Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pleas to Jason Falkner Answered

A few weeks ago I made a plea to Jason Falkner to release his last two import albums in America. Since then, a couple of amazing things have happened. The first is that the 2007 record 'I'm OK, You're OK' finally has a domestic release date of Feb. 6, 2010. Now, I gather from reading posts from other Falkner fans that this is far from his best record, but even an average Falkner record is better than just about anything out there. For once, I'm glad I waited for the domestic release date. For those who did buy the Japanese import, you may be interested to know the domestic version will have a completely new version of "This Time" and a new mix of "The Knew".

As for Falkner's 2009 Japanese import, 'All Quiet on the Noise Floor', I got a wonderful birthday surprise from Mrs. Linear Tracking Lives! a couple of weeks ago when she shelled out big bucks for it. First, let me just state that by getting the Japanese import this all but assures there will be a domestic release date for this one any day now. That's just the way it always works for me. Second, there is no way Falkner fans will feel any disappointment like they did with 'I'm OK, You're OK'. This record is one of his best. I would rank it just behind his solo debut. Here is one of my favorites from the record. I'm only going to keep this song up for a few days... so hurry.

Jason Falkner - My Home Is Not A House (mp3)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Holiday Gifts For You From NRBQ

Nothing gets me in the holiday mood quite like the music, and I have enough of it to fill just about anybody's Christmas wish list. Let's start the season with a quick listen to NRBQ's 'Christmas Wish (Deluxe Edition)'. This 2007 CD collects all of the band's holiday tunes from the 1986 'Christmas Wish: Mini-LP' from Rounder Records, as well as several live renditions of classics with that NRBQ touch. Now, to be honest, this is a fan's record. NRBQ's versions of "Christmas Time Is Here" and "Jingle Bells", for examples, couldn't really be played at family gatherings around the tree. Uncle George's eyebrows would surely raise in disapproval. There are, however, a couple of beautiful pop songs from their original Christmas record that would be appropriate for just about anybody's mix. Both of these were recorded in 1979. Enjoy!

NRBQ - Christmas Wish (mp3)
NRBQ - Jolly Old St. Nicholas (mp3)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wes Anderson Week: 'Fantastic Mr. Fox'

Note: I first published this on Oct. 25. I have brought this blog entry back because the film finally opened yesterday. Perhaps I can persuade you to see it. Happy Thanksgiving!

Welcome to Wes Anderson Week. Unless there is breaking news deemed more important, we will focus on music from Anderson's films. We begin with his upcoming release, 'Fantastic Mr. Fox'.

The movie will be out on Thanksgiving, and the soundtrack hits the stores Nov. 3. The film, based on a Roald Dahl book, is Anderson's first foray into animation. It stars the voices of Anderson regulars Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and Willem Defoe, as well as George Clooney and Meryl Streep. The biggest disappointment musically, for the second straight time, is the absence of Mark Mothersbaugh. Personally, I think this seems like a perfect project for the playful Mothersbaugh. In his place is Alexandre Desplat. This composer's film credentials are quite impressive. Recent movies include 'Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium', 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' and 'The Queen'.

The Rolling Stones make a brief appearance on the soundtrack, but that's it for the usual suspects. The Beach Boys are here a couple of times, as well as Jarvis Cocker of Pulp fame. For the young and young at heart, Burl Ives has three songs that first appeared on his 1974 album, 'Burl Ives Sings Little White Duck and Other Children's Favorites'. I'll bet that one was played a lot around the Anderson house when he was a kid. The collection is rounded out with songs by jazz pianist Art Tatum, The Wellingtons, The Bobby Fuller Four and Nancy Adams.

This is far from Anderson's strongest soundtrack but, based on the trailers below, I have a good feeling about this film. Although in a new genre, it still feels like old-school Anderson. His work has been, admittedly, pretty spotty since 'The Royal Tennenbaums', but I'm excited to see this one with my kids on Thanksgiving evening. By then both of them will know and love these songs.

