The TVD Storefront

Needle Drop: Violet Sands, “Gone”

Brooklyn-based trio Violet Sands are relatively new to the scene, but their artful electro-pop musings feel crafted by the steady hand of a master.

Spearheaded by guitarist Derek Muro and vocalist Deidre Muro, the band has come to be known by their synthesis of shoegazey riffs and electo-chillwave production. Their newest single, “Gone,” is a dreamy slice of synth pop that isn’t in a rush to prove itself, revealing it’s power through dynamic shifts in arrangement and world-weary lyricism.

Derek shares, “‘Gone’ is about losing your way in life, being confused and still pressing on despite the temptations of escapism. It’s trying to be comfortable in face of the unknown. We started the song as part of our album HOTEL in Los Angeles immediately before I moved back to New York. The song definitely has a quality of a big life move embedded in it.”

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
The Best of 2018’s Reissues, Part Two

Part two of our reissue spotlight extends the diversity; there is live jazz, the early recordings of an icon, some heavy funk, and rock in varying shapes, sizes and levels of strangeness. It all gets capped off with a bountiful helping of vintage African sounds and a series of releases from one of post-punk’s defining bands.  

5. Thelonious Monk, Mønk (Gearbox) + Bud Powell, The Essen Jazz Festival Concert (ORG Music) Uncovered recordings of great artists are likely to bring reassessments, and so it is with this live platter of Thelonious Monk’s quartet from Copenhagen in 1963, the tape of which (made by the Danish Broadcasting Corporation) was reportedly saved just before being carried off in the trash (it was found in a skip). The reevaluation here relates to this incarnation of Monk’s quartet, which features bassist John Ore and drummer Frankie Dunlop together with Monk’s longstanding tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse. A fine band, and the unit that brought us Monk’s Dream in fact, but not a lineup that has previously stood out as spectacular on live recordings. With this retrieval, the group is now documented as having a great night.

ORG’s The Essen Jazz Festival Concert, which finds Bud Powell in a quartet setting with tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, drummer Kenny Clarke, and bassist Oscar Pettiford, is not a new discovery. However, giving it a deep listen on the occasion of its reissue provided the opportunity to further revise my assessments regarding the work and the troubled, ultimately tragic life of Powell, who was amongst the greatest pianists in the history of jazz. In short, a recurring stream of thought concerning Powell’s later recordings has been that they are to varying degrees subpar, and while I won’t deny that there are some rough patches in the discography, this performance from Essen, Germany is not one of them. This is not to say that the show isn’t without faults, but most of them aren’t Bud’s, and if this isn’t as strong an affair as Mønk, the opportunity to contemplate Powell in the ’60s without a black cloud hanging over the proceedings is very much appreciated.

4. Nina Simone, Mood Indigo: The Complete Bethlehem Singles (BMG – Bethlehem) + Betty Davis, Nasty Gal (Light in the Attic) Shoddy reissues predate the CD era, but the flood of visually unappealing, noncontextualized releases probably hit its peak in the ‘90s. I won’t deny that I sometimes took the bait and bought some otherwise unenticing releases because there was no other way of hearing the contents, and I indeed picked up a bunch of underwhelming packages in gathering the Bethlehem singles of Nina Simone, specifically because no label ever bothered to package them all together. Well, this year BMG and producer Cheryl Pawelski did, and their smart gesture is a joy to hear as it underscores the depth of Simone’s ability on her earliest recordings. Much of the record (available on CD and on vinyl with a bonus 7-inch) finds Simone singing and playing piano alone with results that are sublime, and while bassist Jimmy Bond and drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath do occasionally back her in a jazz framework, this collection forecasts the wide range of her later work. It provides a fabulous opportunity to soak up the brilliance of the artist long before her career struggles set in.

If Nina Simone suffered from a refusal to be boxed into a single category, the issue with Betty Davis was that she was simply ahead of her time. Musically and sexually bold in an era that seemed primed for acceptance, the aggressive funk of this intense, liberated woman was ultimately too much for the listening public at large to handle, as it wasn’t as openminded a time as has often been claimed; naturally, she’s sustained a cult following in the ensuing years. About a decade back Light in the Attic reissued her ’73 self-titled debut and the following year’s They Say I’m Different, the pair opening the eyes of many, and in 2016 they dished her largely unheard early recordings as The Columbia Years 1968-69. It’s all worthy stuff, but this year they returned to print Davis’ third and best solo LP from ’75, a slab of funk so heavy and wild of personality that her career essentially stalled. If you dig Funkadelic but have yet to get hip to Nasty Gal, you’re in for a doozy.

