Sunday, September 25, 2016

Cover Me Impressed: 'She'

My 10-year-old son will be going to his first-ever show tonight, and I dedicate this post to him. Just like his old man did before him, the little guy has taken to the Monkees' old television shows and all of the music that's featured in them. Mike has always been my favorite, and my son likes Mickey best, but this is a song where we are in complete agreement. Written by the brilliant team of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart and sung by Mickey, here's the great side one track one from 'More of the 'Monkees.' The 1967 album was No. 1 for 18 weeks, knocking their debut album out of the top spot after 13 weeks there.

'The Monkees - "She"

Twenty years after 'More of the Monkees,' my hero Terry Hall took a stab at this classic for the Colour Field's album 'Deception.' I didn't find the album as endearing as 'Virgins and Philistines,' but I find myself pulling out this cover with regularity. I promise to cool off on the Colour Field after this one.

The Colour Field - "She"

Thursday, September 22, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 26)

I'm feeling the need to wrap up letter C. So, I have pared it down to seven more artists. Today's pick is slightly out of order, but I decided on the switch because there is much to celebrate. I subscribe to the email blasts that come out of Crowded House headquarters, and the band's much discussed reissue campaign finally officially launched yesterday. Every single album in the Crowded House catalog will be released as two-disc editions in November. The number of bonus tracks is staggering, and the packaging looks impressive. Check out the tracklists and preorder info at the Crowded House store. Don't worry, wax fans... there will be new standard vinyl editions too.

As for my own collection, I have all seven albums, and it probably won't surprise you the switch from vinyl to compact disc came between 'Woodface' and 'Together Alone.' A quick look to the vinyl shelf shows I do have a couple of things that didn't make the upcoming deluxe editions. Here's one. Let's go back 30 years (What?!?) to the band's second single. The intro is oh-so '80s 12", but then it settles in to a nice mix I think you'll enjoy. Then start saving those shekels.

"World Where You Live" (Extended Version)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 25)

Talk about an exercise in futility. How do you choose a handful of singles to pay tribute to one of your heroes when the artist in question has released 62 of them? No joke. Sixty-two. Here are four more randomly selected from my 12" collection. No extended versions, remixes or any of that nonsense. For the most part, these were bought for the B-sides... long before you could get them all tied up in a neat little bonus-track laden CD reissue. Having said that, each of these A-sides are A-plus efforts. I'll let the man of the hour introduce the first one, as written on the back cover of the single:

For those of you who enjoyed our fortnight's excursion into country music here is a highlight from our Albert Hall bash with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, a new arrangement of "I'm Your Toy", by Robert Kirby, plus some dusty sides from our Nashville archive.

Yours blue on blue,
Elvis Costello

'Almost Blue' may not be one of your go-to Costello albums, but the Attractions' rendition of the Flying Burrito Bros.' renamed "Hot Burrito #1" is surely a highlight that makes you pull it off the shelf once in a while. If you have never heard this live take recorded on Jan. 7, 1982, prepare for a shock...

"I'm Your Toy" (Live)
"My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You"
"Blues Keep Calling"
"Honky Tonk Girl"

If 'Almost Blue' was an abrupt right turn, then the 1982 album 'Imperial Bedroom' was just as big a turn to the left. If you want a feel for how much these songs evolved, give this version of "Town Cryer" a try. In much the same way as the early new-wave treatments of the songs that would become 'Get Happy!!' were not quite right, I think you'll find Costello's back to the drawing board approach was a good move here.

"Man Out of Time"
"Town Cryer" (Alternate Version)
"Imperial Bedroom"

Putting it kindly, 'Goodbye Cruel World' is my least favorite Costello album, but he followed it up here with what I think is one of his best... even if it meant the Attractions were about to punch out. That's the Confederates on the A-side and the Attractions on the B-sides.

"Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood"
"Baby's Got a Brand New Hairdo"
"Get Yourself Another Fool"

I'm not much of a fan of 'Mighty Like a Rose,' but this song was an exception. This walk-up single to the album sounded so much like the Attractions the first time I heard it that I thought they must have reunited. "Couldn't Call It Unexpected No. 4" doesn't do much for me, but I was excited to find an old Nick Lowe-penned song from his Brinsley Schwarz days to conclude the B-side.

