Category Archives: The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
Bill Orcutt,
Odds Against Tomorrow

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

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

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

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

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TVD Radar: Sparks, Past Tense: The Best of Sparks 3-LP in stores 11/8

VIA PRESS RELEASE | “In any sane universe, academic studies would be devoted to Ron and Russell Mael, as they are to Dylan, Bowie or The Beatles. Municipal buildings and parks would be named after them. Statues would be erected in their honor. In the mind of the convert, Sparks are that significant.” Simon Price

BMG announces the release of a career-spanning collection by the provocateurs of pop—Sparks. Masters of reinvention, with an unappeasable ambition and a ravenous hunger for the now, Sparks—brothers Ron and Russell Mael—have been creating eye-poppingly brilliant pop music for more than 50 years. From 1967’s “Computer Girl” (recorded under the name Urban Renewal Project) to 2017’s “Check Out Time 11AM” (from the Hippopotamus sessions) Past Tense: The Best Of Sparks is an immaculate lesson in how to stay consistently interesting for fifty years.

With sleeve-notes by Simon Price, each track is hand-picked by Ron and Russell to best epitomise the era of Sparks from which they are drawn—forerunners of art rock, inventors of the synth duo, masters of new wave pop, Europop experimentalists and self-revisionists, in the 21st century they pioneered the electronic opera before delivering 2017’s pop masterpiece Hippopotamus.

Ron and Russell are currently putting the finishing touches to their new studio album, due for release in 2020. The ineluctable allure of Sparks will also be presented to the world in the as-yet-untitled documentary by the British film director Edgar Wright; meanwhile filming commences this month on Annette—the movie musical written by Sparks, directed by Leos Carax, and starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard.

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TVD Radar: Rip It Up: The Specialty Records Story from Billy Vera in stores 11/5

VIA PRESS RELEASE | On November 5, 2019, BMG Books will publish Rip It Up: The Specialty Records Story by Billy Vera, with a foreword by 102-year-old label founder Art Rupe. The book is the fourth installment of BMG’s RPM Series, which focuses on pioneering record labels.

Launched in the mid-1940s, the Los Angeles-based Specialty Records emerged as one of the most important independent labels for African-American music in the 20th century. Recognizing that competing with major record companies was a losing battle, founder Art Rupe headed to Central Avenue, cultural center of L.A.’s black community, where he spent $200 on what were then known as “race records.” He carefully analyzed each, developing his own formula for a successful venture.

Soon, Specialty was scoring R&B hits with artists such as Roy Milton, Camille Howard, Jimmy and Joe Liggins, and Percy Mayfield. Drawn to the music of New Orleans, Rupe went on to sign Lloyd Price, who topped the charts with “Lawdy Miss Clawdy.” It was through Price that Specialty acquired its best-known artist, Little Richard. After “Tutti Frutti” exploded in 1955, Richard and the label scored a string of successes: “Long Tall Sally,” “Lucille,” “Keep A Knockin’,” “Good Golly Miss Molly,” and more.

In addition to R&B and the emerging sounds of rock ’n’ roll, Rupe was particularly drawn to the sounds of the church. Black gospel music was an essential element of his company, with a roster that included stars of the genre such as Sam Cooke’s Soul Stirrers, Sister Wynona Carr, Brother Joe May, and Alex Bradford and the Bradford Specials, among others.

From behind-the-scenes producers Robert “Bumps” Blackwell, J.W. Alexander, Harold Battiste, and Sonny Bono, to R&B recording stars Floyd Dixon, Guitar Slim, Jesse Belvin, Larry Williams, and Don and Dewey, Rip It Up: The Specialty Records Story offers a definitive history of the legendary label.

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

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

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

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

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

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TVD Radar: David Gray, White Ladder 4-LP, 20th anniversary reissue in stores 2/14

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Multi-platinum, multi-Brit and Grammy-nominated, British singer-songwriter David Gray is today announcing a 12-date UK and European arena tour; White Ladder: The 20th Anniversary Tour, to celebrate the trailblazing album’s 20-year anniversary.

The 7 million record selling and one of the greatest and most heart-warming word-of-mouth successes in music, White Ladder will be performed by Gray with all the original band members and with all the original equipment to recreate the record in its entirety, plus a set of the greatest hits. Commencing at Liverpool’s M&S Bank Arena on March 20th 2020, the tour will include London’s The 02 on March 26th and Dublin’s 3 Arena on April 2nd. Tickets for the tour will go on sale at 9am on Friday October 11th. Fans can have access to presale tickets on Wednesday October 9th by pre-ordering products from the remastered collection here.

