Category Archives: Reissue

5LP + DVD Holger Czukay Box Set Due in March

By Blurt Staff

On March 23rd, keeper-of-the-krautrock-flame Groenland will be releasing Cinema, an overview of Holger Czukay’s solo work and collaboration. Included will be Canaxis 5 (1969), Movies (1979), On The Way To The Peak Of Normal (1981), Full Circle (1982), Der Osten Ist Rot (1984), Rome Remains Rome (1987) and Radio Wave Surfer (1991). This five-LP set features a 36-page booklet, DVD of a movie starring Czukay for which he also made the soundtrack as well as a “vinyl video.”

It ain’t cheap – $135. (Peak of Normal was reissued on vinyl not long ago, incidentally.) But to have all of this under one cover isn’t a bad way to get  your springtime record collecting off to a nice start….

BUILD YOUR RECORD COLLECTION: Pt. 1 – The Blues

Time to go fishin’ for the Blues with BLURT, along with our sister retail business, Schoolkids Records of Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill. Herewith, find some shopping and collecting tips for aficionados and newbies alike—many of the titles mentioned below (and others as well) are available at the Schoolkids site. And tune in next month for our next installment of our new series, “Build Your Record Collection.”

BY FRED MILLS

True story: One afternoon, not all that long ago, I was behind the counter of my job at the time, Schoolkids Records in Raleigh, North Carolina, when a father and son strode purposefully into the store. The father was probably in his late forties or early fifties, the son in his mid-teens. They asked me where our Blues section was, and I duly steered them over to the new vinyl, additionally telling the kid that we also had a lot of new indie rock on the front rack. Because, you know, teenagers.

“I’m just looking for some Blues,” he replied, adding, “I’ve been listening to a lot of my dad’s old vinyl and really getting into the Blues.”

I had the strangest feeling that, right before my eyes, I was witnessing a torch being passed from one generation to the next. I sneaked a glance over at the father, and he had a knowing, proud smile on his face.

A little later, when they brought their purchases up to the counter, he and I easily slipped into an earnest conversation about mutual favorite Blues albums—classic titles like Muddy Waters’ Electric Mud, Taj Mahal’s The Natch’l Blues, Albert King’s Live Wire/Blues Power, Howlin’ Wolf’s Moanin’ In the Moonlight (he was pretty impressed that I had met Wolf’s guitarist, Hubert Sumlin, one time and shared a flask of whiskey with him), pretty much everything by John Mayall, along with a very special personal hero of mine, Rory Gallagher. The kid soaked it all in, tentatively throwing out a few titles of his own. When I told the father that his son had good taste, he just grinned, then explained that, thanks to the younger man pulling his battered turntable out from the basement along with several boxes of his old record collection, his own passion for vinyl had been rekindled.

Who’s passing who the torch here, I thought to myself, grinning back at him.

The Blues is like that—it brings people together, bridges economic, social, and generational gaps, and in general just makes you feel good because what’s being expressed in the sounds and the words are universal emotions. When someone is singing about having lost their one true love, you can feel it in their voice—hell, you can feel it in the weeping guitar lines as well. It’s like having a friend there in front of you, opening up, feeling vulnerable, and just needing to have someone listen to them and understand them.

Patti Smith once told me that a key role artists play is that they offer us a shoulder to lean on when we need the support, and while she wasn’t specifically referring to the Blues, I can’t think of a better description of what the Blues brings to the table.

***

As I mentioned, that was a couple of years ago when I was working at Schoolkids, which now has stores in Durham and Chapel Hill in addition to Raleigh. There’s a 40+ years Schoolkids legacy that I’m proud to be a part of—BLURT is also the indie retail chain’s sister business, as we are owned by the same guy, so even though I no longer live in Raleigh I’m in touch with the crew there on a weekly basis—and I have no doubt that a lot of torches similar to the scenario I just outlined have been passed along in the Schoolkids aisles. This month they’re emphasizing the stores’ selections of classic Blues titles, both on LP and CD, so it should prove an excellent opportunity to either discover some of those classics, if you are a relative newbie, or rediscover them, particularly if you’re someone like the father above.

And since I’ve frequently gone on the record as being increasingly militant about people supporting brick-and-mortar stores and not the impersonal likes of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Target, I’m not reluctant here to suggest you pop into a Schoolkids or your own local indie store, and if poor proximity makes that not an option, you can search for the titles on Schoolkidsrecords.com and then link to purchase. My old employer also has a web sales fulfillment deal arranged with national indie distributor AEC, so even if a title you’re looking for isn’t in stock at one of the stores, AEC will ship it to you if they have it—digital downloads as well.

***

In 2018, building a Blues collection is not a difficult task because there are enough universally acknowledged classics to give you a solid foundation, even if you’re on a limited budget. In addition, the Blues is remarkably stable and consistent; unlike some genres, EDM for example, you’re not going to have someone reinventing how it’s constructed and/or performed every other week. There will always be intriguing new wrinkles from time to time in the Blues, but even younger artists looking to make a name for themselves tend to approach the genre with respect and reverence while still trying to keep their music fresh-sounding. (Think, for example, of a jam band, which one moment is flying off on a Phish-inspired cosmic tangent, and the next plowing into a down ‘n’ dirty Blues groove as taught to them by the Allman Brothers.)