"The Other Side of Summer"
"Couldn't Call It Unexpected No. 4"
"The Ugly Things"

Friday, September 16, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 24)

Elvis Costello will be receiving a coveted first-ever three-day residency in this series because I just can't seem to be able to whittle down what I want to play. For day two, here are a couple from the 7" pile. First up is "Live at Hollywood High." The three-song EP (played at 33 1/3) was a limited-edition bonus included with the first pressings of the 1979 album 'Armed Forces.' I bought a used copy of that album in 1983, and the former owner was apparently kind enough to include the rare artifact when he sold it to the shop. As I mentioned last time, I sold off most of my Costello vinyl in 1989. The next owner of that copy of 'Armed Forces' wasn't quite so lucky. I kept the 7" and have had it in my possession for some 33 years. If you end up liking this one, I suggest you pick up the entire 20 song 'Live at Hollywood High' CD Hip-O Select released in 2010. Really good stuff.

"Watching the Detectives" (Live)
"Accidents Will Happen" (Live)
"Alison" (Live)

We have discussed this before, but when it comes to music, I'm always in awe of Costello's encyclopedic knowledge and impeccable taste. I don't mind telling you his choice of covers through the years has taught me much about genres I grew to love because of him. Not long after the release of 'Imperial Bedroom,' Costello and the lads put out a faithful cover of "Head to Toe," a deep track from 'Going to a Go-Go,' one of the best albums Smokey Robinson and the Miracles ever put to wax. This was, in part, to promote the 'Imperial Bedroom' tour of the UK in the fall of 1982. In fact, a list of all the tour dates can be found on the back cover. It wasn't a huge hit (No. 43), and the 7" wasn't released here in America at all. I got this one in the import section of a local shop in 1983, and I was proud to be the only one in my group of school pals (and loyal fans) to have it. Yep, it's the envy that I remember. The B-side is another cover, this time written by the ever-popular team of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman and made a little famous by Sissie Houston and much more famous by Amen Corner.

"Head to Toe"
"The World of Broken Hearts"

Let's listen to one more group of singles by "The Man" next time.

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 23)

This is madness! No, not the band. That's how I have felt about my rotating collection of Elvis Costello vinyl, CDs and cassettes through the years. I mean, how many times can one buy the same records? When I was a young teen, I bought them all on vinyl. When I got my first car at 17, my girlfriend bought me his catalog on cassette. (Damn right I married her!) In 1989, in a moment of sheer insanity, I traded in the entire shebang on vinyl because I had bought them all on CD. I remember it like it was yesterday. Bob, the owner of the record shop, looked at me with concern and asked, "Are you sure you want to do this?" Hell yes I wanted to do it now that I had them all on cold inferior-sounding compact discs from Columbia... packaged without care, thought or any liner notes at all. What a fool I was. Not to worry. In a mere five years I would be trading in all of those first-generation CDs for the Ryko CD editions. This time there were a bevy of bonus tracks. The vaults had been emptied, and Costello wrote up a storm for the inside of these versions. Couldn't possibly get any better than this... until about a decade later when Rhino took a crack at it with even more bonus tracks. That's when I finally said enough is enough. Almost. I did purchase 'Get Happy!!' again. It's my favorite, and I just couldn't resist.

All these years later, even though I buy vinyl with regularity, I haven't gone back to get those old Costello records on the superior format. I see them in the used bins for attractive prices all of the time, but I just can't bring myself to do it. There is just too much out there I have never bought to go back to the well yet again. So, even though I have more than 50 Costello CDs, my vinyl collection isn't all that big, and it's very very random. When I sold off his vinyl catalog in 1989, I did keep most of the bootlegs and a smattering of singles. Today we'll listen to a few remixed and/or extended 12" singles. These are the songs that Costello didn't add to the reissues as bonus tracks. Why? I'm guessing because he probably didn't like them very much. Chances are you won't either. Not one of them is better than the original. These are merely curiosities for die-hard fans. Although you see a couple of older titles below, all of these alternate versions were mixed between 1983 and 1985. Not exactly Costello's best years. If you're that rare breed that loves the stuttering fits and starts and bells and whistles of early '80s 12" singles, go straight to "Let Them All Talk." The horns actually make for a great artifact of the era. I'll be back next time for a little more inspired work from Mr. Costello. That's a promise.

