Author Archives: Joseph Neff

Graded on a Curve:
This Heat,
Made Available, Repeat / Metal, Live 80 – 81

Although sometimes fairly tagged as post-punk, the best way to describe UK groundbreakers This Heat is as experimental rock at its apex of quality. Comprised of multi-instrumentalists Charles Bullen and Gareth Williams and drum anchor Charles Hayward, they cut two albums and an EP across a six-year existence from 1976-’82, all of them masterful, and in early 2016, all reissued on wax by Modern Classic Recordings. But of course, there was more, and the same label’s fresh releases of Made Available, Repeat / Metal, and Live 80 – 81 complete a welcome return to vinyl for the 2006 6CD retrospective boxset Out of Cold Storage. This second installment is out now with distribution by Light in the Attic.

This Heat didn’t get a record out until 1979 (through the Piano label of Flying Lizard David Cunningham), but even decades hence, that self-titled debut continues to formulate visions in my mind’s eye of dropped jaws and of listeners at the time of its release (the few that bought it, anyway) asking themselves from whence this sound came. Naturally, This Heat didn’t just materialize out of thin air. Instead, the LP’s sound was developed in a dormant London factory building utilized as a practice space and studio (and dubbed Cold Storage by the band).

Folks who tuned in regularly to John Peel’s show in 1977 might’ve gotten a taste of what was in store, as This Heat recorded two sessions for the Brit DJ at the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios in March and October of that year, with the respective initial broadcasts in April and November. Those eight selections are the contents of Made Available, and if the early versions of well-known tracks are not as massively killing as what hit in ’79, they don’t miss by much, and the collection still shapes-up as quite a doozy.

That’s in part because half of the slate is unique to Made Available. Additionally, the whole articulates the group’s art-prog-kraut foundation a little more clearly, as the playing of clarinet in “Sitting” further underlines a fleeting affinity for/ similarity to free improv, and the chamber-collage abstraction of “Slither” highlights why they were included on the now legendary Nurse with Wound list.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve: Kompakt, Total 18

In the grand scheme of things, the dependability of the Kompakt label’s annual compilation series Total is minute. However, from inside the state of affairs that is contemporary music, the quality of Total 18 is remarkable, and even more so when contracting the focus onto electronic sounds. That’s the area of Kompakt’s expertise, and this latest Total installment offers nearly 164 minutes in its digital iteration, almost all of them danceable. But the German imprint has those with a hankering for vinyl covered, as they’ve distilled the collection’s essence into a 2LP set (with a download card holding the whole kaboodle) that’s streamlining retains the aura of the maximal. Compiled by Michael Mayer, it’s out now.

In terms of reliability in the arts, downward slides into irrelevancy are the norm; far rarer is the perseverance of substance over not years but decades. This goes for creators, but also for those who release product to the public at large, and the unlikelihood is magnified somewhat when considering Kompakt’s Total series, as electronic music still often comes attached (if not so much as it once did) with expectations of the new, or if not that exactly, then freshness in execution.

If the Total modus operandi was dedicated to seeking out sheer newness in all its electronic forms, and in so doing traveling down avenues of increasing abstraction and/ or experimentation, or less ambitiously just making it the mission to remain at the cutting-edge of certain stylistic wrinkles in the wide-ranging sphere of electronic music, the main dangers would be faultiness in ambition alongside mere lapses of taste.

When the first Total compilation emerged in 1999, its content was considerably nearer to the electronic front line (and harnessed by a single compact disc, though also spread over four sides of wax as representative of Kompakt’s unflagging dedication to the format). As time has marched forward, the thrust of the series has settled into a representation of the lasting vigor of Cologne techno (which Kompakt did help pioneer) as they broadened the appeal to ears outside the floors of clubs (or impromptu gatherings/ parties), all while managing to keep the core demographic satisfied.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
NRBQ,
All Hopped Up

Sound reads from the archives, all summer long.Ed.

