Monday, November 30, 2009

Camera Obscura Do Jim Reeves

In what could be a bid to turn down the holiday cheer a notch or two, Glasgwegian sad sacks Camera Obscura have decided to release a characteristically twee cover of the Jim Reeves downer classic The Blizzard as a single just in time for Christmas.

If you don't know the maudlin original that Reeves cut for his Tall Tales and Short Tempers (RCA) album back in 1961, I won't spoil the ending but at least Tracyanne Campbell doesn't ruin the mood by giggling on the version they recorded for 4AD as she did during a recent performance at Other Music in New York (see below). Fortunately she had the good sense to write out the lyrics.

The Blizzard by Camera Obscura @ Other Music, NYC

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Sweet Mess Of A Single

The other day an old pal was asking if I'd heard any great new punk rock records coming outta Toronto lately. Well, it just so happens that City Sweethearts knocked out a super-socko seven for Red Lounge Records which is based way outside the GTA in Karlsruhe, Germany but I'd say their ace three-song EP still qualifies.
Don't be put off by the fact that the City Sweetheart front dude Vassil never really sang before and used to bash the drums for the Heart Attacks and Diemonds (after serving hard time in the Drum Shop at Steve's Music Store but that's another story) while guitarist Curtis was riffing for Sudbury hardcore hooligans Vicious Cycle, bassist Andy was in Action and drummer Ter hammered away with Riot99 – what they've come up with together doesn't sound like what you might expect from their prior offenses. Drop needle on the A-side's snarling scorcher I'm A Mess and you'll be taken back to the distorted delights of the Dead Boys at their Youngest, Loudest and Snottiest. Check it out for yourself on Red Lounge's MySpace page (link below).

The first time I heard it, I had to play it three more times and then plunked down my five bucks on the spot without even bothering to flip the thing over. The B-side's two tracks Timeless and Can't Stop Shaking aren't too shabby but I'm A Mess is definitely the business here. From the three newer tunes I've heard, it sounds like their forthcoming Sleeping Through Modern Times (p.trash) album due out in January could be a winner as long as they keep Andy away from the sitar and steer clear of those cheesy (UK) Monks covers.

City Sweethearts
Red Lounge Records
p.trash records 
Live set and interview

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Heavenly Heat

It may be too early to start choosing 2009's most impressive reissue packages, but the Fire In My Bones: Rare + Raw + Otherworldly African-American Gospel 1944-2007 (Tompkins Square) collection of post-war spirituals is sure to appear on a few year end lists.
Compiled and annotated by Mike McGonigal, the founder of Yeti magazine, former editor of Chemical Imbalance and tireless evangelist of emotionally-charged music of all stripes, the fabulous three disc Fire In My Bones set sidesteps the popular golden era quartets well-represented elsewhere to uncover the amazing one-off regional chillers and thrillers that have too often been overlooked by gospel historians and anthologists. The strength of this compendium lies in it's diversity.
What you get is nearly four hours of powerfully shouting preachers, guitar-slashing street singers and the soul-stirring harmonies of amped-up congregations all high on the Lord. Even if you've never been to church and don't plan on it, you can't help but get caught up in the heartfelt passion of it all. It hits you hard. Remember, this music was made to move mountains, not to make money.
Because these uniquely gifted artists are largely unknown outside of their parish or city block and they're all thrown together out of chronological sequence, McGonigal is able to impart a small sense of that digger discovery excitement, the wonderful feeling you get when stumbling onto some amazing lost artifact that can make the long hours crawling on your hands and knees for one seven-inch seem entirely worthwhile.
Audiophiles should note that the sound quality varies from track to track and these are mostly DIY productions and field recordings – sometimes sourced from decades old records salvaged in less than pristine shape from dollar bins, yard sales, dusty basements and second-hand furniture shops – so you may hear some slight imperfections now and again.
Where Fire In My Bones comes up short is not in sound reproduction but the visual component. The package could've been made much more engrossing had a little more effort been put into enhancing the accompanying booklet with more artist photos, sleeve art and label images. Tossing in four measly label shots for an 80-track set doesn't really cut it. Of course that would've made the three-disc package more expensive than the incredible $14.98 it's selling for at Soundscapes in Toronto at the moment but I don't think most serious roots music fans would've balked at spending a couple of extra bucks if it meant getting proper documentation.
Still, it's an amazing archival study at a phenomenal price. If you buy one gospel release this year, make it Fire In My Bones – you'll thank G... er... you'll just be glad you did.

Tompkins Square
Yeti Magazine

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Radical Art For Radical Music

Perfectly timed for the start of the holiday shopping season, which officially begins on "Black" Friday (November 27), the UK-based Soul Jazz Records has put out Freedom Rhythm & Sound (SJR Publishing) a spectacular compendium of vintage sleeve images from some of the most prized spiritual and free jazz recordings ever released that's sure to delight the hardcore jazz fanatic on your gift-giving list.
The large format (30.8 cm x 30.8 cm) hardbound coffee-table book was authoritatively compiled by Soul Jazz boss Stuart Baker in conjunction with celebrity DJ Gilles Peterson presents a well-balanced selection of the most aesthetically pleasing, bizarre, obscure, creative and iconic sleeve art from LPs issued between the years 1965 and 1983, primarily on independently-owned operations and often in editions of 1,000 copies or less.

That includes the album sleeve designs associated with such revered figures as John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Ornette Coleman, Art Ensemble Of Chicago and Sun Ra alongside lesser-known artists like The Frank Derrick Total Experience, Dadisi Komolafe and Lloyd McNeill. While the labels Strata-East, ESP-Disk', Tribe, Delmark, Nessa, Black Fire, BAG, El Saturn, Nimbus, Actuel/BYG, Perception, Im-Hotep, Baystate, Asha, Mustevic Sound are each well-represented, the one notable exception is Black Jazz. Whether or not this has anything to do with the dispute Black Jazz had with Soul Jazz over the Universal Sound sub-label release The Best Of Black Jazz Records (see link below), is difficult to say but their achetypal cover images are conspicuously absent. 
Even though it would certainly have been a much more comprehensive overview had a sampling of the consistently dope designs of Black Jazz been included, the 179-page volume is still a worthwhile and wholly enjoyable document that doubles quite nicely as a collector's checklist.

