Monday, August 27, 2007

The last Manic Monday of August, people. Where did summer go?

What's new tomorrow:
The Blue Voodoo - Back To The Shack
Memphis Minnie - Early Rhythm & Blues From The Rare Legal Sessions
Various Artists - Boogie Woogie Blues

Lyle Lovett and His Large Band - It's Not Big It's Large
Loretta Lynn - Number 1's
Ralph Stanley - Essential Masters

John Stewart - California Bloodlines
Burl Ives - Songs From The Big Rock Candy Mountain
David Bromberg - David Bromberg - reissue
Leadbelly/Reverend Gary Davis - Good Morning Blues - Compilation

R & B:
James Brown - 20th Century Masters: The Millenium Collection
Ruth Brown - Late Date With Ruth Brown - reissue
The Jackson 5 - Number 1's

Toots & The Maytals - Light Your Light

Stephen Bishop - Red Cab To Manhattan - reissue - Yeah, he's the guy who gets his guitar smashed by John Belushi in Animal House!
Joe Cocker - Classic Cocker
Demon Dog Sperm - Hopeless - I don't think that band names can sink any lower than this.
The Dixie Dregs - Dregs
Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals - Lifeline
Dale Hawkins - Back Down To Louisiana
Horse The Band - Natural Death
Danny Kortchmar - Innuendo
Kenny Loggins - Celebrate Me Home/Nightwatch - a twofer reissue
Michael McDermott - Noise From Words - Sample this here. It's sort of Bruce Springsteen-ish.

Michael McDermott - Mess of Things

New Buffalo - Somewhere, Anywhere
Willie Nile - Beautiful Wreck Of The World
Procol Harem - Secrets Of The Hive: The Best Of Procol Harem
Queensryche - Sign Of The Times: The Best of Queensryche
The Young Rascals/The Rascals - a bunch of reissues/compilations
The Real Tuesday Weld - London Book Of The Dead
Ringo Starr - Photograph: The Very Best of Ringo Starr - compilation
The Subdudes - Street Symphony*
The Yardbirds - Live At B.B.King's Blues Club

Nat's Pick of the week

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Trolling the Underground: New Order July 17, 1989

I've never been a fan of dance music, especially the hyper-electronic nightclub stuff. While I can go see a blues show and dance myself to exhaustion, or join in with the fish-out-of-water- frolics that characterize a Grateful Dead audience, I just can't seem to move to music that has no other purpose than to be moved to. Perhaps it's that stronger purpose that makes New Order one of only two (with Yaz) electronica bands that I appreciate, although I still can't dance to them.

New Order is one of those enigmatic bands that can have songs I love and songs I hate on the same disc. It was in 1983 when I first went away to college and started listening to what the city kids were listening to that I discovered a beautifully haunting synth tune called Your Silent Face. I later learned that this is the perfect song to listen to while driving on a city expressway, like the Kennedy in Chicago, in the middle of the night when no one else is around. The peaceful yet sad melody complements the highway tunnels with the evenly spaced lights on each side in a way I can't describe, but can remember vividly 20+ years later. There were several other songs on that same album, called Power, Corruption, and Lies, that I like a lot as well.

On the other hand, I absolutely hated, and still hate, Blue Monday and it's B-side, The Beach. I don't care that it's the biggest selling single of the 80s. Those two songs just had nothing to say.

So as I began my little obsession with live recordings it became one of my goals to find a good sounding recording, preferably a soundboard, that had Your Silent Face and my other favorite, Temptation (which has a simple but wicked guitar line). As a bonus, I hoped to find one that had those two but not the two I hate. That's not too much to ask, is it?

Of course it is. They played Blue Monday a lot. And it seemed that this band like several others, were haunted by the spectre of poor quality bootlegs. It took a long time to find a soundboard recording at all, and even those weren't sounding too good. I finally found one that sounds pretty good a couple months ago that has both songs. It also has Blue Monday, but I don't dwell on that.

