Monthly Archives: June 2021

The Best of Idelic Hour with Jon Sidel

Greetings from Laurel Canyon!

Oh I am a lonely painter / I live in a box of paints / I’m frightened by the devil / And I’m drawn to those ones that ain’t afraid / I remember that time that you told me, you said / “Love is touching souls” / Surely you touched mine ’cause / Part of you pours out of me / In these lines from time to time

Just the other day a number of female writers at NPR posted a list of “the greatest albums made by women between 1964 and the present.” They said it’s to be an “intervention, a remedy, a correction of the historical record and hopefully…”

…the start of a new conversation? Well, hey ladies! Let’s get our playlist on!

Although some of the selections are obviously political—therefore “whack”—everyone loves a playlist in the summer 2017. Even if it puts Beyonce up there with Joni and Aretha…no stress. A playlist is a playlist and the women at NPR have been on the same wavelength with me this week. Turns out, I have been digging through steamy crates selecting some of my favorite heroines on wax for this week’s Idelic Hour “All Girls” playlist.

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TVD Radar: The Podcast with Evan Toth, Episode 39: Eric Slick

Every so often there is a member of a well-known band who truly blooms after stepping into the spotlight on their own terms. Such is the case for Eric Slick who is also the drummer from that fabulous band from Philadelphia, Dr. Dog.

In 2020, Eric released his second solo recording, Wiseacre, via Bandcamp which, given the current state of the the rabid vinyl buying community, sold out pretty quickly. In conjunction with ORG Music, Mr. Slick has reissued the album on red and yellow vinyl, of course.

It’s always a little interesting when a drummer takes the reigns. A world of critical eyes are upon them: will they be able to make the move from the drum throne to center stage, will they have the chops, the guts, and the vision? A cursory listen to Slick’s Wiseacre not only confirms his ability to make such a move, it leaves mouths agape at the quality and craft that he’s brought to both his writing and performance.

He’s not just playing drums either, while Butch Walker produces, Eric plays almost all of the instruments you hear. If it ain’t him, he’s joined by his talented wife, Natalie Prass, and Steven Drozd who was on loan from The Flaming Lips.

Eric joins me to talk about the new album, and we do it in a location familiar to many rockstars: the van. But, this time, perhaps teeming with apt symbolism, Eric holds our discussion from the driver’s seat.

Evan Toth is a songwriter, professional musician, educator, radio host, avid record collector, and hi-fi aficionado. Toth hosts and produces The Evan Toth Show and TVD Radar on WFDU, 89.1 FM. Follow him at the usual social media places and visit his website.

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Graded on a Curve: Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, Collectors’ Item: All Their Greatest Hits!

Remembering Harold Melvin, born on this day in 1939.Ed.

When it comes to the bands representing the “Philadelphia Sound” that came to dominate the soul charts in the early seventies, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes were inarguably the best.

Signed to Gamble & Huff’s Philadelphia International label in 1972 and featuring the mind-blowing baritone of lead singer and soul legend Teddy Pendergrass, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes recorded masterful soul, R&B, and disco tunes that were alternately inspirational and heartrending, thanks chiefly to the band’s myriad musical talents, the stellar production of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, and the almost phantasmagorically powerful pipes of Pendergrass, who at his most passionate could both cause people of the female persuasion to swoon and blow the wooly off a mammoth.

I picked Collectors’ Item: All Their Greatest Hits! for two simple reasons; (1) it really does cull the biggest hits from the band’s golden years of 1972-1975 with Philadelphia International, before Pendergrass defected to pursue a solo career, and (2) it has one of the cheesiest album covers I’ve ever seen, a horror of pastels with the band in blue leisure suits (with Harold in lime green!) huddled together as if for protection against the dubious painting skills of one Victor Juhasz. I have half a mind to buy the album and frame it on my wall next to a black light painting of a unicorn.

