Friday, April 29, 2011

Yo, Bro! New Sea and Cake

Here's a quick one for my brother down in Dust Bowl country. Although members of the Sea and Cake have been busy with solo albums and side projects, it has been a few years since they assembled in a studio as this incarnation. Thrill Jockey will be releasing their latest, 'The Moonlight Butterfly,' May 10 on all of the usual formats, including vinyl. The general consensus seems to be their sound has continued to morph, but I think it's just like the old stuff. All I know for sure is I like what I'm hearing from the fellas. I especially like the title of the song below. It reminds me of my old stomping grounds. Buy the new album here.

The Sea and Cake - Up on the North Shore (mp3)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

'McCartney' and 'McCartney II' Reissues

Concord Music Group continues its giant reissues project of Paul McCartney's catalog with the announcement that 'McCartney' (1970) and 'McCartney II' (1980) will be available on CD and online beginning June 7. If you don't have these albums already, I suggest you own these in the format of your choice. As I mentioned earlier this year, I got a stellar vinyl copy of 'McCartney II' for Christmas. So, this makes getting this new-and-improved version a bitter pill. I guess it comes down to whether the extras are worth it... although the fact these classics were remastered at Abbey Road Studios by the same team that worked on 2009's Beatles reissues is also something to consider.

Here's a quick rundown of the particulars: 'McCartney' will feature seven bonus tracks, including live performances and outtakes, on a bonus CD. A deluxe edition will add a DVD (with a behind-the-scenes look at the album and live footage) and a 128-page booklet with rare photos taken by Paul and his late wife Linda. "McCartney II" will feature eight bonus tracks on a bonus CD with live and alternate versions. A deluxe edition will add another CD and a DVD with music videos. It also will come with a 128-page booklet with rare photographs. See the complete tracklist, as well as a couple of videos from the time period, below.

McCartney's work this past decade, particularly 'Chaos and Creation in the Backyard,' has been inspiring. It's nice to see the best of his back catalog is getting a much deserved sprucing.

'McCartney' Tracklist:
1. The Lovely Linda
2. That Would Be Something
3. Valentine Day
4. Every Night
5. Hot As Sun/Glasses
6. Junk
7. Man We Was Lonely
8. Oo You
9. Momma Miss America
10. Teddy Boy
11. Singalong Junk
12. Maybe I'm Amazed
13. Kreen-Akrore
1. Suicide (outtake)
2. Maybe I'm Amazed (from TV special 'One Hand Clapping')
3. Every Night (live in Glasgow, 1979)
4. Hot As Sun (live in Glasgow, 1979)
5. Maybe I'm Amazed (Live in Glasgow, 1979)
6. Don't Cry Baby (outtake)
7. Women Kind (demo)
1. The Album Story
2. The Beach
3. Maybe I'm Amazed (music video)
4. Suicide (from TV special One Hand Clapping)
5. Every Night (live at 'Concert For The People Of Kampuchea')
6. Hot As Sun (live at 'Concert For The People Of Kampuchea')
7. Junk (from 'MTV Unplugged')
8. That Would Be Something (from 'MTV Unplugged')

'McCartney II' Tracklist:
1. Coming Up
2. Temporary Secretary
3. On The Way
4. Waterfalls
5. Nobody Knows
6. Front Parlour”
7. Summer's Day Song”
8. Frozen Jap
9. Bogey Music
10. Darkroom
11. One Of These Days
1. Blue Sway (with Richard Niles orchestration)
2. Coming Up (live in Glasgow)
3. Check My Machine (edit)
4. Bogey Wobble
5. Secret Friend
6. Mr H Atom/You Know I'll Get You Baby
7. Wonderful Christmastime (edit)
8. All You Horse Riders/Blue Sway
1. Coming Up (full-length version)
2. Front Parlour (full-length version)
3. Frozen Jap (full-length version)
4. Darkroom (full-length version)
5. Check My Machine (full-length version)
6. Wonderful Christmastime (full-length version)
7. Summer's Day Song (original without vocals)
8. Waterfalls (DJ edit)
01. Meet Paul McCartney
02. Coming Up (music video)
03. Waterfalls (music video)
04. Wonderful Christmastime (music video)
05. Coming Up ((live at the 'Concert For The People Of Kampuchea')
06. Coming Up (taken from a rehearsal session at Lower Gate Farm, 1979)
07. Making the "Coming Up" music video
08. Blue Sway

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

TMBG's New EP Out Today on iTunes

Other than material geared towards the grade-schooler set, it has been four long years since They Might Be Giants have put out a proper rock album. On July 19, the long wait is over when the duo releases the full-length LP 'Join Us.' That may seem like a long wait, and the folks at Idlewood/Rounder must have agreed because they have decided to give us all a sample the band's 15th studio album. Starting today you can go to iTunes for four advance tracks from 'Join Us.' The songs can be purchased individually for 99 cents each, or you can preorder the entire album for $9.99 and get these four songs now. I have to say I'm a lapsed TMBG fan, but the new material sounds like a return to their best days in the '80s and early '90s. Here's a little listen. Also, Spinner talked to TMBG's John Flansburgh about the album last month, and you can read that interview here.

