Posts

Showing posts from 2010

The “Winter Weezerland” Christmas EP

Image
Rarebird’s Rock and Roll Rarity Reviews would like to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, or whatever you personally call this time of year.

During the Christmas season in 2000, Weezer issued a two-song Christmas CD to members of their official fan club, and also sent the CD to radio stations as a promo item. It was simply titled Christmas CD, and its two tracks ran for a total of five-and-a-half minutes. The same two tracks were sold on iTunes beginning in 2005, under the title Winter Weezerland. The songs have not been offered on iTunes since 2008. (This EP should not be confused with the 2008 digital EP Christmas With Weezer, which does not contain either of these two tracks). Sometime between 2000 and 2005, the tracks were available as free downloads on Weezer’s official web site. Some rabid fans were evidently unhappy that formerly free downloads were later being sold as commercial downloads, and expressed their supposed outrage on Weezer and iTunes related me…

Captain Beefheart's real avant garde masterwork

Image
Don Van Vliet, better known as Captain Beefheart, died on Friday, December 17, 2010, at the age of 69, from complications caused by multiple sclerosis. Beefheart recorded 11 studio albums between 1967 and 1982. On his 1967 debut album Safe As Milk, Beefheart came across as a blues-rocker in the Stones/Animals mold. But his sound became more avant garde on the albums that followed. He and his sometime collaborator Frank Zappa had been friends since boyhood; amazingly, Beefheart’s off-the-wall recordings tended to be more bizarre than Zappa’s. Beefheart has been cited as a major influence on many artists, especially from the alternative rock genre. In 1982, Beefheart quit the music business to focus full-time on painting, and never recorded another album for the remaining 28 years of his life. Some people interpreted his refusal to re-enter the music biz as a telling statement about that industry. Although it is easy to believe that Beefheart disliked the “business” side of the music b…

More vinyl creativity by Jack White

Jack White continues to amuse me with his creativity with vinyl records, among other things.

A few insights from Gene Simmons

I just read an interview with Gene Simmons of Kiss at the MSN reality TV site:

http://tv.msn.com/reality-tv/gene-simmons-interview/story/feature/?gt1=28103

I don't always agree with Gene, but it's almost always interesting to hear his insights. When it comes to expressing his opinions, Simmons certainly doesn't bite his famous tongue.

There are two insights from the interview which I felt compelled to share on this blog. Here is the first one:


Interviewer: What motivates you to work as hard as you still do after such a long career?

Simmons: Every day you want to wake up and do something, otherwise what good are you? The simple idea is, if you have enough money for food and stuff, and then you quit working, you're just waiting to die. The hours go by and the years go by and what have you got to show for it? At the end of the day, you've got to be able to look in the mirror and say, "I used this day." When you work hard you get to sleep really hard and food tast…

The Bubblemen Are Coming! (1988)

Image
The Bubblemen were a pseudonymous side project for Love and Rockets, the alternative trio who scored an unlikely smash hit called “So Alive” in 1989. The band’s three members – David J, Daniel Ash, and Kevin Haskins – dressed up in bumblebee costumes for this endeavor. The same costumes were sometimes seen in Love and Rockets videos, during concerts, and in the between-videos segments of their 1991 VHS release The Haunted Fishtank.

Under the Bubblemen name, the trio released one 12” single called “The Bubblemen Are Coming!” in 1988. For your viewing pleasure, I have embedded a creative YouTube video for the song below.



Without the chuckle-inducing visuals, the recorded track is an enjoyably trippy five minutes of inside-joke silliness, with a slow-building whimsical intro that is omitted from the video edit. This novelty song portrays the title characters as friendly aliens from the planet Girl. The B-side track (alternately known as “Bees” and “B Side”) consists of over three minutes o…

Def Leppard's pre-1980 recordings

Although Def Leppard will always be remembered as the definitive pop-metal band of the 1980’s, they originally came from the late-‘70’s scene referred to as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, which also gave rise to less melodic metal bands such as Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. Def Leppard’s earliest work showed them in a somewhat different light than their classic mega-selling albums Pyromania (1983) and Hysteria (1987) did. Before they were produced by Mutt Lange, the band’s recordings had a slightly heavier and less polished sound. Joe Elliott’s vocals sounded quite different on these early recordings than they did years later. From the second Def Leppard album (1981’s High ‘n’ Dry) onward, Elliott sounded like he was partially influenced by AC/DC’s Brian Johnson. But these late-‘70’s recordings predate AC/DC’s Back In Black, and if you contrast these early Def Leppard recordings with their later work, it provides telling evidence of that AC/DC album’s impact on heavy metal.