Melvin & The Blue Notes were a vocal group, and the music on their songs was provided by the legendary MFSB, a stable of more than 30 musicians based at Philly’s Sigma Sound Studios who also worked with the Spinners, Wilson Pickett, the Stylistics, the O’Jays, and others. They’re chiefly remembered for their great proto-disco track “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia),” which was to become the theme song for Don Cornelius’ Soul Train. How cool, I ask you, is that?

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TVD Radar: Corinne Bailey Rae, (s/t) debut reissue in stores 8/13

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Corinne Bailey Rae’s multi-award-winning and critically acclaimed self-titled debut album is to be reissued on 180g vinyl for the first time since its original release. Available on black vinyl as well as a special edition brick-red version, this is the first time it has been issued on vinyl as per the original LP tracklist, which now includes the bonus track “Another Rainy Day.” Pre-order the LP here.

Originally released in February 2006, the album was an instant critical and commercial success. Debuting at number one in the Official UK Album Charts, Bailey Rae went on to win two MOBO Awards for Best UK Newcomer and Best UK Female, as well as a Mojo Award for Best New Act, and she was also nominated for Best UK & Ireland Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards. In 2007 she went on to win Outstanding New Artist at the NAACP Image Awards and was also nominated for Outstanding Female Artist and Outstanding Album.

At the 2007 Grammy Awards, she received a nomination for Best New Artist, while “Put Your Records On” was nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. In 2008, she was nominated for another Grammy Award for Song of the Year for “Like a Star,” and “Put Your Records On” won an ASCAP Award for Song of the Year.

The album, which featured four top 40 singles—”Like A Star,” “Trouble Sleeping,” “Put Your Records On,” and “I’d Like To”—has been certified triple platinum in the UK and platinum in the US, where it peaked at number four in the US album charts and has sold over four million copies globally.

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Graded on a Curve:
Meat Puppets,

Arizona’s Meat Puppets’ musical career has worked according to some as yet undetermined law of evolution. Most bands hit upon a sound early on, then tinker with the formula. Not so with Meat Puppets. They veered off in totally unpredictable new directions on each of their first three LPs, and I defy anyone unfamiliar with their work to sit down and listen to them then tell me they’re by the same band.

Meat Puppets’ self-titled 1982 debut was perhaps the only psychedelic hardcore LP ever released, and so fucked up in so many ways–vocalist and guitarist Curt Kirk deliberately made sure you couldn’t understand a single word he was singing–that hardcore kids didn’t know what to make of it.

Similarly, on 1984’s Meat Puppets II the band went lysergic cowpoke with a bunch of twisted country songs that sounded nothing like the by-the-numbers retro that fell under the label of cowpunk. And they reinvented themselves yet again with 1985’s Up on the Sun, a shambolic and sun-baked slice of oddly syncopated songs boasting lyrics that proved vocalist/guitarist Curt Kirkwood to be a a goofy and good-natured desert mystic.

1987’s Mirage was a clear (if not as good) sequel to Up on the Sun, and at long last it seemed they’d found their niche. But Huevos, released later that year, made it clear they weren’t done changing skin. Huevos is often referred to as Meat Puppets’ “ZZ Top Record,” and “Paradise” and “Automatic Mojo” are the primary reasons why–both sounded like twisted outtakes from Afterburner. On a less overt note, Meat Puppets upped both the volume and intensity to ZZ Top levels, a radical move given the band’s machismo-free outlook on life in general. Even Kirkwood’s normally conversational vocals boast muscle.

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In rotation: 6/25/21

Pueblo, CO | Swan song: Pueblo Records & Tapes to close in September after 32 years: Pueblo Records & Tapes is closing its doors for good in September, ending its 32-year run in the music business. Owner David Dwight was just 27 when he opened the business May 12, 1989. Back then it was in a 1,000-square-foot shop offering vinyl and compact discs in the Regency Square. “It was about one-third the size of what I am in today, but gradually we increased the inventory. After five years I moved up front by Hastings and we were there for another five years,” Dwight said. In 2000, Dwight decided he didn’t want to be a tenant any more so he built the building that currently houses the store at 1112 Pueblo Blvd. Way Space A. “I never really wanted to be an entrepreneur of a building, I just wanted to run my store. I think I picked a good spot because it was all open prairie when I built this thing and now I have to sell this building and there is already a line (of prospective buyers) for it,” he said.