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A morning mix of news for the vinyl inclined

In rotation: 12/12/18

Baltimore, MD | True Vine owner says he is being forced out by Golden West: The True Vine Record Shop, a Hampden-based record store that has been recognized as one of the nation’s best for its eclectic offerings and shelf space for experimental genres, says it is being forced out of its Hickory Avenue storefront by an unlikely foe: the Golden West Cafe, a funky Tex-Mex restaurant around the corner, on W. 36th Street. True Vine posted the news on its Instagram account Sunday, saying the popular Hampden eatery bought the shop’s sublet lease and plans to use the space as part of an expansion. As Baltimore Fishbowl reported last month, Golden West has taken on a new investor to start a vegan-focused bakery and open other Golden West locations, as well as expand its current footprint to include an events room and a space for live performances. “We cannot stay because golden west’s new investors do not find us to be a financially lucrative business compared to what they envision as financially lucrative, which is an extension of golden west,” the post from True Vine said.

Columbus, OH | Craft & Vinyl offers records, beer, live music in one-stop shop: At Craft & Vinyl, the name says it all. After only three months in business at 1806 W. Fifth Ave., Columbus, between Grandview Heights and Upper Arlington, the store is making a splash as a haven for fans of records, craft-beer aficionados and songwriters. “It’s built to look like an art gallery,” said owner Troy Stacy. This description holds true at the vibrant new shop. Upon entering Craft & Vinyl, one sees a record store that pays homage to the days of classic rock and metal. The walls are crowded with concert posters — all of which are for sale — designed by renowned poster artist Mike Martin. The record shelves are stocked with the likes of everything from Iron Maiden to Jimi Hendrix. Customers also are greeted by a bar that boasts local craft-beer selections and that feels conducive to the environment Stacy seeks to promote.

Harrisburg, PA | Mr. Mike’s Record Store going out of business: The end of an era is approaching for a downtown Harrisburg record shop. Mr. Mike’s Record Store will be closing its doors after nearly 33 years. Michael Albert opened his business on South Third Street in 1986. Over the years, the shop specialized in R&B and rap, but Albert was known for getting records or tapes from his distributor that weren’t available at other record stores in the city. Albert also promoted live concerts at the Forum and other city venues, and he hosted autograph sessions in his store that included some of the biggest names in the business, including MC Hammer, Kid ‘n Play, and the Fresh Prince, Will Smith. Albert says close at the end of the month was a difficult decision. “It is the toughest decision I made,” he said. “These last two years, I didn’t make any money and I had to dig into my own pocket to keep the store open.”

Vinyl Collecting 101: Properly Maintaining Your Wax: If you are reading this, you probably have a new-found or existing respect for vinyl records and all that they have to offer. Truly, vinyl is making huge strides in renewed popularity, partly because of a format that allows listeners to enjoy an emotional connection with the experience of listening to warm sounds generated by oversized discs housed in colorful covers. While the appeal of owning a vinyl collection, large or small, varies in importance according to the collector, the methods for buying, transporting, playing, and storing are relatively set in stone. Keep reading to learn more about how to preserve your music collection for many years…Checking the condition of a vinyl record begins by carefully taking it out of the cover and visually inspecting it. While dust is to be expected, ground-in dirt is not. Use these tips to avoid problems

The Prince Estate in Partnership with Legacy Recordings Announce First Wave of Physical Titles (CD/Vinyl) in Definitive Catalog Rerelease Project: The Prince Estate and Legacy Recordings, a division of Sony Music Entertainment, are pleased to announce the first round of physical titles set for release as part of the ongoing and definitive Prince catalog project first announced in August. Three essential full-length Prince albums, Musicology, 3121 and Planet Earth, will be available on CD and – for the first time ever – on vinyl beginning Friday, February 8, 2019. Each of the vinyl titles will be pressed on highly collectible, limited edition purple vinyl. In addition, the albums will be available in both CD/LP form alongside new exclusive merchandise corresponding to each album era via the Official Prince Store.

