The Upshot: 180gm reissue of Cash’s fifth album is as much classic today as it was three decades ago.
BY JOHN B. MOORE
Since the recent resurgence in vinyl, record labels big and small (but, mostly big) are scrambling to empty their vaults for anything to re-release on wax. The results can be mixed; consider that someone re-released the Space Jam soundtrack on vinyl. But every so often, a gem is found, cleaned up and released back into circulation. The latest jewel from Legacy Recordings is the remarkable fifth album from Roseanne Cash, King’s Record Shop.
Put out on 180-gram vinyl just in time for its 30th anniversary, the album holds up stunningly well. From the steady album opener, “Rosie Strike Back,” with its strong domestic violence message, through quieter moments (“I Don’t Have to Crawl”) up to the two powerful live tracks that cap off this re-release (“Runaway Train” and “Green, Yellow and Red”), the album is just as impressive today as when it first came out. Decades later, a song like the lyrically brilliant and stunningly sung “Why Don’t You Quit Leaving Me Alone” is still one of her best (in a career of best songs). She also puts her own spin on John Hiatt’s “The Way We Make a Broken Heart,” a couple of John Stewart tunes and her father’s “Tennessee Flat Top Box” on this record.
Produced by Rodney Crowell, King’s Record Shop helped cement Cash’s reputation as one of Americana/country’s best hopes. At a times when neon pop was weaseling its way into the genre, Cash held steady with the substance over style ethos. The proof can be heard all over this album.
DOWNLOAD: “Rosie Strike Back,” “Why Don’t You Quit Leaving Me Alone” and “Runaway Train”
The Upshot: I was all over this like a cheap suit, and if you were into the C88 bands back in the day, you will be too.
BY TIM HINELY
The C86 scene in England was cool—and got all the hype—but I liked a lot more of the C88 bands, and this three CD set covers ‘em all. And I mean all. As it states in the press sheet “it documents a golden era when tuneful guitar-based bands made records on shoestring budgets often issued on small labels with hand-made artwork, with little hope of mainstream exposure.” Umm….yup, that about sums it up and I couldn’t have said it any better myself.
Several of the UK labels of the day (many probably reviled by the British press) are represented here including Sarah Records (The Orchids, The Sea Urchins, Another Sunny Day, etc.) Creation The House of Love, Pacific, etc.) 53 and 3rd (The Vaselines, Groovy Little Numbers , etc.) , The Subway Organization (The Flatmates, The Clouds, Bubblegum Splash, etc.) and plenty more. In addition to all of the (mostly) great bands mentioned above there are plenty more excellent guitar janglers like The Pooh Sticks doing my favorite tune “On Tape” plus Pale Saints doing the dreamier “Colours and Shapes” and Choo Choo Train (Ric and Paul from Velvet Crush) doing the righteous “High,” all of which is one disc one. Moving right over to disc two The House of Love start things off with “The Hill” but, in addition to all of the stuff that I already loved, comes plenty of bands I hadn’t heard (or in some cases hadn’t even heard of ) before like Bob, Cud, The Hearthrobs, The Nivens, The Waltones, etc. Moving right along to disc three is more great unknown stuff (to me, anyway) like The Church Grims, Annie and the Eroplanes, Holidaymakers, The Raw Herbs, and lots more (and lets not forget pop masters who are in my collections like The Wake, The Fat Tulips, East Village, The Fizzbombs and too many others.
In the 48-page booklet Neil Taylor waxes poetric about each and everyone of of these bands. I have no control over other countries but I can control what happens here in the USA and if I can make it happen where every home in American has a copy then I’ve done my job. I’ve got some work to do (and so do you, listen to C88).
DOWNLOAD: “On Tape,” “High,” “The Hill,” “Our Summer,” “Anorak City,” “Dying For It,” “Heaven Knows,” “Cubans in the Bluefields”
An expanded reissue of the late rocker’s ’95 opus, A Man Called Destruction, underscores something that most people don’t talk about: When the mood struck him, Alex Chilton could be a lot of fun, period. (Photo: Pat Rainer)
BY MICHAEL TOLAND
It’s easy to let yourself be disappointed by an Alex Chilton record. But that’s only if you insist that he re-make Sister Lovers or Radio City over and over again. Let such notions go, and his post-Big Star solo work becomes much more enjoyable. Especially when you consider that Chilton wasn’t abandoning his best-known work – he was merely returning to his roots, indulging in the R&B-based sounds that ignited his passion to play music in the first place.
Originally released in 1995 and now reissued by Omnivore as an expanded edition, A Man Called Destruction is Chilton’s fourth solo album following his mid-‘80s resurrection, and it’s a corker. Half originals and half covers, the set list includes, as expected, 60s-style R&B (Chris Kenner’s “Sick and Tired”), rawboned rock & roll (“Devil Girl,” “Don’t Stop,” “You’re Lookin’ Good”), smooth blues (“Don’t Know Anymore,” Jimmy Reed’s “You Don’t Have to Go”), something Beach Boys related (Jan and Dean’s “New Girl in School,” co-written by Brian Wilson) and winsome pop (Danny Pearson’s “What’s Your Sign Girl”).
But he also threw some typically Chiltonian curve balls: the jazzy rock instrumental “Boplexity,” the phonetically-sung Italian rockabilly number “Il Ribelle” (originally sung by Adriano Celentano), the half-serious/half ridiculous classically-styled instrumental “It’s Your Funeral” (quoting the familiar Chopin dirge). Recorded live on the floor without EQ, the songs all have a dry clarity, with no layers between performance and ear; combined with Chilton’s clear enjoyment in making the music, it makes every track come gloriously alive.
This edition includes a slew of strong bonus cuts, wherein even the repeats are worth hearing. Though the alternative version of “Devil Girl” notes “double-track vocal,” the real difference is in the slowed-down tempo and bluesier feel. (Listen to it below.) “You’re My Favorite,” while sounding slightly unfinished, rollicks nicely along, while “Please Pass Me My Walkin’ Shoes” rides a greasy blues groove home. Even a cover of John Addison’s “Why Should I Care,” while clearly more of a rough sketch than a song, gets by on easy charm.
