inch, and a 2 LP version.

The compilation is curated by Tarquin Gotch who was Hughes’s primary music supervisor for his films. The compilation is presented as a mixtape of songs from all of the films, rather than in order of the soundtracks as a tribute to how Gotch and Hughes would collaborate on the music supervision.

“Back when we were working on these movie soundtracks, the best way to send music around the world was the cassette, by Fedex,” Gotch remembered in a statement. “We sent John cassettes of newly released music, of demos, of just finished mixes (and in return he would send VHS videos of the scenes that needed music).”

Presenting the songs this way makes the compilation more listenable, since Hughes had a tendency of jumping around stylistically as the scene demanded, plus even at 74 songs, this is far from comprehensive. Some films are only represented by one song, for example. The Breakfast Club is represented only by “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” (though arguably the most famous song from the film), Lindsay Buckingham’s “Holiday Road” makes an appearance representing all of the various “Vacation” films (also a song that is sort of hard to find since Buckingham never seems to include it in any releases), Pop Will Eat Itself shows up for “The Great Outdoors” (an unmemorable soundtrack, honestly, and seemingly a way to pay licensing to “Elwood J. Blues” (aka Dan Akroyd) with no less than 5 songs (none of which are here).

What this compilation seems to try to do is walk the line between appeasing died-in-the-wool fans of the soundtracks of these films and also presenting a compilation of songs that general fans of the films would enjoy. In that regard, I think they might have gotten it right– particularly when you look at the 2 LP version. Clocking in at 25 tracks, it represents pretty much only the “big” songs from these soundtracks and is kind of a greatest hits of these. Most people would only be interested in getting this version, I expect.

The 6 LP/4 CD version is clearly targeted at the fans who already have the original soundtracks and want to get some of the songs that were skipped due to album length or licensing. If you already have The Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, and Weird Science you won’t feel gipped here. Most of the songs on these soundtrack albums aren’t here.

Interestingly, we pretty much get all of the “missing” Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Soundtrack in this collection. There was never an album release for this, though in 2016, LaLaLand Records put one together (still missing some tracks due to licensing), and it includes the Ira Newborn score which is pretty nice. We don’t get the parade “Danke Shoen/Twist And Shout” on Life Move Pretty Fast, and that’s likely due to licensing. Having “Beat City” by the Flowerpot Men, “Love Missile F-111” by Sigue Sigue Sputnik and “March of the Swivelheads” by The Beat (The English Beat in the U.S.) as well as “Oh Yeah” by Yello really captures this soundtrack’s big moments.

Life Moves Pretty Fast also makes up for the ridiculous attempt at a soundtrack album in 1984 for Sixteen Candles. The original release was an EP clocking in at around 16 minutes. In some regards, it was pretty much a way to prop up the brilliant “If You Were Here” by The Thompson Twins. We get 11 songs on this box set, which includes the aforementioned “If You Were Here,” but also includes some of the really on-point tracks from the wedding preparation, the Peter Gunn theme and “True” by Spandau Ballet. All we’re missing is the Stray Cats cover of “16 Candles, the Annie Golden track and “Geek Boogie” which was a song created for the film by Ira Newborn (a signature track that really should have been on here).

Quite a bit of the soundtrack to “She’s Having A Baby” is included here, both new songs and songs from the album. The key songs from the soundtrack album proper make it here, though sadly leaves off the awesome XTC song “Happy Families.” But, where it really hits are the “classic” songs that propped the film up, but weren’t licensed for the album: Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You),” Boston’s “More Than A Feeling,” and the use of “Music For A Found Harmonium” by Penguin Cafe Orchestra (which HAD to influence its inclusion in the post-dance scene in Napoleon Dynamite). The funny addition is the cover of the Gene Krupa track “Drummin’ Man” by Topper Headon, who was the original drummer for The Clash.

The original soundtrack album to Planes, Trains and Automobiles seems to lose any sort of cohesion from both not including some key songs from the film itself, and the fact that the songs don’t really fit together. Steve Earle’s cover of “Six Days on the Road” is fantastic, and really the only reason to have ever bought it (I had it on cassette…). Don’t even get me started with “I Can Take Anything” by E.T.A. which is a club track with samples from the film (sort of like “Batdance” from Batman I suppose). This, thankfully isn’t included on Life Moves Pretty Fast, but we get both Steve Earle songs: “Six Days on the Road” from the album as well as “Continental Trailways Blues.” Yello is back with “Lost Again” which originally appeared on their 1983 album Gotta Say Yes To Another Excess. To me it seems that by 1987, the soundtracks to the Hughes films had moved from being the leading edge of New Wave tastes, but that was probably also a symptom of Hughes moving from teen films. In that regard, this box set and album smartly leans heavily on those earlier films.

As someone who has been a big fan of the music in John Hughes’s films, this box set is a welcome release, and certainly a tribute like this has been long overdue. Since I already have some of these original soundtracks in my collection, this is a great companion to those (and I realize I need to get some of those on LP).

Click here to order the 6 LP red vinyl box from Pop Market (currently about $142 with free shipping)

Click here to order the 4 CD, 7″ and cassette box from Pop Market (currently about $120 with free shipping)

Click here to order the 2 LP black vinyl version from Pop Market (currently at $53.79 with free shipping)

Below is the tracklist for the 6 LP box set. I’ve added in bold the film the songs appeared in, and put an asterisk next to the songs that were on the original soundtrack albums.

Side A:
Kajagoogoo – Kajagoogoo (Instrumental) – Sixteen Candles
* Simple Minds – Don’t You (Forget About Me) – Breakfast Club
* Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – If You Leave – Pretty In Pink
* Oingo Boingo – Weird Science – Weird Science
* Furniture – Brilliant Mind – Some Kind of Wonderful
* Dave Wakeling – She’s Having a Baby – She’s Having A Baby

Side B:
The Flowerpot Men – Beat City – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
* The Psychedelic Furs – Pretty in Pink – Pretty In Pink
* Flesh for Lulu – I Go Crazy – Some Kind of Wonderful
* Dr. Calculus – Full of Love – She’s Having A Baby
* Lick the Tins – Can’t Help Falling in Love – Some Kind of Wonderful
* Steve Earle & The Dukes – Six Days on the Road (Album Version) – Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Side C:
* Kirsty MacColl – You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby (Soundtrack Version) – She’s Having A Baby
* Suzanne Vega & Joe Jackson – Left of Center – Pretty In Pink
* Pete Shelley – Do Anything (Soundtrack Version) – Some Kind of Wonderful
* Carmel – It’s All in the Game – She’s Having A Baby
* The Dream Academy – Power to Believe (Instrumental) – Planes, Trains and Automobiles
* Kate Bush – This Woman’s Work – She’s Having A Baby

Side D:
The Beat – March of the Swivelheads (Rotating Heads – Dub Version) – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Nick Heyward – When It Started to Begin – Sixteen Candles
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Tesla Girls – Weird Science
Big Audio Dynamite – BAD – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
* Killing Joke – Eighties – Weird Science
The Specials – Little Bitch – Sixteen Candles

Side E:
* Gene Loves Jezebel – Desire (Come and Get It) (US Club Mix) – She’s Having A Baby
Flesh for Lulu – Slide – Uncle Buck
* Love and Rockets – Haunted When the Minutes Drag – She’s Having A Baby
Sigue Sigue Sputnik – Love Missile F1-11 (Ultraviolence Mix) – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
* Lords of the New Church – Method to My Madness – Weird Science

Side F:
* The Jesus and Mary Chain – The Hardest Walk (Single Version) – Some Kind of Wonderful
* Echo & the Bunnymen – Bring on the Dancing Horses – Pretty In Pink
General Public – Tenderness – Weird Science
The Blue Room – I’m Afraid – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
* Belouis Some – Round, Round – Pretty In Pink
* Thompson Twins – If You Were Here – Sixteen Candles
The Dream Academy – Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want (Instrumental) – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Side G:
Yello – Oh Yeah – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
* Book of Love – Modigliani (Lost in Your Eyes) – Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Otis Redding – Try a Little Tenderness – Pretty In Pink
* Patti Smith – Gloria: In Excelsis Deo – Sixteen Candles
* Westworld – Ba-Na-Na-Bam-Boo – Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Divinyls – Ring Me Up – Sixteen Candles
Topper Headon – Drummin’ Man – She’s Having A Baby

