The It’s Time to Play B-Sides Top 20 Albums of 2020

The year-end lists are upon us again. Time for me to list out the ways I’m getting further away from the beaten path of popular music.

The worldwide pandemic of 2020 had a gigantic impact on the music industry. The most obvious of which was the cancelation of most tours. Artists were forced to figure out new revenue streams or at least better utilize the revenue streams they had. Many artists embraced live streaming to varying degrees of success. The ones who did it right were the ones who either partnered with someone to provide the streaming, or if they did it themselves made sure the quality was up to the standards of produced live content. A significant upswing of Patreon use helped many artists weather the lack of income storm and Bandcamp’s “Bandcamp Friday” once-a-month event where they waived their own fees had the double effect of raising awareness of bands who had merch as well as the long-tail effect of encouraging more regular use of Bandcamp. I was a fairly avid shopper at Bandcamp, but in 2020, I was buying multiple releases per month as acts I follow released Bandcamp-only albums or songs. As a result, my Best of 2020 includes some digital-only releases for the first time that I can remember.

From a vinyl perspective, 2020 was as screwed up as everything else due to COVID-19. Just ahead of the widespread lockdown one of the two plants that manufacture the lacquer plates required to start the process of creating the physical stampers burned down taking out about 70-80% of the lacquer plate availability. Add to that the fact that manufacturing in general was impacted either by the infection rate of employees interacting, or by limiting the number of employees when they could work, pretty much all release dates for vinyl were pushed way out. Add to that the fact that the US Postal Service suffered losses due to sorting facilities being limited as a kind of way to prevent mail in ballots for the 2020 primaries and the impact of COVID-19 cases with the employees, it’s a miracle any titles were released this year.

Record Store Day in April was delayed to June and then eventually re-tooled as three “RSD Drops” in August, September and October. Most of the titles for RSD in April were manufactured in 2019 in anticipation for the usual vinyl manufacturing delays surrounding the April event. As such, most of the big titles for that event came out as planned, with some titles being pulled out and released outside of the drops and some delayed to later Drop dates or Black Friday RSD (which happened as planned). RSD 2021 is slated for June 12th, presumably so that manufacturing can better deal with these restrictions. The other obvious reason for pushing the date out is that it is predicted that general availability of vaccines for COVID-19 should be out by then and the risk of going to a store would be lessened and as such, the stores can have a regular “big” event. The downside of it being in June is the temperatures are starting to get warmer and will increase the risk of warping the records both in shipping to the stores as well as any shipping for online purchases.

Here are my Top 20 releases from 2020 (in no particular order):

Jeff Parker – Suite for Max Brown Parker’s follow up to his brilliant 2016 album The New Breed finds him continuing the very contemporary blending of jazz and electronic elements. Fans of his work in Chicago Post Rock outfit Tortoise will find a lot to enjoy with this release and maybe will enjoy it more than the odd sidestep of 2016’s Catastrophist. Get Suite For Max Brown from Bandcamp.

Chicago Underground Quartet – Good Days – Speaking of Jeff Parker, the reunion of one of Rob Mazurek’s more notorious projects Chicago Underground Quartet– an expansion of his Chicago Underground Duo with drummer Chad Taylor whose last album was the self-titled release on Thrill Jockey back in 2001 (way out of print and copies go for over $75 when they show up…). This session was an unplanned reunion in that producer Chris Schlarb instigated by getting the individual musicians to come to L.A. to work on another project and then offered to produce a Chicago Underground Quartet record. The album was recorded in one day, but doesn’t sound thrown together due to the fact that most of the songs were actually composed for the other members prior to the recording.

Exploding Star Orchestra – Dimensional Stardust A third album with Jeff Parker on it and a second album from Rob Mazurek. I loved the 2010 release Stars Have Shapes on Chicago Blues and Jazz label Delmark. (Still in print!) Exploding Star Orchestra is an expansive interpretation of Mazurek’s experiments in abstract jazz. To me the best parts of Dimensional Stardust are when the band hits a groove, like on track 2, “A Wrinkle in Time Sets Concentric Circles Reeling”

Parker’s clean guitar runs run counterpoint to the horns on this track which lends a lot of complexity for the listener to follow through the various musical strands of the work. The flute from Nicole Mitchell is fantastic and adds a fluttering beauty to the proceedings. Very much recommended for fans of Thrill Jockey bands.

