Saturday, January 07, 2017

Distractions “And Then There’s…” EP (1981)

Great news for the lucky few of us who know of the existence of the Distractions, the Manchester band who recorded only one album in 1980, titled Nobody’s Perfect, before disbanding and being unjustly forgotten. Those of us in the know are aware that the Distractions – led by original singer Mike Finney and original guitarist Steve Perrin – eventually reunited and released a second album titled The End Of The Pier in 2012 – a whole 32 years after their long-lost treasure of a debut album. Now, a third and reportedly final Distractions album – titled Kindly Leave The Stage – has been completed, and is scheduled for release this spring. Also, a much-delayed box set titled Parabolically Yours – which hopefully will contain the tracks from the Nobody’s Perfect album – is now scheduled to be released this summer by the U.K. Hidden Masters label.

After the Nobody’s Perfect album proved to be a commercial failure in 1980, the Distractions were dropped from Island Records, reportedly in favor of a promising young Irish quartet called U2. Original guitarist Steve Perrin left the band, and was replaced by ex-Ludus guitarist Arthur Kadmon. The Distractions were on their last legs, but they did record one more EP titled And Then There’s… This 3-song, 7-inch EP was distributed independently by Rough Trade in 1981.

On this EP, hints of ska and reggae were added to the Distractions' brand of ‘60’s-influenced pop. The guitar and drums exude island-style rhythms, as do the horns on the Kadmon-penned “Ghost Of A Chance”. Although the songs are still not exactly uplifting, they have a less melancholy tone than the songs on the album, with slightly quicker tempos and less sadness suggested in Mike Finney’s vocals. In fact, it’s hard to tell for sure if “Love Is Not For Me” is meant to be sad or funny, as it takes the point of view of a man afraid to enter into a relationship for fear of experiencing real emotions. “Ghost Of A Chance” describes a fear of rejection without sounding quite as hopeless as its lyrics. And the A-side track, “Twenty Four Hours”, actually sounds quite hopeful, if not necessarily confident, that romance may be in store for its main character. How would a full-length album by this Distractions lineup have turned out? Alas, we shall never know.

The Distractions - And Then There's

Distractions “And Then There’s…” EP (Rough Trade THAT1) 1981

Track Listing:

A. Twenty Four Hours
B1. Ghost Of A Chance
B2. Love Is Not For Me

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Third Man Records vinyl Vault exclusives, Part 30

The 30th set of exclusive vinyl items offered to Platinum members of Third Man Records’ Vault service was mailed out to the members in December of 2016. For those who are unaware, Third Man Records is the label owned by Jack White, who is the leader of the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, and the Dead Weather, and is now a solo artist as well. The Vault service promises to deliver exclusive vinyl-only records (one full-length album and one 7” single) to its Platinum members every three months.

The thirtieth Vault package was designed to touch on all four of White’s well-known musical outlets. Packaged together in a thick yellow box, it contained two LP’s instead of one: a live album by the Raconteurs, and another live album partially featuring the Dead Weather. The single in this package contained a White Stripes song on one side, and a Jack White solo track on the other.

The Raconteurs LP Live At Irving Plaza NYC documents the very first U.S. live show from the Racs. (This LP was pressed in clear vinyl with brown streaks, making it look like it was once dropped in a mud puddle). It was recorded in April 2006, about one month before the release of the band's debut album Broken Boy Soldiers. Although the Raconteurs were a brand new band at the time of this concert, they don’t really sound like one here; after all, these musicians had already known each other for years. Dual singer-songwriter-guitarists White and Brendan Benson are nearly indistinguishable from each other as they take lead vocal turns. The other two Raconteurs, bassist Jack Lawrence and drummer Patrick Keeler, had worked together for years in the Greenhornes. Joining them for this show was future Dead Weather-man Dean Fertita, playing keyboards and additional guitar. They already sounded like a well-rehearsed outfit, as they played 9 out of 10 songs from the debut album. Except for the ballad “Together”, the rest of the band’s power-pop-with-bits-of-psychedelia rocked pretty hard in this setting. The hit-bound “Steady, As She Goes” is noticeably grittier than the studio version. The jamming gets intense on “Store Bought Bones” and “Broken Boy Soldier”. Their psychobilly rendition of Love’s “A House Is Not A Motel” has a ferocity that is more reminiscent of Arthur Lee’s post-Forever Changes work. The set closes with the “new” song “Five On The Five”, which turned up on the second studio album Consolers Of The Lonely; this track not only foreshadows the direction the Raconteurs would soon take, but also hints at the future Goth-rock sound of the Dead Weather. The Raconteurs may be old news to us at this point, but Live At Irving Plaza NYC manages to capture an exciting time and place when the world was about to be introduced to them.

