Tuesday, February 28, 2017

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

Concluding the letter D with yet another UK legend discovered through the 'That Summer!' soundtrack. After hearing "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll" and "What a Waste" as a wide-eyed 13 year old, I immediately ran out and bought a cutout of 'New Boots and Panties!!' for a couple of bucks. Wise investment. I found out where Essex, Billericay, Plaistow and other exotic locales (to a kid from the cornfields of Illinois) were located. Inexplicably, I learned who Gene Vincent was from Dury. You could call him a punk rocker, a singer (seriously, listen to "Sweet Gene Vincent") a poet and about a dozen other creative occupations, but I think entertainer is the most apt description. Dury used lots of filthy language to tell dirty stories, and what immature boy isn't going to be attracted to that?

"Sweet Gene Vincent"

I remember once prank calling a friend with the opening of "Plaistow Patricia." When he said "hello," I held up the receiver to the stereo speaker as Dury spat out "assholes, bastards, fucking cunts and pricks." We snickered like a couple of 13 year olds, because we were, until I turned around and saw my father standing in the doorway. For a moment, he looked like he was going to blow his stack. Then he exhaled in defeat. "Better not letter your mother hear that," Dad mumbled as he walked away. By that point in my childhood, I think I had worn him down.

I only own one other album by Dury, and it was the perfect companion to 'New Boots and Panties!!' 'Jukebox Dury' was the compilation Stiff America released in 1981, and it's packed with several must-have singles not on that 1977 album, including "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick"and "Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 3." Still, the best songs on "Jukebox Dury" came from 'New Boots and Pamties!!' The Streets and others would go on to have big hits with this spoken-word approach to song, but I think Dury did it best...

"Razzle in My Pocket"

This post is well timed because Mrs. LTL and I celebrated the 30th anniversary of our first date yesterday. Makes us sound old, but I should add we were in high school. This didn't happen on our first date, but a couple of weeks later we were in the car on the way to a movie. Dury's "Blackmail Man" came on the mix tape I was playing. About 30 seconds in, Mrs. LTL asked, "What's this guy have against black mailmen?" I have told that one before, but it never gets old. To the best of my knowledge, Dury never had a problem with minorities working for the postal service.

"Blackmail Man"

Saturday, February 25, 2017

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

To keep things moving during this colossal vinyl-ripping project, I often just take a favorite song or two from an album. Not today. Double album 'Valuable Passages' (FACT 164) by the Durutti Column is a compilation from 1986 that gathers songs from albums, singles and EPs on Factory Records from 1980-1986. It has been much too long since I have spent time with this collection, and I'm struck today by how there is simply nobody like the Durutti Column on my shelf. Those in the know understand the genius of Vini Reilly, but I feel an awesome responsibility to represent his work well here because there are bound to be those who stop by who have never heard a note.

I'm tempted to start with one of the early pieces produced by Martin Hannett but have opted for Reilly's tribute to fallen comrade Ian Curtis. From second album 'LC,' here is "The Missing Boy." 'LC' was recorded in five hours on a four track and mixed at a studio in two hours. Now that's DIY and a good day's work. Many of Reilly's most well known and revered works are instrumentals, but this song shows his timid vocals can be effective and quite moving.

"The Missing Boy"

By 1983 and 1984, Reilly's compositions had become complex and flamboyant affairs complete with strings, brass, woodwinds and massive percussion. Fourth album 'Without Mercy' is best described as neo-classical and, I imagine, a shock to fans of Factory at the time. The two sides of the album were simply titled "Without Mercy I" and "Without Mercy II." Better to spend less time trying to describe it and just let you get to it.

"Without Mercy" (Stanzas 4 to 7)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

What the Kids Are Listening to Today (Part 1)

I so enjoyed doing that recent post on my 10-year-old son's burgeoning record collection that I have decided to make it an occasional series. Now, obviously, after learning his first three records were by the Monkees, the Beach Boys and the Vince Guaraldi Trio, you know the name of this series is a stab at humor.

His fourth purchase continues the trend of repelling his peers. Lil' T, as he will be known on these pages from now on, plays the clarinet with the kind of passion that fills me with envy. So, I wasn't surprised when he spotted this beat up but interesting set of six 7" singles on a shelf at a little used book store the other day. Benny Goodman's 'Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert' is full of fantastic performances by legends like Harry James, Gene Krupa and, a favorite of mine, vibraphonist Lionel Hampton. This edition came out in 1950, and I have a strong suspicion Lil' T's box set really is more than 65 years old. It just has that look, sound, feel and even smell, you know? Still, not bad for $2.

Lil' T's review: "I like these little records. They play a lot better on my record player. And it's nice to listen to songs without words sometimes."

