Monthly Archives: October 2020

Flamin’ Groovies • Now, Jumpin’ in the Night [CD]

See also: Flaming Groovies, Flamin Groovies. However you wanna spell or punctuate the name, the FLAMIN’ GROOVIES were an American band that wore their Anglophile leanings on their sleeves – or was it collarless Nehru jackets? Or was it the trousers?? Two albums from their classic late ’70s period were quietly released on CD earlier this year and after finally receiving copies of them I’m writing a few words on their behalf.

1978’s Now was their second with Sire Records and with Dave Edmunds producing. While it was still one helluva semi-power-pop album, it lacked a “Shake Some Action” or “Teenage Head” to buoy its greatness. In fact, except for “Yeah My Baby,” it is Now’s cover versions that make it a worthwhile Groovies disc. “Feel a Whole Lot Better” feels a lot like the Byrds’ version, as does “There’s a Place” to the Beatles’ original, while “Paint It Black” feels Groovier than the Stones’ hit. The album didn’t do much to propel the band’s career, though, so in ’79 they were back with Jumpin’ in the Night, which is practically a cookie-cutter copy of Now. Sadly, though the band’s Cyril Jordan produced (with Roger Bechirian), neither the band’s originals nor their choice in covers were as good as those on their previous outing. “Werewolves of London” is a great song but this version’s not very flamin’ or groovy. “Down Down Down” is a lot like the version Dave Edmunds recorded so it’s pretty good, as is their cover of “Please Please Me” (you know who did it), and “Absolutely Sweet Marie” is a shade peppier than Dylan’s but nowhere near as awesome as Jason and the Scorchers’ later take. I don’t find any of the band’s originals all that interesting this time around.

In all, both Now and Jumpin’ in the Night are fairly entertaining – neither, though, is as good as Shake Some Action. That 1976 album was not reissued with these two, for some reason, even though they all were originally issued by Sire. Peculiarly, Liberation Hall has issued these two without bonus tracks (not that there are that many, as far as this Flamin’ Groovies fan knows), but they did seem to do a nice job of mastering. (Attributed to Gary Hobish on the latter but not credited at all on the former.) The packaging is pretty bare bones, with very light liner notes and plenty of typos. I’d say Alec Palao’s text in the former is more informative than Steve Wynn’s in the latter, though those are more entertaining and curiously dated to January 2005! I get the feeling that – at least with the packaging – these two CDs were thrown together quickly. Here’s to hoping that the label creatives pay a little more attention to whatever they currently have in the hopper. – Marsh Gooch

2.5/5 (Liberation Hall LIB-5036, LIB-5037, 2020)

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Young Fresh Fellows • Toxic Youth (Back to the Egg) [LP, CD]

Record Store Day “Drop 3” is the last of the RSD 2020 triad that make up what would have been last April’s normal single-day event. One of the two records I am/was hoping to get is YOUNG FRESH FELLOWS’ Toxic Youth (or as it is also known, Back to the Egg). Recorded three years ago but only now seeing the light of day, it’s a great addition to the Fellows’ discography.

To start with, Toxic/Back is both a first and a last. It is, indeed, the first YFF record in eight years. Just as important, Youth/Egg is the last album recorded at Seattle’s legendary Egg Studio, the nest in which many Fellows releases were laid (or is that hatched?). The story is that in 2017 Conrad Uno, Egg’s patriarch (or is that rooster?), had decided to retire and close the studio, word got back to the Freshies, and they  booked one last weekend there before Egg went the way of the dodo bird. Since they’d gone in with just three songs and came out with seventeen, you’d be tempted to call it a success. Yet it took another three years for those results to show up on wax… was it delayed because of subpar quality? Band member Scott McCaughey’s stroke in late 2017??  Who knows??? One thing we do know: Once it finally got a release date – the original Record Store Day, April 2020 – Toxic Youth got delayed again thanks to that pesky coronavirus pandemic. Well, it’s finally out this Saturday (knock on wood) and it’s an honor to get to share my own opinions about it just slightly ahead of time.

As Mott The Hoople once said, rock ’n’ roll is a loser’s game, and it’s a game the Young Fresh Fellows have been winning (or is that losing?) for (gag! I feel old!) nearly 40 years. GULP. Regardless of, or despite their relative obscurity, from their very first outing back in the early ’80s, Seattle’s Fab Four have been creating kooky, clever cult rock for the masses – it’s just that the masses never got the memo. Too bad! Those of us who did get it, we got it. Whether it was with “Rock ’N’ Roll Pest Control,” “My Friend Ringo,” “Taco Wagon” or any number of other hooky, cheeky tunes, the Fellows could always be counted on for a great time.

Young Fresh Fellows say “Vote!”

