Category Archives: Reissue

THE BLURT JAZZ DESK: 7 Recent Archival Releases

Darin Mercer

For our latest installment, Prof. Kopp takes a look at titles from Omnivore Recordings, Real Gone Music, TCB Music, Resonance Records and Concord Bicycle Music. [Go HERE for previous installments of the Jazz Desk.]

BY BILL KOPP

Bobby Darin & Johnny Mercer – Two of a Kind (Omnivore Recordings)

Founded in 2010, Omnivore Recordings is a boutique label that quickly became renowned for its thoughtful and carefully-curated reissues and archival releases; the release schedule of the Grammy-winning label reflects the impeccable taste of its head, industry veteran Cheryl Pawelski. But this project is something of a left-turn, even for the reliably eclectic Omnivore. A 1961 collaboration between one of music’s top vocalists (Darin) and one of its finest songwriters (Mercer), Two of a Kind is a swingin’ big-band affair. The two men are clearly having the time of their lives as they trade vocal lines, backed by an explosive band conducted by the inimitable Billy May. The set list is dizzyingly varied, featuring originals (“Two of a Kind”), show tunes and jazz classics. In its character, Two of a Kind is not far removed from the camaraderie of Bob Hope/Bing Crosby projects, but with a couple of helluva-lot-better singers. Get yourself a bottle of rye, some sweet vermouth; mix up some Manhattans, and sit back and enjoy this seemingly effortless musical summit.

Babs Ellington

Alice Babs & Duke Ellington – Serenade to Sweden (Real Gone Music)

Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington wasn’t just one of the 20th century’s most important composers and bandleaders; he was one of the era’s most prolific artists. His big-band work is the best-known part of his catalog, but it represents a mere fraction of his prodigious output. This 1966 album finds Ellington conducting an orchestra while Alice Babs – Sweden’s most popular singer of that era – plays the part of siren. Her ability to tackle the highest notes without betraying the slightest trace of effort is a hallmark of her work, and her deliciously clear vocal enunciation is beguiling. Some of the tunes focus on a smaller instrumental ensemble, while others make full use of the big orchestra. But the focus is always squarely on Babs’ superbly nimble (but never showy) vocals. Until this, its first-ever CD-era reissue, Serenade to Sweden was among the rarest and hard-to-find items in the catalog of either artist; Real Gone Music’s reissue features flawless remastering from Aaron Kannowski, and informative liner notes form jazz authority Scott Yanow.

Rollins Silver

Sonny Rollins Trio & Horace Silver Quartet – Zurich 1959 (TCB Music)

The latest entry in TCB’s “Swiss Radio Days” Jazz Series, Zurich 1959 highlights one set each from Rollins’ trio (with Henry Grimes on bass, and drummer Pete La Roca) and pianist Silver’s quintet (Blue Mitchell on trumpet, tenor saxophonist Junior Cook, bassist Gene Taylor and the inimitable Louis Hayes on drums), recorded at Radio Studio Zurich on March 5, 1959. The sound is superb – those postwar Europeans demonstrated a keen skill at recording jazz – and it should go without saying that both bands perform beautifully. Rollins’ group turns in lovely, uptempo readings of standard including “I Remember You,” and Rollins’ original tune, “Oleo.” Silver’s quintet is exotic and assured on five originals from its bandleader. All the players are on fire, but Mitchell and Hayes are perhaps even a notch or two above their band mates on this blowing sessions.

Three Sounds

The Three Sounds – Groovin’ Hard: Live At The Penthouse 1964-1968 (Resonance Records)

The title of this set is perhaps a tad misleading: while Gene Harris, bassist Andy Simpkins and – depending on the track – Bill Dowdy, Kalil Madi or Carl Burnett on drums play with skill, finesse and power, this set leans more toward assured understatement than fiery soul-jazz readings. The Three Sounds were together 1956-73, and these archival recordings date from the middle-period (and arguably creative height) of the group, 1964-68. As was often the case, the trio’s sound was best documented live in front of an audience, and this collection – curated by Zev Feldman, perhaps current day’s most important jazz archivist – is no exception. The interplay between the players borders on the telepathic; the music is at once loose and free yet meticulously arranged. Without a doubt, the highlight of this stellar set is “Blue Genes,” with Harris’ deft piano work at its center.

Pepper

Art Pepper Presents “West Coast Sessions!” Volume 1: Sonny Stitt (Omnivore Recordings)

Art Pepper Presents “West Coast Sessions!” Volume 2: Pete Jolly (Omnivore Recordings)

The estate of alto and tenor saxophonist Art Pepper is responsible for bringing these long-unheard recordings back to light. Led by Pepper’s widow Laurie, and working with Omnivore, a series of the man’s sessions are receiving thoughtful reissue in the 21st century. These volumes are perhaps the most intriguing of what’s come out of the project so far: dates recorded in and around 1980, but featuring players from 1950s jazz. Happily, there’s absolutely nothing “80s” about these sessions other than their recording date. Because Pepper was under contract to Atlantic at the time, these recordings – originally issued on the small Atlas label – don’t feature him as official bandleader, but make no mistake: he’s in charge. The Stitt sessions are spread across two discs, and bring together recordings originally released on three separate albums, adding three previously unheard tracks. The Pete Jolly sessions are a single-disc set, and feature two alternate takes of Pepper’s original “Y.I. Blues.” Booklets include not only short essays from Laurie Pepper, but also diagrams depicting the studio instrument setup for the recordings. Both sets are essential for fans of 1950s jazz.

Evans

The Bill Evans Trio – On a Monday Evening (Concord Bicycle Music)

Bill Evans was one of the most distinctive pianists in all of music; his command of the keyboard was such that to the untrained listener, his sound seemed to be that of two different musicians. His left and right hand often seemed to operate completely separate from one another, yet they were always musically connected. The revered pianist was at his best in the context of a trio, and this 1976 recording captures him onstage with drummer Eliot Zigmund and longtime associate Eddie Gomez on upright bass. The monaural recording made at Madison, Wisconsin’s Union Theatre has never been bootlegged, so this vinyl (and CD, and digital) release marks its debut. Typical of an Evans set, the album is a mixture of originals and readings of contemporary tunes. The sound is superb, the performances are flawless, and the vinyl edition is pressed on 180g and comes in a sturdy gatefold sleeve.

