Graded on a Curve:
New in Stores,
December 2018

The TVD Record Store Club’s look at the new and reissued releases presently in stores for December, 2018.

NEW RELEASE PICKS: Scone Cash Players, “Scone Cold Christmas” (Flamingo Time – Mango Hill) Bluntly, holiday music is not my favorite music. But there are exceptions, like this 45 from the band of soul-jazz-funk organist Adam Scone. Rather than just diving into standards-based instrumental quickie mode, Scone enlists singer Lee Taylor and some vocal-group backing for “My First Divorced Christmas (Santa Claus Got a Divorce),” a tune that might read as jokey but unwinds as surprisingly heartfelt, with the groove keeping things from getting too weepy. On “They Say It’s Christmas Time (Christmas Time in Brooklyn),” it’s the warm, assured baritone voice of John Dokes that’s the highlight. Well, one of ‘em, as the band ascends an organ-driven Hot Buttered Soul-era Isaac Hayes-like mountain to a killer peak. A-

Say Sue Me, “Christmas, It’s Not a Biggie” (Damnably) I’m on board with the non-holiday themed stuff from this Korean indie-surfy pop-rock outfit, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t worried, as even in reliable hands Christmas music can curdle like milk in a failed fridge. Say Sue Me succeed because they don’t lay the theme on too thick. Instead, the guitar is big but congenial in the Dick Dale-tinged pop-punky title track. It and instrumental “Too Expensive Christmas Tree” brought the Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet to mind, and that’s a cool thing to consider, in December or any time of year, really. In “Out of Bed,” vocalist Sumi Choi reminds me of Hope Sandoval diving head first into a sweet sea of early ’60s gal-pop, and from there, all Say Sue Me needs to do is not foul things up. “After This Winter” doesn’t. A-

REISSUE/ARCHIVAL PICKS: Lee Morgan, Indeed! (Down at Dawn) Top-flight hard-bop trumpeter Morgan was 18 years old when he cut this session in 1956 for Blue Note, an achievement that’s undeniably impressive, though it’s also important to avoid overrating it. The whole is solid, with the young leader still clearly in thrall to Dizzy and Clifford Brown, but it’s not a jaw-dropper. So why the pick status? Well, numerous reasons, including Wilbur Ware on bass and Philly Joe Jones on drums, an always reliable pair, plus Horace Silver on piano, who sounds fine but doesn’t steal the show, as Morgan is clearly in command. This is not to infer that he’s hogging the spotlight, as the obscure alto man Clarence Sharpe gets plenty of solo room. As the album rolls, a decided post-Bird-Diz feel develops, and that’s nice. B+

Freddie Hubbard, The Artistry of Freddie Hubbard (Down at Dawn) Having hit the scene a little later, in some ways Hubbard temporarily stole some of Morgan’s thunder; by ’63, he’d delivered four LPs as leader for Blue Note, and followed them up with this, his first of two for Impulse! It’s a minor classic from a talent-loaded sextet featuring Hubbard’s Jazz Messengers’ cohort Curtis Fuller on trombone, Sun Ra Arkestra lynchpin John Gilmore on tenor, Tommy Flanagan on piano, Louis Hayes on drums, and Art Davis (who’d played with Hub on Olé Coltrane) on drums. While it’s not aptly described as a groundbreaking affair, the playing is assured all around, and the whole, opening with Duke’s “Caravan” and following with three originals and a nice version of “Summertime,” is ripe with ambition. A-

Bad Mojos, I Hope You OD (Voodoo Rhythm) Tis the season! If a little negativity is what’s required to balance out the holidays’ relentless positivity, this one should work pretty well, given that you’re receptive to mauling KBD-style punk. Formed in Bern, Switzerland by guitarist-backing vocalist Saint Martin, drummer-lead vocalist Julio Blanco, and bassist-backing vocalist Juan of Death, they hurl forth a sound that’s as trashy as it is surly, though the vocals are mixed so low that it’s kinda difficult to discern what they’re pissed off about, and that’s fine (as the song titles suffice). Choosing a post-Ramones barreling-forth approach, they dish out ten songs in under 15 minutes (only three tracks eclipse 90 seconds), which is just the right dose to keep you functioning as the festivities unravel. (Out 12/21) A-