Burl Ives - Fooba Wooba John (mp3)
Burl Ives - The Grey Goose (mp3)
Burl Ives - Buckeye Jim (mp3)
The Beach Boys - Heroes and Villains (mp3)
The Rolling Stones - Street Fighting Man (mp3)
The Bobby Fuller Four - Let Her Dance (mp3)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Live Tom Waits Tops New Releases

I don't think Tom Waits has released a live performance since the soundtrack to his concert film 'Big Time' hit the shelves more than 20 years ago. So, this week's release of 'Glitter and Doom Live' -- recorded on tour last year -- is especially exciting. One of the most intriguing ideas ever recorded is the nearly 36 minutes of spliced together stage banter called "Tom's Tales" that comes as a bonus disc. This makes the first disc of all music much easier to digest. Mostly because of the decade I grew up in, his '80s music (especially 'Swordfishtrombones' and 'Rain Dogs') is my favorite material. I'm sure that makes some fans cringe, but it made me so happy to hear this one first released in 1985. Buy it now.

Tom Waits - Singapore (mp3)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New Season of 'Spectacle'

Elvis Costello has made a spectacle of himself... again. He's been spending his evenings peddling the DVD for the first season of his acclaimed Sundance Channel show on programs like the 'Colbert Report' and 'Late Night With Jimmy Fallon (see below).

If you have never seen 'Spectacle', Costello interviews a musical artist or two before they perform each other's songs (or that of a shared influence) together. The shows are taped live either at the Apollo in Harlem or Masonic Theater in Toronto. For me, if the artist is someone I like, it's a must see. The best of last season included The Police, She & Him and Jenny Lewis. Costello has always been a fantastic guest on talk shows, but he really spread his wings when he filled in for David Letterman as host of 'The Late Show' back in 2003. It was only a matter of time before he became a master of ceremonies.

The second season of 'Spectacle' begins Dec. 9, and the seven-part series includes quite a roster of artists. The first show features Bono and The Edge from U2. Future shows I most want to see include Ron Sexsmith, Neko Case and Nick Lowe. Big names like Bruce Springsteen, Sheryl Crow and Lyle Lovett will be stopping by, too. For more info, click here, and check out Costello with Jenny Lewis and Zooey Deschanel of She & Him from last season.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Big Country Chronicles: 'Live at Barrowland 1983 (The Home Coming)'

Big Country's big sound made them a terrific live band. Thus, they recorded scores of live albums during its nearly two decades. The consensus among fans seems to be the best ones are 'Live Without the Aid of a Safety Net' from 1993, 'Come Up Screaming' from 2000, and this one, 'Live at Barrowland, 1983/84'. These concerts all have one thing in common: Each one was recorded on Big Country's home turf, Glasgow's famous Barrowland.

For me, the New Year's Eve 1983 show is my favorite live recording. Big Country was so hot at the time MTV aired it in its entirety, and the 'King Biscuit Flower Hour' broadcast it as well. The band had just returned home as heroes after three wildly successful months touring America. The general-admission, standing-room Barrowlands was packed to capacity with young Scots ready to celebrate the holiday. The lads ripped through four songs from 'The Crossing' and two new songs that would appear in '84 on the 'Wonderland' EP. Then the clock struck 12. In an absolute first for any any show I have seen, the band gave the stage to a bagpipe clan called the Dundonald & Dysart Pipe Band. It's a very Scottish moment, and the raucous rock-n-roll crowd absolutely ate it up, kilts and all. Big Country returns several minutes later to play several more songs, including all four singles from their debut album and a sweet rendition of the Motown classic "Tracks of My Tears".

Although I have owned the show on CD since King Biscuit released it in 1997, after the appearance on MTV, I didn't see the show again until I found it at a brilliant store called Video Beat. I have no idea if the music-video shop still exists, but I rented a VHS copy of the show in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago in early 1990. The next time I saw it was last week... some 20 years later. That's because this past September Track Records released a DVD/CD combo of the show (pictured above), and Mrs. Linear Tracking Lives! just bought it for my birthday. The import has a couple of extras as well, including extensive footage of a live show they did in 1982 at New York's Peppermint Lounge. They weren't quite as sharp as they would be a year later, but it's still fascinating, entertaining and a must for fans. You even get to see guitarist Bruce Watson take over lead vocals for a bit.

For your listening pleasure, I have four songs from the New Year's show. I have also included a short interview with Stuart Adamson that can be found at the end of the King Biscuit CD. Sadly, that is not included on the Track Records version. Check out a little video below, too. Believe it or not, this concludes Big Country Chronicles. For me, listening to every single, B-side, demo, BBC appearance and live album between 1982 and 1986 has been a real walk down memory lane. It really reminded me why this was my favorite band during those seminal early-teen years.

Big Country - Close Action (mp3) (Live at Barrowland 1983)
Big Country - Fields of Fire (mp3) (Live at Barrowland 1983)
Big Country - Harvest Home (mp3) (Live at Barrowland 1983)
Big Country - In A Big Country/Auld Lang Syne (mp3) (Live at Barrowland 1983)
Bonus: Interview with Stuart Adamson about concert

See Also:
Big Country Chronicles: 'Rarities IV'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Radio 1 Sessions'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Hold the Heart'
Big Country Chronicles: 'One Great Thing'
Big Country Chronicles: 'The Teacher'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Look Away'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Just a Shadow'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Where the Rose Is Sown'
Big Country Chronicles: 'East of Eden'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Wonderland'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Chance'
Big Country Chronicles: 'In A Big Country'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Fields of Fire'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Harvest Home'

Sunday, November 22, 2009

New Beach House Will Warm Our Winter

Congratulations to Baltimore-based duo Beach House. They have signed with Sub Pop, and their label debut and third album overall is set for a Jan. 26 release. Based on the first song Sub Pop has given us, 'Teen Dream' is more of that infectious dream pop we have come to expect from them. Buy it on CD, double LP or download. Sub Pop tells us the record will also come with a companion DVD featuring a video for each song on the album, each by a different director. Check out "Norway" below.

'Teen Dream' Tracklisting
1. Zebra
2. Silver Soul
3. Norway
4. Walk in the Park
5. Used to Be
6. Lover of Mine
7. Better Times
8. 10 Mile Stereo
9. Real Love
10. Take Care

Beach House - Norway (mp3)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pixies at Chicago's Aragon Ballroom: 11/19

I didn't get a chance to blog yesterday, but it was for a very good reason. Last Friday was my birthday, and I hit the jackpot. Mrs. Linear Tracking Lives! spoiled me rotten with a couple of discs I had been wanting (more on that next week), but the big gift was tickets to see Pixies perform 'Doolittle' at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago. The first of the three sold-out shows was last night, and that's why I didn't have time to blog. Pixies were great, but I was looking forward to the scheduled opener, too. It was supposed to be Bernard Sumner's new band, Bad Lieutenant, but they canceled last week. The crowd was overwhelmingly late thirty-somethings (and older), but there were a fair share of young whippersnappers, too. Funny thing is the tykes looked, dressed and acted just like I did 20 years ago. The important thing is the Pixies' legacy lives on.

The band opened with all but one of the 'Doolittle' B-sides, which I thought was a risky way to start the show. The bouncy "Dancing the Manta Ray" was the best of the bunch, and most of the crowd seemed a bit reserved during these more obscure numbers. The lighting was dark during these tunes, as if they were just warming up for the album. The band and crowd really came to life with the first chords of "Debaser". The stage was, finally, brightly lit, and there was a multimedia extravaganza occurring on a huge screen used as the backdrop. Kim Deal acted as master of ceremonies, explaining to the crowd where we were in the record and reminding us there was no way to skip a song like you might do at home.

They breezed through the first side of the record with favorites like "Wave of Mutilation", "Here Comes Your Man" and "Monkey Gone to Heaven". As the band played the "deep cuts", as Deal put it, I had one fleeting moment (during 'Silver") when I questioned whether every second of the record was worthy of this 20th anniversary party. It quickly passed. They just sounded too good. After "Gouge Away" and bows more accustomed to a Broadway performance, we were treated to the last of the B-sides, the UK Surf version of "Wave of Mutilation". Through the years, I have grown to love this slow version as much as the one that appears on "Doolittle". Other "hits" played during the two encores included "Gigantic", "Planet of Sound", "Dig For Fire" and, possibly my favorite moment of the night, "Where Is My Mind???". In my mind, it begged the question: How about a night of 'Surfer Rosa' and 'Come on Pilgrim' in their entirety?

Pixies - Debaser (mp3) (Live in Brussels 2009)
Pixies - Wave of Mutilation (mp3) (Live in Brussels 2009)

More Music, Video and News on Pixies From LTL!
Pixies Give Free 'Doolittle Live' EP
Today's Headlines: Spoon, Pixies, More
Pixies To Do 'Doolittle'

Sink Your Teeth Into New Vampire Weekend

The new album, 'Contra', is still set for a Jan. 12 release on XL Recordings. This song, "Cousins", is even better than the first tune we got our hands on, "Horchata". Do the pogo while you wait for the first great album of 2010!

