Category Archives: The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
The Smiths,
The Queen Is Dead

Celebrating Morrissey who turned 63 yesterday.Ed.

I’m a Morrissey fan by temperament—of all the musicians who have ever lived, Manchester’s most famous miserabalist (he even beats Mark E. Smith!) comes closest to sharing my belief that hope is the lubricant that keeps the human meat grinder running—and because I consider him the funniest musician to ever kvetch into a microphone.

I can’t help but love a man who quipped, “What’s the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning? Wish I hadn’t.” And was quoted as saying, “I have found the best way to avoid ending your life as a bitter wreck is to start out as one.” The Mancunian misanthropist’s feckless take on life is utterly hilarious, and what I’ll never get over is there are people out there who don’t think he’s funny. No wonder Morrissey’s miserable; he’s a great comedian but nobody gets his jokes.

And the jokes just keep on coming on The Smiths’ third studio LP, 1986’s The Queen Is Dead. Morrissey possesses a savage wit; “Girlfriend in a Coma” is a black comedy for the ages. And on The Queen Is Dead Morrissey is in top form. He opens “Bigmouth Strikes Again” with the lines, “Sweetness, sweetness I was only joking/When I said I’d like to/Smash every tooth in your head/Sweetness, sweetness I was only joking/When I said by rights/You should be bludgeoned in your bed” and you can practically hear him cackling. And his take on dying a romantic death on “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” (“And if a double-decker bus/Crashes into us/To die by your side/Is such a heavenly way to die/And if a ten-ton truck/Kills the both of us/To die by your side/Well, the pleasure—the privilege is mine”) never fails to crack me up.

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The Best of Radar:
The Podcast with
Evan Toth, Episode 37: Kenny Loggins

To celebrate this week’s release of Top Gun: Maverick we revisit our recent TVD interview with Kenny Loggins.Ed.

It’s an understatement to say that Kenny Loggins has achieved massive success in the entertainment industry. He’s been on the Billboard Top Ten charts over 20 times and sold over 25 million records. Many of the songs he’s created have become an important part of the musical fabric of a certain time and place in American history. All that aside, Kenny Loggins has had one of the most successful runs in history creating pop songs for film; so much so, that he’s known in the industry as “The Soundtrack King.”

Mr. Loggins celebrates his soundtrack kingdom by releasing a special vinyl compilation for 2021’s Record Store Day. The album will be called At the Movies and—believe it, or not—collects, for the first time ever, Loggins’ greatest soundtrack hits on vinyl, including “Footloose,” “Playing With The Boys” (Top Gun), “Danger Zone” (Top Gun), and “Nobody’s Fool (Theme From Caddyshack)” plus, it includes a newly recorded version of “Playing With The Boys.”

Kenny and I discuss the new release and his need to purchase a turntable—so he can hear it! But we go further: this industry legend gives valuable insight into how film music is different in today’s climate, he shares some stories about the ones that got away, and also describes the critical music magic that happened right in his own car.

These days, it’s hard to imagine the pre-internet impact and significance these blockbuster movies and songs had. While the films were all-encompassing cultural events, the soundtracks belonged to Kenny.

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:
38 Special, The Best of 38 Special: The Millennium Collection

Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Ronnie Van Zant sure has a lot of brothers. Let’s see: there’s Donnie Van Zant, Johnny Van Zant, James Joyce Van Zant, Canadian Mountie Van Zant, and Larry, Curly, and Mo Van Zant, the three of whom put out three legendary albums with Iggy Pop.

But younger brother Donnie is the one we’re interested in here. He’s the long-time front man of 38 Special, who gets labeled a Southern Rock band when what they really are is a lame pop band—they’d lose an arm-wrestling match with Rupert Holmes. They’re the epitome of generic pop, but generic pop has long been a winning formula. So let’s give 38 Special their due—between 1981 and 1991 they scored two No. 1 singles and another eleven singles that broke the Top Ten mark. Contrast that with the Rolling Stones, who during the same period broke the Top Ten only five times and scored nary a No. 1. Take that, Mick and Keith!