Flash forward ten years, to April 2016. Live At Disgraceland, pressed in clear vinyl with blue streaks, features live performances that were filmed for, but only briefly appeared in, the October 2016 Nashville episode of the CNN program Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. (That would be Season 8, Episode 2, to be exact. It’s a very interesting episode, by the way, as the celebrity chef offers as many insights about Nashville’s music scene as he does about its eateries). “Disgraceland” is a nickname for the Nashville home of Dead Weather singer Alison Mosshart, where these intimate house party performances took place. The LP starts with three songs by the Kills, Mosshart’s indie-rock duo with British guitarist Jamie Hince. This was a good setting for the Kills’ dark-hued minimalist rock, augmented with bass and drums. All three songs were drawn from the Kills' 2016 album Ash & Ice, which was released two months after this event. The third track, “Whirling Eye”, is the standout, taking on a Stooges-like intensity not heard on the studio version. Those three tracks were a good warmup for the next three, when Mosshart was joined by her Dead Weather mates (White, Lawrence, and Fertita) for a set that draws one song apiece from their three albums. This was the Dead Weather’s only performance in 2016, and they gave it their all, almost perfectly recreating their dark and fuzzy Goth-rock in Mosshart's living room. I don't know what time this house party took place, but the first side of this LP is best enjoyed late at night. On the LP’s second side, we get something completely different: three alt-country instrumental performances by William Tyler, the guitarist who has played with Lambchop and Silver Jews, and now records all-instrumental solo albums. Tyler and three other musicians offer richly-textured electric country rock that is certainly modern, but sounds far removed from the slickness of contemporary commercial country music. On their last track, “Area Code 601”, Tyler and company jam like Neil Young and Crazy Horse, but with the constant presence of pedal steel to remind us of what genre we are listening to. Live At Disgraceland illustrates the point made by Bourdain on his program that Nashville is now a musical melting pot for rock and punk as well as country.

The 7-inch single, pressed in clear transparent vinyl with red streaks, contained two tracks that are available on Jack White’s compilation CD Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016. Both songs sound good on vinyl. The White Stripes song “City Lights” is a finished outtake from the 2005 Get Behind Me Satan sessions. It’s a gentle and touching folk-rock ballad about the longing to reunite with a loved one, with Meg White playing with shakers instead of drums. The acoustic mix of Jack White’s solo song “Love Is The Truth” –- which he originally recorded for a 2006 Coca-Cola commercial that only aired once –- is a short-and-sweet pop song with a simple, uplifting love-thy-neighbor message. I think I’ll go out and buy a Coke!

The bonus items in this package are a Third Man silk-screened yellow pennant, and a print of the Rob Jones-designed concert poster from the Raconteurs show, depicting Teddy Roosevelt with vampire fangs.

A note for fellow vinyl aficionados: the practice of engraving text in the dead wax, or the runout grooves between the sticker and the last track’s grooves, is present on these items. The Raconteurs LP has “Forever Changes” and “converge afresh” carved in its respective sides; the Live At Disgraceland LP has “neither feather” and “nor blether” carved. The single has “leaky roof” carved in the White Stripes side, and “Oh evilest truth” carved in the Jack White side.

The Raconteurs “Live At Irving Plaza NYC” (Third Man TMR-415) 2016

Track Listing:

1. Level
2. Intimate Secretary
3. Hands
4. Steady, As She Goes
5. Together
6. A House Is Not A Motel
7. Store Bought Bones
8. Call It A Day
9. Yellow Sun
10. Broken Boy Soldier
11. Five On The Five

The Kills | The Dead Weather | William Tyler “Live At Disgraceland” (Third Man TMR-414) 2016

Track Listing:

1. HEART OF A DOG – The Kills
3. WHIRLING EYE – The Kills
5. GASOLINE – The Dead Weather
7. WE CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN – William Tyler
9. AREA CODE 601 – William Tyler