Side H:
Billy Idol – Catch My Fall – Some Kind of Wonderful
The Association – Cherish – Pretty In Pink
Penguin Cafe Orchestra – Music for a Found Harmonium – She’s Having A Baby
Zapp – Radio People – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
* The Blue Room – Cry Like This – Some Kind of Wonderful

Side I:
Ray Charles – Mess Around – Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Joe Turner – Lipstick, Powder and Paint – Uncle Buck
Darlene Love – (Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry – Sixteen Candles
Marvin Gaye – How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) – She’s Having A Baby
Perry Como with Mitchell Ayres and His Orchestra and the Ray Charles Singers – Juke Box Baby – Uncle Buck
The Chordettes – Mr. Sandman – Uncle Buck
Ray Anthony and His Orchestra – The Peter Gunn Theme – Sixteen Candles

Side J:
* Lindsey Buckingham – Holiday Road – National Lampoon’s Vacation
* Emmylou Harris – Back in Baby’s Arms – Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Hugh Harris – Rhythm of Life – Uncle Buck
Spandau Ballet – True – Sixteen Candles
Propaganda – Abuse – Here – Some Kind of Wonderful
The Dream Academy – The Edge of Forever – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Side K:
Yello – Lost Again (Album Version) – Planes, Trains and Automobiles
* Bryan Ferry – Crazy Love – She’s Having A Baby
The Rave-Ups – Positively Lost Me – Pretty In Pink
Los Lobos – Don’t Worry Baby – Weird Science
Steve Earle – Continental Trailways Blues (Album Version) – Planes, Trains and Automobiles
The Revillos – Rev Up! – Sixteen Candles

Side L:
Boston – More Than a Feeling – She’s Having A Baby
* Balaam and the Angel – I’ll Show You Something Special – Planes, Trains and Automobiles
The Rave-Ups – Rave Up / Shut Up – Pretty In Pink
* Pop Will Eat Itself – Beaver Patrol – The Great Outdoors
The Vapors – Turning Japanese – Sixteen Candles
* Silicon Teens – Red River Rock – Planes, Trains and Automobiles

(Upcoming Release) Athens, GA Legends Squalls Release Vintage 40-Watt Club Performances : Live From The 40 Watt Out 8/19 – A Deeper Dive

Live From the 40 Watt Cover Art

The national awareness of Athens, Georgia as a vibrant art and music scene in the 80’s was largely accomplished due to a plucky, quirky and loose 1986 documentary film by director Tony Gayton titled “Athens, GA: Inside/Out” and its associated soundtrack on I.R.S. Records, which at the time was R.E.M.’s label.

In many ways, the film happened at the right time: R.E.M.’s Document, their last and biggest album on I.R.S. Records would come out in Fall of 1987 and blow up with “The One I Love.” Fans like me who were hungry for everything related to R.E.M. ran out to pick up the VHS tape of the film and the soundtrack to hear and see the two R.E.M. tracks performed in the Seney-Stovall Chapel: acoustic versions of “Swan Swan H” from Lifes Rich Pageant and a cover of an Everly Brothers classic re-titled “(All I Have To Do Is) Dream.”

A side note: the legend of R.E.M. includes the fact that they lived in an abandoned church and their first concert was in this same church. Until today, I assumed that the performance in the film was in that church, but they really lived in St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, which was demolished in 1990 by developers. The steeple still stands today as a landmark to R.E.M.

As someone growing up in a very small midwestern town in the 1980’s, I had very limited access to underground non-Top 40 music. I didn’t even have MTV! So, the soundtrack and filmed performances in “Athens, Ga : Inside/Out” were eye-opening experiences! In many ways this soundtrack defined the music I would follow for many years. As a compilation, the songs and bands are all over the map: soon-to-be radio darlings R.E.M., twitchy frenetic post punk of Pylon (who recently got their much-deserved recognition in a boxset I covered here.), the instrumental workings of Love Tractor (the use of “Fun To Be Happy” as the opening music was brilliant and set the tone for the film), moody guitar rock of “Dreams So Real” (whose major label debut Rough Night in Jericho disappointingly made them sound like The BoDeans and not like the moody and beautiful “Golden”), The B-52’s were included in the film, but not the soundtrack, the hardcore punk of Bar-B-Q Killers, the hyper retro two-piece rockabilly of The Flat Duo Jets (who are obvious influences on The White Stripes). The thoughts of these bands playing bars and stages in Athens was breathtaking, and my friends and I all wanted to make a trip there. (It’s still on my bucket list of places to visit)

Squalls perform “Na Nanana” in Athens, Ga: Inside/Out

Out of all of those bands on the soundtrack, the ones that really stood out for me (and are favorites to this day) were Pylon, Love Tractor and Squalls. Squalls had two songs on the soundtrack, their big hit (such as it was) “Na Nanana” and “Elephant Radio.” Both of these songs were on their debut self-released EP from 1984, and by 1986, when this film came out, they were regarded as one of the bands who deserved to make it to the national spotlight. The Squalls mix of epic harmonies and melodies combined with smart and sometimes progressive rhythms to me makes them a shoo in for a band that could follow in the footsteps of bands like Talking Heads and Adrian Belew.

Squalls

The Squalls were signed to R.E.M. manager Jefferson Holt‘s label Dog Gone Records, and released two albums there before the band hung it up in 1989.

On August 19th, the band is releasing a compilation of live recordings made over five dates made at the legendary Athens, GA bar The 40-Watt Club between 1983 and 1985 (predating the performances in the film). These performances were recorded by 40-Watt soundman T. Patton Biddle. Titled Live from the 40 Watt, the songs span the EP and the two albums and are a great representation of the band’s body of work. Here is the tracklist, with my notes of performance date and what album the songs come from. I’ve also provided links to the tracks that have been released for streaming.

  1. Bride Of Frankenstein (8/2/1985) from No Time and “Crickets” 7″
  2. Catholic Girls (2/11/1983) unreleased
  3. The Prince Of Wails (5/31/84) from Rebel Shoes
  4. Ellie Dee (8/2/1985) unreleased
  5. Relax (5/31/1984) from Squalls EP
  6. Cindy (2/14/1985) from Rebel Shoes
  7. Na Nanana (5/31/1984) from Squalls EP
  8. Pop Roots (5/31/1984) unreleased
  9. Waltzing Mathilda (8/2/1985) from Rebel Shoes
  10. Information (5/31/1984) from Squalls EP
  11. Crickets (8/2/1985) from “Crickets” 7″
  12. Snowman (5/31/1984) unreleased
  13. Dancing Example (8/2/1985) unreleased
  14. Satellite (11/29/1984) unreleased
  15. Tell Me Now (8/2/1985) unreleased
  16. Unrelated Happenings (8/2/1985) unreleased
  17. Kathy (11/29/1984) unreleased
  18. The Sheik (2/14/1985) from No Time
  19. Kalinka (8/2/1985) from Squalls EP
  20. S.P.Q.R. (8/2/1985) from No Time
  21. Strolling Bones (11/29/1984) from Squalls EP
  22. Modern World (11/29/1984) unreleased
  23. What You Get (11/29/1984) unreleased
  24. Elephant Radio (11/29/1984) from Squalls EP

The striking thing about this compilation is how much unreleased music is included! I exchanged messages with Bob Hay, the principle songwriter in Squalls whether this release was indicative of the live sets from this pre-Dog Gone era of the band, or whether he was attempting to get these unreleased songs released formally. He said:

It’s kind of both. On “LIVE” I wanted to include every song that was released on vinyl before 1986. (8 songs – the EP and the single.) and also rescue from the sands of time a bunch of songs that were staples of our live shows in those days and a few that we played only a few times but are too good to be forgotten. We were primarily a live dance band and played live for almost three years before we set foot in a studio.

