Monday Desk Clearing: Velvet Crush, Electrical Prunes &Tragically Hip

I wanted to catch up on some music items that have crossed my desk, and I’m more will come once I post this…But let me start off with one of my favorite topics: cool reissues.


Omnivore Recordings has a busy summer ahead. June finds them looking back to the early ‘80s. To mark the 35th anniversary of the Kingbees’ second (and final) record The Big Rock, the label will be reissuing it on June 17 with a quartet of tunes frontman Jamie James recorded after the band called it a day. On June 24, Omnivore will put out Ladies And Gentlemen… The Bangles! This compilation, which the band released a few years back, collects material recorded between 1981-84, before they signed with Columbia. It features the Bangles 5-song debut EP, live tracks (like a cover of Love’s “7 & 7 Is”) and demos (including covers of the Turtles “Outside Chance” and Paul Revere and the Raiders’ “Steppin’ Out.”).

Ladies And Gentlemen... The Bangles


More Power Pop goodness arrives from Omnivore on July 22, when they unveil Velvet Crush’s Pre-Teen Symphonies. This 16-song set is divided evenly between previously unissued demos for their 1994 breakthrough album Teenage Symphonies To God and never before released live tracks from a 1995 Chicago show. On Aug. 12, the label resurrects an eclectic cult item from 1969 – Judy Henske & Jerry Yester’s Farewell Aldebaran. The “Queen of the Beatniks” and the former New Christy Minstrel (who were then married) fashioned this hard-to-categorize baroque-tinged folk-rock album with the help of a young David Lindley, electronic music pioneer Paul Beaver and jazz bass icon Ray Brown, with the Lovin’ Spoonful’s Zal Yanovsky producing and also playing with them too. Intriguing, no?

In anticipating of an upcoming John Coltrane documentary, Rhino has collected together a box set featuring the mono versions of albums the jazz giant made for Atlantic: Giant Steps (1960), Bags & Trane (1961) with Milt Jackson, Ole Coltrane (1962), Coltrane Plays The Blues (1962) and The Avant Garde (1966) with Don Cherry, plus the outtakes album Coltrane Legacy that was first put out in 1970. The amazing thing is that all of the music was recorded 1959-1960. Sadly, the mono masters for three of his other Atlantic albums – My Favorite Things, Coltrane Jazz, and Coltrane’s Sound – were destroyed in a fire so they aren’t part of this project.

Continuing on the archive front, Real Gone Music has another strong lineup of albums slated for July. Brook Benton is best known for “Rainy Night In Georgia,” but he had tons of hits over his career. The 31-track Rainy Night in Georgia—The Complete Reprise & Cotillion Singles A’s & B’s covers his work in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s and offers a great introduction to the wonderful soul ballad singer

I associate Eddy Arnold with the Nashville “countrypolitan” mainstream, but in 1970 he released a pair of albums that broke that mold. With Love and Guitars, producer Chet Atkins gave Arnold a rawer sound than he traditionally had while Standing Alone finds Arnold teamed with maverick producer Lee Hazlewood and recording in L.A. with the fabled Wrecking Crew musicians. The 27-song Each Road I Take—The 1970 Lee Hazlewood & Chet Atkins Sessions holds these two albums along with some rare single sides.


Sea Level

Formed in the mid-‘70s by three members of the Allman Brothers – keyboardist Chuck Leavell, percussionist Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson and bassist Lamar WilliamsSea Level was funky jam-style group that drew upon a range of musical interests (jazz, blues, rock). Real Gone previously put out the group’s second and third albums and now are releasing their self-titled debut and album #4 Long Walk On A Short Pier.  Sticking with the ‘70s, the Tubes were something of the opposite of Sea Level. This S.F.-bred band was known for their humorous songs and wild stage schtick. Real Gone is reissuing the band’s 2nd and 3rd albums, Young & Rich and Now. Y&R contains their smash hit “Don’t Touch Me There,” while they cover Captain Beefheart’s “My Head Is My Only House Unless It Rains” on Now.

I have the Electric Prunes first album, which reveals they did more than just “I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night).” You can get a good sense of what this mind-blowing band created on 23-track The Complete Reprise Singles compilation. And in the curio category, Real Gone is putting out Rawhide’s Clint Eastwood Sings Cowboy Favorites from 1963 on “tobacco brown” vinyl as well as a CD compilation containing the albums made by the late actress Patty Duke (no, I didn’t know she made albums) in the mid-to-late ‘60s, including a never-before-released folk album circa 1968.

20 years ago, the Squirrel Nut Zippers’ Hot album became a surprise hit album. In honor of its anniversary, Hot is getting reissued on July 29, all remastered and boasting the bonus track, “The Puffer.” Guitarist Jimbo Malthus and drummer Chris Phillips has put together a new 9-piece edition of the Zippers, who will hit the road this summer.

