(Upcoming Release) Neil Young Brings “Le Noise” With Daniel Lanois

Neil Young’s new solo album Le Noise will be released on September 28th. A collaboration with studio-genius and five-time Grammy Award winner Daniel Lanois— the album promises to be sonically one of Neil’s most distinctive releases in a catalog that spans over 50 years and 40 albums if you only include titles credited only to him!

Although Lanois has a notable career as a musician, he is probably best known for his work producing or co-producing such bands and artists as U2 (Unforgettable Fire, The Joshua Tree, All That You Can’t Leave Behind), Bob Dylan (Time Out of Mind), Peter Gabriel (So, Us), Brian Eno (Apollo, Thursday Afternoon), Emmylou Harris (Wrecking Ball), Willie Nelson (Teatro), Robbie Robertson (Robbie Robertson) just to name the big ones. Even though you can see from just this list how Lanois and Young worked in the same music circles (Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson and Robbie Robertson), this is the first time they’ve collaborated on a record.

Le Noise— which has to be a pun on Lanois’ name– was recorded in Silverlake, CA at Lanois’ home which itself is a key to the sonic textures that were brought to this recording. No band, no overdubs– “[Neil] walked in the door and I put an acoustic guitar into his hands,” Lanois says “– one that I had been working on to build a new sound.”

Considering that Lanois’ on solo recording as well as records by guitar-loop wizard Michael Brook are typically built up around a single instrument, I have an idea how this record might sound. Neil Young is generally not regarded as an artist who varies much in his sound– he’s either running full-tilt distortion with his 50’s vintage Gibson Les Paul known as “Old Black” or in a stripped down acoustic folkie mode. Certainly he has painted very complex paintings with just these brushes in his passel over the years– but he’s never to my knowledge worked with a producer that leaves such a distinctive signature as Lanois does.

Le Noise will be released in several formats, including standard CD, vinyl, digital download, and as a deluxe CD/DVD. The DVD portion, shot by cinematographer Adam Vollick, will feature eight black and white films of Young performing each song solo on acoustic and electric guitar live in the studio. In November, Reprise will also release a Blu-Ray edition, featuring Lanois and Vollick’s beautifully shot films of Young.

It is comforting to know that an artist with such a legacy and history who is being forced to look back on his career in the form of the work surrounding The Neil Young Archives is also looking forward– and really would we expect anything less?

Tracklisting for Le Noise:

Walk With Me
Sign of Love
Rescue Me
Love and War
Angry World
Peaceful Valley Blvd

Rolling Stones – Exile On Main Street Reissue Variations

Looking through the Sunday fliers in the paper this morning I noticed that Target is going to have an exclusive CD available on Tuesday May 18th in conjunction with the widely-anticipated reissue of the Rolling Stones landmark 1972 album Exile on Main Street. In true fan-exploitative fashion there will be many versions of this release to choose from. Since I was looking into this, I thought I’d help break this down for the casual shopper.

Exile on Main Street in the new century is largely regarded as  influential in popular music as Sgt. Pepper’s or Pet Sounds. I think that the Rock/Country/Soul/Blues fusion on Exile singlehandedly created what would be known as “Americana” or “Alt.Country. According to Wikipedia, Exile quickly hit #1 on the UK Top 50 and the US Billboard charts, and charted into the Top 10 in the Hot 100 with “Tumbling Dice” and tracks like “Happy” and “Loving Cup” are regarded as standards.

I picked up a used copy of Exile on CD used many years ago. The version I have is the CBS CD pressing from the 80’s (CGK 40489) which proudly announces “2 RECORD SET ON 1 COMPACT DISC.” When the Rolling Stones Records catalog went to Virgin Records they did a remaster of Exile along with the rest of the catalog which was released in July 1994 based on Amazon’s information and came in packaging that looked like the original LP. When I heard that a reissue and remaster was forthcoming, I was interested in replacing my CBS copy. The sheer number of options is surprising, but likely caters to anyone’s needs.

