Monthly Archives: June 2021

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

Tagged , , ,

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

Tagged , , ,

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!

 

Tagged

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)

Tagged
%d bloggers like this: