Showing posts from 2019

Cybernauts: when Def Leppard met The Spiders From Mars

In 1997, two members of Def Leppard – vocalist Joe Elliott and guitarist Phil Collen – joined forces with two former members of David Bowie’s Spiders From Mars band – bassist Trevor Bolder and drummer Woody Woodmansey – to pay tribute to ex-Spiders guitarist Mick Ronson, who died from cancer in 1993. They did so by forming a Bowie cover band called Cybernauts, which also featured a keyboardist named Dick Decent. The band’s name presumably came from a quote by Mr. Decent, who had this to say about the first rehearsal:

"The instant that first guitar riff came sidewinding out of Mr. Collen's awesome slack, and the rhythm section to end all rock rhythm sections came in like a cybernaut from the next galaxy, any idea in my head other than the pure joy of playing with these guys was crashed into oblivion. Then big bad Joe opened up his formidable throat and the rest is history...".

The band went on a mini-tour performing five shows in the U.K., and their very rare CD was record…

Mumford & Sons “Delta Acoustic Sessions: Live From Electric Lady 26.07.18” (2019 Record Store Day EP)

On Record Store Day 2019, Mumford & Sons issued a limited edition 10-inch vinyl picture disc, limited to 3,500 copies, titled Delta Acoustic Sessions: Live From Electric Lady 26.07.18. This disc contained live acoustic performances of four songs from the 2018 studio album Delta, recorded at Electric Lady Studio in New York on July 26, 2018.

The 2018 studio album Delta had a mellow ambient nature that was notably different from the English band’s early banjo-driven folk rock, which they have been moving away from during the last half-decade. The four acoustic live-in-the-studio tracks on the Delta Acoustic Sessions EP are similarly mellow with spare arrangements that sound earthier than the album’s synth ambience. A banjo is noticeable, but only part of the time, and it is never dominant; acoustic guitar and piano seem to play the bigger parts here. The resulting EP sits on a sort of middle ground between the band’s early work and their newer sound.

The picture disc is handsome, w…

Radiohead “Minidiscs [Hacked]” (2019)

In June of 2019, Radiohead made available a mother lode of mostly unreleased recordings for only 18 days on Bandcamp, consisting of nearly 18 hours of private recordings from the OK Computer era. Recorded between 1995 and 1998, these recordings consisted of countless demos, outtakes, alternate versions, unreleased songs, live cuts, and other curiosities which were mostly related to the English alternative band’s 1997 masterwork. Why did they do this? On the band’s official website, guitarist/keyboardist Jonny Greenwood explained it like this:

“We got hacked last week – someone stole Thom (Yorke)’s minidisc archive from around the time of OK Computer, and reportedly demanded $150,000 on threat of releasing it. So instead of complaining – much – or ignoring it, we’re releasing all 18 hours on bandcamp in aid of Extinction Rebellion. Just for the next 18 days. So for £18 you can find out if we should have paid that ransom. Never intended for public consumption (though some clips did reac…

Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 40: Raconteurs “Help Us Stranger” (2019)

The 40th set of exclusive vinyl items offered to Platinum members of Third Man Records’ Vault service was mailed out to the members in June of 2019. 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 40th Vault package contained an exclusive vinyl edition of the Raconteurs’ 2019 studio album Help Us Stranger, and a 7-inch single containing early demo versions of two of the album’s songs.

The 180-gram Vault edition of Help Us Stranger was pressed in green vinyl with black and copper swirls, and was packaged with moving-image lenticular cover art. The album was the Raconteurs’ first studio album in eleven years, and is their third studio album to date. The album’s title continues the tradition…

Twenty years!

Twenty years! Yes, it has been 20 years since my website Rarebird's Rock and Roll Rarity Reviews first went live on May 31, 1999. It was hard enough to believe when my site reached its ten-year mark. In my 10-year anniversary post in 2009, I said that I hoped to keep the site up and running for another ten years. Well, hooray for me! Mission accomplished.

Since their name resembles the Roman numeral XX, I will enlist the band called the xx to provide the background music for this post:

So, now that I have succeeded in my long-term goal of keeping my site online for two whole decades, the next question is: What now? I honestly don't know how much longer I will be keeping the site online, at least in its traditional form. As proud as I am of the site, it is getting more expensive to preserve its online presence. I recently renewed both the domain and the storage, so it will at least stay online until next Spring of 2020. But beyond that, the site's future is uncertain. Pa…

The Parliaments “Baby I Owe You Something Good” (2019 Record Store Day EP)

For Record Store Day 2019, the Detroit soul label Revilot Records issued a 10-inch EP with six tracks from The Parliaments, the George Clinton-led ‘60’s doo wop quintet which later evolved into Clinton’s ‘70’s funk collectives known as Parliament and Funkadelic (among other variations). The EP, titled Baby I Owe You Something Good, was limited to 2,000 copies.

