Author Archives: Joseph Neff

Graded on a Curve: Françoise Hardy,
The Disques Vogue Collection

French vocalist Françoise Hardy openly disdains being described as an icon, though of course her modesty plays a large role in why she continues to be revered by so many. Naturally, the most important component in her enduring reputation is the music; a superb singer and true artist from within the oft-unrelenting 1960s pop machine, her records have aged exceptionally well, retaining the allure of their era as they lack period gaffes. Hardy’s first five French language albums, all originally issued by Disques Vogue from ’62-’66, comprise a highly worthy run of productivity; they’re available now on LP and CD singly or as a bundle through Light in the Attic.

Françoise Hardy is a cornerstone of the ’60s Euro-pop phenomenon known as yé-yé. Akin to rock, girl groups, svelte male crooners, and the majority of the era’s teen-oriented sounds in general, yé-yé was widely considered to be of an ephemeral nature, and by extension was basically dominated by the collusion of producers and labels. The singers, amongst them France Gall, Sylvie Vartan, Clothilde, and Chantal Kelly, were the crucial ingredient in a very calculated recipe.

Hardy differed from the norm by writing a significant amount of her own stuff, all but two songs on her debut in fact, and as a result she evaded the sometimes embarrassing subject matter thrust upon other yé-yé girls. Furthermore, she was regularly photographed with guitar in hand, though it’s unclear to what extent she actually played on these recordings. To borrow a phrase relating to Studio-era Hollywood, Hardy transcended the “genius of the system” method of pop manufacture, instead excelling at a subdued auteur-driven approach.

In the tradition of the original filmic auteurs, few recognized Hardy as a major talent during her emergence on the scene. She definitely sparked interest in fellow musicians however, including The Beatles, Mick Jagger, and Bob Dylan, the last so struck by her skills he dedicated the poem “Some Other Kinds of Songs” to her; it’s on the back of Another Side of Bob Dylan’s sleeve.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores,
December 2018

The TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for December, 2018.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Scone Cash Players, “Scone Cold Christmas” (Flamingo Time – Mango Hill) Bluntly, holiday music is not my favorite music. But there are exceptions, like this 45 from the band of soul-jazz-funk organist Adam Scone. Rather than just diving into standards-based instrumental quickie mode, Scone enlists singer Lee Taylor and some vocal-group backing for “My First Divorced Christmas (Santa Claus Got a Divorce),” a tune that might read as jokey but unwinds as surprisingly heartfelt, with the groove keeping things from getting too weepy. On “They Say It’s Christmas Time (Christmas Time in Brooklyn),” it’s the warm, assured baritone voice of John Dokes that’s the highlight. Well, one of ‘em, as the band ascends an organ-driven Hot Buttered Soul-era Isaac Hayes-like mountain to a killer peak. A-

Say Sue Me, “Christmas, It’s Not a Biggie” (Damnably) I’m on board with the non-holiday themed stuff from this Korean indie-surfy pop-rock outfit, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t worried, as even in reliable hands Christmas music can curdle like milk in a failed fridge. Say Sue Me succeed because they don’t lay the theme on too thick. Instead, the guitar is big but congenial in the Dick Dale-tinged pop-punky title track. It and instrumental “Too Expensive Christmas Tree” brought the Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet to mind, and that’s a cool thing to consider, in December or any time of year, really. In “Out of Bed,” vocalist Sumi Choi reminds me of Hope Sandoval diving head first into a sweet sea of early ’60s gal-pop, and from there, all Say Sue Me needs to do is not foul things up. “After This Winter” doesn’t. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Lee Morgan, Indeed! (Down at Dawn) Top-flight hard-bop trumpeter Morgan was 18 years old when he cut this session in 1956 for Blue Note, an achievement that’s undeniably impressive, though it’s also important to avoid overrating it. The whole is solid, with the young leader still clearly in thrall to Dizzy and Clifford Brown, but it’s not a jaw-dropper. So why the pick status? Well, numerous reasons, including Wilbur Ware on bass and Philly Joe Jones on drums, an always reliable pair, plus Horace Silver on piano, who sounds fine but doesn’t steal the show, as Morgan is clearly in command. This is not to infer that he’s hogging the spotlight, as the obscure alto man Clarence Sharpe gets plenty of solo room. As the album rolls, a decided post-Bird-Diz feel develops, and that’s nice. B+

