Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cover Me Impressed: 'Last Night I Dreamt...'

Each January, as the dust settles on all of the top albums lists for the year just completed, I inevitably discover a record or two I completely missed. Of course, that's the beauty of all these lists. The top candidate this time around is 'Epic' from singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten. It's a bare-bones seven-song affair that, although short, packs quite a punch. I have to thank Greg Kot from Sound Opinions for this one. I heard Van Etten's song "Save Yourself" on his mix tape of the year's best songs, and it really grabbed me.

Van Etten has covered "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me," the last single from the Smiths. The original can be found on the 1987 album 'Strangeways, Here We Come.' If you have heard the song before, you may have the same feeling I do. Boy, it takes a lot of guts to tackle this one. Surprisingly, quite a few have attempted this number, and a couple have succeeded. The Thrills, Eurythmics and Low are among the bands that have done a respectable job with this song, but I put Van Etten's version at the top of the list. She stays true to the Smiths' version, thankfully, and the pedal-steel guitar is a really nice touch.

Sharon Van Etten - Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me (mp3)

More Cover Me Impressed:
"They Don't Know"
"Everybody's Talkin'"
"What Goes On"
"There Is A Light That Never Goes Out"
Halloween Edition
"Porpoise Song"
"Prairie Rose"
"Come On Eileen"
"Walking On Thin Ice"
Jason Falkner Edition
"True Love Will Find You In The End"
"This Will Be Our Year"
"You're My Favorite Waste of Time"
"The End Of The World"
"(Don't Go Back To)Rockville"
"God Only Knows"
"And Your Bird Can Sing"
"So Sad About Us"
"Walking The Cow"

Thursday, January 27, 2011

First Listen From Upcoming Feelies LP

I apologize in advance for talking to death about the anticipated new release from the Feelies but, hey, it's been 20 years since this last occurred. So, bear with me. New details are out this week including, it seems, a change on the calendar. 'Here Before' was scheduled for a March 29 release, but the Feelies Facebook page now says April 12. The band's label, Bar/None Records, tells us we will be able to preorder the CD or vinyl with download card from them soon. The more exciting news of the day is Pitchfork got a hold of track two from the album. You can download it below. When listening, you will know doubt say to yourself, "yep, that's the Feelies." It doesn't sound like a moment has passed since
'Time For A Witness' back in 1991. I'm really looking forward to this one.
'Here Before' Tracklist
1. Nobody Knows
2. Should Be Gone (mp3)
3. Again Today
4. When You Know
5. Later On
6. Way Down
7. Morning Comes
8. Change Your Mind
9. Here Before
10. Time Is Right
11. Bluer Skies
12. On And On
13. So Far

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Curtain Call: Elvis Costello (11/21/87)

Back in November I wrote about a few of my favorite live shows from Elvis Costello, and they turned out to be among my most visited posts. So, I thought I would share a few more of his (in my opinion) top performances.

'Do The Rumba' is taken from a Japanese TV broadcast from Kosei Nenkin Hall in Tokyo. This is one of the few concerts I rank among his best that doesn't include the Attractions. If you aren't going to be backed by that great band, this is a pretty darn good replacement. The roster of the Confederates was a rotating one in 1986 and 1987, and it included a who's who of studio greats and old friends of Costello. Many of them appeared on his 1985 album 'King of America.' (That LP gets my vote as the second-best Costello album behind only 'Get Happy.) By November 1987, the band was James Burton on guitar, Jerry Scheff on bass, Jim Keltner on drums and Austin de Lone on keyboards. Although not an official member of the group, Nick Lowe sat in for this and a few other shows during this period.

The sound quality of this one is quite good, and many audiophiles believe it was taken straight from the soundboard. Among my favorite moments:

-- This is the first ever live performance of "Last Boat Leaving."
-- Costello covers the Bob Dylan classic "Tangled Up in Blue."
-- Costello is joined by Lowe on "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding?" Lowe, of course, wrote the song.
-- Among the band introductions, Costello tells the Japanese audience, "I don't know if you understand a word I'm sayin', but I hope you enjoyed it anyway."
-- As the Confederates break into "Lovable," Costello says, "We're supposed to be off the stage now, otherwise they chop our heads off, but so what? You only live once."

Speaking of "Lovable," on the CD copy I own, the song is listed as "Lavable." That's hot, I guess. Gotta love the Japanese.

