Category Archives: Products

NC-based Second Motion Label re-launches as Schoolkids Records

skids

We ain’t just fishin’ around…

By Fred Mills

The rumors were true: Stephen Judge, our esteemed owner and publisher, who also operates indie label Second Motion (Bettie Serveert, Church, Tommy Keene, Swervedriver, etc.) as well as the three-store North Carolina record store chain Schoolkids Records (yes, where yours truly worked from 2012-2015) is relaunching Second Motion under the Schoolkids imprint. The move coincides with Judge additionally opening an office in Dublin, Ireland, where he is currently living.

The newly-christened record label’s first signing is Chapel Hill’s Happy Abandon.

Full details tba – for the time being, you can read the official press release at the Schoolkids website. Gonna be a party, everyone!

Unreleased Early Kurt Cobain Demos To FINALLY See Release (on RSD!)

Kurt wings

Better late than never: the late Nirvana frontman’s rumored childhood demos, previously authenticated but delayed by record company politics, will finally arrive in stores in time for Record Store Day 2015.

BY FRED MILLS

A couple of years ago, in a BLURT exclusive report titled “Pre-Nirvana Kurt Cobain Demos Unearthed,” we outlined how a 30-track collection of cassette tapes reportedly dating back to the Nirvana frontman’s childhood had been discovered and were being estimated as being worth “seven figures” or more. At the time of the report there was more than a little speculation that it was all a hoax or, at very least, wishful thinking on the you-gotta-believe segment of the Cobain/Nirvana fanbase (and trust us, that is a HUGE segment).

Subsequently, though, the tapes were authenticated and production shifted into high gear, with a target release date of April 19, 2014 – Record Store Day. It was to be a limited-to-1000-copies numbered set of cassettes, titled The KDC Tapes, released by Geffen/Universal and housed in a deluxe “cigar box” styled packaging and featuring Cobain-derived memorabilia that includes faux-syringes, cigarette packs and snippets of lyrics scribbled on napkins.  The artwork was reportedly derived from the recently published photos of the Cobain suicide crime scene. Following the exclusive RSD title there were also going to be non-limited CD and vinyl editions released by the summer.

Kurt scene 1

Kurt scene 4

And then… nothing. Nada. April 19 came and went, and then the summer came and went as well, with no Cobain release, no Nirvana release, nothing. Not even a peep from the Nirvana camp or from their record label. Speculation among the fan community was rampant: were there copyright issues blocking the release, or did the label get cold feet and back off from what could be considered, by sensitive or politically correct types, distasteful, or was there even second guessing along the lines of “what Kurt would’ve wanted” (e.g., were he still alive, would he have wanted his earliest, naive rumblings as a musician made public)? Or PERHAPS COURTNEY LOVE WAS BLOCKING THE RELEASE?!? After all, that batshit gal could be capable of ANYTHING – she proved it when she had El Duce of the Mentors offed

Not to worry, long suffering Cobainirvana acolytes: none of the above turns out to be the case; it was simply a situation where the people behind the release wanted to “get things right.” BLURT has learned from our record industry sources that issues arose primarily surrounding the aforementioned packaging and artwork, with snags in the production including not only having to negotiate with the authorities for the original crime scene photos but also getting the rights from the cigarette manufacturer and the medical supply house (which made the specific type of syringes Cobain preferred, a kind of “reverse hydraulic” feature that facilitated easy injection when not using a tie-off around the arm) to create reproductions of the original items. Those hurdles finally overcome, Geffen has announced that the limited edition cassette box set, still bearing the name The KDC Tapes but now with a more fan-friendly production run of 3000 copies, will be available on this year’s Record Store Day, which falls on Saturday, April 18.

Expect a bit more than the usual frenzy at your local indie record store this year, kids.

From our original report, let’s recap:

A trove of dusty Phillips cassettes purchased by a self-styled “junker” at an Aberdeen, Wash., garage sale have turned out to be early demo recordings by the late Kurt Cobain. It marks the first time since the 2004 Nirvana box set With the Lights Out that heretofore unheard Cobain material has surfaced, and Nirvana experts are hailing the 30-plus tracks – some of them full songs, others just “sketches” – as likely representing the earliest known Cobain material in existence.

The individual who bought the box of tapes initially got curious when he spotted the initials “KDC” (as in, “Kurt Donald Cobain”) scrawled in black magic marker on the side of each cassette. Upon listening to them he contacted a music industry lawyer, who in turn contacted representatives of Cobain’s estate and Cobain’s record label; the tapes were subsequently verified by noted music producers Jack Endino and Butch Vig (who both worked with Nirvana) as being legitimate. The finder is reportedly now in negotiations to sell the tapes to the estate and label.

One industry observer estimates the potential value of the tapes as being “in the seven-figure range.”

Cobain, who was born in 1967 and attended high school in Aberdeen while living there with his mother, apparently recorded them on a vintage 3M Wollensak mono tape deck when he was in elementary school – presumably about the age of 8 or 9, as several of the song titles focus on people and events circa 1974-75: “Nixon Must Die (Or Resign)”; “I Wanna Be Just Like a Weatherman”; “Carlos the Jackal”; “Shazam!”; and the collection’s lone cover, a ukulele version of the Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker.”

According to a source who has heard the material, the tunes are “mostly singalongs” performed on acoustic guitar or the aforementioned ukulele, along with some rudimentary percussion performed by an unknown additional musician, “There’s nothing there that would really give a blindfold test listener the sense that Cobain would go on to form one of the biggest bands on the planet, although it is worth noting that even at that age you could hear the initial stirrings of his trademark rasp – kinda like any kid sounds after he’s been punched in the throat a couple of times, actually.

“With that said, however, a few recurring lyrical motifs, somewhat precocious on one level and disturbing on another, do provide ad hoc foreshadowing. At least three songs contain the word ‘vagina,’ each part of some childlike rhyming scheme, one of them being ‘your mama’; and there’s an unusual fixation on firearms too, such as in ‘…Weatherman’ where he sings in a kind of taunting tone of voice, ‘You’ll wish you were dead/ When I point my gun at your head.’ That’s followed by the popping sound of a kid’s cap gun.”

Genuine historical artifact, or merely a curio for hard-core Cobain and Nirvana fans? With interest in both the artist and the band never having waned since his death in 1994, it’s likely that “The KDC Tapes,” as they’re being referred to in industry circles, will eventually anchor several archival releases: a CD of cherry-picked highlights, a collection of DJ remixes, and the inevitable big-ticket boxed set – possibly even a DVD documentary outlining the finding-of, the cleaning-up-of and the marketing-of the tapes. [Editor’s note: the latter info was obviously premature. See the second paragraph above for the current status of the release.]

Also likely: the unknown percussionist will turn up wanting his cut of the profits. Already, the Cobain estate has reportedly been contacted by several individuals claiming – rather implausibly, and without credible documentation – to be the percussionist. As Cobain’s mother, Wendy, told a Seattle newspaper reporter, “Kurt really was a surly, unpleasant child to be around, and while he’s been characterized as being the type of musician who didn’t like to play with just anyone, it was actually the other way around – nobody wanted to play with him.

Kurt

As noted above, both Vig and Endino had initially verified the tapes’ existence and likely provenance, but as time went by and the tapes failed to be released, speculation was rampant that it had all been a hoax, and Vig and Endino’s subsequent silence on the matter seemed to justify that conclusion. In early 2014, however, at a press conference at the Universal Music Group’s offices in Los Angeles, the two producers appeared jointly to announce the impending release, implicitly giving their blessings. “We are pleased and proud to be part of this project,” the pair offered, in a statement. “Kurt impacted our lives in so many ways, this is just our way of ‘giving back’ to the Cobain community.”

In the 2014 press release originally circulated by Universal, it was noted that both the surviving members of Nirvana as well as Cobain’s widow Courtney Love had given their blessings to the project but were not directly involved with the new box set. More recently, however, it appears that in the wake of the protracted delay, Nirvana drummer (and Foo Fighters frontman) Dave Grohl has gotten involved with some last minute remastering of the tapes, utilizing the original mixing board from Sound City Studios (the same facility that he feted in his 2012 documentary about the legendary studios), which he had obtained a few years back. “Kurt would’ve dug that,” Grohl tweeted. “[He] loved [going into] Sound City, sometimes just to fuck around with [all the] vintage gear.”

@FooFightersDave Kurt would’ve dug that, total studio rat, loved Sound City, sometimes just to fuck around with vintage gear

Watch BLURT for a review of the Cobain box shortly after Record Store Day, per our usual roundup of choice titles the staff and contributors score. Hopefully yours truly will have a workable cassette deck in time for RSD…

Additional reporting can be viewed here. Check out a teaser video trailer for the Cobain box right here.