The Bevis Frond, We’re Your Friends, Man (Fire) There’s so much psych-rock in the current scene that trying to hear it all is a fool’s errand, but when Nick Saloman adds another record to his ample discography, I’m not going to let it slip by me. This one loads 20 tracks across four vinyl sides for an 85-minute runtime that’s satisfying throughout, mainly because the songs are worthwhile. In fact, I’m guessing that some will find this a little too melodically rocking for their expansiveness-seeking selves. To be sure, a lot of Saloman’s writing is reminiscent of Costello, Lowe, and even Tom Petty, but he fits in better with the catchy side of indie rock, again bringing Bob Pollard to my mind. But pedals do get stepped on, and the 13-minute guitar-flail of “You’re On Your Own” caps things off very nicely. A-

Tom Brumley & the Buckeroos, Steelin’ the Show (Omnivore) Deservedly legendary as steel guitarist in Buck Owens’ prime-era band, Brumley had additional opportunities to shine on the LPs the Buckeroos cut for Capitol between ’67-’69 (sans Buck but credited with commercial savvy as Buck Owens’ Buckeroos). Branching from Omnivore’s extensive CD reissue program of Owens’ classic stuff comes the second Buckeroo spotlight (following the Don Rich collection Guitar Pickin’ Man), and it’s a good one, though there is a caveat; these 17 tracks (which include a few Brumley instrumentals from Owens’ 45s and LPs plus the killer Buck-sung “Together Again” as a capper) weren’t initially conceived to be absorbed this way. That means a substantial fondness for pedal steel is a prerequisite. B+

Vanessa Daou, Zipless: Songs from the Works of Erica Jong (DRKR Records / KID Recordings) I’ll confess that through relentlessly pursuing other musical avenues, Daou’s solo debut slipped right by me in 1994. As time unspooled, I became aware of its existence but never checked it out, specifically due to its categorization as a trip-hop deal, a genre that’s pretty dang hit and miss with me. Listening to it now on the occasion of its vinyl debut, I feel like a dunce, as Zipless transcends the style through Vanessa’s singing and speaking and her then-husband Peter Daou’s playing, arranging and production; combined, it’s all only intermittently indicative of a loping ’90s point of origin. Setting the writings of ’70’s feminist icon (and Peter’s aunt) Erica Jong to music, Zipless’ reemergence is additionally timely. A-

Thomas Fehlmann, 1929 – Das Jahr Babylon (Kompakt) Swiss-born Berlin resident Fehlmann has a lengthy résumé. You may recall his work as part of the Neue Deutsche Welle-era act Palais Schaumburg, but it’s more likely you’ll know him for his longstanding membership in The Orb. Fehlmann is also a busy guy. Although he left the Orb last year, he’s been working with Moritz von Oswald as 3MB, released Los Lagos back in September and now has this collection, which is the soundtrack to a documentary by director Volker Heise about the year 1929 (made to augment his TV series Berlin Babylon). While Los Lagos is dancy, this is unsurprisingly not, though it does offer some rhythms. But more so, repetition. Abstraction is also an element in this intriguing and ultimately satisfying stew. (Out 12/14) A-

Maxine Funke, Silk (Feeding Tube) New Zealand is small geographically, but in terms of subterranean aural delights the country’s pool is vast, diverse, and not always easy to keep on top of. Of course, crabs could carp that I’m just not trying hard enough, as Funke was in the $100 Band with Alastair Galbraith and Mike Dooley; that group’s Waves and Particles from ’06 was once on my radar but never in my earholes, but I have heard this record by singer-songwriter-guitarist Funke, and it’s pretty marvy. If the Kiwi underground is stylistically varied, Funke is the same across this set, with a tendency toward lo-fi folk beauty maneuvers spiked with dives into electronics and keyboard drone, and that’s just great. If you dig the Xpressway label and Barbara Manning, Funke’ll have you sitting pretty. (Out 12/14) A-