The White Stripes “City Lights” / Jack White “Love Is The Truth” (Third Man single TMR-400) 2016

a. The White Stripes – “City Lights”
aa. Jack White – “Love Is The Truth” (Acoustic Mix)

Monday, December 12, 2016

(We Three) Monkees "Christmas Is My Time Of Year" (1976 fan club single)

As noted in an earlier post, Mickey Dolenz and Davy Jones of the Monkees attempted a full reunion of the original quartet in 1976, but Michael Nesmith declined, and Peter Tork's whereabouts were unknown. So Dolenz and Jones recorded and toured with Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart that year instead. However, Tork did turn up by the end of 1976, and he helped record a Christmas fan club single with Dolenz and Jones, titled "Christmas Is My Time Of Year". The trio was unable to simply bill themselves as the Monkees, due to copyright issues, so they called themselves by their three individual names for this single. The single also reunited them with sometime Monkees producer Chip Douglas, who co-wrote the A-side with his fellow ex-Turtle Howard Kaylan.

The 1976 fan club issue came with no picture sleeve, and some promo copies had no B-side. “Christmas Is My Time Of Year” is a likably jovial three minutes of Yuletide cheer, with lyrics that celebrate the celebratory and family-friendly mood of the holiday season. Dolenz and Jones take turns on the lead vocals, surrounded by musical passages that echo “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Joy To The World”. Tork played the organ; Douglas provided steel guitar and bass.

As for the copies that did have a B-side, that side featured Davy Jones softly crooning Irving Berlin's classic "White Christmas", gently accompanied by acoustic and steel guitar. Passable.

In 1986, another pressing of the single with both sides remixed was circulated by Chip Douglas at Monkees conventions, around the time of the 20-year anniversary reunion tour. This issue came with a picture sleeve, and billed the trio as "We Three Monkees". The remixed version of “Christmas Is My Time Of Year” had a more synthetic drum sound, which was fashionable in the mid-‘80’s; this version turned up on the 1988 Rhino compilation Cool Yule Volume 2. The remixed “White Christmas” is an improvement over the 1976 version, adding strings and a touch of piano.

So, did the Turtles ever record “Christmas Is My Time Of Year”? Not exactly, but the song was originally recorded and released on a 1968 single by a one-off Howard Kaylan side project called the Christmas Spirit. Kaylan’s collaborators reportedly included Douglas, Mark Volman, Linda Ronstadt, and Byrds-to-be Gram Parsons, Clarence White, and Gene Parsons. It’s difficult to find a complete and definite list of participants, but whoever was involved in this version, it is inferior to the eventual Monkees recording. The original lyrics are of a more personal nature, but otherwise, many of the same ingredients are present, including a country-based guitar sound. The snippets from “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Joy To The World” are delivered vocally here, instead of instrumentally, by Bessie Griffin & the Gospel Pearls. Unfortunately, this version is too hectic, with the song’s various ingredients (especially its countless vocal turns) put together in chaotic fashion. Douglas co-produced this version with Kaylan, but without the smooth professionalism that he would later bring to the Monkees’ version. (Note: This song was recently included on the 2016 Turtles compilation All The Singles).

Lastly, the B-side of that 1968 Christmas Spirit single was “Will You Still Believe In Me”. It was a mellow folk-rock ballad sung by Chip Douglas, with a harmony vocal by Linda Ronstadt. It was written by Bobby Kimmel, Ronstadt’s bandmate from the Stone Poneys. It’s imperfect but pleasant enough, with Douglas singing in a warm tenor. The vocal interaction between him and Ronstadt is not unlike that of Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris in the duets they would record a few years later. Therefore, it's possible that this session may have had an impact on Gram's musical development. Both songs from this once-rare Christmas Spirit single are currently available digitally as part of the 2004 compilation album Out Of Nowhere: The White Whale Story Volume 2.