Exile on Main Street (1 CD “Original Recording Remastered”) This is the one that should tide over most Rolling Stones fans. This is the original 18-track album remastered and– according to Amazon.com– is in a special jewel case which will allow it to fit in the “Remasters Box” which was missing Exile. Should be $9.99 this week.

Exile on Main Street Deluxe Edition (2 CD “Deluxe Edition, Extra Tracks, Original Recording Remastered”) This release expands the 1 CD version to include a second 10-track CD of previously-unreleased tracks that were recorded around the same time as the music on Exile. Should be $19.99 this week. Note: If you buy the Deluxe Edition from Best Buy you will get a bonus interview CD.

Exile on Main Street Super Deluxe Edition (2 CD, 1 DVD, 2LP, Hard Cover Book, Original Recording Remastered) This release expands the 2 CD Deluxe Edition to include two LP’s and a 30-minute DVD which has a documentary on Exile which includes footage from “lost” documentary Cocksucker Blues and Ladies and Gentlemen… The Rolling Stones and Stones in Exile. The Ladies and Gentlemen film was a film which “toured” movie theaters in 1974. The film was based on the Exile tour. Also included is a 50-page hardcover book. A really nice package for certain. Should be around $179.98 list price, with Amazon listing it at $139.

Exile on Main Street 2 LP (2 LP, Original Recording Remastered) This is the 2 180g vinyl LP edition of Exile on Main Street in a double-gatefold sleeve. These are the same LP’s included in the Super Deluxe Edition. Should be $34.99 or less.

Exile on Main Street Rarities Edition (1 CD Target and iTunes Exclusive) This is a Target and iTunes exclusive release. This is effectively the second CD in the Deluxe and Super Deluxe editions. Ten tracks recorded during the same time as the Exile on Main Street songs. These songs have been produced and mixed by The Glimmer Twins and Don Was especially for the Exile reissues. The Sunday Target flier says that the Rarities Edition will be available for $9.99. Target also is offering a “Limited Edition Exile on Main Street Rarities Fan Pack” which bundles the Rarities Edition with a cool teeshirt and guitar pick– all for $19.99.

The cool thing about the Target Rarities Edition is that I can pick this single disc up and buy the LP edition and I get a kind of blend of the Deluxe and Super Deluxe editions. I get the main album on LP’s and the bonus tracks on a CD.

Whichever version of Exile on Main Street you choose, it is an essential album for anyone’s collection.

David Sylvian Manafon Out 9/14 With Deluxe Edition

Next Tuesday (9/14) is the long-awaited release date of David Sylvian’s newest effort. Titled Manafon, it will be released on his Samadhi Sound record label he formed after he left Virgin Records in 2003.

This departure from Virgin has given David one of the most productive and creative periods since his 80’s output. But, I think it was the situation surrounding the ostensible 1991 Japan reunion album Rain Tree Crow that started to stress the relationship between Sylvian and Virgin.

These session started with improvisations of the band and were later amended with Sylvian’s vocals and lyrics. Around the time of the release Sylvian was interviewed (I think Magnet Magazine) and he said that he was under a lot of pressure to release the album unfinished– he had wanted to add more production and texture to the work.

It is the improvisational work that dots the landscape of Sylvian’s career, and a place he frequently stops on his particular path of creation.  Just as the initial session recordings for his departure album Blemish in 2003 were based on improvisational work done by Sylvian, Derek Bailey and Christian Fennesz and structured into a suite of sorts, so then is Manafon. In fact, Sylvian describes Manafon from his website as a “sister piece to the Blemish album.” The essay on the Manafon site describes the album as such:

…Sylvian pursues “a completely modern kind of chamber music. Intimate, dynamic, emotive, democratic, economical.” In sessions in London, Vienna, and Tokyo, Sylvian assembled the world’s leading improvisers and innovators, artists who explore free improvisation, space-specific performance, and live electronics. From Evan Parker and Keith Rowe, to Fennesz and members of Polwechsel, to Sachiko M and Otomo Yoshihide, the musicians provide both a backdrop and a counterweight to his own vocal performances – which, minus one instrumental, are nakedly the center of each piece.