 

 

Moog To Start Making Large Modular Synths Again

Moog synth

Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson reportedly quite pleased with this turn of events!

50 years ago, at its first introduction, the Moog modular synthesizer revolutionized the music industry. Today, Moog Music Inc. announced their plans to re-commence the limited run manufacturing of three of their most sought after 5U large format modular synthesizers: The System 55, the System 35 and the Model 15. These three modular synthesizer systems were originally created and manufactured by Moog in 1973.

To commemorate the announcement, Moog shot a short film at their factory about the inspiring and multifaceted relationship artists have with modular synthesizers. The video features electronic music pioneers such as Suzanne Ciani, Malcolm Cecil, David Borden, Dick Hyman and Herb Deutsch alongside performances by contemporary modular artists like Holy Ghost! (DFA), Gavin Russom (ECSTATIC/Entropy Trax), Max Ravitz AKA Patricia (L.I.E.S./Spectral Sound/Opal Tapes), Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith (Western Vinyl), Jacques Greene (Vase/LuckyMe) and M. Geddes Gengras (Stones Throw). Each artist played a patch live, in one take, with no overdubs on one or more of the new Moog Modular systems.

In deference to the unique character and appeal of the original instruments, these systems will be made entirely to their original product specifications and manufacturing techniques and processes. Working from the 1970s schematics, the System 55, the System 35 and the Model 15  will be meticulously handcrafted, as a true recreation of the original. The modules are built from the original circuit board films – just as they were in 1973- by hand-stuffing and hand-soldering components to circuit boards, and using traditional wiring methods. The front panels are photo-etched aluminum, a classic process rarely still used in today’s synthesizer manufacturing, to maintain the classic and durable look of vintage Moog modules.

The units will come in extremely limited quantities. There will be 55 units of the System 55, priced at $35,000 per instrument; 35 of units of the System 35, priced at $22,000 per instrument; and 150 units of the Model 15, priced at $10,000 per instrument. Alongside these Moog Modular Systems will be the Sequencer Complement B Expansion Cabinet, a dual 960 Sequential Controller, an accompaniment to the System 35 and System 55, that has been out of production for over 30 years– as well as an optional 5-Octave duo phonic keyboard.

 

THE GOODS: Blurt’s Guide to Spending Gift Cards and Granny Cash, 2014-15 Edition

aggro collage small  3

In which Blurt tells you how to spend your mad money. Not your serious cheddar.

BY RANDY HARWARD

Check it out: I’m gonna go all Suze Orman on your asses. Ha-HA! Financial advice. Not what you came here for? You gotta trust me on this. I’m a master at spending gift cards and granny cash every holiday season. I start with a list of stuff I wanted but didn’t get, then form a plan. I create flow charts, balance needs vs. wants, allow for impulse items, dig up coupon codes, watch sales… Sometimes I even trade up for better gift cards. Not on that website. Just within the family. (Should I have said that?) Or more cash.

I can maximize the shit out of your discretionary holiday haul. So listen up.

All that stuff I said before? That works best for online purchases. Now, if you’re looking for instant gratification and wanna go the brick-and-mortar route, I have one piece of advice: Don’t spend shit until at least late January. (That’s only kind of an arbitrary date.) Otherwise, you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. The good stuff is either gone or on back order. If you happen to find what you want—

Just kidding. I don’t wanna write that crap any more than you wanna read it. And here’s some run-on honesty: Gift guides are breezy toilet reads where some dude who got some free stuff is gonna tell you why, a) He likes or dislikes it, and b) in a roundabout way, why you should pay for the same thing. This one, however, only aims to influence a portion of your income: those crisp $2 bills and Sacajawea dollars that came tumbling out the crocheted slippers that Gram-gram knitted for you. Just the mad money – not your serious cheddar, your operating funds. We just don’t want that much responsibility, you know?

So let’s dig in…

 

Led Zep Houses of the Holy reissue

 

REISSUES AND BOX SETS FROM RHINO

Led Zeppelin I, II, III, IV and Houses of the Holy ($17 ea.)

Captain Beefheart Sun Zoom Spark: 1970 to 1972 ($60)

Rhino.com

When I was a kid, I was regularly caught playing with my… dad’s music collection. Eight-track tapes and vinyl records with colorful spines – I recall how the platters leaned against a wall like a hooker does a lamppost. Irresistible. I flipped through them every chance I got. Some covers, like ones from the Grass Roots and the Association, looked boring. Others were scary, like Black Sabbath’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath were scary. Then there were the ones like Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy, where nude, cyanotic children scampered over rocks on the cover and, in the gatefold, a bluish (or is it stone?) man held one of the children aloft, as though a sacrifice in waiting. That scared the bejesus out of me – even more than the demonic orgy on the Sabbath cover. But when I was finally able to sneak it onto my dad’s diamond-needled turntable, it went way over my head. Aside from hearing Led Zeppelin on the radio all the time, I ignored them until I matured and Kiss, Loverboy and Def Leppard lost (some of) their charm. All of Led Zeppelin’s albums were relatively new to me at once. Now, in a way, I get to feast again on Led Zeps I through Houses (the band’s fifth) now that they’ve been given the deluxe reissue treatment. In the single-disc edition on which this is based, the albums are remastered and paired with a companion disc of rough/alternate/working mixes and packaged in gatefold sleeves with an eight-page booklet. What a great way to kill a Sunday.

Captain Beefheart Sun Zoom Spark

I came by Captain Beefheart even later in life, thanks to this guy Staker. Like most weirdos, he knew one when he saw one – and so he made the introduction. Of course it started with Beefheart’s landmark Trout Mask Replica. Then I was left to discover The Spotlight Kid, Lick My Decals Off, Baby and Clear Spot on my own. But that’s part of the fun, pickin’ a point of entry and bargin’ in, you know, booglarizin’ the stuff online until such time as you can procure your own (probably second-hand) copy. Sun Zoom Spark collects remastered editions of these three albums plus a fourth bonus disc of outtakes and unreleased tracks from the same period and sessions. The set, then, becomes a similar – yet whole ‘nother – type of Sunday-killing, immersive experience. If you decide now is the time to get some Beefheart in your life, embrace the weirdness. There are dividends if you do.

Primus chocolate bars

BAND CANDY

Primus Chocolate Bars ($25/three-pack)

ClubBastardo.com

In flavors like sturgeon, cheese and pork soda… Psych. Weirdo prog-rockers Primus, teaming with Asher’s Chocolates, actually stuck to conventional ingredients for this merch tie-in with the Primus & the Chocolate Factory album and tour – a celebration of Roald Dahl’s classic story about the lunatic chocolatier. (You know…) Each three-pack contains one each of Professor Nutbutter (it’s fulla peanuts), Mr. Krinkle (made with crispy rice) and the aptly-named (because dark chocolate sucks*) Bastard Bar. The price (roughly $2.38/oz.) is high, but Primus always delivers quality. Plus, if you buy these, maybe we’ll get to see more band candy down the road. Who wants to see an AC/DC bar? Maybe a Slayer-branded Abyss Crunch? My Morning Krackel? Zep Pez? This is fun. (*In fairness, this dark chocolate is actually pretty good. Also, it looks as though they did have a Pork Soda Bar, which was flavored with bacon and Pop Rocks and limited to 500. Sad.)

Adventures of Mrs Jesus hi res

THE REAL LIFE OF JESUS, IN PANELS

The Adventures of Mrs. Jesus by Dan O’Shannon ($15)

HarperCollins.com

It’s already so, so sad that Jesus takes a backseat to Santa Claus at the holidays. After all, he’s the reason for the season! It’s just that we get so caught up in the loot grab, you know? There’s so much action and drama – it’s hard to tear yourself away and just meditate on the question, “What would Jesus want for Christmas?” So you can imagine how all of this affects the great women behind the great men. For Santa, that’s Mrs. Claus. Thanks to protests and stuff, we now know that she’s the one feeding the elves cocoa and cookies and candy so they can stay up all night on the sugar rush and meet their production quotas. But what do we know about Mrs. Jesus? Ha! I know – who?! The celeb rags be slippin’, ‘cause I didn’t even know about her (Her?). Where were you on that one, US Weekly? And Jesus is an A-lister! For Hell’s sake.

Anyway, according to former writer and executive producer of Modern Family, Dan O’Shannon, Mrs. Jesus kinda sucks. In a series of four-panel cartoons, we discover she can be naggy, passive-aggressive and plain bitchy. All of that is understandable, since she lives in the shadow of a super-being who, in these same panels, also seems to be a bit ornery (he does looks really uncomfortable on that cross). But what appears at first blush to be harsh criticism in comic strip form isn’t actually that. It’s more about how people, especially married couples, relate – just like Modern Family is also about how family members get along. It’s insights like these that make this little book worth picking up.

