Author Archives: Joseph Neff

Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for October 2019, Part Three

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for October, 2019. Part one is here and part two is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Los Siquicos Litoraleños, Medianos Éxitos Subtropicales Vol. 2: El Relincho Del Tiempo (Hive Mind) From the rural north of Argentina comes a sound that’s gloriously weird. While the folk music of their home country is the bedrock, with the spirt of Tropicalia also present, there is detectible punk fuckery happening, though a better way of putting it is to say this reminds me a lot of The Residents. Once heard, it was a hard similarity to shake, but the group never sounded too much like the Eyeballers, and that really increased the impressiveness. Mixing new material with selections from the group’s extensive archive of home recordings probably aids in the strangeness retaining such a consistently high level of quality. There is a Vol. 1, released on tape in 2016, and it’s still available. A-

The Muffs, No Holiday (Omnivore) Guitarist-vocalist-songwriter Kim Shattuck has left us far too soon, departing this mortal coil shortly before the release of this, her band’s seventh LP. Soaking up the 18 tracks drives home the solidity of the endeavor, which makes its release especially bittersweet. Shattuck was a rock scene lifer, playing in The Pandoras when this middle-ager was just discovering the whole ’80s u-ground rock shebang, and one thing about long-haulers is how they regularly exude a sorta careerist vibe, an understandable aura if one that’s often underwhelming. But not Shattuck. Her stuff, No Holiday’s stuff, a batch of songs written between ’91-’07, radiates love for ’60s-ish pop mixed with ’77 punk roar. It’s out on CD and 2LP but with a standard album length. RIP Kim, you’ll be missed. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Milton Delugg & His Orchestra, Music for Monsters, Munsters, Mummies & Other TV Fiends & The Munsters, S/T (Real Gone) Halloween is coming, don’tcha know. We’ll cover these two vinyl reissues now to give folks ample time to swipe copies for their upcoming costume soiree, and we’re going to group them together as that makes utter sense, though they do offer fairly distinct approaches to the holiday theme. The Delugg album can be considered as a cash-in, and a kitschy one at that, but it’s also a load of fun, leaning HARD into a ’60s TV theme-talk show big band sensibility that I find hard to resist. There are undisguised steals from Mancini, cuts reminiscent of or in direct reference to Neal Hefti and Vic Mizzy, plus a fair amount of non-crap organ stylings.

The Munsters is also a money grab, but it’s a Wrecking Crew-affiliated one, featuring Glen Campbell and Leon Russell in the studio. Produced by Joe Hooven and Hal Winn, the results are much closer to the youth sound and culture of ’64. It’s surfy with flurries of hot licks and hot rod sounds (the Jan & Dean-knockoff “(Here Comes the) Munster Coach” is borderline ridiculous, and that’s swank), references to Frankenstein wearing a Beatle wig, a vampire stripper scenario with saloon piano, Martin Denny-esque exotica, vocal contributions from the Go Gos (who are noted for their own ’64 LP), and more. Original copies go for hundreds, so this run of 1,000 on grey wax will surely please interested parties who don’t require a first press. The Delugg is a 900-copy edition on green vinyl with a cover by Jack Davis. B+/ B+

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Graded on a Curve: Laurie Anderson,
Tenzin Choegyal,
Jesse Paris Smith,
Songs from the Bardo

Eastern spirituality has inspired a lot of music, with only a small percentage aptly assessed as substantial. An even tinier amount rises to the level of artistry found on Songs from the Bardo, the new release from NYC avant-garde cornerstone Laurie Anderson, multi-instrumentalist, composer and musical director Tenzin Choegyal, and multi-instrumentalist, composer, and climate activist Jesse Paris Smith. Described as a collaborative composition featuring Anderson’s readings from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the results are contemplative and exploratory without ever meandering into facile formlessness. A major work, it’s out now on 2LP, CD, and digital from Smithsonian Folkways.