***

Bill Kopp is the Blurt Jazz Desk editor. You can bug him directly at his most excellent music blog, Musoscribe.

 

 

THE JIGSAW SEEN – For the Discriminating Completist

Album: For the Discriminating Completist

Artist: Jigsaw Seen

Label: Burger

Release Date: January 27, 2017

http://burgerrecords.com/

JS

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

The Jigsaw Seen rank among the most sadly neglected power pop bands on the planet. And yet, their consistent cleverness has never been in doubt. Likewise, the fact that the Kinks’ Dave Davies frequently taps them as his backing band whilst playing solo, obviously adds to their credence. Still, the fact that so many folks remain unawares is truly distressing, especially in light of the fact that they’re so proficient at creating their relentless riffs as well as hooks that simply don’t quit. So while the tellingly titled For the Discriminating Completist fills in the more obtuse portions of their catalog — one that dates back some than 20 years in fact — it’s also an apt introduction that leans heavily on their penchant for pop. There’s intrigue along with the oddities, the former represented by a revved up take on the old swing standard “The Best Is Yet To Come,” the latter through an equally rocking version of the instrumental “Baby Elephant Walk.” As for the rest, a faithful cover of the early, obscure Bee Gees song “Melody Fair” (culled from an equally obscure Bee Gees tribute album) and single edits of their own originals, “When You’re Pretty,” “Whore Kiss” and “Celebrity Interview” all reaffirm their pop prowess. Hints of psychedelia, eastern influences and other obvious reference points (Beatles, Cheap Trick, Hollies et. al.) all enter the mix, making this both satisfying and sublime throughout. Completists will care, but after giving a hearing, newcomers likely will as well.

DOWNLOAD: “Melody Fair,” “The Best Is Yet To Come,” “When You’re Pretty”

BEFORE THE JOSHUA TREE: U2

U2

What were YOU doing when the Irish rockers were touring behind The Unforgettable Fire? Here’s how a die-hard U2 fan (with more than just a little at stake…) found himself one night in the bowels of an arena, swapping slugs of red wine with Bono himself and ruminating upon the twin poles of fandom and stardom.

BY FRED MILLS

On October 1, 1984, U2 released their groundbreaking album The Unforgettable Fire. Almost exactly three decades later—this week, to be precise—U2 releases their Songs of Innocence album.And while it’s too early to say what the critical judgment will be—based on online commentary in the wake of that debatable move to offer it for free via iTunes a month ahead of the physical release, there probably won’t be a clear consensus—it’s a shoo-in to be a commercial smash and seems destined for multiple Grammy nominations. That latter notion is underscored by the rather cynical strategy on the part of the band’s label to slide a small handful of white label vinyl LPs to retail a few days before the deadline for Grammy consideration this year.

Having listened to it pretty steadily since the digital unveiling and then again this weekend when I got a copy of the two-CD deluxe edition, I suspect my own comments will be qualified but mostly favorable, particularly when comparing it to 2009’s atrocious No Line on the Horizon, which hold the unique position in my U2 collection of, er, well… not having a position at all in my U2 collection, as it’s the one U2 record I’ve never bothered to purchase. And I say this from a position of being a more than just interested observer: from 1983 through 1988 I edited and published a U2 fanzine called U2/USA, diligently expressing my sometimes—okay, frequent—over-the-top fandom with two equally enthusiastic writers and photographers and a host of contributors who’d been permanently bitten by the U2 bug. For me, it turned out to be not so permanent, as I became gradually disillusioned in the aftermath of the Rattle and Hum film, partly due to a nagging sense that U2 had outgrown its grassroots fanbase and partly due to a realization that said fanbase had expanded exponentially and things were steadily getting weirder. (Some of this I’ve documented previously, in particular the so-called “Miranda incident” in which I was privy to some of the same unpleasantness detailed in Vanity Fair’s 1999 expose The Miranda Obsession, by veteran journalist Bryan Burrough.)

U2USA 4b

But that would come later. In 1984, I was dealing with a pretty big obsession of my own, and that was U2. I wrote a lengthy, impassioned review of The Unforgettable Fire for the fourth issue of U2/USA, and then when the tour promoting the album hit the states in the spring of ’85, I immediately grabbed tickets for the magazine staff for the April concert in Hampton, VA, and I also requested backstage passes through the group’s management, aiming to take in the soundcheck and, with luck, conduct an interview with Bono.

On the morning of April 10 I arrived at the Hampton Coliseum, had coffee with the Coliseum manager in order to get his take—based on the number of people already in the parking lot and sitting on the sidewalk outside the venue—on what was shaping up to be a pretty sizable crowd. He seemed nonplused, although he did note that other bands in the recent past had posed problems: “Duran Duran and Van Halen were our worst shows, crowd-wise. Too rowdy, lots of alcohol you know.” Following that I met with U2’s Production Manager, Steve Iredale, who already knew about our fanzine and who soon steered me to the group’s manager Paul McGuinness and his assistant Ellen Darst. McGuinness in turn called Bono over and introduced us. Everyone was gracious towards me and seemed genuine interested in the ‘zine and what we were all about; recall that at this point in U2’s career the musicians were not megastars, as that wouldn’t come until The Joshua Tree era, so it was probably a no-brainer to treat with respect those folks who were actively helping to promote the group. I was handed a blue/white laminated “U2 Tour 85 The Unforgettable Fire – Backstage” pass and invited to hang around and watch the soundcheck if I wanted to. Later I learned that the pass wasn’t just for the Hampton show—it would get me backstage access for any dates on the entire tour.