 

 Gov't Mule - Dark Side of the Mule

 LIVE ALBUMS KICK ASS, ER, MULE!

Dark Side of the Mule by Gov’t Mule ($13 standard, $32 deluxe)

Mule.net

Dude. Floyd good. Mule good. Mule + Floyd = Dude. That kind of monosyllabic logic isn’t hyperbole. Gov’t Mule, led by gravelly-voiced guitar god Warren Haynes, are legends in their own right, and the idea of them paying tribute to the legendary Pink Floyd should make music fans slobbery. And this set, recorded on Halloween 2008 in Boston, exceeds all expectations. Mule, joined by saxophonist Ron Holloway and two of Floyd’s actual backing vocalists, nails Floyd’s sublime atmospheric sound while infusing it with that trademark Gov’t Mule slow burn. It’s a captivating, one-sitting listen that will leave you nearly speechless. (Review is for standard single-disc version. A deluxe 3CD/1 DVD version contains the full three-hour show.)

 

 Layout 1

TV ON DVD FROM SHOUT! FACTORY

WKRP in Cincinnati: The Complete Series, $140

Welcome Back, Kotter, $130

ShoutFactory.com

If you’ve ever wondered why WKRP in Cincinnati – one of the funniest sitcoms of the late 1970s/early 1980s – hasn’t gotten the complete series treatment… It’s because the show was stuck in the same music-licensing muck that once stalled The Wonder Years and Freaks and Geeks. Thankfully, Shout! Factory has turned this problem into a specialty, and they’ve restored much of the original music (more than 200 songs) by artists like Chic, Nick Lowe, AC/DC and Blondie, whose “Heart of Glass” became a hit after its inclusion in the first-season episode “A Commercial Break.” Mostly intact, the series holds up with a heart as big as its wistful opening theme and a sense of humor as rollicking as the end credits song, with its gibberish lyrics.

Welcome Back Kotter still

Speakin’ of theme songs: John Sebastian’s “Welcome Back” from Welcome Back, Kotter is one of the greats. Even if you have no attachment to the late-1970s sitcom that launched John Travolta’s career, I defy you to resist the song, a warm, midtempo welcome-home that’s just good to hear once in a while. As for the show, well, it’s pretty much a live-action Saturday morning cartoon where snarky Mr. Kotter, who tried to get out of Brooklyn but gets sucked back in to teach remedial classes to his old gang, the Sweathogs, at his alma mater. Kotter connects with the Sweathogs as he deals with their loopy antics: warm fuzzies and laughter (not all of it canned) ensue. Fans of the show know that’s not a dismissive generalization: It’s one of the reasons the show worked. And spawned a string of merchandise like a card game, board game and action figures that this writer either owns or for which he harbors a turgid, purple lust.

 

aggro collage small  1

THOU SHALT HAVE, LIKE, 25 GODS BEFORE ME…

Punk Rock Throbbleheads ($25)

Aggronautix.com

Need graven images to worship this holiday season? How about a gang of dirty rotten punks? Pennsylvania-based Aggronautix started casting polyresin “throbbleheads” in the image of punk, metal and comedy gods in 2009. They’ve since dropped 25 different numbered, limited edition figures honoring dudes like Jello Biafra, Mojo Nixon, The Meatmen’s Tesco Vee, Roky Erickson, GWAR, The Plasmatics’ Wendy O. Williams, Dwarves, David Cross, and flagship license G.G. Allin, who boasts four different versions, including an Extra Filthy Bloody Edition (sadly, it’s sold out). The newest releases are The Damned’s Captain Sensible and the keytar-slinging Devo Energy Dome Man. Even the box art is cool on these puppies. So build an altar, pick up some throbblers and genuflect, mutha…superior?

 

Vaporizer

PRODUCT REVIEWS IN THEORY

Far Cry 4, G-Pen Vaporizer

By Afriend Ofafriend (additional reporting by M. Brotherinlaw)

Sometimes your mo—I mean wife, doesn’t get you what you want. “You don’t need to play any more video games,” she says in that naggy way you hate. “You don’t need a vaporizer. I think you have amotivational syndrome.” Heh. It’s Christmas, ho(e)! I do what I want! And Wikipedia, citing a source that cites empirical evidence, says AMS probably ain’t really a real thing. Nyah.

Anyway, somebody decided they knew best and gave me a hierarchy of needs. Which I promptly disregarded and ordered copies of both of these things. The video game and the vaporizer. Not the skunky potpourri that fell out of the aforementioned slippers. Gram-gram has glaucoma. Her eyesight ain’t what it used to be.

So. My anticipated impression – or hypothetical review, of both products. Yessir, I like ‘em. I saw part of a multiplayer gameplay video, a 1v1 deal, and it looked awesome. Wingsuits. Bows and arrows. Cool. Sweet. Good. Wickedly funny! Adverbly adjective! I should probably mention that this is a review of Far Cry 4. And it’s my understanding that a video game reviewer should also mention the platform used to review the game. Well, I ordered the Xbox 360 version. And the reason I wanted it is because I played Far Cry 3 daily for months. Nearly two full playthroughs of single-player, and more multiplayer deathmatches than any normal person should play. It got to the point that I had dreams of sending explosive arrows into noob-crowded stairwells and shouting, “TRIPLE KILL! FUCK, YEAH!” That being said, I look forward to clocking more time working on my thumb callouses. (Ubisoft, $60, Ubisoft.com)

As to the G Pen, I’m told it’s some sort of “dry-herb vaporizer.” (They probably mean stuff like that potpourri. Note to self…) Vaporization supposedly radically almost-ly totally decreases your exposure to carcinogenic materials like Burberry fleece. Maybe I’ll pinch some of Grandma’s medicinal potpourri because the G-Pen doesn’t include certain accessories. Perhaps I’ll experience euphoria and lightheadedness, then figure I should quit and try something else. And then I’ll mention that the G-Pen probably doesn’t work with dried banana peels, crushed Smarties, powdered sugar, agave nectar, or chocolate chips. That’s fine, I suppose.

I think the only thing real complaint I’ll have about the G-Pen ($65, GrencoScience.com) is that it looks like a little flute – but I’ve so far been unable to use it to summon a single mythical creature. I’m not giving up, but it is past my deadline. I’ll update you if anything changes.

 

(Portions of this column appeared in the Dec. 4 issue of Salt Lake City Weekly.)

 

 

FOR THE LOVE OF ZINES! (Pt. 2)

Zines Part 2

This is what the world looked like before WordPress, punks. And it was a more vibrant, exuberantly tactile world, too. Our resident fanzine expert Tim “Dagger” Hinely weighs in.

BY TIM HINELY

Print is still alive and well and here’s some rags to prove it!

DYNAMITE HEMORRHAGE (#1) Brand new zine from the mind and heart of Jay Hinman. Back in the 90’s Jay did the mighty Superdope zine and then went blog for quite a while (he has/had blogs on music, beer and vintage postcards). I knew he couldn’t stay away from the print forum and I’m glad I was right. In this ish he has a superb interview with Flesh Eaters Chris D. (specifically recounting the years 1977-’80)  as well as pieces on Sex Tide (who have a new record out on A Wicked Company) plus a piece on classic zines of the 80’s (ahem, including my own, Dagger) reviews and plenty more. Jay promises more issues but do not miss this one. www.dynamitehemorrhage.com

UGLY THINGS (#36) I’ve gotta say, I don’t know how editor Mike Stax does it. Each issue of U.T. is nearly 200 pages of detailed type, covering obscure (and not so obscure) of the best of garage freakbeat and psych (and as it says above the masthead every issue: “Wild sounds form past dimensions”).  No one out there cover these genres better than Stax and his crew. In this issue is an interview with Rolling Stones guru Andrew Loog Oldham  as well as pieces on The Haunted, Cyril Jordan (Flamin’ Groovies), Royston Ellis, Craig Smith & the Mystery of Maitreya Kali plus more and a ton (and I mean ton) of reviews, etc. I buy every issue and well-worth the $11 (and then some).  www.ugly-things.com

THE BIG TAKEOVER (#73)  Speaking of thick bibles, Jack Rabid and his crew have been covering underground sounds for decades, over 30 years, in his tome, The Big Takeover (yes, named after the Bad Brains songs). At 136 pages this one is a bit thinner than it usually is but still crammed full of info. On the cover (and inside) is Mr. Johnny Fucking Marr as well as interviews with Tommy Keene, No Age, the Joy Formidable (part 2), Billy Bragg (part 2), plus others and a truckload of reviews. You probably own an issue or two, but if not get the latest ish.  www.bigtakeover.com