It might read as if I’m being unnecessarily hard on music that’s infused with Eastern spiritual-philosophical qualities. Twenty years ago, that would’ve been true, and I’d probably have expressed matters much more harshly (and with less maturity), but in the ever-loving now I’m merely riffing on Sturgeon’s Law (and that’s not to suggest Ted’s maxim is the gospel truth).

I’ll add here that the term Eastern spirituality is a rather severe generalization, so let me highlight the specific; Songs from the Bardo is described by the label as a “guided journey through the visionary text of the Tibetan Book of the Dead,” the enduring masterwork of Nyingma Buddhism, with the intention to open up the philosophy’s traditions to current and future generations as both pure listening and a store of insightfulness.

Accompanying downloads are certainly useful, but for those buyers with working turntables, they are generally inessential. In the case of Songs from the Bardo, which does offer the card with the code, this observation is somewhat arguable, as listening to the music in one uninterrupted stream, having done so now numerous times, feels optimal.

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Graded on a Curve:
Tomeka Reid Quartet,
Old New

When the conversation turns to jazz, the integration of tradition and innovation is a reliable topic of discussion. Hey, it’s right there in the two adjectives that make up the title of the sophomore effort from the Tomeka Reid Quartet. Featuring the leader’s cello on nine selections alongside guitarist Mary Halvorson, bassist Jason Roebke, and drummer Tomas Fujiwara, Old New is a superb blend of historical heft, contemporary verve, and unified personal expression. Rather than a tactic faltering into a trope, a high level of quality is sustained, partly because the combination of then and now isn’t belabored or overly codified. Instead, it just sounds natural. The CD and digital are out now on Cuneiform Records.

Make no mistake, in addition to the roles of bandleader, composer and arranger, Tomeka Reid is a player of distinction, and only partially due to her chosen instrument, the cello, persisting as somewhat unusual in the jazz scheme of things. It should come as no surprise that prior to her move into jazz, Reid was focused on classical music, a realm where the cello is much more common.

In the promo notes for this release, Reid mentions that one of her early gateways into jazz was a book of basslines by Rufus Reid (no relation), and one would be hard-pressed to come up with a deeper example of jazz’s core principles than that. She then moved from Washington, DC to Chicago, which stands as one of the enduring hotbeds for the music’s intermingling of tradition and stylistic growth.

There, she met flautist-composer Nicole Mitchell and other members of the AACM (Association for Advancement of Creative Musicians) as she began playing at the Velvet Lounge, a venue then owned and operated by the late and very great tenor saxophonist Fred Anderson. Reid’s contribution to the Art Ensemble of Chicago’s excellent We Are On The Edge: A 50th Anniversary Celebration, released earlier this year, could perhaps be taken as a culmination of her Windy City activities, but really, her work is just as notable for its fluid, evolving trajectory right up to Old New.

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for October 2019, Part Two

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for October, 2019. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Sarah Pagé, Dose Curves (Backward Music) Harpists aren’t as rare on the scene as they used to be, but theirs is still a fairly uncommon instrument. Some may know Montreal resident Pagé for her playing in The Barr Brothers, who are described as both rootsy and indie folky, but Dose Curves is my intro to her work, and it’s a wide-ranging treat for adventurous ears. There’s certainly an abundance of plucked beauty passages (e.g. closer “Pleiades”), but the opening title-track is reminiscent of cello or viola in an avant context, while “Lithium Taper” uses her homemade pickups and pedal setup to cultivate an appealing ambient field. Notably, the entire LP (in an edition of 222 copies, most of them already purchased) is one unaltered performance, and it delivers a major artistic statement. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Booker T & the MG’s, The Complete Stax Singles Vol. 1 (1962-1967) (Real Gone) Starting with that instrumental R&B cornerstone “Green Onions” and then rolling through 28 more sides up to “Silver Bells,” the flip to their ’67 Xmas 45, this is a smart way to amass this band’s prime work on either CD or 2LP. Featuring Booker T. Jones on Hammond, Steve Cropper on guitar, Al Jackson, Jr. on drums, and either Lewie Steinberg (early) or Donald “Duck” Dunn (joining in 1965) on bass, theirs is one of the most distinctive sounds in the genre, often imitated but never duplicated, partly because others struggled to attain the appropriate measure of tight and lithe. As Stax’s house band, this is only part of their story, but these chapters are essential, all taken from mono sources. A

