Category Archives: Reissue

BOBBY FULLER FOUR – Magic Touch: The Complete Mustang Singles

Album: Magic Touch: The Complete Mustang Singles

Artist: Bobby Fuller Four

Label: Cherry Red

Release Date: November 30, 2018

www.cherryred.co.uk

BY JONATHAN LEVITT

Bobby Fuller was from my hometown of El Paso Texas, and I came to know this in the most roundabout of ways. After college I was hell-bent on landing a job in the music industry and given my China interest I found myself in Hong Kong for the Reed Midem music convention. I was also poor as a church mouse at the time and couldn’t afford the $200.00 entrance fee, so I did the next best thing and snuck in. I walked around giving out my resume and met people from a variety of international labels, picked up loads of swag, all the while trying to keep an eye out for security guards.

Eventually I made my way to the Del-Fi Records table and met Bob Keane*, surf music impresario and Bobby Fuller’s producer. He had a Hawaiian shirt on and told me that he might just have a job for me and said I should come to the LA office and discuss it. He wanted to create a sales a promotion office out in Hong Kong.  I caught a courier flight to LA and recall working out in my immature mind what sort of salary I’d ask for and worked out a rudimentary business plan of sorts. Then came my meeting at Del Fi records which was somewhere in the vicinity of Sunset Boulevard, and a smiling Bob Keane came out and invited me into his office and proceeded to burst every illusion I had about what this job might be. Dollar symbols quickly began to melt in front of me and on the way out of his office, crestfallen and all, I met his Director of Promotions, Elliot “Le Hot Show” Kendall, who showed me a mockup of a Bobby fuller box set they were working on and seeing as I was from El Paso he showed me the liner notes which were written by El Paso DJ extraordinaire Steve Crosno. I eventually made my way into the harsh LA light and caught a bus back to my friend’s home, completely deflated by the experience. I mention all of this because in the ensuing years Bob Keane and his staff stayed in touch sending me music and occasionally shooting the shit over email.

I jumped at the chance to take a listen to the latest compilation of Bobby Fuller’s music. This release covers all of his Mustang singles and is a real joy to listen to. You can see that Bob Keane tried to temper the rougher hewn elements of Bobby’s music not always to the greatest of results. My favorite songs like, “My Favorite Martian”, “I Fought the Law”, “Let Her Dance” and “Never to be Forgotten” are here for the listening and are sprinkled in between weaker numbers like “She’s my Girl” that tried to capitalize on the romantic schmaltz of the time. “You Kiss Me” is trying to be Elvis Presley, with its shuffle beat and vibrato vocals.

For me, Bobby Fuller’s greatest music is when he lets his rougher tendencies shine through and that I sense is what Bob Keane tried to rein in on several of these numbers. The CD has some amazing liner notes by Andrew Sandoval and the music is presented in its original mono format. I recall that “I fought the law” was number one close in time to when The Beatles came to America and that the titanic shift that caused was a heavy blow to Bobby Fuller. It’s a compilation like this that shows why he’ll “Never to be Forgotten” by music lovers worldwide.

DOWNLOAD: “My Favorite Martian”, “I Fought the Law” , “Let Her Dance”, “Never to be Forgotten”

*Ed. Note: For readers with sharp eyesight, check out the text on the album sleeve, above, and for a cheap thrill, note the spelling of the aforementioned Mr. Keane’s name.

 

THE POSIES – Dear 23 / Frosting On the Beater

Album: Dear 23 / Frosting on the Beater

Artist: Posies

Label: Omnivore

Release Date: August 03, 2018

http://www.omnivorerecordings.com

The Upshot: A pair of power pop classics that helped make the grunge-encrusted tail end of the 20th Century just a little more bearable.

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

Ah, the Posies. With a seemingly bottomless bag of hooks and sentiments that veered easily between clever and heartfelt (and often both at once), the Bellingham/Seattle band should be mentioned in the same breath as luminaries like ELO, Cheap Trick and Big Star and contemporaries Jellyfish (and its spinoffs), Velvet Crush and Matthew Sweet. Instead the group had the mixed fortune of hailing from the grunge mecca that inaugurated the era of “alternative rock.” Certainly, the Posies didn’t suffer, garnering a sheaf of rave reviews and plenty of fans, even if they never quite broke out the way their champions hoped. But being one of the leading lights of the nineties alt.rock boom somehow keeps them out of the halls of the power pop masters, or at least the main wing – a minor mischaracterization, to be sure, but one that seems to put them on the bottom rung of a ladder they’ve long since climbed.

And as uncool as it may be to say it, the Posies were at their best during their major label era. Not that the rest of the band’s indie catalog isn’t delightful, but it was their three-album stint on Geffen Records subsidiary DGC that really put the band on the map. Whether that was due to the influx of corporate cash that allowed them to hire top flight producers and get great sound or simply due to the rush of singing and songwriting excellence pouring out of chief Posies Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow then is up for debate (we tend to lean toward the latter, though it’s probably some of both). Regardless, the trilogy of Dear 23, Frosting on the Beater and Amazing Disgrace – the first two of which having just been reissued – is not only the best work of the band, but some of the best guitar/power pop of the twentieth century.

