After a less-than-satisfying engagement with his last record label, Marshall Crenshaw’s taking his music straight to the people. Funded through a Kickstarter campaign, Crenshaw’s developed a subscription project that will turn out a series of six three-song 10” vinyl EPs, each featuring a new song, a cover and a remake from the singer-songwriter’s rich catalog. The EPs also include a code with which the analog-deprived can download digital versions of the recordings. The first EP was delivered earlier this year, and this second entry features a new A-side, “Stranger and Stranger,” filled with lyric uncertainty and underlined by Bryan Carrott’s vibraphone. The B-sides include a superb acoustic remake of Crenshaw’s “Mary Anne,” that was originally recorded for the 2008 film God is Dead, and a fully orchestrated cover of the Carpenters’ “(They Long to Be) Close to You.” The latter is played straight, with smooth choral backing vocals and a trumpet solo by Steven Bernstein. The EP with digital download, as well as a one-year three-EP subscription, is available through Crenshaw’s on-line store. [©2013 Hyperbolium]
Posts Tagged ‘Rock’
This Provo, UT quartet has a modern rock sound that usually suggests the The Shins, but the A-side, “I Won’t See You,” of their new EP is sweetly rooted in the 1970s soft-rock hits of Fleetwood Mac, Andrew Gold and others. The song’s melody and harmonies are warm and comforting, and it’s not until the song transitions into a more angsty chorus that you realize you’re not listening to a period piece. Even then, a short guitar solo once again captures the mood of ’70s radio and leads back to another gorgeous verse. The EP’s second track edges more towards Gin Blossoms territory, but the rhythm guitars could still bring you back to 1976. The closing “Birds” returns more to the modern-rock sounds of the Shins or Morning Benders, though the harmony vocals and blues-heavy undertow still tug at you from decades past. [©2013 Hyperbolium]
What if, after cutting his musical teeth in Phoenix, Lee Hazlewood had turned East to Nashville, rather than West to Los Angeles? And what if he’d met Nancy Sinatra in MusicCity rather than the City of Angels? The answer might sound like a twist on the Western-tinged landscapes of “Summer Wine” and “Some Velvet Morning,” and it might have sounded something like the opening track of this Nashville band’s debut. Vocalist Jessica Maros’ sings a bit more ethereally than Nancy, but with the same confident sass that was catnip to Sinatra’s fans. Maros’ cohort Tyler James fills Hazlewood’s role as vocal straight man, but with a grittier rock ‘n’ roll kick and a haunting trumpet sound that evokes the sun-baked deserts of Sergio Leone and forlorn mood of Bobby Hackett.
Despite those tips of the sombrero, Escondido isn’t a hipster rehash of Nancy, Lee or Ennio, as they also gear down to a dreamier sound that brings to mind Mazzy Star. At times, such as on “Willow Tree,” Maros conjures both Nancy Sinatra and Hope Sandoval, and James, along with bassist Adam Keafer, drummer Evan Hutchings and guitarist Scotty Murray paint the backgrounds in spare, atmospheric strums and echoing notes. Recorded in a single day-long session, the album is populated with ruinous femme fatales, lonely sirens and upbeat farewells. The band’s hard twanging “Don’t Love Me Too Much” was recently featured on ABC’s Nashville, which is a larger coup for network television than for a band whose original combination of influences should attract ears from both the mainstream and the outside lands. [©2013 Hyperbolium]
The slow catching flame of Big Star’s belated renown has recently been stoked by a feature-length documentary, and now by this Record Store Day double-LP of period demos and alternate mixes, and a few remixes made for the film. Depending on your viewpoint, the new mixes may be revelatory and revisionist, or both. The period material, however, will be welcomed by all of the band’s fans. For those who’ve been wearing out copies of #1 Record, Radio City and Third since their original appearances on vinyl, even the slightest variations in these tracks will prick your ear with something new. The quality of the original recordings and the condition of the tapes remains impressive, and the opportunity to hear these variations on much loved themes (decorated in a few spots with studio chatter) is a rare opportunity. What appeared to the public as highly polished diamonds turned out to be – perhaps unsurprisingly if you ever stopped to think about it – the results of a lot of intention and hard work. The seeds of the final tracks are here, even in the demo of “O My Soul,” but not in the balance that’s been etched into fans’ ears.