I could go on for hours about my favorite Blues records, but for the sake of sanity, here’s just a select few. Don’t think I’m offering my version of Blues For Dummies, however—there are plenty of well-documented reasons for why all of these are considered timeless classics.

***

Howlin’ Wolf is probably my favorite old-school Blues artist, having been a constant presence on the scene starting in the late ‘50s until his death in 1976, and his impact upon the artform continues to be felt to the present day. His 1966 album The Real Folk Blues was originally issued by legendary Chicago label Chess Records as part of their album series of the same name, which also featured Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Memphis Slim, and Sonny Boy Williamson II. Everything in the series is essential, with Wolf’s contributions (including More Real Folk Blues) musical templates for Chicago-style Blues at its most primal—it’s downright hypnotic when Wolf and his band, which included the brilliant guitarist Hubert Sumlin mentioned above, slip into one of their signature low-slung grooves.

Wolf’s vocals should be singled out as well, a raspy-yet-tuneful growl/moan that is impossible to mistake; put into a larger cultural context, there would be no Captain Beefheart and no Tom Waits had Wolf not come before them.

Hold that thought: Without Robert Johnson, the most important bluesman ever, the Blues would not have unfolded and evolved the way it did. All paths lead back to Johnson. Born in 1911, he’s the guy from whom all those stories about bluesmen going down to the crossroads in Mississippi (to sell their soul to the devil in exchange for success, natch) are derived. Relatively speaking, he only recorded a handful of sides, but those sides, the core songs originally collected in 1961 long after his death as King of the Delta Blues Singers, exerted an outsized influence on pretty much every serious Blues artist who came after him. You can still hear echoes of “Cross Road Blues,” “32-20 Blues,” “Walkin’ Blues,” and “If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day” in contemporary Blues songs, both acoustic (which was how Johnson performed) and electric.

God help the archivist who attempts to list every cover version of a Johnson song. And in the feral, keening howl that is Johnson’s vocal style, one hears the existential agony consistently coursing through all classic Blues music. King… has been reissued countless times over the years, both on vinyl and on CD, including in the mid/late ‘80s as an expanded CD box set that not only introduced Johnson to a broader (and younger) audience, it also played a key role in making box sets commercially viable for the record industry.

Everybody has heard of Muddy Waters, arguably the second most important bluesman ever. There’s not a Blues band on the planet that doesn’t have at least one or two of McKinley Morganfield’s—Muddy’s—songs in their repertoire. My first direct exposure to him came with 1968’s Electric Mud, most likely because it was billed as his “psychedelic album” and at that point a teenage me was soaking in a near-100% diet of psychedelia. It was kind of an experiment on the part of Chess Records to try to get Muddy’s music into the hands of kids like me, with his regular backing band temporarily replaced by the younger musicians of Rotary Connection, and for good measure they even did a kind of electric gospel/soul/psych cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together.”

And with more traditional Muddy fare like “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” “Hoochie Coochie Man,” and “Mannish Boy” semi-reworked for then-contemporary times, the album is wildly accessible without compromising Muddy’s core vision. While the artist himself was reportedly not enamored of the record, and purist American music critics didn’t take much of a shine to it either, it became the first Muddy album to land on both the Billboard and Cashbox album charts. Further proof of Electric Mud’s staying power? It has been sampled by Cypress Hill, Natas, and Gorillaz, and as Wikipedia informs us, Martin Scorcese’s documentary series The Blues contains scenes of the recording band for Electric Mud performing with Public Enemy’s Chuck D and members of The Roots.

Meanwhile, since we’ve been talking about torches being passed, consider John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, white men from England whose deep appreciation of black American legends led them to bring the Blues to the British marketplace. That singer/harp player Mayall recruited high-profile sidemen like John McVie and Peter Green (who would go on to Fleetwood Mac after their Mayall tenure) and Some Guy Named Eric Clapton, fresh from the Yardbirds, was testimony to his artistic prescience. The 1966 album Bluesbreakers With Eric Clapton, which not so coincidentally gave that same Some Guy near-co-billing with Mayall on the cover, has seven of its 12 tracks written by earlier Blues artists—among them, Robert Johnson, Mose Allison, Otis Rush, and Freddie King.

The latter’s “Hideaway” is a textbook example of a Texas-Chicago Blues hybrid, and Clapton’s signature riffing is instantly identifiable to anyone even remotely familiar with his work in Cream and as a solo artist. The album as a whole is a perfect example of how British musicians were able to adapt the Americans’ music and carve out a unique piece of turf in the Blues for themselves.

Which brings us to Rory Gallagher. The fiery Irish guitarist, who passed away, sadly, in 1995, at the age of 47, earned an early rep fronting power trio Taste, which put its own unique spin on electric blues much as Clapton and Cream were doing at the same time in England. Following the group’s breakup in 1970, Gallagher embarked upon a prolific solo career, soon adding a keyboard player to round out the guitar-bass-drums ensemble. Yours truly was fortunate enough to see him several times during his heyday, most notably as an unannounced early-a.m. act at the Peachtree Celebration festival in tiny Rockingham, NC, in 1972. Coming on after headliner Alice Cooper had finished, the flannel-shirted guitarist seemed oblivious to the fact that much of the audience had already begun streaming out, and put forth a hi-nrg set that left those of us who stuck around scraping our jaws from the festival grounds.

