Posts

Showing posts from 2013

Kiss Saves Santa: the Christmas cartoon that never was

Image
Rarebird's Rock and Roll Rarity Reviews wishes you and yours a Merry Christmas, or whatever you personally call this time of year.

If you've ever visited my site or blog before, you've probably noticed that I have a peculiar fascination with rare recordings and films related to rock music. My friend once joked that my website is about "albums that don't exist", his tongue-in-cheek description of my site about albums that are out of print. As we celebrate this holiday season, and as we congratulate Kiss on their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, I want to debunk the myth about a "rarity" that really, literally doesn't exist: a supposed TV Christmas special called Kiss Saves Santa.

Where does the myth of its existence originate? From a 2001 episode of Seth McFarlane's Family Guy: Season 3, Episode 16, to be exact. During this Christmas-themed episode of the irreverent animated series, the Peter Griffin character expresses a de…

Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 18

Image
Last week I received the eighteenth set 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, 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. According to the postal service, my package was sent on December 4th. I received it on the 10th.

This eighteenth set of items includes a live double-LP by the Raconteurs, a DVD documenting the same performance, and a 7-inch single containing two new studio tracks from the Dead Weather.

In a departure from past Vault singles, the Dead Weather single (pressed in “yellow jacket” vinyl) contains two brand new, fully developed studio cuts. The quartet plans to record a series of exclusive two-sided singles until 2015, when…

Remembering Jim Morrison and John Lennon on this date

First off, I wish to acknowledge the birthday of Jim Morrison, the late lead singer of the Doors. The Lizard King was born on December 8, 1943. He died in 1971 at the age of 27; if he was still alive today, he would be 70 today. Hard to believe! This question inevitably comes to mind: what would have become of Morrison if he had stayed alive? In terms of popularity, I've always thought that he would likely have faded away if he hadn't burned out. That is, of course, open to debate, and we'll never know the answer for sure. It's really impossible for me to imagine Jim at age 70, because the only way he could have reached that age would have been to do away with his self-destructive tendencies -- and I just can't imagine Morrison without those tendencies! He would have needed to make major changes to his lifestyle and personality, and who can say where that would have led him? Perhaps I'm overthinking it. You might be saying: "Well, what if he could have sta…

Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 17: Willie Nelson & Friends: Live at Third Man Records

Image
This week I received the seventeenth set 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, 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. According to the postal service, my package was sent on October 23rd. I received it on the 28th.

This seventeenth set of items revolves around the celebration of the 80th birthday of country legend Willie Nelson at Third Man Records on April 18th, 2013, featuring a live double-LP recorded at the studio, and a one-sided 6-inch single (you read that right) containing a duet between Nelson and Jack White.

That 6-inch single, pressed in transparent yellow vinyl, captures a less-than-two-minute recording of Willie and Ja…

The Primitives with Lou Reed – “The Ostrich” (1964)

Image
This past Sunday, October 27, 2013, Lou Reed died at the age of 71 from complications caused by a liver transplant. As the creative force behind the influential – and subversive – ‘60’s band known as the Velvet Underground, Reed inspired (either directly or indirectly) nearly every musical artist who has defied the mainstream over the last 45 years. Volumes have been written about how the punk, new wave, and alternative rock genres probably owe their existence to Reed and the Velvets. More of my personal thoughts on Reed and the VU can be found on their respective pages on my website.

http://rarebird9.net/reed.html

http://rarebird9.net/vus.html

While we mourn the passing of the legendary inspiration for so many musical innovators, I wish to point out a little-known rarity from Reed’s earliest years in the recording business: a single from before his Velvet Underground days.

One of the things that made Reed different from his peers was his unconventional way of tuning his guitar. He di…

Slim Dunlap's solo albums

Image
What did it take to reunite the legendary Minneapolis post-punk band known as the Replacements, 22 years after their initial 1991 breakup? A tragedy. Former guitarist Bob "Slim" Dunlap suffered a severe debilitating stroke in February of 2012, and the remaining surviving members of the Replacements recorded a new 2013 EP titled Songs For Slim to help raise money for Dunlap's medical costs. It contains five cover songs, two of which were originally Dunlap's solo songs.

