Monthly Archives: April 2020

Demand it on Vinyl:
The Staples Singers, expanded reissue series in stores 6/5 & 6/26

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Grammy® Lifetime Achievement Award recipients and Rock & Roll and Gospel Hall of Fame inductees The Staple Singers are an American musical treasure. Omnivore Recordings will reissue four 1970s releases by the group—the Curtis Mayfield-produced Let’s Do It Again: Sound Track and Pass It On on June 5, 2020, and Family Tree, produced by Jerry Wexler and Barry Beckett, and Unlock Your Mind, produced by Chicago soul giant Eugene Record, on June 26, 2020.

In the ’50s, The Staple Singers were among the greatest of the post-war gospel groups. The ’60s found them recording for a variety of labels like Vee-Jay, Riverside, Epic, and ultimately Stax, pioneering the “soul-folk” sound. By the end of the decade they were soul music superstars, with hits like “I Know a Place” and “I’ll Take You There.” During the ’70s, they had 13 singles on the U.S. Pop chart and 20 on the U.S. R&B chart. Besides recording, touring and chasing songs up the charts, the group also found time to not only appear in music-related motion pictures like Wattstax (1972) and The Band’s The Last Waltz (1976), but they also contributed to the Sidney Poitier-directed film soundtrack Let’s Do It Again, with music produced by Curtis Mayfield. This, their first post-Stax effort, sent the title track, “Let’s Do It Again,” to the number one spot on both the Pop and R&B charts.

Though the hits slowed after the mid-’70s, the Staples did have a #5 dance chart hit with a cover of the Talking Heads’ song “Slippery People” in 1984. Mavis Staples had been releasing solo albums dating back to 1969’s self-titled effort on Stax, but started to pick up the release tempo and carry the family business forward with a pair of albums for the Paisley Park label under the direction of Prince in 1989 and 1993. She continues performing and releasing albums on Anti- Records to this day, working with artists and producers Ry Cooder, Jeff Tweedy, Arcade Fire, Gorillaz, and Ben Harper, among others.

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TVD Radar: Nat King Cole, Straighten Up and Fly Right–The Best of Hittin’ the Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943) available 5/8

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Resonance Records, the Los Angeles-based independent jazz label noted for its deluxe historical releases, issued the seven-CD/10-LP Nat King Cole boxed set Hittin’ the Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943) on November 1, 2019. Following the great success of Hittin’ the Ramp, Resonance is releasing a “Best of the Box” digital compilation curated by Will Friedwald called Straighten Up and Fly Right – The Best of Hittin’ the Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943).

Hittin’ the Ramp has been one of the best-selling boxed sets of the year (and Resonance still has a small number of limited-edition LP sets in its warehouse for sale. This ‘best of’ collection includes several of the previously unreleased studio sides, transcriptions, and private recordings of Cole’s earliest work from the boxed set and is also being produced in conjunction with the musician’s estate. One of the unreleased tracks, a transcription version of “This Side Up,” was not included on the box set and now makes its debut on Straighten Up and Fly Right. “The Nat King Cole family is thrilled to continue our relationship with Resonance Records, who have shown their unwavering commitment to showcase and preserve these historic recordings,” says Seth Berg of the Nat King Cole Estate.

Hittin’ the Ramp was a really important project for Resonance,” says Zev Feldman, label co-president and the set’s co-producer. “We had never done a project of that size before, and we did our best to give Nat King Cole fans a definitive early years collection that can be cherished for decades to come. Given what’s happening in the world today, and with Mother’s Day coming up, we felt it was the perfect time to do a ‘best of the box’ edition that could reach everyone digitally and lift people’s spirits a little. Since manufacturing is shut down now with the Covid-19 virus, we’re starting with a digital-only release.”

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Bandits on the Run,
The TVD First Date

“The whole idea for our newest release, “Love in the Underground,” was actually inspired by vinyl.”

“The gist of it was that we wanted to put out a 45 of this track in the style of a throwback single, with an accompanying B-Side that would contrast the mood and tone of the A-Side. Only in our version, the B-Side would be the same song, just played totally differently; where our A-Side of “Love in the Underground” is rhythmic, energetic, and conveyed by a sense of poppy, happy-go-luckiness, the B-Side is moody, melancholy, and meditative, ultimately telling a totally different side of the story with the same words and melody… at least that’s the aim. We’ll find out if it works on May 15th when our “Love in the Underground” 45 hits the shelves and people get to experience the tracks in tactile form.

