Friday, October 31, 2014

Ooh, My Soul... It's a Little Richard Halloween

Maybe not the scariest post you'll see today, but both of these songs have a "stay away from my door" theme, and it's a good time to remind you to "jump back!" from those bad luck heeby-jeebies tonight 'cause if your bad luck baby puts the jinx on you, forget it, you can't get well. These two are from 1956 and 1957, respectively, and are filled with all the whoops and wails you need this Halloween, and some punch in the gut sax solos to boot. Heard that drum intro on "Keep A-Knockin'" before? Ask those limey Led Zeppeliners. They have a habit of nicking song openings. Anyway, as John Bonham used to say, be careful out there tonight. Huh? No way he ever said that. Happy Halloween everyone!

Keep A-Knockin'

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Peel Nabs Attractions Elvis Costello and Rockpile

I don't listen to Elvis Costello or Rockpile nearly as much as I did, say, in my early teens, but I go back more than 30 years with both of them, and I consider each crucial to my early musical education. From here I discovered Stiff and the many bands Costello and Nick Lowe produced and covered... then Madness, then 2 Tone, and the Costello/Lowe tree just kept growing more and more limbs. They were a strong trunk.

Elvis Costello and the Attractions recorded four Peel Sessions between 1977 and 1980, and I found them all on a very poorly assembled and produced bootleg called 'Radio Radio' while living in Japan 20 years ago. The sound quality is uneven, which is really too bad because I really like some of the takes found on this 19-song disc. That's how bootleg purchases went in the pre-Internet age. You bought on faith... not research. What I do like is hearing Costello with the Attractions so early. Of all my Costello live recordings, and I have a bunch, I don't believe I have another one that goes back to the summer of '77. My favorite of the sessions, however, is the one from 1980, but that's probably because 'Get Happy!!' is my No. 1 from the entire Costello catalog. Here's a taste from each session:

Mystery Dance (July 25, 1977)
Blame It On Cain (July 25, 1977)
Pump It Up (March 13, 1978)
Really Mystified (Oct. 23, 1978)
Beaten to the Punch (Feb. 25, 1980)
High Fidelity (Feb. 25, 1980)

Rockpile's session is from Feb. 8, 1977, and there was much to plug at the time. Dave Edmunds' album 'Get It' was slated for an April release, and Lowe's solo singles had been hitting the racks for the past year and would continue until 'Jesus of Cool' came out in 1978. "JuJu Man" was a Jim Ford cover from 'Get It." The Lowe penned "Heart of the City" is the real winner of this lot, and it, of course, appeared on 'Jesus of Cool' as a live song and on the American version of the album, 'Pure Pop for Now People,' as a studio track. Edmunds would also include the tune on his 1978 album 'Tracks on Wax 4.' "I Knew the Bride" was another Lowe tune on Edmunds' 'Get It.' I don't think Lowe released it himself until 'The Rose of England' album in 1985, but it was a live staple for many years. "Down Down Down" is another cover Rockpile used to play quite a bit. Edmunds had it on his first solo album, called 'Rockpile' just to really confuse things, way back in 1972. That settles it. I need more Rockpile posts. So good. Oh, and I got these from a Rockpile boot called 'A Mess of Blues.'

JuJu Man
Heart of the City
I Knew the Bride
Down Down Down

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Popguns on Peel

I will resist the urge to say the period around this Peel Session was the best time to be a fan of Popguns. If you picked up the "Lovejunky" 7" and are eagerly awaiting the upcoming full-length album 'Pop Fiction,' then you know right now is awfully exciting too. This is the first of two sessions the band did for Peel's program... both were in 1990. These four songs were broadcast in January, just a few weeks removed from their single "Landslide" appearing at No. 46 on Peel's Festive 50 for 1989. I suppose the band could have rested on their laurels by performing the hit or the follow-up single "Waiting For the Winter," but they were already looking ahead with a session of all new material. "Someone You Love" would be the lead single for Popguns' first album, 'Eugenie,' released later that year, and the other three songs wouldn't be committed to wax until the second album, 'Snog,' in 1991. Enjoy another fine moment from Peel's show.

