Monthly Archives: December 2015

In rotation: 12/17/15

Music collection to fund U scholarship: After decades of collecting music, a local critic is giving philanthropy a spin. Jon Bream, the Star Tribune’s music critic since 1974, sold part of his collection, totaling 22,000 vinyl records and 6,000 CDs, and is using the profits to start a scholarship for arts criticism at the University of Minnesota.

10 Awesome Christmas Vinyl Records: The holiday season brings out the nostalgia in most of us, and nothing seems quite as cool as breaking out the Christmas wax with a few friends and sharing some good tunes. Since the tactile nature of vinyl makes it a great sentimental gift, here are some great records to acquire for (yourself or) others as you celebrate the holidays.

Teens driving vinyl renaissance at America’s oldest record store: “I don’t think there is anything different between the kids in the 1960s or the kids today,” George said. “They realize they can’t get this sound on CDs and on the Internet. People line up here on Record Store Day, which is in April. I’m the only record store between Pittsburgh and State College. A lot of people come in here from Altoona, too.”

Luna Record Shop brings new spin to The Factory: Sisters Brenna Gentry and Calvert Gentry-McMahan have put a new spin on The Factory at Franklin with their new vinyl record shop, Luna. Gentry and Gentry-McMahan grew up around Franklin and wanted to bring their passion for physical forms of music to the area like fellow record shop Carpe Diem located next to Kimbro’s on South Margin. The sisters bonded over their admiration of vinyl and music in physical formats.

Why I’ve fallen out of love with shopping for vinyl: I’m not cheap and have been known to shell out for records that are worth the cost. But I’m not a sucker either, and I’m starting to think that record vendors are looking at all of us like suckers.

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TVD Live Shots: Billy Gibbons and the BFGs with Tyler Bryant at the Regency Ballroom, 12/9

Billy Gibbons Photographed by Jason Miller-1

The voice of ZZ Top and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Billy Gibbons released his debut solo record Perfectomundo last month and it’s not what you might expect. The legendary blues guitarist channels his childhood percussionist roots (Gibbons was once a student of mambo legend Tito Puente) in the context of Afro-Cuban rhythms and unexplored territory—and it works remarkably well.

The first single from the album, a cover of rockabilly singer Roy Head’s soulful 1965 hit “Treat Her Right,” sets the tone for an adventurous record that is already making quite a few year-end best of 2015 lists. Gibbons took a break from his minimalistic trio to bring together a new backing band called the BFGs. The handpicked BFGs include two drummers, a percussionist, and two keyboardists who take Gibbons’ bluesy foundation into a whole new world.

Gibbons and his BFGs played to an intimate and incredibly enthusiastic crowd as he seeded the set with stories about the past and the present. While the setlist focused mainly on songs from Perfectamundo, Gibbons couldn’t resist peppering in a ZZ Top classic or two. The band was tight, the grooves were smooth, and the Cuban flavor was a real treat to see performed live.

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TVD Live Shots: Vanessa Carlton at the Howard Theatre, 12/11

Vanessa Carlton brought her intimate and alluring songcraft to Washington, DC’s Howard Theatre last Friday night for an up-front and extremely personal performance.

Touring to promote her 2015 release, Liberman, Carlton’s stage set-up might have been minimal, but her sound couldn’t have been more encompassing. While Carlton focused on her vocals and keys, she’s enlisted a multi-instrumental touring companion who plays violin, keyboards, and guitars. The duo conjured a colorful array of sounds to complement Carlson’s warm vocals.

Taking the audience on a journey, Carlson focused on compositions that spanned her career and catalog, while adding personal anecdotes to introduce a number of songs which spoke to her inspirations, her beginnings as a ballet dancer, and becoming a new mom.

Carlson’s current east coast tour dates conclude in Asheville, NC on December 19, and then she’s back on the road in mid-January for a west coast run. The new album, Liberman is available on CD, cassetteand vinyl.

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Graded on a Curve:
Baby Huey,
The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend

If you’re like me, you’ve never heard of James Ramsey (aka Baby Huey), the giant (350-400 lbs, and more!) and short-lived Chicago funk, psychedelic soul, and R&B singer who never quite escaped the confines of his adopted city of Chicago, and who only managed to release one LP, and that one posthumously. Heroin tragically truncated his life; Melvyn Jones, organist and trumpet player for Baby Huey’s backing band the Babysitters, once recounted an incident in which Baby Huey’s works fell out of a cereal box while he pouring himself a bowl. (The cereal was later determined to be Kellogg’s ODs.)