Well, perhaps we'll get more on the music next time. Thanks for classing up the joint, son. One more warning, folks. Records don't get much scratchier than this one, but what a song!

"Sing Sing Sing" (Live)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Power-Pop Potluck

A tip of the cap to Manufactured Recordings. Last week, the label reissued a whole mess o' power pop that had not been in the vinyl bins for more than 30 years. Let's start with Manikins. The double long player 'From Broadway to Blazes' gathers just about everything you would ever need out of this Perth, Australia, band from 1971 to 1981. Hard and rough around the edges, their music reminds me of Eddie and the Hot Rods, Undertones, the Only Ones and a slew of other bands coming out of the UK in the late '70s. Even if you never heard Manikins before, this collection somehow manages to take you back.

Now on to more traditional power pop. Smart Remarks wore their influences on their sleeves, but what influences they were! You'll spot the sounds of Paul Collins' Beat, The Records and, especially, Dirty Looks. Remember them? How a trio from Staten Island ended up on Stiff Records must be an interesting tale, but that's a story for another day. This trio from Bordentown, New Jersey, had an all too brief recording career, just one memorable single and the five-track EP 'Seriously Speaking,' but it's all here on 'Foreign Fields: 1982-1984.' If you're scratching your head and wondering where you might have heard Smart Remarks before, perhaps you saw them open for the Replacements, Ramones, Joan Jett or Haircut 100 back in the day.

Let's stay in the Garden State for the best and probably best known of the bunch. The Modulators' 1984 album 'Tomorrow's Coming' is a must for any power-pop fan, and this reissue has a bevy of bonus tracks, including demos and the singles that preceded the LP. I'm not going to bother with influences because bands of this ilk should have been trying to emulate the sound of the Modulators, not the other way around. This is just sublime. Now for some trivia. Did you know Rob Roth, the owner of Vintage Vinyl in Fords, New Jersey, one of the best record stores in the world, was once a member of the Modulators? His label was original issuer of the early singles and this album too. It's only February, but come December I bet 'Tomorrow's Coming' will be vying for my reissue of the year.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

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

Here's the one that put Flying Nun on the map all over the world. 'The Dunedin Double,' as it's known, is a four-sided 50-minute EP featuring four early signings from the legendary label. All four bands, the Chills, Sneaky Feelings, the Stone and the Verlaines, hailed from Dunedin, New Zealand, thus the name of the EP, and the term "Dunedin Sound" was born out of this compilation from 1982. Lo-fi. Jangly. Perfect.

Sneaky Feelings is a particular favorite of mine, second only to the Clean of Flying Nun's stable of stars, and I plan a separate post on them later in this vinyl-ripping series. For many years, 'The Dunedin Double' was out of print and ridiculously priced at secondary marketplaces. Thanks to a joint partnership with Captured Tracks, many of Flying Nun's albums are on store shelves again, including this vital title.

The Chills - "Kaleidoscope World"
Sneaky Feelings - "Pity's Sake"
The Stones - "Down and Around"
The Verlaines - "Angela"

Monday, February 20, 2017

Spiral Stairs Pounds the Pavement Again

I can't help but root for Spiral Stairs. Even though he co-founded Pavement, he never seemed to get the cred of his famous mate, Stephen Malkmus. I was a big fan of Stairs' post-Pavement band, Preston School of Industry, and PSOI's first full-length album, 'All This Sounds Gas,' still garners a gaggle of plays in this house some 15 years later. At the time of release, reviews were lukewarm at best. Again, I felt like it was because he was being compared to Malkmus. Admittedly, Malkmus' first solo album, released about six months earlier, was great, but so was 'All This Sounds Gas.'

One of Mrs. LTL's all-time favorite shows was seeing PSOI in 2001 at the Empty Bottle in Chicago. We were one of about 50 that saw them that night, and Stairs seemed so approachable that we had a little chat with him after the show. We thanked him for the effort and had a good laugh about his Robert Smith imitation in the music video for "Falling Away," which had just been released. That song was a mighty accessible piece of pop and quite different from the rest of the expansive twang of 'All This Sounds Gas.' It had hit written all over it, but as often happens, the masses missed it.

There have only been a couple of albums since then. I didn't think followup 'Monsoon' was quite as good, but I imagine it might have sold a little better since they had played for bigger audiences as openers for Wilco, one of the hottest bands at that time, prior to that release. Five more years would pass before Stairs would release another album, this time as Spiral Stairs, not Preston School of Industry. This was around the time Pavement would briefly reunite and tour to support a best-of package. I'm afraid the latest from Stairs may have been lost in all of that love for Pavement.

