MELOMANIA celebrates the challenging side of this week's releases and previews RSD23!
Six weeks into the new year and most of the great new music went to the T-BONES e-mail guide. Nonetheless, there are a lot of very interesting new items coming our way, but the releases that listeners anticipate and gravitate toward are growing few and far between. While there is nothing wrong with consistency in listening, the charts are becoming clogged with far too many albums that have charted for over one year (62 out of this week’s Billboard Top 100 have been on the chart for over 52 weeks.) In the week’s general “wash” of releases, one performance stood far above everything else.
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Say what you will, but Chris Stapleton delivered the Anthem with grace. He never moves it too far away from its original arrangement. He never overemphasizes. In fact, the moments where he underplays are the most powerful. In his detuned, twangy Bluesy/Soulful way, the song and its history trade their normal bravura for moments of deep humility and emotional escape. Always a fan of Stapleton - now a fan for life. Watch it now before the powers that be take it down (even though technically it is public domain and the Anthem is owned by all citizens.) Watch Babyface too.
@ - Mind Palace Music [LP/CD](Carpark/Redeye)
There is a primitive beauty in the music of this Baltimore duo. Like classic Animal Collective/Panda Bear (especially “Person Pitch,”) Victoria and Stone use the lo-fi recording of their instrumentation to create a warm, fuzzy blanket of sound to layer their enchanting vocals. “Star Game” deceives with its Roches-esque harmonies against some dissonant guitar chords. The centerpiece is likely “Friendship is Frequency” which calls back to Brian Wilson-era Beach Boys circa “Wild Honey.” Their multi-tracked, pitch-affected vocals are spun around the most direct strumming so that its intimacy fools you. While “Camera Phone” is their equivalent of free time/free verse. The drone and consistent chording force you to listen to their long, languid notes with strict attention to the intervals between the two singers. They call it “hyper-folk” but it is far more relaxing. When they enter a studio with their own direction, @ is going to push Indie/Folk toward a whole new peak.
Various Artists - SWEDISH MEATBALLS I & II: The Swedish Psychedelic Hard Rock Underground 1970-1977 [LP](Subliminal Sounds SWE/Redeye)
Subliminal Sounds is becoming the Riding Easy of Swedish Hard Rock. As that analogy holds, this pair of "Meatballs" are their first two "Brown Acid" compilations. These primordial slices of Biker Rock/Acid Rock/Boogie/Progg have more to do with early Seventies American Rock N'Roll than most bands you hear imitating it today. Well-chosen, every one of these cuts possesses that necessary thrust. Some like the Resonans and Strike's "Showing Your Face" veer into the sidestreets of Psychedelia. However, both songs have dynamic guitar solos and sounds (Resonans sets its 12-string strum against a barely distorted chime, "Showing Your Face" is not far from a Heart song but the compressed/enveloped guitar bends around its buzz infectiously.) Algarna dares to sound as if Captain Beefheart played AOR Rock, while Hogtryck layers their harmonies more smartly than Grand Funk Railroad. However, it is the pair of rockers from Styv Kuling that really light up Volume 1."Questions of Life" takes the path of least resistance running the guitar direct into the board and putting effects on the vocals. It results in an almost Punk-sounding Biker Rock. Later on, "Slow Down" even shines up Glam but like "Questions of Life" never loses that oomph.
The second volume turns to the Swedish Progg scene and gives lengthier cuts that broaden the definition of Hard Rock. Paul Edoh's Class Breakers take on familiarity ("Africa Speaks - Sweden Answers" sounds like Emerson, Lake & Palmer's tough "Knife Edge" while the extended jam on "It's Raining" borrows from CCR's "Proud Mary") in unfamiliar terms (organ, congas, and daring to riff in 3/4 time) before always descending into Santana-ish windouts. Mogens Klyvare's Hose Band comes out first like a Heavy Metal Yes on "Betraktelser" which boasts twin guitar solos over a 16-to-the-bar beat and a wonderful bass climb pitted against guitar chords screaming down. Later, they slingshot through tempos on "Den felande lanken" like a modern Metal band. I Blomm even introduces the Sabbath-ish trill to their stomping "Maskaktigt." “Swedish Meatballs” surprises with a lot of depth (especially on Volume 1.) While the tendency is to cherry-pick your tracks, they are skillfully assembled to actually document their expansion of ideas beyond mere imitation.
THE RESIDENTS - Third Reich N'Roll [2LP/CD](Cryptic/Cherry Red UK)
NEGATIVLAND - Speech Free: Recorded Music For Film, Radio, Internet, and Television [LP/CD](Seeland)
Louisiana's swampy frights and the post-Manson haze of Northern California in the Seventies joined together to turn Avant-Garde performance art into greasy Garage-bred stop/start Rock N'Roll. On their third album (released in 1975,) The Residents challenge the Happy Days/post-Watergate obsession with nostalgia to a barroom brawl. Like a late-night TV ad filtered through a few hits of bad acid, the two medleys launch familiar hooks in the most deathly manner possible. Synth stabs and sax honks sound primitive and nightmarish over seventeen minutes of "Swastikas On Parade." However, it all pays off handsomely when they juxtapose the drone of a female foreign opera singer against (first) James Brown hits a/k/a the first sample ever and (second) a demented version of The Music Machine's "Talk Talk." "Hitler Was a Vegetarian" strays closer to being a medley than the pastiche of the other works. Nonetheless, it is a brooding trip down memory lane. The Ohio Express' immortal Bubblegum classic "Yummy Yummy Yummy" becomes a stomach-churning peak of early orchestral stabs that morph into some demon-possessed ice cream truck playing the blues (and calling it "Pushin' Too Hard.") The bonuses include a new remix of the original multi-tracks.