This is one time I can't delve deeply into the history, because I don't know much of it. While I appreciate this music a lot, I never felt a personal connection to the band like I have with Pink Floyd, the Dead and others. I do know that they came from the ashes of a punk band called Joy Division (I refuse to use the commonly applied term "post-punk", because it just sounds farooking stupid) which dissolved when one member committed suicide. Their sound became a bit bouncier and less gloomy as they chose a new direction as a new band.

I can say that I was very surprised listening to it, as their sound is far more layered in the studio than it is live. In fact, I initially thought that the recording was faulty, that I was missing a synthesizer or five. It isn't though, they simply keep their concerts honest by not playing a lot of taped stuff in order to emulate their studio sound. I realized that when I heard Your Silent Face and heard everything I expected to (albeit with much weaker bass than I'd like to hear).

This was recorded At Pine Knob Music Theater near Detroit Mi. on July 17, 1989.

Here's Your Silent Face (It ends a few notes early due to bad tracking on the maker's part)

Here's Temptation.

Did you dance?

The music doesn't stop here. Come see my Trolling the Underground tribute to jazz legend Max Roach at Under the Bridge.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Manic Monday

There's lots of good stuff coming out tomorrow! Oh, and I got the new Grace Potter (from last week's releases) and it's not blowing me away as much as Nothing But The Water did earlier this year.)

Now onto this week's releases:

James Cotton Blues Band - Pure Cotton*
Omar Kent Dykes/Jimmie Vaughn - On The Jimmy Reed Highway
The Insomniacs - Left Coast Blues
Rod Piazza - Thrillville

Rerelases of nearly the entire Garth Brooks catalog. You knew it was coming, even though he said they'd all be retired.
Patsy Cline - Signature - a compilation
Conway Twitty - #1's: The Warner Brothers Years

Loreena McKennitt - Nights from the Alhambra*

R & B:
Ruth Brown - 1954 - 1956
The Blues Brothers - The Definitive Blues Brothers Collection

Aiden - Conviction
Architecture in Helsinki - Places Like This
Blackfoot - Rattlesnake Rock 'n' Roll: The Best Of Blackfoot
Blue Cheer - What Doesn't Kill You
oe Bonamassa - Sloe Gin*
The Epoxies - My New World
Earlimart - Mentor Tormentor
Firefall - Greatest Hits - on Rhino Records
Love - Greatest Hits

MC5 - Greatest Hits* and some reissues
The Mekons - Natural
Mendoza Line - 30 Year Low
Minus The Bear - Planet Of Ice
The New Pornographers - Challengers*
Over The Rhine - Trumpet Child*
The Pietasters - All Day
The Queers - Day Late And A Dollar Short
The Rascals - Greatest Hits*
Rilo Kiley - Under The Blacklight - if you dig Jenny Lewis, you are a happy camper today.
Josh Ritter - Historical Conquest*
Mitch Ryder - Detroit -Memphis Experiment - reissue
The Waterboys - Book of Lightning* - I'm curious about this one. Loved this band.
*Nat's picks of the day, which she would buy if she had tons of entertainment bucks to spend.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Death Of The Album?

A music blog I visit often, Fingertips, also publishes a web site. A recent article caught my eye and captured my interest, since I'm all old and shit and I still buy albums (though in CD form.)

Read it here. It's quite an interesting and thoughtful view of the issue.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Trolling the Studio - The Lost Double Trouble Album

I've given myself a monumental task recently. I'm finally figuring out what's in my collection, and making a list, as I should have done long ago. Well, to be fair, I started long ago, but the project was dropped.

Then came a period when my old burner went through a slow decline. I was hesitant to replace it because I knew that the entire computer needed replacing, and was saving up for that. First, it stopped burning audio discs, but it would still burn data DVDs. Thus I was able to continue downloading things, listening to them on the computer, and storing them for later burning. And oh, I did that a lot.

So now that I'm needing a snow shovel to move the discs out of my way as I negotiate the hallway, it seems like a good time to figure out what's what. And boy, is there a lot of what. Enough to keep me writing these things for the rest of my life. I've found a lot of things I had forgotten downloading, and haven't listened to yet. So I'm sure you can understand how much fun I'm having discovering exactly what I've been sitting on.

