Posts

Showing posts from 2015

Rock and Roll before 1955

Image
As 2015 comes to its end, we acknowledge that rock and roll officially turned 60 this past year. (You can make all the old-age jokes you will about it, as long as you don't say rock and roll is "dead". That's my pet peeve). 1955 is generally thought of as the year that rock and roll was born, because that was the year in which Bill Haley and the Comets topped the charts with the first number one rock hit "Rock Around The Clock". But 1955 was really not the year of the birth of rock and roll; it was merely the year in which rock and roll roared into the mainstream.

It’s hard to say when rock and roll really began. Some people argue that the first rock and roll song was “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats (aka the Ike Turner Band), mainly due to its accidentally distorted electric guitar sound. That song was released in 1951 – but rock and roll certainly dates back farther than that. Some would say that its earliest seeds were planted way back…

Words from a survivor of the Paris Bataclan massacre

This post is being written two days after the coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13th, 2015. As of this writing, the official death toll is 129. Of those, at least 89 were reportedly killed inside the Bataclan concert hall, during a concert by the American rock band Eagles Of Death Metal. The band members escaped unhurt, but their merchandise manager Nick Alexander was among the fatalities.

Eagles Of Death Metal is a California band co-founded by Josh Homme, who is also a member of Queens Of The Stone Age, although Homme was not with the band on tour when these attacks occurred. In addition to the usual irony of a non-death-metal band bearing such a name -- Eagles Of Death Metal are better described as an alternative blues rock band -- it is certainly a gruesome coincidence that a band with the word "death" in their name became a part of such a tragic event.

An MSN article about the attack at the Bataclan concert is linked below. (Warning: The article and the…

Armageddon with Keith Relf

Image
The late Keith Relf – who died in 1976 from electrocution while using an improperly grounded electric guitar – was best known as the lead singer of the Yardbirds. Of course, that band is better remembered for launching the careers of guitarists Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page. The last band that Relf played in before his tragic death was called Armageddon, and that band’s chief asset was also its guitarist. Unlike the future superstar guitarists who graced the Yardbirds, Armageddon guitarist Martin Pugh all but disappeared from the music business after that band's 1976 demise. Their sole album, 1975's self-titled Armageddon, is currently out of print in the U.S. It is, however, available as an import from the U.K. Esoteric label.

After the breakup of the Yardbirds, Keith Relf moved away from that band's blues rock and embraced the progressive rock genre. Relf and his fellow ex-Yardbird Jim McCarty were the original founders of Renaissance, but both of them…

Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 25: The Dead Weather “Dodge And Burn”

Image
The 25th set of exclusive vinyl items offered to platinum members of Third Man Records’ Vault service was mailed out to the members in late September of 2015. 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-fifth Vault package focused on the Dead Weather’s 2015 album Dodge And Burn, which was properly released on September 25th of that year. The package contained a limited edition vinyl version of the album, and a 7-inch single which served as the only physical version of the album’s first single, “I Feel Love (Every Million Miles)”. There is no rare music in this package, only rare vinyl.

The single is pressed in “inclement weather” colored vinyl, which is opaque yellow with blac…

Zephyr "Heartbeat" (1982)

Image
The Colorado band Zephyr, founded by the wife-and-husband team of Candy Givens (vocals, harmonica) and David Givens (bass, guitar, synthesizer), are best remembered as the band that launched the career of the late Tommy Bolin, the highly regarded guitarist who later became a member of the James Gang, Deep Purple, and a solo artist before his death in 1976. Zephyr's self-titled debut album from 1969 mixed hard rock and blues in ways similar to the first Led Zeppelin album (released that same year). It's a fine album, to be sure, although Bolin's guitar work made a better initial impression than the contributions of frontwoman Givens, whose Janis Joplin-like wailing and blaring blues harmonica often sounded shrill on this album. The second album, Going Back To Colorado (1971), found the band moving toward less powerful hippie-era folk-rock, diminishing Bolin's guitar presence and putting more emphasis on Givens' vocals, which were considerably scaled down to better s…

Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 24: Loretta Lynn “Van Lear Rose”

Image
The 24th set of exclusive vinyl items offered to platinum members of Third Man Records’ Vault service was mailed out to the members in June and July of 2015. 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-fourth Vault package mainly focused on Loretta Lynn’s 2004 album Van Lear Rose, which was produced by Jack White. The package contained a new vinyl edition of the album, and a related DVD. The 7-inch single included two previously unreleased White Stripes covers of Lynn’s songs.

Van Lear Rose is the highly respected 2004 album by the seasoned country legend. It earned wide critical acclaim, crossover success, and two Grammy awards (including Lynn’s first ever in the category of Be…

Cold War Kids “Five Quick Cuts” EP (Record Store Day 2015)

On Record Store Day 2015, the Cold War Kids issued a 10-inch EP titled Five Quick Cuts, which contained five previously unreleased tracks. The vinyl-only EP was limited to 10,000 copies.