"Pump It Up" (1984 Monster Mix)
B-side to the American 12" of "The Only Flame in Town"

"Green Shirt" (Extended Mix)
Released in 1985 to coincide with 'The Best of Elvis Costello'

"Everyday I Write the Book" (Club Version)
Mixed by "Jellybean" Benitez

"Let Them All Talk" (Extended Remix)
Puffed up to a whopping six minutes and a true stab at an '80s extended remix

"I Wanna Be Loved" (Extended Smooch 'n' Runny Version)
Have to come clean. Kind of like this one. That's Green singing backing vocals

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 22)

A vast majority of my vinyl was purchased between the years 1983 and 1988. Then I switched formats. In other words, most of the artists featured in this series are from the '70s and '80s, but I would like to throw in an occasional artist from this century. That way I don't feel like a dinosaur. I have been buying vinyl and CD in equal measure for about the last dozen years, after all. I have mentioned before I like to keep my records tidy, and that includes buying an artist in only one format. I don't like going to the CD shelves for some of my Cosines and then the vinyl shelves for a stray Cosines. So, as you can see from the photo above, something went wrong. I have the first two 7" singles, but then I bought full-length album 'Oscillations' on CD, and then returned to vinyl this year with the 10" 'Transitions.' There is a simple explanation. When I went to my favorite indie-pop record shop looking for 'Oscillations,' they only had it on the inferior format, and I didn't have the patience to order it. Of course, now I regret it.

The issue of format choice also comes up if the price of the vinyl seems out of whack (which happens a lot!) or if delays at the pressing plant mean I will have to wait months for the vinyl version to come out while the CD is already in the shops. For instance, Drew and others had me champing at the bit to get the new one from the Wedding Present. I went to buy it online the other day, but the vinyl doesn't come out for another month in the UK and, worse yet, two months here in America.** Forget it. Can't wait. It's coming on CD. When David Bowie's 'Blackstar' came out, I made a hasty decision and paid $30 for the vinyl. Not a double album, folks. I should have paid the $9.99 for the CD, but I got caught up in the moment. Thankfully, most of the indie labels I like don't stick it to you like that.

I have lost my way. Let's get back to Cosines. This is the debut single from 2013. The band's sound is closer to Stereolab these days, but this one has a charming analog retro sound. The five-piece string section is a nice touch too. Alice Hubley may be a girl pirate, but all I could think of when I first heard her voice was that she sounded so much like another one of my favorite pop vocalists... Lena Karlsson of the sorely missed Swedish band Komeda. The site for Fika Recordings shows they only have five more copies of this limited edition 7". So, I suggest you grab yours now. Cosines will take over the world next year when the new album comes out. Don't regret you missed this one.

"Hey Sailor Boy"

**Sept. 15 Update: I checked the comments this morning and saw our pal MisterPrime had obtained a vinyl copy of the new album by the Wedding Present. A quick check beyond Amazon and Amazon UK (which is what I checked... sloppy!) revealed there are, indeed, places to obtain 'Going, Going...', including the Weddoes own site. Apologies to all. I'll do better next time.

Monday, September 12, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 21)

Not a ton to choose from among Julian Cope's interesting but uneven solo career... at least on vinyl anyway. I have the 7" singles of "Sunspots" and "Eve's Volcano," but both of these have been covered in somewhat recent times by our pals Swiss Adam and CC, respectively. So, that leaves me with the five song "World Shut Your Mouth" EP from 1986. The single was a minor hit here in America, reaching No. 84 on the big chart, based in large part to the push it got on MTV. For many on this side of the Atlantic, this was their first look at Cope and his crazy microphone stand.