In a way, that reverence for that old school way of putting out a single ties into our whole ethos: for our whole career as bandits, we’ve been considered a band with a strong throwback vibe (although no one can ever quite say exactly what we’re throwing back to, besides a time where music was more immediate and live and happening right in front of you).

We started out playing in the subways and quickly gained a reputation of serendipity and surprise—a strange little pop up act you would stumble upon on your way to Manhattan that might enliven your night and maybe make you fall back in love with New York again. We seemed to be bringing people back to an older mode of music, one steeped in a feeling of nostalgia that directly contrasted with the digital music playing in the earbuds our commuters would remove to listen to us.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Allman Brothers Band, Win, Lose or Draw

On this 1975 bad hand of an album, the Allman Brothers proved, if nothing else, they’re lousy poker players. They went all in without so much as a single pair to play, and by so doing lost the big stack of chips they’d won on such legendary LPs as 1971’s Live at the Fillmore East, 1972’s Eat a Peach, and 1973’s Brothers and Sisters. In the words of a certain country musician turned roast chicken restaurant magnate, you’ve got know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, and know when to run away. The Allman Brothers should have run like Hell.

Band fractures were part of it. Gregg Allman had run off to LA to marry Cher, who quickly realized she had a train wreck on her hands and gave him the heave-ho in about as much time as it takes to mow your lawn. The rest of the guys resented his desertion, most likely because they’d never thought to marry Cher, and slapped this shitty collection of half-ass songs together to get back at him. I’m making all of this up, mind you, but it’s always hard to lay a finger on why a legendary band at the top of its form up and decides to suck.

The songs on Win, Lose or Draw aspire to competence and almost succeed–for the large part they’re C- minus stuff, and guitarist/vocalist Dickey Betts bears a large part of the blame. The best the same fella who gave us “Ramblin’ Man,” “Blue Sky,” “Melissa,” and “Jessica” can do is the formulaic “Just Another Love Song,” the desultory “Louisiana Lou and Three Card Monty John,” and the 14–plus-minutes jam “High Falls.”

Paul McCartney famously asserted that there’s nothing wrong with silly love songs, but he had nothing to say about dull ones like “Just Another Love Song.” When it comes to lovelorn Southern boys I’ll take the Marshall Tucker Band’s “Heard It in a Love Song” any day. In a similar vein, “Louisiana Lou and Three Card Monty John” is a musical scam and does a grave disservice to grifters and card sharks everywhere, which isn’t to say Betts’ guitar ain’t fetching. As for the instrumental “High Falls,” it’s a pale imitation of “Jessica,” but I can think of worse ways to spend 14 minutes. Betts plays a lot of tasty licks, but the song lacks the swing of “Jessica,” to say nothing of its sheer joy factor.

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In rotation: 4/27/20

Los Angeles, CA | Amoeba Music seeks $400,000 on GoFundMe to keep neon lights on: Amoeba Music, which calls itself “the world’s largest independent record store,” has launched a GoFundMe campaign to ride out the novel coronavirus pandemic. The independent music chain’s three stores, in Hollywood, Berkeley and San Francisco, are bastions of new and vintage vinyl records, turntables, cleaning kits, CDs, hard-to-find and international DVDs, and used Blu-ray discs. They have also been a venue for free concerts and meet-and-greets by both up-and-coming artists and bona-fide legends such as Paul McCartney and Ozzy Osbourne. But they have been closed since March 18 amid the spread of COVID-19. “Without the physical manifestation of music, we are one electromagnetic storm away from having our culture wiped out,” the GoFundMe pitch attributed to co-founders Marc Weinstein and Dave Prinz reads. “We will not let that happen. We are the keepers of that flame; as are you.” The pitch said Amoeba Music needs $400,000 to keep the vinyl spinning and 400 people employed.