Facebook chat 7/10/22

The idea of a band packing bars playing all original songs seems foreign, if not kind of quaint these days. Bob sent me a scan of the show calendar for The 40-Watt Club from February, 1986: the month that they filmed the performances for Athens, GA: Inside/Out. I commented about the incredible lineup of bands that were playing that month– (not to mention all of the bands who were in the film)– Alex Chilton played a Thursday night show, The Georgia Satellites and the Del Fuegos (who would share a tour with Tom Petty the next year), Giant Sand, and Jason and the Scorchers played a three night stand. Bob replied, “I tell you, it was something during that time.”

In addition to capturing a wildly creative time for Squalls, Live from the 40-Watt also is a reminder that Athens was (and still is) a very special place where bands were drawn to be more free creatively and where audiences were excited to hear new music. The recordings show a band wide-eyed and excited to bring their art to the world.

Live From The 40-Watt will be released on August, 19th, 2020 and will be available on beautiful 2 LP blue vinyl, CD or digital. Click here to order from Strolling Bones records site, or you can order it from Bandcamp.

The It’s Time to Play B-Sides Top 20 Albums of 2021

2021 was a year that was framed pretty much as “the year after 2020.” Every topic of discussion in 2021 seemed to be saddled with the context of the previous year. As I’m writing this, the topics still surround COVID, and lately the latest variant of that, plus vaccinations, and boosters.

All aspects of the music industry resumed with fits and starts. Concerts kind of resumed and kind of didn’t. Artists needed to evaluate for themselves what kind of risk they were willing to put their fans in and themselves. At this writing I have not been to a concert since March of 2020. I had tickets for three shows this year that honestly I wasn’t comfortable attending so I skipped them. This summer was looking better for outdoor shows, and maybe in 2022 I’ll look closer at those kinds of events.

The vinyl record situation was worse than 2020. All of the manufacturing issues we saw in 2020 were still in effect and delays were commonplace just in getting the records pressed. This was compounded by shipping issues– records manufactured overseas were held up on shipping containers– my vinyl copy of the brilliant Promises by Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra was ordered in March and didn’t ship until September! This was certainly out of Luaka Bop’s control, but they did a really great job of keeping folks in the loop about where things were with the shipping. It was not a big deal for me since I had the digital stream and download for it.

Record Store Day resumed in 2021 as a two-date “Drops” one on June 21st and one on July 17th. This accomplished a couple of things. First, it would theoretically reduce the attendance (and lines) by splitting up the releases, and secondly it would help with the delays from manufacturing as well. The upshot of that was that the titles I wanted were moved to the 2nd Drop so I only needed to go to the 2nd one. That happened to be the Grand Opening of the new Davenport location of Ragged Records, too, so that was really great!

With all of that, let’s get to the list! In no particular order, these are my favorite releases from 2021! It’s interesting to me that all of these releases were available on Bandcamp, which is where I did the majority of my purchases in 2021. The first six in this list are all Iowa, or Iowa-adjacent acts.

Joel Sires – Dog Years – The debut solo EP from Joel Sires, frontman for Cedar Falls band TWINS came out in April. I reviewed it for Little Village in November of 2020, but delays with manufacturing the 10″ vinyl EP held the release until April. This release on the new Seeder Records label started out as a release based on the amazing solo shows Joel does in the area, but in an interview with KUNI recently, he said that he really wanted to have a full band on these songs, so he quickly assembled a band to back him producing a release that doesn’t stray far from the last TWINS album’s sound, leaning towards folk rock. A fantastic release from one of Iowa’s best new songwriters.

David Huckfelt — Room Enough, Time Enough – David Huckfelt released his second solo album in 2021. Since Huckfelt’s other gig was over 10 years in The Pines, it’s not surprising that his solo work sounds reminiscent of those brilliant albums. With Room Enough, Time Enough he continues his own musical path surrounding himself with brilliant sidefolks including luminaries Howe Gelb and Billy Sedlmayr as well as notable . The album has an overarching concept regarding land rights and the plight of native Americans. As a solo artist Huckfelt has expanded beyond the folk atmospherics of The Pines to a bold sound of his own. My review for Little Village Magazine.

Alex Ramsey – Bonsai – Speaking of The Pines, keyboard player and brother of Benson Ramsey, Alex released his debut solo record in 2021– a release that was a long time coming. He recorded it before COVID, but the mastering and mixing all happened during it. All of the instruments were played by Alex at home, but certainly doesn’t sound like it. The album, as you might expect leans towards his keyboards and vocals, which makes it stand out from the catalog of The Pines. Delightfully complex record. You can read my review and Q&A with Alex in Little Village here.

Hex Girls – Pop Fluff – Cedar Falls band Hex Girls returned with their second EP titled Pop Fluff, but the title was more tongue-in-cheek than an accurate description of what was contained inside. The band gained some polish by filling the group out with a dedicated keyboard player moving from their rough-and-tumble post-punk sound to something I think is more akin to the no wave sound of early Talking Heads and Television. The band’s dedication to offbeat humor continues to make them one of the most interesting bands to come out of eastern Iowa. You can read my review from Little Village here.

Anthony Worden and the Illiterati – How Could We Lose When We’re So Sincere? – Iowa City band Anthony Worden and the Illiterati’s 2021 album How Could We Lose When We’re So Sincere? finds the band returning to the winning pop rock formula they used on their 2020 album Voilá– beautiful melodies and harmonies, polished production. Again, the secret sauce is letting Penny Peach take lead in spots. WOW. Killer formula. The constructs of the album are clearly influenced by a time when AM radio would bring the hit singles– a time sorely lost, I’m afraid. If you’re a fan of Elvis Costello, Todd Rundgren or Big Star, I think there is enough here to satisfy. Plus this album is available on super limited edition vinyl– well worth occupying your turntable.

Penny Peach – brain gamez Speaking of Ms. Peach, she put out her debut EP in 2021. I described the record on Facebook as being, “a shoegazer cupcake with sludgy frosting.” Thick distorted guitars provide a bed for Elly Hofmaier’s powerful vocal acrobatics: swooping to dizzying heights, yodeling and dipping to growling metal. It’s at once pop and dark.

loess – totems – Somewhat unexpectedly, loess released their first album since 2017’s brilliant Pocosin. Earlier in the year there were some photos in Ian Pullman’s Facebook feed that hinted that there was some activity in the duo’s camp and then the album kind of dropped with little notice at the end of September. totems continues the beautifully glitchy soundscape loess has been known for now 20 years on (wow). Some say that the sound of loess is derivative of the early works of Boards of Canada, but since BoC didn’t stay in that mode long, and I welcome more of the pretty clockwork sounds.

Hiss Golden Messenger – Quietly Blowing It / O Come All Ye Faithful – In 2021 we got not one, but TWO new releases from Hiss Golden Messenger! In June, the follow-up to the fantastic Terms of Surrender came out. Titled Quietly Blowing It, it feels like a sequel to me as it shares the intimate emotion of the previous album. The band backing him is largely made up of his touring group and the locked-in grooves benefit from the road wear.

In October we were gifted another release in the form of a holiday album. O Come All Ye Faithful is a mix of holiday standards and original tunes. Not content with straight readings of perennial favorites, the HGM spin on songs like the title track and “Silent Night” end up being dramatically new readings: new keys, changed rhythm and melody. If you’re not listening closely, these seem like HGM originals. Not a bad thing, and ends up being a really fresh addition to my expanding Christmas collection on vinyl. I ordered the “Peak Vinyl” variant which came with a 2nd LP called The Sounding Joy: Hiss Golden Messenger Meets Revelators on South Robinson Street which is a dub/remix record of some of the tracks from the album. Incidentally, The Revelators is a new side-project/collaboration with Cameron Ralston that is supposed to have a release in 2022 and will be dub and free jazz influenced.

Elsa Hewitt – LUPA– Kind of an unexpected release from Tompkins Square in that it doesn’t really fit the typical American Primitive guitar or archival releases they’re known for. For me this release really establishes Tomkins Square as a curator of music– no matter what genre. Hewitt hails from the UK and her latest release is a jaw droppingly gorgeous blend of her vocals and electronic production. It seems like this release was overlooked by many this year.

Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra – Promises – This release is seemingly on everyone’s Top list for 2021 and for good reason. It’s a compelling blend of Floating Points electronics, sax (and vocals) from jazz legend Pharoah Sanders and lush orchestral additions by the London Symphony Orchestra. The main composition in multiple parts is titled “Promises” and is composed and scored by Sam Shepherd aka Floating Points. Sanders and Shepherd worked together in the studio, with the LSO part added later. Since the album is really one large work in movements, there are recurring themes throughout as you’d expect but the payoff for me is listening to the work as a whole. I’m always looking for new directions for jazz beyond the standards, and this album fits that bill nicely.

Eleventh Dream Day – Since Grazed – One of the more surprising things about the latest from Chicago band Eleventh Dream Day is the how this band continues to be GREAT after 40 years. The formula of the band is pretty straightforward– strong garage rock with heavy Neil Young leanings makes for a sound that is both classic and uniquely fresh in the current landscape of rock bands. This album started as a solo Rick Rizzo album but morphed into an EDD album. Sprawling over 2 LP’s it moves around stylistically. More so than their last couple of albums which were well-heeled rockers. After I picked this album up, I decided to revisit their earlier releases again.

Marisa Anderson/William Tyler – Lost Futures – Tyler and Anderson met while doing a tribute show to the late David Berman and became quick friends. The obviously have simpatico ideas about guitar music and Lost Futures cements that idea. I was less familiar with Anderson’s albums than William Tyler’s but listening to Lost Futures, it isn’t possible for me to tell who is doing what– the two of them together creating a work bigger than the both of them. A wonderful addition to my growing collection of Tyler’s work.

I Think Like Midnight – Interim Contingent – I Think Like Midnight started out as sort of a tribute to the defunct American instrumental rock band Pell Mell, and certainly their first album Warm Seclusion Structure achieved that goal in its intuitive understanding of the source music. It wasn’t a cover album, but it sounded like what Pell Mell might have sounded like had they stayed together. Fast forward seven years and I Think Like Midnight has moved away from strictly being a guitar effort but holds tight to instrumentals. Every release from ITLM is worth checking out– cinematic and unique with enough obscure tips of the hat in the mix to keep music geeks searching for references. ITLM had planned to hit the studio to work on their next album, but these plans were derailed by COVID and Interim Contingent was birthed instead. This album leans heavily towards loops of electronics as the basis and as a result makes a really compelling argument for the band to work more in this arena. “Kit Lambert Begins To Dream” sounds like an outtake from the Wang Chung “To Live and Die in L.A.” soundtrack. “Dot Outlier” sounds like Michael Brook– breathtaking and reverbby. This is a record any instrumental rock band should check out. Brilliant release.

Neal Francis – In Plain Sight In Plain Sight is the second album from Chicago songwriter Neal Francis and the first on his new label home ATO Records. His first album Changes was on Colemine Records’ subsidiary Karma Chief, which is how I first heard him since I follow all of the releases on that label. Francis’s particular blend of Dr. John and Leon Russel funky keyboard-driven soul is earthy and real and it fuels his trajectory as one of the bigger independent artists.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Georgia Blue – Fulfilling a promise that Isbell made on election night in 2020 where if Georgia “turned blue” he recorded an album of covers of Georgia music. We have two tracks from R.E.M. (“Nightswimming” and “Driver 8”), James Brown, Indigo Girls, Gladys Night, The Allman Brothers and more. Anyone who’s been to an Isbell concert is familiar with the covers he’ll usually bring out– he’s a fan of music. So, this album is a really great addition to the Isbell catalog. Plus, he does “Driver 8” which is my very favorite R.E.M. song. I picked up the blue vinyl version for RSD which is gorgeous.

Surf Zombies – In Color – More tasty surf-influenced guitar rock from Iowa’s premier guitar instrumental band. Can’t get enough from Surf Zombies’ modern take on surf rock.

Nathan Salsburg – תהלים = Psalms – Nathan Salsburg is usually known for his albums of American Primative-influenced guitar work. For Psalms his inspiration was the joy he experienced as a child singing Hebrew at camp and a desire to bring that joy back to his own life. For this album he created wholly new arrangements of these to fit how he wanted to sing them. The resulting album is a beautiful testament to his spirituality and desire to share it. I love “Psalm 147.”

El Michels Affair meets Liam Bailey – Ekundayo Inversions – In 2019 Leon Michels produced UK artist Liam Bailey’s album Ekundayo for Michel’s label Big Crown. Michels is “El” as in El Michels Affair who is maybe best known for their Wu-Tang Clan instrumental covers albums. I was familiar with El Michels Affair, but not Liam Bailey or the Ekundayo album. I first heard about Ekundayo Inversions from an email from Colemine Records and the sample track was enough for me to decide to order it. Ekundayo Inversions is remixes and dubs of some of the songs from Ekundayo plus some interstitial skits. Plus, it has what is probably the last appearance of Lee “Scratch” Perry (R.I.P).

Jeff Parker – Forfolks – Just barely making 2021 is the latest from jazz guitarist Jeff Parker (it came out 12/10/21 digitally). I was pretty surprised about this release considering all of his work in 2020, including the BRILLIANT Suite For Max Brown. Forfolks is a strictly solo Jeff Parker record. Stripped down guitar and loops, but really big sounding ironically. Beautiful record.

Charlie Parr – Last of the Better Days Ahead – Duluth musician Charlie Parr’s sixteenth album is on the legendary Folkways label after a brief turn on Red House Records. He’s not braving any new territory here, but we get more of the amazing Piedmont Blues style guitar work and Parr’s warm and human songwriting. Double LP!

(Upcoming Release) Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Angel Dream : Songs and Music from The Motion Picture ‘She’s The One’ 25th Anniversary Reimagining Out 7/2 – A Deeper Dive

new cover art for She’s The One

At some point I found a copy of She’s The One in a CD cutout bin not too long after the album was released in 1996. From a Tom Petty fan perspective, ironically, I heard this before I ever heard Wildflowers completely. 1995 and 1996 were years of exploration for me musically. I was living in Minneapolis (Eagan, specifically) and my ears were filled with the alternative nation of REV-105 and I was discovering new bands and music every day it seemed and I wasn’t focused on classic rock. I missed the Wildflowers release completely and ended up picking up its neglected sibling purely coincidentally. The irony being that She’s The One became the home for tracks that were lopped off Wildflowers when Warner Brothers suggested it be a single album rather than Petty’s original vision of a double.

As much as I have come to love Wildflowers and its 2020 bloated retort to the eternal Pettyfan joke “When is Wildflowers going to be reissued?”, Wildflowers… And All The Rest gave us nearly every minute of tape we could stand of the album, with every possible session that could be considered related to Wildflowers proper, I still hold a fondness for She’s The One, the quirky non-sequitur of songs collected spanning incidental music, covers and multiple takes.

One of the criticisms put forth about Wildflowers… And All The Rest was that it didn’t include any of the at-the-time new songs from She’s The One. Most people looked at She’s The One as kind of an extension of Wildflowers— particularly since the soundtrack benefitted by the inclusion of four very strong songs from those sessions: “Climb That Hill,” “Hung Up And Overdue,” “California,” and “Hope You Never.” The rest of the original soundtrack was new material recorded specifically for the film including two songs which would become important songs in Petty’s catalog, “Walls” with its amazing chorus “‘Cause you’ve got a heart so big/ it could crush this town/And I can’t hold out forever/Even walls fall down” and Petty’s tribute to his future second wife Dana, “Angel Dream” which became a staple in later live shows.

Amidst all of the personal turmoil in Petty’s life including the firing of drummer Stan Lynch from the Heartbreakers, divorce from his wife of 22 years Jane and the beginning of a heroin addiction that was hidden from public view until Warren Zanes’ “Petty” biography came out in 2015, he was approached to curate the soundtrack for the Ed Burns film She’s The One. Quoted in “Petty,” he says about the project, “I was approached about putting together a soundtrack for the movie. I liked what I’d seen of Ed Burns’s work. But, when I took the job I didn’t think it through. I wound up in a situation where they wanted different artists for a soundtrack. They had a few, but they wanted me to call more artists.” Eventually he called his manager Tony Dimitriades and told him he couldn’t do this. Dimitriades suggested that he should do the soundtrack himself, “like Paul Simon did for The Graduate.”

