Record Store Day 2021, Part 2 [Vinyl]

Here are a few more RSD purchases we’ve felt the need to dissect. Please note that none of this was free – getting review copies just ain’t what it used to be! So, working from Z backwards…

THE ZOMBIES – Oddities & Extras (Varese Vintage VSD00020-05) – It’s hard to tell what songs have been on what Zombies compilations. Basically, they only released two actual albums, Begin Here and Odessey and Oracle, so everything else has likely been encountered either on the stellar 4CD Zombie Heaven box set from 1999 or on one of the countless comps that have made the rounds ever since a number of us decided that the band belonged in the same echelon as The Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Who et. al. I’m pretty familiar with just about all of the baker’s dozen songs here on Oddities & Extras, but being a near-completist I needed to add this to the collection. It’s a pleasant enough platter, especially with “She Does Everything for Me,” “Just Out of Reach” and the cover of “Goin’ Out of My Head,” but I can’t help feeling this may be surplus to my Zombies needs.

SUPER FURRY ANIMALS – Ice Hockey Hair EP (BMG CAT491EP) – A 4-song EP, pressed on unnecessarily 180-gram vinyl, this one also feels a little surplus… to my SFA needs, that is. Gotta say, though, that “Ice Hockey Hair” is a classic in the lush, semi- Britpop vein that the Furries embraced. Of the other three tracks, “Smokin’” is also good, “Let’s Quit Smoking” is a different arrangement of the former (basically), and “Mu-Tron” may just be an excuse for one of the SFA guitarists to use his so-named guitar effects pedal. Being a 12″ (as opposed to a full-on LP), this one is likely to stay shelved for awhile. Not because the song isn’t any good, but because it also appears on the “greatest hits” album, Songbook (The Singles, Vol. 1).

THE KINKS – Percy (BMG CAT488LP) – I’m kinda scratching my head on this one… I get that any album from the Lola-era Kinks is worth reissuing, but why – oh why?! – did they make it a picture disc? This isn’t a typical album from the band, being a soundtrack to a seldom seen 1971 comedy film, with some instrumentals, a “Lola” blues jam and the like, so maybe they decided to have a little fun with it. I mean, one side of the picture disc is a closeup of the image on the front cover, as in, the cartoon man’s groin covered by a big leaf. (The other side is the full cover image.) To be fair, this pic disc is pressed on extra thick vinyl so it actually sounds pretty good. And let’s not forget: This isn’t exactly a proper Kinks album, so you’re not likely to take Percy for a spin very often. It’ll probably stand up to the half dozen plays you’re likely to give it. The textured cover is a nice touch (replicating the original), too.

THE FLAMING LIPS – The Soft Bulletin Companion (Warner 093624885016) – With most of the tracks “Soft Bulletin outtakes, stereo versions of Zaireeka tracks and unreleased songs from the era,” this Companion – a 2LP vinyl representation of a 1999 promo CD – is nice in a humble kind of way. Granted, these days I find myself mimicking Wayne Coyne’s high-pitched, practically falsetto singing voice (“when you got that spider bite on your arm”), but there are some good songs here, and I am very much a fan of this era of the Lips. So, its presentation is fitting: as if it were a generic white album cover, with black and white stickers slapped on the front and back, a coffee stain here, a pen mark there; the colored vinyl itself is silver and the labels are of the “promo copy” variety. There’s scant info about the tracks themselves, but I have faith that most Flaming Lips fans will be aware of their pedigree. The cover of Skip Spence’s “Little Hands” is certainly more tolerable (even pleasant) than the songwriter’s own version. – Marsh Gooch

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Record Store Day 2021, Part 1 [Vinyl]

I picked up nearly two handfuls of vinyl for Record Store Day 2021 (first drop) and decided to “review” them, in a pair of parts, based on my initial impressions. It’s a fact that many of the items we pick up for RSD get played once and then filed away, likely to never be pulled from the shelf again. That’ll be great for resale one day – maybe – but it’s certainly not the way you wanna tie up your record money if you can help it. On the other hand, some gems only come to reveal their beauty further on down the road, so… I don’t know… Ah, let’s just get going.

TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS – Angel Dream (Warner Records 093624882312) – Sort of a companion to last year’s Wildflowers extravaganza, Angel Dream is a “reimagining” of the songs Petty and crew did for the movie, She’s the One. I don’t know if anyone remembers the movie (I don’t) but the songs are memorable. In some ways they share a lot of the vibe of Wildflowers, kind of laid back, but there’s a lightheartedness with these tunes that doesn’t surface in the others, quite likely due to the fact that they were written to accompany a film. I wouldn’t hold this one up to Petty’s greatest albums (Wildflowers is one), but it’s got a charm to it that’s hard to deny. Together with Wildflowers and Finding Wallflowers (a 2LP set of Disc 4 of last year’s heaping helping of Tom’s hospitality), Angel Dream is one purchase you would listen to again.

ELTON JOHN – Regimental Sgt. Zippo (Rocket/UMe RSDRSZ2021) – This one’s really out of left field! Yeah, if you’re trying to guess by the album cover, you’re right: it’s a psychedelic EJ album that was never released. Recorded in early 1968 at DJM Studio in London (home of Elton’s record label in the UK), it’s Elton and Bernie Taupin in their salad days, taking a break from trying to find their own voice and instead working up some groovy, of-the-moment (but now fairly aged) psych-pop. Surprisingly, the arrangements are much more fleshed out than I was expecting, sounding very much like a serious attempt to write an album’s worth of tunes good enough to release. And they are/were! Why this wasn’t put out until now is a good question, and probably even Sir Elton doesn’t quite remember. But at this point in his career – and after most of these songs made their debut on last year’s Jewel Box set – it makes sense to put out a vinyl relic of what Elton & Bernie were spending their time on while still wearing creative short pants. The songs are certainly on the derivative side but they’re fun to listen to, making Sgt. Zippo a nice one to reach for when you’re in the mood for something different. And I like the play on Elton’s given name, too.

TOOTS & THE MAYTALS – Funky Kingston (Get On Down/Island GET54103-LP) – This is one of the greatest reggae albums of the ’70s, even if this particular configuration isn’t the same as its original Jamaican counterpart. Funky Kingston, as it has been since its first international release, is mostly that original issue, with a few tracks brought over from another album and “Pressure Drop” ported over from a ’69 single. Whether or not you consider this a proper album or a compilation, you can’t dispute that this may have been Toots’ peak as an artist. I would’ve liked them to do a 2LP set containing the original Funky, with the extra tracks they swapped in from In the Dark, and whatever else would’ve made sense. But, I guess for that there’s always my Very Best Of… CD, not to mention a host of other compilations still available.

FLAMIN’ GROOVIES – I’ll Have A… Bucket of Brains (Parlophone 0190295104139) – It may have gotten its name from an obscure Welsh beer, but this record’s got the Groovies’ best known song on it, “Shake Some Action,” a stone cold klassic that you should crank anytime you get a chance. This little 10″ mini LP, “The Original 1972 Rockfield Recordings for U.A.,” contains seven songs the San Francisco band did with nascent producer Dave Edmunds for the UK wing of United Artists. UA released a couple of the band’s rock ’n’ roll singles at the time but they were (at least in hindsight) doomed to fail, being released during Britain’s glam rock craze. Yet “Shake Some Action” eventually became a touchstone of power pop and more bands have been influenced by it than probably even know it. Here, Bucket of Brains provides the single version and the original recording at its slightly slower speed (in a 1995 mix) that reveals more of what makes it so damn good. Plus, there’s a killer version of “Tallahassee Lassie” (crushes Freddy Cannon’s original like a grape!) and their other klassic cruncher, “Slow Death.” This was only available as a UK CD (and under a couple of other names in other countries) mostly in the mid ’90s. As a 10″ it is the perfect vinyl artefact. If this doesn’t help you bust out at full speed, then I don’t know what you need… to make it alright! – Marsh Gooch

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Mumps • Rock & Roll This, Rock & Roll That: Best Case Scenario, You’ve Got Mumps [CD, LP]