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TVD Washington, DC

TVD Live: Rufus Wainwright at the Music Center at Strathmore, 12/8

Rufus Wainwright is an accomplished enough figure in music, having just opened his second opera, that he needn’t have to look back. Lucky for his longtime fans that he is, marking his 20th anniversary in show business with a tour that showcases his first two albums, which made for an elegant and stirring evening Saturday at Bethesda’s Music Center at Strathmore.

With the impeccable genes—son of the wry singer/songwriter Loudon Wainwright III and Canadian songbird Kate McGarrigle—the young Wainwright has nonetheless forged his own career, with beguiling songs and strong tenor aching toward showy standard pop to such a degree that he presented his own version of Judy Garland’s 1961 concert at Carnegie Hall. (Wainwright’s heady genes will continue: He and his husband have a daughter by way of Leonard Cohen’s daughter—what pressure she will have to be a poet and songwriter).

It seems to be as interesting for Wainwright as it is for his audience to look back on the early days of the debut Rufus Wainwright and Poses. Unlike other acts who recreate old albums, he didn’t present the songs of the first in order, or even all of it (leaving out three tunes). But he did do all of Poses in the second half, in order, and without the charming and funny commentary between tunes that he used in the show’s first half.

Wainwright takes care with these songs, doing them better and with more confidence and stretching them out to such a degree that when he did the little ditty “Millbrook,” it seemed short by comparison. He had a bit to say about his mother, and his French Canadian upbringing, but little about his dad, whose “One Man Guy” he did straightforwardly, as he did on his second album.

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The TVD Storefront

TVD Radar: King Diamond, Songs For The Dead Live 2-LP, DVD/
Blu-ray in stores 1/25

VIA PRESS RELEASE | On January 25th, King Diamond will release a new DVD/Blu-ray, Songs For The Dead Live, via Metal Blade Records.

There is only one King Diamond, and for more than thirty years the great Dane has been dropping classic albums and putting on shows fans remember for the rest of their lives. Perhaps the only downside to having such a formidable catalogue is that there are just too many great songs to fit into a single set. However, you would be hard-pressed to find a fan who wouldn’t want to hear 1987’s seminal Abigail in its entirety, and Songs For The Dead Live captures this, twice, and in very different locales.

Boasting eighteen songs per set, each of the two shows – Belgium’s Graspop Metal Meeting in June 2016 and Philadelphia’s Fillmore in November 2015 – feature a brace of classic King Diamond and Mercyful Fate tracks including “Welcome Home,” “Halloween,” and “Eye Of The Witch” before launching into Abigail. The performances of the all-star lineup of musicians, comprising of guitarists Andy LaRocque and Mike Wead, bassist Pontus Egberg and drummer Matt Thompson, are absolutely ferocious, hammering home every single moment.

Captured on film by director Denise Korycki for Wild Wind Studios, she worked closely with King on every aspect of filming, and throughout the viewer finds themselves front and center as the shows unfold. This includes some inventive camera placement, such as riding in on the back of the wheelchair as it is wheeled out to “Out From The Asylum” at the start of the show, or looking up from the coffin at the commencement of Abigail opener “Funeral,” which adds an extra dimension to proceedings.

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Demand it on Vinyl: Dennis Coffey, Live at Baker’s in stores 3/1

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Dennis Coffey’s first recording date was in the 1950s, when the guitarist was only 15. Years later, he would become a member of the famed Detroit session group the Funk Brothers, playing on hits like Edwin Starr’s “War” and laying down the solo on the Temptations’ “Ball of Confusion.” He also performed on tracks with Parliament/Funkadelic, Wilson Pickett, Chairmen of the Board, and produced Cold Fact for Rodriguez. That’s some resume!

But, even as a session musician, Coffey shines brightest playing live, as evidenced on the acclaimed One Night at Morey’s: 1968, a previously unissued set released last year. Street date for Live at Baker’s is set for March 1, 2019 via Omnivore Recordings, available as CD and Digital. Live at Baker’s brings Dennis’ performance legacy into this century, with Coffey and his band (two-time Detroit Music Award winner Demetrius Nabors on keys, Grammy®-nominated Gaelynn McKinney on drums, and bassist Damon Warmack) tearing through nine tracks, which include covers of Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Miles Davis, Jimmy Smith, and The Temptations — plus a searing version of Coffey’s own Top 10 1971 hit, “Scorpio,” one of the first songs by a white artist played on Soul Train. “Scorpio” has been sampled over 90 times, ensuring that its captivating qualities will be enjoyed for generations to come.

