Tag Archives: Colored Vinyl

The Flaming Lips’ Soft Bulletin Companion On Record Store Day Edition Silver Vinyl

One of my most wanted albums for this last Record Store Day was The Soft Bulletin Companion by The Flaming Lips. This is a first-time vinyl pressing of a recording that was only issued on home-made CD-Rs by the band to industry insiders back around the time of the release of their landmark album The Soft Bulletin.  I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get a copy but it did turn out to be quite readily available. This is good news for you, Dear Readers, in case you decide to get this sweet compilation. 

A few things on The Soft Bulletin Companion have been released before on the DVD Audio Disc format, as bonus outtakes on the 5.1 surround sound version of The Soft Bulletin (“1000 Ft. Hands,” “The Captain” and “Satellite Of You.”).

As much as I love that DVD Audio Disc, it is so great to finally have “The Captain” on vinyl. I fell in love with this song again a couple of years ago when the band issued a new video for it. It is one of those epic Flaming Lips songs that gets under your skin and into the deep recesses of your brain after a few listens. It is an earworm in the best sense of the word, especially the last half of the song. 

There is some amazing material on The Soft Bulletin Companion such as the Stereo mix of “Okay, I Admit That I Really Don’t Understand” from Zaireeka, an album that was issued on four separate channels (one on each of four discs) designed to be played on four different stereos simultaneously. So for some who have not heard the Stereo mixes at all (there are versions circulating around the web if you poke around a bit), this has a haunting presence about it. The drum and bass hook is killer tied together by some wonderfully eerie vocal treatments this side of Radiohead around the time of OK Computer

My copy of The Soft Bulletin Companion sounds generally excellent even though it is pressed on spiffy looking silver vinyl. The only time I heard any noise was in the run out groove at the end of the record on one side. I do have a friend who had a surface noise problem with one side of his copy of the album so I’m hoping his was just a one-off anomaly. 

Good news for CD fans: this week The Soft Bulletin Companion is also being issued on regular compact disc, bringing the release almost full circle to its roots.  The album hasn’t appeared in full on streaming services but there is one preview track (“Satellite of You”) on each of them in high resolution form. I suspect those will go live once the CD is released so as soon as it does I’ll be sure to update this review with those links.

The Soft Bulletin Companion is a fun album and very much a heady side show for appreciating The Soft Bulletin album. And keep in mind that there was a second volume of The Soft Bulletin Companion on CD-R (I have a copy of that one!) so maybe next year we’ll get that issued on vinyl. Fingers crossed.

“Race For The Prize” (from the original album The Soft Bulletin)

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

Record Store Day Preview: Jazz Dispensary’s Dank D-Funk Blend, Vol. 2

I’ve written about the fine Jazz Dispensary sampler series from Craft Recordings in the past. These are thoughtfully curated collections of rare funky soul-jazz sides culled from the label archives of parent company Concord Music which controls the catalogs of Fantasy, Prestige, Milestone, Fania and many other labels. 

Why do you need to own these collections? Well as a budding collector of soul-jazz and groove jazz titles from the ‘60s and early ‘70s I can attest to several things:  

  1. These albums are often hard to find and if you do they can be pricey in decent condition
  2. If you do find them used, they are often in “well loved” to downright beat up and abused condition. These records were great party albums often played on average to low quality automatic record changers of the day, so people grooving and dancing to the tunes didn’t much think about taking care of their vinyl.  and… 
  3. Many of these albums are good but usually have one or two standout tracks which is what DJs tend to zero in on, those grooves with the killer beats and drum breaks and a combination of strong songs and good production vibes. 

So, the concept underlying Jazz Dispensary’s series is useful. It gives you the intrepid soul-jazz collector a chance to hear some of these great grooves in a form that makes for a fun party album in its own right, without breaking your bank for pricey rarities.  On this latest edition, guest curator Doyle Davis (of Grimey’s, a used records and books store in Nashville) offers up a second dose of his Dank D-Funk Blend

While the first edition focused on the Prestige Records vaults, The Dank D-Funk Blend, Vol. 2 taps into other labels in the company’s roster.

You’ll hear the Afro-Cuban beats of Ray Barretto’s peace love plea “Together,” Charles Earland’s fiery “Letha” and Leon Spencer groovy take on Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me.” Esther Marrow breaks out a funky “Things Ain’t Right.”

I really loved the title track of Pleasure’s 1977 LP Joyous, one of those groups I’ve never heard of before or even seen out in the wilds of crate digging.  Cal Tjader surprisingly good cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” gives way to  Pucho & The Latin Soul Brothers 1968 smoker “Heat!” 

There is even a solid Johnny “Guitar” Watson tune here from 1973 — “You’ve Got a Hard Head” — before he descended into the the disappointing DJM Records disco era.