Canberra, AU | ‘Frog’s’ a softy for the romance of record stores: Record Store Day is normally the busiest of the year for Brian “Frog” Harris and his Weston Creek store – Songland – when long lines of vinyl lovers snake through Cooleman Court Shopping Centre, from as early as 5am, eager to snag something special. But this year, like most everything else in the world today, it’s going to take a little longer to get your hands on those rare, vinyl treasures because the April event has been postponed until at least June 20. Harris, who has successfully navigated his bricks-and-mortar record store through the ups and downs of independent retailing, remains positive about the future of the one-day sale, from which he devotes the proceeds to the RSPCA Canberra. Like a walking encyclopedia of all things music, Harris has successfully turned his passion for music into a 40-year long career, 25 of those running his record store. Some big names have stepped foot inside such as Lee Kernaghan, Suzi Quatro, Wendy Matthews, Normie Rowe, Leo Sayer, Jon English and Jimmy Barnes.

Kutztown, PA | Kutztown record shop fundraising and paying it forward: When you’ve been running a college town record shop for just short of three decades, it’s tough to pick one band. “I listen to so many different things. There isn’t one thing that I would focus on,” said Chris Holt, a co-owner of Young Ones record shop on South Whiteoak Street in Kutztown. The same goes for the college music fans and locals who would normally be seen roaming the aisles of Young Ones. “That’s when people are exploring, discovering new music, so and, of course, they’re being turned on to new music by their friends, so they need somewhere to go get it,” Holt said. Many would make the argument that music is essential, especially during this time, but the store is closed and depending heavily on online sales. The owners considered fundraising. “I know there’s people that don’t have a job and people having trouble feeding their families and things like that, and I didn’t know if it was the right time to do such a thing,” he said. But then, they heard about the small business relief initiative through GoFundMe and QuickBooks and had an idea: Raise money that would be matched by the initiative of up to $500, buy vouchers from Mamma’s Pizza up the street and then donate the vouchers to the food pantry in town, Friend Inc.

Long Beach, CA | Returning the Favor: Indie Band Donates COVID-Inspired Song to Help Record Store Through Crisis: When Rand Foster opened unselfconsciously hip Fingerprints Music in 1993, Amazon was only a South American river, and the first digital download (Duran Duran’s “Electric Barbarella,” says Billboard) was still four years away. And streaming, what the fuck is streaming? Since then, while brick-and-mortar mainstays like Virgin Megastores and Tower Records have gone to watery graves from the sea-change brought by Amazon, Walmart, and the digital revolution, Fingerprints has managed to stay afloat, providing music-lovers with physical product and a broad array of in-store experiences. Foo Fighters, Sparklehorse, Jack Johnson, and Yo La Tengo have graced the stage, while luminaries like of Brian Wilson and Lou Reed have done in-store signings. The Flaming Lips Wayne Coyne spent no less than 12 hours with fans ― and enjoyed the experience enough to spend 45 minutes afterwards with staff…In the midst of searching for partial answers from a litany of possible loans and a new, full-service online store. Foster was buoyed by a touching gesture from De Lux, a post-disco dance-punk DIY five-piece who have played Fingerprints in support of each of their three albums. On April 1, De Lux released the COVID-19-inspired ““Dancing Is Dangerous in L.A,” with all proceeds earmarked to help Fingerprints weather the storm.

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TVD’s The Idelic Hour with Jon Sidel

Greetings from Laurel Canyon!

My makeup is dry and it cracks round my chin / I’m drowning my sorrows in whiskey and gin / The lion-tamer’s whip doesn’t crack anymore / The lions they won’t fight and the tigers won’t roar

La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la / So let’s all drink to the death of a clown / Won’t someone help me to break up this crown? / Let’s all drink to the death of a clown / La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la / Let’s all drink to the death of a clown

Was baseball season supposed to start this week? I believe the long-term effects of the quarantine are starting to creep into daily life. I guess I’d describe it as one of those roller coasters for toddlers—a long line to get on and short shallow hills and drops, like the one I believe they have at the Santa Monica pier.

Some days we’re melancholy. Yesterday was better. I watched the entire first round of the NFL draft only to realize our LA Rams were without a pick. At least it was live… well, not really because I tivo’d it. My wife kept asking me, “Are you awake? Can we watch something else?” and I kept insisting I was enjoying it because it was live even though I was watching a recording…

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TVD Radar: PlayOn
Fest supporting the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the WHO, 4/24–4/26

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Warner Music Group today announced the first-of-its-kind virtual music festival, PlayOn Fest supporting the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization (WHO), powered by the UN Foundation.

