Category Archives: The TVD Storefront

Happy Thanksgiving!

We’ve closed TVD’s HQ for the Thanksgiving holiday. While we’re away, why not fire up our Record Store Locator app and visit one of your local indie record stores?

Perhaps there’s an interview, review, or feature you might have missed? Catch up and we’ll see you back here on November 29.

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TVD Radar: ‘HARD + FAST’ book from photographer Melanie Nissen in stores 2/1

VIA PRESS RELEASE | There were quite a few photographers on L.A.’s early punk scene, but Melanie Nissen’s pictures have always stood apart. The legendary photographer shot for illustrious punk rock fanzine Slash from 1977-1980 and will release the first official collection of her work with HARD + FAST, a hardbound art book published by Blank Industries due out February 1, 2022.

In its early years, the L.A. punk scene was egalitarian, and the mix of people in her pictures is astonishing. Senior citizens, people of every race, children, swells in fancy clothes, people in rags – everyone was welcome. “The early years were special,” Nissen reflects. “There was a real sense of camaraderie and everyone was generous with their work.”

Immersed in the burgeoning scene herself, Nissen was friends with most of the people she photographed. This created a unique trust and comfort for her subjects to act naturally, injecting a biting sense of humor and extravagant body language into her photographs. There are also elements of formal portraiture evocative of work by Richard Avedon; like Avedon, Nissen sometimes prints her portraits framed with rough outlines of thick black ink that give them an unconventional edge.

“I can see that these are also documentary pictures because they include elements of Los Angeles that have disappeared,” concludes Nissen. “The Tropicana Motel, bars and cocktail lounges, newsstands, nightclubs, the street life on Hollywood Boulevard, boutiques run by and for punks, burger stands, phone booths – these things are gone today, and they represent an aspect of L.A. history that shouldn’t be forgotten. The entire city had the familiarity of a neighborhood then, and that’s no longer the case. L.A. is my home, though, and I’ll always remain loyal to it; I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”

When Nissen left Slash she embarked on a career in the record industry, working as a photographer and graphic designer for the four major labels – Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Virgin, and A&M – for more than two decades.

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Graded on a Curve: Blondie,
Parallel Lines

Celebrating Clem Burke in advance of his 67th birthday tomorrow.Ed.

A bit of history: When Blondie signed on with Australian producer Mike Chapman (of Chapman and Nicky Chinn glam rock fame) to record their 1978 breakthrough LP Parallel Lines, little did they know what they were in for. Deborah Harry, Chris Stein, and the rest of the band had a rather punk attitude towards the studio, and everything else for that matter; as Chapman noted later, “They were really, really juvenile in their approach to life—a classic New York underground rock band—and they didn’t give a fuck about anything. They just wanted to have fun and they didn’t want to work too hard getting it.”

Chapman the perfectionist called Blondie “hopelessly horrible” and explained his attitude towards the sessions in frankly dictatorial terms: “I basically went in there like Adolf Hitler and said, ‘You are going to make a great record, and that means you are going to start playing better.’” And they did. The result was a landmark record that everybody should own but you know what? I really kind of miss the hopelessly horrible band that gave us Parallel Lines’ predecessor, Plastic Letters.

Sure, Plastic Letters lacks the gloss of Parallel Lines’ disco-inflected “Heart of Glass” and a song quite as catchy as “Hanging on the Telephone,” but it possesses the same gritty and off-kilter NYC charm as the first recordings by the Dictators and the Ramones. Spies, strange happenings in the Bermuda Triangle, and cheating at poker by means of telepathy—Plastic Letters may be an imperfect recording, but boring it ain’t.

That said, Parallel Lines is still loads of fun, and retains that good old punk spirit on such numbers as “Hanging on the Telephone” (love Harry’s New Yawk squawk), “One Way or Another” (great chainsaw riff meets manhunt disguised as love song), and the belligerent closing track, “Just Go Away,” which boasts wonderful shouted backing vocals and really snotty vocals by Harry. And then there’s the pneumatic “I Know But I Don’t Know,” which features some great vocals by an unnamed member of the band, who accompanies Harry and sounds about as New York, New York as they come.

