It’s high school graduation season, and this year it is a very unique one. There’s the pandemic obviously, but it is also the year for my daughter’s high school graduation. And since she is the only child in our household, this graduation has been high on our agenda. Happily there have been a several songs to come out to help provide a nice soundtrack to this strange graduation season.
For parents, there’s no place better to start with the inimitable Lori McKenna. Her new tune, “When You’re My Age,” is a heartfelt, heart-aching ode to parent/child relationships, crafted with all the real-life moments and emotionally resonant details that McKenna is known for. The tune is a guaranteed eye-welling gut-punch for parents, and perhaps teens too. It’s worth noting too that she is a parent of a high school senior. Jostens, the country’s leader in custom class jewelry, wisely picked it as its official song for the Class of 2020, and it’ll be featured as part of Jostens’ free online “Virtual Commencement” programs. Folks can also find it among the ten tracks on McKenna’s forthcoming album, The Balladeer, due July 24 on CN Records via Thirty Tigers
Those graduating high school might gravitate more to Abby Bannon’s song “Here’s To You.” Like McKenna, Bannon has a personal connection to this year’s high school graduation; the 18 year old just finished her senior year at Crawfordsville (Indiana) High School. Much like its video scrapbook style, the song offers a sweet, and a bit bittersweet-tinged, look at her high school days. Bannon does a wonderful job wrapping her teen spirit into an expertly composed tune. No surprise then that she is headed to Nashville to study music at Belmont University.
Eric Hutchinson strikes a hopefully, nostalgic note on his new tune, “Good Things Come.” He originally wrote it as a message he would’ve given to his teenaged self, but the song now has added meaning to those graduating into this strange, unsettled world. The fun little (sub-3 minute) tune boasts a nifty, ‘90s college rock sound – something Hutchinson explore more on his new CD, Class of 98 (due June 12) that has been described as an autobiographical look at his adolescence.
Watch its retro-notebook-themed video here:
Now, Sharon Van Etten’s duet with Joshua Homme on “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?” isn’t really directly related to high school graduations, but I couldn’t resist including for a couple reasons. One: it is one of my favorite tunes (going back to Brinsley Schwarz’s original, pre-Elvis Costello’s version). Two: Van Etten and Homme do a great job in re-envisioning the song. Their pensive rendition made me think how the song resembles a classic country duet. Three: this cover very much concerns parents and children, particularly how parents wish for a better world for their kids. Four: the video is a terrific done-at-home effort – haunting but sweetened with just enough humor. For a more harrowing Van Etten- involved high school viewing experience, track down Never Rarely Sometimes Always, a recently released indie film in which she has a small role as a mom. But here is the “Peace, Love and Understanding” video…
Hope everyone is well, taking care, being safe, and hanging in there.
There are so many great-hearted project happening nowadays. Too many to mention all of them. But I wanted to mention a couple of them.
One upcoming benefit is for the organization Kid Pan Alley, which does songwriting programs, typically with kids in school but also senior citizens. They have done a couple albums of songs performed by pros and written by children in these songwriting programs. Their album Kid Pan Alley Nashville is ranks right of the top of my top family CDs, and features performances by Raul Malo, Amy Grant, Delbert McClinton, Suzy Bogguss, and Nashville Chamber Orchestra (the song “Little Drop of Water,” sung by Beth Nielsen Chapman is still one that pops into my head on a regular basis). Here’s a video of Malo singing “Whispering In Spanish”: https://youtu.be/sbGH0uCCGQI/
This year, they have organized an online live musical festival called Together Again, with Tom Paxton, Kathy Mattea, Ysaye M. Barnwell, John McCutcheon, and Darrell Scott among those scheduled to perform as will KPA staffers. The event is happening May 4 from 7-9 pm ET on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/events/848735978953219/ – it’s free to watch but please consider a donation.
Omnivore Recordings have a pair of digital releases via omnivore recordings to benefit the Musicares Covid-19 Relief Fund. One is by two of my all favorites, Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey. Their Our Back Pages is an 11-track set of mainly acoustic versions of dB’s tunes recorded around the time they were making 2009’s Here and Now. However, there are naturally some twists to this concept, such as “Picture Sleeve” (a song that they remembered by name only so they wrote lyrics for it as part of a 2011 Record Store Day release. There also is a version of “Nothing Is Wrong” whose origin is 2008 dB’s rehearsal.
Cult superstars NRBQ, meanwhile, are sharing “Do The Primal Thing (Extended Version).” And “Extended Version” is something of an understatement. This mega-jam freak-out runs over 11 ½ minutes. Recorded live in 2014 at the Fairfield Theatre Company (that’s Fairfield, Conn.), it features current Q-sters Terry Adams, Scott Ligon and Casey McDonough along fabled drummer Bobby Lloyd Hicks, tenor sax-man Klem Klimek and trombonist Carl Querfurth. Its opening line “When you find yourself in a world of adversities” is all too apropos today. Head to http://omnivorerecordings.com/?post_type=product&s=musicares to purchase either or both of this unique releases.