Freddie Hubbard, The Artistry of Freddie Hubbard (Down at Dawn) Having hit the scene a little later, in some ways Hubbard temporarily stole some of Morgan’s thunder; by ’63, he’d delivered four LPs as leader for Blue Note, and followed them up with this, his first of two for Impulse! It’s a minor classic from a talent-loaded sextet featuring Hubbard’s Jazz Messengers’ cohort Curtis Fuller on trombone, Sun Ra Arkestra lynchpin John Gilmore on tenor, Tommy Flanagan on piano, Louis Hayes on drums, and Art Davis (who’d played with Hub on Olé Coltrane) on drums. While it’s not aptly described as a groundbreaking affair, the playing is assured all around, and the whole, opening with Duke’s “Caravan” and following with three originals and a nice version of “Summertime,” is ripe with ambition. A-

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Record Store Club | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve: Daniel Carter,
Telepatia Liquida

As the second decade of the 21st century inches toward its close, jazz has proven extremely durable as a multifaceted genre. It’s safe to say there’s too much sweet action for one set of ears to absorb, but don’t let Telepatia Liquida get sidelined amongst the riches. It’s the second record by multi-horn man Daniel Carter, clarinetist Patrick Holmes, pianist Matthew Putman, bassist Hilliard Greene, and drummer Federico Ughi, and it offers an avant-free stew with considerable bite that’s deepened with threads of lyricism and moments of substantial beauty. Recorded live a year ago at the Forward Festival in Brooklyn, NY, it’s out December 7 on vinyl, compact disc, and digital through 577 Records.

As is normal in jazz, Daniel Carter has recorded a ton, though it took a while for the tape spools to really get spinning. On the NYC scene since the ’70s, his work on bassist William Parker’s 1980 LP Through Acceptance of the Mystery Peace seems pivotal, as both Carter and Parker, along with trumpeter Roy Campbell and drummer Rashid Bakr, later formed the free improv-based Other Dimensions in Music. Reportedly coming together in the early ‘80s, they didn’t get a record out until 1990 via Silkheart.

It was deeper into the ’90s that things really started to break open for Carter. A big part of the equation was Test, a unit conceived to play outdoors (as in the NYC subway system) that could spray the free scorch like a flamethrower. Along with contributing to records by Matthew Shipp, Zusaan Kali Fasteau, Saturnalia String Trio, DJ Logic, and more with William Parker (including Other Dimensions in Music’s collab with Yo La Tengo), he was also part of Tenor Rising Drums Expanding and the One World Ensemble.

Shortly after the Italian-born drummer Federico Ughi arrived in NYC from London, he and Carter established a sturdy relationship. Having formed 577 Records in 2001, Ughi has released roughly three dozen records since, with over a third featuring the drummer in some union with Carter. That includes The Gowanus Recordings, a quartet session from ’09 (recently reissued on vinyl) where Ughi and Carter are joined by trumpeter Demian Richardson, bassist Dave Moss, and pianist Matthew Putman.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
Doug Paisley,
Starter Home

It’s been four years since Toronto-based singer-songwriter Doug Paisley last released a record. In terms of quality, Starter Home, which is out now through Paisley’s longtime label No Quarter, picks up without a hitch where the man left off, courtesy of a sound that’s substantially country in nature, although sharpness of playing and depth of lyrical content place it head-and-shoulders above the vast majority of the form’s contemporary practitioners. While assuredly part of a long tradition, the familiarity of Paisley’s approach reliably sidesteps worn-out tropes, and if concise, his latest delivers a powerful statement (and please note a purchasing option that offers a bonus 45). It’s great to have him back.

With Starter Home’s opening title track, Doug Paisley wastes no time navigating through a narrative peppered with tough emotional truths. The song concerns home-buying and family life, and more specifically, the hopes and satisfaction, followed by the disappointments and disillusionments, that can occur with the passage of time.

Instrumentally and vocally, it’s pretty much dead solid perfect in how it captures a strain of country music primed at the very least for sturdy popularity if not widespread appeal. Enhancing Paisley’s fluid guitar and vocal warmth, there’s Michael Eckart’s pedal steel and later in the tune, John Sheard’s piano. However, it’s the content of the words that makes it clear how this new batch of tunes is destined to delight a smaller audience.

It’s not just in how the he describes a noisy motorcyclist as an asshole, therefore firmly nixing the radio play he wouldn’t have received anyway. No, it relates directly to how “Starter Home” is the exact opposite of “go down to the honky-tonk” escapism, dealing instead with the cold hard facts of existence and in a manner that steadfastly avoids the clichés that can hinder realism as a musical tactic.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve: Avengers, (s/t)

The state of California produced a compelling batch of ‘70s punk treasures, and high in their number is the work of the Avengers. A key component in San Francisco’s initial wave, by 1979 they were done, with the majority of the band’s releases surfacing post-breakup. Avengers first appeared in ’83, subsequently drifting in and out of availability while undergoing assorted CD expansions; the core LP is the group’s essential document and by extension is a mandatory acquisition for punk collectors.