While I've been doing this and the collection as a whole has been taking shape before me, I realized that my Trolling the Underground posts have yet to address an entire subsection of my collection. Thinking I should rectify it with a post, I soon realized that I had enough material in this subset to do a few posts. After a while, I saw a new series starting.

You see, a recording doesn't have to be live to be underground. It only has to be commercially unavailable. That opens a couple doors.

First, you have demo recordings. These are simple tapes that artists cobble together to play for the record companies prior to recording an album. It's their "sales pitch" to the label for that material, and everyone does them. These can vary from being almost identical to the finished product to being wildly different, which is when they are the most interesting. Sometimes they are even released, as in the case of Pete Townshend's "Scoop" collection, but not normally. They get out, though, either as the result of some insider action or else some mishap. I recently acquired a small selection of the demos from Peter Gabriel's first solo album that were found on a reel of tape in a box at the bottom of a stack of boxes in the bathroom of an unused warehouse. Imagine what other gems are sitting forgotten in ancient cardboard on rotting tape next to a leaky pipe. It's almost enough to make me run screaming into the night. We'll hear a lot of interesting demos as this new series develops.

Another form of underground studio recording is the "alternate take", which is frequently used as a special bonus on CD re-releases. These will come from the same sources, and be much more in depth than the bonus tracks.

There is a third category, though, that is much rarer. I have, so far, only three examples out of 1150 entries (and still counting). This is the unreleased album.

These are usually big news when the band is already established, and the legal battles can go on forever before we found out that the album was better left unreleased anyway (take that, Boston).This one, however, came about four years before Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble ended up releasing their first studio album, with a different lineup than the one that first recorded.

For this lineup Stevie had Jack Newhouse on bass, Chris Layton on drums, and Lou Ann Barton singing. Since the album was relatively short (remember, the album was recorded with vinyl in mind, the bootleg was made as a CD) it was matched with a 1979 concert tape of the same lineup, with a lot of the same songs. After that, Lou Ann Barton left to go solo, and Stevie began singing for the band. After one or two more personnel changes, they were heard at the Montreaux Jazz & Blues fest by James Taylor and David Bowie. After recording with both and declining to tour with Bowie (although you can hear them rehearse together here) Stevie finally got Texas Flood recorded and released, and the rest was history.

The bootleg's liner notes contain two stories regarding the boot's origin. To quote:

"The one and only surviving test pressing was recently discovered in a cupboard in South Austin, Texas where it had lain for the last 19 years, all other recordings of the project have been destroyed after alleged contractual disputes arose. These recording, notable for their raw energy and rare slide guitar work are essential for all true collectors. Also featuring four early arrangements of songs that later appeared on the Texas Flood album. Due to the brevity of the Nashville '78 session the producers have added a live soundboard recording featuring Lou Ann Barton and three tracks featuring Johnni Reno on saxophone."

Notes: The above paragraph is the supposed story behind this recording as told on the cd inlay. The real story is that the band didn't like the way the album turned out and paid a large sum of money to keep it from being released. As you would expect, someone got their hands on a copy and bootlegged it.

Well, the important thing is that I can haz it, right?

I'll share two songs for two different reasons. One is called Rude Mood, one of four songs that this album has in common with the Texas Flood album. It's for the fans of Stevie's instrumental style, and shows how it grew in the years between this recording and the one that was eventually released. The second is called I Wonder Why and has Lou Ann's vocals as well as that rare slide guitar mentioned above. What do you think, upon listening? Were they ready, or was keeping this under wraps a good move at the time? These are definitely two of the best tracks.

At any rate, I doubt any SRV fan would want to pass it up now. After all, there's only so much to be had, eh?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Manic Monday

Good lord, it's the middle of August. Let's see if the releases are as lazy as I feel right now. These are all out tomorrow.

Hillstomp - After Two But Before Five

Lightnin' Hopkins - Blue Lightnin' - reissue of a 1965 release

Sue Palmer and Her Motel Swing Orchestra - Sophisticated Ladies

Some label, Madacy, is releasing a ton of country artist compilations, including one with Johnny Cash and one with Kenny Rogers.