Sorry folks. The powers that be have asked me to remove the mp3 for "Cousins".

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Producers: Langer and Winstanley

Nothing screams '80s like the production of Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley, but they have worked with quite a few bands outside of the decade as well. Just look at these names: Blur, Aztec Camera, Tim Finn, Suede, Hothouse Flowers, The Teardrop Explodes and Bush, just to name a few. To me, these are the B-listers when compared to the acts included in my mix below. These two would take a demo and work their overdub magic to create cheerful, sugary-sweet pop. As Elvis Costello said: "[They] certainly knew where the charts were but they also made great records. By 1983 they were pretty irresistible and unstoppable."

If you don't think they had the touch, just remember they even managed an American Top 10 hit for Madness. You'll never get me to believe there is another producer who could have accomplished that with those very English blokes! These two also helped Costello capture his first American Top 40 hit with the song below. And Dexy's Midnight Runners, against all odds, went all the way to No. 1 on this side of the pond, too. The rest of the songs below are just personal favorites of mine. What are the boys up to now? They just produced a new Madness album, 'The Liberty of Norton Folgate', to rave reviews.

They Might Be Giants - Hearing Aid (mp3)
Madness - Our House (mp3)
Elvis Costello & The Attractions - Everyday I Write the Book (mp3)
Dexy's Midnight Runners - Come On Eileen (mp3)
Morrissey - Our Frank (mp3)
Lloyd Cole & The Commotions - Minor Character (mp3)
David Bowie - Absolute Beginners (Full Length Version) (mp3)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Producers: Steve Lillywhite

Yesterday's mention of Steve Lillywhite got me thinking about all of the great names he has produced through the years... especially in the '80s. Siouxsie & the Banshees, Simple Minds, Marshall Crenshaw, Morrissey, Crowded House, World Party and Ultravox are just the tip of the iceberg. I think producers are a lot like sports referees. If you don't hear too much about them, they are probably doing a good job. It's tough to butt heads with rock-n-roll egos, but sometimes a producer sees art in a different way. This has happened a few times with Lillywhite, and there are a few bad stories floating around out there, but not too many when you consider his vast discography.

Crenshaw fans have been highly critical of Lillywhite's production on 'Field Day'. I admit the record has a muddier sound than Crenshaw's debut. Many have sought the 12" U.S. Remix of the 'Field Day' song "For Her Love" simply because it was not produced by Lillywhite. I have read interviews with Crenshaw that illustrate he liked the production, and so do I. In fact, it is my favorite Crenshaw album. A band that didn't like Lillywhite's work on their album was The La's. In fact, they disliked him so much they admitted to purposely playing poorly with hopes the record would not be released. It didn't work, and their debut LP was a big hit in the UK anyway. The La's spent many years afterward dissing the record, saying it was "like a snake with a broken back". The band's frontman vowed to never release anything else until the record was re-recorded. Ouch. The only other Lillywhite horror story I have heard about dealt with being fired by Dave Matthews Band. I could go into specifics, but since we are talking about DMB, who cares? Besides, there is just too much great music with the Lillywhite touch to realize these are isolated instances.

Besides the long list of bands I have listed above, here is a mix of others Lillywhite produced. It's quite impressive.

U2 - Two Hearts Beat As One (mp3)
XTC- Helicopter (mp3)
Peter Gabriel - Games Without Frontiers (mp3)
Talking Heads - (Nothing But) Flowers (mp3)
The La's - Timeless Melody (mp3)
Big Country - In A Big Country (mp3)
The Psychedelic Furs - Pretty in Pink (mp3)
She & Him - Why Do You Let Me Stay Here? (mp3)
The Rolling Stones - One Hit (To the Body) (12" Single) (mp3)
The Thompson Twins - In the Name of Love (mp3)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Big Country Chronicles: 'Rarities IV'

There are eight volumes to Big Country's 'Rarities' series, but this is the only one I have purchased. Volume IV contains 18 demos from 1982, including every song that later became 'The Crossing'. This is before they were ever signed to Mercury, and it is not a big leap to assume these versions got them their contract. The very clean-sounding demos were remastered by bassist Tony Butler, but it is plain to see -- based on these versions -- producer Steve Lillywhite did a fantastic job with 'The Crossing'. There are two versions of B-side "Heart and Soul" here, as well as two future songs from the 1984 'Wonderland' EP -- "Angle Park" and "The Crossing". There are also four songs that never appeared on any Big Country record... not even a B-side. It is obvious to these ears why they never made it beyond the demo stage. I really enjoy listening to these demos, but none of them surpass the final versions, making 'Rarities IV' a must for die-hard fans only.