TWO SKUNKS FOR VALENTINE’S DAY: A TRIP TO AWESOME FEST 6 (#1) Last but certainly not least is a new zine from Mr. Zine himself, Mike Faloon. As you know Mike publishes Zisk (“The baseball magazine for people who hate baseball magazines”) and used to do the terrific Go Metric (more music and pop culture though we haven’t seen an ish of that in a long while) and has done some other one-off zines as well (and a book of baseball essays too Fan Interference). This zine is half-sized with a bright orange cover and Mike talks about his travels to and from (and being in) San Diego for a punk rock music festival. All I know is that among many other bands, he got to see the Marked Men so I am mighty jealous.  Well-written as always. For a copy write to: gogometric@yahoo.com

Previously: For The Love Of Zines (Pt. 1)

 

THE SECOND (OR LAST?) ANNUAL BLURT CHRISTMAS ALBUM GUIDE

xMAS TOP

In which we take you from traditional finger picker John Fahey to death metal shredder J.J. Hrubovcak, from punk rats Bad Religion to Rat Packers Sinatra, Martin & Davis, from the duck dynastyers The Robertsons to the chipmunk clan Alvin & The Chipmunks… and much much more…

  BY THE BLURT STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS

 From the 2012 Xmas report: “For the initial three years of BLURT’s tenure I purposely steered clear of assigning reviews of Christmas albums, thinking those to be more properly the mainstream domain of daily and weekly newspapers than a national publication. Given the glut of newly-released titles and freshly-reissued titles each year, such features are inevitable when December rolls around, so why add to the noise? Plus – personal disclosure – I had essentially gotten sick of both writing and reading them. Who cares about the latest pop sensation’s Auto-tuned spin on classic Yule fare, or yet another Americana artist heading out to the barn to twang up some ho-ho-hos with the local bluegrass band? I mean, by my way of thinking, the only holiday record you really need is A Charlie Brown Christmas… The fact that I previously spent a couple of decades working in shopping malls, where holiday music now starts getting piped in right after Halloween, may have influenced my Grinch-like attitude. But I digress.”

      Herewith, find the 2013 installment. Thanks to our contributors as well as the labels and publicists who submitted titles to us. We weren’t able to cover everything that got sent to us, but I think we’ve got a pretty solid lineup. If you haven’t already filled out your annual list of must-purchase Christmas albums, may this serve as your humble consumer guide. No promises for next year, though. Just ‘cos my tiny heart grew three sizes last year and continues to throb with holiday cheer this year is no guarantee I’ll be in a similar mood in 2014.

      Signed,

The Grinch (aka Fred Mills, BLURT Editor)

Xmas John Fahey

9 (out of 10) stars

JOHN FAHEY

Christmas Soli

(Fantasy) concordmusicgroup.com

      If on Christmas morning you’re forced to listen to the same hoary old hymns you’ve heard a billion times since you were born, then #Christmas Soli# is the way to go. [Hey, what’s wrong with hoary old hymns, Toland? —Trad. Ed.] Featuring cuts compiled from four of John Fahey’s holiday albums, Christmas Soli gives us familiar titles – “Joy to the World,” “We Three Kings of Orient Are,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” etc. – but filtered through the late guitarist’s distinctive style. These are no radical reworkings, mind – the melodies remain perfectly intact. But Fahey immerses them in the intricacies of his fingerstyle, providing layers and countermelodies that make the songs richer.

      Listen to the way he uses harmonics to echo the melody of “The First Noel,” slides to punctuate “Silent Night, Holy Night,” bends to enliven “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” or complex fingerpicking to punch up “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman Fantasy” and that hoariest of hoaries, “Carol of the Bells” (on which Fahey is joined by Richard Ruskin). The three medleys – “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing/O, Come All Ye Faithful,” “Oh, Tannenbaum/Angels We Have Heard On High/Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls With Boughs of Holly/We Wish You a Merry Christmas” – show Fahey’s holiday vision off to its greatest effect, as he ties the threads of one standard to another together so tightly it’s as if they were all written by the same individual. Fahey takes Christmas clichés and gives them a fresh coat of paint, using his considerable skill to remind us why these tunes are timeless.

      DOWNLOAD: “Carol of the Bells,” “Hark, the Herald Angles Sing/O, Come All Ye Faithful,” “Silent Night, Holy Night” —MICHAEL TOLAND

Xmas Vince Guaraldi

10

VINCE GUARALDI TRIO

A Charlie Brown Christmas

(Fantasy) www.concordmusicgroup.com

      For many children, Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack to the classic holiday special A Charlie Brown Christmas was their introduction to jazz. And 48 years after it first appeared on the shelf of your local Disc-O-Mat, the mustachioed maestro’s unforgettable collection of yuletide cool is still one of the most beloved Christmas albums of all time (I argue for top banana myself).

        The Fantasy label, via its current owner, the Concord Music Group, once again revisits this collection by refurbishing the Columbia Broadcasting Company-sponsored edition, mostly returning it to its originally intended format. (In 2006 there was an expanded Fantasy/Concord edition featuring four alternate takes, a deluxe booklet and limited edition artwork; this adds two Thanksgiving-special bonus tracks.) It is still a marvel to witness how Guaraldi not only took ownership of such Xmas chestnuts as “O Tannenbaum”, “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” and “The Christmas Song” but entered a few of his own into the holiday songbook as well in “Christmastime Is Here” and “Skating.”

        I’m still transported back to my Aunt Nickie and Uncle Al’s TV room huddled together with my cousins in front of their old Sony Trinitron set every time I hear it.

        DOWNLOAD: “Linus and Lucy,” “Christmastime Is Here,” “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” —RON HART

 Xmas Nick Lowe

7

NICK LOWE

Quality Street

(Yep Roc) www.yeproc.com

      Wherein one time pub rocker turned new wave insurgent turned country traditionalist, the inimitable Nick Lowe, now tries his hand at holiday standards of both an old and new order. As always, Lowe infuses a certain nod and a wink into each of these offerings, making this jolly setlist — humbly subtitled A Seasonal Selection For All The Family — a happy soiree to accompany either a supping of spiked eggnog or a sentimental gathering at home and hearth.

 

Indeed, there’s ample variety in these dozen songs, from rollicking rockabilly (“The North Pole Express”) to a cool croon (“Christmas Can’t Be Far Away,” “I Was Born In Bethlehem”) to light jazz (“Hooves On The Roof”) to rocked-up standard fare (an unlikely “Silent Night”). High humor adds some merriment to misfortune in “Christmas At The Airport” (“Don’t cook me any turkey/I found a burger and a beer”) and affirms the upbeat approach to Roy Wood’s sublime “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day,” Clearly, it’s a holiday extravaganza.

      DOWNLOAD: “Christmas Can’t Be Far Away,” “Silent Night,” “Christmas At The Airport” —LEE ZIMMERMAN

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6

JOHNNY CASH

The Classic Christmas Album

(Columbia Legacy) www.legacyrecordings.com

       The songs on this Classic Christmas Album actually come from three different Johnny Cash Christmas albums done nearly a decade apart – The Christmas Spirit in 1963, followed by the Johnny Cash Family Christmas in 1972 and Classic Christmas in 1980. Despite the many years separating these recordings – and the absence of any chronological order – this CD’s 16 selections of original and traditional Xmas tunes along with spoken word offerings hold together rather nicely. In fact, Cash’s wonderfully resonant recitations of “Christmas As I Knew It,” “The Christmas Spirit” and “The Christmas Guest” really separate this disc from standard holiday collections.

       Among the songs, the Family Christmas material tends to hold up the best, from the homespun charms of “Christmas Time’s A-Comin’” to his duet with June “Christmas With You.” The CD does suffer from some now-dated production choices, particularly the heavy use of syrupy, countrypolitan backing vocalists. “Joy To The World” and “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” (both from Cash’s 1980 album) are two overdone efforts that sound like they come from a generic TV show performances.

       Those looking for the gritty Cash of his early Sun Records days or his twilight success with Rick Rubin will be disappointed (and completists will mourn the lack of yuletide rarities), but the Christmas compilation successfully delivers an entertaining variety of holiday gifts from the Man in Black.

      DOWNLOAD: “Christmas As I Knew It,” “The Christmas Spirit” —MICHAEL BERICK

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5

BAD RELIGION

Christmas Songs

(Epitaph) www.epitaph.com

        This one is neither profane enough to be amusing, sacred enough to be stirring, or bizarre enough to be startling. It’s what you would expect, sad to say, with Bad Religion’s Greg Graffin singing faithfully, as best he can, Christmas carols, most of them of the most traditional sort. So: a revved-up “O Come All Ye Faithful.” a Ramones-y “White Christmas” (that’s the keeper), a martial “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and so forth. Nineteen minutes for eight Christmas songs plus an updated version of Bad Religion’s own “American Jesus.”