The Texas Gentlemen – Dream Along (Bonnaroo Haybale Session)
Jaime Wyatt – I Miss Drinkin’
Ron Gallo – Always Elsewhere (Bonnaroo Haybale Session)
Andrew Combs – You’re Like The Country
Sammy Brue – Before It Gets Good Again
Seratones – State Trooper (Live on WFUV)
Robert Ellis – Heartbeat
Kacy & Clayton – The Gallery
Dan Luke and The Raid – Be Good
Caroline Rose – More Of The Same (Bonnaroo Haybale Session)
Sam Doores – True To My Luck
American Aquarium – Darkness on the Edge of Town (Outlaw Session)
Lilly Hiatt – No Good
Pokey LaFarge – Oval Room
Naked Giants – SLUFF (Live in Seattle)
Polyvinyl Records also has a similarly-minded collection filled with previously unreleased music, demos, and covers. Among the nuggets you will find on Stay Home are Owen covering The 1975’s “Me”, Palehound performing “”Something On Your Mind” by Karen Dalton, Squirrel Flower’s rendition of Emmylou Harris’ “”Icy Blue Heart” and Hazel English singing The Mamas & The Papas’ “California Dreamin’” Go to https://polyvinylrecords.bandcamp.com/album/stay-homeBtw, English’s new album, Wake UP! is terrific – give it a listen!
Here’s Stay Home’s tracklisting:
1. Owen– “Me” (The 1975)
2. Yumi Zouma – “Mirror To The Fire” (HGP Version)
3. of Montreal – “Peace To All Freaks” (Demo)
4. Chris Farren – “Green Eyes” (Previously Unreleased)
5. Palehound – “Something On Your Mind” (Karen Dalton)
6. Anna Burch – “Every Feeling” (from If You’re Dreaming – out now)
7. STRFKR – “Never The Same” (Demo)
8. Squirrel Flower – “Icy Blue Heart” (Emmylou Harris)
9. Radiation City – “Port Townsend” (Previously Unreleased)
10. Pedro The Lion – “Model Homes” (from Phoenix – out now)
11. Post Animal – “Post Animal” (from Forward Motion Godyssey – out now)
12. The Get Up Kids – “Satellite” (Trashy Demo No Bass)
13. Hazel English – “California Dreamin’” (The Mamas & The Papas)
14. Xiu Xiu – “Haenim” (Kim Jung Mi)
15. Kero Kero Bonito – “When The Fires Come” (from Civilisation I – out now)
16. Anamanaguchi – “Sunset By Plane” (from [USA] – out now)
Spending all this time at home over the last month got me thinking of my original home of Cleveland, Ohio. Enhancing this nostalgic mood are several items of music news that have come across my radar.
When I was a young one, there was a great local music show named Upbeat that I’d watch regularly. Sadly there are few remaining clips for it. If there were more, I’m sure that one would be of the popular NE Ohio ‘60s band, The Choir, who scored a big hit with “It’s Cold Outside” (not to be confused, however, with the older chestnut “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”).
courtesy Omnivore Recordings
On June 5th, Omnivore Recordings will put out a new offering from The Choir – Last Call: Live at the Music Box, which captures the band in its 50th anniversary concert held at Cleveland’s Music Box Supper Club on September 20, 2019. The 2-CD set features versions of the band’s top tunes along with a wide-ranging collection of covers, from the Kinks and Procol Harum to Jimmy Webb and Bob Seger.
This show came in the aftermath of Omnivore’s 2018 release of Artifact: The Unreleased Album, which contained the never-before-released album that band recorded in 1969. The Choir’s lineup at the Music Box impressively included the 1969 lineup: Ken Margolis (keyboards), Phil Giallombardo (organ), Randy Klawon (guitars), Denny Carleton (bass), and Jim Bonfanti (drums). Rock fans will recognize Bonfanti’s name from his Raspberries years and Giallombardo for his James Gang stints. Here is Omnivore’s short preview trailer for Last Call: https://youtu.be/-ukO9okq2SU
During my childhood days of listening to AM radio, one of the many one-hit wonders that still stands out is “Timothy” by The Buoys. Now, I’m pretty sure I had no idea about the controversy over its possible cannibal theme. I mean it was just another pop hit about a mining tragedy to me, like the Bee Gee’s “New York Mining Disaster 1941” song. Plus, it is super catchy. It also was penned by Rupert Holmes – yes, the man behind the 1979 hit “Escape (The Piña Colada Song).” Check out “Timothy” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXn0uIF60iU&feature=youtu.be
I’m mentioning this song because of the sad news that one of the primary Buoys, Jerry Hludzik, passed away earlier this month following a long struggle with frontotemporal dementia. In the ‘80s, Hludzik co-founded the group, Dakota, which served as the opening act on Queen’s “The Game Tour.”
The Buoys hailed from Pennsylvania, a state that is a big rival of Ohio’s when it came to sports (oh, those vivid memories of Browns/Steelers games at Cleveland’s old Municipal Stadium); however, it wasn’t so much so when it came to music. Case in point: Iron City Houserockers. This legendary Pittsburgh rock outfit that was first signed by Cleveland International Records. Led by Joe Grushecky, the band had a gritty, blue-collar rock ‘n’ roll sound that attracted many admirers (most famously Bruce Springsteen), but not a lot of record sales.
You can re-live (or just discover) the Houserockers’ magic with the Have a Good Time (But Get Out Alive) that Cleveland International Records is putting out in a greatly expanded 40th anniversary deluxe reissue. The remastered two-CD set features a bonus disc stocked with 16 previously unreleased tracks of demos and other rarities (the new vinyl edition will include a download card for these same 16 tracks to go with a vinyl replica of the original album). It comes out digitally May 22 with June 19 being the date for physical CDs and vinyl.