As a musical companion, Baker has compiled a suitable survey of tunes from the albums depicted as the Freedom Rhythm & Sound 2CD set which ideally would've come attached to the inside of the book's back cover. But of course, this is a Soul Jazz release, not a lavish Numero Group production, so the double-CD package, with choice tracks from Steve Colson, Horace Tapscott, The Pharaohs, Philip Cohran, Roy Brooks & The Artistic Truth, Sun Ra, Oliver Lake, Ralph Thomas, Stanton Davis, Gary Bartz NTU Troop, Errol Parker, Joe McPhee and others, is being sold separately. No word as yet whether a vinyl version is planned.
Soul Jazz Records
Black Jazz

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Spacemen 3 Vs. Wooden Shjips

It takes a special breed of record nut to operate a vinyl-only label at a time when the format is supposed to be obsolete. Rarer still is the sort with exceptionally good taste like Dominic Martin (of Earworm Records notoriety) whose UK-based Great Pop Supplement label has snuck out an impressive series of high quality artifacts presenting superb music by uniquely talented fringe artists in aesthetically dazzling packages – we're talking multi-fold handmade sleeves, embroidered bags, photo mounted envelopes, nut-bolted balsa wood, stickers, packets of seeds, the works.
So when you buy a GPS record, you don't just get to hear a couple of great songs by a Swedish one-man-band or a Japanese psych unit, you've also got a snazzy conversation piece to impress that friend who thinks they've got everything MV + EE and Jack Rose have ever done.

To mark the label's 50th release milestone, Dom has just issued a red wax split pairing an early demo version of Big City by Spacemen 3 with a fabulously fuzzed-up cover of the Playing With Fire album corker I Believe It courtesy of San Francisco's Wooden Shjips, perhaps the only currently active group who could do it justice. As a neat final touch, it comes housed in a sleeve created by Spacemen percussionist Natty Brooker. I'm getting a buzz just looking at it. 
The good news is that instead of the typically miniscule pressings of say 111 or 220 copies which Great Pop Supplement have been known to drop in the past, gps 50 was reportedly issued in an edition of 1000. However, the bad news is that according to Dom, the entire run "literally vanished in an afternoon." But whatever the conventional vinyl vendors didn't stockpile for mailorder purposes was very likely hoovered up speculators hoping to quintuple their investment on eBay. So don't fret, you'll be seeing the single turning up online for months if not years to come.



Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pieta Brown Gets Was-ified

 The day after publication of my less-than-glowing review of Willie Nelson's Countryman disc – a high concept Willie-goes-reggae scheme from 2005 – the album's proud producer Don Was decided to ring me up for good old fashioned dressing down. The call came as a complete surprise since I'd never had any prior contact with Was and it's not typically the producer of an album who takes the initiative to hunt down a writer and angrily voice a complaint. That's typically handled by a publicist, someone from the artist's label, management or immediate family – right Mrs. Millan? Producers are usually too busy working on their next project to concern themselves with personally sorting out a critic who may have a conflicting opinion about a previous release. Not Was, oh no.  
After he finished shouting up a storm in a lengthy rant about how music critics know nothing about the difficult task of making albums, he growled about hoping to run into me some day. When I responded without hesitation that I'd very much look forward to a meeting, he grunted "Huh?" apparently aback by my interest in a face-to-face confrontation. "You know that Chris Gaines album you produced with Garth Brooks in a wig? I've always wanted to find out what the fuck you guys were thinking." Click. Dial tone.

It appears that I'm not the only one to be honoured with a cold call from Mr. Was. Also receiving a similar call from Was out of the blue was Pieta Brown, the Iowa-based singer/songwriter sidekick of guitar slinger supreme Bo Ramsey, only I'm guessing there was a lot less cursing involved in hers.
So the story goes, our man Was just happened to be listening to radio station KCRW in Los Angeles when he heard an amazing voice that stopped him dead in his tracks. He phoned into the station to find out the name of the singer, then traced her to Iowa and called her up at home to proposed a recording session. That might sound like some slick record label PR crap to hype the resulting Shimmer (Red House) CD but based on my own Was experience, I'd say the entire scenario is entirely plausible.

There have been some questionable choices made by Was in the studio over the years, not confined to the aforementioned Willie Nelson and Garth Brooks head scratchers, but he gets it right with Shimmer, wisely paring down the instrumentation to just Ramsey on guitar with himself on bass – no drums – to keep the focus on Brown's bluesy crooning, giving her all the room she needs to vocally stretch out and work her seductive charms. The other sharp move here was to cut Brown's vocals dry, almost completely free of reverb on the majority of tracks, which gives her singing a wonderfully intimate pillow-talk quality that's immediate striking since most recorded voices you hear today are saturated in reverb and heavily filtered. Shimmer's only shortcoming is that it contains only seven songs but don't worry, you'll definitely be hearing more from Brown. 

Last Night In My Mind I Was Talkin' To Loretta  

main site

Bo Ramsey
Bo's myspace

Friday, November 20, 2009

Andre's Back In Ass-kicking Action

Despite the dearth of advance press, Andre Williams' post-rehab return to Toronto's Legendary Horseshoe Tavern with the Sadies last night turned out to be a spectacular triple-bill triumph to the delirious delight of the packed house.
Resplendent in red, the 73-year-old mack daddy of raunchy R&B shook, shimmied and shouted in tip-top condition suggesting that performing alongside two gorgeous go-go gals like Vivian and Veronica Verre (pictured) was a much safer and perhaps even more effective stimulant than booze or blow. Even though the Sadies had only a 45-minute rehearsal with Williams to pick out appropriate songs for the night, you'd never know it from the seamless, well-paced set that built beautifully to a storming crescendo with a raging rip through Bad Motherfucker that had the whole brew-hoisting crowd shouting the tag-line in unison.
Silly grins could be seen pasted on people's faces all over the club, including those of local celebs in attendance Ron Sexsmith, Dan Burke, Craig Daniels, producer Peter Moore, OPM label boss Jan Haust, Neil Young's brother Bob Young (who was climbing on the railing to get a better view) and ace shutterbug Shadowy Don Pyle who took time out from assembling his highly-anticipated book of punk-era photographs to document the memorable event. You can thank Don for kindly supplying the snazzy accompanying image above.
Can't wait for Andre's new album with the Sadies and Heavy Trash which, from all reports, is gonna be a doozy. In the meantime, check out Andre's new work of fiction Sweets And Other Stories (Kicks Books) which you can read all about in the post from Satuday (November 14).

Here's a clip of Andre and the Sadies performing a magnificently menacing version of I Can Tell at the Casbah in Hamilton, Ontario on the following night.