       Punk rock Christmas songs go back at least as far as the Dickies’ hyperspeed “Silent Night,” and at their best they can undermine holiday sentiment and / or bring a smile out their outlandishness. Bad Religion, unfortunately, accomplish neither of these: Brett Gurewitz’s buzzsaw guitars sound cool, but the blend of punk rock and carols turns out to be too predictable, so you know whether you need to hear this one even without hearing it.

       DOWNLOAD: “White Christmas,” “American Jesus”—STEVE KLINGE

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 6

VARIOUS ARTISTS

Festivus 2

(Highline) www.highline-records.com

      Considering that Festivus 3 is so doggedly obscure in its talent selection—I’ve only heard of The Lilys, Dodgy, Piney Gir and Francis MacDonald (of Teenage Fan Club), out of 16 artists—the good news becomes how eminently listenable this collection is. The Lilys’ garage-stomp through “Good King Winceslas” is outrageously good fun, for example, with other left-field delights including Glam Chops’ theatrical rocker “Baby Jesus Was the First Glam Rocker,” Dennis Hopper Choppers’ spaghetti western take on “God Rest You Merry Gentlemen” and the strummy jangle pop of Darling Boy’s “Thank God It’s Christmas.” Your appreciation for this mostly-alt-rock-tilting collection will hinge, of course, on how traditionally-minded you are; I’ll confess I tend to take a dim view towards too much modernization, musically speaking. But hey, there’s that whole thing about the heart growing three sizes…

      DOWNLOAD: Lilys’ “Good King Winceslas,” Glam Chops’ “Baby Jesus Was the first Glam Rocker,” Darling Boy’s “Thank God It’s Christmas” —FRED MILLS

Xmas Mindy Smith 

8
MINDY SMITH

Snowed In
(Giant Leap Records/Razor & Tie) www.razorandtie.com

      Mindy Smith taps ever so richly into tradition with the exquisite Snowed In, a five song EP that offers a trio of sentimental holiday ballads and two songs of her own origin. While a retuning of “Silent Night,” “What Child Is This” and “Auld Lang Syne” may not help bring newcomers into the fold, they do manage to convey Smith’s more sublime conceits and the right reverence that these songs deserve. For those reasons, Snowed In deserves consideration as a candidate for a favored holiday stand-by both now and in seasons to come. And, for those who might be unawares of her up until now, her two original offerings, “Tomorrow Is Christmas Day” and “Snowed In” just might boost her own star status as well. Suffice it to say, they ought to.

      DOWNLOAD: “Tomorrow Is Christmas Day,” “Snowed In” —LEE ZIMMERMAN

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6
VARIOUS ARTISTS
Holidays Rule
(Hear Music) www.concordmusicgroup.com

      A mixed bag, this one, ripe for cherry-picking for your personal holiday mixtape. Holidays Rule is less a coherent holiday listen than an eclectic grab-bag. So, at the start we get the over-stuffed pop of fun. (covering “Sleigh Ride”), the glossy quirks of the Shins (covering Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime”), and McCartney himself, in Kisses On The Bottom crooner mode, with “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire).”

        But Holidays Rule also has an indie thread (the Heartless Bastards, Calexico, Eleanor Friedberger, Holly Golightly), an Americana contingent (The Head and the Heart, the Civil Wars, Black Prairie with Sallie Ford), and outlier pairings (Irma Thomas with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Rufus Wainwright with Sharon Van Etten). The melancholy songs outnumber the festive ones, but it’s hard to imagine anyone not finding a few tracks to love.
        DOWNLOAD: Andrew Bird’s “Auld Lang Syne,” Irma Thomas with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band “May Ev’ry Day Be Christmas” —STEVE KLINGE

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7

VARIOUS ARTISTS

Comfort & Joy

(Analog Ghost) www.analogghostlimitedrun.com

      Comfort & Joy is released by the Analog Ghost label, and it features the likes of Mike Watt, the Dead Milkmen, Franklin Bruno, Wooden Wand, Pinback’s Rob Crow, Jason Lytle of Grandaddy, Quasi, Ida and even Terry Riley, doing holiday classics old and new. According to the label it’s a limited edition (500 copies) on clear vinyl with silver/gold splatter, and “all proceeds from the album will go towards providing resources for homeless youth.”

      DOWNLOAD: Mike Watt’s “The First Noel,” Terry Riley’s “God Rest Ye,” The Music Tapes’ “Let It Snow” —FRED MILLS

Xmas She & Him

9

SHE & HIM

A Very She & Him Christmas

(Merge) www.mergerecords.com

      You’re forgiven for assuming A Very She & Him Christmas (originally issued in 2011) would be the hipster equivalent of The Carpenters Christmas Album, a holiday staple for every Williamsburg and Bushwick apartment. Despite the fact that the “She” in She & Him is Zooey Deschanel, hipster chick personified, the album is surprisingly irony free, just an even dozen Christmas standards updated slightly with Deschanel’s charmingly quirky lilt backed by the always impressive M. Ward. Even the ukulele on The Beach Boys’ “Little Saint Nick” sounds a bit alluring, rather than forced. The album is a holiday classic in waiting, even if you don’t own a single pair of skinny jeans and couldn’t grow a beard to save your life.

        DOWNLOAD: “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and “Little Saint Nick” —JOHN B. MOORE

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8

VARIOUS ARTISTS

Now Christmas

(Ume) www.universalmusic.com

      This two CD set, part of the long running “Now That’s What I Call…” series (though this release has eliminated the “That’s What I Call” part) is an odd mixture of traditional favorites and newer tracks that certainly aren’t traditional, while their status as a “favorite” is debatable. The idea of having such a wide range of tracks, spanning a period of 60 years, is for generating maximum appeal, of course. But Justin Bieber (performing the sentimental “Mistletoe”)? Seriously? And the John-and-Yoko classic “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” (a sentiment that’s sadly always timely) as performed by — Maroon? Not to mention such cringe-worthy entries as “My Grown Up Christmas List” (Kelly Clarkson) and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” (Mannheim Steamroller).

      Ah, but that’s only four tracks out of 32, and the majority of this collection is classic stuff. The oldies: Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”; Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song”; Gene Autry’s “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.” When the holidays started rocking: Bobby Helms’ “Jingle Bell Rock”; Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”; The Beach Boys’ “Little Saint Nick.” Baby boomer nostalgia: “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late” (Alvin and the Chipmunks); “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”

      Many of the tracks are holiday essentials you need to have in your Christmas collection. And it should also go down well at most family gatherings. Even though you might have to put up with listening to Mannheim Steamroller.

      DOWNLOAD: “Feliz Navidad” (Jose Feliciano); “The Little Drummer Boy” (Harry Simeone Chorale) —GILLIAN G. GAAR

 Xmas Death Metal

 4

J.J. HRUBOVCAK

Death Metal Christmas: Hellish Renditions of Christmas Classics

(self-released) deathmetalchristmas.com

      The title pretty much says it all: Death Metal Christmas does indeed put familiar carols through an extreme metal meatgrinder. An idea whose time has come? Hard to say, even after listening to this five-song EP. Journeyman death metalhead J.J. Hrubovcak takes times out from his day job as bassist for Hate Eternal to update a handful of hymns, keeping the melodies intact despite the layers of blast beats and distorted riffage.

      There’s apparently a storyline running through these cuts, something about Azrael the angel of death being born into the world of men and growing in influence on world powers behind the scenes. Thus “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” becomes “Unrest For Melancholy Men,” “We Three Kings” becomes “Earthen Kings,” “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” transforms into (yes) “O Come, O Come Azrael” and “Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies” and “Greensleeves” become metallicized instrumentals heavier than anything the Trans-Siberian Orchestra would indulge in. Buy into the storyline or not (and it’s easy not to, given Mike Hrubovcak’s unintelligible roars), but there’s some serious musicianship behind these desecrations – the instrumentals are particularly impressive, if not exactly enjoyable. Which fairly describes the whole project – eyebrow raising, certainly, but not setting a new holiday tradition.

