Friday, September 30, 2011

Live Release From Elvis Costello in November

Other than a release date, details are sketchy, but Hip-O will put out a live Elvis Costello and the Imposters CD/DVD/vinyl "super deluxe edition" set called 'The Return Of The Spectacular Spinning Songbook' on Nov. 21. Older fans like me may remember his spinning wheel tour in support of the 'Blood and Chocolate' album back in 1986. Well, during his 2011 Revolver Tour, Costello brought back that idea on a larger scale, complete with a 16-foot wheel and 40 song titles. The shows have included go-go dancers and Costello depicting various characters, including a game-show host and stand-up comic. All of this should make for an interesting release, especially on DVD.

What I'm curious about is whether the CD and vinyl versions will be one complete show or highlights from the entire tour. There was a rumor the May 12, 2011 show from the Wiltern in Los Angeles was recorded for a future release. Is this 'The Return Of The Spectacular Spinning Songbook?' We'll have to wait a bit to find out. If you're curious about that show, here is the setlist. Highlights included appearances by the Bangles (Susanna Hoffs took the lead on "Tear Off Your Own Head (It's A Doll Revolution)") and a ton of covers including "Purple Rain," "And Your Bird Can Sing" and "Heart of the City." Check out some video from that show.

Elvis Costello and the Imposters
May 12, 2011
Los Angeles

1. I Hope You're Happy Now
2. Heart Of The City
3. Mystery Dance
4. Uncomplicated - including Shotgun
5. Radio, Radio
6. I Want You - including I Say A Little Prayer - spin 1
7. Monkey To Man - spin 2
8. God Give Me Strength - spin 3
Detectives vs. Hoover Factory - spin 4
9. Watching The Detectives
10. And Your Bird Can Sing - dedicated to wheel spinner Bird
11. Clubland - spin 5
12. Tear Off Your Own Head (It's A Doll Revolution) - sung by The Bangles
Girl Jackpot - spin 6
13. Girl - with The Bangles on backing vocals
14. Next Time 'Round - with The Bangles on backing vocals
15. Out Of Time
16. Everyday I Write The Book - spin 7
17. Stella Hurt - spin 8
Encore 1
18. A Slow Drag With Josephine - EC solo
19. Jimmie Standing In The Rain - EC solo, including Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?
20. Pump It Up in 6/8 / Busted - Elvis on piano, Steve on Hammond organ and Vox Continental
Encore 2
21. Wheels - spin 9
22. Earthbound - spin 10
23. So Like Candy / Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood - spin 11
24. Alison - including Tracks Of My Tears, Tears Of A Clown and No More Tearstained Make-Up
Encore 3
I Can Sing A Rainbow Jackpot - spin 12
25. (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes
26. Purple Rain
27. (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding? - including The Kids Are Alright

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hall-of-Fame Performances

With the nominations out, I was going to spend last night writing my annual rant against the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Baseball ended up trumping all of that. It was the best day for the sport... ever. I can't believe I was once against having the wild card. In 25 minutes I witnessed the Atlanta Braves complete the worst collapse in MLB history. It took less than a half hour for that record to be broken as the Boston Red Sox completed an even larger (and historic) choke job. Would they still have a chance to make the playoffs? NO! Less than three minutes later the Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria hits a walk-off homer to finish an improbable comeback from a 7-0 deficit to the Yankees.

All three of these games either went into extra innings or ended with a comeback in the bottom of the ninth. A couple of winning teams were down to their last out or even their last strike. The drama was without peer. It would be like watching the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament and seeing three buzzer beaters in a row. So, as the regular season ends, all is right in the world. I don't have to watch the hillbillies attempt to do the tomahawk chop in unison into October, the Red Sox are epic losers again and my Cubbies are reserving tee times.

I'm just too happy to be a curmudgeon today. I'll let this year's list of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's nominees speak for itself. I actually like a couple of the bands here, but I don't think any of them should make the cut. It would be like letting a Lee Smith or Fred McGriff into the Baseball Hall of Fame. They were good... but not good enough.

2012 Nominees -- Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Beastie Boys
The Cure
Eric B. & Rakim
Guns N’ Roses
Joan Jett and The Blackhearts
Freddie King
Laura Nyro
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Rufus with Chaka Khan
The Small Faces/The Faces
The Spinners
Donna Summer

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

R.E.M. Comp Could Be Better

OK, time to get on the soapbox. Just as R.E.M. calls it quits, the band's 40-song double disc 'Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage: 1982-2011' is announced with a Nov. 15 release date. This should be exciting. It marks the first time R.E.M. has ever had a best-of package that captures both their IRS and Warner Bros. material. Further, at least for uberfans, it's a big deal because of the three brand-new songs that will appear at the end of disc two. One of the songs, "We All Go Back to Where We Belong," will be released as a single on Oct. 18.