What kinda band do you get when you mix (more or less) equal parts Sparks, Bowie, New York Dolls, Skafish and Dickies? Before you answer that, let me just say that I am aware that many will accuse me of committing the oldest “lazy rock journalist” cliché in the book by starting this review that way, and that I honestly don’t care.* Answer: MUMPS. Rock & Roll This, Rock & Roll That: Best Case Scenario, You’ve Got Mumps is the third compilation of tracks by the band, and considering I had barely heard of them before word of this comp got to me, you could say “third time’s a charm” in terms of me finally giving this group a spin. That is, if you’re prone to carelessly uttering clichés…

Well, what we have in the case of the Mumps is a mid ’70s New York rock band that came up via the CBGBs scene, made up of a handful of guys who got together in Mrs. Loud’s equal opportunity garage and took a shot at creating their own kind of music. Their lead singer, Lance Loud, had come out as gay on national television in 1973 during an episode of the PBS documentary series, An American Family. (This was before people got paid to appear on “reality TV” and pretty unheard of at the time, kids.) At the same time he was starting a band, sometimes called Loud, which eventually morphed into Mumps. There’s a lot of interesting history and plenty of great anecdotes about their exploits in the liner notes here, but suffice to say that though the band was clearly one of the better bands on the scene, they are – today – certainly way less known than Talking Heads, Ramones, Blondie, Television, et. al. Regardless of their actual popularity, Mumps deserves to be heard.

As you may remember from the opening of this review (oh, so long ago), they mix rock, punk, musical theater and more in a Rocky Horror Picture Show meets new wave combo that must have been pretty cool to witness in-person. In fact, it’s likely that the songs here that seem a bit over-the-top in the drama sweepstakes were probably quite exciting on stage. Think of Queen, if that band were more lighthearted, yet socially-conscious and a little less polished. Or maybe Sparks without the brother. (You pick which one…) With lyrics like “I wish I could’ve seen your face before the accident” – just one of the severely smart-assed variety – you can bet that these guys, or at least Lance Loud, were probably the clowns in their class. And if you weren’t of the “I’d like to punch that guy in the face” persuasion then you probably would’ve dug having any of the Mumps in at least your most-boring junior high period. The LP version of Rock & Roll This… is a 14-track affair, while the CD adds 9 more (all very worthwhile), including two never-before-released Loud tracks. Releases like this ought to give you reassurance that, just when you think you’ve heard every band you should have, there’s always the likelihood of you catching something as bad – and by that, I mean good – as the Mumps. – Marsh Gooch

4/5 (Omnivore OVCD-417, 2021)

* What kind of rock critic do you get when you mix equal parts “I don’t care what you think” and “I sincerely hope you think I’m a genius”? (Picture me using both hands to point back at myself) THIS GUY!

 

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Alex Chilton & Hi Rhythm Section • Boogie Shoes: Live on Beale Street [CD, LP]

Chillin’ to Chilton… what could be more enjoyable as late spring heads into summer? I nearly forgot about this one – it slipped down between the seat and the transmission hump and sat there for over a month before I thought, “Isn’t that new ALEX CHILTON & HI RHYTHM SECTION thing coming out soon?” Sure enough, it’s out now. Boogie Shoes: Live on Beale Street is the kind of short ’n’ snappy one-set show that you want to listen to over and over again. Chilton and his one-off backing band – made up of some of Memphis’s most esteemed musicians – got together for one benefit show in 1999 and luckily someone had the forethought to record it for future enjoyment.

Fact is, Chilton and band had not one rehearsal prior to this performance and you’d never notice it: these guys are the right amount of tight for a live set, never mechanical, yet never too loosey goosey either. The ten songs range from covers of Little Richard and Chuck Berry to Jimmy Reed, The Supremes and even K.C. & The Sunshine Band (the title track). With no missteps in song choice, this ten-song, 45 minute disc keeps the boogie factor high and the “ugh” factor to a bare minimum. Sure, I’d have brought the guitar up in the mix some. I might have asked “Hubie” Mitchell to use some more authentic sounding keyboard sounds (the organ’s not as organic as I’d like it). Maybe I would have had the guys play “Lucille” a whole step lower, as it’s just about out of Alex’s range. Finally, I’d wish that closer “Trying to Live My Life Without You” didn’t have to be faded out so early. But remember: I’m a critic. I’m supposed to point out the things that stand out, good and bad. Or in this case, neither good nor bad just noticeable. But what’s most noticeable is the fun vibe of this set. Besides the obvious good vibes people got from performing at or attending a benefit concert for Memphis promoter Fred Ford, a good time must’ve been had by all if the sound of this release is any indication. And at this late date, in this particular context, what it sounds like and whether any of us would listen to it more than once is of utmost importance.