Indeed, when you listen to the samples of each of the tracks from the site, it is noticeably more a vocal work  than instrumental. David’s voice still the gorgeous tenor it has always been, but the trademark lush and/or ambient production is non-existent apparently on Manafon.

In my article about Manafon from March of this year, I surmised that the album titled likely came from the Welsh village of the same name and mentioned the poet R.S. Thomas who studied the Welsh language while working as the rector. In the essay on the site it is confirmed that the track “Manafon” from the album is indeed about the Welsh poet– “There’s a man down in the valley who doesn’t speak his own tongue.”

Manafon will come in two forms: a standard CD release in a 6-panel digipak with the Ruud Van Empel artwork pictured above, and a Deluxe Edition which will have the same CD as the standar release, plus a DVD with a feature-length documentary titled “Amplified Gesture” and a 5.1 Surround (Dolby and DTS) version of Manafon.

If the bonus content of the Deluxe Edition weren’t enough, the CD and DVD will come with 2 hard back books in a rigid slipcase as well as a portrait print of Sylvian done by Atsushi Fukui. The first 2000 of this edition will be signed by Sylvian and Fukui.

Volume One of the two volume set is a “40 page full color printed, perfect bound book to accompany ‘Manafon’, featuring the complete lyrics from ‘Manafon’, accompanied by artwork from the artists Atsushi Fukui and Ruud Van Empel.”

Volume Two is “a 24 page full color printed, perfect bound book to accompany the documentary “Amplified Gesture”. With a foreword by Clive Bell, this book contains photos and biographies of all of the contributors to the documentary.” (quotes from the Manafon Editions Page)

The Deluxe Edition is simply breathtaking from the photo provided on the site. The edition is $85 plus shipping where applicable. While that may seem steep, consider what you are getting– CD and DVD plus two gorgeous books in a slipcover. It should sit proudly with any art book you may have in your collection.

The standard edition has a suggested price $15.99 and available either from Samadhi Sound or other retail outlets like Amazon- who has it for $12.99.

“This Is Spinal Tap” Released on Blu-Ray Disc (Review)

“This is Spinal Tap” is one of those movies that people either love or are largely disinterested in. Anyone who is a scholar of or takes an active interest in the history of rock bands dating back to the 60’s are usually fans of  this “Rockumentary” by director Marti DiBergi (Rob Reiner) that pokes fun at a lot of stories and mythology of the big rock artists in the story of a washed out metal band who is desperately trying to make a comeback against seeming disinterest and plain bad luck.

“This is Spinal Tap” was released to theaters in 1984. In this time of ultra-mega-smash blockbusters the box office statistics are pretty small– The opening weekend of March 4, 1984 had the movie only playing on 3 screens netting only $30,000. It seemed to have done a slow spread through that spring growing to maximum of 206 screens by the end of April, and then dropping off until July 1st. Total net for “This is Spinal Tap” was $4.5 Million that year. In retrospect it was the promotion that Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer did by making appearances on places like MTV and the fact that they wrote and performed the songs that cemented Spinal Tap the band and catapulted “This is Spinal Tap” to the cult status that it is today.  Spinal Tap became a “real” band because it was a real band– the story is fiction, but how different is that from many bands that have a legend about them? The Wikipedia article on Spinal Tap is a humorous one in that it maintains both fictional and actual account. Under band members we get a list of the drummers and their untimely demise as well as actual people who performed or recorded with Spinal Tap. In a similar fashion we are offered a list of fictional and actual records recorded by the band.

2009 is the 25th anniversary of “This is Spinal Tap” and on July 28th it was re-issued on Blu-Ray Disc by MGM. The Blu-Ray edition of the movie is based largely on the excellent DVD version from 2000 that added over an hour of bonus material in the form of outtakes, real and fictional promotional material, TV appearances and an interview “Catching Up with Marti DeBergi.” It is worth sitting through the movie commentary which appropriately has Guest, McKean and Shearer in character.