Check out 1974’s Irish Tour ’74, whose setlist draws extensively from his superb Blueprint and Tattoo studio albums, additionally serving up classic Blues standards from Muddy Waters (“I Wonder Who”), J.B. Hutto (“Too Much Alcohol”), and, on the 40th anniversary box set, Junior Wells (“Messin’ With the Kid”) and Big Bill Broonzy (“Banker’s Blues”). Part of Gallagher’s genius was the way his original material was clearly derived from the Blues but also injected with strong doses of irresistible pop melodies and outright anthemism. Plus, he could play slide guitar like nobody’s business. At least two of the album’s tracks should be on any self-respecting rock ‘n’ roll playlist, “Tattoo’d Lady” and “A Million Miles Away” —the latter a 10-minute tour de force in concert, rife with dynamic shifts and myriad tonal textures all jostling amid a fairly straightforward 12-bar blues chord progression. Irish Tour ’74 makes for a stellar introduction to Gallagher’s oeuvre while also serving as a tutorial on how a lot of white electric bluesmen in the late ‘60s and ‘70s were able to adapt the Blues and make them commercially viable. (Below: Check out a choice live version of “Million Miles Away” from the Rockpalast German TV show in 1979.)

As I already indicated, I could keep going, but maybe I’ll save that for another column. I will, however, leave you with a list of artists well-worth checking out, whether you’re in student mode or simply revisiting old favorites—names like Albert King, BB King, Freddie King (what, no Queens? no Aces?), Elmore James, John Lee Hooker, Taj Mahal, Leadbelly, Lightning Hopkins, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Robert Cray, KoKo Taylor, Willie Dixon, Albert Collins…

True Story: Albert King passed away in 1992, but I was fortunate enough to interview him in the early ’90s when I was the music editor of an alternative weekly paper. He was scheduled to be headlining a local all-day Blues festival, and for some reason we were able to pull enough strings to land a quickie (like, 12 minutes) phone interview with him for a preview piece in the paper. After some perfunctory comments about The Blues And Its Significance, King and I somehow shifted/devolved into a conversation about, of all things, fishing. I’d heard he was an avid fisher and figured that was a fair topic to broach, so I mentioned to him that I knew a couple of choice spots in the area where one could drop a line, including a pond owned by my family. I harbor no illusions that King eagerly scribbled down my suggestions, but he was gracious enough to take the ball and run with it, talking briefly about why he loved fishing so much. We subsequently turned back to the upcoming event, and soon, sensing my time was about up, I decided to close out with the stock “So, what’s next for you after this?” question.

King paused, gave a little snort, and gave the perfect answer.

“Man, I am tired. I just wanna go fishin’…”

Visit the Schoolkids Records online retail portal to shop for these and many more Blues records, on vinyl, compact disc, and digital. (Format depends on what’s currently in print.)

 

WEDDING PRESENT – George Best (30th Anniv. Deluxe Ed.) LP

Album: George Best (30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) LP

Artist: Wedding Present

Label: Happy Happy Birthday To Me

Release Date: November 24, 2017

http://hhbtm.com/

The Upshot: Nevermind the reissues, here’s the Gedge: a classic album gets revisited for the newly awakened vinyl generation.

BY FRED MILLS

Thirty years on, it’s hard to mount even a tepid argument against the out-of-the-gate brilliance of the Wedding Present’s 1987 debut. It’s certainly a product of its times, what with the omnipresent, uber-c86 guitar strum arrangements; bandleader David Gedge’s deep, resonant, and deeply emotive Morrissey-meets-Ian-Curtis vocals; and a general proto-indie rock, post-post-punk vibe that would, in a few years, grip the Brit-pop pop’d British imagination as lesser artists such as Blur, Suede, and Pulp stormed the charts.

The 12-songer has been reissued in numerous formats over the years, notably a 1997 CD via Cooking Vinyl that added a whopping 11 tracks. Archival specialist Edsel Records also weighed in with a sprawling 3-CD, 1-DVD box featuring those bonus cuts plus a slew of 1987-88 live material. But Athens, Georgia, label Happy Happy Birthday To Me has come up with an artifact that is pure catnip for the WP collectors – not to mention just plain vinyl aficionados. George Best 2017 arrives as a deluxe red wax edition housed in a two color screen printed sleeve whose artwork recaptures the titular red-jerseyed football player minus the field/bleachers background, lending the LP a kind of Warholian pop art sensibility. Which is appropriate, eh? “Pop” art was never sweeter. (Download card is included, and if ordering direct from the label, the deluxe edition snags you a special tote bag and badge. When those are gone there is also a black vinyl version.)