U2 passes

***

From my original notes and report: U2’s soundcheck was fun, even a few surprises. I heard some unfamiliar riffs from the Edge that progressed into a casual version of “The Three Sunrises” and possibly some of “Love Comes Tumbling.” Adam danced around on the stage a bit, perhaps out of restlessness but I prefer to think he was just in a good mood because he also stepped up to the mic and sang. The band dutifully responded to the soundman when he requested them to do this or that: a bit of a capella from Bono; a quick bass run from Adam; give us one more cymbal crash please, Larry; let’s check out the sequencer intro for “Bad” and your “New Year’s Day” piano part, okay Edge? The Edge, in fact, seemed to play the part of conductor rather than Bono, with Adam and Larry cueing off his nods and looks. Which was a good thing, as there has to be some semblance of order in a live situation—who knows what Bono might do on any given night.

Later, after the check, Bono walked up and plopped down next to me on the instrument cases I’d been sitting on. “Are you doing okay?” was the first thing out of his mouth, and as he gargled lemon tea we chatted briefly about the ‘zine; he apologized for having to keep things short but his throat was in rough shape and he had to save it for the concert. Pledging to continue the conversation another time, he signed some record sleeves then politely excused himself and headed off for some much-needed pre-gig quiet time. I was able to get the records signed by the rest of the band, and then I settled in to watch the deluge.

At promptly 6:30 pm the doors opened and it was more of a stampede to be the first to get in the front row, if you can call it a “row” since the entire Coliseum was general admission and there were no actual seats on the floor. Later I’d observe some of those lucky first-arrivals become the first casualties of the evening when security would have to haul them over the metal mesh barrier in order to keep them from being crushed by their overly excited fellow concertgoers. There were tons of U2 teeshirts in evidence, some from previous tours and others just-purchased and hastily-donned. Programs and posters were waved in the air, cigarettes were smoked (yes, this was in the pre-no-smoking-in-public-buildings era), soft drinks guzzled, and emotions were steadily heightened. An hour and a half or so later opening act Lone Justice was finishing up its set and the U2/USA crew had found some seats a few rows off the main floor, waiting for the main event…

Setlist: 11 O’Clock Tick Tock, I Will Follow, Seconds, MLK, The Unforgettable Fire, Wire w/Give Me Some Truth, Sunday Bloody Sunday, The Cry, The Electric Co. / Amazing Grace (snippet), A Sort Of Homecoming, Bad w/Ruby Tuesday/Sympathy For The Devil, October, New Year’s Day, Pride (In The Name Of Love) // (encores) Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, Gloria, 40

After the concert, the backstage scene was strangely calm—no mob of fans, other than about 30 kids outside at the loading dock, hoping for a sight of the band; no crazed groupies (well, almost: one tenacious young lass slipped past security and was immediately scouring the area for souvenirs, mutting something about needing to find “bits of Bono”); just the crew tearing down and starting the load-out process. U2, in fact, had already left, being exhausted and looking forward to a day off before heading to New Jersey for a three-night stand at the Meadowlands. En route back to the hotel, I stopped in the parking lot to look at the wares of a bootleg teeshirt vendor; I’m not normally a teeshirt junkie, and I’d already bought an official program (pictured below) but this one seemed apropos of the evening, as it read “U2 USA Tour.”

Tour program

 

***

April 29, Atlanta: Fresh from a four-day vacation in the Florida sun, U2 arrives at The Omni and prepares for soundcheck. I’d already picked up my ticket (and discovered it included an additional “work personnel” pass, although I wouldn’t need it since I already had the aforementioned laminate) so I’m wandering around when I bump into Larry and Edge; the former remembers me from Hampton, but Edge doesn’t until I mention the fanzine, at which point he grins broadly and tells me how much he likes it, adding “Hope to see you later tonight” in his unmistakable soft Irish voice as he ascends the steps to the stage.

There’s a lot of clowning around during the check. They do “The Three Sunrises” as well as an untitled funk-rockabilly number during which Bono does some impromptu off-the-wall scatsinging. Bono also walks slowly around the entire upper level of the arena stopping periodically to listen and making sure the sound is acceptable at all points. “Sounds very nice,” is his judgment, when he returns to the stage. Initially I’m sitting in the stands myself, but one of the crew comes over and politely informs me, “They’d prefer not to be observed.” Gesturing at some cases, he suggests I go sit over behind the stage. Members of opening act the Red Rockers join me to watch the rest of the soundcheck. When U2 is done Bono comes over to talk with me and RR drummer Jim Reilly and he pledges to finally get that interview done after the show.

Setlist: 11 O’Clock Tick Tock, I Will Follow, Seconds, Two Hearts Beat As One, MLK, The Unforgettable Fire, Wire, Sunday Bloody Sunday, The Cry, The Electric Co., A Sort Of Homecoming, Bad, October, New Year’s Day, Pride (In The Name Of Love) // (encores) Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, Gloria, 40 [source: U2setlists.com]

The post-concert scene backstage at the Omni is the polar opposite of Hampton. There are tons of folks with day-of-show backstage passes stuck to their silk blouses and satin baseball jackets, and it seems like there is more per capita teased blonde ‘dos (for the females) and mustache-and-shag hair (the males) than any concert I’ve ever been at since the ‘70s. Atlanta is a music biz town—although not necessarily the most sophisticated one, I determine, after observing an excited girl thrusting a tour program in the direction of one of the Red Rockers only to be disappointed to learn that he’s not a member of U2.

