The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve: Robbie Williams, Intensive Care

What do you do when you’ve spent your lonely teen years idolizing Elton John, loving Elton John, ADORING Elton John, only to wake up one day to realize you’re 56 years old and need a substitute, a new Elton John in your life, to help see you through the long banal days and long lonely nights? Why you turn to Robbie Williams, of course. Williams is England’s best stab at providing us with a latter-day Captain Fantastic—to wit, a prolific hit machine who writes catchy songs and gets no respect from the right people, but is beloved by millions.

I fell in love with Williams the first time I heard “Angels.” It’s as close as any human has ever come to writing a new “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” and I swooned and don’t care who knows it. Bigger than life and anthemic as all fuck, “Angels” is all swirling strings and crescendos over which Williams pours, depending on your point of view, saccharine or his very heart blood.

Williams has come a long way since the acrimonious end of his first (1990-95) tenure in the boy band Take That—indeed, he’s one of the best-selling artists of all time, topping the likes of Beyoncé, The Black Eyed Peas, and Joseph Stalin, another Take That alumnus. He’s partied with Oasis and lived, released 11 solo albums, and bared his bum for the cover of 2014’s Under the Radar Volume 1, unless that’s a stunt bum I’m looking at as I write this. And he seems like a nice bloke, which is quaint, although for all I know he’s no friendlier than Heinrich Himmler, yet another Take That alum.

If there’s one thing you have to hand Williams, it’s he knows how to make an entrance. Take 2005’s Intensive Care. He opens the catchy “Ghosts,” its inaugural track, with the lines, “Here I stand victorious/The only man who made you cum.” Top that, friend. It’s your standard lovelorn affair with a great chorus, over which Williams says things like “me and you” and “we could have made it.” The backing vocals are wonderful, the strings transcendental, and while Elton John is no ghost I can feel his aura hovering over this one. “Tripping” opens with some ska drums and is ska flavored and reminds me of The Police, a band I can only compare to rickets. Williams switches back and forth from his regular voice to a falsetto, and there’s a brief hip-hop interlude that only makes things worse. In short I don’t like “Tripping,” but then there are plenty of Elton John songs (especially that one about Lady Di kicking the royal bucket) I don’t like either.

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A morning mix of news for the vinyl inclined

In rotation: 5/22/15

Josey Records, out of Dallas, is coming to Kansas City: “According to the press release, the Kansas City location will be 6,500 square feet and will house over 60,000 records and CDs. This location will also feature a stage for live music, local art and ‘a curated selection of local Kansas City beers.'”

Pondering Cafe Culture at Vinyl: “It’s sleek and modern, sure, but also a cross between “Seattle Coffee House” and “painfully hip record store.” (There is indeed a collection of vinyl albums up for perusal.)”

MARS Records descends upon Plymouth: “…There’s something about the process – the buying of the record, the opening of the record, the listening to it on the stereo with a bona fide cartridge. The sound is a little different and the experience is very different…”

For the Record: Vinyl Comeback Backlogs Dallas Factory, “They’ve been talking about the demise of vinyl since the 70s,” he says. “It’s never really gone away.”

‘A good run:’ Weirdo Records shutters after 6 years: “Weirdo Records, a home away from home for vinyl heads, has officially closed, according to the owner who posted a farewell note on the store’s website…”

“…Cambridge’s arts and music scene has taken another hit. Less than a week after news of T.T. The Bear’s Place’s closing had surfaced, Massachusetts Avenue record shop and underground culture destination Weirdo Records has shuttered…”

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The TVD Storefront

Con Brio,
The TVD First Date

“Born in the ’90s, I grew up listening to CDs. Though I was always aware of vinyl’s existence, it wasn’t quite as accessible to me as CDs were. However, as I grew older, I began to explore life and soon expanded into the understanding of their raw and intimate sound quality.”

“Brief snapshot, I was 18 to be exact. I had just concluded my first meeting with a musical offer that allowed me to put together a 7 piece band and develop a residency that would be called “The Soul Train Revival.” Immediately after, I took a bus down to Haight Street and walked into a record store called, Rooky Ricardo’s Records to do some setlist preparation. Everything I discovered in that store was “reviving” in itself. Records from artists like Donny Hathaway, Chic, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Marvin Gaye, Prince, and many others are where I parked my imagination through the in-store record player.

