In February 1949, the 45 rpm record was born

Have you heard of Singles Awareness Day, or Singles Appreciation Day? It's celebrated by romantically unattached people the day after Valentine's Day -- sometimes even on Valentine's Day, as a protest against the holiday by people who feel left out. Well, this February I am celebrating a different kind of Singles Appreciation Day, in appreciation of 7-inch vinyl singles! This February marks the 70-year anniversary of the pressing of the very first 45 rpm record. This disc, titled "Whirl Away", was reportedly pressed in February of 1949 for use in record store displays for the purpose of introducing the new format. The 7-inch, 45 rpm format was designed as a more convenient replacement for the heavier and wider shellac 78 rpm records which preceded them. Here is a YouTube video providing us with this February 1949 demonstration record in all of its scratched-up glory (the B-side was blank):

The Eddy Arnold song that we hear a snippet from on this disc was the B-…

Hagar, Schon, Aaronson, Shrieve “Through The Fire” (1984)

In 1984, shortly before Sammy Hagar controversially replaced David Lee Roth as the lead singer of Van Halen, and when Journey was heading for a period of internal conflict, an album was recorded by a supergroup consisting of Hagar, Journey guitarist Neal Schon, original Santana drummer Michael Shrieve, and journeyman bassist Kenny Aaronson (who was previously best known for playing with Rick Derringer). The album was recorded live, with some studio overdubs added and most of the crowd noise removed. The band billed themselves as Hagar, Schon, Aaronson, Shrieve – or HSAS. The album, titled Through The Fire, was produced by Hagar and Schon, who co-wrote eight of the nine tracks (the exception being their cover of Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade Of Pale”, which is rendered in a pleasing guitar-based interpretation).

There was no denying the skills of the assembled musicians, but the results of this collaboration amounted to little more than middling mid-‘80’s arena rock. In fact, much of …

The Jags "Back Of My Hand"

The Jags were a U.K. power pop quartet who were part of the late-‘70’s, early-‘80’s new wave scene. They were criticized for sounding much like Elvis Costello – because they did – but their debut single was a gem.

That 1979 single, “Back Of My Hand”, is as catchy as any power pop song you’ll ever hear. Resembling a fast-tempo Costello new wave song with softer edges more reminiscent of Buddy Holly, it has immediately engaging verses sung at a breathless pace, and a bridge that is nearly as infectious as the chorus, building up to the unforgettable hook: “I’ve got your number written on the back of my hand”. That song is one of the great earworms of the new wave era. The U.S. version of the single (Island IS 49202) contained a B-side called “Single Vision”, another Costello sound-alike that is almost as likable, though less hooky. The U.K. 7-inch (Island WIP 6501) contained a better B-side titled “Double Vision”, another fast-moving pleasantry which resembled Nick Lowe’s early new wa…

Alvin Lee's Road To Freedom: the beginning and the end

In 1973, before the official breakup of Ten Years After came about, singer/guitarist Alvin Lee recorded his first non-TYA project, a collaboration with American Gospel singer Mylon LeFevre. To make this seemingly unlikely pairing even more interesting, the duo was backed by a stellar assortment of musicians, including George Harrison, Ron Wood, Mick Fleetwood, members of Traffic (Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Rebop Kwaku Baah) and of King Crimson (Boz Burrell, Ian Wallace). Despite the large number of Brits involved, the material on this album mostly resembled American country rock. The album's title On The Road To Freedom reflected Lee's desire to escape from the commercial pressures and trappings of Ten Years After, as he felt that the band's musical development had been arrested after their Woodstock performance catapulted them to fame.

One of the high points of On The Road To Freedom is George Harrison's ballad "So Sad", which features the pseudonymous Har…

Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 38: Raconteurs “Consolers Of The Lonely” (2018 vinyl edition)

The 38th set of exclusive vinyl items offered to Platinum members of Third Man Records’ Vault service was mailed out to the members in December of 2018. 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. The Vault service promises to deliver exclusive vinyl-only records (usually one full-length album and one 7” single) to its Platinum members every three months.

The 38th Vault package consisted of a 10-Year Anniversary vinyl edition of Consolers Of The Lonely, the 2008 sophomore album by the Raconteurs, and a 7-inch single containing two new Raconteurs studio tracks – their first new studio recordings in a decade – from their forthcoming third album.

This double-LP edition of Consolers Of The Lonely is pressed in “copper foil” colored vinyl, and was mastered directly from the original 1-inch master tapes. The word on the web is that the analog sound qu…

Stone Temple Pilots "Live 2018" (Record Store Day Black Friday 2018)

For Record Store Day Black Friday 2018, the '90's alternative rock band Stone Temple Pilots issued their first live album ever, titled Live 2018. The album featured the band's new lead singer Jeff Gutt, who made his studio debut with STP on the self-titled Stone Temple Pilots album earlier that year. The live LP, pressed in red vinyl, was limited to 5,000 copies worldwide. The cover art featured 3-D images on the front and back cover, with the requisite 3-D glasses packaged inside with the record. It's a good thing the record comes with visual assets, because the record itself suffers from a fatal technical flaw.

The majority of the song selections come from the band's Scott Weiland-fronted '90's heyday, except for two songs -- "Meadow" and "Roll Me Under" -- from the 2018 album. Except for singer Gutt, the rest of the band's original lineup remains unchanged, consisting of Dean DeLeo (guitar), Robert DeLeo (bass), and Eric Kretz (…

Iggy And The Stooges "Rare Power" (2018 Record Store Day Black Friday release)

On Record Store Day Black Friday in 2018, Columbia/Legacy issued a vinyl LP titled Rare Power, containing nine rare tracks related to Iggy And The Stooges’ 1973 pre-punk classicRaw Power. Five of the tracks were outtakes from that album’s sessions; two tracks were alternate Iggy Pop mixes of album tracks, and one track was recorded during a 1973 rehearsal. Those eight tracks were previously included on a Limited Deluxe Edition of Raw Power which was only available through the Iggy And The Stooges website in 2010. The other track on Rare Power is a previously unreleased remix of “Gimme Danger” by TV/film/app music composer Josh Mobley. The LP was limited to 3,000 copies. Rare Power will not disappoint fans of Raw Power, as it contains a generous helping of the same garage-based hard rock that pre-figured the punk rock ethos.

The outtakes offer more of the primitive pre-punk nihilism found on Raw Power. “I’m Hungry”, “I Got A Right”, and “Hey, Peter” possess the type of dumb, reckless …

Alice Cooper "Live From The Astroturf" LP (2018 Record Store Day Black Friday release)

The original Alice Cooper band played a surprise reunion show on October 6, 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. The seven songs performed by this lineup made up 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 ("I'm Eighteen" and "Is It My Body") from that performance. Two years later, on Record Store Day Black Friday in 2018, a full-length 12-inch LP was issued under the same title Live From The Astroturf, with the same cover art, containing the full concert. The LP was limited to 3,00…