They Might Be Giants - Can't Keep Johnny Down (mp3)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Live INXS Still Shines Like It Does

As a kid, I was a huge fan of INXS. Artistically, I think the band's peak was the 'Listen Like Thieves' album from 1985. I hung on through 'Kick' in 1987. In fact, the only time I saw them live was during that tour. I don't know if it was all the fame and commercial success, my changing tastes or a slip in the quality of the work, but I never bought another record by them after that... until today. In yet another feeble attempt to capture a feeling from my youth, I spent a mere $5.99 on the just-released 11-song digital-only album 'Rocking the Royals.' The download chronicles INXS' Nov. 4, 1985 show at Melbourne Concert Hall during a royal visit to Australia by Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

Although I would have paid more for a physical copy of the performance, I'm grateful iTunes has made this one available. Through the years, most of these songs here have been around as B-sides, but this is the first time you could get them all as a one-stop-shop experience. Many of my really early favorites are here, like "Dancing on the Jetty" and "Don't Change," but it's the 'Thieves'-era material that gets me giddy. A nearly 11-minute commentary of this special show by band members the Farriss brothers is also included. You can catch some of their thoughts below, as well as the full tracklist. Twenty-six years ago, but it feels like only yesterday. If you're an old guy like me, you understand.

1. Burn for You
2. Kiss the Dirt
3. Dancing on the Jetty
4. The One Thing
5. This Time
6. Shine Like It Does
7. Listen Like Thieves
8. What You Need
9. One X One
10. Original Sin
11. Don't Change
12. Farriss brothers commentary

Hitchcock Sings in English for Norwegian Ears

If you haven't heard any of the new Robyn Hitchcock yet, you will want to listen to the two songs below. These lush compositions continue a string of great works by the 58 year old. You will be able to find them on 'Tromsø, Kaptein,' a record Hitchcock says he "sung in English for Norwegian ears." It will ship beginning May 3 on, naturally, the Norwegian label Hype City Recordings. If you preorder from Hitchcock's site now, you will receive a digital download of the album immediately. 'Tromsø, Kaptein' continues a prolific streak of albums, free downloads and other projects that, in my opinion, marks the most interesting five-year period of his career. If you're an old fan of his and have lost touch through the years, do yourself a favor and at least get 'Goodnight Oslo.' It made my top 20 albums of 2009.

Robyn Hitchcock - Dismal City by Hype City Recordings

Robyn Hitchcock - Light Blue Afternoon by Hype City Recordings

Friday, April 22, 2011

Cover Me Impressed: 'Almost Saturday Night'

Thank you, Jayhawks! If you go to the band's official Web site, you can download their complete June 21, 2010 show from the legendary First Avenue club. That three-night residency in their hometown of Minneapolis marked the first time the classic lineup (that included Mark Olson) had played together in America in almost 15 years. The song list is inspiring and even included tunes for the 'Bunkhouse' era. For me, one of the highlights comes during the encore when they pulled out a cover of "Almost Saturday Night" to close the show. It's a mildly well-known nugget from John Fogerty's early years as a solo artist, but I know the 1981 single by Dave Edmunds even better. You will find many covers in the Edmunds canon but, his take on Elvis Costello's "Girl's Talk" notwithstanding, I think this may be his his best. Hmm, that's probably shortchanging some great Rockpile-era songs, as well as the Edmunds-Nick Lowe EP of Everly Brothers tunes. Forget it. You be the judge.

John Fogerty - Almost Saturday Night (mp3)
Dave Edmunds - Almost Saturday Night (mp3)
The Jayhawks - Almost Saturday Night (Live) (mp3)

More Cover Me Impressed:
"Too Many Teardrops"
"Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me"
"They Don't Know"
"Everybody's Talkin'"
"What Goes On"
"There Is A Light That Never Goes Out"
Halloween Edition
"Porpoise Song"
"Prairie Rose"
"Come On Eileen"
"Walking On Thin Ice"
Jason Falkner Edition
"True Love Will Find You In The End"
"This Will Be Our Year"
"You're My Favorite Waste of Time"
"The End Of The World"
"(Don't Go Back To)Rockville"
"God Only Knows"
"And Your Bird Can Sing"
"So Sad About Us"
"Walking The Cow"

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Get Blown Away to Smithereens

Although I consider myself an avid follower of power pop, I was not a super-huge fan of the Smithereens. They were, however, a band I kind of rooted for in the middle '80s. They were loud, seemed working class and weren't particularly attractive... you know, someone you could hang with. Yet, after putting in several years of hard work, they ruled the college-rock landscape in 1986 and 1988 with their albums 'Especially for You' and 'Green Thoughts.' Unlike many of their peers, I think singles like "Only a Memory," "Blood and Roses," "A Girl Like You" and "Behind the Wall of Sleep" have aged particularly well. In other words, a few years ago I realized I missed the boat with these guys.