1. (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes
2. That's How You Got Killed Before
3. Honey, Are You Straight Or Are You Blind?
4. Tangled Up In Blue/Brilliant Mistake (mp3)
5. Last Boat Leaving
6. (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding? (mp3)
7. I'll Wear It Proudly
8. Your Mind Is On Vacation/Your Funeral My Trial
9. Lovable (mp3)

Other Costello Shows in the Curtain Call Series:
April 12, 1979
Oct. 17, 1983
Sept. 22, 1994

Friday, January 21, 2011

Cover Me Impressed: "They Don't Know"

I professed my love for Tracey Ullman's music career right here back in '09, but I don't think I gave enough credit to the songwriter behind a couple of her biggest hits. Let's rectify that right now. The reason I have been thinking of Kirsty MacColl the past couple of weeks stems from my post about Big Country around New Year's Eve. You may not know MacColl was married to Big Country producer Steve Lillywhite, and that he popped the question backstage at the band's famous Dec. 31, 1983 concert.

A few years before that, 1979, to be exact, MacColl debuted with the single "They Don't Know," and it was a big radio hit in the United Kingdom. I must admit I didn't hear the song until long after Ullman made it a smash hit in 1983 (and '84 in America). MacColl's take is a little bit more raw, but other than the guitar solo I think Ullman was amazingly true to the original. Ullman's version was a coup for MacColl since, although MacColl's version was a big airplay hit, she sold very few copies due to a strike by distributors. Ullman recorded a few other very good MacColl songs during her brief singing career, including "Terry" and "You Broke My Heart in 17 Places."

As for MacColl, she is probably best known for taking the female lead on the Pogues' Christmas song "Fairytale of New York." She also had a pretty big hit with Billy Bragg's "A New England" in '85, and MacColl even wrote two extra verses for the song that Bragg often uses in his performances. There's a pretty good chance you have heard her pipes backing up bands like the Smiths and Talking Heads (see her in the video below).

Sadly, MacColl died under odd circumstances at the ridiculous age of 41. You can find out more about that at the Justice for Kirsty Campaign. In the meantime, let's enjoy her music.

Kirsty MacColl - They Don't Know (mp3)
Tracey Ullman - They Don't Know (mp3)

More Cover Me Impressed:
"Everybody's Talkin'"
"What Goes On"
"There Is A Light That Never Goes Out"
Halloween Edition
"Porpoise Song"
"Prairie Rose"
"Come On Eileen"
"Walking On Thin Ice"
Jason Falkner Edition
"True Love Will Find You In The End"
"This Will Be Our Year"
"You're My Favorite Waste of Time"
"The End Of The World"
"(Don't Go Back To)Rockville"
"God Only Knows"
"And Your Bird Can Sing"
"So Sad About Us"
"Walking The Cow"

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Updates on the Strokes and Feelies

A little more than a week after the date was set for the new Strokes album, David Fricke at Rolling Stone is able to start filling us in with a few more details. There are some great quotes from the band, and you should take a few moments to check it out. The band's fourth album is called 'Angles,' and the first single will be "Undercover of Darkness." Albert Hammond, Jr., adds that although they will be touring, "we want to come back strong but slowly, so we can grow live and also make new music. We want to release albums quicker." Good news, indeed. Speaking of live shows, we also learned today the Strokes will be playing Coachella this year. Check out the details here.

The Strokes - Trying Your Luck (live) (mp3)

As I mentioned back in November, the Feelies were working on their first new album since 1991. The vitals are in. 'Here Before' sees the light of day, thanks to the excellent Bar/None Records, on March 29. The band's PR folks add:

"...the new album touches on different styles from the Feelies' long history while adding new grooves and musical ideas to the mix. Electric and acoustic guitars melt together in archetypal Feelies fashion on songs like "Nobody Knows" and "Should be Gone." Elsewhere there are slabs of driving garage rock like "When You Know" and "Time Is Right" and the down-tempo "Bluer Skies," and harmonically rich "Later On." Here Before was recorded at Water Music in Hoboken, New Jersey, produced by Feelies founders Glenn Mercer and Bill Million. Besides Glenn on rhythm/lead guitar and lead vocals, and Bill on guitar and vocals, the album features Feelies mainstays Brenda Sauter (bass, vocals), Stanley Demeski (drums), and Dave Weckerman (percussion)."

'Here Before' Tracklist:
1. Nobody Knows
2. Should Be Gone
3. Again Today
4. When You Know
5. Later On
6. Way Down
7. Morning Comes
8. Change Your Mind
9. Here Before
10. Time Is Right
11. Bluer Skies
12. On And On
13. So Far

The Feelies - Egyptian Reggae (mp3)

Without Don There Is No Mel

Don Kirshner, perhaps best known as the host of the '70s and early '80s syndicated television show "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert," died earlier this week at the age of 76. I have to admit the best years of his program were a little bit before my time, but I have seen several clips from his program through the years, and I can attest to the impressive stable of stars he brought to America's living rooms, including (my favorites) the Police, Ramones, Sly and the Family Stone, Billy Preston, Lou Reed and Todd Rundgren.