The music of NRBQ is one of rock ‘n’ roll’s great paradoxical pleasures. How can a band this accessible and joyous be banished to the musical fringe? It’s a true stumper. But if widespread success was denied them, the group endured and excelled through relentless bar gigs, college radio play, and via the persistent word of mouth of the converted. Their early days found them hopping labels only to be dumped after disappointing sales, but instead of quitting they smartly decided to put out their own records. 1977’s All Hopped Up was the first, and for new listeners it makes a fine introduction.

Their name originally stood for the New Rhythm and Blues Quintet. Formed by guitarist Steve Ferguson, pianist Terry Adams, drummer Tom Staley, bassist Joey Spampinato (aka Jody St. Nicholas), and vocalist Frank Gadler, they combined a stylistic eclecticism—the titular R&B, rockabilly, early Brit-invasion pop, jazz, and even more into a highly potent and easily digestible brew. But if possessive of an unusual level of diversity, constant factors were also at play. Foremost was a lighthearted sincerity regarding the love of their shared influences, but NRBQ are also one of the least egocentric bands, both musically and in terms of personality, to ever span decades of neglect.

They came together in Florida but moved to New York City where they quickly gathered steam, even playing Fillmore East, and eventually found themselves signed to Columbia Records. This resulted in a truly swell self-titled debut in ’69 that didn’t sell squat. And that’s not really a surprise; if the Q’s long-term lack of a wide following is hard to fathom, in the year of Woodstock they weren’t exactly the height of trendiness. What to make of a group that covered Eddie Cochran, Sun Ra, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, and Bobby Channel’s oldies station rotation warhorse “Hey Baby” all on the same album? The high number of covers alone was a little divergent from the era’s norm of boldfaced originality.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, August 2018, Part Four

Part four of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for August, 2018. Part one is here, part two is here, and part three is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Ohmme, Parts (Joyful Noise) Chicagoans Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart are both trained classical pianists, but for their first album as Ohmme they choose to focus upon rich vocal harmony and guitar crunch. What they and drummer Matt Carroll put together (with assistance from hometowners Doug McCombs of Tortoise, cellist Tomeka Reid, and saxophonist extraordinaire Ken Vandermark) is solid and occasionally splendid, displaying confidence and range that’s rare in a debut. In a better world, the hooky opener “Icon” would be a huge pop hit, but stuck in this reality, the whole of Parts, experimentally edged while essentially inhabiting a pop-rock zone, is improving my existence considerably. From the title track: “I don’t like little things touching my face.” Hey, me neither! A-

Roy Montgomery, Suffuse (Grapefruit) In 2016, after a long break in activity, New Zealand u-ground cornerstone Montgomery came back in a big way with the 4LP R M H Q -Headquarters. When first reading of this project, which stems from the R M H Q LP Tropic Of Anodyne (featuring the singing of reluctant vocalist Montgomery) with a troop of female voices (Circuit des Yeux’s Haley Fohr, She Keeps Bees’ Jessica Larrabee, Katie Von Schleicher, Purple Pilgrims’ Clementine and Valentine Nixon, Julianna Barwick, and Grouper’s Liz Harris), I thought of Stephin Merritt’s 6ths project, but the results aren’t like that at all, being much more invested in the spirit of collaboration (the Nixon sisters, Barwick, and Harris wrote the lyrics for their tracks). The results are superb, with Montgomery’s artistry shining through. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Jimmy Smith, The Sermon! (Down at Dawn) A fine but limited spate of jazz wax (300 copies each) has arrived from this upstart label, so if the objective is fortifying your shelves with a few classics of the form, don’t flake. When organist Smith hooked up with Blue Note a massive recording spree resulted, and this album, gleaned from two ’57-’58 sessions, just might be the best of the bunch. Taking advantage of the then novel LP format, side one’s 20-minute title track is hard-bop soul-jazz par excellence, and the flip picks up and slows down the tempo without a hitch. The personnel add major value, with Lee Morgan, Lou Donaldson, Donald Bailey, Eddie McFadden, the underrated Tina Brooks, a young George Coleman, Art Blakey, and Kenny Burrell all on board. Essential. A