Live at Baker’s, recorded in 2006, features liner notes from author/ journalist Bill Kopp and a new interview with Coffey. According to Kopp’s notes: “It’s a rare electric guitarist who can serve up dazzling fretwork while simultaneously displaying good taste. Detroit-based guitarist Dennis Coffey is just such a musician. And he’s been doing it consistently — onstage and in countless recording sessions — since the middle of the 1950s.

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TVD UK

UK Artist of the Week:
M. Rexen

Born in the United Arab Emirates and now based in Copenhagen, multi-instrumentalist M. Rexen has been fast building a reputation for his immense live performances, wowing audiences with his vivacious spirit, and a full 10-person band. Now, having received acclaim from the likes of Noisey, he’s shared another unconventional alt-pop gem.

Propelled by fast-paced funk-fused beats and uptempo blasts of brass, “Henrï” was written as an ode to his best friend, bandmate, and muse Henrï Gibbs (known for his work with Mellah). Flowing with Rexen’s soulful, impassioned vocals and a gritty edge, we’re treated to a colourful performance, building with a sweeping vibrant power to an anthemic, theatrical cacophony.

Fusing together a vast array of eclectic elements—self coined as “Wildstyle”—Rexen has created a truly uplifting sonic delight, unique in its quirky charm.

Watch the poignant new video for “Henrï” above and make sure you catch one of M. Rexen’s charismatic live shows as soon as possible!

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
The Best of 2018’s Reissues, Part One

As we continue our look back at the best of 2018, the gears shift to reissues of the non-boxed variety, covering post-punk, global sounds, jazz, and a sprinkling of American originals. Overall, a bounty of goodness, and this is just part one.

10. The Fall, I Am Kurious Orang (Beggars Arkive) + Cocteau Twins, Treasure (4AD) It’s testament to the late Mark E. Smith’s brilliance that The Fall, simply one of the essential and singular pillars of post-punk, was also a great singles band. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that a significant portion of new Fall listeners initially engage with the band (featuring a plethora of lineups, but always with Smith in the driver’s seat) through compilations, increasingly drawn from their myriad 45s and EPs. That’s cool, and I can relate; while I’d heard them prior through a few V/A comps, my first Fall vinyl was a dog-eared used copy of 77-Early Years-79. While I don’t think the band’s long string of LPs is suffering from lack of exposure, it was still nice of Beggars to reissue I Am Kurious Orang, which is one of The Fall’s less celebrated but fully realized albums, shortly after the label graced the world with a fresh edition of 458489 A Sides. Conceived as the soundtrack to a ballet by Michael Clark, it was a return to restless ambition after a dalliance with pop respectability, and it sounds as sweet now as it did in ’89.

I’ll admit that a touch (okay, a lot) of nostalgia informs my present-day interaction with I Am Kurious Oranj. But that’s okay; we all have our fond remembrances (and madeleine moments). This also applies to Treasure, the 1984 LP by Cocteau Twins, though even deeper recollections are tied to their ’88 effort Blue Bell Knoll. But Treasure, which featured the solidified union of singer Elizabeth Fraser, guitarist Robin Guthrie, and bassist Simon Raymonde, was around too, and it was frequently just the right ethereal capper to hours of noisy, punky racket. Other records suited the same purpose, but few have held up as well as this one; hell, some don’t hold up at all. Part of the reason Treasure sounds even better now than it did back then is directly related to the group’s pushing into uncharted territory. Of ’80s bands, they are amongst the most distinctive, and while they are now often cited as an early practitioner of dream pop, the Twins render as inadequate the vast majority of that style’s contempo offerings. Treasure is one of the few ethereal recordings that can be aptly described as heavy, and it still sounds magnificent today.

9. Joseph Spence, Bahaman Folk Guitar: Music from the Bahamas, Vol. 1 (Smithsonian Folkways) + Stella Chiweshe, Kasahwa: Early Singles (Glitterbeat) We’ve been graced in 2018 with a wonderful batch of vinyl reissues from Smithsonian Folkways including essential discs from Lightnin’ Hopkins, Woody Guthrie, Dock Boggs, and Pete Seeger, but the best, and certainly the most idiosyncratic, of the bunch is this Sam Charters-recorded dose of Bahaman guitarist Spence. While the man’s warmly rhythmic playing and his incessantly tapping feet secure his stature as one of the greats of international folk, its his loose and largely wordless vocalizing that has spurred countless unwitting listeners to quickly inquire “what in the hell is this?” Growly but joyous and yeah, weird but in a thoroughly unforced way, Spence was an utter original in an enduring scene that regularly values authenticity over individualism. Just thinking about the guy can get his music stuck in my head for days. I think about him a lot.