One t…

New INXS album with guest vocalists is coming in January

A long-in-the-works album by INXS is finally set for release on January 11th, 2011. The album titled Original Sin will feature remakes of songs which originally were recorded with their late original lead singer Michael Hutchence, recorded with various guest vocalists. Here is the USA Today story:

http://usat.ly/aO1PyJ

Here is a key paragraph:


The resulting album, Original Sin, out Jan. 11, features such latter-day artists as Ben Harper (on the first single, Never Tear Us Apart), Rob Thomas, Nikka Costa, Tricky and Train's Pat Monahan providing vocals for songs made famous by original INXS frontman Michael Hutchence, who died in 1997. John Mayer also appears, playing guitar on one track; another features J.D. Fortune, who sang on 2005's Switch album after winning the CBS reality series Rock Star: INXS.



You read that right. J.D. Fortune, who started a ridiculous feud with INXS early last year, has rejoined them. He has been performing live shows with the band, and they are consider…

Distractions "Come Home" EP (2010)

More great news for those lucky few of us who are fans of the Distractions, the unjustly overlooked Manchester band who released only one full-length album called Nobody’s Perfect in 1980. The U.K. music label Occultation, who recently brought us a three-song EP of previously unreleased Distractions recordings from a short-lived mid-‘90’s reunion, are now set to release an EP featuring three songs resulting from another Distractions reunion earlier this year.

The official Occultation site has streaming audio of the three complete songs from the Come Home EP, which the label plans to release on 12” vinyl in early November:

http://www.occultation.co.uk/Occultation_Space/Releases/YMIR7DA008/ymir7da008_previ.html

The three songs on the Come Home EP were recorded in June of 2010, by a lineup consisting of original vocalist Mike Finney, original guitarist Steve Perrin, bass player Nick Garside (who was a part of the mid-‘90’s lineup), drummer Stuart Mann, and guitarist Nick Halliwell.

The first…

Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 5

I received the fifth pair of exclusive vinyl items offered to platinum members of Third Man Records’ Vault service. For those who are unaware, Third Man Records is the label owned by Jack White, the leader of the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, and the Dead Weather. 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. According to the postmark, my package was sent on September 24th. I received it on the 27th.

This fifth set of items revolves around a live show performed by the Dead Weather at Third Man’s custom-designed studio on May 3rd, 2010. It consists of a live LP on which the band performs their entire 2010 album Sea of Cowards, pressed on split-colored black-and-blue vinyl, as well as a single featuring the two encores from that concert. Also, the package contains a DVD of the entire filmed concert. Each of these three items is packaged in a reflective jacket.

The concert is excelle…

The cream will rise to the top, as always.

Do you ever find yourself bemoaning the current state of music? I know I do. I'm probably at the age where it is hard to appreciate new music. And I know I'm not the only one. When I watch videos for old songs on YouTube, the comment boards are usually loaded with remarks about how "they don't make music like this anymore", and "music sucks these days"...you get the general idea. Is this anything new? Not really. I have always heard older people -- and even some young people -- complain that music just isn't any good anymore. Some of them say that there was a certain year that music stopped being good. Some people say they don't like anything recorded after 1975, or after 1980, or some other year. And I have always known people like this.

Are they just being close-minded? In some cases, maybe. Everyone has personal preferences, and biases, and sometimes we simply don't want to like certain things.

I used to tell myself that I would never let t…

Third Man Records offers more creative vinyl items

Jack White and his Third Man Records label have done it again. White has designed something called a "triple decker record", which probably could never have been dreamed up by anyone else. What is a triple decker record, you ask? I'll let the video below do the talking.

Slipknot "Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat." (1996)

Image
Rarebird's Spotlight Album Review #20 is completed. The subject: Slipknot's 1996 independent CD titled Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat. This CD is now officially considered to be the modern metal band's demo. Only 1,000 legitimate copies were reportedly pressed. It predates their self-titled 1999 debut album by three years, and features original lead singer Anders Colsefni. Here is the review:

http://rarebird9.net/slipknot.html

Distractions "Black Velvet" EP (2010)

The Distractions were a band from Manchester, England who recorded only one full-length album called Nobody’s Perfect in 1980. In my view, that album is one of rock’s long-lost treasures. It was technically a “new wave” album which drew inspiration from three decades of music history before it, and had many moments of genuine emotional poignancy. For those of us who lament the fact that the Distractions had such a short and overlooked lifespan, it is exciting to learn that new and unearthed Distractions recordings are coming soon from the U.K. music label Occultation.

