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.
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.
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.
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.
From Universal/Virgin Records: “Following on from the phenomenal success of the RSD 2018 white vinyl edition of David Sylvian’s album from 1999, we now present the album on 180 gram black vinyl for the first time. Now expanded with the addition of four non-album tracks, “The Scent of Magnolia”, “Albuquerque (Dobro #6)”, “Cover Me With Flowers” and “Aparna and Nimisha ( Dobro #5)”. The artwork differs from the RSD edition and features a photograph by David’s ex-partner Ingrid, plus some rare photographs by Anton Corbijn.”
I’ll admit that I’ve been occasionally searching the internet to see if Universal would do a regular reissue of one of my favorite David Sylvian albums Dead Bees on A Cake since they did the UK/Australia/Canadian Record Store Day reissue, that I reported on HERE. In a Steve Hoffman forum discussion about the RSD release someone said that there was going to be a black vinyl version of it coming, so rather than bid on the eBay auctions which are running up over US$100, I just kept hopefully waiting. People were reporting bad pressings of the white vinyl version, too.
Yesterday a few places mentioned the release, including a post from Sylvian’s Facebook page:
Some people complained about the original artwork which was a picture of Sylvian and then-wife Ingrid Chavez. It’s a shot similar to the back cover on this release. I’m not sure why they are not using the original artwork.
Like the RSD pressing (which was limited to 1000) the expanded edition takes the release to 2 LP’s by adding four non-album tracks: “The Scent of Magnolia”, “Albuquerque ( Dobro #6 )”, “Cover Me With Flowers” and “Aparna and Nimisha ( Dobro #5 )”. All four of these tracks were included on the 2000 compilation Everything and Nothing. “The Scent of Magnolia” was the single released with that compilation and is one of my favorite songs from this period and is really completes this album. The “Dobro” tracks feature guitar work from Bill Frisell.
There is also a PledgeMusic Page for it, so you can pre-order the release now for $28.50, but the shipping from the UK to the US is $12.00. When I used PledgeMusic to order the new Calexico, at least I could justify the postage due to the fact that I was getting the unique City Slang pressing (which was signed, too) that had a bonus 12″ with extra songs. This will be a big enough release that I should be able to wait for the always awesome ImportCDs.com to carry it, and if they put it on their eBay site, then the shipping is free.
The big news from the Tom Petty camp is the announcement of a new 60-track career retrospective called Tom Petty: An American Treasure. It comes in three physical formats, one is a 4 CD version that includes an 84-page hardcover book (available only through tompetty.com) there is also a 4 CD version without the hardcover book. Additionally, there is a 6-LP version of it that doesn’t include the hardcover book, which comes out on Black Friday Record Store Day on 11/23, coincidentally (though likely not– it is probably an “RSD First” release, which means it is a regular release, and not limited to RSD).
The box set has a mixture of album tracks, outtakes and alternative versions and live tracks. In some ways this box set is the sequel to the 1995 Playback box set which focused on studio songs, outtakes, unreleased and b-sides. This set mixes in some live tracks like the 2009 The Live Anthology did. An American Treasure is a fairly complimentary addition to those collections.
With the assistance of posts on Steve Hoffman Forums and Mudcrutch Farm Tom Petty forums, I started taking a look at what is on this box in greater detail. There is some disappointment from folks due to the 18 album tracks and the bit of overlap with the Playback boxset and tracks that were available on Highway Companion bonus downloads. That said, there is a treasure trove of new stuff here. The album tracks are kind of deeper tracks from albums that haven’t been focused on before. And– surprise– no “Free Fallin'”!
Here is a breakdown (so to speak) of the new tracks on here. This is the full track list, so I’ve included the album tracks, but didn’t provide any commentary on those. I also provide some thoughts about possible future archive releases.
Surrender (Previously unreleased track from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers sessions—1976) – The first place we heard this song in any form was on 2000 release Anthology: Through the Years. The version on this compilation was a new recording of the song created specifically for this release (and was the last studio recording of Howie Epstein before his death, according to Wikipedia). In 2009 we got a version on The Live Anthology as a live performance from June 11, 1983 from Irvine Meadows. In 2010 a studio version of this song was added to the Deluxe Edition reissue of Damn The Torpedoes. We don’t know yet whether the version here is the same version that was included on that reissue, since Damn The Torpedoes was, according to Wikipedia, recorded between 1978 and 1979.