That's it. No new music from Stairs for the past eight years... that is until March 24 when 'Doris and the Daggers' hits the shelves. Quite a bit has happened to Stairs since we last heard from him, and that is reflected in the music. He's lived abroad, lost friends and become a father. So expect the songs to be more personal, emotional and confessional. I'm not usually one to quote from press releases, but I was pretty excited to read Stairs say, "The lyrics definitely have a more traditional 'songwriter' feel. I'm getting older, and the music I'm listening to is often more story-based. I love Paul Kelly, the Australian singer-songwriter – he's a great storyteller. I think I was trying to channel some of that, and people like Lloyd Cole, songwriters more from the Dylan school of honesty." Here's the first release from 'Doris and the Daggers,' with help from Jason Lytle of Grandaddy. Stairs has a slew of dates on the west coast in the spring. Catch him if you can.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

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

Between the years when he briefly fronted the original lineup of Duran Duran (or Duran Fucking Duran, as they are known by many in these parts) and formed the Lilac Time with his brother Nick, Stephen "Tin Tin" Duffy composed a couple of dance-floor classics that scored quite well on the UK charts and got plenty of spins in the clubs on this side of the Atlantic too.

During that era, one song Duffy couldn't seem to get out of his system was "Kiss Me." To the best of my knowledge, he recorded, released or reissued this song at least four times in the '80s. When it comes to this genre, I'm no expert, but having just listened to two takes from this 12" Caroline put out in 1986, I don't think he bettered the original. This post may vie for my shortest, but I have no recollection of buying this record and am quite sure it hasn't been played since I was in high school three decades ago.

"Kiss Me" (1983 Version)
"Kiss Me" (1985 Version)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day... or Not

I try to keep an open mind about these things. If you're smiling today, go with the optimistic power pop of the underrated Elvis Brothers. If you're down and want to stay there, opt for the legendary Chet Baker. It's not really supposed to be so sad, but it sure is when Chet delivers it. No matter which song you choose, you're gonna get a hell of a listen.

The Elvis Brothers - "Valentine"
Chet Baker - "My Funny Valentine"

Friday, February 10, 2017

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

No draining the swamp here. From N'awlins, the land of red beans, slot machines and voodoo queens, the doctor is in. I just featured the double album a couple of years ago, but this is where I find myself in the series, and I can't bring myself to skip it. The title on the front cover reveals everything you need to know about this relic. It's an in-studio FM radio broadcast for WLIR in Hempstead, NY, circa 1973, starring Dr. John and the Rampart Street Symphony Orchestra (as named by Professor Longhair). Funky, tight and out of sight. I can't recommend this one highly enough.

"Mess Around"

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Cover Me Impressed: 'Porpoise Song'

In recent days, we have had a ton of trippy music in our little corner of the blogging community, haven't we? Well, today's selection will continue the groovy theme. We got my youngest his first record player for Christmas. As you can see above, calling it a turntable might be a stretch, but it's a fine introduction for a 10 year old. He has three albums in his collection so far. One is this compilation picture disc by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. Last week we found a really interesting used album of hits by the Beach Boys that came out in 1975 and focused specifically on the Brother Records years. His favorite, though, is a new compilation Rhino put out called 'Monkees Forever.'

To my delight, one tune he plays over and over is "Porpoise Song." It's a Goffin-King composition from the Monkees' 1968 film 'Head.' His obsession has afforded me the pleasure to play for him the excellent cover by one of my all-time favorites, Wondermints. The fellas recorded this one for their all-covers album from 1996 called 'Wonderful World of Wondermints.' The album initially came out only in Japan, and I paid a pretty penny for it back in the day, but I believe it has been reissued domestically at least once since then.

The Monkees - "Porpoise Song"
Wondermints - "Porpoise Song"

If you can spare a moment, give this demo by Carole King a listen, too. It's a rough recording, but I just love it. Goffin-King wrote about a dozen songs for the Monkees, and the demos I have heard are real gems. Somebody needs to clean them up and release them as an album. I know I would be the first in line.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Robyn Returns... and With a Band!

Take a deep breath, Swede. We got our first listen at a song from Robyn Hitchcock's upcoming album earlier this week. If I counted correctly, the self-titled LP, out April 21 from the fine folks at Yep Roc, will be his 22nd as a solo artist. Interesting that 35 years after 'Black Snake Diamond Röle,' Hitchcock goes the self-titled route.