An expanded 20th anniversary edition of White Ladder will be released on 2xCD, 4xLP, and digital formats. This will include a special remastered edition of the iconic album plus White Ladder era previously unreleased rarities, B-sides and demos. Physical versions will be accompanied by an extensive booklet with writings by Gray about the whole White Ladder experience—from the people involved, to the stories behind the songs and memorable shows.

The newly-remastered original album will also be released on 2LP white-coloured vinyl, CD and digital, available here. This is the first time White Ladder has ever been pressed on vinyl. www.DavidGray.com will feature music and White Ladder merchandise.

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TVD Radar: Voice of the Eagle: The Enigma of Robbie Basho coming to Blu-ray and DVD, 12/13

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Before his bizarre death at the hands of a chiropractor, Robbie Basho was sure that his compositions would not outlast him.

Orphaned during infancy, diagnosed with synaesthesia (a union of the senses that caused him to interpret sound as colour) and claiming to be the reincarnation of a 17th century poet—the Baltimore-born guitarist and singer’s musical output was as equally as outlandish as his persona. In his brief and troubled life he laid the foundations for radical changes to the musical landscape of America during the 1960s and ’70s but reaped little more than a sparse (if fervent) following during his lifetime.

Voice of the Eagle: The Enigma of Robbie Basho is a journey into the heart of an artist’s lifelong struggle—designed to illuminate and satiate existing fans while serving as a perfect starting point for the uninitiated.

Featuring interviews with Pete Townshend and Country Joe McDonald as well as Basho’s former students, contemporaries, religious associates, and few close friends, the documentary integrates new information and anecdotes on Basho with previously uncovered archival material and photography of the natural phenomena and landscapes that informed his work.

Director / Producer, Liam Barker says, “As a keen explorer of obscure musicians it was perhaps inevitable that I was to discover Robbie Basho at some point but nothing had quite prepared me for the experience. As well as being astonished by Basho’s inimitable musical vision, I was equally fascinated by the mystique and intrigue surrounding his person.

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Graded on a Curve:
Cream,
1966-1972

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

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

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

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

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

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Gregory Ackerman,
The TVD First Date

“Growing up, there was music playing constantly throughout my house. My father had an extensive music collection that consisted mostly of CDs—stacks and stacks of them, coming out of drawers, falling out of closets.”

“A record player to me was a sign of ancient times. That was until about high school when I started writing and recording my own music. With that came the evaluation of sound and how you capture it and play it back. You always want it to sound the best, right? Well that’s right around when I started listening to vinyl. Once you start to take sound quality into account, there’s no going back.

Sure, I still stream music on a walk or throw a CD in my car’s CD player when I don’t have anything else, but that’s always a matter of convenience, not quality. Vinyl is something completely different. The raw talent and emotions of the musicians are captured right there in the grooves. You just can’t digitally compete with something like that! If I had a choice between vinyl and streaming, I would choose vinyl hands down every time. But, alas, I can’t bring my record player on a run or a road trip through the woods.

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Graded on a Curve:
Jim Stafford,
Jim Stafford

The list of famous country novelty songs is a long one. There have been hundreds–probably thousands–of them. Just off the top of my head: Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue,” Loretta Lynn’s “You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly,” Mark Chesnutt’s “Bubba Shot the Jukebox,” and my dad’s all-time favorite (he sang it all the time), Mac Davis’ “It’s Hard to Be Humble.” Any half-decent country fan could reel off dozens more.

But when it comes to country novelty tune artists, Jim Stafford could just be the king. I grew up listening to “Spiders & Snakes,” “Wildwood Weed,” and “I Got Stoned and I Missed It,” and while I’d never kissed a girl or smoked a joint in my life, I loved the obvious spirit of fun behind all of ‘em.

Stafford has released only three albums, and since 1990 he’s dedicated his energy to operating and performing at the Jim Stafford Theatre in Branson, Missouri (no vanity there, and by the way: should you find yourself in Branson, be sure to stop by Dolly Partons’ Stampede!). Don’t know if he’s plain lazy or doesn’t need the money, but Stafford hasn’t released an LP since 1993. (He has done some acting; he played the role of Buford in 1984’s immortal Bloodsucker from Outer Space.)