True to its title, the short-and-satisfying EP barely takes fifteen minutes to breeze through its five tracks, which were recorded in March and April of 2014. As was the case on the California alt-rock quintet’s two most recent albums, current guitarist Dann Gallucci co-produced the tracks with Lars Stalfors; it is therefore not surprising that the first two tracks sound like they were made by a more disciplined variation of Gallucci's former band Modest Mouse. Those two tracks also take something of a retro-‘80’s approach: “Stop/Rewind” has a synth-rocking sound that recalls that decade, while “Amazing” is reminiscent of that era’s cleanly produced blue-eyed soul. On the EP’s second side, the Kids sound quite similar to the Killers, with lead singer Nathan Willett coming on very much like Brand…

Forgotten '80's songs I'll never forget

Image
Ah, the 1980's. You know what they say: it wasn't rock and roll's best decade. But that was the decade that I grew up in. People who grew up in the '60's had the Beatles, people who grew up in the '70's had Springsteen, and people who grew up in the '80's had...Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince...I don't even want to keep going down that list! Those were the artists that my friends were listening to while we were coming of age in that era, but I was (and still am) a stubborn lover of rock and roll -- even when it is out of fashion, and even when it is going through a period of qualitative weakness. So, while my friends were listening to that era's dance pop, my FM radio dial immovably stayed tuned in to my local rock and roll stations during the '80's.

There was good music that came out of the '80's, but much of it has not aged well. Still, many modern alternative bands show a clear '80's influence, so that decade'…

Sweet Sixteen!

Image
It's sixteen, it's beautiful, and it's mine! That's how I feel today about my website, Rarebird's Rock and Roll Rarity Reviews. It was 16 years ago today when I first published my website about out-of-print rock albums on May 31,1999. On that day, the site consisted of four pages and six album reviews. I knew the site would grow bigger, but I had no idea that I would wind up creating over 35 artist pages. At the beginning of 2003, I began to create simpler "Spotlight Review" pages focusing on one album apiece, instead of on numerous albums from one artist. Even that part of the site has grown larger in size than I originally thought it would. So, at the end of 2004 (over a decade ago already!) I began to publish this blog as a forum for reviewing out-of-print albums that I've eagerly continued to discover. And, for as long as I continue to enjoy discovering rock and roll's recorded rarities, I will continue to use this blog as a means to publish m…

Robert Plant “More Roar” EP (Record Store Day 2015)

Image
On Record Store Day 2015, Robert Plant issued a 10-inch EP titled More Roar, which contained a few live tracks recorded with his band called the Sensational Space Shifters during their 2014 tour in support of the album lullaby and…The Ceaseless Roar. Three of the four selections on the EP were drawn from that album. The vinyl-only EP was limited to 10,000 copies.

Of course, neither the album nor the EP emits the type of heavy metal “roar” that Plant once epitomized. The legendary Led Zeppelin screamer has evolved into an eccentric crooner, and his latest album is an arty and unusual mixture of blues and Eastern folk music. It’s very unlike the music Plant is best known for, although it does sometimes echo Zeppelin’s otherworldly qualities. Plant’s now-understated vocals just seem to naturally fit the material, because he owns it.

The EP contains live performances of three songs from the lullaby album, and – even in the strange case of “Arbaden (Maggie’s Babby)” – they are faithful r…

Supergrass "Sofa (Of My Lethargy)" - Record Store Day 2015 single

Image
On Record Store Day 2015, the Parlophone label issued a 7-inch single (pressed in pine-green vinyl) consisting of two songs recorded by Supergrass in 1994, when the now-defunct Britpop band’s 1995 debut album I Should Coco was made. The single was limited to 500 copies. These two tracks previously appeared on a radio promo CD in 1995.

The A-side track is a radio edit of “Sofa (Of My Lethargy)”, the most sophisticated song on the I Should Coco album. The album version of that song runs over six minutes; this radio edit comes in just under four minutes, with the long instrumental coda clipped off the end to make it radio-friendly. The intricately Beatlesque song resembles what “Norwegian Wood” might have sounded like if the Fab Four had recorded it for either the Sgt. Pepper or Abbey Road album instead of Rubber Soul. Hearing it on vinyl makes it even more reminiscent of the pre-digital music era.

