Archive for the ‘Vinyl Review’ Category

Milton Delugg & His Orchestra: Music for Monsters, Munsters, Mummies & Other TV Fiends

Sunday, February 9th, 2020

Excellent orchestral-pop renditions of early-60s TV themes

The early ‘60s was a golden age of opportunistic cross-marketing, as television executives collaborated with the music industry to expand the brands of their shows. Record albums from the casts (or in many cases, only the producers and talent commissioned by the program’s licensors) hit the market for Bonanza, Get Smart, Gomer Pyle, the Man From U.N.C.L.E., the Addams Family and numerous other classic television programs. Many of these, including the  recently reissued Munsters album, were lightweight novelties meant to quickly cash in on a show’s popularity. But a few were professionally arranged and conducted albums of orchestral pop, and such is this effort from composer, arranger and bandleader Milton Delugg. Which isn’t to suggest there was no intention to quickly cash in, but Delugg’s talent elevates the album well beyond that initial motivation.

Gathered here are snappy new arrangements of the theme songs from television’s The Munsters, The Addams Family, Bewitched, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, and The Outer Limits. Each is cleverly orchestrated and performed, adding new sizzle to the easily recognized themes.  There’s Duane Eddy-styled twang, harpsichord, horns and full-kit drumming for the Munsters, a march that turns into jazzy flute and muted horns for the Addams Family, and dramatic horns and discordant xylophone for the Outer Limits. These are great tunes, professionally rendered in inventive new arrangements that will please fans of the TV originals, as well as fans of 1960s orchestral pop.

The album is filled out by seven original monster-themed instrumentals that are as lively as the TV tunes. “Creature from Under the Sea” is an uptempo waltz filled with mystery, pathos and danger, “Frankenstein” has has a kinetic flavor that would have worked nicely in a spy film, “Ghoul Meets Ghoul” makes a slinky nod to the Pink Panther theme, and a heavy Latin beat and horn accents for “The Mummy.” With the original 1964 vinyl selling for big dollars, it’s great to have this enjoyable collectable back in print, if only briefly for this ghoulish green vinyl limited edition. Hopefully someone can get the digital rights and reissue as a CD or download for analog-deficient listeners! [©2020 Hyperbolium]

The Munsters: The Munsters

Sunday, February 9th, 2020

Surf-styled 1964 novelty returned to mono vinyl

With The Munsters finding fans among a teenage television audience, the concept was ripe for spin-off marketing. Producers Joe Hooven and Hal Winn assembled the Wrecking Crew and a vocal group named the Go Go’s to record a dozen light-surf novelty tunes written by uncredited scribes, and a future collectible was born. None of these songs have the adolescent archness of Mad Magazine’s records, or the scene detail of Gary Usher’s surf ‘n’ drag albums, but there’s entertainment to be found in the bump and grind sax of “Vampire Vamp,” the ersatz Jan & Dean falsetto of “(Here Comes the) Munster’s Coach,” the Shadows-styled guitar of “Eerie Beach,” and the various Munster references. This was reissued on CD and limited edition purple vinyl in 2018, with the latter now getting a second life on ghastly grey mono wax. Not an essential, but interesting for fans of mid-60s pop novelties. [©2020 Hyperbolium]

Dandy: Dandy Returns

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

First-ever reissue of 1968 rocksteady rarity

Many listeners are most likely to know Dandy (a.k.a.Robert Livingstone Thompson) for his songs that gained currency in the 1980s ska revival. The Specials made an icon out of “Rudy, A Message to You,” and UB40 brought “Version Girl” back to prominence. But decades earlier, the fledgling reggae giant Trojan Records issued this sophomore effort as one of the label’s very first long-players. Incredibly, the album has remained unreissued since its 1967 drop, and is offered here on a limited edition orange vinyl LP for the first time in more than 50 years. Dandy’s depiction on the album cover, stepping off a plane, was emblematic of his position as a producer for Trojan and a key link between the London-based label and its Jamaica-based music. He’d released numerous singles under his own name, as well as the nom-de-records Sugar & Dandy and the Brother Dan All-Stars, but also produced key sides that included Tony Tribe’s cover of Neil Diamond’s “Red Red Wine,” a treatment that UB40 would also return to in the 1980s. Dandy sings in a sweet, easy-going manner that leaves the underlying rocksteady rhythm to preside. Beyond his original material he covers Chad & Jeremy’s “Only a Fool Breaks His Own Heart” and the Beatles’ “Yesterday,” accompanied by organ, horns (including some fine trumpet solos), and on “Your Daddy’s Home,” a short harmonica solo. This is an unassuming, yet fetching album from Trojan’s early days, and a treat to have back in print, if only fleetingly. [©2020 Hyperbolium]