Tame Impala – The Slow Rush – I honestly kind of forgot that this was a 2020 release! Some of that might be that it came out in early February, but also that a couple of tracks had been floating around for a while. “Borderline” came out in April of 2019! I picked up the indie exclusive green vinyl version of this from Ragged Records in Rock Island, IL. The kind of pissy thing about this vinyl release was they didn’t provide a download with it and there wasn’t a good way to get a download of it. Now, you can either buy it from Amazon, or if you buy the vinyl release from Amazon, you can do the “Auto Rip” download, so that is a good option, now.

My solution to this back in February was to buy a new CD of it on eBay from a seller who seemed to have a grey market source for a lot of new titles. These shipped from Asia even though the seller was from Massachusetts. Because the shipping took so long, the seller provided a download of the CD as well! I doubt any part of this was legal, strictly speaking. But, the CD I got was in shrink and included all of the CD artwork which was a calendar due to the theme of the album of being a year. That calendar artwork is not part of the vinyl release, incidentally.

Matt Wilson Orchestra – When I Was A WriterMatt Wilson was part of the seminal Minneapolis band Trip Shakespeare along with his brother Dan Wilson. Trip Shakespeare made the leap to a major label in the early 90’s where they ultimately ended breaking up. Dan Wilson and John Munson formed Semisonic of “Closing Time” fame. Dan would go on to pen songs for the likes of Adele, and Semisonic has reformed in 2020. Matt Wilson joined Twin Cities band Polara briefly and also released one solo record in 1998 and also formed The Twilight Hours with Munson. Matt Wilson’s latest project “Matt Wilson Orchestra” represents a return to songwriting for Wilson after a break. The “Orchestra” is made up of largely acoustic instruments and heavenly vocal harmonies. The lineup of instruments includes banjo and harp, as odd as that seems, but it totally works here and really comes as close to what I think Trip Shakespeare might have sounded like in 2020 as anything. The vocal harmonies recall The Mamas and the Papas. An all around gorgeous record and really should be on more peoples’ radars. You can order the CD/LP/Download from Wilson’s new label Pravda Records HERE.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Reunions Jason Isbell was quoted somewhere (I can’t find it at the moment) that his goal is to write songs that feel like the songs we heard on the radio years ago. To that end, I think he has achieved his goal. Isbell’s particular take on country and rock (he’s considered Americana, but these days I feel like he is really just rock to me, maybe in the same way The Eagles are really a rock band, even though they have “Desperado” and “Seven Bridges Road” in their catalog). Recognizing the tough position that brick and mortar record stores were in due to the pandemic, he released Reunions early to record stores in a special “Dreamsicle” orange pressing that came with a print of the album art and an art print of his 1959 “Red Eye” Les Paul done by Iowa artist Karl Haglund. This was a constant soundtrack this summer as I worked on my landscaping as a distraction from not being able to do anything out of the home.

TWINS – Dream On – Cedar Falls, IA band TWINS came back with a new album and new sound in 2020. Known primarily as a power pop band based on their guitars, hooks and harmonies of their first three records, the four years between Square America and Dream On saw the band change their lineup and gave lead singer and lyricist Joel Sires a chance to dig through his personal record crates to find inspiration in Springsteen, Mellencamp and Steve Earle. The resulting record represents a welcome maturity in the band and Sires flexes his lyric craft opening the door to his first solo release which comes out this year. Read my review at Little Village.

Tom Misch and Yussef Dayes – What Kinda MusicTom Misch got his start as a Soundcloud celebrity and released a few records under his own label. For his Blue Note Records debut, he partners with drummer Yussef Dayes to create what I think is the best example of what Blue Note Records should be in the new century. A blend of nouveau ideas about the landscape of music and jazz tonality. Misch is young enough to claim John Mayer as an influence, and the guitars on this album owe a debt to Mayer, but more than that, the album draws from Hip Hop and electronic music. In that regard it fits in with the likes of Thundercat and Kamasi Washington. The lyrics on What Kinda Music are a bit shallow so the tales of a tortured artist are not here, and honestly this would have kept this album off of a shorter list. But, the album sounds great and I found myself going back to this and his Mix Tape 2 album quite a bit in the last quarter of 2020.