Someone You Love
Bye Bye Baby
Put Me Through It
Where Do You Go?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Tune In Talulah Gosh

I spent a big chunk of the weekend pulling Peel Sessions from the collection, and it turned out to be such a pleasant way to celebrate John's life. So, let's keep it going this week with some of my favorites from the past few days. Here's Talulah Gosh, first broadcast on Peel's show Jan. 11, 1988. This was the band's second (and last) recording for BBC Radio 1. In fact, the band, at least in this form, wouldn't make it to the end of the year. Of course, three members of the band, Amelia, Mathew and Peter, along with earlier member Rob, regrouped in '89 as Heavenly. You can find this session in a few places, but I have taken it from 'Backwash,' the compilation K Records released in 1996. One thing you can say about Talulah Gosh: They never wore out a welcome. These five songs clock in at around eight meager minutes... but there are plenty of the band's patented pace changes to get your heart racing.

My World's Ending
Be Your Baby
Break Your Face
In Love For the Very First Time
Spearmint Head

Friday, October 24, 2014

Keeping It Peel With Paul Court of the Primitives

Where has the time gone? This weekend marks 10 years since John Peel's turntable stopped spinning. As we are all managing the juxtaposition of sadness and celebration, I have asked Paul Court of the Coventry band the Primitives for his remembrances of listening to and performing on the legendary BBC Radio DJ's program. Special thanks to Mike Turner at Crashing Through Publicity for helping me get in touch with another one of my heroes.

Linear Tracking Lives: As a kid, what are some of your fondest memories of listening to John Peel's show?
Paul Court: I started listening to the show in 1978. Radio One used to turn into Radio Two in the evening and then revert back to Radio One at ten for the John Peel show, so it really felt like a visit to some secret, cut-off place. I loved all the post-punk stuff coming through in '78/'79. Lots of melody and experimentation creeping in. I'd listen in bed and would normally fall asleep before the end and wake up in the early hours wondering why the fuck he was playing Leo Sayer, before realising it had gone back to Radio Two and some truckers request show was on, and that I'd missed the next installment of Sir Henry at Rawlinson End or the final song in a Spizzenergi session.

LTL: What do you think made Peel so good at what he did?
Paul: I think because he was just left alone to get on with it, which fortunately meant giving the underdogs and outsiders a chance.

LTL: What standout Peel Sessions do you recall from other bands?
Paul: Loads of different contrasting stuff, such as The Birthday Party and Helen and The Horns. He played a lot of stuff that I really disliked to begin with, but couldn't stop thinking about the next day, so I would tune in wondering if he'd play it again that night, subsequently becoming a big fan -- The Birthday Party, The Fall, etc. I loved the first few Mary Chain sessions.

LTL: For many reasons, 1986 must have been such an exciting time for the Primitives. It was also the first of three consecutive years the band appeared on Peel's Festive 50, and in the fall you recorded your first of three Peel Sessions. What was it like going into the studio and then hearing yourselves on the program? Is there a particular song or session that really stands out in your mind?
Paul: The studio was at Maida Vale in London. It was an ornate single story cake of a building with studios below the ground. It felt very much like being in the 1930s down there -- I don't think much had been altered since then. The first couple of sessions we did were produced by Dale Griffin, the drummer from Mott The Hoople. You could tell he wasn't best pleased having to record all these musically inept bands. I remember him saying the guitar jangle on the chorus of "Stop Killing Me" didn't fit, but I refused to change it because that was what I played. Eventually he conceded that it sort of worked. When we went back for a second session he was a bit friendlier and told us we'd improved. Hearing the session on the radio was a massive thrill. It would take a few weeks for it to appear on the show and they wouldn't let you take a tape away, so you couldn't really remember how it sounded. This was our first John Peel session. [sends YouTube link]

LTL: More than a quarter century after the band's days on Lazy Records, the Primitives have returned to its indie roots with 'Spin-O-Rama' on Elefant Records. What do you think John Peel would have thought about that?
Paul: Hard to say really. I'd like to think he'd show some small acknowledgment, but his thing was always about the new young upstarts.