All tracks on The Dank D-Funk Blend, Vol. 2 are reportedly mastered from their original analog tapes. The only one of these I already had in my collection is the Pucho track which sounds very comparable to my original pressing, with perhaps a bit more crisp detail on the high end. It is also mastered a bit more quietly than my original pressing so I had to turn up my amp a bit after switching albums. 

The Dank D-Funk Blend, Vol. 2 is pressed on surprisingly quiet and — happily —well centered orange-red swirl, fire-colored vinyl which was made at Memphis Record Pressing.  A limited edition of 3800 copies, The Dank D-Funk Blend, Vol. 2 is packaged in a quite stunning jacked featuring embossed artwork by Argentinian artist Mariano Peccinetti, who designed the previous volume’s cover.  

The Dank D-Funk Blend, Vol. 2 is a fun jam. Put it on your Record Store Day list and be sure to grab a copy if you can. 

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

Guided by Voices’ Propeller Reissued On Colored Vinyl

One most wonderful thing about Guided By Voices (GBV) — Dayton, Ohio’s original “LoFi” indie rock heroes — is that they have such a rabid, dedicated following that they could easily spend the rest of their days living off of re-issues of their impossible to find early homespun releases.

I count myself among those rabid, dedicated fans who came on-board enthusiastically in the late 1990s when the singer in my old band gave me a copy of Bee Thousand. By the early 2000’s, I was full bore trying to collect any and every GBV release I could afford and get my hands on.

In 2005 the group reissued their elusive fifth album called Propeller which in many ways is ground zero for the GBV sound we know and love. In its first edition back in 1992 only 500 copies of this album were made, each with a different cover handmade by main singer and songwriter Robert Pollard with the band and their friends. As you can imagine each of these originals has gone on to be quite significant collectors items so getting your hands on one of the reissues was very appealing for most of us who never had a chance to even be close to one, much less owning a copy on vinyl. For years all I had was a CD with different cover art still.

I bought two of the vinyl reissues of Propeller back in the day — only two cover variants were recreated at that time— and only one of them I have opened to play. I’ve been pretty shocked to find that even these reissues have escalated in value. I shouldn’t really be surprised however as I know that GBV fans are no different than those of rock heroes past, from Buddy Holly and Dion & The Belmonts to The Beatles, The Kinks and The Who. The fans want all the good stuff and they take pride in their collections. They hold onto their rarities, so finding them available for resale is rare. 

Word started getting out earlier this year about a new edition of Propeller which original label Scat Records reissued.  Prompted by some fan posts on Facebook I realized that this would probably sell out soon — accordingly, I grabbed a copy the other day at Amoeba Music, the last one they had on the shelves. It has a different cover design than the other two that I have already plus it is pressed on pretty egg shell blue vinyl.

I quickly got over the first question when buying a duplicate limited edition release like this: whether or not I should open it? I opened it as I was curious. I am not worrying about devaluing it too much. 

I hadn’t listened to Propeller in some time and the first thing I was taken with was how good it sounded. Many people still assume that GBV is all about LoFi cassette demos and such — and they still do that from time to time — but that is not always the case.  And a lot of Propeller sounds like genuine studio recordings of some sort. It rocks remarkably well and is a great listen start to finish, an engaging listen right from the start with the fabulous faked crowd cheering “GBV! GBV! GBV!”

Oh, and in case you are wondering, this reissue sounds real good even on the colored vinyl. It was apparently made from the same metal stampers as the 2005 edition so the fidelity is real close (I loosely “A/B” compared them). The colored vinyl formulation makes my copy sound a little brighter, but we’re splitting ridiculously fine hairs here — remember, we’re talking about an album that is a collage of high fidelity studio takes, four-track cassette and other Lo Fi recording techniques, so there are inevitable ups and downs to the sonic landscape. That said, Propeller is a wonder to hear and very much a template for the brilliant Bee Thousand a couple years later. And if you haven’t heard that one yet, you really should. Both albums are a joy to explore. 

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

Sivuca Vs. Sivuca – Is a 45 Year Old Bossa Nova Classic Worthy Of A Reissue?

Many of you know by now that I’m an avid record collector… Vinyl, CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray, DVD audio, SACD, 78’s… About the only thing I haven’t gotten deeply into is cylinders! Yeah… I love music!

A bunch of years back at a garage sale or flea market somewhere I found a curious record by an artist on Vanguard Records I’d never seen before or heard of named “Sivuca.” The cover of the album was fascinating as it showed this very intensely focused Hobbit-like Santa Claus-esque bearded man playing acoustic nylon string guitar as if he were Jimi Hendrix, against a backdrop of mountains. It looked interesting and for the dollar so I spent on it I grabbed it.