The definitive lineup of the Avengers, specifically Jimmy Wilsey on bass (replacing Jonathan Postal), Danny Furious on drums, Greg Ingraham on guitar, and Penelope Houston on vocals, only issued one EP while extant, though they were still quite busy during their relatively brief reign and impressively so given the lack of hospitable venues for the new music. The payoff for the Avengers’ tenacity was a warm-up slot at The Sex Pistols’ last show, sandwiched between the Nuns and the headlining spectacle, the event taking place at San Fran’s Winterland Ballroom in January of ’78. Reportedly besting the Pistols (the recorded evidence bears this out), the opportunity seemed to cultivate disillusionment in the band, especially in Furious, though it was Ingraham who quit a year later, his spot filled by Brad Kent (of D.O.A., Pointed Sticks, Subhumans etc). The Avengers dissolved in June of ’79, a few months prior to the arrival of their sophomore 12-inch.

Avengers, or The Pink Album as it’s sometimes referred, corrals both EPs with added material of the same vintage to succinctly detail their enduring worthiness. Opening with the debut for Dangerhouse, the LP immediately makes the strongest possible case for the four-piece as one of the finest US punk acts of the pre-HC era. For many the mantra of punk perseveres as “young loud and snotty,” but it’s those delivering the ingredients with a heaviness spawned from relentless determination (a.k.a. practice) that sit at the head of the class; beginning with exquisite guitar clamor, “We Are the One” brings heft, velocity, and an uncompromising vocal presence to the convulsions of ‘77’s rock revolution.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores,
November 2018,
Part Six

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Oren Ambarchi & Jim O’Rourke, Hence (Editions Mego) Ambarchi and O’Rourke have two prior collabs; well, three if you count 2012’s Imikuzushi with Japanese avant-guitar titan Keiji Haino. And counting that one kinda makes sense, as this new one features the guest tabla mastery of Japan’s U-zhaan. Along with the drum, there’s synthesizer and guitar, and the whole can be aptly tagged as electroacoustic. Hence offers two long pieces, with the level of abstraction quite high, but the cumulative effect is welcoming rather than rigorous. It even fits to call big portions of this downright comforting, particularly on side two, where I was reminded a bit of rainforest New Age. However, this ambiance gets imbued with mysteriousness that’s distinct and ultimately quite pleasing. A-

Owen Lake and the Tragic Loves, The Best of Your Lies (Carrier) This set of “electro-country” from a NYC project pseudonymously led by noteworthy contempo avant-composer Jeff Snyder might read like an imminent disaster, but the blending of techno-pop with honky-tonk and Countrypolitan (all covers save for two solid ones co-written by Snyder and fiddle-harmony vocalist Anica Mrose Rissi) starts out as potentially egregious, then impresses as sincere, moves on to admirable, and with accumulated spins connects as a surprisingly successful legit fusion rather than just an experiment that didn’t fall apart. To be sure, a Carter Family song with vocoder vocals might rile some tempers, but the execution is far preferable to an umpteenth well-mannered (to the point of blandness) Americana version. Believe it. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Dock Boggs, Legendary Singer and Banjo Player (Smithsonian Folkways) While I agree that Dock Boggs’ greatest stuff was cut for Brunswick in ’27, this album still holds a special allure. Boggs had just been rediscovered by Mike Seeger (who contributes illuminating liners here) and by extension the audience at the American Folk Festival, where some of this set was recorded. As the disc unwinds, knowledge of the circumstances leading to its recording enhance the aura of Boggs’ reengaging with, and in a sense rediscovering his own music, as well; he’d reportedly repurchased a banjo shortly before meeting Seeger for the first time. But don’t think Boggs is tentative in his delivery across these 15 songs. As intense as he was in ’27? No. This is a document of an older and wiser man. A

