Shabooh Shoobahwas Australian band INXS’s third album, and the album that brought the band worldwide attention. The huge, anthemic singles “The One Thing” (July 1982) and “Don’t Change” (October 1983) hit the charts everywhere with “The One Thing” breaking the Top 30 in the U.S. as well as being the debut video from INXS for the fledgling music video channel MTV. “To Look At You” dropped as a single in March 1983, and the final single “Black and White” came out in June the same year.
In September 1983 the US was treated to an EP of remixes of singles from Shabooh Shoobah. Titled Dekadance, it included extended dance remixes of “Black and White,” “To Look At You,” “The One Thing,” and a “new version” of “Here Comes” called “Here Comes II.” The band is credited as producing the new remixes with Mark Opitz and David Nicholas credited as the engineers, so it seems by the credits that the band was fairly hands-on with the creation of the EP. Ostensibly, it seems that the band and their label wanted to ride the wave of excitement around the album and the band. When this EP dropped, the band was already in the studio with Nile Rodgers at the Power Station in NYC working on their next album The Swing.
In Australia, there was a related 12″ release just called Dance with a similar cover which was really just a single release of the extended mix of “Black and White” along with two b-sides, “Long In Tooth” and “No Day But Sunday.”
As an aside, the band released another EP confusingly also titled Dekadance in Australia in 1985 of remixes from The Swing.
By the time Shabooh Shoobah came out, INXS had established a standard practice of using non-album b-sides on their singles and these songs usually presented a more loose and fun version of the band including jazz instrumentals usually composed by Kirk Pengilly. As a fan of the band in the 1980’s I collected every 7″ and 12″ I could find to get all of the remixes and b-sides. I even created a mixtape of all of the b-sides and remixes as well as soundtrack songs that stayed in my car. In fact, my first car still belongs to my family, and my brother found the tape recently when they were detailing it.
A5 Here Comes II – From Dekadance EP. I have always loved this re-imagining of this song. Slower, moody.
B1 Go West – B-side from the Australian “Don’t Change” single. Very stripped down with Casio rhythm track. Almost seems like a demo, Hutchence’s vocals are dry/no reverb.
B2 Phantom of the Opera – “The One Thing” b-side from July 1982. This track as presented in the RSD information, is actually spelled wrong. This is a Tim Farriss track, so the real title is a pun: “Phantim of the Opera.” A pastiche of film dialog and synths.
B3 Soul Mistake (Live from the US Festival, 1983) B4 Here Comes (Live from the US Festival, 1983) B5 Spy of Love (Live from the US Festival, 1983) B6 Old World New World (Live from the US Festival, 1983) – These last four tracks are live takes from the US Festival and haven’t been released anywhere other than the 40th Deluxe reissue. The band’s setlist at the US Festival was nine out of the ten tracks from Shabooh Shoobah.
Here are the songs missing from this release based on the 40th Deluxe:
You Never Used To Cry – From the Australian limited edition two 7″ single set for “To Look At You.” Written and performed by Tim Farriss. Also used in the Jon Cryer 1984 film No Small Affair.
Space Shuttle – B-Side from “The One Thing” Australian 12″. A kind of dark new-wave track.
This release, while good-intentioned is disappointing because it doesn’t include all of the bonus tracks from the 40th Deluxe reissue. It’s also missing the extended version of “To Look At You” from the Dekadance EP (which is also included on the 40th Deluxe). Honestly, the US Festival tracks aren’t essential on vinyl, in my opinion, and I would have rather had all of the b-sides and “To Look At You” extended remix. I’ll still pick it up since I’m a big fan of INXS.
The much-anticipated list for Record Store Day 2023 dropped February 16th and the next (and likely last) Miles Davis release based on a “Complete Sessions” box set is on the list. Titled Turnaround : Rare Miles from the Complete On The Corner Sessions, it is a four-song excerpt from the 2007 box set of sessions before and after the ones used on Miles Davis’s 1972 album On The Corner.
On The Corner was the third in a series of Davis’s 1970’s Jazz Fusion releases and similarly to the previous Bitches Brew (1970) and Jack Johnson (1971) (both of which also got the Complete Sessions treatment) the album was a pastiche of recording sessions.