Big Country - Close Action (demo) (mp3)
Big Country - Porrohman (demo) (mp3)
Big Country - Fields of Fire (demo) (mp3)

See Also:
Big Country Chronicles: 'Radio 1 Sessions'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Hold the Heart'
Big Country Chronicles: 'One Great Thing'
Big Country Chronicles: 'The Teacher'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Look Away'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Just a Shadow'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Where the Rose Is Sown'
Big Country Chronicles: 'East of Eden'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Wonderland'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Chance'
Big Country Chronicles: 'In A Big Country'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Fields of Fire'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Harvest Home'

Friday, November 13, 2009

Wondermints Look Through the Kaleidoscope

With the help of Rhino's 'Poptopia! Power Pop Classics' series, I discovered Wondermints in 1997. Their first single, "Proto-Pretty", absolutely blew me away, and I have snagged everything they have put out before and since then. The problem is the band rarely releases anything. Since 1996, they have only had four official full-length releases. For more than a decade, they have been busy backing Brian Wilson on stage and in the studio, but I wish we could have more Wondermints records. On Dec. 1, I'm kind of getting my wish. The songs on 'Kaleidoscopin': Exploring Prisms Of The Past' are not new. In fact, if you own the bootleg 'Mintsmania!', you already have most of these songs. This odds-'n-sods package collects a slew of demos, B-sides and other unreleased nuggets. No, this isn't new Wondermints, but I'll take what I can get.

'Kaleidoscopin' - Exploring Prisms Of The Past' Tracklist
1. And Penny Knows
2. Wondermints
3. No One's Girl
4. Gone
5. I Should Fall
6. Silly Place
7. Truth or Consequences
8. Galactic Patrol
9. Runnin' Thru The Nite
10. Reality Check
11. Invisible Paint
12. Mis’ry Train
13. She Knows
14. Playtex Aviary (revisited)
15. The Party
16. Austin Powers
17. You Need Love
18. Full Moon
19. Ski Party
20. Rejected X-mas messages

My Wondermints Fave Five
Wondermints - Proto-Pretty (mp3)
Wondermints - Tracy Hide (mp3)
Wondermints - Carnival of Souls (mp3)
Wondermints - Chris-Craft No. 10 (mp3)
Wondermints - Another Way (mp3)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Phoenix Perform on 'Sound Opinions'

One of the few joys of terrestrial radio is Chicago Public Radio's 'Sound Opinions'. Rock critics Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune and Jim DeRogatis of the Chicago Sun-Times claim to host the world's only rock-and-roll talk show. Each week they spin tunes, talk about the latest news, interview bands and even have their guests perform from time to time. The show is picked up by several other public radio stations around the country. So, check your local lineup. You can also listen to the mp3 stream or download the podcast. Click here for more info.

I bring this up because a couple of weeks ago (Oct. 23) the boys snagged Phoenix for a visit and performance. I admit that -- as a longtime fan -- the band's overexposer has been a bit irritating. In spite of larger venues and Cadillac commercials, I still love them. This intimate appearance is a real keeper. They play the two big hits from their latest, 'Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix', but they also cover Air's "Playground Love" (Do you get the feeling they wish this was their song?) and "One Time Too Many" from my favorite Phoenix album, 'It's Never Been Like That'. Give the show a listen.