Jim Stafford spawned four Top 40 hits, and if there’s one word to describe the LP it’s versatility. You get some swamp rock, a faux-lounge number, a couple of good ole’ country numbers, a blues parody, a rockabilly pastiche, and a couple of songs that pack what can only be described as a hard rock punch. And that “variety” also extends to Stafford’s knack for creating personae; he’s a shapeshifter who is, by turn, a sly hayseed, an aging rockabilly fan, a very confused courter, a Louisiana oracle, and so on.

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TVD Radar: Johnny Marr 7-inch box set “Single Life” in stores 12/6

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Johnny Marr has announced details of “Single Life;” a limited edition 7” Box Set featuring Johnny’s first ten solo single releases, due for release on December 6th.

From 2012’s “Upstarts” to 2018’s “Spiral Cities,” and new live favourite “Armatopia,” the release also contains vinyl debuts for promo-only track “The Messenger,” backed with an exclusive unreleased demo version of “New Town Velocity.” All ten 7” singles are pressed onto coloured vinyl and the set is completed by two limited edition photographic prints, exclusive to “Single Life.” “Single Life” marks the close of the Call The Comet tour, an 18-month run that’s seen Johnny complete a full tour across North America, major summer festival appearances, and sold-out headline shows across the UK and Europe in 2019 alone.

Acclaimed performances at All Points East, Glastonbury, Nile Rodgers’ Meltdown, Edinburgh Summer Sessions, Mad Cool, Pukkelpop and many more saw early 2019 single “Armatopia” fast confirmed a new live favourite. Described by Noisey as “combining Marr’s utopian fixation with crisp synths, a buzzy guitar line and visuals that recall a party at the end of the world. When life feels particularly dark, and it’s easy to wallow, a song like this says ‘fuck it – let’s dance instead.’”

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Needle Drop: Katrina Parker, Stars

Katrina Parker calls back to the classic desert folk pop of yesteryear with lovely new LP Stars.

LA, along with all its starry-eyed glitz and gloom, is clearly the focus of Katrina Parker’s expansive new collection of songs. The singer-songwriter has been fortunate enough to experience the fame, red carpets, and flashbulbs that accompanied her stint on Season 2 of The Voice where she reached the semi-finals. But she also experienced the fallout, making heady choices that derailed her artistic integrity.

For the past few years, Parker has chosen to return to a bit of normalcy and to try to get back to the reason she began singing in the first place. The image she recalled was from her childhood—swinging in the backyard, singing her heart out all by her lonesome, bathed in the natural reverb of her rural surroundings, doing exactly what she was born to do. She continued to cultivate that feeling and began writing again, this time with a clear touchstone for why she was making music.

The result is a heartwarming album that channels the clear-eyed nuance of Gillian Welch, while harkening back to the joyful country pop of Patsy Cline, placing Parker’s rich and tender voice front and center—natural and unadorned as she has intended it this time around.

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Ismay, The TVD
First Date and Video Premiere, “When I Was Younger, I Cried”

“I fell in love with vinyl long before I ever used a record player.”

“It was high school in the 2000s, and I clung onto the aesthetic statement of having a record collection to show. Cat Stevens, The Band, Gregory Alan Isakov—it would take years before I was able to listen to those vinyl records. It’s not that I didn’t know the music, because I just bought those same albums on iTunes. But I listened without the connection between those physical pieces and the music on them. I had no access to a record player, and besides, I didn’t really know that it would be any different.

But when I dropped out of college, I spent some time in New Mexico, where my friend had a small a-frame house in a tiny town right where the Great Plains met the Rocky Mountains. Most of the living space was dedicated to records, and without internet or cell service, listening to records became the focal point of our days. I found that listening to the records from my walls on iTunes just wasn’t the same as experiencing vinyl in its fullness.

It was there in New Mexico that I grew a deep connection to music, and in particular for the records we had like Songs: Ohia, Michael Hurley, and Mata La Pena. I fell in love with this music that I would never have listened to just on a digital format. Some of these records couldn’t be found digitally at all. Moreover, I listened to what would normally be considered the in betweens. Those lesser known songs, silences underscored by needle scratch, and my favorite vinyl sound of all—the sound of music coming out of a record when the speakers weren’t on, just from the movement of the needle.

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Graded on a Curve:
Ringo Starr,
Blast from Your Past

Beatles fans, stop your incessant bickering about who’s the better artist, Paul McCartney or John Lennon! Because let’s face it, Ringo Starr beats the MBEs off both of ‘em! He’s a hit machine, a genius and a true Starr! And to those who would say otherwise I say, well, to HECK with you!