On The Corner’s Complete box spans a wide range of recording dates starting in March of 1972 and continuing through May of 1975. So, it’s a bit disingenuous to say that everything in the On The Corner Complete Sessions box was really sessions for On The Corner. Especially considering how many sessions were after the album itself was released– the tracks on On The Corner come from June and July 1972. But, I suppose that Sony’s attempt at clearing the vaults for release necessitated expanding the scope of sessions to include and there wasn’t enough material to give releases like Big Fun and Get Up With It their own box sets, so combining them makes sense.
Below is the tracklisting, which I got from the website of the French version of RSD called DisquaireDay. I got the session information from the infinitely-handy Paul Tingen site miles-beyond.com dedicated to the Electric Miles period. Per Tingen’s site, all four of these tracks were at-the-time remixed and remastered for the boxset by Richard King and Bob Belden in 2007.
The Jazzdisco.org site is missing the session information for “U-Turnaround” and “The Hen.” Tingen says that the “U-Turnaround” track is the same theme as used on Agharta after “Prelude.”
…Turnaround and U-Turnaround are based on the tune that appears after 22:01 in “Prelude” on Agharta. On the LP version it’s actually called “Prelude Pt2.” It also appears on another official Sony release, Bill Laswell’s Panthalassa. Laswell calls it “Agharta Prelude Dub,” and Enrico Merlin and I simply refer to it as “Agharta Prelude.” Why the makers of the OTC boxed set didn’t stick to convention as established by Sony itself is a mystery.
The album comes out on sky blue vinyl and implements a pink version of the original artwork done by Corky McCoy with some of the clothing in different colors from the original art.
This is a custom YouTube Playlist I made of the four tracks on Turnaround:
Davis hit the studio as a bandleader with a concept of what On The Corner was to become. His intention with On The Corner was to reconnect with the African American audiences who had moved away from jazz to rock and funk bands like Sly and the Family Stone. Unfortunately, by creating an albums with a foot in both worlds, he was never fully embraced by either jazz or rock and funk fans and critics.
Following On The Corner Columbia would create a string of releases comprising studio outtakes. Big Fun (1974), Get Up With It (1974) and Water Babies (1976) while released before his four-year hiatus, were made up of outtakes and unused sessions dating back into the 1960’s which adds to the general confusion around his work during this time.
There has been a reappraisal of Davis’s jazz and rock fusion albums of the late 60’s and early 70’s in the last decade with tastemakers like The Wire and Pitchfork praising albums like On The Corner. It clearly took a while for audiences to catch up with the genius of Miles Davis. As a fan who only recently came around to Electric Miles, I’m happy to have these really unique and cool RSD releases in my collection.
A side note: These Rare Miles from the Complete Sessions releases have been “RSD First” releases, which means that Sony/Universal could choose to reissue these later. I think that a boxset treatment with all four of these would be a cool release and would give some people who missed out on these a chance to get them.
Here are links to the previous article I wrote about the series:
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)
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.
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.
Bride Of Frankenstein (8/2/1985) from No Time and “Crickets” 7″
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.
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.
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.”
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 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):
Angel Dream (No. 2) from original 1996 soundtrack, remixed for this release
Grew Up Fast from original 1996 soundtrack, remixed for this release
Change The Locks (Lucinda Williams cover) from original 1996 soundtrack, remixed for this release
Zero From Outer Space from original 1996 soundtrack, remixed for this release
Asshole (Beck cover) from original 1996 soundtrack, remixed for this release
One of Life’s Little Mysteries new track recorded August 4, 1992 with Stan Lynch
Walls (No. 3) from original 1996 soundtrack, remixed for this release
Thirteen Days (JJ Cale cover) new track recorded July 23, 1993 with Stan Lynch
105 Degrees new track recorded July 24, 1993 with Stan Lynch
Climb That Hill from original 1996 soundtrack, remixed for this release
Supernatural Radio (extended version) new version recorded June 4, 1996
French Disconnection (Instrumental) new track recorded April 11, 1996
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)
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.
News of a new Hiss Golden Messenger release was nestled discretely in a new interview with frontman M.C. Taylor in The Atlantic today. The article mentioned that he’s also working on a new album, keeping up with the nearly-yearly release schedule he’s been maintaining. The article is a nice snapshot of where he is these days, balancing the demands of home life and working musician. The article provides a quick history of Taylor’s career, which is probably new information for many who are only familiar with his recent releases.