Phoenix - 1901 (mp3) (from Sound Opinions)
Phoenix - Lisztomania (mp3) (from Sound Opinions)
Phoenix - Playground Love (mp3) (from Sound Opinions)
Phoenix - One Time Too Many (mp3) (from Sound Opinions)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pixies Give Free 'Doolittle Live' EP

You gotta love a band that gives their fans a free four-song download from their celebrated tour. As the Pixies continue the 20th anniversary of 'Doolittle' by playing the entire album on stage (B-sides and all), click here to get a taste of the Paris show performed last month. Here is the tracklist:

1. Dancing the Manta Ray
2. Monkey Gone to Heaven
3. Crackity Jones
4. Gouge Away

Monkey Gone to Heaven (mp3) (Live in Paris 2009)

Did you catch the Pixies performing "Here Comes Your Man" on 'The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien' last Friday? If not, see it now. They looked and sounded great.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Reissues and Releases: Pylon, Reed, Davies

Athens, Ga., has certainly produced a long list of legendary bands. One group that may not make your list but certainly should is Pylon. I didn't discover them until 1987 when I bought the soundtrack to the documentary 'Athens, Ga. - Inside/Out'. I went back and got the albums 'Gyrate' (1980) and 'Chomp' (1982). The band's mix of jangle pop and post punk were my kind of music at the time (still is!), and I practically wore these two records out. Pylon disbanded after these two gems. What I didn't realize until recently is that they reformed for a record in 1990. I have never heard it, but they disbanded again soon after its release. As the years have passed, I think the next generation of indie bands has embraced the band and cited Pylon as a major influence. With that in mind, the DFA label has reissued and expanded both of these great LPs. 'Gyrate Plus' has been out for a couple of years and, finally, 'Chomp More' hit the shelves a couple of weeks ago. Do yourself a favor and take a bite out of both of these records. It's time Pylon passes the cult rank and joins R.E.M. and B-52's as a legendary band... inside and out of Athens.

Pylon - Beep (mp3) (from Chomp)

I don't consider myself a big fan of Lou Reed. I'll give you a moment to gasp. All done? I love his years with Velvet Underground and a handful of his songs as a solo artist. For the past decade (or maybe two), his work has been downright bad. There is, however, one brief moment in his solo career that is stellar, and that album was reissued a couple of weeks ago. 'New Sensations', from 1984, is just about the only one of his records that brims with optimism. It's pure pop, and I love it. I have always wondered what die-hard Reed fans think of the record. It's so different from his other work. If you have shied away from his reords in the past, I think this is a good place to start.

Lou Reed - New Sensations (mp3)

On the new-release slate today, Ray Davies pulls out some of the best songs from the Kinks catalog and performs them with the 65-piece Crouch End Festival Chorus on 'The Kinks Choral Collection'. This could have been a big bore, but the songs are too good for that. My favorite Kinks song, 'Waterloo Sunset' is here, but the best moments on the record are from 'The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society', which comprises a huge portion of the LP. There are a few clunkers here, most notably, 'Celluloid Heroes', but aging Kinks fans will find these takes very interesting. In other Kinks news, Davis tells Billboard he has been in the studio with former members Mick Avory, Jim Rodford and Ian Gibbons. Ray's brother Dave, still recovering from a stroke, may also join in on the fun. In other words, we could get a new Kinks record for the first time since 1993. One more tidbit: Davies will perform Nov. 18 on CBS' 'The Late Show with David Letterman'. Set your DVRs!

Ray Davies - Village Green (mp3)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Big Country Chronicles: 'Radio 1 Sessions'

Big Country stopped by BBC Radio 1 twice before their debut album, 'The Crossing', was released. Both of these sessions were chronicled on this eight-song CD that was first released in 1994. It went out of print soon after, and it was reissued with a slightly different cover in 1998. It's, sadly, out of print again, but there are many copies floating around on reseller pages like Amazon and eBay. I just saw it on one of these sites for $1.94.

The first four songs were recorded on Aug. 12, 1982, almost a year before 'The Crossing'. At the time, the band's first single, "Harvest Home", had already modestly charted in the UK (No. 91), but most listeners probably didn't know about Stuart Adamson's new band. It's interesting that of the other three songs performed that day, only one -- "Close Action" -- appeared on 'The Crossing'. "Heart & Soul" showed up as a B-side, and "Angle Park" didn't make it to wax until 1984 on the 'Wonderland' EP.

The band's next Radio 1 appearance, on Feb. 9, 1983, showed a more polished band ready to conquer the world. Although 'The Crossing' wouldn't be released for several months, "Fields of Fire" was out as a single and racing up the charts. Oddly, the band didn't perform the song that day, but all four songs they played were from the debut album. They did "Close Action" again, as well as deep tracks "Inwards", "1000 Stars" and "Porrohman" (spelled "Porroh Man" on this disc). You can't get me to believe this collection isn't worth two bucks. The first two songs below are from the first session, and the second two are from the second session. Enjoy.