V/A, American Banjo – Tunes and Songs in Scruggs Style (Smithsonian Folkways) Smithsonian Folkways has been celebrating their 70th anniversary by reissuing some choice titles from the vast catalog on vinyl, and the theme of the latest batch is the banjo. This includes Dock Boggs above and two releases below, plus this 1957 collection documenting the three-finger technique developed by Earl Scruggs and popularized roughly a decade before, first in the band of Bill Monroe and shortly after in his own group co-led with guitarist Lester Flatt. In short, it’s bluegrass baseline. Earl doesn’t play on this LP, but his older brother Junie does, along with Roni Stoneman, Snuffy and Oren Jenkins, J.C. Sutphin, Smiley Hobbs, Kenny Miller, and Mike Seeger, who also recorded and produced. It all sounds splendid. A

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Record Store Club | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve: Analog Son,
Funky Mother

There’s no shortage of funkiness on the contemporary scene, but as lovers of the style do find it difficult to get enough, they might want to check out the fresh releases on Color Red Records, a new label based in Denver, CO founded by guitarist Eddie Roberts of the New Mastersounds. If you dig Roberts’ thing, it’s basically a cinch you’ll feel the same about Color Red’s wares; two of his other projects, Matador! Soul Sounds and WRD are also on the label, and he’s produced much of the discography. That includes Funky Mother, the fourth record from Denver combo Analog Son. Self-described as horn funk, they also feature organ, guitar, intermittent vocals, and naturally, beaucoup rhythm. The LP is out now.

Matador! Soul Sounds’ Get Ready arrived on vinyl back in March and since then there’s been a flurry of activity from Color Red headquarters, with additional items on wax, including three 45s. Fans of Get Ready will want to check out the group’s non-LP single “The Juice Ain’t Worth the Squeeze” b/w “Go On, Love,” and fans of Roberts’ in general should soak up the organ trio urgency of “Happy Hour” b/w “Corner Pocket by WRD, his outfit with organist Robert Walter and drummer Adam Deitch. “Out West” b/w “Love Tree” by The Echo System (featuring guitarist Mike Tallman) completes the single trifecta.

Alongside Get Ready, Color Red has given Analog Son’s Funky Mother a vinyl press, so together with a weekly arrival of digital content, long-playing wax is a significant component in the label’s scheme. As said, Analog Son have three prior releases, but this is the first to make my acquaintance, and like a lot of contempo stuff in the classic R&B, soul and funky zone, not all of group’s influences fit snugly into my bag.

Take Funky Mother’s opening track “CTI,” for instance. While I’m no big fan of the CTI label (clearly the track’s inspiration), Analog Son manage to pay homage to the soul-jazz-funk mershness of Creed Taylor’s enterprise (with Gabe Mervine’s trumpet bringing Freddie Hubbard to mind) without slipping into a cravenly smooth situation. But still; if they’d lingered for too long in this mode there wouldn’t be much cause for personal excitement, as I do prefer a tougher funk template.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve: Michael Hurley,
Living Ljubljana

Musically active across six decades and as vital now as he ever was, sui generis folk icon Michael Hurley has a new LP out. Featuring a live recording from a European tour in the spring of 1995, it captures him in a sweet trio with bassist Robert Michener and percussionist Mickey Bones; it’s called ‎Living Ljubljana, and its ten songs offer a tidy serving of the guy in spectacular form. Warmly played and recorded, the contents easily transcend the “one for the fans” scenario familiar to so many live albums. In fact, if spied in the racks of a local shop, it’d make a fine introduction to Hurley’s work. It’s out now on vinyl only (that means no download or digital, folks) through Feeding Tube Records of Florence, MA.

The first Michael Hurley record I ever heard was Snockgrass, which came out in 1980 via Rounder and was still available to special order a decade later. It was as fine a doorway into the man’s expansive corner of the sound universe as I could’ve asked for back then, and if you can find a copy now (it was repressed on wax by Light in the Attic in 2011), its introductory power hasn’t diminished. But hey, it was only one worthy point of entry among quite a few.

Until someone writes a book on Hurley (he deserves it), the best rundown of his life and music that I’ve been exposed to is Byron Coley’s piece from back in 2013 for the 35th issue of Arthur Magazine. It’s still available online, but please note that it’s a long one, so get comfy before reading. Coley is also co-operator of Feeding Tube (which is a store as well as a label), so he put out ‎Living Ljubljana, and his advocacy in print for Hurley is well-established; indeed, it was his “Underground” column in Spin magazine that directly led to my purchase of Snockgrass.

