Saturday, March 27, 2010

Updates Coming Soon

I have been slammed with work the last 12 days, but I never stopped kickin' out the jams. Posts soon on:

1. Joanna Newsom
2. Sly & the Family Stone
3. Upcoming Graham Central Station with Slave concert
4. Johnny Thunders
5. The Dead Milkmen
6. "The Loudness Wars"
7. Book review of "Best Music Writing of 2008" edited volume
8. The return of Pavement

...and some more stuff too. Stay tuned, mofos!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Today was a Day for "Nigeria Disco Funk Special"

The 10th day of gloomy early spring weather had me reaching for the 2008-released funkified collection Nigeria Disco Funk Special that covers the 1970s funk scene in the capital city of Lagos. There have been a plethora of supreme African funk/rock 70's compilations in the last several years, and this is one of the best. It is available on CD and the usual places online.

Track 1:

Official album promo blurb: Lagos Nigeria – the funk & disco capital of West Africa from 1974-79. More nightclubs, bars, spots and dance-floors than any place along the coast from Dakar all the way to Kinshasa. The only 24 track recording studio in the same stretch with more DJs & imported American LPs and 45s than any of it’s neighbours. Soundway presents 9 slabs of rhythm from a time when Saturday and Sunday nights in Lagos City were for looking good and going out. All of them vital musical feathers in the Lagos DJ bow alongside the latest Brass Construction, BT Express & James Brown imports that were hot off the plane.

Track 5:

Helps to groove those clouds away as the funk rays shine down, mofo.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Today was a Day for the new Jimi Hendrix 180g Vinyl Releases

Actually, to be more specific, it was a day for the 1 new release and 4 new re-releases that just came out on Tuesday. I'm sure you have heard the hype for Valleys of Neptune [best album review that I have seen for it is here at the Telegraph, though this one at Popmatters is quite good at updating the big picture of Jimi's studio work], the first new officially-released Hendrix studio recordings in 13 years. The fine folks at the family-run business Experience Hendrix also re-released Jimi's other 4 big studio albums--his original 3 and the 1 other quality posthumous release from 1997 (First Rays). I was able to pick up all 5 of these LP's on some beautiful 180g vinyl:

1967's Are You Experienced? by the Jimi Hendrix Experience (1LP)
1967's Axis: Bold As Love by the Jimi Hendrix Experience (1LP)
1968's Electric Ladyland by the Jimi Hendrix Experience (2LP)
1997's First Rays of the New Rising Sun by Jimi Hendrix (2LP) 
2010's Valleys of Neptune by Jimi Hendrix (2LP)

In order to pay for recent big music purchases, I have been selling some of my CD's to downsize my collection by a bit in order to reinvest the monies elsewhere. Of my 2,400 or so CD's/CDR's/bootlegs I have put about 125 of the original CDs up for sale on Thus far I have sold around 60 which has given me several hundreds of dollars to play with for "new" music purchases. I suppose the question you might be asking is why I am selling CDs to buy more vinyl? Let's just say the short answer is that I think the vinyl will last longer. And I got rid of some of the crap in my collection and replaced it with stuff I otherwise wouldn't be able to afford (the 5 Hendrix vinyl releases, the 10-CD Complete Hank Williams, and the 13-CD Beatles Mono Box, etc.).

But anyway, back to my new Hendrix LPs. They are glorious. Wonderful packaging/artwork and perfect vinyl discs. They were pressed in one of the best plants making vinyl in our current times. There is not much I can say about the first three albums that hasn't been said. If it has been a while since you pulled them out and played them, give 'em a spin (either on vinyl, CD, or digital). You won't be disappointed. The same can be said for 1997's First Rays--a very fun listen.