Here's the problem. For those of us who think their early indie output is far superior to the major-label material, we get screwed. Of the 40 songs, only 13 of them are from the IRS years. The songs from that period that were selected are all worthy of inclusion, but there should have been more. Why not divide the two labels by disc? For me, the biggest error was not including the single "Can't Get There From Here." If you honestly think that's asking too much, then please take a close look at the WB material on disc two. The second half of this compilation is very weak.

As for the addition of three new songs on a best-of package, I hate this marketing ploy. First of all, how can three songs nobody has ever heard be among the best songs the 31-year old band ever did? Obviously, the inclusion of these songs is to force R.E.M.'s biggest fans to buy a record they would not otherwise need. If you fall into this camp, do yourself a favor and listen before you buy. It is probably far better to spend $1.29 per song online for the ones worthy of purchase. I promise you a few years from now these three new songs will stick out like sore thumbs on this best-of package. They are taking up valuable space for fan favorites like "Drive" and "Can't Get There From Here. Please, record labels, don't put new songs on compilations like this. It's a lame cash grab. Preorder 'Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage: 1982-2011' here.

'Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage: 1982-2011' Tracklist
Disc 1
1. Gardening At Night
2. Radio Free Europe
3. Talk About The Passion
4. Sitting Still
5. So. Central Rain
6. (Don't Go Back To) Rockville
7. Driver 8
8. Life And How To Live It
9. Begin The Begin
10. Fall On Me
11. Finest Worksong
12. It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
13. The One I Love
14. Stand
15. Pop Song 89
16. Get Up
17. Orange Crush
18. Losing My Religion
19. Country Feedback
20. Shiny Happy People

Disc 2
1. The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite
2. Everybody Hurts
3. Man On The Moon
4. Nightswimming
5. What's The Frequency, Kenneth?
6. New Test Leper
7. Electrolite
8. At My Most Beautiful
9. The Great Beyond
10. Imitation Of Life
11. Bad Day
12. Leaving New York
13. Living Well Is The Best Revenge
14. Supernatural Superserious
15. ÜBerlin
16. Oh My Heart
17. Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter
18. A Month of Saturdays
19. We All Go Back To Where We Belong
20. Hallelujah

Monday, September 26, 2011

What I'm Diggin': Spectrals, Veronica Falls

A couple of UK bands from the Slumberland Records stable are holding the attention of these ears this week, and both of them have long-awaited debut albums that should catch the attention of the indie crowd. Like most Slumberland bands, Spectrals and Veronica Falls sound like they are from a bygone era and, yet, cutting edge at the same time. Check out the latest singles and videos below. The Spectrals album, 'Bad Penny,' will be out Oct. 25 here in America, and you can preorder it here. As for the self-titled album from Veronica Falls, it cam out last week. Get it here.

Spectrals - Get a Grip (mp3)
Veronica Falls - Bad Feeling (mp3)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Top 40 Albums of the 1980s (#20-#11)

Top 40 Albums of the 1980s (#40-#31)
Top 40 Albums of the 1980s (#30-#21)

20. 'Truth and Soul'


I was enamored with the second wave of ska (Madness, English Beat, the Specials) throughout most of the '80s. So, it wasn't much of a leap to listen to offshoots such as this mix of ska, funk and punk. Like on previous albums, there are classic party anthems... but quite a bit of "truth," too. Through the years, I liked quite a few songs by them, but this is the only album I can back from beginning to end. Get yourself one of their best-of packages and this one. You'll be all set.

19. 'Rio'

Duran Duran

I have an on-again, off-again relationship with Duran Duran. The first time I ever saw MTV, "Hungry Like the Wolf" was THE hit of the network. I saw (and heard) the song at least five times that day... and was hooked. By the time "The Reflex" took the channel hostage in the summer of '84, I hated them so much I couldn't even go back and listen to 'Rio.' It took a while to wait out duds like "Wild Boys," but I was back on board when "Notorious" came out in '86. You get the point. Through the decades, I have had quite a few happy moments with Duran Duran, but none have matched those first listens to 'Rio' back in 1982.