As part of a spectacular three-day live streaming event, PlayOn Fest promises to bring energy and high production values from world-class stages (including Coachella, Sydney Opera House, Lollapalooza, Apollo Theater, Bonnaroo, The O2 Arena, Primavera Sound, Red Rocks Amphitheater, Rock In Rio, Global Citizen Festival, and more) to music fans hungry for communal live experiences. Warner Music Group labels have opened up their vaults to relive epic show-stopping performances for this one-time-only live viewing event. Fans won’t want to miss their favorite artists’ set time, to be released later this week, including some extraordinary, and rare, footage from the likes of Bruno Mars, Coldplay, Green Day, Cardi B, Ed Sheeran, Janelle Monáe, Twenty One Pilots, Lil Uzi Vert, David Guetta, and more, as well as a look back at Nipsey Hussle’s incredible Victory Lap album release show.

Kicked off by LL COOL J this Friday at noon ET, PlayOn Fest will stream live on April 24-26, for 72 hours straight exclusively via Songkick’s YouTube channel. Warner Music Group has also launched a pre-sale of exclusive PlayOn Fest merch, with all proceeds going to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for WHO. In addition, fans will be encouraged to click-to-donate throughout the three-day-event. Donations will support WHO’s work to track and understand the spread of the virus; to ensure patients get the care they need and frontline workers get essential supplies and information; and to accelerate development of a vaccine and treatments for all who need them.

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Jacob Asher,
The TVD First Date

“My first memory of vinyl is digging through the records my neighbors put out for garbage day. Milk crates upon milk crates of things I had never seen or heard of. Most of the fascination came from the covers. I admired the artwork more than the music at the time, but I have my neighbor to thank for my teenage Van Halen obsession and learning to play the guitar.”

“In my late teens nearing 2010, the resurgence of vinyl was in full swing. Receiving all the classic records as gifts from my siblings grew into a curiosity about what else was out there. How obscure can these get? VERY. And you don’t need to look too hard or too far.

In my early 20s being fresh out of music school, I began writing and producing music. Wanting to create a unique left of center sound palette, I began what I call my “$2 vinyl bin” phase. Every record store in my hometown had a corner with cheap vinyl they figured no one would want—but to me it was a goldmine for sampling and inspiration. Sounds of local percussion and vocal ensembles from churches in my hometown from the ’80s, to haunted house sound effects. In my current work I treat my vocals and instruments as if they were samples; pitching, stretching, reversing, all of the above.

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

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

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Bad History Month, Old Blues (Exploding in Sound) Before releasing Dead and Loving It: An Introductory Exploration Of Pessimysticism as Bad History Month in 2017, vocalist, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Sean Sprecher was half of Fat History Month with drummer Mark Fede. This is his second album on his own, and it attains a level of introspection that has been tagged, at least once, as emo, though the songs here exude the quality of being well read that borders on the intellectual, and certainly literary, so that I’m reminded more of David Berman and Bill Callahan (plus, anybody who cops the name of a Mel Brooks movie for an album title is on to something more than the dour self-seriousness/ self-absorption that mars so much emo).

But on a purely musical level, Old Blues productively branches out a bit, at times recalling early Sebadoh, though I’ll emphasize these moments are fleeting. Furthermore, because hardly anything here moves particularly fast, the sound and perhaps better said, the mood, can bring to mind slowcore, and spiked with flareups of loner folk. But upon consideration, Sprecher, with Fede producing, has labored over an immersive set of music, as sharp instrumentally as it is vividly (and complexly) observational, that isn’t easily comparable to any other artist or band. Bookended by two long, shape shifting, and thematically linked tracks in “Waste Not” (13 minutes) an “Want Not” (15 minutes) that reinforce the heights of Sprecher’s ambition, the five shorter cuts productively contrast through restraint. In the end, Old Blues sounds like the kind of record that might’ve been squirted out by an indie label in the mid-’90s to a gradually increasing and passionate cult following. That’s a welcome gift in 2020. A

Lewsberg, In This House (12XU) The second LP from this Rotterdam, Netherlands-based band is the first to get a US release. Anybody into art-punk/ post-punk should investigate its ten tracks with haste, for they cohere into a stone killer. Utilizing the tried-and-true lineup of dual guitars (Arie van Vliet, Michael Klein), bass (Shalita Dietrich), drums (Dico Kruijsse) and vocals (Klein sings lead save for one track and Dietrich handles the occasional backing except for her turn up front), In This House is the latest in a long line of examples that underscore the inexhaustible inspiration of the Velvet Underground, although as in the finest prior instances of this influence, the Velvets are largely employed as a foundation rather than as a full-on template. I say largely because “Cold Light of Day” is a slice of VU action that’s completely, some might say flagrantly, undisguised, and an utter gem in the category of how to do it right.

