VIA PRESS RELEASE | Intervention Records is thrilled to announce Judee Sill’s classic 1971 debut, Judee Sill (Cat# IR-016), and her stellar followup Heart Food (Cat# IR-017). Each album is cut as a double-45RPM LP set and pressed on dead-quiet 180-gram vinyl. Both LPs are anticipated to street in June 2017 and are available for pre-order now.
The astonishing Judee Sill was the first artist signed to David Geffen’s Asylum Records, and Judee Sill the first album released on the label. Sill’s music is intensely spiritual, redolent of mystical and divine imagery, yet grounded by great songwriting and a pure but powerful singing talent. Her songs impart incredible intimacy that is enhanced by her sometimes complex string arrangements (remarkably Sill arranged and conducted the strings/orchestra on these albums!).
Sill’s life was tragic personally and professionally. Her father and brother were killed when Sill was young, and her tempestuous relationship with her alcoholic (and remarried) mother resulted in her leaving home at 15. She committed robberies and began a battle she was destined to lose against drug addiction. When stardom didn’t follow the critical acclaim of these two albums her career never recovered. Sill was dead from a drug overdose in 1979 at just 35. The brevity of Judee’s musical legacy is outweighed by the emotional power and weight of these two extraordinary albums.
Frank Zappa and I have a complicated relationship. During my formative years spent smoking pot with pig farmers I was besotted by the fellow. I thought he was smart, and figured that listening to him made me smart too.
But we agreed to a temporary separation around the time of the 1979 release of Sheik Yerbouti, and split for good after that same year’s Joe’s Garage Act I. I could no longer ignore the derisive sneer of perceived intellectual and moral superiority audible in every one of his songs. That and it finally occurred to me that the mildly scatological humor I found so clever was just as clever to 12-year-olds.
There are other bands I liked then but no longer listen to now. But Zappa is the only artist I have ever wished to airbrush, Soviet-style, from my musical past. Liking him as much as I did then actually embarrasses me. And that’s a step too far, I think. There is no denying that Zappa expanded the limitations of rock’n’roll. So I have made a few tentative steps towards a rapprochement over the past several years. Why, I even went so far as to borrow my brother’s copy of 1969’s Hot Rats—an LP I must have listened to a thousand times when I was stoned—then actually played the damn thing.
And? Well, upon first listen, I was inclined to agree with Robert Christgau, whose review of Hot Rats went, “Doo-doo to you, Frank–when I want movie music I’ll listen to ‘Wonderwall.’” This was a rejoinder to Mr. Zappa’s description of his second solo LP following the breakup of the Mothers of Invention as “a movie for your ears.” But I think that’s overly harsh. Some of Hot Rats can be written off as overly formal forays into jazz-rock fusion. Violinist and jazz fusion hero Jean Luc-Ponty doesn’t play on LP closer “It Must Be a Camel”— a brave if rather plodding foray into Eric Dolphy country—for nothing. And the horn arrangements are, for the most part, both prissy and as tight-assed as the fella what came up with them. But Hot Rats contains some very exciting moments and two songs for the ages in “Willie the Pimp” and the lengthy “The Gumbo Variations.”
For longtime lovers of global sounds, Senegal’s Orchestra Baobab require no introduction. Budding aficionados need only understand the group’s blend of Afro-Cuban and traditional African sounds as a rare gift of international music, and from there begin listening. In a positive turn of events, the outfit has completed a new album, and it’s as solid an entry point as anything in their unusually sturdy discography; honoring one of the group’s original vocalists who sadly passed last November, Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng is out March 31 on World Circuit.
The story is that Orchestra Baobab started breaking through internationally just in time to get eclipsed at home by Mbalax, a newer Senegalese sound, which quickly came to be personified in the World Music scene by their younger countryman Youssou N’Dour. By 1987 Baobab had broken up, and while they’d cut a slew of vinyl records and tapes, their subsequent reputation grew primarily through ’93’s Bamba (a combo of ’80’s Mouhamadou Bamba and ’81’s Si Bou Odja on one CD) and the celebrated Pirates Choice from ’82, though it didn’t get a US release until ’01 through World Circuit/ Nonesuch.
