Oops, we did it again….
BY FRED MILLS, JOHN MOORE AND A.D. AMOROSI
Yes indeed, the collectors, speculators and just plain music nerds lined up outside independent record stores across the land once again in anticipation of Record Store Day—this time, the second annual Black Friday edition, on Nov. 27. While it’s not as big as the RSD proper that happens each April, due to far fewer offerings from the labels and bands, it has still become a big deal, as evidenced by the lengths of those lines and the subsequent flocking to eBay among fans who didn’t arrive early enough to land copies of the records they wanted (not to mention among online gougers eager to take advantage of those fans). Go here if you want to read our report from RSD #6 (April 20 of this year), and below, see a small sampling of the goodies our staffers scooped up. —Ed.
CHEAP TRICK – The Classic Albums 1977 – 1979 (Epic/Legacy, ??? copies)
While Cheap Trick has finally joined the likes of Aerosmith, Journey, Night Ranger and others on that endless summer nostalgia lap of outdoor music sheds, we will always have their first four records as reminders of happier times, when the band began their journey as Power Pop Pioneers (though 2009’s Latest, was a pretty good album, so there may still be some life left in ‘em). Legacy has packaged all five records in a very cool box set, remastered in 2013 from the original analog tapes. This set includes the only five Cheap Trick albums you will ever need to own:
Cheap Trick – Their 1977 debut started off strong with “ELO Kiddies,” and had a few other highlights (most notably “He’s a Whore”), bit overall this decent debut was more of a prelude of better things to come.
In Color – Probably their best non-live album, this one boasts “Hello There,” “Clock Strikes Ten,” “I Want You to Want Me” and “Southern Girls” – all of which are show staples for the band to this day. By the way, this album came out in 1977. See that current rock bands? You don’t need to let years go by waiting for inspiration to strike. Get your ass in the studio (though it should be noted, pills and Cocaine probably had a lot to do with the bands prolific output during this period).
Heaven Tonight – Originally out in 1978, boasting singer Robin Zander and bassist Tom Petersson on the album cover rocking two sweet, sweet late-‘70s hair dos – this one was almost as strong as In Color, introducing the world to Power Pop Xanadu in the form of album opener “Surrender” (“Your mommy’s alright/your daddy’s alright/they just seem a little weird!”).
(Live) At Budokan – The band’s paramount release. Some will try and tell you this live record – the album that brought the band to a much broader audience – is a bit overrated. They are lying; avoid them at all costs. Can 12,000 screaming Japanese fans really be wrong? Selling three million copies in the U.S., this is easily the band’s biggest album.
Dream Police – Released in 1979, the title track is still one of the band’s best songs. There are a couple of other great tracks on here like “Voices” and “I’ll Be With You Tonight.” This is also the album that showed Kiss weren’t the only rock band to be seduced by that bitch Disco, with the dreadful nine-plus minute long rock/dance hybrid “Gonna Raise Hell.” —John B. Moore [Current eBay price as of this writing: $120-$179, although there is one dreamer/gouger trying to find a sucker who will pay $275]
U2 – “Ordinary Love” b/w “Breathe” (Mandela Version) 10” (Island, 10,000 copies)
It’s a decent enough piano-powered ballad, one which has already spawned a number of wonderfully-rendered covers (check this one from “Finn M-K” at SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/finnmk/ordinary-love-cover). Which, considering that U2 has been removing uploads of its original tune from the web at a furious pace; all you’ll find a YouTube is a snippet and a trailer for the Long Walk to Freedom Nelson Mandela biopic. But to be honest, the falsetto has never been the kindest vocal format for Bono; while he does muster the requisite sonics, the emotional payoff can be lacking. Here, he pushes his luck a bit, hitting those stratospheric notes a bit too often (the words “we can’t…” become a screech; Randy Jackson might charitably call him “pitchy”). Still, after a number of listens the tune does take on a certain dewy-eyed quality that, while marking it as “lesser” among the entire U2 canon, still suggests that it serves its stated purpose: to be an essential part of the Mandela film. The flipside, an updated “Breathe,” seems like a throwaway in the grand tradition of B-side throwaways (catch it while you can on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4WRDQINDuo), acoustic with some subtle mix effects. But nothing special.