One quick play when I got home and I fell in love with Sivuca‘s music and soon found out that he was one of Brazil’s most accomplished musicians. An accompanist for Maria Makeba and Harry Belafonte, this legendary Brazilian musician has performed with Airto and had even been involved with a Broadway musical call Joy

The wonder of music, I’d never heard of this fellow and thus set about to try and find some more of his recordings. I soon found out that this was not going to be an easy task because his records were out of print and most were not available in America to begin with!

Eventually I found Sivuca‘s recordings on streaming services such as Qobuz and Tidal. And, I found one more of his albums on vinyl from a little later in his career. But I found it remarkable that it was hard to even find CDs or anything available affordably domestically.

Thus, I was excited when I learned a few months back that a re-issue was brewing of that very same Sivuca album that I picked up years ago. I finally got my hands on a copy of the reissue and generally I’m not disappointed!

My original copy of Sivuca was not in great condition and given that it was an early 70s album in Stereo — and a largely acoustic-based album to boot — the clicks and pops were actually quite a bit distracting from the music. So the new version of Sivuca is pristine and sounds crisp and clean pressed on nice purple – – possibly Quiex – – vinyl. The standard weight LP is quiet and well centered, so no problems were detected there.

I do have a suspicion that Sivuca was probably made from a digital master at its root because there’s a bit of a high end crispness that is not evident on the original analog-era 1973 pressing. However, in fairly short order once I’ve listen to the album for even just a little bit I get used to the sound of it. It is more than adequate and certainly a nicer listen than my scratchy original.

So, what does Sivuca’s music sound like, you ask?  Well, if  you like the classic Stan Getz / Joao Gilberto album from the mid ‘60s — which I reviewed recently (click here) — you’ll probably enjoy this album which crosses many boundaries of folk, jazz, pop, and Brazilian stylings.  There is a lovely pop bossa version of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” and you’ll even hear a tune written by another Brazilian musician I’ve been getting deeper into, the great Hermeto Pascoal’s “Tunnel” (I’ve written about Hermeto previously, click here for more on this amazing musician’s music). 

You can find many of Sivuca’s albums streaming on Tidal and Qobuz so do check them out if you have a subscription. You can also find an equally limited edition, multi-colored vinyl version of this album at Vinyl Me Please (click here). The purple editions — 750 copies made — seem to be available on Amazon so click on the highlighted Sivuca anywhere in this article to jump to that. I would grab one while you can.

Whatever way you listen, this album is a great introduction to the joyous hybrid universe of Brazilian folk, jazz and bossa nova stylings that is Sivuca

Following are some wonderful live performances by Sivuca and friends

Many musical riches await you around the world…

Sivuca with Hermeto Pascoal — jawdropping jazz Accordion!
Sivuca’s remarkable Accordion duel with Hermeto Pascoal on Melodica
Sivuca Live in Sweden, circa 1969

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

Do You Need Paul McCartney III On Vinyl?

Late last year living legend Paul McCartney put out his third solo album to the surprise of many fans and it became both an instant hot ticket and a point of frustration among many. There were a mind-boggling multitude of pre-orders offered in a wide variety of different colored limited editions – green, red, white, blue, yellow and even coke-bottle green clear vinyl.  

Beatle fans being Beatle fans, it was not surprising to me that these special editions of McCartney III were getting snapped up as fast as they could be posted on the Internet. Small runs from places like Third Man Records —- 300 pressed! — we’re gone in an instant, creating instant collectors items. The vivid green exclusive edition from Target was pretty much non-existent according to friends who went around to several Bay Area stores in search of copies;  this mirrored my experience in 2018 looking for the limited edition CD of Egypt Station ( click hereto read about that tale…. I eventually did get it on vinyl)

It got so frustrating that I couldn’t even get my hands on a copy of McCartney III even though I was trying. I regretted not jumping on the pre-order sign ups and I finally gave up in a combination of depression and disgust (old school Beatle fans tend to take this kind of thing seriously folks). Sir Paul’s record label couldn’t even get an extra copy for me to review! 

I finally broke down and did a preview-review based on the high resolution streams on Tidal and Qobuz. If you click here you will jump back to that review.

Since then, I’ve been keeping my eye out looking for a copy of McCartney III for a while and none have appeared in the stores I frequent regularly (Amoeba Music, in particular). I’ve checked online periodically as well and none were available in places like Amazon and Amoeba.  I really wasn’t up for ordering a pricey copy from a flipper on Discogs or eBay. 

So… in a sort of Zen-Beatle fashion George Harrison would appreciate, I closed my eyes, breathed deeply and waited patiently until the next pressing was done. 

Lo and behold, it finally appeared the other day!

And… you know what? It was worth the wait!

This is a high-quality deep dark black vinyl pressing made in Germany. It is well centered,  perfectly flat and dead quiet.… All the things audiophiles love.

But here’s the other groovy thing: to my ear, the vinyl version of McCartney III  is a better listening experience than the digital streams I’ve listened to. Don’t get me wrong, streaming it at 24 bits and 192 kHz on Tidal MQA format (or 96/24 via Qobuz) is not a bad thing at all! The album is bright and clear and digital sparkly.