Robert Gordon’s liner notes from Big Star Live capture the feeling perfectly: “You find an old picture of your lover. It dates from before you’d met, and though you’d heard about this period in his or her life, seeing it adds a whole new dimension to the person who sits across from you at the breakfast table. You study the photograph and its wrinkles, looking for clues that might tell you more about this friend you know so well–can you see anything in the pockets of that jacket, can you read any book titles on the shelf in the background. You think about an archaeologist’s work. When you next see your lover, you’re struck by things you’d never noticed. The skin tone, the facial radiance–though the lamps in your house are all the same and the sun does not appear to be undergoing a supernova, he or she carries a different light. As strikingly similar as the way your lover has always appeared, he or she is also that different. You shrug and smile. Whatever has happened, you like it. That’s what this recording is about.” CD, CD/DVD and double-LP black vinyl editions are forthcoming. [©2013 Hyperbolium]
Steve Forbert fell from recording star escape velocity with surprising quickness. His 1978 debut, Alive on Arrival, was a precociously well-formed introduction, recorded only two years after leaving his native Mississippi, and the 1979 follow-up, Jackrabbit Slim, was refined with a sufficiently light hand by producer John Simon to garner both critical plaudits and commercial success for the single “Romeo’s Tune.” But his next two albums failed to satisfy his label’s ambitions and a subsequent disagreement led to his being dropped and embargoed from recording for several years. Forbert continued to perform, and picked up his recording career in 1988, but the mainstream possibilities charted by these first two albums was never really re-established. The loss of commercial trajectory probably induced few tears from his fans, though, as he built a terrific catalog across thirty-five years of recording.
What still must have puzzled the faithful is the time delay in seeing these titles reissued on CD, with Jackrabbit Slim not having entered the digital market until 1996. Both albums have seen spotty availability over the years, with downloadable MP3s [1 2] finally turning up in 2011. Blue Corn’s 35th-anniversary reissue not only returns full-fidelity, hard CDs back to the market, but augments the original track lists with a dozen studio outtakes and live cuts. A few of the bonuses were cherry-picked from a reissue Forbert has available through his website, but this two-fer is a perfect introduction. From the start Forbert was witty and smart, but understandable and easily empathized with. There’s are flecks of Loudon Wainwright’s humor and Paul Simon’s poetic connection, but without the East Coast archness of either. Forbert was neither wide-eyed nor jaded, but instead showed off a measure of introspection and awareness unusually deep for a twenty-something.
Listening to the earnest folksiness of his debut, it’s hard to imagine Forbert tramping about the mean streets of New York City and dropping in to play at CBGB. Steve Burgh’s production adds welcome punch to the recordings, but Forbert’s guitar, harmonica and vocals retain a folk-singer’s intimacy in front of the guitar, bass, drums, piano and organ. Incredibly, both albums were recorded live-in-the-studio with no overdubs, an impressive feat for a road-seasoned band, but even more so for a young artist’s initial studio work. The recording method pays additional dividends in the completeness of the bonus tracks; as complete as the original albums have always felt, the bonus tracks assimilate easily and must have been tough to cut at the time.
In addition to the five session tracks that didn’t make Alive on Arrival, the bonuses for Jackrabbit Slim include the still-topical promo-only single “The Oil Song,” an alternate version of the album track “Make it All So Real” that drops the original’s opening saxophone and highlights the arrangement’s country flavor, and an electrifying 1979 live recording of “Romeo’s Tune.” Reissuing these albums together completely dispels the sophomore complaint that an artist has twenty years to create their debut but only a year to record the follow-up; Forbert’s second-album is neither light on material nor artistic growth, and sounds urgent rather than hurried. Blue Corn’s dual digipack hides the eight-page booklet in a tight pocket behind one of the trays, so you’ll want to use some tweezers to extract the it – a minor inconvenience for the terrific payoff of these bonus-laden jewels. [©2013 Hyperbolium]
After 45 years, Billy Gibbons and the Moving Sidewalks reunited to play a set in New York City on March 30, 2013. You can find several audience videos on YouTube, including this one of their best-known tune, “99th Floor”:
Also check out the reissue of their complete catalog!