Big Country - Heart and Soul (mp3)
Big Country - Angle Park (mp3)
Big Country - Inwards (mp3)
Big Country - Close Action (mp3)

See Also:
Big Country Chronicles: 'Hold the Heart'
Big Country Chronicles: 'One Great Thing'
Big Country Chronicles: 'The Teacher'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Look Away'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Just a Shadow'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Where the Rose Is Sown'
Big Country Chronicles: 'East of Eden'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Wonderland'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Chance'
Big Country Chronicles: 'In A Big Country'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Fields of Fire'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Harvest Home'

Friday, November 6, 2009

First Listen: God Help the Girl's 'Stills'

I wrote a couple of weeks ago that Stuart Murdoch's God Help the Girl would be releasing an EP called 'Stills'. The record began as a 10" LP for members of God Help the Girl's subscription service. Now you can purchase the five songs on Amazon and iTunes as a digital download, and I highly recommend it. These are not throwaways, folks. I like them at least as much as the songs on the full-length record, and that's saying a lot since it's looking like the LP will make my year-end best list. I wouldn't mind getting my mitts on that 10" vinyl, too.

God Help the Girl - Stills (mp3)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Cover Me Impressed: 'God Only Knows'

It's no secret 'Pet Sounds' is my favorite album of all time. If you're going to cover any song from Brian Wilson's magnum opus, you had better have the goods. Here are four covers that, to varying degrees, successfully pay homage to this beautiful pop song.

In 1997, Elvis Costello performed this one live at the BBC with the Brodsky Quartet. The show, called 'A Case for Song', was released on DVD in 2007 and is still in print.

David Bowie's cover appeared on 'Tonight'. The 1984 album is generally considered one of his worst, and I won't argue. I thought the verse-to-verse build up and deep vocals were cool. I was only 13 when I got hooked on it. So, this could be a case of nostalgia. As is usually the case, I didn't like the sax.

Quite a few people have asked who covered "Let Your Love Flow" on that Toyota Prius commercial earlier this year. Well, Petra Haden was a vocalist and violinist in the underrated '90s band That Dog. Since then, she has been releasing these really interesting a capella pieces, including the entire 'The Who Sell Out' album. If you end up enjoying her cover of "God Only Knows", you will probably like all of her work. This song is available as a free download on her site.

The Langley Schools Music Project was a chorus of 60 children from a rural school in western Canada, circa 1976 and 1977. The music teacher there, Hans Fenger, used a simple two-track tape deck in the gym to record songs by the likes of The Beatles, Wings, The Beach Boys and David Bowie. Sometimes outsider music can be strange, creepy or just plain bad for the sake of being bad. I think the songs, culled from the two 12" LPs Fenger made for the kids and later released as a collection called 'Innocence & Despair', are full of charm and beauty.

The Beach Boys - God Only Knows (mp3)
Elvis Costello - God Only Knows (mp3)
David Bowie - God Only Knows (mp3)
Petra Haden - God Only Knows (mp3)
The Langley Schools Music Project - God Only Knows (mp3)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Plea to Jason Falkner

Since the release of the new, Jason Falkner-produced
Daniel Johnston record, I have been thinking a lot about one of my biggest power-pop heroes. Falkner has been in great bands like Jellyfish and The Grays, played with legends like Paul McCartney, Air and Beck and put out legendary solo albums like 'Presents Author Unknown'. So, why haven't I been able to purchase new music by him since the 'Bliss Descending' EP way back in 2004?

Falkner has actually had two full-length pop albums since then, 'I'm OK... You're OK' in 2007 and 'All Quiet on the Noise Floor' earlier this year, but both were released in Japan on Noise Recording Records. I have been waiting a loooong time for 'I'm OK... You're OK' to be released domestically, and we have been promised several times that it is about to come out. The last date we were given was early August 2009. When that date passed, we were told it would be out by the end of the year. Well, 2009 is rapidly coming to an end, and my patience is growing thin. As for 'All Quiet on the Noise Floor', Falkner has asked his American fans not to buy the Japanese import and wait for the domestic release. Record sales here, he argues, will help with the expense of touring the United States. Jason, I'm not sure I can wait years for this one. For those of you not familiar with his work, here's why. Listen to these gems. Then get in line like the rest of us.

