Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for August 2020, Part Five

Part five of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for August, 2020. Part one is here, part two is here, part three is here, and part four is here.

NEW RELEASE PICK: Fay Wildhagen, Leave Me to the Moon (Live in Oslo) (Warner Music Norway) While she’s tersely described as a Norwegian folk-pop singer-songwriter, that shortchanges the strength of Wildhagen’s vocalizing and doesn’t even touch upon her guitar skills, which are considerable. There is also a grand, dare I say Nordic, sweep to her work, that on this performance document spills forth with a flowing continuity eschewing the familiar trappings of a live recording (at least in the audio I was provided); there’s no explication or conversation, but also a lack of applause, which gets back to the flow, or as said, the sweep, of the music as it progresses. There are a few spots where this sweep borders on becoming too grand (and in a manner akin to other music from Wildhagen’s geographical region), but this impulse is ultimately kept in check, and overall, Leave Me to the Moon serves as a highly engaging introduction to the artist. B+

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Galaxie 500, Copenhagen (20/20/20) Having been lucky enough to catch a show by this band at the old, dank 9:30 Club in Washington, DC (with Velocity Girl opening) on their tour for their final studio album This is Our Music, I was truly gassed when this live recording hit stores in 1997, particularly as offering selections from all three of their LPs on the last show of their final European tour, it was roughly of the same vintage as the show I witnessed. After spending time with Copenhagen back then, I was pleased but also struck by the air of a fantastic band nearing the end of their time together, something I hadn’t picked up on as they played in front of me, or after; I walked out onto 14th St. that night elated that they’d encored with “Ceremony.” Over time, the bittersweet feeling inspired by Copenhagen subsided and I was left with some fine music. It’s hard to pick a favorite from the set, but Wareham’s guitar in “Summertime” is massive. A-

Ned Lagin, Seastones: Set 4 and Set 5 (Important) Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, and Mickey Hart all contribute to this LP, with Round Records, the short-lived label founded by Garcia and Ron Rakow, having initially released it in 1975, so it’s kind of impossible to contemplate this serving of experimental electronics without also thinking about the Grateful Dead. But hey, David Crosby, Spencer Dryden, Grace Slick, and David Frieberg are here, too. I can recall hitting this record store in Northern VA a few times a year in the early 1990s, and on every visit, I’d see the same copy of this LP. Due to the title I assumed it was just ocean sounds and paid it no further mind. Well, I bring it up because that record is not this record. The covers are different, sure, but so is the music, as this edition assembles 18 tracks from the Seastones undertaking (which totals 83, the whole bunch self-released by Lagin on 2CD in 2018), some from the original LP, some not. Academics were in Lagin’s background, but his sounds encompass more than conservatory-spawned electronic abstraction. Much more, including proto-New Age and space drift. A-

V/A, The Land of Sensations & Delights: The Psych Pop Sounds of White Whale Records, 1965–1970 (Craft Recordings) My introduction to White Whale came by sponging up second-hand copies of The Turtles’ back catalog, and I suspect I’m not alone in this route of discovery. Well, The Turtles aren’t on this comp, as after a long stretch of bad litigiousness on the part of White Whale’s operators, Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman own their catalog. Craft currently owns the rest of the discography, and they’ve put together a doozy of a 2LP here, with the contents really illuminating the label’s multipronged specialties of garage-rock, pop-psych, sunshine-pop, baroque-pop, and even borderline bubblegum. Not every non-Turtles killer the label put out is here, which bodes well for an additional installment or even two, but The Laughing Gravy’s cover of The Beach Boys’ “Vegetables” is, and so is The Clique’s “Superman.” But there are 24 more, and it suffices to say that anybody who’s ever gotten gooseflesh while listening to “Care of Cell 44” should be satisfied with this one. A-

Gravediggaz, The Pick, the Sickle & the Shovel (eOne) As an early purveyor of the hip-hop subgenre known as horrorcore, NYC’s Gravediggaz, who featured RZA of the Wu Tang Clan and storied DJ and producer Prince Paul in the lineup (along with MCs Poetic and Frukwan), stirred up a little controversy, though it was mostly a byproduct of their debut 6 Feet Deep; this follow-up from ’97 is noted for branching out into more socially conscious territory, which in retrospect isn’t a bit surprising. However, I can recall a few of my hip-hop loving pals being a little let down by the tamer atmosphere of this record, which is released for RSD in an edition of 2,000 on double vinyl. To my ear, it sounded fine then and largely holds up now, even as Prince Paul’s involvement is scaled back. Instead, the production is mostly handled by RZA’s Wu Tang associates, so converts to that crew shouldn’t hesitate in grabbing this one. B+

Al Green, Green Is Blues (Fat Possum) Al Green is one of the undisputed champs of ’70s soul, but this record, his second, was released in 1969. This observation is made to establish that Green Is Blues is not yet prime Al; that stuff would arrive with his very next LP and continue for a stretch of albums that have solidified his legacy right up to now. But don’t get the idea that this record is dismissible, as it does a few things rather well. For starters, Green is in fine voice, if not wielding the urgency to come, but that’s mostly due to the overall strategy of the album, which favors interpretations of well-known material, including a southern soulification of The Temptations’ “My Girl,” a deepening of The Box Tops’ “The Letter,” and what was then a very timely workout on The Beatles’ “Get Back.” If not yet essential Green, it’s a sure bet those who dig him will want to have this one handy around the house. I know I do. B+