Fords, NJ | A popular Jersey shore vintage record store closes up shop: Vintage Vinyl in Woodbridge, NJ is closing its doors for good. When I heard this news, I was not just saddened but a little surprised. Vintage Vinyl has been THE destination for Jersey Shore music lovers for 42 years. National vinyl record sales have also been on an incredible high the past few years. But according to founder and owner Rob Roth, he says,” it’s time to retire.” As a self-described music aficionado and a collector of vinyl records, the pandemic brought me closer to my albums. I alphabetized my vast assortment of records, compact discs, and cassettes. In the process, I found a few rare gems hiding, I had forgotten about. Going to the record store to find more, was a treat. I am not the only one. As I mentioned, records have been a popular item of late. Music lovers across the country reached deep into their pockets and shelled out tons of money at their local record shop. According to the Recording Industry Association of America’s annual survey, vinyl sales reached a record high of $619.6 million in 2020. That’s an increase of 29.9% from 2019 sales totals of $479.5. [Ed note: Vintage Vinyl is nowhere near the Jersey shore.]

UK | How vinyl records are trying to go green: With the vinyl revival showing no sign of easing up, its environmental impact is becoming more of a concern. There were 22 times more vinyl albums sold in the UK in 2020 than in 2007 – with sales leaping from 210,000 to 4.8 million. The most recent figures from the British Phonographic Industry reveal sales grew by more than 30% in 2020 alone, bringing in revenue of more than £86m. For the first time since the late 80s, the value of record sales in 2021 is expected to surpass that of CDs – although it still lags way behind digital streaming and downloads. As sales rise, record labels and artists are beginning to look at sustainability issues. PVC (poly vinyl chloride), the plastic from which records are made, isn’t exactly environmentally friendly. “Vinyl is a form of plastic that is quite difficult to recycle,” says Dr Sharon George, senior lecturer in the environment and sustainability at Keele University. “The C in PVC means chloride (from chlorine) which is quite toxic and difficult to handle. This is one of the reasons recyclers don’t really like PVC, so it tends to either go to the landfill or incineration.”

Andover Audio SpinSub review: Deeply satisfying vinyl listening thanks to deep, vibration-free bass: The affordable SpinSub is the perfect low-frequency companion to the company’s SpinBase turntable speaker, pumping the bass from a remarkably vibration-free enclosure. Turntables, and the vinyl records we play on them, are extremely sensitive to vibration. A delicately balanced tonearm with a tiny needle glides inside a fine spiral groove precisely cut into a vinyl platter to reproduce sound that must be amplified twice: First by a phono preamp (to bring the signal to line level) and then by an amplifier or self-powered speakers. Any vibration transferred to the turntable can degrade this process or even cause the tonearm to skip. Until Andover Audio wowed vinyl lovers with its SpinBase stereo speaker system, one would have scoffed at the notion of putting a turntable directly on top of a speaker, to say nothing of locating a subwoofer anywhere near one. Putting a subwoofer in the same stand as your turntable? That’s downright anathema.

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TVD Radar: Art Blakey and His Jazz Messengers, Chippin’ In, first time on vinyl, 180 gram, clear 2LP in stores 7/30

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Art Blakey (1919–1990) actually needs little introduction, the American Jazz drummer and bandleader made a name for himself in the 1940s and 1950s playing with contemporaries such as Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charlie Parker.

He is often considered to have been Thelonious Monk’s most empathetic drummer (he played on both Monk’s first recording session in 1947 and his final one in 1971). In the decades that followed Blakey recorded for all THE labels that mattered in the field of jazz (Columbia, Blue Note, Atlantic, RCA, Impulse!, Riverside, Prestige, Verve, etc.). His collaborations were numerous and include working with equally legendary artists such as Sonny Rollins, Max Roach, Chet Baker, John Coltrane and others.