It also underscores the chief asset of A Man Called Destruction: it’s just fun. Chilton sounds like he’s smiling through most of the songs, and with that energy behind them, you can’t help but smile as well.
Below, view the official Omnivore trailer for the album. And a big thank-you from the BLURT crew to everyone – from Omnivore and music publicist Cary Baker of Conqueroo, to Chris Stamey and author Holly George-Warren – involved in continuing to fly the flags of Chilton, Chris Bell, and the entire Big Star extended family. – Ed.
The Upshot: Distaff Dunedin rockers from the ‘80s have their debut reissue and expanded.
BY TIM HINELY
The all-female 5-piece from Dunedin were one of the most enchanting, bewitching (yup) bands on the Flying Nun roster and heck, 30 years on they still sound enchanting, unique…at times magical. It was in the mid-late ‘80s that I started getting turned on to many of the Flying Nun bands usually by friends or reviews in zines and I instantly fell in love with the label and its roster of bands (as I’ve mentioned many times on this site before) but this band was a mystery. Unlike the Chills, The Bats or the Clean they never toured the USA so none of us fans ever got to see them and only ever saw a few pictures of the band (which added to the mystery) and , in more recently years, some You Tube footage.
In their day the ladies released three EPs between the years 1985 and 1987: Bewitched, LBGPEP2 and This is This and promptly broke up. Guitarist Denise Roughan went on to many other N.Z. bands while drummer Lesley Paris ended up managing the Flying Nun label and the other three, Kath Webster, Kathy Bull and Norma O’Malley, who knows. Anyway after that long lead in I’m here to tell you that the Flying Nun label has graciously reissued these tracks and more (some live ones) on vinyl in a beautiful gatefold sleeve and its glorious (available on cd, too). It’s the original 14 songs plus 5 bonus live tracks. The music was poppy and jangly at times but their secret weapon Norma O’Malley who not only added keyboards to the tunes but also some well-placed flute that pushes the songs over the top. Also, the ladies harmonized perfectly and well, could just write some really terrific songs. Listen to ace pop cuts like “Safety in Crosswords,” “As Does the Sun” (for some of that flute), “Circumspect Penelope,” “Vain Hopes” and the crown jewel, the upbeat blast of “Cactus Cat.”
If you missed the boat the first time around and have even a passing interest in the Flying Nun label (or uhh… good music in general) then don’t miss Still Bewitched. It’s great.
DOWNLOAD: “Cactus Cat,” “Safety in Crosswords,” “As Does the Sun,” “Circumspect Penelope”
Spine of God and Tab helped usher in the era of stoner rock…
By Uncle Blurt
Okay kids, a quick history lesson from yer ol’ Uncle. The year was 1989. The locale was New Jersey. And the band was called Monster Magnet. Three years after their first EP on Glitterhouse, the band released their official debut album “Spine Of God” on Caroline Records. The original debut album “Tab” was recorded a year earlier then “Spine of God”, but it wasn’t until the latter drew critical and commercial blood that Tab ultimately saw release. Now, with Sept. 1 looming, the Napalm label is prepped to reissue those two stoner-rock touchstone, and on vinyl as well as CD and digital.
Check out some classic tuneage to refresh your memories, below, then make your plans to line up at your favorite local indie record store.
We are duly advised that “the drug hazed heavy sound of both releases helped in cementing Monster Magnet’s reputation of being the only legit descendants of the likes of psychedelic and stoner rock Godfathers Hawkwind, Black Sabbath, and their electrifying punk siblings in MC5.” Soon enough, the albums Superjudge, Dopes to Infinity and Powertrip would be unleashed.
As evidenced on a key new reissue, the Paisley Underground flagbearer’s combination of accessible melodies, trippy production touches and rock muscle set a blueprint that many indie psych rockers have followed since.
BY MICHAEL TOLAND
This is what we talk about when we talk about the Paisley Underground.
As fans of the mid-‘80s psychedelic scene in California (and beyond) know, the Paisley Underground was more a collection of friends than a roll-call of soundalikes. Everyone has their own definition of what psychedelia means, and the variety in that particular scene showed it, from the harmony-rich jangle pop of the Bangles and the twee psych-pop of the Three O’Clock to the deep ‘n’ dark Southwesternisms of True West and the Velvets/Crazy Horse frenzy of the Dream Syndicate. (Not to mention the gonzoid ‘60s worship of Milwaukee’s Plasticland…we could go on. Ask this site’s editor for a full rundown.) (Indeed. He was there and knew ‘em all. –Site Editor Ed.)
But for many folks, when we hear the words “Paisley Underground,” we think of Los Angeles-based Rain Parade. The band’s combination of accessible melodies, trippy production touches and rock muscle set a blueprint that many indie psych rockers have followed since. The band wasn’t the best known of the scene’s acts, even as it was one of the first—indeed, it may be best remembered as the launching pad for singer/guitarist David Roback, later of Mazzy Star. But the band recorded some of the signature albums of the Paisley Underground, two of which are now getting the remaster/reissue treatment: Emergency Third Rail Power Trip and Explosions in the Glass Palace, via Real Gone Music.
Emergency Third Rail Power Trip has, for nearly 35 years, stood as one of the scene’s major statements. At first listen it seems almost modest—after all, the combo of singalong melodies and mildly acidic arrangements was hardly new, then or now. But that’s not the point; the band was just damn good at what it did. Fronted by a trio of equally talented singer/songwriters (David Roback, his bassist brother Steven, guitarist Matt Piucci) and enhanced and augmented by keyboard/violin colorist Will Glenn and jazz-inflected drummer Eddie Kalwa, the group had a potent combo that knocked out one gem after another.
