The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
Victoria Williams
& the Loose Band,
Town Hall 1995

In 1993 Victoria Williams gained a wide audience through Sweet Relief, a star-studded covers disc intended to aid in paying her mounting medical bills related to multiple sclerosis. In ’94 she hooked up with a gaggle of high-profile help to cut Loose, which stands as her best-known studio album, and a year later she took the songs out on tour with the Loose Band. Recordings were made, and earlier in 2017 Fire Records put Town Hall 1995 on vinyl for Record Store Day. Copies of the LP are still available, and on July 28 it’s out on compact disc and digital.

Like most people, I guess, I passed on checking out Victoria Williams’ debut Happy Come Home when it was released by Geffen in 1987, and did the same when Swing the Statue! trickled into store racks via an ailing Rough Trade in 1990; the label’s (temporary) demise through bankruptcy insured a lack of promotion when the artist really could’ve used it, but through a variety of activities (playing with Giant Sand, acting in Gus Van Sant’s Even Cowgirls Get the Blues) she continued plugging away into the early ’90s, prior to the diagnosis of MS delivering a severe setback.

Today, it’s common knowledge that Williams triumphed over the disorder, but upon Sweet Relief’s emergence in 1993 matters weren’t so certain. Celeb benefits regularly ooze a self-satisfaction that can breed a lack of urgency and listener cynicism, but the motivation behind Sweet Relief felt right, even if the performers assembled, which included alternative heavyweights Pearl Jam, Soul Asylum, and Evan Dando, varying strains of alt-country in Lucinda Williams, Giant Sand, and The Jayhawks, and the aging cool of Lou Reed, ranged in one’s personal esteem.

This fact only reinforces the worth of Williams’ songwriting, which flowered even further on her breakthrough album Loose; released by Mammoth in the afterglow of Sweet Relief, the label also rescued Swing the Statue! from consumer purgatory during the same period. As stated above, akin to the almost ludicrous lineup producer Anton Fier assembled for her debut, Loose is loaded with guests; amongst a mess of session cats, there’s half of R.E.M., Dave Pirner, the Tower of Power Horns, Rose Stone, and arrangements by Van Dyke Parks, who also assisted on her debut.

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A morning mix of news for the vinyl inclined

In rotation: 7/25/17

Why Vinyl’s Boom Is Over, As purists complain about low quality and high prices, vinyl sales taper off; Gillian Welch and David Rawlings cut their own records: Old LPs were cut from analog tapes—that’s why they sound so high quality. But the majority of today’s new and re-issued vinyl albums—around 80% or more, several experts estimate—start from digital files, even lower-quality CDs. These digital files are often loud and harsh-sounding, optimized for ear-buds, not living rooms. So the new vinyl LP is sometimes inferior to what a consumer hears on a CD. “They’re re-issuing [old albums] and not using the original tapes” to save time and money, says Michael Fremer, editor of and one of America’s leading audio authorities. “They have the tapes. They could take them out and have it done right—by a good engineer. They don’t.”

Pasadena, Whittier bookstores, record sellers are enjoying a Millennial-led resurgence in sales: Young people are leading to the retro trend, experts say. David Sax, who wrote “The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter,” said millennials, who grew up on digital technology, crave products offering a tactile experience. They also might just be bored with looking at screens, Sax said. “For many of them, especially as they get younger, digital technology is not anything new and magical — it is kind of the norm,” Sax said. “Analog is a choice.”

Vinyl makes comeback in suburban Melbourne: Australia will again make vinyl music with the nation’s first modern record press on track to open after a production hiatus of more than 30 years. The new plant is due to start operations in the Melbourne’s northern suburbs early next year and will double as an event space, hosting launches and other musical acts. “We want to make great records, support the Australian music scene and have fun along the way,” Program Records spokesman Steve Lynch said.

Putting The Record Straight: Of all comebacks, none is as son­orous as this. Veteran ‘vinylhead’ Jaydeep Joy aka Jazzy Joe, hums a happy tune as his fingers flip through the scores of rec­ords lining the racks at Radio and Gramophone House, New Delhi. And one can imagine long-haired youths from long back dancing to the tune of Aao Twist Kare, as he lays the newly pressed record of Bhoot Bangla on the turntable, placing the needle gently into the groove. Jaydeep is not alone in being ent­hralled by the scratchy perfection of Long Playing or LP records.