Listen To Her Heart (Live at Capitol Studios, Hollywood, CA—November 11, 1977) Anything That’s Rock ‘N’ Roll (Live at Capitol Studios, Hollywood, CA—November 11, 1977)
These two tracks came from a radio broadcast on KWST FM 106 in Los Angeles. This recording has been floating around as a widely-traded bootleg.
When The Time Comes (Album track from You’re Gonna Get It!—May 2, 1978) You’re Gonna Get It (Alternate version featuring strings from You’re Gonna Get It! sessions—1978) Unheard version from what I can tell.
Radio Promotion Spot (1977)
Rockin’ Around (With You) (Album track from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers —November 9, 1976)
Fooled Again (I Don’t Like It) (Alternate version from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers—1976)
Breakdown (Live at Capitol Studios, Hollywood, CA—November 11, 1977) See above.
The Wild One, Forever (Album track from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers—November 9, 1976)
No Second Thoughts (Album track from You’re Gonna Get It!—May 2, 1978)
Here Comes My Girl (Alternate version from Damn The Torpedoes sessions—1979) Not on the Deluxe Edition of Damn The Torpedoes!
What Are You Doing In My Life (Alternate version from Damn The Torpedoes sessions—1979) Not on the Deluxe Edition of Damn The Torpedoes!
Louisiana Rain (Alternate version from Damn The Torpedoes sessions—1979) Not on the Deluxe Edition of Damn The Torpedoes!
Lost In Your Eyes (Previously unreleased single from Mudcrutch sessions—1974) On the 1995 Playback box set, we got a few Mudcrutch sessions tracks (“On The Street”, “Depot Street”, “Cry To Me”, “Don’t Do Me Like That”, “I Can’t Fight It”) but this is a new one. There is a bootleg that collects all of the Mudcrutch sessions from 1974 and 1975 which doesn’t include the Playback tracks, but does include this (other Mudcrutch songs that haven’t seen official release: “Another Lonely Night, “Don’t It Get Weird”, “You’re Driving me Crazy”, “She’s A Screamer”, “Parade of Loons”, “Makin’ Some Noise”, “You Don’t Care”, “Don’t Bring me Down”, “Save Me”, “Don’t Make It Any Easier”, “Long way From Home”, “Once Upon a Time Somewhere”, “Country Girls Run Dry”)
Keep A Little Soul (Previously unreleased track from Long After Dark sessions—1982) The first single from this box set, and is the download you get for the pre-order.
Even The Losers (Live at Rochester Community War Memorial, Rochester, NY—1989) No songs from this show are on The Live Anthology, so this is an unheard track.
Keeping Me Alive (Previously unreleased track from Long After Dark sessions—1982) A version of this song is on Playback. Is this a different take?
Don’t Treat Me Like A Stranger (B-side to UK single of “I Won’t Back Down”—April, 1989) Not part of the b-sides on Playback.
The Apartment Song (Demo recording (with Stevie Nicks)—1984) From Playback.
Concert Intro (Live introduction by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, The Forum, Inglewood, CA—June 28, 1981) King’s Road (Live at The Forum, Inglewood, CA—June 28, 1981) Clear The Aisles (Live concert announcement by Tom Petty, The Forum, Inglewood, CA—June 28, 1981) A Woman In Love (It’s Not Me) (Live at The Forum, Inglewood, CA—June 28, 1981)
In 1981 during the Hard Promises tour, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers played a three-night run at The Forum in Inglewood, CA: June 28-30th. Tracks from this run have appeared before. The two duet tracks with Stevie Nicks on the live album Pack Up The Plantation: Live (“Insider” and “Needles and Pins”) were from one of those nights (I haven’t found setlists for those shows yet). The Live Anthology has a bunch of songs from those nights:
“Ladies and Gentlemen…”, “Nightwatchman.” (June 30, 1981)
“A Thing About You” (June 28, 1981)
“Breakdown” (June 30, 1981)
“A Woman In Love (It’s Not Me)” (June 29, 1981)
“The Waiting” (June 28, 1981)
“Good, Good Lovin'” (June 30, 1981)
“I Need To Know” (June 29, 1981)
In my opinion, at the risk of redundancy, they could do a Grateful Dead style boxset encompassing all three nights, since clearly they have very high quality recordings of those nights.