Micky Dolenz / Davy Jones / Peter Tork - Christmas Is My Time of Year / White Christmas

Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones and Peter Tork "Christmas Is My Time Of Year" b/w "White Christmas" (single) (Christmas CDS-700) 1976

Track Listing:

a. "Christmas Is My Time Of Year" - Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones and Peter Tork
b. "White Christmas" - Davy Jones

We Three Monkees...Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork "Christmas Is My Time Of Year" b/w "White Christmas" (single) (Christmas CDS-702) 1986

Track Listing:

a. Christmas Is My Time Of Year
b. White Christmas

The Christmas Spirit - Christmas Is My Time of Year  / Will You Still Believe in Me

The Christmas Spirit “Christmas Is My Time Of Year” b/w “Will You Still Believe In Me” (White Whale WW 290) 1968

a. Christmas Is My Time Of Year
b. Will You Still Believe In Me

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Monkees "Good Times! Plus!" (2016 RSDBF EP)

Later the same year of the release of the Monkees reunion album Good Times!, a 10-inch vinyl EP titled Good Times! Plus! was released on Record Store Day Black Friday 2016. Pressed in red translucent vinyl and limited to 2,500 copies, the EP collected four tracks which previously appeared as bonus tracks on various editions of the full-length album.

The two tracks on Side One were bonus tracks on digital versions of the album, both produced by Adam Schlesinger from Fountains Of Wayne. "Terrifying", written by Zach Rogue of the indie-pop band Rogue Wave, is an innocent pop song sung by Micky Dolenz, about the scary feeling of being in love. Although Dolenz is now in his 70’s, he can still convincingly sing from the point of view of a man who is “feeling like a schoolboy”. Notably, this is the only song on the EP that all three surviving Monkees (Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Michael Nesmith) played on.

"Me & Magdalena (Version 2)" is an alternate take of an album track written by Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie. The version on the album is a gentle piano-based ballad sung by Nesmith and Dolenz. The version on this EP has a faster tempo and is propelled by a jangly guitar, giving it a more buoyant power-pop vibe. If the album version sounds like the Monkees doing Death Cab, Version 2 sounds more like the Monkees doing R.E.M.

On Side Two, the EP contains "A Better World", which appeared as a bonus track on the versions of the full-length CD sold at Barnes & Noble and FYE stores. Sung by Peter Tork and written by Nick Thorkelson (Tork’s graphic-artist brother), the ballad’s lyrics are reminiscent of ‘60’s protest songs. The laid-back string arrangement is also reminiscent of that time period, although the production (by Tork and Andrew Sandoval) gives the song a modern-enough feel.

Finally, Good Times! Plus! ends with "Love's What I Want", a bonus track from the Japanese CD as well as the Barnes & Noble version. Written by XTC’s Andy Partridge, and produced by Sandoval, this song resembles many of the classic Monkees hits that were sung by Dolenz, although (like “A Better World”) it does have serious overtones.

The Monkees - Good Times! Plus!

The Monkees “Good Times! Plus!” EP (Rhino R1 557113 ) 2016

Track Listing:

1. Terrifying
2. Me & Magdalena (Version 2)
3. A Better World
4. Love's What I Want

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Alice In Chains "Live Facelift" (2016 Black Friday RSD EP)

Alice In Chains' Live Facelift is a six-song live EP recorded on December 22, 1990 at the Moore Theatre in Seattle, WA. This concert took place shortly after the release of the band’s 1990 debut album Facelift, and about one year before the enormous success of Nirvana and Pearl Jam turned Seattle grunge rock into a worldwide phenomenon. (In fact, the then-unknown Pearl Jam was actually the opening act at this gig, although their name at the time was Mookie Blaylock). Before it was released in this vinyl EP format on the Black Friday Record Store Day in 2016, limited to 5,000 numbered copies, Live Facelift had previously been issued in 1991 only as a VHS home video cassette, which is now out of print.

Although this concert recording holds major interest because of the presence of deceased frontman Layne Staley, Live Facelift is also a good showcase for the rest of the band. Guitarist Jerry Cantrell, original bassist Mike Starr (who also passed away, in 2011), and drummer Sean Kinney all show focused playing and chemistry throughout this set. Staley is also in mostly good form; there is little about his performance during this set (except for the lyrics of “Real Thing”) that suggests the way his drug addiction problem would soon degrade his ability to perform – not to mention that it would lead to his death in 2002.