Josefus, Get Off My Case (Permanent Records) This Texas band is legendary in heavy rock circles for their self-released 1970 album Dead Man and its self-titled follow-up from the same year for the Mainstream label. The tracks on this LP, cut in Phoenix in December of ’69, were intended to be their first album, though the impatience of Josefus led to a return to the same Arizona studio to record again, including second versions of four of the tracks here. Predisposed as I am to this sort of non-pro early hard rock-proto metal murk, I find this album, which was previously issued by Numero Group (who licensed this edition of 500), to be a grand ol’ time, but with this said, I still can’t grade it too highly. The post-hippie downer vibe is palpable however, with the concluding 17 minutes of “Dead Man” the highlight. B

Ennio Morricone, Peur Sur La Ville OST (Wewantsounds) The PR for this set suggests that Morricone’s work with French director Henri Verneuil has taken an undeserved back seat to his celebrated soundtracks for Sergio Leone. I suspect part of the reason is that Verneuil was an unabashedly commercial filmmaker directly opposite to the Nouvelle Vague. By the mid-’70s, that movement had disintegrated, but Verneuil was still churning out the films, with Peur Sur La Ville a crime-actioner starring Jean Paul Belmondo as a sort of antihero supercop; reportedly, the story gets increasingly bonkers (complete with Belmondo’s stunt work), but the film still lacks much of a rep, critical or otherwise, which isn’t exactly the case with the score, as John Zorn included the movie’s theme in his terrific Morricone tribute The Big Gundown. Opening with a whistled motif from Alessandro Alessandroni, there are affinities with the work for Leone, but much of this is nearer to the Maestro’s giallo scores, and that’s sweet. There is also a mess of bonus tracks hitting wax for the first time. A-

New Riders of the Purple Sage, Field Trip (Omnivore) The music here was initially released back in 2004 on compact disc as Veneta, Oregon, 8/27/72 (but not by Omnivore, who along with double vinyl in an edition of 1,500 are issuing this on CD and digital under its new title), the contents documenting the Riders’ performance on a bill with the Grateful Dead for the benefit of the local Springfield Creamery. Complete with extended stage banter including announcements (including lost children and drug advisories), this transforms into an extended time capsule of an era that was all but over (very much over in other regions of the USA). However, Field Trip also stands as just an enjoyable plunge into this band’s likeable blend of county-rock, bluegrass, soul, ’50s R&R, and of course, those hippie vibes. Dating from fairly early in the Rider’s trajectory (though Jerry Garcia had vacated the pedal steel chair), the band is clicking throughout. A-

Ravi Shankar, Chants of India (Dark Horse/BMG) Released in 1997, this is the first vinyl press for the final collaboration of Shankar and George Harrison, released for RSD as part of the commemoration of the Indian sitar master’s centennial. As a late-career collab for both men, you might be suspecting Chants of India to be enjoyable but inessential, but to my ear, that’s off-target, in part because Shankar’s energies are focused on musical arrangements for Vedic and Hindu prayers rather than Hindustani classical music, which was his norm. Harrison produced the record and also plays multiple instruments across its runtime, which is just a smidge over an hour (hence, a 2LP), but I’d say the biggest compliment that can be bestowed upon his contributions is how they blend into the whole (he’s recognizable in a few spots vocally, but that’s just fine). Assisted by daughter Anoushka, who served as the group’s conductor, Shankar’s arrangements and sitar are both exquisite. A wonderful record. A

Don Shinn, Temples With Prophets (Sunbeam) It’s established that organist Shinn was a big influence on Keith Emerson, which isn’t exactly a big personal selling point, but I do enjoy The Nice (Emerson’s pre-ELP outfit), plus Shinn was in the Beat group The Soul Agents (a handful of 45s on Pye in ’64-’65, plus backing a young Rod Stewart) so we’re in solid territory with this first time vinyl reissue of a ’69 LP, which comes with two bonus tracks on a 7-inch. While the opening portion of the multifaceted ”Pits of Darkness” finds Shinn exploring the pop side of the late ’60s soul-jazz spectrum, before long the guy’s heading into regions that can be accurately tagged as progressive, and if you need more convincing please understand that two selections, the title track and “Hearts of Gladness,” are further titled as “Monophonic Interludes for Pianoforte” (Nos. 1 and 2). In 2020, this is far from a brain-scrambler, but folks who own and play The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack or Five Bridges will likely appreciate it. B

So Solid Crew, “21 Seconds” (UMC/Craft Recordings) This UK outfit hit No. 2 in 2001 with the title track of this EP. It’s presented here in five versions: the original mix, a 12-inch version, two live sessions on BBC Radio from ’01 and ‘02, and a vocal remix by DJ Swiss and Dan Da Man. So Solid Crew has featured many members (they are still very much active as a group, having announced an anniversary tour for 2020 that I’m guessing Covid-19 put on ice), but the most notable participants have been Megaman, Lisa Maffia, Romeo, Asher D, Harvey and the aforementioned DJ Swiss. Stylistically credited as trailblazers in the merger of UK garage, grime & hip-hop, the track’s versions drive home this reality; the titular timeframe demarks how long each member gets at the mic. Of the five versions, the human beatbox heavy finale is my favorite, but a fun ride is delivered all the way through. A-

Mikis Theodorakis, Serpico (Wewantsounds) Directed by Sidney Lumet, Serpico is an iconic ’70s film, and its score, one of three high-profile soundtracks featuring Greek composer Theodorakis (the others are Zorba the Greek and Z), also features arrangements, and a decidedly CTI-like jazziness, courtesy of jazz-fusion funkateer Bob James. As it’s been a long time since I watched the film (I like it okay, but it’s not a favorite), I don’t recall being put off by this score, but that’s often the way it goes. Focusing on the music leads me to the conclusion that it could’ve been a lot worse. While there are passages clearly spawned from James (of whom I’m firmly not a fan, though his ’60s experimental work is an exception), it’s really Theodorakis’ input, per the soundtrack’s billing, that dominates, though it takes until “Disillusion” and “End Title” for things to fully click for me. Still, there are passages along the way that’re alright. B

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