Tag Archives: Yep Roc

The Rubinoos: The CBS Tapes

Previously unreleased cache of early Rubinoos studio tracks!

In the years after their initial retirement, the Rubinoos have been generous with their vault recordings. The Basement Tapes (and the expanded Basement Tapes Plus) offered up demos from a third album that never came to be. Garage Sale, Hodge Podge and One, Two, That’s It provided demos, unreleased session tracks, alternate takes and compilation contributions. The UK box set Everything You Always Wanted To Know About The Rubinoos But Were Afraid To Ask included more rarities, including a 1978 live date in London that was later released separately as Live at the Hammersmith Odeon. So it’s quite the surprise to discover there were still more riches to be had, and they were very early, very good, and very unusual.

These November 1976 tracks were recorded during the sessions for the band’s 1977 debut album, and served as a studio soundcheck for engineer Glen Kolotkin. With tape rolling, the band ran through eleven songs, live and without second takes or overdubs. The on-the-fly mixes aren’t perfect (though quite good!), but the sound quality is excellent, and the spontaneity, energy and attitude they capture show off a more raw and edgy (and at times wonderfully adolescent) side of the band than did the debut LP.

The song list includes early Rubinoos originals and covers drawn from the band’s varied influences. Jon Rubin’s voice is sweet and the signature group harmonies are tight, but there’s a level of aggression that’s more reflective of the band’s live set than their studio recordings. Hearing the group rage through the Psycotic Pineapple’s “I Want Her So Bad” (written by the Rubinoos’ Tommy Dunbar) shows off the bands’ shared roots, and the inclusion of the national anthem of bubblegum music, “Sugar, Sugar,” as well as a mash-up of “Pepsi Generation” with King Curtis’ “Memphis Soul Stew” displays the sort of provocative choices with which they bewildered live audiences.

The band covered the Beatles’ “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” with talent and joy, and added to their catalog of DeFranco Family covers (which began with their first Beserkley single, “Gorilla”) with a raunchy take on “Heartbeat, It’s a Lovebeat.” Rubin’s soaring vocal on the bubblegum-soul “Nooshna Kavolta” is nearly overrun by the charging guitar, bass and drums, and the Ventures’“Walk Don’t Run” provided a young Tommy Dunbar the opportunity to show off his formidable guitar-playing chops. Closing the album is a cover of Jonathan Richman’s “Government Center,” complementing the earlier Beserkley Charbusters version on which the Rubinoos backed Richman.

This is a terrific, exuberant artifact of the band’s early years. It shows off the wide range of influences – pop, rock ‘n’ roll, funky soul, garage punk, bubblegum – that fueled their musical imaginations, and the talent they’d developed as a live unit. Standing in front of the studio mics, they effortlessly roll out a solid, impromptu eleven song set that’s been in the vaults for way too long. Rubes fans will truly enjoy what is essentially a well-recorded (if not perfectly mixed) in-studio live set of the band at the start of their recording career. Resurrected from a surviving stereo cassette mix with mastering by John Cuniberti, the band’s humor, self-assuredness, and instrumental and vocal talent shine through on every track. [©2021 Hyperbolium]

The Rubinoos’ Home Page

Los Straitjackets: Complete Christmas Songbook

A brightly wrapped gift of guitar-driven Christmas classics

Yep Roc’s twenty-seven track anthology compiles all of the Christmas-related titles that Los Straitjackets have released across 2002’s Tis the Season for Los Straitjackets, 2009’s Yuletide Beat, 2011’s “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” single, and Yep Roc’s 2007 collection Oh Santa!, and adds a bonus live version of Vince Guaraldi’s “Linus & Lucy” recorded on the band’s 2015 tour with Nick Lowe. The playlist is dominated by ‘60s-styled guitar-driven instrumental versions of Christmas classics, often cleverly augmented by motifs borrowed from “La Bamba,” “Pipeline,” “Walk Don’t Run,” “Misirlou,” “I Fought the Law,” “Buckaroo,” “Sing, Sing, Sing” and other iconic tunes. There are playful Latin beats on  “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “O Tannenbaum,” Memphis soul on “Joy to the World” and power-pop on “Groovy Old Saint Nick.” The band’s three originals include two instrumentals, “Christmas in Las Vegas” and “Christmas Weekend,” and the album’s only vocal, “Holiday Twist.” This is a creative collection of Christmas tunes that will spruce up your holidays. [©2019 Hyperbolium]