Those surviving members are lead singer Paul Westerberg, bassist Tommy Stinson, and drummer Chris Mars -- although Mars did not actually work together with the other two on the EP. Four of its five tracks were recorded by Westerberg and Stinson, aided by Minneapolis musicians Kevin Bowe (guitar) and Peter Anderson (drums). Mars, meanwhile, contributed one solo track and the cover art. (Mars is also not involved with the live shows that the other two original members are performing this year). If you i…

Evanescence "Origin" (2000) and early EP's

Image
Rarebird's Spotlight Album Review #24 is completed. The subject: a CD and two EP's which were recorded independently by Evanescence, a few years before the 2003 release of their official debut album Fallen. The two EP's were recorded in 1998 and 1999, and the full-length CD Origin was recorded in 2000. Here is the page:

http://rarebird9.net/evanescence.html


Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 16

Image
Last week I received the sixteenth set 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, 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. According to the postal service, my package was sent on July 3rd. I received it on the 13th. (And it was sent by priority mail…).

This sixteenth set of items celebrates the 10-year anniversary of the release of the White Stripes’ pivotal 2003 album Elephant, featuring a live double-LP recorded that same year, a 7-inch single containing demo versions of two of that album’s songs, and a book containing photographs taken at the album’s recording studio sessions.

The 7-inch single, pressed in dark red vinyl with black whi…

Smash Palace (1985)

Image
The New Jersey-based quintet called Smash Palace originally came from the same mid-‘80’s Philadelphia scene that hatched the Hooters and Robert Hazard. They were led by brothers Stephen and Brian Butler, who had previously played in an earlier new wave band called Quincy (aka Lulu Temple). In 1985, they appeared to be on the verge of gaining wider recognition when their self-titled Smash Palace album was released on Epic Records, and the video for their single “Living On The Borderline” gave them MTV exposure. Unfortunately, the album failed to take off commercially, and Smash Palace disappeared – until 14 years later. In 1999, the Butler brothers resurfaced in indie-land with a new Smash Palace lineup, and a new album called Fast, Long, Loud. And the band has continued to record during the years since then, releasing several more indie albums showcasing their respectable, mature brand of power pop. Brian Butler no longer performs live with the band, but he continues to be involved cr…

Fourteen years...but is it still stuck in 1997?

Time continues to fly! It has now been 14 years since the day my website, Rarebird's Rock and Roll Rarity Reviews, was launched on May 31st, 1999.

I remember a visitor to my site making a comment back in 2004 that my site "looks like it's stuck in 1997". I must say I was amused by that statement, because at that point in time, 1997 did not seem like a long time ago at all. But his point was well taken: web design technology and standards had rapidly evolved during those seven years, and my website was looking like an antique.

I like to think my site is now a bit more pleasing to the eye than it was a decade ago, since I know more about web design now than I did in the beginning. But I've never felt the need for a complete overhaul on the look of my site. I've felt it was best to keep it simple, and it's worked fine for me so far. Is it still stuck in 1997? I'll let you decide.

But if my site is still "stuck" in the late '90's, then …

Three Hits "Pressure Dome" EP (2013 Record Store Day release)

Image
Michael Kurtz, the co-founder and co-manager of Record Store Day, was once a member of a North Carolina indie-pop band called Three Hits, who issued two singles in 1984 and 1985, and an eight-song EP titled Fire In The House in 1989. Kurtz and his brother Danny were the quartet’s guitarists; the singer and bassist was a young woman named Sheila Valentine, who was influenced by both Blondie and rockabilly.

