Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores,
November 2018,
Part Four

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: V/A, 3 x 4: The Bangles, The Three O’Clock, The Dream Syndicate, Rain Parade (Yep Roc) A lot of scene-oriented regroupings/ get-togethers are hindered by a sense of self-congratulation, but this endeavor by four key Paisley Underground bands, with the above-named participants covering each other’s songs, doesn’t give me that vibe at all, partially because this celebrates a movement that was initially a rejection of “gotta-make-it-big”-ism in favor of classic stuff (as listed by Steve Wynn in the booklet; VU, Nuggets, Syd-era Floyd). They all sounded so good though, that making it big (to varying degrees) was basically inevitable. This has three songs each by all four, and if you ever wondered what the Bangles covering “That’s What You Always Say” would sound like, well wonder no more. A-

Tav Falco, Cabaret of Daggers (ORG Music) Memphis titan Tav Falco came to prominence as arguably the finest, and less contentiously, the deepest of the post-punk (as in after punk) champions of pre-Beatle rock ‘n’ roll and sweet Southern roots. I consider it hard to dispute that he was the most striking personality of the bunch, and his flair has extended into his later work, which has retained its relevance through a consistently expanding sphere of interests, including tango music. Accompanied by his Unapproachable Panther Burns, Cabaret of Daggers sounds markedly different from Tav’s thing in the 1980s, though the man’s huge presence integrates it quite nicely into his oeuvre as a whole. That he gets political in “New World Order Blues” (and a cover of “Strange Fruit”) is a welcome bonus. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: The Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band, Almost Acoustic (ATO) I know this one well through the Deadheads in my life, but I’ve never owned it; ‘tis nice that I can rectify that with ease. Recorded live in San Francisco and Los Angeles, this 70-minute set of bluegrass, blues, and roots reinforces both Garcia’s talent as a guitarist and his pretty-much unfaltering taste in material, as he chooses a bounty of traditional songs, “Blue Yodel #9” from Jimmie Rodgers, “Oh, Babe, It Ain’t No Lie” from Elizabeth Cotten, two from Mississippi John Hurt, and more. The entire band is in top-notch form (of special mention is the record’s producer Sandy Rothman on mandolin and dobro) and they roll with clear delight all the way to a concluding version of “Ripple.” You know the crowd loved it. I do, too. A

Bauhaus, “The Bela Session” (Leaving), Press the Eject and Give Me the Tape & The Sky’s Gone Out (Beggars Arkive) For Bauhaus lovers, the EP is the crown jewel in this batch of 40th anniversary reissues, as three of the five cuts are previously unreleased (one is “Boys” from the ’79 “Bela” 12-inch in its original version). Those who like but are not bonkers over Bauhaus might be wondering if these tracks hold more than historical interest, but it’s really getting to hear the band before they totally solidified their direction that makes it all such a treat. Press the Eject is the ’82 live alb; it’s solid but skippable if you’re on a budget. Third LP proper Sky holds signs of strain but is strong enough that their positive trajectory was essentially maintained. The opening cover of Eno’s “Third Uncle” rips. A-/ B+/ A-

The Ad Libs, Presenting… The Ad Libs (ORG) Ensconced in the annals of ’60s pop for their evergreen Top Tenner “The Boy from New York City,” New Jersey vocal group the Ad Libs never came anywhere close to repeating that success, and the reason is pretty simple; nothing they recorded immediately following had the same level of verve. “Boy”’s sturdy lead vocals by Mary Ann Thomas, when coupled with inspired doowop backing and crack instrumentation, was just the right blend to catch fire, but it’s not like they were creatively spent on subsequent efforts. This tidy collection spans beyond the group’s time with the Blue Cat label, which is to the good, as it adds diversity (there are a few nifty Motown-esque moves), but I love that it ends with their novelty dance-craze (that wasn’t) number “The Slime.” B+

