A (very) brief remembrance of Harmony Records, a has-been sister company of Columbia Records starting in 1925. Manufactured as a lower budget option for the 78rpm crowd (a quality product at a popular price, as they liked to say… apparently), Harmony was initially active nearly a hundred years ago in the 1920s and 1930s. Harmony was home to acts I’ve never heard of, and could only attempt to make up (The Dixie Stompers, University Six, Banjo Barons, The Savannah Six, Three Monkey Chasers), and this vintage sleeve, complete with groovy logo, has withstood the test of time, and has recently been welcomed to the (ever-growing) collection of one-off sleeves in the library… as if space wasn’t already an issue…
Chicago Slickers Volume 2 1948-1955 may have single-handedly jump started, or violently unearthed a monster obsession I’ve had little-to-no experience with. That obsession being, the heart-wrenching, rhythm-driving atmosphere of good blues music. I could list the artists on this comp reissue, but I’ve never heard of any of them before… and that’s a fault I’m willing to own. Originally released back in 1980, this fairly recent reissue (2017) can be had for cheap (under $13, or under $10 in this case), and should be explored by any lover of classic rock rhythms. Enjoy with caution, enjoy often. All sales final.
Presented here, with little-to-no creative description (read: little-to-no sizable effort) is a snapshot illustration of the mighty Lynyrd Skynyrd making southern rock mythical music. Art is by Dean Kilpatrick, and it can be found within the pried bowels of the band’s 1979 best-of, Gold & Platinum. Carry on.
Apparently, there are no limits to the RCA Victor Stereo Action series (a collection of stereo demonstration releases by RCA Victor). The die cut cover suggests nothing short of ear-popping, Space Age Pop explosions of mid-century goodness, and the talent is second to none (Ray Martin, Marty Gold, The Guitars Unlimited Plus 7 to name only a few). Stereo Action Unlimited! is a high-quality easy listener with plenty of candy for your mind’s eyes, because after all, Stereo Action is “the sound your eyes can follow.”
For some reason, and I’m certainly not complaining, just observing, I owned, for quite some time, the 8-track of The Kinks’ 1974 album, Preservation Act 2 before I owned the double LP version. Luckily, this pristine copy leaped out at me at my local brick & mortar for a ridiculously reasonable price (something like $5 or $6). Though this era of The Kinks’ library is a little rough (especially considering the flawless six studio albums from ’66 to ’71), we’re one step closer to completing the full Kinks run. I’m looking forward to a back-to-back Preservation spin this evening.
My 18-year-old self is pissed to high heaven for ordering the limited, color vinyl version of Mad Caddies’ Punk Rocksteady and receiving the standard black vinyl version instead. My 39-year-old self is only mildly annoyed. Classic pop-punk tracks by Snuff, Green Day, Lagwagon, Bad Religion, NOFX, Descendents… covered with a fine sheath of reggae-punk makes for a thoroughly entertaining listen, regardless of the medium’s color. For those of you lucky ones with the green vinyl version, kudos, and an 18-year-old me would like to have some words with you outside.
The problem with collecting records for so long, is the rather sad fact that from time to time, you’ll stumble across a record you have little-to-no memory of acquiring. Case in point, Church Mouth by Alaska-based indie band, Portugal. The Man. I used to frequent the bulletin board Vinyl Collective (I think it was called) affiliated with Colorado-based label, Suburban Home Records, and there was tons of buzz about this release back in 2007 (ok, it appears that I do remember this album now… interesting how that happens). Church Mouth was pressed into 1000 records, with a variety of random-ass colors. (Plum: solid w/ a drop of cream. Raspberry: solid with a drop of cream. Blue (blueberry?) with a drop of cream, and this, chocolate with a drop of cream.) All variants were limited to 250 pressings, making up the 1000 total because, math.
I loved the steel drum as a kid. I think I saw a demonstration on Sesame Street or something, but the tin-y twang was a sound I’d never heard before, and it fascinated me. That was 30+ years ago, so imagine my excitement upon finding this 1965 Virgin Islands release by The Steel Bandits titled, Steel Band Bamboushay. I can say I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the steel drum in action twice, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to welcome 12 steel drum tracks into the library.
Chicago-based emo-pop punkers Tuesday released exactly one studio album in their short-lived tenure. Presented here is Freewheelin, then and now. On the left, the 1997 original from Asian Man Records, and on the right, the 2016 reissue from the same label. There were two variants with the reissue, a red / blue vinyl pressing limited to 300 copies, and this, a purple / blue vinyl pressing limited to 100 copies. For those of you Alkaline Trio fans who are unfamiliar with Tuesday, for shame! For those in the know, when was the last time you dropped the needle on this record? It still holds up! (He said with no hint of sarcasm.)
More, much more from George Thorogood and the Destroyers on their 1980’s blues-rock number, More, or More George Thorogood and The Destoryers. Covered here are classic tracks by Carl Perkins, Elmore James, Willie Dixon, and John Lee Hooker, but you know, with the abrasive and hairline drilling of Thorogood’s galvanizing guitar. There are no bad George Thorogood records (yes, I’m including 1993’s Haircut in this assessment), and More is certainly no exception.