The timeless pop tunes “I Look Around,” “This Can’t Be Today” and “What She’s Done to Your Mind” would be staples of sixties collections had they been issued back in Ye Olden Dayes. “Saturday’s Asylum,” “1 Hour ½ Ago” and the gloriously tripped-out “Kaleidoscope” dive deep into the liquid lightshow side of the scene’s personality, and avoid sounding dated while they do so. Even “Look Both Ways,” an overtly garagey folk rocker originally issued on the British version of the album, shakes off any mold that might gather and just gets down to business. ETRPT holds up better now than a lot of the sixties albums that inspired it.
Despite that triumph, the mercurial David Roback quit the band after its first national tour, leaving the remaining foursome to reorganize around the EP Explosions in the Glass Palace. Though far too short at only five songs, that quintet of cuts hasn’t a loser in the bunch. “Blue” and “You Are My Friend” present more perfectly crafted pop, while “Prisoners” and “Broken Horse” delve into overtly acid-drenched mini-epics. The EP ends with the anthemic powerhouse “No Easy Way Down,” then as now the band’s definitive track.
Without arguing about whether or not these albums are the best the scene had to offer, it seems clear that they’re probably the definitive representations of what the Paisley Underground meant at the time. (Archivist and journalist Pat Thomas makes the case quite convincingly in his liner notes as well.) That they hold up so well decades later is a testament to the writing and performance skills of the band. Still as rich and accessible now as they were when they were released, Emergency Third Rail Power Trip/Explosions in the Glass Palace wave the flag of psych rock’s continued relevancy proudly.
(Below, watch a clip of the band live in 1985, doing “You Are My Friend.”)
For our latest installment, Prof. Kopp takes a look at titles from MPS, Omnivore, Resonance, Sam, TCD Music, and hatOLOGY. Go HERE for previous installments of the Jazz Desk. (Pictured above: Albert Ayler Quartet.)
Albert Ayler Quartet – Copenhagen Live 1964 (hatOLOGY)
The music of tenor saxophonist Albert Ayler (1936-1970) is assuredly not for the jazz novitiate. With an approach that makes Ornette Coleman sound mainstream, Ayler pushed even the boundaries of free jazz. Released in cooperation with the musician’s estate, this never-before-heard live session from more than a half century ago is vintage Ayler: uncompromising, difficult and – if one is in the right frame of mind – fascinating. The sound quality isn’t pristine, but it’s far above bootleg quality and shouldn’t bother those receptive to Ayler’s unique brand of jazz. Ayler is joined in his musical mayhem by like-minded musicians Don Cherry (cornet), Gary Peacock (acoustic bass) and drummer Sunny Murray.
The Kenny Clarke Francy Boland Big Band – All Smiles (MPS)
Big band jazz was decidedly out of vogue by 1968, but apparently nobody told bandleaders Kenny Clarke (drums) and Francy Boland (piano). And thank goodness: the excitement of this 17-man ensemble shines through on this studio outing. Vibraphonist Dave Pike takes a solo on Irving Berlin’s “Let’s Face the Music and Dance.” Elsewhere listeners will find tasty solos on flute, piano, flugelhorn, trumpet and so on as the band tears into classics (Gershwin, Porter, Sousa, Dorsey) with relish. Music like this is timeless and really shouldn’t ever go out of fashion. Available on vinyl, too.
Nat King Cole Trio – Zurich 1950 (TCD Music)
Cole’s major breakthrough was as a pop vocalist, but as this 1950 set recorded live onstage at Kongresshaus Zurich, the man was a superb pianist/arranger as well. This small ensemble – Cole on piano plus guitarist Irving Ashby, bassist Joe comfort and Jack Costanzo on bongos(!) – excels as they run through tunes from the Great American Songbook and other songs. Right out of the gate, Cole makes a point of putting the spotlight on his band mates. In 1941 he appeared – uncredited – onscreen in Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane; a mere nine years later he had released five albums and established himself as a premier musician. This set captures him mere months before he released his biggest hit, “Unforgettable.”
Don Ellis Orchestra – Soaring (MPS)
By the late 1960s and early ’70s, certain flavors of jazz had worked their way into mainstream pop culture. Even those who claimed no interest in the form could admit to enjoying the theme music from television and film. Ellis’ “Whiplash” – very much of a piece of the music he scored for The French Connection – is a thrilling, impossibly catchy piece of music. What make it and the other tunes on Soaring (1973) so special is the uncanny combination of tricky time signatures with (dare I say it) pop hooks. Ellis was the stuff of legend: might there be a connection between the medical condition that ultimately killed him (and irregular heartbeat) and his penchant for unusual musical meter? The very electric album has a rock sensibility, and it rocks. But it’s not rock. If you don’t enjoy Soaring, like the man said, Jack, you’re dead. Also on vinyl.
Albert Mangelsdorff – And His Friends (MPS)
For better or worse – and fairly or not – this album of free jazz from 1969 is precisely the sort of thing cited as Exhibit A by people who insist jazz makes absolutely no melodic sense. On “I Dig It – You Dig It,” Mangelsdorff’s trombone engages musical dialogue with Don Cherry’s trumpet, without any other instruments. Near the end of that track, Mangelsdorff vocalizes through his instrument in a way that recalls a kind of cross between the kind of thing Nat Adderley did in the early 70s and some of Frank Zappa’s Mothers albums (specifically, Weasels Ripped My Flesh‘s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gas Mask”). If that sounds appealing to you, do indeed check out this title. Otherwise, best run in the opposite direction. For those brave few, it’s on vinyl as well.
Thelonious Monk – Les Liasons Dangereuses 1960 (Sam Records)
Monk had one of the most distinctive piano styles in all of music. He used dissonance in a manner wholly unlike, say, Bill Evans. In Monk’s hands dissonance was a tool of expression, used in very precise ways. But to the uninitiated, his style cold sound positively ham-fisted. This previously-unreleased set is the soundtrack from a 1960 film; rather than compose new material, instead Monk ran through favorites from his existing catalog. And owing to his style and inventiveness, these versions are as valid and delightful in their own right as the better-known recordings. Sound quality is pristine, and a second disc of outtakes – not to mention a 56-page(!) color booklet – raises this CD to the level of positively essential.
