Monthly Archives: November 2011

Bevis Frond – The Leaving of London

January 01, 1970

(Woronzow Records) 

 

         mailto:nicksaloman@btinternet.com


 

 

After an eight year hiatus from
Frond projects, Nick Saloman, a bit put out by a largely ignored legacy (20 to
22 albums, he isn’t quite sure himself), decided that the time seemed right to
have another run at it. Having kept his hand in the game playing with his
daughter Deb’s band and unplugging from living in London, Nick packed up and
relocated to the southern coast of England, to the lovely countryside of East
Sussex, to Hastings, hence the album title. While garnering a solid
cult-following through the years with their fuzz-psych-blues, and Nick’s
frightening virtuosity on the guitar, and seemingly bottomless reservoir of
music writing creativity, The Bevis Frond mostly were stuck in a holding
pattern of being underground darlings, overlooked by the mainstream after years
of hard work. Not an uncommon tale in the music biz, as many struggling bands
have discovered through the decades, blinding brilliance without much to show
for the effort sometimes.

 

 

After some prompting from
friends, Nick geared up for another run at it, again ably assisted by longtime
BF member Adrian Shaw on bass, newly added Paul Simmons on guitar and Dave
Pearce pounding the drums. And the Frond return with a renewed energy and
perhaps their best album to date. Eighteen tunes, clocking in at 80 minutes,
cover territory both familiar and freshly minted, exhibiting clearly that
there’s still plenty of voltage in the generator and that they’re only
improving with age. I’d go as far to say that the album should have been
entitled after the song “Reanimation,” as that’s an impression you get from the
first listening. It’s an explosive number that radiates energy and power and
some outstanding, fluid guitar work. Likewise, there’s plenty of juice shooting
out sparks in live-wire songs like “Barely Anthropoid,” “You’ll Come,” “More To
This Than That,” “Heavy Hand” with its prog. rock guitar shadings, and the
dueling wah-wahs in “Stupid Circle.” “Preservation Hill” is such a return to
familiar Frond form, on the other hand, I could swear that I’ve heard it on
several older albums. 

 

 

Amongst the numerous
compositions, many styles are represented besides soaring rock paeans. There’s
the introspective and very delicate “Testament,” and “The Divide,” a divine and
sublime confection simply featuring just Nick singing along with his adroit
acoustic guitar work. The playing throughout the album is pristine and
masterful, criss-crossing back and forth from skull-shattering to soothing
balladry and lyrics that carry a warm wisdom. This should be a celebrated
effort, embraced by any who worship at the feet of The Scientists, The Black
Angels, Wooden Shjips, Thee Hypnotics or Spacemen 3. While more diverse
musically, and perhaps not as cosmically psychedelic across the board, the
Bevis Frond let their freak flag fly high and give you a knowing wink with an
acid-glint in their third eye. I’ve long supported the notion that you can get
your freak on better in the country than the city, and I believe this album
sustains that view rather well.

 

 

        DOWNLOAD: “Reanimation,”
“You’ll Come,” and “More To This Than That” BARRY ST. VITUS

          

 

Dave Douglas – Three Views: Greenleaf Portable Series Vol. 1-3

January 01, 1970

(Greenleaf)

 

www.greenleafmusic.com

 

Trumpeter
Dave Douglas’ career has been as diverse as it has been prolific: incorporating
a hard bop apprenticeship with Horace Silver; work with John Zorn in the Masada quartet; and more eclectic original projects like
the Tiny Bell Trio and his more electric bands. He launched the Greenleaf
imprint seven years ago as a way to avoid the middleman in the distribution of
original jazz, thus dodging the whole collapse of the record label as we know
it. This year, he introduced the Greenleaf Portable Series, a set of albums by
three different Douglas units, all of which
have been within a few months of the sessions. The individual sets began
dropping over the summer, with volume three coming out in mid-October. While
they can be purchased individually, Greenleaf is now offering a limited edition
box of all three, title Three Views. In
addition to the diversity of each set, Douglas
was savvy enough to keep each release to, on average, 45 minutes – thus
treating like an album. (Their press release calls them EPs, which makes sense
considering the average length of a jazz album these days.)