38 Special are—album sales charts notwithstanding—primarily a singles band. So why take your chances on one of their twelve albums when you can hear the best on 2000’s long-winded 20th Century Masters—The Millennium Collection. You have to love that 20th Century Masters makes ‘em sound like Arnold Schoenberg, whose atonal adaptation of Black Oak Arkansas’ “Happy Hooker” caused a riot at Austria’s Vienna Musikverein.

And the compilation proves that, to their credit, these pop savvy Southern rockers in name only bequeathed to the world several songs that—if disparaged by snobs like me—will burn forever like the eternal flame at Minsk, whose leaders are loathsome Russian lackeys whose government is already feeling the pinch of the embargo on copies of “Hold on Loosely.”

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Graded on a Curve:
Joe Cocker,
Live At Woodstock

Remembering Joe Cocker, born on this day in 1944.Ed.

Joe Cocker, he of the spastic stage gesticulations and mouthful of gravel, was one of rock’s greatest interpreters of other peoples’ material. He didn’t cover your song, he Cockerized it with that impossibly expressive rasp of his, and once he’d Cockerized your song you never heard it the same way again. He did it live, twitching like he’d just grabbed hold of a live wire, at Woodstock in 1969, and again on 1970’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour, and the amazing thing is not that he never inadvertently hurled himself off stage in mid-contortion, but that it took four decades (!) for his legendary Woodstock performance to finally be released as an LP.

How was such an oversight possible? Did the master recordings fall into the paws of a rapacious monkey who demanded an exorbitant number of bananas? I don’t know, but their availability, even if it took 40 years, has made the world a better place. 2009’s Live At Woodstock featured Joe Cocker with the Grease Band, who were backing him at the time, and together they create sparks.

Their arrangements are loose—too loose in some cases—but Cocker (who passed away in 2014) had one of the best blues and R&B voices of all time, and the Grease Band could cook, and the results are evident on such amazing tracks as the Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends,” a masterpiece of shifting dynamics, call and response, superb musicianship, and pure ecstasy. And over it all Cocker, expostulating, roaring, screaming—he goes right over the top, Joe does, and it’s enough to leave you enervated when it’s all over.

With the exception of the overly long (as in 12 minutes) “I Don’t Need No Doctor,” which I’ve always disliked and which suffers from a slow as molasses midsection of the sort that rendered many live cuts of the era unlistenable, Live At Woodstock is a great if flawed (more on which later) LP. From Cocker’s very loose interpretation of Bob Dylan’s “Dear Landlord” (he speeds up the tempo and tramples all over Dylan’s lugubrious original) to the great “Hitchcock Railway,” which features organ, guitar, cowbell, and a rambunctious rhythm that runs right off the tracks, Cocker and the Grease Band play it loose and funky, while on slower tracks like the great Dylan tune “I Shall be Released” Cocker demonstrates his ability to convey pain and loneliness. He does the same on the slow and soulful “Do I Still Figure in Your Life,” an obscurity that he breathes pure soul into.

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TVD Radar: Faster Pussycat, Whipped! ‘whipped cream’
vinyl in stores 7/1

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Any band that names itself after a Russ Meyer film has a reputation to uphold.

And with tracks like “Big Dictionary,” the fourth track on their 1992 album Whipped!, Faster Pussycat did just that, along with other blasts of Sunset Strip braggadocio like “Out with a Bang” (not to mention the dominatrix on the front cover). But a closer listen reveals a band hitting its hard rock stride right at the wrong time, when grunge flannel was supplanting eyeliner and big hair in the hearts of American youth. The minor hit “Nonstop to Nowhere” had a classic, country-ish Stones vibe, and “Mr. Lovedog” was a heartfelt tribute to deceased Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood; those were just two highlights on an album that was funny, surprisingly varied, and tuneful.

In short, Whipped! got largely ignored in the wake of the early ‘90s Nirvana-inspired craze but it deserved a better fate. For its first- ever U.S. vinyl release (the European vinyl release is real rare and pricy), we’ve whipped up a milky clear “whipped cream” vinyl pressing limited to 2000 copies, nestled inside a jacket with inner sleeve sporting lyrics.