Alphonse Mouzon – In Search of a Dream (MPS)
Powerhouse fusion drummer Mouzon made his name on sides by Les McCann (the stunning Invitation to Openness) and Weather Report’s debut, but it was with Larry Coryell’s 11th House that he gained top-level fame. This, the sixth album under his name, is guaranteed to please fans of his work with Coryell. With a lineup that includes Stu Goldberg, Philip Catherine and Miroslav Vitouš, there’s virtually no way it could go wrong, and it doesn’t. You’ll find more drum solos here than you would on an an 11th House record, but that’s only fair. Even when the energy is dialed down – as on the smooth jazz of “Shoreline” – the playing and arrangement on the reissue of this 1978 LP (once again available on vinyl) are top-flight.
Jaco Pastorius – Truth, Liberty & Soul (Resonance Records)
For someone whose time in the spotlight was only 15 years, Jaco Pastorius was an amazingly busy presence on the jazz scene. And while it has long seemed that listeners had heard the last of the incalculably important bassist, the release of this 2CD set – a project that has been in the works for many years – adds another important piece to the puzzle. Recorded live onstage as part of George Wein’s Kool Jazz Festival, parts of the performance were broadcast on public radio. But the full set – featuring Pastorius leading a big band – has never been heard before. That it’s Jaco will be reason enough for most jazz fans to pick it up, but it’s superb on its own merits. Never one to be outdone, project curator Zev Feldman has included a 96-page color booklet – jam-packed with essays and interviews – as part of the beautiful package. [Ed note: For further investigation, you can also go HERE to read fellow jazz scribe Michael Toland’s review of the Pastorius album.]
Art Pepper – Presents West Coast Sessions! Vol. 3: Lee Konitz (Omnivore Recordings)
Because of his contractual obligations, saxophonist couldn’t record under his own name outside of Fantasy Records. So he and a Japanese label came up with a simple idea: he’s put together bands and appoint someone else the nominal leader. Those albums are now receiving a belated Stateside release, and this volume from 1982 – originally called High Jingo and credited to Lee Konitz & His West Coast Friends – is another fine entry in the series. It features timeless jazz (albeit centered around a 1950s West coast aesthetic) from a five-piece aggregation: two saxes, bass, drums and piano. Thankfully there’s nothing “eighties” about it.
Art Pepper – Presents West Coast Sessions! Vol. 4: Bill Watrous (Omnivore Recordings)
From the same cache of releases on the Japanese Atlas label comes this 1979 set, originally released as the Bill Watrous Quintet’s Funk ‘n’ Fun. But original title be damned: this is more ’50s style jazz, with trombonist Bill Watrous as the purported leader. Longtime Pepper associate and pianist Russ Freeman is at the center of many of these tunes. The Omnivore reissue adds two bonus tracks.
The Art Pepper Quartet – The Art Pepper Quartet(Omnivore Recordings)
Working closely with the saxophone’s widow Laurie, Omnivore is clearly on a mission to bring as much lost and/or unheard Art Pepper music to modern-day ears. One look at the cover art of this set and you’ll know it’s an early title; released I n1956, his eighth album ranks among Laurie Pepper’s favorites. And it’s not difficult to hear why: the band swings in inventive style, and the entire band – Pepper, Russ Freeman on piano, bassist Ben Tucker and drummer Gary Frommer – is on fire.
Baden Powell – Tristeza on Guitar (MPS)
I’m not an especially ardent fan of Brazilian jazz; in general I like a bit more fire and electricity in my jazz. And while for me Powell’s 1973 Images on Guitar has its appeal, it doesn’t rank among my favorites. Yet somehow this set from 1966 knocks me out; there’s an energy to the tracks that brings the session alive. Powell’s playing is superb – that’s a given, of course – but here there’s almost what one could call aggression is his playing on tracks like “Saravá.” The Brazilian character always comes through, but Tristeza on Guitar has a worldliness about it that makes it even more special.
Whoahhh… hold on there, Mr. Bugliosi, I was just checkin’ in to see what my condition was in, Charles Manson-wise!
BY UNCLE BLURT
Yeah, I was there—NOT, I hasten to add, at the Tate-LaBianca murders. I was at the local record store, many many many years back in the day, when producer/scenester (and future Gram Parsons body-snatcher) Phil Kaufman and his ad hoc indie label Awareness Records released Lie: The Love and Terror Cult. In 1970 America was in a protracted state of culture shock, and yours truly was only marginally coming to terms with the dissonant notions that one could wave one’s freak flag really fucking high while opposing Vietnam and sundry other Nixon-era ills, and still be not only appalled but downright nauseous that a countercultural opportunist and interloper like Charles Manson was able to shatter the—our—hippie dream merely by dispensing LSD to a bunch of impressionable kids and “suggesting” that the phrase death to pigs was not just a mere jocular implication taken from a Beatles song, but a goddam mandate.
You can get all you need to know about the original LP from its Wikipedia page (although no one seems to have bothered to update it in ages—there’s nominal info about the album’s reissue trajectory, so perhaps click over to the extended Discogs entry). Here, in 2017, we are fortunate to have yet a fresh iteration—and on translucent red vinyl to boot!—via the estimable ESP-Disk label, which actually can trace a “professional relationship” with the album (and whoever may have owned the rights to it at various times) going all the way back to a ’74 vinyl repressing and picking up again during the CD era. (ESP’s 2008 CD Sings expanded the original 14-song tracklisting to a whopping 26. That’s also the version you’ll encounter if you pull the album up on Spotify.)