Andre Williams w/ The Sadies @ the Casbah 11/20/09

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

D-Sisive's Cult Classic

 Love it or loathe it, there's no denying that the pitcher of Kool Aid makes for a provocative sleeve image on D-Sisive's new Jonestown (Urbnet) CD, released today (Wednesday, November 18) to coincide with the 31st anniversary of the Peoples Temple mass suicide in Guyana.
It's difficult to say what's more remarkable about the concept – the fact that something so innocuous as a fruity beverage has become a cultural signifyer for a horrifying grand-scale human tragedy or that capitalizing on such deeply troubling events in recent history to help sell a product is now considered to be an effective marketing strategy.
Whether the striking design of the Jonestown disc has a positive or negative consumer impact is something for the bean-counters to fret about. D-Sisive's never been overly concerned about how his twisted sense of humour is perceived any more than his sales numbers. Heck, he's giving away the album for free right here.
The surprisingly quick follow-up to his critically acclaimed Let The Children Die album, Jonestown is a welcome return to more of the punchline-style approach upon which our battle-ready boyo established his rep on the T.O. hip-hop scene. Way back in the 90s, before the whole mask thing, D-Sisive was masquerading as a gangly goofus in glasses that sucka MCs quickly learned not to test, especially if their girlfriend and/or crew happened to be watching in the audience.
While the 12-track album ain't all fun 'n' games, D-Sisive's fond reminiscence that is 1974 suggests the passing of his father still weighs heavy on his mind, he still packs in enough clever word-play wallop throughout Jonestown to shake off the unfortunate "emo-rapper" tag.
On point production from Marco Polo, Muneshine, MoSS, Anonymous Twist, Murr, Shinogo, 9th Uno and The Dirty Sample should help turn some headz and the kooky cameo from his electro-billy homeboy Slim Twig on Around The World is definitely good for a larf, much like the non-reference to Jeff Goldblum in They Got Guns. Yeah, it's dope.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

(Black Keys + MCs) x Damon Dash = Blakroc

As you may have already heard, music biz mini-mogul Damon Dash of Roc-A-Fella infamy had this crazy Blakroc scheme to make an album bringing together the nasty jams of the Black Keys with the grimy rhymes of the Wu-Tang Clan's Raekwon, RZA and the late ODB, Mos Def, Pharoahe Monch, Billy Danze from MOP, Ludacris, Q-Tip, Jim Jones (ex-Diplomats) and NOE (ex-Dipset), sweetened up by soulful singer Nicole Wray.
You're probably thinking, "Oh yeah, just what we need – another lame high-concept rock/rap novelty album." But the reason why this unlikely collision between the rustbelt blues-rockers and the Big Apple's finest MCs could actually click when the self-titled Blakroc album drops November 27 (aka "Blak Friday") is because aside from whatever Dash's money-making, world-conquering ambitions may be, it's a truly creative collaboration at the core. Not your typical corny mash-up gimmick but more of a genuine musical hybrid sans samples.  
With the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach and Pat Carney providing all the beats, there's a consistently rock-solid foundation throughout and perhaps most crucially, the Akron aces' level of creative input is matched by that of the hip-hop artists involved. At least, that appears to be what's happening from the revealing in-studio documentary footage shot by Jonah Schwartz and parceled into nine webisodes which you can watch below.  
But before going any further, you need to check out a video clip of the first Blakroc track leaked from the sessions, Ain't Nothing Like You (Hoochie Coo) voiced by Auerbach and Mos Def with insightful commentary rhymed by Jim Jones. It'll give you a good idea of what the 11-day studio throwdown actually produced. 

Ain't Nothing Like You (Hoochie Coo)

1. Coochie (with Ludacris, Ol' Dirty Bastard) – 4:10
2. On the Vista (with Mos Def) – 2:39
3. Hard Times (with NOE) – 2:38
4. Dollaz & Sense (with RZA, Pharoahe Monch) – 3:47
5. Why Can’t I Forget Him (with Nicole Wray) – 4:16
6. Stay Off the Fuckin’ Flowers (with Raekwon) – 2:31
7. Ain't Nothing Like You (Hoochie Coo) (with Mos Def, Jim Jones) – 3:23
8. Hope You’re Happy (with Billy Danze of M.O.P., Q-Tip, Nicole Wray)
9. Tellin’ Me Things (with RZA) – 2:39
10. What You Do to Me (with Billy Danze, Jim Jones, Nicole Wray) – 5:14
11. Done Did It (with Nicole Wray, NOE) – 3:29

Webisode 1 – Damon Dash's innovative fireworks

Webisode 2 – Mos Def's pure heart

Webisode 3 – Smokin' Jim Jones

Webisode 4 – RZA's guitar lesson

Webisode 5 – Nikki Wray gets serious

Webisode 6 – NOE's Blackberry booth breakdown

Webisode 7 – Q-Tip will sneak up on you

Webisode 8 – Billy Danze straight up

Webisode 9 – Clear is the way Pharoahe Monch goes

Blakroc Radio
Black Keys
Jim Jones
Billy Danze
Nicole Wray
Pharoahe Monch

Monday, November 16, 2009

Folk Psych Spellcasters – TNG: Alela Diane

The otherworldly sound of cult faves Vashti Bunyan, Karen Dalton, Linda Perhacs and Sibylle Baier has left some freak folk fans wondering, "where is the next generation of spellcasters?" Well, they're out there waiting to be discovered much like their predecessors from the 60s and 70s who didn't really register any degree of popularity until decades after their recording career was over.
Some of them are closer than you think. In fact, one of the most beguiling voices to come along in decades belongs to 26-year-old Alela Diane who's currently en route to Toronto where she'll be playing the Horseshoe with Marissa Nadler tonight (Monday, November 16). Arising from the same tiny Nevada City scene in Northern California that produced Joanna Newsom, Alela Diane grew up singing and playing guitar with her musician parents in the sort of breathtakingly bucolic environment that continues to shape the imagistic choices of her songwriting.

Back in 2004, her guitar-picking father, Tom Menig, home produced what would become her breakout album, The Pirate's Gospel which she initially sold from the stage at shows in handmade paper and lace sleeves much like her long out-of-print Forest Parade self-released debut from the previous year.
However, it wasn't until the Pirate's Gospel was reissued two years later in a far less fancy edition by Portland's Holocene Music and the UK-based Names Records issued a collection of her acoustic demos for a follow-up album as the Songs Whistled Through White Teeth as a 10" EP that Alela Diane's prodigious gifts came to international attention.
There's a wonderful directness and warmth to Alela Diane's intimate delivery which quavers with a slightly melancholic underpinning that's strangely compelling when woven into her gently plucked guitar figures. It sticks with you.
When New York A&R dude Eddie Bezalel (behind Mark Ronson's Version album) and pals David Holmes and Primal Scream producer Hugo Nicholson were looking for a singer with a certain mystique to voice their Headless Heroes covers concept album, they knew they hit paydirt when they came across Alela Diane's myspace page.