Art Blakey was a major figure and a pioneer for modern jazz, he assumed an aggressive swing drumming style early on in his career and is known as one of the inventors of the modern bebop style of drumming. His signature polyrhythmic style was amazing, exuding power and originality, creating a dark cymbal sound punctuated by frequent loud snare and bass drum accents in triplets or cross-rhythms. A loud and domineering drummer, but Blakey also listened and responded to the others in the band. He was an original, an important drummer you’d hear and would recognize immediately.

Art Blakey was inducted into the Downbeat Jazz Hall of Fame (1981), the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame (1991), the Grammy Hall of Fame (1998 and 2001) and was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award posthumously in 2005. He was sampled and remixed by renowned acts such as Raekwon, Black Eyed Peas, A Tribe Called Quest, Digable Planets, Buscemi, KRS-One, and Madlib.

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Demand it on Vinyl: Buck Owens & the Buckaroos, nine reissues in stores 8/8–10/1

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Throughout Omnivore Recordings’ 12-year relationship with the Buck Owens Private Foundation, one request from the fans was clear and consistent—to make Buck Owens’ late-’60s/early-’70s releases available again as stand-alone reissues.

Omnivore is pleased to answer that call and announce nine titles to be released throughout the summer and fall of 2021. The albums will be released as they were originally issued and for the first time, appear in their original configuration on CD and digital (in both standard and high resolution), mastered from the original analog tapes, and with expanded artwork and new liner notes. Street dates, shown below for each title, are August 8, August 27 and October 1, 2021.

Buck Owens and the Buckaroos had 21 #1 hits on Billboard while pioneering the world-famous Bakersfield country sound—although he preferred to call it simply “American music.” The sound was distinguished in part by the twangy guitar work of Don Rich and drum tracks placed forward in the mix. Other key Bakersfield stars included Merle Haggard, Jean Shepard, Susan Raye, and Freddie Hart. And later, Kentucky-born Dwight Yoakam would base his own sound on the city’s forebears.

Owens is in both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. He co-hosted the Hee Haw TV music and comedy hour with Roy Clark from 1966-86. And he owned the Bakersfield music venue Crystal Palace, which remains the home of the Bakersfield sound to this day, as well as several radio stations in the Bakersfield market.

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Seth Kessel,
The TVD First Date
and Premiere,
Ride on Through

“Vinyl holds a special place in my heart and is largely responsible for the influence on most of the music I play. My collection started with 7″ records of punk and hardcore bands such as The Templars, Dropkick Murphys, and Crimpshine. The best spot in NYC was Generation Records, on Thompson Street. They used to be open until 1am or so and had a great selection of local and obscure bands.”

“It wasn’t until college that my musical tastes broadened. A big reason for this was my mother gave me her vinyl collection to take with me. It was there that I fell in love with early American recordings: Mississippi John Hurt, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Skip James, Jim Kweskin’s Jug Band, and many more. My favorite was Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. He traveled with Woody Guthrie and was the predecessor to Bob Dylan. It was because of these records, I picked up the guitar and started in on fingerpicking blues and folk songs.

I was obsessed and the search for vinyl continued. In the beginning, nine out of ten times, the artist wasn’t one I’d heard of. I know they say don’t judge a book by its cover… does that apply to music as well? I would say it’s hit or miss and the hits have stayed with me to this day.

What I love most is the ritual that comes with a new record. I have one of those furniture pieces from the 1960s with the turntable and speaker built in. I listen to the record while reading the liner notes and looking at the musicians on each track. There’s a warm feeling of having music in tangible form. There’s something personal about when it goes through a turntable. For one thing, you don’t have to listen to a 15 second ad on YouTube and your personal information isn’t being shared. There’s no number that tells you how many plays it’s gotten either. None of that matters.

