Tuesday, December 6, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter D, Part 8)

What a surprise... more jangle from Scotland! You never would have guessed. If you have a problem with "jangle" to describe del Amitri, then the band's self-titled debut album from 1985 must have eluded you. It's like nothing else the lads ever did, and it's also the only piece of plastic you will find by them on my shelf. Sometimes one is enough. Perfect from the first note to the last. Apparently, Chrysalis didn't feel the same way. One album in, the label dumped them..

A long trip to America followed, and del Amitri returned with a new look, a new sound and another major-label deal. Not my cup of tea, I'm afraid, but they didn't need me. The sophomore album. 'Waking Hours,' was a smash. For me, it's a familiar tale of going against the grain to be repeated over and over in this series.

As you listen to these, you're bound to be reminded of favorites like early Aztec Camera and 'Swoon'-era Prefab Sprout. For you younger readers out there (and is there any chance of that?), think Cats on Fire. The singles were "Hammering Heart" and "Sticks and Stones Girl," but the following two have been my go-to songs for decades, particularly "Deceive Yourself." I dedicate this one to Friend of Rachel Worth. He waxed poetic about this album quite a few times at his old blog, Cathedral of Sound, and he did it far better than I ever could.

"Heard Through a Wall"
"Deceive Yourself"

Monday, December 5, 2016

Final 45 From Allo Darlin'

If you're lucky enough to say goodbye to Allo Darlin' at one of the band's final shows this weekend in London, don't forget your old pal Brian. Please pick me up a copy of their 7" swan song, "Hymn on the 45". That is all.

Friday, December 2, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter D, Part 7)

That post on Dead or Alive was so quick that I have time for a double shot from the vinyl collection today.

How about this for a novel idea? Combine an album of new and established acts with an over-sized 64-page page magazine attached to the inside of the gatefold sleeve. There will be features and interviews with the bands on the album, as well as travel pieces, music news and album, concert and movie reviews. Could something like this work? Well, Debut, a monthly that started in Germany and expanded to the UK, had a nice go at it for about a year between 1984 and 1985 ('83 in Germany, I believe). There's something to be said for in-depth reading about a band you've never heard while actually hearing them. Of course, now, many of us do that every day online, but this was somewhat new territory back then. The concept didn't quite work for me because, put simply, the music wasn't interesting enough. Every album had a couple of nuggets, including B-sides and alternative versions, but 'C81' and 'C86' these were not. There were far too many Billy Oceans and Wang Chungs in the mix.

Here are a couple of songs from issue 03. If you're interested in anything else from this one, I'll be happy to rip it for you. Just give me a shout. That song from Bourgie Bourgie is an alt version, and the song from Prefab Sprout was a B-side from the 'Swoon' era. I skipped the one from the fabulous Friends Again because they will get their own day a little later in this series.

Side A
Bourgie Bourgie - Breaking Point
Friends Again - Moon 3
The Bluebells - Everybody's Somebody's Fool
Folk Devils - Chewing the Flesh
Prefab Sprout - Spinning Belinda

Side B
Shriekback - Suck
King Kurt - Riders in the Sky
Fashion - Hurricane
Red Guitars - Within Four Walls
Blancmange - Vishnu

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter D, Part 6)

Taking a page out of Drew's book today. It's Friday... let's dance! I know what you're thinking. Do I really need a nine-plus minute version of this song? Yes. Yes you do. I suppose you could go with the six minute "Up Ducky Mix," but it's nice to have those three extra minutes to jump around the room before having to deal with the turntable. There's the added bonus of a poster included with the "Ducky" 12", but I wouldn't have had the nerve to put Pete Burns on my bedroom wall. My father was already looking at me with one raised eyebrow most of 1986. No apologies for this one. Loved it then. Love it now. Rest in peace, Mr. Burns.