Dear 23, the Posies’ second album, made a splash when it was first released in 1990, but under somewhat false pretenses. By this time the band had evolved from Auer and Stringfellow’s bedroom duo into a scrappy four-piece rock & roll outfit with bassist Rick Roberts and drummer Mike Musburger, but that wasn’t reflected in the grooves. Instead, producer John Leckie (XTC, Thee Hypnotics, Stone Roses) augmented the arrangements with layers of acoustic guitars for an almost folk rock feel, and added his signature psychedelic wash to the mix, making the entire record nearly sound like it comes from another continent. The results may not have been true to the Posies’ live sound, but it works like gangbusters with the songs. The massive-sounding acoustics form a wall on which the glorious anthem “Any Other Day” is painted, while the folk rock sheen fits perfectly with the bittersweet “Suddenly Mary.” “Golden Blunders” and “My Big Mouth” transcend the designation “power pop” with bright hooks and creamy harmonies, while “Mrs. Green” revels in gentle acid psychedelia when it’s not rocking out. “You Avoid Parties” and “Everyone Moves Away” strip things back down to the original duo, coming off like big-league version of Auer and Stringfellow’s cassette recordings, while “Flood of Sunshine” becomes a widescreen, lighter-waving singalong with unexpected guitar heroics. A few awkward lyrics aside, mainly in mispronunciations necessary to fit rhyme schemes, there’s not a bum note played or sung or a track worth skipping.

As with most Omnivore reissues, this one includes generous extras. The number of bonus tracks is staggering, taking up a third of disk one and all of disk two, with a big ol’ bucket of demos (including two of “Apology,” one version from each songwriter), covers of Big Star and the Hollies, some otherwise unreleased tunes, and the original version of “Will You Ever Ease Your Mind,” which wouldn’t reach full flower until Amazing Disgrace. There’s also an enthusiastic essay from Craig Dorman and, best of all, track-by-track commentary from Auer and Stringfellow that enlightens the original songs.

For 1993’s Frosting on the Beater, the Posies hired Gumball/Velvet Monkeys leader Don Fleming to give them a muscular sonic aesthetic more in keeping with their live shows. While some critics and fans accused them of trying to come to terms with their hometown grunge (as if there weren’t dozens of former college rockers trying to do the same thing at the same time), for the band it was simply a closer reflection of their original aim. In that light, this is probably the purest of their power pop moves – loud guitars, big melodies and hooks, a simmering energy set to explode any moment. The record contains some of their catchiest and most blazing rockers: “Flavor of the Month,” “Definite Door,” the nearly hitbound “Dream All Day,” the irresistible “Solar Sister.” The rest of the record is not the easy listen of prior work, as Auer and Stringfellow began exploring knottier melodies that don’t throw hooks right into the listener’s faces. The results are mixed – some songs simply don’t stick to the ribs as strongly as the band’s best. But others – “Burn & Shine,” the enigmatic and atmospheric “Coming Right Along” – prove themselves worthy of any Posies hall of fame, and the best tracks make Frosting as essential as its predecessor.

As with Dear 23, this two-disk version overflows with bounty, including another wave of demos and unreleased songs and sterling liner notes. It’s worth noting that a large portion of the extra tracks were originally released on the box set At Least At Last, but given how long out of print and expensive on the secondhand market that project is, that’s hardly a sin. Frosting on the Beater 2.0 is another excellent reissue and an indicator that the upcoming take on Amazing Disgrace will also be something special.

DOWNLOAD: “Any Other Way,” “Flood of Sunshine,” “Golden Blunders,” “Solar Sister,” “Dream All Day,” “Flavor of the Month,”

 

JUDEE SILL – Judee Sill / Heart Food / Songs of Rapture and Redemption

Album: Judee Sill / Heart Food / Songs of Rapture and Redemption (LPs)

Artist: Judee Sill

Label: Intervention / Run Out Groove

Release Date: July 27, 2018

www.interventionrecords.com / www.runoutgroovevinyl.com

The Upshot: Late songstress gets a welcome reintroduction via deluxe vinyl reissues of her two studio albums plus a new collection of live and rare material.

BY FRED MILLS

As is often the case with artists who have passed on, legacy begets legend. And while 1970s songstress Judee Sill’s impact during her short life was minimal before her death, at 35, of a drug overdose—she was probably better known for being the first signing to David Geffen’s Asylum Records, and for having Graham Nash produce her single ”.Jesus Was a Crossmaker,” than for any measurable commercial inroads—she would go on to inspire subsequent generations of singer-song­writers. A trifecta of new archival releases amply demonstrates why her reputation as an immaculate, gifted songstress has steadily grown over the years.