Reno Bo – You Can See It All From HereReno Bo has been somewhat quietly cranking out brilliant rock records for about ten years. As a sideman he’s worked with the likes of Albert Hammond Jr. (of The Strokes) and Brendan Benson, and has been pretty busy in that capacity, but I anxiously await his solo releases. For his 2020 album You Can See It All From Here he returns with a sound that to me really reminds me of Tom Petty and Matthew Sweet (particularly “Like A Stone”). Bo is part of the Cabin Down Below band which holds Tom Petty tribute shows, so that isn’t probably far from the influences he would claim.

Monophonics – It’s Only Us – For Monophonic’s fourth album, the band returns with Kelly Finnigan on vocals and keys (at this point he’s a permanent member, I guess).The sunny 70’s soul and funk has been polished to a shimmer on It’s Only Us. In fact, I hear a lot of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On? and The Spinners “I’ll Be Around” on it. This record is a banger from beginning to end. The title track is sheer brilliance.

Kelly Finnigan – A Joyful Sound – Speaking of Kelly Finnigan, he released another solo record in 2020, relatively soon after his 2019 solo record Tales People Tell (which got an RSD-exclusive instrumentals release in 2020) and the aforementioned Monotones album! A Joyful Sound is a holiday record on par with the Phil Spector A Christmas Gift For You. A stone cold classic that everyone needs in their collection. I wrote a review of it here.

Calexico – Seasonal Shift – Calexico put out its first holiday record in 2020. It was a collection of covers and originals. The covers include “Christmas All Over Again” by Tom Petty and “Merry Xmas (War Is Over) from Lennon and Ono. I would have liked to see “Gift X-Change” from the Aerocalexico tour album on here. Such a beautiful song from the band. Either way, a welcomed addition to the slowly-growing collection of Christmas vinyl.

Johnnie Cluney – Love Is Law – If you know of Cluney, it’s likely due to his signature illustrations for Daytrotter.com (R.I.P.). His musical output is equally notable and the Bedroom Shrine record was a favorite of mine. He continues the dusty lo-fi journey on his first album under his own name. The album sits somewhere in the neighborhood of Dinosaur Jr, Elliott Smith and Sebadoh. The physical release is a cassette and that’s pretty much the best way to listen to it. Read my review here.

Hiss Golden Messenger – Forward, Children and School Daze: Fundraisers for Durham Public Schools students – I’m kind of cheating here by lumping two releases together, but honestly they are a pair of releases that belong together, and likely everyone who bought one bought the other. Proceeds from the sales of these Bandcamp releases go to support Durham Public Schools, which ended up being even more essential as they needed to gear up for students newly in distance learning. The live shows from HGM are places where the recorded songs take on a life of their own. These two releases are made up of performances from the same tour in support of Terms of Surrender. The retooling of “Jesus Shot Me In The Head” on Forward, Children is worth the price of admission. Both of these releases support the idea that HGM could stand to have a physical live album release.

Anthony Worden and the Illiterati — ‘Voilá – Iowa City musician put out one of my favorite releases in 2020. Shining bits of guitar pop brilliance. Recommended if you stan Britpop from Costello or Nick Lowe. The additional vocals from Penny Peach take this record over the top. When’s her solo record out? Read my review in Little Village.

Elizabeth Moen – Creature of Habit – 2020 derailed the album release plans for Moen. She released two singles from her album that was supposed to come out (“Headgear” and “Ex’s House Party”) and had a tour planned to correspond with the release and then the pandemic hit. Stuck at home she started working on new songs that were anchored in synthesizers rather than her trusty guitar. The songs are some of her best yet and I can see how this “experiment” in different instruments could inform her songs going forward.

High Waisted – Sick of Saying Sorry – NYC surf-meets 60’s girlband outfit High Waisted is back with another slab of sunny dance-able pop rock. Front woman Jessica Dye really nails the 80’s girls with attitude vibe– think Linda Ronstadt, Debbie Harry and Pat Benatar. Her powerful soprano coupled with giant guitar is an infectious combination. This record was lost in the fog of COVID undeservedly and everyone should check this out.