Gary Numan, Replicas – The First Recordings & The Pleasure Principle – The First Recordings (Beggars Arkive) To commemorate the 40th anniversary of these two seminal and groundbreaking post-punk electronic pop-rock albums, Beggars is issuing the early recordings of both on 2CD and 2LP, Replicas (co-credited to Tubeway Army) on sage green wax and The Pleasure Principle on orange. Note that neither set includes the actual released albums, so if you don’t have those, you still need ‘em. And anyone interested in the abovementioned styles does need ‘em (they were both reissued by Beggars in 2015). With this said, it’s difficult for me to rate either of these sets as must-haves, but they are both wholly worthwhile documentations of works in progress. If you love the finished LPs, you’ll probably want ‘em.

That each set includes a Peel Session does substantially increase the value, though both have been previously released on wax. Plus, Numan was creating rapidly in this era, and these collections magnify his development (leaving Tubeway Army behind in the process) without getting bogged down with the ephemeral. These ears retain a special affection for the Replicas material, mainly because there are still traces of the band’s punk beginnings in an overall attack that’s sharply focused on the future, but it’s Pleasure that captures him in full flower, and this dive into its gestation wafts a pretty sweet aroma. It should also be mentioned that the 2CDs offer extra stuff, in the case of Replicas just a third early version of the title track, but Pleasure has six (and six unreleased cuts, two of which are on the wax). B+/ B+

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Graded on a Curve:
Bill Orcutt,
Odds Against Tomorrow

With his latest, guitarist Bill Orcutt plugs in and delivers a concise set brimming with passages of substantial beauty. While his prior acoustic explorations were noted for their heightened, often thorny abstraction, with Odds Against Tomorrow the man makes tangible strides into accessibility without sacrificing the distinctiveness, indeed the otherness, of his work. As Orcutt’s friend and Charalambides guitarist Tom Carter offers in his promo essay, the LP’s ten tracks are almost a rock record, an idea we’ll expand upon below. The album is out October 11 through the guitarist’s own Palilalia label.

Bill Orcutt’s Odds Against Tomorrow takes its name from a 1959 film noir directed by Robert Wise with a screenplay by Abraham Polonsky (under a pseudonym, as he was then blacklisted by the House Unamerican Activities Committee) and starring Harry Belafonte, Robert Ryan, Shelley Winters, Ed Begley, and Gloria Grahame. Pianist John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet, assembling an orchestra peppered with jazz heavyweights (including the great guitarist Jim Hall), composed, arranged and conducted the soundtrack.

That Orcutt borrowed the title from Wise’s film is a major point of emphasis in the PR for this record, though the endeavor isn’t an homage, or at least it’s never described as such, and in fact it’s never explicitly stated if the music (or just the opening title track) is inspired by the movie, or if Orcutt even considers himself a fan of Wise’s film.

This isn’t unusual for the guitarist, whose 2013 dive into the American Songbook A History of Every One and its eponymous 2017 electric counterpart- were talking worker’s songs, Disney tunes, Irving Berlin, Christmas songs, spirituals, blues, Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman,” the national anthem of the USA and more, were presented (but not played) with a discernible detachment.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Magic Force of
Konk 1981-1988

When it comes to blending post-punk edge with the rhythmic fire of funk, hip-hop and disco, hardly anybody did it better than New York City trailblazers Konk. Ditching an insular path for the wide open highway of hybridization, their horn-drenched sound is thoroughly documented on The Magic Force of Konk 1981-1988, a 3LP that corrals studio output, a side of live material and a whole platter of party-flowing DJ mixers on colored wax (each LP a different shade) with a 12-page booklet, notes by Ezra Gale, a reproduction of a Konk/ Pigbag gig poster, and an accompanying download. For fans of the ’80s musical subculture of NYC, it’s a fabulous one-stop-shop, out now through the Futurismo label.