Photo by Neal Preston
Besides its wonderful Rust Belt rock, Have a Good Time (But Get Out Alive) also featured a trio of famous producers: Mick Ronson, Ian Hunter and Steven Van Zandt. I’m pretty sure that they weren’t in the booth all at the same time, but that would have been something. However, it shows the high level of esteem that fellow musicians had for the band. Here is the 1988 version of Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers performing “Pumpin’ Iron” from Have A Good Time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pks_y1hpLaA
And while I do like the Houserockers a lot, when I think of Pittsburgh bands from the early ‘80s, I go first to Norm Nardini and the Tigers. Norm’s brother Art, by the way, was the long-time Houserockers’ bassist, so I’m not making this connection randomly. Give a listen to their tune, “Ready Freddy,” recorded in 1982 in Capitol Theatre in Passaic, NJ. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYrb5v9VJVc
During this time of quarantine, there are a wealth of wonderful online performances and concerts happening. One that I really grabbed my attention is the one starting today, April 3, at 4 pm PST, that has been organized by the fine folks at Light In the Attic. 100% of all donations will go towards MusiCares’ COVID-19 Relief Fund, assisting those in the music community affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Since it is starting in just a couple hours, I wanted to quickly make mention of it. So, I will spare any extraneous links or videos and cut to the chase.
The most recent list of participants features:
Texas soul queen Barbara Lynn
British folk legend Michael Chapman
Italian composer Gigi Masin
Brazilian great Marcos Valle
Jim James (My Morning Jacket)
Sandy Dedrick of sixties soft-psych outfit The Free Design
Japanese ambient pioneers Inoyama Land (Kankyō Ongaku)
Alex Maas (The Black Angels)
Singer-songwriter Lynn Castle
Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals)
Leonard Sanders of modern soul-gospel group the Supreme Jubilees
Jazz giant Azar Lawrence
Grant & Frankie Olsen (Gold Leaves / Arthur & Yu)
Beach Boys poet and lyricist Stephen John Kalinich
Mark Lightcap (Acetone)
The performances will be streaming live on Light In The Attic’s Twitch and YouTube channels. There will be new performances from legendary artists whose music the label has re-released over the past 20 years, along with appearances by LITA’s friends, each covering songs from the label’s renowned catalog.
Each musician will be performing a song from their home during quarantine – from Rio to Tokyo; Cardiff to Austin; Barbados to Italy – and there will undoubtedly also be the always fun element of spontaneity that happens when you are playing at home.
Record Store Day is upon us again and something inspired me to round up the titles that tapped my imagination. It was quite the rabbit hole to jump into. There is a so much good stuff to mention. But let’s start with a couple of legends.
Is there a bigger rock legend than Elvis Presley? Legacy is releasing for the first time on vinyl, Elvis Presley’s American Sound Sessions 1969, which has rare and unreleased outtakes from the King’s historic 1969 sessions at American Sound Studios with producer Chips Moman (including takes of “In the Ghetto,” “Suspicious Minds,” and ““True Love Travels On A Gravel Road.”
Getting reissued for the first time in 50 years is the classic Chuck Berry Live In London (Elemental Music), which contains 10 tracks recorded live in London in 1965 and another four from a 1964 Chicago session. Justin Time Records is putting out John Lee Hooker’s Black Night Is Falling Live at The Rising Sun Celebrity Jazz Club (Collector’s Edition) is a 1977 recording that includes a previously unreleased 17-minute jam of “Rock Steady”
Also from 1977 is the late, great Leon Redbone live recording Strings And Jokes, Live in Bremen 1977 (Made In Germany), and Live In Japan, a Runaways concert album that was released in several countries but not America. From 1978 comes Sid Lives! (Jungle Records), containing 39 Vicious tracks recorded at among his handful of final shows (Sept. 28 & 30, 1978); notable too is that Sid Vicious’ backing band included New York Dolls‘ late rhythm section of Arthur Kane and Jerry Nolan
Real Gone Music is releasing the rare Tony Joe White live album That On The Road Look Live, previously available only as a limited edition Rhino Handmade CD. Originally recorded in 1971, it contains a 10+ minute version of Tony Joe’s signature tune, “Polk Salad Annie.” Ian and Sylvia’s Lost Tapes (Stoney Plain Records) shares recently discovered recordings done before a live studio audience and the 2 LP collection features their signature tune, “Four Strong Winds,” as well as renditions of “Crying Time,” “Starting All Over Again,” “and “Silver Threads and Golden Needles.” Jerry Garcia Band’s GarciaLive Volume One: March 1st, 1980 Capitol Theatre – the first-ever LP release of the first installment in the Garcialive Series – is a 5-CD set of their March 3, 1980 Capitol Theatre show.
Garcia co-founded New Riders of the Purple Sage but he was back with the
Dead by the time the New Riders played New York City’s Academy of Music on Nov.