In 2004, 4 Men With Beards reissued on vinyl both her eponymous debut (1971) and Heart Food (1973), while 2003 and 2005 brought remastered CDs on Rhino Handmade and the Water Music label, respectively. Now comes archival specialist In­tervention, which has recently worked wonders with audiophile reissues of Stealers Wheel, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Everclear, and Joe Jackson, with its own vinyl take on the two records. The results are revelatory. Intervention was granted access to the original analog masters so that Grammy-winning mastering engineer Kevin Gray, of Cohearent Audio, could work his all-­analog magic. They then pressed each album on two 180-gram, 45rpm discs, and printed the original artwork on Stoughton “tip-on” gatefold sleeves.

The new Judee Sill is richly illustrative of both artist and artifact, if a bit of a period piece. It’s reminiscent in places of early Joni Mitchell, particularly in ”Jesus Was a Crossmaker,” a slice of mid-tempo piano pop subtly lined with chamber strings; the straightforward folk of “Crayon Angels,” with its oboe melody; and another of several evoca­tions of Jesus, the strummy “My Man on Love.” Elsewhere are some more fleshed-out compositions, orchestra­tions courtesy Don Bagley and Bob Harris; it’s in lush numbers such as “The Archetypal Man” that Gray’s fresh mastering is showcased, revealing a surround-sound depth to the tune’s almost Bach-like arrangement that I don’t hear on the 2005 CD.

For several reasons, Heart Food is the better album. It clearly benefits from Sill’s presumably being more comfortable in the studio two years on, and boasts an impressive roster of 25 “name” musicians, among them keyboardist Spooner Oldham, guitar­ist Doug Dillard, pedal-steel legend Buddy Emmons, bassist Chris Etheridge, and drummer Jim Gordon. And the complexity of Sill’s composi­tions has taken a quantum leap. For this album she also wrote the orches­trations, allowing for both a diversity of scope and an internal cohesion that suggested that she was going for more than simply getting a collection of disparate songs down on tape. Heart Food glows from the outset, its highlights including the sweet, coun­try-tinged (fiddle and steel), lyrically evocative “There’s a Rugged Road,” in which Sill indulges her familiar passion for Christian themes; the delightfully lush “The Kiss,” with an arrangement worthy of Brian Wilson; and the nine-­minute piano epic ”The Donor,” which is suite-like in structure, breathtaking, like CSN&Y singing gospel.

Gray’s remastering, too, will take your breath away. One example: Listening to ”The Donor” is like sitting in a cathedral, bathing in the enveloping voices of a choir, each piano note’s attack and decay as palpable as if you were seated on the bench beside the pianist. Ultimately, Heart Food is a timeless and deeply nourishing musical feast.

Songs of Rapture and Redemption: Rarities & Live arrives courtesy Run Out Groove, whose specialty is deluxe vinyl reissues (check my review of the Dream Syndicate’ The Complete Live at Raji’s 2LP set, which was released last year) and, in some cases, unique titles such as this one. Sides A and B are made up of live material recorded in Boston in ’71, and the seven tracks originally surfaced as bonus material on the 2003 Rhino Handmade Judee Sill; sides C and D are demos and outtakes originally included as bonus material from the two Sill CDs on Handmade. So while the material itself is not unreleased, this marks the first time it’s ever appeared on vinyl, and Run Out Groove has gone the extra mile by pressing the two LPs on swirly magenta vinyl (180-gram, natch) and housing them in a glossy-textured Stoughton sleeve—each set is individually numbered.

The live tracks are delightful, a beautifully recorded document of Sill in her to-brief prime, just the songwriter and her guitar plus, on the seven-minute “As Enchanted Sky Machines,” piano. The track “The Lamb Ran Away with the Crown” is one obvious standout, the Judee Sill number nearly aglow with passion. Among the demos, “Jesus Was a Cross Maker” is a fascinating early glimpse as a song that would go on to be, arguably, the artist’s most famous song. Equally fascinating: reading the liner notes, which are a transcribed conversation between the album’s co-producer, Pat Thomas, and the late Sill’s best friend and collaborator, Tommy Peltier, in which Peltier offers memories of the singer and observations about each track.

All in all, a must-own for any fan of Judee Sill even if they already own the Handmade CDs.

DOWNLOAD: Judee Sill & Heart Food: ”Jesus Was a Crossmaker,” “The Archetypal Man,” “There’s a Rugged Road,” “The Donor”  

 

Songs of Rapture and Redemption: “Lady-O” and “The Lamb Ran Away with the Cross” (both live), “The Desperado” (outtake), “The Pearl” (demo)

TRUCK STOP LOVE – Can’t Hear It: 1991-1994

Album: Can't Hear It: 1991-1994

Artist: Truck Stop Love

Label: Black Site Records

Release Date: November 17, 2017

https://black-site.org/

BY DANNY R. PHILLIPS

Manhattan, Kansas is not the first place one would conjure when thinking of rock and roll. It may not be Memphis, Seattle, New York or Los Angeles but it did give us Truck Stop Love.

