Tuesday, October 25, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 32)

And now the musical skeletons really start to come out of the closet. It ain't all C86 and indie pop on the shelves, folks. I have a plethora of commercial-pop records from the early '80s, many which I have already skipped out of sheer embarrassment, but I have decided to include Culture Club because the band has a special place in the heart of someone else in the LTL abode.

There are four singles from Culture Club in my music room, all from either 1982 or 1983, but there are many more Culture Club artifacts around the house, from music to books to aged and worn magazine articles, that belong to Mrs. LTL. She had tried to see Culture Club many times through the years and to meet Boy George at personal appearances and book signings, but she was denied by cancellations of every ilk, from illness to visa issues, each and every time.

In recent years, Culture Club reunited, and I assured her she would see the idols from her youth. Near the end of 2014, the band was scheduled to tour America, but the closest stop from Seattle was going to be Oakland. We threw caution to the wind and bought five airline tickets and booked a couple of rooms for a long weekend in San Francisco. This included a ticket for my mother back in Illinois so she could watch our children during the show. It also meant pulling the kids out of school (good parents, huh?) and many other sacrifices. The day before we were scheduled to fly out the tour was cancelled. Boy George had serious throat issues requiring surgery. We took the trip anyway, but the air of disappointment hung there for Mrs. LTL, particularly on the night of the cancelled show.

In the summer of 2015, Culture Club returned to the Bay Area to play the Greek in Berkeley. Another big trip was out of the question, but the day before the show Mrs. LTL decided to go solo. She cashed in some air miles and bought a ticket on the secondary market. She stayed at a nearby hotel and flew home the next morning with a glow and no regrets.

Of course, after all that, Culture Club returned to America this past summer, and they played at a venue so near our house we could ride bikes there. Although I don't consider myself much of a fan. I figured I owed my wife for the dozens of shows I had dragged her to during our decades together. Everything fell into place. The kids were covered because it happened to coincide with my mother's annual August visit to boot. Mostly, I see sad-sack bands that play sad-sack music to sad-sack kids. My two-sentence review: Even though Culture Club's best days were in the rear-view mirror, I was taken by how much fun everyone was having... on stage and in the crowd. I had forgotten it could be that way.

"I'll Tumble 4 Ya" (Special Extended Version Remix)

Friday, October 21, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 31)

There were many albums I went to great lengths to hide from my parents, but this was the top of that heap. For a while there, in my immature 15-year-old brain, I was a punk, but how hardcore could a kid with few wants and no needs be among the cornfields of Illinois? The Crucifucks' self-titled 1984 album, however, was the real deal. There was much to rail against in the midst of the conservative Reagan era, and these fed-up lads from Lansing, Michigan, had a particular penchant for ripping the three Cs... capitalists, Christians and cops. There's no way I understood all of the politics, but I did know this was subversive shit, and the anti-authoritarian non-conformist in me loved their gall and gumption. It was merely a bonus that the music was as intriguing as the message.

If you have never heard the Crucifucks before, what you'll notice from the first note is how good the album sounds. This isn't lo-fi DIY punk recorded in the basement, and you can thank Jello Biafra's legendary label Alternative Tentacles for that, as well as the producer known as Spot. He's famous for working behind the glass of your favorite recordings on SST during the label's heyday. Doc Dart's voice is of the love it or hate it variety. It's shrill, whiny and perfect for this kind of antagonism. He really gets under your skin. The one member of the band you do know is Steve Shelley. After his time with the Crucifucks, he moved on to play drums for Sonic Youth.

Let's listen to all of side A. There is a continuing story playing out before almost every song that pits the band against the local police. They have a show coming up the authorities and media are worried about. Mr. Dart decides to have some fun with the controversy. I think you'll enjoy it. If you are digesting this post at the office, beware. You may take that garbage can in your cubicle and throw it through the window while screaming about "the man."

"Democracy Spans Bad Taste"
"Go Bankrupt and Die"
"You Give Me the Creeps"
"Marching for Trash"
"Legal Genocide"
"I Am the Establishment"
"Cops for Fertilizer"
"Hinckley Had a Vision"

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 30)

I feel like I have had two separate lives following Marshall Crenshaw. I discovered him in 1983 with the video for "Whenever You're on My Mind." To this day, it is still my favorite song by him. I bought the sophomore album 'Field Day' with money from my paper route. I was so taken with the songs that I quickly collected a little more cash and bought the self-titled first album later that same week. Before long, I was picking up singles for the B-sides. In other words, I was a fan. Then a funny thing happened. I just stopped. Moved on. I continued to play those first two albums religiously, but I never bought another Crenshaw album for many years.