The fact that she wasn't familiar with many of the songs they wanted her to sing for The Silence Of Love album – stuff like Philamore Lincoln's The North Wind Blew South, Juicy Lucy's Just One Time, the Gentle Soul's See My Love and Daniel Johnston's True Love Will Find You In The End) wasn't a drawback. They were looking for fresh takes and Alela Diane gave them much more than they could've hoped for. But without proper promotion and a clueless marketing plan involving staggered UK and North American release dates sans tour support, the Silence Of Love album never really got off the ground. Decades from now, it'll be the overlooked cutout-bin classic in Alela Diane's recording canon that obsessive fans will hail as a lost masterwork.  
The Headless Heroes one-off was soon eclipsed by the February release of Alela Diane's To Be Still (Rough Trade) album, her finest work yet. Begun in Portland where she now resides and finished up back at her father's home studio in Nevada City, To Be Still easily her most fully realized recording, making tasteful use of string accompaniment, harmony vocals and yes, even percussion!

Of course, it's all merely window dressing for that captivating voice but her own remarkable compositions like White As Diamonds, the Alder Trees and Tatted Lace also suggest that she's maturing into a fine composer as well. For those who prefer hearing Alela Diane with less instrumental fillagree, a thrilingly stark six-song duet session with Alina Hardin has just been issued as the Alela & Alina (Family/Names) 10" EP to coincide with the current tour which brings her to the Horseshoe this evening. You'd better act fast though, it's a hand-numbered limited edition of 1000 copies and mine is 972.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

West African Soundclash

Just when you thought the battle for West African archival comp supremacy was winding down, the two major combatants, Soundway and Analog Africa, have resumed one-upping each other with a renewed vigor. Soundway supremo Miles Cleret was forced to step up his research/repackage game after his own TP Orchestre Poly-Rythmo collection The Kings of Benin Urban Groove 1972-80 was totally obliterated by a much more deeply dug Poly-Rythmo set called Vodoun Effect. Thoroughly researched and beautifully annotated by Analog Africa founder Samy Ben Redjeb, Vodoun Effect – focusing on the group's psychedelicized groove-heavy recordings for small labels (1972-75) – was amazingly enough, merely Volume One of a series.

Following four years of research which had our man Redjeb turning over rocks across Benin, Togo and Niger to amass and license the required Orchestra Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou materials: 120 master tapes, 20 hours of interviews with band members, 100 photographs and a few hundred pieces of extremely rare vinyl, the follow-up collection has just appeared and it's another revelation. Of the 500 or so songs that Redjeb reviewed, only 14 tracks Poly-Rythmo recorded for Benin's Albarika Store label between 1969 and 79 made the grade for Volume Two: Echos Hypnotiques. Each joint is a killer and taken together, the compilation (CD and 2LP) well demonstrates the group's creativity and versatility as they effortless shift from hard-pounding Afro-beat through transfixing sato and sakpata jams that come with the freaky fuzzy atmosphere of an afterhours party. Check out the Analog Africa link below to hear the pumping Mi Ve Wa Se, the swinging boogaloo-variant Zizi as well as the propulsive head-nodder Malin Kpon O which initially inspired Redjeb's obsessive search for more of Poly-Rythmo's lost treasures.

Echos Hypnotiques track listing:

01. Se Ba Ho
02. Mi Ve Wa Se
03. Azoo De Ma Gnin Kpevi
04. Noude Ma Gnin Tche De Me
05. Ahouli Vou Yelli
06. Gan Tche Kpo
07. Malin Kpon O
08. Mede Ma gnin Messe
09. Agnon De Kpe
010. Ma Tafou Gnin O
011. Zizi
012. Ma Dou Sou Nou Mio
014. Houe Djein Nada
015. Minkou E So Non Moin


Over in England, Cleret wasn't sitting idle while Redjeb was assembling Echos Hypnotiques. Oh no, he was dreaming up a magnum opus of his own. Returning to the more familiar ground of Ghana, he decided to similarly build on past successes. Creating a worthy addition to Soundway's landmark Ghana Soundz product line which established the label's reissue rep wouldn't be easy but after 10 years of running around the cities of Accra, Tema, Cape Coast, Takoradi and Kumasi, you know that Cleret had to have at least a few badass burners stashed away. Evidently, he did.

The fantastic Ghana Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds & Ghanaian Blues book-bound 2 CD set contains 33 crazy corkers drawn from obscure single B-sides and album tracks by a wide assortment of kick-ass groups along with a 44-page colour booklet rammed tight with insane sleeve images, artist photos and track-by-track annotation.

Believe it or not, the simultaneously released vinyl configuration is even better! You know how the CD version of an archival release always has a few additional songs you only find out about after you've bought the vinyl? Well, the Ghana Special five LP set comes with four extra tracks – two numbers that appeared as a bonus on the Ghana Soundz CD and two otherwise unavailable killers including Joe Mensah's monumental Cry Laughter which clocks in at nearly 18 minutes and takes up the whole second side of the fifth LP! If you shop around, you should be able to find the Ghana Special LP box in Toronto for under $50 Canadian. To put that deal into proper perspective, 50 bucks is about half of what you'd need to pay a European dealer for a rinked original copy of any one single used for the set.

Ghana Special track listing:
CD 1
01. The Mercury Dance Band - Kai Wawa
02. T. O. Jazz - Owuo Adaadaa Me
03. Christy Azuma & Uppers International - Din Ya Sugri
04. The Barbecues - Aaya Lolo
05. Asaase Ase - Ohiani Sua Efir
06. St. Peter & The Holymen - Bofoo Beye Abowa Den
07. City Boys Band - Nya Asem Hwe
08. Hedzoleh Soundz - Edinya Benya
09. The Cutlass Dance Band - HweHwe Mu Yi Mpena
10. Dr. K. Gyasi & His Noble Kings - Sei Nazo
11. Kyeremateng Atwede & The Kyeremateng Stars - I Go Die For You
12. Vis a Vis - Obi Agye Me Dofo
13. Ebo Taylor - Twer Nyame (excerpt)
14. The Big Beats - Mi Nsumõõ Bo Dõnn
15. Pa Steele's African Brothers - Odo Mmera
16. The Ogyatanaa Show Band - You Monopolise Me
CD 2
01. The African Brothers International Band - Wompe Masem
02. Gyedu-Blay Ambolley & His Creations - Akoko Ba
03. The Sweet Talks - Akampanye
04. Houghas Sorowonko - Enuanom Adofo
05. Oscar Sulley's Nzele Soundz - Bukom
06. Bokoor Band - You Can Go
07. K. Frimpong & His Cubanos Fiestas - Kyenkyen Bi Adi M'Awu
08. Basa Basa Soundz feat. Fela Anikulapo Kuti - Dr. Solutsu
09. Pagadeja - Tamale
10. Hedzolleh Soundz - Omusus Da Fe M'musu
11. The Uhuru Dance Band - Yahyia Mu
12. Dr. K. Gyasi & His Noble Kings - Noble Kings (Yako Aba)
13. The Wellis Band - Bindiga
14. Boombaya - Boombaya
15. Sawaaba Soundz - Owuo
16. The Cutlass Dance Band - Them Go Talk Of You
17. Honny & The Bees Band - Sisi Mbon