In conclusion, I walked out of there with more than a setlist and a free Stevie Wonder record (Talking Book) from the store owner. Thereafter, vinyl symbolized the timeless nature of music that resonated with me in an organic way.”

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TVD New Orleans

This Is NOLA relaunches at the Joy Theater

This is NOLA is not just an event, it’s a concept. Emerging from a lack of centralized support for the contemporary arts and the cocktail and culinary scenes in New Orleans, the party’s founder Reeves Price sought to highlight all the facets of the emerging, progressive culture in the city. It returns to the Joy Theater Friday night, 5/22.

“Our local heritage and the people who built it are what make New Orleans unlike any other city in the world and cherished unlike any other city in the world. As we continue to grow as America’s boutique city, we are attracting new people, new tastes, and new trends. They are not changing the local culture, they are complimenting it, and This Is NOLA is their speakerbox,” Price said.

Friday’s music line up does not disappoint in that regard and runs the gamut in terms of genres while featuring some of the city’s most interesting young artists.

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TVD UK

UK Video: The Dirty Blonde, “Take You Under”

It’s always refreshing to hear a band taking alternative rock back to its roots, and The Dirty Blonde do not disappoint.

Influenced mostly by various Scottish folk bands as well as R.E.M., this stripped back Glasgow four piece have created a rocking sound that’s fuzzy in all the right places. Just check out their video for “Take You Under”—just four guys in a carpeted room, cut with the streets at night.

It shouldn’t be special, but it’s such a love letter to the ’90s that we just couldn’t resist it. There are no bells and whistles, there are no ridiculous production values, just some friends playing music and, most importantly, they look like they’re having an amazing time.

Keep an eye out for their single, “Goodbye: Tiny Fractures” which is released 15th June 2015 via Two States Recording and keep up to date with the band on Twitter.

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TVD UK

A Badge of Friendship,
The Podcast

A Badge Of Friendship are back at full capacity this week with Episode 6 of their podcast.

Ed (or should we say “Beaver Man”) has come back from his self imposed quarantine, and the gang are also joined by none other than The Vinyl District’s very own Jon Meyers to discuss the origins of the site and his love affair with vinyl.

Ed spins a track from Stiff Records for this week’s “Label Love,” while Claire points the spotlight at Sia’s “Elastic Heart” for “Pass The Cheese.” Things then get a little bit freaky as Paul takes everybody to a strange, Nintendo K-hole with Boards Of Italia’s “Mario Theme” for this week’s “World Of Weird.”

Tracks played on the show can be heard in full here:

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
Cream, 1966-1972

Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker are the trio collectively known as Cream. Extant for only a fraction of the ‘60s, they still managed a bountiful recorded legacy. This week USM adds to the recent resurgence of LP box sets by collecting all six entries from their first formation, two studio, two live, and two hybrids of both, onto 180gm vinyl, making the contents of 1966-1972 heavy in dual senses of the word.

Full disclosure: for this writer this one-stop-shop of the original UK supergroup’s half dozen albums holds very little appeal, seeing as everything represented herein was relatively easy to obtain on LP throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, inexpensively and in good condition; personally, there is simply no reason to upgrade. But considering the needs of younger classic rock obsessed vinyl lovers, this collection does handily amass nearly everything from a trio that proved very influential.

Over the years, Cream has been both overrated and unfairly maligned. For starters, this is a highly productive if uneven period in Clapton’s artistic trajectory. The guitarist was creatively budding; if no longer a stern blues-disciple hounded by notions of purity, he was decades away from his transformation into an ultra-bland elder statesman after years of Middle-of-the-Roadism.

Since his ascendency to the Mt. Rushmore of blues-rock string-slingers Clapton has always inspired a pocket of detractors, and while these lobes are amongst those ranking his output post-Derek and the Dominos/George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass as uninteresting or worse, his prime work has persisted in worthiness.