Blending the textures of Bob Mould’s post- Husker Du project Sugar, the country punk swagger of Uncle Tupelo, the aggressiveness of “Sorry, Ma” era Replacements, KISS, Big Star, the pop sensibilities of The Lemonheads and the jangly goodness of Matthew Sweet, Truck  Stop Love created a sound that was truly theirs, an amalgamation described as “pop thrash” on the band’s Facebook page, Truck Stop Love made a thunderous racket in the days when country music, coupled with a blistering wall of guitars and punk rock aggression , became a monster of a movement all its own: a giant named Alt-country.

Bands like Soul Asylum, the country fried fuzz rock of The Meat Puppets and the great Dinosaur Jr., the straight ahead rock n roll of fellow Midwesterners The Replacements or the booze soaked alternative country of Jason and the Scorchers, Truck Stop Love borrowed a little bit of these, a splash here, a dollop there, all coming together triumphantly with “Can’t Hear It: 1991-1994”, a collection of demos and unreleased tracks, recently released by Kansas City, Missouri based label Black Site Records.

Truck Stop Love (the band recently reformed to headline the yearly rock and roll weekend Lawrence Field Day Fest in Lawrence, Kansas), were a band that could hang with the big boys of the time, a foot stomping rock band from the middle of Kansas making music that, even today, twenty five years on, demands to be heard by those of us that miss the Holy Trinity: bass, Drums, guitar.

Re-mastered and produced by former Flaming Lips drummer Kliph Scurlock, Can’t Hear It: 1991-1994 shows a band at the height of its musical powers, standing among some of the best of the time and writing songs that sound as fresh today as they did when they were first recorded, some over two decades ago; the multiple guitar attack of “Townie,” rings true, making the song a hybrid creature of Springsteen, Son Volt, The Bottlerockets and The Descendents; singing the lament of small-town life, the boredom, the loneliness, of Saturday nights spent drunk in the high school parking lot, avoiding the sheriff (I speak from personal experience here).  Truck Stop Love, to me were and are, accessible in a way that too many bands today sadly, will never be.  Truck Stop Love grasped onto their roots, the influence of both the times in which they lived and from those of their youth.  “Can’t Hear It’ is the sound of young guys, pissed at the world, making music, channeling what is around them into a thing to share with anyone who’ll take the time to listen, all while trying to clean out the bar.  If that’s not punk rock, I don’t know what is.

Can’t Hear It chronicles a great band that should’ve made it to the top but, for some reason, didn’t.  Do yourself a favor and re-discover Truck Stop Love with Can’t Hear It: 1991-1994, I’m glad I did.

DOWNLOAD: “Townie” “How I Spent my Summer Vacation” “River Mountain Love”

Incoming: Shoes “Black Vinyl Shoes” 3CD Deluxe Edition

Our favorite power pop band, bar none, gets set to kill it again with archival release.

By Blurt Staff

Power pop icons Shoes – who killed it at our 2013 SXSW day party in Austin – have their iconic LP debut Black Vinyl Shoes vastly expanded as a 3CD set on August 31 from Britain’s Cherry Red label, one of the planet’s most reliable archival sources. From Cherry Red:

First issued in 1977 on the band’s own label but not widely available until it was reissued in 1978, SHOES’ first album proper, Black Vinyl Shoes, is an absolute classic of US Power Pop, characterised by gorgeous, Byrds-style chiming guitars, wistful, melancholy melodies and wonderful harmonies. To coincide with the 40th anniversary (ish!) of this landmark record, Cherry Red are proud to present this 3-CD deluxe edition of Black Vinyl Shoes, reconfigured to present – almost – the complete recordings of the band from their embryonic home demos in 1973 through to tracks laid down on the eve of their deal with Elektra Records in 1979. These include the entire Black Vinyl Shoes album, their privately-pressed 1975 album One In Versailles, the 1975 recordings which were unissued at the time but belatedly presented as Bazooka, two tracks from their mythical 1974 LP Heads Or Tails, their one-off single for Bomp! And a handful of previously unissued tracks. Coordinated with the original band members, Black Vinyl Shoes boasts lengthy (8,000-word) sleeve-notes by David Wells, remastered sound quality and a sizeable booklet awash with rare images from the period.

Full track listing for this amazing, long-awaited collection, is below. Meanwhile, check out our 2015 profile of the band, a lengthy interview with cofounder Jeff Murphy by Blurt’s archival guru Dave Steinfeld.

DISC ONE:
BLACK VINYL SHOES
1. BOYS DON’T LIE
2. DO YOU WANNA GET LUCKY?
3. SHE’LL DISAPPEAR
4. TRAGEDY
5. WRITING A POSTCARD
6. NOT ME
7. SOMEONE FINER
8. CAPITAL GAIN
9. FATAL
10. RUNNING START
11.OKAY
12. IT REALLY HURTS
13. FIRE FOR AWHILE
14. IF YOU’D STAY
15. NOWHERE SO FAST

BONUS TRACKS
16. CAPITAL OFFENSE
17. SHE’LL DISAPPEAR (Demo) *
18. LUCKY TAIL
19. I WANNA HIDE
20. TOMORROW NIGHT (Bomp! Version)
21. OKAY (Bomp! Version)
22. I’LL TAKE YOU AWAY
23. FULL BITE
24. BABY’S GONE
25. EVER AGAIN
26. LIKE I TOLD YOU (Second Version) *
27. KAREN (Acoustic Demo) *
28. I’LL TAKE YOU AWAY (Alternative Version) *