The Blu-Ray edition of “This is Spinal Tap” is a 2-disc release with one Blu-Ray Disc and a bonus DVD . The Blu-Ray Disc is essentially the same content as the original 2000 DVD with new menus and the movie remastered to glorious high-definition. The bonus DVD includes the “Stonehenge” performance at Wembley Stadium as part of the Live Earth concerts and the National Geographic interview with Nigel Tufnel regarding his theories of Stonehenge. Pretty funny. I only wish they would have been able to include the rest of the Live Earth show that included a performance of “Big Bottom” with a number of guest bass players including Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield from Metallica and Adam Yauch (M.C.A) of the Beastie Boys.

It appears that the bonus material wasn’t remastered to high-definition, but I’m not sure that it would have benefitted much from remastering since most of it is made to look like old television appearances. Comparing the DVD of the movie to the Blu-Ray of the movie certainly shows that the Blu-Ray is providing a much sharper and brighter version of the film. Although the movie was only shot on standard 80’s filmstock, and since it was in a documentary style it isn’t like the cinematography was geared for breathtaking wide shots of landscape or special effects. The audio portion seems to be the same Dolby Digital version from the DVD. But, it sounds fantastic! The live performances in the film sound great. A word of warning– I found myself having to ride the volume button on the remote as the live performances are dramatically louder than most of the movie dialog. A couple of times my wife had to ask me to turn the movie down (sorry, Honey!).

The last time I sat down to watch “This is Spinal Tap” was in 2000 when the DVD release came out. Watching the movie on its 25th anniversary it is interesting to note how much of this film is still funny in a 2009 context.  It falls under the “It’s funny because it’s true!” context. The airport security scene where Derek Smalls is trying to smuggle an aluminum-foil covered cucumber is even more funny in these post-9/11 airport security days. The depiction of Polymer Records as a largely clueless organization run by stuffed shirts is an effective commentary as we watch similar stuffed shirts struggle with a new music economy. Bumbling concert promoters and label PR still exist in the real concert landscape. The situation where Sears is threatening to not carry Smell the Glove due to its “sexist” album art which causes the label to release the record with a totally black sleeve echoes the same strongarm tactics WalMart implements on releases it deems to be “not family friendly.”

From a purely guitar-head perspective I’m really impressed with the guitars the guys are playing in the movie. McKean is typically seen playing a white Gibson SG with humbuckers or a Gibson Les Paul Standard in Red Sunburst and at one point playing a goldtop Les Paul with P90’s. Christopher Guest is seen with a large collection of classic guitars in the “This One Goes to 11” scene which includes a beautiful three humbucker black Les Paul with gold hardware and a Shoreline Gold Fender Stratocaster. In a continuity problem, the black Les Paul is the guitar that Nigel Tufnel grabs for the “reunion” scene. If he was out of the band, I wouldn’t assume that his guitar would have been with the band– but whatever, my geek is showing.

“This is Spinal Tap” is one of those movies that has defined how we look at rock music and bands today.  As long as there are bands touring and fans that follow them, this movie will continue to be watched. Every day I expect another generation of music fans and musicians are watching the movie for the first time.

David St. Hubbins says in the movie, “It’s a fine line between stupid and clever” which seems to be a good way to sum up why “This is Spinal Tap” is the classic film it is.

“This is Spinal Tap” Blu-Ray Edition on MGM/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is out now with a suggested retail price of $34.99 U.S. / $37.99 Canada.

Click Here for the official Spinal Tap website

Click Here for the Wikipedia Article on “This is Spinal Tap”

Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Out 50th Anniversary Legacy Edition Out 5/26/09

One of my all time favorite jazz records is the 1959 Columbia release Time Out by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. I have this release on compact disc (not the remaster) and a couple copies on vinyl. Frankly, it is a lot of people’s favorite jazz release– it is one of the best selling jazz albums ever (next to Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue also produced by Teo Macero). It has the distinction of having a single that reached the Top 5 on the Adult Contemporary chart– “Take Five” composed by band member Paul Desmond.

