Dueling Daltons And More Cool Record Store Day Releases

Okay, “Dueling Daltons” is of a stretch, and unnecessarily Eagles-referencing way to say that there is one recently released Karen Dalton album and another coming on April 23’s Record Store Day.  

On March 25, Light In The Attic put out a special edition of Dalton’s classic In My Own Time. This 19 track Super Deluxe Edition contains the newly remastered original ten-track album includes alternative takes of “Something On Your Mind,” “In My Own Dream,” and “Katie Cruel.” There are also previously unreleased live recordings from her appearances on the Beat Club (April 21, 1971) and The Montreux Golden Rose Pop Festival (May 1, 1971). The Super Deluxe Edition comes with a 20-page booklet, that has, among other things, rarely seen photos and liner notes by Lenny Kaye

For Record Store Day, the Delmore Recording Society has an all-new Dalton collection, Shuckin’ Sugar. This 12-song album (to be released later on CD and digitally) is a 12-track live set recorded in 1963-1964. featuring the earliest known duets of Dalton with then-husband, guitarist/songwriter Richard Tucker. and seven never-before-heard solo performances (“If You’re A Viper,” “When First Unto This Country,” “Shuckin’ Sugar Blues,” “Lonesome Valley,” “When I Get Home,” and “In The Pines.” The recordings come from three reel to reel tapes, which held two complete shows from The Attic in January ’63, and a 1964 benefit concert for The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), that came Delmore Recording Society’s way in November 2018. Shuckin’ Sugar also has a booklet too filled with cool and rare Dalton material.

I couldn’t include all the great RSD titles in my earlier post, so here is a round-down of some more noteworthy titles.  

Sandy Denny – Gold Dust Live at the Royalty (Island) is culled from fabled singer’s final concert before her untimely death in 1978. Making its vinyl debut, the 11 tracks span Denny’s career (from Fairport Convention through her solo work) and includes her well-known songs “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” and “No More Sad Refrains.”

Del Shannon – Rock On (Demon Records) was released posthumously in 1991. Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty produced and performed on this album as did HeartbreakersMike Campbell and Benmont Tench. It was rumored that Shannon was going to join the post-Roy Orbison Traveling Wilburys and Rock On gives a hint of what that might have sounded like. 

Tiny Tim and Brave Combo – Girl (Ship to Shore Phono Company) was released in 1996 shortly before his death (although it was recorded in the late 80s). The pairing of Tiny Tim with the kooky post-modern polka band Brave Combo was an inspired one. This album, with material ranging from Tin Pan Alley to Led Zeppelin, resulted in some of Tiny Tim’s best reviews. The second disc of this 25th anniversary double-LP edition contains never-before-heard alternate mixes and outtakes.

Roky Erickson & The Explosive – Halloween II: Live 2007 (Freddie Steady Sound Recordings) represents Roky’s late ‘00s comeback time performing with The Explosive. This 2-LP live recording comes from a show at NYC’s Bowery Ballroom on April 15, 2007. This release also offers an exclusive Roky Erickson & The Explosives “Return of the Viking” live performance DVD that was filmed August 10, 2007 at Oya Fest in Oslo, Norway. 

Laura Nyro – Trees of the Ages: Laura Nyro Live in Japan (Omnivore Recordings) Omnivore is debuting a 2-LP version of this 1994 live recording that the label put out on CD last year. This set presents such classics by the Hall of Fame songwriter as “And When I Die,” “Wedding Bell Blues,” and “Stoned Soul Picnic.”

Betty Harris – The Lost Queen of New Orleans Soul (Soul Jazz Records) is a 60s soul singer worth discovering. This 17-song 2-LP collection showcases work that she did with Allen Toussaint (on his Sansu record label), and the Meters were a backing band of hers. Fun fact: Harris is associated with the New Orleans music scene but lived in Florida and would travel to New Orleans to record. 

Scott Walker – Boy Child: The Best Of 1967-1970 (Mercury) contains 20 of the top tunes from Walker’s work on his first five Philips Records solo albums. While released before this expanded 2LP set adds “Always Coming Back to You” and “30th Century Man,” “Angels of Ashes,” and the rare non-album track, “The Rope and the Colt.”

Dave Davies – Kinked (Green Amp) compiles the great Kinks’ guitarists’ work from the late ’90s and early 2000s. About half of the tunes on this 15-track set come from the 1998 collection Unfinished Business: Dave Davies Kronikles 1963-1998 (which itself featured re-recordings from the late ’90s of classic Kinks tunes). Others are drawn from his 2000 live album Rock Bottom: Live at the Bottom Line and 2002’s studio album Bug and there also are hard-to-find songs like “When the Wind Blows (Emergency),” “Give Me Love, Give Me Peace on Earth,” and “God in My Brain,” written and recorded in 2006 after Davies recovered from a serious stroke. 

Kid Creole and the Coconunts – Fresh Fruit In Foreign Places (Rainman Records) is the eccentric band’s sophomore album that Sire Records put out in 1981. Stocked with songs like “In The Jungle,” “Animal Crackers,” and “Musica Americana,” Fresh Fruit will be delivered on CD and vinyl for RSD.

Iggy Pop – Live In Berlin  (LMLR) is soundboard recording from a 1991 offers a mix of Stooges tunes (“Raw Power.” “I Got A Right” and “Search And Destroy” and Pop songs such as “Five Foot One,” “Lust For Life,” “Real Wild Child,” and “Candy.” And there is an assortment of Pop memorabilia packaged with this double LP.

Patti Smith – Curated By Record Store Day (Legacy) represents a super special Record Store Day compilation chosen by the staff of record stores across the country. Covering 1974-1996, the 15 tracks on this 2LP set includes iconic Patti tracks as “Gloria,” “Because The Night,” “Dancing Barefoot,” “Free Money,” and “People Have The Power.”

Lou Reed – I’m So Free: The 1971 RCA Demos (Legacy) is one of two Reed offerings for this RSD. This amazing sounding LP contains 13 rare demos from Reed’s first solo recording session. Songs include “Perfect Day,” “I’m Sticking With You,” “Lisa Says,” Kill Your Sons,” “Berlin,” “Ocean,” and the title track. This is the first time this title is appearing on vinyl.

Lou Reed and Kris Kristofferson – The Bottom Line Archive Series: In Their Own Words With Vin Scelsa (The Bottom Line Record Company) is RSD Reed-related second offering. This unusual recording comes from an interview/performance that well-known NYC DJ Vin Scelsa did with Reed and Kristofferson in 1994 (Suzanne Vega and Victoria Williams also were part of Scelsa’s show that night). Kristofferson performs tunes like “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” “Help Me Make It Through The Night Me” and “Bobby McGee,” while Reed performs such songs as “Sweet Jane,” “Legendary Hearts,” and “Romeo Had Juliet.”

Nico and the Fractions – Camera Obscura (Beggars Banquet) is the first of Nico’s two RSD titles. Produced by John Cale, this 1985 release was Nico’s last studio album. Among the tracks is Nico’s somber rendition of “My Funny Valentine.”

Nico – Live at the Hacienda ’83 (LMLR) captures Nico in a 1983 performance at Manchester’s famous club, The Hacienda. Her live set contains versions of “All Tomorrows Parties.” “Femme Fatale,” and, the sadly appropriate “The End.” 