Where the vinyl shines is that it tightens up the album listening experience quite a bit and allows the low and mid ranges to bask in the sunshine. I’ll admit that there is probably a bit of warming going on from my Bellari tube preamplifier, but I think this music benefits from the compression inevitably applied in the disc mastering process. 

In ye-olde dayze of rock and roll record making, the compression applied in the final mastering  — and in the disc mastering stages — often combined and contributed to the ultimate sound of a recording.  So this is not me just being a vinyl fanboy — I would tell you if the vinyl was no good! 

The other nice thing is that these songs on McCartney III have grown on me quite a bit over the past few months. I know some of you feel a bit grumpy about late period Paul McCartney records but I find his work to be really grand and inspiring in his golden years. He still on a remarkable creative run which began some years ago with albums like Chaos And Creation In The Backyard, New and 2018’s fine Egypt Station.

How many artists in their later years are still churning out compelling music? When I was a kid growing up, all I saw was “older” artists like Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra putting out not exactly breathtaking recordings.  In the 00s, things have changed and we’ve seen some Boomer-era artists really step up to the plate delivering the goods including David Crosby, David Bowie, Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen and David Gilmour. Heck, even Tony Bennett has been doing fine work as long as he could! I say bravo to these folks and relish how they continue to release new music as long as they are willing and able to do so. 

I’ve been poking around online and it seems like many of the stores are getting this black vinyl version of McCartney III in stock so you should be able to find it around (click on the title anywhere in this review and it will take you to Amazon).

And what about those colored vinyl variants? Well they are still out there and some of them are going for some hefty prices already! Personally, I would hold off on buying any of those right now because I suspect that at some point in the future we’re going to see a Super Deluxe Edition of this album and maybe even a whole other round of limited edition madness! So you may find that initially-rare green vinyl version from Target showing up at a more affordable price down the pike.

I doubt, however, if the super limited edition version done at Third Man Records in yellow vinyl (with black dots like the dice on the cover!) will come down in price much anytime soon, however. It’s currently selling for upwards of $3000 a Discogs! Let that sink in!

Just speculating here but maybe when a deluxe edition comes out it will look like the cover on the limited edition download version (click here for Discogs’ track listing) on multi-color swirl vinyl. Perhaps it will contain at least those four bonus tracks on one side and maybe four or five others on the other side. That would be fun!  We’ll keep you posted on whether it becomes a reality.

For now, I’m more than content with my nice new black vinyl version of McCartney III

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

Tank & The Bangas’ Fine New Friend Goals EP

Before I get to the review of the new Tank & The Bangas’ release, I need to offer up a little “edjumacation” as I feel it might be necessary.

You see, in the past year I have had several younger vinyl enthusiasts ask me quite seriously: “What is an EP?” I was surprised initially but realize it is a legitimate question for those who have not been exposed to it before.  

So… an “EP” is an “extended play” vinyl record.  It offers more tracks than a “single” which — again, in old school vinyl terms — was typically two tracks, an A-side and a B-side.  The EP concept came about as something of a stop gap between album releases and also to offer something a bit more to fans who couldn’t afford to buy a whole album. Typically they had four tracks on them. 

Back in the 1960s, in the UK especially, EPs were a big thing, with The Beatles issuing quite a number of them, some with exclusive tracks. While the format never quite caught on in the US — Elvis Presley and some others tried them in the 1950s — the concept was repurposed in the late 70s and 80s with the emergence of the 12-inch single. It was a great place to put outtakes, alternate mixes and even unique remixes. Elvis Costello put out several three- and four-song EPs in the late 70s and early 80s, both in 7-inch and 12-inch formats.  Guided By Voices have put out numerous EPs over the years, some with six songs jammed onto a 7-inch disc! 

I hope that helps clarify things for some readers.  Now, on to the review…

The new release by New Orleans’ brilliant avant-soul-jazz-funk-hip-hop-rock-spoken-word band Tank & The Bangas is an “EP.” This new EP is longer than many with six songs. So it is almost as satisfying as a full new release.  So for the purposes of this review, I’ll just be calling it an “album.” In the ‘80s, this might have been called a “Mini-Album.” 

After the joy of their Green Balloon album a couple of years back — click here to read my review — it’s encouraging to see that the band is pushing forward on recording even in the face of the pandemic lockdown.  

Called Friend Goals, the new album is a study in people and their lives in the real world these days, offered up in a humorous yet poignant manner. On this record Tank & The Bangas collaborate with a number of special guests including (in no particular order) Duckworth, CHIKA, Phoelix, HaSizzle, Big Choo, Pell, Orleans Big and many others…

So the sound here is at once familiar yet also a little bit different because of the new voices mixed in, but that is all good.