But a listen to Baby Huey and the Babysitters’ LP The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend (an odd title for a man who was functionally deceased at the time of the LP’s release; some fact checker somewhere was hitting the ODs too) will make you bemoan his early death at age 26 in a Chicago motel room, because the goddamned album, so frustrating in places, in others shows Baby Huey to be one badass funk and soul man. Produced by Curtis Mayfield, who most likely used pre-existing tracks and session men after Baby Huey’s demise to fill in the backgrounds because he was no fan of the Babysitters, The Baby Huey Story is all over the place: from a fantastically weird cover of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” to a take of Mayfield’s own “Mighty, Mighty” that was recorded live to one very jazz-centric take on “California Dreamin’,” Baby Huey covered all the bases and then some.

Take his version of Mayfield’s “Running.” Big horns, a funky backbeat, some hardcore drum thump, and one psychedelic guitar provide Baby Huey with the backdrop, and he sounds bad. As in mean. Great, right? But it’s followed by the easy listening and flute-heavy instrumental “One Dragon Two Dragon,” which just bums me the fuck out. Ditto “California Dreamin’,” which is the horrible sound of a flute running loose. Kinda reminds me of the Will Ferrell flute scene in Anchorman. Except this one ends up sounding like a bad 1970’s TV theme song, one starring Jean Paul Sartre as a crime-solving detective suffering from existential nausea and frog eyes.

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Needle Drop: ESTRONS, “Whoever She Was…”

I’m not going to pretend like I’m an impartial reviewer for this one, I think ESTRONS are awesome. Hearing “Make a Man” for the first time a couple of months back, I was immediately drawn to the power of the guitar riffs and the feistiness of Taliesyn Källström’s vocals.

In fact, before I carry on, go watch the video. Seriously, I’ll wait.

Good, eh? Well, with their new EP, “Whoever She Was…,” the band certainly didn’t disappoint my now lofty expectations. “Make a Man” is accompanied by three other tracks which all have distinct sounds and moods but retain the same impact and songwriting prowess for which ESTRONS are fast becoming known.

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TVD’s The Best of 2015: The Box Sets

‘Tis the season to peruse a bevy of numbered rundowns as websites undergo deserved holiday breaks. As it was with previous TVD Best of lists, the releases below aren’t an all-encompassing pronouncement from an overstuffed armchair on high; instead they are merely a hierarchy of loosely paired favorites assembled and presented with cheer as the calendar swiftly runs out of days.

10. Men & Volts, Honeymoon Luggage | Of all the inexplicably unsung bands, Boston’s Men & Volts are amongst the hardest to figure out, at least until one really sits and absorbs what they were up to. Formed in 1979 and often likened to Little Feat, the group was clearly too much of a straight rock extension to connect with the punk-era hoards as their initial devotion to playing the music of Captain Beefheart underscores a left-of-center sensibility that no doubt scuttled them away from the shelves of more straight-laced roots-rock heads.

Also bringing NRBQ to mind, fans of that unit (and yes Lowell George and Don Van Vliet) looking for fresh kicks are in for a treat. Honeymoon Luggage consists of a remastering of Men & Volts’ ’84 LP Tramps in Bloom, the unreleased Boomtown alb and two more platters of previously unheard studio tunes; across eight sides the non-retread atmosphere is thick and the highlights are many.

9. Close Lobsters, Firestation Towers 1986-1989 | Cherry Red’s expanded C86 set was one of the highlights of 2014. Fire Records intensified the indie pop microscope this year with a harnessing of this presently existing Scottish outfit’s Foxheads Stalk This Land and Headache Rhetoric LPs and the singles collection Forever Until Victory!

Some of the Lobsters’ cohorts frankly lost the thread as they searched for or attempted to maintain fleeting success, but that’s not the case here, Firestation Towers maintaining the focus on chiming guitars, non-hackneyed melodicism, and energetic delivery and lacking any sense of anticlimax. Sure, the early singles might jangle forth with a little extra urgency, but that’s far from an uncommon occurrence.

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In rotation: 12/16/15

Little Gem record store celebrates first anniversary: The Independent Record Store based in the environs of Grand Social have released a compilation album to celebrate. Little Gem 1 is a compilation album of the best tracks that have featured on the label’s roster over the past year. With bands like White Sage, Fierce Mild, GODHATESDISCO and Night Trap, the compilation is an impressive assortment that shows the wealth of independent talent going on in Dublin at the moment.

Zero in on Vinyl at MadCity Music Exchange: Madison is home to many treasures, and this local music store is a glimmering one. Owner Dave Zero stands at the counter, his hands filled with records. I wonder how and why his path brought him to Madison. His relaxed reasoning mimics the atmosphere, “It’s my home.”

Now Again’s Egon launches quarterly vinyl pop up shop in Los Angeles: World renowned vinyl collector opens his collection to the public. Eothen ‘Egon’ Alapatt, who runs the archival label Now Again Records and is one third of Rappcats alongside Madlib and Stones Throw designer Jeff Jank, is launching a quarterly vinyl pop up shop in Los Angeles.