When two disparate legends come together it’s not necessarily gonna be a success. But – at least this one time – getting rocker Chilton and Hi Records’ ace rhythm and horn sections to don their boogie shoes together was as close to a perfect fit as you could ask for. – Marsh Gooch

3.5/5 (Omnivore Recordings OVCD-420, 2021)

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Paul & Linda McCartney • RAM (50th Anniversary Half-Speed Master) [LP]

Not necessarily one of Macca’s best-known or best-selling albums, 1971’s RAM by PAUL & LINDA McCARTNEY is a critics favorite for reasons that aren’t always clear. This new reissue – a limited edition half-speed mastered pressing – may just be the best-sounding version of it that any of us with limited resources are ever gonna get, assuming we don’t own a mint original UK or German pressing. I don’t. I mean, I DO have more copies of this album than anyone in their right mind would have, but guys like me aren’t really in our right minds in the first place, so…

It was Paul’s second solo outing, barely a year after The Beatles officially broke up and not long after his first record, McCartney. Both were subject to lots of criticism, true, but when you look back to that time period every Beatles solo record was panned by a majority of reviewers who stupidly hoped/expected the Fab Four’s records without each other would be as good as the ones they did together. Plastic Ono Band: Panned. All Things Must Pass: Pass. Sentimental Journey? Please. Of course, we know now that all three of those albums – yes, even Ringo’s! – are classics if not at least pretty damn good for a drummer. (Ha ha!) Anyway, as tempting as it is to go into what makes RAM so great – you know, “gritty,” “unpolished but charming,” “inventive,” “‘Smile Away’ is awesome and I don’t care how silly it is or what you think” – I feel like if you’re reading this you probably already have a real good clue.

This album, like most of Macca’s, has been reissued near-countless times so it’s gotta either be one of your favorites or you’re a Beatles completist who buys every single reissue you can get your hands on. I’m – believe it or not, friends and family – somewhere in between. I do have multiple vinyl copies of this one: an original US issue on Apple with a mislabeled side 2 (sounds dismal), the 2012 2LP version on Hear Music that sounds very nice, the later Capitol reissue on see-through yellow vinyl that was supposedly pressed from the same master as the Hear Music release, and this brand new half-speed master. Oh yeah, and the awesome 2012 mono reissue (it was actually released to radio stations in ’71 as a promotional copy in a dedicated [not fold-down stereo] mono mix). Not counting that mono copy, this RAM is hands-down the best one I’ve heard. Just like the McCartney half-speed master that came out last year, this one just kills in every way. Things are clearer, the fuzz bass is wild ’n’ woolly like it oughta be, McCartney’s vocals growl or croon when they should, the strings on “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” and “The Back Seat of My Car” sound lusher than ever, and the acoustic guitars throughout glimmer like ripples on the water on a lovely spring day. (Did I just write that?!) Not only that, but there are backing vocals I’ve never really heard as clearly as they are here, and the lead vocals sometimes linger at the end of a line where you didn’t know they actually did. I probably know RAM better than every McCartney album save Band on the Run and Venus and Mars (I’ll take those half-speed masters toot-suite!) and I can tell you that this version beats not only the superb 1993 DCC Compact Classics gold CD, but the 2012 Archive Series version, too.

So, to wrap this up: If you can get a hold of one of these RAMs without having to go to epic lengths to do so, do it. You read this far; you should need no further convincing. Ram on! – Marsh Gooch

5/5 (Capitol/UMe 00602435577234, 2021)

Here’s a pretty good description of how half-speed mastering can make for a better record. (And no, you don’t have to play the record at half speed!)