The opening track is perhaps my favorite called “Fluff,” featuring a smooth chill-wave groove that brings you in immediately with an infectious-yet-restrained signature riff.  The song deals with people’s priorities in life, particularly someone living the non-stop party life but only ending up with “The drugs, the fantasy, the chasing of pleasures, You realize it never made it better.” 

“To Be Real” takes the chill party vibe out a bit more with a great title hook — “to be real, just being honest.” The vocals here just jump out at you in a good way and the rhythms have a slightly retro feel at points that work it for the tune…

“Self Care” revolves around a quirky riff played on what sounds like a detuned Koto-like sting instrument. This is supported by a haunting recorder (or wooden flute of some sort) line in a sort of call-and-response. The Pandemic-era sentiment here resonates strongly:  “I’m ready to get myself back.”

Inevitably, as on most Tank & The Bangas recordings they offer up some lyrical and musical levity on Friend Goals.  “TSA” a funny lament over all the seemingly random stuff people lose at the airport these days when trying to get through security.  “Mr. Insta” is a very 21st century ode to the powers that be at social media’s Instagram and the struggle to recover a hacked account. 

Throughout all the six songs on Friend Goals the quality of Tank’s vocals and the strong sense of melody makes this music sink its earworm hooks deeply in your brain. Couple that with some great grooves and you’ve got an instant winner.

The standard weight pink vinyl version of Friend Goals that I bought from Tank & The Bangas’ website is quiet and well centered. This is a fine sounding fun release that feels just right for this moment in time and will keep us happy until their next full length album is ready. Can’t wait to see them perform live again soon!

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

Black Pumas First Anniversary Modern Rock ’n Soul Classic Deluxe Edition Vinyl

In the history of pop music there have been quite a number of incredible moments when a new artist emerges, seemingly fully formed, armed with a bevy of great songs in their back pocket that just deliver. Other times, there is just one song that defines the group or artist, and that may be all they get known for but that’s still enough to give them a firm place in pop music history.

From Buddy Holly’s tremendous songs written before he died far too young in the 1950s to Elvis Costello’s debut coming out of the gate in the later 1970s with songs like “Watching The Detectives” and “Alison,” sometimes you just know that an artist’s music is going to last for the long haul. It was like that for me the first time I heard Jeff Buckley (RIP).

Certainly for many of us when we heard Boy George crooning “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?” — he could have stopped right there and he’d be a pop music legend. Multiple Grammy award winner Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” is another one of those instantly likable songs which you know will stand the test of time.   

And so it went for me the moment I recently heard the song “Colors” by Black Pumas for the first time (better late to the party than never!). I immediately got a sense something special was going on. Two weeks later I read about a new special edition reissue of their debut album which was being expanded to a two LP set to celebrate its first anniversary.  I thought that was very cool conceptually — an expanded edition of a still-fresh debut album a more-or-less still new group — so I ordered it right away not having checked any of the other tracks. I just trusted my gut instinct. 

The album arrived and it was exactly what I hoped it might be: a great debut by a young band showing great promise and much room for growth. The songs on Black Pumas are wonderful and certainly the hit “Colors” is a stand out. But there are plenty of other earworms here…

But what is really great about Black Pumas is not just that it has a got a sexy neo/retro soul vibe going on with all manner of groovy street smarts inside and out.  No, the big thing (for me at least) is that these folks can write a good song and they know how to produce a good record. This debut Black Pumas album is a solid listening experience, start to finish.

When first listening to an artist I’m interested in, I always enjoy playing “spot the influence” and Black Pumas are a joy for that game. Beyond the obvious Al Green, Marvin Gaye and Bill Withers aesthetics — and maybe even some Otis Redding and more recent singers like the great Charles Bradley (RIP) — I’m hearing echoes of no less than Jeff Buckley and John Lennon.

For example, you get a sense of the latter on a track like “October 33” which has a deep bluesy acoustic vibe that builds steam and seems to reference back to Lennon’s mid-70s period around the time of albums like Mind Games and Walls & Bridges. “Touch The Sky” has a great acoustic guitar signature driving the song which contrasts neatly with the horn section as the song builds . 

The expanded edition of the album includes their powerful arrangement of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” a hard rockin’ quasi-psychedelic gospel-tinged version which recalls no less than the Vanilla Fudge’s interpretation (from their 1967 debut album!). The Black Pumas’ version actually takes their arrangement to a space more akin to the Vanilla Fudge’s version of The Beatles’ “Ticket To Ride” (also on that same debut). It is smart that they put “Eleanor Rigby” on the bonus single that comes with the deluxe edition album as it is very much its own thing that shouldn’t detract from the brilliance of the core album.   

The B-side is a great but straight forward cover of Bobby “Blue” Bland’s 1974 classic Top 10 R’n B hit “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City.”