      DOWNLOAD: “Unrest For Melancholy Men,” “Nutracker: Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy” —MICHAEL TOLAND

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7

ELIZABETH MITCHELL AND FRIENDS

The Sounding Joy: Christmas Songs In & Out Of The Ruth Crawford Seeger Songbook

(Smithsonian/Folkways)

      Still on an extended break from folk-leaning indie band Ida, Mitchell started out with her own children’s label (which appropriately featured her own daughter) and later recorded for Smithsonian, where she’s now recorded this tribute to an extraordinary folk and classical composer (who also happened to be Pete Seeger’s step-mother).  Seeger arranged folk and children’s songs for the Library of Congress, creating an important treasure of music, including 1953’s American Folk Songs for Christmas.  It’s not hard to see how Mitchell drew inspiration from her and decided to use her work as the basis for this holiday album.

      Of special note is that the “friends” listed alongside her make up an amazing guest list, mostly drawn from her Woodstock neighbors including Natalie Merchant, Dan Zanes, NYC folkie legend Happy Traum, John Sebastian (Lovin’ Spoonfuls), His Name Is Alive’s Warn Defever, jazz pianist Marco Benevento and Bowie’s bassist Gail Ann Dorsey among others.

      Using minimal arrangements and making good use of her sweet voice, Mitchell makes a homey record that you’d expect to hear a bunch of friends singing at home on a cold winter evening or around a camp fire, not unlike some of the McGarrigle sisters’ early records.  As such, when she starts the album off with her daughter, a thumb piano and a flute, instead of sounding hokey, it sounds beautiful. Since Seeger’s (and Mitchell’s by extension) interest was the pre-pop-hit-parade holiday songs, you get carols and spirituals in the song selection but luckily without the dry sanctimoniousness that you’d fear- on “January, February,” you get a spiritual with a wonderful smoky bluesy/soulful feel , “Shine In the Morning” and “Baby Born Today” cross old-school country with bouncy marches, “Joy To the World” goes bluegrass at a calmer  pace, “Sing A Lamb” is a little gospel-blues stomp and “Great Big Stars” is a nod to Seeger’s classical background. 

      Things get so good that you’re a little let down by the second half when the proceedings get a little staid by comparison with simpler, samey folkie arrangements that are a little too reverential and some song selections that are a little obvious (“The First Noel,” “Silent Night”).  It’s a shame that Mitchell didn’t use the interesting mix of styles and arrangements she starts the record out with.  Still, even later on, the record has an undeniable charm and spirit to it, which puts it way far ahead of the usual holiday dreck that too many pop singers cart out at year’s end to cash in on the holiday.  Mitchell is a fine antidote to that sentiment and crafts a record that you could play at family Christmas gatherings- in the spirit of the record, they might even sing along too.

      DOWNLOAD: “Oh, Mary and the Baby, Sweet Lamb,” “January, February” —JASON GROSS

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5

BEACH BOYS

Christmas Harmonies

(Brother/Capitol) www.capitolrecords.com

      Here we have a 2012 edition, complete with fresh sleeve art, of 2009’s 15-song Christmas Harmonies, which itself was a more-or-less expanded take on 1964’s The Beach Boys Christmas Album. As it has jewel box packaging, however, it’s not specifically part of this year’s Beach Boys back catalog reissue series (those titles came in mini-LP slipsleeves). Also worth noting for completists: also in the BB discography is the 26-track Christmas With the Beach Boys, 2004 reissue of 1998’s Ultimate Christmas, which added a handful of seasonal rarities and unreleased tunes.

        At any rate, while some fans maintain that the Beach Boys should be holiday perennials, the bulk of this material hasn’t aged all that well. Particularly cringe-worthy are big band Rat Pack-esque extravaganzas like “Frosty the Snowman” and “Blue Christmas,” both of which sound more aimed at the Guy Lombardo Singers set than surfing/hot-rodding youth. There are highlights bearing the Boys’ sonic signatures, including “Little Saint Nick” (it could’ve been a hit single from one of their first two LPs) and the Phil Spectorish “Merry Christmas Baby.” And to be fair, one uncharacteristic (for the band) rendering, “We Three Kings,” has a chorale, orchestral grandeur all its own. On balance, a so-so collection ripe for cherry-picking individual cuts.

      DOWNLOAD: “Little Saint Nick,” “We Three Kings” —FRED MILLS

Xmas Neil Diamond 

6

NEIL DIAMOND

The Classic Christmas Album

(Columbia/Legacy) www.legacyrecordings.com

     There have been a number of Diamond Xmas discs over the years; this one overlaps with all of them, so if you are a Diamond or holiday record fan, chances are you have most of the dozen songs here. As part of Legacy’s The Classic Christmas Album series this year, which includes Johnny Cash (reviewed above), Alabama, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Barbra Streisand, etc., it’s a clear standout. Particularly if you are a traditionalist, for Diamond has always had the perfect touch when it comes to approaching fireside mainstays like “O Holy Night,” “Silent Night,” “Joy To the World” and “Sleigh Ride.” He never veers into kitch (which is saying something when you’re Neil Diamond), and to his eternal credit, he manages to create more than his share of lump-in-throat moments. In short, you’re a goddam Grinch if you can’t listen to this record and not only enjoy it, but want to sing along.

      DOWNLOAD: “Sleigh Ride,” “O Come All You Faithful,” “O Holy Night”

Xmas Mad Men 

2

VARIOUS ARTISTS

Mad Men Christmas

(Concord Music) www.concordmusic.com

      What’s the best time of year to release an album of “music from and inspired by” a painfully dull TV show that features thoroughly unlikable, tragically self-absorbed characters (albeit dressed in snazzy clothes and inhabiting stunningly beautiful sets)? Christmas, of course, when frantic holiday shoppers buy stuff without giving their purchases a whole lot of thought. If they did, they’d realize that most of the music contained herein — like Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time Is Here” and Teresa Brewer’s “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” — is already included on another Christmas disc they own, one that’s probably sitting on their eggnog stained coffee tables.

      What’s left here after clearing away the well-trod Tony Bennett’s and Dean Martin’s — like RJD2’s subtle “Mad Men Theme Song” and Jessica Pare’s kitschy “Zou Bisou Bisou” — is intended to add some spice to the proceedings. But, alas, their trying-too-hard-to-be-cool vibe just plunges the collection into a deeper morass of phony bourgeois.

      Yeah, there’s a touch of brilliance about a completely superficial Christmas collection built around a completely superficial TV show. But, whoopee cushions are far cheaper and they’ll bring more applause at your Christmas party.

      DOWNLOAD: Dean Martin’s “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” Johnny Mathis’ “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” —MICHAEL VERITY

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4

FRANK SINATRA/DEAN MARTIN/SAMMY DAVIS JR.

Christmas With The Rat Pack

(Capitol) www.emicap.com

      Considering the high-powered, legendary talent assembled here, this is pretty disappointing. Culled mostly from ‘50s and ‘60s recordings and previously collected on a 2002 CD, the 16 songs here break down into three doses of Sammy, 6 shots from Dino and all of the rest from the chairman, with no duets or trios of them together.

        Frankie worries too much about flexing his voice, sounding too sanctimonious on his cuts, but Martin’s sweet, carefree “Let It Show” and “Silver Bells” nails the holiday cheer just right, while Sammy gets some of Dean’s spirit on a wonderfully jazzy take on “Jingle Bells.” It’s enough to make you pine for a whole album of Martin, which you can periodically find on “Christmas With Dino.”

        DOWNLOAD: Dean Martin “Let It Snow,” Sammy Davis Jr. “Jingle Bells” —JASON GROSS

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7

THE ROBERTSONS

Duck the Halls: a Robertson Family Christmas

(Capitol Nashville)

      From the unlikely cable TV reality hit show chronicling a Louisiana family business—led by patriarch Phil Robertson, who’s unfortunately made some ugly homophobic comments recently and has now been suspended from the show (the main body of this review was written prior to the controversy, FYI)—comes this holiday entry in the field of novelty albums.  While it’s long on redneck humor, luckily it’s not over-the-top tomfoolery like Homer and Jethro (which is hard to match) or the droll yucks of Jeff Foxworthy.  Like the show itself, the Robertson’s Xmas album is as funny and charming as you’d hope.  With producer Buddy Cannon (Kenny Chesney, George Strait, Reba McEntire) at the helm, the music has a professional touch without sounding glossy.

       Being a real family affair, as much of the clan that can fit on an album is utilized here.  Family biz CEO and son Willie kicks things off with the good timin’ honky tonk of “Ragin’ Cajun Christmas,” soon followed up in the same vein by Phil’s goofy, swinging number with Strait on “Christmas Cookies,” which sounds like something that Asleep at the Wheel should cover. Willie also provides another highlight with “Hairy Christmas” where they gather the family to watch Christmas specials, shop at Walmart and hand out shotguns as presents. But the real comic genius of the family here is Uncle Si with his knee-snapping recital of “The Night Before Christmas” and gruff take on “You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch.”