This isn’t the first time Konk’s music has been given the retrospective treatment, as Soul Jazz issued The Sound of Konk (Tales of the New York Underground 1981-88) on 2LP and CD back in 2004. It was one installment in that label’s series of anthologies into subterranean NYC, and while a satisfying survey, it’s effectively expanded and improved upon by The Magic Force of Konk.

Like its predecessor, Futurismo’s collection avoids simply regurgitating the track-list of Yo!, Konk’s 1983 long-playing debut (notably, on the Belgian Les Disques Du Crépuscule label, the home of A Certain Ratio’s “Shack Up” 45). Rather, side A opens with “Konk Party” from their ’82 7-inch and side B “Your Life” from their ’84 short-player, with each side filled out with prime cuts from the first LP.

Non-chronological but also not random, with the tracks included from their ’88 set Jams sequenced on side C, the better to absorb the group’s progression toward something nearer to club music (but without ever really sacrificing the warmth of live instrumentation that gave the early stuff such a nice punch). Finishing out the side is a dip back to Konk’s debut 45, the “Soka-Loka-Moki” two-parter from 1981.

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Graded on a Curve:

Today we remember Ginger Baker who passed away on October 6, 2019 with a look back from our archives.Ed.

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. 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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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for October 2019, Part One

Part one of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for October, 2019.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Michael Vincent Waller, Moments (Unseen Worlds) Waller is a NYC-based composer whose debut The South Shore was released in 2015 on XI Records, the label of composer Phill Niblock. Amongst others, Waller has studied with La Monte Young, and if these info tidbits are leading you towards the drone, I say whoa there, partner. On this, his third release (out on CD and 2LP) Waller more appropriately fits the bill of minimalist, or maybe better said miniaturist, as the piano pieces here, played by R. Andrew Lee, are reminiscent of Erik Satie. The selections for vibraphone, played by William Winant, are more resistant to easy comparison, at least for me; ultimately, they chart their own contemplative course. With excellent notes by Tim Rutherford-Johnson and “Blue” Gene Tyranny. A

Boduf Songs, Abyss Versions (Orindal) Mat Sweet from Southampton UK (and who is currently based in Toledo, OH) is the man behind Boduf Songs, a long-running endeavor (roughly 15 years) combining home recordings blending organic instrumentation and assorted electronic additives plus field recordings. He’s been described as an electroacoustic musician, an that’s not wrong, but Sweet is, per the name of the project, invested in songs, and he displays appealingly broad range across his seventh album. If the domain is the homestead, this isn’t a lo-fi thing, instead reminding me a bit at times of Mark Kozelek or Warn Defever crossed with Low (there is a Kranky connection). However, other parts cozy up to darkwave flirting with bedroom industrial, and the guitar playing is consistently sharp. A-

Gong Gong Gong, Phantom Rhythm 幽靈節奏 (Wharf Cat) Duo music in an approximate rock mode commonly features a drummer or some form of mechanical device in service of creating beats. This record is a striking exception in that its Beijing-based makers Tom Ng (born in Hong Kong) and Joshua Frank (born in Montreal but an intermittent resident of Beijing since he was a child) play guitar and bass respectively. Ng sings in his native tongue, which is described in the label PR as a defiant gesture (folks currently following world news should understand). However, don’t go thinking there’s an absence of rhythm here, as they work up robust post-punk grooves. They have wide-ranging influences (Bo Diddley, Cantonese opera, desert blues, drones and electronics) but a focused attack. Impressive for a debut. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Ethel Mae Bourque, Chansons de la campagne (Nouveau Electric) CDs and tapes are reviewed in this column, as the point of the endeavor is what’s newly available to buy in stores. However, it takes a special release on these formats to grab a weekly pick, and that’s the case with this CD from the label of Lost Bayou Rambler Louis Michot. Ethel Mae Bourque was a friend, mentor, and inspiration to the fiddler, with a large store of original songs and versions of Louisiana French nuggets at her command. These field recordings were made by documentarian Erik Charpentier in her kitchen in 2003-’04 (she passed in 2011) with occasional contributions from Michot and his brother David on guitar. It unwinds like a choice Lomax session but with heightened personal flavor. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
Joan Shelley,
Like the River Loves
the Sea