Curiously, 10,000 copies of this 10-inch single were sucked into the Record Store Day black hole almost before anyone knew they were out there. Were there actually 10,000 shoppers lined up at indie record stores across the U.S., or, ahem, were a few boxes of those 10” goodies diverted to other locations? And what was up with all those thousands of completed eBay sales of the record—most of them in the $75 to $120 range—literally within the first hour of Black Friday’s opening gong? Bottom line: hold off fans, and don’t add to your PayPal accounts just yet. The prices have already plummeted and you can get it for around forty bucks if you hunt around. —Fred Mills [Current eBay price: $40-$100]
ROY ORBISON – The Monument Vinyl Box 4LP (Sony/Legacy, ??? copies)
In preparation for a hurricane of reissues and rarities collections (e.g. the recently-released Last Concert), the operatic, angel-voiced, Tennessee gentleman’s earliest neo-symphonic albums come courtesy this four LP collection. With doomed romance the order of the day, Orbison’s vocals sweep through the drama of the familiar (“Only the Lonely”), and the rarely-considered (“Come Back to Me My Love”) like a ghost through his family’s manor. The haunted cosmopolitan country classicism remains aloft (and aloof, considering the cool wind of Orbison’s speaker-rattling tone) throughout Lonely and Blue (1961), Crying (1962) and In Dreams (1963), slowing down in particular on his sophomore Monument effort, its soul-stirring title track, and the cinematic “Love Hurts.” Along with the wall-of-sound woe that Orbison’s unleashed upon his dark-clouded ballads, his subtle bluesy snarl made the likes of “Dream Baby,” and “Oh, Pretty Woman” (the latter the title track to Monument’s missing LP) catty classics. This is the sound of heartbreak and lust sung in a fashion we’ll never hear again. —A.D. Amorosi [Current eBay price as of this writing: $140-$160]
NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS – Live From KCRW 2LP (Bad Seed Ltd., 3000 copies)
For my money, this is the primo release of the entire event this year as it joins the Cave discography as a bonafide standalone classic rather than an oddity, sidestep or collection of rarities. The band was on the Push The Sky Away tour, and unlike the incendiary show I caught back in March in Austin during SXSW, this was an intimate, stripped-down in-studio performance in front of just 180 lucky fans. The Push material is ably represented by the Miley Cyrus-namechecking, creepy-crawl through pop culture “Higgs Boson Blues,” the sexy-seamy “Mermaids” and the atmospheric title track (plus a couple others), and there’s a startling mini-trawl through Cave’s back pages, too, including stellar readings of “The Mercy Seat” and “Into My Arms.” The double album comes in a handsome gatefold sleeve, and in effect it also serves as a crucial coda to Push, an essential purchase—it will be coming out in an unlimited version soon—for fans of the earlier 2013 release. —Fred Mills [Current eBay price: $24-$39]
BOB DYLAN – Side Tracks 3LP (Columbia, 10,000 copies?)