Here is what the Occultation site says about it all:

It is with enormous pleasure that Occultation Recordings would like to welcome Manchester's most unsung heroes, The Distractions. The band's first release for us will be the Black Velvet EP. This will be a digital download only but, as with other Occultation releases, we will be pressing a limited number of promo CDs and those of you who prefer to own a physical …

"Songs by George Harrison" bonus discs

In 1988 and 1992, two books were issued by the British company Genesis Publications titled Songs by George Harrison. Each of the two volumes was released as a 2,500-copy limited edition. (These books are of no relation to the 2009 compilation CD Let It Roll: Songs by George Harrison). These two volumes each featured watercolor paintings by Wales-based artist Keith West, images which aimed to illustrate the lyrics of many of Harrison’s compositions. Each volume contained an afterword written by Harrison. Volume One had a foreword by Jeff Lynne and a middleword by Elton John; Volume Two contained a foreword by Ringo Starr and a middleword by Harry Nilsson. Each volume was hand-crafted in a three-quarter leather binding and came in a Solander box. Each volume came with a bonus disc (offered in vinyl and CD formats) which contained four rare Harrison recordings apiece.

I have not had the pleasure of holding these books in my hands. However, I have been able to listen to the eight audio tra…

Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 4

I received the fourth pair of exclusive vinyl items offered to platinum members of Third Man Records’ Vault service. For those who are unaware, Third Man Records is the label owned by Jack White, the leader of the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, and the Dead Weather. 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. According to the postmark, my package was sent on June 17th. I received it on the 19th.

This fourth set of items consists of a 2-LP live album from the White Stripes, pressed on 180g vinyl, and a Raconteurs single featuring demos of two songs from their second album Consolers of the Lonely. The package also includes a Dead Weather t-shirt.

The A-side of the Raconteurs single gives us about two-and-a-half minutes of an in-studio rehearsal of the Led Zep-like blues-rock number “Top Yourself”. It’s an enjoyable little jam, marred only by a distracting part where White casually …

Cheap Trick reissues: June 8, 2010

This week, the Wounded Bird label is reissuing three Cheap Trick albums on CD. Those albums are Standing on the Edge (1985), The Doctor (1986), and Busted (1990). I am glad to see these CDs made available for those who wish to purchase them. However, speaking as a long-time fan of Cheap Trick, I do not recommend any of them. The first two of these albums are from the period in the 1980’s when bassist Tom Petersson was temporarily absent from the group, and was replaced by Jon Brant for a four-album stretch. The third, Busted, could easily be mistaken for an album from that period.

Before we go any further, I should point out that the first two Petersson-less albums from the ‘80’s were recently issued as a 2-on-1 CD by the Friday Music label. When One On One (1982) and Next Position Please (1983) were first released, they were quite discouraging. It was clear that the absence of their original bass player had a noticeable effect on Cheap Trick’s chemistry, and Jon Brant made no impressi…

Buckner & Garcia “Pac-Man Fever” (1982)

How old does this make you feel? The video game Pac-Man turned 30 years old this past May. For those who may actually be unfamiliar with this game, its title character is a yellow circle whose mouth opens and closes. The Pac-Man runs around a labyrinthine maze eating dots, while four monsters which look like colored ghosts try to catch him. Does this sound simplistic? By today’s video game standards, it is. That’s the way video games tended to be at the beginning of the 1980’s. They were simply-drawn, adrenaline-releasing no-brainers. And they were very addictive. They used to cost 25 cents per game credit at the arcade, but literally billions of quarters per year were dropped into arcade video game machines in the early ‘80’s. These games thrived at a time when the U.S. economy was in a slump that was nearly as severe as the recent one. One particular industry that suffered at that time was the music business, and the video game craze was often blamed for this. The general consensus …

Eleven years!

Time continues to fly. It has now been eleven years since I first created my website Rarebird’s Rock and Roll Rarity Reviews. This is one time when I cannot say that little has changed with the site in the past year. When my old web page service was discontinued by the provider a few months ago, I moved the site to its new domain at rarebird9.net . It’s something I probably should have done a long time ago. Besides having an address that is easier to remember (and, in this day and age, easier to Tweet), I am now provided with more detailed information about the traffic that comes to my site. If I went by the external counter on my home page – which I have been going by for nearly six years – I would think that only 1 or 2 people visited the site each day. According to my web provider’s stats, the site is actually used by more than 30 unique visitors each day, and that includes the home page. Apparently, many types of hits do not register on the Amazing Counters counter.