Their version of Tracy Chapman’s classic “Fast Car” is a poignant homage and the live versions of “Colors” and other key tracks from the original album are strong compliments to the studio takes, underscoring the power potential of this band in a live-without-a-net setting.  I don’t know about you but I’m looking forward to seeing Black Pumas live as soon as it is safe to do so, post Pandemic!

The standard weight vinyl on this new colored vinyl reissue of Black Pumas sounds great and is fun to boot. The main album is pressed on a rich gold wax while the bonus LP is printed on a lovely splatter of deep opaque red and black. Fortunately, it is very quiet — I think the choice of opaque colors may have contributed to that (check my articles here and here on the topic here if you are curious — and well centered. No problems there.  The physical album cover itself is also crafted of very high caliber materials, so this album feels immediately classic when you first pick it up in your hands. All that attention to the little details add up. 

I’ve been listening to Black Pumas a lot since I got it last week and I suspect it will stay in the play bin for a while more.  You can also find it streaming in warm sounding 48 kHz, 24-bits via Hi Res Qobuz (click here) and MQA Tidal (click here). 

If you haven’t listened to Black Pumas yet, do check them out. 

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

Elvis Costello’s Complete Armed Forces Super Deluxe Vinyl-Only Boxed Set (Part III)

In Part I of this review of Elvis Costello’s super deluxe vinyl-only boxed set The Complete Armed Forces — celebrating his 1979 masterpiece, Armed Forces — we explored the new original album remaster included in this collection. In case you missed that essential introduction, please click here to jump back to it. 

In Part II we listened to the first time vinyl  appearance of a full album presentation of Elvis’ legendary Live at Hollywood High and Pinkpop festival performances from that period. If you didn’t see that part of the series, please click here to read it.

If you thought that wasn’t enough to tempt you into getting this new boxed set, let me put on my late night TV commercial announcer voice and say: but wait… there’s more! 

The 10-Inch Mini Albums

Included in The Complete Armed Forces are three — count ‘em, 3! — 10-inch mini LPs containing special rarities.

Live At The Dominion

These recordings are from a 1978 end-of-year holiday UK show featuring four songs captured at the Dominion Theater in London. It is a fascinating document showing Elvis and The Attractions sounding remarkably relaxed and jovial even (far removed from the angry young man persona that was being propagated in the media). 

Here Elvis plays some tracks from his debut including a very true-to-the-original-album’s-pace “(The Angels Want To Wear My) Red Shoes” and a fun quazi-disco version of “No Dancing” (for reals kids, imagine if Abba was covering that song!). 

They break out a very early version of “I Stand Accused” (which appeared two years later on Get Happy!!) and the soon-to-be classic “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding.”  This album comes pressed on lovely white vinyl and sounds great. I only wish it was longer!

Riot At The Regent 

Recorded at The Regent Theater on the band’s Australian leg of the 1978 tour, this is a fabulous little taste of just how powerful Elvis and The Attractions had grown as a unit. The show is notable for early versions of “Oliver’s Army” and “Big Boys.”  The latter is especially powerful.   

There are also great versions of tunes from This Years Model including “This Year’s Girl,” “You Belong To Me” and the instant-classic-concert-closer, “Pump It Up.”  Oh, and by the way the concert was so good that the audience rioted and tore up the place — apparently there was no encore so the crowd responded in kind and trashed the venue!  Thus, the album’s title…

Sketches For Emotional Fascism

The original working title for Armed Forces was Emotional Fascism and this album includes eight songs that didn’t make it onto the final LP but are no doubt tied to the recording. 

I can certainly appreciate that they needed to be included in this set for the sake of completeness, but all of these tracks have been issued previously.

They were, however, scattered over a variety of singles, a soundtrack, CDs and most significantly on the US-only compilation Taking Liberties and the UK-only counterpart Ten Bloody Marys & Ten How’s Your Fathers (initially a cassette-only release, later issued on LP). 

These include one of Elvis’ greatest early rockers, “Tiny Steps” and the always-stunning steamroller “Clean Money” (the latter effectively an early incarnation of “Love For Tender” which later appeared on Get Happy). It also includes Elvis’ sweet solo rendition of “My Funny Valentine.”

The more unique tracks  here are the (as far as I can tell) first time vinyl appearances of the alternate version of “Big Boys” and the demo of “Green Shirt” (both of which appeared on the Rhino Records expanded CDs of Armed Forces and This Year’s Model, respectively).

This mini LP looks so pretty too, what with its striking pink cover and opaque red/black splatter vinyl that happily sounds good. A wonderful way to include these important tracks in the set.

The 45s

If you are like me, you’ve been collecting all of Elvis’s singles and other rarities over the years and you might fret that your original versions are somehow irrelevant now. Worry not.

While you do get reproductions of the original period UK singles, the B-sides are completely different and they not quite identical (which is totally fine…). 