The Posies, Frosting on the Beater (Omnivore) As detailed in the liner notes by Wilco’s Pat Sansone and author Craig Dorfman and the track-by-track recollections of the band’s core duo Jon Auer & Ken Stringfellow (‘twas they who wrote the songs), The Posies’ second release for Geffen is considered “the loud one,” which is unsurprising as it was produced by Don Fleming, who’d notably assisted on Sonic Youth’s Goo and Hole’s Pretty on the Inside. But he also worked with Teenage Fanclub, which made him a good fit for the helming of this excellent record (my favorite from the band). As detailed by Sansone, if you dig The Beatles and Big Star and also the heyday of SST Records, this is the one for you, offered, like the reissue of Dear 23, as either a bonus cut-loaded 2CD or a standalone 45RPM 2LP sans download. A

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Record Store Club | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
Glenn Jones,
The Giant Who Ate Himself and Other New Works for 6 & 12 String Guitar

Glenn Jones is no stranger to this column, for no other reason than he continues to make fine records. As the number of contemporary American Primitive-descended solo fingerpickers grows, the idea of temporarily setting Jones’ achievements to the side of the spotlight has been contemplated, but when an LP as strong as The Giant Who Ate Himself and Other New Works for 6 & 12 String Guitar hits the speakers, such a notion gets the kibosh with due swiftness. Aided by friends Laura Baird (recording engineer) and Matthew Azevado (mixer), it finds Jones as personal, personable, and sure handed as ever, arriving on CD and vinyl (with a limited toad green option) August 24 through Thrill Jockey.

Although there are instances to the contrary, Golden Ages (as in the Golden Age of Comics and the original Golden Age of Television) are distinctions best bestowed after the passage of time. As it was unfolding, nobody was calling the output of John Fahey, Leo Kottke, Robbie Basho, and less prominently but beneficially, Peter Lang, Max Ochs, Harry Taussig, and Don Bikoff the Golden Age of American Primitive Guitar, but from the vantage point of the present, describing it as such feels like a designation free of controversy.

That’s partially because the American Primitive impulse continues to thrive. There was definitely a period of severe waning, where plucking records from the Takoma and Vanguard labels out of the bins (when they occasionally appeared in shops) maybe felt similar (at least somewhat) to discovering a house with an attic holding a box with a copy of a shellac disc by Mississippi John Hurt or Son House or Sylvester Weaver. Okay, this analogy is definitely a stretch, but hopefully one understands the reason for the comparison.

American Primitive didn’t die, though it’s reemergence through records by Steffen Basho-Junghans, Richard Bishop, and a little later Jack Rose did sorta register as a rebirth, and the style remains well-represented today. Indeed, the field of American Primitive-influenced players is currently deep and wide-ranging, enough so that claiming we’re in the midst of a Guitar Soli renaissance, if perhaps jumping the gun of assessment a bit, isn’t the slightest bit inappropriate.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
James White and the Blacks, Sax Maniac

No Wave history is populated with numerous characters, but few heaved forth as much personality as vocalist-saxophonist-bandleader James Chance. Initially the frontman of the Contortions, by the end of the ’70s he’d formed James White and the Blacks and issued Off White. After that lineup exploded, he reconvened the group with all new personnel and recorded Sax Maniac for Animal Records, the label of Blondie’s Chris Stein. If not as incendiary as the Contortions’ material on the Brian Eno-produced No New York, the LP is still infused with Chance’s distinctive brand of surliness and suavity. Fusing funk and punk in an avant laboratory, its Redux vinyl edition is out August 24 through Futurismo.

The early recordings of the Contortions, and specifically the four songs that open 1978’s No New York, were so inspired and intense in their frenzy that listeners could maybe be persuaded that Chance’s subsequent work was of lesser, if not negligible, interest. While in terms of wild, inventive enthusiasm the Contortions are hard to beat (the streak of quality extended into ’79’s Buy the Contortions), and to discredit the guy work as James White as second-rate stuff is a blunder in my estimation.