 

Rare Metals features his Brass Ecstasy group, a quintet of horns and trap kit.  His skill at writing for such a group comes
out within the opening minutes. “Town Hall” combines the tonal color of a New Orleans marching band
mashing the spiritual “Abide with Me” with the phrase of a Mozart piano sonata
that Raymond Scott and Carl Stalling later appropriated for Warner Brothers
cartoons. Before the piece has ended, drummer Nasheet Waits shifts from press
rolls to a groovy 4/4, which supports Vincent Chancey’s French horn solo. All
horns eventually get their solo space, including Marcus Rojas (tuba), and the
lack of strings or sustained chords never becomes an issue. Billy Strayhorn’s
“Lush Life” can pose a challenge for any type of blowing session, and Douglas succeeds with an arrangement that seems to
co-mingle the song’s melody and improvisations by the band.

 

Orange Afternoons, the
second in the Portable Series, reads the most like a supergroup. Douglas has brought together pianist Vijay Iyer, drummer
Marcus Gilmore (also in Iyer’s trio), tenor saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and
bassist Linda Oh. All of them are high profile on their own, but they mesh well
as a unit on six tracks that sound like a ’60s Miles Davis session, if they
were playing Wayne Shorter’s elusive melodies exclusively. Douglas and Coltrane
regularly take surprising turns in their solos. The 11-plus minute “Orologi”
offers some of the best moments, with Coltrane, Iyer and Oh toying with
dynamics in their solos.

 

As
strong as the second volume sounds, it rivals Volume 3, Bad Mango, for the most absorbing listen. Douglas teamed up with New York quartet So
Percussion to revisit a few of his early solo and Tiny Bell pieces, along with
some new tracks. The session includes some additional melodic elements, which
sound like samplers or electric drums that trigger pitches, but it largely
features the bright trumpet joining forces with all manner of percussive
clatter. The quartet generates excitement with some loud thwacks, again making
it unnecessary for any other standard rhythm section instruments. Each track
features a different adventure, among them: the musique concrete of “Nome”
where the trumpet melts into vibes as disembodied voices
mumble in the background, followed by “Witness” which begins with an accordion
(or a reasonable facsimile) pumping out a slow melody before it switches to a
drone and the layers of marimba, drums and rims cue Douglas’ folky melody.

 

Douglas
already has a fourth group waiting in the wings, so who knows how long it will
be before Greenleaf presents their volume as part of this series.

 

DOWNLOAD: Rare Metals: “Town Hall,” “Thread.” Orange Afternoons: “The Gulf,” “Orologi.” Bad Mango“: “Witness,” “Spider.” MIKE SHANLEY

Rolling Stones – Some Girls: Deluxe Edition

January 01, 1970

(Universal Music Group)

 

www.universalmusic.com

 

The amazing crop of reissues that have come out this year
says two things. First, that 1971 and 1991 were damn good times for music,
hence all the classic albums turning 20 and 40. Second, that without the
unifying force of MTV or FM rock radio, there may never be another Eric
Clapton, U2 or Nirvana, so the labels might as well so back to the well with
the originals one more time while at least a few people are still buying
CDs.  Into that environment comes a
deluxe reissue of Some Girls, the
last great Rolling Stones album.  (Yes, Tattoo You has incredible high points,
but it’s not great from start to finish).

 

This package doesn’t come with a built-in hook (its 33rd anniversary, anyone?), but that doesn’t make it any less worthwhile than some
of the aforementioned releases. Really, the only hook fans need is 12 unreleased
tracks that show the Stones at the top of their game. What you couldn’t know in
1978 is that this was the last time the band would be this good. Because of
that, Some Girls has taken on a
bittersweet air.

 

The original album has some of the band’s best songs. Its closing
triumvirate of “Before They Make Me Run,” “Beast of Burden” and “Shattered” is
as good as anything they’ve ever done. And the disc of unreleased material has
a few tracks that belong in that group – Keith Richards’ tender take on country
singer Donnie Fritts’ “We Had It All,” and the hook-filled ballad “No Spare
Parts,” which could easily have been all over the radio if it were released in
the ‘70s.