As to the "new" album, Valleys of Neptune, I'll write a more extensive review sometime soon that explores the nature of posthumous releases in general and two albums in specific. It will be a review of the latest Hendrix release coupled with an album review of the latest (and last) Johnny Cash American Recordings album (which I also picked up on vinyl earlier in the week.) Not sure when I can get around to that, but hopefully soon. Until then, spin some Hendrix, mofos!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Today was a Day for Steve Almond and Toto (Special Book Preview Edition)

I am so looking forward to Steve's new book Rock 'n' Roll Will Save Your Life: A Book by and for the Fanatics Among Us (with Bitchin' Soundtrack) that comes out in April!
Preorder on for $15!

As detailed here on Steve's site, this is going to be one of the great music-related books of the year:

Who is the book for?
Drooling Fanatics.

What's a "drooling fanatic"?
I couldn't shake the notion that we had gone wrong somewhere, that we belonged to some special category of the thwarted. We spent an inordinate number of hours mourning the fact that we had not wound up as rock stars or one-hit wonders or near-misses or bar bands or wedding bands or KISS cover bands or midget KISS cover bands. We had wound up, instead, as wannabes, geeks, professional worshippers, the sort of guys and dolls who walk around with songs ringing in our ears at all hours, who acquire albums compulsively, who fall in love with one record per week minimum and cannot resist telling other people—people frankly not that interested—what they should be listening to and why and forcing homemade compilations into their hands and then calling them to see what they thought of these compilations, in particular the syncopated handclaps on track fourteen.

Any defining symptoms?
Chances are, we've loaned money to musicians.

Chances are, we were DJs in college and had a show with a name so stupid we are vaguely embarrassed to mention it now, though we are quite happy to mention that we were DJs in college.

Chances are we've spent weeks in puzzled anguish over why our favorite band isn't more popular, given how much the songs on the radio suck, though if our favorite band suddenly hit it big we'd feel more resentment than pride.

Chances are, the only periods of sustained euphoria in our lives have been accompanied by music.

Is drooling fanaticism contagious?
I've been trying to make the case—in my own discombobulated case-making fashion—for Drooling Fanaticism as a spiritual condition, that music is, for certain of us, the chosen path toward what William James called "a larger, richer, more satisfying life." James was talking about God, but I'll happily regard that as a term of convenience for That Which We Worship with Irrational and Perhaps Head-Banging Glee.

In fact, I'm willing to argue at this point that we are all Drooling Fanatics, that every single human being carries within her or him the need for music and that we differ only in matters of degree and expression.

What sort of stupid things do drooling fanatics do?
Once his manager was gone, James Cotton turned and, as if noticing me for the first time, said, "You suppose you could do me a favor, young man?"

"Of course," I said.

"I need to get some medicine."

"Sure," I said.

This would make awesome color for my story. What could be better than fetching medicine for a dying, legendary bluesman? I pondered what sort of medicine the old fellow might need. Hopefully it would be something dramatic, such as nitroglycerin tablets.

"We gotta drive somewhere," Cotton said.

He was whispering and so I whispered back, "Okay, let me get my friend. He has the car."

"Hurry now," Cotton said.

It did not occur to me to question why Cotton had entrusted this medical task to me, rather than (say) his manager, or a person in some way affiliated with his tour. I was really a very sheltered human being. Nonetheless, I fetched Holden and Cotton stood up and placed himself in our custody.

"You all got a liquor store around here?" he said.

I understand the book includes several "obnoxious lists." What sort?
Ten Things You Can Say to Piss Off a Music Critic
1.Sonic Youth—are they the ones that do "Pass the Dutchie"?
2.People who don't like Steve Miller should fucking move to Canada.
3.Jack Johnson is our generation's Woody Guthrie.
4.Don't you sometimes wish "Free Fallin'" were the national anthem?
5.Do me a favor and hold my beer. Thanks, dude. I'll be right back.
6.Yeah, but have you ever seen Michael Bublé play live?
7.Don't you wish these jazz dweebs would learn to play a real song?
8.Exile on Main Street is okay, but it's no Steel Wheels.
9.Did you ever want to be, like, a musician yourself?
10.Paradise Theater is an American classic.