23, 1972. Omnivore Recordings is releasing
this concert for the first time commercially as a Thanksgiving In New York City. The 3-LP RSD release comes out nearly 47 years to the day from when the show happened. More
country-fried live jams can be enjoyed with Marshall Tucker Band’s New Year’s In New Orleans: Roll Up ’78
And Light Up ’79. Southern rock titan’s New Year’s Eve party was
presented as a radio simulcast then and now makes its LP & CD debut on
Omnivore also has a new Woody Guthrie 10” EP I Don’t Like The Way This World’s A-Treatin’ Me with Side A holding Guthrie’s demo of this 1952 tune along with a version featuring Wilco’s accompaniment. The B Side has two versions of Guthrie’s “Beech Haven Ain’t My Home” (aka “Old Man Trump”) – one featuring Ani DiFranco and Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine), and another by Jonny Irion’s band U.S. Elevator (Irion is the husband and musical partner of Woody’s granddaughter Sarah Lee Guthrie).
Omnivore also has a new Alex Chilton EP, My Rival. This 5-track (although there are only 4 songs) set, including “My Rival,” which was later re-done for Like Flies On Sherbert. Oh, by the way, these 1975 sessions were helmed by Chris Bell, Chilton’s Big Star co-star, and represents their final collaboration together. Chilton shows up too on the odd pairing of William Shatner and The Cramps on the 12” vinyl Garbageman (Demented Punk). It features three versions of Shatner doing the Cramps’ “Garbageman (including two previously unreleased renditions) also with the Cramps version (which was produced by Chilton) and the Cramps’ “Human Fly.”
Yep Roc has a trio of cool one-off singles. The label is saluting the 40th anniversary of Nick Lowe’s “Cruel To Be Kind” with a green 7” that has the Lowe & Wilco 2012 live version on the B-side. The latest selection in their Squeeze cover series, Swindles, finds Todd Rundgren covering “Bang Bang” from the band’s self-titled debut. Lenny Kaye meanwhile, teams up with the Fleshtones for a 7” that has two versions of the ‘Tones’ tune “Lost on Xandu.”
Christmas can seem like the bigger holiday than Thanksgiving over Thanksgiving weekend, so not surprisingly there are plenty of RSD Xmas releases. The Monkees’ Christmas Party Plus (Rhino) contains two 7″ singles on color vinyl (one red and the other, of course, green), housed in a gatefold sleeve. One single is “Unwrap You At Christmas (Radio Mix)”/ “Unwrap You At Christmas” – Andy Partridge (featured vocal by Holly Partridge) and the other is “Riu Chiu (Original TV Version)”/ “Christmas Is My Time Of Year (1976 Mix).” Peter Holsapple Combo’s 7” single Christmas Must Be Tonight (Omnivore) presents a cover of The Band’s “Christmas Must Be Tonight” and the Holsapple original “Felt Like Summer (Looked Like Christmas).” JD McPherson has a new 7” of two Christmas songs – “Red Bows For A Blue Girl” / “Holly, Carol, Candy and Joy” – the former is a new original and the latter is a B-Side from his 2018 New West holiday album Socks. The Regrettes has a holiday-ish single of their song “Holiday-ish” that features Dylan Minnette (the B-side is the demo version).
Sundazed Records is putting out Merry Christmas From King Records (on red vinyl); this 1959 album showcases the Cincinnati label’s eclectic roster, and marks its first-ever reissue. Squirrel Nut Zippers’ eclectic 1998 holiday album, Christmas Caravan, is being reissued (and the band is doing their holiday tour again as well).
Sony Legacy’s Merry Christmas and Happy New Year is a Jimi Hendrix 12” picture disc featuring 1969 recordings of a holiday medley of “Little Drummer Boy,” “Silent Night” and “Auld Lang Syne,” along with “Three Little Bears,” a playful 1968 Electric Ladyland outtake. It’ll come on a picture disc with album artwork on one side and a photo of Jimi dressed as Santa Claus on the other. Velvert Turner has been acknowledged as a Hendrix protégé, and you can hear that on the Velvert Turner Group’s long-out-of-print 1972 self-titled debut that ORG has a Record Store Day release. More Hendrix (although not RSD) news is a limited edition Hendrix live collection, Songs For Groovy Children that presents all four of the sets he performed New Year’s Eve 1969 and New Year’s Day 1970 at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East with his new band (Billy Cox on bass and Electric Flag cofounder Buddy Miles on drums).
A Charlie Brown Christmas is one of the classic Christmas TV specials, and Record Store Day has a pretty special Charlie Brown Christmas release – a “Blind Box” 3” single, which could be one of four Vince Guaraldi Trio recordings: “Christmastime is Here,” “Linus and Lucy,” “Skating,” or “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing.” Cartoon music fans should also note that the 1995 Saturday Morning Cartoon’s Greatest Hits compilation is a RSD double album release. The set includes such covers as The Ramones doing “Spider-Man,” Matthew Sweet singing “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?,” and Liz Phair collaborating with Material Issue on “The Tra La La Song (One Banana, Two Banana).”
The soundtrack for Robert Rodriguez’s breakout film, Desperado
is debuting on vinyl (Real Gone Music). The 2-CD set features tracks by Los Lobos, Dire Straits, Link Wray, Carlos
Santana, and the Latin Playboys
(a Lobos side project). New West Records
is debuting a vinyl version of Richard
Thompson’s The Cold Blue –
Original Motion Picture Score,
a 19-track soundtrack Thompson wrote and arrange for the acclaimed
filmmaker Erik Nelson’s documentary
that is based off of footage of actual WWII Air Force missions that the
legendary Hollywood director William
Wyler shot in 1943 for his film The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying
Modern Harmonic salutes the 20th anniversary of More Oar – A Tribute To The Skip Spence Album, with its first-ever vinyl version. Participants includeRobert Plant, Tom Waits, Beck, Robyn Hitchcock, and Jay Farrar & The Sir Omaha Quintet. Especially for this release is a “skeletal recording” of “Little Hands” by The Flaming Lips that was originally intended as a collaboration with Plant. Verve is putting out the star-studded Joni 75 A Joni Mitchell Birthday Celebration on LP. Emmylou Harris, Norah Jones, Chaka Khan, Diana Krall, Kris Kristofferson, and James Taylor are a few of the performers.