The Wedding Present would go on to subsequent heights, of course; 1991’s Sea Monsters held its own during the ascent of the aforementioned Britpop bands, and 1996’s Saturnalia remains an enduring, if wholly underrated, gem. But George Best wins the proverbial “quintessential” badge for Gedge because, as an opening statement and salvo, it’s up there with pretty much any long-playing debut you’d care to list. Hats off to HHBTM for reminding us of this. Now, let those listicles begin…

DOWNLOAD:  “It’s What You Want That Matters,” “Everything Thinks He Looks Daft,” “Getting Nowhere Fast”

CARMAIG DE FOREST – I Shall Be Re-Released

Album: I Shall Be Re-Released

Artist: Carmaig De Forest

Label: Omnivore Recordings

Release Date: November 10, 2017

www.omnivorerecordings.com

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

Carmaig De Forest was something of an eccentric back in the day, off even by the standards of someone who lived in San Francisco and openly laid claim to the city’s insurgent roots. A ukelele-playing troubadour who sprouted songs dealing with all sorts of weird wonderment, he managed to attract the attention of none other than Alex Chilton, something of a renegade himself and an artist who was decidedly oblique when it came to expressing his own doleful designs.

In 1987, the two teamed up to record De Forest’s first — and to date, only — full length album, I Shall Be Released, a collection of absurdist songs that not only missed out on the mainstream, but generally avoided notice entirely. Originally intended for a major label release, it was unceremoniously neglected and ultimately relegated to a small local label that confined it to obscurity. A live EP followed, but by then it was too late. De Forest’s destiny was doomed, and he remained known only to a handful of devotees and fellow musicians.

I Shall Be Re-Released captures De Forest’s entire output — the original album, the live EP and several outtakes from the original sessions — and although it remains a curiosity, it should also enhance his notoriety. Then again, having Chilton at the helm didn’t do much in terms of expanding his accessibility option, and if anything, the quirkiness quotient was given full prominence. A tune titled “Crack’s No Worse Than the Fascist Threat” and the likeminded “Hey Judas,” a song about an encounter in hell with Judas, Hitler and then-president Ronald Reagan, didn’t have any chance of hitting the hit parade any time soon. While De Forest’s kinetic conceits and loopy, loping power plod were charming on occasion, the music is clearly far too wacky to be taken seriously for any sustained amount of time.

Still, with a generous 26 tracks included on this expansive set, I Shall Be Re-Released offers the listener plenty of opportunity to get in the groove. And with questionable covers of “Secret Agent Man,” “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and “One For My Baby (And One For The Road),” it offers at least some hint of a familiarity factor. A curious snapshot of labored  looniness from thirty years past, I Shall Be Re-Released proves at very least, to be a liberating libation.

DOWNLOAD: “Crack’s No Worse Than the Fascist Threat,” “Hey Judas,” “Secret Agent Man”

Jerry Yester – Pass Your Light Around

Album: Pass Your Light Around

Artist: Jerry Yester

Label: Omnivore Recordings

Release Date: October 06, 2017

 

http://omnivorerecordings.com/

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

In retrospect, it seems remarkable that the recordings that make up this compilation remained unreleased for so long. Jerry Yester was, and is, an important player in America’s seminal folk scene and his list of credits — The New Christy Minstrels, The Modern Folk Quartet, The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Association, his band Rosebud and various roles behind the boards for the likes of Tim Buckley and Tom Waits — make him one of the unsung heroes who helped transition traditional folk to unabashed rock ‘n’ roll. Nevertheless, it’s the music he recorded on his own and with collaborator Larry Beckett that deserves discovery. Yester and Beckett drew from a remarkably wide array of styles — folk (of course), cabaret, psych, chamber pop and numerous motifs in-between. The result is an impressive set of fifteen disparate songs, mostly recorded throughout the ‘70s while Yester was taking time to contemplate his next move.

Listening to these tracks now becomes something of a revelation. Given their imaginative arrangements, one gets the sense that these great lost treasures have stood the test of time. Like Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, Yester is unafraid to bend the boundaries and borrow influences that range from classical to cabaret. The songs that result — a jaunty “Pass Your Light Around,” the celebratory “My Dusty Darling,” the cooing Beach Boys-like “Brooklyn Girl,” the expressive ballad “With a Hickory Pole” — are all simply stunning, and they not only beg an initial listen but repeated hearings as well. In the end, one can only marvel at the fact that Yester is indeed an unsung hero. To call this an exceptional offering doesn’t even begin to do it justice.

DOWNLOAD: “Pass Your Light Around,” “My Dusty Darling,” “Brooklyn Girl”

ALLEN RAVENSTINE – Terminal Drive 12” EP

Album: Terminal Drive 12” EP

Artist: Allen Ravenstine

Label: Smog Veil

Release Date: September 01, 2017

www.smogveil.com

The Upshot: Synth mania and tape manipulation from the Pere Ubu mad scientist, plus accessorized string bass by a fellow Cleveland-ite. It’s the now sound of 1975!

BY FRED MILLS

Longtime Clevo watchers surely know the Allen Ravenstine name, from his pioneering protopunk as synth player/resident mad scientist for Pere Ubu to his solo work and contributions to the likes of the Red Crayola and David Thomas & The Wooden Birds. Terminal Drive is a single 16-minute track recorded in Cleveland during April and May of 1975, with Ravenstine on synth and tapes, plus Albert Dennis on string bass; the two had previously worked together in short-lived experimental/improvisational outfit Hy Maya, a project of artist Robert Bensick that also featured Ubu drummer Scott Krauss. (Stay tuned for more on the latter: Smog Veil is next releasing a deep-archive Hy Maya 2LP set.)