"Brand New Lover" (The Dust Monkey's Love Bubble Club Mix)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter D, Part 5)

I have always had a thing about music from Scotland. Many more times than not, I have been rewarded for taking a chance and buying records from that part of the world. Occasionally, you lose some. While I haven't quite relegated the first two albums from Deacon Blue to the lose-some pile, I have just given 'Raintown' and 'When the World Knows Your Name' a proper airing for the first time in decades and come away with little inspiration to gush about how I loved these albums in my youth.

I would have been in my final year of high school when the debut hit the shelves. As I'm sitting here listening today, I'm amazed the 17-year-old me got into something with such an adult-contemporary feel. For many reasons, 'Raintown' will always have an important place in the hearts of those that call Glasgow home, and the album cover alone makes this worth picking up at a used shop, but I have a feeling it will be many more years before I give either one of these albums another spin. 'When the World Knows Your Name' feels like a blatant attempt at Hitsville... and it worked! "Real Gone Kid" is what got me to buy it, and I have to admit it got me bobbing my head today.

"When Will You (Make My Telephone Ring)" from 'Raintown'
"Real Gone Kid" from 'When the World Knows Your Name'

Friday, November 25, 2016

Never Enough 'Getting Nowhere Fast'

It would take a yeoman's effort to top the 1980 indie-pop classic "Getting Nowhere Fast" from Girls At Our Best! In 1987, the Wedding Present turned up the volume and intensity, creating quite an argument about which group had the better version. I'm not sure that debate will ever be settled.

In the meantime, a couple of years ago, Brighton band the Fireworks dared to enter the fray, releasing 300 copies of the song on a playable single-sided flexi postcard. Now that's nerve! I was lucky enough to happen across a copy today, and I was as impressed with it as last year's debut album, 'Switch Me On,' and this year's 10", 'Black & Blue.' It appears their single of 'Getting Nowhere Fast' is sold out now, but you can still buy it as a download for about a buck. Highly recommended. What's your favorite version?

The Wedding Present - "Getting Nowhere Fast"
Girls At Our Best! - "Getting Nowhere Fast"

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Makin' a List, Checkin' It Twice

As the tryptophan wears off and you decide what to do with the rest of your holiday, why not consider a trip to your local mom-and-pop record shop? In no particular order, here are my top five releases for Record Store Day's Black Friday celebration.

Artist: Chet Baker
Album: 'Love For Sale: Live at the Rising Sun Celebrity Club'
Quantity: 4,000 copies
Format: Double LP

I won't pretend this was from his heyday, but the tracklist is stellar. Highlights from the show recorded live at Montreal's Rising Sun Celebrity Jazz Club, circa 1978, include "There Will Never Be Another You, "Snowbound" and "Love For Sale." This release is part of a series from the famed but defunct jazz and blues club that already highlighted performances from Sam "Lightnin" Hopkins and Muddy Waters earlier this year.

Artist: The Bangles
Album: 'Ladies and Gentlemen... The Bangles'
Quantity: 2,000 copies
Format: LP

I know I wrote about this one earlier in the year when it came out on CD, but if you waited, the vinyl release is really the time to pull the trigger. The album captures both sides of the band's phenomenal 1981 single, when they were known as the Bangs, as well as the 1982 self-titled EP. If you don't already own those two on the original vinyl, then this is a slam dunk. Even if you do, there are a few other rare nuggets from the same time period that have never been released.

Artist: The Monkees
Album: 'Good Times! Plus!'
Quantity: 2,500 copies
Format: 10"

These four non-LP tracks are sure to be a nice companion piece to the 'Good Times' comeback album released earlier this year. Loved the songs, but I was underwhelmed by the quality of my copy of 'Good Times!' Let's hope the red opaque vinyl of this EP sounds a little better.

Artist: Ramones
Album: 'Live at the Roxy, August 12, 1976'
Quantity: 3,000 copies
Format: LP

The title of the album is all you need to know, really. Compiled from two live shows performed that day and lovingly pressed on 180 gram vinyl. Many of your favorites from the band's first two albums are here. You can never have enough live albums from those early years.