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Class of 2021 takes a bow at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Concert

Given the diminishing pool of worthy candidates, it might be a good idea to take a year or two off from the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. 

As the event has moved from an intimate, anything-goes party in a New York ballroom to a slick arena cable special, producers have succeeded in making it a pretty good annual celebration anyway, with thoughtful segments that really make the case for new inductees. With the public now allowed as final arbiters on who gets in, the sometimes questionable results have been offset by some well chosen “special” awards to pioneers and influencers who, in the case of Kraftwerk, for instance, should have been inducted long ago.

Saturday’s three hour program on HBO begins with Taylor Swift sauntering out slowly to sing. Immediately you think, oh no, she’s going to take 10 minutes here. She doesn’t, but her performance of Carole King’s “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” hints she doesn’t quite grasp its intent  (the line “I won’t ask again” is spat with girl power defiance that wasn’t in the original).

The dance of these induction shows is balancing the often elderly honorees with hot stars that will get a younger demographic tuned in, so Taylor Swift may have been the right person to pay tribute to King (and the fact Taylor has a new blockbuster album out may have helped her make the flight to Ohio). Certainly she was more suited to the material than Jennifer Hudson, whose salute came through her adaptation of Aretha Franklin’s “Natural Woman” which didn’t seem to channel the Queen of Soul all that much either. The insightful point about Carole King is that her own voice is so personal, warm and direct, it communicates the best. And so it was when King was allowed finally to sit at the piano and show everyone.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Beatles,
Let It Be (Super Deluxe Edition)

Fans of The Beatles have been waiting a long time for the official re-release of the Let It Be film which came out in 1970. The movie has been out of print and circulation for years and has never been released on DVD, Blu-ray or for streaming. The new Peter Jackson-directed Get Back movie from Disney rectifies what was thought to be a seemingly endless delay in putting this material out in some fashion.

Jackson’s participation began back in 2017, at a time when Apple was already thinking about the album’s 50th anniversary, and still in the process of finding missing audio material from the period. Along with Jackson’s new three-part, six-hour TV series, there have been some other related projects released to mark the 50th anniversary of the release of the Let It Be album and film. Due to the virus and perhaps the natural evolution of Jackson’s filmmaking process, all of the related projects had been delayed.

It’s important to remember that the music from the Get Back/Let It Be musical period was already reissued in 2003 with the release of the Let It Be… Naked project. It presented what has come to be known as a de-Spectorized version of the Let It Be album, by eliminating most of the Phil Spector post-production work he did on the album. Previously, four mixes of the album by engineer and producer Glyn Johns were completed and all went unused.

The new Let It Be album music reissue series is available in various configurations. The configurations include a single CD, a double CD, a single standard vinyl album, an LP vinyl picture disc, a five CD/Blu-ray box set and a 4LP/12-inch EP vinyl box set. The latter two sets include a hardcover book, a die-cut slipcase and the exact same track list, except the newly mixed album is duplicated on the Blu-ray, which can be listened to in PCM Stereo, 5.1 Surround Sound or Dolby Atmos.

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TVD Radar: The Podcast with Evan Toth, Episode 54: The Show

As you know, this program typically finds me exploring the work of others, but for this episode, I hope you’ll allow me to turn the attention over to myself. The last few years have found me compiling a special project: it’s my new album, it’s called The Show and there is an interesting story attached to it that I think you’ll enjoy hearing.

Like many folks growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, I became a big fan of Billy Joel. During Billy’s most successful years, his band consisted of a stable lineup of musicians; it was easy to recognize the skill and personality that they brought to his music. Liberty DeVitto had a fun, yet thundering presence on drums that always balanced out Billy’s more theatrical and balladic impulses. Richie Cannata brought blistering and irreplaceable saxophone parts to Billy’s work; you can probably hum along to all of his solos and arrangements. Russell Javors was always there, steadfastly holding down the rhythm guitar section.