Smog Veil, of course, has long championed all things O-HI-O, and this nicely appointed red vinyl/one-sided 12” EP is the latest in the label’s “Platters Du Cuyahoga” series, which to date has included titles from the Schwartz Fox Blues Crusade (reviewed HERE), the Mr. Stress Blues Band, the Robert Bensick Band, and, coming later this month, aforementioned Hy Maya. The label never cuts any corners, either, specializing in meticulously researched liner notes—here, a full-sized 8-page booklet boasting lengthy notes from Clevo scene authority Nick Blakey and essays from both Dennis and Ravenstine. Plenty of vintage photos are included as well. (The record is also available on CD and digital download should you, for some strange reason, not desire a sweet slab of red wax.)

Ravenstine’s comments are delightfully deadpan, describing what downtown Cleveland looked (and smelled!) like in the mid ‘70s, living in a fourth floor walkup in a reliably seedy, ruined neighborhood, and talking about the gear he used to record Terminal Drive: “I repurposed a kitchen hutch to hole my EML 200, a 300 which was a sort of mixing and switching unit that had a telephone style keypad with sixteen keys and post for assigning a pitch to each one, and the Teac [3340 reel to reel tape recorded w/10” reels] and set it up in the bedroom.” As these things go, a 6:43 excerpt of the recording wound up on an odds ‘n’ sods disc included in the ’96 Pere Ubu box set Datapanik In The Year Zero, but for years since then it appeared that the tapes had been lost. Then in 2016 a cassette surfaced in a friend’s archives, one side labeled “Allen Ravenstine April-May 1975,” and voila! here we have Terminal Drive.

It’s challenging, mesmerizing, and at times downright haunting stuff, a soundtrack to the urban decay Ravenstine must have witnessed on a daily basis from his apartment window. Long, groaning, bowed chords from Dennis are abetted by Ravenstine’s synth belches and drones; at times he creates clinking sounds that suggest a machine plant in operation, others a kind of airy whooshing that could be a sharp breeze whistling down a deserted street, and sometimes just white noise aimed at creating a profound sense of unease in the listener—like that feeling one might have gotten decades ago, in the pre-24-hour-cable-television era, when you’ve fallen asleep in front of the TV only to be jerked awake by the sound of the station abruptly going off the air at 2 a.m. Random distant mutters (or are they synth hiccups?) punctuate the recording as well, adding to the claustrophobic vibe.

Definitely uneasy listening, and probably not for the timid of heart. But for Ravenstine fans, Ubu completists, and Clevo devotees in general, a must-own.

DOWNLOAD: It’s a single track, dummy! (Below, check out a radio edit of “Terminal Drive”)

Carmaig De Forest – I Shall Be Re-Released

Album: I Shall Be Re-Released

Artist: Carmaig De Forest

Label: Omnivore Recordings

Release Date: October 06, 2017

www.omnivorerecordings.com

 

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

 

Carmaig De Forest was something of an eccentric back in the day, off even by the standards of someone who lived in San Francisco and openly laid claim to the city’s insurgent roots. A ukelele-playing troubadour who sprouted songs dealing with all sorts of weird wonderment, he managed to attract the attention of none other than Alex Chilton, something of a renegade himself and an artist who was decidedly oblique when it came to expressing his own doleful designs.

 

In 1987, the two teamed up to record De Forest’s first — and to date, only — full length album, I Shall Be Released, a collection of absurdist songs that not only missed out on the mainstream, but generally avoided notice entirely. Originally intended for a major label release, it was unceremoniously neglected and ultimately relegated to a small local label that confined it to obscurity. A live EP followed, but by then it was too late. De Forest’s destiny was doomed, and he remained known only to a handful of devotees and fellow musicians.

I Shall Be Re-Released captures De Forest’s entire output — the original album, the live EP and several outtakes from the original sessions — and although it remains a curiosity, it should also enhance his notoriety. Then again, having Chilton at the helm didn’t do much in terms of expanding his accessibility option, and if anything, the quirkiness quotient was given full prominence. A tune titled “Crack’s No Worse Than the Fascist Threat” and the likeminded “Hey Judas,” a song about an encounter in hell with Judas, Hitler and then-president Ronald Reagan, didn’t have any chance of hitting the hit parade any time soon. While De Forest’s kinetic conceits and loopy, loping power plod were charming on occasion, the music is clearly far too wacky to be taken seriously for any sustained amount of time.

 

Still, with a generous 26 tracks included on this expansive set, I Shall Be Re-Released offers the listener plenty of opportunity to get in the groove. And with questionable covers of “Secret Agent Man,” “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and “One For My Baby (And One For The Road),” it offers at least some hint of a familiarity factor. A curious snapshot of labored  looniness from thirty years past, I Shall Be Re-Released proves at very least, to be a liberating libation.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Crack’s No Worse Than the Fascist Threat,” “Hey Judas,” “Secret Agent Man”

THE ORCHIDS – Who Needs Tomorrow… A 30 Year Retrospective

Album: Who Needs Tomorrow... A 30 Year Retrospective

Artist: Orchids

Label: Cherry Red

Release Date: September 29, 2017

www.cherryred.co.uk

BY TIM HINELY

Of course you remember the Orchids, or you should anyway. This terrific Glasgow band, formed in 1986, were the darlings of the Sarah Records stable for a few years in the late 80’s/early 90’s….at least in my house they were. Oh and the thing is, they’re still putting out solid/excellent records (check it 2014’s Beatitude #9 that was released on Spain’s Acuarela label).