This blog started around the time of his previous band The Court & Spark’s last release Hearts in 2006. In fact, I think my review of it might have been the first or second review I did. Just over a year later the band called it quits and Taylor and Scott Hirsch started working on the nascent version of Hiss Golden Messenger. At the time I was exchanging messages on MySpace with Taylor and he sent me rough mixes for what would be the first studio release Country Hai East Cotton. The article in the Atlantic describes it as “[not] bad, just listless.” When I was still in regular communication with Taylor, I used to suggest that he resurrect those songs live, but it was clear he was drawing a line in the sand of his catalog. His 2010 release Bad Debt represented a reboot of his songwriting. He’s quoted in the article: “I had to figure out how to sing a song that I meant, that I could carry around every night for months or years. I didn’t have that when I was in my late teens. I sure as shit didn’t have it in my 20s,” he says. “When I made Bad Debt it felt like I wrote the book of my life. I had never had that feeling creating music before.”
So, this is where the new boxset from Merge Records Devotion: Songs About Rivers and Spirits and Children starts. Due out 11/2, it is a gorgeously appointed package with the three main Hiss Golden Messenger releases that were released on the Paradise of Bachelors label (Bad Debt (2010), Poor Moon (2011), and Haw (2013)) plus a collection of rarities called Virgo Fool. The three albums have been out of print for a while and are now remastered for this box set and will be offered also as regular releases in the Merge catalog with new similarly-themed cover art. Here is what Merge says about the box:
“Individually numbered in a one-time pressing of 2,200 of each format, the four-album set is housed in a beautiful cloth-wrapped slipcase with three-color foil detailing and includes an exclusive foldout poster. Each CD is packaged with liner notes and complete lyrics inside a mini-gatefold wallet with a debossed cover. Each LP, pressed on black vinyl, includes a two-sided insert with liner notes and full lyrics plus a download card, all inside a heavyweight jacket with a debossed cover.”
For the ardent HGM collectors among us, the chance to get the rarities on one LP is worth the price of admission– it is only available in physical format in the box sets. Here is the track list for Virgo Fool along with where the tracks came from:
1. Rock Holy – From the Merge Records 25th Anniversary 7-inch box set Or Thousands of Prizes
2. Black Country Woman – Led Zeppelin cover from the Mojo Magazine compilation Mojo Presents Physical Graffiti Redrawn
3. Joyce & Joel – previously unreleased, but “Joyce & Joel Martin” are credited as being the house where “Brother Do You Know the Road” was recorded.
4. Lion/Lamb – Not sure if this will be the same version, but this song was included on the Root Work, Live on WFMU LP.
5. Father Sky – From the 2012 compilation of outtakes called Lord, I Love The Rain.
6. Issa – Haw outtake included in the digital only Glad EP. We’re missing the other original song “Roll River Roll” from that collection.
7. Back to the River Again – previously unreleased
8. Tell Everyone – Ronnie Lane cover from Lord, I Love The Rain.
9. Karen’s Blues – from Lord, I Love The Rain
10. The Revenant – Michael Hurley cover from Lord, I Love The Rain
11. Hard Promises – previously unreleased
Not one to give it all away, we’re missing a few rarities that maybe we’ll see collected in the future:
“Shiloh Town” : a Tim Hardin cover that was included on a split 7″ with Moviola. RSD 2012 limited to 200.
“Fennario” : a Michael Chapman cover which was included in the tribute album Oh Michael, Look What You’ve Done: Friends Play Michael Chapman. Was also included in the Glad digital EP.
“Brown Eyed Women” from the Day of the Dead Grateful Dead tribute.
“Lion of Judah” : a cover of Clive’s Original Band song. Included on the Glad digital EP.
“The Beast and Dragon, Adored” : Spoon cover from the digital only Or Thousands of Prizes covers collection.
“My Cousin’s King” – Elephant Micah cover from the shared split 7″
“I Wish I Had Not Said That” (JJ Cale cover), “Still Life Blues” (Elephant Micah cover), “Smoke Rings” (David Wiffen cover) from the Three-Lobed Recordings split LP with Michael Chapman as part of their Parallelogram series of collaborative releases.