Laura Nyro: More Than a New Discovery

Tuesday, January 14th, 2020

Laura Nyro’s 1967 debut back on vinyl in its original mono mix

Laura Nyro was more than a new discovery on this 1967 debut, she was a wholly new musical entity, bringing together the songcraft of Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, blues, jazz and pop. Her lyrical and singing voices melded these strands into something wholly new, and years ahead of other singer-songwriters who’d venture into similar polymusical directions. Even more impressive is that her songs were strong enough to create space for both her authoritative original versions and the iconic hit covers of others. Nyro’s passionate reading of “And When I Die” is wholly satisfying, and uneclipsed by Blood, Sweat & Tears’ iconic cover. The same can be said for “Stoney End” (Barbara Streisand) and “Wedding Bell Blues” (The Fifth Dimension), both of which are equally remarkable as originals and covers. Originally released by Verve/Folkways, the album was reissued by Columbia (under the title The First Songs, with revised running order and cover art) with Nyro’s move to the major. The original formulation has had a few import CD reissues, and is now returned to vinyl in a limited-edition, violet-colored mono LP, with remastering by Vic Anesini from the original master tapes, and a new lacquer cut by Clint Holley. In addition to Nyro’s preferred mono mix, this reissue is also free of the reverb that Columbia added to The First Songs. This is a super souvenir for Nyro’s many fans! [©2020 Hyperbolium]

Country Joe & The Fish: Live! Fillmore West 1969

Monday, January 6th, 2020

1969 farewell to Country Joe & The Fish’s classic lineup

Previously released on CD by Vanguard in 1994 (and in Italy on vinyl), this two-LP yellow-vinyl reissue commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of Country Joe & The Fish’s farewell performances at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West. By the time the band got to this three-day run they’d already seen the 1968 departure of bassist Bill Barthol (replaced here admirably by Jefferson Airplane’s Jack Cassidy), and they welcomed local guests David Getz on “It’s So Nice To Have Your Love,” and Jerry Garcia, Jorma Kaukonen, Steve Miller and Mickey Hart for a 38-minute jam on “Donovan’s Reef.”

When the band later reconvened for their 1969 album Here We Are Again, Gary Hirsh and David Cohen had also departed, and the group reassembled for Woodstock included a new rhythm section and organist. By the time of this farewell, the band had grown from the folk and blues-based Rag Baby EPs into an electric psychedelic powerhouse and a potent jam band. The group extends their studio material with instrumental interplay, unwinding “Flying High” into a 12-minute piece replete with bass solo, and, with Garcia and Hart helping out, stretching “Donovan’s Reef” into a 38-minute, extemporaneous essay.

Though only two years removed from the conventional length studio arrangements of I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die and Electric Music for the Mind and Body, the band had developed a free-form style for the stage that indulged the improvisational dynamics they’d developed together. Real Gone’s 1000-piece limited-edition reissue is delivered in a six-panel double-gatefold sleeve with liner notes from both the set’s original producer Sam Charters, and the reissue’s producer, Bill Belmont. A reformulated band would achieve widespread notice at Woodstock, but this farewell performance provides an important capstone to the original group’s run. [©2020 Hyperbolium]  

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Coven: Blood on the Snow

Saturday, November 23rd, 2019

Third and final album from misunderstood one-hit wonders

Though now remembered for their remake of the Original Caste’s “One Tin Soldier,” this Chicago-bred band initially gained renown for the controversy that had previously sunk their commercial opportunities. Led by vocalist Jinx Dawson, the Coven was arguably the first rock band to adopt occult symbology, inverted crosses and the hand-thrown sign of the horns, and their 1969 Mercury debut, Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls, included a thirteen-minute “Satanic Mass.” Ahead of their times, they were tripped up by growing public anxiety about cults, and when an Esquire magazine suggested a false connection between the band and Charles Manson, the group’s fortunes quickly collapsed; albums returned, shows cancelled, and their recording contract dropped. Had their debut (which was reissued digitally by the band in 2015, and more recently on vinyl by Real Gone) been their epitaph, they would have earned an interesting niche in rock ‘n’ roll history. But there was more.

Resettled in Los Angeles, Dawson was tapped to cover the Original Caste’s 1969 anti-war song as the theme for the film Billy Jack. Recorded with studio musicians and an orchestra, but credited to Coven, the single rose to #26 in 1971, and netted Jinx and a newly formed Coven a record deal with MGM. Their eponymous album included a band version of “One Tin Soldier,” which itself charted in 1973 and again in 1974, cementing the group’s popular identity as a one-hit wonder. At the same time, the group had moved from MGM to Buddah where they released this third and final album. By this point, the public connection to their occult beginnings were lost in the sands of time, and neither the controversy that had originally derailed them, nor their one-off movie hit could lift them back into the mainstream.