 

But listening to the collection as a whole, what stands out
is how the Stones of 1978 were even able to turn what should be throwaways into
magic. There’s really nothing special about “Lies” or “Respectable” when you
think about it. They just work – they
get by on energy and attitude, which the Stones had in spades. The same holds
true for a tossed-off take on the garage-rock classic “Tallahassee Lassie,” or
the Chicago
blues of “When You’re Gone,” both of which appear on the disc of unreleased
tracks.

 

Yet with the benefit of hindsight, you can also hear the
start of the band’s decline in certain tracks. Songs like “Don’t Be a Stranger”
or “I Love You Too Much” are standard-issue Stones and aren’t far from the more
formulaic music the band would routinely settle for on Steel Wheels and beyond.

 

But none of that takes away from the greatness of Some Girls.

 

The remastered discs sound great; unlike Exile on Main
Street
, Some Girls was recorded
cleanly, so there’s no downside to making it more pristine. It also comes with
an interesting essay by Anthony DeCurtis that anchors the album in the context
of late-seventies New York,
from which it draws much of its inspiration. There are great photos included
throughout. And for super-fans (or the super-rich), there’s a Super Deluxe
package that includes clips from a 1978 concert and some promo videos, as well
as a larger hardcover book with even more photos and essays about the making of
Some Girls. (Editor’s note: Our rating is for the two-CD set; the Super Deluxe
edition was not made available for review.)

 

 DOWNLOAD: All of the original album; plus “We Had It All,” “You Win
Again,” “No Spare Parts” HAL BIENSTOCK

 

A Band of Bees – Every Step’s A Yes (Deluxe Version)

January 01, 1970

(ATO)

 

www.atorecords.com

 

English act The Bees – known stateside as A Band of Bees –
meander through genres (classic rock, reggae, indie-folk, psychedelic)
throughout Every Step’s A Yes,
showcasing moments of artistic capacity on an otherwise choppy album. 

 

When they step up with ‘60s era rock ‘n’ roll reminiscent of
The Zombies on stand-out “I Really Need Love” there’s no question as to how
they scored a tour with Fleet Foxes and an invite to produce an album for
Devendra Banhart.  Frontman Paul Butler’s
vocals, coupled with stylish harmonies, are really special; rugged, organic and
spirited.  What makes this U.S. version of
the album deluxe is six extra
offerings comprising remixes, live cuts, and modern renditions of “Go Where You
Wanna Go” (The Mamas & The Papas) and “The Rip” (Portishead).  While the execution is definitely there on
the folk-meets-reggae “Winter Rose”, which is indeed a quality song, it’s a
confusing vibe killer to sandwich material a la Jack Johnson between Brit-rock
and cool-kid folk.  Perhaps ATO should
have released 2 EPs instead of one LP.

 

Every Step’s A Yes is a stylistic mish-mash with a few notable gems worthy of downloading.

 

DOWNLOAD: “I
Really Need Love,” “No More Excuses” CLAIRE ASHTON

 

Peggy Sue – Acrobats

January 01, 1970

(Yep
Roc)

 

www.yeproc.com


Attempting for days to write a
review of Peggy Sue’s Acrobats, I found the words consistently eluding
me. Description and critique avoided me like the plague; not because the latest
from Peggy Sue is a terrible record (it is not), but because it is a
complex record that defied my every attempt to describe it. If it were an
abomination of an album, critiquing it would be easy.  I would destroy it
with harshness and be done with it, but the layered complexity of its
contents posed a challenge.

 

Produced by John Parish
(Sparklehorse, The EELS and PJ Harvey), Acrobats has a sound that is
thick as molasses, dense, swirling and at times creepy. The material feeds on
the band’s influences to create waves that are equal parts PJ Harvey, Heartless
Bastards, Carter Family and, most notably, The Breeders. The ominous, dark wave
six-minute long opening track “Cut My Teeth” is a pledge to keep a man no
matter what (“I made him stay because I could/ And cut my teeth on his good
looks”) and the strange vibe persists throughout Acrobats as the songs
grow better and better.