Likewise, Dylan’s entry this year also holds its own as a standalone entry for the discerning Bob collector, although unlike the Cave album it is the very definition of an odds ‘n’ sods release, comprising sundry rarities and B-sides (some of which already surfaced on the various Bootleg Series releases). The triple LP is in an eye-popping, mouth-watering tri-gatefold sleeve, suitable for cleaning a whole ounce of weed upon it, and it’s also pressed on heavyheavyheavy 200g vinyl as a numbered/limited edition (I couldn’t determine exactly how many copies were pressed, but since my copy is #04659, I’m guessing 10,000). Note that it also exists as a two-CD set in the recent Dylan albums box set and will be eventually available as a separate CD release. But the vinyl is as sweet as it comes. —Fred Mills [Current eBay price: $33-$54]
FLAMING LIPS – Peace Sword 12” EP (Warner Bros., ??? copies)
While it would have been nice to also pick up that split Lips/Tame Impala EP and the Lips-curated Stone Roses tribute, copies of both were maddeningly elusive, and in the case of the split EP, priced prohibitively high. Neither were “official” RSD titles, as it turns out, and the band unintentionally aggravated some of the RSD organizers as well as the stores that might have stocked ‘em if they could have gotten their hands on ‘em. Still, Peace Sword, the band’s 6-song Enders Game nod, is a strong enough release to smooth over the ruffled feathers. It’s basically the Lips in classic dreamy/Proggy Pink Floyd mode (and thank God that it’s not the Lips in Heady Fwendz mode; the band’s 2012 RSD release is easily the least compelling title in their entire catalog). The brilliantly multihued gatefold sleeve also hearkens back to some of the Lips’ early releases—nice touch, lads. —Fred Mills [Current eBay price: $20-$30]
HARRY NILSSON – Rarities Collection (RCA/Legacy, ??? copies)
Harry Nilsson’s rep has been all over the place. Praised in his prime (the ‘70s) by every member of The Beatles for his pop music chops and clever lyrics, by the ‘80s he was seen by many as just another middle-of-the-road has-been who provided background noise for adult contemporary radio station. The fact that the songs he was best known for were among the weakest in his cannon, did him no favors. – “Without You” (a cover), “Coconut” (the epitome of a novelty pop songs) and “One” (I have no defense of this one). But a curious thing happened over the past two decades. A whole new generation of musicians and music fans started to rediscover Nilsson’s impressive stockpile of pop songs and realized that, biased perceptions aside from their folks, he was actually a brilliant artist. Among those who started to sing his praise were Elliott Smith, Nick Lowe and Aimee Mann. When Legacy records re-released the massive 17 CD RCA Collection earlier this year, they also cobbled together a separate disc of rarities. That rarities set – consisting of 12-songs – is finally out on 180-gram, limited numbered vinyl. And while some of these demos and alternate tracks are better than others, almost all are impressive enough to have been earned the right to be rescued from obscurity and tossed on this record. And while “One” is still a pretty awful song, the version here is at least palatable. The other songs, however, are pretty great. This album is a must have for the completist and not a bad start for those whose only touchstone to Nilsson is a scratched up, warped copy of Nilsson Schmilsson. —John B. Moore [Current eBay price: $20-$30]
REPLACEMENTS – All Shook Down (ORG Music, ??? copies)
Heavily touted for being its first appearance on vinyl—it’s not a limited edition, just one of those “windowed” releases that allows indie stores to stock it before anyone else—and therefore highly coveted among vinyl geeks who have long wanted to replace their 1990 CDs, All Shook Down also has the distinction of being the worst ‘mats album. Now let me be clear: I am a Replacements fan from Day One, but let’s face it, since Don’t Tell A Soul is actually a Paul Westerberg solo album bearing the Replacements name, this one simply gets that “worst” designation by default. It has its moments, like “Merry Go Round” and maybe the title track, but overall it’s a flaccid, meandering affair, and it was eminently clear the band had run out of steam by this point. For completists and fanatics only. —Fred Mills [Current eBay price: $17-$26]
PAUL SIMON – First solo three albums (Columbia/Legacy, 3000 copies each)
Ever wonder who was the most pissed off guy in the ‘70s? My money is on Art Garfunkel. Simon & Garfunkel had just left the 60’s behind with a few Grammys and a number of stellar songs on their resume. After calling it quits, (rumor has it by Garfunkel, so he could embark on an acting career) Paul Simon took a year or two off and comes out with his amazing solo debut… meanwhile Garfunkel settles into his lifetime role as punch line to a slew of jokes for the next few decades, while sitting by the phone waiting for the occasional invitation from Simon for a reunion tour. Legacy has just turned over the first three (and with the exception of Graceland, the strongest) solo albums from Simon, remastered on 180 gram vinyl:
Paul Simon – This 1972 eponymous debut was crammed with soon-to-be classics like “Mother and Child Reunion,” “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard” and “Duncan.” Not a bad start.