Which is good news for the many fans in Iowa who have been following his career. He wrapped up 2017 with a couple of shows: one at the Mill in November with a lineup that included new sidemen Matthew Bernemann on drums and Randal Davis on guitar in addition to original 90’s Backsliders band member Marty Christensen on bass. A late December show at The Octopus in Cedar Falls replaced Bernemann with longtime drummer Steve Hayes. These were both amazing shows with Bo in excellent form and clearly really enjoying himself.
Bo is playing with different band lineups and he also pulled in some deeper catalog songs for those shows, and it will be interesting to see if they stay in. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard songs like “On The Range” (from 1988’s Either Way). These have been the first shows that Bo has brought out the songs from his 2016 album Wildwood Calling. These instrumental tracks have been used to open the sets and do a fantastic job of adding some mood and atmospherics to the show.
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 Direction – Beth 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 – Dog – Dog 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 Today – SUSTO 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.
Gloom Balloon – Drying the Eyes of the Goddess of Gloom, Underneath the Stars and the Moon – Gloom 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 II – The 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 – Wooly – The 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.
Friday night (12/1) Pieta Brown is returning to CSPS in Cedar Rapids. It’s her last live show of the year and she’s bringing Bo Ramsey and Marty Christensen as “Sawdust Collective.” Pieta’s shows at CSPS are a rare magical combination of artist, audience and venue and are some of the best shows I’ve seen of hers.
It just came together really seamlessly and it just happened. I started reaching out to some people — kind of wishful thinking people I would want to record with. You know I was really touched and honestly really inspired and kind of encouraged by getting the energy and the super-willingness right back at a time when I was struggling to figure out how to even afford to move forward and make another album. So, it was cool timing. And, it was really neat to do it here and I had never really recorded like that either. Which is to say that all of my other recordings have been recorded in a few days in a row with a live band, with everybody playing together. Maybe rehearse the songs one at a time or maybe have a day of rehearsal and then go in and cut the songs. Very experimental and not a lot of room for getting it exactly right so to speak. [laughs] One thing that was cool was just singing by myself with my guitar — I just have never really recorded that way except for a track here or there.
We’re in the days of indecisive weather and confused clocks. It feels deceptively like fall in the daylight but nighttime’s dark, cold fingers close around the plants from summer extinguishing what optimistic reaching for the sun they had left. The days are shorter and even if you race home from a day at work, the dark is nipping at your heels reminding you that before long it will be settled in around you. A long winter’s guest. As you pull the last of summer’s shorts and tees from the wash– only to be banished to a drawer until the earth is warm– you wonder what you can do to stall the inevitable.
River Glen Breitbach is a member of the extensive and musical Breitbach clan from Dubuque. Performing simply as River Glen, he is a multi-instrumentalist that mixes a blend of Folk, Pop, Rock, and Hip-Hop and Friday night he’s bringing a full band to Dick’s Tap & Shake Room promising a sunny and warm respite from the impending weather. What I’ve listened to so far fits pretty well with artists like Keller Williams or Jack Johnson.
If that wasn’t enough, two of my favorite artists are opening the show.
I’ve been following St. Louis singer/songwriter Beth Bombara‘s career since the beginning and three albums and one EP’s worth of rustic and yearning Americana prove that she’s in it for the long haul and a songwriter to keep an eye on. I was excited to hear her on SiriusXM’s The Loft this summer! Her latest album Map and No Directionis a more rock-leaning record than the previous two, but shows how her songwriting fits pretty much any mold. She draws easy comparisons to Natalie Merchant, I think. I love the George Harrison-ish slide hooks in “I Tried.”
Also opening the show is Dick Prall– daytime proprietor of Dick’s Tap & Shake Room and nighttime purveyor of pristine pop as DICKIE. After a few albums as Dick Prall and The Dick Prall Band and Starch Martins, he relaunched with a new name and a self-titled biographical song cycle in 2015 which I said in my review for Little Village Magazine, “…has the introspective pop we’re used to from Prall-—the head-hanging desperation, the wistful turn-of-phrase, the hopeful wishes all delivered in a brigade of earworm-wrangling hooks.”
Maybe we can’t completely avoid the cold, but with this line up on Friday night, we can stall it a bit as we listen to three really amazing musicians bringing their art to the stage at Dick’s.