2009 is the 50th Anniversary of Time Out, and to celebrate the occasion Sony Legacy is re-releasing it’s 1997 compact disc remaster of the album on May 26th. According to this posting on the Down Beat website, the second disc is made up of previously unreleased performances from The Newport Jazz festival from 1961-1964. So, sadly, no unreleased session outtakes for this release. The unreleased Newport recordings are a nice touch, I suppose but makes the release not worth much more than the 1997 remaster except for the third disc in the release which is a DVD with an interview with Dave Brubeck on Time Out as well as some photographs and an “interactive piano demonstration” (who knows what this is?).

I spent time today trying to find any information on this release other than the paltry little bit that the online retailers have and was not successful. No press release, no mention of the release at the Sony Legacy website (at least at the time of this writing)! So, while it might be nice that they are doing a new packaging of the release, they don’t bother to promote it.

At first glance this really looks like a way for Sony to cash in on the 50th Anniversary of this release.  Unfortunately this is nothing like the Kind of Blue
50th anniversary box with the 180g blue vinyl, the CD, DVD and book that they did last year. I will pick this up because I’m interested to see the interview with Brubeck (who turned 88 last December) and I don’t have the remastered version of Time Out.

Here is the track listing with some session information I found at the excelent jazzdisco.org I haven’t found any place that indicates which Newport Jazz Festival shows the songs are from. I’ll update if I get any details.:

Dave Brubeck Quartet Time Out 50th Anniversary Legacy Edition Track Listing

Disc 1:
1. Blue Rondo A La Turk (Album Version) (NYC, August 18, 1959)
2. Strange Meadow Lark (Album Version) (NYC, July 1, 1959)
3. Take Five (Album Version) (NYC, July 1, 1959)
4. Three To Get Ready (Album Version) (NYC, June 25, 1959)
5. Kathy’s Waltz (Album Version) (NYC, June 25, 1959)
6. Everybody’s Jumpin’ (Album Version) (NYC, June 25, 1959)
7. Pick Up Sticks (Album Version) (NYC, August 18, 1959)

Disc 2 (Live at Newport Jazz Festival 1961-1964):
1. St. Louis Blues – (previously unreleased)
2. Waltz Limp – (previously unreleased)
3. Since Love Had Its Way – (previously unreleased)
4. Koto Song – (previously unreleased)
5. Pennies From Heaven – (previously unreleased)
6. You Go To My Head – (previously unreleased)
7. Blue Rondo a La Turk – (previously unreleased)
8. Take Five – (previously unreleased)

Disc 3 (DVD):
1. Dave Brubeck on Time Out
2. Photo Gallery
3. Interactive Piano Demonstration

Wikipedia article on Time Out

Calexico “Live from Austin, TX” DVD of 2006 Austin City Limits Show Out 1/20

Photo by Gerald von Foris

Photo by Gerald von Foris

I was pretty happy to hear about this release. Back in 2006 during their Garden Ruin tour, Calexico taped an Austin City Limits show– part of which was aired with part of a Sufjan Stevens performance. As much as I like both acts, I was disappointed that Calexico didn’t get a full hour. On January 20th, this is fixed as New West is releasing as part of their “Live from Austin, TX” series the full Calexico performance from Austin City Limits expanding the show from the seven tracks aired to 15!

Tracklist (I’ve included whether each was originally aired and what order):

“Convict Pool”
“Across The Wire” (originally aired as 1)
“El Picador” (originally aired as 3)
“Sunken Waltz” (originally aired  as 4)
“Not Even Stevie Nicks” (originally aired as 2)
“All Systems Red”(originally aired as 7)
“Sonic Wind”
“Alone Again Or”
“He Lays In Reins”(joined onstage by the Iron and Wine) (originally aired as 6)
“Guero Canelo”
“Letter To Bowie Knife” (originally aired as 5)
“Crystal Frontier”

This is a nice mix of (at the time) old and new songs. With a catalog like Calexico’s it’s interesting to see which tracks the band chose for their set at ACL, and which tracks ACL chose to air. Considering that “All Systems Red” from Garden Ruin is about the frustration of second Dubya election, it’s sort of fitting that this DVD is released at the Inauguration of President Obama.