What was it like for you to cover the Grammys?
Here's what I figured would happen: I'd arrive at the Shrine Auditorium and there'd be this giant diamond-studded vacuum device which would suck me into the inner sanctum of The Music Industry, a softly lit pillow lounge sort of place where Prince and Springsteen would be jamming with the remaining Beatles and someone would hand me a drink and I'd get spun into the arms of Linda Ronstadt, who would be dressed in a mariachi garter-belt type ensemble and who would muss my hair in aroused proto-cougar fashion and reach into my back pocket and toss my reporter's notebook away and laugh girlishly, then whisper into my ear that her "needs" would have to be met before she could go out and do her song, and by the way could Toni Tennille tag along?

In the event, I spent three hours standing in line outside the Shrine Auditorium, the wrong line it turned out, a line intended for those media with "floor credentials," which explained why the others in line were so tan and nicely dressed and attractive, why they had monstrous heads and blinding teeth and hair that didn't move: they were TV reporters. The situation was clarified by a kindly security official named DeWayne, who directed me to a second, much uglier line in the back of the building, located downwind from the septic outflow. Ah yes, the Shrine Auditorium's anus.

What, in your fanatic opinion, are songs supposed to do?
They remind us that emotions are not an inconvenient and vaguely embarrassing aspect of the human enterprise but its central purpose. They make us feel specific things we might never have felt otherwise. Every time I listen to "Sunday Bloody Sunday," for instance, I feel a pugnacious righteousness about the fate of the Irish people. I hear that thwacking military drumbeat and Bono starts wailing about the news he heard today and I'm basically ready to enlist in the IRA and stomp some British Protestant Imperialist Ass, hell yes, bring on the fucking bangers and mash and let's get this McJihad started. I feel these things despite the fact that:

a. I am not Irish
b. I sort of hate U2
c. The song actually advocates pacifism

What else is in the book?
■Sometimes drunken interviews with America's finest songwriters
■The terrifying specter of Graceland stoned
■Recommendations you will often choose to ignore
■A reluctant exegesis of the song "Africa" by Toto

Can you talk a little about the mating habits of drooling fanatics?
Did I honestly believe Elise lacked the emotional depth required to be involved with me simply because she loved Air Supply? Was this even possible? Indeed, wasn't my willingness to dismiss this woman based solely on her earnest devotion to a soft rock duo proof of my own spiritual disfigurement?

In a word: possibly.

What was it like to visit your musical heroes?
It will sound hokey, but I honestly felt like I was standing in a holy place. I had 559 Bob Schneider songs in my iTunes library. I had listened to his music for entire days at a time and thought about him, in some capacity, every day for the past five years. I recognized the chance that we would run off together was extremely low, but I also believed—and I think Drooling Fanatics cannot help themselves in this regard—that I understood Bob in a way nobody else on earth did, that we were soulmates and though he didn't know this yet he had a secret message to impart. This is perhaps the most annoying aspect of Fanaticism, from the musician's point of view. They owe us nothing beyond their songs, but we keep hounding them for more.

Why was it so hard for you to interview Dave Grohl for SPIN magazine?
Because there was a protocol, predicated on the fact that a reporter was an interloper, a non-famous person, an envoy, in fact, from the larger world of non-famous people. The idea that a non-famous person would make a demand on the time of a famous person is inherently offensive to the keepers of celebrity.

Journalists are dependably loyal to this protocol, because their professional stature depends on access. When that access is promised then suddenly denied in irrational ways, when you are basically standing around in a strange place far from home with an unctuous publicist as your only ally, it makes you angry, but more than that it makes you very very needy. I hope this helps explain why, the first time Dave Grohl spoke to me, approximately 59 hours after we were first supposed to meet, six hours before my return flight to Boston, I was so instantly grateful, so starstruck, so possibly and confusingly in love, that I could only nod my head and fight back tears.