The latest effort from contemporary folk singer-songwriter and guitarist Joan Shelley finds the Kentucky native recording far from home in Reykjavik, Iceland, but with her familiar support cast including Daniel Martin Moore, James Elkington, Nathan Salsburg, Kevin Ratterman, Cheyenne Mize, and Julia Purcell. Deepening her already impressive artistry, the record remains invested in the regional musics that help shape it, and while Bonnie “Prince” Billy lends harmony vocals to two tracks, the focus holds firmly on Shelley throughout. Her finest album yet, Like the River Loves the Sea is available now on vinyl, compact disc, and digital through No Quarter.

Often those who spend their time listening to and perhaps commenting upon (or at least drawing conclusions about) recorded music can get caught up in the circumstances surrounding an album’s creation. The how, the what, the who, perhaps even the why, and in the case of Like the River Loves the Sea, certainly the where.

As her terrific accompanying text for the album makes clear, Joan Shelley understands this, but she also downplays matters a bit, relating her decision to record in Reykjavik to Lee Hazlewood’s Cowboy in Sweden, inexpensive airfare and the simple desire to visit a faraway (and alluringly unusual) place. Additionally, she explains that while made in Iceland, Like the River Loves the Sea is a record about Kentucky, and her words drive home how the making of an album is always more than the direct actions of its construction.

It is conversations had, new people met, meals shared, and indeed, places visited. It’s fostering a positive environment so that decisions can be made with clarity and certainty. In “Haven,” this LP’s brief but immediately gripping opening track, the assurance is palpable as the song strikes the perfect balance of beauty and intensity, all achieved with just vocals and guitar.

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Graded on a Curve:
Those Pretty Wrongs,
Zed for Zulu

Those Pretty Wrongs, the collaboration of Jody Stephens, formerly of cult titans Big Star, and Luther Russell, a founding member of The Freewheelers who’s responsible for a slew of subsequent projects, issued their self-titled debut back in 2016. ‘twas a good one, at times a great one even, and their full-length follow-up doesn’t falter. But those familiar with Stephens and Russell who haven’t heard them in tandem shouldn’t assume they know what Zed for Zulu sounds like. While there are moments that unwind in the proximity of the expected, there are just as many surprises on a record loaded with solid writing, singing and playing. It’s out now on LP, CD, cassette, and digital through Burger Records.

Before a minute elapses, Zed for Zulu’s opener “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” offers up a stunning string arrangement by Chris Stamey played by Leah Peroutka on violin, Aubrey Kessel on viola, and Leah Gibson on cello. Given the background of the duo’s older half, this might insinuate Third/Sister Lovers, and as the song progresses that album did come to mind, though just as prevalent were fleeting thoughts of Thunderclap Newman, Badfinger, and early solo George Harrison; hell, there’s even a brief little string flourish reminiscent of The Beatles in its neo-psych regality.

But its bedrock is a likeable slice of guitar-pop songwriting, and it’s not especially evocative in sensibility to the work of Big Star. Neither is the crisp Byrdsian chime-pop (with a backbeat of sturdy simplicity) of the next track “Ain’t Nobody but Me,” in part because it offers a downtrodden sensitivity that’s distinct, at least in the context of this record (and its makers).

“Time to Fly” presents a strumming singer-songwriter wrinkle that shouldn’t perplex anyone familiar with Russell’s post-Freewheelers work. To elaborate, it’s a soft-rock-tinged number replete with touches of gentle psych. The choruses are nice, and the delayed entrance of the drums and bass even better. Moving more forthrightly into psych-pop, “The Carousel” is florid if not quite foofy (it begins by referencing that warhorse of children’s bedtime prayers).