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TVD Washington, DC

TVD Live: Steve Earle and The Dukes with
The Mastersons at the Birchmere, 7/18

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | It’s a brash move to close out a show on one of the hottest days in the DC metro area with a song called “Christmas in Washington,” but Steve Earle’s career has been one of brash moves.

He started his generous show at The Birchmere in Alexandria, VA., Tuesday with a handful of songs from an album that’s only been out a month, beginning with its title track, “So You Wanna be an Outlaw.” The collection followed an all blues and a lighter approach with Shawn Colvin on a duet album, he returned to ringing outlaw country, inspired by old Waylon Jennings and a couple of songs he had written for TV’s Nashville.

Backed by a stomping version of the Dukes that was sweetened by pedal steel and fiddle, he eventually brought in those early career anthems like “Guitar Town” and “The Galway Girl” (its bagpipe sounds courtesy of the keyboards). The Christmas song was less about the season and more about the chorus, “”Come back Woody Guthrie, come back to us now.” He had just lead a singalong “This Land is Your Land,” with its own new Trump Tower verse and Guthrie’s spirit was hanging in the air.

“Christmas in Washington” was written on another disappointing election 20 years earlier: The Democrats rehearsed getting into gear for four more years / Things not gettin’ worse / Republicans drink whiskey neat and thanked their lucky stars.

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TVD Chicago

TVD Live Shots: James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt at Wrigley Field, 7/17

I’m starting to forget that baseball is actually played at Wrigley Field because it’s becoming one of my favorite concert destinations. One week ago James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt took to the stage at Chicago’s historic ballpark for a night of easy listening nostalgia.

Bonnie Raitt opened the evening with a fun set and some surprise covers—notably, the Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House” and INXS’ “Need You Tonight.” But the emotional highlight came during her stunning version of “Angel from Montgomery,” a song that’s not just special to me but, she noted, her as well. In between songs she took in the sights, “I hope wherever my folks are they’re digging this view right now.” She also expressed her gratitude to James Taylor, a lifelong friend, before he joined her on stage for “Thing Called Love.” “It’s an astonishing thing to be here tonight and on this tour,” she remarked.

James Taylor kicked off his headlining set with crowd pleaser “Carolina in My Mind.” His demeanor suggests that he’s the nicest, most considerate, wonderful man on the planet. Seriously, if you couldn’t tell by listening to his songs, you can tell by watching his interactions with his band and the crowd.

He’s funny too. During “Sunny Skies” home videos and photos of James with his dog (who he later described as having a “potato body”) ran across the monitors. He explained, “If you run out of sexy you gotta go cute,” to a roar of laughter from the crowd. The set carried on with one hit after another from his deep catalog of music, culminating in another duet with Bonnie (“You Can Close Your Eyes”) to conclude the evening. It was a memorable summer night at Wrigley—one that I won’t forget.

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The TVD Storefront

TVD Radar: Superchunk to reissue debut on vinyl, in stores 8/25

VIA PRESS RELEASE | On August 25, Superchunk will reissue their self-titled album on vinyl for the first time since its initial release, and on Merge for the very first time. The remastered LP features updated artwork and includes an 11” × 17” replica of an early Chunk show flyer, with photos and notes from the band on the reverse.

Both CD and LP include a digital download of Clambakes Vol 9: Other Music From Unshowered Grumblers – Live in NYC 1990, a show recorded at CBGB just four days after the album was released. The first 250 LP orders will receive the album on vibrant opaque orange vinyl, and both CD and LP orders will include a large foldout poster of the woodcut used on the cover art, while supplies last. In addition, all pre-orders will be entered into a random drawing to win one of 25 original doodles by Laura Ballance! Pre-order Superchunk now on CD and limited-edition orange vinyl in the Merge store, where this release, along with the entire Superchunk catalog, is on sale for 10% off through July 25!

Mac shared his memories of these early days of Superchunk: “When I listen to our first album now, other than cringing at some clams and the vocals and the juvenile attitude of the whole thing… what was I angry about? You’ll have to ask 21-year-old me because in my memory, we were having fun. I hear the accumulation of our influences, which I suppose is normal for a first album—weaving all the things you loved up to that point into your own first thing. The Buzzcocks, Hüsker Dü, Dinosaur Jr, and Sonic Youth are all right there and what we were listening to.