The Gun Club – Live at the Hacienda ’83 (LMLR) makes its vinyl debut – double split double split crystal clear and black vinyl no less. Led by infamous frontman, Jeffery Lee Pierce, the Gun Club has been described as pioneering the “US wave of cow-punk.” This incendiary 13-song live set features such Gun Club faves as “Sex Beat,” “Run Through The Jungle,” and “Fire Of Love.”

Punk 45: I’m A Mess! D-I-Y Or Die! Art, Trash & Neon (Soul Jazz Records) is the latest in this label’s series that spotlights obscure punk 45s. This 2-LP collection focuses on one-off singles from the UK circa 1977-78. We’re talking bands like Dansette Damage, Cybermen, Stormtrooper, The Drive (described as the Scottish New York Dolls), Johnny and The Self-Abusers (who later became Simple Minds) and The Killjoys (featuring future Dexy’s Midnight Runners Kevin Rowland on vocals). 

The Best Of Chi-Sound Records 1976-83 (Demon Records) spotlights the work of Carl Davis on his small but vital Chicago-based soul label. This two LP compilation includes selections by Gene Chandler, The Impressions, Sydney Joe Qualls, The Dells, Manchild (featuring a young Kenneth ‘Babyface’ Edmonds), and quite appropriately The Chi-Lites.

Soul Power ’68 (Trojan Records) is a previously unissued, and long considered lost, Doctor Bird Records compilation. The dozen tracks on this LP provide a vibrant snapshot of Treasure Isle rock steady and soul gems, all produced in 1968 by Duke Reid, a famous figure in Jamaican music history.

Superchunk – Incidental Music: 1991-1995 (Merge) stands the group’s second collection of singles, B-sides, and EPs. Originally released in 1995, it contains covers of songs by The Magnetic Fields, The Verlaines, The Chills, and Motörhead along with such B-sides as “On The Mouth” and soundtrack tracks like “Shallow End.” This RSD exclusive vinyl release come with one opaque green LP and one opaque orange LP.

Camera Obscura – Making Money (4AD) is a band-curated comp of B-sides and rarities from their 4D years. The dozen tracks include covers of Springsteen’s “Tougher Than the Rest,” 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love,” and Gene Autry’s “You’re the Only Star in My Blue Heaven.” There also is a Richard Hawley remix of “The Sweetest Thing” and a Jim Noir remix “French Navy” among the cool curios. 

Echo and the Bunnymen – B-Sides and Live (2001-05) (Demon Records) gets the vinyl treatment after only being previously available digital. This 16-song double LP features acoustic recordings of “Make Me Shine” and “Nothing Lasts Forever” and there are four songs (the entire 4th side) recorded live at the 2005 Reading Festival. 

The Cranberries – Remembering Dolores (UMG Recordings) also is getting a vinyl release after coming out September 2021 digitally. This collection of select Cranberries tunes was done to honor the band’s late singer Dolores O’Riordan. This 2-LP version features 3 bonus tracks: “The Rebels,” “Astral Projections,” and “Warchild.”

The Muffs – The Improved Kim Shattuck Demos (Omnivore Recordings) stands as a tribute to the Muffs’ singer Kim Shattuck, who passed away in 2019. It contains 16 demos of songs for group’s 2004 Really Really Happy album. The Muffs’ bassist Ronnie Barnett has done the liner notes for this collection that Omnivore is giving a vinyl release on RSD.  

Jay Bennett – Kicking at the Perfumed Air Whatever Happened I Apologize (What Were We Thinking) packages together the late Jay Bennett’s last two albums: 2008’s Whatever Happened I Apologize and 2010’s posthumously released Kicking at the Perfumed Air. This double LP Record Store Day 2022 exclusive also includes the 2021 feature-length documentary Where are you, Jay Bennett? about the musician who is best known for his time with Wilco.

Pete Krebs & The Gossamer Wings – I Know It By Heart (Cavity Search Records) is a 2002 release from Krebs, a genre-hopping mainstay in the Pacific Northwest music scene. On this effort, Krebs and his band mine a singer-songwriter sound that draws from the 60s-90s and resulted in two of his better-known tunes, “Her Dress So Green In The Moonlight” & “Kid Domino.” Celebrating its 20th anniversary, this album has been remastered and reissued on vinyl for the first time. 

I could go on and on, but I will wrap up with 

Reigning Sound – Memphis In June (Merge) catches the rootsy garage rockers (yes, I’m sure there’s a better description like simply “awesome”) band performing a hometown show in June, 2021. Frontman Greg Cartwright is backed for this concert by his “Memphis” band who played on the group’s earliest recordings as well as the latest one, A Little More Time With

For updates and complete Record Store Day info, visit the RSD website at https://recordstoreday.com

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2022 Record Store Day Delights: From Golden Smog and Rain Parade to Love, Lowe, and Modern Lovers

The countdown is one for this year’s Record Store Day, which is happening April 23 (although there will a follow up RSD Drop Day on June 19)

There is a treasure trove of excellent offerings – not unsurprisingly – a number of enticing titles. And here some are in no particularly order:

Craft Recordings has constructed a diverse range of RSD selections. Looking for a little gospel soul? Then turn to Sister Woman by Esther Marrow (aka Queen Esther Marrow). This 1972 Fantasy Records release, which finds Marrow backed by such session giants as drummer Bernard Purdie, guitarist Cornell Dupree, and bassist Chuck Rainey, contains her versions of “Rainy Night In Georgia,” Laura Nyro’s “When I Die,” and her funky take on the Staple Singers tune “The Ghetto.”

If you went to dip into psychedelic Latin rock, then seek out Flash & the Dynamics’ The New York SoundThis 1971 Fania Records rarity has a trippy groove that goes on forever (or at least the 30 minute running time). The first two song titles (“Guajira Psicodelica” and “Electric Latin Soul”) give you a hint for what you are in for. The record has been remastered and is delivered on purple vinyl.

Craft also is dispensary out some jazz too on Record Store Day. Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section is a 1957 session where the alto sax great teams up with Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones. The latest Jazz Dispensary compilation: Super Skunk is a 70s-based, nine-track set emphasizing horns and drums with contributions from The Cannonball Adderley Quintet, The Bar-Kays, Gary Bartz, and Woody Herman (covering Herbie Hancock’s “Fat Mama”),  along with the funky instrumental “Las Cuatro Culturas” by the crate digger fave Rabbits & Carrots from Mexico.

Baseball is back and one way of celebrating is by getting the 7” single “Baseball Theme” by Vince Guaraldi Trio. Originally composed for a proposed Charles Schulz documentary, the track was released on the Fantasy Records as Jazz Impressions of a Boy Named Charlie Brown. Now it will be available as a white vinyl single.

However, the Craft release that jumps out to me is Modern Lovers 88 the final studio album by Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers (which was just drummer John Avila and guitarist Brennan Totten at that point). This 35th anniversary reissue comes in “Hot Nights Sky Blue”-colored vinyl and boasts all-analog mastering.

Richman’s Beserkley labelmates, The Rubinoos, will have their self-titled 1977 debut released on yellow vinyl by Yep Roc. This power pop explosion is ignited by tracks like “Hard To Get,” “Rock and Roll Is Dead,” and the band’s timeless version of “I Think We’re Alone Now.” Another fabulous and fun Yep Roc RSD gem is Wireless World, which contains all the tracks from Nick Lowe’s UK debut Jesus Of Cool and his USA debut Pure Pop For Now People (Wireless World was a fake title Lowe and his manager Jake Riviera concocted as a joke to confuse reporters).