Straight Into Darkness (Alternate version from The Record Plant, Hollywood, CA—May 5, 1982) A version we haven’t heard.
You Can Still Change Your Mind (Album track from Hard Promises—May 5, 1981)
Rebels (Alternate version from Southern Accents sessions—1985) As someone on the Mudcrutch board observed, the sessions for Southern Accents were “problematic” and Petty broke his hand punching a wall during them in frustration. Maybe this will be a very different version of “Rebels” due to all of the recording they did trying to get the album completed.
Deliver Me (Alternate version from Long After Dark sessions—1982) This is a new outtake we haven’t heard.
Alright For Now (Album track from Full Moon Fever—April 24, 1989)
The Damage You’ve Done (Alternate version from Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough) sessions—1987) Another new version we’ve not heard.
The Best Of Everything (Alternate version from Southern Accents sessions—March 26, 1985)
Walkin’ From The Fire (Previously unreleased track from Southern Accents sessions—March 1, 1984) New version.
King Of The Hill (Early take (with Roger McGuinn)—November 23, 1987) – Interesting inclusion. Petty co-wrote this with Roger McGuinn for his Back From Rio album.
I Won’t Back Down (Live at The Fillmore, San Francisco, CA—February 4, 1997) Tom Petty performed an epic 20-night sold out run from January 10th to February 7th, 1997 at The Fillmore in San Francisco. This was the 20th anniversary of the band. We also have some songs on The Live Anthology from this run:
“Diddy Wah Diddy” (2/1/97)
“I Want You Back Again” (2/7/97)
“Friend of the Devil” (2/7/97)
“Jammin’ Me” (2/7/97)
“County Farm” (2/4/97)
Similarly to the run of shows at The Fillmore in 1981, we could get a boxset of these shows. That would be pretty amazing.
While we’re talking about it, they did another residency at The Fillmore in 1999, from March 7th to the 16th. The nights of the 15th and 16th created the High Grass Dogs : Live at The Fillmore film.
Gainesville (Previously unreleased track from Echo sessions—February 12, 1998) Too new to be included in Playback— but I’m looking forward to hearing other tracks from the under-appreciated album.
You And I Will Meet Again (Album track from Into The Great Wide Open—July 2, 1991)
Into The Great Wide Open (Live at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena—November 24, 1991)
No 1991 tour songs at all on The Live Anthology.
Two Gunslingers (Live at The Beacon Theatre, New York, NY—May 25, 2013) This is the same version that was on the Highway Companions fanclub download Live 2013 and on the Kiss My Amps Vol. 2 Record Store Day vinyl release.
Lonesome Dave (Previously unreleased track from Wildflowers sessions—July 23, 1993) To Find A Friend (Album track from Wildflowers—November 1, 1994) Crawling Back To You (Album track from Wildflowers—November 1, 1994) Wake Up Time (Previously unreleased track from early Wildflowers sessions—August 12, 1992) Grew Up Fast (Album track from Songs and Music from “She’s the One”—August 6, 1996)
Oh boy. The hopeful amongst the Tom Petty faithful are now looking at 2019 as the 25th anniversary of Wildflowers to get the expanded version with “All The Rest.” So, now we have what is likely some of the tracks that would have been included in the promised expanded edition of Wildflowers here in this box set. I just hope Wildflowers: All The Rest comes out before I die.
I Don’t Belong (Previously unreleased track from Echo sessions—December 3, 1998) More cool unheard stuff from Echo. Accused Of Love (Album track from Echo—April 13, 1999) Lonesome Sundown (Album track from Echo—April 13, 1999)
Don’t Fade On Me (Previously unreleased track from Wildflowers—sessions—April 20, 1994) See above.
You And Me (Clubhouse version—November 9, 2007) This is a song from The Last DJ. The Clubhouse is the Heartbreakers rehearsal and gear storage space. I’m sure there’s lots of interesting recordings from The Clubhouse we haven’t heard.
Have Love Will Travel (Album track from The Last DJ—October 8, 2002) Money Becomes King (Album track from The Last DJ—October 8, 2002)
Bus To Tampa Bay (Previously unreleased track from Hypnotic Eye sessions—August 11, 2011) Oooh. Hypnotic Eye outtakes!!
Saving Grace (Live at Malibu Performing Arts Center, Malibu, CA—June 16, 2006) The 2006 tour was a strong one– it also generated the “Live From Gatorville” show and they played Bonnaroo.
