Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores, April
2018, Part Three

Part three of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for April, 2018. Part one is here and part two is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Linda Perhacs, I’m a Harmony (Omnivore) I stupidly flaked on getting the word out on Perhacs’ newest recording when it dropped last fall, but here’s the Record Store Day 2LP edition to give me another chance. Although her debut Parallelograms came out in 1970, it took decades for folks to tune in to her frequency, with Perhacs eventually benefiting from the interest of freak folkies. However, her work lacked predictable unity with these New Weird Americans, and her two “comeback” albums have widened the distance; here, standout cut “The Dancer” is evocative of Kate Bush, and elsewhere she (and a loaded roster of guests including Julia Holter, Nels Cline, Devendra Banhart, and Durga McBroom) radiate similarities to folktronica, samba pop, psychedelia and more. A-

Anywhere, II (ORG Music) The first album by this project of Christian Eric Beaulieu (ex-Triclops!) was a star-studded affair (released for Record Store Day 2012) that exuded a heavy raga-rock vibe (self-described as eastern acoustic punk) with comparisons made to the work of Sandy Bull and Jack Rose, but with a harder edge. This one’s even more packed with notable contributors (including Krist Novoselic, Dale Crover, Phil Manley, and for a return engagement Cedric Bixler Zavala) enough so that bassist Mike Watt, heard extensively on the first record, is limited here to one track. II maintains the raga tendencies, but rather than affirm the hipper namedrops above, if I may be so gauche, I’ll observe that parts of this even rockier effort are somewhat Zeppelin-like. This is intended as a compliment. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Wire, Nine Sevens (pinkflag) Kicking off a slate of early Wire reissues for 2018 is this dandy singles set, which rounds up six 45s for the Harvest label (including the killer and I suspect underheard non-album singles “Dot Dash” b/w “Options R” and “A Question of Degree” b/w “Former Airline”), the “Our Swimmer” b/w “Midnight Bahnhof Café” disc for Rough Trade, the 4-song EP tucked into the initial pressing of 154, and the tracks found on side two of the “Crazy About Love” 12-inch EP transferred to 7-inch. A few cool twists do emerge, like Pink Flag cut “Ex Lion Tamer” providing the flip to Chairs Missing’s “I Am the Fly,” but overall, this effectively relates in abbreviated form the magnificent essence of this crucial band’s ’77-’80 run. Experience it any way you can A+

Duck Baker, Les Blues Du Richmond : Demos & Outtakes 1973-1979 (Tompkins Square) Guitarist Duck Baker is a treasure. My introduction to his work came through his ’96 CD Spinning Song, where he played the music of the great jazz pianist-composer Herbie Nichols; digging around hence in his sizable discography has never disappointed. His first album came out on Stefan Grossman’s Kicking Mule label in ’75, but before that he cut a demo which takes up the first side of this LP. Blending deft fingerpicking with a couple of 1920s vocal numbers and an interest in free jazz, Baker’s wide influences cohere into a highly individual and accessible experience even at this early stage, and side two’s stuff from ’77-’80 captures his sharpened, broadened, and deepened playing. Guitar fans, don’t dally. A

David Axelrod, Song of Innocence (Now-Again) For heavy electronica heads and hip-hop crate diggers Axelrod probably needs no introduction, but in short, he was a ’60s producer (for The Electric Prunes, and extensively for Lou Rawls and Cannonball Adderley) who in ’68 began his own ambitious orchestral-jazz-psychedelic rock odyssey on Capitol Records’ dime. Songs of Innocence was his William Blake-inspired debut, and if all these ingredients hint at a hippie era disaster of mind-expanding pretense, the results are instead a joy loaded with skilled arrangements, advanced studio technique, and a thoughtful approach to fusion. While it’s easy to glean the era of origin, Axelrod’s boldness of conception was matched with consistent good taste, so I’m guessing this sounds better now than it did back then. A