ORG MUSIC similarly travels across many genres with its RSD releases. Their ninth Sun Records compilation contains tracks by Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Pinetop Perkins, Roy Orbison, Rufus Thomas Jr., Little Milton, Charles Feathers, Sonny Murgess and Rosco Gordon. Org also has teamed with Aquarium Drunkard for a ten-track set Atenção!: Novos Sons do Brasil that lives up to its name (which in English means: Attention! New Sounds of Brazil).

They also are presenting the vinyl version of Jeannie C. Riley’s classic album Harper Valley P.T.A.; The Sheila Divine’s Where Have My Countrymen Gone, and the self-titled debut by the Michael Des Barres-fronted Detective as well as a “Fun House” 45 that is the latest Stooges salute from Mike Watts and Larry Mullins (the frequent Stooges sideman, not U2 drummer).

Real Gone Music has a real cool lineup for Record Store Day. Headlining – for me, at least – is Darlene Love’s The Many Sides of Love – The Complete Reprise Recordings Plus!, which includes rare solo singles and bonus tracks such as her 1985 Elektra Recording of “River Deep, Mountain High”; her 2014 duet with Bette Midler on “He’s Sure the Boy I Love,” and two 1990 recordings for Sire Records.

RGM also is putting out Paisley Underground pioneers Rain Parade’s 1984 EP Explosions (on colored vinyl naturally) that is bolstered with previously flexidisc-only track “Sad Eyes Kill.” Native Son, the first album by another 90s college rock favorite, The JudyBats, also comes out in vinyl for the first time as does Voyage (A Journey into Discoid Funk), a space disco cult classic created by one-time Cliff Richard drummer Brian Bennett.

Bleeding Hearts was a short-lived band that for a brief period of time included a post-Replacements Bob Stinson on guitar. In 1993, the Minneapolis band recorded an album for Fiasco Records, but it was never released. Stinson departed the band and then passed away in 1995. Now, Bar/None has partnered with Fiasco to finally put out Riches To Rags, which is filled with that scrappy garage rock the Twin Cities have been known for. The 12”, in blood-red vinyl, features liner notes by Replacements biographer Bob Mehr.

Replacements fans should also note that Rhino is serving up The Replacements’ Unsuitable for Airplay: The Lost KFAI Concert and Golden Smog’s On Golden Smog EP (which features Mats’ drummer Chris Mars along with members of the Jayhawks, Soul Asylum, and more playing covers like “Easy To Be Hard” from Hair and Bad Company’s “Shooting Star.”) are among Rhino’s 20+ RSD releases.

Bad Co.’s Live 1979, meanwhile, joins Oh, No! It’s Devo and The Cure’s Pornography as 40th anniversary special RSD releases. Others in the live album category range from 2-LP Stiff Little Fingers: BBC Live In Concert and Willie Nelson: Live at the Texas Opryhouse, 1974 to more massive Grateful Dead’s 5-LP Wembley Empire Pool, London, England 4/8/72. Speaking of massive, you can’t overlook The Ramones’ 7-LP The Sire LPs (1981-1989) boxed set.

Rhino titles, however, that especially standout to me are Joni Mitchell’s Blue Highlights (a 12-track LP collecting some Blue demos, out-takes, and BBC TV & radio live recordings), and Hey Doll Baby, a super intriguing 17-track Everly Brothers 17-track compilation of lesser-known, buried treasures that Adria Petty (Tom Petty’s daughter) put together with the assistance of both Everly families.

Let me put a pin in things for now. I could go on – and hopefully I’ll get a part two together…

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Nearly Cinema: Spider Baby

October is the month when horror movies were as prominent on the movie channels as the fangs on Dracula’s teeth. While the selection included many classic horror films – from the early Universal monster movies to William Castle sensational (as in “sensationalizing”) work of the late 50s/early 60s and the British horror movies made by Hammer and Amicus.

But then there also were the obscure cult (or wannabe) cult curios, such as Spider, Baby – and film so intriguingly odd that I wanted to write something about it.

This writeup is a quickie – just like the movie – so the sources are just a few (aka Wikipedia and IMDB). Shot on an undoubtedly ultra-low budget Spider Baby was filmed in about two weeks during August and September, 1964. Due to producers’ money woes,  however,  the movie didn’t hit theaters (and not many at that) until December, 1967. And when the movie was shown, it was done under several titles besides Spider Baby such as: The Liver EatersAttack of the Liver EatersCannibal Orgy, and The Maddest Story Ever Told (the last one actually is part in the weirdly comical cartoon opening titles).

It was directed, and written by Jack Hill who later went on to make better-known 70s B movies as Switchblade Sisters, Coffy, Foxy Brown, and the Swinging Cheerleaders. For years it was thought to be a lost movie but, according to IMDB, Hill found a negative, cleaned it up, and got it back into circulation.

So, just what was saved? Well, it’s bizarre, creepy, surprisingly humorous, and not that bloody. Oh, it cares very little about logic. Spider Baby is kind of like a 60s psychedelic film but done in straightforward black & white without anything spacey or trippy showing up on screen.

The film’s little story concerns the Merrye family, who suffer from a syndrome that (as it is explained in the prologue) makes family members regress mentally and socially as they get older. However, in the film, this comes off as if they are twenty-sometimes who still believe that they are like preschoolers – which is creepy enough. Watching over the three “children” (Virginia, Elizabeth and Ralph) is their caretaker Bruno.

They live in a big rundown old mansion (the historic Smith Estate in Los Angeles, which has its own weird history). Two normal relatives (Peter and Emily) arrive to take guardianship of the children and control of the house. Accompanying them is their lawyer (Schlocker) and his assistant (Ann).

The story basically covers what happens during the afternoon and evening that Peter, Emily, Schlocker and Ann are at the house. Sidebar: this is one of the great things about movies that are only 60-80 minutes – you don’t have to do much plotting. It’s just really setting up the action, then having the action, and an ending.

Something that makes this suspense-on-a-shoestring work is the cast. Top billed is the legendary Lon Chaney Jr as Bruno. It’s actually a terrific role for Chaney because he plays the protective-at-all-costs guardian of the three children. While Bruno is something of a man-child, he is by far the most mature person in the house and quite a sympathetic character.

Playing Emily the heartless villainess is Carol Ohmart. Ohmart had a relatively short, on-again-off-again movie career that started with her being compared to Brando and Marilyn Monroe. Horror fans would know Ohmart from William Castle’s House on Haunted Hill. According the web, Ohmart got involved in real estate as well as spiritualism and wound up in debt.

Jill Banner, who played the spider-obsessed sister Virginia, had an even shorter acting career. Spider Babywas her first big-screen role. After a half dozen more roles, she left Hollywood and moved to New Mexico, and shortly after returning to L.A. she died tragically in a car crash in 1982. Banner gives a memorable, and very committed, performance as the wild-eyed, feral Virginia. Her “lap dance” scene with her cousin Peter is particularly creepy.

The other sister, Elizabeth is the supposedly more responsible one. While she gives a sweet first impression, she is just as macabre as her sister. Beverly Washburn’s compelling portrayal is just as scarily committed as Banner’s. Washburn has a rather lengthy filmography, having started acting around the time she was three. For example, ten years before Spider Baby, she starred in Old Yeller.

After Spider Baby, Washburn starred in another Jack Hill film, Pitstop (well worth checking out), which also starred Ellen Burstyn (then going by Ellen McRae) and Sig Haig. And Haig played third Merrye “child,” Ralph. Shaved head, hunched over, mainly mute with a slack-jawed leer, Haig isn’t immediately recognizable but he is as terrorizing as you’d expect. Ralph is a like an oversized, overly horny who (it is implied) rapes Emily (off-screen).