When I discovered that Liberty, Richie, and Russell were still playing together as The Lords of 52nd St. and that they were living in the same tri-state area that I was, I reached out to see if they’d be interested in recording an album of my originals with me. Luckily for me, they were. Unfortunately, Billy’s stalwart bassist, Doug Stegmeyer—known as the Sergeant of the Billy Joel Band—passed away in 1995, but for this project, his role was filled by the extremely talented Malcolm Gold, who currently plays bass with the Lords. Also featured on the record is my beautiful wife, Laura Toth, who recorded a very special duet with me and whose voice, by the way, introduces each episode of this program.

So, we set to work recording in Richie’s Cove City Sound Studios in Glen Cove, Long Island. After we completed the rough tracks, the pandemic bared down and stopped us all in our collective tracks.

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Graded on a Curve: Primal Scream, Screamadelica

The year: 1992. The place: a rave in a field outside Manchester. I’d taken enough e to send Hannibal’s 37 elephants into the stratosphere and I said to the geezer I was dancing next to, “This is the most beautiful thing that’s ever happened to me.” He replied, “This whole deal’s a hallucination, mate. You’re in your apartment in Philadelphia listening to Primal Scream’s Screamadelica. It’s the next best thing to being here.”

And he was right. Still, it was one of most beautiful things to ever happen to me. But youth are fickle, and there came the day when raves went the way of the Acid Tests and youth moved on to other things, in my case rehab. But on occasion I still dig into my closet and put on my baggy pants, orange Kangol hat and pacifier, and hold my very own one-man rave, neighbors be damned.

And speaking of “Movin’ on Up,” it’s one of the premier tracks (alongside ”Loaded” and “Come Together”) on Primal Scream’s 1991 landmark Screamadelica. The LP captures the good vibrations that came with taking MDMA and dancing with thousands of stoned strangers at an illegal rave in some rural field in the outer reaches of Manchester. All three stand alongside the Happy Mondays’ “Step On” and “Kinky Afro,” and the Stone Roses’ “I Wanna Be Adored” and “Fools Gold” as iconic souvenirs of a time when the Hacienda became Manchester’s very own Studio 54—the difference being you didn’t have to be Bianca Jagger to get in.

“Movin’ on Up” is everything a rave song should be–the nonstop drum beat is impossible not to dance to, the acoustic guitar and piano add coloring, and the female backing vocals contribute a gospel feel to let you know that raves were the new religion. On “Loaded” the same gospel singers take front and center, and the looped drums, recurrent piano riff, and horns constitute trance music at its best.”Come Together” is a call for youth unity, and yet another gospel-heavy, crash course for the ravers on which Bobby Gillespie wants you to touch him, because e makes you want touch people even when fucking them isn’t on the agenda.

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Graded on a Curve:
Dr. John, Gris Gris

Remembering Dr. John on the eve of his birthday tomorrow.Ed.

I am happy to report there is one town in this God-obsessed land that remains under the sway of the Devil. I am talking, of course, about N’Orleans, that spirit-haunted hotbed of hedonism and home to the legendary likes of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, the prostitute Lulu White, and the never-captured Axeman of New Orleans. God has sent flood upon flood to destroy America’s most depraved and flat-out weird city—where else are you going to find public ordinances banning gargling in public and tying an alligator to a fire hydrant?—but in vain. Either God’s floods ain’t what they used to be, or sin has rendered the birthplace of Jazz, where Lucifer owns a winter home, indestructible.

The Big Easy is renowned for two things: music and voodoo. And no human being has ever combined the two with such funky finesse as Mac Rebennack, aka Dr. John Creaux the Night Tripper. Like most people, the only tune I knew by the good doctor was 1973’s funky “Right Place Wrong Time.” Then Kid Congo Powers—who honed his own voodoo chops with the late Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s Gun Club—suggested I check out the Night Tripper’s 1968 debut LP Gris Gris, and I promptly fell under its spooky Creole spell.

Its trance-inducing, doom-heavy grooves instantaneously transported me to a shadowy Louisiana swamp swarming with snakes and alligators, voodoo drums sounding in the distance, the Axeman of New Orleans hard on my heels. Then to an incense-choked, unpainted wooden shack on stilts situated deep in the bayou’s perpetual gloom, where I found myself shuffling and shaking to the sound of congas and the Night Tripper’s Muzippi-muddy growl. Suffice it to say Gris Gris is one the most haunting slices of hoodoo you’ll ever hear, and one of the most addictive.