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Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores for
June 2021, Part Four

Part four of the TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for June 2021. Part one is here, part two is here, and part three is here.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog, Hope (Northern Spy) Last October, this trio (Marc Ribot on guitar and vocals, Shahzad Ismaily on bass and keyboards with backing vocals, Ches Smith on drums, percussion and electronics with backing vocals) released the pandemic EP “What I Did on My Long Vacation,” a strong set notable for being studio recorded in May of 2020, but with heavy precautions, as everyone was set up in separate rooms (none of the three actually laid eyes on each other while recording). Well, that CD (now sold out) was effectively a teaser for this full-length behemoth (available June 25 on 2LP and CD), which was the byproduct of the same May sessions. It extends Ceramic Dog’s focus on matters social and political very nicely, though this characteristic isn’t as strident as it is on 2018’s YRU Still Here? Saxophonist Darius Jones returns from the EP, bringing the skronk and helping to reinforce the group’s blend of avant-jazz and punk rock. Ceramic Dog is made up of exceptionally gifted players, but just as important is their constant avoidance of the stale. A-

Lucy Gooch, “Rain’s Break” (Fire) This recording was inspired by the technicolor films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, which isn’t exactly common. The best known prior example is Kate Bush’s 1993 album The Red Shoes, a fact doubly germane here, as Gooch, who’s based in Bristol, UK (originally from Norfolk) and a recent arrival on the scene (there is a prior EP, “Rushing,” dating from last year), has been likened to Bush. Listening to “Rain’s Break” (available on vinyl and CD with a gorgeous cover) reveals an ethereality that supports the comparison, though the similarities are never overpowering. This is partly because Gooch is operating with just a synth and her voice, rather than drawing on a wide array of instruments (often in the hands of an all-star supporting cast) as Bush regularly did in the shaping of her discography. However, Gooch’s work is bright, sturdy and unpredictable; she’s been additionally compared to Bjork, Julianna Barwick, and Mary Lattimore, but upon consideration, I don’t think I’d have come to those conclusions on my own. Assured and promising. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Dyke & the Blazers, Down on Funky Broadway: Phoenix 1966–1967 & I Got a Message: Hollywood 1968–1970 (Craft Recordings) Led by Arlester “Dyke” Christian and based in Phoenix, AZ (with roots in Buffalo, NY), Dyke & the Blazers are responsible for one of the essential funk music building blocks with the 1967 two-part single “Funky Broadway.” Now, many will recognize the song through Wilson Pickett’s version, which arrived shortly thereafter and overtook the original on the charts, hitting #1 R&B and rising to #8 Pop (Dyke & the Blazers peaked at #17 and #65, respectively), but as is often the case, the superior version came out first, though as pointed out by Alec Palao in his notes for the first of these two volumes, there is a lack of finesse in Dyke’s raw belting and the Blazer’s relentless combination of density and velocity, so that the whole was likely just too potent to attain smash hit status.

Being overtaken by Atlantic’s powerhouse national distribution was surely another factor in the single’s moderate chart showing, but I’ll reemphasize that Dyke & the Blazers’ approach, in a manner akin to James Brown & the JB’s (who were obviously influenced by “Funky Broadway”), was just too much for many to handle. And listening to these two collections in 2021, it might still be that way. The material on Phoenix in particular documents a band that’s variations on a template are tackled without concern for stylistic breadth (Dyke essentially didn’t do ballads, with “I’m So All Alone” an exception). The move to Hollywood did usher in some refinements as the studio players shifted to the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, but there is still a focus on collective power and grit over individualist flair (the lack of solos is striking, and the drums smack hard). But the fine-tuning in terms of arrangements does magnify Dyke’s limitations as a frontman, but he’s never short on emotion. I rate both sets as essential for budding soul and funk collectors. The Phoenix stuff is just massive… A-/A-