Another reason why I have seen his name bandied about is because of my love for the Monkees, and he was a pivotal force behind that band's music. He brought together many of the best songwriters of the day, including Neil Diamond and the team of Boyce and Hart, to pen tunes for the group. Without the work of Kirshner, the Monkees's first two albums would have been much different.

If you have ever had the pleasure of witnessing Kirshner as host, you no doubt remember his wooden delivery made him seem like the least hip fella around rock and roll. This made him the perfect character to spoof, and nobody did it better (apologies to Paul Shaffer) than the incomparable Eugene Levy during his SCTV years. In fact, although I was quite young, I remember Levy as "Rockin'" Mel Slirrup on "Mel's Rock Pile" much more than Kirshner on "Rock Concert." If you get the chance, seek out Mel's "20th Anniversary Special" skit with guest Roy Orbison. You can find it pretty easily on YouTube. In the meantime, check out Dave Thomas as Richard Harris singing "MacArthur Park" from a 1981 episode of SCTV, as well as an introduction of the Ramones by the late Kirshner. Talk about hip to be square, and I mean that as a compliment.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Marr Ready to Spill the Beans on Smiths?

While looking for quotes from Johnny Marr on the Smiths' 'Unreleased Demos & Instrumentals, I came across an interesting set of posts from his Twitter account:

"I have been offered a book deal, a serious one. I'd get into it and that would mean less time on songs. It will happen though."

"It will be an autobiography of course, that or about my collection of fascinating public bus tickets from the '80's. That would be cool."

Last I heard, Marr was still playing with the Cribs, but it sounds like he may be taking a break from that and any other band he thought about joining in the near future. It would be great to get Marr's perspective on his years with the Smiths. So far, no member of the band -- not even Morrissey -- has penned an autobiography. It could be a real page turner.

Echo & the Bunnymen to Perform Early LPs

If you haven't checked out Echo & the Bunnymen's Facebook page lately, you have missed a magnificent piece of news. It reads:

"Echo & The Bunnymen will be taking the Crocs & HUH shows to the USA in May. More details to follow soon."

Yep, America is about to be treated to the band's first two albums -- 'Crocodiles' and 'Heaven Up Here' -- performed in their entirety. By all accounts, the UK shows they performed last month featuring the two albums back to back were a success, but I'm wondering if this is stretching the concept of performing albums a bit too far. I got into the spirit when Echo & the Bunnymen performed 'Ocean Rain' with an orchestra a while back because it's the band's masterpiece, but even that record probably has a moment (or two) that's probably not worth revisiting. Don't get me wrong... I really like Echo & the Bunnymen's 1980 and 1981 LPs, but performing them in this manner is only for a sliver of the band's U.S. fandom. OK, I vented. Truthfully, I'll be really happy if Seattle is one of their stops. Stay tuned for dates.

Echo & the Bunnymen - Crocodiles (mp3)
Echo & the Bunnymen - Heaven Up Here (mp3)

Update: 1/24/11
The dates are in and, yes, it's a bit disappointing. Congratulations if you're one of the winners.

May 9: Paradise Club -- Boston
May 11: 9:30 Club -- Washington, D.C.
May 12: Trocadero -- Philadelphia
May 13: Iriving Plaza -- New York
May 16: Phoenix Theatre -- Toronto
May 17: Vic Theatre -- Chicago
May 19: Warfield Theatre -- San Francisco
May 20: Red Rock Casino -- Las Vegas
May 21: Club Nokia Theatre -- Los Angeles
May 22: House of Blues -- Anaheim, Calif.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Demos Renew Love for the Smiths

If you were busy around the holidays, you may have missed an incredible post at just a few days before Christmas. A fan of the Smiths posted a bunch of demos from a mysterious double LP being called 'Unreleased Demos & Instrumentals.' The sound quality was OK, but another fan, this time at The Power of Independent Trucking, followed up a bit later with a much cleaner stereo version. This seems to be the definitive rip (of several offered online). Well, this 16-song collection has been my obsession for a couple of weeks now. So much so that I'm plunking down cash for the vinyl. You can find copies on eBay in the $20-$25 range. Here is a quick rundown:

'Unreleased Demos & Instrumentals' Tracklist
Side A
1. The Hand That Rocks The Cradle (Oct. 1983, John Porter monitor mix)
2. Reel Around The Fountain (July 1983, Troy Tate final mix)
3. Rusholme Ruffians (July 1984, John Porter first take)

Side B
1. The Queen Is Dead (original full-length unedited version)
2. Sheila Take A Bow (original full-length unedited version)
3. This Night Has Opened My Eyes (June 1984, unreleased studio recording)
4. Untitled One (Dec. 1984, Marr instrumental)

Side C
1. Ask (June 9, 1986, probable first-ever take)
2. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out (early take from Sept. 1985)
3. Is It Really So Strange? (June 1986, original unreleased studio recording)
4. Frankly, Mr. Shankly (Nov. 1985, Stephen Street "trumpets" recording)
5. Shoplifters Of The World Unite (Reprise) (Dec. 1986, instrumental)

Side D
1. Girlfriend In A Coma (Jan. 1987, early take)
2. Death Of A Disco Dancer (April 1987, first take)
3. Paint A Vulgar Picture (April 1987, early take)
4. Untitled Two (April 1987, Marr instrumental)

I'm sure you recognize just about every title above, but listening to these "new" versions has reminded me why this band was such a pivotal part of my youth. It has been so long since experiencing fresh Morrissey, Johnny Marr and Co., and this is a real treat. I'm especially enjoying the Marr instrumentals. They are listed as "untitled" on the sleeve, but I have seen the songs called "I Misses You" and "Heavy Track" in a few places. The other two songs I consider musts are the hard and raw take of "Rusholme Ruffians" and the trumpet-laden version of "Frankly Mr. Shankly." Give that one a quick listen below.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

OMD to Cross the Pond

Do you live in one of the lucky cities that will host synth gods Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark this March? Sigh. I would have to go all the way from Seattle to San Francisco to see these idols from my youth, and I doubt that's going to happen. OMD haven't toured America since the 1988 stadium tour with Depeche Mode. So, yes, it's a big deal. The band is promising an old-style show... just "band, audience and songs," and it will be a mix of old and new favorites. Here are a couple of cool ticket options. All shows are general admission.

VIP package, $150: Admittance to show, intimate soundcheck experience and a band meet and greet. Exclusive autographed 8x10 photo and exclusive T-shirt. Plus tour program and your choice of 'History of Modern' CD or 180-gram vinyl with digital download. Limited to 30 people per venue.

Gold Package, $100: Admittance to show and intimate soundcheck experience. Exclusive autographed 8x10 photo and exclusive T-shirt. Plus tour program and your choice of 'History of Modern' CD or 180-gram vinyl with digital download. Limited to 70 people per venue.

Here are the dates. Drum roll, please. Some tickets are on sale.

March 5: Toronto, Phoenix Concert Theatre
March 6: Montreal, Le National
March 7: Boston, Paradise Rock Club
March 8: New York, Webster Hall
March 10: Washington, D.C., 9:30 Club
March 12: Chicago, Park West
March 14: Atlanta, The Loft
March 16: Houston, House Of Blues
March 17-19: Austin, SXSW
March 20: Dallas, Granada Theatre
March 22: Denver, Bluebird Theater
March 23: Salt Lake City, Depot
March 25: Los Angeles, The Music Box
March 26: San Francisco, Mezzanine

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Best of This Week's New Releases

There are a few intriguing new releases this week. That includes the return of Tapes 'n Tapes as an indie band. 'Outside' can be purchased as a download on Amazon for $3.99. Reviews from the blogosphere have been lukewarm, but it's definitely worth four bucks. If you aren't sure about that, stream the whole album at Spinner. It has been a real roller coaster ride for the Minneapolis quartet. The very bloggers that built them up when they self released their debut five years ago have spent the past few years tearing them down. With 'Walk It Off,' it was somewhat justified, but I think 'Outside' is a nice return to form.

Tapes 'n Tapes - Freak Out (mp3)

Fans of British Sea Power won't be disappointed with their latest effort either. I can't say the same about the artwork, however. This is an early candidate for worst album cover of the year. 'Valhalla Dancehall' is a continuation of the more anthemic side the band that started with 'Do You Like Rock Music?' That's not usually my cup of tea, but these lads do it better than most. NME has a free download of a new British Sea Power song, and you can check this one out below:

British Sea Power - Living Is So Easy (mp3)

Finally, Wavves and Best Coast have teamed up again for a really exciting split 7" single that's also available on iTunes with stellar bonus tracks. The other bonus is the price. Here is the tracklist for the $2.99 EP. This is my pick of the week. If you want the vinyl, pick it up at one of their shows. They are touring North America together beginning next week.