If you have heard 'Spin-O-Rama,' I think you'll agree Paul is being far too modest with that last answer. So, I'll say it: Peel would approve. If you haven't heard the new one yet, check out a few of the new songs here. Then buy it on LP or CD. For more of the Primitives, listen to the band's second Peel Session (and my favorite of the three) from the spring of '87. Songs include "She Don't Need You," "Ocean Blue," "Everything's Shining Bright" and "Dream Walk Baby." It's nine minutes of pop perfection.

This very grateful fan would like to thank Mr. Court for taking the time. Thrill of my life.

The Primitives - Peel Session (1987)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Before Bangles

Better to be remembered for your worst work than to not be remembered at all, I suppose, but long before "Walk Like an Egyptian" the Bangles had a wonderful run as part of Los Angeles' Paisley Underground scene. My favorite moment for the band was the self-titled EP in 1982, but today let's go back to the very beginning for a really fun single. This self-released 7" from 1981 was when they were a trio of Susanna Hoffs and sisters Vicki and Debbi Peterson. They called themselves the Bangs at the time and, like the aforementioned EP and even the full-length debut 'All Over the Place,' this recording isn't all mucked up with the slick radio-friendly '80s production that plagued Bangles' later work. It's merely perfect pop. Vicki wrote the A-side. The B-side was co-written by David Roback, Susanna and Vicki. If you're into Paisley Underground, you may recognize Roback's name from Rain Parade... a band that deserves its own post very soon.

The Bangs - Getting Out of Hand
The Bangs - Call on Me

Monday, October 20, 2014

Jim Noir Approaches 'The Finnish Line'

When it comes to Jim Noir, my barometer is completely broken. I have no idea if the announcement of a new album is met with excitement by legions of loyal fans... or if it's me and one other guy... and that other guy is Noir's black-sheep uncle. I'm really hoping there are lots of us gearing up to get 'The Finnish Line,' out next month, and, in the meantime, you can get a free download of "The Broadway Jets" from the impending release.

Here in America, Noir's brand of psychedelic pop became a tough find when he and Barsuk Records parted ways after his second album came out in 2008, but I'm here to tell you the search for the more recent import 'Jimmy's Show,' as well as the slew of self-released Noir Club EPs, are worth the additional labor. I'm going to include a song from each of Noir's first two albums, as well as a video from his 2012 album to help you find your way. You may discover the sounds of a Brian Wilson or a Nilsson, but with the British sensibility of a Robyn Hitchcock in there, too.

Jim Noir - "Key of C" from 'Tower of Love' (2006)
Jim Noir - "Don't You Worry" from 'Jim Noir' (2008)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Go-Betweens' Early Years Chronicled in Box Set

The Vinyl Villain's timing is perfect. He has a post this week on the classic 'Clash on Broadway' box. There is also a larger theme to his piece: Who is the audience for these expansive sets? If you are already a fan, chances are you have most of the material. If you have always wanted to dip your big toe, the price is probably too much for a band you haven't invested in before. So, it really comes down to extras such as well-done booklets and how much bonus material/unreleased tracks are included. I don't know about you, but goodies like posters, badges and stickers will never move me one way or another. It always comes down to the music.

All of the above criteria has had me seriously pondering the recently announced 'G Stands For Go-Betweens - Volume One.' Extensively covering the years 1978 to 1984, the meat of this beautiful box is the remastered vinyl of the first three studio albums, 'Send Me A Lullaby,' 'Before Hollywood' and 'Spring Hill Fair,' as well as a fourth compilation album that covers the band's first five singles. Yes, that includes "I Need Two Heads" from Postcard. The real eyebrow raiser for me is the four compact discs of rare, hard-to-find and unreleased demos, recordings, radio sessions and a complete live concert radio broadcast from 1982. Domino Records has the complete tracklists here.

There is an 112-page book, a silkscreen of the promotional poster for “Lee Remick" and a reproduction of the band's first press release from their own Able Label. The box itself looks beautiful, and all of the packaging seems to have been curated with much care.