* previously unissued

DISC TWO:
BAZOOKA
1. PINHEADS
2. MOVE IT OR LOSE IT
3. ROCK YOUR OWN
4. ALONG WITH LOVE
5. LOVE TOOK A TURN
6. ALONE BUT SATISFIED 7. NEW MEAT
8. I’M BRAZEN
9. THE ATLANTIC
10. MY ANISETTE
11. SNAP!
12. EDUCATED
13. LIKE I TOLD YOU BONUS TRACK
14. I CAN MAKE IT (Demo) *
* previously unissued

DISC THREE:
ONE IN VERSAILLES
1. DANCE IN YOUR SLEEP
2. DOIGETSOSHY
3. UN DANS VERSAILLES
4. KRISTINE
5. SOMETHING I CAN’T SEE
6. EGGROLL ROCK
7. SONG FOR HER
8. ONE NIGHT
9. NO, I DON’T
10. THE SUN
11. ONE IN VERSAILLES
12. BANJO

BONUS TRACKS
13. MY HUSBAND’S HOME!
14. NOTHING MEANS MORE
15. I’D LIKE TO TAKE YOU OUT AGAIN (from “Heads or Tails”, 1974) *
16. ROCK’N’ROLL FREAK
* previously unissued

VARIOUS ARTISTS- How is the Air Up There? 80 Mod, Soul, Freakbeat Nuggets from Down Under

Album: How is the Air Up There?

Artist: Various Artists

Label: Cherry Red

Release Date: April 26, 2018

www.cherryred.co.uk

 

BY TIM “Dagger Zine” HINELY

 Whoah, now this is a thing of beauty! Just as the title say this is a 3-cd set of out there gems from New Zealand. As most of you longtime DAGGER and BLURT readers know, I have a love of all things New Zealand, at least musically, but my knowledge is mostly with the 80’s Flying Nun (and to a lesser extent the Xpressway) scenes. Who in the heck knew that those two little islands in the South Pacific had such a healthy garage rock scene?! I sure as heck didn’t.  Apparently after falling in love with The Beatles in the 60’s (who didn’t) the teens of New Zealand were also treated to visits by The Rolling Stones (twice, no less), The Kinks, The Pretty Things and others and the kids were hooked. Guitar shops began selling out of guitars and amps and every house that had a garage was turned into a mini recording studio and /or concert hall. So spread out over these three discs are 80 songs by 50 bands (spanning the years 1965-’69) and there is some truly righteous stuff on here.

I’ve got disc one in right now and I’m hearing the sweet , grungy sounds of The Breakaways doing “Woman” while other cuts that frizzed out my hair (in the best way possible) were swingin’ jams by the likes of  The Smoke –“No More Now”),  The La-De-Dah’s (who open up disc 1 up with the title track, “How Is the Air Up There?), Larry’s Rebels (with the Blue Cheer-ish  “Painter Man”), The Four Fours (with the floppy “Go Go”) and too many more.

Manu of those same bands show up on disc two including The Action  with “Dad by Day,” The Cossacks belting out the great “Ugly Thing” (I wonder if that is where Mike Stax got his name for his great magazine??) , The Roadrunners with the fabulous “A House in the Country” (listen to those guitars!), Judge Wayne & the Convicts with the real 50’s ish “Little Miss Rhythm & Blues” and plenty more. Hey, don’t forget about disc three where you’ll hear more memorable cuts from The Spectres, The Pleazers, Mr. Lee Grant, Tom Thumb, The Rayders, The Librettos, Concrete Lamb and plenty more.

DOWNLOAD:  “No More Now,” “How Is the Air Up There?,” “Painter Man,” “Go Go,” “Ugly Thing”

 

 

THE DAMNATION OF ADAM BLESSING – The Damnation of Adam Blessing (LP) / The Second Damnation (LP)

Album: The Damnation of Adam Blessing (LP) / The Second Damnation (LP)

Artist: Damnation of Adam Blessing

Label: Exit Stencil

Release Date: March 30, 2018

www.exitstencil.org

The Upshot: Remarkably engaging underground hippie rock from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s by a now-obscure Cleveland band that actually came close to grabbing the brass ring.

BY FRED MILLS

Anyone interested in a sampling of late ‘60s/early ‘70s underground band The Damnation of Adam Blessing while reading this review is encouraged to pop over to Spotify, where there’s a digital album called The Best of The Damnation of Adam Blessing. With 13 tracks, it has selections from all four of the band’s LPs, heavily weighted towards the first two discussed here.

Begins 1969-spawned The Damnation of Adam Blessing, tellingly, “You take your Technicolor daydream/ Aww, let your mind and soul unwind/ You walk a mile into a mirror/ Yeah, travel sideways into time…” This eponymous debut from the Cleveland-based quintet is impressive as hell, although sadly, the band’s fortunes would ebb and flow across a quartet of albums; their steadily diminishing returns, commercially speaking, would ultimately doom the group by the time ’73 rolled around.