Los Straitjackets’ Home Page

Various Artist: 3×4

The Paisley Underground revisits itself

For those who weren’t around to enjoy the 1980s revival of 1960s sounds, “The Paisley Underground” was the name given to a collection of like-minded Los Angeles bands that shared a fondness for retro sounds. Initially finding one another as fans, they quickly became friends and colleagues, and released a varied catalog of records that touched on a number of different pop, psych and punk echoes of the ‘60s. Three decades years later, four of the scene’s pillars reconvened for a pair of reunion shows in 2013, and six years after that they’ve joined together to celebrate their musical and personal affections via this album of covers. Cleverly, each band – The Bangles, Dream Syndicate, Rain Parade and Three O’Clock – tackles one each of the other three band’s songs, drawing out their web of stylistic connections.

The Three O’Clock kicks off the set with the A-side of the Bangles first single, “Getting Out of Hand.” The cover has a bass-heavy go-go beat that sits well with the organ and guitar, and the band takes the tune at a more relaxed tempo than Michael Quercio’s impromptu 1983 rendition with the Bangles. The Dream Syndicate’s signature “Tell Me When It’s Over” (from The Days of Wine and Roses) finds Quercio dipping into an unusually low (for him) vocal register that’s dreamier than Steve Wynn’s Lou Reed-inflected original, and the Rain Parade’s debut single, “What She’s Done to Your Mind,” retains its original melancholy even as it’s turned poppier. The original lineup of bassist/vocalist Quercio, drummer Danny Benair, and guitarist Louis Guiterrez is joined by keyboard player Adam Merrin, and with Earle Mankey in the producer’s chair, the tracks conjure the flowery buzz of the band’s early days.

The Bangles cover the Dream Syndicate’s “That’s What You Always Say,” with the harmony vocals paired with a guitar solo that pays tribute to Karl Precoda’s screeching feedback without seeking to imitate it. The Rain Parade’s “Talking in My Sleep” (from their debut LP Emergency Third Rail Power Trip) is lead by Susanna Hoffs’ distinctive voice, and backed by Beatle-esque harmonies and instrumental hooks drawn from original. Completing their triptych, the band draws from the Three O’Clock’s Sixteen Tambourines for the joyous “Jet Fighter Man.” Susanna Hoffs, Debbi Peterson and Vicki Peterson are rejoined on these sessions by original bassist Annette Zillinskas, who exited the quartet between the release of their self-titled 1982 EP and their debut on Columbia.

Steve Wynn’s moving vocal and strong guitar work lead the Dream Syndicate’s cover of the Rain Parade’s “You Are My Friend” (from 1984’s Explosions in the Glass Palace), and give the song an Americana flavor that suggests the Long Ryders. Their cover of the Bangles “Hero Takes a Fall,” the lead single from All Over the Place, offers an interesting backstory, as the song is revealed in the liner notes to have been written about none other than… Steve Wynn. The Dream Syndicate’s third contribution reaches back to the Three O’Clock antecedent Salvation Army for “She Turns to Flowers,” a record that proved to be an early inspiration to then record store employee Steve Wynn. Wynn is joined by drummer Dennis Duck, and supplemented by longtime bassist Mark Walton and more recently added guitarist guitarist James Victor.

That Rain Parade’s covers of the Three O’Clock’s “As Real as Real” (from their debut EP Baroque Hoedown) and the Dream Syndicate’s “When You Smile” show off both the psychedelic threads that connected these bands, but also the differences that distinguished their sounds. “As Real as Real” is shorn of the vocal effects of the original, but retains the slow-motion “Tomorrow Never Knows” rhythm that gave the record its languorous grace. “When You Smile” expands upon the original with acoustic choruses and backing harmonies that contrast with the song’s underlying menace, and The Bangles “The Real World” is given an understated treatment that deepens the song’s innocence. Matt Piucci and Steven Roback lead a revised Rain Parade that includes guitarists John Thoman and Derek See, keyboard player Mark Hanley, and drummer Stephan Junea.