Ultimately, it was a failure on many levels. Petty was forced to rush to meet a deadline, “I was completely off my game.” he says in his biography, “I was doing something that was against my grain.” The film’s release was pushed back six months, leaving the soundtrack to appear to be a Heartbreakers album, “Some people thought I was following up Wildflowers… My record came out with no movie, I was so depressed– that just made me more depressed.” The album sold only 490,000 copies and ultimately went gold, but marks the sole disappointment in his catalog.

All the work that was put into the 2020 release Wildflowers… And All The Rest left the team of the Petty Estate, The Heartbreakers and producer/engineer Ryan Ulyate to take a closer look at the soundtrack. With the four Wildflowers songs on She’s The One returned to the fold (as part of the original 2015 10 track sequencing of All The Rest, the 2nd CD for the original concept for a Wildflowers reissue tentatively called Wildflowers: 2), the question of what to do to put a new focus on the rest of the songs was presented.

I would say that the 1996 version of She’s The One suffers from being a somewhat literal listing of the songs included in the soundtrack. We get two versions of “Walls”: one version is what was the single (“Walls (Circus)” and the other is “Walls (No. 3)” apparently created to satisfy Burns’s request of having a different one for the closing credits. We get two versions of “Angel Dream” as well and things cap off with a 57-second bouncy piano/organ instrumental “Airport.” The strings/piano/guitar instrumental arrangement of “Hope On Board” is positively breathtaking and too short. Another complicating factor are the two cover songs, which Petty typically didn’t include on proper albums. The resulting release comes off as kind of a cast-off in that regard, and if anything a bit unbalanced particularly considering the usually careful sequencing on Petty albums.

What the team ultimately settled on is now titled Angel Dream: Songs and Music from The Motion Picture ‘She’s The One’ and capitalizes on the great songs included on She’s The One: “Walls,” “Grew Up Fast” (a personal favorite), “Zero From Outer Space,” the Lucinda Williams cover “Change The Locks” (a typo according to Dana Petty in her interview with David Fricke on SiriusXM since the correct title is “Changed The Locks”) the Beck cover “Asshole,” “Supernatural Radio” (which is presented now as an extended take) and adds two songs recorded in July 1993 (in the middle of the sessions for Wildflowers, incidentally) during the sessions that produced “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” for the Greatest Hits album (“Something’s In The Air,” the other new track, was recorded in February that year). These songs are notable as having Stan Lynch on drums. None of the songs on the original Wildflowers nor the original She’s The One had him on them. These songs are a JJ Cale cover “Thirteen Days” (recorded on July 22, 1993, this shows up in a photo of a proposed tracklist for Wildflowers included in the box set), “105 Degrees” (recorded on July 23, 1993) and “One Of Life’s Little Mysteries” (the earliest track, recorded on August 4, 1992). We also get an instrumental reworking of “Angel Dream” titled “French Disconnection.”

blurry picture of 25 song sequence of Wildflowers from the box set showing “13 Days” being considered
Official lyric video for “Angel Dream”

For the first RSD Drop in 2021 on June 12th, a cobalt blue vinyl pressing of Angel Dream was released limited to 12000 copies. I managed to pick up a copy during my trips. The regular release comes out on 7/2 in black vinyl, CD and download.

It’s interesting to note that the song “Lonesome Dave” from the Wildflowers sessions which was included in the An American Treasure box set and not in the …All The Rest boxset was recorded on July 23 as well. In the “Petty” biography by Zanes, George Drakoulias remembers cutting many more tracks than “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” and we’re getting a bit of a peek into those sessions with Stan Lynch with the posthumous releases.

The idea of a reboot of She’s The One as if it existed in the alternate reality of a 1994 2 CD Wildflowers is certainly a compelling one. Ryan Ulyate gives his perspective in a post on the Steve Hoffman forums on 6/15:

“…The idea behind Angel Dream was to make it a tighter album, and something that would make sense with this music after the three original Wildflowers tracks were taken off of it (for inclusion on Wildflowers All The Rest). It was important to have a really tight set of songs, sequenced in a way that honors Tom’s sense of how important albums are, in the story that they can tell. (This logic is behind the decision to leave certain songs off of the original Wildflowers, as McCool discussed in his earlier post.)

For Angel Dream the decision was made to not include the second versions of two songs (Walls and Angel Dream) that are on the She’s The One soundtrack, and also to not include the music cues that related more to the film. This was reconfigured to be a Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers album, not a film soundtrack album. Since we needed more material to fill out the album, we went back to three tracks that were recorded during the Wildflowers sessions, and an unreleased instrumental track.”

Steve Hoffman Forums post 6/15/2021

Ulyate touches on the inclusion of the new songs, “Can songs that were not recorded at the same time as others live on the same album? Yes they can, if they fit into the “vibe”. Without Tom there will always be second-guessing, but please know we did our best.”

The album is a really good listen and while I question the absolute necessity of its existence, it’s a record I’ll play frequently. The idea is that this is the version that will “replace” the original album in the new cataloging of Petty, though the original 1996 version (which was remastered in 2018) will continue to be available as a download.

Angel Dream Tracklist with my notes (special thanks to Mark Felsot for corrections):

Side 1:

  1. Angel Dream (No. 2) from original 1996 soundtrack, remixed for this release
  2. Grew Up Fast from original 1996 soundtrack, remixed for this release
  3. Change The Locks (Lucinda Williams cover) from original 1996 soundtrack, remixed for this release
  4. Zero From Outer Space from original 1996 soundtrack, remixed for this release
  5. Asshole (Beck cover) from original 1996 soundtrack, remixed for this release

Side 2:

  1. One of Life’s Little Mysteries new track recorded August 4, 1992 with Stan Lynch
  2. Walls (No. 3) from original 1996 soundtrack, remixed for this release
  3. Thirteen Days (JJ Cale cover) new track recorded July 23, 1993 with Stan Lynch
  4. 105 Degrees new track recorded July 24, 1993 with Stan Lynch
  5. Climb That Hill from original 1996 soundtrack, remixed for this release
  6. Supernatural Radio (extended version) new version recorded June 4, 1996
  7. French Disconnection (Instrumental) new track recorded April 11, 1996

Pre-Order Angel Dream from tompetty.com.

(Upcoming Release) New Miles Davis Release Based on Jack Johnson Sessions Out July 17 RSD Drop

Cover Art for Champions – Rare Miles from the Complete Jack Johnson Sessions. Photo by Jim Marshall

The new RSD Drops lists came out April 7th for both the June 12th and the July 17th Drops. Similar to 2020, Record Store Day is being split into multiple dates to help with crowding in the stores. I think this also helps with the vinyl pressing delays as the record manufacturing is still catching up from the COVID shutdowns and related problems.

As I predicted in my post last year about the excellent Double Image: Rare Miles from the Complete Bitches Brew Sessions 2 LP release, the next in the series is one based on the 1970 sessions that resulted in the Jack Johnson (AKA A Tribute To Jack Johnson) album. Titled Champions – Rare Miles from the Complete Jack Johnson Sessions, it will come out for the second RSD Drops on July 17th, and will be around $21.97 according to Bull Moose, and will be on opaque yellow vinyl.

According to the expert in all things Electric Miles, Paul Tingen, Davis was spurred on by his recent exposure to Jimi Hendrix to state in a 1969 Rolling Stone interview, “I could put together the greatest rock ‘n roll band you ever heard.” Tingen surmises that Davis seeing Hendrix’s Band of Gypsies at the Fillmore East New Years Day, 1970 was the biggest catalyst for his new sound.

Davis was in the Columbia studios with his band for a marathon 12 dates starting February 18th and continuing through June 4th– an incredibly productive time for Davis yielding many more recordings than the two that ended up on the 1971 LP. Distilling the massive amount of time in the studio for Davis into releases that make sense organizationally continues to be a challenge, and has since the beginning involved some creativity on the part of the record producers and the label. This is compounded by the fact that Davis rolled tape for every minute he was in the studio.

