Category Archives: The TVD Storefront

TVD Radar: Harold Alexander’s Sunshine Man vinyl reissue in stores 2/23

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Harold Alexander was a competent saxophonist and dynamic flutist whose early and mid-’70s albums for Flying Dutchman and Atlantic blended originals, soul/jazz and R&B effectively. Alexander recorded three albums (including a live Montreux Jazz Festival record in 1972) and contributed to various other recordings during his career.

​After a very brief period of recording music, from about 1967 to 1974, Alexander disappeared from the music scene. He is alleged to have commented on the music industry by saying: Most people don’t know what happened to me…I guess they think I’m gone. They didn’t kill my spirit, but they killed my desire to share.” Before his removal from the scene of recorded music, Harold Alexander provided the world with some incredibly funky jazz fusion tracks with a distinct otherworldly craziness.

​His most recognized LP is 1971’s Sunshine Man on Flying Dutchman Records. On that album, the most sought after groove is the straight up banger “Mama Soul,” which features insane scatting over a delicious funky flute and organ driven beat. An immaculate six minutes of mental vocals and Alexander’s flute doing exactly what the vocals are doing. It comes as no surprise that “Mama Soul” was sampled multiple times by artists from Blackalicious to DJ Shadow.

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Noiseheads,
The TVD First Date and Video Premiere, “Wait”

“We love making music videos. Doesn’t matter if it’s a big production or small budget, high-level concept, or run-and-gun—making videos is the one aspect of being in a band that we enjoy most and we’ve been fortunate enough to make all kinds.”

“The video for “Wait.” was shot over 24 hours and pays homage to every music video we’ve created thus far. The tone of it matches much of the imagery surrounding the album artwork and photographs taken for it… retro and alien.

The original cut of the video is in 4:3, the standard format in the pre-HDTV world, intentionally calling to the Sitcoms part of the album title. We shot in 30fps, high-speed, and time-lapse. The 360° version features a wall of TVs programmed to the music in Matrix-like fashion, composed of raw footage from the shoot as well as actual images from previous music videos hidden throughout.

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Company of Thieves,
The TVD First Date

“Vinyl has connected me to my father all my life.”

“As a young girl, I used to spin around the hardwood floors of our listening room at home in Chicago while my dad played Beatles’ records out of a big old Victrola speaker, the kind that bell out like soft open flowers and fill the whole space with warmth.

He grew up a true fan through Beatlemania and loved music so much that he ran his high school radio station and worked out a deal with a record shop across the street from his school that would let him play Top 40 records on the air if he promoted their store…amazingly, he had collected all of the originals by the time he was a teenager.

Rubber Soul was my favorite and I distinctly remember that when I first heard the harmonies come in on the chorus of “Girl,” I really woke up to the idea of being one, what that meant, and how singing that word in that way could sound so important and special and provoking.

Something that has always stuck with me was when my parents got divorced, my dad decided to sell all of his Beatles’ vinyl to make rent in the transition. Oh, it breaks my heart.

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Graded on a Curve:
Uriah Heep,
Demons and Wizards

Who was it who said, “He came to mock, but remained to pray?” It doesn’t matter. But such was the case–to a degree any way–when I decided to “relisten” to Uriah Heep. I’ve always loved “Easy Livin’,” but when I was but a teenage droogie I plunked down some hard-earned money for a Uriah Heep 8-track that quickly made its way to the bottom of my 8-track pile. And I haven’t thought of them, except to chuckle at their risible swords and sorcery pretensions, since.

So imagine my surprise when I turned on 1972’s Demons and Wizards–chortle, chortle–only to discover I rather liked the thing. Sure, the lyrics are the work of somebody who has spent far too much time amongst hobbits. And David Byron’s histrionic tonsils–his voice has more octaves than there are steps on the stairway to heaven–occasionally make Geddy Lee sound like Paul Rodgers. But I’ll be damned if Demon and Wizards doesn’t have something up its sleeve–namely some good songs featuring some dandy playing. It’s not some progressive rock nightmare, it’s a rock ’n’ roll album, at least in its better moments, and Demons and Wizards has plenty of very good moments.

Demons and Wizards is fantasy-drenched right down to its head shop cover art by the infamous Roger Dean, and I expected to hate it for that reason alone. There’s nothing I despise more than your standard dungeons and dragons imagery, and Demons and Wizards has all the makings of a dungeon torture device. Things start inauspiciously enough; LP opener “The Wizard” boasts some awful lyrics featuring “a magic man” who wears “a cape of gold,” and I wanted to call it a day right then and there. Then I realized “The Wizard” might as well be a Styx song, and I have a perverse liking for Styx. There was, absurdly, hope in the air.