Artist: Otis Redding
Album: 'Live at the Whiskey A Go Go'
Quantity: 2,250 copies
Format: Double LP

If the recently released six-CD set of 'Live at the Whiskey A Go Go: The Complete Recordings' was just too much for you (either economics or overkill, such as 10 takes of "(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction"), this 19-song highlights version might hit the spot. The double album is printed on 180-gram red vinyl and is housed in a gatefold jacket that features extensive liner notes and original artwork. The recordings of Redding’s legendary three-night stand at Hollywood’s Whisky A Go Go in 1966 have been newly mixed and remastered from the original 4-track tapes. The following song is from 'The Complete Recordings.' So, I can't be sure if this is the version that appears on the LP, but it will give you a taste of the time.

I'm off to enjoy the holiday. I'll be back next week with more selections from my vinyl collection. Be good.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Q&A With Simon and Wendy Pickles of the Perfect English Weather

You know and love the Popguns for indie classics like Festive 50 standout "Landslide," "Still a World Away" and "Waiting for the Winter." Nearly two decades after their last album, the Brighton band accomplished what few dare to try. Their comeback album 'Pop Fiction' not only tread on familiar ground to please the most discerning fans, but also created a sound deemed my 2014 album of the year. Okay, the NME my blog is not, but I was far from alone in singing the praises of 'Pop Fiction.'

Simon and Wendy Pickles of the Popguns now return with a side project, calling themselves the Perfect English Weather. New album 'Isobar Blues' is a perfect storm of ballad and boom, and all are part of a warm front that drenches you with a downpour of pop hooks. With the album set for release on Friday (or right now if you order from our friends at Matinée Recordings), it felt like a good time to get in from the cold for a cozy catch up with Simon and Wendy.

Linear Tracking Lives: There were hints with the 'Still Waiting for the Winter EP' that this tone could be coming, but let's start with the obvious. How did 'Isobar Blues' become something other than the next album from the Popguns? Another indie-pop power couple, Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey, recently had a similar pursuit with the Catenary Wires. Did you find any inspiration from their intimate 10" record 'Red Red Skies'?

Simon Pickles: It was a couple of years ago that Wendy went up to the attic and recorded about 12 songs as acoustic demos for the rest of the Popguns, and after listening to those rough recordings, I thought that someday the world should hear her performances that way. Very soon after that I did indeed hear and buy the Catenary Wires album, and a few weeks later asked Rob & Amelia to play with The Popguns at a gig of ours near Brighton where we managed to put together 3 UK matinee acts, including Richard Preece (aka Lovejoy). It was a really memorable evening and having seen CW live a few times now I'm enormously impressed by them, and they are really quite musically sophisticated behind their misplaced modesty -- Rob is an excellent guitarist. Of course, the Perfect English Weather album includes some more "full on" guitar pop, but they certainly gave us a bit of confidence to do this record. And yes, England is so small that us "indie-legends" see each other all the time.

Wendy Pickles: Seeing Amelia & Rob play certainly did give me confidence that Simon & I could make it work as a duo. They are always entertaining and engaging, and I hope we can emulate them. It would be wonderful to gig together (a Mr. & Mrs. tour?) and perhaps sing a little with Amelia -- it's been a long time since the anti-poll tax cover of "Bye Bye Baby"! I was also inspired by Dean & Britta's low-key simplicity, though as Simon says we ended up going a bit wild with drums & bass on some songs!

LTL: 'Isobar Blues' is gorgeous and destined to be at or near the top of my list of the year's best albums. I will resist the urge to ask you about every song, but I have to know more about "Spirited Away". We have lost a great many artists this year. Is this about a specific musician or the collective loss of so many talented people?

Simon: During the year which this album was written I was working next to a beautiful big park in Brighton where I'd spend lunchtimes listening to music on my 'phones whilst sitting on park benches and drifting off to those places that music takes you. It was more the fact that music and ideas live on long beyond their moment of creation that inspired the "spirited away" theme, but obviously the death of Bowie was such a big event around that time, and it's easy to imagine him as the song's subject. Having said that, my own bizarre fantasy for the song was around the possible passing of Steven Patrick and how that could feel for those of us for whom he loomed so large. Then the actual title probably came from my son's Studio Ghibli film collection. But I usually say that songs are often not about things, they are inspired by them and become something else. Then the meaning is in the listening, not the writing.