Dope Walker – Save SaveDope Walker is an Iowa-Minnesota supergroup/side project made up of William Elliott Whitmore, Aaron Mader (producer Lazerbeak from Twin Cities hip hop collective Doomtree), Zach Westerdahl of Ten Grand, Mike Schulte from The Pork Tornadoes, Joel Anderson from FT (The Shadow Government). Save Save is the debut record from the collective and has a very polished post hardcore sound. This album kind of missed the radar of folks (including me for most of the year).

Grateful Dead – Buffalo 5/9/1977 Box SetFor the third RSD “Drop” on 10/24, we were treated to the second vinyl box treatment of the four-night May 1977 run represented in the Get Shown The Light CD box set released in May of 2017 for the anniversary of that 4 night run. In 2017 the legendary Cornell show was released as a vinyl boxed set. The second box set is from Buffalo the night after Cornell. This show is notable for the fantastic “Help Is On The Way” > “Slipknot!” > “Franklins Tower” opener, largely regarded as the best performance of this sequence. The Cornell show was the one that opened the door to the Dead for me, so I’m super happy to have this show. I think that the existence of the Buffalo show might hint that we’ll get the other two nights with a similar vinyl treatment.

Pylon – Box Seminal Athens, GA band Pylon got the reissue treatment from New West Records in 2020. The first two albums were returned to print on vinyl for the first time since the 80’s and the first time on CD since I think 1997 when DFA Records reissued them with bonus tracks. As part of this effort a WONDERFUL box set was released which, along with the first two albums Chomp and Gyrate also included the “Razz Tape” — an early recording of the band and “Extras” which included b-sides and rare tracks. There was also a beautiful hardbound book with photos and other ephemera from the band which also acts as a compliment to an exhibition at the University of Georgia of the band. I wrote an in-depth breakdown of the boxset here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Super Ego Records twitter account posted the packaging:

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

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

Side A

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

Side B

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

Side C

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

Side D

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gyrate LP

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

Chomp LP

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

Extras LP

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

Razz Tape LP – all new tracks except “Functionality”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


(Upcoming Release) Miles Davis Gets RSD Bitches Brew Outtakes LP – Double Image – A Deeper Dive – Out 10/24/20

Double Image : Rare Miles from the Complete Bitches Brew Sessions Cover Art

UPDATE: The 2020 COVID pandemic resulted in the standard April Record Store Day being canceled in favor of three “Record Store Day Drops” August 29th, September 26th, and October 24th. All of these are Saturdays, incidentally. The original Record Store Day list has been split up over these three dates. It’s worth noting that Black Friday Record Store Day (Friday, November 27th) has not been changed, yet, and is kind of a 4th “Drop” I suppose, coming a month after the last Drop.

The Miles Davis Double Image: Rare Miles from the Complete Bitches Brew Sessions will be released on the 3rd drop on October 24th.

The 2020 Record Store Day List came out this week, and I’m pleased to report that Sony is continuing the trend of releasing compilations of Miles Davis outtakes that they started for the 2019 Black Friday RSD Early Minor release for the In A Silent Way sessions. This release titled Double Image: Rare Miles from the Complete Bitches Brew Sessions, takes the unreleased studio recordings from the 1998 Columbia boxset The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions.

Double Image Full Packaging

Sony is stepping up their game with this release. It is a two LP gatefold with opaque red LP’s. Bull Moose Records (kind of the original home of RSD) shows their list price as being $25.97 (note: this price went up $1 since it was originally announced in March) which is a pretty fair price for such a nice presentation. According to the RSD site, there will be 6000 pressed worldwide.

The importance and influence of Bitches Brew in Miles Davis’s catalog can’t be overstated. The new electric direction he established with In A Silent Way in 1969 was refined even further for Bitches Brew by focusing on African rhythms and funk. Betty (Mabry) Davis, who was his wife from 1968 to 1969 is credited with being the inspiration for turning Davis on to the explosion of rock and funk from James Brown and Jimi Hendrix (and apparently renaming the project from “Witches Brew”) which fueled the somewhat polarizing (at least among fans of Davis’s career up to this time) new direction that he’d pursue through 1975, up until his disappearance from performing for five years.