Why do I say “fortunate”? Well, that’s complicated. Let’s face it, the music itself is, at best, nominal. There’s always been a lot of hoo-hah over the track “Cease to Exist” because it was notoriously turned into the Beach Boys’ “Never Learn Not to Love,” no doubt with the late Dennis Wilson sweating his way through the sessions; it’s decent enough, in an early Tim Buckley vein, but hardly memorable. And who gives a shit whether Rob Zombie, Redd Kross, and the Lemonheads have covered a “hardly memorable” song? “Garbage Dump,” made retroactively prominent by G.G. Allin, is barely listenable, go figure, while “Big Iron Door,” a blink-you-missed-it love song to, uh, prison, is even less so. A few track-skips later, we are left returning to “Look at Your Game Girl,” the album’s opening track and perhaps the tune that convinced Kaufman he might be able to shift a few copies. It’s strummy and has a moderately catchy folk-soul vibe, the kind of song you could do a blindfold test with on any given millennial or hipster and come away feeling pretty smug when your blindfoldee was positive it’s an unreleased Rodriguez track. There, I said it. Charles Manson sounds a lot like Rodriguez, if you need a musical selling point, I guess. Alternatively, maybe you’re simply a Guns N’ Roses fan and this is your entry point.
So, no. Still – “fortunate,” because this is a genuinely priceless cultural artifact that demands to be in the collection of any sentient music collector who gives even a small portion of a damn about rock ‘n’ roll, its history, its undercurrents, its implications, its future. Without an awareness of Charles Manson and the cultural bomb he set off back in the late ‘60s, all you kids out there reading this review are doomed to one day allow another Charles Manson creepy-crawl into the personal spheres of your brothers, sisters, friends, compatriots—and even your children.
The Mansons of the world are still out there; in fact, there’s a good chance several of them are currently strolling the corridors of the West Wing, patiently looking for their openings. The original is by all accounts not long for this world, and it’s unlikely he’ll make it to the age of 92, in 2027, the year he’s up for parole. But don’t for a second think that when that sawed-off little gangster is dead, the toxins that initially spawned him will have been eradicated. They’ve always been in the Amerikkan water system.
Luckily, as long as folks like ESP-Disk are doing their part to revive the conversation and then keep it alive, we have a chance of getting through that whole “those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it,” etc., thing.
When this LP arrived in the mail, a lot of memories came rushing back.
Remember, I lived through the Manson era. I recall, with great clarity, the moment when Woodstock-powered utopianism came crashing down, and the realization gradually dawned that long hair, sandals, love beads, bellbottoms jeans, and tie-dyed teeshirts were no longer instant affirmations of being part of the same club. Worse—for me, at least—it happened before I had even turned legal. In the summer of ’69, when those Manson murders took place, I was only 14 ½ years old. But I was old enough to have begun sketching out a future; in my teenage mind, as soon as Woodstock happened, I had a lot of catching up to do. Well, so much for that, because when news of arrests in the murder case hit the headlines in early December, those idyllic Bryan Adams future memories I’d no doubt been working on a few months earlier came crashing down, too.
Back here in 2017, I caught my breath, shuddered, cracked open the shrink wrap, slowly tugged out the red vinyl repressing, and laid it on my turntable. After a long pause—full disclosure: a longer pause than usual, first to admire the wax, because, well, colored vinyl— I allowed the needle to begin its descent…
Postscript: The last two times this publication posted Manson-related content on the website and put links out to it, we noticed that we were quickly followed on social media by organizations and individuals who were clearly Manson sympathizers. And many years ago, our good friend, the late Joe Young of AntiSeen band fame, released a solo 7” EP, “Bury the Needle,” that had a Manson-sampling track called “Charlie’s Blues” on the flipside. Not long after, he was visited by a couple of folks who identified themselves as members of “The Family.” Joe was somewhat bemused, but also somewhat shaken. It will be interesting to see what kind of feedback BLURT receives for this particular commentary.
In which we talk to Tim Lee and Bobby Sutliff about their classic ’85 album, recently reissued with bonus material.
BY FRED MILLS
Terminal, by Jackson, Mississippi, power pop legends the Windbreakers, originally released in 1985 by the Homestead label, has been in yours truly’s personal Top 25 ever since it first appeared—we’re talking an LP rubbing shoulders on my shelf with everything from Who’s Next, Let It Bleed, Funhouse, and Daydream Nation to Shake Some Action, Stands for deciBels, Sincerely, and Places That Are Gone. As produced by Mitch Easter at his Winston-Salem Drive-In Studio (six songs) and Randy Everett in the band’s native Mississippi (four songs), Terminal is a timeless slice of Southern-spawned tuneage that sports all the expected power pop influences yet still sounds utterly fresh and unique unto itself.
Yet with one semi-flukey exception which you’ll read about shortly, Terminal has never seen a proper reissue for the CD and digital eras, leaving me and fellow fans to wonder whether or not it will ultimately be consigned to those perennial “whatever happened to…” essays. As of this writing, it doesn’t appear to be on any digital streaming services, although luckily the superb 2003 Windbreakers career overview Time Machine is on both Spotify and Apple Music, and six of the compilation’s 20 tunes were culled from it.
Windbreakers cofounders Bobby Sutliff and Tim Lee, of course, are not exactly unknown quantities, as both have remained fairly prolific in their post-WBs solo careers—check the Trouser Press entry detailing their work together and separately, as well as this 2015 BLURT interview with Lee about his band at the time, The Tim Lee 3—and although Sutliff’s near-fatal car accident in 2012 served to temporarily put his musical career on hold for awhile, he continues to write and even finds time to collaborate with Montana-based psych=pop monsters Donovan’s Brain. Still, the general public’s obliviousness as regards Terminal seems all the more criminal in 2017 if you actually drop the needle on the platter and allow its pleasures to pour forth anew.