The album makes explicit the musical intersections and personal camaraderie that bound these bands together. The liner notes, penned by Steve Wynn, Matt Piucci, Danny Benair, Michael Quercio, Vicki Peterson and Susanna Hoffs, show how the bands became fans of one another, how their fanship turned into friendship, and eventually into professional relationships that found them gigging on shared bills. Within a couple of years the bands split off in different directions, including major labels, chart success, new projects, reunions and reformations; yet through the decades, the base interests that created the original artistic gravity seem to have survived. This return to the roots of a short-lived scene built on artistic sensibilities is a fine tribute to the scene’s collective musical consciousness. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

Doc Watson: Live at Club 47

Newly discovered Doc Watson live set from 1963

At the time of this February 1963 appearance at Boston’s Club 47, Doc Watson was a regional country and pop performer, but not yet the international exponent of traditional folk music he’d soon become. Folklorist Ralph Rinzler had started Watson on the path to fame with home recordings issued by Folkways in the early ’60s, and as his renowned grew, he began performing for urban audiences in New York, Boston and other outposts of the folk revival. His career took off over the next year with a performance at the Newport Folk Festival and his debut record on Vanguard. The seeds of that success are all here, as Watson strums, picks and sings a widely drafted catalog of folk tunes, embellishing each with both the song’s history and his history with the song. Watson flat- and finger-picks guitar, plays the autoharp and harmonica, and entertains the audience with stories and stage patter throughout the set. This is a terrific document of a deeply talented musician on the cusp of turning his artistic mastery, encyclopedic knowledge and affable stage presence into long-lasting influence and stardom. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

Doc Watson Fan Site

Los Straitjackets: What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Los Straitjackets

It takes a quirky band to cover a quirky man

As his career matured, Nick Lowe developed a measure of respectability that might have surprised his younger self; particularly the irreverent Nick Lowe who recorded as The Tartan Horde and titled his solo debut The Jesus of Cool. Lowe’s lyrics have always drawn listener attention, but his melodies, as emphasized in these instrumental treatments, deserve their share of the limelight. By reimagining each song, sometimes quite radically, Los Straitjackets have freed the melodies to strike entirely new moods. Pathos is turned on its head with a snappy arrangement of “Lately I’ve Let Things Slide,” and the dark emotional territory of “I Live on a Battlefield” is brightened with a vintage dance beat. “Heart of the City” is still upbeat, but now with Duane Eddy-styled twang, and the relentlessly ebullient “Rollers Show” is crossed between a Shadows-styled bandstand piece and something Chet Atkins might have recorded for teenagers. Lowe’s lone worldwide hit, “Cruel to Be Kind,” is taken downtempo to a very contemplative place, and the folk-rock treatment of the title track is more reminiscent of Lowe’s later solo work than the song’s origin. This is a delightfully original twist on Nick Lowe tributes that have included Lowe Profile, Labor of Love and Lowe Country; all that’s missing is Lowe’s own instrumental, “Shake That Rat,” which the band covered on 2001’s Sing Along With Los Straitjackets. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Los Straitjackets’ Home Page
Nick Lowe’s Home Page

The Fleshtones: The Band Drinks for Free

fleshtones_thebanddrinksforfreeThe garage door is open and the organ’s plugged in

Forty years and twenty albums from their founding, New York’s Fleshtones are still cranking out garage-powered rock ‘n’ roll. Even more impressive than the length of their career is its consistently high quality amid a lack of commercial acclaim. Though the band parlayed its New York City club following into a deal with IRS, soundtrack placements, an American Bandstand appearance (alongside the band War!) and college radio play with 1983’s Hexbreaker!, it never added up to mainstream success. Which makes their perseverance and adherence to a core musical vision all the more admirable.

The band’s seventh album for Yep Roc puts their guitar, bass, drums, organ and harmonica to everything from a cover of the Hondells’ surf ‘n’ drag-themed “The Gasser” to Peter Zaremba’s original blues “The Sinner” and Keith Streng’s gothic soul “Respect Our Love.” Ten Years After’s “Love Like a Man” is taken uptempo with a psychedelic party vibe, and the excess that sparked the late-70s back-to-basics movement is suggested in the title “Rick Wakeman’s Cape.” Rock music may no longer be in the commercial limelight, but it still retains its punch, particularly in the hands of masters like the Fleshtones. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

The Fleshtones’ Facebook Page

Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet Reissued!