Much has change…

The Cure - "Disintegration" alternative rarities

The release of the 3-CD deluxe edition of the Cure's 1989 album Disintegration is still forthcoming. It is now scheduled for release on June 8th -- although I must warn you that the date has been pushed back at least twice already. In any case, I've just been alerted to this official web page which features streaming audio of additional Disintegration-era rarities which will not be included on the set. The site is here:

http://thecuredisintegration.com/bin/#/altrarities/

Many of these tracks are instrumental demos and rehearsals; some others are live tracks; and others are alternate studio mixes. It's good listening, especially for a rainy day. Those who are familiar with these types of Cure rarities know what to expect, and won't be disappointed.

Here are the tracks that are streaming now:

1. Closedown -- (RS home instrumental demo, 05/88)
2. Last Dance -- (RS home instrumental demo, 05/88)
3. Lullaby -- (RS home instrumental demo, 05/88)
4. Tuned Out On RTV5 -- (band instru…

Ronnie James Dio: the doo-wop singer

Image
An internet report which was initially dismissed as a hoax has been confirmed to be true: singer Ronnie James Dio died this past Sunday, May 16th, 2010. Dio succumbed to stomach cancer at the age of 67. Those who are well-versed in the world of heavy metal are well aware of the distinguished career of the diminutive man with the powerful voice. Besides fronting his namesake band Dio from 1983 onward, Mr. Dio was also the original lead singer of Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow in the ‘70’s, and replaced Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath in the early ‘80’s. Dio recently reunited with two of his former Sabbath bandmates to form Heaven and Hell, which was named after one of the studio albums that Sabbath recorded with Dio. Also, Dio fronted the blues-rock band Elf in the early ‘70’s.

But Dio was an even more seasoned veteran of the music industry than those credentials reveal. When he was in his teens and twenties, Dio fronted a doo-wop group whose first single was released in 1958. That’s right …

Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 3

Last week I received the third pair of exclusive vinyl items offered to platinum members of Third Man Records’ Vault service. For those who are unaware, Third Man Records is the label owned by Jack White, the leader of the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, and the Dead Weather. 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. According to the postmark, my copies were sent on April 9th. I received them on the 12th.

This third set of items consists of a 2-LP compilation of all Third Man Records singles released in 2009, and a Dead Weather single featuring first takes of two songs from their upcoming second album. The package also included a fold-out poster featuring the cover images for all of the singles, as well as three Third Man Records postcards, and a turntable slipmat designed by Rob Jones.

The Dead Weather single contains first takes of the songs “No Horse” and “Jawbreaker” from th…

Farewell to the old website location

It has finally happened. The old location of my website Rarebird’s Rock and Roll Rarity Reviews has completely ceased to exist. In case you didn’t know, the site has been moved to http://rarebird9.net . From its creation in May 1999 up until this past February, the site was hosted by the AT&T Personal Web Pages service. I moved the site on February 20th, after AT&T notified its members that their web page service would be discontinued as of March 31st. For six weeks, I was able to use the pages of the old site as redirect pages which brought visitors to the new site. As of April 8th, the old AT&T-hosted site finally disappeared.

One disadvantage to the site move is that many potential visitors may have a harder time finding the site, now that the redirecting pages are gone. The good news is that most of the major search engines have indexed the new site. The bad news is that many other websites on the internet have linked to the old site, and many of them will now have dead…

Ace Frehley reissues

It recently came to my attention that the Wounded Bird label has reissued three long-lost Ace Frehley releases from the ‘80’s. This past January, the label released a 2-on-1 CD containing the full-length album Second Sighting and the EP Live + 1, both of which are 1988 releases from the former Kiss guitarist’s ‘80’s band Frehley’s Comet. Also, Frehley’s 1989 solo album Trouble Walkin’ has been reissued.

The main attraction of the 2-on-1 CD is the Live + 1 EP, which featured four worthwhile live tracks from Frehley and his band. Two other members of that quartet were drummer Anton Fig and vocalist/guitarist Tod Howarth. The entire band makes a good impression, including Howarth on his two vocal turns. The other track from that five-song EP was a studio outtake from the 1987 album Frehley’s Comet titled “Words Are Not Enough”; that song is as good as any of the songs on the album from which it was excluded.