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The Palace Guard • All Night Long: An Anthology 1965-1967 [CD]

Given the legend that surrounds Emitt Rhodes – he being considered a pop genius a la Alex Chilton or Harry Nilsson – one would expect THE PALACE GUARD to be a necessary addition to the psych/garage pop canon. Rhodes, after all, formed The Merry-Go-Round (“Live,” “Time Will Show the Wiser,” covered by Bangles and Fairport Convention, respectively) and went on to make an acclaimed platter eponymously titled Emitt Rhodes (1970) when that band broke up. After Rhodes’ ’73 LP, Farewell to Paradise, failed to engage the pop public, he basically bid his own farewell and ceased releasing longplayers. Eventually, in 2016, Rhodes put out a followup to Paradise, Rainbow Ends, that garnered the same kind of critical praise that his self-titled ’70 LP did. Unfortunately, Rhodes passed away last year in his sleep.

But let’s get back to this CD, All Night Long, which gathers all six of The Palace Guard’s singles. The band was formed in Hawthorne, California by brothers Don, John and David Beaudoin, bass guitarist Rick Moser and Rhodes on drums. Their half dozen singles (so make that twelve songs in total) make up their discography, and all of them are pretty hard to find. Omnivore has brought us this spiffy collection and, while it has its strong points, it’s not what I would call a must-have. Nuggets fans, West Coast pop fanatics, and those who just plain favor obscure 45s will enjoy moments of this short disc. Their second single, 1965’s “A Girl You Can Depend On,” is pretty cool, in a semi-minor-key way, and their version of “Saturday’s Child” (released about the same time as The Monkees’ superior take) is worth a few listens, but the remaining songs are fairly forgettable. If it wasn’t for the fact that Emitt Rhodes emerged from this band – in which he played drums only and hadn’t gotten to demonstrate his later legendary one-man-band talent – they’d probably be remembered by only the most knowledgeable and esoteric pop-aholics. (You know, the kind of guys that would know, for instance, that TV’s Don Grady [Robbie on My Three Sons] sang lead on their final, 1966 single “Little People”.)

The thing is, there are plenty of pop fans who will eat up this release and there’s plenty of room for The Palace Guard in their diet. There’ll always be those of us who are interested in these obscure records and will be willing to give them a spin. All Night Long – save for its liner notes, oddly narrated by bassist Moser in third-person – is worthy of a place on the Rhodes scholar’s shelf. – Marsh Gooch

2.5/5 (Omnivore Recordings OVCD-424, 2021)

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The Cranberries • No Need to Argue [CD]

Review originally published in The Rocket, Seattle, December 1994 and posted on my old blog, Skratchdisc, on 3/31//2010 – now posted here for your edification, entertainment and/or annoyance.

Yes, that’s right. There’s no need to argue: THE CRANBERRIES are as bad as their name. For one thing, lead singer Dolores O’Riordan goes out of her way to sing every song as if she’s yearning for something. Can someone yearn that much? And for what? Her caterwauling envelops the entire album, making the whole thing rather difficult to hear. It makes me want to pee. I mean, she spends so much time trying to uniquely sing every syllable, she’s barely singing anything understandable at all. If you want to hear lyrics rendered as gibberish, you might as well go put on Cocteau Twins! At least they’re good, and their lyrics aren’t supposed to mean anything!

But, let’s assume you can get past her voice (i.e., you like it). Musically, No Need to Argue is an amalgam of alternative rock styles (including nifty grunge-style guitar on “Zombie”) that we’ve all heard at least one too many times. Now, I know that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad album (hell, I liked Urge Overkill’s Saturation). But it’s basically the same album as their debut from last year, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? Maybe they’re answering the question of their first album’s title with No Need to Argue. But, as your mother probably told you any number of times, just because everybody’s jumping off a cliff doesn’t mean you have to, too. – Marsh Gooch

[no stars given in original review] (Island 314-524 050-2, 1994)

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Elvis Costello & The Attractions • Armed Forces [Super Deluxe Edition]

Here’s the ELVIS COSTELLO & THE ATTRACTIONS’ big box set I’d been waiting for. From the guy who I originally panned when reviewing his first two albums for my junior high school “newspaper,” Armed Forces – the 1979 album has passed its 40th birthday – still stands as a monumental new wave LP. In fact, calling it new wave almost denigrates it. The fact of the matter is, many record labels were looking for acts with that “edgy,” “sharp,” “barbed” sound after EC and his Attractions dropped this bombshell on the ears of those who were searching for something beyond the usual rock.