After a few false starts, the three album run of Canada’s Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet has been finally reissued in expanded form on LP, CD and digital download!

shadowymenonashadowyplanet_savvyshowstoppersSavvy Show Stoppers

Formed in Toronto in 1984, this instrumental trio released a number of singles and EPs before dropping this compilation album in 1988. The original sixteen track lineup cherry-picked from 1985’sLove Without Words, 1986’s Wow Flutter Hiss ’86, 1987’s Schlagers!And Live Record With Extra Bread And Cheese and 1988’sExplosion Of Taste. Out of the gate, this was a trio to be reckoned with, as their compositional and instrumental talents collided with a wicked sense of humor. Though often pegged as a surf rock band (leading eventually to the composition “We’re Not a Fucking Surf Band”), they were more truly an instrumental combo in the vein of the Shadows, Link Wray (whose 1963 single “Run Chicken Run” is covered here), the Fireballs and peers like the Raybeats and Pell Mell.

The collection’s most familiar tune is likely to be “Having an Average Weekend,” which gained exposure as the theme for Kids in the Hall, but listeners will also recognize “Harlem by the Sea,” as it gives a rousing guitar-rock twist to the Viscounts’ moody “Harlem Nocturne.” Other highlights include the deep bass and tense guitar of “Zombie Compromise” and the Cramps-like “Vibrolux Deluxe.” Bonuses on the 2016 reissue include the primitive “Big Saxophone Lie,” which (appropriately) doesn’t feature a saxophone, covers of Erroll Garner’s “Misty” and Heinz Meier’s “Summer Wind,” the Charles Burns-narrated “Big Baby,” and a sax fueled version of “Customized.” Remastered from the original tapes, this is the album’s first CD reissue since 1993, and first-ever digital download. A must have for instrumental rock fans!

shadowymenonashadowyplanet_dimthelightsDim the Lights, Chill the Ham

Three years after collecting together singles and EPs for their 1988 full-length debut, Savvy Show Stoppers, this Toronto instrumental trio released their first full album of new material. The band augments their twangy guitar instrumentals with organ, harmonica and whistling, and edits in odd bits of dialogue here and there. Their original material is complemented by covers of the Beach Boys’ “In My Room” and Sonny Bono’s “Bang Bang,”, and Louis Prima’s swing-era “Sing, Sing, Sing” is threaded into the original “I Know a Guy Named Larry.”

As on their debut, the band’s rhythm section drives Brian Connelly’s guitar, and the music stretches beyond instrumental rock to include blues, jazz and post-punk. Yep Roc’s 2016 reissue adds bonus tracks from 1989’s Tired of Waking Up Tired, 1991’s Music for Pets and 1994’s It’s a Wonderful Records! Missing from the digital download are bonuses that accompanied the original vinyl (“Vinyl”), cassette (“Tape, Tape, You Bought Our Tape”) and CD (“Thanks For Buying Our CD”), as well as a Johnny Kidd cover (“Shakin’ All Over”) that appeared on all three. But even without those original extras, this is a sweet second chapter!

shadowymenonashadowyplanet_sportfishinSport Fishin’ – The Lure of the Bait, The Luck of the Hook

The third and final album from this Canadian trio features plenty of the twangy, boss guitar for which they were known, including the rockabilly-styled “Fortune Tellin’ Chicken” and a revved-up cover of Gene Pitney’s tale of forbidden love, “Mecca.” The latter’s surf style is wiped-out a few tracks later by the post-punk declaration, “We’re Not a Fucking Surf Band.” The trio stretches out with Celtic and progressive flavors in “Spend a Night, Not a Fortune,” hypnotic mystery in “Relax, You Will Think You Are A Chicken,” surf vs. spy drama in “Plastics for 500, Bob,” and terrific, jazz-like interplay in “Cheese in the Fridge.” The album also includes the group’s first (and hopefully only) melodic vocal, on the saccharine “The Singing Cowboy.”