If the Contortions could register as a subversive demolition party, James White and the Blacks were more of an attempt to further blend the rawness of Chance’s big-city attitude, the power of his voice, and his funky free-jazzy sax playing with disco, R&B, and pop forms. The results, while less immediately formidable, basically had no chance for a chart crossover, but where many other similar attempts at hybridization and sound (and by extension audience) broadening register today as failures, the two LPs by White and the Blacks hold up pretty dang well, mainly because Chance’s personality wasn’t diluted.

Lots of folks seem to prefer the first White/Blacks alb Off White, maybe in part because it was a reshuffling of seminal No Wave figures (a bunch of Contortions are involved, as is Lydia Lunch as Stella Rico), and for a long while I sorta felt the same. That’s partly because while I was familiar with Sax Maniac (rating it fairly highly, certainly higher than some), I never owned a copy, making my time spent with it minimal. However, soaking it up in relation to this reissue has elevated it in my esteem; I now consider it the equal of Off White, and in some ways it’s the more interesting of the two.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
Harry Nilsson,
Nilsson Sings Newman

Sound reads from the archives, all summer long.Ed.

In the first month of 1970, RCA Records released Nilsson Sings Newman, a collaborative album between one of the period’s strongest and most unique pop vocalists and a truly gifted if somewhat obscure songwriter known primarily for providing other artists with prime material. A theoretical perfect match; it’s therefore unsurprising that hardly anybody bought the thing when it first came out.

On a purely commercial level, Harry Nilsson is vindicated by his very fine version of superb singer-songwriter Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’,” initially an album track given second life by its use in the epoch-defining New Hollywood film Midnight Cowboy, and by the smash success of his 1971 LP Nilsson Schmilsson, which rose to #3 on the Album Chart and wielded three Top 40 singles including a #1 in “Without You,” another cover via UK group Badfinger.

Considering Randy Newman through this same specifically commercial prism finds him justified not only through the sizable hits his songs provided for other artists, but also via his late-career transformation into a film-scoring juggernaut, though it bears mentioning that he had an unlikely and somewhat unrepresentative #2 hit with “Short People” in 1977. However, many also know him through the smaller, though much longer-lingering success of his biting tribute to Los Angeles, “I Love L.A.”

But if there is one thing that the careers of Harry Nilsson and Randy Newman share, it’s in the way they exploit the futility of judging an artist purely in terms of record sales. To do so with Nilsson is to depict an artist of fitful slow-growth potential finally scoring a breakout success with his seventh album (or ninth if you count his soundtrack to Otto Preminger’s eternally divisive hunk of weird-meat cinema Skidoo, where Nilsson actually sang the film’s end credits, and his early ’71 “remix” LP Aerial Pandemonium Ballet) and then going through a long, slow decline.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
Gary Numan, Replicas, The Pleasure Principle, Telekon

Sound reads from the archives, all summer long.Ed.

Out of the UK’s punk scrap yard came Gary Numan, first as part of the ever more synth-imbued Tubeway Army and then as a solo artist for a long string of albums. His chart dominance in the waning moments of the ‘70s was fleeting but huge, and his most commercially successful run of LPs detail a pop-savvy artist of much deeper value than his hit singles; Replicas, The Pleasure Principle and an expanded Telekon see vinyl reissue in the US on December 11.

Gary Webb started out in the bands Mean Street and The Lasers; recording with neither (Mean Street waxed one song after his exit for the Live at the Vortex comp LP), after departing the latter with bassist Paul Gardiner they formed Tubeway Army with Webb’s uncle Jess Lidyard in the drum chair. Promptly signed by Beggars Banquet, with Webb on guitar they initially dished out beefy Bowie-influenced punk, the singles “That’s Too Bad” and “Bombers” later compiled with a mess of demos from the same era as The Plan.