'Summer Is Forever' Tracklist
1. Wavves - King of the Beach
2. Best Coast - Crazy for You
3. Wavves - Stained Glass (Won't You Let Me Into Your Heart)
4. Best Coast- When You Wake Up
5. No Joy - Hawaii

'Summer Is Forever' Tour 7" Tracklist
A. Best Coast – When You Wake Up
B. Wavves – Stained Glass (Won't You Let Me Into Your Heart)

Wavves - Stained Glass (Won't You Let Me Into Your Heart) by The FADER

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Date Set for New Strokes... For True

Did you catch Strokes' bassist Nikolai Fraiture on BBC Radio 1 the other day. If not, you may be pleased to know there is finally some concrete news out there about the new album. Fraiture said the still-unnamed record would be out in March (now verified as March 22), and he describes the band's fourth venture as "sonically... the album which should have been made between 'Room On Fire' and 'First Impressions Of Earth.'" He went on to say it's closer to the Strokes' "classic sound." Like many of you, I'm hoping for something more like 'This Is It." I still listen to that stellar debut quite often. Honestly, when was the last time you pulled out the second and third albums?

We know a few other tidbits about the upcoming 10-song LP. After the initial recordings with producer Joe Chiccarelli were abandoned, the fellas took control at guitarist Albert Hammond, Jr.'s studio. Based on the solo work of Hammond (especially his first album), this is a move that has me optimistic. The boys are in the mixing stage now, and the first single has been chosen. It should hit the airwaves next month, but Fraiture claims the song is still without a name. They may want to get on that soon. One more thing... and hopefully it's a joke. Yesterday, lead singer Julian Casablancas tweeted a picture with the words "Exclusive – check out the new Strokes album cover." I got this news today from NME, and you can see the photo here. Gulp.

Here are a couple of goodies to get you in the mood for one of the most anticipated releases of 2011. Cross your fingers.

The Strokes - Someday (Live in Iceland, 4/2/02) (mp3)
Albert Hammond, Jr. - 101 (Alternative Version) (mp3)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Santa Must Be an Audiophile

Happy New Year! How were your holidays? I must have been on Santa's (and Mrs. Linear Tracking Lives!') good list because I made a haul on the music front. Let's start with the "new" turntable I found under the tree. Mrs. LTL! knew my old Technics linear tracking turntable had been retired. So, she replaced my Technics SL-5 with the Technics SL-6. For you audiophiles, that's moving up from a belt drive to a direct one. Other than that, it's pretty much like taking a time machine back to 1983, and I love it. She also included a magazine ad for the turntable that she found on eBay. I'll be framing that and hanging it above my "vintage" stereo.

Now on to the music. I have written quite a bit about the new Orange Juice box set, 'Coals to Newcastle,' and Santa must have caught those posts because now I have it. I'm very impressed with Domino's job of assembling -- in my opinion -- the best reissue of 2010. Each of the seven discs are in a cardboard sleeve with (where applicable) the original artwork, and the whole set is bound in what looks and feels like a hardcover book. Nothing gets me more excited than when a band with almost an entire catalog of out-of-print albums gets this kind of reissue treatment. I cannot recommend this box set highly enough. Order now.

The rest of this musical Christmas was a tribute to my affection for all things Macca. My mother got me the three-disc DVD called 'The McCartney Years.' The first two discs consist of more than 40 music videos from "Maybe I'm Amazed" to "Fine Line," as well as several other extras. The third disc is all live performances, including Wings on their famous 'Rockshow' from 1976, 'Unplugged' from 1991 and a long set from Glastonbury in 2004. McCartney's Live Aid and Super Bowl appearances are here, too. I am pleasantly surprised at how many of Sir Paul's music videos are new to me. For example, I assumed I had seen every '80s-era clip, but one had, apparently, eluded me. "Waterfalls" is not only a beautiful song, but it is one of McCartney's best videos. Check it out below:

Speaking of "Waterfalls," my last gift is the underrated album 'McCartney II.' I have never owned it on vinyl before, but Mrs. LTL! took care of that in a big way. I got a still sealed original pressing of the LP that included the 7" single of "Coming Up." That's the live version that became much more well known than the studio version from the record. So, the big question now is whether I take it out of the plastic. Should I leave it sealed and keep it admire it as a collector's item, or do I open it and play the heck out of it (as it was meant to be)? It's a nice dilemma, I know. Now that's a merry Christmas. 'McCartney II' is out of print, but you can find copies here.