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Graded on a Curve: Robert Fripp,
Exposure

What a great album! The songs are brilliant! The entire cast of musicians, which include Daryll Hall, Tony Levin, and Terri Roche defy the laws of talent! Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins also make guest appearances! And Mary Lou Green does hair! And does a bang-up job of it I’m sure!

On 1979’s Exposure—the first of his four solo albums—Robert Fripp condescends to the conventional, or as close as the dyed-in-the-wool avant gardist would get to making an album for progressive rock haters. Fripp has spent his long and illustrious career on the experimental end of the rock party; he co-founded and played guitar for King Crimson on all thirteen of the albums they released between 1969 and 2003.

He also kept himself busy during those years by recording two LPs with Giles, Giles & Fripp, two with the League of Gentleman, and collaborating with the likes of Brian Eno and David Sylvian. He also fell in with the crowd attracted to the work of Russian spiritualist George Gurdjieff and went off to a ten-month course at Gloucestershire, where he achieved so much deep spiritual wisdom he would later say, “I was pretty suicidal.” I’m thinking of signing up myself.

On Exposure Fripp enlisted the usual array of prog-rock musicians, including Brian Eno, Tony Levin, Peter Gabriel, and Peter Hammill of Van der Graaf Generator fame. But his real genius lay in enlisting Hall and Oates’ Daryl Hall in the project. Hall was not as surprising a choice as, say, John Denver, but many wondered why Fripp engaged a top notch pop songwriter and blue-eyed soul singer to participate in a project that—with the noticeable exception of “North Star”—made so little of Hall’s perceived musical strengths.

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TVD Radar: Mixtape Trilogy: Stories of
the Power of Music
screening 6/12

VIA PRESS RELEASE | The official trailer for Mixtape Trilogy: Stories of the Power of Music is out now, featuring Talib Kweli, Indigo Girls and composer/pianist Vijay Iyer. The film has been selected as the closing night film at the Richmond International Film Festival June 12, with additional festivals to be announced.

Mixtape Trilogy: Stories of the Power of Music is an entertaining, impactful documentary that explores the unifying power of music and examines the relationship between musical artists and their fans. Featured artists include Indigo Girls, Vijay Iyer, and Talib Kweli. The film is written and directed by Kathleen Ermitage and is her directorial debut. Previously, she was an associate producer on Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary; Sergio Mendes: In the Key of Joy; Herb Alpert Is; and the forthcoming What the Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat & Tears?

Amy Ray of Indigo Girls said “It is an absolute honor to be part of this poignant film that truly shows the power of music through the eyes of the artist and the receiver of that art. It sheds light on the alchemy that happens when music enters the public space and is a catalyst for healing, spiritual connection, activism and creative growth.”

The Indigo Girls generously share details about their creative process and work which, in turn, sparks the imagination and changes the life of arguably their biggest fan. Jazz and classical musician Vijay Iyer expertly questions issues of immigration and race while inventing a life in music for himself; his work touches the heard of a “man of the streets” from Kingston, Jamaica.

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Graded on a Curve:
Pete Townshend,
Who Came First

Celebrating Pete Townshend, born on this day in 1945.Ed.

When it comes to grandiosity, Pete Townshend takes the cake. He’s always had huge ambitions, as his numerous concept albums—both with The Who (Tommy, Quadrophenia, the abandoned Lifehouse, and The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether–wait, that one was by The Alan Parsons Project) and on his own—demonstrate. And I suppose I always took it he had an ego as big as his ambitions. But what is one to make of his 1972 debut solo album, Who Came First, on which he turns things over on two of the LPs nine tracks to other people? And performs a third song he didn’t even write? Certainly that’s an act of humility, if not abject self-abasement.

And Who Came First isn’t particularly ambitious, either: he throws on a song that would later appear on The Who’s Odds and Sods, along with a prayer set to music for his spiritual guru Meher Baba, and so on. But there’s something becoming about Pete’s laid-back approach on Who Came First—he’s not trying to conquer the world for once, just to be content in it. And the LP includes a cool bunch of tunes that you’re guaranteed to love, even if “Parvardigar” (his salute to Meher Baba) isn’t one of them.