Jason Falkner - I Live (mp3) (from Presents Author Unknown)
Jason Falkner - Holiday (mp3) (from Can You Still Feel?)
Jason Falkner - Eloquence (mp3) (from Everyone Says It's On)
Jason Falkner - The Neighbor (mp3) (from Bliss Descending)
Jason Falkner - Hurricane (mp3) (from I'm OK... You're OK)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Today's Headlines: Spoon, Pixies and More

There is word of not one, but two, new releases in early 2010 from Merge artists, and they are both doozies. Spoon got us a little bit excited over the summer with the release of the 'Got Nuffin' EP, and now the label has set a Jan. 26 date for the Austin band's full-length release. Here is the tracklist for their seventh LP, 'Transference':

1. Before Destruction
2. Is Love Forever?
3. The Mystery Zone
4. Who Makes Your Money
5. Written in Reverse
6. I Saw the Light
7. Trouble Comes Running
8. Goodnight Laura
9. Out Go the Lights
10. Got Nuffin
11. Nobody Gets Me But You

Spoon - Got Nuffin (mp3)

In slightly more exciting news for me, Shout Out Louds will release their third LP, 'Work', on Feb. 23. It's been more than two years since 'Our Ill Wills', and I have really missed these Swedish popsters. Here's a little 56-second look at making the album with producer Phil Ek (Modest Mouse, Fleet Foxes) in Seattle, and I'll include one of my favorites from their 2003 debut below:

Shout Out Louds - Very Loud (mp3)

There are a couple of exciting TV appearances this week. 'Austin City Limits' has been so good this season. The show is following up M. Ward's appearance last weekend with Elvis Costello this weekend. This looks to be a mostly country/folk/bluegrass session with new songs from 'Secret, Profane and Sugarcane'. Here's a look. On Friday, Pixies will be in Los Angeles for a few shows to mark the 20th anniversary of 'Doolittle'. They will stop by 'The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien' to perform "Here Comes Your Man". Set your DVRs now!

Pixies - Here Comes Your Man (Live in Brussels 10/14/09) (mp3)

I could write about a few new releases that came out today, but I have already done most of these to death already. I'll just give a quick rundown and one of my favorites from Dave Grohl and Co.:

Nirvana - Live at Reading
Nirvana - Bleach (Deluxe)
Foo Fighters - Greatest Hits
Julian Casablancas - Phrazes For the Young

Foo Fighters - Learn to Fly (mp3)

Finally, I have ascended to great heights to pass on info about the new one from Spiral Stairs. I hate AOL with all of my being, but I have to give the devil its due for premiering the second video from 'The Reel Feel' this week. Here's 'Cold Change'.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Big Country Chronicles: 'Hold the Heart'

This brings us to the 12th and last single in the Big Country Chronicles series. We have covered them all from 1982 through this one at the end of 1986. Unfortunately, this one isn't exactly going out with a bang.

For the first time since Big Country's first single,'Harvest Home', the band didn't break the Top 40 in the UK (peaked at No. 55). Obviously, it did nothing here in America. In fact, Big Country had not even charted a Top 100 single here since "Wonderland" in 1984 (No. 84). To be honest, I didn't even know until recently that "Hold the Heart" was ever a single. It is the only single in this five-year-period that I don't own. As far as I can tell, there was a 12" single, but it was the album version. That makes sense since the song already clocks in at more than six minutes. It would be 1988 before we would hear from the band again, but I never bought any Big Country album after the 'The Seer' in 1986.

So, the singles, B-sides and extended versions from 1982 to 1986 are complete, but that isn't quite the end of Big Country Chronicles. I have a few more nuggets from this time period that are well worth covering. Stay tuned.

Big Country - Hold the Heart (Album Version) (mp3)

See Also:
Big Country Chronicles: 'One Great Thing'
Big Country Chronicles: 'The Teacher'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Look Away'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Just a Shadow'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Where the Rose Is Sown'
Big Country Chronicles: 'East of Eden'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Wonderland'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Chance'
Big Country Chronicles: 'In A Big Country'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Fields of Fire'
Big Country Chronicles: 'Harvest Home'