LTL: Right down to the font, it seems cover art and layout are very important to you. I loved the aesthetics of your last album and single "Lovejunky" so much that I tracked down Jason Brooks' 'Paris Sketchbook.' 'Isobar Blues' has an equally intriguing and beautiful look. What's the relationship between the cover and the music this time around? Were you moved by any covers from your youth when you adopted this look?

Simon: Jimmy [of Matinée Recordings] would probably laugh at this question. Throw enough mud and eventually some will stick. We tried a few other covers around the (slightly corny) idea of weather and weren't really convinced, but we included the Glastonbury muddy boots shot (taken by Wendy last year) as a possible inner sleeve when we sent it to Jimmy. Luckily he saw the possibility in this and came up with the monotone blue cover which we loved immediately. Obviously (to us anyway) it's very Smiths from a monotone point of view and fits the title and songs perfectly. 'Isobar Blues' is probably an awful pun to most people, but as there's only 2 of us, we really don't care, and there's nobody to argue with us!

Wendy: Regarding the cover, that photo sums up last year's Glastonbury for me -- it shows how everyone embraced the mud and made it part of the experience. Good old British spirit!! It was an amazing time, particularly because the Brexit decision was made that very weekend. It felt as though we were in a safe bubble of like-minded folk -- the overall mood was one of comradeship and positivity in the face of gloom and doom. When the U.S. election result was announced last week, I wished I could go back inside my Glastonbury bubble!

LTL: The Popguns have been busier than ever, and I hear from reliable sources there are a slew of songs in the hopper. Will the Perfect English Weather find time to hit the stage? If so, how would that show look? Duo? Unplugged?

Simon: Yes, there is a Popguns album recorded and basically ready to go, and TPEW allowed us to get some of the dreamier stuff out of the way and do a proper indie-rock album for that. TPEW will probably play a show or two in the UK this winter in Brighton, but we'll have to see if anyone wants us after that. Dates with Catenary Wires might be a bit too much with two husband and wife duos, but I'd be up for it. And I still want to play "Shallow" with Amelia, even though she refused last time we played together in London* -- I'd learned the chords and everything!

*This was a "Totally Acoustic" evening (with MJ Hibbert) and I think you could find recordings of it on the web and even on iTunes.

LTL: Thanks for taking the time to talk about the gorgeous album 'Isobar Blues'. Your generosity knows no bounds!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Farewell to Inspirational Miss Sharon Jones

From Rikers Island correction officer and wedding singer to Grammy-nominated superstar, the fascinating tale of late bloomer Sharon Jones will no doubt inspire the next great soul-revival vocalist just as the career of Mr. Dynamite, James Brown, once showed her the way.

I had a surreal moment this morning when I learned of Miss Jones' death. After hopping into bed last night, I decided to listen to one more song. With the lights already off, I fumbled for the iPod on the nightstand and played Jones' "I Learned the Hard Way," which Mrs. LTL and I thoroughly enjoyed as we drifted off. I don't have any idea why that song popped into my head. I hadn't listened to the Dap-Kings in ages. When the alarm on my phone went off this morning and I quickly scanned the headlines from my pillow, well, the news was just too much. After a day of reflection and the realization she had already physically left us when I listened to her song, I took it to mean she'll never really be gone. The music makes her immortal. It's tough to imagine that firecracker ever resting, but rest in peace, Miss Jones.

"I Learned the Hard Way"

Friday, November 18, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter D, Part 4)

As I flip through my records for this series, there are some bands that bring a different level of excitement as I see who's next. Today is one of those days, but what to play? So much to choose from. Surely, something from their salad days, but I can't ignore the fact there was a fruitful comeback this decade. OK, here goes...