A child model (his face appeared on Ivory Soap boxes) turned strip club musician and illegal teen sessions player for such legendary figures as Professor Longhair, Joe Tex, and Frankie Ford, Rebennack turned from the guitar to the piano following an altercation with a pistol-packing club owner that resulted in the near severing of his left index finger. Forced to relocate to LA in the mid-sixties due to the legal consequences of an ongoing heroin addiction, it was there Rebennack adopted his colorful voodoo-headdress-wearing Dr. John Creaux persona and stepped into the limelight with Gris Gris, that incantatory and utterly unique melange of Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Cuban, and Mardi Gras Indian-flavored R&B and psychedelia.

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TVD Radar: The Podcast with Evan Toth, Episode 53: Colin Blunstone

It’s hard to look back at the British Invasion and not be amazed at the level of skill and talent that came across the pond to impact and influence the revolutionary pop music that was being made worldwide at the time.

One of the major bands to break out of the UK was The Zombies who hit it big in 1964 with, “She’s Not There” and continued to have hits throughout the 1960s. The wonderfully romantic and singular voice of the band was that of Colin Blunstone who is my guest this week.

The career of the Zombies took a curious turn at the end of the decade, the band broke up soon after releasing their final album, Odessey and Oracle, but fate had other plans for the group. Their song, “Time of the Season” became a hit of epic proportions and Odessey and Oracle slowly grew into what is now seen as one of the cornerstone achievements in rock and roll history.

Following the break-up of the group, Blunstone set out to discover what the next move for his career was and began to release solo albums beginning with 1971’s, One Year which celebrates its 50th anniversary and is being re-released this year featuring 14 previously unreleased recordings and nine unrecorded compositions with never-before-seen photos and new liner notes penned by Blunstone. Of course, the project will include a new vinyl pressing mastered by Joe Lizzi and cut by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio.

Blunstone continues to record and tour with the Zombies, but this anniversary is an important opportunity to take a peek into his solo career and pay special attention to his luxuriously exquisite vocals and unique artistic directions. Keep an eye out for Blunstone to visit the states soon and perform his inaugural solo album. During this interview, Colin’s computer—and my own—were both running low on battery power. Do we make it through the whole chat? You’ll have to listen to find out, but just remember, even rock stars need to charge their devices.

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:
Pablo Cruise,

Are there any Pablo Cruise fans out there? Hello? A single one? Or have they all disappeared like the canaries from the Canary Islands? I was never a fan—in fact I regularly planted claymores in their front yards—but I needn’t have bothered; history has more or less erased them from the modern consciousness. All that’s left is the cover of 1976’s Lifeline, on which they show more flesh even than Orleans on 1976’s Waking and Dreaming—which should have been entitled Waking and Screaming—and a pair of desultory hits, which you can still hear on easy listening stations.

Pablo Cruise were so middle of the road they caused numerous highway fatalities, with tractor-trailers jack-knifing to avoid them only to run into decrepit Ford Pintos, which promptly exploded in balls of fire. This was the only exciting thing about Pablo Cruise, because their AOR approach to rock wasn’t in the least incendiary.

The band—which for some reason I always thought hailed from Australia—was formed in San Francisco in 1973, and didn’t really break through until 1977’s A Place in the Sun and 1978’s Worlds Away. So why am I reviewing their sophomore LP, which wasn’t nearly so successful? God only knows, although I have to admit I was swayed by Robert Christgau’s cryptic review of the album, which went simply, “You can take the Doobie Brothers out of the country, but you can’t turn them into Three Dog Night.” I don’t know what it means, but it always makes me laugh.

The most exciting track on the LP, “The Good Ship Pablo Cruise,” invites you to climb aboard. It has an Island beat, the chorus actually works, and it’s all performed in a high humor, with one player calling out, “Yeah, that’s nice.” That said, I have no intention whatsoever of boarding the good ship Pablo Cruise, because, well, the ship’s band is Pablo Cruise.