      But after the hilarious title track, which is punctuated by duck calls (aka the family business itself), things get a little sappy with daughter in law Missy’s “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and her duet with hunk crooner Josh Turner on “Why I Love Christmas” which proves that she’s got a good set of pipes but is also a little too long on sentiment. Also jock grandson Reed’s “Camouflage and Christmas Lights” sounds too much like a bid to be a country star and the whole crew’s take on “Silent Night” is much too snoozy.  Still, the first half is worth hearing and replaying not only for fans of the show but also for anyone who could use a shot of glorious lowbrow fun and some ho-ho-ho in their holidays.

DOWNLOAD: “Ragin’ Cajun Redneck Christmas,” “Christmas Cookies,” “Hairy Christmas”  —JASON  GROSS

 Xmas Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

8

BIG BAD VOODOO DADDY

It Feels Like Christmas Time

(Savoy Jazz) www.savoyjazz.com

      We’ll have to give ‘em this much: play this back-to-back with the aforementioned Rat Pack disc (or any one of several Sinatra holiday collections), and your Christmas soiree invitees won’t miss a sip of their martinis. Actually, we’ll have to give ‘em this much as well: this swingin’, finger snappin’ set of pep, perk and pop pulls off an admirable tightwire act by managing to sound freshly contemporary yet utterly traditional at the same time.

      For yours truly, that means it’s a keeper, even if I still cling to my old classics like a garter belt clings to a thigh. From the big band pump of “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” and a Stax/Volt treatment of “Run Run Rudolph” to a Dixieland arrangement of “Frosty the Snowman” and a Latinized (mambo, at that) “Walking In A Winter Wonderland,” It Feels Like Christmas Time is an 11-song guilty pleasure. The raunchy, rollicking “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” would even have Boris Karloff nodding in approval.

      DOWNLOAD: “Run Run Rudolph,” “Walking In a Winter Wonderland,” “We Three Kings” —FRED MILLS

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10

TRACEY THORN

Tinsel and Lights

(Merge) www.mergerecords.com

      Christmas, coming so soon after the shortest day of the calendar in the last month – an often cold and bitter month – of the year, is a holiday as steeped in quiet reflections of mortality as in happiness and joy. Everything But the Girl’s Tracey Thorn, continuing to establish her solo career as one of our most sensitive and mature pop-rock vocalists, brilliantly tackles that existential dichotomy in this lovely, sometimes-melancholy album consisting mostly of contemporary wintry songs by Joni Mitchell (“River”), Stephin Merritt (“Like a Snowman”), Green Gartside (“Snow in Sun”), Jack White (“In the Cold, Cold Night”), Sufjan Stevens (“Sister Winter”), and more. It’s a modern Christmas classic, one that will endure.

         DOWNLOAD: “River,” “Sister Winter” —STEVEN ROSEN

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8

JOHNNY CASH

 The Classic Christmas Album

 (Columbia/Legacy) www.legacyrecordings.com

      This collection presents 16 tracks drawn from Cash’s The Christmas Spirit (1963), Johnny Cash Family Christmas (1972), and Classic Christmas (1980) albums. The songs are a mix of traditional carols and original material. Cash’s baritone is perfectly suited for the solemnity of “The Little Drummer Boy” (though the backing vocals sound a bit too chipper), and also brings a sweetness to “I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day.”

      But it’s the original songs that prove to be the most irresistible. Who can resist “Christmas Time’s a Comin’,” “That Christmasy Feeling,” and “Christmas With You,” which Cash romps through with assorted Cash family members? Not coincidentally, all three tracks are from the Johnny Cash Family Christmas album; conversely, the Classic Christmas cuts suffer from too much instrumental backing.

      And if you can listen to the opening recitation “Christmas As I Knew It” without getting a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye, you’re made of sterner stuff than most of us.

      DOWNLOAD: “Christmas As I Knew It,” “Christmas Time’s a Comin’” —GILLIAN G. GAAR

 Xmas Chipmunks

6

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS

Chipmunks Christmas

(Capitol) www.capitolrecords.com

      Al-viiiiiin!!!! Okay, give it up for the Chipmunks – you know you wanna. If we’re talking perennials here, this certainly ranks alongside A Charlie Brown Christmas. Don’t scoff. Sure, it’s nowhere near as “listenable” on a repeat-spin basis as Vince Guaraldi’s holiday classic, and in truth, hearing “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” only once or twice a year is plenty for me. Novelty-tilting though it certainly is, Chipmunks Christmas has a certain timeless quality that can turn anyone into a kid again, if only for 2 ½ minutes. And that’s something that not even those ghastly latterday Chipmunks movies (Chipwrecked, anyone?) can take away.

        EMI and other labels have repackaged the Chipmunks frequently over the years – as a child, I owned the original 10-song vinyl LP – and this iteration boasts 18 squeaky, freaky tracks guaranteed to put an ironic smile on any hipster’s face while simultaneously making his or her significant other’s skin crawl. Such was the genius of Chipmunks creator Ross Bagdasarian Sr., who originally launched his anthropomorphic rodents in 1958 and took ‘em to the top of the charts, to the Grammys, and to the bank: for better or for worse, the Chipmunks had a little something for everyone, and still do.

        DOWNLOAD: “The Chipmunk Song”; other tracks at your own discretion (or risk) —FRED MILLS

 

PURE PRODUCT FOR NOW PEOPLE: Blurt Presents… The Goods

Remee TOP

“Product envy”—or, as we like to think, a buncha stuff you want… from a buncha folks who, full disclosure, have NEVER advertised with us. We’re willing to work on that latter portion, however.

 BY RANDY HARWARD

Remee-Spread

 1) Smiling Next To You

Remee Lucid Dreaming Sleep Mask ($95)

www.sleepwithremee.com

        You know that recurring dream where you and Diana Ross circa The Wiz are in a cabin doin’ the nasty, then Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th breaks in with a machete, threatening to end the festivities? Now you can have that dream every night, thanks to The Remee lucid dreaming sleep mask. The lightweight, comfortable Remee triggers flashing red lights when you’re in REM sleep. After some practice and settings-tweaks, you recognize the lights during dreams and be in full control of your dreams. See you soon, Ms. Ross.

 Devo throbblehead

2) Are We Not Graven?

Devo Throbblehead ($25)

www.aggronautix.com

       This is one of our favorites from the Aggronautix throbblehead line. Probably because it’s not meant to resemble any particular band member. It’s just a nameless Energy Dome Guy, a nod to the band’s concept of de-evolution. And what better polyresin calf to genuflect to, than one representing an idea instead of an individual? Now shameless, greedy, slavish geeks can pretend to be deep. Devo’s “Nacho Libre Jihad Gerry (Casale)” says, “[The Devo throbblehead is] seven perfect inches for you!”

 The Rambler DVD cover

3) One Person’s Crap Is Another’s Candy Bar

The Rambler ($24)

www.anchorbayentertainment.com

       You can get this movie for four big ones on Amazon at the time of this writing. Some might call it a waste of money. Fans of cult/bad/psychotronic/grindhouse cinema will love it for what it is: a diamond ensconced in a turd.

 Tat2X Ink Armor sleeve by Justice Howard (MUST ALSO USE TATJACKET PHOTO - STILL WAITING FOR IT)

4) Ink-cognito

Ink Armor by Tat2X ($13-16 per sleeve)

www.tat2x.com

       So your tattoo is putting a kink in your job search. Laser removal isn’t an option—but gainful employment trumps looking cool on the hierarchy of needs. Well, Tat2X’s Ink Armor sleeves are available in full sleeves and half-sleeves, as well as calf sizes. They’re comfortable, they come in a variety of colors/sizes, and block harmful UV rays. More importantly, they’ll increase your chances of getting paid. Maybe.

 My Prison Walls - GG Allin

 5) Shit-erature

My Prison Walls by G.G. Allin ($50)

www.aggronautix.com

      If someone offers you a peek inside the mind of notorious punk rock filth frolicker G.G. Allin, take it. You might be a little fucked up afterward, but even society’s most twisted minds have something to offer. Even if it’s just a cringe or eleven. Limited to 2500 copies—no reprints, ever! [Note: feel free to email BLURT and inquire about the editor’s personal encounters with the late Allin during the late ‘80s. While that is in no way to be construed as anything other than “musical” and “conversational,” said encounters do contain a definite NSFW quality which we won’t get into here.]

 Cineskates Pro

6) Rolling!