The full-length album Second Sighting is less exciting. It was recorded with a dif…

Alex Chilton “Live In Anvers” (2004)

The last Alex Chilton solo title released during his lifetime was Live In Anvers, which was released in France in 2004 and in the U.S. in 2005. Live In Anvers captures Chilton during a January 2004 concert at De Nachten in Belgium. Backed by a trio of musicians from that region, Chilton performs two songs from his distant past (“Bangkok” and Big Star’s “In The Street”), four covers from his last two studio albums, and six other cover songs, spanning such genres as jazz, r&b, classical, and Italian pop. (“Ah Ti Ta Ti Ta Ta” is better known as “Te-Ta-Te-Ta-Ta” by Ernie K-Doe). Chilton is in fine form throughout, especially when you consider that he only had one rehearsal session with his pick-up band. The tone is generally mellow, and Chilton sounds quite comfortable performing in such spontaneous fashion. Particularly effective are Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Hook Me Up”, Chilton’s own “Bangkok” (which he tells the audience is a song he created when he was “a drunken hooligan” in th…

Alex Chilton's '90's solo albums

Continuing our focus on the late Alex Chilton’s obscure and rare solo recordings, we now turn our attention to the three solo albums that Chilton recorded in the ‘90’s. Those albums are Clichés (1994), A Man Called Destruction (1995), and Set (2000). (Chilton also released an album called 1970 -- which was recorded that year -- during the '90's. A review of that album is here).

Clichés is a collection of 12 gentle acoustic numbers performed in the studio by Chilton alone. (Although it has been reported that the album was recorded in a single evening, Chilton was quoted as saying that it actually took a number of sessions). Eleven of them are covers of old songs originating from the 1920’s through 1950’s, from such performers as Nina Simone, Nat King Cole, Chet Baker, and Ray Charles. There’s also a brief instrumental based on Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Gavotte”. Chilton does well with all of the selections, and seems more focused on his singing and playing than he had in many a m…

Alex Chilton - "High Priest" (1987) and "Black List" (1989)

Continuing our focus on the late Alex Chilton’s obscure and rare solo recordings, we now turn our attention to the 1987 album High Priest and the 1989 EP Black List.

After releasing two EPs in as many years in the mid-‘80’s, Chilton continued his creative momentum with a full-length album in 1987. High Priest was an impressively eclectic set, venturing into such diverse genres as r&b (“Take It Off”, Lowell Fulsom’s “Make A Little Love”), jazz (“Forbidden Love”), old-fashioned pop (the King/Goffin composition “Let Me Get Close To You”), rockabilly (“Dalai Lama”, the Bill Justis instrumental “Raunchy”), Delta blues (“Trouble Don’t Last”), and gospel (“Come By Here”). Somehow, the whole thing has a surprising consistency, possibly an unexpected benefit of Chilton’s no-frills production. Chilton’s choice of covers on this album is also surprising, not only because he does a seemingly respectful rendition of “Volaré”, but also because he covers a song by his old Box Tops mentor Dan Penn…

Alex Chilton - "Feudalist Tarts" (1985)

Continuing our focus on the late Alex Chilton’s obscure and rare solo recordings, we now turn our attention to the 1985 EP Feudalist Tarts and the 1986 EP No Sex. Both of these EPs marked a welcome return to work, and return to relevance, for this talented musician.

In the early ‘80’s, Chilton moved from Memphis to New Orleans, and took an interest in that city’s jazz-oriented music scene. After a six-year absence from studio recording, Chilton reappeared revitalized on the six-song EP Feudalist Tarts in 1985. Gone were the sloppy devil-may-care tendencies of Bach’s Bottom and Like Flies On Sherbert. The older and wiser Alex Chilton showed remarkable restraint on these six jazz-influenced numbers, crooning confidently and playing rockabilly-style guitar amid tasteful horn arrangements. Although it was clear that Chilton had mellowed out considerably, the song “Lost My Job” showed just enough attitude to prove that he hadn’t lost his edge.

In fact, that edge manifested itself with a veng…

Alex Chilton - "Like Flies On Sherbert" (1979)

Continuing our focus on the late Alex Chilton’s obscure and rare solo albums, we now turn our attention to Like Flies on Sherbert, which turned out to be Chilton’s first full-length solo release in 1979. Chilton had a hard time getting his early solo work distributed, and this album turned out to be no exception. Like Flies On Sherbert was first released on a Memphis label called Peabody in 1979. Reportedly, only 500 copies of this first edition were printed. The following year, the album was re-released on the British label Aura, with one different track and different track sequencing. This edition supposedly used the wrong master tapes and had inferior sound quality.

Still, “sound quality” only makes so much difference in this case, because Like Flies On Sherbert is a colossal mess in any form. Everything about the album is technically inept: the singing, instrumentation, production (by Jim Dickinson), recording – everything! At the beginnings of many tracks, it sounds like a start …