U2 passes 2

Brown triangle

 

Security eventually begins herding people this way or that way depending on the type of access designated by their passes (VIP, Hospitality, Press, etc.). And I do mean herding: “All of you with the Brown Triangles must do down here and wait.” “No, you must go back around to the press area.” “Anybody without passes must leave the area immediately!” Me: “Where do I go?” Security, squinting at my laminate: “Uh, you can go wherever you want.” So I follow the Brown Triangles down the corridor past the dressing rooms and showers to a medium-sized room serving as the official Hospitality Room. It’s quite a layout of eats: two, count ‘em, 2 bowls of chips, one bowl of dip, one bowl of peanuts, one plate of sliced cheese. I grab a canned Pepsi and a handful of chips and go perch on a table in the far corner of the room, trying my best to look cool and detached. This isn’t the easiest thing to do when you’ve got crumbs of chips smeared around the edge of your mouth but I resolve to make the best of it.

After about 15 or 20 minutes of people talking amongst themselves and steadily eyeing the doors, Bono comes in, still wet from his shower, ready for a standard music biz town meet-and-greet. Initially, folks approach him tentatively, offering him flowers and candy and books (plus the de rigeur stuffed animal) and shyly asking for autographs. Then the more aggressive label-and-radio people take over, demanding kisses and hugs and posing for photos with him. I swear at least 10 different guys with shag haircuts and mustaches tell Bono that they were the first local DJ to play U2 in Atlanta or the first record company employee to push U2 product in the region. I think to myself that these folks will be saying the same thing in a few weeks to Elvis Costello and Ted Nugent when they play Atlanta.

But there are some genuine fans in there as well, including some old friends that Bono obviously recognizes and greets warmly. There’s also the guy who was lucky enough to be pulled onstage during U2’s set and play guitar during “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”; I talk to him some and learn that he’s also a friend of Irish fiddler Steve Wickham, who played on U2’s War album (and would go on to Waterboys fame). I also learn that Bono’s father was in attendance at the show, although I don’t know if he’s in the Hospitality Room with me. Eventually Edge and Adam show up (no Larry), as do the Red Rockers. Meanwhile, security and tour manager Dennis Sheehan are busy screening people who want in, including one guy with a briefcase full of albums whom I’d spotted earlier borrowing another person’s pass. Somehow he manages to slip in, but just as he’s about to corner Bono with the LPs, Sheehan rushes over, grabs him by the shoulder (“I warned you!”) and firmly escorts him out.

It’s fascinating to crowd watch in a situation like this. People behave differently in the presence of stars. One guy engages Edge in a conversation about guitars, and judging by the look on Edge’s face, the two are hitting it off nicely. Then there’s the girl who’s quite vocal about not being able to get the absent Larry’s autograph (later she will literally chase Bono down the hall and beg him to take her to the drummer). Small crowds form around Bono, then slowly break off to re-coagulate in the vicinity of Edge or Adam, as if they are drawing a psychic “celebrity fix” with each mini-encounter. The Red Rockers guys obviously understand their place in the pecking order and pretty much hang out with each other, with people occasionally drifting over to them; they seem to be getting a pretty even mix of actual fans who know their music and U2 nuts who are frustrated they can’t penetrate the aforementioned mini-crowds but are still determined to get some type celeb-fix. I admire the Rockers’ resilience as much as I admire U2’s patience.

At one point Bono looks up from a conversation and spots me a few people away from him, observing the scene. I smile and nod at him, and he offers, “You did make it back here. How are you feeling?” “Great, never better!” “That’s great—so hang on, we’ll talk in just a bit.”

In about ten minutes (by now it’s approaching midnight) Sheehan buttonholes Bono and informs him time’s up. Bono shakes a few last hands, then comes over to me, grabs me by the arm and says let’s go. We head out into the corridor—yes, a part of me is aware of the people staring at the back of my head and wondering who the hell is that asshole with Bono?—and over to a dressing room lounge. We plop down on stuffed sofas opposite one another and he reaches over for an open bottle of red wine. He takes a deep swig then passes the bottle over to me. The back of my mind dimly registers the fact that maybe I should try to figure out some way to keep it after we’re done as a souvenir.

“I’m really drained,” Bono says, sighing for emphasis, as I hand him back the bottle. “That was a good show.” Although I had the proverbial laundry list of questions I’d wanted to ask him for U2/USA, I sensed that our time might be limited (the group is headed back to Florida tonight where they’ll get ready for the final four shows of the North American leg of The Unforgettable Fire tour). So I instead opt to freestyle, first asking him who were all those people back there?

“I’ll tell you who they are. They’re people who work selling our records, salesmen, radio people. The sort of people who are just normally cogs in the machine, you know? And they use words like ‘product’ and ‘tonnage’ and ‘shifting units.’ I go in there, and they all bring their wives or girlfriends—that’s why there are so many in there—and I try to be, just who I am, you know; I try to show them that I am a fan of music. And I hope that when I leave the room, I leave a room of fans of music. Because a lot of people who are working in the music business started off that way! So I hope that they should continue the way they started.

“But some people are also old friends that I haven’t seen in a long time, too; people who were like, when we first came to Atlanta, working our record, going down to the radio stations and saying, ‘Why aren’t you playing this!’ So these people I like to single out.”

I point out that U2/USA gets letters from fans who bemoan the fact that they only get quick glimpses of the band before it jumps into limos and speeds away after shows. At that, Bono turns defensive, blurting, “It’s not true!” He takes another swallow of wine, hands me the bottle, and thinks about it for a moment, the frown on his face telling me that he’s bothered by the implication that there’s a clearly defined hierarchy of fans.

“I think I see,” he begins, choosing his words carefully. “Well, normally I meet people just about every soundcheck, just about every night when I leave the venue. Like today, I must have met about a hundred people in and around the venue. I was just hanging around opening doors, inviting people in and out. I meet people—I like to meet people like that! One on one, even if there’s 10 or 20 of them, I don’t mind, once they treat me one on one. But I will not, cannot be expected to, or… I don’t expect myself to stand there and be treated like a thing, you know, an object…”

Just an autograph signing machine…

Yeah. If there’s a hundred people and they’re trying to pull, um, bits off you, I know that in those hundred people there may be 25, or 75, that really have something to say to me, and want to say something, and I wanna say something back. But I can’t go out there and have all that, ‘cos somebody’s gonna get hurt and damaged. So at times like that we just have to drive back.”