The sophomore release from this Queens quartet continues to mine the intersection of angsty guitar pop, twangy Americana and Stonesish rock they debuted in 2009. Vocalist (and songwriter) Mike Montali also continues to charm with a voice that takes in the quivering vulnerability of Robin Wilson, the keening alto of Neil Young and the bluesy tint of Chris Robinson. Four years from their first album, the band has been road-honed into a tight, powerful outfit, but the arrangements have the extemporaneous feel of musicians are reacting to their singer’s story telling. The title track takes listeners on a thematic ride that starts slowly with the push of a hollow bass drum, gains speed with growling electric guitar chords, breaks down in contemplative depression and finally regains its locomotive traction.
Montali’s songs of second chances are accompanied by guitars that are tentative with their force, backing lyrics perched between asking, suggesting and telling. The music turns hopeful with the expectant possibilities of “Faith & Love” and melancholy for the introspective “If It Ain’t Me.” Lead guitarist Jon Bonilla shows off his chops with solos on the workingman’s lament “Doghouse Blues” and the driving blues-rocker “Walk on Water.” Tracks 1, 4, 6 and 8 are drawn from a 2012 EP that added Michael Hesslein’s keyboards, but given that set’s limited circulation, it’s great to have these tunes available again. Hollis Brown seemed fully formed back in 2009, but the extra years of playing out and writing has more deeply assimilated their influences and tightened the resonance between lyrics, vocals and instruments. [©2013 Hyperbolium]
Fans of the Box Tops’ Memphis-tinged radio pop, whether period AM listeners or working their way backwards from Big Star or Alex Chilton’s solo work, will find something interesting here. The band’s ten charting singles (from 1967’s chart-topping debut, “The Letter,” through the non-LP “Turn on a Dream” and “You Keep Tightening Up on Me”) are supplemented by four B-sides, all in their original gut-punching mono. The B’s include the first Alex Chilton track released on a single, “I See Only Sunshine,” as well as “Together,” his B-side to “Turn on a Dream.” Though the group’s original albums provide a deeper experience, stringing together the hit singles and a few B-sides closely replicates how the band was heard by record buyers at the time. It’s a compelling introduction to Alex Chilton’s soul-soaked vocals and the terrific production of Dan Penn, Chips Moman and Tommy Cogbill. It’d be great if someone released a complete singles collection, adding the missing B-sides and the group’s later sides for Bell, Hi and Stax, but at fourteen tracks the set provides some lesser-heard B-sides without losing the focus on the group’s hits. Best of all, the mono mixes deliver an original sound that really distinguish this set from the longer Best of the Box Tops. [©2013 Hyperbolium]
Recent collections of singles from Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, Ray Charles and others have shed new light on much-loved performers. In addition to well-known hits, these anthologies highlight the valiant misses and B-sides that faded from an artist’s repertoire as their catalog was reduced to greatest hits collections. Wanda Jackson’s rockabilly and country recordings have been well-served in reissue, with both original albums and anthologies in print, but Omnivore’s 29-track collection provides an expanded view of her career as a singles artist. In addition to her well-loved A-sides “Hot Dog! That Made Him Made,” “Cool Love,” “Fujiyama Mama,” “Honey Bop,” “Mean Mean Man,” “Rock Your Baby,” “Let’s Have a Party,” “Riot in Cell Block Number Nine,” “Right or Wrong,” and “In the Middle of a Heartache,” the set is stocked with ace chart-misses and B-sides.