That is, it’s never a mere copy. The other nine songs serve up a full platter of the aforementioned art-punk/ post-punk with range that’s subtly expressed as it firmly reinforces Lewsberg as a band with a focused sound. The simple fact of the matter is the genre in which they excel doesn’t often hang together in full albums by one band (those cornerstone art-punk/ post-punk LPs have attained that stature for a reason), much less a stunner on the level of In This House. And they’ve done it twice; I went back and checked their eponymous debut from 2018, and it kicks, just not as hard as this one. That’s great, and even rarer. Another cool turn of events is how Dietrich’s lead vocal in “Jacob’s Ladder” hit me like Kendra Smith’s did the first time I listened to The Days of Wine and Roses. If you dig the VU and The Dream Syndicate but also love The Fall, this LP could be your new fave. A

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Graded on a Curve: Killdozer,
Twelve Point Buck

“They say write what you know,” Killdozer’s Michael Gerald told me in an e-mail interview a while back, “and what I knew were idiots.”

But Gerald didn’t stop there. Over the Madison, Wisconsin band’s 11-year career, he also wrote about murderous sociopaths, people outraged by poor customer service, America’s brutality in the Gulf War, a cop who turns out to be one cool dude, victims of horrible work-related accidents, cold-hearted capitalist exploiters and their hapless victims, and a socialist dog named Knuckles who in addition to other good deeds achieves martyrdom by throwing himself in front of an assassin’s bullet intended for the kindly crippled boy who saved him.

On Killdozer’s masterpiece, 1987’s Twelve Point Buck, Gerald utilizes his trademark stentorian “mouth that roared” vocals to tell a wide array of Wisconsin Gothic tales, each and every one of them designed to amuse and appall. Behind him the band (Gerald plays bass, and the brothers Bill and Dan Hobson play guitar and drums respectively) grinds away, as implacable and unrelenting as the modified bulldozer Marvin John Heemeyer used to wreak havoc in Gransby, Colorado in 2004. (In point of fact the band took their name not from Heemeyers’s weapon of jerry-rigged destruction, but from the 1944 sci-fi novella of the same name by Thomas Sturgeon).

Twelve Point Buck’s first track is “New Pants and Shirt,” which opens with one of the most despicable descriptions of motherly love ever written:

“Enter the forty-nine gates of uncleanliness
Said she, pushing up her skirt
I held my breath against her fetidness
As I gazed upon the swinish flirt.”

I like to compare these lines with Jefferson Starship’s “Miracles,” on which Marty Balin bequethes us the immoral lines, “I had a taste of the real world/When I went down on you.” The one posits oral sex as a labial gateway to reality; the other’s enough to put you off cunnilingus forever.

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In rotation: 4/24/20

Berlin, DE | Berlin record stores reopening as lockdown is relaxed: Elevate, Bikini Waxx and Melting Point are among the stores that have reopened their doors: Berlin record stores are opening their doors once again as Germany tentatively relaxes its lockdown measures. Since Monday morning, shops in Germany smaller than 800 sq m have been given permission to reopen as the country starts to take small steps back to normality in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Popular record stores such as Cinthie’s Elevate, Bikini Waxx and Melting Point are among the stores that are reopening this week, albeit with strict social distancing measures and limited opening times in keeping with the laws put in place by the government. You can see each store’s statement surrounding their opening policies below. While this is heartening news to see, it’s a small step in what is likely to be a long process. Clubs, bars and cafés will remain closed for the time being, as chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that people in Germany must remain “disciplined and watchful” as lockdown is eased.

Los Angeles, CA | This Hollywood book and record shop hangs by a thread, waiting for federal help: Counterpoint Records & Books, serving the Hollywood Hills since 1980, is in danger of closing its doors for good. In normal times, that wouldn’t count as news anywhere outside the store’s Beachwood Canyon neighborhood. But millions of mom-and-pop businesses have gone dark around the country to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus. Many are just as spooked as Counterpoint Records & Books co-owner Susan Polifronio. With no customers or revenue, with bills still to be paid and debt piling high, the possibility grows every day that many won’t be able to reopen. The federal government was supposed to help, but its $349-billion small-business-loan program was exhausted in days, with some of the money going to major corporations that include national restaurants and at least one coal mining company. Millions of small businesses that sought loans have yet to see any money, according to the National Federation of Independent Business, which surveyed its members Friday and found that 80% were still waiting on federal help.