Tim Buckley, Live at the Troubadour 1969 (Real Gone) Last autumn the Manifesto label issued the Venice Mating Call 2CD and the Greetings from West Hollywood 2LP, both derived from Buckley’s appearances at L.A.’s Troubadour club in September of ’69. Initially released in 1994, this was the first taste from that run of shows, and for Buckley fans I’d say it’s indispensable. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect; in the pursuit of broader folk-jazz regions, Buckley’s singing could occasionally flirt with the sort of histrionics that sunk many a late ’60s vocalist, but when his flights of expressiveness were unstrained, which is most of the time here, the mofo is really on. Plus, he’s working with the stellar band of guitarist-pianist Lee Underwood, bassist John Balkin, drummer Art Tripp, and percussionist Carter C.C. Collins. A-

Ornette Coleman, An Evening with Ornette Coleman Part 2 (ORG Music) Contrary to what’s still listed on the Record Store Day website, the first part of this 1965 performance from Croydon, England is a straight reissue (offered on Black Friday of 2016) of the first album from the original 2LP on Polydor (also issued later by Arista Freedom as The Great London Concert and on separate LPs by Black Lion). Part 2 offers sides three and four, and largely because it lacks the lengthy piece for wind quintet (which endures as an insightful, but not jaw-dropping listen) it’s the stronger of the individual records. Blue Note’s two live Golden Circle volumes are the apex of the trio lineup with drummer Charles Moffett and bassist David Izenzon, but this remains a superb document of Coleman’s always evolving sound. A

Compton’s Most Wanted, Music to Driveby (Get on Down) Although there’s a nifty cameo by Scarface on “N 2 Deep,” the third full-length by Compton’s Most Wanted essentially fulfills MC Eiht’s transition to a solo career in all but name. As Eiht’s rapping is sturdy, he’s able to handle the spotlight (due to the absence of Tha Chill on all but one track, prior effort Straight Checkn ‘Em was a solo dry run, anyway), moving from bread and butter depictions of street-life struggle to dis tracks (targeting DJ Quik and Tim Dog of “Fuck Compton” infamy) to misogyny, unfortunately (in “Hoodrat” and “U’s a Bitch”). However, the aspects of Music to Driveby that have aged poorly are offset by a sample attack and production (by Eiht, DJ Mike T, Master Ric Roc, The Unknown DJ, and DJ Slip) that’s consistently engaging. B+

Dumptruck, Wrecked (Schoolkids) Formed by Seth Tiven and Kirk Swan in early ’80s Boston, Dumptruck made some considerable collegiate waves before getting stymied by legal problems relating to the bankruptcy of their label Big Time. New album Wrecked was initially conceived as a comeback with input from both songwriters, but it was then decided that Swan would use his songs for a solo album. Tiven and bandmates soldiered on, and if the results aren’t massive there are still a few lessons here for newbies about the finer points of melodic rock. The main (moderate) limiting factor is a few lesser numbers, but nothing sinks so low as to be skippable, and amongst the dozen selections can be found a few gems; I especially dig the three-punch combo of “Smile,” “Talk,” and “Swept Away.” B+

God’s Children, Music Is the Answer: The Complete Collection (Minky) This archival LP documents what happened when Lil’ Ray and Little Willie G, both former vocalists for the noted Chicano rock outfit Thee Midniters, joined up with vocalist Lydia Amescua with the goal of a mixed gender, bi-cultural experience in the ballpark of the 5th Dimension or Three Dog Night. Adding backup singers Fawn and Stacy Rymal, the results are closer to the sunshine pop charms of the Dimension than the putrid strains of Three Dog, but this is a modest achievement, as most of what’s here, if grasping at varied stylistic possibilities along the way travels unswervingly down the Middle of the Road. These 14 tracks derive from sessions, one with the Wrecking Crew, that ultimately produced two 45s for the Uni label. B-

Bunk Johnson, Rare & Unissued Masters: Volume 1 (1943-1945) (ORG Music) A legend in the history of New Orleans jazz, Johnson’s 1940s career resuscitation helped to solidify his status, even as the trumpeter’s embellishment of his early years distorted his achievements and persistent alcoholism lent inconsistency to his performances and recordings. Making its vinyl debut after hitting CD back in 2014, this collection of three dates, one a duo with pianist Bertha Gonsoulin in ’43 San Francisco and the others by Johnson’s bands (featuring clarinetist George Lewis and drummer Baby Dodds) in the Crescent City shortly thereafter, registers as solid throughout. The version of chestnut “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” is a marvel of instrumental emotionalism. A-