So, as the Vinyl Villain intimated, with a box like this it comes down to price and the material not already owned. I have the three studio albums, although not all of the trio are on vinyl, and I have some (but not all) of the songs on 'The First Five Singles' because I have the four-track 'The Able Label Singles.' I have all but two of the singles Postcard released, but one of them is "I Need Two Heads." Truth is, I know I won't be satisfied with a Domino reissue of the song. It's gotta be the Postcard 7", and I know I will get it eventually. What really intrigues me are the four CDs, but is that worth the $160 price tag? That's a lot of used records at the local mom-and-pop shops... but I do love Go-Betweens so. Domino is taking preorders until the end of the month, and 'G Stands For Go-Betweens - Volume One' will be out in January. I may have to think about this one a little further.

What do you think about this box set in particular and box sets in general? Have you ever forked over $160 for one of these?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Another 'Lovely' Album From the Primitives

The Primitives first album of original material in 23 years is out today stateside, but it's as if no time between releases has elapsed at all. 'Spin-O-Rama' is chock full of the same timeless indie pop PJ Court and Tracy Tracy gave to us in their heyday. That's a sentiment you see in review after review as our favorite bands from days of yore make their way back to us. In this case, however, I promise it's not a cliche.

For fans who have been paying attention, the high standing of this new work will come as no surprise. We have known since 2012 this triumphant day would arrive. The inspired choices the band made on its covers album 'Echoes and Rhymes' were just too good for this to be a fleeting moment. Our feelings were confirmed early last year with one of the catchiest choruses the band ever put on a 7". If you missed it, don't worry. "Lose the Reason" is on the new album.

So, it really comes down to this: If you used to be into the Primitives, you will enjoy 'Spin-O-Rama' immensely. For the rest of you, now is as good a time as any to give them a try. I'm wording it this way because it must be assumed you never heard them in the first place. Otherwise, you would already be in the first camp. Check out this trio from the new one:

Monday, October 6, 2014

Sailing Through Discography of the Ocean Blue

I have no idea why I gave up on them. I loved that self-titled debut. So much so, in fact, I rushed out to see the Ocean Blue open for the Mighty Lemon Drops in early 1990. They sounded like all of the bands I loved from the other side of the ocean. How could they be from Pennsylvania? Whereas the Mighty Lemon Drops took the stage like confident rock stars, the Ocean Blue seemed like polite young boys that were giddy to be seen and heard. Every gesture screamed, "How did we get here?" I found it all endearing, and the show is a happy memory from my youth. Even though I have listened to that album consistently for going on 25 years, I never bought anything else by the Ocean Blue.

Fast forward to February 2013, and I'm in the car. I flip over to KEXP just in time to hear frontman David Schelzel of the Ocean Blue doing an in-studio performance. I put it in park to take in the entire 20 minutes. I enjoyed it so much that I bought the band's new album when it came out a few weeks later. 'Ultramarine' turned out to be one of my favorite albums of the year.

Suddenly, I felt like I might have missed some great music between that 1989 debut and 2013. There was a 2004 EP called 'Waterworks' that was reissued last month with three bonus tracks. I decided to ride this Ocean Blue wave, and I'm glad I did. I'm a vinyl guy, however, and now that we are approaching a release date for 'Waterworks' at 33 1⁄3, I may have to buy it again. Listen to a couple of songs below, and then preorder 'Waterworks' on vinyl through Shelflife. It should be out Oct. 28, and the first 100 orders get this one on baby-blue vinyl. To me, 'Ultramarine' felt a lot like that first album, but 'Waterworks' takes you to some new places:

Friday, October 3, 2014

Big Country's 'Steeltown' Gets Bigger

Slowly, but surely, Big Country's back catalog has been getting spruced up and expanded. It started with 'The Crossing' in February 2012. The followup, 'Steeltown,' has been on the docket for ages. It was due to come out this past April but was pushed back to this week. I assume this lengthy delay was designed to coincide with the 30th anniversary tour that's on the road right now. As some of you may know, as a lad in 1983 and 1984, Big Country was my favorite band. Period. Although 'The Crossing' was the only hit here in America, I have always ranked 'Steeltown' right beside the debut album as Big Country's best work. 'Steeltown' is dark in theme and tone. The patented Big Country guitar riffs are fewer, and the songs don't have that same sing-along feel as earlier singles like "Fields of Fire" and "Harvest Home." In other words, the listener is challenged, and Americans didn't like that one bit. Meanwhile, in the UK, the album debuted at No. 1 and spawned three hit singles. I'm just sayin.'