Peter is the nicer Merrye cousin and for his niceness, he gets “treated” to a lap dance, while tied up in spiderwebs, from a sexually charged-up Virginia. Peter is played by Quinn Redeker, who later was a co-screenwriter on The Deer Hunter as well as being an award-winning soap opera actor.

Peter also starts something up with the other reasonably sane character, Ann. They have one the film’s best dialogue exchanges when they bond at dinner over their shared love of horror movies. In fact, they name-drop Frankenstein, Dracula, the Mummy and the Wolf Man – all characters played by Lon Chaney Jr, who is seated with them at the dinner table. Chaney even says “there’s going to be a moon tonight” without any wink-wink irony.

Ann and her boss, the slimy lawyer Mr. Schlocker, were played by Mary Mitchel and Karl Schanzer, respectively. Both spent most of their film careers working behind the scenes and both also had connections with Francis Ford Coppola (who was a classmate of Jack Hill – it’s a small world after all) – – although Schanzer was in Dementia 13.

There’s one more Spider Baby actor to mention, Mantan Moreland. He’s the first actor you see in the film – as a deliver guy – and the first one to…Okay you can guess. Mantan has a lengthy career in Hollywood; however, he was stereotyped in roles as a butlers, chauffeurs, waiters, and the like). In somewhat bitter irony, he found it harder to get roles during the civil rights movement of the sixties. IMDB credits him with 130 acting roles but only six in the Sixties (and three were uncredited).

Now I’ve written these thousand words without doing much analysis of the movie. And that’s on purpose. A great deal of the fun in watching Spider Baby is just experiencing the gonzo storytelling without knowing much, or thinking much about, what’s going on. Like who or what are the uncle and two aunts who live – but are barely seen – in the basement? What was the appointment is Bruno bringing Ralph back from early in the film? And just what is the medical science behind Merrye Syndrome?

Okay, maybe it’s a cop-out not to get analytical about it. To postulate on sociological messages or class struggle analogies. I mean, in the film’s opening scene, when Peter is reading from a medical textbook, the pages are just a mishmash of paragraphs that make no sense (although maybe reflects the filmmakers’ Dadaist impulses?).

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SNAP! – here comes a podcast documentary of the legendary Deirdre O’Donoghue

When I think of qualities for a good friend, I think of someone who is reliable and trustworthy. Someone who gives you good advice. Someone you enjoy spending time with. A person who shares some similar interests but who also introduces to cool things and cool people. 

One person who fit this description for me was Deirdre O’Donoghue. A friend who I actually never met, but who was a regular part of life after I first moved to Los Angeles in the mid-80s because of KCRW radio program, SNAP.

I don’t remember how I first encountered Deirdre, but I do remember that once I did hear her show I know it became destination listening for me. What first caught my ear undoubtedly was that she liked many of the so-called “college rock” acts that I did, from the better known (REM, the ReplacementsRobyn Hitchcock) to the ones who I couldn’t hear much on regular radio (the dB’s, Peter Case, Blasters, the Church). She also got me better acquainted with other acts that I hadn’t explored much but she opened my eyes to (Steve Wynn & Dream Syndicate, Go-Betweens, Paul Kelly, Richard Thompson, Camper Van Beethoven). 

But more importantly, she introduced to so many other bands that became foundational music – and jumping off points – for me musically (Silos, Richard Buckner, House of Freaks, Dancing Hoods, Pontiac Brothers, and The Men They Couldn’t Hang – I could go on but I haven’t unearthed my stash of old cassettes to refresh my memory more…). And I’ll admit that she also played stuff that I couldn’t wrap my head around then but, with Deirdre at the helm, the musical ride was always intriguing.

Why am I bringing this all up? It has been 30 years since SNAP! left KCRW. 20 years since Deirdre left this mortal coil. It’s because on October 28, KCRW is launching a 10-part documentary, Bent by Nature: Deirdre O’Donoghue and the Lost SNAP! ArchivesThe series was co-produced by Bob Carlson (longtime KCRW producer and Deirdre’s house engineer) and Myke Dodge Weiskopf (KCRW’s great Lost Notes) and features remembrances from folks like Henry Rollins, Michael Stipe, Syd Straw, and many more. 

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Autumn In The Archives: Doc, Doors, David, Daptone & Dracula

World Circuit Records celebrates the 25th anniversary of the breakthrough Buena Vista Social Club album with an expansive double-disc version, all remastered by Grammy-winning engineer Bernie Grundman. The 19-track bonus disc features 11 never-before-released tracks from the original 1996 sessions. This new version also has other extras, like new liner notes, previously unseen photography, expanded biographies, art prints, and a written history of the legendary

Cuban music lovers will also love Orquesta Akokán’s new 16 Rayos out October 22 on Daptone Records. The Orquesta is a large combo featuring some great Havana instrumentals (including for the first time, string players) along with American players who are well versed in Latin and Cuban music. The band’s first album earned nominations for the Grammy, Billboard Latin Music Award, Telemundo Latin American Music Award,

In the Arab music world, Warda is well-known for the music she made in the late ‘50s and ‘70s (she retired to family life during the 60s). One fan is Timbaland who sampled Warda in Aaliyah’s “Don’t Know what to tell you.” J Dilla has sampled her too. Wewantsounds wants more people to know her music when they put out her 1973 album Khalik Hena on October 15.  The album sound cool as it mixes some 70s groove with traditional Arabic music backed by full orchestra


Omnivore mines more Texas treasures when it puts out Mighty Fine: An Austin City Limits Tribute to Walter Hyatt on October 1. Walter Hyatt, a much-loved musician who died tragically in the 1996 ValueJet plane crash, was honored by his pals the following year with this show, which featured Lyle Lovett, Willis Alan Ramsey, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Junior Brown, Marcia Ball, Allison Moorer, David Halley, Shawn Colvin as well as Hyatt’s Uncle Walt’s Band-mates David Ball and Champ Hood. Making its CD and digital debut, this release (which Omnivore also is putting out on vinyl and cassette) contains the original’s 11 tracks, plus six more tracks from the ACL concert and two previously unreleased tunes. 

Doc Watson is getting honored with a massive, career-spanning boxset, Life’s Work: A Retrospective, which will arrive November 12 courtesy of Craft Recordings. Life’s Work is a four-disc collection packed with 101 tracks from this Bluegrass hall of famer (as well as National Medal of Arts honoree and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner). In listening to all of this Watson music isn’t enough of a lure, the boxset also holds his collaborations with Chet Atkins, Bill Monroe Alison Krauss, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Flat & Scruggs, Ricky Skaggs, and, of course, his son Merle.

A trio of 1971 rock albums are getting the 50th anniversary treatment. The Doors’ L.A. Woman – the last album before Jim Morrison’s death – has received an exciting deluxe incarnation. Arriving December 3 from Rhino, the Doors’ sixth studio album has expanded to a 3-CD/1-LP collection. Besides the remastered original album, there are two discs containing two hours of unreleased studio outtakes. The gem of this bonus material probably is the original demo of “Riders On The Storm,” which was discovered recently on an unmarked tape reel. The LP is a stereo mix of L.A. Woman on 180-gram virgin vinyl. 