There’s the opening trifecta of “Off & On” (jangly intro, a harpsichord motif, and yearning Sutliff vocals), “Changeless” (a tough, hard-twanging Lee-penned surf/powerpop gem right up there with Let’s Active’s “Every Word Means No” and the Smithereens’ “Behind the Wall of Sleep”), and “That Stupid Idea” (more gossamer jangles from Sutliff, whose soaring upper register here is the stuff of the angels). From that point the record simply doesn’t let loose of its grip on the listener, from Lee’s deceptively dark jangler “All That Stuff,” to a remarkable cover of Television’s “Glory” featuring the Rain Parade as the duo’s backing band, to sinewy, sitar-laced rocker (and Sutliff-Lee joint composition) “Running Out of Time,” which closes the record.
It’s a goddam classic album, period—feel free to rewind to paragraph #2, above—with not a single throwaway tune. It’s also quite possibly the most beautiful bummer of a power pop album the ‘80s produced, with virtually every song a meditation on the vagaries and vicissitudes of love and all the emotional trauma that phrase implies. Utter the words “windbreakers” and “terminal” to someone at a record store or a concert, and if their face lights up and a knowing smile breaks, you’ve got the equivalent of a sonic secret handshake. We Eighties-college-and-indie-rock fans have more than a few records like that, of course, but the thing is, back then the idea wasn’t to keep our favorite bands secret—we felt it was our mission to proselytize for ‘em.
(Below: front and back sleeves of the original LP, plus the new CD package.)
Enter Italian label Mark, which a few months ago reissued Terminal as a sharp-sounding remaster boasting five bonus tracks, four of them from a 1986 live performance. Also included is a bonus booklet adorned with reviews that originally appeared in the wake of Terminal’s release, and some of those critical observations bear quoting here:
“A brilliant jewel of aural splendor from the goldmine left by the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, and Big Star.” —Option
“Think of them as a genteel Replacements with 12-string guitar, or an R.E.M with clear melodies and lyrics.” —Los Angeles Herald Examiner
“Originals that [evoke] everybody from Dylan to the Byrds, with references to the Beatles, acid-rock and the Left Banke. Sort of a brawnier approach to the Let’s Active sound, and more rural, too.” —Jet Lag
“Is this the pop record of 1985, or what??” —Jim Testa, Jersey Beat
Well, yes—yes, Jim, it was. Matter of fact, it still is. In a moment, let’s take a trip back in time and revisit it, courtesy the two men who created it.
Regular BLURT readers will recall our ongoing “College Rock Chronicles” series in which yours truly has profiled the likes of Big Star, Dumptruck, The Gun Club, Dwight Twilley, Winter Hours, Green On Red, Thomas Anderson, and The Sidewinders. Sometimes these are fresh essays and interviews; other times they are features culled from the archives and updated as needed. I got the idea from a regular column titled “Indelibles” that I authored for BLURT precursor Harp magazine from roughly 2005 to the spring of 2008, when it closed up shop and filed for bankruptcy, and in fact several installments of my “College Rock Chronicles” have been retooled, expanded versions of stories originally published in Harp.
“Indelibles” itself was inspired by those great Mojo features in which a key, critically-significant album from the past was put under the microscope and viewed through a contemporary lens; the records we selected for each of my columns were, typically, just being reissued as expanded remasters, and the idea was to get the artist to discuss the making of the original album, reflect on its trajectory, and frame it within the larger context of what it meant to his or her career. If the artist was actually involved with the reissue, so much the better, and we would also delve into what went into that project, how bonus material was decided upon, etc. As a music fan first and a critic second, I have to say that it was pretty great to be able to geek out over some of my all-time favorite records by the likes of the Dream Syndicate, the dB’s, Let’s Active, the Clash, Wire, Pylon, the Slits, the Gun Club, Dinosaur Jr, etc.—not to mention being able to geek out in front of some of the people who actually created those records, but not as the slobbering fanboy I actually was, and instead under the assumed guise of (cough) a professional journalist and reporter. The truth is finally out.
So with this Windbreakers story, I’m formally re-booting “Indelibles.” Bobby, who lives with his wife Wendy in Columbus, Ohio, and Tim, based with his wife and bandmate Susan in Knoxville, Tennessee, were kind enough to weather my inquisition, and to them I just want to say—salute, gentlemen.
Set the stage for Terminal: With the first two EPs (1982’s 7” Meet the Windbreakers and 1983’s 12” Any Monkey With a Typewriter) under your belts, what was your collective state of mind as a band, and what was the music scene in your neck of the woods like circa 1984? TIM LEE: Actually, shortly after Any Monkey… came out, we kinda ceased being a band for a while. I started another band, Beat Temptation, that lasted a year or so. During that time, though, the EP was getting some attention, and Sam Berger at Homestead asked if we’d be interested in doing a record for them.
Bobby and I had been hanging out during that time, so it was no big deal to start playing songs for each other and get back into it.
BOBBY SUTLIFF: The 1984 local music scene was an interesting hodge-podge. There were quite a few bands doing their own thing. We were all friends for the most part. Tim and I would together, or separately, sit it with them quite often. Tim’s other band, Beat Temptation, was very good and released a fine EP and a full-length LP.
How did you land the deal with Homestead?
TIM: Like I said, Sam Berger was the guy who asked us to make a record, but he left and was replaced by Gerard Cosloy by the time Terminal came out. It was very early in the life of that label, so it kinda felt like they were just getting their feet wet.
You decided to return to the well for the album with Mitch Easter; what had you liked about him and his studio? What did he bring to the table that made you and other artists gravitate to the studio?
TIM: We made the first Windbreakers EP in a gospel studio in Madison, Miss., and it was not a particularly wonderful experience. But we’d read about Mitch in New York Rocker, and we were fans of the songs he did on that Shake to Date compilation (1981 UK album issued by Shake/Albion to document New York Rocker’s Alan Betrock’s indie label as well as Chris Stamey’s Car label), and we knew about the Sneakers and H-Bombs and the dB’s. So we just called directory assistance and got his number.
We talked [to Mitch] a few times and then we made a trip to Winston-Salem and tracked two songs, mixing and everything, in about 20 hours or something like that. The first session with Mitch was so revealing for me, in that I was like, “Okay, this is why they say making records is fun!” He was so creative and so supportive of our goofy ideas, willing to go down any road to come up with something cool.