We move from the late ’50s in the Bahamas to the ’70s and early ’80s in Zimbabwe through the superb collecting of the early work from renowned mbira player and singer Chiweshe, whose inroads to international prominence largely began with the ’87 release of Ambuya?; it came out in the US via the Shanachie label as part of that decade’s boom for what was then tagged as World Music. That’s a cool record, but I’ll confess to liking this one a lot more as it quickly gets to mbira music’s beautiful core in the documentation of Zimbabwean traditional sounds made for Zimbabweans. It’s been a fine year for reissued global stuff, with the Analog Africa, Ostinato, and Akuphone labels bringing much goodness, but Kasahwa: Early Singles is amongst the very best as it spotlights something of a rarity; a female master of the mbira. I’m no expert in the instrument, but after numerous spins of this record I feel safe in claiming Chiweshe takes a backseat to nobody.

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A morning mix of news for the vinyl inclined

In rotation: 12/11/18

Albany, NY | After 70 Years, Blue Note Record Shop Still Going Strong: Blue Note Record Shop has been in the community for 70 years. Located at 156 Central Avenue in Albany, the music store specializes in vinyl and sells modern albums too. Blue Note was founded by the current owner’s parents, and he says generations of families make their way down to the store as a tradition. The business booms even more during the holidays thanks to iconic Christmas bops that are still alive today. Owner Biff Pock says there’s no coincidence sales are higher during the holidays. He says listening to classics is even better on vinyl. “That’s what mostly what the holidays are about. You know, being with your family, reminisce about the wonderful memories, and enjoying the holiday spirit. And that’s the beauty of vinyl. And it becomes a wonderful memory,” said Pock.

Essex, UK | This vinyl shop stocks one of the largest vegan wine selections in the UK: A couple has opened a vinyl record and organic, biodynamic vegan wine shop in Manningtree, Essex. The shop, appropriately named Winyl, is the brainchild of duo Whilmari Swift and Steve Tattam. Local news source East Anglian Daily Times reports that Tattam has more than 20 years experience selling vinyl, starting back in the late ’80s, when he worked for Virgin Megastore. Tattam eventually moved on, but said that the resurgence of vinyl prompted him to consider other career options. According to a report released by global data firm Nielsen last year, record sales have been on the rise for 12 consecutive years, with vinyl representing 14 percent of all physical album sales last year…Why unite records with vegan wine? Last September, Swift told the Harwich and Manningtree Standard that both are a passion of her husband’s.

Juneau, AK | Hit records: Vinyl shop sells out fast: Pop-up shop draws record-hungry crowd. The tartan tarp in the Alaskan Brewing Co. tasting room might as well have been a matador’s cape. Once it was lifted, a stampede started toward the boxes of records present for KXLL’s Pop-Up Record Shop Thursday evening. “When we started, we’d have eight boxes, and there’d be people throwing elbows,” said Annie Bartholomew, program director for KXLL. For the most recent shop, Thursday, Dec. 6, there were multiple rows of boxes and plenty of space in the new tasting room, although vinyl vultures made their passes through the wares in tight clusters. McLean Steadman was one of the collectors on hand before the shop opened. He’s been collecting records for about 20 years, he said. Most recently he came into record-playing equipment when a friend upgraded what they had and old gear found its way to Steadman.

Trinidad and Tobago | Cleve’s music store owner dies at 72: Cleve Calderon, founder of Cleve’s One Stop Music Shop, has died. Calderon, 72, started working in the music business at his cousin’s shop, Rhyner’s Record Shop at age 11. In 1994 he opened Cleve’s after giving up a career as DJ Nutcracker 2000. Since then, the popular music store continued to be the go-to place for music lovers to get local and international CDs and used records. The store remains operational on Frederick Street, Port of Spain. Calderon’s daughter, Krisann Calderon, told Sunday Newsday her father was ill and in and out of hospital for about a month before he died at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope on Friday at 3.30 pm. She said he and his family were prepared for the inevitable. “He was a very simple person. You tell him this is what it is and he just accept it for what it was. He was at peace.”