18. 'Easy Pieces'
Lloyd Cole and the Commotions
Lloyd Cole and the Commotions - Rich (mp3)

Many fans consider this album one of the band's weaker moments, but 'Easy Pieces' has always been my favorite in the Cole canon. The lyrics are at least as sharp as those found on 'Rattlesnakes,' and much more accessible. The music is more synthesizer driven and the production seems a little dated today, which I think turn off some, but I still love that sound to this day. There isn't really any reason to argue about which record is better. Outside of R.E.M, I can't think of a better freshman-sophomore effort during this decade.

17. 'Reckoning'


And speaking of R.E.M., here is that second album. As I write this, the band has announced it's disbanding, to which I replied to Mrs. LTL!, "I thought they were finished 25 years ago." That was a little harsh. There was a bright moment or two in the late '80s, but 'Reckoning' is the back end of what might be the greatest one-two punch in indie history. It opened me to a whole new genre. Without 'Reckoning' I may have never become a passionate follower of jangle pop. Perhaps I wouldn't have discover peers and predecessors like the Feelies, Let's Active, the dB's, Guadalcanal Diary and a slew of Athens bands. So, even though my feelings for R.E.M. went from love (the first four albums), to like (the rest of the I.R.S. catalog), to indifference (the first couple of major-label outings), to downright hate (everything after that), I will always be thankful for 'Reckoning.' It was an important moment in my musical growth.

16. 'Graceland'

Paul Simon

Admittedly, Paul Simon wasn't one of my favorites in 1986. I was full of teen angst, and punk rock filled my life. I couldn't stand "You Can Call Me Al." Obviously, that smash hit wasn't representative of the greatness of 'Graceland.' So, I'm glad I was converted in 2001. That's when I found Simon. Brian Wilson was opening for him that summer, and I wasn't going to miss a chance to see my favorite Beach Boy. So, I gave his new record, 'I'm the One,' a try. I liked it enough to get a best-of package and this album. I have never looked back. Simon has had quite a few good albums, and in my mind, his solo debut is right up there, but 'Graceland' is his high-water mark.

15. 'Let's Dance'

David Bowie

'Let's Dance' is the only appearance on this list by David Bowie, and I'm not doing this to shake feathers. It's true most of you out there hate Bowie's '80s output, but the one exception might be 'Scary Monsters' from 1980. If this list went to 50, it would have been here. Truth is, I'm an unapologetic fan of just about everything he has ever done, including the much-maligned 'Tonight' and 'Never Let Me Down' albums. I'm not going to critique 'Let's Dance' as too light and commercial. If it wasn't a hit, I may not have discovered it. I was only 12 years old when it came out, and this was my first taste of Bowie's work. That's part of the reason why I hold it in such high esteem. Now I have just about his entire discography, and I still consider 'Let's Dance' one of his best. Feel free to rip me now.

14. 'The Crossing'

Big Country
Big Country - Fields of Fire (mp3)

I have written so much about this band since the inception of this blog. There's not much more to say. They were my favorite band from this debut through 'The Seer' in 1986. I'm not sure if this album has aged well. Perhaps my bias makes me a poor judge. All I know is their distinct sound still fills me with joy to this day. These were heady times for the Scottish band, both critically and commercially, and I'm rooting for brighter days on the comeback trail, sans the late Stuart Adamson. C'mon lads, give us another album like this one.

13. 'Stands for Decibels'

The dB's
The dB's - Bad Reputation (mp3)

Through the years, the dB's have reached cult status, but this is my plea to elevate the band, and this album in particular, to classic status. If you're a fan of power pop or jangle pop and don't own this record, you have a large hole in your music collection that needs to be filled right now. While you're at it, get the followup, 'Repercussion,' too. Once Chris Stamey left the group (after these two albums), their sound changed... good, but different. The good news is, after all of these years, the original lineup is recording again. We should have a new album from them in 2012.

12. 'Marshall Crenshaw'

Marshall Crenshaw
Marshall Crenshaw - Brand New Lover (mp3)

I didn't discover Marshall Crenshaw until his second album. I was only 11 years old when his debut came out, after all, but I know the single "Someday, Someway" was a minor success, particularly on the East Coast, but the general consensus seems to be that he is a one-hit wonder. Wrong! When it comes to pop music, Crenshaw is an absolute genius. Artistically, I think he hit a rough patch in the late '80s and early '90s, but before and after that he has put together several overlooked albums that I hope some day, some way, will get their due.