The music of the Facelift studio album was a more straightforward type of Zeppelin-derived metal than the band would explore on its later works, and it was not a very far cry from the type of late-‘80’s hair-metal that grunge would soon displace. These live versions are faithful to the album originals, but are rawer in this setting. The sound quality of the recording is very good. The set opener “It Ain’t Like That” was omitted from the original VHS issue, but is included on the vinyl EP. It’s certainly not lacking in quality, as it showcases the band’s early chemistry just as well as the other tracks. “Man In The Box” – which has become the best known song from the Facelift album – was probably considered to be a better choice as an opening track for the home video presentation. Although all six of the songs are well-played by the band, “Sea Of Sorrow” is a particular standout, and “Bleed The Freak” is notably better than its studio version. In audio or visual form, Live Facelift is a telling snapshot of Alice In Chains performing in their early, hungry stage, just a few short years before drug problems would derail their career.

Notes on the VHS version: The concert is presented in black-and-white film. The video cassette also contains the official promo videos for the Facelift album’s three singles: “We Die Young”, “Man In The Box”, and “Sea Of Sorrow”.

Alice in Chains - Live Facelift

Alice In Chains “Live Facelift” VHS (SMV Enterprises 14V-49081) 1991

Songs Performed:

1. Man In The Box
2. Real Thing
3. Love, Hate, Love
4. Sea Of Sorrow
5. Bleed The Freak
6. We Die Young (video)
7. Man In The Box (video)
8. Sea Of Sorrow (video)

Alice in Chains - Live Facelift

Alice In Chains “Live Facelift” EP (Columbia/Legacy 88985374931) 2016

Track Listing:


1. It Ain't Like That
2. Man In The Box
3. Real Thing


4. Love, Hate, Love
5. Sea of Sorrow
6. Bleed The Freak

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Alice Cooper "Live From The Astroturf" (2016 Black Friday Record Store Day single)

The original Alice Cooper band played a surprise reunion show on October 10, 2015 at the indie music store Good Records in Dallas, Texas. Four-fifths of the original lineup – singer Vincent Furnier (whom we now know as Alice Cooper the solo artist), rhythm guitarist Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway, and drummer Neal Smith – performed for a crowd of approximately 200 people. Ryan Roxie took the place of original lead guitarist Glen Buxton, who passed away in 1997. Their seven-song set was the longest set the original band had performed in 40 years. For the Black Friday Record Store Day in 2016, a limited edition 7-inch single was issued, containing two songs from that performance. The single, titled Live From The Astroturf, was limited to 2,500 copies, pressed in different colored vinyl variations: 1,150 white, 1,150 pink, 100 black, and 100 split color pink-and-white singles were randomly distributed. The pink-and-white variant contained art prints autographed by the four surviving original members. The single was co-mixed by Bob Ezrin, who produced most of the band’s early-70’s work.

The two songs included on Live From The Astroturf were both drawn from the 1971 breakthrough album Love It To Death. Alice and the band sound great on both tracks, still able to convincingly crank out anthems of teen rebellion well into their 60’s. During their performance of the classic “I’m Eighteen” on the A-side, Cooper ad-libs the line “I gotta get outta here, Mom and Dad got me drinkin’ beer”, showing that he can still get inside the head of an angst-filled teenager. Their performance of “Is It My Body” on the B-side has all of the rock and roll attitude that the song has always had. Pretty please, boys, you’ve gotta do this again!

Alice Cooper - Live From The Astroturf

Alice Cooper "Live From The Astroturf" (Good Records GRR33) 2016

Track Listing:

a. Eighteen (aka “I’m Eighteen”)
b. Body (aka “Is It My Body”)

Dungen “Häxan” (2016 Black Friday Record Store Day release)

For the Black Friday Record Store Day in 2016, the Swedish prog-rock band Dungen released an album titled Häxan in both CD and LP formats, with each format limited to 2,000 copies. The LP version was pressed in white vinyl, and came with a digital download card. Häxan (translation: “The Witch”) is Dungen’s first all-instrumental album, created as a new original music score for Lotte Reiniger’s 1926 film The Adventures of Prince Achmed, which is believed to be the oldest surviving full-length animated feature film, predating Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves by 11 years.

It is fortunate that this 90-year-old silent film has not been lost, because it is fascinating to watch. It was made with silhouette animation using black paper cutout puppets and images, and reportedly took three years to complete. The visually arresting animation tells a fairy tale derived from the Arabian Nights stories, following the adventures of the titular Arabian prince who mounts a flying horse and unwittingly flies off to an enchanted island, where he meets and falls in love with the beautiful princess Peri Banu. He then teams up with Aladdin and the Witch of the Fiery Mountains to battle an evil African sorcerer and an army of demons. The paper cutout images are impressively elaborate, and the animation is riveting.