Soul fans should seek out Atlantic Records’ Aretha Franklin: The Atlantic Singles Collection 1968 (a box set of her four singles from that year – which
includes “Think”) and UMe’s James Brown – Live at Home: The After Show
(spotlighting the after-show set from the 1969 live recording that was used for
Live at Home With His Bad Self). UMe’s
Rare & Unreleased is a 12 song LP on special color vinyl and all
tracks on vinyl for the first time. There are songs by Motown stars like Diana Ross & the Supremes, Four Tops,
Marvin Gaye, Temptations, and the previously unreleased Jackson 5 song, “Let’s Have A Party.”
The term “music legend” has a couple meanings when it comes to Robert Johnson – there is his legendary talent and the mysterious legends surrounding his life. The bluesman only recorded a few tunes and Traffic Entertainment has put two of them – “Sweet Home Chicago” and “Walkin’ Blues” – on a 78 RPM microgroove record done up in a lovely reproduction of the Vocalion sleeve (and there are detailed liner notes). Blind Willie Johnson preceded Robert in the blues music scene. In the late twenties, he was one of the top gospel-blues artists. Traffic is giving Blind Willie the same RSD treatment with a 78 RPM microgroove record (this one wrapped in a Columbia sleeve) featuring two 1927 recordings: “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground” and “It’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine.” Taste the blues guitar magic of Freddie King on The Mojo! King Rarities & Obscurities (Modern Harmonic) that showcases 14 originally unissued alternate takes and rarities (all making their first-ever appearance on LP) that he recorded for King Records (no relation).
Speaking of rarities, BMG is putting out some archival Hank Williams. The 1940 Recordings is a 7” featuring homemade recordings of “Freight
Train Blues,” “New San Antonio Rose,” ” St. Louis Blues” and “Greenback Dollar.”
Country fans should also note that Third Man’s Sweet Dreams: The Complete Decca Masters 1960-1963, a sweet set of all of Patsy Cline’s Decca Studio masters and more – and it’ll be available on pink, purple
and yellow pastel vinyl. The songwriter behind Cline’s hit, “Crazy,” a young
man named Willie Nelson has a RSD
single a-sided by a Ride Me Back Home out-take “Sometimes Even I Can Get Too
High” and b-sided by his Merle Haggard collab. “It’s All Going To
Pot” (I smell a theme here).
A trio of outré 1969 works are being recognized on Record Store Day. With Illuminations, folkie Buffy Sainte-Marie went electronic by using an early synthesizer to record what has been called the first totally quadraphonic electronic vocal album. Craft Recordings is putting it out on 180-gram opaque yellow vinyl. Dr. John’s sophomore effort, Babylon, is a wild affair that Mac Rebennack himself described as sounding “as if Hieronymus Bosch had cut an album.” Get On Down has done a repeated splatter-colored design to celebrate the album being back on vinyl after 40 year out of print. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Frank Zappa’s solo outing Hot Rats, UMe has done a 10” picture disc single of Zappa’s fabled “Peaches En Regalia” paired with “Little Umbrella”; each side has separate mixes of the songs.
Fellow rock iconoclast Lou Reed is saluted by Rhino with the first-ever vinyl release of Reed’s 2003’s album, The Raven, an Edgar Allen Poe-based concept album whose guest vocalists included Laurie Anderson, David Bowie,Steve Buscemi and Willem Dafoe. Two of the more avant-garde American “New Wave” bands of the late 70s are represented at Record Store Day. Athens, Georgia’s Pylon will salute the 40th anniversary of their ground-shaking first single “Cool”/“Dub” that New West Records will have as a limited edition, translucent red single. In the early 1980s, Warner Brothers’ Music Show was a project that supplied radio stations with exclusive recordings of a band. Rhino’s 16-track Devo Live album was recorded at San Francisco’s Warfield Theater in 1980 and was part of the Music Show series but now gets a full public release.
They Might Be Giants have mined a subversive pop sensibility over the years. They are reissuing their 1987 Don’t Let’s Start EP on striking neon green vinyl to toast its 33 1/3 anniversary (or something like that). Their breakout hit is backed by “We’re the Replacements,” “When It Rains It Snows” and “The Famous Polka.” TMBG’s John Linnell’s first and only solo album is 1999’s conceptual opus State Songs, which spotlights 16 different states on its 16 tracks. Craft Recording honors its 20th anniversary by premiering it on vinyl.
I could go on as I am sure I have overlooked some terrific titles, but I have long over-stayed my welcome – as well as spent more time on this that I had anticipated. Happy Thanksgiving
The world is full of strange stories, and the music scene is no exception. Pardon me if I skip over providing some examples – I’m sure everyone has their favorite tales. Let me skip more directly to a couple upcoming projects that shine the light on a couple musicians who could qualify as “lost souls.”