It wasn’t for lack of talent or trying, however, and on multiple fronts (particularly since the band was signed to United Artists, at the time a moderately significant label with an eclectic roster). But despite some promising flirtation with the national charts, TDOAB failed to get much traction beyond the Midwest touring circuit of the day.

Instrumentally, the band had the chops to deliver sonic tableaux that, while in retrospect were clearly of the era, should’ve powered any number of their songs onto the playlists of freeform radio stations of the day across the country.  These were dark, dramatic numbers of metaphysical intent and wah-wah-fueled delivery, and they also boasted the potentially starmaking vocal charisma of frontman Bill Constable (aka the titular Adam), whose pipes were supple enough to make him a potential understudy to Ian Gillan or even Rod Stewart — check his performance in the group’s notable version of the Jeff Beck Group’s version of “Morning Dew.”

Yours truly was fortunate enough to be turned on back in the day to The Damnation of Adam Blessing by an older mentor, and several years later, after the group was no longer, I came across the first two LPs in a used bin. I never was able to locate their third or fourth albums, 1971’s Which Is the Justice, Which Is the Thief?, and 1972’s Glory, although most accounts suggest that neither record was exactly mind-blowing. But LP Numbers One (the aforementioned self-titler) and Two (The Second Damnation, from 1970) remain crucial artifacts, and the ever-diligent archivists at the Exit Stencil label have just rescued both platters from relative obscurity as fully-licensed reissues. Neither are nostalgia trips; period pieces, perhaps, but still churning with hirsute, hippie bravado ‘n’ passion.

The Damnation of Adam Blessing is perhaps the stronger of the two releases, should you have to choose between them. From the aforementioned “Cookbook,” which wouldn’t have been out of place on an early Free album, and moody, meditative ballad “Lonely,” a showcase for Constable’s estimable croon; to the baroque pop of “Strings and Things,” a lengthy (5:45) excursion that deliberately ventures into Jefferson Airplane psychedelia, what with its overtones of the Volunteers album, and a surprisingly rousing take of the Monkees (!) “Last Train to Clarksville”—this is a diverse, layered album that repays multiple spins with fresh sonic revelations each time around. And The Second Damnation doesn’t exactly fare poorly either, what with tuneful garage workouts like “Death of a Virgin,” full-on hard rocker “Driver” (somewhere there’s an unreconstructed Grand Funk fan who heard this once and to this day swears it was from a GFR bootleg), the lust-fueled, six-minute 12-bar blooze of “New York City Woman,” and the group’s unabashed pop anthem “Back to the River,” sensual and sinewy, and one of those “coulda-shoulda” radio hits that never was. (In fact, it almost made it to the Billboard Top 100 when United Artists release an edited version as a single, but for some reason it stalled at #102, taking with it any momentum the album itself might have been building.)

Pressed up on heavyweight vinyl and boasting sharp reproductions of the original sleeve artwork plus bonus inserts depicting photos of the original master tape reel boxes on one side and detailed liner notes by Ugly Things writer Doug Sheppard on the other, both LPs are essential listening for anyone even remotely interested in probing the less-explored corners of the era. I can feel my mind and soul expanding just writing about ‘em—somebody pass me my mirror, I’m ready to travel sideways…

DOWNLOAD: “Back to the River,” “Morning Dew,” “Cookbook,” “Strings and Things,” “New York City Woman”

SYNDICATE MAN: Steve Wynn

The songwriter stepped outside the Dream Syndicate mothership for his first two solo albums, originally released in the early ‘90s, which now get the expanded reissue treatment courtesy the archival maestros at Omnivore. (Watch a Wynn concert from 1992 following the text.)

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

In the late eighties, Steve Wynn was best known as leader of the mighty Dream Syndicate, and as such was associated with a certain sound. Though the band had begun to cross its own boundaries before its final record Ghost Stories, the Syndicate was still thought of as one thing: a semi-crazed guitar band that crossed the Velvet Underground with Crazy Horse. But Wynn was more ambitious in his vision, so it was only natural that he would put his latest batch of songs in different settings on Kerosene Man and Dazzling Display, his first solo albums.

They’ve now been reissued and expanded by the Omnivore label.

Originally released on Rhino Records in 1990, Kerosene Man opens up Wynn’s sound with colorful arrangements and thick, even lush instrumentation. Producer Joe Chiccarelli encouraged Wynn to look outside of his circle of friends and consider session cats. It’s a move that might be construed as an attempt to make Wynn’s songs commercial, but that’s not in and of itself a bad thing. Wynn’s writing has always been fairly straightforward – verses, choruses, melodies, hooks – and giving them production that, while hardly slick, wouldn’t sound out of place on the evolving Adult Album Alternative format would hopefully increase his audience. The single “Carolyn,” a tune that went back to the early Syndicate days, goes alt.country before alt.country was cool, while “Something to Remember Me By” enhances its dirty rock with female backup vocals (courtesy an overdubbed Julie Christensen of Divine Horsemen/Leonard Cohen infamy). “Conspiracy of the Heart” (a co-write and duet with Concrete Blonde’s Johnette Napolitano) and “Here On Earth As Well” essay gorgeous balladry with easy grace, unleashing a new facet of Wynn’s talent. With its jangling 12-string, crunchy solo and rousing chorus, opener “Tears Won’t Help” posits Wynn as the classic rocker that was always hiding under the Syndicate’s wall of feedback.