Here's what we know so far. The album was recorded in Hitchcock's adopted hometown of Nashville at Brendan Benson's Readymade Studios. Benson is a power-pop hero to many, and his role as producer should excite Hitchcock's fans too. Now, don't get me wrong. I really enjoyed his last album, 'The Man Upstairs,' but it's good to hear him backed by a band again. Many of the roster are from Music City, including guitarist Annie McCue, bassist Jon Estes and drummer Jon Radford. Backing vocals are provided by old friends like Emma Swift, Grant Lee Phillips, Gillian Welch and Pat Sansone.

So, about that first song. Here's what Hitchcock has to say about "I Want to Tell You About What I Want." Here's a guy that will make you stop and listen.

"The original title of the song was 'My Vision Of World Empathy.' Either we will eventually become extinct and be replaced by cats with articulated thumbs who have evolved the way apes slowly evolved into us, or we will become empathic and mildly telepathic — people like Donald Trump won't happen because biologically no human will be born with that lack of empathy. We will become a species that isn't capable of bullying because we can feel what we're doing to other people. There is obviously some evolutionary step between the human and the angel that needs to take place. Maybe when we have enough suffering credits, our DNA will go, 'Right! Here we go! Homo angelicus — it can read your mind, it's compassionate, it can levitate and it's a great lover! It shares its fish sticks with you and flies you back in time to see The Velvet Underground!' That is what we need to become." -- Robyn Hitchcock

Thursday, February 2, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter D, Part 18)

I have written about my fascination with local indie-pop scenes around the UK in the late '80s, such as Barry Newman booking bands at the Norwich Arts Centre and releasing music on his own Wilde Club Records. In the past couple of years, I have been researching another such pocket around Newcastle. This cat named Stephen Joyce used to book bands at long-gone venue the Broken Doll. He booked My Bloody Valentine, McCarthy and many others, but with an eye for talent a little lower on the bill, such as Edinburgh's The Holidaymakers and locals like Nivens. He got a hold of both of them and released a split flexi along with a fanzine, calling the entire endeavor Woosh. What followed was a brief but memorable run of ten 7" singles, all but three of them flexis.

There were a couple of big names in the indie world that stopped by Woosh with a song, such as the Groove Farm and the Pooh Sticks, but it was Nivens that gave Joyce's label its brightest moment. Woosh 005, "Yesterday," peaked at No. 13 on the indie chart in early 1989. I have slowly begun to collect these 10 singles from Woosh, and I thought we could give Woosh 002 a listen since I keep this split flexi in the D section for the Driscolls. I featured my favorite song by the band a couple of years ago, and this one isn't quite up to the level of "Girl I Want You Back," but still a fine listen. "Father's Name Is Dad" is the Driscolls' first release, and it has that feel, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's a cover from Fire, a late '60s band that was pretty trippy, to say the least. As mentioned earlier, this is a flexi. So please give me a pass on the pops and scratches. I like the song by Strawberry Story even more. Expect them to show up at some point.

"Father's Name Is Dad"

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter D, Part 17)

The Dream Academy may not be for everyone, but I thought they were just swell, particularly the first two albums and related singles. Let's listen to a couple of my favorites from the period. From the self-titled debut, here is "The Edge of Forever." This was the followup to the worldwide smash "Life in a Northern Town." This one didn't bother the charts, but I think you'll find the song a real charmer. The first take is from the album. The second version, titled "Poised On The Edge Of Forever," feels a bit like a demo and can be found on the flip side of the "Life in a Northern Town" 12" single. Through the years, I have grown to like it almost as much as its polished successor. You lose some of that gorgeous instrumentation, but on the plus side, you also lose the saxophone solo. That instrument didn't bother me one bit in 1985, but it makes me cringe now.

"The Edge of Forever"
"Poised on the Edge of Forever"

I can't let a post on the Dream Academy pass without including non-album single "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want." The cover of the Morrissey/Marr classic didn't even get a proper release here in America, but the instrumental version (available on the 12") more than got its due in the summer of '86 when the song was used (with nary a word of dialogue) in 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off.'

The famous scene shot at the Art Institute of Chicago has been a favorite in this house for a number of personal reasons, and it was a big moment for my then art-obsessed six-year-old when we walked into the hallowed halls of the museum in 2011. He has a giant coffee-table book of the permanent works featured there, and he used to take out his crayons and try to make his own versions of the paintings, particularly Van Gogh's "The Bedroom," Picasso's "The Old Guitarist" and Cassatt's "The Child's Bath." His favorite, though, was Seurat's "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte," and he took one of his renderings to the museum to compare it to the real thing... a moment I'll never forget. A moment I would like to forget: About 15 minutes later he left another work of art all over the floor in front of Chagall's famous "American Windows." We called it "Breakfast."

Here are both versions of the Dream Academy's "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want." I'll take the instrumental every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

"Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want"
"Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want" (Instrumental)