Following the sessions that would form Bitches Brew (August 19th-21st, 1969) Davis continued recording music that followed the new electric Jazz/Funk path he was taking. The compilers of the Complete Bitches Brew opted to take sessions from November 1969 through to February 1970 that used the same band lineup as Bitches Brew. In that regard, the Double Image release is less of an outtakes of Bitches Brew as it is maybe a part II.

The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions pretty much pick up where The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions drop off. “Take It Or Leave It” was recorded on February 2nd, and the initial “Willie Nelson” sessions start just over two weeks later on February 18th.

Side A
1. “Duran – Take 4” (March 17, 1970 at Columbia Studio C)
2. “Sugar Ray” (March 20, 1970 at Columbia Studio B)
3. “Johnny Bratton Take 4” (February 27, 1970 at Columbia Studio B)

Side B
1. “Ali – Take 3” (May 19, 1970 at Columbia Studio C)
2. “Ali – Take 4” (May 19, 1970 at Columbia Studio C)
3. “Right Off – Take 11” (April 7, 1970 at Columbia Studio B)

A YouTube Playlist of the tracks on Champions

As an entry in the catalog of Miles Davis music, The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions represent a transitional snapshot. These are the sound of Davis and his sidemen searching. Big looped sections on the eventual album from these sessions show the band landing blocks of music that work, but also seems to include the band kind of reaching. A lot of this was a result of the very unstructured approach in the studio. From the Tingen article:

“Everything was experimentation,” recalled drummer Billy Cobham. “There was not one moment that whatever was put on a piece of paper would not be changed.” “A lot of times the way we did things was very fragmented,” added Dave Holland. “Often I didn’t know whether we were recording or rehearsing. We would have these fragments, these sketches of ideas, and we’d play them for 10 minutes. And then we might do one more take like that, and move on to the next thing. One of the things that created the sound of the studio recordings is that were all trying to figure out what was going on. This created a certain space—it wasn’t tentative, but it was searching. And Miles had a policy of taping everything. When it was then finally put together, there was a lot of editing that went on.”

Even with this somewhat randomly-organized recording, the highlight is Davis, who plays some fantastic runs around the grooves. This seems to be a result the physical and mental health of Davis during this time. The cover of Champions is a photograph of Davis in the ring taken by Jim Davis shortly after these sessions. Tingen quotes Chick Corea, “Miles was, “totally clean, working out in the gym, physically looking great, and living the life of a health freak. He had this thing about fish and told me how good fish was for you.” In short, Miles was in great physical and mental shape, and at the peak of his trumpet powers.”

In the Davis catalog, Jack Johnson is a record that is somewhat obscure; maybe “obscured” is a more accurate description. Even though it uses a similar approach of editing miles of tape into a two-track epic funk, it is overshadowed by achievements of Bitches Brew. The Champions collection of tracks from these sessions helps put some context around somewhat meandering Jack Johnson album and also opens the door for the following Electric albums which include my personal favorites Big Fun and On The Corner.

Speaking of On The Corner, it’s almost certain that the next RSD-exclusive title based on the series of “Complete Sessions” for Miles Davis will be from the 2007 Complete On The Corner Sessions made up of sessions from June of 1972 through May of 1975.

A New R&B Holiday Classic – Kelly Finnigan – A Joyful Sound on Colemine Records – A Deeper Dive (into the snowbank)

As a fan of Christmas and holiday music, like many, I tend to stick with the classics. “White Christmas” from Bing Crosby, “Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer” by Gene Autry, “The Christmas Song” from Nat King Cole. That said, what is considered “classic” today at one time was a new holiday song. For example, “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney, which by any account is a classic Christmas song came out in 1979. A Charlie Brown Christmas album by The Vince Guaraldi Trio originally came out in 1965. George Winston’s December came out in 1982.

My point is that new Christmas music comes out each year, and aside from very well-done covers of the classics (“Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town” by Springsteen, Stevie Nicks’s version of “Silent Night”) attempts at new Christmas songs are generally tricky propositions. A good Christmas song is more than just holiday adjacent lyrics with some sleigh bells slapped on it for good measure, though scads of this seem to be the norm.

So, when Colemine Records, my favorite R&B label out of central Ohio announced that Kelly Finnigan was releasing a record of Christmas and Holiday songs, I was really interested to hear it. The legacy of Colemine Records stems from acts influenced by all of the big R&B labels: Motown, Stax/Volt, Atlantic, Philadelphia International, Philles, Chess, and the list goes on. Most of these labels put out Christmas records at some point (Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift For You and Altlantic Records Soul Christmas, being two legendary examples), so it stands to reason that Colemine would know what the bar would be for a great record.

Kelly Finnigan is a bit of a secret weapon for Colemine Records. The Bay Area musician, songwriter and producer is a recent addition to the amazing Monophonics on keys and vocals and whose 2020 album It’s Only Us is start to finish a brilliant record with a huge lush sound. His solo album The Tales People Tell from 2019 was a strong debut with Finnigan playing most of the instruments on the record, which took over two years to complete. I recently noticed that he’s a co-writer on one of my favorite Colemine singles “Next To You” by Gene Washington & The Ironsides.

You’d think that with a strong 2019 solo release and the new Monophonics record that would be enough new music, but he is closing 2020 out with a Christmas record– A Joyful Sound which came out on Tuesday digitally with the general vinyl and CD releases coming out on December 11th.

For this album, Finnigan wrote or co-wrote most of the songs. In a couple of cases, he retooled some R&B chestnuts to be Christmas songs.

He took the gospel song “Somebody Watching You” by Indianapolis group Sacred Four and made “Santa’s Watching You” maintaining the fantastic driving James Brown heel shuffling rhythm.

The other track is from a really obscure Detroit R&B record “To Be Young” recorded by The Magic Tones. The re-boot as “To Be Young At Christmas” is a tastefully polished track, and unless you knew the original track, you wouldn’t think this wasn’t a Christmas song from the start.

My favorite song on the album, though is the heart-wrenching “No Time To Be Sad” which was the first song I heard from the album and pushed me to pre-order it instantly. That french horn, FTW. Holy crap.

I got in on the pre-order, which was a red and white swirled vinyl and came with a slipmat matching the tartan pattern of the record as well as a CD. I got the wonderful news that these pre-orders have shipped! The regular releases will come out on 12/11 and include a regular black vinyl version as well as an indie record store Christmas tree green pressing.

With so many fantastic releases coming out of Colemine, it isn’t surprising that they’d have a strong holiday release like A Joyful Sound. This is an essential release for R&B fans and Christmas music fans alike.

(Upcoming Release) Aimee Mann – Bachelor No. 2 : 20th Anniversary Edition for Black Friday RSD – A Deeper Dive

Cover Art for the 20th Anniversary Reissue of Aimee Mann’s Bachelor No. 2

I’m a sucker for earnest songs about heartbreak. Clearly.

When I watched Paul Thomas Anderson’s film Magnolia, I was struck by the songs from Aimee Mann. Like many, I was familiar with her band, the MTV darlings Til Tuesday, but I hadn’t really kept up. Though, there wasn’t much to keep up with. The classic yarn of a band breakup followed by a couple of brilliant solo albums that her label didn’t know what to do with caused her to crash land in 1999 with no label and a record in the can that wouldn’t be released.

As the story goes, Paul Thomas Anderson was moved enough by the demos of this album to craft Magnolia around it and get some more songs from her. He connected to Mann through her husband Michael Penn who scored Anderson’s first two films. She got an Oscar nom for “Save Me” (a song that was written for the film).