Pete isn’t entirely without ego. While he admirably declined to fill the studio with a star-studded cast of ringers, he went too far in the other direction, recording almost the entire LP all by his lonesome. The great Small Faces/Faces bassist and singer Ronnie Lane makes a cameo, as do musical gadfly Billy Nicholls and percussionist Caleb Quaye, best known for his work with Elton John and Hall & Oates, and that’s it. Townshend even plays the drums, adequately if not inspired, and who knew? I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that he also took charge of mopping the studio WC.

Opener “Pure and Easy” is real pretty, lovely actually, but it doesn’t measure up to The Who version on Odds and Sods, with its powerhouse closing and great drumming by Keith Moon. But Pete’s take is still quite nice, and well worth a listen, for his guitar solo, his equally cool keyboards, and the song’s takeout, which features some nice drumming and Townshend repeating, “There once was a note, listen,” which may be cooler on The Who version, but still packs a punch here.

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TVD Radar: Three Man Army, Two cobalt blue vinyl in stores 7/1

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Brothers Adrian and Paul Gurvitz were responsible for some of the most progressive hard rock sounds of the late ‘60s and ‘70s, first in The Gun, and later with Cream drummer Ginger Baker in The Baker Gurvitz Army.

In between those two bands, though, was the one that was perhaps the best of the bunch; Three Man Army put out three records from 1971 to 1974 that would nestle nicely in your heavy British rock collection next to, say, Cactus and Jeff Beck’s Truth and Beck-Ola records. 1974’s Two was, confusingly, their third album, and it’s safe to say they saved their best for last. “Polecat Woman” kicks off the record with a Led Zep-like boogie stomp, “Today” is very Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac, and “Flying” almost sounds like a harder version of Badfinger.

But the highlight might be “I Can’t Make the Blind See,” which, with its orchestration and soulful vocals, almost sounds like a power ballad done by Traffic. This overlooked ‘70s hard rock platter gets a long-overdue vinyl reissue with a cobalt blue pressing limited to 1500 copies.

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Graded on a Curve: Jeannie C. Riley,
Harper Valley P.T.A.

Those alive and listening to commercial radio in 1968 almost certainly heard Jeannie C. Riley’s crossover smash “Harper Valley P.T.A.,” the song’s lambasting of small town hypocrisy resonating far and wide and for long after. Unsurprisingly, the song provides her debut album with its title. Surprisingly, said LP, which has just been reissued by ORG Music for Record Store Day, is something of a concept album. To swing back to the unsurprising side of the spectrum, Harper Valley P.T.A. falls a little short of top tier, but it thrives on ambition and endures as a crucial artifact of its era.   

One could say (and indeed, people have) that Jeanne Carolyn Stephenson, better known as Jeannie C. Riley never repeated the success of her second single, but that’s frankly setting some unrealistic expectations, as only one other woman has managed to do what Riley did. Specifically, she (and Dolly Parton, after) placed the same song at number one at the same time on both the country and pop singles charts.

To understand how monstrously, lingeringly large this song was, please contemplate that they made a movie based on the song…ten years after it was released…and then a TV show in 1981. Barbara Eden played Stella Johnson in both the film and the show, which made it hard for young ears to shake the idea that it was Eden who actually sung the song as it continued to receive airplay on radio stations two decades later.

Recorded by noted producer Shelby Singleton and released on his Plantation label, “Harper Valley P.T.A.” was written by Tom T. Hall, with the single’s success surely playing a significant part in that laid back C&W raconteur’s career longevity. It’s a pretty terrific single, with Riley, whose singing is limber and just a notch or two short of husky, handling the narrative with uncommon assurance given her level of experience at the time.

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Graded on a Curve:
Devo,
Q: Are We Not Men?
A: We Are Devo!

Celebrating Mark Mothersbaugh, born on this day in 1950.Ed.

Thank God for the great state of Ohio. It produces rockers the way Utah creates cretinous little polygamist kids. Just look at Cleveland, where I once pissed into the front seat of a car that parked us in after a drunken night on The Flats. (And people ask me why I quit drinking.) Cleveland Rocks! has given us The Isley Brothers, The Raspberries, The Dead Boys, Pere Ubu, Rocket From the Tombs, and Nine Inch Nails. To say nothing of that great cowboy punk, Roy Rogers.