The Paris-based West African-focused label Syllart Productions compiles a ton of Baobab’s ’70s material onto the La Belle Époque 2CD and it’s equally exhaustive second volume, but in terms of pro production their best sounding set of that decade is surely On Verra Ça: The 1978 Paris Sessions. Those wanting to soak up Baobab at an early stage are encouraged to seek out the Dakar Sound label’s ’98 CD N’Wolof, which features Wolof griot vocalist Laye M’Boup.
Pirates Choice’s reissue was so well-received that it helped inspire a return to activity. Specialist in All Styles arrived in 2002, produced by N’Dour (alongside Nick Gold) and flaunting guest vocalist Ibrahim Ferrer, then at the peak of his popularity as a member of the Buena Vista Social Club. The appearance emphasized Baobab’s already prominent Afro-Cuban roots and solidified their newfound popularity. In 2008, Made in Dekar emerged with no slippage of quality amid tangible growth.
The brainchild of two Kansans now out and about in LA, Tree Machines are on the verge of a follow-up album to their inaugural 2015 EP, a collection of songs highlighting the ennui of small-town Midwest living, something that Lawrence natives Douglas Wooldridge and Patrick Aubry, the duo in question, may have grown accustomed to over the years, but have since hitched a ride to the City of Angels, trading in Mass Street for a Canoga Park garage.
Their upcoming debut album Up for Air arrives this year, and if the first single off the LP is any indication, Wooldridge and Aubry are seeking to cast a wide net. Driven by visions of Los Angeles, which is made even more apparent in the accompanying lyric video dominated by drone-captured, colorless images of the cityscape and shoreline, “Waiting On the Sun” amounts to an extended vocal-synth crescendo of hope and illumination at the prospects of a new day.
Though the lyrics are quick to remind that darkness looms here just as in any other place, the song retains a musical brightness which never forsakes the inevitability of that titular light rising again.
Wooldridge and Aubry certainly bring a bit of Kansas to LA, and they possess a keen understanding of their new whereabouts, but it’s never in question that the two are aiming for a clarion call of universal intent, one to curb the loneliness that hangs over most every soul in high and low places
Here’s something you hopefully already know: Australia is a country and a continent. But hey, think about that for a sec; Down Under’s double-duty means a whole lot of un(der)heard music. Like David Chesworth’s50 Synthesizer Greats, for example. Unusual, innovative, and accessible, its original self-released edition is also rare and expensive, making it the sort of album post-punk archeologists salivate over. On March 31, it gets a deserved vinyl and digital reissue by Chapter Music.
Well, first off, not 50 but 37, though this reissue’s digital-only bonus tracks spread the total to 39. Furthermore, the initial title 50 Synthisizer Greats has been corrected. If all this resonates a little like undisciplined goofing around, as explained in the label’s background text, 50 cuts were recorded but wouldn’t all fit on a single slab of vinyl. Of the 13 extra tracks, only one survives, presented here in tandem with a subsequent long piece from ’79 using a Serge Modular Synthesizer. Overall, the results connect as serious but not stern as the LP + extras sit at the beginning of a long and varied career.
Chesworth might be better known to Aussie underground mavens as a member of Essendon Airport. Formed in ’78 with guitarist Robert Goodge, they later grew to a five piece; an expanded reissue of their 1981 LP Palimpsest and the retrospective collection Sonic Investigations of the Trivial are both still available through Chapter Music. Alongside Philip Brophy, with whom he co-founded Innocent Records in 1979, Chesworth also took part in Chocolate Grinders, the Dave & Phil Duo, and → ↑ → (aka Tsk Tsk Tsk or Tch Tch Tch).