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Graded on a Curve:
Doctor Ross,
Memphis Breakdown

Charles Isaiah Ross, known to blues aficionados as Doctor Ross, and additionally as the Harmonica Boss, was born in Tunica, Mississippi. In the early ’50s, he cut his first sides at Memphis Recording Service, which was soon to be known as Sun Studio. Noted for his wild, primitive, one-man band style, Ross was often recorded with accompaniment, though this ultimately did little to streamline the raw exuberance of his approach. The man’s verve bodaciously flows across both sides of Memphis Breakdown, a tidy 14-track collection that corrals the highlights of Ross’ sessions for Sam Philips; it’s out now on vinyl and compact disc through ORG Music.

Spurred in large part by a youthful interest in Brit blues-rock, I developed into a full-blown teenage blues nut. It was the real uncut stuff I was digging: Muddy, Wolf, Elmore, Sonny Boy, Hooker, Lightnin’, and Little Walter, and the interest made me something of an ’80s anomaly. Although I was eventually seduced by punk and the underground rock of the era, by my senior year I was primed for another plunge into the blues, and Rounder’s series of Sun Records reissues, which included four tracks from Doctor Ross on Sun Records Harmonica Classics, delivered with undiluted gusto.

Ross’ initial November 1951 meeting with Philips yielded two songs that ended up on a Chess 78, credited to Doctor Ross and His Jump and Jive Boys, though the record’s only other participant was guitarist Wiley Galatin (Ross hadn’t yet added the acoustic to his arsenal); neither “Doctor Ross Boogie” nor it’s flip “Country Clown” is offered on Memphis Breakdown, but the mouth organ hypnosis of “That’s Alright (Goin’ Back South)” from the same session, is.

For a second Philips session the following year, Ross, now in one-man band mode, was augmented with the piano of Henry Hill and the washboard of Rueben Martin. It produced five songs, two of which are featured here. The instrumental “Left Job Boogie” exudes an incessant groove that can be connected to John Lee Hooker and the hill blues of R.L. Burnside, while the jug band flavored “Polly Put Your Kettle On” illuminates the pre-blues influences that lingered into the second half of the 20th century.

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TVD Radar: Ryuichi Sakamoto’s Async Remodels remix vinyl
LP in stores 3/2

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Aysnc Remodels is the upcoming companion release to Ryuichi Sakamoto’s acclaimed album Async from earlier this year.

Winning praise from everyone from the New York Times, Esquire, FACT, Rolling Stone, The Fader, and Pitchfork, it’s no surprise that some of the most exciting producers and artists lined up to offer their own voices, sounds, and perspectives as counterpoint reinterpretations to Sakamoto’s original compositions. Async Remodels is set for a 2/16 release for CD/digital and 3/2 for vinyl on Milan Records. Listen to Cornelius’s new remix of “ZURE,” streaming now.

Async was Ryuichi Sakamoto’s first solo album in 8 years. Taking inspiration from everyday objects, sculpture, and nature, Sakamoto composed and arranged the sounds/music that he most wanted to listen to. Paying close attention to the essence of each track and carefully balancing the sounds with a less-is-more perspective, what remains are singular expressions of Sakamoto’s current mindset, and one of his most personal albums. Revisit Sakamoto’s journey in creating Async at the New York Times.

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Percival Elliott,
The TVD First Date

“I suppose my love of vinyl started at a young age, maybe around 3 or 4.”

“I remember my father revealing mystical, UFO shaped frisbees from card sleeves, and then carefully landing the crafts onto a merry go-round, placing the probe, crackle, pop then boom… magic. I was instantly transported somewhere else, be it the wondrous soundscapes crafted by Pink Floyd or the tales of the past recounted by the galloping harmonised guitars of Iron Maiden. My mum likes to remind me of the time I climbed up and turned the stereo up to full blast, hit play, then jumped out of my skin. I like to imagine it was like the opening guitar scene from Back to the Future. I doubt it was that cool.

At the age of around 6 I was exposed to Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds. Whilst I loved it on first listen, I was kept awake at night by the images of huge space ships engulfing the world with red weed. I like to think that if you are able to remember the first time you ever heard a particular record, then it holds a special place in your heart. Vinyl for me somehow captures a humanistic sound quality that CD and digital files don’t. To me the perfection of vinyl lays somewhere between the weathered and worn, with every scratch telling a story.

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Graded on a Curve:
Kate St. John,
Second Sight

If one is familiar with The Dream Academy, then one is familiar with Kate St. John, even if her name rings no bells of recognition. But to focus upon her contribution to that group is to give her considerable short shrift, as she’s a multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, producer, and musical director. Along with membership in the New Age art-pop supergroup Channel Light Vessel, she also issued two solo records in the ’90s. Second Sight was the second and best, and it’s making its vinyl debut on double 180-gram clear wax. Remastered by Tim Story, with a high-resolution art print, the limited edition of 500 is available now through Curious Music.