Then there’s Kent State—which I visited once, and after careful calculations concluded it wasn’t the Ohio National Guard that murdered those four students back in 1970 but Neil Young, desperate for the subject of a protest song—which has bequeathed us perhaps the weirdest Ohio band of them all.

I’m talking, of course, about Devo, which I was lucky enough to see on their first national tour: on Thorazine. It was in a seated auditorium, and during the show lead guitarist Bob Mothersbaugh stepped from chair arm to chair arm until he was straddled directly above me, playing a very berserk solo. I repaid him by drooling on his right foot. (And people ask me why I quit doing drugs.)

Call Devo Art-Punk, New Wave, or Synthpop, just don’t call them late for De-evolution, their joke philosophy which isn’t when one considers the likes of Dick Cheney and Rascal Flatts. Some people favor the “Whip It”-era Devo, but upon listening to their music again I’m forced to concede the only Devo LP I really love (or even much like) is their 1978 debut, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! Produced by Brian Eno (David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Robert Fripp also expressed interest), the LP featured their “classic” line-up of Mark Mothersbaugh on keyboards, guitar, and lead vocals; Bob Mothersbaugh on lead guitar and backing vocals; Alan Myers on drums; Bob Casale on rhythm guitar, keyboards, and backing vocals; and Gerald V. Casale on bass, keyboards, and lead vocals.

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TVD Radar: Frank Sinatra, Watertown reissue in stores 6/3

VIA PRESS RELEASE | The legacy of Frank Sinatra—one of the world’s most enduring singers—includes a studio album no one anticipated: Watertown. Recorded in 1969 and released in 1970, the concept of Watertown unfolds as a personal tragedy about a working man with children whose wife suddenly leaves him. Sinatra’s performance elicits sadness, defeat, and forlornness. Ultimately, as Sinatra so wonderfully expresses, it’s also a story about one man’s resilience.

On June 3, Frank Sinatra Enterprises and UMe present Watertown, newly mixed and remastered from the original Reprise session tapes resulting in superior sound quality. The original album sequence will be available on vinyl, while the CD and digital editions will feature eight bonus tracks, including alternate takes from the recording sessions, two radio ads, and “Lady Day,” which was not part of the Watertown concept. Charles Pignone produced the updated edition from the new mixes created by longtime Sinatra engineer Larry Walsh—the team behind recent FSE/UMe releases Sings for Only the Lonely and Nice ‘N’ Easy.

Now appreciated as a masterpiece of drama and heartbreak, Watertown will also feature, in addition to a recreation of the original packaging, new liner notes, a track-by-track breakdown from songwriter and album producer Bob Gaudio, quotes from Sinatra, plus essays by Frankie Valli, co-writer Jake Holmes, among others who were involved in the original project. All three formats—Watertown [LP] and Watertown: Deluxe Edition [CD + Digital]—are available for preorder here. Siriusly Sinatra (SiriusXM Ch. 71) will air an exclusive Watertown special in May.

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Graded on a Curve: V/A, The Story of Vanguard

There was a time in popular recorded music history when certain record labels had a clear artistic vision or were a home for true artists. These labels—Blue Note, Sun Records, Atlantic Records, Motown, and Stax to name five—became the home of some of the most groundbreaking talents of the post-war era, primarily in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Later, labels like Reprise, Warner Bros., A&M and others became a place where musicians could begin their careers and slowly develop, eventually becoming the blockbuster artists of the vinyl album heyday of the 1970s. There are certainly many others worthy of mention here.

One of the keys to the success of these labels was the men and women that ran them or, in some cases, also owned them. Elektra Records, founded by Jac Holzman, must be mentioned. The label began primarily as a folk label, was significant in the development of world music through its Nonsuch imprint, and then became a defining label of ’70s popular album music. Independent Jazz, R&B, and folk labels in their heyday often released albums that transcended music and became culturally significant in the development of the rapid social and political changes of the ‘50s and ‘60s. Along with Elektra, Smithsonian Folkways was a major label releasing folk music.