Times changed throughout the Eighties and Nineties and though they didn’t exactly stay young they pretty much stayed fresh on their handful of sporadic releases. And that was okay with the fans. But when the YFF guys took on other projects (playing with their original groups [Fastbacks, for instance], playing with big name rock bands [R.E.M., for instance]), we lamented what we thought might be the end. So today we have Toxic Youth – I don’t really know what the title means – and I can tell you it’s a killer record! Opening with “November” and heading into quintessential Fellows stuff like “Never Had It Bad,” “Gear Summer 2013” with its ’60s organ, “Alien Overlords” and drummer Tad’s “Black Boots,” this release was worth the waits. THEN there’s Side 2 and that’s where Back to the Egg really fries! “She’s By Request” has this wobbly, eerie lead vocal from Scott, telling the story of of a late night TV encounter with some actress that I can’t figure out. I really like this one and figured it was gonna be my favorite on this toxic green vinyl record until I got to the grand finale, “Bleed Out.” OMG. This is like the YFFs detailing their own career and demise, explaining “I’m married to this life / Gave my body and soul / When I take the final knife I will bleed out rock and roll.” Yes, I honestly believe that Scott, Tad, Jim and Kurt will and DO bleed rock ’n’ roll.

If Toxic Youth/Back to the Egg were the final Young Fresh Fellows album you could truthfully say – based on this album alone, let alone Topsy Turvy or Totally Lost or Gleich Jetzt – they played a loser’s game and won. Cleaned up. Mopped the floor with almost every other band there ever was. – Marsh Gooch

5/5 (YepRoc YEP-2722X, 2020)

P.S. – It may be a bit late in coming, but having known Conrad Uno of Egg Studio and Popllama Products fame for 30-something years – and having worked for and recorded with him at Egg myself – I’d like to thank you, Uno, for your contribution to the Seattle music scene and the rock ’n’ roll world at large. “What a humble guy.” Cheers! And say hi to Emily.

 

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The Rocky Horror Picture Show (45th Anniversary Soundtrack) [LP]

Anyone who’s experienced THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW has likely got a story or more about their experience with the titillating 1975 cult movie musical. I know I do. I worked at the Neptune Theater in Seattle’s U-District in the early ’80s as a janitor, cleaning the closed balcony on Friday and Saturday nights while the movie was shown to the patrons on the main floor. I say “shown” but, as you may already know, you don’t just watch Rocky Horror. You participate! In the case of Seattle fans at that time, you in the audience may have noticed the shadow of my broomstick or mop float across the screen here and there. Or maybe you heard someone joining in the fun from up in the balcony. That was probably me. In my year or two in that janitorial position I learned all of the audience partici-“say it!”-pation responses – and once the movie was over and the auditorium cleared out, I learned how to sweep rice, playing cards, raw hot dogs (i.e., frankfurters) and more from underneath theater seats. Oh, I got an education from Dr. Frank N. Furter & Company, alright.

For its 45th anniversary, Ode Records has reissued the soundtrack to Rocky Horror on a very cool picture disc. Yes, vinyl fans, you can now learn to do the Time Warp in the creature comfort of your very own home while gazing into the eyes of Tim Curry as the sweet transvestite he will always be associated with. Picture discs don’t lend themselves to high fidelity listening, of course, but it’s likely you’ll be cranking this baby up while dusting off your dance moves (“Say, do any of you guys know how to Madison?”) and not paying attention to the surface noise inherent in such vinyl pressings. You can always hunt down a proper vinyl or CD copy for critical listening; this pic disc was designed for fun!

The front of this Rocky Horror picture disc shows Curry-as-Furter in a pseudo-pscary pose which I guess is more exciting than the iconic red lips (at left) that have accompanied advertising and VHS/DVD covers over the years, while the back of the record is a collage of movie theater marquees where the film’s played countless times during its rise to being perhaps the (c)ultimate horror/sci-fi/comedy musical of our time. This release will certainly make a great gift for the Rocky Horror fan in your life (even if you’re buying it for yourself), and with Halloween coming right up it’ll make for some great listening, too. I mean, you’ll probably want to just go ahead and watch the movie, yes, but since you can’t do that 24/7 between now and 10/31, – or maybe you can! – you could at least toss this baby on the ’table and toucha, toucha, touch yourself while getting down with Frank, Riff Raff, Brad, Janet (yay, Janet!), Magenta, Columbia, Eddie and the rest. – Marsh Gooch

3.5/5 (Ode 000011, 2020)

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The Replacements • Pleased to Meet Me (Deluxe Edition) [3CD/1LP]

THE REPLACEMENTS’ Pleased to Meet Me isn’t celebrating an obvious anniversary. The 1987 release isn’t 30 or 40 – it’s 33 (and not even 33-1/3!) – so the release of this Deluxe Edition is a bit surprising. Housed in the now standard Warner Music/Rhino LP-sized “book” format (a la Ramones, The Doors, Love), the Minneapolis band’s (arguably) greatest album is now surrounded by a coupla CDs of demos, rough mixes, outtakes and alternate takes that tell a much more complete story about this record, (arguably) the first or second album that should’ve turned them into a major band. Whether that would’ve been a boon or a bitch for these rock ’n’ roll loudmouths isn’t that hard to figure out if you know The Replacements’ story and trajectory.