Some of → ↑ → and Essendon Airport’s activity has squeaked out on compilations over the years, e.g. Chapter Music’s Can’t Stop It! Australian Post-Punk 1978-82 and its follow-up volume, Laughing Outlaw Records’ Inner City Sound, Shame File Music’s Artefacts of Australian Experimental Music Volume II 1974–1983, and most recently the Efficient Space label’s Midnite Spares, a set that also includes a track by Chesworth’s project Whadya Want? It appears that Chocolate Grinders and the Dave & Phil Duo have yet to be anthologized.
VIA PRESS RELEASE | Pearl Jam. Not many bands have achieved a status needing no adjective or description. Pearl Jam has. And fewer still have had an insider, much less a member, obsessively capture onstage and offhand pics of the experience—the friends, family, and fans… and one very famous plastic toy. Luckily for us lead guitarist Mike McCready did—trusty Polaroid camera in hand.
Documenting years of touring and travels, McCready snaps meetings with heroes and inspirations from all walks of life; time spent with crazy friends and family; and moments featuring wildly artistic takes on art, nature, and architecture. Also: he once rocked a fab grey shift. And true to form for one not taking things too seriously, Mike sometimes had his pal, Mr. Potato Head, pop in and share in the fun.
As wonderfully intimate as group “selfies” with the likes of Neil Young, Questlove, Jimmy Page, Ann and Nancy Wilson, Joey Ramone, Johnny Ramone, The Edge, Ben Harper, Peter Buck, Paul McCartney, Mike Mills, Sting, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Carrie Brownstein, Robert Plant, Peter Frampton, Dave Grohl, Gene Simmons, Bono, Jack White, Danny Clinch, Lady Gaga, Laura Dern, Dustin Hoffman, Judd Apatow, Will Ferrell, Leslie Mann, Jimmy Fallon, Mira Sorvino, Tim Robbins, Hugh Jackman, Venus Williams, and Kate Hudson are, it’s the massive homage to the band’s fans taken from stage view, in places from the Pacific Northwest to Peru, from Brussels to Bolivia, that brings McCready’s manic intimacy come roaring to life.
“The best part of the vinyl revival is that revealing you have an affinity for vinyl doesn’t mean you have to share your age. My musical journey begins with vinyl and a particular record I purchased back in 1971 as a 7 year old boy. Let It Be, The Beatles.”
“My father was headed to purchase new speakers for the small and humble stereo system in our apartment. At the time, my father was a surgical resident at Georgetown University and didn’t make much money. But he loved music, and I suppose that’s where my love comes from. He took my sister and I along with him.
When we arrived at the store, he told my sister and me to go the record bins and pick out one record each. There was one record that caught my eye, and it was Let It Be. I knew absolutely NOTHING about the Beatles, only that they looked cool and I wanted to be like them. So I picked the album and went to meet my father who was now standing in line to pay for his purchase. Right about that time my sister came with her pick. A Partridge Family record.
As a music critic, I occasionally feel compelled to turn a jaundiced ear to one of today’s happening artists. It doesn’t come naturally. Like most old people, I find the tastes of the younger generation both inexplicable and appalling. Take Ed Sheeran. You could say I was prejudiced against him from the start, because I nearly inhaled an entire cigarette upon first hearing his big hit single, “The Shape of You.” But you cannot judge an artist based on one song unless that artist happens to be Norman Greenbaum, and after taking a few muscle relaxants to numb my gag reflex gave Sheeran’s latest release, 2017’s Divide, a listen.
And all I can say is the horror, the horror. Humorless, infinitely cloying, and crammed full of unpleasant surprises, Divide is not quite as edgy as your average LP by Train, whose vapid taste for the pop inconsequential he has clearly inherited. Sheeran’s eclectic bland (no, that’s not a typo) of pop, folk, and hip-hop gives new meaning to the word generic. I’m not some hopeless rock bigot either. I love Coldplay. I love Robbie Williams, for Christ’s sake. But this… this thing is heinous. Unspeakable. One of the worst albums I’ve ever had to suffer through.