Down South (Album track from Highway Companion—July 25, 2006)
Southern Accents (Live at Stephen C. O’Connell Center, Gainesville, FL—September 21, 2006) Insider Live (with Stevie Nicks at O’Connell Center, Gainesville, FL—September 21, 2006)
“Live From Gatorville” or “One 30th Anniversary Concert from Gainesville, FL” which was a pay-per-view (I think) and then the bonus DVD included with the “Runnin’ Down A Dream” documentary. These songs are from this. We got a bunch of songs from this show on The Live Anthology: “I’m A Man”, “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”, “Southern Accents” (so this is repeated here)
Two Men Talking (Previously unreleased track from Hypnotic Eye sessions—November 16, 2012) Fault Lines (Album track from Hypnotic Eye—July 29, 2014) Sins Of My Youth (Early take from Hypnotic Eye sessions—November 12, 2012)
Cool to hear more from the Hypnotic Eye sessions.
Good Enough (Alternate version from Mojo sessions—2012) Something Good Coming (Album track from Mojo—July 15, 2010)
I would have thought that there would be more alternate and outtakes from Mojo, since it seemed like they were jamming more. Nevertheless, it will be cool to hear something from those sessions.
Save Your Water (Album track from Mudcrutch 2—May 20, 2016)
Like A Diamond (Alternate version from The Last DJ sessions—2002)
Hungry No More (Live at House of Blues, Boston, MA—June 15, 2016) This was previously released on the Highway Companion club download The Very Best Performances of the 2016 Mudcrutch Tour live Mudcrutch compilation.
An American Treasure seems like a really thought out tribute to Tom Petty, even though it’s kind of a mixed bag. The inclusion of album tracks and other tracks that have been released elsewhere makes it not exactly a perfect collection for die-hard fans of Petty. The album tracks it does have, don’t include any hits, so it’s not really for the casual fan either. For a Tom Petty completist like me, it’s one to add to the collection, even if it is kind of a compromise.
On March 6, 1963, jazz sax legend John Coltrane brought his quartet with McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums to Rudy Van Gelder’s studios in Englewood Cliffs, NJ to record a session. The group was in the middle of a two-week engagement at Birdland in New York City and getting ready to record the John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman album on the 7th. Apparently, the band came into the studio on the 6th with the intention to record an album, as the sessions show they recorded multiple takes of some songs as they refined the tracks. These sessions are now packaged with the help of Coltrane’s son Ravi and will be released in a single album release of selected takes and a two album deluxe release with additional takes as Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album on June 29th.
For some unknown reason these sessions never produced an album. The press release from Impulse! says, “The other non-original composition on the album is “Vilia,” from Franz Lehár’s operetta “The Merry Widow”. The soprano version on the Deluxe Edition is the only track from this session to have been previously released.” The Deluxe Edition also gives us no less than four studio takes of “Impressions” which would make its first official catalog release in 1963 on Coltrane’s second album on Impulse! of the same title as a live version from The Village Vanguard in 1961. During these March 6th sessions “Impressions” was called “Untitled Original Composition” but in fact, these are newer arrangements of the “Impressions” takes from June 20th, 1962. From the 1962 sessions, Take 2 was released on the 2001 Impulse! CD The Very Best of John Coltrane. Strangely, the version on Amazon has a totally different track listing than the one that matches the catalog number on discogs and doesn’t list that take of “Impressions” on it. But, the cover art pictured does show it.
But, the very exciting songs on this release are the brand new original compositions which only have working titles: the descriptively titled “Slow Blues” and two tracks identified only by their matrix numbers, “Untitled Original 11383 (Take 1)” and “Untitled Original 11386 (Take 1).”
The press release from Impulse! said the original master tapes had been destroyed because “Van Gelder wasn’t one for clutter.” Sax legend in his own right and labelmate on Impulse!, Sonny Rollins, pens the liner notes for this release. His Official Facebook page gives a slightly different take on the fate of the tapes saying, “The master tape left in the studio was lost, and it’s likely it was destroyed in the early 70s when the label, Impulse!, was trying to reduce storage fees.”
The tape that was used for this release was a copy on 1/4″ tape that producer Bob Thiele gave to Coltrane to take home. The New York Times reports that the tapes were recently discovered by the family of John Coltrane’s first wife Juanita Naima Coltrane.