As said, there were other options available in getting acquainted with Hurley’s stuff, and so it remains. You can do the chronological thing and check out First Songs, which was released to essentially no fanfare by Folkways back in ’64. Reissued a handful of times including by Locust on CD as Blueberry Wine: The 1st Songs Of Michael Hurley, the set is in no way embryonic or tentative, and if it resides a little more snugly in the zone of ’60s solo folk, it’s still a highly distinctive affair, at times startlingly so. Whenever I play it after a substantial break, I’m amazed all over again that it came out when it did.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores,
November 2018,
Part Five

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Foghound, Awaken to Destroy (Ripple) The new LP from doom-riff behemoths Foghound arrives with non-musical heaviness relating to the death of the band’s bassist Rev. Jim Forrester last December (RIP). After overcoming health problems delaying the recording of Foghound’s follow-up to their second album The World Unseen, Forrester was gunned down in Fells Point in Baltimore. Rather than fold activities, the band rallied and finished the LP (Forrester had been part of the basic tracking) and have recruited Adam Heinzmann to continue forward. The perseverance directly relates to Forrester’s memory, but Foghound also have a smoking album on their hands, one that’s raw and pummeling and engaging until the very end. Amid this enduring style, one of the year’s best. A-

Jacco Gardner, Somnium (Polyvinyl) Gardner is tagged as a baroque pop multi-instrumentalist, but one with a penchant for integrating ambient and kosmische elements (the promo text mentions Bo Hansson, Vangelis, Cluster, Tangerine Dream, Eno, and Oldfield). The album’s title is in direct reference to Johannes Kepler’s book from 1608 that’s been cited as the first science-fiction novel. This reinforces the considerable retro-futurist spaciness of the whole, but there are also appealing tendrils of psychedelia manifest in part through injections of fuzz guitar (and longer pedal-driven washes). It’s altogether an inviting ride, expansive yet crisp, with passages reminding me of Laurie Spiegel, the BBC Workshop, and even David Axelrod (so this would pair well with the Pride reish below). A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Michele Mercure, Beside Herself (RVNG Intl. – Freedom to Spend) Between 1983 and ’90, Pennsylvania-based synth composer Mercure self-released a handful of cassettes through tape-trading networks; until this 2LP retrospective covering her early work, 2017’s Eye Chant (the first release on Freedom to Spend) was her only music to grooved into vinyl. The 19 pieces collected here, while unmistakably from the 1980s, are refreshing in how they navigate and transcend the aura of the period. At times, like when she manipulates audio taken from TV news program, her circumstances as a denizen of the underground come to the fore, but as the collection unwinds the surprises pile up, with “An Accident Waiting to Happen” just one of the standouts. Another revelatory release from RVNG. A

The Germs, “What We Do is Secret” (ORG Music) I was just chatting with a pal the other day about the cornerstone LPs of classic LA punk. We came to a consensus over Los Angeles by X, Group Sex by the Circle Jerks, The First Four Years by Black Flag (which is a compilation, I know), and (GI) by the Germs. There are other fine full-lengths sure, but this is an effective starter kit for the scene. “What We Do is Secret” is not as massive and essential as (GI), but its best moments aren’t far behind, and its eight songs would serve as a fine introduction. Well, better make that seven songs, as one track consists of captured banter from a 1980 gig at the Starwood that, rather than superfluous, magnifies the band’s essence (and segues into a pair of worthy cuts from the show). A tidy taste of disheveled glory. A

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Record Store Club | Leave a comment

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: V/A, 3 x 4: The Bangles, The Three O’Clock, The Dream Syndicate, Rain Parade (Yep Roc) A lot of scene-oriented regroupings/ get-togethers are hindered by a sense of self-congratulation, but this endeavor by four key Paisley Underground bands, with the above-named participants covering each other’s songs, doesn’t give me that vibe at all, partially because this celebrates a movement that was initially a rejection of “gotta-make-it-big”-ism in favor of classic stuff (as listed by Steve Wynn in the booklet; VU, Nuggets, Syd-era Floyd). They all sounded so good though, that making it big (to varying degrees) was basically inevitable. This has three songs each by all four, and if you ever wondered what the Bangles covering “That’s What You Always Say” would sound like, well wonder no more. A-