On Oct. 25, Light in the Attic Records is releasing a pair of albums from the singer/songwriter Jim Sullivan, who made two minor label albums (one in 1969; the other in 1972) before mysteriously vanishing in 1975. LitA, which re-issued Sullivan’s debut album, even did a short doc on Sullivan (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WsIouGN0Wr8) that looks into his life and disappearance in the New Mexico. And did I say that his debut album was entitled U.F.O.? Anyway, LitA is now putting out a deluxe version of Sullivan’s self-titled sophomore effort, a 1972 album that came out on Hugh Hefner’s short-lived Playboy label. They also are issuing If The Evening Were Dawn, a previously unreleased solo acoustic studio session (circa 1969) that features over a half dozen previously unheard compositions written by him.
Robbie Basho’s name is slightly better known – particularly if you are into the ‘70s so-called “primitive American guitar” movement (where John Faheyand Leo Kottkewere among the prominent players). Like Sullivan, Basho had a rather mysterious death as he died in 1986 due to a fatal fluke accident during a chiropractic session. The guitarist, who released albums on Takoma, Vanguards and Windham Hill labels, is the subject of the documentary Voice of the Eagle: The Enigma of Robbie Basho that features appearances by Pete Townshend, Henry Kaiser and Country Joe McDonald. Directed by Liam Barker, the film has been making the festival circuit in recent years and now MVD Entertainment will put out Dec. 13 on Blu-ray/DVD.
In February 2020, MVD will present a 50th anniversary Blu-ray and HD Digital “Ultimate Edition” of The Point! The Point! was an elaborate concept album by the eccentric Harry Nilsson that later became an animated ABC movie-of-the-week in 1971. It is rather amazing to think that this psychedelic-dosed, Seussian film was a network movie-of-the-week. But that’s the early 70s for you! This edition features a 2K HD scan from a rare 16mm print as well as being packed with extras – some vintage and some new (including an interview with voice-over cast member Mike Lookinland (yes, Bobby Brady!). Plus, Nilsson’s pal, a chap named Ringo Starr, provides the narration.
The Chet Baker revival was kick-started by the 1988 documentary Let’s Get Lost, which revealed the highly talented jazz musician who squandered so much of his talent. Craft Records has compiled a new vinyl boxset, The Legendary Riverside Albums, that contains Baker’s four albums – (Chet Baker Sings) It Could Happen To You, Chet Baker In New York, Chet and Chet Baker Plays The Best Of Lerner And Loewe – that he made with the legendary jazz label along with a bonus disc of choice outtakes and alternates from Baker’s Riverside sessions. The recordings reveal an interesting musical summit between Baker’s west coast “cool jazz” style with east coast players who had a harder bopping sound. The sessions capture Baker before his drug use really overtook him in the early 60s.
I won’t end this on some philosophical note that deftly ties all these artists together. The point (reference intended) is really just shine the spotlight a bit on these cult musicians whose followings (whether big or small) don’t match their talents. I will leave you all instead with the trailer for The Point.
Now that the plug has been pulled once and for all (hopefully) for Woodstock 50, attention can be turned just to celebrate the magic and mythology of the original “Aquarian Exposition.” And not surprising, there is a big lineup of new Woodstock products to experience.
If you want to really indulge those three days of peace & music, then you might want to get your hands on Rhino’s massive Woodstock: Back To The Garden – The Definitive 50th Anniversary Archive. Consisting of 38 discs, this 432-track, 36+ hour compilation contains nearly every artist performance, along with announcements, stage banter and other material. I could go on and talk about the 267 previously unreleased audio tracks, the Blu-ray of the documentary film and other cool extras, but this limited-edition version is already sold out.
However, Rhino happily has assembled three smaller versions: the 10-CD collection, a 5-LP edition and a compact 3-disc set. The 10-CD holds 162 tracks, and is first Woodstock collection to include live recordings of every Woodstock performer. The 5-LP and 3-CD versions both have 42 tracks, featuring such acts as Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Who, Jefferson Airplane, Joan Baez, the Band, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
There are also several releases that focus on specific acts’ Woodstock sets. Craft Recordings has put out Live At Woodstock offerings for both Baez and CCR. Baez’s stirring 15-track set comes from the concert’s first day (well, it was actually 1 am Saturday) and it brought some calm to Woodstock’s rather chaotic start.
CCR’s 12-song set is significant for several reasons. It not only captures in the midst of the band’s prime and includes 10+ minute jams of “Susie Q” and “Keep On Chooglin’,” but also because the group didn’t like their performance and declined to be on the first live album and the documentary. Happily, they’ve changed their minds but it is a smokin’ performance.
Real Gone Music will be releasing the Jefferson Airplane’s entire 2-hour Sunday-at-sunrise set on a limited edition “New Dawn” blue vinyl 3-LP set. They out-do CCR by doing an epic 21-minute version of “Wooden Ships.” The Airplane also weren’t part of the Woodstock documentary but that was only because the filming was subpar, not the band’s performances.