Arcadian Child, Superfonica (Ripple – Rogue Wave) Hailing from Limassol, Cyprus, this four-piece (that’s Panagiotis, Andreas, Stathis, and Christos, with no last names given and I’m not sure who plays what) are aptly pegged as a psychedelically hard-rocking thing, and I like what they do. This is in part because it’s obvious they’re influenced by musical developments beyond and more recent than Hawkwind, but it’s also in how they sweeten the stoner moves with a lightness of approach that’s legitimately outbound rather than merely heavy and druggy in the expected (clichéd) manner. And I really dig how their contemporary aspects are more reminiscent of indie rock than ’90s Alt swagger. They’ve been tagged elsewhere as being somewhat Queens of the Stone Ageist, but I didn’t notice that at all. You might. B+

Cheap Trick, The Epic Archive Vol. 2 (1980-1983) (Real Gone) I don’t know anybody who digs ’80-’83 Cheap Trick more than ’75-’79 Cheap Trick, but there were still moments worth savoring from the era, and opening with a ripping live “Day Tripper,” this comp is a sharp distillation of their perseverance. Other highlights: “Take Me I’m Yours,” which finds Robin Zander inhabiting the zone between Bryan Ferry and Roy Orbison, the cooking “Oh Boy,” Zander’s increasingly unhinged vocals during the mid-tempo “Loser,” two smokers live from the L.A. Forum, two songs from the Heavy Metal soundtrack (and one from the forgotten ’83 raunch comedy Spring Break), and more. Yes, there are a few lesser numbers, but other than the dance remix of “Saturday at Midnight,” nothing flirts with the horrid. B+

Arlo Guthrie, Alice Before Time Began (Omnivore) Those heavy into Arlo might know this 30-minute track, split here across two vinyl sides as it debuts on the format, as part of the live CD Tales of 69, which came out via Guthrie’s own Rising Son label back in 2009. Recorded in the year of the CD’s title (or thereabouts) in front of an appreciative but polite audience, this long excerpt from the performance is a showcase of Guthrie’s aptitude for working a crowd with humor, even more so than the famous “Alice’s Restaurant” (of which this is an offshoot), and to the point where it’s fair to describe what transpires here as a plunge into musical comedy rather than an excursion into folky storytelling. In the end it’s both really, and if some of the humor is of its time, it all goes down okay. There’s even a singalong. B

The Lebron Brothers, Psychedelic Goes Latin (Get On Down) The title of this ’67 LP (originally on the short-lived Cotique label) might insinuate either a horror show of forced stylistic blending, or something in the mode of Santana. It’s neither, instead diving deep into salsa and especially boogaloo territory, and it’s all consistently appealing if decidedly not psychedelic. However, it’s easy to tell how this group of four brothers (born in Puerto Rico and raised in NYC) were drawing some major inspiration from then-contemporary trends in groove-based, non-Latin sounds; this is often discernible in the vocals, which alternate between English and Spanish, and right off the bat in “Summertime Blues” (not a cover), with its repeated utterances of the word funky, and even more so in the dance craze-oriented “Tall Tale.” A-

Lone Justice, “The Western Tapes, 1983” (Omnivore) This collects the earliest stuff from the Los Angeles country-rock outfit led by vocalist Maria McKee and Ryan Hedgecock, with only “Drugstore Cowboy” previously released. Like a lot of ’80s country-rock, Lone Justice evolved out of the punk scene, though you wouldn’t know it through ’86’s Shelter (which was effectively the second version of the band). By a wide margin, I prefer this stuff (and the recordings on Omnivore’s earlier reissue This Is Lone Justice: The Vaught Tapes 1983), as the contents easily substantiate that the ball was fumbled in the recording of their self-titled debut in ’85 (too many high-profile guests on that one, for one thing). Launching from a George & Tammy base, this is the best they ever sounded, and it vindicates the hype. A-

The Mamas and the Papas, Complete Singles (Real Gone) The 2CD of this 50th anniversary collection expands to 53 tracks by including the solo singles Mama Cass Elliott, Denny Doherty, and John Phillips cut for Dunhill/ ABC during the era of their greatest renown; on 2LP, it’s just the group singles, so depending on your level of interest and format preference, there’re decisions to make. Of course, it really all comes down to whether you think this cornerstone of vocal-harmony folk-pop is worth the time. I long ago decided yeah (with a preference for their earliest sides), and while I might’ve gotten a little burnt out on ‘em via heavy oldies station rotation, the last time I tuned in to that programming option Bill Clinton was president. That means this baby sounds pretty damned good, and different in Mono. A-