What did Ike Reilly teach you about rock and roll?
It occurred to me, as we cruised along the darkened shoreline of Minear Lake, that this was the central allure of rock and roll: the creation of a personal mythology. Rock and roll allowed people to lie about themselves, and to be sanctified for the extravagance of their fictions. This was how a mama's boy from Tupelo became our gyrating Jesus, how a nasally Jew from Hibbing, Minnesota, reinvented himself as a hipster messiah. Rock had enabled Ike Reilly to buy Gatsby's mansion and still shout the savage truths of punk rock.

How about Boris McCutcheon?
Music lay at the center of everything. He had led us astray and risked the injury of his lead guitarist, but now, as the sun set over Buzzards Bay and golden light flooded the room and dust motes made wild circles around his head, we stood behind him swaying and nobody said anything for a long time. Later there was dinner and booze and pot. Boris busted out his guitar and played a few new songs. He was writing all the time, between gigs and travel and the jobs taken and not quite kept. We all waited, in those months, for what he would write next, our desire being not a greed for proximity or ownership, but for particular forms of beauty and what they might reveal about ourselves.

Are you concerned about your children inheriting your fanaticism?
So Josie and her little brother will probably dream of being rock stars, too. Why not? They'll grow up with two parents who dreamed of being rock stars, in a house filled with instruments those parents can no longer play. And probably (this must be said) they won't be rock stars. How many of us get to be? But what they will have, what we all get, is the chance to be Drooling Fanatics. And I hope they feel as I do—a bursting gratitude for those musicians brave enough to speak the first and final language of our hearts.

Finally, how will Rock and Roll Save My Life?
One song at a time.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Read Out the Jams, Mofo: "Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music" by Greg Kot [book review]

Greg Kot has been a music columnist, blogger, and reporter for the Chicago Tribune since 1990. His previous book, Wilco: Learning How to Die was published in 2004.  Kot's new book, Ripped:  How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music, came out in May 2009.  The book is a collection of re-worked and expanded essays that Kot wrote over the last decade and covers all sorts of interesting topics that explore the intersection of technology and music. Each chapter focuses on an issue (filesharing, the political economy of record labels, the death of print music magazines and the rise of internet music sites, etc.) and/or a band/musician (Prince, Bright Eyes, Death Cab, Wilco, Arcade Fire, Metallica, etc.) that is trying to play/succeed under the new rules of the game in the music business.

Kot writes very well and has a deep knowledge of both the 'music' and 'business' sides of the music business. While some of the chapters bog down a bit in repetition of the core argument(s), most of the book is a quick, fun read that explores music-related topics that are currently of great interest. I particularly enjoyed the Prince chapter and found the smattering of quotes throughout the book from 'young people' about their views on music and downloading to be quite interesting. In addition, one certainly gets the feeling after reading the book that the big music labels might have been able to save themselves at some point earlier in the last decade, but they made crucial errors in judgment and fell into the sea-of-music-business-oblivion without enough life preservers as a result of their mistakes.

Verdict: Recommended if you want a readable synopsis of where the music business has been and where it is likely going, written from the perspective of someone that has followed the industry for over two decades.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Lucky Record Collector 1, Clueless Librarians 0

Wow. Heckuva story from Chatanooga, TN:
Library Tosses Rare Vinyl Record Collection

Today was a Day for "Florida Funk -- Funk 45s from the Alligator State" by Various Artists

Although I cannot absolutely pinpoint the reason(s) why this is the case, I listened to some funk most every day in February. March thus far has been a continuation of February--a bit (or a bunch) of funk every day and/or evening on the office or home speakers.

Today's album is yet another of the Jazzman/Now Again Records compilations of '60s and '70s singles that was gathered by some professional funk music collectors and put out in a series of wonderful geographically-based releases. The album was researched and compiled by Gerald Short, Malcolm Catto, and Angelo Angione and was the 3rd in the series. Florida Funk -- Funk 45s from the Alligator State was released in 2007 and covers the Florida funk scene from 1968 to 1975. It can be found on CD at and at various places online for download.