Tav Falco, Cabaret of Daggers (ORG Music) Memphis titan Tav Falco came to prominence as arguably the finest, and less contentiously, the deepest of the post-punk (as in after punk) champions of pre-Beatle rock ‘n’ roll and sweet Southern roots. I consider it hard to dispute that he was the most striking personality of the bunch, and his flair has extended into his later work, which has retained its relevance through a consistently expanding sphere of interests, including tango music. Accompanied by his Unapproachable Panther Burns, Cabaret of Daggers sounds markedly different from Tav’s thing in the 1980s, though the man’s huge presence integrates it quite nicely into his oeuvre as a whole. That he gets political in “New World Order Blues” (and a cover of “Strange Fruit”) is a welcome bonus. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: The Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band, Almost Acoustic (ATO) I know this one well through the Deadheads in my life, but I’ve never owned it; ‘tis nice that I can rectify that with ease. Recorded live in San Francisco and Los Angeles, this 70-minute set of bluegrass, blues, and roots reinforces both Garcia’s talent as a guitarist and his pretty-much unfaltering taste in material, as he chooses a bounty of traditional songs, “Blue Yodel #9” from Jimmie Rodgers, “Oh, Babe, It Ain’t No Lie” from Elizabeth Cotten, two from Mississippi John Hurt, and more. The entire band is in top-notch form (of special mention is the record’s producer Sandy Rothman on mandolin and dobro) and they roll with clear delight all the way to a concluding version of “Ripple.” You know the crowd loved it. I do, too. A

Bauhaus, “The Bela Session” (Leaving), Press the Eject and Give Me the Tape & The Sky’s Gone Out (Beggars Arkive) For Bauhaus lovers, the EP is the crown jewel in this batch of 40th anniversary reissues, as three of the five cuts are previously unreleased (one is “Boys” from the ’79 “Bela” 12-inch in its original version). Those who like but are not bonkers over Bauhaus might be wondering if these tracks hold more than historical interest, but it’s really getting to hear the band before they totally solidified their direction that makes it all such a treat. Press the Eject is the ’82 live alb; it’s solid but skippable if you’re on a budget. Third LP proper Sky holds signs of strain but is strong enough that their positive trajectory was essentially maintained. The opening cover of Eno’s “Third Uncle” rips. A-/ B+/ A-

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Record Store Club | Leave a comment

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Josephine Foster, Faithful Fairy Harmony (Fire) In the wrong hands, the title for this one would likely indicate an aural quagmire, but as this is Josephine Foster, I hadn’t a worry over its contents, and this four-part 2LP didn’t disappoint. Foster’s voice is capable of sweetness, deeper beauty, and sharp intensity, plus the ability to resonate as from an earlier time without affectation. But she’s also sturdy instrumentally, playing guitar, piano, organ, harp, autoharp, harmonica, and percussion as well as producing here (recording again in Nashville with Andrija Tokic). Having come to prominence during the New Weird folk wave, Foster’s music was impressive then, and over the years she hasn’t redirected or streamlined her sound, but rather transformed it. This just might be her best one yet. A

Zaïmph, Rhizomatic Gaze (Drawing Room) I’ve expressed approval more than once over the vinyl format’s help in curbing full-length releases as containers of seemingly unedited spillage. Of course, in the right hands, records of longer duration do provide a special kick, and like Foster directly above, the mitts of Marcia Bassett (formerly of Un, Double Leopards, GHQ, and numerous collabs) are right as rain. It’s a scenario that extends to her instrumental prowess on a variety of instruments, particularly guitar. At just short of 72 minutes, there’s plenty of room here for Bassett to explore drone, noise, and ambient motifs, and while her sound has been described on more than occasion as dark, seriousness of intent keeps this far away from black capes and plastic fangs territory. Halloween is over. Outstanding. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Robbie Basho, Venus in Cancer (Traffic Entertainment) Of the three big names in American Primitive guitar’s original wave, Basho remains the least well-known, but as this very cool LP is being reissued for the third time since the turn of the century, his cult has endured (there was also a 1982 live set issued on ESP Disk last year). Originally released in ’69 or ’70, this was Basho’s sixth album and first for Blue Thumb, and it opens with the exquisite nine minutes of the title track; suffice to say no fan of Guitar Soli will want to be without it. Basho does sing on three tracks, and I’m not going to say his voice doesn’t take some getting used to, but in the 25 years since I first heard those pipes, they’ve become an integral part of the experience, which means this LP is sounding better than ever. A

The Posies, Amazing Disgrace (Omnivore) When praising Omnivore’s reissue of The Posies’ Frosting on the Beater back in August, I ranked that record as my favorite from the band, and I still feel that way. However, upon reacquaintance with this one, I’m a bit surprised at how well it’s held up. Beater has been anointed “the loud one” in the band’s discography, but they retained a lot of that spit and fire for Amazing Disgrace, and in terms of attitude, this has some of their most aggressive stuff. It also reinforces the songwriting of Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow as still up to standard, which in pop-rock is a more difficult achievement that you might think. Even at their heaviest there’s catchiness plus an avoidance of the hackneyed. The vinyl is 2LP (sans download), the CD has oodles of exclusive extras. A-