This was not an epiphany. It took a long time for me to come around, and I think I owe it all to guitarist and singer Pat DiNizio. I admire his life path. Here are just a few things he has done in the last decade: DiNizio ran for the U.S. Senate, tried out for a minor-league baseball team and was the program director and host on the XM Radio Unsigned channel. He has even been known to play in the living rooms of his fans. That's so cool.

A couple of weeks ago the Smithereens released a new album that didn't garner any attention here at all, but I think you should give it a listen. Here is a catchy song that fits in nicely with their '80s and early '90s work. If you like it, buy their album, '2011,' here. You won't be "Sorry."

The Smithereens - Sorry (mp3)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Let's Go to the Videotape

In the past couple of weeks I have seen some really well-done documentaries and a concert video I think you should seek.

'Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out' was put together by drummer Stewart Copeland and is completely based on footage he shot from his own Super-8 camera from 1978 through the band's demise. It's pretty interesting to see the juxtaposition of a hungry but happy trio in fleabag hotels and clunky cars, seemingly, one minute, and in a state-of-the-art studio at an exotic locale with the world on a string the next. Copeland's narration is humorous and insightful, particularly as things are falling apart. This is a must watch for Police fans, although the 2006 Sundance Film Festival entry has been around long enough that I assume many admirers have already seen it. If you have Showtime, you may still be able to catch it there. That's where I saw it.

My obsession with all things Michael Nesmith continues. 'Live at the Britt' chronicles his complete performance at the Britt Festival's 30th anniversary show back in 1992. The trip to Jacksonville, Oregon, would have been totally worth it. First and foremost, Nesmith's old friend and pedal-steel aficionado "Red" Rhodes is in his backing band. The rest of the fellas, however, I don't know at all, and the bad hair and their new-age percussion added little to the experience. I wish it could have been "Red" and Michael alone like on my favorite album of his, "And the Hits Just Keep on Comin.'' That leads me to the shows bright spot. We get a couple of songs back to back from that great LP. In fact, most of the first half of the show are songs from his early '70s solo albums, with a Monkees classic thrown in for good measure. There's a quick ode to 'Elephant Parts' before he performs some "new" songs that I have to admit I don't know. The show ends with "Rio" and a Nesmith-only encore of "Different Drum." The picture quality has a bit of a "video" feel, but the sound more than makes up for the amateurish look.

The rave reviews of Mike Watt's latest project has me on a Minutemen and fIREHOSE kick. That's cool when you consider Watt's new album was inspired by his old band after he listened to them for the first time in years. This documentary, 'We Jam Econo - The Story of the Minutemen,' and his participation in it was really what started Watt on this path. So, Watt is jamming econo again, and we are listening to his stuff again. There is some great footage from a band that ended tragically and way too soon. This is the most well done of the lot. Check out the trailer below... then pull out your old copy of 'Double Nickels on the Dime.'

Monday, April 18, 2011

Postmortem: Record Store Day

Did you make it to your local mom-and-pop shop last Saturday? From what I witnessed, the kids are still crazy about vinyl. This was my first Record Store Day. So, I didn't really know what to expect. I did know quantities of exclusives were, in many cases, extremely limited, and I had a few on my must-have list. With that in mind, I left the house quite early for the short trek to
Easy Street Records in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle. I anticipated arriving about 30 minutes before opening and felt like I would be in good shape to get what I wanted. Due to some unexpected construction, I ended up losing about 15 minutes of cushion time. Then add the fact I passed another record store along the way, Silver Platters, only to see a big line already outside the doors. Yep, I was starting to sweat it... and with good reason. The line at Easy Street was a sight to behold. By 9AM, it stretched an entire block. I would guess I was about 125th in line. Would that get me, for example, the new dB's 7"? I had talked to someone from Easy Street a day earlier, and he said the store would have four copies. Hmmm, I don't know...

There were some operational problems. All of the exclusives were in cardboard boxes right at the door. So, imagine hundreds of eager vinyl collectors rifling through these boxes right at the entrance. It was almost impossible. And why put it at the door? At least 90 percent of the store was a ghost town during those first minutes. Everyone was at the door. If I ran the store, I would have either put the stock on the shelves where they belong (such as Big Star in the Big Star section) or, at least, put the 12" vinyl at one end of the store, 7" vinyl at the other end and CDs and other collectibles in the middle. That would spread things out a bit.

For the first several minutes I couldn't get anywhere near the boxes. Then the gods smiled on me. I spotted the 7" single of the dB's. It was between me and a couple of customers going through a box, but I could see it as I looked underneath a small hole underneath the armpit of one of the fellas. I yelled: "Could you grab me that dB's?" The guy actually handed it back to me. As I reached for it, I saw the new Cars 7" in a box next to this guy. I stretched as far as I could and got a finger and thumb on it and pinched. Got it. By now, the crowd was starting to take their finds to the register for purchase. In seconds the line is snaking all through the store. Uh-oh, there seems to be multiple lines, but there is only supposed to be one. Oh well, not my problem. I have other records on my list. Unfortunately, the boxes look pretty picked over. Sure enough, I can't find anything else I want. Grr. So, I only walked away with my two seven-inch singles. The worst part was seeing what I wanted in the hands of others already in line to pay. Is that the new Paul Simon on vinyl? Oh, man.

Now, I realize this is only one experience in one store, but I'm wondering how things worked out for you. Did you get there early enough? How were things organized? Did you get any freebies? Were there any good in-store performances where you were? Feel free to share your tales.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Joy Formidable and Yuck Beat the Buzz

I tend to shy away from the blogosphere's "it" bands, as anointed by the folks at Pitchfork and several other places. As a music lover that rebelled against commercial rock and pop from an early age, it is in my psyche to dislike bands that everyone else likes... even at the indie level. It has probably been at my peril since sometimes the bands can be quite good. I know that it's stupid, but I can't help it. In spite of my sour ways, every once in a while an act that fits into this category breaks through my armour. Congratulations to the Joy Formidable. Despite their critical and commercial success, I have become one of the masses following the Welsh trio. Yes, I'm now a statistic. If you like the song below, go out and get 'The Big Roar.' It's bound to get consideration for my album of the year.

The Joy Formidable - Whirring (mp3)

There is another "it" band out there that almost has me, but my repelling powers are strong. Let's start with their name... Yuck. Just rolls off the tongue, eh? Two of the members of this English band used to be in another group I sort of dug a few years ago called Cajun Dance Party. They didn't sound much like Dinosaur Jr. then, but this new incarnation sure does. In fact, they sound like several bands I was into as a lad. I think I like -- but don't love -- Yuck because not only have I heard this sound before, but I'm hearing it again by too many new bands. If you listen to as much music as I do, it all starts to sound the same after a while. Having said that, here is an absolutely crackin' tune from them below. Their self-titled debut can be bought here. If curiosity has gotten the better of you, try this song from Cajun Dance Party, too. It was written when they were still in high school. What were you doing at age 15?

Yuck - Get Away (mp3)
Cajun Dance Party - The Next Untouchable (mp3)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Is Bowie's 'Toy' Worth Your Time?

It has been nearly a month since David Bowie's unreleased 2001 album 'Toy' leaked online, and that's given me enough time to evaluate its importance in the artist's canon. As an uber fan, I'm elated that 'Toy' is finally available in any format. I want Bowie's complete discography... period. If I take a step back, however, I realize this is not essential Bowie.

These are rerecorded versions of some of Bowie's oldest songs, and some of these were recorded a third time for 'Heathen' and 'Heathen'-related B-sides. Among the 14 tracks on 'Toy,' the one song we had never heard before that really stands out is "Hole In The Ground." It's believed Bowie recorded a demo of this song around 1970. The 'Toy' recording fits in well with his late '90s/early '00s work. I think 'Heathen' is one of Bowie's strongest post-1980 albums. If you don't agree, you may not like "Hole in the Ground" or any of 'Toy.'

It has been eight long years since we have had a new studio album from the man. This fills a little of the hunger, but it's kind of like getting one plate at a tapas joint.

David Bowie - Hole In The Ground (mp3)

Can Changes Rejuvenate the Rosebuds?

I have spent way too much of 2011 posting old favorites and not enough time writing about what has made this a pretty darn good year for music thus far. I'm going to spend the next few days rectifying that situation.

Let's start with a duo from the Merge stable that's going to be releasing their fifth album, 'Loud Planes Fly Low,' on June 7. The Rosebuds like to genre hop, and it's difficult to fault them for that since they are so accomplished at it. Now, I tend to gravitate toward the folk and indie rock sides of the band's personality, but I have to admit the dance stuff has been good, too. If I could only have one of their albums, I would choose 'Birds Make Good Neighbors,' and I suggest you pick it up (if you haven't already). "Blue Bird," in fact, made my top songs of the last decade. You might know that Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp were married. Yes, I said "were." 'Loud Planes Fly Low' is their first musical endeavor as a former couple. It will be interesting to hear how this new dynamic will alter the band's sound. Merge says: "Proudly mature, genuinely reflective, 'Loud Planes Fly Low' is the most honest Rosebuds record since Ivan and Kelly made their way out of the gates in 2003."

You can already preorder the new album from the label, and here is a little something to remind you the Rosebuds rule. It sounds like they are ready to surprise us again. Introspection, anyone?

The Rosebuds - Second Bird of Paradise (mp3)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Even More New Releases This Week

For the first time in a while, I'm excited about a new-release Tuesday. On top of the new ones we have already read about -- the Feelies, Vivian Girls and Paul Simon -- there are a couple of others more than worthy of mention.

Slumberland has done it again. One of the label's rising stars, Brooklyn's Crystal Stilts, wowed me late last year with the "Shake the Shackles" single. In fact, the moody rant seemingly came from nowhere to become my seventh-favorite track of 2010. Well, now that track is part of a full-length album out today called 'In Love With Oblivion,' and that song was a great peek at what to expect from these noise popsters. Check out their latest song below, and order the album now.