Lori McKenna - Unglamorous
Sam Baker - Mercy; Pretty World
Linda Thompson - Versatile Heart

Of course there's a Marley in release, by the same Madacy Special Products. Can't tell what's on it, but I'm guessing I Shot The Sheriff and Redemption Song might be included, ya think?

The Alley Cats - 1979-1982
The Blues Disciples - Under Construction
Eisley - Combinations
Enter The Haggis - Northampton
Giant Bear - Giant Bear
Great White - Back To The Rhythm (bonus tracks) - We need a bonus?
Haven - All For A Reason
Hot Flash Band - Hot Flash Band
Little Feat - Little Feat (A Mobile Fidelity rerelease. Must be fab quality!)
Matt Nathanson - Some Mad Hope
The Rentals - Last Little Life EP (I downloaded's fun)
Lee Rocker - Black Cat Bone - I need to hear this one.
George Thorogood & The Destroyers - Bad To The Bone - reissue with bonuses
The Yardbirds - Live At B.B. King's Blues Club
The Wildbirds - Golden Daze

British Baker's Dozen

Remember British music from the 80s? No? Well you might suck at this test then!

What follows is a 'baker's dozen' of lyrical excerpts from British-made pop music from that simultaneously glorious and inglorious decade, the 1980s.

Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to identify the song and the artist. The best of British luck to you:

18/08/07: Updated with the answers:

"With the money from her accident
She bought herself a mobile home
So at least she could get some enjoyment
Out of being alone"

Billy Bragg - 'Levi Stubbs' Tears' (from the album 'Talking with the Taxman about Poetry', 1986)... A typically affecting mix of the personal and the political, from our much-loved 'Bard of Barking'.

"People I see
Just remind me of mooing
Like a cow on the grass
And that’s not to say
That there’s anything wrong
With being a cow anyway"

The Teardrop Explodes - 'Elegant Chaos' (a bit of a rarity, but you can get it on the album 'Floored Genius - The Best of Julian Cope and the Teardrop Explodes 1979-1991)...

"Needles and sins, sins and needles
He's gasping for air
In the wishing well
Dust to rust, ashes on gashes"

Siouxsie and the Banshees - 'The Killing Jar' (from the album 'Peepshow', 1988)... Cracking single from the album the Banshees themselves consider their masterpiece.

"Don't tell me you don't know the difference
Between a lover and a fighter
With my pen and my electric typewriter
Even in a perfect world where everyone was equal
I'd still own the film rights and be working on the sequel"

Elvis Costello and the Attractions - 'Everyday I Write the Book' (from the album 'Punch the Clock', 1983)... This was about as sentimental as Elvis used to get back then, but the lyrics are still nice & caustic.

"I dreamt about you last night
And I fell out of bed twice
You can pin and mount me like a butterfly
But 'take me to the haven of your bed'
Was something that you never said"

The Smiths - 'Reel Around the Fountain' (from the album 'The Smiths', 1984)... The first song on the first album. A real life-changer for millions.

"Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque"

Prefab Sprout - 'The King of Rock'n'Roll' (from the album 'From Langley Park to Memphis', 1988)... 'The Sprout' sound a bit twee these days, but it's still a funny lyric.

"If I wait for just a second more,
I know I'll forget what I came here for,
My head was so full of things to say,
But as I open my lips all my words slip away
And anyway"

Yazoo - 'Nobody's Diary' (from the album 'You and Me Both', 1983)... Melancholy synth classic from the band fronted by Alison Moyet but masterminded by Vince Clarke - also of Depeche Mode and Erasure - and a certified genius of electronica. PS: Apparently this band was called 'Yaz' in the U.S.A.

"Unicorns and cannonballs,
Palaces and piers,
Trumpets, towers, and tenements,
Wide oceans full of tears"

The Waterboys - 'The Whole of the Moon' (from the album 'This is the Sea', 1985)... The Waterboys have two gears. One is quite downhome and 'fiddle-dee-dee' folky. And the other is 'The Big Music'. Like this. This song was so popular back when it was released that I recall becoming thoroughly sick of it - but I saw them a year or two ago and must admit that it's an incredibly rousing number when played live. Sample here.