Before she was in The Dream Academy, Kate St. John was one of The Ravishing Beauties with Virginia Astley and Nicky Holland. Noted for live shows with The Teardrop Explodes, their only recording is an April 14, 1982 Peel Session, though one of the songs, “Futility,” which was adapted from a poem by Wilfred Owen, did turn up on a New Musical Express tape sampler. The whole thing’s hosted on Astley’s website, providing a cool listen that lends insight into what St. John was up to before “Life in a Northern Town.”

The Dream Academy were more than that song (their biggest hit in ’85), releasing three albums in fact, but more pertinent to this review is what came after. Along with playing oboe and sax on a series of Van Morrison’s ’90s albums, she recorded The Familiar with Roger Eno, a collaboration that led directly to the formation of Channel Light Vessel. Featuring St. John, Eno, Bill Nelson, Laaraji, and Mayumi Tachibana, they released two discs, The Automatic in 1994 and Excellent Spirits in ’96 (the second without Tachibana).

The stature of the participants establishes Channel Light Vessel as a supergroup, and the lack of hubbub over their output might suggest they failed in meeting expectations. This isn’t borne out by listening, as both discs have their moments, though there is more than a hint of an ambiance this writer associates with ’80s high-end stereo culture, particularly with The Automatic. From the vantage point of 2018 (and the years chalked up getting here), this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Moody Blues,
Go Now–The Moody Blues #1

We remember The Moody Blues’ Ray Thomas who passed away on Thursday, January 4 with a look back from our archives. Ed.

Though the music they produced was only fitfully successful, the Denny Laine-fronted incarnation of The Moody Blues deserves to be remembered for more than a momentary chart fling topped by a gem of a single. In ’65 they released an album at home and another in the US under distinct titles, both holding a dozen tracks and with a third of each LP also unique. The better of the two, Go Now–The Moody Blues #1, was issued in the States by London Records.

Heavy on covers and by extension lacking in gestures toward originality, the ’64-’66-era Moody Blues are unlikely to be many people’s (I’ll stop short of saying anybody’s) most beloved component in the British Invasion. In fact, talk of the group today reliably focuses on the post-Denny Laine/Clint Warwick lineup that saw new members John Lodge and Justin Hayward helping to transmogrify the Moodies into one of the leading if artistically lesser examples of Symphonic Rock. I won’t sully the Prog genre with an inapt association since there was hardly anything progressive about The Moody Blues Mk 2.

Instead, they exemplified the Middlebrow impulse, though that’s ultimately a separate discussion. This piece concerns a band that came together when the leader of Denny Laine and the Diplomats joined up with a bunch of nameless Birmingham hopefuls, their main desire hitting it big or even just making a good living; they briefly played as the M & B 5, the initials an attempt at landing sponsorship from two local beer brewers (last names Mitchell and Butler). And similar to many of their contemporaries, The Moody Blues’ method at least initially was the borrowing and alteration of Rhythm and Blues.

And they did storm the charts with “Go Now,” in the process overtaking in popularity the terrific Leiber and Stoller-produced original by Bessie Banks, though the idea of the cover destroying the source’s commercial hopes is basically a myth. Banks’ tune was released by the Tiger label in January of ’64 while The Moody Blues’ version didn’t emerge until the following November, eventually peaking at #10 in the US in February of ’65 (it took top Brit honors a month earlier).

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TVD Radar: Justin Hinds, Travel With Love and Know Jah Better reissues in stores 2/23

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Justin Hinds topped the charts in Jamaica with his 1964 hit “Carry Go Bring Home” and eventually recorded a staggering 70 singles for the Treasure Island Records label with his backup vocalists the Dominoes. After a short stint with Mango Records in the ’70s, the ska and rocksteady pioneer returned to the studio to record material for Nighthawk Records.

Omnivore Recordings will re-release the two Nighthawk albums, Travel With Love (1984) and Know Jah Better (1992) — the former with ten bonus tracks (seven of which were previously unreleased) — on February 23, 2018. Travel With Love, originally released in 1984, combined Hinds and the Dominoes’ classic past with the evolving reggae sound. The original album’s eight tracks were supplemented with a CD bonus track three years later, and eventually two more songs were unearthed for a 2015 LP reissue. With Omnivore Recordings’ acquisition of the Nighthawk Records label in 2017, even more material has been discovered and added, to create the definitive version of this classic.

The original Travel With Love was followed almost a decade later by Know Jah Better, in 1992. This time, Hinds moved from his roots and embraced the dancehall scene, while never abandoning the benchmarks of his classic sound. Know Jah Better demonstrates the constant evolution of this Jamaican music legend, always the innovator.

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