According to a poster on Urban75.net, these tapes were part of a collection of tapes the family tried to auction off in 2005, but was blocked by Verve/Universal because they contained recordings that were recorded for Impulse! and as such weren’t owned by Coltrane. Musicologist and jazz historian Barry Kernfield had been hired to catalog the tapes for the auction by the auction house Guernsey’s who was doing a MASSIVE jazz auction including historical artifacts. An article Kernfield posted to his website details the effort:
In September 2004 the New York City auction house Guernsey’s asked me to serve as a historical consultant, cataloguer, and writer in preparation for its first jazz auction, to be held February 20, 2005, at the new jazz venue at Lincoln Center. The auction embraced materials from the estates of John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Benny Goodman, Eric Dolphy, and Gerry Mulligan, as well as items from Louis Armstrong in the possession of his manager Oscar Cohen (who became president of Associated Booking Corporation following Joe Glaser’s death in 1969), and various images and a trumpet from a living musician, Clark Terry.
Early in December 2004, as Guernsey’s head Arlan Ettinger related it to me, Naima Coltrane’s daughter Saida* (also known as Antonia Andrews) and Saida’s brother Jamail Dennis were delivering paper items to the auction house: musical manuscripts in John Coltrane’s own hand; a letter from Bill Evans to John Coltrane just after Evans quit Miles Davis’s sextet; a postcard from Wayne Shorter, in Marseilles, to Mr. and Mrs. J. Coltrane (“Europe is a drag. I mean really. Just another gig and a place to practise and/or rehearse.”); Shorter’s hand-drawn portrait of Davis; and so forth. At this point, Jamail said to Arlan, “Oh, we have some tapes. Would you be interested in them?” “TAPES?!,” replied Arlan.
During the last three weeks of 2004 I had the unbelievable privilege of identifying and cataloguing the contents of digital copies of 35 reel-to-reel tapes, the contents of which proved to be mainly unreleased recordings by John Coltrane for Impulse! Records at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, from 1962 to 1964. I submitted my essay to Guernsey’s the evening of January 2, 2005. Coincidentally the following morning Guernsey’s phoned to report that attorneys for the Impulse! label had just threatened a lawsuit if the reels were not withdrawn from the auction. This was done, and accordingly the essay that appears below was withdrawn from the auction catalogue.
His following list of the archive includes the session from 1963 that makes up Both Directions At Once, but also other interesting outtakes that we hope will also see the light of day. He lists recordings including “perfect 10-inch stereo copies of the master tapes of all six takes (four complete and two fragments) of the presumed lost sextet version of the first movement of A Love Supreme.” The presumed lost full sessions that produced the aforementioned John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman album (and without, apparently, the echo that was added to the original release), and lots of alternate takes of other Coltrane originals and rehearsals he taped at home. I’m guessing that the material for the 2015 “Super Deluxe Edition” of A Love Supreme came from this trove of tapes.
This release is for very good reason very exciting. The recordings capture Coltrane’s Quartet reaching the peak of their powers less than two years before his signature epic A Love Supreme. Looking over the details and listening to the track that is available now, it’s in my opinion a more complete release than the hodgepodge that the Impressions album was and while not as essential as his landmark releases, one that belongs in a collection, I think.
The deluxe vinyl version is really nice, with die cut jackets which expose the photos on the inner sleeves.
Here is a nice review from one of my favorite vinyl video blogs, Vinyl Rewind:
This year’s Record Store Day list seems to have a lot more interesting releases than previous years– or at least more things I’d consider picking up. One release that is coming out for Record Store Day, but unfortunately not in the U.S. is the (at least for me) long-awaited reissue of David Sylvian‘s 1999 sequel to 1987’s Secrets of the Beehive (another favorite of mine). Dead Bees on a Cake was a return to solo for Sylvian after 12 years of collaborations with the likes of Robert Fripp in Sylvian/Fripp (which was kind of a successor to their collaboration on Return to Earth), two albums with Can’s Holger Czukay, and the abortive quasi-reunion of Sylvian’s first band Japan as Rain Tree Crow.