It’s a cool acquisition for serious punk collectors, but ’78’s Tubeway Army was even better. By the point of its release Webb had adopted the name Gary Numan (he’d briefly wielded the handle Valerian) but his signature sound was still in development, the debut augmenting the punk excursions (which occasionally leaned into a hard rock/glam merger) and sci-fi themes (impacted by Phil K. Dick and William Burroughs) with interjections from a Minimoog discovered in the studio by Numan after recording began.

Tubeway Army is very good record with a few excellent spots and conversely a handful of lags; ‘79’s Replicas is more fully-formed, and while the group’s name remains on the cover it’s flanked by Numan’s on later editions; the LP is clearly his show and any doubts over such will be quickly dispelled by the icy/edgy opener “Me! I Disconnect from You.”

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, August 2018, Part Three

Part three of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for August, 2018. Part one is here and part two is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Rich Halley, The Literature (Pine Eagle) The occasional question: if I could only listen to one type of music for the rest of my days, what would it be? The answer is easy. It’s jazz all the way. Mainly due to the sheer breadth of the form, but also volume, as the notes to this CD relate that Halley, a new name for me, has 20 prior recordings. This one, his first devoted to material by other musicians (the “literature” of the title) makes me want to hear them all. The tenor saxophonist, his drummer son Carson Halley, and bassist Clyde Reed launch from a high energy avant platform but with structural ties to bop and clear love of the tunes, which includes Miles, Monk, Duke, Ornette, Mingus, Sun Ra, Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, and the Carter Family. Folks, this is Americana, and it sings. A

Animal Collective, Tangerine Reef (Domino) While I remain a proponent of Animal Collective’s prime material, I was less than smitten with 2016’s Painting With, so learning of a new recording by the group didn’t terribly excite me. Then I read that it was an audiovisual album collab with Coral Morphologic, the art-science duo of marine biologist Colin Foord and musician J.D. McKay, to commemorate the 2018 International Year of the Reef. Things were looking up! As Animal Collective’s first full-length without Panda Bear, this differs from their prior work in interesting ways, and I’m sure it’ll get even more interesting when viewed with the accompanying video after it hits the band’s website on release date. On double vinyl, with three sides of music and an etching on side four. Hey, nice comeback, fellas. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Even as We Speak, Feral Pop Frenzy (Emotional Response) Operated by Stewart Anderson and his wife Jen Turrell out of Flagstaff, AZ, Emotional Response has grown into one of the most interesting indie-punk-pop-rock labels on the current scene, and with their recent slate of Sarah Records reissues (plus one collection of new material) they’ve just hit a grand slam. Included in the program is the 25th Anniversary Remaster of the sole LP from Aussies Even as We Speak. Formed by Matthew Love and Mary Wyer in Sydney and filled out to a five-piece, their sound benefited from flights of experimentation and eccentricity and yet was (appropriately, for the connection to Sarah) pure pop. Twee? Nah. Erudite? Oh, yes, as this minor gem of an LP goes to places you likely won’t expect. A-

Action Painting!, Trial Cuts (1989-95) (Emotional Response) During their lifespan, this UK outfit (formed in Gosport) released four singles, three of them on Sarah Records. It’s all rounded up here with additional material (unreleased cuts, alternates, demos, a radio session and interview); the LP includes a download, with everything on the CD. Coming from a tougher, rawer place than a fair amount of Sarah’s roster, these guys weren’t (I should say aren’t, as they’ve recommenced activities) Napalm Death or anything, but they did retain the heft, buzz, and energy associated with many of the leading lights of indie pop’s original wave (their fourth 45 was on the Kent-scene-associated Damaged Goods label). Those with a casual interest in the style might consider it skippable, but indie pop lovers will want. A-

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Record Store Club | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
Mako Sica/Hamid Drake, Ronda

When jazz meets rock in the form of collaboration, the results are often well-intentioned and admirable but ultimately inessential. This is not the case with Ronda, which finds the expansive Chicago rock trio Mako Sica syncing up with the great percussionist Hamid Drake across four sides of vinyl. While Drake has extensive experience in jazz’s avant-free zone, the music here gravitates toward the gist of Mako Sica’s bag; amid an approach that’s reliably psychedelic, but with sharper than the average musicality, there are wordless vocals, guitar, occasional horns, and beaucoup rhythm. Intensity does build, but it’s with subtlety and gracefulness of interaction. It’s out now in an edition of 500 through Feeding Tube.