Stirling, UK | Record store owner warns local business after break-in: Stirling town centre main-stay Europa Music was broken into this week as non essential businesses lay empty during the current pandemic. Ewen Duncan, 60, the owner of the property was called out by police on Tuesday after it was spotted the door had been smashed on the now empty streets. Police Scotland confirmed two men aged 28 and 34 have been arrested and a report sent to the Procurator Fiscal after pictures of the offenders were circulated on social media. Mr Duncan, who has ran the store for over 20 years, begged other shopkeepers to make sure that they are fully insured and their security is as tight as it can be. “We thought we were well secured” he said, “until somebody proved us wrong” “Please make sure that you are well covered insurance wise and well locked up. Make sure anything small and nickable and easily taken away is locked away.” The theives surprisingly never stole any of the vinyl but instead made a bee-line for the smoking paraphenalia just in from the front door, and also had a go at the till, breaking the drawer in the process of trying to prise it open.

Jason Isbell Supports Indie Record Stores With Early ‘Reunions’ Release: Performer’s new album with the 400 Unit will be available one week before its originally slated May 15th release. Good news for fans eager to hear the new Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit album, Reunions: There is now a way to get it early. On Wednesday, the singer announced plans to release the album exclusively to independent record stores in the U.S. and Canada on May 8th, one week ahead of its official street date of May 15th. Isbell and his label Southeastern Records made the decision as a show of support to independent retailers, many of whom are struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic. Shoppers will have the chance to buy a special “Dreamsicle”-colored LP (in honor of a track on Reunions) as well as a standard LP and CD, and purchases will include a print of “Red Eye,” Isbell’s 1959 Gibson Les Paul. The Record Store Day website offers options to search nearby indie record stores and preorder the album. Isbell’s sixth album and follow-up to The Nashville Sound, Reunions pairs him once again with producer Dave Cobb and includes contributions from David Crosby and Rival Sons singer Jay Buchanan. In February, he released the track “Be Afraid,” which he followed soon after with “What’ve I Done to Help” and “Only Children.”

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Needle Drop: Rebecca Turner, The New
Wrong Way

It’s been a long stretch since her last one (Slowpokes in 2009), but on her third LP The New Wrong Way, Maplewood, NJ’s Rebecca Turner thrives in singer-songwriter mode with a tendency toward country-rock, or better said, country-pop.

But don’t get the idea that her songs would receive play on contempo radio (even if she is a professed fan of Miranda Lambert). Instead, her poppy quality can resonate like something that might’ve been recorded at Water Music back in the ’80s; that is, Hoboken pop.

Perhaps “Water Shoes” (her song partly about moving to NJ from NY) planted the seed for this comparison, but it was her tune “The Cat That Can Be Alone,” the record’s second, that really brought the similarity to the surface of my consciousness.

Recorded in her home studio and finished at Ardent in Memphis, The New Wrong Way offers a little grit right off the bat in “Living Rock,” the track establishing a pattern of strong guitar playing throughout the LP, with the high point possibly “Cassandra” (which was inspired by a Lambert show she caught back in 2010).

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Graded on a Curve:
Be Bop Deluxe,
Axe Victim

Some people are just in the right place at the wrong time. But few have been as unfortunate as Bill Nelson, the front man of English rock band Be Bop Deluxe.

Be Bop Deluxe put out a miraculously good debut LP, 1974’s Axe Victim, which suffered due to circumstances beyond its control. To wit, it was a glam record released at around the same time as David Bowie’s final stab at glitter rock, Diamond Dogs. This shouldn’t have been a big deal; England was awash in glam bands at the time, many of them enormously successful. No, what really did Nelson and Be Bop Deluxe in was the fact that Axe Victim bore a more than passing resemblance to the work of Mr. Bowie, which led critics to lambast Be Bop Deluxe as mere copycats.