DIGINYL, Your Music on Vinyl: This is for all the music lovers out there. Experience your favorite tracks the old school way and get them cut on your very own vinyl record. You get to choose from three types of records: classic black, transparent or picture vinyl. You’ll also be able to design the labels and record covers all by yourself…

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Sarah P.,
The TVD First Date

“My dad has this amazing vinyl collection. He’s got all those rares and b-sides—it’s a treasure. From a really early point, I was introduced to those black, weird things that spin and make music. I could stare at the colorful titles for ages, as a toddler. One of my parents first gifts to me was the vinyl of Edo Lilipoupoli, a record full of unconventional children songs from the homonymous radio show. It’s a record that I still love listening to.”

“Dad was never bored to play me records, introducing me to what he always refers to as ‘real music.’ He would even make me mixtapes with the songs that I liked the most. Like the old school way—from the vinyl to the tape. We were sitting there for hours, listening to the music. It always felt like a ritual, an activity that I was always looking forward to. The perfect Saturday afternoon.

But I wasn’t allowed to touch the record player. ‘Look at us, but do not touch.’ I’m still feeling a little weird around a turntable. I am stressing out because I feel I should respect it. I’m afraid I’ll break it. I had this movie filming a while ago (Finding Sigi, director Aviv Kosloff) and at the final scene I had to put a record on. God, that was stressy!

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Leo’s Back!

There are only a handful of musicians who are known by a single name. Leo Nocentelli is one of them. The famed guitarist and founding member of the seminal funk band, the Meters, has moved back to New Orleans after living in California for 33 years. This Thursday night, December 17, a veritable who’s who of New Orleans music will welcome him home at Tipitina’s.

Nocentelli burst into the public consciousness with a series of groundbreaking recordings in the late 1960s and early 1970s which scorched all previous conceptions of guitar playing. Known primarily for his sparse, fiery licks on tunes like “Cissy Strut” and “Chicken Strut,” he pioneered funk rhythm guitar.

Then over the course of the next decade or so, he transformed himself into a strutting lead guitar superhero with a new mode of attack—blistering runs up and down the neck at breakneck speed. His crisp, taut lines inspired a new wave of funk musicians all aspiring to rip it up like Leo.

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UK Artist of the Week: Sam Brockington


Our Artist of The Week is a young lad with a lot to give. Sam Brockington manages to create music that feels wise beyond his years and boy, can he sing.

His latest single, “Follow” is beautifully spare and manages to capture the struggles between friendship and individuality brilliantly. Sam’s vocal range is undeniably impressive—filled warmth and beautifully layered melodies throughout.

Sam is currently based in Bristol and is highly influenced by a range of genres including folk, blues, and soul. He’d previously moved to London at the age of 18 where he regularly performed on the live circuit before deciding to move to Melbourne in the search for something new. It was here he was able to develop his sound and become the emerging artist he is today.

“Follow” is out now via Prospect 21.

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TVD’s The Best of 2015: The Reissues, Part Two

‘Tis the season to peruse a bevy of numbered rundowns as websites undergo deserved holiday breaks. As it was with previous TVD Best of lists, the releases below aren’t an all-encompassing pronouncement from an overstuffed armchair on high; instead they are merely a hierarchy of loosely paired favorites assembled and presented with cheer as the calendar swiftly runs out of days.

5. A Tribe Called Quest, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm and KMD, Black Bastards | A Tribe Called Quest’s debut has never been MIA; really, the main attraction for the 25th Anniversary Edition is a well-deserved remastering that infuses the set with a sonic vibrancy the initial CD version definitely lacked.

One of rap’s canonical albums, People’s brandishes an impressive duality, serving as a magnificent capper to the quick fire evolution of the ‘80s as it assisted in igniting the form’s ‘90s renaissance. A quarter century later People’s isn’t the slightest bit antiquated; instead, it remains a qualitative beacon for the style it helped to establish.

Based out of Long Beach, NY and featuring Zev Love X, a rapper soon to be known as MF DOOM, KMD (Kausing Much Damage) was a part of hip-hop’s ‘90s flourishing. In ’94 the release of KMD’s highpoint was quashed by Elektra due to inflammatory title and cover art; in turn it became a rarity with a steadily increasing legend.

Black Bastards’ reemergence through DOOM’s Metalface imprint pairs the original album with a second CD of remixes, alternate versions and instrumentals plus a vinyl picture disc of “What a Nigga Know?”; the music is exquisitely packaged in pop-up book design expanding upon the original art, and the cumulative effect not only backs up frequent assertions that the ‘90s were hip-hop’s greatest decade, but in a year where demonization of the other has become almost commonplace, it’s difficult to locate a more timely reissue.