This 2-cd compilation (38 songs in all, disc one is the best of while disc two is the rarities) focuses on those early Sarah years and beyond and is pretty damn essential. I mean, just listen to the songs, it’s pretty evident that the band was quite special (and next to unknown on our shores) as cuts like “Apologies,” “It’s Only Obvious” and “Bemused, Confused and Bedraggled” are all ace pop tunes that bear repeated listens. Later on on “Peaches” they go all St. Etienne dance on it (and do it damn well) so the band wasn’t afraid to experiment with different styles (and they still aren’t).

As for the rarities disc (which has lots of  demos and acoustic versions), this one has some gems, too. Check out the dreamy “From This Day” as well as the demo versions  of “Whitley Bay,” “And When I Wake Up” and “And I Paint a Picture.” Man folks (like me) felt that the band split at the peak of their powers in 1995 so it was certainly a welcome return when they came roarin’ back in 2007 with Good To Be a Stranger (their third record since they’ve come back was 2010’s Lost Star). Ian Carmichael provides some insightful liner notes so purchase this immediately (if not sooner  and bask in what was (and still is) jangle pop greatness.

 DOWNLOAD: “Apologies,” “It’s Only Obvious,” “Bemused, Confused and Bedraggled,” “Peaches”

 

TROUBADOUR X 2: Tim Buckley

The Upshot: A pair of must-own live albums from the late singer-songwriter that capture him at a performing peak in 1969 and backed by a powerhouse of a band equally at home with folk-rock excursions and fiery jazz jams.

BY FRED MILLS

In terms of mainstream popularity—awareness, even—late folk-rock troubadour Tim Buckley is certainly a minor figure; his son Jeff, who gained prominence during the mid ‘90s alternative rock explosion prior to his tragic drowning in 1997, is far better known. Yet among the singer-songwriters of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Buckley (who died of a drug overdose in 1975) has been so eminently served, archivally speaking, that the casual browser of the man’s discography could easily get the impression that Buckley was a major star. Though he released only nine studio albums in his lifetime, starting in 1990 with the phenomenal Dream Letter (Live In London 1968) 2CD set there have been no less than 12 titles containing live and unreleased material, rivalling even onetime labelmates The Doors’ similarly-targeted posthumous output (just to use a “major star” comparison), and nearly as many anthologies and repackagings.

Why the near-obsessive adoration of Buckley among fans? Two new live releases, Venice Mating Call and Greetings From West Hollywood, are instructive.

By way of context: Relatively early in the Buckley vault-combing game, in 1994, esteemed West Coast indie label Manifesto, which entered the Buckley picture via a reissue of Dream Letter, unveiled Live At The Troubadour 1969, a nicely appointed single-CD set that collected key performances from an early September ’69 Buckley residency at L.A.’s famed Troubadour nightclub, sourced from the archives of Buckley’s manager, Herb Cohen (Frank Zappa, Tom Waits, etc.), and overseen by reissue producer and legendary industry veteran Bill Inglot. Considered alongside the aforementioned live-in-London set, it was a revelation, palpable sonic evidence that, while Buckley’s studio albums were consistently good, the stage was truly where Buckley came alive, unleashing that high, soaring tenor like a gospel-blues diva reaching heavenward while his band—longtime guitarist/keyboardist Lee Underwood, drummer Art Tripp (from the Mothers of Invention), conga player Carter Collins, Julliard-schooled bassist John Balkin—steamed relentlessly behind him like a jazz ensemble in full improvisational flight.

Fast forward to the present. As the 2CD Venice Mating Call and 2LP Greetings From West Hollywood co-producer Pat Thomas’ detailed liner notes disclose, Manifesto has gone back to the Cohen archives well, issuing previously unreleased recordings from the Sept. 3 and 4 Troubadour shows after meticulously going through five sets from three days’ worth of performances, originally caught on 16-track tape by the Wally Heider Remote Truck. There’s only a two-song overlap between the compact disc and vinyl offerings (“Driftin’” and “I Had A Talk With My Woman”), so if you want all the material—“Nobody Walkin’” for example, is 8:25 on VMC but runs a monumental 12:32 on GFWH and is considerably different in feel—you need to pick up both. In addition to Thomas, Bill Inglot (who, as noted above, produced the original LATT 1969 album) and Dan Perloff co-produced, while Brian Kehew assumed mixing duties for the multi-tracks; in an email, Thomas explained that while they knew of the tapes’ Heider Truck provenance, there was no original live recording engineer listed on the tape reel boxes. By way of consumer note, the 2LP set doesn’t come with a download card, which to me is a notable omission—I want to be able to listen to records at the office and in my car in addition to at home—but both albums are on Spotify, so ultimately it’s a minor quibble.