Fred Hersch Trio, ’97 @ The Village Vanguard (Palmetto) A nice companion to the Hersch Trio’s Live in Europe from earlier this year, though of course the circumstances are different; Europe is a record made by a beautiful survivor and jazz piano cornerstone, while this Vanguard set was part of his first stint as a bandleader on that storied stage, though harkening back to ’79 he’d been part of numerous groups at the venue. Featuring the pianist’s then-working trio with bassist Drew Gress and drummer Tom Rainey, the selections here (five standards, two by Hersch and one by Gress) roll, cook and flower contemplatively with a surfeit of assurance. If you enjoy Keith Jarrett, Andrew Hill, Tommy Flanagan, Bill Evans, and John Hicks and somehow don’t know Hersch, this would make a superb intro. CD-only. A

La Muerte, S/T (Mottow Sounds) These Belgian maulers formed way back in ’83, kicked out some records, then took a long break before deciding to recommence activities with a live show in 2015. It went so swimmingly (sold out it was) that they decided to hit the recording studio; this is their second full-length since then, and it dishes out a large racket leaning toward the hard-rocking and downright metallic, but with an appealingly bent aura that’s tempting me to check out their earlier stuff. Some of that prior work came out on Play It Again Sam, a label known for dealing in the industrial, and yeah, there’s a touch of a metal-industrial blend in “King Kong – Godzilla,” but subtle. It’s a safe bet that I’ll dig any LP with a song titled “LSD for the Holy Man” a least a little bit, but I dig this one a whole lot. A-

Hans Otte, The Book of Sounds (Beacon Sound) German artist, poet, pianist, composer, and promoter Otte was born in 1923 and lived until ’07; ’84’s The Book Of Sounds is assessed as his masterpiece. As the director of Radio Bremen, Otte advocated for the work of Terry Riley, Steve Reich, La Monte Young and others. As a musician, he studied with Paul Hindemith and was especially impacted by John Cage, with said influence discernible in this gorgeous and enthralling 12-part piece, written between ’79 and ’82. Reissued here on 2LP, the booklet features contemporary liners by Terry Riley, Inga Ahmels, and Dustin O’Halloran, a reprint of Tom Johnson’s ’82 Village Voice live review, and photos by Otte’s daughter Silvia. Aligned with minimalism, the music delivers so much more. (Out 12/14) A

The Space Lady, The Space Lady’s Greatest Hits (Mississippi) As The Space Lady, Susan Dietrich Schneider has attained a level of renown as an outsider musician, initially Casio-busking in San Francisco and later as a recording artist, though these activities somewhat overlapped. I first heard a few of her songs on comps in the mid-’90s, where they immediately stuck out as eccentric if not strikingly outsider stuff. I liked it then and I feel the same about this repress of her originals and cover selections. Of the interpretations, there is much to enjoy, particularly her version of “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night,” but I’m more taken with her own tunes, especially “Humdinger” and “From the Womb to the Tomb.” Frankly, I wish there were more of them. Everything coheres into an unmistakable sound. B+

Henry Townsend, Mule (Omnivore) Rather than dive into the noteworthy geographical comps Nighthawk Records put out from ’76-’80 (which were repressed on wax last year by a label claiming to be Nighthawk, though in reality it could’ve been anybody) Omnivore’s dishing this splendid 1980 album onto CD with eight bonus tracks. Intertwined historically with such major names as Roosevelt Sykes, Water Davis, and Big Joe Williams, Townsend was underserved by the ’60s rediscovery boom; he started out on guitar but mastered piano, playing both here (but mostly keys) and singing with serious gusto. He’s joined by Yank Rachell on mandolin and guitar, Norman Merritt on guitar, and his wife Vernell, who sings on a couple. The additions strengthen an already exceptional record. (Out 12/14) A

V/A, Pop Ambient 2019 (Kompakt) Those rabid for ambient techno likely clicked the pre-order button for this right after they discovered it was available. For them, these words will have little or no impact in their relationship to the 77 minutes offered by this latest Wolfgang Voigt-compiled set (with selections totaling a baker’s dozen). However, for folks with a budding interest in this branch of the contempo electronic sphere, a recommendation might be useful. To my ears, this baby stands up tall, mainly because Voigt’s definition of ambient avoids the hackneyed “chill-out” scenario that’s made a sizable portion of the style so disposable over the years. Really, his main objective here is insuring the absence of a kick-drum. You will not dance (well, probably not), but you will be transported (well, I was). A-

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