Universal did a laudable job of re-creating the look and feel of the original recordings, however the label designs are inevitably slightly different so you will want to hold onto your first pressings.  These new editions include “Oliver’s Army” and the split single with Nick Lowe featuring his A-side “American Squirm” backed with Elvis’ version of “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding” — the latter written by Lowe.  

Arguably the coolest rarity here is that for the first time we get to see the reversed-cover version of the “Accidents Will Happen” single re-reversed. Back in the day, the original editions came in a white sleeve with the printed design on the inside of the single! So now it is out in the open for all to appreciate and cherish. 

But Do I Really Need This Collection?

Of course the big question comes up: do you need such an expensive deluxe package? Ultimately that answer is personal. Clearly this is a collection for the super fan and if you are like me, chances are you may think you have “everything” and thus might hesitate on your need for this set.

I think you do need it, but not only because of the remaster, the live recordings and rarities. The Complete Armed Forces includes wonderful liner notes and memorabilia presented in unique booklets modeled after classic publications from the past — pulp fiction, comic  books, vintage magazine ads, even a children’s science book (for “Chemistry Class”).  Elvis had these wonderful designs custom-commissioned and they are a fun treat. 

I’m still working my way through them all but there are personal notes from Elvis as well as reproductions of many of his original lyric notebooks from this period of his career. 

As a fan of Armed Forces, I think it is a quite grand collection. Of course, it may be the ideal gift for the Elvis Costello fan on your list. If you don’t want to spring for the colored vinyl version there is also black final version of this set available that is a bit less costly.

The Complete Armed Forces makes me wonder — and hope! — if there will be a Super Deluxe Edition celebration set for Elvis’ next album, Get Happy. That happens to be my all-time favorite Elvis Costello record and is in my Top 10 favorite albums of all time. It will be curious to see what happens as we move forward into the next couple of years.

Right now I’m grateful that Elvis has taken the time to curate such a wonderful set for his fans. Save up your pennies, kids and buy this when you can!

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

Elvis Costello’s Complete Armed Forces Super Deluxe Vinyl-Only Boxed Set (Part II)

In Part I of this review of Elvis Costello’s super deluxe vinyl-only boxed set The Complete Armed Forces celebrating his 1979 masterpiece, Armed Forces, we explored the new original album remaster included in this collection. In case you missed that essential introduction, please click here to jump back to it. 

One of my favorite things in this set is the wealth of live recordings officially released pretty much for the first time. On vinyl, Elvis really only put out one live album in 1978 to radio stations: Live At The El Mocambo. This was almost instantly pirated (extensively) but eventually saw legitimate release in the 1993 CD boxed set 2 & 1/2 Years

The three-song seven-inch extended play (“EP”) included in Armed Forces called Live at Hollywood High, was initially expanded in the two CD edition of the album issued by Rhino Records. The single LP version in this collection mirrors the running order on that CD which is interesting since eventually the entire concert was released as its own stand alone CD in 2010. Having recently re-listened to that concert (which is great), I can see why they kept to this running order which presents the strongest and most unique performances from that concert.

That said, it is fantastic to finally have Live at Hollywood High  in an LP format and as a listening experience, it is fabulous!  What a great concert including scorching renditions of “Mystery Dance” and “Goon Squad” as well as a rare live version of the non-LP country-western song, “Stranger In The House.”  Here, however, the song is played more like the churning power pop of some of Elvis’ other non-LP tracks at that time such as “Big Tears” and “Tiny Steps.”  Clearly he had ideas about where that song might go — it was initially recorded with an upbeat country feel (including pedal steel guitar!), issued on a free single included with UK pressings of This Year’s Model (with a scorching live cover of The Damned’s “Neat Neat Neat” on the B-side) and later was recorded by George Jones.

Again, while a full two LP version of the whole show might have been nice, I like this tight curated version of the album.  That said, I won’t be at all surprised if that comes out sometime in the future (maybe for Record Store Day!).

Also included in the set is an album called Europe ’79 – Live At Pinkpop recorded at the legendary music festival in The Netherlands. Newly remixed from the original two-inch multi-track master tapes by Costello’s longtime producer and mixer Sebastian Krys, this live album (featuring 13 of the 19 songs performed that day) is a revelation.  Fans have no doubt heard tapes from this show, portions of which were broadcast on radio and TV — Costello fans are like new wave DeadHeads, folks — but I’ve never heard it sound this crisp and tight.  

And the really fantastic detail about this show is that Elvis broke out much new material that wasn’t even released. Again, like The Grateful Dead, Elvis liked trying out new songs and arrangements live on stage prior to going into the recording studio. So, it is wonderful to to hear in terrific quality early incarnations of songs that ended up on 1980’s Get Happy. These include “B-Movie,” a slower take on “High Fidelity,” “Opportunity” and the non-LP track “So Young.” The latter is a Jo Jo Zep & The Falcons cover which eventually surfaced on the compilation called Out Of Our Idiot.