11. 'Double Nickels on the Dime'

Minutemen - Viet Nam (mp3)

Looking back, it's shocking. MTV actually used to play the video for "This Ain't No Picnic." It's kind of embarrassing to admit, but that's how I discovered Minutemen and this album. D. Boon and Mike Watt became my heroes. I thought of San Pedro like New Romantics thought of London. The trio "jammed econo," from their less than flashy flannel to their less than three-minute songs. (It took 45 of them to tell the 'Double Nickels' story, however.) This album was my conduit to the punk-rock scene and, in particular, the SST label. Boon was missed, but I took a huge liking to Watt's next band, fIREHOSE, and that trio also had albums considered for this list.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Top 40 Albums of the 1980s (#30-#21)

Previous: Top 40 Albums of the 1980s (#40-#31)

30. 'In My Tribe'

10,000 Maniacs

Much like the Ocean Blue (at No. 39), 10,000 Maniacs only captured my heart for one album, but this one recording has not let me go for going on a quarter century now. 'In My Tribe' is also the answer to a regrettable Mr. Linear Tracking Lives! trivia question. What was the first compact disc I ever bought? Yes, this was the beginning of a brief diversion from vinyl. I still don't own this one on wax. Their cover of "Peace Train" is the only stumble in an otherwise perfect record, and I just learned the song was pulled from the album after its first pressing. I guess I shouldn't have bought it so soon after its release.

29. '16 Lovers Lane'

The Go-Betweens
The Go-Betweens - Love Goes On! (mp3)

I can't claim to have been enamoured by these Aussies during the "me decade." In fact, 'Liberty Belle & the Black Diamond Express' was the only album I owned by them in the '80s. My loss. Today, I would rank them among my all-time favorite bands, but that didn't happen, sadly, until about 10 years ago when the band reformed after a break that had spanned all of the '90s. I was really digging their new stuff. So, I went back into their catalog and realized I had missed several great albums... like this one.

28. 'Rattlesnakes'

Lloyd Cole and the Commotions
Lloyd Cole and the Commotions - Forest Fire (mp3)

By most accounts, this, their debut album, is the Scottish band's best. Mmmm, so close. There is one I liked better, but 'Rattlesnakes' is a damn good way to be introduced to these guys. You probably know "Perfect Skin," "Forest Fire" and "Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?" from best-of packages, but this is the kind of record you can put on and have a seat until it's time to turn over the record.

27. 'Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti'


Squeeze had an incredible run of pop albums prior to the band's breakup in 1982. And, yes, I did consider 'East Side Story' for this list. It's a great record, to be sure, but 'Cosi' is, by far, my most listened to Squeeze album. This one doesn't sound much like the Squeeze everyone knows and loves. It's a dark and moody affair sans those three-minute hand-clapping singles that made them popular. So, I get why this is the forgotten record of their discography, but its atmosphere is exactly why it makes for such a wonderful and complete album. I think a large amount of credit should go to Jools Holland, a master of the keyboard that returned to the band for a moment and quickly left again.

26. 'Let It Be'

The Replacements
The Replacements - Unsatisfied (mp3)

If you're into these guys, you know their first two albums were loud, fast, sloppy and a hell of a good time. This is where the Minneapolis band begins to grow up just a bit. The immediate result was critical praise. In the long term, 'Let It Be' got major labels talking and negotiating. 'Let It Be' almost always makes a list like this. So, there should be no surprise here.

25. 'Brian Wilson'

Brian Wilson

When I first listened to this record, I thought it was a miracle. Brian was back! Unfortunately, it was released at exactly the same time his old band was all over the radio with the dreadful "Kokomo." I couldn't believe the luck. There was this great album out there nobody was paying attention to because of that stupid single. Wilson had been out of the spotlight for many years and hadn't kept up with advances in the studio. That's best illustrated by the electronic drums used here that must have seemed cutting edge to him but had lost its luster at least a few year earlier. If you look past that and the '80s production, the songs themseves are quite good. I have seen Wilson perform many times since he returned to the stage 12 years ago. I wish he would play more songs from this forgotten album.

24. 'Steeltown'

Big Country
Big Country - Just a Shadow (mp3)

If you aren't a fan, you might not understand this one, but Big Country was my favorite band in 1983 and 1984. Buying 'Steeltown' was one of those moments I will never forget. I know the day of the week, where I picked it up, how many copies there were, who I was with and how much I paid. I couldn't sleep the night before. 'Steeltown' is full of passionate anthems that used to, it seemed, fill every inch of my childhood bedroom. My favorites were (and still are) "Just a Shadow" and (back to back) "Where the Rose Is Shown" with "Come Back to Me." In this country the band will always be known for 'The Crossing,' bit I will never argue with anyone who says this was their best.