Side A contained three tracks taken from the group’s ‘60’s doo wop singles, all of which were later redone by Clinton’s ‘70’s variations of the Parliaments. These tracks are decidedly more straightforward and more innocent soul recordings than Clinton’s later psychedelic funk experiments, but they are good early displays of his unique talents.

“All Your Goodies Are Gone” was originally released as a single in 1967 (Revilot RV 211); it was later rerecorded by Parliament for their 1974 album Up For The Down Stroke. Although this earlier doo wop version is less stylized, it has the edge in terms of real emotion. It’s an excellen…

John Hiatt & Lilly Hiatt “All Kinds Of People” (b/w “You Must Go”) (2019 Record Store Day single)

For Record Store Day 2019, John Hiatt (the 66-year-old veteran singer-songwriter from Indiana) and his daughter Lilly Hiatt (who is a 35-year-old alt-country recording artist) recorded a 7-inch split-single limited to 450 copies. On the A-side, John covered Lilly’s song “All Kinds Of People”, which originally appeared on her 2017 album Trinity Lane. On the B-side, Lilly covered her father’s song “You Must Go”, from his 1995 album Walk On.

When you hear the elder Hiatt sing his daughter’s song “All Kinds Of People”, it’s hard to believe it’s not his own composition. The heartbroken lyrics about losing a true lover who is bound for the ocean (sort of a first-person variation on the Looking Glass song “Brandy”) have an emotional depth and a sense of down-to-earth realism that seemingly run in the family. John’s gentle guitar-and-harmonica arrangement, in which he is accompanied only by drummer Kenneth Blevins, also makes the song sound very much like it is one of his own creations.


Swervedriver “Think I’m Gonna Feel Better / Reflections” (2019 Record Store Day single)

Swervedriver, the reunited English shoegaze band of the ‘90’s, released a 12-inch single on Record Store Day 2019. Pressed in the clearest and most transparent vinyl I’ve ever seen, this disc featured previously unreleased covers of two songs from 1967: Gene Clark’s “Think I’m Gonna Feel Better” and the Supremes hit “Reflections”. The single was limited to 1,500 copies.

Although this 45-rpm single is 12 inches wide, the two songs would easily fit on a normal 7-inch single, at least one that was pressed in plain black vinyl. I have not been able to find recording dates for the unearthed tracks, either in the packaging or online. But judging from the sound, they were more likely to have been recorded during Swervedriver’s original ‘90’s run than during more recent times.

“Think I’m Gonna Feel Better” was originally a song that Gene Clark recorded with the Gosdin Brothers in 1967, not to be confused with his ’65 Byrds classic “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better”. Clark’s original was a jan…

Bob Dylan "Blood On The Tracks - The Original New York Test Pressing" (2019 Record Store Day LP)

On Record Store Day 2019, Legacy Records issued a limited edition vinyl LP reproducing the original test pressing of Bob Dylan's landmark 1975 album Blood On The Tracks. The LP was limited to 7,500 copies. This was the first time the much-bootlegged test pressing -- commonly referred to as the "New York version" -- was made available commercially. All ten tracks on the test pressing were recorded at A&R Recording Studios in New York City.

The 1975 commercial release of Blood On The Tracks contained five original New York tracks and five rerecorded Minnesota tracks. Dylan’s brother David Zimmerman encouraged him to rerecord those five latter tracks at Minneapolis Sound 80 Studios with local musicians to make the overall sound of the album less downbeat. There were originally only five copies of the Columbia test pressing known to exist. Amoeba Records in Los Angeles, California acquired one of those copies in 2015 and reportedly sold it for a whopping $12,000.

The …

Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 39: Sleep “Live At Third Man Records” (2019)

The 39th set of exclusive vinyl items offered to Platinum members of Third Man Records’ Vault service was mailed out to the members in March of 2019. 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 39th Vault package contained a 4-LP live set from the stoner-metal band Sleep, recorded directly to acetate at Third Man Records in Nashville on December 12, 2018. The four LP’s in this set were pressed in different colors of vinyl: one blue, one green, one purple, and one orange.

Sleep are a California trio who recorded three albums in the 1990’s. The trio’s latest album The Sciences, their first in two decades, was released by Third Man Records in 2018. Their brand of heavy metal is the slow…

Motley Crue "Too Fast For Love" original 1981 Leathur mix

Around the time of the 2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Nikki Sixx said in a Kerrang interview that his band Mötley Crüe were once “told by the Hall Of Fame that we would never get in, because of how we’ve acted”. Although it is understandable if an organization does not want to reward bad behavior, one must wonder what kind of bad behavior keeps someone out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Few art forms have been more frequently associated with bad behavior than rock and roll music, right?