The next stop on the weirdly-go-round is the inspired media collages/music of Negativland. "Speech Free" is Negativland's musical impulses drawn out with samples and other musique concrete-like fun. There is a whimsy here that reminds one of the classic "Jam Con '84" ("a studio for the cultural jammer is the world at large") and how their spontaneous emissions make you feel like someone pumped nitrous oxide into your air vents. "Square Shaped Cloud" is like SynthPop wound around a random noise generator, while the sleek electric guitar instrumental "Building and Raising" is very un-Negativland (could be Michael Rother or even the late Manuel Gottsching.) "Enjoying Life" and its gulping sample of "Cadillac Cadillac" and the electronic beehive of noise come close to the early Eighties pastiche-speak. While the epic "Breathe In Breathe Out" spills out in a more minimal method than expected and may point Negativland in a new musical direction.
APRIL 22ND is the yearly observation of RECORD STORE DAY and because the slate of releases is so broad and voluminous, we decided some fast-track evaluations were necessary to find prizes from the list (and you can WISHLIST too.)
YES - Live at Knoxville Civic Auditorium, Nov 15, 1973 [3LP](Atlantic)
Part of the massive “Progeny” box of 21LPs (and the highlights collection as well,) Yes commemorates the movement of their back catalog to Atlantic with a complete show from the “Close To The Edge” tour. This is the best lineup ever (despite the loss of Bill Bruford to King Crimson.) Anderson, Squire, Wakeman and especially Howe are at peak capacity (“Mood For A Day/The Clap.”) With Alan White’s more bottom-heavy Bonham-esque slam underneath Yes give a real punch to the opener “Siberian Khatru,” and White’s fills on “Heart of the Sunrise” have real oomph. Still, the precision jazz-based snare work of Bruford is missed on the lengthy “Close To The Edge” suite. (It will improve by the December recording for “Yessongs.”) With “Khatru” and Wakeman’s “Henry VIII” suite appearing on “Yessongs” from this concert, “Knoxville” captures Yes still in the nervy early stages of playing this set, so many tracks bristle far more than the flaccid moments of “Yessongs.”
THE CURE - Show [PIC 2LP](Fiction/Elektra/Rhino)
Live Cure albums are generally a real mystery. The 1984 concert is a concise post-” Pornography” wake-up call (although a “Seventeen Seconds/Faith/Pornography”-era live album would be amazing.) Starting with “Entreat,” the Cure mastered the ebb and flow of a fantastic live show. “Show” was made by Smith to “correct” 1986’s “The Cure In Orange” (which to our recollection was stellar.) The pair of 1993 live albums, the more “hit-worthy” “Show” was released in September 1993, with the gloomier “Paris” following in October. The biggest plus of “Show” is how brightly it is mixed. “Just Like Heaven” crackles from Smith’s acoustic guitar and the sparkling synths and pianos - but it still sounds bottom-heavy. While it does successfully mine their hits, the best cuts from “Wish” benefit from their freshness live. The deep cut “Trust” sounds lonely and wavering in its sadness in the cavernous Palace at Auburn Hills. “Doing The Unstuck” is a little more desperate live, and “From The Edge of the Deep Blue Sea” sounds massive as Smith’s wail (and its echo) builds steam all the way through leaving us ready for the impending reissue of “Paris.”
AL WILSON - Weighing In [ORANGE LP](Reel)
Record Store Day is always a great site for the rediscovery of music from the past. With his best-known album “Show and Tell” reissued as an RSD Essential early this year (with his 1973 #1 title hit,) its predecessor “Weighing In” speaks volumes to how well both albums are organized to speak to Wilson’s performance range. After charting with his cover of CCR’s “Lodi” in 1969, Wilson turns the classic “Born On The Bayou” into a barnburner. The swampy sizzle of the classic further ignites into Stax/Volt heat as Wilson growls and punches it up. “Somebody To Love” adds horns and background singers to sound just like classic Muscle Shoals Soul. Even in balladry, Wilson’s gritty vocals provide warmth. His emulation with strings over “Settle Me Down” and the powerful “The Last Phonograph Record” are slow to build but reach thrilling Gospel-like peaks. “Keep On Loving You” pulls a lot of different ideas into its Willie Mitchell-esque arrangement, but Wilson never lets up as the loping funky bass keeps pushing this one uphill. Add the doo-wop style backing vocals and an outro sax solo and you know exactly why producer Jerry Fuller is about to introduce the Meridian-born soul man to success.
There is a method to the madness we promise. To us, the best playlisting songs come two ways:
1. When you are just skimming an older playlist/segment - see a track - and it starts playing in your head.
When a cut surprises you. When you are listening to the random array run together and that song plays that makes you race over to find out what it is.
So thank you for reading, listening, subscribing, and supporting the artists we introduce via this online platform.
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