BOBBY: We were very aware of the dB’s, and by 1980/81 knew about Mitch. It’s actually quite a long way from Mississippi to North Carolina, but the trip was so very much worth it. After about 20 minutes with him in his garage studio—the Drive-In of course!—we knew we had found our mentor/kindred spirit. I remember one musical moment to this day. I pulled out my guitar and played the intro to Big Star’s “Way Out West.” Mitch walked into the room and said, “Oh, you know them?” We were friends for life.
What are some of your most prominent memories from the Drive-In sessions for Terminal? Hanging with Mitch (pictured left, with Tim) Faye Hunter, and Don Dixon? (The latter two guested on bass on selected tracks.)
TIM: Other than going out to eat, we were pretty much nose to the grindstone, but my favorite memory of being at the Drive-In was the sense of possibility. Electric sitar? Let’s do it. Dixon’s coming by today. Cool, let’s get him to play bass. That kind of thing.
BOBBY: Tim mentions going to eat in passing, but I must confess Mitch teaching us about the two different kinds of North Carolina Barbecue was very important! Faye remains one of the finest people I ever met and I miss her so much. (She passed away in 2013) It’s strange, I’ve lived in Ohio for 20 years now and so has Dixon. And oh yeah, early on we drafted Richard Barone into playing some amazing guitar for us.
Favorite songs cut at the Drive-In? Happy accidents? Failures best left on the cutting room floor? BOBBY: My favorite Windbreakers tune recorded at the Drive-In was “Changeless.” Holy cow, that’s an amazing song—and should have been a massive hit. There are really no failures left behind. Mostly because we were on such a budget we had to use everything!
Tell us a little about working with Randy Everett for the other session back home—I recall spotting his name on more than just your records back in the day, so I’m guessing that he was a valuable guy to that region’s music scene.
TIM: Randy Everett is a guy that we’d just known around town. He was known as a jazz guitarist, but he was just trying his hand at studio engineering at the time. Rick Garner (Terminal co-engineer on the Mississippi session) was a businessman with an interest in music who bought some studio gear and set it up temporarily in his suburban home. That’s where we did the other tracks. As I recall, Bobby traded him a guitar for the studio time.
Randy very much became an important fixture on the recording scene in the South. A lot of folks worked with him, and I worked with him a lot on various sessions. A great friend; I actually saw him just a couple weeks ago. He’s still recording, and he’s also doing some very cool paintings.
BOBBY: Randy Everett is one of those guys other guitar players just hate! He is better than you are ever going to be. And in his own wonderful way he is just as good as anyone else behind the board. And, oh yeah, the guitar I traded him for studio time was a sunburst 1964 Fender Jazzmaster.
You cover Television’s “Glory” with the Rain Parade backing you up on the album; how did that connection happen?
TIM: We knew their record (1983’s Emergency Third Rail Power Trip), we dug it. I was booking shows at this tiny dive bar, and we were able to line them up for one. They stayed with me and (wife) Susan and hung out an extra day. We all just became fast friends. They had a day off coming up the following week, so we made a plan to record that Television song.
I remember all of us sitting at a sandwich shop before the session, mapping out the arrangement on the back of a brown paper bag.
BOBBY: Our entire connection with the Rain Parade was totally Tim and Susan. And wow—was I delighted about that since I was such a huge fan. Later on, I became friends with that other Paisley Pop genius band, True West, and was glad to bring them into our group of friends.
Anything else that was cut for Terminal that you ultimately decided against for whatever reasons?
BOBBY: Quick answer—no. Simply because we had to use everything!
Sonically, what do you think you were going for on Terminal?
TIM: To my mind, we just wanted to make a cool record. That was all. Perhaps Bobby remembers more about that.
BOBBY: Interesting question. I remember that (A) we didn’t want to sound overly dated like perhaps my beloved Flamin’ Groovies did from time to time; and (B) we didn’t want to sound like a “modern” ‘80s band would sound.
I’m struck how almost every single song is about a break-up, or a looming break-up, or looking back at the post-breakup wreckage, running into the girl who broke up with you, etc. Was this by design, or were both of you simultaneously in the throes of heartbreak when you happened to be writing material for the album?
LEE: I was already married, so I’d probably turned my attention to the heartbreak of everyday life, as opposed to any specific romantic strife. (I didn’t mean that to sound as stupid as it did.) (No worries, Tim.—Parenthetical Ed.)
BOBBY: Um, yeah, I kept rewriting the same song over and over. It was of course all about the same person.
What was your reaction when the reviews started rolling in? It was fun to read the ones you selected for the new booklet. I don’t think a lot of young fans can truly appreciate what the fanzine network back then was all about, and how it was “our internet,” along with the occasional breakthrough via a mention in Rolling Stone or Spin. I’ve written in the past about how there was this very special “us against the mainstream” feeling prior to the grunge explosion that has resulted in a bonafide community of friends who still commune on Facebook, etc.
TIM: It’s always gratifying to get good reviews, and most of ours were pretty positive. You’re right, the fanzine network was pretty great. They were physical things, not just something out in cyberspace. It was a very cool scene during the early days of the independent thing.
BOBBY: It’s of course the only reason we ever made a record—to get a good review! I’m only sort of kidding. I’ve got to say this—I met quite a few fellow musicians in those days who are still very close friends. That is so wonderful.
Tell us a little about getting out on the road to promote Terminal, and in particular the 12/26/86 show you culled the reissue’s live bonus tracks from. TIM: At the time, Bobby wasn’t able to tour, so I put together a band in Atlanta and did an East Coast/Midwest tour. It was a lotta fun. Bobby knows more about that live recording than I do… he’s the very handy archivist of the group.