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TVD Radar: The Magnetic Fields, The House of Tomorrow 30th anniversary reissue in stores 1/28

VIA PRESS RELEASE | On January 28, 2022, Merge will reissue The House of Tomorrow, one of the earliest releases from The Magnetic Fields. Never before released as a 12-inch, this 30th anniversary remastered edition of The House of Tomorrow is available on opaque spring green vinyl (as well as basic black). But don’t press bandleader Stephin Merritt to discuss the color’s charms, please. “My favorite shade of green is brown.”

When Susan Anway, who sang on early albums Distant Plastic Trees and The Wayward Bus, left the group, Stephin stepped up to the microphone. “This was my first time singing on record,” he recalls. He sought to sound simple, subtle, and unobtrusive, à la the Japanese concept of shibusa. “But now, listening back, I hear a little too much vocal influence from the Jesus and Mary Chain. (I really should move to Scotland. I belong there.)”

A departure from the largely electronic setup of the first two albums, the arrangements and production of The House of Tomorrow show an increase in Merritt recording using live instruments played by himself and his band members. Despite this, Stephin resisted the typical “rock and roll” sound: “I wanted to have rock instrumentation, plus cello (so ELO without keyboards), but everyone was tracked separately so there was no question of sounding like we were playing together,” explains Stephin. Instead, he chose to highlight the artifice. Voilà! “The drums are like Tusk only more so, the cello sounds like a synth, and the guitars might as well be programmed.”

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TVD Radar: Deep Blues, digitally restored 4K Blu-ray/DVD in stores 11/23

VIA PRESS RELEASE | “A movie no blues lover, no popular music aficionado, and no devotee of American culture and folkways should miss… a peek into our national soul.”
Michael Wilmington, Los Angeles Times

In 1990, commissioned by award-winning musician, songwriter, producer, innovator and Eurythmics co-founder Dave Stewart, veteran music film director Robert Mugge and renowned music scholar Robert Palmer ventured deep into the heart of the North Mississippi Hill Country and Mississippi Delta to seek out the best rural blues acts currently working for Deep Blues.

Starting on Beale Street in Memphis, they headed south to the juke joints, lounges, front porches, and parlors of Holly Springs, Greenville, Clarksdale, Bentonia, and Lexington. Along the way, they visited celebrated landmarks and documented talented artists cut off from the mainstream of the recording industry. The resulting film expresses reverence for the rich musical history of the region, spotlighting local performers, soon to be world-renowned, thanks in large part to the film, and demonstrating how the blues continues to thrive in new generations of gifted musicians.

Dave Stewart commented, “Ever since hearing my first blues albums at 14 years old I was transfixed, hypnotized by the sound and pure honesty coming off that old recording and I stared at the vinyl slowly turning, dreaming I could be there in that room witnessing the pure magic coming from these Blues artists. Well, sometimes dreams do come true and I was lucky enough to be in that room with Jessie Mae Hemphill, Junior Kimbrough and sit on the front porch being taught “jumper on the line” by R.L. Burnside deep in the Mississippi Delta.”

Featuring performances by Booker T. Laury, R.L. Burnside, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Junior Kimbrough, Roosevelt “Booba” Barnes and the Playboys, Big Jack Johnson, Jack Owens with Bud Spires, and Lonnie Pitchford.

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Graded on a Curve: Graham Parker
& the Rumour,
Three Chords Good

Celebrating Graham Parker on his 71st birthday.Ed.

While he experienced much success in the ‘80s and beyond, these days Graham Parker’s best work is widely considered to be the fine run of albums he recorded in the mid/late-‘70s with The Rumour, a group of pub rock vets that helped propel the singer-songwriter into the company of Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, and the young Joe Jackson as a direct, classicist (and UK-based) breath of fresh musical air. They’re back together again after a 30-plus year break with Three Chords Good. It’s a solid if modest success, mainly because its attitudes regarding the past and the present are kept in proper balance.

Graham Parker was a smart lyricist, a strong vocalist, a generous bandleader, and his influences were generally impeccable; as a result he became a critic’s fave in an era that frequently jettisoned such artists to the cut-out bins, though happily the man accumulated a large enough following to avoid being labeled as a commercial casualty.