None of that’s to say Wynn doesn’t work his more eccentric mojo. “The Blue Drifter” indulges in his Lou Reed side, complete with saxophone coda, “Under the Weather” waits under the streetlight at midnight for a cool slice of noir rock, and the title track rollicks like a great bar band trying to cover Bob Dylan and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” at the same time. The gnarled “Younger” – guest-starring Giant Sand’s Howe Gelb and future Continental Drifter Robert Mache duking it out on guitar – sounds more like an unused Dream Syndicate track than Nü-Steve. But the overall feel of Kerosene Man is smoother and more radio-ready than Wynn’s previous work, though it’s a sheen motivated more by a desire to get a set of strong songs in the vicinity of friendly ears than it is shifting units.

The Omnivore edition comes with a half-dozen bonus tracks, all recorded either in clubs or on the radio with his band at the time. A mix of originals and covers, the bonus cuts boast aggressive takes on Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Graveyard Train” and Bob Dylan’s “The Groom’s Still Waiting At the Altar” and an absolutely molten version of “Younger.”

Wynn quickly followed up Kerosene Man with Dazzling Display, made with the same core team and originally issued in 1992. With a bigger budget, extra musicians and a year’s worth of experience on the road as a solo artist, Wynn was able to make what’s probably the most diverse and colorful record of his career. The first two cuts tell it: alongside the same studio band as on the last record, the bright, groovy pop of “Drag” features Three O’Clock/Mary’s Danish guitarist Louis Gutierrez, a horn section and a small army of backing vocalists, while the frisky folk/pop of “Tuesday” includes Gutierrez, Peter Buck, John Wesley Harding, string players and, on backing vocals, Flo & Eddie (the Turtles’ Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman) and the Psycho Sisters (the Bangles’ Vicki Peterson and the Cowsills’ Susan Cowsill – soon to join Wynn guitarist Robert Mache and bassist Mark Walton in the Continental Drifters). It looks excessive on the page, but by the grace of Wynn’s tasteful and efficient writing, his contagious enthusiasm for taking advantage of the studio environment and the skill of the players themselves, these top-heavy creations don’t fall on their faces.

Though the number of musicians on the rest of the tracks rarely reaches the same levels, they’re still presented in busier arrangements and shinier production than even Kerosene Man. But that works like a charm, suiting this particular set of Wynn songs well. The glittery pop of “Dandy in Disguise” and “When She Comes Around,” propulsive psychedelia of “Grace” and angry rock of “405” and the title track find their melodies buttressed by the arrangements, rather than obscured, and Wynn sounds confident and engaged amidst all the industry. Above all, it sounds like a natural evolution from the debut. Hardcore fans of The Days of Wine and Roses might blanch at first, but anyone following the road from 1982 to 1992 will be satisfied.

As with Kerosene Man, the Omnivore version includes six in-concert bonus cuts, recorded with Wynn’s touring band. The mini-set boasts a lovely “Conspiracy of the Heart,” with Johnette Napolitano reprising her studio role, and a hard-rocking version of Paul Simon’s “Boy in the Bubble” as highlights.

Wynn continued exploring this pop-friendly direction in later records, but it’s on these long out-of-print gems that he truly signaled his desire to never be hemmed in by expectations, his own or others. Kerosene Man and Dazzling Display are well worth rediscovery.

Photo by Greg Allen

GOD’S CHILDREN – Music Is the Answer: The Complete Collection

Album: Music Is the Answer: The Complete Collection

Artist: God's Children

Label: Minky

Release Date: April 13, 2018

 

 

https://www.midheaven.com/label/minky-records

The Upshot: Sweet sunshine pop, Latino rock, and psychedelic-tinged soul from the age of Aquarius.

BY FRED MILLS

You gotta love an archival project like this one, and not just because it is a true across-the-board labor of love. There’s a freshness and optimism suffusing the music, and while it is definitely “of a time”—specifically, late ‘60s/early ‘70s—the tunes have also stood the test of time, their seamless blend of sweet sunshine pop, Latino rock, and psychedelic-tinged soul as fine an ambassador to the era as you’ll find.

The group was co-founded by Little Willie G and Lil’ Ray (that would be misters Garcia and Jimenez, respectively), late of East L.A. Chicano rockers Thee Midniters, and had a kind of streamlined Sly & the Family Stone-meets-Fifth Dimension sound thanks in no small part to three female vocalists joining the par at the mic, notably one Lydia Amescua (described as “a teenage girl with a big voice”) and an Aquarian-age vibe. As detailed in the exhaustive liner notes penned by author/journalist (and Blurt alumnus) Denise Sullivan, once the project got off the ground the musicians hooked up with local entrepreneur Eddie Davis, who helped them land a deal with the UNI label and put them in the studio with the legendary Wrecking Crew to up their studio game several notches. As these things often turn out, however, UNI wasn’t sure how to market and promote the band, and with other pressures coming to bear—the musical culture was rapidly changing as well, away from vocal groups and in the direction of rock bands and singer-songwriters—the group fell into disarray. Two singles for UNI, and that was that.