Duane Eddy, Link Wray and other guitar giants echo throughout the album, and the crescendo of a live cover of Johnny Kidd’s “Shakin’ All Over” can be found as an unlisted bonus at the end of “Babywetsitself.” Yep Roc’s 2016 reissue features seven bonus tracks, including two (“Lick” and “Sugar in My Hog”) drawn from Fred Schneider’s 1996 solo album, Just Fred. The bonuses close with a six-minute medley of signature riffs from the B-52s, Nirvana, Deep Purple, Dee-Lite, T-Rex, Mott the Hoople, Kinks, Rolling Stones, Ramones, Bad Company, Alice Cooper, Cream, Thin Lizzy, Sly & The Family Stone, Gary Glitter, Sweet, Golden Earring and many others. The band dissolved three years later, and after several false starts, their catalog is finally back in print! [©2016 Hyperbolium]

Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet Tribute Page

The Minus 5: Of Monkees and Men

Minus5_OfMonkeesAndMenA songwriter’s tribute to Mike, Micky, Davy, Peter and more

The Monkees legacy is complicated. At the peak of their fame they were celebrated and reviled in nearly equal measure. Their transformation from actor-musicians playing the part of a pop group to musician-actors forming a real pop group is well documented, but lingers oddly in listeners’ consciousnesses. Scott McCaughey, whose early work with the Dynette Set and Young Fresh Fellows captured the sweetness and adventure of ‘50s and ‘60s pop, leads his latest edition of the Minus 5 in an unabashed tribute to the men who were the Monkees, though interestingly, other than “Boyce and Hart” and the rhythm opening “Micky’s a Cool Drummer,” not in their musical style.

Originally released as part of the five LP Record Store Day set, Scott the Hoople in the Dungeon of Horror, “Side 1” includes individual songs for each member of the Monkees, plus a bonus fifth track dedicated to the group’s songwriters, Boyce & Hart. Threaded throughout each are musical and lyrical references, starting with the country tinge to an epic “Michael Nesmith,” a song filled with clever references to Nesmith’s many career highlights. Davy Jones is remembered as the group’s heartthrob, but also as a thrice-married father of four daughters. “Song for Peter Tork” and “Boyce and Hart” include McCaughey’s personal remembrances, and “Micky’s a Cool Drummer” defends Micky Dolenz as a musician and the Monkees as a band.

“Side 2” essays the “Men” half of the title, paying tribute to McCaughey’s late musical associates and friends, Jimmy Silva (“Blue Rickenbacker”) and John Weymer (“Weymer Never Dies”). The latter is even more epic than the opening “Michael Nesmith,” clocking in at nearly eleven minutes, and venturing into a Beatles-esque experimental jam. Filling out the side is McCaughey’s ode to the omnipotence of film tough guy Robert Ryan, and an appreciation of the Portland band Richmond Fontaine. One might be inclined to call this collection idiosyncratic, if idiosyncratic was at all unusual for the Minus 5; but it is more personal in its undisguised affection. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

The Minus 5’s Home Page

Tony Joe White: Rain Crow

TonyJoeWhite_RainCrowMagic signs, rural rituals and (of course) swamps

Though Tony Joe White reached his commercial zenith as a performer with his 1968 debut, Black and White and its single “Polk Salad Annie,” he’s continued makin music ever since. In the nearly fifty years since that debut, he’s released two dozen albums across Monument, Warner Brothers, RCA, Casablanca, Columbia, Polydor and a host of independent labels. This latest finds his fuzz-toned guitar still slithering, and his vocal growl weary, wary and fully simmered in his native Louisiana. The Memphis funk of his earlier years has mostly given way to darker blues as he sings of magic signs, rural rituals, betrayal and, of course, swamps.

White writes from biographical seeds, pairing with his wife Leann to pen “Hoochie Woman,” and with Billy Bob Thornton for “The Middle of Nowhere.” The latter reignites White’s swamp chug of drums, low bass and percussive guitar, as the lyric takes the point of view of a friend’s highly observational son. The title track is based on a traditional Southern omen, and “Tell Me a Swamp Story” draws upon a harrowing chapter of White’s childhood. The songs are confessed as much as sung, but the revelations engender more mysteries than they resolve. It’s dark in the swamps, and you can’t always be sure of what you’re seeing, but you can be sure of what you’re hearing here, and it’s badass. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

Tony Joe White’s Home Page

Chris Stamey: Lovesick Blues

ChrisStamey_LovesickBluesA pensive set from a legendary singer-songwriter

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]

Chris Stamey’s Home Page