The Häxan album is a fine art-rock opus on its own, consisting mostly of moody orchestral pieces that befit such an otherworldly fantasy film. It has occasional touches of ambient (“Grottan”) and dissonance (“Wak-Wak’s portar”), and climaxes with the clamorous six-minute hard-rocker “Andarnas Krig”, which ends the album with a burst of Hendrix-like guitar intensity.

So, do the movie and the music work well together? More often than not, they do. (This assumes that I properly synced the movie and the album; the LP played one-and-a-half times during the course of the film’s 65-minute running time). Admittedly, the harder-rocking tracks ("Andarnas Krig", the title track) sometimes seemed too overwrought to match the images onscreen, and some other scenes called for more intense musical accompaniment than they ended up having. But, for the most part, the album and the film combine for a unique and satisfying audio-visual experience, with Dungen’s music adding a modern dimension to a film that some might say is timeless.

Dungen - Häxan

Dungen “Häxan” (Mexican Summer MEX 222) 2016

Track Listing:

1. Peri Banu vid sjön
2. Jakten genom skogen
3. Wak-Wak’s portar
4. Den Fattige Aladdin
5. Trollkarlen och fågeldräkten
6. Grottan
7. Häxan
8. Aladdin’s flykt över havet
9. Kalifen
10. Achmed flyger
11. Aladdin och lampan, del 1
12. Aladdin och lampan, del 2
13. Achmed och Peri Banu
14. Andarnas Krig

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 29: Pearl Jam “Live at Third Man Records 06.09.2016”

The 29th set of exclusive vinyl items offered to Platinum members of Third Man Records’ Vault service was mailed out to the members in August and September of 2016. For those who are unaware, Third Man Records is the label owned by Jack White, who is the leader of the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, and the Dead Weather, and is now a solo artist as well. The Vault service promises to deliver exclusive vinyl-only records (one full-length album and one 7” single) to its Platinum members every three months.

The twenty-ninth Vault package contained a live LP from Pearl Jam, performed in the Blue Room at Third Man Records and recorded directly to acetate. The single in this package was a one-sided 6-inch disc recorded by Eddie Vedder in the Voice-o-Graph machine at Third Man. The package also contained a photo book. This Vault package was also offered through Pearl Jam’s Ten Club.

The LP Live at Third Man Records 06.09.2016, pressed in black-and-gold split-colored vinyl, captures the June 9, 2016 concert by the ‘90’s grunge titans, performed for an audience of about 250 VIP’s in the Third Man Records Blue Room. Pearl Jam is currently comprised of four-fifths of the original lineup (Eddie Vedder, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, Mike McCready), along with Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron (who had also played in Temple Of The Dog with those same four Pearl Jam founders) and keyboardist Boom Gaspar.

The direct-to-acetate recording gives this record a “closeness” to the listener, but with an analog type of clarity, not with the type of exactitude that we would expect from a digital recording on a CD. The intimate venue also undoubtedly played a part in this, although the band did not exactly hold back during this show. The band put the same level of energy into this performance that we would expect them to give to a large arena concert.

They did, however, steer clear of familiar radio hits from their grunge glory days – unless you count “Deep”, one of the lesser-known songs from their classic 1991 debut album Ten; that song sounds a notch less intense but no less effective in this setting. The other two ‘90’s selections found here are obscurities that eventually turned up on the band’s 2003 odds-and-sods collection Lost Dogs: the mid-tempo “Hard To Imagine” (which has a slightly heavier sound than its studio version) and the disillusioned Christmas ballad “Let Me Sleep” (which shows more vocal restraint from Eddie Vedder than the studio version from an early fan club single).

The first four songs on this LP are drawn from the band’s lower-profile post-1990’s albums. All four tracks are performed well, whether the band rocks out on “Life Wasted” and the furious “Mind Your Manners”, or displays a more moody approach on “Pendulum”. Mike McCready shows impressive guitar chops on the blues-rocking “1/2 Full”.

The most notable track here is “Of The Earth”, a song that has never been released on a studio album, but is often performed at Pearl Jam’s live shows. Jack White joined the band onstage for this ten-minute song, jamming with McCready in an intense lead guitar duel.