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve: Coulson, Dean, McGuinness, Flint,
Lo & Behold

You know what I miss? The days when I didn’t know jack shit about music. This adolescent would catch a ride to the J.G. McCrory Store—part of a once mighty but long-gone chain of five and dimes—in nearby Hanover, Pennsylvania to spend what little money he had on albums by artists he’d never heard of pulled from McCrory’s legendary cut-out bins. Sure I got burnt—some of the albums I goggled at there I haven’t seen since, so fly-by-night dubious were the contents therein—but once in a while I would return home with a real treasure.

I didn’t find Coulson, Dean, McGuinness, Flint’s 1972 album Lo & Behold back then, but it has all of the glorious hallmarks of a serendipitous discovery purchased on pure whim at that ghostly McCrory’s on Hanover’s main drag a thousand years ago. Who are these guys? Don’t ask me. (Okay, so it turns out Tom McGuinness once played bass and guitar with Manfred Mann—who produced Lo & Behold—and Hughie Flint once played drums for John Mayall. As for Dennis Coulson (the band’s lead singer) and Dixie Dean (on bass), they were journeymen just like McGuinness and Flint. The most interesting thing I can think to say about this band is that Neil Innes—one of the brilliant minds behind the Bonzo Dog Band—played piano with them for a short while.)

But on Lo & Behold CDMF makes up for what they lack in name recognition by pulling off one hell of a coup. Lo & Behold is an album of Dylan covers, most of them dating to Dylan’s incredibly fecund sojourn with the Band at the rented house they called Big Pink in West Saugerties, New York in 1967. Dylan and the Band produced some of the finest American music ever made during Dylan’s famed period as rock’s greatest recluse, and Coulson, Dean, McGuinness, Flint work real magic on Lo & Behold, which anybody interested in hearing musical alchemy at work should seek out.

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The TVD Storefront

TVD’s Press Play

Press Play is our Monday recap of the new and FREE tracks received last week to inform the next trip to your local indie record store.

Anastasia Minster – When I Die
Brad Peterson – What The Open Heart Allows
J Hacha de Zola – No Situation
Kazyak – Basin
Stephen Doster – Something Good
Ephrata – Odds
Omega Vague – Drown
Kacey Johansing – Bow And Arrow
Mark Bryan – If You Saw Her

The Darkness – All The Pretty Girls

Apsley – Fear
Beth // James – Bring Your Fire To Me
General Crush – Beautiful Day
20 Minute Loop – Mercury Vapor
Houses of Heaven – Black Waves
R. Kelly – Ignition Remix (Pink Panda The Good Life Remix)
Chris Rivers – TRI Force Freestyle
Jahn Rome – Safe & Sound
Carbin x Milz x Top $helf – Pull Up

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A morning mix of news for the vinyl inclined

In rotation: 7/24/17

Australia to get first modern vinyl pressing plant in 30 years: Program Records is set to open in Melbourne in 2018 and will come fully equipped with WarmTone presses, with makers Viryl Technologies claiming them to be the fastest pressing time in the world. The Canadian company says its fully automated machines can press a record in just 30 seconds. The factory will initially be offering 12-inch pressed at 140 and 180 grams and plan to offer 7-inch and 10-inch pressing in 2019. Custom colour options will also be available. Founder Steve Lynch says: “Program Records will focus on supporting the local music scene backed by a data driven and highly efficient production facility. Australia has a great music scene that deserves to have affordable, good quality vinyl made here on time.”

Electric Fetus’ Bob Fuchs on the vinyl revival: Start being sorry you gave away all your vinyl records (if you ever had any), or didn’t want your parents’ or grandparents’ collection, or don’t have a turntable. Vinyl is back. In fact, vinyl records are so popular that Sony, the biggest of the Big Three record labels, recently announced that it will start pressing them again, as soon as March 2018, in a new factory near Tokyo. The last time Sony made a vinyl record was 1989. Bob Fuchs knows more about the music business locally than anyone. The general manager of the Electric Fetus, a longtime Minnesota mainstay, he has seen it all firsthand in his 30 years there (he started in the record department in December 1987).