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TVD San Francisco

TVD Live Shots: Metallica at the Golden
1 Center, 12/7

The hot ticket in town this past Friday was Metallica at the Golden 1 Center which should not come has a surprise since this is the first time in nine years that the band has played this city. Riding high on the 2016 release of Hardwired… to Self-Destruct, the band delivered a scorching set to the capacity crowd.

The evening kicked off with comedian Jim Breuer and his trusty sidekick Joe Sib warming up the crowd with games, tunes, and (of course) comedy, making the wait bearable as the clock ticked past 9 PM. When the lights finally dropped and the “The Ecstasy of Gold” started blaring through the PA, the entire arena stood at attention waiting for the band to emerge.

Having performed in the round for well-over two decades, Metallica has truly mastered this format for live shows and the Hardwired set was truly epic. Dozens of cube-shaped LED screens dropped from the ceiling keeping the attention of the crowd even as the band roamed every inch of the stage. Add the occasional pyro and flames from which you could feel the heat from almost anywhere in the venue, and you’ve got yourself a true spectacle. And if that’s not enough, during “Moth Into Flame,” drones emerged from trap doors in the stage and buzzed around the band members’ heads.

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The TVD Storefront

Demand it on Vinyl: Johnny Mathis, I Love My Lady, lost pairing with CHIC in stores 2/1

VIA PRESS RELEASEJohnny Mathis was billed on his very first album as “A New Sound in Popular Song.” In the decades since that 1956 debut, the vocalist has always explored new avenues in pop from Latin music to Philly soul. But the most adventurous of Mathis’ 60-plus albums may be the one that got away…until now.

In late 1980, Johnny teamed up with the white-hot CHIC production team of Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, fresh off triumphant collaborations with artists including Sister Sledge and Diana Ross, for I Love My Lady. Mathis took his voice into new, uncharted territory on eight anthemic, club-ready tracks that pushed the envelope of rhythm and blues as they incorporated funk, jazz, disco, and dance rhythms.

Despite the irresistible beats, incomparable vocals, and of-the-moment production, Columbia Records shelved I Love My Lady in 1981. Yet its legend only grew as the years passed. In 2006, house music duo The Shapeshifters even tantalizingly sampled a track from one song (“Love and Be Loved”) while the full track remained in the vault.

Finally, beginning in 2010, its songs began to trickle out on compilations, and in 2017, I Love My Lady was issued for the first time as part of a Mathis box set. Now, Real Gone Music and Second Disc Records are proud to present the first-ever standalone compact disc of this remarkable album by two American treasures: Johnny Mathis and CHIC.

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The TVD Storefront

TVD Radar: Xymox, Twist of Shadows 2-LP vinyl set in stores now

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Gothic vocals shrouded by synthesized atmospherics greet you upon entering the world of Xymox.

While their album Twist of Shadows isn’t exactly industrial in its sound, the bpm’s run mid-tempo and sound totally danceable in a New Order-ish way. This expanded remastered release includes the club hits “Obsession” and “Blind Hearts,” along with several rare 12″ mixes and B-sides. A couple of the tracks have string arrangements by famed producer Tony Visconti, who was responsible for several of David Bowie’s landmark releases.

The two LPs are housed in a gatefold jacket complete with lyrics, and the artwork was designed by Vaughan Oliver of 4AD fame. Originally released in 1989, this is the most accessible Xymox album, selling over 300,000 copies, and their first on a major label. The 2-CD remaster also contains 10 bonus tracks in all with some very rare 12″ mixes and B-sides which have never been available on CD.

Xymox’s Twist of Shadows is out now as a limited 2-LP vinyl set (500 translucent red & 500 black) and as a double CD set via Pylon Records.  

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve: The Best of 2018’s Box Sets

Hey, it’s that time again. The time for reflecting on the year that has been (boy howdy, what a year it has been), and the time for making lists of the year’s best releases (there have been a few). Box sets and expanded releases are up first!

10. V/A, Technicolor Paradise: Rhum Rhapsodies and Other Exotic Delights (Numero Group) Back in the ’90s, the rediscovery of the ’50s-’60s genre known as Exotica was an unexpected but welcome thing. However, it gradually devolved into a lounged-out situation that embodied retro Rat Pack shenanigans rather than the tropical island approximations of Martin Denny. As the Buckinghams so eloquently put it, ‘twas kind of a drag. This set however, is decidedly not a bringdown.