Sundazed Music has done a special version of the debut album from the Zombies’ beloved singer, Colin Blunstone. for its 50th anniversary. Due November 5, this double LP pairs the original album, One Year, with a second LP, That Same Year, which has 14 previously unreleased recordings, including nine unrecorded tunes. That Same Year’s material is spare, mostly acoustic recordings done by Blunstone, although some tracks feature Rod Argent on piano and the late U.K. singer-songwriter Duncan Browne (remember his song “The Wild Places”?) on classical guitar.

Back in July, David Crosby released his eighth solo album, For Free. 50 years ago, he released his first, If I Could Only Remember My NameIts anniversary edition is a 2-CD set that has the album remastered from the original analog tapes while the second disc presents 13 tracks of rare studio and demo recordings (12 are released for the first time). For his first album, Crosby called in a number of his famous musician pals (including Graham Nash, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young along with members of Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Santana) to lend a hand. 

From solo to soul music. Daptone Records celebrates its 20th anniversary with a treat for its fans, Coming out October 1, The Daptone Super Soul Revue Live at the Apollo delivers all of your favorite Daptone acts – Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, Sugarman 3, Charles BradleyNaomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens, Saun & StarrAntibalas, The Budos Band, Menahan Street Band, and the Como Mamas – recorded live at the historic Apollo Theater in December, 2014. The 3-LP set comes with a photo-packed 48-page booklet.

October 1 also is the day Real Gone Music unveils Little Willie John’s The Complete R&B Hit Singles. Covering his 1955-61 stint with King Records, this vinyl compilation holds 17 tracks from this highly regarded soul singers, including “Leave My Kitten Alone.” The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer’s career was cut short when he died at the age of 30 while incarcerated in the Walla Walla Prison. 

Five decades of War will be spotlighted in a new 2-CD (or 2-LP) collection, Greatest Hits 2.0 (October 1 from Rhino). It offers 24 songs that the funk/soul/rock fusion band recorded between 1970-94, including such groove-happy hits as “Slipping Into Darkness,” Low Rider,” “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” and “The Cisco Kid.” The late, great Otis Redding would have turned 80 last month and Rhino has an Otis gift for the holidays. On December 10, it will reissue its sold-out 7-LP Otis Redding: The Definitive Studio Album Collectionthat contains Redding’s seven studio albums done up in replica sleeves.

Btw, If you want a soundtrack for a Halloween party, Real Gone Music has what the doctor ordered. A “mad doctor” that is. On October 15, Real Gone unleashes two vintage movie soundtracks: 1969’s Mad Doctor of Blood Island and 1971’s Dracula Vs. Frankenstein. Tito Arevalo composed the Mad Doctor’s music, while William Lava is behind Dracula Vs. Frankenstein

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Country Funk, Memphis Soul, Japanese Americana And More New Old Music

Jerry Reed

Light in the Attic Records is putting out the latest edition of its Country Funk series on August 6. Covering the years 1975-1982, Volume III contains more tasty treats from a cool array of acts, from well-known performers like Dolly Parton, Jerry Reed, Conway Twitty, and Delbert McClinton (however, the selected songs are not obvious ones: “Sure Thing,” “Rhythm And Blues,” “Night Fires,” “Shot From The Saddle” respectively) and the not-so-well musicians (at least to me), such as Travis Wammack, Rob Galbraith, and Gary & Sandy (no, not WKRP star Gary Sandy but the duo featuring Gary Raffanelli & Sandy Selby). The 17 tracks come as a single CD and 2-LP versions, along with four tracks available digitally: Gary & Sandy – “Gonna Let You Have It,” Steven Soles – “Shake The Dust,” Brian Hyland – “Hale To The Man,” and Tony Joe White – “Alone At Last.” (previously unreleased). LitA also has a bunch of special branded merch for this release including a woven throw blanket, as well as a new colored vinyl pressing of Country Funk Volume I!

Booker T & The MG’s circa 1968 (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Detouring slightly in to Memphis Soul territory are three albums that Real Gone Music is putting out on September 3. There are two volumes of Booker T. & The MG’s The Complete Stax Singles. Volume 1, naturally, is the set of his early singles (1962-1967), Volume 2, accordingly, contains his (1968-1974) singles. Volume 1, coming out as a 2-LP red vinyl version, features such Booker T hits as “Green Onions,” “Boot-Leg,” “Hip Hug-Her,” and “My Sweet Potato.” Volume 2, which will be done in both red vinyl and CD formats, holds tunes like “Time Is Tight,” “Soul-Limbo,” and covers of “Hang ‘Em High,” The Beatles’ “Something,” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson.” 

O.V. Wright

The third release is O.V. Wright’s A Nickel and a Nail and Ace of Spades. Wright is a Memphis soul legend, although obviously not as well known to the generally public as folks like Al Green or Carla Thomas. This 1972 record includes three of hits: “A Nickel and a Nail,” “Ace of Spades,” and “Eight Men, Four Women.” It also is a Hi Records album in everything but its actual record label (Back Beat, which was one of Don Robey’s smaller labels). A Nickel… was produced by Hi Records honcho Willie Mitchell and features the fabled Hi Records Rhythm Section and The Memphis Horns

Makoto Kubota and the Sunset Gang (photo courtesy Showboat Solid Records)

Something that I have been enjoying a lot this month are the three albums by Makoto Kubota and the Sunset Gang. I’d just recommend putting on an album – any or all three – and listen to some roots rock that sounds amazingly Americana except when you realize that many of the songs are sung in Japanese (some are in English too). Touchstone comparison acts for me were Little Feat, Leon Russell, The Band, and maybe a little Dan Hicks and Dr. Hook. If you are familiar with the Japanese music scene, you may recognize Kubota’s name; he has been called the Ry Cooder of Japan. That is a good comparison for this music, which combines influences from Texas, Hawaii, New Orleans, and other spots in the American South with Japanese folk music. Wewantsound is the label to thank for these reissues. Arriving on August 27 is 1975’s Hawaii ChamprooSunset Gang (1973) comes out Sept. 17, and Dixie Fever (1977) will be released Oct. 22. Did I say I recommend all three albums? 

Courtesy of the R.E.M. archives

If I say Hib-Tone, what do you think of? If your answer is R.E.M., then you might already know that Craft Records has reissued the band’s first single, “Radio Free Europe,” which was originally released on Hib-Tone Records. This long, long-out-of-print single, whose B-side “Sitting Still” is another cut that later made Murmur, is available as a 45-RPM single with a jacket featuring Michael Stipe photography. R.E.M. also has put out its super-rare 1981 demonstration tape – appropriately entitled Cassette SetIts five tracks include full versions of “Sitting Still,” “Radio Free Europe,” “White Tornado,” along with partial versions of “Sitting Still” and “White Tornado,” all produced by Mitch Easter. This cassette replicates the original’s packaging, including handwritten cassette labels by Stipe. These limited releases, which are part of R.E.M.’s 40th anniversary celebration, can be found at https://store.remhq.com/. Superfans should note (if they already didn’t know) that there will also be a custom (also limited edition) portable cassette player, produced by RecordingTheMasters.

While it doesn’t technically qualify as an archival release, there is at least a Michael Stipe segue. I’ll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute to the Velvet Underground and Nico (due September 24 on Verve Records). Executive produced by the late, great Hal Wilner, this release pairs terrifically with the hotly anticipated Todd Haynes documentaryThe Velvet Underground, that will debut in cinemas and on Apple TV+ on October 15 (the film has its own Republic/UMe soundtrack album curated by Haynes and Randall Poster). I’ll Be Your Mirror is a track-by-track re-creation of the VU’s 1967 debut as realized by a starry lineup of performers led off by Mr. Stipe.