An important detail which newbie fans might not yet know is that Elvis was great about creating a sense of fun and collectibility among his recordings pretty much right from the start. This makes sense given he is a record collector himself.  

No doubt he and his management were — by the time of This Year’s Model and Armed Forces — riffing off the new release schedule aesthetic established when he debuted on the influential Stiff Records label (My Aim Is True). 

Accordingly here on The Complete Armed Forces he has created a collection that not only pays homage to the original Armed Forces album but also expands upon it with all manner of fun bonuses. 

In the box that you get two portfolios which cradle The 10-inch and 7-inch vinyl bonuses as well as the collection of pulp- and comic-book-styled liner notes booklets.  This is a very special and ultimately thoughtful package.

Tune in tomorrow for part three of this review series where I’ll look at more of the bonus discs and other goodies in the set. 

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

Little Richard’s Sweet Lost Southern Child Album On CD, Streaming, Vinyl

I recently finished reading Billy Vera’s fascinating documentary-like book about the legendary and influential record label: Rip It Up: The Specialty Records Story.  In the book, the author presents a not entirely flattering portrait of legendary rockstar Little Richard — who had his greatest fame in the 1950s with a slew of ground breaking smash hit singles on Specialty Records. Despite that success, the artist apparently had a bumpy career at times. 

Accordingly as the so called “rock ‘n’ roll revival” movement began in 1969, with the ascent of groups like Sha Na Na even playing at Woodstock — later followed by George Lucas’ American Graffiti and the immensely popular TV show Happy DaysMr. Penniman embarked on a series of new albums for Reprise Records.  These albums have recently been reissued. 

I’ve owned some of these recordings over the years but tend to dismiss them. Don’t get me wrong, they sound good for what they are. Solid tracks are tucked away on The Rill Thing, The King Of Rock ’n Roll and The Second Coming. Yet, as an album listening experience, they tend to leave me a bit flat.  They fall apart (again, for me, at least) on continuity — just as the vibe is getting good ‘n soulful and even a bit funky, he’d revert to the old 1950s song writing styles and mannerisms. 

I wonder at times if some label executive was pushing him to do this to capitalize on the oldies movement of the times.  I can imagine some knowing persona saying something like “C’mon Richard… sing something with ‘A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop, A-lop-bam-boom!’ in it… these kids’ll eat it up…”

Live, at that time, it was probably fun to see the legendary Little Richard perform all his classic hits and some of these new tracks. No questions there. But on these albums at least, it felt a bit forced to me at times. These Reprise Records albums have been re-issued recently my Omnivore Recordings and they sound perfectly fine on the CDs I’ve heard. 

All that said, one of the big happy surprises Omnivore Recordings issued on Record Store Day last year is an unreleased Little Richard album that should have been issued back in 1972 but for some reason laid near dormant in the archives. It was put out by Rhino Handmade as part of a retrospective of his Reprise years, but never as a stand alone record and never on vinyl. 

The album is called Southern Child and is — I think — exactly what Little Richard should’ve been doing at that time moving forward: rich, gut-bucket-tinged, blues-dripping, slinky, sexy and at times lightly psychedelic rock music with a hint of southern country-western twang. It was as far removed from the “Tutti Frutti” aesthetic as he could get at the time, and much of it worked really well. 

Southern Child could have taken his career in some fascinating new directions had it been released back in the day. 

The songs on Southern Child sound quite wonderful with a rich acoustic guitar base fortifying many of the tracks. Perhaps the album could’ve benefitted from a proper re-mix, but in general the fidelity is solid. I love the opening triad of the near raucous stomper “California (I’m Comin’)” followed by the ear-worm hook of “If You Pick Her Too Hard (She Comes Out of Tune)” and “Burning Up With Love.”

I can’t help but think that a bluesy title like “Last Year’s Racehorse (Can’t Run This Year’s Race)” might have been a bit autobiographical, a hint that he might have known he needed to do something different. This song would have been a good one for The Stones to have covered around the time of Exile on Main Street (or perhaps for the Jamming With Edward side project album)

On Record Store day Omnivore Recordings released Southern Child on vinyl for the first time — bright yellow colored vinyl, in fact!  They seem to have sold out quite quickly but if you look around online or at your favorite music store you can probably find it out there. 

It is worth mentioning that the cover art for Southern Child is epic. If Prince was still alive I’m sure he would have approved: it shows Richard dressed in purple chaps (with nothing on apparently underneath) while milking a cow! 

You can find Southern Child streaming on Qobuz and Tidal in 24-bit, 44.1 kHz fidelity. It is there in the third “disc” as part of a three “disc” retrospective of his Reprise years. For Qobuz, click here and for Tidal click here

But really, you know you want the vinyl. I know that I do!  I hope to pick up a copy out at an independent record store one of these days. 

Original Resource is Audiophile Review