Crystal Stilts - Through the Floor (mp3)

Bell X1 aren't exactly a household name here in America, but they are "it" boys in their native land of Ireland. It's about time for them to make a splash on this side of the pond. Their new album, 'Bloodless Coup,' might be the one to make you realize there is more to their country than U2. (Actually, with My Bloody Valentine, the High Llamas, the Divine Comedy and the Undertones, to name a few, I hope you know that already). They used to get compared to Talking Heads quite a bit, but I don't hear that influence much these days. Still, I'm digging this single from the new one quite a bit. Order 'Bloodless Coup.'

Bell X1 - Velcro (mp3)

Stream: New Single From Arctic Monkeys

You may remember about a month ago, as the first act from their forthcoming album 'Suck It and See,' UK brats (I mean that in the best way possible) Arctic Monkeys released a music video for the song "Brick by Brick." Well, the band has just released the first official single for their June 7 release, and "Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair" is even heavier than that first listen. You may notice I didn't say "harder." These are not loud and fast punk-rock anthems. Have these blokes been listening to Soundgarden? It's an interesting diversion. Just don't expect "A Certain Romance" (my personal favorite). Starting tomorrow you can buy "Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair" over at iTunes, or you can wait until this weekend and get it on 7" vinyl as part of Record Store Day.

Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair by arcticmonkeys

'Suck It and See' Tracklist:
1. She's Thunderstorms
2. Black Treacle
3. Brick by Brick
4. The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala
5. Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair
6. Library Pictures
7. All My Own Stunts
8. Reckless Serenade
9. Piledriver Waltz
10. Love Is a Laserquest
11. Suck It and See
12. That's Where You're Wrong

Friday, April 8, 2011

Paul Simon's New LP Is 'So Beautiful'

If asked, I would say the Brian Wilson/Paul Simon double bill from 2001 was the best show I have ever seen. (Frank Sinatra would be a close second.) As far as Simon solo albums are concerned, I rank his top 3 like this:

1. 'Paul Simon'
2. 'Graceland'
3. 'The Rhythm of the Saints'

So, as you can see, I'm really into his adopted sounds from the "dark continent." That's why I'm so excited when, this Tuesday, Simon releases his 12th solo album, 'So Beautiful or So What.' Although a little less South African in tone than his 1986 and 1990 albums, the roots of those two classics can be found on his new LP... as the video below for "The Afterlife" will attest. I was very disappointed in his last effort, the Brian Eno produced 'Surprise,' and I have waited five long years for Simon to redeem himself.

It's great to see that the nearly 70 year old is getting much-deserved accolades as well. Check out this glowing review of the album from Rolling Stone. I don't know if it's because of his "mature" age or what, but you can't help but notice themes of God, angels and the meaning of it all. Still, it's delivered in that patented Simon way that doesn't take you to a dark place. Preorder 'So Beautiful or So What' now. And just a heads up: You can already download this song on iTunes for $1.29.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Shopping List for Record Store Day

As the ol' clock on the blog shows, Record Store Day is fast approaching, and the exclusives for this holiday (yeah, I called it a holiday) continue to accumulate. In order, here are my top five desires when I head out with open wallet on April 16. Make sure you check with your local independent store to see if they are participating. You can also check here. Vinyl rules... and so does the mom-and-pop shop!

1. The dB's
Vinyl 7"
"Picture Sleeve"/"Write Back"
This is the first new music from the jangle-pop gods since I was a lad. Look for a new album in about another year.

2. Crowded House
'North America Travelougue 2010'
The three-disc set captures the best moments from the 'Intriguer' tour. "History Never Repeats" is on here, and I was at the Seattle show where they first pulled out that classic Split Enz tune.

3. Television
'Live At The Old Waldorf'
The individually numbered limited-edition double LP is of a June 28, 1979 show from San Francisco. The vinyl is white, too. Sharp.

4. The New Pornographers
Vinyl 7"
"Moves"/"Drug Deal Of The Heart"
Most of you have the A-side from 'Together,' but the B-side is an unreleased outtake from the album sessions. The 45 comes with a download card for the songs and the "Moves" video." I feel like 'Together' came out years ago. So, it will be nice to hear a new song.

5. The Cars
Vinyl 7"
"Sad Song"/"Blue Tip"
There is no way I'm waiting until June 10 for 'Move Like This,' the band's first new album in 24 years, to get me some Cars.

If I have any money left, I might get the new 7" from Vivian Girls, too. It looks like the intriguing 10" single of "Good Vibrations"/"Heroes & Villains" from the Beach Boys is full of takes I already have from the 'Good Vibrations' box set. Otherwise, I would be all over that. Record Store Day is a really big deal for these independent shops. Please, try to stop into your favorite store. Happy shopping!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Michael Nesmith Week: The Newer Stuff

See Also:
Mike Nesmith Week: The Monkees Era
Michael Nesmith Week: The Older Stuff

Michael Nesmith's newer stuff is really only the 1977 and 1979 albums 'From a Radio Engine to the Photon Wing' and 'Infinite Rider on the Big Dogma,' as well as a handful of other songs from 1980 that weren't released until Rhino put out the 1989 compilation 'The Newer Stuff.' His country-rock days are long gone by this time, but his new sound produced quite a few fine singles and other tracks.