  1. Sunday Morning – Michael Stipe
  2. I’m Waiting For The Man – Matt Berninger
  3. Femme Fatale – Sharon Van Etten (w/ Angel Olsen on backing vocals) 
  4. Venus In Furs – Andrew Bird & Lucius
  5. Run Run Run – Kurt Vile & The Violators
  6. All Tomorrow’s Parties – St. Vincent & Thomas Bartlett 
  7. Heroin – Thurston Moore feat. Bobby Gillespie
  8. There She Goes Again – King Princess
  9. I’ll Be Your Mirror – Courtney Barnett
  10. The Black Angel’s Death Song – Fontaines D.C.
  11. European Son – Iggy Pop & Matt Sweeney

Verve, of course, was the Velvets’ original label, releasing Velvet Underground and Nico and White Light, White Heat; Verve’s owner, MGM Record, put out the band’s self-titled third album. Needless to say, the folks running Verve now have a better understanding of the Velvet’s music than those in charge back in the Sixties. 

Get Smart! circa 1986 (photo by Mike Greenlees)

Get Smart! came out of the Midwest around the same time as R.E.M. was making a name for themselves in Athens, GA. Get Smart!, however, didn’t come close to R.E.M.’s fame, but they are well worthy discovering – and you will have your chance on October 8 with the release of Oh Yeah No, a 6-track EP filled with edgy, fiery songs that were recorded in 1987 but only released now. For an Athens comparison, they are closer to Pylon than R.E.M. 

Explorer Tapes

Omnivore Recordings, meanwhile, has rescued a fairly recent never-released album from the vaults. In 2015, Explorer Tapes (aka Max Townsley and Drew Erickson, best known for writing Keith Urban’s hit “Texas Time) recorded their debut album with ace producer Mike Elizondo (Fiona Apple, 50 Cent, and Carrie Underwood). However, due to some unexpected circumstances, the album never came out on Warner Brothers. But, in conjuction with Warners, Omnivore will bring it to the world on August 13. 

Marianne Faithfull

BMG and Montreux Jazz Festival present next two installments in their The Montreux Years series on Sept. 17 with albums spotlighting festival performances by Marianne Faithfull and Muddy Waters (each come in multi-format configurations including double LPs). Faithful played Montreux in 1995, 1999, 2002, 2005 and 2009. Her record launches with a vibrant take of Van Morrison’s “Madame George” from her 1995 concert before continuing on with selections drawn from the rest of her storied career. Waters, whose many Montreux appearances stretch back to 1965, delivers some of his icons tunes, such as “Mannish Boy”, “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man,” and “Rosalie” on this album. 

And, of course, I can’t do a reissue piece without mentioning some Grateful Dead reissues it seems. In fact, there are two to mention. Coming August 13 is the latest in Real Gone Music’s Road Trips series: Vol. 2 No. 2 — Carousel 2-14-68. This is the first time that the entire concert held at San Francisco’s Carousel Ballroom, which is revered as a classic early Dead gig, has been commercially available. Additionally, this double disk set also contains some performances from the band’s 1968 Pacific Northwest tour. 

Grateful Dead – March 30, 1968

Then on October 1, the Dead shows their love for St. Louis with a 20-CD limited edition set, Listen To The River, which holds seven previously unreleased concert recordings done in St. Louis between 1971-73. This massive collection will only be sold on Dead.net; however, Rhino also has the 3-CD (and limited-edition 5-LP) Fox Theatre, St. Louis, MO (12/10/71), which captures the full performance of this epic show. 

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Nyro In July: New Releases From the Laura Nyro Archives

This month holds the double good fortune of two Laura Nyro releases (with a third arriving in September). While not as well-known today as her contemporaries Carole King and Joni Mitchell (more on her at the end of this piece), Nyro was a precocious, pioneering singer/songwriter who captivated pop music in the late sixties by writing such hit tunes as “Eli’s Comin,” “Wedding Bell Blues,” “Stoned Soul Picnic,” “Sweet Blindness,” “Save the Country,” and “Stoney End.” 

2021 represents the 50th anniversary of Gonna Take A Miracle, which Nyro recorded with LaBelle as her backing vocal group. This all-covers album saluted the soul and R&B songs of the 50s and 60s that she loved. 1971 also represented the close of her “golden era” as she announced her retirement from the music business and moved with her new husband, David Bianchini, to Gloucester, MA. Her retirement lasted just a few years but Nyro continued to follow her own path, both in and out of the music world, until her way-too-young death at the age of 49. However, I’m not here to offer up her biography but to spread the word on several Nyro projects coming out in the near future.

Omnivore Recordings has a pair of Laura Nyro albums in the next couple months. On July 16,  Trees of the Ages: Laura Nyro Live in Japan. Originally issued in 2003 just in Japan as Live in Japan, the 16 tracks recorded in 1994 at Kintetsu Hall, plus five recorded at On Air West. The set mixes Nyro’s own songs (such as “And When I Die,” “Wedding Bell Blues,” and “Save the Country”) with covers of Bacharach/David, Smokey Robinson, and Phil Spector classics. This reissue contains updated artwork and new liner notes from author/musician John Kruth.

Arriving September 10 is the never-before-issued Go Find the Moon: The Audition Tape. This recording was made in the summer of 1966 when the 18-year-old Nyro auditioned for producer Milt Oken and A&R man Artie Mogull. The audition was obviously successful as Mogull became her manager and Okun produced Nyro’s debut record, More Than Just a Discovery

“And When I Die” was the first song she played for them – and it became the lead-off track on Peter, Paul and Mary’s hit album, The Peter, Paul and Mary Album, and later became a hit in 1969 for Blood, Sweat, & Tears. The eight tracks of Go Find the Moon include “And When I Die” as well as songs she never officially released and covers of some standards. 

Both releases, which will be available on CD and Digital, were restored and mastered by Grammy-winner Michael Graves. Additionally, there will be a vinyl version of Go Find the Moon (as a 45-rpm LP) along with a special bundle for the LP with numbered litho print of the cover, which is limited to 200.

On July 30, Madfish and Snapper Music are releasing American Dreamer, a new 8-LP deluxe box set that holds the seven original studio albums Nyro made between 1967-1978: More Than A New Discovery, Eli And The Thirteenth Confession, New York Tendaberry, Christmas And The Beads Of Sweat, Gonna Take A MiracleSmile & Nested. The eighth album features exclusive rarities and live recordings. The vinyl box also comes with a 36-page book that is packed with extensive liner notes penned by the noted music writer Peter Doggett, along with rare photographs and interviews with folks such as Charlie Callelo, Herb Bernstein, and Todd Rundgren.

photo by Barrie Wentzell

There are new archival releases too from Nyro’s contemporary, Joni Mitchell, who told Mojo in 1998, “Laura exerted an influence on me. I looked to her and took some direction from her.”

Rhino has just released The Reprise Albums (1968-1971) boxed set, a 4-CD (or 4-LP) collection of Mitchell’s first four albums: Song To A Seagull (1968), Clouds (1969), and Ladies Of The Canyon (1970), and Blue (1971). While each album has been remastered, Song To A Seagull notably also features a new mix, updated by Mitchell and mixer Matt Lee. As Mitchell states: “ The original mix was atrocious,” says Mitchell. “It sounded like it was recorded under a jello bowl, so I fixed it!”