 

The trio (Rosa, Olly and Katy)
scraped the all-acoustic approach of last year’s Fossils and other Phantoms to go electric on Acrobats and the change is astounding. There is a
newfound texture to the band, ambience added by electricity and a deeper sense
of longing. The songs skip through styles while managing to remain cohesive;
there is first wave British alternative (“Cut My Teeth”), death balladry (“Funeral
Beat”), a Portishead nod (“Changing and Waiting”) and an Appalachian lament (“D.U.M.B.O.”),
not to mention a fucked-up tale of a severed head (“There Always Was”) that
closes Acrobats with a bang, not a whimper.

 

To shorten my tale, Peggy Sue’s Acrobats is one of the most scattered, schizophrenic, soul questioning – and beautiful
and best records of the year. Give it
a spin and see if you can nail it down.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Cut My
Teeth” “D.U.M.B.O.” DANNY R. PHILLIPS

 

Thrice – Major/Minor

January 01, 1970

 (Vagrant)

 

www.vagrant.com

 

On their eighth album, Thrice – among the most
influential post hardcore bands of the past decade – have managed to completely
exorcize their scream-o (and some might argue emo) demons. As a result, they
have never sounded better.

 

There are bound to be many who will vent that the California band is
losing their edge, but by offering crisp, clean vocals over the band’s former
throat-shredding ways, they are able to highlighting what has always been a strength
for them, though not obvious to all: writing great lyrics. The band divided up
writing duties on this one bringing together the songs once they hit the studio
and the result the record is oddly more consistent than just about any album
since their breakthrough Artist in the
Ambulance
.  

 

Thrice have never exactly been a group of musicians
to phone it in. In 2005, they infused
their experimental album Vheissu with electronic beats and keyboards, pretty rare for the
genre. And two years later, with The
Alchemy Index
, they turned in a double
CD composed of four parts (24 song total), each showcasing a different style
and themed to the elements (fire, earth, water and air). With Major/Minor Thrice have stripped away
unnecessary studio production, added instrumentation and pretention to offer
simply a great rock album. The last two songs on the record “Anthology” and
“Disarmed” are among the best in their deep catalog.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Anthology” and “Disarmed”   JOHN
B. MOORE

 

Emperor X – 7

January 01, 1970

(Bar/None)

 

www.bar-none.com

 

Just imagine: I’m
a contemporary musician who wants to dig into the most authentic-feeling
ephemeral and corporeal matter. Field recordings, in and of themselves, are no longer
newsworthy. Hmm… loving what I do, I’ll proceed forward from my former life as
a high school science instructor. I’ll do my first performances in church
basements if I have to; in the process realizing there may be some mystery
within “speaking in tongues.” I’ll use the karaoke machine at a Pentecostal
church for recording. Since my vision problems preclude driving, I’ll tour via
bus. I’ll record in the closet of a college’s athletic center and at a punk
rock group house

 

Later, after nearly ten, mostly self-produced recordings,
people who appreciate me, who have a label called Bar/None, will take me under
their wing. I’ll go on tour with the Front Bottoms. But I won’t just climb in
and out of the van to perform. I’ll leave parcels, digitally-tagged geocaches
that I’ll call “nodes,” which will eventually form Western Teleport Nodes. My friends and fans will be amused and
stimulated by discovering these through an interactive game.

 

Maybe most importantly – at least for observers and
reviewers —  I’ll fashion audio
compositions from a myriad of sources. One could be about trying to repair an
air conditioner. Another, as in “Erica Western Teleport,” could be about trying
to wipe someone from my psyche (“Don’t think of her swimming sideways/Don’t
think of her kicking at the topsoil/”… “Don’t think of her cursing at
commuters/Don’t think of her/Please never think of her”).

 

Observers and reviewers are probably going to laugh, like,
“How does C.R. Matheny, also known as Emperor X, know what’s going on – or used
to – inside my brain?” They’ll be amazed at how often I successfully mix the
detritus of contemporary existence, somewhat akin to GiTAr’s work, with the pop
sensibility of Pavement, the casual creativity of Mice Parade, and working
knowledge of the ephemeral space that provides refuge for the conscious
alongside the subconscious.