There Goes Rhymin’ Simon – Dreadful title? You bet, but it still houses some of Simon’s greatest songs including “Something So Right,” “Love Me Like a Rock,” “St. Judy’s Comet,” and “Take Me to the Mardi Gras.”
Still Crazy After All These Years – Not the best of the three, but still a great effort boasting “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” “Have a Good Time,” “My Little Town” and the beautiful title track. —John B. Moore [Current eBay price: $22-$29 each]
JASON ISBELL & JOHN PAUL WHITE – “Old Flame” b/w BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA – “Christmas In Dixie” (Lightning Rod, 3000 copies)
It’s easy to be conflicted about tribute albums; I generally detest ‘em, but still covet a song here or there if it’s by an old fave or re-recorded by a current fave. And this label’s High Cotton trib to one-time country superstars Alabama had its moments; although, sadly, it was not the Blind Boys’ flaccid holiday tune. But you need the Isbell & White track, as moving as the tears of a child and a poignant reminder of what once was and what might’ve been. The cloudy-clear vinyl only adds to its resonance. —Fred Mills [Current eBay price: $8-$14]
HARD WORKING AMERICANS – Don’t Wanna Hurt Nobody (Melvin/Thirty Tigers, 2000 copies)
Lord, Will Kimbrough and Tommy Womack can sure pen downer anthems, and the joint-composed moonless-night soul of “I Don’t Have A Gun” is no exception. B-side wise, what would you say to a swampy, and timely, recitation through Gil Scott-Heron’s “Work For Peace”? The Muscle Shoals-esque vibe here courtesy the Hard Working Americans makes for an encouraging portent of good things to come on their early 2014 album. Oh, and here’s a true story: at our sister business Schoolkids Records (Raleigh, NC), this 45 sat in the Black Friday bins utterly untouched until I slapped hand-scrawled stickers on the front indicating that it featured the talents of Todd Snider, Duane Trucks, Chad Staehly, Neil Casal and Widespread Panic’s Dave Schools. 30 minutes later, they were gone, all the Widespread fans who’d passed on ‘em first go-round no doubt gritting their completist collector teeth in frustration. I bet those same folks didn’t bother reading this review, either. —Fred Mills [Current eBay price: $6-$8]
JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE – “Fire” b/w “Foxey [sic] Lady” (Legacy, ??? copies)
Beautiful pic sleeve and numbered edition notwithstanding, there’s just no getting around the fact that the recent Hendrix archival release Miami Pop Festival, though extremely well-recorded, is an altogether substandard performance. Jimi sounds to tired and out of it, both in his mumbling stage patter and rote renditions of his classic material, that he even seems to make the normally stalwart drummer Mitch Mitchell slow down and give up. But then, we don’t covet collectible/cool/limited records for the performances, now, do we? —Fred Mills [Current eBay price: $7-$18]
UNCLE TUPELO – “I Wanna Be Your Dog” b/w “Commotion” (Legacy, ??? copies)
On the other hand, this platter, with its beautiful pic sleeve and its numbered edition status, just bursts with energy, inspiring both the muso and the collector geek in us all. You’ve heard the 1991 twanged-up version of the Stooges classic before, on 89-93: An Anthology, and it never fails to raise eyebrows. CCR’s “Commotion” will likely do the same, although the previously unreleased 1990 demo is obviously more in the band’s wheelhouse. Raise some hell, boys. —Fred Mills [Current eBay price: $8-$15]