Mako Sica have been described as free-rock, but also desert rock, and the latter is a nice entry point into the sound offered on Ronda. Formed in 2007 by multi-instrumentalists Przemyslaw Drazek and Michael Kendrick (both formerly of the band Rope, who issued a couple of albums in the ’00s on Family Vineyard) plus Brent Fuscaldo, they don’t really specialize in freaking, spazzing, or even skronking.

However, they do like to drift and go deep, and can get heavy without underlining it. Through an ample discography including 2009’s Mayday at Strobe, the next year’s Dual Horizon, 2012’s Essence and last year’s Invocation (all LPs augmented by some cassette action and a split 12-inch with Zelienople), they can deftly inhabit established rock modes and make ‘em feel exciting rather than trite. Prior to the recording of the Renewal tape in 2015, Kendrick exited and Chaetan Newell joined, and so the lineup’s been since.

If Mako Sica’s output is plentiful, that’s in rock terms; compared to their partner in Ronda Hamid Drake, it’s tiny. This is standard for jazz, but what’s not so typical is the breadth of Drake’s recorded work both as an ensemble player and leader. Born in Monroe, LA, like Mako Sica, Drake is a resident of Chicago, first hitting record in the groups of the late saxophonist Fred Anderson, though he gets around so much that it might be better to describe him as a citizen of the world.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
Close Lobsters, Firestation Towers:
1986-1989

Sound reads from the archives, all summer long.Ed.

The currently active Scottish act Close Lobsters emerged in the guts of the 1980s as one of the earliest signings to Fire Records. Said label is also still in existence and having a boffo 2015, with part of their continued success stemming from due attention to back catalog. To elaborate, Firestation Towers: 1986-1989 is Fire’s expansive assemblage of Close Lobsters’ initial output, matching two full-lengths with a singles collection. Copies of the Record Store Day 3LP remain available and the CD edition is out September 18th.

Close Lobsters formed in 1985 with Andrew Burnett on vocals, Tom Donnelly and Graeme Wilmington on guitars, Andrew’s brother Robert on bass, and Stewart McFayden on drums. The next year they earned a spot on C86, the movement-defining comp issued by the weekly UK periodical New Musical Express.

“Firestation Towers” is the track, a sub-two minute spurt of urgent jangle and slightly lethargic voice landing squarely within the parameters of what constitutes the C86 sound. Quickly signed to Fire, the two sides of their debut ’86 single, “Going to Heaven to see if it Rains” and “Boys and Girls,” possessed a level of energy certain indie pop associates lacked and evidenced substantial writing ability. 1987 was a fertile period. The “Never Seen Before” EP’s title cut sports Postcard-style chime swagger with complementary bouncing bass notes and on 12-inch includes “Firestation Towers” and “Wide Waterways,” the latter a shrewd cover of a song by Peter Perrett’s Velvet Underground-infused pre-Only Ones band England’s Glory.

A deal with Enigma broadened their fan base through US college radio. First album Foxheads Stalk this Land opens with the copious string glisten, lively bass, lithe drumming, and enhancing brogue of “Just Too Bloody Stupid,” while “Sewer Pipe Dream” is vibrantly poppy as the two guitar attack pays dividends. From there, “I Kiss the Flower in Bloom” offers glistening mid-tempo melodicism, its aura contrasting with the torrid echo-laden bottom end and hyperactive riffing of “Pathetique,” a number moderately reminiscent of C86 cohorts The Wedding Present.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
Alice Coltrane,
Lord of Lords

The resurgence of interest and the increase in esteem for the work of Alice Coltrane is an unambiguously sweet thing, but it’s also not an especially new development, as her reputation’s been on the steady upswing for quite a while now. However, the first-time vinyl reissue of the pianist-organist-harpist-arranger’s 1972 LP Lord of Lords is a recent turn of events, and it sounds better than ever. Featuring bassist Charlie Haden, drummer Ben Riley, and a 25-piece orchestra, the record is the third in a trilogy that established Coltrane as a spiritually questing and musically trailblazing American original. It’s out now through Superior Viaduct.