The music they left behind, however, deserves to be heard. From the richly soulful midtempo ballad “Dream” (sung by Little Willie G) and the percolating, organ-powered garage pop of “It Don’t Make No Difference” (somewhat reminiscent of ? and the Mysterians, featuring Lil’ Ray on lead), to the lush, orchestral, almost Lee Hazelwood-esque “Hey, Does Somebody Care” (which was also the theme song to television series Matt Lincoln) and sinewy, wah-wah/congas-powered rocker “Music Is the Answer” (available here in both vocal and instrumental versions), there’s plenty to tuck into. A cover of pop schmaltzer “Put Your Head On My Shoulder” may inadvertently have telegraphed how the group was growing out of step with the times, but a gorgeous, inspiring version of Billy Preston’s “That’s the Way God Planned It” more than redeems matters.

Incidentally, in addition to CD, Music Is the Answer also was released on limited edition brown vinyl for this year’s Record Store Day, and as of this writing you can still find reasonably priced copies at Discogs.com. Grab it while you can.

DOWNLOAD: “That’s the Way God Planned It,” “It Don’t Make No Difference,” “Music Is the Answer”

BLIND IDIOT GOD – Undertow + Before Ever After (2LP reissues)

Album: Undertow + Before Ever After (2LP reissues)

Artist: Blind Idiot God

Label: Indivisible Music

Release Date: February 23, 2018

http://indivisiblemusic.com

The Upshot: The monstrous Bill Laswell-approved NYC outfit embarks upon a tantalizing colored-vinyl reissue program, including 1989’s Undertow and 2015’s comeback album Before Ever After. The former now comes in a deluxe gatefold sleeve and is pressed on brilliant tan/copper wax, while the latter goes even further with a trifold sleeve and luminescent green vinyl.

BY MICHAEL TOLAND & FRED MILLS

As Dr. Toland pointed out in his “Throwing Horns” metal roundup recently, ”the New York trio’s second LP found its patented blend of thrashing doom and jazzy dub in almost bifurcated form, with neither side of the band’s coin rubbing up against the other.  Undertow has the deep-dub hallmarks of a Bill Laswell production, and it also features a couple of the extended Laswell family intimates, Henry Rollins (vocals on two tracks) and John Zorn (sax on one of them). Yet guitarist Andy Hawkins, bassist Gabe Katz, and drummer Ted Epstein never surrender their stage in terms of their blistering jazz/skronk/hardcore approach to music making. Whether serving up a Bad Brains-worthy thrash epistle (“Atomic Whip”), a luminous meditation in the key of the aforementioned dub (“Watch Yer Step”), an improv-powered wall of noise (“Wailing Wall,” which justifies its title), or even a quick jazz-sax freakout (Zorn’s 2-minute appearance, “Purged Specimen,” may be brief, but it’s brutal), Blind Idiot God makes the most of its four vinyl sides.

And if you’re looking for some good old fashioned late-period Black Flag-meets-Rollins-Band, uh, boogie (term used loosely), there’s a long and a short version of the appropriately titled “Freaked,” from the Alex Winter film. Hank, we love the spoken word, but seriously, your rock audience needs you, and Blind Idiot God would be the guys to help you deliver the goods once again.

Sigh. 1989 was such a different time. At any rate, this 2017 remaster for double vinyl is essential uneasy listening. Grab it on sight. (—Fred Mills)

***

A baker’s dozen years since its last platter Cyclotron, Blind Idiot God came stomping back in 2015 with Before Ever After, a double LP that displayed the NYC instrumental trio at its BIGgest.

On the album, although joined by a new rhythm section, guitarist Andy Hawkins stays the course of the past three decades of his singular career, keeping one foot in amp-melting doom and the other in airplane-hangar dub.

As Hawkins terrifies his amp and bass/drums bash and crash, “Earthmover,” “Strung” and the appropriately-titled “Under the Weight” rumble like a Brontosaurus across the rubble of a fallen city, crushing debris underfoot as its stomach growls. On the other side of the bent coin, “Ramshackle,” “Shutdown” and “High and Mighty” skank through the dust as it settles, letting a little sunlight echo through the destructive aftermath. Not everything is quite so direct, however. “Voice of the Structure” alternates between spacy swirl and heavy pound, while “Barrage” fractures its rhythm in a manner not dissimilar to postpunk. “Fub” takes the band to the next level of development, its light-on-its-feet feel full of jazzy lightning and improv thunder.

Brandishing its weaponry with power and grace, Before Ever After both reclaims the legacy of Blind Idiot God and paves the way for its next epoch. (—Michael Toland)