Speaking of documentaries, there is a new Woodstock documentary that can be said to be about “everything but the music.” While there is music in Creating Woodstock: This Is How I It Really Happened, the documentary focuses its attention on the people behind the scenes who organized, constructed and ran the concert. This is obviously a labor of love for musician/filmmaker Mick Richards, who actually attended Woodstock as a teen. Over the course of nearly 30 years, Richards interviewed the four founders of Woodstock Ventures (John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Michael Lang, and Artie Kornfeld) along with many key production folks. While perhaps not the definitive, big socio-political Woodstock documentary, it is a highly interesting, very heartfelt movie for both the filmmaker and the participants, and give you a real sense of what it was like there (and gives you a clearer picture why it couldn’t be replicated today. One of the many entertaining anecdotes involves a Health Inspector and his wayward daughter offers a funny glimpse of the concert producers’ sit-of-their-pants operations, and also provides a clearer picture of how the original Woodstock vibe couldn’t be replicated today.
Part of what made The Replacements famous – at least on their cult hero level – was their infamous mischievousness (perhaps to put it kindly) behavior. Around the time they were finishing up their Warner Brothers album, Don’t Tell A Soul, they took off with a whole bunch of tapes of their Paisley Park recording sessions.
Never happy with Soul’s “official” sound, the band has excavated these old tapes and had them mixed by Soul’s producer Matt Wallace the way that they wanted to have them sound. The result is Dead Man’s Pop. This 4-CD set, which Rhino will release on September 27, contains this remixed, reimagined album (Don’t Tell A Soul Redux), coupled with a disc containing previously unheard tracks (We Know The Night: Rare & Unreleased), and two CDs featuring a full concert from 1989 (The Complete Inconcerated Live).
The 20 tracks on We Know The Night: Rare & Unreleased include nine previously unreleased demos from the aborted June 1988 Soul sessions that Paul Westerberg, Slim Dunlap, Tommy Stinson and Chris Mars did with producer Tony Berg at Bearsville Studios. There also are some rare and/or unreleased demos, outtakes, alternative mixes and alternative outtakes, but this disc’s highlights are the five tracks (four songs) that the Replacements recorded with Tom Waits (insert “Can’t Hardly Waits” joke here).
Discs 3-4 hold the group’s complete June 2, 1989 concert at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee done during the “Don’t Tell A Soul” tour. If you are one of the lucky few to have the ‘Mats’ 1989 promo-only Inconcerated Live EP, then you have a heard five of these live recordings. For everyone else, the show’s 29 performances (which have been freshly mixed by Brian Kehew) will be a new listening experience.
In fact, 58 of the 60 tracks here are being heard (at least in an authorized, public sense) for the first time. Additionally, this boxset comes with a 12 x 12 hardcover book – complete with rare photos – detailing the Replacements’ Don’t Tell A Soul-era history, which was written by Bob Mehr, the author of The New York Times bestseller Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements. Mehr also co-produced Dead Man’s Pop with Rhino’s Jason Jones.
If this isn’t enough – and it’s certainly is a true treasure trove – the first 500 fans who buy Dead Man’s Pop on Rhino.com will also receive a 14-track cassette (yes, very 1989) that compiles key tracks from the box set along with two additional unreleased tracks: the outtake “Asking Me Lies” and an instrumental of “I Won’t” (Bearsville Version). The cassette also features Don’t Tell A Soul’s original, unused cover art.
Today sees the release of the 40th anniversary editions of the Ramones‘ Road to Ruin album. Road to Ruin, the band’s fourth album (in just three years) contained the Ramones signature song, “I Wanna Be Sedated,” along with their cover version of “Needles and Pins.” Road to Ruin actually came out on Sept. 22, 1979, so it is pretty much coming out right on the real anniversary date.
To commemorate the occasion, Rhino has unveiled a previously unreleased video of the Ramones’ tune “She’s The One.”
The video apparently was found in a random film canister discovered during the work on putting together this reissue, and it is said to have shot at the same time of “Don’t Come Close” video.
Now the Road to Ruin reissue comes in two varieties. A straightforward, although newly remastered original 12 song album. The Deluxe Edition is a 4-CD package. There are two versions of the original album; the second one being original producer Ed Stasium’s newly stripped down, rawer mix of the album. The 20 unreleased recordings on Disc Three are highlighted by two unfinished outtakes: “I Walk Out” and “S.L.U.G.,” that Stasium completed for this boxset. The final disc is a recording of the Ramones’ 1979 New Year’s Eve concert (can we call it the “End of the Seventies” show?) at New York City’s Palladium. These 32 tracks also have not been released until now.
I was going to add the video for “Don’t Come Close” but it looking it up I came across a recording of Pete Yorn doing it in a rehearsal for a Johnny Ramone tribute concert, so I thought I’d include that.
the featured image is a photo by Chalkie Davies/Courtesy Rhino Records
Where you were 50 years ago today? Well, if you were alive that is. If you were at the Gladsaxe Teen Club (yes, in Gladsaxe, Denmark) then you saw the first show that John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, and Robert Plant played together. They were known at the New Yardbirds then, but later became slightly better known at Led Zeppelin. Nicely timed with this historic anniversary, Atlantic/Swan Song has compiled a Zeppelin-sized boxset of classic concert film The Song Remains The Same. The shows were recorded in July of 1973 and the film came out in 1976. I believe in my hometown is played at the then-still single-screened Colony Theater. (Dan, can you remember? It was long ago and far away).