23. 'Meat Is Murder'

The Smiths

There are those who think this album was annoying and a big disappointment. If you have read Rob Sheffield's 'Talking to Girls About Duran Duran,' then you know the writer spent much of an entire chapter hammering this point. I don't agree. This is the band's second-best album. If you find Morrissey's political stances grating, which seems to be the biggest complaint about 'Meat is Murder,' I don't see how you can be a fan. I'm not on the singer's side of the aisle very often, but I love the way he presents his case. And Johnny Marr's guitar didn't sound like anything else I was listening to in the mid-'80s. It wouldn't be long before those irked fans would come running back. More on that a little later in the countdown.

22. 'King of America'

The Costello Show

I thought this album was doomed. Coming off the dismal 'Goodbye Cruel World' (c'mon, even Elvis Costello thought so), the news was the Attractions would only be on one track of 'King of America.' When I heard names like T-Bone Burnett, James Burton, Jim Keltner and Mitchell Froom were backing him, it was met with an indifferent shrug. Hey, I was just a lad. I didn't know these guys were legends. The result, of course, was a terrific piece of Americana worthy of being in the "best-work" conversation. In fact, I would say this was his last flawless record.

21. 'Listen Like Thieves'


Prior to 1985, I liked a handful of the band's songs, but I had never gotten into one of their albums like this one. For about a year there I was all INXS all the time, but it didn't last. I thought the followup, 'Kick,' was pretty good -- I even saw them on that tour -- but that was it for me. If you like this record as much as I do, I highly recommend this live album from the period. It was released earlier this year.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Free Downloads From Nick Lowe

Nick Lowe and his label, Yep Roc, are celebrating his new album, 'The Old Magic' in a couple of spectacular ways. You can stream the record in its entirety here. They are also giving away a couple of songs for the price of an email address. Get the brand-new "House for Sale," as well as an acoustic version of "What's So Funny ('Bout Peace Love and Understanding)" from the widget below. Of course, the best thing to do would be to buy 'The Old Magic.' You can get it from Amazon now for under 10 bucks. I'm picking up a copy from my local shop this weekend.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Top 40 Albums of the 1980s (#40-#31)

40. 'The Ocean Blue'

The Ocean Blue

I have never owned another album by this Hershey, Penn., band, but I still pop in this cassette (yep, tape) quite often when I'm in the car. It's a beautiful blend of new wave and jangle pop. I saw them open for the Mighty Lemon Drops in 1990. Most of the crowd was there for the headliners, and they were great, but I bought the ticket to see these guys.

39. 'Oranges and Lemons'


I had just about given up on them. I was way into XTC's early, more spastic work, but by the time 'Skylarking' arrived, outside of a handful of singles, I had grown tired of their maturation. Then this perfect piece of pop exploded on, of all places, MTV. The singles "Mayor of Simpleton" and "King for a Day" were good, but so were the deep cuts. This is, arguably, the band's strongest overall album.

38. 'Crazy Rhythms'

The Feelies
The Feelies - The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness (mp3)

So Velvet Underground. So New York. So nerdy but cool at the same time. Sort of like Big Star, this is one of those bands that had little commercial success, but all of the right people heard them and went on to form great bands the kids did discover. The Feelies have yet to make a bad album, including one really good one earlier this year, but 'Crazy Rhythms' is the record that will (and should) place them in the music-history books.

37. 'Zenyatta Mondatta'

The Police

I didn't realize until very recently that a great many Police fans think this is the band's weakest moment... an absolute throwaway record. Shocking. Clearly, I'm not with the majority. I like their entire discography, but I think, from beginning to end, this is the trio's best LP.

36. 'Big World'

Joe Jackson
Joe Jackson - Right and Wrong (mp3)

He really is the man. Joe Jackson can do it all, be it classical, jazz, film score or, of course, rock 'n' roll. This time around, he recorded a live three-sided album of brand-new material and asked the crowd to keep quiet. The result is as spontaneous as a live show can be, but the sound quality is that of a studio recording. It was even mixed on the spot. He does his usual genre hopping, and the lyrics are razor sharp, especially on "Right and Wrong" and "The Jet Set." Jackson was prolific this decade, and many of his albums were considered for this list, but 'Big World' came out on top.

35. 'Learning to Crawl'

The Pretenders

What a singles juggernaut. "Back on the Chain Gang," "2000 Miles," "My City Was Gone," "Middle of the Road," "Show Me" and "Thin Line Between Love and Hate" were all here. Even after seeing this impressive tracklist, I still believe this isn't the band's best album of the decade. See you a little later, Chrissie.