For decades, the seven albums in a roughly five-year stretch that Alice Coltrane made for the Impulse label were essentially rated (by those with a favorable disposition to her work, anyway) as the crowning achievement of her recording career. Opinions unsurprisingly differed over which of her releases was the strongest, but it was almost certain the array of choices would derive from 1968-’72.

That is, until last year, with the arrival of World Spiritual Classics Volume I: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda, a collection of recordings she made in the ’80s after leaving the commercial biz and establishing the Sai Anantam Ashram. Initially distributed in small cassette runs to the members of her spiritual community, Luaka Bop’s collection is a revelatory hour of material that while not usurping the primacy of her Impulse period in my personal esteem, does stand head and shoulders with it in terms of quality and sui generis verve.

Such was the fervent response to World Spiritual Classics I that no doubt many disagree and consider it to be Coltrane’s finest work. And who knows, maybe in a year or five I’ll be swayed into concurring with that line of thought. I say this not as a platitude but as a preface to relating how my esteem for Lord of Lords has grown since I evaluated it as worthwhile and occasionally superb but, in the end, a little lesser than 1971’s Universal Consciousness.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
The Dave Clark Five, “Try Too Hard” b/w
“All Night Long”

Sound reads from the archives, all summer long.Ed.

Of all the marquee British Invasion acts, nobody typified the concept of “singles group” more than The Dave Clark Five. Of albums they had many, but the qualities that made them a special and enduring outfit are best served by the two brief sides of a 45. During the mid-‘60s their short-players stormed both the US and UK charts with a frequency that remains impressive, and “Try Too Hard” b/w “All Night Long” from 1966 is one of their finest efforts.

While they are well-remembered today, I also suspect that few people these days would rank the Dave Clark Five as one the tiptop exemplars of the Brit Invasion, and that’s an interesting scenario because during the phenomenon’s initial wave, only The Beatles achieved a higher level of popularity. Contemplating the subject for a bit leads me to a handful of reasons for the lessening of the DC5’s status over time.

Perhaps the biggest factor is that none of the Five’s non-compilations have landed in the rock ‘n’ roll canon. I tend to think that any well-rounded, historically focused record collection is incomplete without the inclusion of Clark and company, and no doubt many others feel the same way. But I also agree with those asserting that in the run of albums they made while extant, nothing represents them better than UK Columbia’s ’66 release of the 14-track The Dave Clark Five’s Greatest Hits.

This is not to infer that the original long-players are negligible. To the contrary, ‘64’s Glad All Over and the following year’s Coast to Coast, both issued in the US by Epic, are quite good.  But starting in the mid-‘70s and continuing until 1993, none of the Dave Clark Five’s music was commercially available in any format, leaving the used bins and the radio dial as the only ways one could access their discography.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, August 2018, Part Two

Part two of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for August, 2018. Part one is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Tomberlin, At Weddings (Saddle Creek) An earlier edition of Sarah-Beth Tomberlin’s debut, which held seven tracks, emerged last autumn in a hand-numbered edition of 500 through Joyful Noise’s White Label series, an artist-picked affair with At Weddings selected by Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn. As the music resides in an introspective indie folk zone, the stylistic connections between chooser and chosen are minor, and within the parameters of the style, Tomberlin has her own thing happening; assured of voice and warm instrumentally, the whole goes down really well. Saddle Creek’s release isn’t limited, and adds three tracks, smartly not tacked onto the end, as the final three songs, “Self-Help” into “Untitled 2” into “February,” offer a striking culminating progression. A-