I don’t base my opinion on the fact that Ringo is the humblest and most lovable Beatle. No, all one has to do is compare his best of, 1975’s Blast from Your Past, with those of the other members of the Fab Four. It’s got a higher winner to loser ratio (90%, and that’s only if I call “Beaucoups of Blues” a loser, which it ain’t!) than John Lennon’s Shaved Fish (64%) Wings’ Wings Greatest (50%), and George Harrison’s The Best of George Harrison, which I refuse to even consider seeing as how its first side is composed solely of Beatles’ era songs.

And not only does Ringo have a better batting average–he’s also a lot more fun. Sure Lennon’s “Cold Turkey” (to pick just one song) is a harrowing depiction of heroin withdrawal blah blah blah, but do I ever listen to it? Of course not! It’s a stone bummer! And yes, Paul the Frivolous has written some lovably lightweight songs over the years, but he’s also the spitwit responsible for “Silly Love Songs,” “Let ‘em In,” and “Ebony and Ivory,” which makes him a horrible person in my book! And don’t even get me started on that nebbish George Harrison. No, Ringo’s the King, and I say that not as a fan but as a completely objective party who Ringo just paid me to say that!

Look, I would call Ringo the Greatest but I don’t have too since he comes right out and says he is in “I’m the Greatest,” just one of the delicious trifles that make Blasts from Your Past as indispensable an album as, well, pick an album, any album! And just in case you think Ringo’s only good for producing trifles, I give you “Photograph” (as touching a song as you’ll ever run across) and “It Don’t Come Easy,” which has George Harrison’s fingerprints all over it but who gives a shit!

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TVD Radar: Pet Sematary, OST 2-LP
in stores now

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Waxwork Records is proud to present Pet Sematary Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Christopher Young.

Directed by Dennis Widmeyer and Kevin Kölsch (Starry Eyes), Pet Sematary is a 2019 supernatural horror film adaptation of the popular 1983 novel of the same name by author Stephen King. The story follows a husband and wife that move with their young son and daughter to a new home in Maine. After the accidental death of their daughter, the grieving father exhumes her and buries her in a burial ground known to bring loved ones back from the dead. This act ultimately dooms the family. Ghosts and grief make this particular film adaptation of King’s works the darkest to date.

Composed by Christopher Young (A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, Hellraiser, Drag Me To Hell), the music of Pet Sematary is dark, dissonant, and synth driven to create an atmosphere of dread and grief that spirals violently out of control. Young sonically captures the ominous supernatural element of the film and its story with his decades long experience of expertly scoring some of the most notable and beloved horror movies, ever.

Waxwork Records is thrilled to present the original soundtrack to Pet Sematary as a deluxe double LP featuring 180 Gram “Church” colored vinyl, new artwork by Christopher Shy, composer liner notes, old-style gatefold jackets, and printed inserts.

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Demand it on Vinyl:
Fats Domino, I’ve Been Around 12-CD/DVD in stores 11/8

VIA PRESS RELEASE | All the singer-pianist’s defining work for Imperial and ABC-Paramount is compiled on comprehensive 12-CD/1-DVD collection.

Bear Family Records, the international gold standard for excellence in music reissues, offers the most in-depth look yet available at the groundbreaking R&B and rock ’n’ roll hits of the pioneering New Orleans singer-pianist Fats Domino in its new box set I’ve Been Around, to be released November 8, 2019. The monumental collection contains 312 tracks comprising all the Crescent City titan’s work for Imperial Records, for which he cut his first and greatest hits from 1948-1962, and ABC-Paramount Records, his recording home from 1963-65. A motherlode of originally unreleased alternate takes, undubbed and unedited masters, and newly discovered instrumental backing tracks, is included.

Domino (1928-2017) was the first major artist to explode off the R&B charts and into the teenage consciousness during the 1950s. He made his mark both as a session pianist behind Big Joe Turner, Lloyd Price, and Smiley Lewis (whose work backed by the keyboardist is heard on I’ve Been Around) and as a star in his own right, notching hit after hit with his sunny vocalizing and romping, rolling work on the 88s.

He changed American music in the process by crafting universally popular songs that bridged the then seemingly vast chasm between African-American and white audiences. New Orleans bandleader Dave Bartholomew called him the “cornerstone” of rock ’n’ roll.

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