The super deluxe version includes remastered audio on two CDs and four 180-gram vinyl LPs; Two DVD set of the The Song Remains The Same featuring the full theatrical version of the film plus bonus content including four performance outtakes in the original film (“Celebration Day,” “Over The Hills And Far Away,” “Misty Mountain Hop,” and “The Ocean”); a 28-page book; A replica of the Japanese program from 1977 and a DVD of the entire album in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and PCM Stereo, plus photo gallery. The CD and LP versions also are available separately.
Later this month, the Warner Bros. family is celebrating another 50th anniversary – the recording of the landmark MC5debut,Kick Out The Jams(okay, it was recorded in Oct. 1968, so the Sept. 21 release date will be a few weeks early. MC5 Total Assault: 50th Anniversary Collection will be a limited-edition boxed set that features all three of the band’s albums: Kick Out The Jams, Back In The USA, and High Time. The records will all be pressed on colored vinyl: Kick Out The Jams (red vinyl), Back In The USA (white vinyl) and High Time (blue vinyl). MC5 co-founder and guitarist Wayne Kramer, who just released his memoir The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC5, and My Life of Impossibilities, is going out on tour leading MC50, an all-star band that includes Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil, Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty, and Zen Guerrilla frontman Marcus Durant (Pearl Jam’s Matt Cameron on drums and producer/bassist Don Was on bass at select dates).
Craft Recording is honoring the important year of 1968 by delivering Stax ’68: A Memphis Story, a 5-CD boxset filled with every single that was released that year by the fabled Stax Records company. The 120+ track collection contains every A- and B-sides, and featuring work by such soul greats as Isaac Hayes, The Staple Singers, William Bell, Booker T. & The M.G.’s, Sam & Dave, and Otis Redding. The boxset, due on Sept. 21, also has a 56-page book, complete with in-depth liner notes by Andria Lisle, Robert Gordon, and Steve Greenberg.
On Oct. 19 Craft Recordings is turning the spotlight on R.E.M., specifically the band’s performances on the BBC. R.E.M. at the BBC is a massive, rarities-packed 8-CD/1-DVD box set covering over 20 years of R.E.M. on the Beeb. The recordings scan from a 1984 live broadcast from Nottingham’s Rock City to a 2004 invitation-only 2004 performance at London’s St James’s Church. The DVD couples the first US commercial release of the BBC R.E.M. documentary Accelerating Backwards along with UK TV appearance including the complete 1998 Later….With Jools Holland episode devoted to the group. There will also be more compact versions (a 2-CD and a 2-LP version) entitled The Best of R.E.M. too.
New West Records is celebrating its 20th anniversary with an extremely cool retrospective featuring 60 songs evenly divided over 3 CDs. One disc holds songs selected by owner of New West Records, George Fontaine, Sr. One disc contains tunes voted on by fans, and the third disc is stocked with songs chosen by past and present New West artist. Kris Kristofferson to John Hiatt, Rickie Lee Jones to Nikki Lane; Rodney Crowell to Vic Chesnutt; Old 97’s to Drive-By Truckers; Ben Lee to Ben Folds; Jerry Lee Lewis to Jason Isbell, Steve Earle to Justin Townes Earle; Buddy Miller to Buddy & Julie Miller. The list is an all-star lineup of Americana music. I have a soft spot for the act opening up the collection (and a George Fontaine, Sr. selection) Todd Thibaud since he was one of the first (if not the first) musician I interviewed. The collection, which is due on Oct. 12, also will be available on 6 red vinyl albums.
Another artist I have a soft spot is Mr. Nick Lowe. When his solo debut came out in 1978, it was called the Jesus of Cool in the UK but Columbia Records re-titled it Pure Pop For Now People in the states. I had a button that proclaimed: “It’s Okay to Like Nick Lowe.” Guys I went to school with didn’t know if Nick Lowe was a politician or a punk rocker. They were wrong on both counts, I guess. Anyway, I bring up this great, great album not to remind myself that it came out 40 years ago, but to share that on Oct. 13 the fine folks at Yep Roc will be releasing Jesus Of Cool on cassette for Cassette Store Day. This limited addition will include the 11 tracks from the UK release plus the 3 songs that were just on the Pure Pop version (“They Call It Rock,” “Roller Show,” and a studio version of “Heart of the City.”
Ska fans should circle Sept 21 on their calendars because that is the date Studio One is reissuing the important 1964 compilation Ska Authentic. This will be the CD debut of the album that features music from The Maytals, Lee Perry, and Tommy McCook’s “Freedom Sounds.” Bluegrass fans, meanwhile, need to remember Sept. 28 because that’s when Modern Harmonic will be releasing a treasury of Louvin Brothers material entitled Love And Wealth: The Lost Recordings. The 29 songs (and one warm, spoken audio letter) songwriting demos from the late 1950’s that have never been released before.
And it is not that I don’t like new music. Not by a long shot. There are many new and current bands that I can lavish praise on but I will just lavish praise on one right now. If you haven’t heard the New Zealand band The Beths, then you use yourself to check them out. I loved them from the first song I heard of them “Whatever,” and have loved every songs since. They just have a charming synthesis of 60s-ish power pop and late 80s college rock bolstered by crunchy guitars, some bashing drums, and the wonderful way front-woman Elizabeth Stokes balances an off-beat, slightly gawky sense of humor and honest emotions. Their debut album Future Me Hates Me is out now on Carpark, and they commence a big US tour at the end of September. Here is a link to “You Wouldn’t Like Me”