34. 'Speaking in Tongues'

Talking Heads

I know I'm going to get ripped, but this will be the only appearance by the Talking Heads. What? Where is 'Remain in Light,' right? Well, I'll tell you. Their first two albums are among my all-time favorites. This one is a distant third. Outside of two stellar live albums, that's about it for me and Talking Heads. Besides, I'll take "This Must Be the Place" and "Burning Down the House" over "Once in a Lifetime" and "Crosseyed and Painless" any day. So, suck it.

33. 'Suburban Voodoo'

Paul Carrack
Paul Carrack - What a Way to Go (mp3)

This was a prolific period for Paul Carrack. Just prior to this stellar solo album, he was briefly a member of Squeeze and sang lead on their biggest hit, "Tempted." In '82 (and a few years more), Carrack joined up with Nick Lowe and formed the band Noise to Go and, later, Nick Lowe & His Cowboy Outfit. They recorded some great albums, including one with Lowe's wife Carlene Carter that was seriously considered for the list, but I think this one was their best moment (by a whisker).

32. 'I Just Can't Stop It'

The English Beat
The English Beat - Two Swords (mp3)

Wow, what a debut! Almost all of my favorite ska albums missed the list because they were released in 1979, but here's one that just made it. The band's last album, 'Special Beat Service' from 1982, almost made the cut, too, and it would definately make my "Best Side Ones" list (if I had one). I was listening to this on cassette when I totaled my first car (Volkswagen Scirocco). Yet, I can still see past that incident and say this was one of my favorite records from my youth.

31. 'Ocean Rain'

Echo & the Bunnymen

Ian McCulloch and the lads were joined by a 35-piece orchestra for a lush album pretty far removed from the post-punk sound of their previous three records. At the time of its release, most of the big music mags gave it lukewarm reviews. I didn't care. After hearing "The Killing Moon," I knew I had to have 'Ocean Rain.' As a kid, I was really only into the band's singles. It wasn't until I grew up a bit that I discovered how great this album was. I wonder if any of those reviewers ever came around to its charms.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Much Too Late for Julian Lennon?

Thirteen years between albums is more than a sabbatical, to be sure, but I, for one, hope Julian Lennon's upcoming LP, 'Everything Changes,' is a smashing success. It will be out Oct. 3. In the meantime, beginning this week, you can download the first single, "Lookin' 4 Luv," at the UK versions of iTunes and Amazon. No word yet on what's up here in America, but the album is available to preorder as an import here. "Lookin' 4 Luv" debuted on a BBC Radio 2 show last month, and someone had the good sense to snag and post it on YouTube. It kind of has a "Valotte" vibe. Give it a listen below.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Christmas Comes Early...

Oct. 25, to be exact. Today, Merge Records announced the details of 'A Very She & Him Christmas,' including the pre-Halloween release date. Here's what we know so far: The records is "inspired by seminal holiday albums by the likes of The Carpenters, Vince Guaraldi, The Beach Boys, Elvis Presley and more." We shouldn't expect a "wall of sound" like on She & Him's earlier work. In fact, some of the songs are just acoustic guitar and voice. I have to admit, I think the sound of their first two albums would be perfect for a holiday record, but I'm open to the new approach, too. You can already preorder here.

As you'll see from the tracklist below, the duo covers the Beach Boys' "Little Saint Nick." That reminded me of a beautiful stripped-down take of "Wouldn't It Be Nice" M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel did live at the LA Times Wine Festival. Like on their last album, "Volume 2," it looks like they have decided to cover NRBQ again, too. It's too early to get in the holiday mood, but I hope these two songs get you ready to buy 'A Very She & Him Christmas.' Scroll to the bottom for a few fun video nuggets on the subject as well.

She & Him - Wouldn't It Be Nice (Live) (mp3)
NRBQ - Christmas Wish (mp3)

'A Very She & Him Christmas' Tracklist
1. The Christmas Waltz
2. Christmas Day
3. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
4. I'll Be Home for Christmas
5. Christmas Wish
6. Sleigh Ride
7. Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
8. Silver Bells
9. Baby, It's Cold Outside
10. Blue Christmas
11. Little Saint Nick
12. The Christmas Song

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Will the La's Ever Record Again?