I rewatched Magnolia recently. A horrific storm called a “derecho” blew 130+ MPH winds across Iowa, removing over 65% of the tree cover of Cedar Rapids and knocking power out for days and cell service and internet for weeks. Once power was restored, my wife and I still didn’t have internet and cell service was spotty, so we took to digging through our sadly-neglected collection of DVD’s and Blu-Rays for stuff to watch. We hadn’t seen it probably since I bought the DVD when it came out in 2000. The film’s three hours is not an easy watch, and twenty years later the heavy-handedness of the story arc and plot devices seems almost dated. Considering this was Anderson’s carte blanche film following the breakout success of Boogie Nights, it’s apparent he was pulling out all of his directorial tools for this. The soundtrack and score of the film end up being an essential part of the narrative with songs belonging to the characters, the culmination of which is when the film pauses for the characters to sing “Wise Up.”

This part of the film was a real lump-in-the-throat moment for me and how I became a fan of this soundtrack and Bachelor No. 2. I wrote an article back in 2008 proposing a mix people could make of the two CD’s to make a perfect version of the album.

Bachelor No. 2 was released in May 2000 on Mann’s own record label Super-Ego Records. It included “How Am I Different,” “Deathly,” and “You Do” from Magnolia. “Nothing Is Good Enough” appears on the soundtrack as an instrumental. Interestingly, “Wise Up” was originally intended for the film Jerry McGuire. A really great article breaking down the soundtrack by A/VClub by Alex McLevy makes the observation that in a literal sense the song says that the film “is not going to stop” until the characters wise up. Certainly the scene in the film where the characters sing “Wise Up” is a point of inflection.

According to the Wikipedia article on Bachelor No. 2, Mann secured a distribution deal after selling the album from her website and Soundscan data as of 2008 showed that 230,000 copies had been sold.

In 2006, Mobile Fidelity Soundlab corrected sin of this album not existing on vinyl by pressing a limited run of 200g half-speed mastered LP’s based on the original US CD (which means it doesn’t have “Save Me” on it in place of “Driving Sideways” as the UK version did). These days copies of this are running around $200 and I was keeping an eye out to see if any might show up for a deal.

Thankfully, Aimee Mann is reissuing Bachelor No. 2 for its 20th anniversary for Black Friday Record Store Day as a 2 LP expanded version taking the original album and adding the Magnolia songs at the end. (this approach makes sense since it is a reissue of Bachelor No 2 primarily, but I think my mix is more fun) as well as a re-recorded version of “Wise Up.” Looking at Amoeba’s website, it will be priced at a reasonable $34.98. This is being touted as an “RSD First” which means that it will be generally available after RSD, though it’s hard to tell if the 4000 copies they’re showing is the total of all of the pressings or just what is available for RSD.

It will be interesting to hear that new version of “Wise Up.” If I had to guess, it probably removes the drum machine. In the press release she mentions that she “used a lot of drum loops” and nowhere is it more apparent than on “Wise Up.” Though for me, that works great.

The Super Ego Records twitter account posted the packaging:

The packaging is really nice with what appears to be a version of the cover art that looks like someone practicing calligraphy over it. The green vinyl and labels are gorgeous.

Here is the track listing from The Vinyl District (which had it by sides).:

Side A

  1. How Am I Different
  2. Nothing Is Good Enough
  3. Red Vines
  4. Optimist

Side B

  1. Deathly
  2. Ghost World
  3. Calling It Quits
  4. Satellite

Side C

  1. Save Me
  2. Driving Sideways
  3. Just Like Anyone
  4. Susan
  5. It Takes All Kinds

Side D

  1. One
  2. Wise Up Re-record
  3. Momentum
  4. Build That Wall
  5. You Do

(Upcoming Release) New West Records Reissues Seminal Pylon Albums and Limited Pylon Box Out 11/6/2020 – A deeper dive

Pylon Box – Colored vinyl version limited to 500 out 11/6

On August 26th, New West Records announced that they will be reissuing the first two Pylon albums as well as an extensive box set with the two albums, an LP of extras and an LP called “Razz Tape” of a recording that pre-dates the albums along with a gorgeous 200-page hardbound book.

For the uninitiated, Pylon was a band from Athens, GA that started in the late 70’s by some art school students at the University of Georgia. For context in the larger history of Athens bands, they’re post-B-52’s and contemporaries of R.E.M. Their distinctively angular and beat-heavy sound would be described as post-punk and follows a path blazed by New York City bands like Talking Heads and Television.

The first phase of their career started in 1978 and after two albums on the now-defunct label DB Recs Gyrate and Chomp and enjoying some well-deserved exposure supporting bands like R.E.M. U2 and Mission of Burma on tours, they split up in late 1983.

Pylon would have just been a footnote in the history of the Athens music scene if it hadn’t been for the 1987 documentary “Athens, GA Inside/Out” which turned leagues of R.E.M. fans like myself on to the band. R.E.M. also recorded a cover of the Pylon song “Crazy” and released it as a b-side to “Driver 8” and it was the first track on Dead Letter Office, a collection of outtakes and b-sides. Peter Buck said in the liner notes, “I remember hearing their version on the radio the day that Chronic Town came out and being suddenly depressed by how much better it was than our record.”

The jittery energy of the live version of “Stop It!” with the militant growled vocals by Vanessa Hey was like nothing I’d ever heard before and even though it was the R.E.M. songs that drew me to the film and soundtrack, it was the Pylon track that ended up being my favorite part of that soundtrack. (Honestly, I always kind of felt like R.E.M. sort of phoned in their contribution with that Everly Brothers cover…)

Pylon reunited and in 1989 released a compilation called Hits which had notable tracks from the two albums as well as some tracks from singles. In 1990 they released another studio album Chain.on Sky Records. They went on tour with R.E.M. and then split up again in 1991. The band reunited for shows sporadically over the years that followed until they finally broke up for good after guitarist Randy Bewley passed away in 2009. Vanessa Briscoe Hay fronts a Pylon tribute band “Pylon Reenactment Society” along with members of other area bands and have even recorded a couple new songs.

In 2007 DFA Records, owned by Tim Goldsworthy of UNKLE and James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem reissued Chomp and Gyrate on CD with bonus tracks . Titled Gyrate Plus and Chomp More, they went immediately out-of-print and the CD’s are now super-expensive in the secondary market. So, clearly there is demand for this catalog to be reissued again.

For Black Friday Record Store Day in 2019, New West Records sort of tipped their hand in the matter by reissuing Pylon’s debut single “Cool”/”Dub.” I reached out to the label about whether they were going to reissue the albums and at the time they confirmed it, but weren’t going to announce anything for a few months. Then COVID happened which messed up record manufacturing, so I’m guessing that’s why the announcement happened much later for the albums and the box set.

The box set comes in two versions, black vinyl and a limited-to-500 colored vinyl version. Four 140g LP’s include new remasters of Gyrate and Chomp, an LP of Extras which include singles, b-sides and other rarities, and Razz Tape, which is a recording of the band which pre-dates their 1979 debut single recorded in their practice space by Chris Razz. 47 tracks total with 18 of them unreleased.

Since they aren’t also reissuing the 1989 compilation Hits which also included some non-album tracks and there were extra tracks on the DFA releases, how do the tracks compare and what are we missing with the box set?

We’ve seen “Cool,” “Dub,” “Crazy” single mix and the “Danger!!” remix from the !! import EP on Hits and the DFA reissues as I indicate below. We have two completely new songs “Untitled” and “3×3” plus a couple of new mixes of “Danger III” and “Spiders.” Not to mention all of the new versions and tracks on the Chris Razz tape.

Notably missing are some tracks included on the DFA reissues. “Crazy (Original Version)” on the Chomp More reissue seems to also be referred to as the single version. “Yo-Yo (Pylon Mix)” or “Male version” (it has slowed-down versions of the vocals) and “Gyrate (Pylon Mix) are two versions that were recorded during the tracks that were recorded at Mitch Easter’s Drive-In, but the versions that were used on the album came from the sessions at Channel One. We’re also missing the 6-minute version of “Beep” that is called “Four Minutes.”

Interestingly, “Functionality” was listed on the Gyrate Plus reissue as a “Studio Demo.” But the liner notes say it was recorded in 1979 in their practice space in Athens, GA, so that is from the Razz tape.