Well, anyone who wants a crash course on the L.A. hair-metal band’s wild and outrageous past needs to look no further than Netflix. The new Netflix movie The Dirt dramatizes the first 15 years or so of Mötley Crüe’s history. The film is based on the band’s autobiographical 2001 book of the same name, and was co-produced by the four band members among others. After watching this account of the band’s out-of-control party life in the ‘80’s, it’s hard to believe that all four of…

The Cure - Peel Sessions 1978-1985

In recognition of the Cure's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this month, I wanted to share with you the sessions that the Cure recorded for The John Peel Show on England's Radio One. The band recorded a total of six sessions for the program between 1978 and 1985. The first session from 1978 was released as a legitimate commercial EP in 1988. The fourth session from 1981 was issued as an unauthorized 7-inch vinyl EP. I reviewed both of those EP's on my website many years ago, but I only recently was able to listen to the Cure's other four Peel Sessions, thanks to the modern conveniences of YouTube and Twitter. I would have loved to have been able to embed these videos on my Cure page way back in 2001. Now that we have Web 2.0 technology, that dream is now a reality.

The Cure’s first Peel Session from 1978 features the original trio of singer/guitarist Robert Smith, bassist Mick Dempsey, and drummer Laurence Tolhurst performing live in the studio in Decem…

Pearl Jam "Live At Easy Street" (2019 Record Store Day exclusive)

Pearl Jam have been named the official Ambassadors of Record Store Day 2019. To celebrate this accolade, the Seattle grunge titans are reissuing their rare 2006 EP Live At Easy Street. This recording predates the Record Store Day tradition, but it anticipated the Record Store Day spirit in many ways. The band played a surprise set at the Easy Street Records store in West Seattle in April of 2005, two years before the first Record Store Day. (According to Eddie Vedder, this was the first time the Seattle grunge band played in the western part of the city). The band made this appearance in support of the Coalition Of Independent Music Stores. A limited number of CD copies of the recorded set were distributed to indie record stores in 2006. Now, Live At Easy Street will be issued on vinyl for Record Store Day 2019, and will be limited to 6,000 copies.

The seven songs here were performed with amazing ferocity that recalls the band's early days, with the recorded set clocking in at l…

Record Store Day 2019: 3-inch singles

There are plenty of interesting items scheduled to be released on Record Store Day 2019, which falls on April 13th this year. I am thrilled to see that the vinyl resurgence has not faded away, as some people predicted it would by this time. But I must say I am surprised to see a whole new vinyl record medium being offered this year: the 3-inch single. That's right. These tiny records, which are not quite half the width of the familiar 7-inch single, are able to hold up to four minutes of music. But can they be played on a regular turntable? Apparently not. Special miniature turntables designed to play these records are also going to be offered for sale on Record Store Day this year. Not surprisingly, Jack White's Third Man label is at the forefront of the (re-)birth of this vinyl novelty.

The box set features six tiny singles from the White Stripes' back catalogue — Exclaim! News (@exclaimnews) February 28, 2019

Here are the details about the 3-in…

The Herd with Peter Frampton

Peter Frampton, the British singer/guitarist whose 1976 live album Frampton Comes Alive has sold over 17 million copies, has revealed that he now suffers from a degenerative muscle disease called Inclusion-Body Myositis. Frampton has told Rolling Stone as well as CBS News that he feels he will not be able to play guitar well for much longer, so he has announced a farewell tour, and explained that his upcoming double album was created at a feverish pace because he felt a need to create as much material as possible before he further loses his musical abilities. Frampton said, "I've been playing guitar for 60 years. Started when I was eight and now I'm 68. So, I've had a very good run".

Frampton's public "run" began during his teenage years. After his brief stint as a guitarist for a British beat band called the Preachers, who recorded one 1965 single ("Hole In My Soul" b/w "Too Old In The Head") produced by Bill Wyman, Frampton j…

The Winkies (1975)

The Winkies were a British pub rock band from the '70's who are best remembered for their brief stint as Brian Eno's backing band during Eno's first and only solo tour in 1974, which was cut short after six dates and one session for the John Peel radio show when Eno was hospitalized with a collapsed lung. The Winkies also recorded one self-titled album in 1975 before calling it quits.

The Winkies consisted of Canadian-born singer/songwriter Philip Rambow (who was later a solo artist), guitarist Guy Humphries, bassist Brian Turrington, and drummer Mike Desmarais. Their album, released only in the U.K. and Brazil at the time, was produced by Guy Stevens. The album is currently available in the U.K. and Japan in CD and digital formats, but is not commercially available in most countries.

Although the Winkies were technically a part of the early-‘70’s glam rock scene, their music was more reflective of that era’s British pub rock scene. Despite a fairly convincing Bowie…

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…