I don't know if you noticed, but Lee Mavers and Gary Murphy of the Liverpool power-pop outfit the La's reformed earlier this summer for a handful of acoustic shows. Now, there's news straight from the La's official Twitter page that they will play as a full band later this year. All of this, of course, will be an ocean away from America, but that's OK. I'll take a new record over a concert any day of the week. C'mon, lads, make it happen. It's been more than 20 years since that one lone brilliant album. If you don't have it, I recommend the self-titled deluxe edition.

The La's - Timeless Melody (mp3)

Free Download From OMD's Live LP

As I mentioned at the beginning of the summer, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark's 'History of Modern Tour: Live In Berlin' would be available on the band's Web site in August. You can still order it there, but I learned today you will also be able to get it on Amazon as an import starting next week. It's a pricey little affair, about $45, but a very well-done hardcover box set. It's a double disc of OMD's greatest singles that spans their entire three-decade career, as well as a book with exclusive pictures and handwritten notes from the 2010 tour. For the impressive tracklist, check out my post from June. We've been able to stream the live version of "History of Modern (part 1)" for a few months now, but now 100% Records has given us another listen. Download "Messages," one of OMD's earliest and catchiest singles, below. It sure is good to be an OMD fan right now. I, for one, plan to catch them live, too. Check out their North American tour dates here.

FREE DOWNLOAD: OMD - Messages (Live in Berlin) by 100% Records

History of Modern (part I) - Taken from 'OMD Live in Berlin' by 100% Records

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

It Was ** Years Ago Today...

If you think I'm giving the year, you're nuts. A huge happy birthday to Mrs. Linear Tracking Lives! She's in Europe on business (ooh, sounds so adult) right now. So, here's a little gift for her. Hopefully, there's wi-fi access on the Chunnel. If so, she can enjoy this video mix of some of her favorite songs. Hope you're havng a great day.

'Our Prayer' Answered: 'SMiLE' Details

The countdown is on. On Nov. 1, the Beach Boys' 1966-67 'SMiLE' sessions will be released in numerous formats, including a box set of five discs, two LPs, two 7" singles and a digital copy. For those of you less obsessed with Brian Wilson's lost album, you can also purchase 'SMiLE' as a double disc, double-vinyl LP or digital download. There are so many details and other extras... it's enough to make your head explode... but you can find the two-disc set/digital download tracklist below. The rest of the tracklistings, as well as info on T-shirts, lithographs and other goodies can be found here. These recordings contain so much more than my bootlegs or the well-done 'Good Vibrations' box set ever did. In case anyone needs to know, my birthday happens to be 12 days after all of this comes out.

'SMiLE' Sessions
CD 1: 'SMiLE'
1. Our Prayer (1:06)
2. Gee (0:51)
3. Heroes And Villains (4:53)
4. Do You Like Worms (Roll Plymouth Rock) (3:36)
5. I'm In Great Shape (0:29)
6. Barnyard (0:48)
7. My Only Sunshine (The Old Master Painter/You Are My Sunshine) (1:57)
8. Cabin Essence (3:32)
9. Wonderful (2:04)
10. Look (Song For Children) (2:31)
11. Child Is Father Of The Man (2:14)
12. Surf's Up (4:12)
13. I Wanna Be Around/Workshop (1:23)
14. Vega-Tables (3:49)
15. Holidays (2:33)
16. Wind Chimes (3:06)
17. The Elements: Fire (Mrs. O'Leary's Cow) (2:35)
18. Love To Say Dada (2:32)
19. Good Vibrations (4:13)
Bonus Tracks
20. You're Welcome (1:08)
21. Heroes And Villains (Stereo Mix) (4:53)
22. Heroes And Villains Sections (Stereo Mix) (7:16)
23. Vega-Tables Demo (1:46)
24. He Gives Speeches (1:14)
25. Smile Backing Vocals Montage (8:30)
26. Surf's Up 1967 (Solo Version) (4:09)
27. Psycodelic Sounds: Brian Falls Into A Piano (1:30)

CD 2
1. Our Prayer "Dialog" (9/19/66) (3:02)
2. Heroes And Villains: Part 1 (3:08)
3. Heroes And Villains: Part 2 (4:18)
4. Heroes And Villains: Children Were Raised (1/27/67) (2:07)
5. Heroes And Villains: Prelude To Fade (2/15/67) (3:42)
6. My Only Sunshine (11/14/66) (6:52)
7. Cabin Essence (10/3/66) (5:19)
8. Surf's Up: 1st Movement (11/4/66) (4:55)
9. Surf's Up: Piano Demo (12/15/66) (3:53)
10. Vega-Tables: Fade (4/12/67) (5:25)
11. The Elements: Fire session (11/28/66) (8:27)
12. Cool, Cool Water (Version 2) (10/26-10/29/67) (3:32)
13. Good Vibrations Session Highlights (8:20)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Great Scots: Top 10 Albums From Scotland