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In rotation: 6/24/21

Record Store Day 2021’s First Drop Sparks 1.5 Million in U.S. Vinyl Album Sales: Record Store Day 2021’s first drop, held on June 12, helped sell 1.546 million vinyl albums in the U.S. in the week ending June 17, according to MRC Data. That’s a record for a Record Store Day week and the second-largest week for vinyl album sales since MRC Data began electronically tracking sales in 1991. The only larger week for vinyl album sales since 1991 came in the week ending Dec. 24, 2020, with 1.841 million sold. Further, with 1.209 million vinyl albums sold at indie record stores in the week ending June 17, that marks the largest week ever for the format at the indie sector in MRC Data history. It surpasses the previous MRC Data-era high for weekly vinyl LP sales at indies: 733,000 sold in the week ending Dec. 24, 2020. Record Store Day, the annual indie music retailer celebration, is being staged over two days in 2021 — June 12 and July 17 — owed to complications caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Traditionally, Record Store Day is held on one Saturday.

Philadelphia, PA | A peek inside the world’s greatest record store: A lovable grouch, obsessed with the magic of American sidewalk harmony, runs the Philadelphia shop. I first heard about Val Shively—a legendary figure among serious record collectors—from a friend of mine in Philadelphia named Aaron Levinson. He’s a Grammy-winning music producer, composer, DJ and rare vinyl collector who has been buying records from Shively for 40 years. “He has a store called R&B Records in this sketchy neighborhood out past West Philly,” Levinson told me. “The building is listing like the Tower of Pisa because he’s got five million records in there. It’s likely the biggest record store in the world and collectors fly in from the U.K., Germany, Japan and wherever else, in order to buy from Val. But if they say something wrong, or he doesn’t like their attitude, he explodes in an unbelievable rage and throws them out of the store.” Levinson continued, “He’s a born-again Christian who curses like a mobster. He’s a white guy who went nuts for Black music when he was young and never recovered. He’s the authoritative collector of doo-wop records on the planet and one of the greatest record collectors of all time, even though his genre is narrow.”

Lansing, MI | Michigan’s only female-owned record store is in Lansing: There are more than 60 record stores in Michigan, but only one is owned by a woman. DeWitt resident and owner of The Record Lounge, Heather Frarey, is that woman. Her shop is right here in REO Town. “It’s amazing. I always want to shop here,” said vinyl collector Ella Spencer. “Women-owned businesses are incredible especially in a music scene, because that’s kind of hard to find.” “I worked really hard to get to this point,” Frarey said. “My husband and I, we were in a bad motorcycle accident in ’99.” Frarey was a dental assistant in 2007 when she realized that because of the accident, she was no longer able to stand for long periods of time. So, she had to find something new. “The only thing I knew was music and vinyl,” Frarey said. She worked at a record shop when she was in high school. Frarey opened The Record Lounge on January 2, 2008. Thirteen years later, her record store is thriving.

Elmira Heights, NY | A new and unique music store is set to open in Elmira Heights: A one of a kind business is preparing to open in Elmira Heights. Squatch Den is aiming to open on July 2nd. The Squatch Den will sit in a plaza right on College Ave. across from Thomas Edison High School. It grew out of the Squatch In the Pit website. The store is dubbed, a one-stop music shop for vinyl, music apparel, and even photography. The owners had planned to open the music store back in 2020 but were delayed because of the pandemic. Half of the store will be dedicated to record sales and the other half will be a dedicated photography studio. They say customers can expect all the best music on vinyl and CDs. Aaron Cullen, one of the stores owners, says it’s the perfect place to find a variety of music including early 2000s EMO music. The Squatch Den will also be holding live music regularly with some bands already booked for this year.

Las Vegas, NV | On The Record at Park MGM opens July 2: “…On The Record offers visitors a unique twist on the Las Vegas nightlife experience with its iconic spaces including the double-decker DJ booth, the karaoke rooms and the Vinyl Parlor,” said Ann Hoff, president & COO of Bellagio and Park MGM. “We look forward to the Fourth of July weekend as Las Vegas visitors will join us in celebrating the reopening of our speakeasy and club, as well as the return of major entertainment at Park Theater.” Conjuring a feeling of nostalgia inspired by different musical eras, the 11,000-square-foot three-room On The Record is a hidden club experience driven by Jonnie and Mark Houston’s award-winning interior design. A functioning record store entry with a robust vinyl collection available for purchase, indoor and outdoor spaces, a double-decker bus DJ booth and patio bar, and three hidden karaoke break rooms are among the venue’s unique features.