When he mentions the part about “bits” I think back to Hampton, and the nutty girl wandering around backstage trying to find “bits of Bono” like she was going to spot a discarded boot or something. I draw the scene for Bono and he nods vigorously, as if I’ve confirmed what he was saying: “See, they’ve just got it wrong.” Per the other side of the equation, I hand him a folded piece of paper from a young girl who’d spotted my laminate and, having had no success convincing security to let her backstage to give the note to Bono, asked if I could deliver it for her. He unfolds the paper and scans it, smiling, clearly pleased. (“Yeah, I do get a lot of gifts from fans. It can be a bit much, but it’s nice.”) We talk a little more about how people act around celebrities, and how in particular the emotional investment music fans make tends to make things intensely personal for them. Noting how there was a major crush of fans at the stage barrier in Hampton that required security to hoist some of them over for their safety, he adds that it bothers him sometimes about the lengths to which fans will go to get close to their heroes.

“The thing about being a fan,” he says, between swigs, “is that when you’re into a band, it can be the most important thing in the world to you. The only thing that matters is when you’re in your room listening to the records, or waiting for the band to come out onstage.

“It’s a rare occasion, very rare [that people get hurt] at our concerts. [We have] security down front, either trained police or our guy, a policeman from the Boston police force who’s worked with all the groups. He comes in and briefs the security in every single hall. He tells them, ‘The people who come to see U2 play are paying your wages and our wages. Treat them as such.’ And there’s also no security people from any venue actually allowed on our stage. Only our own people. We’re very aware of all this and very concerned that everything is handled properly.”

One of the crew pokes a head into the dressing room to let him know it’s almost time to go. Bono nods then asks me how everyone at the ‘zine is doing—the previous December in Detroit my fellow editor had also done an interview with him—and tells me that he appreciates how we focus on the music itself and the social issues that the band raises. “I think one of the things we value most about U2,” he says with a knowing chuckle because it’s something he’s said a number of times in the past, “is that we never forget we’re just four people. Just four jerks! Like everyone else. So I like that side of the magazine… the music’s what’s important, not the musicians. And it’s all kept on an intelligent level, the comments, and the positive stuff.”

Bono offers me the wine bottle one last time, then he finishes it off and stands up. He gives me a sincere handshake and wishes me good luck with the ‘zine. As I wander back down the corridor, I’m thinking about how this is a man who, at one point in his life, was just another civilian—read: music fan—like me, just like the fans clustered outside at the loading dock hoping for a glimpse of the band. That he’s on the other side of the security barrier now, though, doesn’t necessarily mean that his perspective has also taken a 180. Here in Atlanta, in April of 1984, he’s a guy who remembers what it was like to be a fan and who apparently cares about the people who pay money to come see him perform.

On my way to the exits I somehow make a wrong turn and wind up in some kitchen area. There’s a tub of ice full of beers, so I glance around, grab one, then head towards the parking lot, feeling pretty cool.

***

Memories tend to be rose-tinted; for some of mine, I’m fortunate enough to have documented things in near-real time, so recreating the scenes outlined above was not only pretty easy, I had a transcript I could refer to. Literally recreating how I was feeling and what I was experiencing, however, can be tricky—and I’m not about to subject readers to that anyway! (As with most writers, some of the stuff I was spewing out 30 years ago, or at least the way I expressed myself at the time, is best left un-dredged. And there are probably stray copies of the fanzine still floating around anyway, awaiting your bemused perusal and/or my deep embarrassment.)

But the thing is, U2 in 1984-85, and by extension U2 fandom back then, was a markedly different beast. Think of all the foregoing, then, as a handful of snapshots from one particular, very personal, photo album. To my fellow fans: I’ve shown you mine—now it’s your turn.

U2USA 5

Editorial postscript/addendum: I do realize, gentle BLURT readers, that the headline at the top of this page is slightly erroneous; the concerts discussed in the story were in April of 1985. But the album was released in the fall of ’84, and hey, “It was 29 ½ years ago today” as a title doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. So allow me that small concession to literary license. Yours in U2 fandom, FM

GUY CLARK – The Dualtone Years

Album: The Dualtone Years

Artist: Guy Clark

Label: Dualtone

Release Date: March 03, 2017

www.dualtone.com

guy 3-3

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

Guy Clark’s death last May seemed particularly painful, even in light of all the others 2016 claimed as casualties. For the better part of 40 years, his worn, dusky narratives always seemed to be a kind of ill-fated prelude to an impending demise. His was a pervasive sadness that summoned both hope and heartache all at the same time and yet, it was a voice that spoke to the desperation and longing within all us. While it didn’t always emphasize optimism, it did make us feel like none of us are not alone, even in our bleakest moments.

Even so, there was always something singular about Clark’s delivery, as if he was an Everyman struggling to make sense of the lopsided world around him. In a career that spanned nearly two dozen albums, he wrote and sang songs that never failed to touch our emotions and pierce our souls. The Dualtone Years makes for an adequate sampler of sorts, but it doesn’t begun cover all his essential efforts.

Fortunately, the collection does boast enough singular songs to attract both the seasoned fan and the newly arrived novice. His most immortal classic, “Desperados Waiting for a Train,” isn’t included due to the fact it was on an album recorded for an earlier label, but having the equally iconic “L.A. Freeway” rendered in a live performance still suffices. Likewise, it’s nearly impossible to listen to the touching testimony of “The Randall Knife,” “My Favorite Picture of You” or his heartfelt take on pal Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You,” and not feel a proverbial lump in one’s throat.

The completist gets three bonus tracks in the form of unreleased demos at the end of the disc, and in these bare-boned renditions, his cracked cadence finds a natural fit. All in all, it’s a fitting requiem for a legacy so poignantly pursued.