By the time this album was released in 1974, Coven was playing catch up with the more calculated occult references others had built into heavy metal. Produced by Shel Talmy, the album features a variety of hard rock, glam, and pop that was closer to the mainstream than the blues-rock theatricality of the group’s debut. “This Song’s For All You Children” suggests radio-friendly Todd Rundgren, “Lady-O” has strings and touches of country in the piano and vocal melody, and “Don’t Call Me” resounds with the punk energy of the Dolls. But there are also traces of the band’s early days in the blues rock “Hide Your Daughters,” the progressive “Lost Without a Trace,” and “Easy Evil,” and the closing title title track.

In 1974 Buddah was likely focused on the success of their marquee act, Gladys Knight & The Pips, and reintroducing Coven to AM (which was by then was only lightly speckled with BTO, Bad Company and Grand Funk) would have been difficult. FM had long since forgotten the controversial genesis that might have made the band interesting to the underground, and even an experimental music video couldn’t reignite interest. All of which is a shame, as Dawson remained a powerful vocal talent, and many of the songs are catchy and played with style. Pop music acclaim has always been  a fickle reward based on a supernatural alignment of circumstances, and the stars didn’t align for this third and final album. Reissued with the original album’s gatefold cover, this is a nice souvenir of a band whose momentary fame overshadowed the charms of their catalog. [©2019 Hyperbolium]

The Rain Parade: Emergency Third Rail Power Trip

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019

Red-and-yellow vinyl reissue of Paisley Underground classic

1982 and 1983 were incredibly fruitful years for the Paisley Underground, seeing the release of the Three O’Clock’s Baroque Hoedown and Sixteen Tambourines, the Dream Syndicate’s EP and Days of Wine and Roses, the Bangles self-titled EP, and Green on Red’s EP and Gravity Talks. Standing tall among these neo-psych icons was the Rain Parade’s first full length, Emergency Third Rail Power Trip. The group’s dreamy, somnambulistic psychedelia was foreshadowed by their 1982 single “What She’s Done to Your Mind,” but its impact at album length was something entirely greater, as the group really hit the nerve at the root of the Paisley Underground. The scene rapidly outgrew its foundations as the bands explored individual directions; The Dream Syndicate signed with A&M and recorded a muscular sophomore album that bore little resemblance to their debut, the Bangles signed with Columbia and began the makeover that sanded off the folk roots of their rock, the Three O’Clock signed with IRS and recorded an album in Berlin that was less flower powered, and Green on Red transitioned into Americana. Only the Rain Parade, sans co-founder David Roback, continued to till soil similar to their debut, releasing the EP Explosions in the Glass Palace in 1984. Real Gone’s reissue returns the album to its original vinyl format for the first time in more than thirty years, reproducing the original cover art and U.S. track lineup (omitting the non-U.S. bonus track “Look Both Ways”), and enticing collectors with red-and-yellow starburst vinyl. [©2019 Hyperbolium]

Jefferson Airplane: Woodstock – Sunday August 17, 1969

Saturday, September 28th, 2019

Limited edition 50th anniversary 3-LP colored vinyl reissue of Jefferson Airplane’s complete Woodstock performance

Although the Jefferson Airplane was one of the most famous groups in the world in 1969, their presence at Woodstock has long been rendered something of a festival and career footnote. The problem wasn’t with their performance, but the short-shrift they gave themselves in the film (in which they didn’t appear) and soundtrack albums (on which they appeared for only one track on the initial triple-LP, and two tracks on the follow-up Woodstock II). Originally scheduled to headline the festival’s Saturday night lineup, weather and logistics pushed the performance to early Sunday morning, by which point the band and the crowd should by all rights have been totally exhausted. But the Airplane took off to provide a long, powerful set of what Grace Slick called “morning maniac music,” and in retrospect (that is, once the acid wore off) it was a much stronger performance than they imagined they’d given.

The set list includes material from the band’s three studio albums then-to-date, as well as three songs from the then-soon-to-be-released Volunteers, the latter including the rarely performed “Eskimo Blue Day” and a lengthy version of the Crosby, Stills and Kantner co-write “Wooden Ships.” Jorma Kaukonen sings “Uncle Sam Blues” and “Come Back Baby,” the band jams at length on “The Ballad Of You & Me & Pooneil,” and closes out with a strong encore of “White Rabbit” and Crown of Creation’s “The House At Pooneil Corners.” Although a few more of the Woodstock tracks appeared on 1992’s Jefferson Airplane Loves You and 1994s Woodstock – Three Days of Peace and Music, it wasn’t until 2009’s Woodstock Experience that the full set was delivered. That full set is now delivered in grand fashion as a double-gatefold, 3-LP set on “blue dawn” colored wax, with photos by Henry Diltz and new liners by Richie Unterberger. This is a sweet collectible for the band’s fans. [©2019 Hyperbolium]

The Archies: The Definitive Greatest Hits & More!

