October Desk Clearing (part one?): Buck Owens To Frank Zappa

I wanted to share some of the music news that surfaced on my radar during October. Well, at least some of it. It got to the point that I needed just to wrap it up and ship it out. So, here you go…October saw Chuck Berry turn 90 and announce that he will be putting out his first album in nearly 40 years – Chuck – that Dualtone will release in 2017.


It has been a little over a decade since the Rolling Stones’ last studio album but that has been the longest stretch in their career. On Dec. 2, they will return with a new album Blue & Lonesome, which finds them covering old blues tunes by the likes of Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf and Willie Dixon. Neil Young, meanwhile, seems to be crankin’ out an album every six months. His next one, Peace Trail (Dec. 2, Reprise) reportedly favors acoustic numbers and features a rhythm section of drummer Jim Keltner and bassist Paul Bushnell.


John Cale’s 1992 live album Fragments of a Rainy Season is getting reissued courtesy of Double Six/Domino on vinyl, CD and as a digital download. It captures Cale on his 1992 solo tour and the song list covers a range of his song catalogue including “Paris 1919,” “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” “Chinese Envoy” and his memorable version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” There are also several previously unreleased outtakes, such as “Waiting For The Man.” Here is a new (and rather creepy) video Cale does for “Hallalujah”


October saw the opening of Paisley Park to the public. Visitors now can explore Prince’s music complex and see his recording and mixing studios, rehearsal rooms, a huge soundstage and concert hall – plus his private office which has not only one but three beds. NPG Records and Warner Bros. Records also announced that they will be putting out the first posthumous Prince releases. First is Prince 4Ever (Nov. 22), which will hold over three dozen of Prince’s biggest songs plus the previously unissued “Moonbeam Levels” (that was originally recorded in 1982). Next year will bring a deluxe reissue of Purple Rain, featuring a number of never-before-released material.


Duane Allman’s long out-of-print retrospective An Anthology came out at the end of October on Mercury/UMe. The 1972 double LP showcases Allman’s guitar genius over the course of a career-spanning 19 tracks, from his session work (like Wilson Pickett’s “Hey Jude” cover) to his classic songs (“Layla” and a live version of “Statesboro Blues). November 20, by the way, would have Allman’s 70th birthday.


UMe in conjunction with MCA Nashville, also reissued in October Steve Earle’s breakout debut Guitar Town in honor of its 30th anniversary. The two-disc set pairs a remastered version of the original album with a previously unreleased 19-song live concert performed at Chicago’s Park West in 1986 as part of the Guitar Town tour at the Park West in Chicago in 1986. Besides the 2-CD set, both Guitar Town and the live recording are out separately on vinyl. Here is Earle’s video for “Guitar Town.”

Earlier this year, Heal My Soul, an album of previously unreleased Jeff Healey recordings, came out and on Dec. 9 there will be another album (Holding On) that contains five rare studio tracks and 1999 live recording from Oslo, Norway that further reveals the majestic playing of late guitarist.


Getting its first proper US release on Nov. 18 (via MVD) is Man Of The World, a documentary that the BBC made a few years back on the legendary UK blues guitarist Peter Green. Green, who was Eric Clapton’s replacement in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, founded Fleetwood Mac, although he chose to not to attach his name to the band’s name (he apparently didn’t want the attention that would come with his name in the band’s name). If you know Fleetwood Mac’s early (pre-Lindsey Buckingham) music, then you know Green’s songs like “Albatross,” “Oh Well” and “Black Magic Woman” (yes, he wrote that song; it isn’ a Carlos Santana tune). The documentary also recalls the emotional troubles that not only Green had but also the other two Mac guitarists from that era: Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan.



Those you who like the latter day version of Fleetwood Mac will be interested in knowing that Rhino is putting out deluxe versions of Stevie Nicks’ first two solo albums, Bella Donna and The Wild Heart, on Nov. 4. Bella Donna will be a 3-disc set with one disc containing demos, alternative versions and soundtrack selections (“Blue Lamp” from Heavy Metal and “Sleeping Angel” from Fast Times At Ridgemont High) and another disc with 1981 concert recordings. The Wild Heart has a bonus disc that the B-side “Garbo,” “Violet And Blue” from the Against All Odds soundtrack and previously unreleased studio recordings.


There will be a pair of vinyl boxsets covering Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ 40-year career. Coming out first (Nov. 25) will be The Complete Studio Albums Volume 2 (1994-2014), which starts with Wildflowers and ends with Hypnotic Eye. Volume 1 (1976-1991), which curiously will be released second (Dec. 9) goes from their self-titled debut through Into the Great Wideout.


Hart Valley Drifters


You might not know the band The Hart Valley Drifters, but this early ‘60s group featured Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter and David Nelson, who later co-founded the New Riders of the Purple Sage. On Nov. 11, a recording that they did in 1962 on Stanford University’s KZSU radio station will be released. Beyond its future famous band members, the Hart Valley Drifters’ Folk Time is a very entertaining set of old-timey and bluegrass tunes.


Coming out Dec. 9 is London Fog 1966, a live recording that captures the Doors before they made it to the Whisky a Go Go and before they released their first album. This previously little known recording was made a young woman Nettie Peña who borrowed a ¼” reel-to-reel recorder that belonged to the LA United School District (her dad was a LAUSD teacher). The 7-song set holds a handful of covers – Big Joe Williams’ “Baby, Please Don’t Go”, Wilson Pickett’s “Don’t Fight It,” Little Richards’ “Lucille” and Muddy Waters’ “Rock Me” and “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man” – plus two originals (“Strange Days” and “You Make It Real.” This collector’s edition boxed set (Rhino/Bright Midnight Archives) includes both a CD and vinyl versions as well as a bunch of replica memorabilia.