 

They’re going to welcome their creative new friend, and when
I need another place –  to sleep, record,
or just reinvigorate their hunger for life – they’ll think of me.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Erica
Western Teleport,” “Compressor Repair,” “Canada
Day,” “The Magnetic Media Storage Practices of Rural Pakistan” MARY LEARY

Puscifer – Conditions of My Parole

January 01, 1970

(Puscifer Entertainment)

 

www.pusciferentertainment.com

 

Somewhere in the old west of Arizona’s
Verde Valley, Conditions of My Parole was born and quickly named “a new
collection of court-ordered salty dance hits.” While there’s much behind the
deliverance of the album and its master crafter, Puscifer, better known as the
creative subconscious (or, in layman’s terms, solo work) of Maynard James
Keenan, anyone who even remotely follows the Tool and A Perfect Circle frontman
might find it interesting that the breeding grounds of his latest project began
in the fertile soil of L.A.’s comedy clubs, Puscifer becoming the name of the
fictional band on HBO sketch comedy series Mr.
Show
. How else could you get away with naming your debut V is for Vagina?

 

In the three years since, Keenan and the ever-growing
musician/comedy troupe behind Puscifer have carried on the shtick, reinventing
the follies of touring bands with a rarely seen full-on entertainment revue
complete with props, costumes, and bizarre cast of characters. On Conditions of My Parole we meet Billy D,
“a trailer park resident and married to Hildy, punk rocker, anarchist” as well
as Major Douche and Linda, “a positive thinker, mother of four, and six-time
winner of the Verde Church Blue Ribbon Bake Off.” The album’s artwork, a
black-eyed prison inmate caressing some knockoff Dolly Parton in a timeless
Glamor Shot, only aids in the excitement for what might come for ticketholders
of the tour.

 

But bogus, concept-driven, narrow-minded hoax for cheap
music this is not. For as much effort Keenan puts into the head-scratching,
overarching plot of this project, he puts as much gumption into the music that,
on its own, could illuminate an applause sign. The only issue, then, is where
and on what planet these two mediums intersect. If comedy is what he is after,
then Keenan is bereft to remove himself from the serious friction of his
compositions, which makes it a stretch to believe the atmospheric techno blaze
of opening number “Tiny Monsters” could be ruminated upon by someone like Billy
D, unless of course the blatant, nail-driven drum riff is Billy hopelessly
beating on jail bars.

 

The dark, seedy underbelly of Keenan’s stock carries itself
further on the comet tail of Radiohead-recall track “Monsoons” before the
utterly demonic intro of “Toma” brings listeners to cower … so again one
wonders how the gingham girl on the cover fits into this? Unless that girl
happens to be singer/songwriters Carina Round or Juliette Commagere, who are
excellently cast to provide additional vocals on the album for a not so
hilarious, more haunting tandem play with Keenan’s hibernating growl.  A perfect example is “Telling Ghosts” which
bears the crown of Tool’s regime, but given the intersection of a sensual
overtone, provides a whole new trajectory for Keenan’s craft.

 

The other, more silent female character who goes uncredited
on the album is Keenan’s mother, whose life and death have often inspired his
work, Puscifer being no exception. Track “Horizons” is allegedly about the
release of her ashes with a soul-baring purge walking amongst Aphex Twin
footsteps that pins the most fragile human existence with the cold reality of
technology.

 

Had Conditions of My
Parole
not been recorded amongst the wine barrels at Keenan’s Cadueus
Cellars, one might take it too seriously … until you consider that Billy D and
Major Douche were probably created after a drink – or seven.

 

 

DOWNLOAD: “Tiny
Monsters,” “Horizons,” “Conditions of My Parole” SELENA FRAGASSI

 

 

Leonard Cohen – The Complete Studio Albums Collection

Album: The Complete Studio Albums Collection

Artist: Leonard Cohen

Label: Columbia Legacy

Release Date: October 25, 2011

cohen-box

(Columbia-Legacy)

www.legacyrecordings.com / www.leonardcohen.com

BY RON HART

Like a big green box of solemn quintessence comes the Leonard Cohen entry of Legacy Recordings’ Complete Albums Collection series, which remasters the catalogs of the most beloved acts on the Columbia and Epic labels and repackages them in these cool mini-LP replicas of the original packaging.