The B-side, “I Believe In Love”, is an unfinished outtake from the I Should Coco sessi…

Foo Fighters "Songs From The Laundry Room" EP (2015)

Image
Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters was the official ambassador of Record Store Day 2015. His contribution to the list of limited edition vinyl-only releases from that day was a four-song, 10-inch Foo Fighters EP titled Songs From The Laundry Room. It contained four early rough demos that Grohl recorded solo in the early '90's, while he was still the drummer for Nirvana. Although it is officially a Foo Fighters title, Grohl played all of the instruments on the four tracks. The slightly goofy background vocals heard on "Kids In America" were provided by Barrett Jones, who also recorded and mixed the EP. Grohl says that these songs were the seeds that led to the formation of the Foo Fighters.

Grohl says that he only thought of these recordings as “an experiment for fun”, but they are far better than that statement makes them sound. The first side contains demo versions of two songs which would surface on the self-titled Foo Fighters debut album in 1995: “Alone + Easy Targ…

Garbage with Brian Aubert "The Chemicals" - 2015 Record Store Day single

Image
On Record Store Day 2015, Garbage released a 10-inch single (pressed in fluorescent orange vinyl) recorded in collaboration with Brian Aubert, the lead singer of Silversun Pickups. This follows a Record Store Day tradition for Garbage, who collaborated with Brody Dalle for another 10-inch single last year. Eric Avery (the original Jane’s Addiction bassist) is credited with bass, as he was on last year’s single. It sounds as though both sides of the record are intentionally distorted in spots to simulate the surface noise of scratched vinyl. The single is a decent collectible item for fans of Garbage.

The A-side track, “The Chemicals”, is an appropriately trippy song about drug addiction. Aubert sings the chorus following Shirley Manson’s stanzas, and I suspect Aubert is also playing the slightly jangling guitar on the track. The song mixes Garbage’s techno-pop with the type of quasi-Smashing Pumpkins alt-rock that we would expect from Aubert’s usual band. The song does a fairly effe…

Metallica "No Life 'Till Leather" - 2015 Record Store Day cassette

Image
It looks like Record Store Day isn't just for vinyl records. Some people are evidently nostalgic for the days of pre-recorded audio cassettes, as well, and a few artists have released limited edition items in that format for Record Store Day. I can understand the appeal, especially for anyone who grew up using that medium the way I grew up using vinyl. But I doubt that cassettes will enjoy the same type of resurgence that vinyl has enjoyed in recent years. They certainly served purposes in their day, but in my view, pre-recorded cassettes were the least exciting and least technically convenient way to collect and listen to music.

What has me talking about this subject? This Saturday, on Record Store Day 2015, Metallica are releasing their 1982 demo No Life 'Till Leather as a limited edition cassette. Why cassette? Because the cassette and the artwork are designed as an exact duplication of the tape copy owned by Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich. Metallica says that expanded ver…

Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 23: The White Stripes “Under Amazonian Lights”

Image
This week I received the 23rd 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 28th. I received it on the 30th.

This twenty-third set of items mainly focuses on a White Stripes concert performed at the Amazon Theater (Portuguese translation: Teatro Amazonas) Opera House in Manaus, Brazil on June 1st of 2005, from the tour in support of their 2005 album Get Behind Me Satan. The concert is captured on vinyl on a 2-LP set, and presented visually on DVD. The 7-inch single includes two previously unreleased White Stripes recordings related to th…

Neil Young Trunk Show (2009)

Image
In recent years, filmmaker Jonathan Demme directed a trilogy of Neil Young concert documentaries. The first film in this trilogy, titled Neil Young: Heart Of Gold (2006), and the third film, Neil Young Journeys (2011), are both currently available on DVD. However, the second film in the trilogy, Neil Young Trunk Show (2009), is curiously absent from the home video market.

The film played in theatres for one-week runs in select cities in March 2010, and was set for a DVD and Blu-ray release later that year. However, for reasons that are unclear, Trunk Show has still not been released in any home video format to this day.

Trunk Show was filmed at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, PA in 2007, during the Chrome Dreams II tour. In the film, Young performs three songs from that album (“Spirit Road”, “No Hidden Path”, “The Believer”), and other songs spanning his entire career, some well-known (“Cinnamon Girl”, “Like A Hurricane”) and others obscure. Three of the songs have never been rele…

Sharks "First Water" (1973)

Image
Andy Fraser, the former bass player for Free, passed away in California earlier this week at the age of 62. As of this writing, the cause of death has not been officially determined, although Fraser was known to have struggled with AIDS and HIV-related cancer.

Fraser was a mere lad of 15 when he became a founding member of Free in 1968. He was still in his teens when he co-authored the British blues-rock band's international chart-topper "All Right Now" in 1970, reportedly conceiving the classic rock anthem in no more than ten minutes.

After Fraser departed from Free in 1972, he formed a band called Sharks, and played piano and bass on their 1973 debut album First Water. Fraser’s bandmates in Sharks were British journeyman guitarist Chris Spedding, Canadian session drummer Marty Simon (formerly of Life and later of April Wine), and a singer named Snips (aka Steve Parsons, who later joined the Baker Gurvitz Army).