My malaise for music during much of the '90s has already been well documented on these pages, So, I won't get into all of that again, but one day in 1996 I went to one of those sterile book-music-coffee megastores popular at the time with a few bucks in my pocket. A Crenshaw album on the shelf of new releases caught my eye. I didn't see anything else that day that interested me. With little excitement, I surrendered and bought my first Crenshaw album in 13 years. The sweet sounds of 'Miracle of Science' took me right back to those albums from my youth. In fact, some of the songs were written back then, but that's a story for another day. Point is, it got me on a Crenshaw kick. I began acquiring all of the albums that I missed. There have been a few new releases and an EP subscription series along the way too. Although the music did morph through the years, I have enjoyed every record to varying degrees. I have also taken in many of Crenshaw's live shows the past 20 years. In fact, he's right up there with Elvis Costello and Wilco as my most seen artists.

I root for Crenshaw because I think I would like him. He's the kind of guy I would want to talk about music with while nursing our beers. Crenshaw has an encyclopedic knowledge of many genres, and he has worked with many other artists I admire, such as Graham Maby, Mitch Easter, Don Dixon and his brother Robert, to name but a few. Like Costello, he has helped me discover music from days of yore I would never have found without him. For that, I'm forever grateful.

Today's picks are a little on the rare side... or at least a couple of them used to be before Crenshaw's first album got the deluxe treatment in 2000. From 1982, here is a promo 12" single of "Cynical Girl." Sorry, folks, that song is the same as the album version. The first B-side is a classic made famous by Buddy Holly and recorded by Crenshaw for a show on WPLR in Connecticut. Try to ignore the quintessential DJ voice. The other is simply a non-album track of the highest quality.

"Cynical Girl"
"Rave On"
"Somebody Like You"

Let's move ahead one year to the 'Field Day' era. The 'U.S. Remix' EP is a curious collection that only die-hard fans would probably have any interest in... and maybe not even then. Through the years, Crenshaw himself has expressed a dislike for it. The A-side contains three songs from 'Field Day' that were mixed and edited by John Luong. Although the '80s flourishes are not as blatant as many songs were treated when remixed during this period, it is quite a deviation from Steve Lillywhite's vision on the album. Some have been quite hard on ol' Steve for his production when compared to Crenshaw's debut. Personally, I think 'Field Day' is perfect. Side A of this EP ends with a live cover of "Little Sister" taken from Crenshaw's appearance on "The King Biscuit Flower Hour" circa Dec. 2, 1983. Side B is "For Her Love" with more '80s production and an additional 1:11 of playing time.

"Our Town"
"For Her Love"
"Monday Morning Rock"
"Little Sister" (Live)
"For Her Love" (Extended Mix)

Friday, October 14, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 29)

The sticker on the front box of this five-album set tells you all you need to know, which is good because the sparse packaging tells nothing else other than the artist names and the 119 song titles. Still, can't complain too much. Not every single is a winner, but when I break up Creation's 300 or so singles into sets of 50, there is no other lot I like more than this first group from the summer of 1983 to early 1988... Jasmine Minks, the Pastels, Weather Prophets, Felt, Phil Wilson, the House of Love, the Bodines, Primal Scream, Biff Bang Pow! and the list goes on and on. At some point I'm going to go back and do this right with an in-depth series, but for now, let's listen to a few of my favorite top-notch singles from bands I don't plan to feature further down the line in this vinyl collection series. Enjoy CRELP100. In case you were wondering, these five volumes were also sold separately as CRELP 101-105.

CRE015 7" -- Indie Chart Peak: No. 3 in 1985
The Loft - "Up the Hill and Down the Slope"
The Loft - "Tuesday"

CRE020 7" -- Indie Chart Peak: No. 3 in 1985
Meat Whiplash - "Don't Slip Up"
Meat Whiplash - "Here it Comes"

CRE050 "Irony" EP -- Indie Chart Peak: No. 22 in 1988
Emily - "Mad Dogs"
Emily - "Reflect on Rye"
Emily - "What the Fool Said"
Emily - "Old Stone Bridge"

There is one footnote on the bottom of each album cover that sums up the label and the man behind it. Probably won't surprise you. It reads... Creation Records acknowledges the following: Dan Treacy, Joseph Foster, Edward Ball, Bobby Gillespie, Jeff Barrett, Jerry Thackray, The Living Room bands and clientele and absolutely no one else.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 28)

This one goes back 32 years to the infancy of my record collection, and holding the cover of the Cramps' 1984 album 'Bad Music for Bad People' today instantly took me back to my carefree early high-school days. I had a pal with a terrific stereo in his beat-up Fiat, and we loved to play this compilation of rockabilly voodoo very loudly over and over again.

Now, I know we have some die-hard fans out there. So, while you're listening to, perhaps, my favorite cover from Lux Interior and Poison Ivy, let me know your go-to song. That only gives you two minutes, however, and I'm reminded this song always made for a great ending to mix tapes, especially if you could time that last cymbal crash just as the cassette was concluding. I'm also wondering, dear readers, if you are from the UK and beyond, did you have this compilation? Many years after I bought 'Bad Music for Bad People,' I learned of the eerily similar 1983 UK release '...Off the Bone.' I have to say with the inclusion of "Surfin' Bird" and a few other additional nuggets, you chaps over there got the better end of the deal.

"Love Me"

Monday, October 10, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 27)

I had planned to present this one as my annual "Happy Mitch Easter!" post on Easter Sunday, but I didn't get it ripped in time. Anyway, it's a nice way to crank up the turntable after a more than two-week hiatus. This album combines two great loves, my hero Mr. Easter and indie-pop label the Subway Organization. Cowboy and Spin Girl were the boy-girl duo of Donna Esposito and Frank Bednash. A few of you out there may remember Esposito from her days with New York power-pop outfit the Cyclones, whose 1981 song "You're So Cool" was an underground hit along the Northeast Corridor. If you were wise enough to pick up Kevinpat's 'Hoboken to Athens' mix earlier this year, go listen to this song right now. I'll wait.

I understand Easter's relationship with Cowboy and Spin Girl because he played bass with the Cyclones for a while, but how a band based in the NYC area ended up releasing an album with the very British Bristol label is a head scratcher. This is especially true when you hear the music. Subway is known for the jangle and fuzz of Shop Assistants, the Chesterf!elds, Bubblegum Splash, the Flatmates, the Rosehips, Razorcuts and the like (all of which will feature in this series). The songs written and sung by Esposito have a little C86 to them, but Bednash's songs are straight-up power pop. As much as I adore Subway, I can't help but think this album would have been a perfect fit on a label like Bomp! If anyone out there knows if the band had a Subway connection beyond just sending them a tape, let me know. Side one was self produced in New York. Side two was produced by Easter at his legendary Drive-In Studio in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Cowboy and Spin Girl may not have lasted long, but Esposito and Bednash continued to record quality power-pop records, first as Toothpaste 2000 and more recently as Mas Rapido. For your listening pleasure, here is the Easter-produced side of the 1988 album 'Cowboy and Spin Girl' in its entirety.

"Turn Me On"
"Set the World on Fire"
"Say Goodbye"

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Mrs. LTL Jerks One Out of the Park

If you're not a baseball fan, you'll just have to trust me. That headline is a good thing. Mrs. LTL knows I'm homesick for Chicago and, in particular, the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field, the home of my beloved Chicago Cubs. This current crop of Cubs is the best squad in my lifetime, and I sat down in front of the television this weekend with, dare I say it, optimism. This could finally be the year the Boys in Blue... never mind. I can't bring myself to say it. Anyway, the Cubs did well in their first two playoff games, and I want to thank Mrs. LTL for making these games extra special. On Friday afternoon, I received two deliveries from Chicago institutions 2,000 miles away. One was from Giordano's Pizza, and the other was from Eli's Cheesecake. Thanks to my wife's loving gestures, I couldn't have enjoyed these games any better if I had been sitting behind the dugout. I have one more pizza I'm saving for the World Series, and I have enough cheesecake for a slice each game the rest of the playoffs. What can I say? I'm blessed.

Forgive me. Obviously, this has little to do with music, but I'm just beaming tonight. Believe it or not, I do have plenty of Cubs moments on vinyl. I also understand you could care less. Please indulge me. Here are a few quick highlights from the 1971 album 'Jack Brickhouse Presents Great Moments in Cubs Baseball' and other jewels from the collection. When I listen to it I think about the fact when the album was recorded the Cubs hadn't won a World Series in 63 years. Little did the late broadcaster Brickhouse know we would still be waiting to win it all 45 years later.

"Hey Hey Holy Mackeral"

"Ernie's 500th"
"Just Read the Script"
"That's Baseball"
"Not Sure"
"Team Effective"

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

New Songs From Old Synths

Having your blog pulled by the powers that be is, by far, the worst-case scenario for those of us who choose this medium to talk about music. So, I don't want to say what has happened to me compares to that nightmare, but I have had a bad run. The operating system on my laptop simply stopped working. Thus, the laptop stopped working. For more than a week now, I have been scrambling to make repairs and retrieve everything stored on the hard drive. That includes the music I have been ripping from my vinyl since the beginning of the year. I have found the whole ordeal quite depressing, and there have been days when I have ignored the whole thing and watched baseball instead. So, that's why you haven't heard from me in a while.

As of today, the new operating system has been loaded and most of the hard drive is back. What's still missing are all of the applications, and there are many, and that means the software I use for ripping vinyl isn't on here right now. While I'm putting the final touches on fixing this fiasco, I thought I would spend a couple of posts touting some recent releases that have my attention.

Let's hit the floor with two bands separated by an ocean but joined by a love for vintage synthesizers and dance music from the '80s and '90s. First up is Le SuperHomard, straight outta France and distributed by my pal Chris at Seattle's Jigsaw Records. You'll hear lots of Stereolab and Saint Etienne, but I also detect a bit of Sean O'Hagan's electronic side. There isn't a duff note on 'MapleKey,' and this one is sure to make my best of the year list come December. Here is my favorite from the album.

Kurt Feldman is a New Yorker who you might know from his days with the Depreciation Guild and the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, but don't expect his project Ice Choir to sound like those bands. As the opening notes of the song below illustrate, Feldman's pure heart must have fallen for When in Rome's "The Promise" in his youth, and I bet he has a thing for middle '80s Scritti Politti too. In fact, his vocals will have you thinking of Green Gartside in the most perfect way. Shelflife has already gone through their limited stock of 'Designs in Rhythm' on blue vinyl, but I see that Jigsaw still has some copies. Quality.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Cover Me Impressed: 'She'

My 10-year-old son will be going to his first-ever show tonight, and I dedicate this post to him. Just like his old man did before him, the little guy has taken to the Monkees' old television shows and all of the music that's featured in them. Mike has always been my favorite, and my son likes Mickey best, but this is a song where we are in complete agreement. Written by the brilliant team of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart and sung by Mickey, here's the great side one track one from 'More of the 'Monkees.' The 1967 album was No. 1 for 18 weeks, knocking their debut album out of the top spot after 13 weeks there.

'The Monkees - "She"

Twenty years after 'More of the Monkees,' my hero Terry Hall took a stab at this classic for the Colour Field's album 'Deception.' I didn't find the album as endearing as 'Virgins and Philistines,' but I find myself pulling out this cover with regularity. I promise to cool off on the Colour Field after this one.

The Colour Field - "She"

Thursday, September 22, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 26)

I'm feeling the need to wrap up letter C. So, I have pared it down to seven more artists. Today's pick is slightly out of order, but I decided on the switch because there is much to celebrate. I subscribe to the email blasts that come out of Crowded House headquarters, and the band's much discussed reissue campaign finally officially launched yesterday. Every single album in the Crowded House catalog will be released as two-disc editions in November. The number of bonus tracks is staggering, and the packaging looks impressive. Check out the tracklists and preorder info at the Crowded House store. Don't worry, wax fans... there will be new standard vinyl editions too.

As for my own collection, I have all seven albums, and it probably won't surprise you the switch from vinyl to compact disc came between 'Woodface' and 'Together Alone.' A quick look to the vinyl shelf shows I do have a couple of things that didn't make the upcoming deluxe editions. Here's one. Let's go back 30 years (What?!?) to the band's second single. The intro is oh-so '80s 12", but then it settles in to a nice mix I think you'll enjoy. Then start saving those shekels.

"World Where You Live" (Extended Version)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 25)

Talk about an exercise in futility. How do you choose a handful of singles to pay tribute to one of your heroes when the artist in question has released 62 of them? No joke. Sixty-two. Here are four more randomly selected from my 12" collection. No extended versions, remixes or any of that nonsense. For the most part, these were bought for the B-sides... long before you could get them all tied up in a neat little bonus-track laden CD reissue. Having said that, each of these A-sides are A-plus efforts. I'll let the man of the hour introduce the first one, as written on the back cover of the single:

For those of you who enjoyed our fortnight's excursion into country music here is a highlight from our Albert Hall bash with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, a new arrangement of "I'm Your Toy", by Robert Kirby, plus some dusty sides from our Nashville archive.

Yours blue on blue,
Elvis Costello

'Almost Blue' may not be one of your go-to Costello albums, but the Attractions' rendition of the Flying Burrito Bros.' renamed "Hot Burrito #1" is surely a highlight that makes you pull it off the shelf once in a while. If you have never heard this live take recorded on Jan. 7, 1982, prepare for a shock...

"I'm Your Toy" (Live)
"My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You"
"Blues Keep Calling"
"Honky Tonk Girl"

If 'Almost Blue' was an abrupt right turn, then the 1982 album 'Imperial Bedroom' was just as big a turn to the left. If you want a feel for how much these songs evolved, give this version of "Town Cryer" a try. In much the same way as the early new-wave treatments of the songs that would become 'Get Happy!!' were not quite right, I think you'll find Costello's back to the drawing board approach was a good move here.

"Man Out of Time"
"Town Cryer" (Alternate Version)
"Imperial Bedroom"

Putting it kindly, 'Goodbye Cruel World' is my least favorite Costello album, but he followed it up here with what I think is one of his best... even if it meant the Attractions were about to punch out. That's the Confederates on the A-side and the Attractions on the B-sides.

"Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood"
"Baby's Got a Brand New Hairdo"
"Get Yourself Another Fool"

I'm not much of a fan of 'Mighty Like a Rose,' but this song was an exception. This walk-up single to the album sounded so much like the Attractions the first time I heard it that I thought they must have reunited. "Couldn't Call It Unexpected No. 4" doesn't do much for me, but I was excited to find an old Nick Lowe-penned song from his Brinsley Schwarz days to conclude the B-side.

"The Other Side of Summer"
"Couldn't Call It Unexpected No. 4"
"The Ugly Things"

Friday, September 16, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter C, Part 24)

Elvis Costello will be receiving a coveted first-ever three-day residency in this series because I just can't seem to be able to whittle down what I want to play. For day two, here are a couple from the 7" pile. First up is "Live at Hollywood High." The three-song EP (played at 33 1/3) was a limited-edition bonus included with the first pressings of the 1979 album 'Armed Forces.' I bought a used copy of that album in 1983, and the former owner was apparently kind enough to include the rare artifact when he sold it to the shop. As I mentioned last time, I sold off most of my Costello vinyl in 1989. The next owner of that copy of 'Armed Forces' wasn't quite so lucky. I kept the 7" and have had it in my possession for some 33 years. If you end up liking this one, I suggest you pick up the entire 20 song 'Live at Hollywood High' CD Hip-O Select released in 2010. Really good stuff.

"Watching the Detectives" (Live)
"Accidents Will Happen" (Live)
"Alison" (Live)

We have discussed this before, but when it comes to music, I'm always in awe of Costello's encyclopedic knowledge and impeccable taste. I don't mind telling you his choice of covers through the years has taught me much about genres I grew to love because of him. Not long after the release of 'Imperial Bedroom,' Costello and the lads put out a faithful cover of "Head to Toe," a deep track from 'Going to a Go-Go,' one of the best albums Smokey Robinson and the Miracles ever put to wax. This was, in part, to promote the 'Imperial Bedroom' tour of the UK in the fall of 1982. In fact, a list of all the tour dates can be found on the back cover. It wasn't a huge hit (No. 43), and the 7" wasn't released here in America at all. I got this one in the import section of a local shop in 1983, and I was proud to be the only one in my group of school pals (and loyal fans) to have it. Yep, it's the envy that I remember. The B-side is another cover, this time written by the ever-popular team of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman and made a little famous by Sissie Houston and much more famous by Amen Corner.

"Head to Toe"
"The World of Broken Hearts"

Let's listen to one more group of singles by "The Man" next time.