You know the single, but here are a few words about the rest of the lot. "Levitation" is a cover of the 1967 song "I've Got Levitation" by the 13th Floor Elevators. Cope is known to be a huge fan of Roky Erickson, but this is one of the few songs on 'Easter Everywhere' that wasn't written by the American psychedelic-rock icon. "Non-Alignment Pact" is also a cover. The original can be found as the opening track from Pere Ubu's 1978 debut album 'The Modern Dance.' Both of these songs, and "Non Alignment Pact" in particular, should be played at high volume. "Umpteenth Unnnatural Blues" is one of the more accessible pieces of pop in Cope's catalog. On the other end of the spectrum, EP closer "Transporting" is so hard on the ears that I didn't take to the time to rip it. If someone out there really wants a listen, I'll go back and get it. Otherwise, we'll move ahead.

Cope is going to come up again later in this series with the Teardrop Explodes, a band I have had in the collection since my youth, but I honestly didn't know much about Cope's solo stuff (outside of "World Shut Your Mouth" and "Sunspots") until the blogging years. Thus, I only have three pieces of vinyl, one of which, "Eve's Volcano," I found for a buck somewhat recently. Having read so much about Cope from my peers, I have slowly begun buying the albums... albeit on a lesser format. No books though. I started with an inferior compilation but have now worked my way through 'Fried' and 'Saint Julian.' I have an eye on 'Peggy Suicide' next. If you like, feel free to steer me in another direction. I'm easy.

"World Shut Your Mouth"
"Umpteenth Unnnatural Blues"
"Non Alignment Pact"

Friday, September 9, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 20)

I almost skipped the Comsat Angels because I don't have much of a history with them. After seeing the music video, and not too long after it was released in 1984, I bought the 12" single of "Independence Day." It seemed new wave, and I was one of the last holdouts trying to hang on that sound, but I never dug any deeper than that one song for decades. In fact, their name never even came up with me again until I started the blog. Our pal Echorich had mentioned them a few times here and at other familiar reading spots, and I raised my brow four years ago when he made a comment about the Comsat Angels after I wrote about the Sound. Sure, they were a dark-wave band, but I didn't get his post-punk reference at all. Of course, I wouldn't have since all I knew was the rerecorded version of "Independence Day" from 1984. For all I knew, that was their first song, or at least an early one. I was not far off.

When Demon Records reissued the catalog of the Comsat Angels on vinyl last year, I decided to bite. I got the first two albums, 'Waiting for a Miracle' and 'Sleep No More,' from 1980 and 1981, respectively. It only took one spin to realize where Echorich had been coming from all those years ago, and I kicked myself for not investigating 30 years earlier. I also quickly learned the version of "Independence Day" found on the debut album was superior to the one I had all of this time, even if the charts told a different story. (Let's be honest, though. Neither version was a hit.) This might be as far as I go with the Comsat Angels, but I'm so pleased Echorich, king of the comments, made me give the band another look.

"Independence Day" (from the 1980 album 'Waiting for a Miracle')
"Independence Day" (from the 1984 12" single "Independence Day")

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Cut the Cake Because Wolfhounds Are Back!

As you know, I never pass up an opportunity to tout a band that appeared on 'C86,' but I would probably have to go back to 2013 and the release of the Pastels' 'Slow Summits' since I have been able to really gush over a new album from one of the cassette vets. That same year, Wolfhounds put out 'Middle Aged Freaks,' their first new album in almost a quarter century. I got my hands on all three 7" singles from that era, and I was impressed with the lot, but I never did get the album. So, even though I have more than half of the LP on those singles, it would be a little dishonest of me to recommend it, but I believe we can trust our good friend the Swede, and he told me last year that it is well worth checking out.

On Oct. 14, Wolfhounds will be following up 'Middle Aged Freaks' with the intriguingly titled 'Untied Kingdom (...or how to come to terms with your culture)' as a double LP with gatefold sleeve, once again via Cardiff's Odd Box Records. After listening to it front to back this evening, I found myself slack-jawed by how fresh it sounded. Yes, there's enough jangle to keep those nostalgic for the good ol' days smiling, but don't come in expecting David Callahan & Co. to have rested on their laurels. Much of 'Untied Kingdom' is full of piss and vinegar... a raucous post-punk punch in the gut. I kept turning it up as the record went along. By the time I got to album closer "Across The River of Death," my speakers were begging for mercy. Don't they know how to act their age? Fortunately, no.