Dead Bees was recorded while Sylvian was living in Minneapolis with his then-wife Ingrid Chavez (who is pictured on the new reissue album artwork) and echoes the very personal and intimate songwriting that he had for Secrets. A beautiful and sprawling work, it collects pretty much every style of music he had dabbled in leading up to it and introduced some new Eastern spiritual themes not previously represented on his albums. In some ways this is the last album that would feature more conventional song writing from Sylvian. The releases that followed have been a lot more experimental in nature. While I enjoy those releases from him, Dead Bees On A Cake is the album I’ll always go back to because I identify with these songs more.
The UK RSD reissue of Dead Bees On A Cake has brand new cover art using photos from Anton Corbijn and designed by Chris Bigg of v23 fame. Bigg and Vaughan Oliver were the groundbreaking graphic design house for a lot of albums– primarily identified with 4AD records, but they also did the cover art for Secrets of the Beehive. Pressed in complimentary white, the reissue represents the first vinyl version of this album, and expands it to 2 LP’s by adding four non-album tracks: “The Scent of Magnolia”, “Albuquerque ( Dobro #6 )”, “Cover Me With Flowers” and “Aparna and Nimisha ( Dobro #5 )”. All four of these tracks were included on the 2000 compilation Everything and Nothing. “The Scent of Magnolia” was the single released with that compilation and is one of my favorite songs from this period and is really completes this album. The “Dobro” tracks feature guitar work from Bill Frisell.
Here is what Sylvian said about the reissue on Facebook:
It’s a bummer that we’re not getting this release in the U.S., so I’ll just have to see if I can get one of these for a deal.
The other release is a teaser of an upcoming Orgone release in January. Colemine is going to do a vinyl/CD release of a really great “mixtape” download of covers that Orgone did earlier this year called Underground Mixtape Vol. 1 that includes covers of choice funk and R&B from the likes of The Meters, Otis Redding, P-Funk, Booker T & the MG’s, Aretha Franklin and more.
You can download it from the link above, or you can listen to it here:
At the time of his death in 2013, Scott Miller of seminal power pop bands Game Theory and The Loud Family was working on a new record. He was in varying degrees of completed on a bunch of songs– some songs had vocals and guitar, some of them had detailed notes. His wife Kristine reached out to Ken Stringfellow of The Posies to help coordinate finishing this record titled Supercalifragile based on conversations she had with Miller about the album (which, incidentally always included collaborations of singers and co-writers). In May of 2016, a Kickstarter was established to help fund the completion of the record. By July 4th it was 161% funded! At the time of the launch of the Kickstarter, they had already been recording for over a year, so the fundraising was primarily to wrap up some of the sessions, get mastering done and the rest of the process to get physical and digital product completed and distributed.
The list of contributors to Supercalifragile include former members of Game Theory (Jozef Becker, Nan Becker, Dave Gill, Shelley LaFreniere, Gil Ray, Donnette Thayer, and Suzi Ziegler) and notable guests including (of course) Ken Stringfellow (The Posies, R.E.M., Big Star), Jon Auer (The Posies, Big Star), Aimee Mann, Ted Leo, Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Will Sheff (Okkervil River), Doug Gillard (Guided By Voices, Nada Surf), Mitch Easter, Alison Faith Levy (The Loud Family), Anton Barbeau, Jonathan Segel (Camper Van Beethoven), Allen Clapp (The Orange Peels), John Moremen, Stephane Schuck, Chris Xefos, Dan Vallor (GT Reissue producer for Omnivore), The inclusion of the former Game Theory members helps add continuity of this release to the Game Theory catalog, which has enjoyed renewed focus in the Omnivore Recordings reissues.
In a post to the Facebook group dedicated to Scott Miller, his wife has posted a lot of wonderful insight into how she and Stringfellow curated the release.
“This album is as close to what Scott would have created as is possible. I knew the artists he wanted to work with (he had even contacted a couple himself before he died as the artists confirmed this with me), and in a few cases which instruments he wanted them to play or which songs he wanted them to sing. Yes, he wanted guest vocalists and cowriters all over the record. Scott and I talked about his ideas and as he had worked with (and socialized and played tennis with) Ken Stringfellow, he proposed Ken help him organize and help produce this project. Scott spoke of having various artists bring their “arcs of influence” to the record. He said he would ultimately have veto power if anything got too out of hand (😉), but he was looking forward to having lots of great artists he admired and/or worked with to participate. (Scott even considered making track breaks mid-song when a new artist was introduced to the album. This was an idea we went with in the traditional sense by bringing on artists for entire songs. Not sure Scott would have brought this unusual idea to fruition or not.) So, in this case, with this record, completed without Scott’s final “veto,” no, we can’t possibly make the exact record Scott would have made. (And in fact, even Scott wouldn’t know what it would become until after working with everyone and it was done!) But with so much overwhelming respect for Scott’s work and in honor of his life, we all kept as much of it “Scott” as we could. All his ideas, all his lyrics, all his riffs, all his ideas for bridges and choruses…everything preserved and used as much as musically possible. In some ways, it might in fact be more “Scott” than the record Scott would have made. ❤️ And that’s why I think we all love it so much.”