This particular set dedicated to the oeuvre of the Canadian bard boasts a whopping 17 titles ranging from his 1967 debut Songs of Leonard Cohen on through to the critically acclaimed chronicle of his health-defying 2008-10 world tour Songs From The Road. True, a good portion of this set consists of material that has either recently been reissued (namely the aforementioned Cohen, 1969’s Songs From A Room and 1971’s Songs of Love and Hate, all of which were expanded and re-released in 2007), is too new (Live in London and the archival treasure Live at the Isle of Wight 1970, both of which are from 2009) or is too lackluster (2001’s Dear Heather, 2004’s Ten New Songs) to consider investing in the hefty price tag attached to this set unless you are a total Cohen completist. Wedged within the fray, however, are beautifully restored versions of Leonard’s four finest studio works in 1974’s country leaning, sexually charged New Skin for the Old Ceremony, his excellent 1977 collaboration with Phil Spector Death of a Ladies’ Man and his back-to-back pair of goth pop masterpieces in 1988’s I’m Your Man and 1993’s The Future, all of which are arguably as essential as the Songs trilogy, especially for the punk, new wave and alt-rock generations who got put on to the dark art of LC after he expanded his sonic pedigree beyond folk.

Also included here are his two best live albums, 1973’s Live Songs, recorded during his tour of Europe in 1971 and 1972, and Field Commander Cohen: Tour of 1979, an early 2001 release
chronicling two spectacular England performances during his full band trek in support of that year’s return to quietude, Recent Songs.

As the anticipation begins to grow surrounding Cohen’s next studio endeavor, the promising Old Ideas due out in the spring of 2012, this exhaustive overhaul of his historic body of work, warts and all, is without question well worth the dive into the expansive artistic sprawl of North America’s premier “Chief Apocalyptist” as he enjoys his 77th year on this planet.

DOWNLOAD: New Skin for the Old Ceremony, Death of a Ladies’ Man, The Future RON HART

 

Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon + Wish You Were Here (Immersion Series)

January 01, 1970

(EMI)

 

www.emimusic.com

 

In the same fashion that Rhino did
with The Stooges Funhouse and its 7 CD
dissection, EMI have begun an “Immersion” into the rarity of the Pink Floyd
catalog, digging through the pre-digital crates and coming up with the never
issued tunes, odd mixes and live noodling in regard to audio and video, the
re-productions of silly ephemera and fan goodies such as playing cards,
coasters and scarves as well as, in the case of the mega-selling classic Dark Side, legendarily lost “Early Album
Mixes” and “Quad Mixes” previously released only on vinyl LP/8 track tape
(heavy breathless sigh here remembering my stoner past) engineered by Alan
Parsons.

 

In these Immersion boxes, the
epically lonely Dark Side (10 stars
out of 10) and Wish (9 stars) sound
somehow fuller than ever before, lustrous and dense in its 5.1 re-creation.
Along with full live renderings of DSoTM in Wembley (1974) and Brighton (1972), the six
CD kit offers Richard Wright’s eerie demo of “Us And Them” as well as a less
rhythmic but more buoyant demo of the timeworn “Money” from Roger Waters. Yes,
even the big-hit-single sounds fresh in this context. As for Wish the thinness of its original
release is emboldened with a fluid lower end that’s ravishing in this renewed
display of harmony and despair. While Pink’s Syd Barrett tribute “Shine on Your
Crazy Diamond” sounds spookier than ever, a version of the title track
featuring fusion violinist Stephane Grappelli is weirdly rapturous and jammy.

 

Both boxes, too, have delightful highlights from Floyd’s lost experimental Household Objects project planned in the
post-hit-making mode of DSoTM so to
keep in tune with their weirdo beginnings.
Charming.      

 

DOWNLOAD: “Wine
Glasses” “Have a Cigar” “The Hard Way” A.D. AMOROSI