I’ll leave it to Pearl Jam scholars to determine how well Live at Third Man Records 06.09.2016 compares to other Pearl Jam live recordings (especially considering their hundreds of official bootlegs). Judged on its own merits, it’s certainly a good one. Spin this black (and gold) circle.

The six-inch single, pressed in clear transparent vinyl, contains one song recorded solo by Eddie Vedder with an acoustic guitar in Third Man’s 1947 Voice-o-Graph recording machine. The ancient recording technology gives this single the sound and feel of a scratchy old folk record. The low-key, lo-fi “Out Of Sand” is a somber ballad about aging and regret, movingly sung and played by Vedder. It’s a good track, succeeding as both a recording novelty and as a musical work. This song is reportedly intended for the soundtrack of the forthcoming Twin Peaks TV series in 2017, presumably in a fully realized studio version.

The bonus book is a thorough visual component to the package, containing 50 pages of black-and-white photographs by Jamie Goodsell, taken onstage, backstage, and around Third Man Records on the day of the event. With a foreword by Ben Blackwell explaining the logical connection between Pearl Jam and Third Man, the 9” x 6” hardcover book -- titled Pearl Jam Live at Third Man Records 06.09.2016 -- provides decent pictures from the band’s performance, and perspective on the Blue Room experience for those of us who’ve never been to Third Man’s Nashville headquarters. And, yes, we do see a few pictures of Jack White interacting with the band. The last few pages show Vedder in the process of recording “Out Of Sand”, and display that song’s handwritten lyrics.

A note for fellow vinyl aficionados: the practice of engraving text in the dead wax, or the runout grooves between the sticker and the last track’s grooves, is present on these items. The LP has “A Unmute the boom!” and “Live at Third Man” carved on Side A, and “KW shouts in approval” and “direct to acetate” carved in Side B. The single has “She was washing windows” carved in its one side.

Pearl Jam “Live at Third Man Records 06.09.2016” (Third Man TMR-388) 2016

Track Listing:

1. Pendulum
2. Mind Your Manners
3. 1/2 Full
4. Life Wasted
5. Deep
6. Of The Earth w/Jack White
7. Hard To Imagine
8. Let Me Sleep

Eddie Vedder “Out Of Sand” (Third Man single TMR-389) 2016

a. Out Of Sand

Bonus book (Third Man Books TMB-014):

Pearl Jam Live at Third Man Records 06.09.2016. Third Man Books, 2016.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Beatles "Live at the Hollywood Bowl" album to be reissued in September

The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl album has been out of print for decades, but it will be released for the first time on CD and digitally on September 9th, 2016. The reissue, now titled Live at the Hollywood Bowl, contains four previously unreleased tracks. It was sourced directly from the original three-track tapes of three concerts performed at the L.A. venue in August 1964 and August 1965. The reissue was remixed and remastered at Abbey Road by George Martin's son, Giles, and engineer Sam Okell. More information (including the updated track list) is at the Rolling Stone site:

The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl album was originally released in 1977. According to the late producer George Martin's liner notes for the original LP issue, the shows were recorded "for posterity" by Capitol, but neither Martin nor the band wanted the recordings released at the time because it only consisted of songs that were previously released on studio albums (apparently, releasing such an album was considered unusual at the time!). But the only flaw of the album has been the quality of the recordings. Only three-track recording was possible in the mid-1960's, and the 1977 issue of the album often contains tape hiss and other anomalies (not to mention the constant screaming of the young girls in attendance). Otherwise, the album is totally enjoyable. The charm of the Beatles' performances shines through on this recording, making it an absolute treat for Beatlemaniacs. Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick did their best to clean up the sound using 1977 technology; I can't wait to hear how the more modern remixing techniques have cleaned up the sound further.

The release of Live at the Hollywood Bowl will coincide with a new Ron Howard documentary about the band's early years, called Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years. The documentary will be available for streaming on Hulu on September 17th.

9/12/16 Update: The reissue of the album does not disappoint. The remixing made a major improvement, making the sound much clearer, and bringing the music further to the front of the mix while pushing the audience's screaming into the background. The four previously unreleased tracks are: "You Can't Do That" and "I Want To Hold Your Hand" from the 1964 show, and "Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby" and "Baby's In Black" from the 1965 show.

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