Like many people, my first exposure to Miles Davis’s catalog started with his groundbreaking 1959 album Kind of Blue and by most accounts this is the album most people wanting to get into Davis or jazz in general should start with. Wanting to dig further into his catalog I went earlier in his career with his pre-modal style Prestige Records catalog, then moved into his early Columbia career with albums like Round About Midnight (1957), Sketches of Spain (1960) and Someday My Prince Will Come (1961). At the time I was aware of Bitches Brew, but it took a long time for me to really appreciate the album, initially seeming too cacophonous and lacking any discernible structure. For me it took listening to the Chicago jazz artists like The Chicago Underground Ensemble/Chicago Underground Trio and bands on Delmark Records who were related to post rock band Tortoise to really be able to appreciate Bitches Brew. Further, it was interviews with Tortoise bass player Doug McCombs about how Teo Macero’s tape editing work on Bitches Brew informed how his 2009 album with David Daniell Sycamore was created– improvisational recording sessions were edited into the resulting album that pushed me to take a closer look at the album.

The album as released was recorded over three days in August of 1969 (19th-21st) at Columbia’s Studio B in New York City. The band was the largest collection of musicians Davis had assembled to date. The core of the band was a partial carry over from the In A Silent Way sessions with Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone, Dave Holland on bass, Chick Corea on electric piano, and Jack DeJohnette on drums. Notably, this was the live touring band and had already been performing some of the key pieces from Brew including early versions of what became “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down”, “Sanctuary”, and “Spanish Key”. According to Paul Tingen (who wrote the essential book on this period “Miles Beyond : Electric Explorations of Miles Davis, 1967-1991”), this pre-work with a band before hitting the studio was rare (apparently not considering the fact that most of the 1950’s Prestige releases were based on in studio takes of what was his live show at the time). The five-piece was joined in the studio by Joe Zawinul (electric piano), John McLaughlin (electric guitar), Larry Young (electric piano), Lenny White (drums), Don Alias (congas), Juma Santos, and Bennie Maupin (bass clarinet).

After some meetings with the band at his house where they, according to the JazzTime article Tingen wrote, brought in their own compositions for Davis to choose from and he made sketches that they would work from in the studio during the three days booked. At these sessions (with Teo Macero producing and engineer Stan Tonkel), Davis acted more like a conductor than composer. The tapes typically ran the entire time and he used playbacks to further tailor the works.

Davis left the post production work to Teo Macero. Macero used extensive tape editing and effects like delay and echo on previous albums In A Silent Way and Circle in the Round to create new works from the raw recordings which many consider to be groundbreaking work in itself. Extensive tape edits were done to create the first two tracks on the album “Pharaoh’s Dance” (which has 19 edits) and “Bitches Brew” (which has 15). Davis had the final approval of the recordings, but according to Tingen never really gave Macero the full credit he deserved and Macero’s own opinion was that Davis didn’t really want to credit even the musicians. This is why In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew are credited as “Directions in Music By Miles Davis” as a kind of way to take full credit for the recordings.

The second LP in Bitches Brew had less studio manipulation than the first two sides. This was largely because these songs were more fleshed out due to live performances. “Spanish Key” and “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” had no edits. “Sanctuary” has one edit where Macero clips in a different take. “John McLaughlin” is an edit of a studio improvisation where Davis isn’t playing. According to Tingen, Davis gives some rough vague instructions during the session and they lumber along not knowing where to take the work until Davis says “John” and McLaughlin takes a guitar solo and then the band falls into lock step. Macero edited this down to McLaughin’s solo and following for the final recording.

The resulting album was somewhat baffling to the musicians who performed on it. Tingen quotes a famous story by Zawinul where he says he was standing in the offices of CBS and heard music over the speakers and asked a receptionist what it was when she replied that it was “that Bitches Brew thing.”

When you look at the jazzdisco.org entries for August 19-21, 1969 sessions and compare it to the track listing for Double Image, you’ll notice that the songs included were not recorded during the sessions that were used for Bitches Brew. So, what are these recordings?

Reissue producer of the Complete Bitches Brew Sessions Bob Belden told Tingen that they included the extra tracks that used a lot of the same musicians as Bitches Brew and also that these songs were additionally electric piano focused. As was typical of this later period Davis studio work, he had a lot of sessions recorded that were not intended for any particular album release, and CBS kept cranking out new albums that were ostensibly just compilations of unrelated songs– oftentimes songs many years apart. The 1979 compilation album Circle in the Round has tracks from 1955 through 1970. Exploitative? Maybe, but the renewed posthumous effort of getting Davis’s work released in a somewhat orderly fashion serves the purpose of making some sense of the progression made over his life in music.