Harry Nilsson, Pussy Cats (Real Gone) Much of the historical allure here is tied up in Nilsson’s friendship with John Lennon (who produced the LP) and his participation in the ex-Beatle’s legendary “Lost Weekend” escapades; during Pussy Cats’ recording Nilsson also ruptured a vocal chord and hid it from Lennon so the star-sprinkled (Ringo, Keith Moon) and studio-ace-studded sessions would continue. Undeniably all over the place, the results amount to a lot more than a mess, as originals “Don’t Forget Me,” “All My Life,” and “Black Sails” all highlight Nilsson’s talent. The abundance of covers (half the album) lessens matters somewhat (opinions will surely differ depending on one’s perspective); none of them are bad per se, though the least of them (“Rock Around the Clock”) wraps up side two. B+

Sock-Tight, “Second Wind” (ORG Music) This is bassist Mike Watt with celebrated visual artist Raymond Pettibon at the mic, the longtime friends joined on this 45 by drummer Dirk Vanderberg and a different saxophonist for each of the three tracks. Pettibon’s vocals extend from a sorta post-beatniky rant zone, but with an arty-punk thrust that avoids poetry slam hell. On the A-side, Alex Zhang Hungtai and Vince Meghrouni’s blowing gives off a decided James Chance gusto, while on the longer flip Ulises Bella’s reed chewing is a smidge more Fire Music-like; Watt, Vanderberg, and Pettibon (whose art adorns the attractive gatefold cover) do keep matters in the punk ballpark, but it’s nearer to the early New Alliance label’s appealing weirdness than any kind of orthodoxy. A-

Too $hort, Short Dog’s in the House (Get on Down) This 1990 effort followed Too $hort’s Jive Records-distributed Born to Mack and Life Is…Too Short, and helped to cement the rapper’s national reputation (it seems to be the first for which he was signed to Jive proper), but he’d been at it since ’85; this one’s credited as his sixth full-length. Some might conclude that a rapper primarily known for X-rated thematic flow would be running on fumes amid the prolificacy, and perhaps as a safeguard against the encroaching staleness of a one-track mind there are a few injections of social awareness (most notably “The Ghetto”) amid the smut. But doing so lends a sharp and not exactly flattering contrast to later cuts “Punk Bitch,” “Ain’t Nothin’ but a Word to Me,” and “Paula & Janet.” One takes the good with the bad. B

V/A, Right on Now! The Sounds of Northern Soul (ORG Music) Offering up a generous helping of the titular style, which for novices is a catchall term for US soul-R&B, mostly from the mid-’60s, that’s less finesse-based than Motown and yet not outright funky either, this is a thrifty way to own a bunch of highly sought-after dancefloor movers. Obscurity is a significant component in the Northern Soul experience, but some well-known names are included, foremost Ike & Tina Turner, Arthur Conley, Bobby Womack (in the family group The Valentinos), and Leslie Uggams, plus a few less-familiar but still established figures like Chuck Jackson and Bettye LaVette. But sequencing is key: I dig the left-field choice of The Marketts’ “Bella Dalena” leading into The Olympics’ “Good Lovin’” at the close. A-

V/A, “Why We Are Here?” (Schoolkids) Even in the early days, regional hardcore comps could be a dicey proposition, but this one from ’83 North Carolina deserves its rep, largely due to the inclusion of formative tracks by Corrosion of Conformity (this red vinyl reissue of 750 is in tribute to original C.O.C. singer Eric Eycke, who died last year). Part of the disc’s success derives from brevity of format, though the wax is still loaded with 11 cuts. But succinctness wouldn’t matter if the participants didn’t bring the rawness and energy; they all do, especially the beautifully non-generic Stillborn Christians. No Labels and Bloodmobile reside closer to the suburban amateurish HC paradigm, but do so endearingly. Velocity is of course abundant, with C.O.C. displaying the fury that distinguished Eye for an Eye. A-

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