Here are all the tracks for the boxset and the breakdown of where the Extras have been released before:

Gyrate LP

  1. Volume 04:13
  2. Feast On My Heart 03:35
  3. Precaution 02:48
  4. Weather Radio 02:16
  5. The Human Body 03:11
  6. Read A Book 02:02
  7. Driving School 03:53
  8. Gravity 02:37
  9. Danger 05:38
  10. Working Is No Problem 03:29
  11. Stop It 03:06

Chomp LP

  1. K 04:32
  2. Yo-Yo 04:14
  3. Beep 03:23
  4. Italian Movie Theme 02:01
  5. Crazy 03:13
  6. M-Train 03:48
  7. Buzz 02:58
  8. No Clocks 02:57
  9. Reptiles 03:56
  10. Spider 03:58
  11. Gyrate 04:06
  12. Altitude 03:19

Extras LP

  1. Untitled – New track
  2. Cool – from Cool/Dub debut single, also Gyrate Plus and Hits
  3. Dub – from Cool/Dub debut single, also Gyrate Plus and Hits
  4. Recent Title – from Hits
  5. Danger!! (Danger Remix) – from !! EP also Gyrate Plus
  6. Crazy (Single Mix) – from “Crazy” single and Hits and probably Chomp More.
  7. Reptiles (Channel One Version) – New version
  8. No Clocks (Channel One Version) – New version
  9. Spider (Alternative Mix) – New version
  10. 3 x 3 (Live) 02:19 – New track
  11. Danger III (Live) – New track

Razz Tape LP – all new tracks except “Functionality”

  1. The Human Body 03:08
  2. Modern Day Fashion Woman (Version 1)
  3. Read A Book (Instrumental)
  4. Working Is No Problem
  5. Precaution
  6. Cool
  7. Functionality – from Gyrate Plus
  8. Efficiency
  9. Information
  10. Dub
  11. Modern Day Fashion Woman (Version 2)
  12. Danger
  13. Feast On My Heart (Working Version)

Pre-order the box set from New West Records HERE or at their Bandcamp site (where you can stream some of the tracks).

(Upcoming Release) TWINS – Dream On – New single “So Far Gone”

TWINS : Oustanding in their Field

It doesn’t seem that long ago that Cedar Falls band TWINS released Square America, a manifesto of guitar riff-filled adolescent desire. It picked up from where 2014’s Tomboys on Parade left off– pulling pages from Rockpile, Cheap Trick and Big Star’s recipe books.

In those four years since the last album, TWINS sustained a lineup change and apparently a crash course in adulthood somewhere along the way. If you’ve seen TWINS or Joel Sires live in recent years you’ll have noticed the songs have switched focus. The songs still hang on the fantastic hooks the band is known for, but now with some introspection and willingness to let Joel Sires’s lyrics take precedent.

I was commenting to someone recently that the 2014-2016 shows seem like ancient history and even though the songs on their latest album Dream On (out June 5th) are new, Joel’s been playing them out for, I think, over three years. So, for some of us these songs are already like our favorite worn in shoes. Familiar and cozy.

In some regards, this approach of working the songs out live before hitting the studio is a similar process to one Springsteen, an obvious influence, was doing during the heyday of E-Street. The band played many songs live before the album came out and the fans came to anticipate the songs on the albums. We don’t see that a lot these days since the process for an album is typically in secret until BAM! The load is blown on release day and everyone is left to sort out if it was good or not while they collectively smoke a cigarette.

If you haven’t seen the band in action recently, the addition of Ben Rendall on keys and Toby Sires on lead guitar fills the sonic landscape of the band nicely.

It’s Time to Play B-Sides is honored to be able to debut the 2nd single from Dream On: “So Far Gone.” Joel Sires says this about the song:

It was one of the last songs I wrote for the record. I had been catching up on the news and whatever new crisis was unfolding at the time was particularly disturbing, even though I can’t tell you specifically what it was now, and had me worried about the current state of affairs and the future of our country. So I went downstairs and wrote this song in about five minutes without the intention of it being for the band or really for anything. Mostly just to make myself feel better. Nevertheless I played it for them and they took it in a whole different direction, sort of this swampy Stonesy groove you hear on the record was all their creation.

Be sure to pre-order Dream On from TWINS from their Bandcamp page (which includes vinyl!):

(Upcoming Release) Blue Note Records Releases Lost 1959 Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers Album on 4/24 : “Just Coolin'” : A Deeper Dive

Cover Art for Lost 1959 album Just Coolin’ out April 24th on Blue Note Records

We’re treated to yet another “lost” album from the jazz archives, this time from the extensive Blue Note Records archives. On April 24th Blue Note will be releasing an originally rejected release titled Just Coolin’ from a March 8, 1959 session recorded at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Hackensack, NJ. This session was dropped due to the fact that four of the six tracks recorded overlapped with At The Jazz Corner of the World (not to be confused with the 1960 2 LP Meet Me At The Jazz Corner of the World with Wayne Shorter) album recorded by Alfred Lion at Birdland in NYC just over a month later on April 15th, 1959. Split over two volumes, the first was released in 1959, and the second in 1960.

Drummer Art Blakey’s legendary Jazz Messengers band had a lot of lineup changes during its 35 year run. The period from 1958-1964 is generally regarded as the most notable run for the band. Blakey pulled together a band of Philly natives: Lee Morgan (trumpet), Benny Golson (tenor sax), Bobby Timmons (piano), and Jymie Merritt (bass). This is the band that Blakey had on his Blue Note Records debut Moanin’ (Blue Note 4003), recorded in October of 1958 and released in January of 1959. Following the sessions for Moanin’, the band hit the road for an extensive tour of Europe producing the live albums 1958 – Jazz Olympia (on Fontana) and Art Blakey et les Jazz-Messengers au club St. Germain (on French RCA) among other later releases (mostly unofficial) that came out in the 1970’s to capitalize on Blakey’s departure from releasing albums as changing tastes in modern music turned away from his music.

By the time Blakey returned to the studio with Alfred Lion in March 1959, Benny Golson left the band for Art Farmer’s sextet, which included Bill Evans on keys (check out Modern Art for the results of that). Golson was replaced by Hank Mobley who had been a member of the first Jazz Messengers from 1954-1956. Mobley stayed with the Messengers during this third iteration of the band long enough to get this session and Jazz Corner of the World recorded before he was arrested in 1958 for possession of narcotics and spent the rest of the year in prison (only the first of stints he would do, unfortunately). Mobley was replaced by Wayne Shorter, who was hired after Lee Morgan ran into him at The Toronto Jazz Festival in July of 1959.

Ultimately, the replacement of Mobley with Wayne Shorter resulted in two of my favorite albums in the Jazz Messenger catalog: the 1961 release A Night In Tunisia, and the very-underappreciated (in my opinion) 1962 album Mosaic.

Mobley spent a brief stint in Miles Davis’s band as a replacement for the departed John Coltrane starting in 1961. But that pairing never really resulted in the partnership that Davis was missing with Coltrane. He appears on the studio album Someday My Prince Will Come (which somewhat awkwardly also features Coltrane) and two live albums : Friday and Saturday Nights Miles Davis In Person at the Blackhawk, San Francisco and Miles Davis at Carnegie Hall.

Just Coolin’ is an album that documents a brief interval in the changing lineups of The Jazz Messengers, but an important one nonetheless. Hank Mobley wrote three of the songs for the album, and they also appear on Jazz Corner of the World: “Hipsippy Blues,” “M&M,” and “Just Coolin’.” The early reviews suggest that the studio takes lack the energy and possibly the polish of the live versions, but the inclusion of two previously unheard songs pique the interest of fans and present a kind of “what if” scenario with Mobley had he been able to continue with the band.

The first track we get to hear is the previously unheard Bobby Timmons composition “Quick Trick.”

Here is the track listing for Just Coolin’ with YouTube links to the four versions from At The Jazz Corner of the World fso you can get an idea of what the other songs will sound like.

SIDE 1
Hipsippy Blues (Hank Mobley) Live version
Close Your Eyes (Bernice Petkere) Live version
Jimerick (unknown)
SIDE 2
Quick Trick (Bobby Timmons)
M&M (Hank Mobley) Live version
Just Coolin’ (Hank Mobley) Live version