DOWNLOAD: “The Randall Knife,” “My Favorite Picture of You,” “L.A. Freeway”

THE CHEAP CASSETTES – All Anxious, All The Time

Album: All Anxious, All The Time

Artist: Cheap Cassettes

Label: Rum Bar

Release Date: February 17, 2017

https://rumbarrecords.bandcamp.com/

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The Upshot: Cheap Cassettes offer welcome hints to everyone from ‘90s greats Material Issue to a ‘60s/’70s band like The Zombies or Flamin’ Groovies.

BY JOHN B. MOORE

You can almost see the Cheap Trick and Replacements posters on the practice space walls listening to the latest LP from Seattle’s Cheap Cassettes. All Anxious, All The Time is brimming with infectious power pop, punctuated by jittery distorted guitar and Chaz Matthews’ caffeinated vocals; a sound that is sorely missing in pop music lately.

Two-thirds of the band is composed of members from Boston’s Dimestore Haloes, who despite relocating to Seattle managed to snag yet another displaced Bostonian, to round out their trio.

The fact that the record, the band’s first, is lo-fi, stripped of any unnecessary polish that tends to get coated on a lot of power pop albums, just adds to the appeal. The group’s influences are as impressive as they are deep, with hints to everyone from ‘90s greats Material Issue to a ‘60s/’70s band like The Zombies or Flamin’ Groovies on a song like “Disappear With You.” The band is also not afraid to add a little punk rock guitar a’ la The Buzzcocks, smeared across songs throughout. All this while still managing to sound completely original.

All Anxious, All The Time took four years to record in five separate cities, but still manages to sound cohesive; a wildly promising intro to the music world. The music was originally released in digital form some time ago, but now Boston’s Rum Bar label has made it widely available.

DOWNLOAD: “My Little Twin,” “Disappear With You” and “Seconds of Pleasure”

 

VARIOUS ARTISTS – Magnificent: 62 Classics From The Cramps’ Insane Collection

Album: Magnificent: 62 Classics From The Cramps’ Insane Collection

Artist: Various Artists

Label: Righteous/Cherry Red

Release Date: November 18, 2016

www.cherryred.co.uk

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The Upshot: As the subtitle announces, “long gine in the world of incredibly strange music.”

BY TIM HINELY

Wow…..you’ve gotta hear this! No, I mean you really have to hear it. As the title says, 62 tracks spread out over two CDs taken from Lux and Ivy’s insane collection of music. Though Lux hasn’t been with us for a long time (RIP) I’m so glad this has spirit lives in in collctions like these.  If you’ve ever heard any of the recordings that Joe Meek did then you’ll be in the ballpark of this collection of tune. In other words, it’s got a little bit of everything and the everything has a lot of reverb (just how I like it).

Jimmy Haskell and his Orchestra “Blast Off” on the first cut while other cuts follow like  Bob and Jerry doing ‘the instrumental Ghost Satellite” and The Five Blobs offer up “The Blob.” Later on a few more faves include the swamped-up rockabilly of The Duals doing “Wait Up Baby” and Wanda Jackson offering up “Riot in Cell Block #9.” More folks on disc one include Bo Diddley The Champs, The Frantics, The Tides, The Tokens and too many others. Head over to disc two and you got heavily greased scorchers from Ronnie Dawson (who I caught live a few times), Robert Mitchum with the great “Ballad of Thunder Road,” Kay Martin with “The Heel” and you can’t have a collection like this without including a cut by Ken Nordine  (here he does “Fliberty Jib”). Duane Eddy, The Chiefs, Bob Lee, Johnny Burnette and his Trio, Buddy Miller, The Clovers, Andre Williams the Dion Juans and plenty more round out disc two.

I would have given anything to head over to Lux and Ivy’s place and check out their record collection. Too much great stuff on here. I know what I’m spinning at the next party at my pad.

DOWNLOAD:  “The Blob,” “Wait Up Baby,” “Riot in Cell Block #9,” “Ballad of Thunder Road,” “The Heel”

THE STANDELLS – Dirty Water + Why Pick on Me / Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White + Try It

Album: Dirty Water + Why Pick on Me / Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White + Try It

Artist: Standells

Label: Sundazed

Release Date: February 17, 2017

www.sundazed.com

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BY BILL KOPP

From one point of view, The Standells were opportunists. As that story goes, they got their start as a smiling, suited pop group, only changing their sound and collective demeanor once they took a new reading as to which way the pop culture winds were blowing. Moreover, that argument goes, they weren’t even from Boston, so how possibly could the city of “Dirty Water” be their home?

But all that misses the point. Listening to their debut 1964 LP, In Person at P.J.’s (revised and reissued two years later as Live and Out of Sight), it’s clear that from the group’s start, they were a garage-rocking combo, albeit one with better than average vocal and instrumental proficiency. Sure, they were a cover band in those days, but so was pretty much everyone. That only began to change after February 1964 when the Beatles wiped the slate clean.

Still, it’s true that when The Standells made their celebrated television appearance on The Munsters, they came off closer to Marilyn than Eddie. But they soon simultaneously sharpened and roughed-up their image, and in the two dozen months between the start of 1966 and the end of ’67, made three very good albums.

I know what the three or four Standells scholars reading this are thinking: “Aha! But they made four albums in that period!” You’re correct. I said they made three very good ones. The outlier is The Hot Ones!, a collection of covers that – while arguably of a piece with In Person at P.J.’s – isn’t especially durable or relevant. It’s interesting for completists, but the rest of us – a group that should include the most ardent garage-rock fetishists – can and should be satisfied with the other three.

Those three records – Dirty Water from ’66, Why Pick On Me / Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White (also ’66) and 1967’s Try It – have all worn quite well in the half century since their original release. Now (and thanks to Sundazed) on CD with bonus tracks and in glorious back-to-monaural sound, they’re well worth re-investigating.