This one has a lot of James Brown and Caribbean influences alongside the deep time period funk grooves. Like I did for my posting on the label's Midwest Funk compilation, I'll let the official album introductory notes do the rest of my work for me:

...have now spent the past 3 years travelling the length and breadth of Florida – trekking through the everglades to snatch rare 45s from the jaws of 20ft gators – before escaping back to the UK with an amazing selection of music that highlights Florida as one of the funkiest states in the USA! From driving percussive instrumentals by obscure small-town groups, to heartfelt slabs of soul; from tropical Latin grooves to funk 45s so raw that they were blessed by James Brown himself!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Today is a Day for "Ordinary Millionaire" from the album "Propellor Time" by Robyn Hitchcock (forthcoming, 2010)

Color me excited. One of my very favorite artists, Robyn Hitchcock, continues to crank out the albums. I just pre-ordered this one on vinyl. Propellor Time comes out on March 22nd on Sartorial Records. Here is an advance single from the album (and BTW, Johnny Marr is on guitar on this song):

From the official album promo press release:
Over the past three decades, UK singer/songwriter/guitarist/painter/actor Robyn Hitchcock has amassed an extensive and distinguished body of work that has established him as one of rock music’s most respected and beloved iconoclasts. A musician’s musician, and still criminally underexposed despite a long history of critical appreciation, Hitchcock’s vivid surrealist song craft has over the years earned him a devout international fan base – including filmmaker Jonathan Demme who in 1998 directed Hitchcock’s live performance film Storefront Hitchcock, shot in a derelict shop window on 14th Street in NYC.

A prolific renegade and visionary cult artist, Hitchcock has released numerous albums with his longstanding outfits The Soft Boys and Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians, as well as his own ample solo work of which Propellor Time (Sartorial Records) is the very latest. Recorded at home in London’s Tropic of Hounslow over the Summer of 2006 and beyond, Propellor Time is no single-handed effort: The Venus 3, Hitchcock’s backing band for this recording boasts the rhythm section of Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows) on bass and Bill Rieflin on drums (formerly of Ministry and Revolting Cocks). Making a rare appearance as a sideman outside his usual group, R.E.M.’s Peter Buck (on 12 string and acoustic guitars) completes this esteemed line-up and is co-writer of the album’s title track with Hitchcock. This same Venus 3 configuration of Buck, McCaughey & Rieflin appears on Hitchcock’s 2006 release Olé Tarantula!, and were featured in John Edginton’s BBC Four documentary Robyn Hitchcock: Sex, Food, Death… and Insects. Additionally, a star-studded array of illustrious guest musicians collaborate with Hitchcock on Propellor Time; selected tracks feature contributions from John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin/Them Crooked Vultures), Johnny Marr (The Smiths/Modest Mouse) who co-wrote the track he plays on, “Ordinary Millionaire” with Hitchcock, old pal Nick Lowe; and former Soft Boy/Egyptian band mate Morris Windsor among many other notables.

Out March 22nd 2010, Propellor Time is Hitchcock’s second release on Sartorial Records, its predecessor being 2008’s Shadowcat (a collection of ‘90s outtakes). But 2009 was hardly a fallow year for Hitchcock having seen the advent of both a studio album Goodnight Oslo (on Yep Roc Records with the Venus 3), as well as the recently released live concert DVD, I Often Dream Of Trains In New York, shot by acclaimed director John Edginton and featuring Sartorial head honcho and multi-instrumentalist Terry Edwards. Having recently participated in Graham Coxon’s Power Acoustic Ensemble concert at The Barbican, Hitchcock will be making several other special appearances in the run-up to the release of Propellor Time.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Today was a Day for "This Nation's Saving Grace" by The Fall (1985)

This Nation's Saving Grace is one of The Fall's stronger releases, and certainly the best from their "middle period". The album reached #58 on the British charts after its release in 1985.

While the band has put out countless singles and 45's over the years, they have also released 27 studio albums. This one is in my top 5 of their releases. It can be found on CD and many places online. Mark E. Smith and The Fall kick out the blistering-sarcastic-and-loud jams, mofo!