A1. The Mercury Dance Band - Kai Wawa
A2. T. O. Jazz - Owuo Adaadaa Me
A3. Christy Azuma & Uppers International - Din Ya Sugri
A4. Asaase Ase - Ohiani Sua Efir
B1. The Cutlass Dance Band - HweHwe Mu Yi Mpena
B2. Dr. K. Gyasi & His Noble Kings - Sei Nazo
B3. Hedzoleh Soundz - Edinya Benya
B4. City Boys Band - Nya Asem Hwe
B5. St. Peter & The Holymen - Bofoo Beye Abowa Den
C1. Vis a Vis - Obi Agye Me Dofo
C2. The Big Beats - Mi Nsum
C3. The Barbecues - Aaya Lolo
D1. Kyeremateng Atwede & The Kyeremateng Stars - I Go Die For You
D2. Ebo Taylor - Twer Nyame (excerpt)
D3. Pa Steeles African Brothers - Odo Mmera
D4. The Ogyatanaa Show Band - You Monopolise Me
E1. The African Brothers International Band - Wompe Masem
E2. Gyedu-Blay Ambolley & His Creations - Akoko Ba
E3. The Sweet Talks - Akampanye
E4. Houghas Sorowonko - Enuanom Adofo
F1. Oscar Sulley's Nzele Soundz - Bukom
F2. Bokoor Band - You Can Go
F3. K. Frimpong & His Cubanos Fiestas - Kyenkyen Bi Adi MAwu
F4. Basa Basa Soundz feat. Fela Anikulapo Kuti - Dr. Solutsu
G1. Hedzolleh Soundz - Omusus Da Fe M'musu
G2. Boombaya - Boombaya
G3. Dr. K. Gyasi & His Noble Kings - Noble Kings (Yako Aba)
G4. The Wellis Band - Bindiga
H1. Pagadeja - Tamale
H2. The Uhuru Dance Band - Yahyia Mu
H3. The Cutlass Dance Band - Them Go Talk Of You
H4. Honny & The Bees Band - Sisi Mbon
I1. Sawaaba Soundz - Owuo
I2. Honny & The Bees Band - Psychedelic Woman
I3. The Black Star Sound - Nite Safari
I4. T.O. Jazz - Osaman Ba
J1.  Joe Mensah - Cry Laughter


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Andre Williams' novel turn

 Along with Andre Williams' considerable skills as a producer, arranger and house-wrecking showman, we all knew reckless R&B raconteur was a talented tunesmith as well. But evidently the composer of such timeless classics as Bacon Fat, Jail Bait, Shake A Tail Feather, Pig Snoots and I Want To Be Your Favorite Pair of Pajamas wasn't content with just writing dancefloor destroyers so the wildly creative Williams decided to mark his 73rd birthday with the publication of his first book of fiction, Sweets and Other Stories.
The swankly designed old school Signet tall-style paperback is the first release of Kicks Books, an off-shoot of Norton Records which is currently celebrating it's 30th anniversary as a proudly independent label. It was actually Norton co-founder and dime-store novel aficionado Miriam Linna who suggested to Williams the potential therapeutic benefits of writing prose during his recent 42-day stint in rehab.

Williams took the advice and wrote what he knew. True to salacious form, it's a terrifically trashy bit of streetwise pulp fiction – more Donald Goines than Iceberg Slim – populated by pimps, hookers, thugs, snitches and dope-dealers, just the sort of sleazy characters Williams understands implicitly from his own hard hustling life in the music biz. Although much of the action is set in Chicago, where Williams currently resides, don't count on Sweets and Other Stories getting big upped on Oprah's Book Club. But who knows, maybe Quentin Tarrantino will buy the film rights and keep Andre in vintage Cadillacs for years to come.

Of course, recording and performing music remains Andre's main focus. He's just finishing up a new Jon Spencer-produced album with the ever-fabulous Sadies  providing musical support. The Sadies will be joining Williams to road test some of the new material at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West) in Toronto on Thursday, November 19 with Bloodshot Bill and Catl opening. Tickets are $15 advance, $18 at the door and available from Ticketmaster, Rotate This, Soundscapes and the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Crate-digging Belgian Style

As I've said before, any friend of sly, slick 'n' wicked R&B ripper Andre Williams is someone to keep an eye on. The Brussels bad boys behind the Laid Back music site know it and have taken their surveillance one step further by putting a video camera on Williams' Belgian buddy and serious record hound Jean Roger aka "JR" who recalls some of his more memorable vinyl chasing exploits for their new digumentary Wallifornia Soul.
In the 15-minute preview that follows below, JR spins some of his favourite sevens in his wax stacked pad while reminiscing about his time in Quebec and fondly recalling dusty fingered days spent with Edouard Cabral at Primitive in Montreal and Aki Abe at Cosmos in Toronto. In fact, JR can't praise Cosmos highly enough. Watch for Aki's brief cameo appearance. Beat junkies, DJs and rare vinyl connoisseurs alike planning to visit Toronto should make a trip to Cosmos West (663 Queen Street West) – but stop by a bank machine first. Trust me on that one.

Wallifornia Soul from Laid Back on Vimeo.

One For The Weekend: PUTS!