Chicago Slickers jumped into my arms faster than a wet dog desperate for warmth and unhinged affection. (Not sure exactly why we had to go down that road, but here we are.) Patiently waiting in the “need to listen to pile,” Chicago Slickers is a monstrous collection of Chicago blues dating back between the years 1948 and 1953. Though this copy is a 2017 reissue, the original was released in 1976 on Nighthawk Records, a Missouri-based indie label owned by parent Omnivore Recordings. I cheated and previewed a handful of tracks on allmusic.com, and I’m ecstatic with the results. This comp is going to be on heavy rotation for the foreseeable future.
Gah, do I love me some sensual 80’s sax! Critically unacclaimed (I’m going with it), Goodbye Cruel World is widely considered the band’s worst effort, and apparently Declan Patrick MacManus (Elvis Costello) was quoted as saying this record would be his final professional offering. The album isn’t monumental, but it’s certainly not terrible, and lucky for all of us Elvis lovers, Goodbye would in fact NOT be goodbye after all, as he’s gone on to record a total of 30 studio albums to date, up to and including last year’s Look Now. Insanity.
In keeping with the celestial rhetoric of the glorious (and seemingly never-ending) genre-bending umbrella that is space age pop comes this electro-theremin-filled futuristic take on cosmic-themed songs of yesteryear. Titled Music for Heavenly Bodies, Paul Tanner with Andre Montero and His Orchestra assembled 12 tracks of euphoric, though slightly eerie bliss. Tracks like Midnight Sun and Up to Jupiter offer jovial and uplifting beds of comforted seclusion, while Holiday on Saturn sounds more like a warm-up theme to an impending intergalactic space battle, one for the ages, I’m sure. Presented here is Modern Harmonic’s 2017 blue vinyl reissue. Heavenly bodies aside, this is certainly music for those of us with an adventurous ear.
I knew little-to-nothing about Sid Bass prior to his 1956 release on RCA’s Vik label, titled From Another World, but I was instantly sold by its engaging space-themed cover art. I mean, look how happy this space lass is! Doesn’t it just scream space age shenanigans? The upbeat mix of jazz-pop-easy-listening intertwined with hints of atmospheric warbles has both feet firmly planted in 1956, and its head far beyond the silent stars. Another space age pop acquisition for a (very) reasonable asking price.
The backside to Potshot’s 1997 debut, Pots and Shots brings back so many post-high school memories. I couldn’t for the life of me find this on vinyl back in the day, and instead had to settle for this rambunctious album on compact disc. I’m certainly not complaining, but I’m a little pissed at myself that it took me nearly 20 years to finally track down a copy on wax. Any, acquisitions aside, groovy standouts were, and still are Radio, obviously, and my first introduction to this Japanese ska-punk (J-ska) group via means of Asian Man Records’ Mailorder is Fun! comp, Mexico (killer bass playing here), and Time (just catchy as all hell). Though I could understand only a fraction of the vocals, I absolutely fell in love with this album’s raw and uncompromising energy. Give it a (pot)shot, you may as well find pleasure… it’s ripe for the picking.
Lynyrd Skynyrd Gold & Platinum Band… sounds important… shit, think I’ll check it out. Spanning the band’s most prolific years (1972 – 1977), Gold & Platinum is a monster of a compilation, and managed to go 3x Platinum in its own right. Skynyrd albums are fairly affordable these days, and while I always recommend starting with a band’s debut, then mosey on down the discography line, in a pinch, this heavy-hitter covers all the bases, and offers a few, subtle surprises along the way.
No, this isn’t a flyer for a must-see event coming up on Valentine’s Day, but rather a not-so-subtle reminder of a show I was unfortunately unable to attend. Swami John Reis & The Blind Shake released Modern Surf Classics in February of ’15, to great acclaim, and it ended up being their only collaboration to date. Shameful, these facts as I type them. I was, however, fortunate enough to catch this surf-punk-luau team’s Santa Ana show a few months later, which, obviously, like with all things John Reis-related, turned out to be an absolute riot. If you can stomach parting with the Hamilton in your pocket, and you aren’t one of the fortunate ones to already own this album, do yourself a favor and seek it out. High-energy surf, with lighting guitars, and classic Swami snarl. This album is damn near perfect.
Though my knowledge of ZZ Top ends far before the release of 1985’s Afterburner, and ignoring, for the moment, the programmed drum tracks, ‘Burner is classic, straightforward ZZ Top. These three dirty bastards found their groove very early on, and they’ve made a monumentally successful 50-year career out of filthy blues rock, perfect for any generation of beer and / or whiskey guzzlers. Sure, they may be your dad’s band, but give your pop some credit. ZZ Top is no joke, even with the accompaniment of programed, and very 80’s sounding beats. Still one of the best live acts I’ve ever seen!
I’d not heard of music by, or the name of Nick Waterhouse before agreeing to double date with a few close coworkers a few years back. To my subtle surprise, Nick Waterhouse puts on a friggin’ hell-of-a show! Backup singers, crooning vocals, hip-swaying rhythms… it was a perfect and unexpected, rather chilly evening that left me a lifelong Waterhouse fan. It doesn’t hurt that Nick fancies the wax, and was offering a tour-only cover variation to his 2016 album, Never Twice. If you’re into 50’s rhythm & blues, with a hint of fire, Mr. Waterhouse is your man.