Cue up the CD or drop the needle, and with the jaunty, strummy “Buzzin’ Fly” you’re instantly seated at a small table so close to the Troubadour stage you can almost reach out and strum Buckley’s 12-string acoustic, his vocal front and center in the mix, the band’s instruments perfectly splayed out behind him and to the sides and abetted by a hint of rear-of-room echo lending a crucial ambiance that at times can seem like an extra instrument. Such is the intimacy at times that the listener can seem transported from a comfortable den populated by beautiful L.A. hipsters (look! There’s Michelle Phillips at the bar!) to a cramped jazz club jammed with musical cognoscenti who dole out their musical approval sparingly, but earnestly.

Favorites on Venice Mating Call? The woozy “Strange Feelin’” is an early high point, Underwood leading the band with bluesy riffs and Buckley answering him in kind. The percussive, kinetic, exploratory “Lorca,” which comes late in the set, is unique as an 11-minute early version of a song that would go on to become the title track of Buckley’s 1970 LP. Lorca would be cut in the studio, in fact, just two weeks after the Troubadour residency—the run of shows featured a number of as-yet-unrecorded songs destined for Lorca and Blue Afternoon, albums released at different times but recorded simultaneously. But the phenomenal “(I Wanna) Testify” never made it onto album, perhaps because it wasn’t a genuine Buckley original—as the Thomas liners detail, it was an improvisation upon an old gospel song—which is a shame, because it’s a true late ‘60s West Coast-style jam that would fit neatly into a set by the Dead, Quicksilver, or the Airplane and seems perfect for the times. (At one point Underwood quotes, intentionally or not, the Airplane’s Jorma Kaukonen’s signature riff from “3/5 Of A Mile In Ten Seconds.” Pretty cool at that.)

How about faves on Greetings From West Hollywood? (The album title of course, is a nod to Buckley’s ’72 album Greetings From L.A.. Speaking of having fun with titles, the song “Venice Mating Call” appears on GFWH but not on Venice Mating Call, go figure.) In downtempo mode there’s folk-blues ballad “I Had A Talk With My Woman,” Buckley singing generally in his lower register to give the tune an additional intimacy. Contrast that with the jazzy, uptempo “Nobody Walkin,” for which Underwood swaps his guitar for Fender Rhodes and the musicians all lock into a propulsive groove, Buckley letting loose with extemporaneous whoops and off-mic asides—that voice is also an “instrument” in the truest sense of the term, at times sounding like the singer is becoming unhinged and leaping into the audience. (In Thomas’ liner notes, Underwood makes it clear that these performances occurred long before Buckley gave in to heroin’s allure, and to his knowledge no one in the band had more than a few beers at the shows; there were two each evening.) The Buckley band pulls out all the stops on another lengthy number, 11-minute closing track “Gypsy Woman,” also a pulsing, improv West Coast jam, right down to the individual players’ solos. Underwood in particular seems inspired, peeling off rapid-fire licks from his fretboard, Buckley responding in kind with yips, moans, and wordless cries of carnal passion

As live recordings go, these two titles immediately join the ranks of the greats. The aforementioned Dream Letter (Live In London 1968) has long been the gold standard among Buckley live releases, of course. But although recorded only a year removed from the Troubadour tapes, it represents a completely different Buckley, who as an artist was constantly evolving and experimenting. I’d venture that had a live Buckley album been released in ’69 or ‘70 his career trajectory might have been completely different, for this was an era during which fans prized authenticity above all else, which of course is why live albums were gradually becoming de rigeur for any “serious” musical artist.

Ultimately, while Buckley is long gone, the wealth of Buckley material available in 2017 helps secure the man’s legacy for the ages. As a fan myself since the early ‘70s, I dearly love every single note, and my hat is off to everyone at Manifesto and everyone involved in this archival project. More, please.

THE DREAM SYNDICATE – How Did I Find Myself Here? LP + The Complete Live at Raji’s 2LP

Album: How Did I Find Myself Here? LP + The Complete Live at Raji’s 2LP

Artist: Dream Syndicate

Label: Anti- Records / Run Out Groove

Release Date: September 08, 2017

www.anti.com/ www.runoutgroovevinyl.com

The Upshot: A remarkable return to form and the first studio material since 1989, the record sizzles with a raw immediacy as befits the band’s in-your-face arrangements. Plus a powerhouse live recording, from 1988, in a super-duper limited edition package. (Watch a live concert from October of this year following the review.)

BY FRED MILLS

This just might turn out to be The Year Of The Dream Syndicate, what with their first new studio album since 1989, How Did I Find Myself Here?, released, along with a limited edition colored vinyl re-release, The Complete Live at Raji’s (complete with bonus tracks), a 1988 concert which originally appeared in 1989 as Live at Raji’s around the time the group was winding down its original 1981-89 run. The Dream Syndicate actually resurfaced in 2012— guitarist/vocalist Steve Wynn (who has had a wildly prolific post-D.S. career, including numerous solo albums as well as Gutterball and The Baseball Project, not to mention—most recently—his band the Miracle Three), original drummer Dennis Duck, latterday bassist Mark Walton, and guitarist Jason Victor (on loan from the Miracle Three).