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for September 2019, Part Four

Part four of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for September, 2019. Part one is here, part two is here, and part three is here.

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: The Roots, Things Fall Apart (Geffen / UMe / Urban Legends) One of the best records of 1999 and a hip-hop cornerstone gets a deserving deluxe reissue here, spread across six sides of vinyl with sides five and six holding Questlove-curated bonus tracks. There’s also a 24-page booklet with essays from Black Thought and Questlove (who also delivers track-by-track liner notes) and photos. And that’s just the standard version. The collector’s edition offers the three LPs on clear vinyl with a die-cut slipcase with all five covers as interchangeable lithos, plus a bonus sixth cover and foil stamp numbering. And the music hasn’t gotten subsumed in the trappings, as this isn’t an attempt to gussy up a pretty good record but is rather a wholly fitting presentation for a masterpiece.

The Roots’ fourth full-length really drove home their organic reality as not just a crew or collective but as a band. That is, they were and remain an outfit utilizing live instrumentation. On their Wikipedia page, there is a quote crediting them as “hip-hop’s first legitimate band,” which strikes me as wrong. I mean, I don’t think Smokin’ Suckaz wit Logic was very good, but I wouldn’t call them illegit. I completely agree that The Roots are hip-hop’s first great, or maybe better said, the style’s first non-gimmicky band (I’ll add that Guru’s Jazzmatazz is accurately described as a project and a collab). But the thing (well, one thing) that makes Things Fall Apart outstanding is that it never loses its handle on hip-hop’s core essence. It simply deepens the genre’s possibilities rather than trying to be something else. A+

Bro David, Modern Music from Belize (Cultures of Soul) Even if I didn’t care for this record, which is the latest in this label’s reissues of global groove music, I’d probably hold onto a copy due to the sleeve, as it offers an illustration of a lion with a rather confused look on its face. Confused why, exactly? Because there is a person standing on its back with a globe in each hand. Bluntly, that’s the kind of thing I like to have around the house. But what’s nice is that I need not worry about keeping an LP that’s main interest is visual, as Modern Music from Belize is both an enjoyable listen and an insightful (and succinct) dip into the work of Bredda David Obi, who is a new global music discovery to me and I’m guessing to most folks reading this. It’s the dedication of this label that has brought this music into a brighter light.

This is not just a taste of Bro David, whose recording career began with No Fear in ’84, followed by Cungo Musik in ’87 and We No Wa No Kimba Ya in 1990, it’s an intro to the danceable pop of Belize, a Caribbean country often overlooked when focusing on the region’s music during this era. With this said, the seven tracks included here, which are taken from the three LPs above (all pricey in original form, so obviously folks beyond Culture of Soul’s operator Deano Sounds are hip to this stuff) isn’t a radical departure from the more well-known strains of the Caribbean; there’s a whole lot of reggae, in fact, plus a general vibe of positivity that never gets overbearing, in part because the record’s low-budget reality insures against slickness. Bro David called his synthesis kungo (or cungo) and it’s a treat. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
John Coltrane,
Blue World

If it seems like it was just last year that some unheard material by John Coltrane was unveiled to the listening public, that’s because it was. On September 27, the Impulse! label releases Blue World, its contents accurately described as underheard and until very recently essentially unspoken of in terms of Coltrane’s discography. Offering songs recorded for Canadian filmmaker Gilles Groulx’s 1964 fiction feature Le Chat dans le sac (The Cat in the Bag), it is Coltrane’s only soundtrack and also presents him revisiting previously recorded works in the studio, which is something he almost never did. Featuring the Classic Quartet in their accessibly robust mode, it’s a consistent pleasure and a must for fans.