Below is the track listing from Double Image: Rare Miles from the Complete Bitches Brew Sessions with my added notation of what the recording dates were.

LP 1 / Side A
“1. Yaphet” (11/19/69) 2. “Corrado” (11/19/69)
LP 1 / Side B
“1. The Little Blue Frog (master)” (11/28/69) 2. “The Big Green Serpent” (11/28/69) 3. “Trevere” (11/28/69) 4. “The Little Blue Frog (alternate take)” (11/28/69)

LP 2 / Side A
“1. Double Image (first version)”(1/28/70) 2. “Feio” (1/28/70)
LP 2 / Side B
“1. Recollection” (2/6/70) 2. “Take It Or Leave It” (2/6/70)

A YouTube Playlist of the tracks from Double Vision.

I’m going to predict that since we have had an LP from In A Silent Way’s complete sessions (which was box set #5 of the “complete” series) and now Bitches Brew (which was box set #3) that the next RSD release will be based on the 2003 box set for The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions (box set #6). The Jack Johnson album only had two tracks on it and there were a lot of sessions not used, so it should be interesting to see what they’d include on a vinyl comp.

(Upcoming Release) Black Friday RSD Release “Miles in Tokyo” Reissues Exclusive Japanese Live Album – A Deeper Dive

Get On Down reissue of 1969 album Miles in Tokyo reproduces the original Japanese LP artwork down the OBI strip.

Miles Davis fans are being treated with not one, but TWO exclusive releases for the 2019 Black Friday Record Store Day! The first one, a special release of outtakes from the Complete In A Silent Way Sessions, we covered HERE.

If that wasn’t enough, reissue label Get On Down is releasing a previously Japan-only album of Miles Davis in concert from 1964 with an early iteration of his “second great quintet.” It was released in the US on CD in 2005, but not on vinyl. Titled simply Miles in Tokyo, the album originally came out in 1969 on Sony/CBS and this release copies that release down to the gorgeous black and white cover art and the OBI strip (which is slightly modified to show the Get On Down catalog number and logo). The original pressing was a gatefold, I’m hoping the replicated that as well, but I have no indication one way or another. (Chris from Bull Moose hasn’t done his rundown yet. I’ll update this if he mentions it).

This recording follows the legendary February 12th, 1964 performance at the Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City. The performance was a benefit show to raise money to get black voters registered in the South. The band, made up of Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on double bass, Tony Williams on drums and George Coleman on tenor sax (who would be replaced by Sam Rivers for the overseas shows including Live in Tokyo) were not told until just before the show that they would be donating their salaries for the night and told that if they didn’t like it they could leave the band. Davis would credit the resulting tension for creating the fiery performance captured on two albums: My Funny Valentine and Four & More both released in 1965.

Sam Rivers joined Miles Davis’s quartet in April of 1964 replacing George Coleman according to the Sam Rivers sessionography. This database quotes Davis as saying he wanted to hire Wayne Shorter but Art Blakey had him tied up in the Jazz Messengers, so he hired Rivers at Tony Williams’s suggestion and took him on tour. Rivers would stay with the quintet through July 15th, which is the day after the Miles in Tokyo recording took place. Rivers would be replaced evenually with Wayne Shorter in September, which would establish the “second great quintet” which would stay in place until 1968 and recorded the albums E.S.P., Miles Smiles, Sorcerer, Nefertiti, Miles in the Sky, and Filles de Kilimanjaro.

I think the reason for Rivers’s short stint in Davis’s band is two-fold. Clearly Rivers was Davis’s second choice, and also the general opinion is that Rivers’s style on the sax didn’t mesh well with Davis’s, and this is apparent according to critics on the Miles in Tokyo album. To me the recording is notable in its frenetic pacing of the songs. I think it picks up the energy from the Lincoln Center performance, which shares a lot of the same songs, including the sped up “So What.”