If you followed Nesmith's work at Pacific Arts, you no doubt realize that during this period film and television became at least as important to him as music. For example, he produced a whopping five music videos from the 'Infinite Rider' album, which was quite a feat in 1979. In 1981, Nesmith assembled an hour-long program of comedy skits and music videos called 'Elephant Parts.' The result was a first-ever Grammy in the new music video category. That same year, Nesmith debuted a new music-video program for Nickelodeon called 'PopClips.' It would have been compared to MTV... only that music-video program didn't exist yet. So, when you use "pioneer" and "genius" to describe Nesmith, these aren't empty words. In 1985, Nesmith brought an 'Elephant Parts'-like show to the small screen for NBC. Although it only lasted a summer, I vividly remember several humorous musical performances by Nesmith on 'Television Parts.' I collected a few of these clips (along with some from 'Elephant Parts') below.

As for today's mix, "Rio" and "Casablanca Moonlight" come from 'From a Radio Engine to the Photon Wing.' "Light" can be found on 'Infinite Rider on the Big Dogma.' "Tanya" and "Total Control" are part of those unreleased songs from 1980 that appear on 'The Newer Stuff.' "Cruisin'" may seem like an obvious miss here. Since I included the music video below, I chose to omit that fan favorite.

The Michael Nesmith Five (The Newer Stuff)
Michael Nesmith - Tanya (mp3)
Michael Nesmith - Rio (mp3)
Michael Nesmith - Casablanca Moonlight (mp3)
Michael Nesmith - Total Control (mp3)
Michael Nesmith - Light (mp3)

If you like what you see and hear, you may want to buy these Nesmith nuggets:
'The Newer Stuff'
'Elephant Parts'
'Television Parts Home Companion'
'From a Radio Engine to the Photon Wing'/'Infinite Rider on the Big Dogma'

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Michael Nesmith Week: The Older Stuff

He had always been known as "Mike" on the tube, but from here on out it's Michael Nesmith. So, the older stuff consists of his solo country-rock days from 'Magnetic South' in 1970 to about 'Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash' in 1973. These are Nesmith's prolific years, and it marks his peak as one of the most important musicians of this genre. I don't want to hear about the Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers and the rest without Nesmith at least being in the conversation. Just as James Brown had his Bobby Byrd, Nesmith had his "Red" Rhodes. The pedal-steel aficionado appeared on all of Nesmith's albums during this period, and I don't think you'll find a better example of the duo's work than on the 1972 album 'And the Hits Just Keep on Comin'.' If you only buy one Nesmith album, this is the one I would recommend.

As with yesterday's picks during the Monkees era, it's tough to pick just five songs. Some of my favorite Nesmith moments are either standards or covers, such as "I Fall to Pieces" and "Tumbling Tumbleweeds," but I want these selections to be all Nesmith. If I was truthful, at least four songs from 'And the Hits Just Keep on Comin' would be on this mix, but I'll restrain myself and keep it to two. I guess it would be prudent to include Nesmith's biggest successes. Some of you may not know his charting singles. And how do I leave "Propinquity (I've Just Begun to Care)" off the list?

"Joanne" was Nesmith's biggest solo success. It peaked at No. 21 and can be found on 'Magnetic South.' "Silver Moon" also came out in 1970, but it was from 'Loose Salute,' Nesmith's second album from that year. The song peaked at No. 42. "Tomorrow & Me" was never released as a single, but the album opener is probably my favorite song from 'And the Hits Just Keep on Comin'.' It's an unusual LP in that it's all Nesmith and Rhodes... very intimate. Just about everyone will recognize "Different Drum." It was written by Nesmith in 1966 and recorded by a few bands before he did this version for 'And the Hits Just Keep Comin'' in 1972. Linda Ronstadt's take in 1967 was the big winner. It peaked at No. 13 on the charts. "Nevada Fighter" appeared on the album of the same name in 1971. It was Nesmith's last American single to ever chart. It peaked at a disappointing No. 70. Ask your parents why they didn't pick up the 45.

If you want to purchase any of the albums from this time period, I would first suggest rummaging for vinyl at your local record store or online. If you don't want to take the time, I'll recommend the well-done twofers put out by Camden. I think the art is lacking a bit. I prefer when twofers have both album covers, one on each side of the booklet. A good example is when Capitol reissued the Beach Boys catalog this way many years ago. Camden makes up for this poor judgment call with great liner notes. Don't believe what you have read about inferior sound quality. I own all of these, and I hear nothing but good things.