If Parker had the songs and the attitude, The Rumour’s pub rock pedigree proved key in bringing it all to fruition. Guitarist Brinsley Schwarz and keyboardist Bob Andrews had previously been members (along with Nick Lowe) of the band Brinsley Schwarz, a terrific outfit if one cursed by record label hype, sort of the UK equivalent to San Francisco’s Moby Grape. Brinsley Schwarz was the forerunner of such pub rock staples as Dr. Feelgood and Ducks Deluxe, a group that included Rumour guitarist Martin Belmont.

Additionally, drummer Steve Goulding and bassist Andrew Bodnar had worked in the band Bontemps Roulez, and the Rumour Horns rounded out what was much more than just a backing band. For The Rumour released three pretty swell if not earth shattering albums of their own, starting with ‘77’s Max for Phonogram and followed by a pair for Stiff, ‘79’s Frog Sprouts Clogs and Krauts and ‘80’s covers heavy Purity of Essence.

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TVD Radar: Yukihiro Takahashi, Neuromantic reissue in stores 11/24

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Yukihiro Takahashi has been at the forefront of the Japanese music scene as a drummer, singer, composer, and producer since he first joined the Sadistic Mika Band in 1972. He established his identity as a solo artist in the early ’80s following the unprecedented success of the phenomenon that was Yellow Magic Orchestra.

Neuromantic is Takahashi’s first solo release for ALFA and his third solo album overall. In addition to Japanese musicians Haruomi Hosono, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Kenji Omura, the album also features Phil Manzanera, Andy Mackay (Roxy Music), and Tony Mansfield whom he recorded with during a long stay in London. This record builds on the techno sound of YMO’s BGM (released the same year), infusing Takahashi’s unique romantic aesthetic and is considered one of his masterpieces. The sixth track, “Drip Dry Eyes” is a self-cover of a song that he wrote for ALFA artist artist Sandii.

Yukihiro Takahashi explains, “The early ’80s was one of the busiest periods of my music life… When I think back now, I think that my recording style and production process that I continue to this day may have been solidified then, during the early ’80s.”

The new reissue of Neuromatic is part of ALFA’s ongoing reissue series featuring many of Yukihiro’s early ’80s solo albums from his first hit record Murdered by Music (1980) to his last record from his ALFA era Poisson D’Avril (1985 soundtrack to the film of the same name).

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TVD Radar: Aerosmith, 1971: The Road Starts Hear in stores 11/26

VIA PRESS RELEASE | On November 26, 2021, the four-time GRAMMY® winning and Diamond-certified rock legends Aerosmith will release Aerosmith—1971: The Road Starts Hear (UMe), a rare and previously unheard rehearsal from 1971 as part of Record Store Day 2021.

Recently discovered in the Aerosmith vaults, the original tape had not been touched in decades. This historic recording features seven extraordinary tracks showcasing the early, unbridled talent of the future Hall of Fame members including a nascent version of “Dream On,” which they would later record and release on their 1973 eponymous major label debut. Aerosmith is one of the few bands to chart with the same song 5 decades later, the song was a hit in 1973 reaching No. 59 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and re-entered the charts in 2020 at No. 4 on the Hard Rock Streaming Songs chart.

The Road Starts Hear, produced by Steven Tyler, Joe Perry and Steve Berkowitz, available on both vinyl and as a limited edition cassette for Record Store Day, features previously unseen archived photos, images of the original tape box, and liner notes written by Rolling Stone’s David Fricke with new interviews and comments from the band about this long forgotten recording.

The landmark early recording was made with Joe Perry’s Wollensak reel-to-reel tape machine in 1971 by Mark Lehman who owned the infamous van and became Aerosmith’s one man road crew, either in the band’s Boston rehearsal room in front of a few select friends, or at a rehearsal the band did during a soundcheck for an early show. All that is certain is that the tape captures a young, hungry rock band one year before being discovered and signing with Columbia Records and two years before their self-titled major label debut was released that helped catapult the band to one of the biggest rock acts of all time.

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