A Frank Zappa Chicago concert recording will be released on Nov. 4. Chicago ’78 features a complete show of Zappa and the Mothers of Invention performing at Chicago’s Uptown Theatre in September of 1978. Because of technology limitations at that time, it was recorded on three different sources and all of the tapes were remastered for this released.  Here is a weird vintage Zappa clip of “Cosmic Debris” that just might be from 1972 and might be from the Petit Wazoo tour.

Zappa Records/Ume will also be releasing two other titles on Nov. 4. Meat Light is a three-disc set that has the original 1969 vinyl mix of Zappa’s classic Uncle Meat album, Zappa’s never-before-released original sequence and a bunch of unreleased rare alternate mixes, live performances, and studio session outtakes. Little Dots, which stands as a “sequel” to Imaginary Diseases that came out around a decade ago, contains more material from Zappa’s “Petit Wazoo” tour he did with a horn-oriented ensemble in 1972.  Zappa fans should also note that the Sony Pictures Classics’ feature documentary, Eat That Question, is out on Blu-ray, DVD and digital with all-new bonus features.


Omnivore Recordings is heading up to Bakersfield for two new compilations. Arriving Dec. 9 is Buck OwensThe Complete Capitol Singles, a 2-disc set that delivers 56 A- and B-side tunes. It holds hits like “Act Naturally,” “I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail,” “My Heart Skips A Beat,” “Together Again” and “Cryin’ Time,” along with some singles he did with Rose Maddox. Dec. 16 is the date for Guitar Pickin’ Man, an 18-song collection spotlighting Don Rich, the guitar whiz who lead of Owens’ Buckeroos band until his untimely death in 1972 from a motorcycle accident.

The DecemberistsThe Crane Wife’s will get a big deluxe reissue to celebrate its 10th anniversary. A limited edition vinyl boxset (due Dec. 9 on Capitol Records/Ume) will have 5 LPs. The original album will fill two LPs and the other three records are packed with b-sides, bonus tracks, unreleased outtakes, alternate versions and Meloy’s solo acoustic demos. There will also a Blu-Ray of a two-hour concert filmed live for NPR in 2006 at Washington, D.C.’s famed 9:30 Club.


The beginning of November brings some other interesting releases. Hip-hop pioneers A Tribe Called Quest will put out their first album since 1998 on Nov. 11 via Epic Records. The recording was done before before founding member Phife Dawg‘s death this past March. Another NYC music pioneer James Chance has re-formed his band The Contortions (as opposed to his other band James White and the Blacks) for the new CD The Flesh Is Week. Joining Chance is longtime Contortions lead guitarist Tomás Doncker, who also co-produced. It will come out on Doncker’s True Groove Records and offers new tunes plus the band takes on songs like Gil Scott Heron’s “Home Is Where The Hatred Is” and Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life”.

11/11 also is the release date for another slice of experimental rock. Body/Head – featuring ex-Sonic Youth bassist Kim Gordon and Northampton Wools guitarist Bill Nace – share their sophomore CD No Waves (Matador Records), which is a live recording done in 2014. Canada’s kings of Americana Blue Rodeo delivers their 14th album 1000 Arms on the 11th. I like both this song and its video.



I have a couple tips for non-CD gift buying. Two fine music-related books just were published. Pickers and Poets: The Ruthlessly Poetic Singer-Songwriters of Texas (Texas A&M University Press) offers essays on the state that might be home to more great troubadours than any other. Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Kris Kristofferson, Lyle Lovett, Hayes Carll, Rodney Crowell, Ray Wylie Hubbard and Robert Earl Keen are some of singer-songwriters profiled.

The Guitarist is the focus of the new book Play It Loud, An Epic History of the Style, Sound, and Revolution of the Electric Guitar. Les Paul, Billy Gibbons, Keith Richards, Jeff Beck, Peter Townshend, Jimmy Page, Steve Vai, Ted Nugent, Billie Joe Armstrong, Jack White, Dan Auerbach and Patti Smith are among those helping to tell the history of the electric guitar.







There is a curious new salute to David Bowie. Let All The Children Boogie is a 20-track tribute geared for young rock fans. This benefit  benefit for the  an LGBTQ youth charity organization It Gets Better mixes acts from the family music world (Justin Roberts & the Not Ready for Naptime Players: “Kooks,” Sonia de los Santos & Elena Moon Park: “The Man Who Sold the World,” Gustafer Yellowgold & the Pop Ups: “Space Oddity,” Elizabeth Mitchell & You Are My Flower featuring Simi Stone: “Changes” and Uncle Rock with Tracy Bonham: “Lady Stardust” with “adult” music acts (Antibalas: “Let’s Dance,” Rhett Miller: “Ziggy Stardust” and Ted Leo: “Heroes”) and some who have straddled both worlds (Walter Martin: “Breaking Glass” and Sally Timms & Jon Langford: “The Prettiest Star”). It does sound like one of the great albums that spans the generations. You can hear Leo’s Heroes over at Paste.com https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2016/10/premiere-ted-leos-cover-of-bowies-heroes-from-fort.html

Hopefully I will get to part two but I did want to mention one more thing. A couple posts ago, I mentioned the upcoming release of the “lost” album by Terry Dolan that was recorded in 1972. Well, there’s another “lost” album from 1972 coming out. In the early ’70s Jemima James worked at fabled Long View Studios in western Massachusetts. While there, she recorded some of her songs but nothing ever happened to them until now. Jemima James At Long View Farm is a lovely album that Team Love Records is putting out. James, who is the mother of singer/songwriter Willy Mason, will also have a CD of newly recorded tunes as well.


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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