A label that has been one of the most important and longest-lasting folk and roots music labels is Vanguard Records. Any record collection that includes a healthy amount of seminal folk music would include plenty of releases from Vanguard. Begun in 1950 by brothers Maynard and Seymour Solomon in New York, early on the label was the home of Eric Anderson, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Richard and Mimi Farina, Cisco Houston, Ian & Sylvia, Phil Ochs, Paul Robeson, and Tom Paxton, among many other artists.

Vanguard also released classical music, blues, country, and music from such undefinable artists as Sandy Bull, John Fahey, and Bert Jansch. Even as folk music waned in popularity in the mid-’60s, the label still released albums that redefined popular music from such artists as Country Joe and the Fish, Jim Kweskin, Patrick Sky, and Jerry Jeff Walker.

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TVD Radar: Independent Label Market, Summer Edition at London’s Coal Drops Yard, 7/16

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Summer is coming and that can only mean one thing, Indie labels all over London will be gathering together their finest musical fare for Independent Label Market: London!

The annual Summer Market is in the calendar for Saturday 16th July at Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross with a super hot line up of labels including [PIAS], 4AD, BBE, Bella Union, Big Dada, Brownswood, Dirty Hit, Erased Tapes, Ghostly, Heavenly, Late Night Tales, Matador, Mexican Summer, Mukatsuku, Mute, Ninja Tune, Nonclassical, Partisan, Rough Trade, Secretly Canadian, Sunday Best & many more. This year ILM will be introducing stalls from artists and makers including Colourbox Studio, Dan Jamieson, East London Printmakers, Hand Jazz and Kam Creates.

As always, ILM will be joined by the excellent London Brewers’ Market showcasing the best of London’s lively, diverse and exciting independent brewing scene including Against the Grain Cider, Brick Brewery, Five Points Brewing Co, Friendship Adventure, Gosnells Mead, London Beer Lab, Old Street Brewery, Standard Brew Co plus more to be announced! Sign up via this link to get a 10% discount on all drinks at the London Brewers’ Market throughout the event.

Partnerships & Initiatives | The summer event will be soundtracked by ILM curated DJ sets from artists, labels and friends throughout the day culminating with a special after party at Spiritland. For the ILM Summer event, the wildly popular Spiritland Soundsystem will be making its return. An imposing presence inspired by the heavyweight UK funk and soul soundsystems of the 1980s, the system is a mix of vintage speakers and modern digital amplification.

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Graded on a Curve: Gustavo Yashimura, Living Legend of the Ayacucho Guitar

Wonderful are the releases that come out of nowhere to serve as doorways into sounds from distant, often secluded cultures. Living Legend of the Ayacucho Guitar, a new cassette featuring Gustavo Yashimura on the titular instrument in the regional Andean style, is one of those. It features Yashimura solo on nine tracks with accompaniment on four by second guitarist Luis Sulca Galindo and vocalist Greys Berrocal Huaya. Produced by the Sounds of the Andes label under the direction of Hankel Bellido, the set, rich in tradition but infused with contemporary vitality, is out now on cassette and digital through Hive Mind Records.

As Living Legend of the Ayacucho Guitar begins, Gustavo Yashimura’s mastery of the guitar quickly comes into focus. Furthermore, it’s easy for a non-expert to ascertain that his command of the numerous styles of his homeland, that’s specifically the Ayacucho region of the Peruvian Andes, reaches far above the competent.

Info on the artist isn’t exactly free flowing, but Hive Mind does offer that Yashimura began playing guitar in 1987 and two years later was studying music at La Casa de la Guitarra in Montevideo, Uruguay. At some point after that, he ended up in Japan, where he played classical guitar for a few years before returning to Peru in 2004 to commence a deep-dive into the music of his home region.

This included receiving tutelage from the 80 year old guitarist Don Alberto Juscamaita Gastelú, who is also known under the more succinct sobriquet of Rahtako, and whose knowledge of various Andean songs and styles is immense, if not unparalleled. Of course, this is something of a well-grounded supposition on my part, since background info on Rahtako is even less prevalent than it is for Yashimura.

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