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TVD Radar: Bryan Ferry solo catalog remastered reissues in stores 7/30

VIA PRESS RELEASE | In 1973, while Roxy Music—one of the most unique, influential, and important bands of their generation—were still riding the cusp of a wave, frontman Bryan Ferry launched an audacious solo career that went on to cement him as one of the greatest and unique performers and songwriters the UK has ever produced.

His first six solo albums, These Foolish Things (1973), Another Time, Another Place (1974), Let’s Stick Together (1976), In Your Mind (1977), The Bride Stripped Bare (1978) and Boys and Girls (1985) have been remastered from original tapes at Abbey Road Studios and cut by Frank Arkwright. All six releases are pressed on 180g black vinyl and feature enhanced versions of the original artwork overseen by Bryan Ferry. All records will be available on pre-order here.

Bryan Ferry’s solo work has shaped the course of contemporary rock and pop music. Through classic love songs such as “Don’t Stop The Dance” and “Slave To Love,” from 1985’s Boys and Girls, and his work across a range of musical styles from filmic electronic soundscapes to recreations of New Orleans and Weimar jazz bands, Ferry has continually affirmed his position as a musical icon.

Aside from his own compositions, an equally important aspect of Ferry’s work has been his re-styling of numerous songs from different genres. The first of these was the ground-breaking and critically acclaimed (and to be reissued album) These Foolish Things. From unique renditions of Lesley Gore’s “It’s My Party” and The Miracles’ “The Tracks of My Tears,” to astounding versions of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and The Beach Boys’ “Don’t Worry Baby,” These Foolish Things has (The New) Rolling Stone Album Guide giving it five out of five stars and describing it as a “conceptual and musical tour de force.”

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TVD Radar: Brian May, Back to the Light remastered reissue in stores 8/6

VIA PRESS RELEASE | “Anybody fancy a season of BM re-releases with lots of juicy extras?” asked Brian May through his Instagram feed in 2020. “We’re working on a plan!!!” The first stage of that plan comes to fruition now, with the long-awaited reissue of the legendary Queen guitarist’s superlative debut solo album. Almost 30 years on from its initial release, Back to the Light stands as an intimate and expansive testament to the talent and tenacity of one of the foremost guitarists and songwriters of his generation.

On its release in September 1992, Back to the Light was an unqualified hit. Hitting No. 6 in the UK album charts, it produced a brace of indelible singles. Introduced to Queen fans during an emotive performance at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, Wembley Stadium, in April 1992, “Too Much Love Will Kill You” reached No. 5 in the UK. “Driven by You” had already peaked at No. 6. The anthemic “Back to the Light” and rollicking “Resurrection” also charted, while the instrumental “Last Horizon” would become a staple of both The Brian May Band’s solo concerts and May’s later live return to Queen.

Sometimes rocking, sometimes reflective, the singles give a sense of the album’s depth and reach. “The Dark” reconfigures Queen’s “We Will Rock You” to introspective ends and builds to a symphonic crescendo, before the full-blooded title-track sets out May’s stall between its multi-tracked voices, euphoric chorus and crunchy guitars. “Love Token” is one of Brian’s “momma and poppa” songs, a tale of a break-up plotted over blues-rock backing.

Co-credited to drummer Cozy Powell and featuring revered rock musician Don Airey on keyboards, “Resurrection” is a glittering high energy rocker, with probably as many operatic overdubs as “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Featuring a tour de force from May on guitar and cataclysmic drum pyrotechnics from Powell, for many this is the outstanding track of the album. Lyrically, it is mounted on personal foundations, troubled at the heart but determined to find hope in “the promise of the future.”