Walter Salas-Humara, Walterio (Rhyme and Reason) Salas-Humara co-founded The Silos in mid-’80s NYC, the still extant band sometimes classified as a progenitor of alt-country, though they always struck me (especially on their first couple records) as rock with a classic sensibility and an edgy spark. He was also in The Setters with Alejandro Escovedo and Wild Seed Michael Hall, and has dished a few solo records, of which Walterio is the latest. Unsurprisingly, the ten tracks here are fairly rootsy, but this attribute is nicely counterbalanced with songwriting smarts reflecting his diverse background; born in Florida to Cuban parents, Salas-Humara studied visual art in NYC before choosing music (that’s one of his popular dog paintings on the cover). What is surprising is the enduring high quality of his stuff. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: The Vulgar Boatmen, You and Your Sister, Please Panic & Opposite Sex (Play Loud!) Before he was in The Silos, Walter Salas-Humara was part of the Gainesville, FL outfit The Vulgar Boatmen. While he contributes a bit instrumentally to 1989’s You and Your Sister, his main role is sharing the co-producer chair with member Robert Ray. Alongside ex-Gizmo Dale Lawrence (based in Indiana), Ray (who continued to live in Florida) served as the band’s songwriting core, with each fronting a distinct lineup 800 miles apart. An unusual mode of operation in the pre-internet days, but fruitful, as all three of the group’s releases are stellar; much of the contents extend from a VU/ Feelies place, but with an utter lack of big city attitude. This is the sound of College Rock’s promise fulfilled. / / A-

The Fall, 458489 A-Sides (Beggars Arkive) There are numerous collections in The Fall’s myriad discography, and this one covering what’s known as the ’80s “Brix Smith” era, is essential, even if you already own all the albums and/ or the singles from which this 17-track LP derives. As I was getting acquainted with the output of Mark E. Smith’s lineup-shifting band of soon to be logic-defying endurance, this music was still fresh in the bins, and while some older heads were inclined to rake The Fall of this vintage over the critical coals, as the days of “Live At the Witch Trials” or “Grotesque” were over (though really, a lot of folks just didn’t like Brix), this summary sounds even better on the occasion of its white wax reissue by Beggars Arkive as it ever has to me before. First time on vinyl in the USA. A

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Record Store Club | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve: Odetta Hartman,
Old Rockhounds
Never Die

Odetta Hartman is a singer-songwriter multi-instrumentalist based in New York City, and Old Rockhounds Never Die is her second album. As on her first, she plays all the instruments, with the main threads being guitar, banjo, and fiddle. If this sounds like another release for the ever-growing Americana pile, nix that notion right now, as Hartman’s songs blend the classic and the contemporary as partner and co-producer Jack Inslee infuses the selections with digital environments that are sometimes electronic, often intriguing, and frequently psychedelic. It makes for a strange but highly accessible listen, and it’s out August 10 on vinyl and digital through Northern Spy.

Odetta Hartman’s upbringing in Manhattan’s Lower East Side comes close to the model of raising ‘em right. Northern Spy’s typical engaging promo text mentions “early exposure to community activism, renegade film screenings, poetry readings and trips to CBGB’s.” Along with soaking up punk and hip-hop, there was also a jukebox in the house loaded with her father’s classic soul and Afrobeat records and her Appalachian mother’s old-school country sides.

This bears mentioning not to support the idea that Hartman’s creativity in adulthood was somehow inevitable, but instead to illuminate the planted seed that led to the sheer diversity of ingredients in her bag, components that on paper are likely to instill doubts as to the overall effectiveness of the endeavor, with the disparate combinations destined to register in varying measures forced.

Good thing records aren’t experienced on paper. As on her 2015 full-length 222, the blend of the old-timey and the cutting-edge is striking in it’s unusualness but never incongruent as it ultimately coheres into a rewarding personal approach; it only takes a listen to perceive Hartman’s vision as unmistakable from anyone else’s.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment
  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text
  • Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text Alternative Text