A funny thing happened on the way to assembling my upcoming list of the '80s best albums: A few subcategories emerged, such as this one from across the pond. I have always had a soft spot for early '80s new wave and post punk from Scotland. Even though this is an all-time list, much of my top 10 falls into this narrow area. First, here are the apologies. A few bands that had at least one album I considered and passed on included Altered Images, Associates, Cocteau Twins, the Beta Band and the Waterboys. There was only one newish group I thought about for inclusion. When compared with the albums that made the list, I simply needed more time with the debut album from We Were Promised Jetpacks. Feel free to shoot me your pans and picks. When possible (yes, I'm afraid of the music police), I have tried to include my favorite song.

If the music below is up your alley, I suggest you pay regular visits to The Vinyl Villain. This Scotland-based blog is one of my favorites.

1. Aztec Camera
'High Land, Hard Rain' (Buy)
It doesn't get any better than a young Roddy Frame, and his debut album is one of the best ever. This one has been in my regular rotation for more than a quarter century.
Aztec Camera - We Could Send Letters (mp3)

2. Big Country
'The Crossing' (Buy)
This is the first of a few bands on this list that could have easily had two albums here. When asked, I would usually say 'Steeltown' is Big Country's best, but right now I'm into the bigger sound of their debut.
Big Country - Harvest Home (mp3)

3. Lloyd Cole and the Commotions
'Easy Pieces' (Buy)
I know. Most fans go with 'Rattlesnakes, and I love that record, but I feel like the non-singles on 'Easy Pieces' are a bit stronger. 'Rich' and this song are my favorite of Cole's deep cuts. Cheating a bit with this one, Cole isn't Scottish, but the band qualifies.
Lloyd Cole and the Commotions - Minor Character (mp3)

4. Orange Juice
'You Can't Hide Your Love Forever' (Buy)
Truthfully, if I only have 30 minutes to listen to some OJ, I prefer 'The Glasgow School' collection, but that would be cheating since it's not a studio album. So, I went with their debut album. I like all of their records, and '...Coals to Newcastle' might be the best box set I have ever owned. If you can afford it, go get it.
Orange Juice - L.O.V.E. Love (mp3)

5. Belle & Sebastian
'The Boy With the Arab Strap' (Buy)
Wow, something from the '90s! I didn't discover B&S until this one came out. This happens a lot. The first one you hear is the one that sticks with you forever. I have a soft spot for 'Dear Catastrophe Waitress,' but I like how 'Strap' doesn't have an ounce of commercialism.
Belle & Sebastian - The Boy With the Arab Strap (mp3)

6. The Delgados
'The Great Eastern' (Buy)
I was crushed when this band called it quits six years ago. I'm not really into their stuff before this one, but the group's last three albums were perfect.
The Delgados - Accused of Stealing (mp3)

7. Close Lobsters
'Foxheads Stalk This Land' (Buy)
There are only a handful of jangle-pop bands outside of America that have grabbed me like this C86 alum. Close Lobsters only made two studio albums, and both could have made this list. I believe both are out of print, but there is a great singles package out there called 'Forever, Until Victory!' You should get it.
Close Lobsters - Just Too Bloody Stupid (mp3)

8. The Jesus and Mary Chain
'Psychocandy' (Buy)
Twenty-six years ago, I had never heard anything like it. It was so fuzzy. Of course, now, it seems you can't go a day without hearing a new band and thinking, "yep, there's that J&MC sound... again." Of the 10 bands here, this is the one with the most pioneer spirit.
The Jesus and Mary Chain - Some Candy Talking (mp3)

9. Josef K
'The Only Fun in Town' (Buy)
Josef K is the only band on this list I didn't discover when they first hit the scene. In fact, I'm a bit embarrassed to admit I didn't hear the very early '80s group until about a decade ago. I knew of them because of the Postcard Records connection, but their work was (and still is) tough to find in America. Many think they sound like Joy Division, but I think Orange Juice and Television are closer comparisons.
Josef K - Sorry For Laughing (mp3)

10. Camera Obscura
'Let's Get Out of This Country' (Buy)
Their first couple of records sounded like homages to '60s girl groups. They were pretty good, but this, the band's third album, was a polished, less lo-fi affair that can only be described as pure pop. The title track and the song below are among the best singles of the past five years.