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Record Store Day’s Michael Kurtz,
The TVD Interview

It was Free Comic Day that inspired Record Store Day, the annual celebration for vinyl fans that began in 2007. And what started as a promotion among 100 stores in the US has grown into an international event that not only survived the pandemic but had its biggest year ever last year by splitting its annual Record Store Day drops into three separate days to keep the crowds smaller and distanced.

At a time when the vinyl version of Taylor Swift’s six month old Evermore album took her back to No. 1 (from No. 74) this month, we talked to event co-creator Michael Kurtz in the lull between this summer’s two events, June 12 and July 17.

What have you heard about the success of this year’s first Record Store Day June 12?

The reports I’ve seen is that, with the second one, it should actually surpass the success of last year’s event.

How do you measure that?

Breaking all records for selling the most vinyl at independent retail. And the only barometer for that is MRC Data for Billboard, which we know is not perfect, but it definitely gives you a clear indication and we heard from the store owners themselves that the data supports.

How did last year become such a big year despite the pandemic?

We did a lot of work in advance for the three drops we did last year—Zoom calls with record store owners, lots of email discussions about how to morph and allow stores to operate. If they had no restrictions they could sell as normal, but if there was a lot of restrictions, and mandates for mask wearing and social distancing, then they would benefit by splitting all the release over three days, so we didn’t overwhelm the store with too many people and then we allowed the stores to online at 1 PM eastern time on their store websites to take care of people who were not comfortable shopping. All three of those things enabled it to be just a huge success.

And that’s why this year’s was broken into two dates as well?

Yeah, it’s the same thing.

Do you hope things will be back to normal by Black Friday or next year?

Yeah, we hope so.

What’s the reason there has been an increase in vinyl sales for 15 consecutive years?

I think it’s because the vinyl format has been adopted by whatever the youngest two generations talk about in marketing terms. For people that are less than 38 years old, vinyl is their format. They completely adopted it. The majority of people who shop in record stores now are female and the average age is 28. So they’ve taken it over. That’s why you also see the top sellers are Lady Gaga, Haim, Ariana Grande, that kind of thing, because it’s that next generation.

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Graded on a Curve: Colleen,
The Tunnel and
the Clearing

Across two decades and seven LPs, Cécile Schott, who records as Colleen, has grown into one of contemporary music’s most reliably interesting creators. Schott, a native of France currently living in Barcelona, Spain, recorded her latest at home from October 25 to December 1 of last year, producing and mixing the record along with playing everything herself; the instruments include a Yamaha organ, assorted analog electronics, Moog effects, and her voice. That makes The Tunnel and the Clearing a truly solo pandemic experience, but it never registers as a compromise, nor does it even connect as an outlier in the fertile Colleen discography. It’s out now on LP, CD and digital through Thrill Jockey of Chicago.

Cécile Schott recorded The Tunnel and the Clearing last autumn, but only after a significant delay, having initially commenced her follow-up to 2017’s outstanding A flame my love, a frequency the very next year, only to be stricken by fatigue brought on by illness. Treatment followed, as did coping with the ensuing life changes. And then more. After Schott moved home and studio to Barcelona, the Covid-19 lockdown came, and then finally, there was the end of a longtime partnership.

By any reasonable metric, that’s a tough stretch. Although not autobiographical or confessional in nature, The Tunnel and the Clearing reflects these personal circumstances through emotional richness that’s heightened by Schott’s well-established attention to acoustics and her dedication to a wide instrumental palette, as she’s previously utilized the viola da gamba, classical guitar, vintage music boxes, crystal glass singing bowls, clarinet, spinet, and melodica.

It’s also noteworthy that recording truly solo is standard practice for Schott, though that doesn’t mean this time wasn’t distinct, as she has related how the long stretches of lockdown silence intensified her perception of music’s ability to express the range of human emotion. It’s also not her first time tapping into the potential of electronics, as A flame my love, a frequency featured two Critter & Guitari brand synths, the Pocket Piano and the Septavox, plus a Moog delay.

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