 On June 17, Katie Crutchfield (aka Waxahatchee) will put out a limited edition cassette (and digital download) of some of her early recordings, entitled Early Recordings, as a fundraiser for DIY PHL’s First Time’s The Charm event. For more info at

On June 17, the Eagle Rock Gospel Singers will offer up a salute to the Staples Singers with the EP Hammer and Nail. The 3-song release from Ba Da Bing features affectionate, rousing renditions of “No Room,” “Don’t Knock” and the title track.


Eagle Rock Gospel Singers

Starz has picked up the Barbara Kopple-directed music doc Miss Sharon Jones! and will give a limited theatrical release on July 29, followed by a home video and other platform release in the fall.

Later this month, Kris Kristofferson will be celebrating his 80th birthday and in honor of this milestone, he will be releasing a new live album that he recorded around the time of his 78th birthday (i.e. two years ago). The 25-song double disc The Cedar Creek Sessions contains some of his best known tunes (“Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down,” “Loving Her Was Easier,” “Help Me Make It Through The Night” and, naturally, “Me And Bobby McGee” as well as a duet with Sheryl Crow on “The Loving Gift.”

Kristofferson also is wearing his acting hat too. He co-stars in the period Western Traded along with country singer Trace Adkins and actor Michael Paré (yes, of Eddie and the Cruisers fame) that is coming out June 10. Meanwhile, Steve Earle has been acting a little too. He is in the crime drama Misfortune that is making the festival runs.

Another musician and sometimes actor Dwight Yoakam has recorded a Jack White-produced ’45 for White’s Third Man Records. One side is the old chestnut “High On The Mountain of Love” and other is is “Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Another Day,” the Boyce/Hart tune that the the Monkees had a hit with in 1966.


Dale Watson

Dale Watson is known for his live performances so it is not surprising that he does live albums. In August, he will be releasing Live At The Big T Roadhouse, Chicken S#!+ Bingo Sunday (Red House/Ameripolitan Records), which was recorded at Watson’s own bar in St. Hedwig, Texas. The set includes original Watson honky tonkin’ drinking tunes like “I Lie When I Drink (And I Drink a Lot),” his Billy Joe Shaver salute “Where Do You Want It” and covers of Merle Haggard’s “The Bottle Let Me Down and Jerry Reed’s “Amos Moses” (a tune I remember digging back in Nineteen Hundred and Seventy).

The award-winning man-about-strings Sam Bush runs through a litany of genres on his new Sugar Hill release Storyman. Bush co-wrote all of Storyman’s songs along with pals like Emmylou Harris, Jeff Black and the late, great Guy Clark.

On July 15, the epic vocalist Aaron Neville unveils his new CD, Apache, his first since 2013’s My True Story (Tell It Records/Kobalt Label Services), and it is said to showcase more of a grittier sound. Not only did Neville turn 75 earlier this year but 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of his hit “Tell It Like It Is.”

American Aquarium’s frontman BJ Barnham will be releasing a solo effort, Rockingham. This captivating set of personal, small-town stories recalls other Southern voices like Patterson Hood and Jason Isbell. Amy Klein, who left Titus Andronicus a couple years back, has put together her first solo full-length, Fire, which lives up to its name with a set of fiery folk-tinged rock tunes.


Amy Klein

Some years back I did a press bio for Riley Etheridge Jr. and was impressed with his songwriting skills. He puts them to the test on his new CD, Secret, Hope & Waiting, which is an unusual concept album. The song cycle tells a story from multiple points-of-view – something like the great Japanese film Rashomon I suppose. Andrew Leahey had quite a journey to complete his new album with his band the Homestead. Midway through the process he had to undergo surgery to remove a brain tumor, which happily was a successful operation. The Ken Coomer-produced CD, Skyline In Central Time, comes stocked with Heartland-style rock ‘n’ roll and will come out on Aug. 5.

Alabama rock & soul outfit St. Paul & The Broken Bones will unleash their sophomore effort Sea of Noise on Sept. 9. Their debut really blew me away so I’m looking forward to see what they have come up with now.  A bit more details on the Cass McCombs debut on Anti-. Entitled Mangy Love, it is scheduled for an Aug. 26 release and you can hear the first single here:

The excellent Americana quintet Della Mae will be on their road this summer, criss-crossing the country and hitting a number of festival. However, when this tour ends, they will be going a hiatus to concentrate on some solo projects, so keep an eye out for those.

Lastly, our thoughts go out to Gord Downie, his family and his bandmates in the Tragically Hip. Downie recently revealed that he has terminable brain cancer as well as announcing that his group will be releasing a new album on June 17 (Man Machine Poem) and doing one final Canadian tour this summer. The Hip are huge in their Canadian homeland. R.E.M. and Pearl Jam might be adequate musical mile markers. I have been wise to them for years because one of my younger bros is a big, long-time fan. If you don’t know of them, you should check them out. “Courage” is an obvious tune for this moment but I thought I’d go with this one

About Michael Berick

I am a longtime writer, and lover, of music and pop culture. I have written for Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, the LA Weekly, the San Francisco Chronicle, Cleveland Scene and more places (that I wouldn't take up more of your time mentioning now).
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