Wolfhounds may lose a few fans looking for the same old song and dance routine, but they should win over many more that have never even heard 'Unseen Ripples From A Pebble.' My advice: Don't miss out on 'Untied Kingdom' like I did 'Middle Age Freaks.' Preorder now. For you longtime fans out there, this one is just about the closest you'll get in sound to the band's salad days. You'll appreciate the message too.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 19)

We now return you to our regularly scheduled program. It's great to be reunited with my turntable, and we will celebrate with a blowout featuring the Colour Field. I have both albums, the EP and every single that was released in either the UK or America. Rather than try to choose a favorite, let's give a listen to everything from the first four singles. With the versions I have, that will be 14 songs in all. Terry Hall is a huge hero of mine, and you can count on him making a few more appearances during this series.

In 1983, after a dreadful time touring America, Hall dissolved the Fun Boy Three. He wanted a fresh start with a new sound. No more ska. Hall was going highbrow. After playing with a couple of lads from Coventry, the Colour Field was born. Hall was still under contract with Chrysalis, and by January 1984 the first of the four singles that preceded debut album 'Virgins and Philistines' was released. Here is the 12". If you bought the first run of this single, you got a poster too. "The Colour Field" peaked at No. 43 in the UK. The song that would be remembered, though, was B-side "Sorry." Hall had never shown such a tender side. It is a fan favorite to this day.

"The Colour Field" (Extended Version)
"The Colour Field"

The next single would come in the summer of '84. Producer Hugh Jones was on board by now, and the album was started in earnest. There would be one other interesting addition for "Take." Jones' old pal Pete de Freitas of Echo and the Bunnymen was on drums. Hall's bitter delivery makes this one of my personal favorites, but the public wasn't much interested. The song died at No. 70.

"Windmills of Your Mind"
"Pushing Up the Daisies"

At the beginning of 1985, Hall finally hit pay dirt. Third single "Thinking of You" is a beautiful back-and-forth duet with Katrina Phillips, full of strings and high-end production. Given the period, it sounds like the formula for a dated piece of schlock, but the song is absolutely timeless. "Thinking of You" is as wonderful today as it was three decades ago, and it will remain that way forevermore. It deserved an even better fate than No. 12, but I'm sure Hall was happy to have it. Although many greats have followed, Hall has never had a song with his lead vocal inside the top 20 since this one. My single is the double 7" with gatefold sleeve. All four songs are worth a listen, although I do wish we could have had a serious take of the cover "Little Things."

"Thinking of You"
"My Wild Flame"
"Little Things"
"Thinking of You" (singalong version)

As a walk up to the release of 'Virgins and Philistines,' the label released the single "Castles in the Air" in April of '85. Uh-oh. Indeed, the air had been let out, making it only to a paltry No. 51. It's another beauty, as most on the album would turn out to be, and I especially like the B-side instrumental mix of the song. It's quite a bit different than its vocal counterpart. Again, I have the double 7" with gatefold sleeve. The cover "I Can't get Enough of You Baby" was included on the American version of the album (track one even!), but I have always felt like that was a poor decision. It doesn't quite belong in much the same way "Sloop John B" isn't quite as good as the rest of a flawless 'Pet Sounds.' Tracklist differences between the American and UK versions of 'Virgins and Philistines' is worth a separate post at some point.

"Castles in the Air"
"Your Love is Smashing"
"I Can't Get Enough of You Baby"
"Castles in the Air" (Instrumental Mix)

These physical singles have lost their luster a bit because Cherry Red reissued 'Virgins and Philistines' in 2010 with almost all of these B-sides. Having said that, I highly recommend it. I'll wrap this up by adding 'Virgins and Philistines' is Hall's best moment outside of the Specials. Let's see if that gets you typing.