The deluxe edition of 'Steeltown' has many more highs than lows. Let's get to the best and most important news first. If you're familiar with the original CD release, you know the sound barely passes muster. To these ears, it wasn't as good as my old vinyl copy I bought the day 'Steeltown' was released. Subsequent remasters, remarkably, made matters worse. Now, I'm no audiologist. I haven't broken down the various channels and checked for compression, volume, etc., but I have listened to the album several times (in fancy headphones, no less, impressive, eh?), and I proclaim this the best sounding version of 'Steeltown' on CD.

For me, the second disc is more about what isn't here. Like the deluxe edition of 'The Crossing,' producer Steve Lillywhite's amazing 12" extended versions are nowhere to be found. If you haven't heard the nearly eight minute remix of "Just a Shadow," you are really missing out. We do get a few B-sides, and my two all-time favorites are here (a cover of "Prairie Rose" and "Winter Sky"), but the rest of the songs are either radio edits of singles, which I find kind of boring, or rough mixes. Now, these mixes have superior sound and are miles away from the usual demos you find in packages like these, and I was completely floored by the jam-packed final two minutes of "Where the Rose Is Sown," but these are for die-hard fans. The 12" singles would have appealed to more listeners than radio edits and rough mixes.

Like the deluxe edition of 'The Crossing,' the CDs are housed in a paper cover that's a little on the flimsy side. I will be handling with care. The booklet is a whopping 22 pages, and the liner notes by Tim Barr do a great job of taking you back to 1984, a real up time for the band but a real low time for the United Kingdom. By the end of the read I felt I had a new appreciation for the themes Stuart Adamson was tackling in these songs. For example, before yesterday I never knew "Flame of the West" was about Ronald Reagan.

The new-and-improved 'Steeltown' will be released here in America on Tuesday. Amazon has it listed at roughly $32.50. Yes, that is rough. Well, I bought it at Amazon UK and paid about $23.50, and the shipping was more or less the same cost as a domestic order. Furthermore, I got it a week earlier. Yes, there is a way to make your import music feel like a domestic purchase. I would be remiss if I didn't mention there is a vinyl version of all this, and none of the songs were cut to make everything fit on the double album. That's a real rarity for these deluxe editions.

To get you in the mood, here are those aforementioned 12" versions that didn't make the cut.

Big Country - East of Eden (Extended)
Big Country - Where the Rose Is Sown (Extended)
Big Country - Just a Shadow (Extended)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Pull Trigger on New Single From the Popguns

Remember back in June when I was fawning over a stream of "Lovejunky," the first new song from Popguns in nearly two decades? Well, Matinée Recordings has just announced the arrival of the 7", and it's a real corker. A couple of things to keep in mind: The physical release is on cherry-red vinyl and limited to 500 hand-numbered copies. If you're saying, "So what? That song is going to show up on 'Pop Fiction,' the band's full-length album out later this year... I can wait," then shame on you.

Don't you remember what it's like to actually hold a single in your hand and to gaze at the picture sleeve as the record spins seductively? And believe me, as you can see above, this cover is a beautiful piece of art. Do I sound like an old coot? OK, then, how about this? There are two B-sides, and neither one of the songs will be on 'Pop Fiction.' Mmm-hmm. Thought that might get your attention. I have had the good fortune of hearing "Long Way To Fall" and "Home Late," and let me tell you, if these are the songs that didn't make the album, we are in for a real treat.

Matinée is selling the "Lovejunky" single exclusively for the next two weeks before your local mom-and-pop shop gets a crack at some copies, but I suggest you don't wait around for that. Give the A-side another listen right now, then get to the label's online shop.