Without diving deep into all of that last bit – after all, if you’re reading this you probably know the basics of their back story – Pleased to Meet Me was a turning point for the band. The Replacements had already been touted as the college rock band of the moment and after 1983’s Let It Be they seemed destined to hit the big time. Their first major label release, Tim (1985) had some great material but somehow missed the mark and so a lot was riding on this one. What a great time for the band to have to fire their lead guitarist (bassist Tommy Stinson’s brother Bob), just as they were on the precipice of Rock Mountain, about to go into the studio with a solid satchel of songs that was sure to do the trick. Paul Westerberg, Tommy and Chris Mars got together with producer Jim Dickinson at Memphis’ famous Ardent Studios and – long story short (it’s all in the included book) – put together this amazing record.

At the time I remember seeing “digitally recorded” on the album cover and wondering if Pleased to Meet Me was the inevitable sell-out every band eventually makes when they sign a deal with the (major label) devil. And then I heard it! What a powerful record! It didn’t sound “clean” like digital was supposed to – it just sounded like a ballsy, blistering batch of Westerberg’s best stuff. Opening with “I.O.U.,” cruising into the brilliant “Alex Chilton,” careening into “I Don’t Know” and “Shooting Dirty Pool,” with breathers like “Nightclub Jitters” and “Skyway” along the way, Pleased to Meet Me was everything Tim should’ve been and even better than Let It Be. How could it be?! Well, it was, it is, and it forever shall be. Somehow Jim Dickinson and his assistants at Ardent got what they wanted out of the band, either by coaxing, cajoling or outright strong-arming – whatever. They got it.

Pleased to Meet Me was the last, great Replacements album so it’s natural that there’d be a version of it like this one. And yet, nowhere on this 12″ x 12″ package do they note “deluxe edition,” “33rd anniversary” or anything that announces why this, now. Regardless, what you get on this 3CD + LP set is a new master of the original album (on CD only), a slightly different tracklisting for the “rough mix” version – which appears on both one of the CDs and on the vinyl – and another disc of further versions. (The singles B-sides appear on the CD with the 2020 master of the original album.) Of the many, many mixes and demos, there are a few that are remarkable: “Awake Tonight” sounds like a Faces/Rod Stewart outtake, except with more of a Replacements swagger; “All He Wants to Do Is Fish” is drummer Mars’ lone songwriter/ lead singer credit and is quite good; and the bulk of the Blackberry Way (recording studio) demos. Though it’s clear that Westerberg had many of the songs basically ready to go once the band got all the way to Memphis, the lyrics changed considerably and multiple times between those first demos through to alternate takes and on to the rough mixes and final versions. There are plenty of demos here, too, that aren’t all that exciting, I have to admit. But in its entirety this Pleased to Meet Me, from the music to the illuminating (in words and pictures) book, is definitely a pleasure. – Marsh Gooch

4/5 (Rhino/Sire R2 643412, 2020)

And fer God’s sake don’t miss this video:

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NRBQ • In-Frequencies [CD, LP]

Just the fact that NRBQ has been around for over fifty years is pretty amazing. Can you believe they’ve never put out a collection of rarities and unreleased tracks? It’s true. In- Frequencies remedies that dour predicament with sixteen recordings that fell through the cracks (or were lucky enough to roll off the chopping block the first time around).

You’ve got to hand it to the ArQive 50 crew because they somehow put together a cohesive collection of tunes from a band that has never been able to settle on a style long enough for any rock critic – let alone fan – to pigeonhole them. As I have said in previous NRBQ reviews (and as any fan will attest), that’s a big part of what makes the Q so great. Why settle for one flavor of ice cream when you can have 31? In-Frequencies covers not only the various Q styles, but the different lineups of the band. There’s plenty of cuts representing the Big Al Anderson era, like “Let Me Tell You ’Bout My Girl” and a soundcheck recording of “It’s a Wild Weekend” that’s better than the album version, as well as a good helping of tracks from both the original and latest lineups. There’s also a cut by the legendary Dickens, “Sho’ Need Love,” which is not only super rare but has an awe-inspiring backstory (click here!) that you’ve got to check out. From the humorous (“Sourpuss”) to the super sweet (“April Showers”) to the just plain weird (an alternate version of “Everybody’s Smokin’”), it’s all here.

It’s highly likely that In-Frequencies is the first in a series, since it’s a sure thing that NRBQ has a lot more in the can than just a single CD’s worth. It might be wise to focus further volumes on, say, live cuts or the real out there material that was too Q for a standard album, if only to make those collections more pigeonhole-able than this one. Regardless, this single CD (also available on vinyl and limited edition colored vinyl) is a pretty good selection of rare NRBQ stuff for that rare fan who doesn’t have everything. – Marsh Gooch

3/5 (Omnivore OVCD-393, 2020)

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