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Record Store Club | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
Eric Dolphy,
Musical Prophet

The discography of the late and very great Eric Allan Dolphy remains one of the gleaming jewels of ’60s jazz, but he’s still too often summarized as an outstanding, highly distinctive collaborator who produced one true masterpiece as a leader. Resonance Records’ Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions is poised to help eradicate this misnomer, reissuing two superb but frequently underrated LPs in mono with 85 minutes of additional material and contextualizing it all with a 100-page book offering a range of perspectives and a wealth of photographs. Featuring the outstanding bassist Richard Davis and the recording debt of trumpeter Woody Shaw, it’s out on 3LP for RSD Black Friday.

Eric Dolphy died tragically young in Berlin on July 29, 1964. A quarter century later, he was still routinely described, casually in conversation but also in newspaper/ magazine articles and even reference books, as a free jazz musician. The fact that he contributed to Ornette Coleman’s epochal and still radical Free Jazz session aside, in the copious notes to this set, flautist and release coproducer James Newton mentions (which is to say, it’s not a major statement) that during the time-period covered by this set, Dolphy wasn’t playing “free.”

The observation comes in the midst of an extended reflection on the multiple facets and influences that constitute Dolphy’s artistry, and it’s right on the money. No doubt many are thinking the clarification need only be made that the man belonged to the era’s jazz avant-garde, and that’s true, but the distinction should be made that, even as he’d been derided by moldy figs (prominently in the pages of Down Beat) as playing “anti-jazz,” Dolphy wasn’t a particularly strident contributor to the movement.

Well okay, but then what was he? A little further into the liner booklet, saxophonist Sonny Rollins nails it with pith: “He was an experimental musician.” To this it can be added: a master of three horns, and an individualist on each. There are of course many examples of instrumental doubling, and less frequently, tripling in jazz, but Dolphy’s excellence on alto sax, the demanding bass clarinet and flute goes beyond the status of rarity. On all three, his playing is amongst the most instantly recognizable in jazz.

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve: Confessin’ the Blues

Curated by The Rolling Stones with a cover painting by the band’s guitarist Ronnie Wood, Confessin’ the Blues is a 42-track dive into a fount of musical richness that inspired them as young British lads and has continued to impact their sound to varying degrees ever since. As an introduction to the blues, expert fans will surely note omissions, but when considered in relation to the band’s work and their advocacy of the form, it all goes down easy. Well, except for one thing, and we’ll get to that below. It’s out now on 2CD, 2LP, and a bookpack of five 10-inch records inspired by the shellac discs of the 78RPM era, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven Foundation.

Bluntly, Confessin’ the Blues has been assembled not for the seasoned blues hound but instead with the intent to stimulate enthusiasm for the form, largely through multiple connections to The Rolling Stones’ substantial body of work. Many aficionados will no doubt gaze upon these selections with a critical eye and with no undue deference to the Stones as curators (a term that in this case is just a fancy way of saying they made a compilation). Fitting the description of aficionado, I can say that with a few omissions and points of overemphasis, plus the aforementioned bigger snag, they did a fine job.

The cornerstones are well-represented, with a due spotlight cast upon less-celebrated yet still crucial figures, but a slew of deep cuts and even a couple of obscurities make this more than a basic primer. That many of the selections have been recorded and performed by the Stones (a whole bunch on the 2016 album Blue and Lonesome) surely lent ease to the compiling, but as Confessin’ the Blues plays it becomes clear that a fair amount of thought went into the contents. Maybe not a big deal, but it’s worth noting, as they probably could’ve just generated a track-list by pressing random on Keith Richards’ iPod.

Naturally, particular emphasis is given to post-WWII Chicago. Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf are represented with four songs each, though it’s the former who reigns as the champ of this collection, opening it all with the song that gave the Stones’ their name (the still galvanizing “Rollin’ Stone” from 1950) and closing with “Mannish Boy” (appropriately, the original version from ’55).