Backtracking a bit, and by way of a personal note, one steamy summer evening in ’86, September 24 to be precise, the Dream Syndicate loaded in at Charlotte, NC, punk/indie venue the Milestone Club. Wynn, along with guitarist Paul B. Cutler (who’d produced the band’s debut EP and eventually joined the band, replacing original guitarist Karl Precoda), Walton, and Duck, proceeded to lay waste to the minds of a packed crowd. Easing into their set with a kind of jazzy vamp along with Wynn’s admonition that they’d been told to keep the volume down—it was a weeknight, and the club owner was nervous in the wake of some recent noise complaints and the subsequent queries from the police—the band then visibly yanked the knobs on their guitars and crashed full-decibels-tilt into D.S. mainstay “Until Lately,” emitting gale force sonic winds and prompting an angry exit from the music room by the club owner. The rest of the show was no less exhilarating, from such classics as “The Medicine Show” and “The Days of Wine and Roses” to tracks from the recently-released Out of the Grey album to wild covers of Alice Cooper’s “Ballad of Dwight Frye” and War’s “Spill the Wine.” (Incidentally, you can listen to the show at Archive.org—the tracks posted online are taken from the tape I recorded that night.)

“Until Lately” is also a centerpiece of The Complete Live at Raji’s, a powerhouse set showcasing the band at the height of its latterday powers. The Cutler lineup was touring a few months prior to the release of what would be their last studio album, Ghost Stories, although with performances this incendiary you’d never think the group was verging on its last legs—in addition to that song, standouts include an unhinged “John Coltrane Stereo Blues,” The Medicine Show noir-rock gem “Burn,” and a jittery cover of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See That My Grave is Kept Clean” that opened the January 31, 1988, show at legendary L.A. club Raji’s.

Live at Raji’s being the ’89 CD release, The Complete Live at Raji’s originally appeared as an expanded reissue on CD in 2004, but this new reissue marks the first time it’s ever been on vinyl. As with the 2004 disc, the project was overseen by veteran D.S. archivist Pat Thomas, who was responsible for unearthing four tracks that were not on the ’89 iteration; he also contributes informative liner notes in which he discusses the provenance of the Raji’s tapes as well as correcting some errors that had appeared in the earlier album credits. Here in 2017, devoted Dream Syndicate fans also get: colored vinyl, a thick-stock Stoughton “tip-on” gatefold sleeve, and a numbered edition. All thanks to the Run Out Groove label for going the extra mile with their release; ROG has fans vote on which will be the next title the company will produce, and Raji’s was a runaway winner as a vote-getter. Give the people what they want, eh?

Fast-forward to the 2012 Dream Syndicate shows. This was not necessarily a nostalgia trip like, say, the Pixies or Pavement, bands that reunited for tours and, sometimes, new recordings when they realized they could in fact cash in on fans’ nostalgia. Although the D.S. sometimes did complete renderings of classic albums The Days of Wine and Roses (from 1982) and 1984’s The Medicine Show in concert, their tours were more intermittent as individual schedules—and, more important—inspiration dictated. Apparently that inspiration increased as more time elapsed, for by the tail end of 2015 they were working on new material.

The new How Did I Find Myself Here?, then, is the culmination of many things, of which one of those things is clearly not recapturing/reconjuring old glories—they’re extending and elaborating upon an already estimable legacy that was already secure in the minds of fans and critics. With longtime peer Chris Cacavas (Green On Red) on board as co-producer and session keyboardist, the group serves up a tough-as-nails set, part-psychedelia and part-punk and 100 percent heavy-ass guitar rock.

Indeed, the record sizzles with a raw immediacy as befits its in-your-face arrangements. And everyone sounds utterly energized here, from the jetstream convulsions of the feedback-laden “The Circle” to the atmospheric, Bowie-esque (think “Heroes”) “Glide” to the manic, choppy riffage of “Out of My Head.” They also lob a few Easter eggs in the direction of fans, too, notably the throbbing bass intro to dissonant garage raver “80 West” which is clearly intended to recall the first album’s “That’s What You Always Say.” For “Kendra’s Dream” they even bring back original bassist Kendra Smith to handle lead vocals. And the 11-minute title track, a spooky, bluesy, ultimately swaggering slice of swamp-psych conjures D.S. epics of yore, particularly the extended concert extrapolations for which the band is known for. (On the tune, Cacavas brings some terrific Ray Manzarek-like electric piano to the table, additionally giving the tune a classic Doors vibe in spots.)

Consumer Note: The album comes digitally and on CD and is also pressed on 180-gm. vinyl (black in the U.S., turquoise or red in Europe). Fans who signed up via the group’s PledgeMusic campaign could avail themselves of numerous donation tiers, including the obligatory album/teeshirt bundles, a vinyl copy signed by all four members and accompanied by a D.S. turntable mat and a booklet of Steve Wynn’s ‘80s-era lyrics, and, at the $1,500 level, a personal DJ set or house party performance by Wynn—or even a full band house party set for anyone with $15,000 to burn. If you pledged you also got some nice freebies in the form of previously unreleased live material. I’d call that giving the people what they want.

DOWNLOAD: “How Did I Find Myself Here?”, “80 West,” “Out of My Head”

Below, watch the band’s October 20, 2017, concert at the Crossroads Festival in Germany