Here is the track listing for Miles in Tokyo:

A Side : “If I Were A Bell”, “My Funny Valentine”
B Side : “So What”, “Walkin”, “All Of You”

Helpfully, there is a YouTube video of the complete album:

(Upcoming Release) Miles Davis Gets Black Friday RSD Silent Way Outtakes LP – Early Minor – A Deeper Dive

Front cover of Early Minor: Rare Miles From the Complete In A Silent Way Sessions

The Black Friday Record Store Day list came out yesterday, and there are a few releases that I think are pretty interesting and I’ll do posts on each, starting with this Miles Davis release. Titled Early Minor: Rare Miles from the Complete In a Silent Way Sessions, it is a selection of outtakes from his brilliant 1969 album In A Silent Way. This release has three outtakes that were originally released in 2001 on the 3-CD The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions box set.

Anyone familiar with the Davis catalog are likely familiar with the fact that his later years releases didn’t often correspond to the idea of an album release. When you look at the sessionography information for Miles Davis, he seemed to hit the studio whenever it suited him (or maybe when he needed money) and recorded with little regard to the idea of an album release.

The proper In A Silent Way album is two tracks, both of which were recorded on the same day. The expanded group of Miles Davis on trumpet; Wayne Shorter on soprano sax; Joe Zawinul on organ; Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, electric piano; John McLaughlin on guitar; Dave Holland on bass and Tony Williams on drums hit CBS’s 30th Street Studio in Studio B on February 18th, 1969. The sessionography at jazzdisco.org shows that the group recorded three takes of “In A Silent Way/It’s About That Time” and two takes of “Shh/Peaceful.”

The band returned to the studio two days later on February 20th and tracked the over 26-minute “The Ghetto Walk” and “Early Minor.” According to Wikipedia’s entry on In A Silent Way, which quotes Victor Svorinich’s essay on In A Silent Way, “The Ghetto Walk” was originally considered for In A Silent Way, but was ultimately dropped in favor of “In a Silent Way/It’s About That Time.”

Those two tracks plus “Splashdown” which was tracked on November 25th, 1968 are what make up the RSD release. These tracks are notable as being the three songs on the Complete In A Silent Way box set that were previously unreleased prior. I prefer this over including multiple takes of “In A Silent Way/It’s About That Time” and “Shh/Peaceful.”

According to Svorinich’s essay, Joe Zawinul brought his composition “Shh/Peaceful” to the sessions, and it had a couple of working titles before it was settled, one was “On The Corner” which was the working title for the album at one point, and also “Mornin’ Fast Train From Memphis To Harlem” which was also a working title for the record. The Wikipedia article is a bit confused about this as it says that Davis composed “Shh/Peaceful” and Zawinul composed “In A Silent Way.” The facts of this are probably tied to how Teo Macero edited the sessions into the final recordings. This is further supported by the fact that Zawinul blamed Macero for editing the recordings and crediting Davis as the sole composer.

No matter what the details were about how the sessions were used, history has shown that In A Silent Way has become one of the most important albums in Davis’s career and is credited as the first complete foray into what would be his electric period and would pave the way for Bitches Brew.

I created a YouTube playlist of the three songs as they were included in the boxset so you can listen for yourself.

(Upcoming Release) New Unheard Release: John Coltrane – Blue World – A deeper dive

Impluse!/Universal has dropped another surprise John Coltrane release! Just over a year ago they announced the Both Directions At Once release of sessions from 1963– the tapes of which came from Coltrane’s personal collection of demo reels.

Titled Blue World, the album (out September 27th) is made up of recordings Coltrane’s classic quartet with Jimmy Garrison, Elvin Jones and McCoy Tyner tracked on June 24, 1964 at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. These songs were tracked for Quebecois film producer Gilles Groulx to be used for his film Le chat dans le sac (“The Cat In The Bag”). The songs were mostly new recordings of songs from Coltrane’s catalog plus a new song “Blue World” (which, according to an article by NPR, was itself a variation of a previously-recorded song the pop standard “Out Of This World” by Harold Arlen-Johnny Mercer). Revisiting previous works in the studio isn’t something Coltrane had done before, or from what I can tell, since. This gives us a unique way to view the development Coltrane and band were going through by comparing previous recordings to these reinterpretations.

The first thing I did when I heard about this release was to check my faithful jazz session database at jazzdisco.org and it was missing! This has since been remedied as the details of this release came to light. According to the interview with Barbara Ulrich (who played the lead also named Barbara in the film) for the liner notes (written by Jazz scholar Ashley Kahn) of the release quoted in the NPR.org article, Groulx was a fan of John Coltrane and it was through an acquaintance that he knew Jimmy Garrison which was likely the connection to Coltrane’s involvement in the film. Groulx attended the recording session on June 24th and was handed the 37-minute 1/4″ mono tape at the end of the session. Since it wasn’t an official release and these sessions weren’t part of an album recording, they didn’t make it to the database.