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A morning mix of news for the vinyl inclined

In rotation: 5/21/15

Indie Retailers Launching “Vinyl Tuesdays” “Vinyl Tuesday is an initiative set up by Independent retailers to celebrate vinyl releases. Every Tuesday, participating retailers will celebrate by highlighting special-edition, catalog, promotional, and new releases on vinyl. The goal is to maintain and grow physical retail while giving music fans more compelling reasons to support this important part of the music business community…”

“Brooklyn may be saying out with the old and in with the new, but to one veteran record collector, old vinyl records are important to retaining the borough’s culture. Beats In Space artist Tom Noble has opened a vintage record store, Superior Elevation Records, at 100 White Street in Bushwick…”

Zenith Records spinning vinyl in Brunswick: “Zenith Records – the sole surviving vinyl disc manufacturer in Australia – has started running a night shift to meet demand and expects to produce between 250,000 and 300,000 units this financial year…”

Infographic: How Vinyl Records Made Their Comeback

A New Thread-Type Record Cleaning Machine From Pristine Vinyl: “While ultrasonic machines are well in vogue now—and for good reason—there’s still a place for this kind of record cleaner and it can be argued that it is superior to the velvet lip type machine because there’s always a fresh surface contacting the record and zero chance of re-contaminating the record…”

Jam 88.3 and Satchmi release vinyl record compilation to showcase Filipino bands: “…Now, the secret’s out and we’re more than happy to share with everyone what Fresh Fliter Volume 1 is all about…”

Amy Poehler’s ‘Yes Please’ to sell on hot-pink vinyl: “As an attempt to build on millennials’ budding interest in vinyl and other things manual, Harper Collins will sell a recorded version of Yes Please featuring the voices of Poehler, Carol Burnett, Mike Schur and Kathleen Turner…”

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The TVD Storefront

Paul Bergmann,
The TVD First Date

“The first record on vinyl I remember listening to was Tattoo You by The Rolling Stones.”

“My mom, sister, and I used to pull out this box of clothes, dress up like rock stars, and dance on the couches in the living room. “Start Me Up” is the song that really got us going. One time two women walking on the street saw us through the window and smiled or laughed, and after that I was too embarrassed to ever do it again.

I’ve only started interacting with vinyl again recently. 2 years ago I put out my first record on vinyl through the supervision of my friend Jason Hiller. Jason, my drummer Laura Doolin, and I recorded 8 songs live onto a 4-track tape machine at Jason’s home studio, most of them first takes. The final product was a 12” all-analog vinyl played at 45RPM. The earnestness of that sound is what sold me on collecting and producing vinyl. I suddenly needed all of my favorite albums on vinyl.

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
Van Morrison,
Astral Weeks

It is unfortunate that my only clear image of the great Van Morrison is at The Band’s Last Waltz, where the pudgy Morrison, resplendent in an awful brown pants suit speckled with sequins, ends a sublime version of “Caravan” with a series of ludicrous leg kicks, all of which are unintentionally hilarious. I always have to remind myself that Morrison—with his “little fireplug body” to quote Lester Bangs—is one of the Immortals, and that his 1968 album Astral Weeks is one of the best rock LPs ever recorded and certainly in my Top Ten, and this despite the fact that I don’t even like half of its eight songs.

Less an LP than a spiritual attempt to storm Heaven, Astral Weeks showed Van Morrison to be a seeker in search of some unreachable mystical plane—like John Coltrane, only playing a kind of jazz-folk hybrid instead of free jazz. His vocal phrasing speaks to this search; he repeats words, stuttering and stammering and scatting his way to a breakthrough to some otherworldly place, while the mostly jazz musicians behind him play ethereally lovely melodies that provide the perfect counterpoint to his quest. I will go out on a limb and say this is more than just Morrison’s masterpiece—it’s the most spiritual rock LP ever produced, and Morrison the visionary’s most perfect expression of his attempt to utter the unutterable.

Astral Weeks was Morrison’s second LP. Recorded in 1967 with a crew of jazzmen only one of whom he’d met or played with, he told them to more or less wing it, and they did, to remarkable effect. Not everybody liked this approach; “No prep, no meeting,” said double bassist Richard Davis, whose remarkable playing dominates the contributions of his fellow musicians. “He was remote from us, ’cause he came in and went into a booth… And that’s where he stayed, isolated in a booth. I don’t think he ever introduced himself to us, nor we to him…” The Velvet Underground’s John Cale—who was recording in an adjoining studio—echoed Davis’ comments about Morrison isolating himself from his fellow players, saying, “Morrison couldn’t work with anybody, so finally they just shut him in the studio by himself. He did all the songs with just an acoustic guitar, and later they overdubbed the rest of it around his tapes.” But this is untrue; Morrison WAS in a separate booth, but the other musicians were playing along in another room, all but the strings and horns that is, which were recorded after the songs had been recorded.

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