Being the co-manager of Record Store Day earned Kurtz the right to have a limited-edition vinyl EP of his former band’s recordings released on that day, and he was granted this wish in 2013. Limited to 1,000 copies and pressed in transparent purple vinyl, the 12-inch EP Pressure Dome contained the A- and B-sides of the 1985 single of the same name, as well as an additional track from the same Don Dixon-produced recording sessions, and two songs from Fire In The House. The EP also came with a download card that allowed the buyer to download mp3 files of those five songs, as well as t…

Rodriguez: the Sugar Man's rarities

Image
If you haven’t yet seen Searching For Sugar Man, the 2012 Oscar winner for Best Documentary Feature, I highly recommend it. It tells the story of an American singer-songwriter named Rodriguez (full name: Sixto Diaz Rodriguez), who recorded two critically acclaimed but commercially overlooked albums in the early ‘70’s, then disappeared from the music business. Strangely enough, Rodriguez became a musical and cultural icon in South Africa, where he was believed to be dead. But the gruesome rumors of his death were greatly exaggerated, because Rodriguez is alive and well. For decades, he worked as a carpenter in Detroit, and was completely unaware of his stardom in South Africa until 1997. He has since performed numerous times in that country, but he continued to live a humble life in Detroit. The film is a fascinating true-life story, one that no one would find believable if it was written as a movie script. The film has given Rodriguez long-overdue fame and success in other parts of th…

Whirlwind Heat “Do Rabbits Wonder?” (2003)

In my previous blog post, I mentioned the 2003 album from Whirlwind Heat titled Do Rabbits Wonder?, produced by Jack White and engineered by Brendan Benson. That album is currently out of print, although it is fairly easy to obtain. The album is ten years old as of this month (as is the White Stripes’ Elephant). It was the first non-White Stripes album released on the Third Man imprint.

Whirlwind Heat is an alternative trio from Michigan who tend to be heavily influenced by bands like Sonic Youth; in fact, their name comes from the cover art of Sonic Youth’s Goo album. But Do Rabbits Wonder? doesn’t quite have the same type of loose underground ethos that later Whirlwind Heat releases do. This is undoubtedly due to White’s production, which makes the band sound crisper, cleaner, and harder-hitting than usual.

On this album, Whirlwind Heat are reminiscent of the Pixies in many ways. David Swanson hoots and hollers like Black Francis, and Steve Damstra’s bass playing is sometimes simila…

Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 15

Image
I've received the fifteenth set 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, 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. According to the postal service, my package was sent on March 19th. I received it on the 21st.

This fifteenth set of items features two pre-Raconteurs collaborations by Jack White and Brendan Benson: a live LP by a short-lived White-led band from 1999, and a 7-inch single containing two studio recordings from the duo from two very different time periods. The third item in this package is a DVD with film clips from a 2002 tour by the White Stripes and Whirlwind Heat, titled White Heat.

The 7-inch single, pressed in “elect…

Bun E.'s Basement Bootlegs, Vol. 4: Semi-Acoustical

Bun E.’s Basement Bootlegs were CD’s sold through Cheap Trick’s official website and fan club. They contained previously unreleased Cheap Trick recordings from the band’s archives, compiled by drummer Bun E. Carlos. There were four separate volumes issued between the years 2000 and 2002. Each one was limited to 1,000 copies. Each CD was packaged in a plain white cardboard sleeve with a stamped illustration of the drummer’s face and his hand-autographed initials. The discs were numbered using black marker. Each disc had a different theme to classify the types of tracks included on it.

The theme of the fourth volume, issued in 2002, was “Semi-Acoustical”, and it contained live recordings of Cheap Trick playing acoustic renditions of 17 songs. Also, this volume featured a bonus disc, documenting early live performances from the band from 1976.

The Semi-Acoustical disc sounds like a great MTV Unplugged episode that never was. (I know why they called it semi-acoustic; someone obviously p…

Bun E.'s Basement Bootlegs, Vol. 3: Covers '74-'00

Bun E.’s Basement Bootlegs were CD’s sold through Cheap Trick’s official website and fan club. They contained previously unreleased Cheap Trick recordings from the band’s archives, compiled by drummer Bun E. Carlos. There were four separate volumes issued between the years 2000 and 2002. Each one was limited to 1,000 copies. Each CD was packaged in a plain white cardboard sleeve with a stamped illustration of the drummer’s face and his hand-autographed initials. The discs were numbered using black marker. Each disc had a different theme to classify the types of tracks included on it.