And then on October 29, Rhino will release Joni Mitchell Archives Vol. 2: The Reprise Years (1968-1971). This 5-CD compilation presents a treasure trove of rarities, live material, and unreleased studio. Sequenced chronologically, the box set holds Mitchell’s performance at Le Hibou Coffee House in Ottawa on March 19, 1968; several unreleased Mitchell originals, including “Jesus” recorded in 1969, and a concert at the Paris Theatre in London on October 29, 1970.

In June, Rhino put on Blue 50 (Demos & Outtakes, a five-song digital EP that includes a demo of “California,” an early version of “A Case Of You,” a studio recording of the unreleased track “Hunter,” and alternative takes of “River” and “Urge For Going.” These songs will also be on Joni Mitchell Archives Vol. 2 (which will also be available on October 29 at jonimitchell.com as a limited edition 10-LP set. 

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Make Your RSVPs for RSD

I had started this Record Store Day list a couple months ago, got busy with other things and now RSD is just days away. But I still wanted to send out a shout out on a number of releases that caught my eye. These are just a fraction of June 12’s RSD offers.

Let’s start off with some cool compilations. 

Org Music is offering the 8th volume of their Having a Party: Sun Records Curated by Record Store Dayseries. The limited edition LP, curated from the legendary Sun Records catalog, has Jerry Lee Lewis, Bettye Lavette, Rosco Gordon, and Linda Gail Lewis tracks among the selections. 

Craft Recordings presents a deluxe 3 LP reissuing of Chicago/The Blues/Today! This Vanguard Records’ historic trilogy contains recordings by The Junior Wells Chicago Blues Band, J.B. Hutto And His Hawks, Otis Spann’s South Side Piano, The Jimmy Cotton Blues Quartet, Otis Rush Blues Band, Homesick James And His Dusters, Johnny Young’s South Side Blues Band, The Johnny Shines Blues Band and Big Walter Horton’s Blues Harp Band with Memphis Charlie. Craft also has a selection of classic and rare R&B, doo-wop and soul tracks from the catalogs of Fania, Stax, Vee-Jay on Dedicated To You: Lowrider Love.

The fine folks at Legacy is presenting the first vinyl release ofGolden Gate Groove: The Sound Of Philadelphia Live In San Francisco 1973, which features the rare performances by the stars of Philadelphia International Records (including The O’Jays, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, The Three Degrees, and Billy Paul) at CBS Records Convention in 1973. 

Sundazed salutes another Philly label with its Ladies Choice: The Pen Of Swan Records compilation (on LP & CD). You’ll late Fifties and Sixties vintage songs from the likes of Ginger Davis And The Snaps, The Tomboys, Kathy Lynn And The Playboys, and Patty Saturday. 

Punk/New Wave fans of a certain ages will be interested to know about Buzzcocks: A Different Compilation on Cherry RedThe Raybeats: The Lost Philip Glass Sessions (Featuring Philip Glass & Michael Riesman) on Ramp LocalThe Selecter: Live In Coventry ’79 (Two Tone Records) and Echo & The Bunnymen: Live In Liverpool, a double LP on Demon Records

Jungle has the Heartbreakers’ L.A.M.F. – The Found ’77 Masters, while L.M.L.R. has Iggy PopLive at the Channel in Boston (on pink + yellow splatter vinyl). Terminus Records has a trio of special releases on June 12: the vinyl debut of Piedmont bluesman Precious Bryant‘s 2002 Fool Me Good; Col. Bruce Hampton‘s 1987 album Arkansas, and the ever-eclectic Danny BarnesDirt On The Angel (2003), which features special guests including pianist Chuck Leavell, guitarist Bill Frisell, violinist Darol Anger and multi-instrumentalist Dirk Powell.

Omnivore Recordings is delivering LP versions of Richard Hell And The Voidoids’ Destiny Street Demos and Peter Holsapple & Chris Stamey’s Our Back Pages while New West Records has a 2-LP edition of Warren Zevon’s rare recordings compilation Prelude and a double A side 7’’ of the song “The Saint Of Lost Causes,” one rendition performed by its songwriter Justin Townes Earle and one by Steve Earle and the Dukes.

Among Real Gone Music’s RSD titles, Jihad Jerry & The Evildoers is June 12’s highlight and Dekād is July 17’s highlight. The former is a controversial 2005 solo project from Devo’s Gerald V. Casale that features his bandmates. This expanded Red Vinyl Edition includes a newly-recorded bonus track, “I’m Gonna Pay U Back,” which also features Devo band members as well as Oingo Boingo’s lead guitarist Steve BartekDekād is the 2-LP vinyl distillation (in clear pink!) of Decade, the massive 2020 11-CD retrospective of Steve Wynn’s rare and unreleased recordings from 1995-2005

WEWANTSOUND has a vinyl reissue of Frank Foster’s 1972 album, The Loud Minority, the Bob Shad-produced album boasts an all-star cast including Elvin Jones, Stanley Clarke, Airto Moreira and Cecil & DeeDee Bridgewater(with a big booklet featuring an introduction by Mia & Judd Apatow). The label also has a vinyl version of Michel Legrand’s rare soundtrack, La Piscine that comes with Legrand’s much admired 7’’ “Un Homme Est Mort” among the bonus tracks.

World Music Networks has a trio of Rough Guide LPs: Booze & Blues, Blues Behind Bars, and Gamblin’ & Ramblin’ BluesMUNICH/V2 BENELUX has Albert Collins & Barrelhouse: Albert Collins & Barrelhouse Live and Lightning Rod Recordings’ Johnny Paycheck: Uncovered: The First Recordings offer blues of a country kind (to stretch things a bit)

Oh, if you are looking for something special to play your new albums on, Crosley Radio has partnered with Apple Corps Ltd for a nifty The Beatles Yellow Submarine Portfolio Turntable.

And, of course, these releases are scattered around various record stores so you’ll need to search around for what your local stores have. But that’s part of the fun, right?

Also don’t forget there’s another Record Store Day on July 17!

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Carlene Carter Presents Two “A Meeting In The Air” Livestream Shows In June

I discovered that Carlene Carter is presenting a couple of special livestreams performances this month. So, I wanted to pass along this news for two reasons. One reason is that they sound like terrific events (and more on them below). 

The other reason is Carlene Carter holds a special place for this blog since, as any Carlene Carter fan would realize, Musical Shapes is the name of her great 1980 album. When I was searching around, oh those many years ago, for a blog name, Musical Shapes really jumped out as a perfect one to use. Not only do I love the album, but also because it reflects an openness to explore all shapes of music – as well as subject matters – in this blog. So, thank you, Carlene for that. 

But onto her A Meeting In The Air livestreams. On June 17, she’ll do a show focusing on the Carter Family’s important, and ongoing, legacy. And her special guests for that show will include Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, The War and Treaty, and Elizabeth Cook, as well as Carlene’s daughter, Tiffany Anastasia Lowe, and cousin Lorrie Carter Bennett. All of the guests join Carlene for the closing rendition of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.”  

You can see a teaser of this performance at  https://tinyurl.com/jt6864k

Her second performance, happening June 24, is center on Carlene’s impressive solo career over the year, including some songs that she hasn’t played in decades.  For this show, you can expect a few cool “remote ‘pop-in howdys’ from some household names.

The fabled Cash Cabin was the site for both events. At the shows, Carlene will be backed by her band The Lucky Ones, which features multi-instrumentalist Al Hill, guitarist Chris Casello, drummer John McTigue and bassist David Spicher

Carlene says this two-show series is entitled A Meeting In The Air “after an old Carter Family song and with so many of us interacting with each other online during the pandemic we really have been ‘meeting in the air’.” She adds that “there are no overdubs; we did this all live. The thing I wanted to do most of all is bring joy to the world and show people the joy I feel when I play this music.”