In August of 2017 the finished product was shipped out to everyone who contributed to the Kickstarter and early reviews and posts to the Facebook group have been glowing. Now that the Kickstarters have been shipped out the team is ready to make the release generally available. In an email sent to people who signed up from the website, the album will be available on Bandcamp (the link isn’t available yet) this week: August 24th in download, CD and vinyl.
Here is a video of a rough take of “I Still Dream of Getting Back to Paris” shot at Abbey Road Studios in London during the recording sessions with Anton Barbeau on vocals. Miller (credited as The Loud Family) and Barbeau put out a kind of split release in 2006 titled What If It Works?
As a long-time fan of Scott Miller’s work, I’m really looking forward to getting this release. Like many, Miller’s sudden and unexpected loss was painful; too early in a career arc that certainly would have generated more significant releases. Supercalifragile brings some closure with this release in that regard and should provide influence for future artists the way the Big Star catalog has.
Red House Records‘ recent signing of Duluth, MN blues and folk master Charlie Parr yielded what I think was the most fleshed-out and imagined album in his catalog Stumpjumper. It made my Best of 2015 year end list. Most of Parr’s catalog has focused on solo or very stripped-down arrangements, so Stumpjumper was a departure, and with help from Phil Cook the album was a winner from beginning to end.
This week Red House announced that Parr is back with another album, and this one is also with a band. Titled Dog, it was supposed to be a solo record, but he changed his mind and brought in experimental folk artist Jeff Mitchell, percussionist Mikkel Beckman, harmonica player Dave Hundreiser, and bassist Liz Draper (who according to the Red House PR was asked by Parr to play electric bass instead of her normal upright bass). Parr explains:
“I was going to do it completely solo,” Charlie says. “I was going to go to this barn in Wisconsin, sit there and play my songs. And I was practicing them and I thought, this is devastating. These songs are hard to hear in this format. I would never be able to listen to them again. And then my friend Tom Herbers, he saw something was wrong. We talked, booked time at Creation” Audio, and made a plan to flesh out the album with a backing band.”
The first track we get to hear is the title track which reminds me of a more contemplative version of “Over The Red Cedar.” It’s a real heart-tugger for anyone who ever loved a dog since it questions whether dogs have souls. “How do you know that I don’t have a soul? How can you look me in the eye and tell me ‘no?’ A soul is a soul is a soul is a soul.”
Never content with staying in one particular sound, Chicago R&B band The Right Now, has embraced a classic R&B sound over the years, but has also included more updated R&B elements. Even on their debut album Carry Me Home, there were stabs of synths and electronic percussion over the proceedings. Their following 7″ “If I Wanted To“/”I Am Who I Say I Am” we get a gritty and even distortion laden track maybe akin to a more soulful Black Keys. When they returned in 2012 with Gets Over You, most of the tracks had a distinct later-period Motown and Stax bent to them, but outlying track “Call Girl” was straight up late 70’s disco and even got the remix treatment from the Deep and Disco crew.
The Right Now returns in 2017 with a new album Starlight with a renewed sense of direction and passion. While the band still hangs on to the horns and brings the funk, they also are approaching the new album with an “all-killer, no-filler” album with an eye towards a modern R&B sound. CFO (Chief Funk Officer) Brendan O’Connell explains,
“Our goal was to fine-tune the songs and production to make every note count, every chorus big and memorable, and craft something really special,” says keyboardist/guitarist/bandleader Brendan O’Connell. “While I love what we achieved on the last album, I felt it was important to try to transcend the ‘retro soul’ genre and concentrate on writing the best songs I could for (lead singer Stefanie Berecz)’s voice.”
The album is available for pre-order from the band’s website, and includes a limited edition transparent blue vinyl pressing! While you’re there order the last two albums and the 7″es!