Sure, booze is mentioned in the title and additionally in the subcategories of the three LPs packaged in this exquisitely designed and deeply annotated set (another top-notch job from Numero), but instead of a soundtrack for the return of the Cocktail Nation, the vibe is solidly in the tropical mood music zone. That means the aroma (some would say stench) of cultural appropriation is strong, but it’s all part of a highly listenable history lesson, the majority of which you’re unlikely to have previously heard.

9. V/A, The Complete Cuban Jam Sessions (Craft Recordings) Offering sounds of roughly the same era as the release above, The Complete Cuban Jam Sessions is utterly lacking in kitsch or resurrected, reevaluated detritus, so if Technicolor Paradise’s blend of trend-hopping and surface-level cultural swiping and contortion isn’t your bag, this baby might be, given you dig groove heat produced by the sparks of improv.

While not reassessed castoffs from a dusty box moldering beneath the record store discount bin, that doesn’t mean the five LPs compiled here haven’t suffered from long periods of neglect and general shoddiness when previously reissued. Part of the joy of this collection (as is the case with so many of the best reissues) is how the music, specifically two sessions led by Julio Gutiérrez with one each by Niño Rivera, Israel “Cachao” López, and José Antonio Fajardo, basks in clarity as it’s given its belated due, here in large part through the tenacity of co-producer Judy Cantor-Navas.

8. Guru, Jazzmatazz Deluxe Edition (UMG – Urban Legends) By the time this “experimental fusion of hip-hop and jazz” hit in 1993, I was already neck-deep in jazz research and was steadily devouring East Coast hip-hop, so unlike some folks of my acquaintance, Jazzmatazz didn’t provide an epiphany as to the worthiness of either form or furthermore, that they would blend well together (as Stetsasonic, A Tribe Called Quest, and Guru’s own crew Gang Starr had already illustrated the potential of the stylistic union).

What Jazzmatazz made abundantly clear was that hip-hop could thrive in relationship to live jazz instrumentation across a whole album in contrast to what had largely been the prior norm of cherry-picking choice bits via sampling and looping. That it works may seem obvious in retrospect, but this record, here expanded to three LPs through remixes and instrumental versions, is considered groundbreaking for a reason. It also holds up like a champ and is one of the best rap releases from a decade loaded with quality from the genre.

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
Levon Helm,
Electric Dirt

Talk about your survivors; legendary Band drummer/vocalist Levon Helm was 69 years old when he released 2009’s wonderful (and moving) Electric Dirt, and he packed a whole lot of very hard living (and a near fatal case of throat cancer) into those 69 years.

But this proud son of cotton farmers from Turkey Scratch, Arkansas triumphed over it all, and went out on a valedictory note with a pair of twilight LPs (2007’s Dirt Farmer garnered him a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album in 2008) that did nothing but enhance his status as one of the most distinctive vocalists and drummers of the rock era.

Helm may have run with real slick customers (Bob Dylan and Robbie Robertson, for starters), and he spent his fair share amount of time atop the Big Rock Candy Mountain, but he never lost that rural twang. His singing was equal parts white clay grit, visionary yowl, and sly country swing, and it provided some much needed American coloring to Robbie Robertson’s Canadian songwriting palette–he was the only fella in the Band who could have pulled off “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”

The years that followed the break-up of the Band were no kinder to him than to anybody else in the group; he messed around some, landed a memorable movie role or two, and put together some great touring bands and played his ass off, but his recording career was spotty at best.

Which is what makes the last two LPs he recorded before his death so wonderful. On Dirt Farmer he reached way, way back to explore his folk roots; come Electric Dirt he stretched out and went the funky Americana route, and ended up winning the first ever Grammy Award for Best Americana album for his efforts.