As a result, Axe Victim has never gotten its fair due as a great glam album, on a par with Brian Eno’s “rock” albums, Mott the Hoople’s All the Young Dudes, or the four albums attributed to Ziggy Stardust and the other personae Bowie adopted during the Glam Age, when it seemed every wild young thing in England was sashaying about in glitter-encrusted platform boots and home-made space suits that screamed, “Look at me! I’m from Venus!”

Nelson founded Be Bop Deluxe in 1972 in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. A little history—Wakefield was dubbed the “Merrie City” in the Middle Ages, and “the perfect place to lose an eye” during the height of football hooliganism in the 1980s. (Okay, so I made that last part up.) The band was composed of Nelson on lead vocals, guitars, and keyboards; Ian Parkin on rhythm and acoustic guitars and organ; Robert Bryan on bass; and Nicolas Chatterton-Dew on drums, backing vocals, and incredibly pretentious name. Together they set about ingratiating themselves into the glam scene that was all the rage at the time, and they hit all the right notes on Axe Victim, which benefitted greatly from Nelson’s virtuosity on guitar.

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TVD Radar: The Beloved, Happiness 2LP 30th anniversary special edition in stores 7/10

VIA PRESS RELEASE | On July 10, 2020 New State Music will release a 30th Anniversary Special Edition of The Beloved’s debut studio album Happiness. Containing the pioneering dance duo’s breakthrough hits ‘Hello,’ ‘The Sun Rising,’ and ‘Your Love Takes Me Higher,’ Happiness was originally released in February 1990 on East West Records.

Available as a 180g heavyweight double vinyl package for the first time and double CD/digital, Happiness has been remastered from the original analogue studio masters (by John Davis at Metropolis Studios) and has a significantly louder and clearer audio than the original release. The reissue includes new sleeve notes written by the band themselves. The CD and Digital releases also include ‘The Wolf Studio Recordings,’ a 15-track bonus disc of Happiness demos, B-sides, remixes, and four previously unreleased songs recorded at Wolf Studios in Brixton between 1988 – 1990.

Comments Beloved co-founder and vocalist Jon Marsh, “Happiness was mostly recorded in the first few months of 1989. Listening to it now I hear the optimism, energy and joy of my younger self. Wonderful memories. That year the Berlin Wall fell. The following year Mandela was released. The world was changing, for the better.

In the intervening years I’ve tried to hold on to some of that mindset. I’m now a father of three teenagers, who can all claim to have danced to Frankie Knuckles and Derrick Carter; and seen Kraftwerk live! And the world is in lockdown and holding its breath. Which way does this play out? I hope, I want, to believe we come through this with a renewed sense of unity, and humanity, and love. Rekindle some of the wonder and hope. Find Happiness once more.”

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Sincere Gifts,
The TVD First Date

“I did not come to vinyl as a hipster or for noble retro reasons. I wanted to scratch, because I liked some terrible rap-rock in my teens and thought it would be cool to incorporate those sounds into my home recordings. To be clear, this was not the entirety of my musical interests—I listened to plenty of cool, interesting and unique music. But I was also into horrible stuff, as any kid is.”

“I bought a shitty turntable that was supposed to be ok for learning to scratch. However, it turns out scratching is hard, and I gave up pretty quickly. What I started doing instead was layering soundscapes from vinyl over my home recordings, or finding ways to make odd little loops. This led me down the path of digging into the dollar bin in record stores for the oddest vinyl I could find. Scottish choirs, organ music from Eastern Europe, old ukelele records—the stranger the cover, the more ridiculous the instrumental accompaniment, the better.

I discovered that in the dollar bin at any record store, you could uncover decades of forgotten sounds and ideas. It spoke to me as a young artist who was totally unknown. I labored over recordings endlessly and passionately, with little prospect of an audience to hear my work—the people on these recordings were the same. They had poured their hearts and souls into their music, got it pressed to vinyl with hopes for an audience, but they then ended up in dollar bins around the world collecting dust, heard by very few (weird) people.

Eventually, I started to branch out from the dollar bin and began to discover the joy of vinyl as a listener. I would be standing in a record store digging through the bin and then something awesome would come on the store’s stereo. This was before Shazam, so I’d have to actually go ask the human behind the counter who we were listening to, and before long I started collecting records of “normal” (aka good) music. As so many have discovered on their own, I found that listening to music on vinyl was a physical experience that can’t really be replicated in the digital realm. That is the aspect of vinyl culture that has stuck with me to this day—the physical connection vinyl allows you with the artist behind the music.”

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