The dB's are one my biggies, particularly the 'Stands for Decibels'/'Repercussion' era, but I found there was still plenty to like after Chris Stamey left the band. Peter Holsapple is a pop genius in his own right. Let's start with an A-side penned by Holsapple and released in 1981 that wasn't part of the original release of 'Stands for Decibels.' The B-side, one of Stamey's manic left turns he was known for at the time, was a deep cut on the album, but every song on the album was perfection.

"Cycles per Second"

The dB's called it a day after the 1987 album 'The Sound of Music,' but the fellas began popping up with an occasional new song and show around 2005. Rumors of a new album started surfacing around 2011, and a 7" surfaced for Record Store Day. Back then I was one of those standing in line when the doors opened, and I snagged my copy of "Picture Sleeve." We were told the A-side would not be on the new album, making it a must for die-hard fans. This has become one of my favorite songs from the band. Here are a few of the lyrics I like best. Perhaps you have felt this way a time or two yourself.

Fell in love with a girl on a picture sleeve
That I saw in an ad in the NME

Found her in the back of the indie bin
She played the drums she could make the drumsticks spin
They wrapped around her fingers as she counted it in
Sitting back with her cool sardonic grin

Put her up on the shelf next to Matchstick Men
When I walk in the room there she is again

Fell in love with a girl I couldn't deceive
Fell in love with a girl on a picture sleeve

The B-side, incorrectly stamped as the A-side on my copy, was a rare track written by drummer Will Rigby. "Write Back" would later appear on 2012 comeback album 'Falling Off the Sky.' What was supposed to be filler turned out to be my favorite song on the album. There would be a four-song EP for Record Store Day 2013, but the dB's have been quiet ever since, although Stamey continues to release stellar solo albums.

"Picture Sleeve"
"Write Back"

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Lush to Leave Us Again

The early bird really does get the worm. I subscribe to Lush's email blasts, and the statement we received yesterday was to announce the band was hanging it up again. There should be no mourning. This short-lived reunion was like manna from heaven. Wholly unexpected and fulfilling. Best part is we will be able to recall this era forevermore with the gorgeous 'Blind Spot EP.' That would have been reward enough, but yesterday's message of the split also included the news of another release to chronicle this period together.

On Sept. 26, Lush performed its first American live radio session in about 20 years for KCRW's show "Morning Becomes Eclectic." The eight tracks have been gathered for a limited CD release though the band. Here is where that damn early bird rears its ugly head. I went to bed last night with thoughts of posting this news in the morning and, of course, placing my preorder. Well, you can guess what happened. Sold out. Gone. Vanished. For those of you who had the gumption yesterday, your copy should ship around Nov. 28, three days after Lush's last performance. Those of you in the Manchester area are in for a memorable show, I'm sure. Here is the tracklist for the KCRW appearance.

1. De-Luxe
2. Lit Up
3. Out of Control
4. Ladykillers
5. Desire Lines
6. Etheriel
7. Sweetness and Light
8. Scarlet

You could really hear through the music this chapter was not your ordinary reunion cash grab. Thank you to Lush.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter D, Part 3)

Another quick one because I only have a couple of singles and one album from today's pick. I got into the Darling Buds early on because the Welsh band was often compared to the Primitves in the press, a band I loved from their Lazy days. Although I never got into the Buds in quite the same way, "If I Said" was a great first listen, and the 1988 debut album 'Pop Said...' remains a fun album that really got my head bopping last night. If given sodium Pentothal, I might confess Andrea Lewis fronting the outfit had something to do with my affection, but only a pig would make such a proclamation. So, I won't.

'Pop Said...' was a a bona fide hit in the UK, and the album spawned a whopping five singles between early '88 and the summer of '89. "Let's Go Round There" got quite a bit of airplay here in America, but the one I liked best was the last single. Upon listening to it yesterday, I'm sure it was because the song sounded most like something from the Tracy Tracy and PJ Court playbook. In recent years, Welsh resident the Robster at Is This the Life? has featured songs from later in the Darling Buds' discography, and his argument for picking up the two albums that followed was quite persuasive.

"You've Got to Choose"