"Ritual ideas relativety
Only buildings no people prophecy
Timeslide place to hide nudge reality
Foresight minds wide magic imagery"

Big Audio Dynamite - 'E=MC²' (from the album 'This is Big Audio Dynamite', 1985)... The band that Mick Jones formed after he was kicked out of The Clash was very progressive - and chronically underrated. This little beauty was one of the first chart songs to use samples to a large degree, while the lyrics contain a whole slew of allusions to the movies of Nicholas Roeg! (e.g. Walkabout, Performance, Don't Look Now, The Man Who Fell to Earth).

"He's walking where I'm afraid I don't know
I see the firemen jumping from the windows
There's panic and I hear somebody scream
He picks up his newspaper and puts it in my pocket
I'm trying very hard to keep my fingers clean
I can't remember tell me what's his name"

Madness - 'Michael Caine' (from the album 'Keep Moving', 1984)... Top pop song from 'the nutty boys', featuring the dulcet tones of the great man himself. Sample here.

"all the faces
all the voices blur
change to one face
change to one voice
prepare yourself for bed
the light seems bright
and glares on white walls"

The Cure - 'Charlotte Sometimes' (single, released 1981)... Nice and spooky, it's based on a children's novel of the same name.

"Somethings happening here today
A show of strength with your boy's brigade and,
I'm so happy and you're so kind
You want more money - of course I don't mind
To buy nuclear textbooks for atomic crimes
And the public gets what the public wants
But I want nothing this society's got"

The Jam - Going Underground (single released 1980)... A shouty, rabble-rousing classic.

"I've asked myself
How much do you
Commit yourself?"

Talk Talk - 'It's My Life' (from the album 'It's My Life', 1984)... This one was covered, quite faithfully, a few years back by No Doubt... but in place of a mighty synthesizer there was a bland guitar, and in place of Mark Hollis's huge voice there was just Gwen Stefani. So it was a fair bit shittier.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Why I Have A Love/Hate Relationship with

When the free-wheeling version of Napster bit the dust after the RIAA went full-bore against it, I was weary of downloading music. My son continued to use Kazaa and Limewire, but after all the horror stories of grannies getting sued for a few grand due to their grubby little grandkids' nasty download habits, when they themselves didn't even know how to turn their computers on, I laid down the law. There would be NO illegal downloading in my house. I found plenty of songs to download from the labels' own sites and artists' sites to keep me in new music for awhile.

Then I wanted more. I downloaded iTunes, even though I didn't own an iPod. I wasn't happy with the DRM situation or the 99-cent per song cost, so I checked other services and settled on emusic. For 15 bucks a month, I can download 65 songs, plus an additional free song every day. That works out to about 16 cents per song. My kind of deal. There's no DRM to deal with and the songs are fairly good quality (The average bit rate used for VBR on eMusic is 192k.) I can play the songs with any music player, and now that I have an iPod, I can load them in playlists with ease. (I do have a quibble with the iTunes organization, since it creates iTunes music folders, thereby creating two copies of every song file and filling up my drive. I hate Apple sometimes.) Emusic is loaded with music from indie bands or music from artists on small labels, so I love to sift through it all. That's what I love about it.

What do I hate? Well, let's say I'm browsing through the lists of artists and I spot "Chuck Berry." Cool! I can find some good old rock and roll! DING! Then I click his name and see what's available. At first glance it seems like a huge catalog. That's exciting. BUT. BIG BUT HERE. But the offerings, upon investigation, are often crappy-quality live recordings, and sometimes they are not the original artist at all. You really have to listen to clips before you download! I hate having to be wary of the music offered by such a big name in the download business.

So, I do love emusic most of the time. No, I can't download U2 or any other big-name bands. I can grab that stuff, if I want to, at iTunes or some other spot. But I do love finding little gems like The Pipettes, Chris Pureka, Bow Thayer & The Euphorians, or Moonbabies and feeling like I got them for a steal.