As early as 1956 Jackson was backing up her incendiary rockabilly singles with country flips that included “Half a Good a Girl” and the maiden recording of Jack Rhodes and Dick Reynolds’ “Silver Threads and Golden Needles.” She added a rockabilly croon to the Cadillacs’ bluesy doo-wop B-side “Let Me Explain” and shined brightly on Boudleaux Bryant’s calypso novelty “Don’a Wan’a.” Her ballads were often backed by Jordanaires-styled male harmonies and hard-twanging guitars (courtesy of A-list players Joe Maphis and Buck Owens) that keep her rock ‘n’ roll roots simmering. Even more straightforward country weepers like “No Wedding Bells for Joe” and “Sinful Heart” have downbeats that are more insistent than their Nashville contemporaries.
Jackson’s original “Little Charm Bracelet” didn’t make the charts, but it’s a cleverly written story of a relationship’s hopeful start and interrupted ending. Fans may be surprised to find that the favorite “Funnel of Love” was actually a B-side (to the country hit “Right or Wrong”), as the release signaled the beginnings of Jackson’s transition to the country charts. Still, even as the A-sides turned country, the B-sides held onto their sass with originals “I’d Be Ashamed” and “You Bug Me Bad,” and a bouncy version of Bobby Bare’s “Sympathy.” The productions are split between Los Angeles (tracks 1-17) and Nashville (tracks 18-29), and while the latter show countrypolitan touches, several of Jackson’s hottest rock ‘n’ roll records were recorded with Roy Clark and other Music City luminaries.
Jackson’s still recording vital new works today, including a 2012 release produced by Justin Townes Earle. There have also been anthologies of her rockabilly sides, best-ofs [1 2], album reissues [1 2 3 4], and box sets that tell the complete story from 1954 through 1973 [1 2]. Every one of these sets has something to offer, as does Omnivore’s look at Jackson’s singles from her rockabilly and initial country years. This isn’t a complete retelling, as its missing non-LP singles and leaves the last decade of her run on Capitol unexplored, but what’s here, all in superbly crafted mono, is terrific. The A-sides are well-known but not worn-out, the B-sides rare treasures, and the 16-page booklet includes fresh liner notes from Daniel Cooper, session and release data, photos and ephemera. [©2013 Hyperbolium]
It’s been nine years since Chris Stamey’s last solo album, Travels in the South. In the interim he’s worked with Yo La Tengo on A Question of Temperature., re-teamed with fellow dB Peter Holsapple for Here and Now, regrouped with the dB’s for Falling Off the Sky, and continued a busy career as a recording engineer and record producer. The long years between solo outings are certainly understandable, if not necessarily a happy state of affairs for fans; but those same fans should feel rewarded by this collection of eleven magnificent new productions. Stamey’s melancholy tunefulness has never sounded more graceful, rendered in contemplative tones and finely crafted instrumental textures that shift seamlessly between rock, soul, jazz and classical.
Stamey’s formal education in music theory and composition has never been a secret, but his recent work on the Big Star Third concerts seems to have deepened his thinking about how orchestral instruments could fit into and augment his music. He interleaves strings, woodwinds and brass with guitars, bass and drums, dotting his musical landscape with cello, bassoon, flute and trombone. The results are both ethereal and dynamic, offering everything from neo-psych dreaminess to symphonic vigor, sometimes within the same song, as on the sky-gazing “Astronomy.” This coalescing of musical influences is seemingly foreshadowed by the merging of souls in the opener, “Skin.”
At 59, Stamey’s long since expanded upon the punchy guitar rock with which the dB’s introduced themselves, though “You n Me n XTC” has a chorus hook that will make listeners think back. The album plays as late-night ruminations on metaphysical wanderings, philosophical wonderings and haggard day-end inventories. Stamey sings with a thoughtful absorption that suggests Paul Simon’s folk songs, and the self-referential “I Wrote This Song for You” has the charm of an Alex Chilton love song. Stamey’s lyrics remain poetic, but his vocabulary and singing have softened from their earlier percussiveness – a change that fits these pensive songs. [©2013 Hyperbolium]