The digital platform Mandolin is presenting these “A Meeting In The Air” events; tickets are available at Bit.ly/carlenecartertix 

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A Read Through “Swim Through The Darkness”

I’m known in my family as the one who doesn’t read books. Well more precisely, the one who doesn’t finish books. And it’s not the books fault, it’s mine. Which is a long away around to say that it isn’t author Mike Stax‘s fault that I have only finished his quite engrossing 2016 book: Swim Through The Darkness: My Search For Craig Smith And The Mystery Of Maitreya Kali

As the title suggests, this isn’t a standard biography. It’s more of Mike Stax’s investigation into the mysterious life and times of Craig Smith, whose story is quite a fascinating one. 

A rising star in the early ‘60s, Craig Smith first found success as a member of The Good Times Singers, who backed up Andy Williams on his popular TV variety show. Smith also had songs he had written covered by Williams, Glen Campbell, and The Monkees. In 1966, he co-starred a network TV pilot, The Happeners, a drama about a folk-rock trio, which seemed like a sure thing to be picked up but ABC rejected it. The Monkees’ Mike Nesmith acted as the manager/producer for Smith’s band, Penny Arkade, which appeared to be on the brink of stardom (or, at least, a record deal) around 1967-68. 

Penny Arkade in the studio around 1967. Credit: Chris Ducey

Sadly, the group achieved neither. Their recordings only were released by Sundazed Records in 2004, with the noted rock historian Richie Unterberger describing the the group as “quite a good Southern Californian folk-rock-psychedelic band.” Moreover, Smith actually never had a properly released album. 

Before going further, I just want to say that I didn’t read this book to review it, so I didn’t make copious notes like I would have. However, the book really captured my interest, which is why I decided to write about it and spread the word.

Stax, a respected music writer and historian who has published the music history magazine Ugly Things for several decades, spent over a dozen years researching this book and hunting for Craig Smith. Swim Through The Darkness is like one of those mystery novels that follows a detective’s search for a person, finding out a lot about the person without ever finding them. Even though he didn’t come up with all the answers about Smith’s life, Stax pieces together a story that proves to be very absorbing in its own right.

Stax nicely creates a portrait of Smith’s life through the end of the Sixties. He makes terrific use of his substantial interviews with many of people who were close to Smith, including his old bandmates such as Chris Ducey, who formed the duo with Smith that evolved into the Penny Arkade and arguably was Smith’s most significant musical collaborator. Reader get a real sense of band growing together; their time working with Nesmith (who Stax also interviewed); the promise that they had for success and how it was never fulfilled. 

The book offers an interesting glimpse too into the free-wheeling, but still rather innocent scene of L.A. in the mid-to-late Sixties. Smith, even though just orbiting around the fringes of the big time, still was inside the Monkees circle; friendly with various Beach Boys, and crossed paths with Frank Zappa too. (by the way, don’t look for quotes from Beach Boys Mike Love and Brian Wilson because they declined to participate in this book as did Craig’s brothers). 

If Craig Smith seemed on the brink of real success in the mid-60s, it is easy to say that he also fell off that brink by the decade’s end. A talented musician with all-American looks, Smith found his road to stardom taking a horribly wrong turn when he started dabbling in LSD and then headed off for a pilgrimage in Asia along the “Hippie Trail” to find the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (not an uncommon trip during that time)

Craig Smith circa 1969

Something bad, however, happened to Craig during this trip. No one has a definitive explanation as to what exactly, but he returned a changed, and rather damaged, man. He became a rather messianic figure, got deeply into meditation, and took the name Maitreya Kali. His behavior turned erratic and off-kilter. 

The second half of the book is punctuated with recollections from old friends like Heather MacRae (daughter of actor Gordon MacRae), actress/singer Suzannah Jordan (who co-starred in an unsuccessful pilot with Smith and Ducey), and long-time friends The Clinger Sisters (four singing sisters who found some success in the music business). Nearly everyone talks about how the charismatic, clean-cut Smith seemed destined for success and share their sad encounters with a disheveled, crazy-looking Smith in his later years. 

The Clinger Sisters performing their 1969 Kim Fowley-produced single “Gonna Have A Good Time Tonight”

A real strength of this book is the really phenomenal job Stax did tracking down a wealth of people – the major and minors ones in Smith’s life. Many of these bit players, in fact, wind up with larger roles since the “headliner,” Craig Smith, starts fading into darkness during the book’s second half.

Case in point: Stax tracked down the detective and the deputy district attorney who were involved in the arrest and conviction of Craig for assaulting his mother in 1973. While neither specifically remembered Craig or the case, they offered insights into criminally justice system of the early 70s. 

Providing a better picture of the Craig Smith during this time period are Lisa Udwin and Rafael Espericuata, who were teens when they met Craig around L.A. in the early 70s. Lisa, a 17-year-old UCLA freshman in 1972 when she met Craig (who was around 27 then), recalls him being sweet but also odd enough that she not only resisted his romantic advances but pushed him out of her life too. 

Rafael hung out with Craig for a time in the early 70s, having exploits motorcycling around Southern California, doing meditation and making music; he too found Smith interesting but also a little strange. Stax even meets a woman who encountered Smith in 2009 while she managed an apartment building. She too described the then homeless Smith as being nice and kind, although smelling badly.

Two of the people I found most intriguing were Mary Hurley and Ann Dignan, a pair of seemingly typical  23-year-old women from North Dakota who were taking a cultural journey along the Hippie Trail. They travelled with Craig for a little in Asia before going their separate ways (and Craig’s way led him to whatever mysterious misadventure he experienced over there). Their recollections made me curious to read a full memoir of their trip (with and without Craig). 

Craig and Cheryl 1970 photo courtesy Cheryl Starstrong

Offering glimpses into Craig’s dark side are his one-time girlfriend Cheryl Knickelbein (now Cheryl Starstrong) and her friend, Dyane Quinn. Cheryl speaks about the rather creepy intensity of his feelings for her as well as the weird things he’d talk about during their tumultuous on-again, off-again relationship. Her final breaking point was one night when Craig turned angry and violent for no reason.

Craig wrote a passionate love song to her, entitled “Cheryl” of course. The song later appeared on Inca, one of the two albums that he self-released under the name Maitreya in 1971-72; the other album was entitled Apache. Both covers look like they were designed by a crazy man.

While barely heard when Smith made them, his albums ironically have become collectors’ items over the years, and they were reissued together as a double LP in 2019. To accompany the book’s publication, an album entitled Love is Our Existence, was released, which contains previously unreleased Smith recordings circa 1966-71. The music actually holds up quite well. There is a little flower power trippiness to the typically spare acoustic music, with Craig’s vocals sometimes suggesting Phil Ochs as a love song-singing folkie.

The Sixties had more of its share of musicians who wound as casualties of the time: Skip Spence, Judee Sill, Karen Dalton, and Roky Erickson, and Craig Smith probably ranks as the most obscure of these cult figures. Stax makes a persuasive case, however, that he had the talent to make a make it – or at least make an official album.

Craig Smith drifts in and out of his own biography, Swim Through The Darkness provides some enlightening snapshots of the various worlds where he first strode, then stumbled, and finally shambled through – as well as what he had etched on his forehead.

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