The distorted, feedback-laden minor guitar chord that opens “Medication” lays out a vaguely dangerous, slightly sinister vibe for Dirty Water. Heck, they’re clearly singing about drugs, kids! All the sonic elements that made The Standells special are right there in the record’s first two minutes: study, propulsive bass lines, sneering vocals and close backing harmonies, vaguely proto-psychedelic fuzztone lead guitar, insistent drumming, and keening combo organ.

Sure, the bass line that serves as the foundation of “Little Sally Tease” is a nick from The Strangeloves’ “Night Time,” but who cares? The rest of the tune stands on its own. Fun fact: the tune is a remake of Don & the Goodtimes’ original, penned by Jim Valley, a fine guitarist who was for a time known as “Harpo,” Drake Levin’s replacement in Paul Revere & the Raiders.

The covers are well chosen, the group originals are strong, and there really isn’t a weak track on Dirty Water. A slightly pilled-up (well, at least sped-up) take on the Rolling Stones’ “19th Nervous Breakdown” doesn’t add much to the original, but it’s fun and well done. (Presumably it wasn’t in the band’s live set on the tour in support of the album, seeing as they were opening most nights for the Stones.) The CD’s bonus cuts are of varying quality. The Batman theme is fun in a cheesy go-go kind of way.

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On the heels of the success of the “Dirty Water” single, another album was put together, and that clumsily-titled album was built around a song that had already appeared on Dirty Water. “Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White” is perhaps the Standells’ most perfectly realized track; it has the feel of an anthem, and it rocks. A subtle dig at drug culture is woven into the song’s lyric. Elsewhere listeners will find suitably inventive covers of the Stones (“Paint It Black”) and Love (“My Little Red Book”). Overall the audio quality is an improvement over Dirty Water, and the organ flourishes on the otherwise punky “Why Pick On Me” are positively exotic. A group original, “The Girl and the Moon” straddles garage rock and Phil Spector arrangement aesthetic. The gritty “Mr. Nobody” is the best deep album cut.

The group would capitalize on the banning of the admitted sexual come-on of “Try It.” A Texas radio programmer found it suitably naughty to drop it from playlists. Overall, the Try It album boasts yet another improvement in sound quality, and the performances warrant the extra care. Everything about “Can’t Help But Love You” suggests a leap forward in professionalism.

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Even a cover of the well-worn “Ninety-nine and a Half” shines here, as does a much older tune, “St. James Infirmary.” The garage aesthetic is dialed back in favor of something a bit more upscale, and horn charts are sprinkled atop several of the tunes. Piano and strings on “Trip to Paradise” take things even farther afield. All those studio decorations did, however, have the effect of blunting The Standells’ garage-rock cred.

Happily, the second side of Try It focuses on the group’s grittier side. The faux-eastern vibe of “Did You Ever Have that Feeling” lifts it above its derivative chord progression. “All Fall Down” is as close as The Standells came to psychedelia. Not very close at all, but fascinating nonetheless. And the classic film theme “Riot on Sunset Strip” makes purchase of the album mandatory.

By 1968, The Standells were all but over. Though of course various lineups would re-form in later years, these three albums would form the core of the band’s essential output. Also of interest is Live on Tour 1966!, an archival Standells release reviewed in these pages in 2015 (along with Shadows of Knight; included are some audio and video tracks) as part of BLURT’s “Garage Chronicles” series.

ATTILIO MINEO – Man in Space with Sounds

Album: Man in Space

Artist: Attilio Mineo

Label: Modern Harmonic

Release Date: October 28, 2016

www.modernharmonic.com

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BY BILL KOPP

A breathlessly earnest announcer welcomes the listener to the record as a wonderfully evocative orchestra creates an instrumental backdrop meant to evoke outer space. With the help of some gee-whiz electronic studio effects – heaps of reverb, percussion that suggests a much more accessible Edgard Varese – the listener is transported to a sonic world of interstellar mystery and more than a little danger.

That’s pretty much what you get for this half-hour record, created in connection with Seattle, Washington-hosted 1962 World’s Fair (officially the event had a much more space-age, forward-looking title, the Century 21 Exposition).

Conductor Attilio “Art” Mineo leads his orchestra through a dozen passages, each of which paints a sonic picture. Sometimes the electronic elements are subtle; other times they all but hit the listener over the head. The feedback midway through the oddly titled “Gayway to Heaven” (what?) effectively evokes the feeling – accurate or not – of traveling weightless through space.

“Soaring Science” is, our announcer helpfully explains, a “realistic recreation of rocket flight.” The sounds of an actual rocket launch are followed by eerie string passages and subtle yet keening electronic squawks. Taken in the right (or wrong) frame of mind, this could be scary stuff indeed.

Back on Earth, “Mile-a-Minute Monorail” is built around instrumentation and melody that sound like a cross between a distorted harpsichord and a whirring band saw. Not the most enticing aural backdrop for a ride on the new and novel 60mph monorail serving the World’s Fair, but clever and fascinating.

A sunny, we’re-all-in-this-together mindset is at the core of “Century 21.” But once again the sounds – courtesy of primitive oscillators and synthesizers, one suspects – are equal parts thrilling and unsettling. Little stabs of organ and plinking tuned percussion alternately darken and lighten the mood.

If British producer Joe Meek had a decent budget and more musical talent, he might have created something like Man in Space with Sounds (He did give us “Telstar,” after all). While liner notes author Björn Werkmann doesn’t mention Meek in his essay that accompanies the CD, he takes such a straight-faced approach to the music that it’s near impossible to tell if he’s serious or putting us on. And that’s half the fun of his essay, which includes helpful cautions such as this one: “But make no mistake: Man in Space with Sounds is not for the faint of Heart.”

The monaural recording is superbly sharp and clear; other than the production aesthetic, there’s little about the record that suggests it wasn’t recorded with 21st century equipment. The lack of a stereo mix isn’t a detriment, so full is the aural landscape on the album.