First, some further clarification into Blue World’s reality; if a new Coltrane LP for 2019, it wasn’t recorded with an album concept, not even a soundtrack album concept, in mind. The first fictional movie by a filmmaker who’d worked extensively in documentaries, Le Chat dans le sac was an independent work from the days long before (roughly a quarter century before) Indie cinema’s blossoming as a brand.

The film, which was influenced by Direct Cinema documentary tactics and utilized numerous techniques associated with the French Nouvelle Vague (Godard, Truffaut, Chabrol, Rohmer, etc.), wasn’t any kind of big deal at the time. In his typically strong notes for this reissue, Ashley Khan calls Le Chat dans le sac an “underground hit,” which is another way of saying that only hepcats knew of the film’s existence.

Although Coltrane and Groulx did become friendly later, the saxophonist’s agreement to record songs for the film’s soundtrack was basically a favor, one initiated through Groulx’s relationship with the quartet’s bassist Jimmy Garrison; he’d met the filmmaker through a mutual acquaintance who’d appeared in one of Groulx’s prior documentaries.

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Graded on a Curve: Magnapop,
The Circle Is Round

Atlanta, GA’s Magnapop emerged as part of the 1990s scene, but unlike many of their contemporaries their sound isn’t boxed in by the decade. It’s probably a stretch to describe them as timeless, but the band’s blend of catchiness and raw guitar lands between the poles of power-pop and pop-punk, which is to say that theirs is a classic sorta thing. On new album The Circle Is Round, vocalist Linda Hopper, guitarist-vocalist Ruthie Morris, bassist Shannon Mulvaney, and drummer David McNair have made no radical adjustments to their approach while avoiding the formulaic. For anyone who dug ‘em before, the smart money says they’ll dig ‘em now. It’s out September 27 through Happy Happy Birthday To Me.

This is Magnapop’s sixth album and first since Chase Park came out ten years back. The band’s first three, which commenced with a self-titled debut for Caroline in 1992 followed by Hot Boxing and Rubbing Doesn’t Help, both for Priority in the US (Play It Again Sam in Europe) in ’94 and ’96 respectively, were easy to take for granted in an era flush with bands. Well, that was the case with me, at least.

While the four-piece (the “classic” lineup is back together for this latest effort) can reliably pull off sturdy, non-hackneyed power pop moves, the forcefulness of their attack ultimately lands them in the ballpark of pop-punk, and bluntly, that zone has been absolutely polluted with riff-debasing dullards and overly anthemic buffoons for a few decades.

But Magnapop easily avoid pop-punk’s general dearth of quality, partly because their simplicity is counterbalanced with songwriting acumen. That is to say, they actually write tunes rather than just cop and reassemble moves. Not that grabbing from precedent is a faux pas, it’s just that when Hopper and Morris do it, as in the mid-tempo Ramonesian chug of The Circle Is Round’s opener “Dog on the Door,” it’s done with good taste, with the revved up choruses insuring it’s far from a carbon copy.

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Graded on a Curve: New in Stores for September 2019, Part Three

Part three of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for September, 2019. Part one is here and part two is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Telepathic Band, Electric Telepathy Vol. 1 (577) The third album from this exceptional five-member NYC group is also the first half of what promises to be an absolute knockout. The Telepathic Band features Daniel Carter on saxophones, clarinet and trumpet, Patrick Holmes on clarinet, Matthew Putman on keyboard, Hilliard Greene on bass, and Federico Ughi on drums, and for this LP they took an improvised earlier recording session back into the studio and created a new thing in collaboration with producer Stelios Mihas, who also contributes guitar. While the four tracks on side two tangle with the finer side of ’70s fusion and robust astral jazz, it’s side one’s 19-minute dive into psychedelia that’s the real grabber here. The Telepathic Band and 577 Records are boundary breakers. A