Wednesday, September 25th, 2019

Limited edition, blue vinyl reissue of iconic bubblegum music

The origin story for this cartoon band suggests that having lost artistic control of the Monkees, music impresario Don Kirshner happened upon the idea of a purely fictional group – one that could have no artistic aspirations of its own and, to quote Kirshner, “won’t talk back.” And thus was born the musical career of the long-time Archie comic book characters on a series of singles and albums that peaked with the chart-topping “Sugar, Sugar.” Kirshner’s reputation as a publisher with golden ears served the studio musicians who played and voiced the Archies, drawing upon material from Jeff Barry, Andy Kim, Bobby Bloom, Mark Barkan and Ritchie Adams. Real Gone’s 14-track vinyl LP features five of the group’s U.S. charting singles (omitting only 1970’s “Together We Two”), and includes material from the group’s first four albums (omitting tracks from 1971’s This is Love).

The Archies’ music may have been designed primarily for pre-teens, but the records were backed by talented songwriters, producers and studio musicians, and fronted by the infectious vocals of Ron Dante. Dante was a jingle singer whose voice perfectly fueled the sunshine vibe and puppy love singalongs that made up much of the Archies’ catalog. The group’s third single, “Sugar Sugar,” is rightly considered the national anthem of bubblegum music, but there are many more gems in the catalog. “Jingle Jangle” and “Get on the Line” show off touches of soul, “Inside Out – Upside Down” plays like a nursery rhyme and “Archies Party” rocks out in an ecstatic, pre-teen way. Though often denigrated for their market calculation, there is real craft in these records, with hooks that remain sharp. Real Gone’s vinyl-only release is a nice throwback to the Calendar and Kirshner originals, and a nice collectible for fans. [©2019 Hyperbolium]

The Strangeloves: I Want Candy

Saturday, August 17th, 2019

Red vinyl mono reissue of terrific mid-60s curio

The Strangeloves – Australian sheep-farming brothers Giles, Miles and Niles Strange – were in fact a trio of New York songwriter-producers, searching for hits amid the onslaught of the British Invasion. The thressome – Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein, and Richard Gottehrer – had written and produced the Angels’ chart topping hit “My Boyfriend’s Back” in 1963, but with the change in musical tide, they began looking for beat groups. Rather than finding a group for which to write and produce, they made one up in the studio and created a fictional backstory. Their first single, “Love, Love (That’s All I Want from You)” bubbled under the Top 100, but their second single, “I Want Candy,” rode its Bo Diddley beat to #11. They’d score two more Top 40 singles with “Cara-Lin” and “Night Time,” and perhaps even more impressively, their original backing track for “Hang on Sloopy” was reused for the McCoy’s chart-topping hit.

The group’s one and only album is reproduced here on candy apple red vinyl, and includes their three hits, alongside several excellent album tracks. The group’s rendition of “Hang On Sloopy” includes the extra verse that was cut from the McCoys’ single, and a cover of Gary “U.S.” Bonds’ “New Orleans” infuses Cannibal and the Headhunters’ “Na Na Na Na Na” chant from “Land of 1000 Dances.” The original “(Roll On) Mississippi)” temporarily drops the dominant Bo Diddley beat for a stomping New Orleans rhythm and wild Jerry Lee Lewis-styled piano. The proto-bubblegum original “Rhythm of Love” was rewritten into a fetching power-pop tune by the appropriately fictitious Pooh Sticks, and “Just the Way You Are” closes the album with the band’s favored Diddley beat.

Goldstein would go on to discover and produce War’s singles and albums, while Gottehrer would co-found Sire and produce seminal early works by Blondie, Marshall Crenshaw, the Go-Gos, and many others. But years before, they were the Strange brothers, sporting zebra-striped vests and leather pants, and pounding on aboriginal drums while performing their ode to dancer Candy Johnson on Hullabaloo. Real Gone’s 2019 vinyl reissue reproduces the original mono mix, providing a textbook example of mono’s power to deliver the gut punch that’s often dissipated by stereo. The stereo mixes included on the group’s Best Of CD are good to have available, but they don’t deliver the Boss Radio memory of mono. For fans who don’t have an original vinyl issue, this is a great get! [©2019 Hyperbolium]