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"

Monday, November 14, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter D, Part 2)

Another in a long line of uncomfortable confessions. Yes, I have some Terence Trent D'Arby on the shelf. What can I say, really? This artist has come up a few times in recent years on the blogs I read, particularly CC at Charity Chic Music. With only a few exceptions, I was pleasantly surprised at the response. My favorite comment came from the Swede with "total bonkersness interspersed with utter brilliance." Truth is, I didn't know about his arrogance and eccentricities for a bit, and I was able to just enjoy the music without all of the noise. If I had known some of the outrageous claims about his importance in the history of pop, perhaps I wouldn't have made it past the debut album, which the artist said was better than 'Sgt. Pepper.' As it is, I only know his first three works. My two-sentence review: Each has a handful of top tunes, but I'm not sure I could recommend any of D'Arby's albums. Pick a few songs from your favorite online source, or wait for a nice best-of package.

"Wishing Well" made it to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1987, and D'Arby nearly matched the feat in the UK. Still sounds pretty good to these ears, and I have to say Martyn Ware did quite a job producing 'Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D'Arby.' Let's listen to the epic eight-minute version from my 12" released in the American market. Not too many of the '80s bells and whistles, and I imagine this was fun to dance to in the clubs.

"Wishing Well" (The Cool in the Shade Mix)

Friday, November 11, 2016

'Going, Going...' But Not Gone Yet

Quick update. You may recall more than two months ago I went on a rant about how I couldn't find a vinyl copy of the Wedding Present's new double album 'Going, Going...' anywhere on this side of the Atlantic. Loyal reader (and former pal!) Misterprime chimed in with this soul-crushing nugget: "At the risk of rubbing it in a little, I bought the Wedding Present from good ol' Rough Trade here in Nottingham over a week ago - and it's a thing of true beauty..." Well, I can finally forgive Misterprime because the music gods have finished teaching me a lesson on patience and perseverance. Athens-based HHBTM Records has come to the rescue for those of us an ocean away from Weddoes HQ. You can preorder the cinematic masterpiece now. The official release is next Friday, November 18. Don't dawdle. This is a run of 500 copies.

In other news, HHBTM has a couple of other Gedge-related projects available on vinyl we thankfully no longer have to label tough finds. In 2015, the Wedding Present's 2012 album 'Valentina' got a complete reworking by his other band, Cinerama, and it's a completely different but beautiful journey I highly recommend you pick up with 'Going, Going...' Order here.

I don't want to forget 'Take Fountain' either. If you missed the Wedding Present's 2005 album, here's your chance to make this purchase a perfect trifecta. I know it seems like America is falling apart, but when the Wedding Present gets finally gets its due over here, you can't help but feel a little more hopeful.

Nov. 17 Update: Just got word there will be a delay. The new release date, according to HHBTM, is Dec. 2. Not a big surprise, is it? We all know how these things go. Let's continue to root and support these indie labels!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter D, Part 1)

No messing about today. I'm not in the mood. Let's just get to it. The soundtrack to the 1981 movie 'Dance Craze' features some of the best from ska's second wave performing live, and all but two of these acts will get their own day later in this series. Lately, I feel like I have been focusing on albums from my youth that haven't had much play this century. For me, bands like the (English) Beat, Madness, the Selecter and the Specials never get old, and I still play them as much as I ever did. Bad Manners might be an exception, but I do love the horns on this particular song. As for the Bodysnatchers, their entire discography consists of two singles, but both of them are keepers. "Easy Life" has the kind of message that made the Specials famous. Many of the ladies in the Bodysnatchers would be gracing the charts just a year later as the Belle Stars.

In June 2010, I had a quick series on the second wave called Ska Week. Inspired name, eh? To this day, they are my most viewed posts. Apparently, I'm not alone in my love for these bands.

Bad Manners - "Lip Up Fatty" (Live)
The Bodysnatchers - "Easy Life" (Live)

Thursday, November 3, 2016

What's Your White Whale?

I will resist the urge to pen more posts about a certain team that has made my dreams come true, but my roller coaster of emotions about the Cubs finally making it to the promised land has me thinking about records. How would I feel if I got all of the elusive vinyl I have been searching for all of my life? Do I really want the euphoric feeling of finding that rare single, or am I hooked on the hunt? On some level, would there be a letdown after it was all over... a sort of "now what" restlessness? Something to ponder as I got what I wanted in the baseball world.

If money is no object (you are blessed), our online lives have made it much easier to catch our white whales, but I try to resist (and sometimes fail) to play that way. I'm old school. For me, there is no better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than going through the racks at a flea market or mom-and-pop shop... searching, hoping and wishing today is the day you find that obscure relic and at a bargain price that almost pops you out of your shoes when you see it. Why do I look left, then right and sheepishly almost try to hide the record as if someone may snatch it out of my now sweaty hands? It has been a while since I had one of those moments.

Audience participation time. Take it in any direction you want. Tell us about one you caught or the one that keeps getting away? How much did you spend? How much is too much? Can you be perfectly content with a single or album that's been reissued, or do you need the original? From dozens of examples, here are a few of mine:

The Siddeleys
What Went Wrong This Time 7"
Medium Cool Records
Discogs: $82-$122.

I have all three songs on a terrific comp from Matinée to keep me company until I find it at the right price.

"My Favourite Wet Wednesday Afternoon"

Orange Juice
Falling and Laughing 7"
Postcard Records
ebay: $900

I call this the GREAT white whale. No way I'm getting the first single from my favorite label.

"Falling and Laughing"

The Field Mice
Emma's House 7"
Sarah Records
Discogs: $89

I have found and bought Sarah singles from time to time. Never ever seen this one but still hopeful.

"Emma's House"

Phil Wilson
Better Days 7"
Caff Corporation
Discogs: $45-$90

Almost certain this is the only original I don't have from the June Brides or his solo work. Must complete set!

"Better Days"


After 108 years, lovable losers no more. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Sleep well tonight, Grandma.

"Go Cubs Go"