Cineskates Pro ($150)

www.cinetics.com

        In filmmaking, when you’re starting out, it helps to know people. Especially people with gear. Next to cameras and lights, something like a dolly track system is nice to have. These can get expensive, so the Cineskates Pro from Cinetics is a godsend. True to its name, the Cineskates Pro is like a skateboard with a camera mount that enables tracking, panning and arcing shots at a fraction of the price. It’s also easier to lug around – lighter and more compact. Check out the demo footage online, and have a look at the accessories. You’ll be amazed at the possibilities Cinetics gear provides.

 untitled

7) Everybody Loves Rayman

Rayman Legends (Xbox 360) ($60)

www.rayman.ubi.com/legends/en-us/home/index.aspx

       Each new Rayman game is more visually stunning and immersive than the last, and provides a challenging gaming experience. Rayman Legends ups the ante in every category. It’s deep, hugely entertaining, funny and has big replay value. The levels are imaginative and gorgeously rendered; the music (including a jam by Incubus’ Jose Pasillas II and Dirk Lance, with Jurassic 5’s DJ Nu-Mark and Pharcyde’s MC Slimkid3) is once again matchless. And, as with all Rayman games, the levels are difficult but not vexing. Here’s to many “wasted” hours.

 Bloodkin - One Long Hustle

8) Your New Old Pet Band

Bloodkin, One Long Hustle ($50)

www.bloodkin.net

This hot little number contains eighty-eight songs spanning the twenty-five year career of a band you probably never heard about, but should’ve. A feast of memorable, immersive songs and guitar grit, it’s a steal at fifty bucks. And you can claim you’ve been into Bloodkin all along.


Check out our print issue #14 (Jason Isbell cover) for the hard copy version of this installment of Senior Editor Harward’s long-running “The Goods” series. Go here to read the previous column.

 

THE ECO-URGE: Bright Beat

Bright Beat 1

The Windy City company is finding new ways to engage the green instincts of the music biz.

 BY REBECCA COOK

 Bright Beat was founded by Chicago-based marketing executive Stephanie Katsaros.  The company combines her passion for the environment and her extensive experience in the entertainment business.  Bright Beat’s goal is to create stainable, green-friendly policies within the music industry, especially at festivals and venues.  I interviewed Katsaros down in Austin. (Contact: www.brightbeat.com)

 BLURT: Tell me a bit about Bright Beat and some of the work you’ve done.

STEPHANIE KATSAROS: Bright Beat is a company that I created about three years ago, and we were founded on the purpose of finding ways to demonstrate environmental sustainability in the entertainment industry.  With my background in marketing and working in concert promotion, really, when I worked in radio, I saw that there was interest and activity moving forward in terms of the green initiatives at events.  I covered it as a journalist and really saw that around the country some things were being done. 

        Around the world, the value of a plastic bottle is well known in China, Brazil, India.  They’ll go out of the way to take that resource and recycle it, because it’s money. And in the United States it isn’t.

        The programs that we do are cost-effective and they provide really a marketing platform for the events…so that they have a good story to tell.  But on the back end, they’re really doing things right, really hopefully setting the standard and making change happen industry-wide.

 

Can you tell me about some of the work you’ve done so far for Bright Beat?

Bright Beat’s been involved in some venues and events…including the Allstate Arena, a 30,000-capacity venue that won the 2011 US EPA Wastewise Gold Achievement Award for Public Venue Recycling. We won that for doing a lot of innovative recycling, including cups, which people don’t realize, especially, when you go to a concert, everyone’s got a beer cup.  And that’s going in the landfill.  And that’s not okay with me.

        So a big initiative we started in Chicago at Allstate Arena…was finding a way to recycle those cups.  And then I’ve worked with Solo Cup, which is a maker of cups.  Well, they’ve got an initiative, corporate social responsibility initiative, to make sure their items don’t end up in a landfill.  So brands, partners like that, have been a great way to help finance some of the programs.  They’ve got resources, they’ve got knowledge and research into how we can work together hand in hand with the waste industry.

At Wicker Park Music Festival in Chicago, I understand you created eco-stations too. 

What we did was looked at the locations where you could throw stuff away and said, “What if we reduced the number of them but made them very highly visible, high profile, and had eco-educators at each eco-station, helping people separate their trash, their recycling, and their compost.  That can be as easy as when someone walks by, just point where it goes.  But also, what we found, with the eco-stations, there was a lot of interaction.  A lot of people said, “Wait, that’s not recyclable?  Why?  Well, what goes there?  What does this ‘number 1’ mean?  What does ‘number 7’ mean?”

        And the engagement of the community was great, and the program that we did was done in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce, the community in which the festival took place, and their green initiatives are really kind of setting the standard for what’s happening at a lot of festivals in Chicago.  So it’s almost like a case study.  It’s really a case study for how to recycle in Chicago, which, as the third-largest market, there’s a lot of waste being created and a lot of opportunity to divert, like I said, set the standard. (Below: Dinosaur Jr at the Wicker Park Fest)

 Dinosaur Jr.

Would you like to expand into other cities like New York or L.A. or Austin, for example?

That’s a great question, because there are so many initiatives happening.  Everyone knows San Francisco and Seattle are doing a great job.  The West Coast is quite far ahead of the Midwest. Yes, we want to grow.  We want to work with partners.  We want to work on programs where we’re not only changing one day’s event but changing the way production happens on a large scale. 

        The village of Rosemont is the location of the Allstate Arena.  It’s just a border suburb to Chicago.  And we’re doing some things there that are municipal related.  How can we merge the needs of the public venues and residential waste and the commercial waste, the skyscraper hotels?  How can we benefit from working together?  And when we’ve got that concept going, I’d want to give it to the world to use. 

Third Man Records Unveils Willie Nelson Vault Package

Jack Willie

Limited edition, natch.

 

By Blurt Staff

 

Jack White has noted that one of the highlights of 2013 (so far) has been the esteemed honor of hosting country music legend Willie Nelson at Third Man Records to celebrate his 80th birthday. On April 18th of this year Willie played a concert with some guest musicians, among them real life legacy artists, but also importantly, some handpicked sidemen from the house of Third Man. All of this was documented for the public on a very special episode of the CMT Network’s esteemed Crossroads series. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, tape was rolling on that historic show (as is Third Man’s way) and every song (even those not broadcast) was captured on beautiful, warm-sounding analog tape by the crack Third Man team of engineers. It was in many respects a perfect evening.

 

Third Man Records says it “is very proud to present one of the most heartwarming, intimate, and downright legendary shows” they’ve ever had the pleasure of hosting. Now it presents The Vault Platinum Package #17.

  Package

WILLIE NELSON & FRIENDS LIVE AT THIRD MAN RECORDS: This is a beautifully-packaged, 3-sided double LP with a gatefold sleeve of the Willie Nelson & Friends concert, with performances as of yet unreleased and unheard!

 

Featuring Willie Nelson, Jack White, Neil Young, Leon Russell, Norah Jones, Sheryl Crow and Ashley Monroe pressed on Smokey Grey and Bio-Diesel Green Vinyl with an etched graphic of Willie’s guitar “Trigger” on the D-Side.

 

TRACK LIST:

Roll Me Up 

Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground – with Ashley Monroe (Unreleased)

Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain – with Ashley Monroe

Funny How Time Slips Away – with Norah Jones

I Gotta Get Drunk – with Norah Jones (Unreleased)

Sail Away – with Neil Young (Unreleased)

Long May You Run – with Neil Young 

Far Away Places – with Sheryl Crow

Whiskey River – with Neil Young, Ashley Monroe, Sheryl Crow, Norah Jones, Jamey Johnson

A Song For You – with Leon Russell

Heartbreak Hotel – with Leon Russell (Unreleased)

Red Headed Stranger (Broadcast Version) – with Jack White

 

WILLIE NELSON & JACK WHITE RECORDING BOOTH 6-INCH RECORD:

The second item in this stellar package is Third Man’s first-ever 6″ record, pressed on transparent yellow vinyl, with an etched b-side and housed in a 6″ die-cut sleeve. The A-side captures one of those near mythological musical moments , something that could only happen here at Third Man, of Jack White and Willie Nelson dueting together on “Red Headed Stranger” in Third Man’s Voice-O-Graph Recording Booth. This is a version not shown on television and was recorded live in the TMR Recording Booth.

Are we not throbbleheads? We are DEVO!

DEVO

Whip THIS ladies… whip it, good…

By Blurt Staff

DEVO in effigy! Made by Aggronautix! Features figure dressed in DEVO’s “Freedom Of Choice” tour outfit circa 1980 sporting the band’s patented red Energy Dome. It wiggles and jiggles on the head of this 7″ tall, polyresin figure, accurately sculpted right down to the 1980’s Keytar. Limited to just 2000 numbered units.

 
This is the 21st Throbblehead to be polyresinated by Aggronautix. In May of 2009, the company launched with a highly popular G.G. Allin “1991” figure, which was limited to 2000 numbered units and sold out quickly.