Joel Paterson, Let It Be Guitar! Joel Patterson Plays The Beatles (Bloodshot) This one unabashedly throws back to an era when technically sharp instrumentalists could carve a livelihood by putting an adept and distinct stamp on their chosen material. To sharpen the description, Chicagoan Paterson’s influences include Les Paul and Chet Adkins as he blends jazz, exotica, blues, rockabilly, western swing and C&W with ease. That’s mucho range, and he’s not about showing off but instead making the right sounds. While the LP’s sleeve enhances the retro angle, the music hits just right (in fact more consistently than some of his influences), and only partly due to the solidity of the source material. Paterson tackles a few later Beatles tunes but seems to prefer the early stuff, and that’s fine with me. A-

somesurprises, S/T (Drawing Room) Seattle’s somesurprises began as the solo project of singer-songwriter Natasha El-Sergany but is now a full-on band. Although there are some cassettes in the discography, this is designated as the debut album, and it establishes El-Sergany as being substantially impacted by the sound of shoegaze. This is cool, and especially because the work transcends expectations (mine, anyway) for this sorta thing. To elaborate, a whole lot of recent shoegaze (neo-shoegaze, if you will), even when it’s (very) good, can be assessed as somewhat or largely formulaic. Not this record, the opening track of which doesn’t even gaze at any shoes at all. Instead, it offers a celestial retro futurist vibe that bookends nicely with the extended closing motorik burner “Cherry Sunshine.” A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICK: Kristin Hersh, Crooked (Fire) Released in 2010, this was Hersh’s eighth full-length, making its vinyl debut here with a new sleeve design. There was a CD issued in ’10 (Fire has a CD out with fresh cover, as well), but Crooked was notably first issued as a book with digital download that included ample extra material; that stuff ain’t here, but that’s alright, as the core is represented, though interestingly with a new track sequence. “Mississippi Kite” opened matters in 2010, but now it’s the fourth track and side one’s closer. This is also alright. Hersh is a writer, and writers are prone to the need to revise. What hasn’t changed is the intensity of her work; I like her stuff in Throwing Muses but tend to love her in solo mode, where the power kick only increases. She’s weathered, but not beaten. A-

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Graded on a Curve:
Solid Bronze,
The Fruit Basket

The core of Solid Bronze is Ian Everett and George Miller, both New Jersey residents with a loud-and-clear love of the soulful and funky. This fact is evidenced on The Fruit Basket, their full-length debut, a deliciously off-kilter ’70s-styled groove-fest spiced with strains of jazziness, touches of reggae, and excursions into psychedelia. Recorded and co-produced by Dean Ween with notable guests including Atlanta-based hip-hop artist CLEW, Morphine saxophonist Dana Colley, Ween/ Blood, Sweat & Tears keyboardist Glenn McClelland, and Parliament-Funkadelic guitarist Michael Hampton, this last name is quite appropriate as the influence of P-Funk is strongly felt. It’s out now on LP via Schnitzel Records.

Earlier this year, Solid Bronze released a 45 featuring The Fruit Basket album track “The Invisible Man.” It was and remains an enjoyable little number, but it was backed with a dub mix of the track by Lee “Scratch” Perry, not in itself a bad thing (to the contrary, the version added to the general positive vibrations of Perry’s most recent comeback), it just didn’t necessarily provide further insight into Everett and Miller’s overall thing.

That Michael Hampton contributed guitar to “The Invisible Man” did present a clue into one possible avenue in Solid Bronze’s roadmap, though just as prominent in the track is the Auto-Tuned crooning of Atlanta rapper CLEW, along with a contrasting deep voice offering spoken smoothness of a decidedly ’70s comportment.

But The Fruit Basket’s opener “Papa’s Bug” jumps right into buoyant Clinton-esque funkiness with wiggly tech flourishes and unperturbed vocalizing that also nods back a bit to Sly Stone. It’s an appetizing start that’s followed by the slower groove of “The Invisible Man” as Hampton’s soloing accents the psychedelia in Solid Bronze’s equation. From there, “Hard to Keep the Faith” introduces a danceable mid-tempo spiked with saxophones and capped with sharp jazzy jaunts and an instrumental passage putting keyboards and additional rock guitar action squarely in the foreground.

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