Myriad3, Vera (Alma) This Canadian trio has been touted as the “future of modern jazz,” though the statement’s boldness is a little much in my view. Let’s don’t put it all on these guy’s shoulders, okay? Essentially a piano trio, with Chris Donnelly at the bench (plus Fender Rhodes, synth, and spoons), Dan Fortin on bass, and Ernesto Cervini on drums (plus clarinets, flute, alto, etc.), this is their fourth release (CD-only) loaded with impeccable playing and consistently engaging tunes, all but Stravinsky’s “Piano-Rag-Music” original to the band. While there are plenty of surprises and some nice passages of improv and abstraction, there’s also a tendency for pleasantness that’s occasionally downright pretty. I don’t mind but do wish it was injected with a little more wildness in execution. “Dna” is a highlight. B+

OST, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas (Varese Sarabande) I undeniably hold nostalgia for the whole Emmet Otter experience, as I loved it as a kid via HBO in the early ’80s, and I enjoy hearing the music from the special now, though even deep in the midst of the yuletide season, I doubt this’ll get heavy rotation (well, except for maybe “Riverbottom Nightmare Band”). What I appreciate more is how the show (featuring songs by regular Henson collaborator Paul Williams) is an example of programming for kids that’s something other than crap (and “family” viewing that’s not either utterly saccharine or infused with in-jokes for the adults). This reissue has extra stuff, including “Jam Session,” a short rock bit with a concluding drum solo that sounds best when I imagine it played by Animal the Muppet. B+

OST, Zerzura (Sahel Sounds) This LP scores a “Saharan acid ethno-Western” filmed by Christopher Kirkley, who’s also the man responsible for the catalog of Sahel Sounds; the music is by Ahmoudou Madassane. Shot in the Sahara desert and inspired by the work of acid-western pioneers Sergio Leone, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and Jim Jarmusch (as well as ethnographic filmmakers Maya Daren, Robert Gardener, and Jean Rouch), the movie reads as significantly deeper than the typical Oater revisionism sprinkled with hallucinatory overtones, in part through its reported experimental execution and narrative genre finished form. Greatly reinforcing this suspicion is Madassane’s often superb expansions of guitar-based Tuareg folk/ desert blues. The results are rich and genuinely psychedelic. A-

Josh Sinton’s Predicate Trio, making bones, taking draughts, bearing unstable millstones pridefully, idiotically, prosaically (Iluso) This CD serves as my intro to the work of baritone saxophonist-bass clarinetist-composer Sinton, though the general approach of his group is familiar. It’s often called “creative music,” though the descriptor of avant-jazz (or post-avant-jazz, perhaps) applies just as well. He’s joined here by cellist Christopher Hoffman and drummer Tom Rainey (whose work I do know, and which attracted me like a moth to this set). As described at the website of the venue-studio-record label Firehouse 12, Sinson composed the music here, but then removed large portions of it in favor of spontaneous creation. It’s altogether sweet and at times similar to Ken Vandermark’s small groups. A

Tone Scientists, “Nuts” b/w “Tiny Pyramids” (ORG) To me, one of the increasingly cooler aspects of RSD’s bi-annual blitz to the shops relates to anticipating what exactly will emerge in connection to bassist supreme Mike Watt. Instead of merely pumping out new editions of out-of-print material or unreleased archival stuff, he’s consistently involved with new projects, with this the latest example. It features former Tar Babies guitarist-singer Bucky Pope and Tortoise drummer John Herndon, plus multi-instrumentalist Vince Meghrouni and keyboardist Pete Mazich, both frequent Watt cohorts. The A-side’s a punky-funky Pope original, while the flip is a Sun Ra tune. I’d dig it all more if Meghrouni played sax over flute (well, on “Nuts,” anyway), but the whole band is clicking throughout. Total class. B+

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