Dubbed “The Complete Armed Forces,” this behemoth includes LPs, EPs, 7″ singles and booklets galore in a large clamshell box adorned with the original US album cover on the outside (which was actually on the inside of the UK/European versions) and the UK/European front cover on the inside (which was on the back of the US version), all of which was designed by the magnificent Barney Bubbles. The 12″ assortment includes the original Armed Forces in a 13-track version that incorporates both the US and UK track listings (in the very cool origami-like unfolding cover of the foreign versions), a Live at Hollywood High and Beyond album (half of the tracks that appeared on a 2010 CD of the entire concert but considerably more than the three that appeared on the 7″ EP included with the original album), and a blistering ’79 concert recorded at the Pink Pop Festival in the Netherlands. EP-wise – all 10″ vinyl – you get an 8-song volume called Sketches for Emotional Fascism (most of which have appeared on previous Costello releases), a 6-song concert recorded in Australia (Riot at the Regent, quite good but too short!), and a 4-songer called Christmas in the Dominion which is also way too short. The singles feature original artwork for three 7″ releases, but the B-sides aren’t always the same as on the originals (except on one where it is!). Maddening! And the sleeve for “Accidents Will Happen,” which was originally cleverly printed inside-out (as in, “accidents will happen!”), is printed right-side-out, which at least gives you the chance to see what the whole thing looked like without having to take the sleeve apart. As for the “booklets galore,” these are all designed to look like old comic books, pulp fiction novels and other pre-1979 printed materials, with insides that include Elvis’s notes on the songs and their geneses, his handwritten lyrics as they appeared in his notebooks, etc., and all the credits for this humongous undertaking. In all, it’s a shitload of Costello music and ephemera that is going to be way too much for most people but not enough for many of the rest of us.

I think, in all, this “complete” Armed Forces is pretty fabulous. The sound quality is the best yet for the core album (my opinion, even better than the MoFi pressing) and the live concerts sound brilliant. I do wish the Riot at the Regent and Christmas in the Dominion records contained the complete concerts (future marketing opportunities!), but I can handle those coming out separately later on. This box itself is awfully expensive ($200 for the black vinyl version, $260 for the color vinyl) but is likely to come down in price. And if it’s just the music you want, you can find that available as high resolution downloads online. But if you like your box sets in the extravagant variety (not exactly punk rock, but, hey, whatever) then this is one you should have in your armory. – Marsh Gooch

4.5/5 (UMe B0031761-01, 2020)

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Bonnie Hayes with the Wild Combo • Good Clean Fun [LP]

The following review first appeared in my old music blog, Skratchdisc, some years ago. To preface this repost, BONNIE HAYES with the WILD COMBO’s Good Clean Fun has been reissued by Blixa Sounds in an expanded CD package with the original album, a 6-song EP, an early Hayes group’s single and some great new notes by Bonnie herself. The mastering job is nice ’n’ peppy, allowing this poppy early ’80s new wave classic to shine on into the 2020s. Here’s what I said a few years ago when I found a used copy in my local vinyl emporium.

Once again, on one of my weekly “just lookin’” ventures, I found a couple of great deals. The first one was a Mobile Fidelity half-speed master of a VERY PROMINENT ’70S ROCK ALBUM (name withheld to protect me from those who might make fun), which had a real used cover but the record was PERFECT. And it was only 99¢! The second was what this review’s about, Bonnie Hayes with the Wild Combo’s 1982 new wave gem, Good Clean Fun.

I first ran into this record during my rookie year as a college radio DJ at Seattle’s legendary KCMU. (It is now the world-renowned KEXP, but don’t get me started…!) My freshman year at the University of Washington, 1981/82 was a year that was beyond compare for yours truly. During the summer of ’81 a friend told me about this low-watt radio station where they played all kinds of “weird new wave”—this is where I first heard The B-52’s, XTC, Devo, you name it. I tuned in the station whenever it would come in (at that time it was only 10 watts), and upon my first week of school at the UW, I promptly went to the station to find out what it was all about. It was then that I learned that almost anyone could get a show, and met a slew of like minded students (like my buds Mike Fuller and Andy Taylor, for two) who enjoyed DJing and playing whatever records you wanted. I got my first show in November (a Friday night from 11 pm to 2 am), and eventually this puny little station became a major part of my life. I discovered more great music in the initial years of DJing there than I have in all the years since! Sometime in 1982 Slash Records, the Los Angeles-based punk rock label, put out Bonnie Hayes’s LP, and we played the hell out of it. Sure, some of the jocks thought it was pretty lightweight, and if you have no history with the girl groups of the ’60s, you might, too, but this record really was good clean fun. And this from the label that had already put out X’s first two albums, The Dream Syndicate and The Gun Club! Slash had punk cred like no one else.