Like another recent reissue from Modern Harmonics – the thematically similar Space Songs, reviewed HEREMan in Space with Sounds is most assuredly a curio. But it’s one that holds up on repeated listenings. Very much of its time – and valuable in large part for that very reason – Man in Space with Sounds is a fun trip not only though space, but back in time.

 

TOM GLAZER & DOTTIE EVANS – Space Songs

Album: Space Songs

Artist: Tom Glazer & Dottie Evans

Label: Modern Harmonic

Release Date: January 13, 2017

www.modernharmonic.com

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BY BILL KOPP

This curio from 1961 was originally created to serve as an instructional record for children. The word that immediately comes to mind when hearing the vocals and instrumentation is “ginchy.” And while I’ll readily concede that “ginchy” is not a real word, it somehow seems to encapsulate the vibe of Space Songs.

It’s easy enough to conjure a mental image of Tom Glazer and Dottie Evans when listening to the record. Tom has a neat gray flannel suit, tortoise shell glasses, Brylcreamed hair, and probably a pipe. Dottie has a simple white or off-white dress, probably a modest pearl necklace. They’re both white. Really white, in fact. But they’re nice, wholesome, well-meaning folks, and they’re here to teach.

Bits of spoken word – mostly by Glazer; this was 1961, after all – serve as intro/bumpers for most of the songs. Glazer provides some basic contextual information about the topic at hand – helpfully defined by each song’s title – and then he and Evans launch into song. “Constellation Jig” is a wonderfully descriptive title: the music is a sprightly jig, and the lyrics list some of the more well-known constellations visible in Earth’s nighttime sky: Sagittarius, etc.

Technology gets some time as well, and cute little tunes like “Beep Beep (Here Comes the Satellite).” It’s worth remembering that – Cold War notwithstanding – in 1961, the United States was in a largely optimistic frame of mind, and science was viewed as a force for good. Against that backdrop, which is embodied in many of these tunes, it’s more than a little sad that in 2017 we’re living in a society led – for the moment, at least – by climate science deniers and traffickers in “alternate facts.”

Real facts are at the heart of “Why Does the Sun Shine? – The Sun is a Mass of Incandescent Gas.” Tell that to the four percent of Americans who are unaware that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Clearly they didn’t listen to Space Songs. As Glazer and Evans guilelessly intone, “It’s a Scientific Fact.”

Everything about Space Songs conveys a kind of charming innocence. But there’s a nicely world-music (1961 edition) to many of the songs; that’s a clearly Parisian vibe to “Longitude and Latitude,” set to the tune of childhood favorite “Did You Ever see a Lassie?” But the kids of ’61 could trill along to the tune and learn about the Prime Meridian and other useful bits of information.

Musically, the most interesting tune is the opener, “Zoom a Little Zoom (Rocket Ship),” Glazer and Evans chirp away in perfect harmony as they sing, “Soon we’ll see if the moon is made out of green cheese ha ha ha.” How can you not love that? The musicians aren’t credited beyond a note that the music is played by the Tony Mottola Orchestra, but whomever is playing is doing a swell job.

Sundazed Records associated label Modern Harmonic has reissued this odd little record, recorded in 1959 and originally part of a series called “Singing Science Records.” The vinyl is translucent red. Casting a (shall we say) very wide conceptual net, this release can be viewed as part of a collection of other related items including a Sun Ra Arkestra 2CD live set (At Inter-Media Arts 1991), and the instrumental gem Attilio Mineo Conducts Man in Space with Sounds, originally released in conjunction with the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle, Washington. I’ll cover each of those Modern Harmonic reissue titles in separate reviews.

SUN RA AND HIS ARKESTRA – Live At Inter-Media Arts April 1991 (3LP or 2CD)

Album: Live At Inter-Media Arts April 1991

Artist: Sun Ra and his Arkestra

Label: Modern Harmonic

Release Date: November 26, 2016

www.modernharmonic.com

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The Upshot: Ra archival gem offers high fidelity and superb performances for a collectible item both fans and novices will appreciate. Originally issued as limited edition vinyl for the Record Store Day Black Friday event, it’s also out as a 2CD set.

BY BILL KOPP

Sonic explorer Sun Ra was quite prolific during his lifetime; in fact, archivists – those you’d expect to know – can’t accurately tally just how many albums the man released. And long after his death, reissues and newly-discovered recordings come out with surprising regularity.

Sadly, some of the latter tend toward poor fidelity; their importance may not be thusly diminished, but their utility tends more toward historical import than anything approaching listening pleasure. Which isn’t to say that Sun Ra was ever what anyone would call “easy listening.” His admixture of bluesy, swinging jazz, electronics and avant-garde textures can be foreboding for the musically timid or unadventurous.

Thank goodness this new release scores high marks on all counts. It’s weird, to be sure – this is Sun Ra, after all – but it’s a superbly-recorded live date, one in which all of the instrumentation and vocals are crystalline. In fact, the New York City performance was broadcast over the air on WNYC radio.

Longtime Sun Ra associate June Tyson provides here soulful and nimble vocals, sometimes harmonizing with Michael Ray, abetted by several male vocalists. A sixteen-piece band takes the assembled audience on a musical trip through Sun Ra’s cosmos. It’s several minutes into the set before we’re treated to a solo, but it – and the others that follow – is worth waiting for.

The set list is trademark Sun Ra: a mix of originals and his own reinventions of works by other notable composers (Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer). And a Sun Ra favorite, “We Travel the Spaceways” closes the set and provides some conceptual continuity with two other releases from Modern Harmonic, Space Songs and Man in Space with Sounds (both reviewed separately, and neither having the slightest to do with Sun Ra).

Sometimes half the band seems to be playing a different piece than the rest of the musicians; that tonal clash is often precisely the point. At its best, Sun Ra’s music always challenged the listener’s notions about what did and didn’t “work,” and the 2CD At Inter-Media Arts 1991 is an exemplar in that regard. That it’s of such high fidelity and superb performance makes it even more highly recommended.

DOWNLOAD: All of it – it’s Ra, dude.