The theme of the third volume, issued in 2001, was “Covers”, and it contained recordings (mostly live) of Cheap Trick covering various songs both classic and obscure. These tracks were recorded at various times during the years between 1974 (when Cheap Trick was just beginning) and 2000. Also, this volume featured a bonus disc, documenting early live performances from the band from 1975.

The Covers disc…

Alvin Lee of Ten Years After dies at 68

Image
I was saddened to hear of the unexpected passing of Alvin Lee, the singer and guitarist from Ten Years After. Lee died suddenly on March 6th from complications caused by surgery. He was 68. Here is a Los Angeles Times article:

http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-alvin-lee-20130307,0,2836455.story

Lee's band Ten Years After are best remembered for their performance at the Woodstock festival in 1969 (their 11-minute performance of "I'm Going Home" is one of the high points of the documentary film), and for their 1971 hit single "I'd Love To Change The World". But the quartet had more chart success than their one-hit-wonder reputation would lead you to think. The British blues-rock band reportedly toured the United States an incredible 28 times in the eight years between 1967 and 1975.

Decades later, Mr. Lee has a less lofty reputation than many guitarists who had less talent. I learned of his death by way of the MSN home page, when I clicked on a…

Bun E.'s Basement Bootlegs, Vol. 2: Soundchecks ‘82-‘97

Bun E.’s Basement Bootlegs were CD’s sold through Cheap Trick’s official website and fan club. They contained previously unreleased Cheap Trick recordings from the band’s archives, compiled by drummer Bun E. Carlos. There were four separate volumes issued between the years 2000 and 2002. Each one was limited to 1,000 copies. Each CD was packaged in a plain white cardboard sleeve with a stamped illustration of the drummer’s face and his hand-autographed initials. The discs were numbered using black marker. Each disc had a different theme to classify the types of tracks included on it.

The theme of the second volume, issued in the year 2000, was “Soundchecks”. That’s right: the CD contains recordings of sound checks, which are pre-concert preparations done for the purpose of making sure that sound systems and frequencies are working properly before the shows. It takes audacity for any artist to issue a CD containing 70 minutes worth of sound checks, even as (especially as?) a limited e…

Bun E.'s Basement Bootlegs, Volume 1: Gigs '79-'94

Bun E.’s Basement Bootlegs were CD’s sold through Cheap Trick’s official website and fan club. They contained previously unreleased Cheap Trick recordings from the band’s archives, compiled by drummer Bun E. Carlos. There were four separate volumes issued between the years 2000 and 2002. Each one was limited to 1,000 copies. Each CD was packaged in a plain white cardboard sleeve with a stamped illustration of the drummer’s face and his hand-autographed initials. The discs were numbered using black marker. Each disc had a different theme to classify the types of tracks included on it.

The theme of the first volume, issued in 2000, was “Gigs”, and it collected various live cuts recorded between 1979 and 1994. It contained Budokan-class performances from the years between the releases of Cheap Trick's live albums At Budokan and Music For Hangovers. These versions of “On Top of the World” and “Heaven Tonight” sound great in their raw form, and the “Stiff Competition” performance here…

My Bloody Valentine: the pre-1988 EP's

Image
In case you haven’t heard, the Irish alternative band My Bloody Valentine have self-released their long-awaited third album, titled m b v, earlier this month. They are selling it through their official site, using a Radiohead-like distribution model. This comes a full 22 years after their startlingly unique 1991 album Loveless, which is rightfully regarded as a classic of the alternative genre. The best way to describe that album is as baroque pop distorted through a Sonic Youth-like lens. It’s a creative and fascinating work. The new m b v is very similar in style, except that it usually sounds gentler, smoother, and less chaotic. One song, “New You”, is stylistically closer to the 1988 album Isn’t Anything. It’s great to actually, finally, have another My Bloody Valentine album to savor, especially one of respectable quality. However, it is slightly disappointing to hear this album covering the same basic territory as its 22-year-old predecessor, without breaking much new ground. Th…