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In rotation: 12/15/15

Vortex Records to close after nearly 40 years: One of Toronto’s oldest record stores is set to close in the new year, as Vortex Records announced yesterday that owner Bert Myers is retiring. The shop, currently in operation out of a second floor space near Yonge and Eglinton, has been in business for nearly 40 years, at one time boasting a variety of locations around the city.

Wait, Is Streaming Actually Encouraging Record Sales? Survey Says ‘Yeah… Maybe’: Perhaps more significantly, 69 percent of the survey respondents either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “I stream to discover music and see what’s popular, but when I come across something I love, I like to buy it.

There’s a vinyl gold mine in Toronto’s library stacks: Organizers of Vinyl 101 hope it was the first in a series of events that will not only educate music lovers on listening the analog way but illuminate the public on the library’s impressive hold of vinyl LPs.

‘This Record Belongs To …’ introduces kids to the joys of music on vinyl, complete with turntable: Their triple-whammy package includes the “This Record Belongs To …” record and illustrated book along with a custom-made by Jack White’s Third Man record label. The aim: to introduce entertainment-overloaded, iPad-addicted kids to active listening, vinyl records and the lessons within the grooves.

Frank’s Record Collection Shop tucked away in downtown Harlingen: Looking at Ramirez, he’s any music lover’s modern-day medicine man. He has the classic rock star look. And he has the songs to help music lovers looking for a vinyl record to take home to spin on the turntable and get lost in the music of their favorite artist with headphones or house speakers.

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TVD Live: Rosanne Cash at the Birchmere, 12/9

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | It’s been two years since Rosanne Cash introduced her extraordinary album The River & the Thread in a series of concerts at the Library of Congress, and she was back in the D.C. area Wednesday still singing a handful of its haunting songs of the South (and one that helped inspire it, “Ode to Billie Joe”).

The songs themselves, presented acoustically with her husband and producer John Leventhal at a sold out Birchmere, still sound beautiful. But by now she’s incorporated them in performance that shows them to their best advantage, honing the patter that precedes them into effective introductions as well. With Leventhal playing behind her and her setting the stage, it’s almost like Springsteen in approach.

All of the songs from The River & the Thread combine into a statement about a woman, raised in Los Angeles and living in New York for a quarter century, coming to terms with her family history and her solid roots in the South—born in Memphis with a family from east Arkansas.

Each of the songs are like unfolding a roadmap to a new place, but unfolding at the same time a new revelation or new emotion by way of a telling detail—a phrase, a place name, or an ordinary process, like the sewing in the title.

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Garden State Sound
with Evan Toth

All jokes aside, New Jersey is a pretty great place. While it has a lot to offer as a state, it also has a rich musical history of which many people remain unaware. Everyone knows Sinatra and The Boss, but there’s much more.

“What can you say about Frank Sinatra that hasn’t already been written, or thought, or whatever? He’s an American icon and he’s certainly at the top of the heap when it comes to music with connections to the Garden State. This week on “Garden State Sound” join Michael Feinstein and myself as we discuss Frank on the 100th anniversary of his birth.

We’ll also discuss Mr. Feinstein’s many years of working with the Sinatra songbook and his centennial concert at NJPAC. Happy birthday, blue eyes; here’s to 100 more. Now, click play, baby.” —EZT

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TVD’s The Best of 2015: The Reissues, Part One

‘Tis the season to peruse a bevy of numbered rundowns as websites undergo deserved holiday breaks. As it was with previous TVD Best of lists, the releases below aren’t an all-encompassing pronouncement from an overstuffed armchair on high; instead they are merely a hierarchy of loosely paired favorites assembled and presented with cheer as the calendar swiftly runs out of days.

10. Youth Brigade “Complete First Demo” and Bells Of “00/85” | Spawned from the breakup of Teen Idles and the Untouchables, Youth Brigade (Nathan Strejcek- vocals, Tom Clinton- guitar, Bert Queiroz- bass, Danny Ingram- drums) are maybe the most underrated of the breakout Dischord bands of 1981. Expanding upon their entries for the foundational hardcore compilation Flex Your Head, this EP, recorded by Don Zientara and Skip Groff at Inner Ear Studios, makes a strong case for their musicianship in a style that was rapidly debased with regurgitations of formula.

Taken alone, “Complete First Demo” may seem a bit slight for a year-end best list, but as the name Youth Brigade underlines, the hardcore experience was never really about being considered by one’s self. These eight tracks total less than nine minutes and combine exceptionally well with archival material from State of Alert, Government Issue, and of course Minor Threat to reinforce DC’s centrality to the whole hardcore shebang.

By 1985 HC was mostly kaput. DC’s Revolution Summer was an exercise in creative rebirth, leaving behind close-mindedness and violence for liberating energy. Rites of Spring, Gray Matter, Beefeater, and Embrace were the main participants in a tight-knit uprising; “00/85” clarifies that others were taking part.

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  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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