Who knew that way back in 1980, Los Angeles rap duo People Under The Stairs zipped over to Tokyo
to make a groundbreaking guest appearance on the popular variety show Chikara Kurashi Hit Station?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Straight outta Finland: Little Ann, Willie West and Elder William Smith

Talk to any of Ann Bridgeforth's fellow workers at the Marysville Parts and Distribution Center in the gigantic industrial park that is Marysville, Michigan and they'll recall she was a pleasant and reliable packer/checker but that's about it.
Few of them had any idea that the woman working next to them every day on the line for more than 20 years was once a hugely promising soul singer in Detroit who could've been the next Diana Ross or Mary Wells had she been given a shot with Motown.
Unfortunately, Chicago-born "Little Ann" Bridgeforth (she was the youngest of seven brothers and sisters), who began her singing career as a teenager doing Sunday matinees at Michelle's Playroom, only got as far as TCB Studios on Highland Avenue. It was there that Bridgeforth recorded her initial sessions under the direction of session guitarist and freelance producer Dave Hamilton resulting in a single for Ed Wingate's Ric-Tic label, Going Down A One-Way Street. Like many artist's first releases, it went nowhere and Bridgeforth wasn't given a second chance. Before leaving Detroit in 1969 to join her homeboys George Clinton and Funkadelic in the more happening (and less fiery) city of Toronto, Little Ann recorded at least eight more songs with Hamilton who safely packed the tapes into boxes and left them to gather dust.
Soon after settling into her new Toronto home, Bridgeforth hooked up with the members of the jazz trio Fat Chance but after a few years of shuttling back and forth between Toronto and Montreal lounges without advancing her music career, she'd had enough. Bridgeforth returned to Michigan where she found gainful employment with Chrysler packing auto parts and her singing was confined to church services and weddings.
That would've been the last anyone ever heard of Little Ann, only, sometime in the early 80s so the story goes, UK Northern Soul dealer John Anderson acquired a mysterious acetate of an unreleased Little Ann track What Should I Do? and offered the then completely unknown seven-inch to  influential Wigan Casino selector Richard Searling who new a smash hit when he heard it and promptly turned the song into a Northern anthem as a cover-up. Dubbed "When He's Not Around" and credited to Rose Valentine and the Sisters 3, the tune would continue to fill floors for the next 15 years without anyone ever knowing the true identity of the artist responsible. It stands as one of the longest running cover-up mysteries and may have remained unsolved to this day if Northern punters Gilly and Tats hadn't saved up their money for a trip to Detroit in 1990 to meet their heroes Melvin Davis and Dave Hamilton. When Gilly and Tats played their cassette recording of "When He's Not Around," Hamilton immediately recognized his own recording of Little Ann singing "What Should I Do?" Case closed. It wasn't long before Ace/Kent reissue producer Ady Croasdell was trawling through Hamilton's tape archives for more amazing unknown artifacts and Bridgeforth was summoned from her 9-to-5 job to perform in England before adoring crowds of tear-eyed Northern Soul fanatics. Some 35 years after her ill-fated career began, Little Ann was finally getting her due.
Sadly, Bridgeforth's unlikely return to the stage wasn't to last. Suffering from kidney disease, she would spend the final two years of her life on dialysis, finally succumbing in January 2003 at the age of 57.
A few of Little Ann's "lost" recordings have appeared on various volumes of Ace/Kent's Dave Hamilton's Detroit Dancers series although the Helsinki-based Timmion label's new 9-track Deep Shadows LP is the first complete collection of the sweetly swinging and engagingly atmospheric songs she cut at TCB Studios back in the day. Better late than never.

Also from Timmion comes the unexpected return of New Orleans soul survivor Willie West. Perhaps best known to Big Easy R&B lovers for his Allen Toussaint produced numbers on Deesu, West's one-off Warner single B-side Said To Myself backed by the Meters (with Herman Ernest subbing on drums for Ziggy Modeliste) is a favourite amongst the funk elite. Although, instead of simply reissuing one of West's classic burners or perhaps some unreleased jam from the Black Sampson soundtrack sessions, Timmion has released a magnificently moody new tune The Devil Gives Me Everything Except What I Need backed with understated elegance by the High Society Brothers grooving in a low-key El Michels Affair mode. You can listen to the track here.

And while the just-issued Elder William Smith gospel funk single His Voice b/w He Spoke by the All Nations Quartet is on the Psalms label, the insanely limited seven actually has a not-so-obvious Finnish connection. This clever studio concoction neatly pieced together by DJ/collector Kris Holmes with sampled sermonizing dropped over head-nodding beats and organ fills was mastered at Timmion in Helsinki by Jukka Sarapaa of Soul Investigators infamy. Since I got one off Kris, there's only 199 hand-numbered copies left so stop reading this and grab one quick. Check it out here.  

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ian Blurton + Huron = Happy Endings

While slugging back a Corona at La Hacienda back in August, Ian Blurton stopped by my table and plunked down a dog-eared CD-R envelope with "Thin Lizzy 1971-1982" written on the flap. 
"It's just some stuff I've been working on," he shrugged. "Check it out, lemme know what you think." As he walked out the door, I flipped it over and noticed the words "Happy Endings" were inked on the disc with a familiar scrawl not unlike the scribbling I remember seeing on those early Change of Heart demo cassettes and posters.
Listening to Blurton's disc later that night, I was immediately struck by the diversity of sounds, grooves, textures and of course, riffs – it wouldn't be an Ian Blurton project without some big bold ones. There were enough solid ideas for at least three completely different albums and not one of which would sound it came from C'mon, Blurtonia, Bionic, Scott B. Sympathy, Change of Heart, A Neon Rome or even Jolly Tambourine Man. The enjoyably stoned opener Out There In The Light sets you up for a trippy Floydian flight but as soon as the purple smoke clears, you're into the hand-clapping and hip-shaking getdown Get Right By Me and then straight through to the strummy acoustic choogle of Crows Crow before taking a left turn into the Tortoise-esque post rock rumbling of Folded Plastic Remix only to launch back into interstellar overdrive for Four AM Highway.
If you think that sounds crazy, wait till you hear the Stones-meets-Bolan jam Billboard of Stars. Oh yeah, I just about forgot there's a full-on disco jam too. The amazing thing about Happy Endings is that for all the jarring stylistic shifts and celebrity guests (including Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew, Stars' Amy Millan and Raising The Fawn's Scott Remila), it all somehow still feels like Blurton's handiwork. But how could he pull it off on stage? That's what I asked the man when I ran into him at the Roky Erickson show. Blurton replied, "I've been working on it with the guys in this Hamilton group Huron. We're gonna be playing every Wednesday night in November at the Dakota. We're calling it Ian Blurton + Huron = Happy Endings."
Naturally, I had to check it out for myself and what an ass-kicking display it was last Wednesday. The diversity of Blurton's new material clearly poses no problems whatsoever for the appropriately bearded Huron crew who've comfortably fit right into the role of Sir Ian's own personal Crazy Horse. While the blazing three-guitar frontline brought the album's rockers to wall-shaking life, I still had my doubts that these bruisers could roll with the dubwise bump of Folded Plastic. But the wonderfully woozy 20-minute breakdown led by a seated Blurton thumping on a Rickenbacker bass (fitted with a red, gold and green striped strap!) proved to be the highlight of the night.
They'll be back with freshly manufactured copies of the Happy Endings CD at the Dakota Tavern (249 Ossington at Dundas) tonight (Wednesday, November 11) and again November 18 and November 25. Well worth investigating.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Wooden Shjips spook Brooklyn hipsters

While you were out trick-or-treating Halloween night, San Francisco's pysch overlords Wooden Shjips were engaged in a densely droning freakfest with the Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts and Religious Knives at 171 Lombardy in Brooklyn's Greenpoint neighborhood.
Fortunately the tech-savvy folks at NYC Taper were on hand with an Edirol R-44 four-track recorder and a pair of Neumann KM-150 microphones to properly document the Shjips' fuzzed-out onslaught which appropriately culminates with a searing swing through Neil Young's Vampire Blues.
Download an MP3 or FLAC version of the Wooden Shjips 40-minute set here.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Toronto Downtown Record Show

The next best thing to a yardsale at Jello Biafra's house, the bi-annual Toronto Downtown Record Show returns once again to the Estonian House Banquet Hall (958 Broadview Ave., just North of Danforth) this Sunday (November 8) and runs from 11 am to 4 pm. Admission: $5.