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A morning mix of news for the vinyl inclined

In rotation: 12/10/18

Harrisburg, PA | ‘I’m just a guy who owns a record store.’ Mike ‘Mr. Mike’ Albert remembers 33 years in business: The secret to a good pop song, as anyone who’s ever fallen in love during the three minutes and thirty-four seconds it takes to get from triumphant beginning to the often melancholic end, is the beauty of the memory it holds. Births. Deaths. First loves. Break-ups. First cars. First jobs. First and second marriages. The pop song, disposable by design, becomes something more permanent: A soundtrack for our lives. As he looks around the store he’s operated in various spots on South Third Street for 33 years, Mike Albert hears echoes in every corner. The friends he’s made. The musical legends he’s met. And, perhaps, most of all, the usual Saturday morning crew of regulars who have given shape to his days. But on Dec. 29. the needle will run out on the groove, as Albert, owner of Mr. Mike’s Records, puts the key in the door a final time.

Fort Worth, TX | Christmas Wax: Fort Worth suddenly has a glut of record stores for your holiday-buying needs. “Do people still buy records?” This is a question I’ve heard asked by Boomer dads at Off the Record (the Near Southside record store/watering hole where I tend bar on Sundays), and I think it’s an odd thing to ask when, in plain sight, directly opposite the bathrooms, there’s a shelf about 2 feet deep, 4 feet high, and 15 feet long stocked with vinyl albums festooned with price tags… As of December 5, 2018, Fort Worth proper has five stores dedicated to selling vinyl records, and that’s not even counting Truth Vinyl and Growler Records in Arlington, Vintage Freaks in Bedford, Forever Young in Grand Prairie, the three Half-Price Books locations in Tarrant County, nor Record Town on South Main Street, which mostly sells CDs. Since the holiday shopping season lies upon us like a cheerful, pine-scented fog, what follows is a rundown of Fort Worth’s record stores, should a vinylphilic music fan be on your list of gift recipients.

Boulder, CO | Absolute Vinyl hopes to find groove in Longmont: Shop is city’s second old-school record store. An oversized cut out of “Aladdin Sane”-era David Bowie peaked out from behind a dozen or so boxes of vinyl records marked “Bluegrass, Country & Americana. Ambient & Electronic and Hip Hop A-K” inside a downtown Longmont storefront Tuesday afternoon. Mr. Bowie awaited his place on the walls inside Doug Gaddy’s most recent incarnation of Absolute Vinyl Records & Stereo, opening a mere eight months after he shuttered his Boulder location that served vinyl fans for nearly a decade. At the time, it seemed Gaddy was making a permanent exit from the realm of the brick-and-mortar record shop, a rarity in this age of online retail. The closure left Boulder with only two record stores, Bart’s Records and Albums on the Hill. When Absolute Vinyl opens on Friday, Longmont will become a two record shop town. The other shop is Recycled Records LP.

The Ruts’ Debut Album ‘The Crack’ Set For 40th Anniversary Vinyl Reissue In February: The legendary punk album’s new edition was remastered at Turan Audio and cut to vinyl at Abbey Road Studios. Trailblazing West London punks The Ruts’ legendary 1979 debut album The Crack has been remastered and is set for reissue on vinyl via Virgin/EMI/UMC on 8 February 2019. The album’s new edition was remastered by Tim Turan at Turan Audio and cut to vinyl at Abbey Road Studios. Released in September of 1979, the band’s one and only studio album The Crack was an extraordinary statement of intent. As the energy and attitude of punks first wave started to dissipate, here was a band that exploded onto the scene with everything to offer. The Crack includes twelve power-packed songs brimming with invention and energy and it featured an outstanding run of hit singles – ‘Babylon’s Burning’, ‘Something That I Said’ and ‘Jah War’ – alongside some of the best adrenalized rock music to emerge in that decade’s closing.

‘Dawn to Dusk’ Music Playlist #28 – White Label Records’ co-founder Darren Tan: Discover the permanent record chart by this vinyl maestro. Every Wednesday we ask a creative, artisan, or musician to share what music gets them going from dawn to dusk. This week, Darren Tan—co-founder of e-commerce music platform#vinyloftheday and the recently-opened White Label Records at Ann Siang House (together with Kurt Loy)—name his mood fixers for an entire day. So you’ve heard Loy’s picks last week. Dig it? You may like Tan’s choices too. After all, the duo has a matching frequency in music. As a fellow DJ and vinyl buff, Tan dedicated his time to celebrate vinyl culture through audio-visual online project #vinyloftheday. “Vinyl records attach more ‘sentimental’ value to music than digital formats such as MP3”, Tan expressed. “More fans in their late teens getting into vinyl because a lot of popular indie bands nowadays are putting out their releases on vinyl.”

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