The Michael Nesmith Five (The Older Stuff)
Michael Nesmith - Joanne
Michael Nesmith - Silver Moon
Michael Nesmith - Tomorrow & Me
Michael Nesmith - Different Drum
Michael Nesmith - Nevada Fighter

Buy these twofers now!
'Magnetic South'/'Loose Salute'
'Nevada Fighter'/'Tantamount to Treason'
'And the Hits Just Keep on Comin'/'Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash'

Here is Nesmith performing "Joanne" in 1993.

Mike Nesmith Week: The Monkees Era

This is something I have wanted to do since the inception of this blog, but I have always envisioned doing it around Mike Nesmith's birthday. He was born on Dec. 30, however, and I always find myself out of town and away from LTL! during the holidays. So, that's the reason I celebrate one of my favorite artists this week. It would be easy to wax poetic about Nesmith's genius. He is, in fact, a visionary... a Renaissance man, of sorts. If this comes as a surprise to you, I suggest you check out his work in film, television, video and literature... for starters.

LTL! is, of course, all about the music. So, let's listen to the work of Nesmith as musician. His career should be examined in three parts, and I will post my five favorite tunes from each era. I have found it tough to choose only five songs during his time as a member of the Monkees. Nesmith wrote many memorable pieces, including "Mary, Mary" and "The Girl That I Knew Somewhere." Both of these songs are worthy of the list. Since he passed them along to Mickey Dolenz for lead-vocal duty, I, too, passed. Let's not forget "Circle Sky" as well. It's the highlight of 'Head.' "Sweet Young Thing" was also considered, but he shared songwriting duties with the brilliant team of Goffin/King, although it sure feels like a Nesmith nugget. There are several others but, in the end, these five songs are a perfect mix of pop, country and anthem. This is also a peek into Nesmith's future vocation. More on the twangy side of Nesmith next time.

The Mike Nesmith Five (Monkees Edition)
The Monkees - What Am I Doin' Hangin' 'Round? (mp3)
The Monkees - Listen to the Band (mp3)
The Monkees - You Just May Be the One (mp3)
The Monkees - You Told Me (mp3)
The Monkees - Papa Gene's Blues (mp3)

All five of these songs can be found on Rhino's excellent two-disc anthology of the band.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Strokes Meet the Imposter... No Foolin'

Elvis Costello joined the Strokes for a few moments during their April Fool's Day show at Madison Square Garden. Their rousing rendition of "Taken for a Fool" is worth four minutes of your time.

Dedicated Follower of Kinks

Well, here we go again. One of my favorite bands is about to get the reissue treatment. This puts me in a tight spot. Do I spend the dough on albums I already own for all of the bells and whistles that come with it this time around? I keep doing it over and over for Costello, Bowie and others. So, I don't see myself drawing a line in the sand now that seven fine albums by the Kinks are getting deluxe editions. The first three of those reissues come out two weeks from Tuesday, and they just happen to be their first three albums. Here is the complete reissues rundown:

April 19
'Kinks' (1964)
'Kinda Kinks' (1965)
'The Kink Kontroversy' (1965)

'Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)' (1969)
'Muswell Hillbillies' (1971)

'Face to Face' (1966)
'Something Else' (1967)

All of these versions will be double-disc editions chock full of rarities, outtakes, demos and session tracks. For example, the band's self-titled debut has gone from 17 songs to a whopping 55. As I mentioned before, this is no time to draw a line in the sand. Here are the tracklists and a little something to sway you to shell out the shekels. I don't want to be the only sucker.

The Kinks - Too Much Monkey Business (Unreleased Alternate Take) (mp3)

Disc 1:
1. Beautiful Delilah
2. So Mystifying
3. Just Can't Go to Sleep
4. Long Tall Shorty
5. I Took My Baby Home
6. I'm a Lover Not a Fighter
7. You Really Got Me
8. Cadillac
9. Bald Headed Woman
10. Revenge
11. Too Much Monkey Business
12. I've Been Driving on Bald Mountain
13. Stop Your Sobbing
14. Got Love If You Want It
15. I Believed You
16. I'm a Hog For You Baby
17. I Don't Need You Anymore
18. Everybody's Gonna Be Happy (Alternate Version)
19. Long Tall Sally (Mono Single)
20. You Still Want Me (Mono Single)
21. You Do Something to Me (Mono Single)
22. It's Alright (Mono Single)
23. All Day And All of the Night (Mono Single)
24. I Gotta Move (Mono Single)
25. Louie Louie (Mono EP)
26. I've Got That Feeling (Mono EP)
27. I Gotta Go Now (Mono EP)
28. Things Are Getting Better (Mono EP)