There's always lots of reasonably priced vinyl, posters and other paper goods you won't see in stores or at other record fairs. Why you ask? Well, many of the people selling aren't your typical jet-setting professional types embittered by years of dealing with obsessive Barry Manilow fans, they're mostly just record happy dudes (along with a few celebrity DJs, see adjacent image) trying to please their partners by reducing basement clutter.

Hang on, I shouldn't be ruining my own chances of some crazy come-ups by explaining what makes this event better than most. So now that I think about it, you probably won't find anything worthwhile at the Toronto Downtown Record Show so just save yourself the five bucks and sleep in on Sunday. Yeah that's it, everybody just stay home and watch the Ravens batter the Bengals in Cincinnati, OK?
For more info, check out

Friday, November 6, 2009

The South Side of Chicago you've never seen

As the elder statesmen of Chicago's blues establishment abandoned their usual haunts in the early 70s for better money playing Sweet Home Chicago on the college and festival circuit, the South Side clubs saw an influx of younger and hungrier R&B-schooled players who weren't above getting down with some James Brown or even Ohio Players moves if that's what it took to make the men shake and the ladies holler.
In just a couple of years the whole lively South Side enterprise would be obliterated by the disco craze to the extent that when I blew through town in 1982, there wasn't a fur or fedora in sight, just flickering Schlitz and Michelob signs. But fortunately, while the stylishly attired crowds were letting it all hang out at Pepper's Hideout, the Patio Lounge, High Chaparral, the New Jazz Showcase Lounge, Five Fingers Social Club and the swank Perv's House, a 23 year-old college boy with a camera named Michael Abramson was right in the middle of the action, snapping off six rolls an evening, five or six nights a week in 1975 and 76. Perhaps a more experienced photographer with bills to pay might've turned his lens stageward but by focusing on the crowd rather than the performers, Abramson was able to compile a unique historical document of a scene that would soon vanish forever. 

For the past 30 years or so, Abramson's been sitting on his incredible photo stash just waiting for the right opportunity to properly present his work. Cue the venerable Chicago archival reissue operation Numero Group who came up with the smashing Light: On The South Side concept of publishing an LP sized 132 page book of Abramson's stunning B&W images along with a well-selected double album compilation raunchy-raw jukebox juicers from the period by Bobby Rush, Little Mack Simmons, Syl Johnson, Artie "Blues Boy" White, Arelean Brown, Ricky Allen, Detroit Jr., Walter "Butterball" Davis, the Slim Willis Band and others.

It's a stunning compendium, easily the most impressive package the label has ever released and they've put out some corkers (see Twinight's Lunar Rotation for one). Yet for some reason the Numero dudes hired UK novelist Nick Hornby to pen an embarrassingly lame "I wish I was there" introductory blurb in place of say, an interview with Bobby Rush or Pepper's boss Johnny Pepper (see him on Chicago TV station WTTW), either of whom could've provided some real insight. But don't let that put you off, Abramson's gorgeous photographs and the accompanying soundtrack of surefire hip-shakers are too fabulous to miss. Check it out here.

Toronto-based vinyl fiends and those who have them on their Christmas shopping list should note that Vortex Records (2309 Yonge near Eglinton) is currently stocking Light: On The South Side and other amazing Numero Group label titles at insanely great prices. Act fast though, supply is extremely limited.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mulatu of Ethiopia... and Brooklyn

Ever since the darkly exotic music of Mulatu Astatke was given a starring role in Jim Jarmusch's quirky comedy Broken Flowers, people have been booking flights to Addis Ababa and turning over rocks to uncover more of Mulatu's magical Ethiopian jazz innovations from the 60s and 70s. While a portion of his vintage work has appeared as part of the excellent Ethiopiques series – Vol. 4: Ethio-Jazz and Musique Instrumental 1969 - 1974 (Buda) culls 14 instrumental tracks from two Ethiopian LPs originally issued in 1972 and 1974 – there's still loads of amazing stuff to be rediscovered. His enjoyable Latin-flavoured jams recorded in Brooklyn and issued in small runs on the tiny Addis Ababa and Worthy labels was the source of Mulatu's initial profile boost amongst vinyl hounds, beat diggers and club selectors yet for a long time the only way you could get Mulatu of Ethiopia, Afro-Latin Soul and Afro-Latin Soul Vol. 2 was dropping serious dough.

Clearly, a comprehensive Mulatu Astatke career overview is long overdue. While the Strut label's new Mulatu reissue comp New York - Addis - London: The Story Of Ethio-Jazz 1965-1975 is by no means definitive, the 20-track set is well-intended attempt to at least cover the bases. Compiled by Soundway label boss Miles Cleret (who also supplies the informative notes), the set is could be considered an expanded version of his own label's Multatu Astatke 10" EP from 2005 as those same four tracks Emnete, Ebo Lala, Yefikir Tizita and Asiyo Bellema are used as the jump off point for a sampling of Mulatu's London and New York work before returning to Ethiopia for his classic Amha label joints that have already appeared in the Ethiopiques series.     
It's all solid material and if you liked what you heard in Broken Flowers, there's much more to love here but it would've made for a more worthwhile release had Cleret dug up more of Mulatu's exciting recordings not previously compiled elsewhere. Still New York - Addis - London is the best single disc survey of Mulatu's incredible legacy available, if only by default. Listen here:

One Mulatu Astatke track that was missed, Alemiye (featuring Belaynesh Wubante and Assegedetch Asfaw), appears on the super dope Psych Funk 101 (World Psychedelic Funk Classics) CD/LP collection which takes a tip from B-Music's Cross Continental Record Raid Road Trip series to seek out fuzzy funked-up obscurities from Turkey, Russia, Iran, South Korea and other far-flung places you wouldn't expect overamped head-nodders to have been cut in the late 60s and early 70s.
Apart from the top-notch track listing – including fab freakouts from the mysterious Staff Carpenborg, Italian exploito-soundtrack ace Armando Sciascia and George Garanian's well-respected Melodiya Jazz Ensemble – the great thing about this diverse set is the packaging which includes a 36-page booklet filled with fantastic full colour sleeve images from the original records which you'll never otherwise encounter in this lifetime. Right on!
If Psych Funk 101 has the look and feel of one of Stones Throw's Now Again comps, it might have something to do with the fact that label honcho Egon assisted with the licensing. It's also available at a reasonable price on the Stones Throw site:

Not to be outdone by some achivist upstarts, Egon has assembled a killer psych set of his own called Forge Your Own Chains: Heavy Psychedelic Ballads and Dirges 1968-1974 (Now Again) CD/2LP. It comes packed tight with brilliant brain scramblers from mad, bad and sometimes sad hombres like Baby Grandmothers, Shin Jung Hyun & The Men, Kourosh Yaghmaei, T. Zchiew & The Johnny along with some creeps you may have actually heard about such as Morly Grey, East Of Underground, Shadrack Chameleon and Montreal sluggers Ellison. The accompanying documentation is just as tight and I'm not just saying that because I contributed a few lines to the liner notes. Initial copies ordered from the Stones Throw site come with a limited Guilty Simpson-blessed promo single My Time To Shine. You'll need it.

Here are the tracks:
1. Top Drawer “Song of a Sinner” 8:44
2. Sensational Saints “How Great Thou Art” 3:35
3. East of Underground “Smiling Faces Sometimes” 6:27
4. D.R. Hooker “Forge Your Own Chains” 4:45
5. Shin Jung Hyun and the Men feat. Jang Hyun “Twilight” 5:40
6. T. Zchiew and The Johnny “Let Yourself Be Free” 3:46
7. The Strangers “Two To Make A Pair” 2:52
8. Damon “Don't You Feel Me” 2:36
9. Ellison “Strawberry Rain” 5:33
10. Morly Grey “Who Can I Say You Are” 3:45
11. Shadrack Chameleon “Don't Let It Get You Down” 4:44
12. Ofege “It's Not Easy” 4:25
13. Ana Y Jaime “Nina Nana” 3:18
14. Kourosh Yaghmaei “Hajm-e Khaali” 2:42
15. Baby Grandmothers “Somebody's Calling My Name” 9:13

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Free Tom Waits!

No, Tom Waits hasn't been locked up. However, the junkyard bon vivant will be putting out his new live recording Glitter and Doom on Anti- November 24th.
The two disc CD (also available on vinyl) includes 17 songs given radical overhauls at various venues on last year's Glitter and Doom tour along with a second disc of his entertaining stage banter concerning everything from interesting facts about vultures and the teeth of rats to why you get a piece of lemon when you order fish in a restaurant (read the transcript here).
In advance of Glitter and Doom's release, Waits is kindly offering a free eight song sampler of the set as a way of introducing fans to his first official website which launched in October. So download your preview of Glitter and Doom at before Tom changes his mind.

These are the tracks...
Lucinda / Ain't Goin Down (Birmingham - 07/03/08)
Singapore (Edinburgh - 07/28/08)
Get Behind the Mule (Tulsa - 06/25/08)
Fannin Street (Knoxville - 06/29/08)
Dirt in the Ground (Milan - 07/19/08)
Such a Scream (Milan - 07/18/08)
Live Circus (Jacksonville - 07/01/08)
Goin' Out West (Tulsa - 06/25/08)
Falling Down (Paris - 07/25/08)
The Part You Throw Away (Edinburgh - 07/28/08)
Trampled Rose (Dublin - 08/01/08)
Metropolitan Glide (Knoxville - 6/29/08)
I'll Shoot the Moon (Paris - 07/24/08)
Green Grass (Edinburgh - 07/27/08)
Make It Rain (Atlanta - 07/05/08)
Story (Columbus - 06/28/08)
Lucky Day (Atlanta - 07/05/08)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Nirvana Alive Two


For most of us, November 1 is simply the day after Halloween but for retailers, it's the first day of the holiday shopping season. You know Christmas can't be far off when record labels start flogging their Nirvana wares.
If you thought they'd already scraped the bottom of the barrel for every last worthwhile Nirvana studio outtake and demo to issue, well, they have. So what could possibly be left in the vault you ask? Live recordings of course, loads of them.
The key point of interest in Sub Pop's 20th Anniversary re-release of Nirvana's explosive 1989 debut as Bleach: The Deluxe Edition is not the spiffy remastering job overseen by session producer Jack Endino or the fact that the first run of the double LP version will be on white vinyl or even the inclusion of songs Big Cheese and Downer that were left off the original LP release. Nope, the real buying incentive for Nirvana fans is the fantastic bonus concert recorded on February 9, 1990 in Portland. Live at Pine Street Theatre captures Kurdt Cobain and Chris Novoselic (as they were then known) thrashing away at their pre-celebrity peak driven on by drummer Chad Channing. In addition to six songs from Bleach, there are full-on rips through Dive, Been A Son, Spank Thru (from Sub Pop 200), Sappy and their set staple cover of Molly's Lips by the Vaselines. Bleach: The Deluxe Edition hits stores on Tuesday (November 3).

Not to be out done, Geffen is rolling out their fancy Nirvana: Live At Reading CD/DVD limited-run Deluxe Edition along with separate CD and DVD versions and they couldn't think of a better launch day than Tuesday (November 3). What a coincidence!
When Nirvana appeared at the UK's Reading Festival on August 30, 1992, the group had already made it to the big time but there was still some lingering doubt whether the kick-ass club act with a hot-selling record could command the Reading stage as headliners. Considering Cobain been through rehab earlier that year with little success and had just seen the birth of his daughter Frances Bean Cobain 12 days prior, no one knew what kinda shape he'd be in.
What began with the scraggly wigged Cobain in a hospital smock being wheeled onstage gave way to a relentlessly raging career-topping performance that would consolidate Nirvana's position at the very top of the heap. The widely bootlegged show has cleaned up remarkably well for the Live At Reading release with the CD sounding crisper and cleaner than any previously circulated recording of the gig you've ever heard – soundboards included.
However, Cobain's enjoyable banter has been excised from the CD and LP versions in addition to the More Than A Feeling piss-take intro to Smells Like Teen Spirit. This is a case where you really need the visual component to fully appreciate what Nirvana was putting down. For these 90 minutes at least, there was no greater band on earth.