First Water was not a commercial success, but it did rec…

Quincy (aka Lulu Temple)

Image
Years before forming the power pop band Smash Palace, brothers Stephen and Brian Butler were members of a new wave band called Quincy. Stephen played guitar, while Brian shared lead vocal duties with bassist Gerald Emerick. Their other two bandmates were drummer Bob Holden and a keyboardist called Metro (aka Wally Smith). This band was originally formed in Haddon Heights, NJ in 1976, and recorded only one long-lost album for Columbia Records in 1980.

The self-titled Quincy album is steeped in the new wave stylings of its day, inviting comparisons to Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, and the Cars. But its twelve tracks are rooted in power pop, with delectable melodies and hooks that make them timeless. Although a Lennon and McCartney influence is most noticeable on “Grow Up” and “Dime Store Lies”, the Beatles influence can actually be detected beneath the sleek surfaces of nearly all of the tracks. There isn’t a dull song in the dozen. Despite the production (by Tim Friese-Greene, later a…

Swervedriver: the early EP's

Image
After a 17-year recording hiatus, the British shoegaze band Swervedriver are about to release their fifth album, titled I Wasn’t Born To Lose You, on March 3rd. It is their first studio album since their 1998 album 99th Dream. Swervedriver have been frequently performing live since they reunited in 2008 (after a decade-long hiatus). Their current lineup consists of founding members Adam Franklin (vocals, guitar) and Jimmy Hartridge (guitar), along with bassist Steve George, and drummer Mikey Jones.

Like their fellow shoegazers and Creation label-mates in My Bloody Valentine and Ride, Swervedriver released a number of EP’s in the U.K. before recording a full-length album. The title tracks from three of those EP’s later were included on the band’s full-length debut Raise in 1991. These early EP’s were recorded by the original Swervedriver lineup, consisting of Franklin, Hartridge, bassist Adi Vines, and drummer Graham Bonnar.

Their first EP, Son Of Mustang Ford, was released in 1990.…

Swervedriver "Ejector Seat Reservation" (1995)

Image
After a 17-year recording hiatus, the British shoegaze band Swervedriver are about to release their fifth album, titled I Wasn’t Born To Lose You, on March 3rd. It is their first studio album since their 1998 album 99th Dream. Swervedriver have been frequently performing live since they reunited in 2008 (after a decade-long hiatus). Their current lineup consists of founding members Adam Franklin (vocals, guitar) and Jimmy Hartridge (guitar), along with bassist Steve George, and drummer Mikey Jones.

Swervedriver recorded four full-length albums in the 1990’s, but their third album, Ejector Seat Reservation, was never released in the U.S. The album's release was dropped by A&M Records after the band split from the label, and the label did not relinquish its rights to the album, preventing it from being released by DGC Records, the band’s next American label. Ejector Seat Reservation was originally released in the U.K. in 1995 by the Creation label (who dropped the band one week…

The Loveless “A Tale Of Gin And Salvation” (1995)

Image
After the L.A. power pop band Candy failed to achieve wide success with their only album from 1985, they evolved into the heavy metal band Electric Angels, who also released only one album in 1990, and who also found no commercial success. After a second Electric Angels album failed to materialize, three-quarters of that band’s lineup – bassist/lyricist Jonathan Daniel, drummer John Schubert, and a singer named Shane – formed another band called The Loveless, with guitarist Jon Ceparano replacing Ryan Roxie. The Loveless also recorded only one album, titled A Tale Of Gin And Salvation, released without a record label in 1995.

A Tale Of Gin And Salvation is a more fitting follow-up to Candy’s Whatever Happened To Fun… than the Electric Angels album was. Where Candy’s songs were sung from the point of view of teenagers who were facing adulthood and were not hopeful about the coming transition, the songs of the Loveless sound as though they were sung by the same characters many years lat…

Electric Angels (1990)

Image
After the L.A. power pop band Candy failed to achieve wide success with their only album from 1985, they evolved into the Electric Angels, who also released only one album in 1990. (This band should not be confused with a more recent power pop duo of the same name). On the self-titled Electric Angels, former Candy bassist/lyricist Jonathan Daniel and drummer John Schubert were joined by guitarist Ryan Roxie and a singer named Shane. Their sound had little in common with Candy’s power pop and a lot in common with ‘80’s heavy metal. At its core, the album seemed to be aiming for an Aerosmith-type hard rock sound. As produced by glam-rock veteran Tony Visconti, their music more closely resembled that of some other hair-metal bands of the era – i.e. Guns N' Roses, Mötley Crüe, Poison – and Shane’s vocals had more than a passing resemblance to those of Bret Michaels. However, Daniel’s lyrics were much smarter than most from that genre. Although they tend to cover much of the same groun…