BOBBY: By the time of the 12/26/86 show, I had been out of the band for quite a while and was well into recording my first solo album – 1987’s Only Ghosts Remain. That show was a Christmastime one-off thing. I don’t think we actually did another Windbreakers show together for a couple of years
Speaking of bonus tracks, any other rarities or oddities out there? You included “Lonely Beach,” from the 1985 Disciples of Agriculture French compilation, here. What was the story on it?
BOBBY: It’s my faux surf instrumental, which was recorded in quite a lo-fi way on my Fostex X-15 4 track cassette deck. I did redo it years later in somewhat higher fidelity on my solo disc On A Ladder, but I’m sure the original is better. I went through everything I could find recently and there remain two unreleased studio tracks from 1982 or so. That’s about it.
How did this reissue come about with the Mark label? (Note: Mark is a subsidiary of Italy’s metal-tilting Minotauro Records and to date has also reissued the Original Sins’ 1989 album The Hardest Way.) TIM: The short answer is, the Mark label asked about it, and nobody had prior to that. [Previously] the entirety of Terminal was tacked onto the end of the CD of 1989’sAt Home with Bobby & Tim because CDs were new and we didn’t feel we could ask people to pay $16 for one record. So we gave them a second one free. The mastering on the current reissue is much, much better.
Update us on any current activities—and what’s the possibility for future Windbreakers projects?
TIM: I stay busy with mine and Susan’s band Bark, plus I end up playing with a wide range of other folks here in Knoxville. Most of the time, I’m busier musically than when I was young.
BOBBY: I’ve been working on perhaps a solo disc for the last year or so—about half way there, I reckon.
TIM: We got together 10 or 12 years ago and recorded a couple of songs. They turned out pretty well, and we had a good time doing it. Around that time, we also recorded a song for a Buffalo Springfield tribute record. I guess we just never had the impetus to keep at it. (Note: Five Way Street: A Tribute To Buffalo Springfieldcame out on Not Lame in 2006. Details and a stream of the Windbreakers doing “Expecting to Fly” is here at Discogs.) After Bobby was in that awful accident a few years back, we made a tentative plan to get together with Mitch and record some songs, but that ended up not happening.
BOBBY: I’d be happy to turn over what I’ve got for a new Windbreakers disc. But I totally understand how unimportant that is in the world’s big picture.
Ah, Mr. Sutliff, some of us out here in Windbreakersville might opt to differ regarding that last point. Let the cajoling and convincing begin, fellow punters…
The Upshot: A pair of fascinating aural period snapshots, one from the hippie era and the other from the middle of the alt-rock explosion.
BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Youth culture changes over the decades, but someone will come along and exploit it no matter the era. Easy Rider (1969) and Kids (1995) come from such different sensibilities as to seem to be from two different planets, but the sex, drugs and rock & roll – mostly drugs – ethos provides a connecting thread. The films have become iconic for different generations (no matter how little either may actually hold up on viewing decades later), and MVDaudio makes the argument that the soundtracks have as well – hence these colored vinyl reissues.
Long considered the ultimate counter-culture film of the 1960s (at least by those who watched the counter culture from a distance), Easy Rider boasted a soundtrack that, like rock soundtracks today, mixed known quantities with up-and-comers, and popularized songs now considered classics. The Steppenwolf two-fer that opens the album made staples out of “Born to Be Wild” and, to a lesser extent, Hoyt Axton’s “The Pusher.” The set also introduced the world to the Roger McGuinn/Bob Dylan co-write “Ballad of Easy Rider,” performed here in a solo acoustic version by McGuinn. (His band the Byrds would release a full-band take as a single the next year.) The rest is a mishmash of sixties folk and acid rock, from the sublime (the Byrds’ “Wasn’t Born to Follow”) to the dated (Fraternity of Man’s “Don’t Bogart Me,” AKA “Don’t Bogart That Joint”) to the ridiculous (the Holy Modal Rounders’ “If You Want to Be a Bird,” the Electric Prunes’ “Kyrie Eleison”). Jimi Hendrix’s “If Six Was Nine” and a cover of the Band’s “The Weight,” re-recorded by the band Smith when the original couldn’t be licensed, also appear. With its best (and worst) tracks easily available elsewhere, the Easy Rider soundtrack mainly serves as a curio for devotees of its era, though diehards who want this edition will be rewarded with beautiful clear vinyl. (Not to mention we refugees from the counterculture who were on hand to watch the film in theaters when it originally came out! –Freak Flag Ed.)
Written by Harmony Korine and directed by Larry Clark, both of them infamous for exploring cultural pockets with elusive moral centers, Kids arrived in the middle of the alt.rock nineties, just as grunge was fading, indie rock rising and the vapidity of “modern rock radio” hadn’t yet calcified. Supervised by Dinosaur Jr./Sebadoh’s Lou Barlow and mostly performed by the Folk Implosion, his side project with John Davis, the soundtrack reflects the transition. Though over half of the cuts come from the Davis/Barlow factory, the duo jumps all over the place stylistically just like a collection of various artists. Hence the trip-hop grooves of “Simean Groove,” “Wet Stuff” and “Nothing’s Gonna Stop,” the plaintive folk of “Spoiled” (performed by Sebadoh), the catchy indie pop of the hit “Natural One” and the vein-bulging screamcore of “Daddy Never Understood.” Interestingly, instrumental underscores like “Crash” and “Jenny’s Theme” prove the most compelling material twenty-two years on. Barlow breaks up the monopoly with Lo-Down’s “Mad Fright Night” (the only one of the film’s many hip-hop songs to survive), pioneering indie rock act Slint’s epic “Good Morning Captain” and a pair of tracks from pop savant Daniel Johnston, both dedicated to cartoon character Caspar. Perhaps by virtue of it being both younger and less popular, Kids sound fresher than Easy Rider, though not even “Natural One” is as iconic as the best tracks from the sixties relic. Obsessives for the film will want this, especially with its brightly colored wax; the rest may just want to cherrypick on Spotify.
DOWNLOAD: “Wasn’t Born to Follow,” “Ballad of Easy Rider,” “Nothing’s Gonna Stop”
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