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Storefront | Leave a comment

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Mourning [A] BLKstar, The Garner Poems (Electric Cowbell) As of this writing, the Election Day polls in the USA have closed, but the outcome is far from decided, and I’ve shut off social media for a necessary breather and to focus on last few items in this column. Regardless of the electoral outcome, there’s much work ahead in the struggle to heal the open wounds of oppression, bigotry, and violence, and artists creating politically will be integral in the fight. This Ohio-based DIY Afrofuturist soul outfit’s latest record is a beacon of music as righteous action, blending a diced-up, sample-infused, hip-hop, jazz and soul-informed instrumental foundation with socially impassioned lyrical clarity. The whole shines a defiant light on the ugliness of inequality, and police brutality in particular, all with the goal of remembrance, justice, and the hope of a better future. May we work together to achieve it. A

Tallawit Timbouctou, Hali Diallo (Sahel Sounds) From Northern Mali, Tallawit Timbouctou are specialists in the traditional musical style takamba, with its structuring instrument the tehardent, which is described as a four-stringed lute and precursor to the banjo. The rhythms are produced by pounding on an overturned calabash. The style has a long history, possibly stretching back to the Songhai Empire of the 15th century, but it hit another level in the ’80s with the introduction of amplification. The results are hypnotic (an uninterrupted stream when listened to digitally) and highly distorted. If you haven’t heard ‘em, you’re going to imagine a certain level of distortion. Upon listening, these glorious note tangles are going to blow those expectations completely away. A stellar release. A

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Thing, S/T (Cultures of Soul) Not to be confused with the extant Norwegian/ Swedish free jazz trio, this Thing existed in early ‘70s Boston, formed by saxophonist and jazz educator Arni Cheatham, and they specialized in a robust stream of fusion that while undeniably evoking the sound of electric Miles and early Weather Report, ultimately stands on its own (consistently sharp playing helps matters considerably); it’s all held up well over time. Featuring two side-long live suites from ’72 (one from Harvard U), some may recall excerpts from these performances on Cultures of Soul’s comp The Boston Creative Jazz Scene 1970-1983, but now here’s the whole shebang on wax. Your chances of finding a copy of an original are basically nil, so this is an affordable gesture of goodness. A-

Yoruba Singers, Fighting for Survival (Cultures of Soul) Active since 1971 and cited as the longest-running musical act in Guyana, the Yoruba Singers recorded this set ten years into their existence (after a few prior singles and an LP), and in the press release the contents get described as their “magnum opus.” I’ll add that its stylistically all over the place, but fascinatingly so, and with a funky thread that manages to hold their range together. There’s some light funk, a little deeper funk, a few pop-tinged tunes, touches of reggae, excursions in afrobeat, and even calypso. There are elements in the Yoruba Singers’ stew that don’t really float my boat, but on the other hand, every song here lands on the plus side of the equation, and it’s easy to understand why original copies of this have sold for $300. B+

Read More »

Posted in The TVD Record Store Club | Leave a comment

Graded on a Curve:
The Complete Cuban
Jam Sessions

Like the finest in archival collections, Craft Recordings’ The Complete Cuban Jam Sessions tells multiple tales, dominant among them the saga of five excellent and at-times astounding LPs documenting improvised jam sessions, or descargas, issued between 1956-’64; two are led by Julio Gutiérrez with one each by Niño Rivera, Israel “Cachao” López, and José Antonio Fajardo. Other stories include the development of Cuba’s first record label Panart as founded by Ramón S. Sabat, the rich portraiture of Cuban music’s stylistic diversity (including rumba, mambo, and cha-cha-chá), and the praiseworthy dedication of the set’s co-producer Judy Cantor-Navas. On 5LP or 5CD, it’s out November 9.

Although the five records constituting The Complete Cuban Jam Sessions have been appropriately lauded as milestones, that doesn’t mean they’ve been appreciated by anywhere close to a fitting number of listeners. The reasons are a blend of specific circumstances and the familiar. For starters, while Panart was a successful operation, it was also not a giant enterprise, and when Cuba’s Communist government took possession of the label in 1961, Sabat and his family relocated to Miami.

From there, with the exception of LP and 8-track reissues made by Sabat’s wife Julia and son Galo which were marketed to Miami’s Cuban exile community (they retained around 80% of the master tapes), the catalog was essentially out of commission. It was eventually purchased in the early ‘80s, but then it took roughly a decade for product to hit the market, and to say the CDs were cut-rate is a fair assessment. The next buyer reportedly did a better job with presentation, but not distribution.

Those initial discs, if not up to a standard the music deserves, still lit a spark in writer and Latin music and culture expert Judy Cantor-Navas. She was the fuse that led to the explosiveness of this box set; her article in the Miami New Times published the day after Christmas in 1996 (and still available to read on the newspaper’s website) offers a wonderfully detailed history of Panart, and these sessions in particular. In the text, there are considerations of these sessions as not only amongst the greatest recordings in Panart’s catalog, but in Cuban music overall.

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