Remember when Paul McCartney said the world needs silly love songs? Tragically, the carrot-topped Sheeran took Sir Paul at his word. I find it hard to believe that even McCartney thinks the world needs Ed Sheeran’s heartfelt love songs, which are less silly than cloyingly saccharine. Paul McCartney, to his credit, can occasionally make saccharine work. Sheeran is no Paul McCartney.
To be sure, it’s a rare occasion when entire music scenes are ignited by an individual, and it’s even rarer when said artist just so happens to be an expat from Michigan immersed in medical studies nearly ten thousand miles across the planet, which is a roundabout way of saying Deniz Tek ranks among the most transformative figures in the history of Australian music.
Hailing from the rock ’n’ roll capital of the world, Ann Arbor, Tek was groomed on the frenzied sounds and performances of local pioneering groups such as the Stooges and the Rationals before making the permanent move to Sydney in 1972. It was here that Tek set out to create a band so uncompromising in both power and energy that the mainstream contingent of the country would be utterly confounded and, just maybe, incensed. The result was Radio Birdman.
Formed in ’74 by Tek and fellow outcast Rob Younger, Radio Birdman quickly emerged as the preeminent rock ’n’ roll band in Australia, and it’s only fitting that the name itself is the product of a misheard Stooges’ lyric. With Tek as the chief songwriter and lead guitarist, the band seamlessly coalesced the essential components of Motor City rock with the equally feverish speed and style of surf music to establish a sound that remains completely unique and nonpareil. Following releases of the EP “Burn My Eye” in ’76 and the absolute blitz-of-an-album Radios Appear the following year, the band ended up label-less and financially abandoned, extinguishing their future plans and leading to a wealth of different projects for all involved.
Tek would soon form the Visitors and then, alongside Younger and Birdman bassist Warwick Gilbert, the Sydney-Ann Arbor supergroup known as New Race, which included two pivotal names (and heroes to Radio Birdman) in rock history: Ron Asheton of the Stooges and Dennis Thompson of the MC5. Egregiously, though intentionally, short-lived, New Race put out just a single live record documenting a month-long tour in 1981 before its members opted to pursue other endeavors.
Between his return to the medical world as a US Navy flight surgeon and continued music projects with Deep Reduction, the Deniz Tek Group, and the lost experimental group Glass Insects, Tek maintained a tight schedule to say the least.
In 2006, Radio Birdman reunited to record for the first time in almost thirty years, creating Zeno Beach, and, after a solo hiatus in the latter half of the 2000s, Tek returned to the studio with Career Records, producing two solo albums, Detroit in 2013 and Mean Old Twister just this past year. Moreover, his recent collaboration with the Stooges’ James Williamson, Acoustic K.O., is due out in just a couple of weeks. Paired with some nonstop performing in Europe, as well as an Australian tour with Radio Birdman in June, Tek is still doing more than his share to keep the flame alive.
We recently caught up with him to discuss everything from vinyl lathes and the Sydney scene that Birdman revolutionized to the fabled history of his Epiphone Crestwood and a late ’60s Detroit radio station with a penchant for Captain Beefheart.
It’s definitely tricky to keep everything straight considering just how diverse your activities have been over the years. I’ve always been curious as to when you actually started serving as a flight surgeon in the Navy. Was it just after your time with New Race?
It was, yes. The New Race tour was in April and May of 1981, and I started flight surgeon school on the first of July, so it really was right after that.
I know you were in medical studies at New South Wales right before Radio Birdman got going, so was it always on your radar to go into a related line of work at some point or another?
Well I never expected to be able to earn a living playing music. I realized early on that the kind of stuff we were doing was never going to be commercial, and I had no desire to conform my songwriting or playing to anybody’s idea of a marketing plan. I was always going to need another job, let’s put it that way.