Yesterday & Today: Early DC punks shopped, worked at record store: Almost 40 years ago, the door opened to an unassuming record store in a strip shopping center in Rockville and became a rallying point for music fans and members of D.C.’s fledgling punk and alternative scenes. In September 1977, Skip Groff opened the Yesterday & Today record shop at 1327 Rockville Pike. “The rent was remarkably cheap for what I considered to be a prime location,” said Groff, sitting in his living room in Montgomery County. “When I started in 1977 it was $450 a month.” As the punk music scene began to percolate, Groff, who had served stints as a disc jockey at WINX and WAVA, and had worked in the record industry doing promotions for RCA, opened his independent store. This was the year that bands including The Ramones, Blondie, and Talking Heads released American singles, which Groff couldn’t sell.

The Smiths announce deluxe The Queen is Dead vinyl box set with unreleased recordings: The Smiths are releasing a deluxe version of their 1986 album The Queen is Dead on 20 October 2017. The vinyl set includes the first take of ‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out’, along with demos and b-sides taken from their third studio album. The news comes over a month after the band teased a possible reissue of the album on social media. Hopefully this release will go more smoothly than their ‘The Queen is Dead’ single reissue earlier this year, which drew the ire of Morrissey after HMV implemented a ‘limited to one per customer’ policy.

Nightmares of an Erstwhile Record Store Manager: I have a recurring nightmare. It isn’t always the same, but it always involves a last-minute, present-day reopening of Hollywood Records and Tapes, the record store I managed decades ago. Until one day when it was abruptly shuttered by the building owners following a bank foreclosure. In my dream, I’m freaking out — rushing around, un-boxing 8-tracks, installing LP racks, and trying to remember how to fill out an Ennis form. Because customers are coming any minute now and we’ve been closed for 32 years! Ancient history. But memories of losing “my” music shop came flooding back when I heard that the Roosevelt Row home of Revolver Records is for sale. Wide awake, that news brought a flood of my own long-ago panic when one day my record store was no longer there.

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TVD Los Angeles

TVD’s The Idelic Hour with Jon Sidel

Greetings from Laurel Canyon!

Well the old world may be dead / Our parents can’t understand / But I still love my parents / And I still love the old world / Oh, I had a New York girlfriend / And she couldn’t understand how I could / Still love my parents and still love the old world / So I told her: / I want to keep my place in the old world / Keep my place in the arcane / Cause I still love my parents and I still love the old world

Well, the truth is I still love my parents. In fact I hope my kid will always love me too—and occasionally return a text.

This weekend Goldenvoice and LA native Sean Carlson host the annual FYF Festival. I’ve always been proud of the fact that Sean, the FYF festival creator, was once a short-lived intern for me at V2 Records. The truth is Sean didn’t do the greatest job—the kid was going places too fast to work at a record label.

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TVD Washington, DC

TVD Live: The Zombies at the Birchmere, 7/17

Half a century ago this summer, The Zombies were in Abbey Road studio working on an album that would both break up the band and bring them back together decades later. Fifty years later, they were winding up another US tour whose center point was a group of songs from that album that only grew in stature over the years, Odessey and Oracle.

In a show at The Birchmere in Alexandria Monday, the songs soared as lovely chamber pop concoctions—“Care of Cell 44,” “A Rose for Emily,” and “This Will Be Our Year,” leading into their biggest hit, “Time of the Season.” Oddly, it was that last one that didn’t seem well executed—the handclap, drumbeat, breath that was the basis of its precise backbeat seemed shaky (perhaps because they left the handclap to the audience), the keyboard solo by Rod Argent want a little long and wandered a little far afield, the big choral singalong a bit wanting (again because of the audience).

Overall, the group known for its bad timing (they broke up before “Time of the Season” became a hit and wouldn’t reform to tour or otherwise capitalize on it) sounded extraordinarily great. That’s because the vocals of lead singer Colin Blunstone, operatic and high ranging, seemed untouched by the passing years, perhaps because he’d been resting it so long. Argent’s voice wasn’t bad either, though he hid it most of the night, even on songs from his project following the Zombies, also called Argent.

There was more British rock royalty in this small unit: bassist Jim Rodford, who had co-founded Argent, went on to play with the Kinks from 1978 until the band stopped touring in 1996. He also spent time in versions of the Animals and the Swinging Blue Jeans. He’s 76; Argent and Blunstone are 72. The two younger members of the band, drummer (and son) Steve Rodford and guitarist Tom Toomey—both seemed to have white hair in sympathy with their elder bandleaders.

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