In the Rolling Stone article about the Blue World release, they quote Ulrich’s recollection of the session. Groulx hadn’t started filming, so Coltrane wasn’t working from the film itself. In the end, he only used 10 minutes of the 37-minute session.

“Gilles had a list of the music he wanted and later he told me when he gave the list to Coltrane, Coltrane said, ‘Okay, I can do this — I can’t do that, it’s not mine. OK I get it, I know what you want.’ Then they just started jamming and recorded for several hours. Then Rudy gave Gilles the tape and that was it. When he got back he was absolutely ecstatic. He knew exactly where he was going to use the music in the film.”

In Eric Fillon’s dissertation on the film in his paper “The Cinema of the Quiet Revolution: Quebec’s Second Wave of Fiction Films and the National Film Board of Canada, 1963-1967” he explains how Coltrane came to be part of the film:

Le chat dans le sac featured an original score by John Coltrane, an African American saxophonist whose music was often associated with Black Nationalism. The film’s jazz soundtrack was dans l’air du temps [current fashion]. It echoed Louis Malle’s Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (1958) and John Cassavetes’ Shadows (1959) which featured contributions by jazzmen Miles Davis and Charles Mingus. However, the music also serves to validate the language of decolonization which Claude deploys throughout the film. Groulx’s main protagonist reads Frantz Fanon’s Les damnés de la terre, Louis E. Lomax’s La révolte noire and Parti pris. Claude, a [Quebecois separationist revolutionary] , listens to jazz as he plans his revolt. …. Coltrane’s music legitimizes Claude’s quest for emancipation in ways that Barbara cannot.

The Cinema of the Quiet Revolution: Quebec‟s Second Wave of Fiction Films and the
National Film Board of Canada, 1963-1967 p 60

The Rolling Stone article says that the tape eventually made it to the National Film Board of Canada and that was how Impulse! came to get it early last year. The National Film Board of Canada was the organization that underwrote Le chat dans le sac originally. There is a funny story in the Fillon paper I quoted above about how the NFB was only interested in producing television content at the time that Gilles Groulx was working with them. Groulx agreed to shooting a TV show, and apparently gave them the Canadian theme of “snow” for this project. Instead he took the funds and shot Le chat dans le sac.

Here are the tracks on the album along with my notation of which album the original version is on. It’s interesting, if not notable, that “Naima” from Giant Steps and the two songs from Jazz (“Village Blues”, “Like Sonny”) were all recorded originally during the same sessions in 1959 and 1960. In many ways Jazz can be looked at as the outtakes from the Giant Steps sessions.

TRACKS
SIDE A
1 Naima (Take 1) (4:34) originally on Giant Steps (1959)
2 Village Blues (Take 2) (3:41) originally on Jazz (recorded 1959, released 1961)
3 Blue World (6:08)
4 Village Blues (Take 1) (3:51) Jazz (1961)
SIDE B
1 Village Blues (Take 3) (3:45) Jazz (1961)
2 Like Sonny (2:43) originally on Jazz (1961)
3 Traneing In (7:42) originally on John Coltrane with the Red Garland Trio (1958)
4 Naima (Take 2) (4:10) Giant Steps (1959)

The title track from Blue World

Blue World has been mastered from its original mono analog tape by Kevin Reeves at Universal Music Mastering in New York. The new 180g vinyl edition’s lacquers were cut by Ron McMaster at Capitol Studios.

(Upcoming Release) Hiss Golden Messenger Collects Pre-Merge Catalog and Rarities In ‘Devotion’ Box Set Out 11/2/2018

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.

“Jesus Dub” : Dub version of “Jesus Shot Me In The Head” that was the b-side to the RSD 7″

“Passing Clouds”/”Passing Clouds Dub” – Hiss Golden Messenger meets Spacebomb benefit 7″

There might be other songs I’m forgetting. I like the other songs on the Lord, I Love The Rain, so those could show up on a future collection.

(Upcoming Release) David Sylvian’s Dead Bees On A Cake Gets *Another* Vinyl Reissue With Bonus 10/19/18

 

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.