Well, anyway, this is about as pure an ’80s new wave record as you can get, with percolating organs and crunchy guitars and a nice female voice singing of “Shelly’s Boyfriend,” “Girls Like Me,” and “Raylene.” And to think I went decades without this record, yesterday I found it in the 99¢ bin! Sleeve in good shape, record looked good. And like the record mentioned way above, it turned out to be in great shape. So, here’s to Bonnie Hayes and her Wild Combo allowing me to relive some memories nearly 30 years old. I’ll have to check out what she’s up to now... – Marsh Gooch

4/5 (Blixa Sounds ETA 859, 2020) (bonniehayes.com)

 

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Edgar Jones • The Way It Is: 25 Years of Solo Adventures [3CD]

You may not know who EDGAR JONES is. You may not know him by the most well-known of his pseudonyms, Edgar Summertyme, either. Hell, you might not even know him from his superb early ’90s UK garage trio, The Stairs. So three CDs of a guy you don’t even know might seem like way more than you’d want to sit through just to figure him out. But Jones – a multi-instrumentalist who tends to play bass guitar when playing for people like Paul Weller, Johnny Marr or The La’s – has so many sides to him that The Way It Is only begins to give you an accurate picture of this unique musician.

Starting back from where most of us know him, Jones/Summertyme was the bassist and lead singer of The Stairs, who came along from Liverpool about the same time as The La’s. Both bands were signed to a hip indie label called Go! Discs (that also featured Billy Bragg, The Housemartins and Paul Weller on its roster). The Stairs was a real compelling throwback to UK psychedelia, using fuzzed-out guitars, loud amps and amped up arrangements that gave songs like “Weed Bus” and “Right in the Back of Your Mind” just enough of a modern twist that the youngsters of the ’90s probably had no idea that Summertyme and his mates were both paying tribute to and parodying the great indie rock of 25 years earlier. Jones/Summertyme sang in a growlly, animated voice that sounded just exaggerated enough to keep some people from taking his band seriously. Yet, if you had a deep enough knowledge of Sixties rock (see how I patted myself on the back there?) you “got it,” and The Stairs’ supreme and supremely overlooked Mexican R’n’B was as overplayed as “that’s what she said.” (Forget about the fact that the UK version of that compact disc had four or five more songs on it than the US one.*)

After The Stairs wound down, Jones went on to dip his fingers into all kinds of different concoctions. Whether he was fronting a soul/R&B combo, another garage unit or a smooth pop group (even a jump blues thang!), he brought a distinct Edgar vibe to his music. The Way It Is tries to distill all of this into a three disc anthology that at once does a great job and at the same time comes up short. How? Well, this set features 70 tracks! It’s near impossible to digest it all in one go, especially when you consider there are so many genres of rock represented that you can’t possibly keep track of where it starts, where it gets to, and where it ends up. That being said, if you like The Stairs, there’s a fair bunch of tracks to keep you goin’, especially those by his groups The Big Kids, The Joneses and The Edgar Jones Free Peace Thing, which grabbed that ’60s garage thing and added some trippy soul a la “Grazing in the Grass” (either Hugh Masakela’s or Friends Of Distinction’s arrangements). Noel Gallagher liked them so much he had them open for Oasis on their 2009 European tour. The tracks that originally appeared under Jones’ own name are more soul- or pop-inspired and may not float your boat, but then again: You can put on The Way It Is, any disc you like, and it’ll feel like you stumbled upon some free-form radio station from another decade where the DJ’s really killin’ it. I mean, killin’ it! – Marsh Gooch

3.5/5 (Cherry Red CDTRED805, 2021)

(* Cherry Red put out a 3CD reissue a couple years ago that is essential for Stairs fans. How I didn’t get around to reviewing it, I still can’t recall…)

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