Disc 2:
1. Beautiful Delilah (Mono)
2. So Mystifying (Mono)
3. Just Can't Go to Sleep (Mono)
4. Long Tall Shorty (Mono)
5. I Took My Baby Home (Mono)
6. I'm a Lover Not a Fighter (Mono)
7. You Really Got Me (Mono)
8. Cadillac (Mono)
9. Bald Headed Woman (Mono)
10. Revenge (Mono)
11. Too Much Monkey Business (Mono)
12. I've Been Driving on Bald Mountain (Mono)
13. Stop Your Sobbing (Mono)
14. Got Love If You Want It (Mono)
15. Don't Ever Let Go (Mono)
16. I Don't Need You Anymore (Mono)
17. Bald Headed Woman (U.S. Mono Mix)
18. Too Much Monkey Business (Alternate Take)
19. Got Love If You Want It (Alternate Take)
20. Meet The Kinks (BBC Interview)
21. Cadillac (BBC Session)
22. Ray Talks About "You Really Got Me" (BBC Interview)
23. You Really Got Me (BBC Session)
24. Little Queenie (BBC Session)
25. I'm a Lover Not a Fighter (BBC Session)
26. All Day and All of the Night (BBC Session)
27. Ray Talks About the U.S.A. (BBC Interview)

'Kinda Kinks'
Disc 1:
1. Look for Me Baby
2. Got My Feet on the Ground
3. Nothin' in the World Can Stop Me Worryin' 'Bout That Girl
4. Naggin' Woman
5. I Wonder Where My Baby Is Tonight
6. Tired of Waiting for You
7. Dancing in the Street
8. Don't Ever Change
9. Come On Now
10. So Long
11. You Shouldn't Be Sad
12. Something Better Beginning

Disc 2:
1. Everybody's Gonna Be Happy (Mono Single)
2. Who'll Be the Next in Line (Mono Single)
3. Set Me Free (Mono Single)
4. I Need You (Mono Single)
5. See My Friend (Mono Single)
6. Never Met a Girl Like You Before (Mono Single)
7. A Well Respected Man (Mono EP)
8. Such a Shame (Mono EP)
9. Wait Till the Summer Comes Along (Mono EP)
10. Don't You Fret (Mono EP)
11. I Go to Sleep (Demo Version)
12. When I See That Girl of Mine (Demo Version)
13. Tell Me Now So I'll Know (Demo Version)
14. A Little Bit of Sunlight (Demo Version)
15. There's a New World Just Opening for Me (Demo Version)
16. This I Know (Demo Version)
17. See My Friends (Alternate Take)
18. Come On Now (Alternate Vocal)
19. You Shouldn't Be Sad (BBC Session)
20. Tired of Waiting for You (BBC Session)
21. Everybody's Gonna Be Happy (BBC Session)
22. This Strange Effect (BBC Session)
23. Hide and Seek (BBC Session)

'The Kink Kontroversy'
Disc 1:
1. Milk Cow Blues
2. Ring the Bells
3. Gotta Get the First Plane Home
4. When I See That Girl of Mine
5. I Am Free
6. Till the End of the Day
7. The World Keeps Going Round
8. I'm on an Island
9. Where Have All the Good Times Gone
10. It's Too Late
11. What's in Store for Me
12. You Can't Win

Disc 2:
1. Dedicated Follower of Fashion (Mono Single)
2. Sittin' on My Sofa (Mono Single)
3. I'm Not Like Everybody Else (Mono Single)
4. Mr. Reporter (Outtake)
5. Dedicated Follower Of Fashion (Alternate Take)
6. Time Will Tell (Outtake)
7. And I Will Love You (Unissued EP Track)
8. I'm Not Like Everybody Else (Alternate Vocal)
9. All Night Stand (Demo)
10. Milk Cow Blues (BBC Session)
11. Ray Talks About Songwriting (BBC Interview)
12. Never Met a Girl Like You Before (BBC Session)
13. Wonder Where My Baby Is Tonight (BBC Session)
14. Pete Talks About Records (BBC Interview)
15. Till the End of the Day (BBC Session)
16. A Well Respected Man (BBC Session)
17. Where Have All the Good Times Gone (BBC Session)

Friday, April 1, 2011

SMiLES, Everyone... SMiLES!

We fans of the Beach Boys have been down this road before, but this time might be different. Capitol Records has announced 'The SMiLE Sessions' will, indeed, see the light of day in 2011. Here are the options: two-CD set, an iTunes LP digital album and a limited-edition boxed set containing four CDs, two vinyl LPs, two vinyl singles and a 60-page hardbound book written by Beach Boys historian Domenic Priore. This article from Billboard has quite a bit of information on the project from engineer Mark Linett, but here are a couple of tidbits I found the most interesting:

-- All of the surviving members of the band are on board.

-- "An approximation of the original 'SMiLE' album will occupy one CD or three sides of vinyl, with session outtakes and studio chatter occupying the rest of each version of the release."

-- Brian Wilson's 2004 take on 'SMiLE' will act as a blueprint for this project.

-- 'SMiLE' will be mixed in mono as Wilson originally intended. The extras will probably be in stereo.

Like most die-hard followers of the Beach Boys, I have several bootleg versions of 'SMiLE,' as well as all of the great takes that appeared on the 'Good Vibrations' box set almost 20 years ago, but this impending release is still the most exciting music news I heard in a long time.