Monthly Archives: October 2015

Pink Floyd • The Wall (CD, LP)

pinkfloyd-thewallOn the eve of yet another version of rock’s stalwart musical The Wall, I figured I would listen to the 1979 original – the version that is the foundation for every reissue, movie and new tour with accompanying live album that has come out over the last 35 years. You see, Roger Waters has a new live film and album (Roger Waters The Wall, out November 20) and apparently there’s some new light to shine on “his” greatest work.

You see, as much as I love Pink Floyd – and I actually do – I think ol’ Rog’s trotting out another version either to: a) Cut David Gilmour out of the revenue stream, or b) Get me to start hating him. Just like remakes of great old movies or modern soundtracks of classic musicals, there’s no reason to have at it again. Sure, I’m a sucker for a nicely remastered reissue of an original version of something great, but I don’t need to hear Waters’ – what, third? – crack at Floyd’s masterpiece.

rogerwaters-thewallI’ll say this, too. In listening to The Wall (2009 remaster on CD) today, I honestly didn’t remember it being so fucking depressing! Great songs aside (the best ones are the ones they still play to death on classic rock radio), this 2LP/2CD album is one helluva downer. I guess I didn’t pay as much attention to the lyrics and the generally downcast, minor key tunes that Waters, Gilmour, Richard Wright and Nick Mason put together in 1979 as I do today as a mature adult. Man, I wonder what kind of stuff Waters’ therapist hears!
(no rating because this really isn’t a review) (Capitol; originally Columbia)

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Young Fresh Fellows • Topsy Turvy (LP, CD)

yff-topsyturvy-frontThirty years ago – holy crap, 30 years ago! – I was attending the University of Washington in Seattle and spending most of my time at the college radio station, KCMU. I had discovered the station the summer before I started at the U-Dub; it was an 18-watt FM radio station that had recently switched to being an entirely student-run concern, and they played songs by English bands like XTC and the Psychedelic Furs. KCMU (“Riding the New Wave”) also played a lot of local bands, from those that actually put out records (Blackouts, Fastbacks) to bands that recorded their songs in the station’s production room and transferred their tunes to “carts” so the DJs could play them (The Beefeaters’ “Caffeine”) – if you’re wondering where KEXP’s Audioasis show got its start, wonder no further.

The Young Fresh Fellows were a Seattle band made up of transplants from the Midwest. Their first album was a spunky thing called The Fabulous Sounds of the Pacific Northwest, and by 1985 they’d accumulated quite a following, so much so that when their sophomore LP, Topsy Turvy, came out, they actually got written about in Rolling Stone. Topsy Turvy was a plucky effort that upped the ante on the band’s power poppy songs and the pryff-topsyturvy-rearoduction by Seattle stalwart Conrad Uno showcased the songs in a way that was miles beyond Fabulous Sounds. The Fellows toured a lot – hell, they just played a lot – and they built themselves a following that got them signed to Frontier Records out of Los Angeles. Soon there were lineup changes, Frontier inked a distribution deal with a maj0r label, the Fellows really took off, and then… I don’t know, did they implode? Did Scott McCaughey (“mc coy”), Jim Sangster, Tad Hutchison and Kurt Bloch (who was also in the Fastbacks and replaced Chuck Carroll in the YFFs) run out of steam? Did grunge kill Seattle’s power pop scene? What happened to The Cowboys? The Heats? The Moberlys? Well, I’ll leave you to Clark Humphrey’s book Loser or Pete Blecha’s Sonic Boom to figure that out. All I know is, the Young Fresh Fellows were one of the most fun outings you could have in the early ’80s in Seattle.

I put on Topsy Turvy today and realized that three decades had passed since that exciting white vinyl album was released. I loved then, as I do now, how the Fellows showed the world what a great town Seattle was with their songs and crazy antics. How much about going to a Fellows gig do I remember? Let’s see: Scott’s Les Paul goldtop with the words “bag o’ poop” on the front. Tad’s cymbal stand that was actually a super tall bike pole with a wok on top – he’d time his hits on the wok to when the thing swung first away from and then back at him, ducking just in time to miss getting clocked on his yff_pressphotocabeza. Or Jim’s short scale Danelectro bass and the way he just hopped up and down, clearly having a fantastic time playing it. Or Chuck’s crazy ties and his amazing solos. Or the time they played at the Rainbow and I was so drunk I took 5 or 6 pint glasses that I had emptied into myself and tucked them into the sleeve of my jacket so I could have some free beer glasses in my college pad. Or me joining them onstage at the Hollywood Underground after I refused to stop shouting for “Give It to The Soft Boys” until they finally surrendered as long as I would sing it. Of course I would!

Did I mention that, besides having great songs like “Where Is Groovy Town?”, “Hang Out Right” and “The New John Agar,” Topsy Turvy had their cover of the Sonics’ “You’ve Got Your Head On Backwards”? The mix of power pop, hoaky country western, cute folkie ditties and kooky klassics like “Trek to Stupidity” was what made Topsy Turvy so terrific. And it’s what makes it continue to thrill thirty freakin’ years later.
4.5/5 (Popllama Products [LP], ESD [CD])

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Elvis Costello & The Attractions • Trust [Mobile Fidelity LP]

elviscostello-trust-frontMobile Fidelity entered the world of audiophile vinyl back in the late ’70s with their “half speed mastered” pressings of popular rock, jazz and classical albums. These days they don’t mention the half speed bit, but they do note their “Gain 2 Ultra Analog System,” which is their current technology for bringing to us “the most accurate sonic reproductions possible.” Their recent issue of Elvis Costello & The Attractions‘ 1981 LP, Trust, is on the platter today.

Strangely, this album was issued out of sequence. MoFi started releasing EC’s albums in their current Original Master Recording™ format a few years ago in their original chronological order, starting with ’77’s My Aim Is True and running all the way up through ’84’s Goodbye Cruel World, but skipping Trust until now. I actually wrote the company about this when they went straight from Almost Blue to Imperial Bedroom – WTF? – and their answer was your typical non-committal reply. Regardless, it’s here now and I’m really enjoying it. By 1981 Costello had mastered his then strong suit of writing clever, biting lyrics and the Attractions had honed their ability to communicate his songs with power and sometimes restraint to a fine point. Trust, produced by Nick Lowe with Roger Bechirian, contains great songs that cover all of Costello’s categories: hard power pop like “From a Whisper to a Scream,” film noir like leadoff track “Clubland,” and solo piano courtesy of Steve Nieve on “Shot with His Own Gun.” As always up until that point, the rhythm elviscostello-trust-rearsection of non-brothers Pete Thomas (drums) and Bruce Thomas (bass) serves the songs so well it’s pretty amazing that the songs don’t get credited to the whole band. Oh, don’t get Elvis started on that! (I’m curious if he addresses any of this in his new autobiography, Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink.) I think, despite favoring Armed Forces for years as my favorite EC&A album, that Trust actually covers more ground.

This reissue, as noted above, is a Mobile Fidelity release and as you might expect should sound better than the original. Once again, I don’t have a first-issue US or UK vinyl version to compare it to, but it’s a sure bet that this MoFi release is miles better than the original 1981 Columbia (US) pressing. It’s definitely better than the early 2000s Rhino CD, with a wide soundscape that allows all the different elements to sparkle and stand out – occasionally a little too much, like with the cymbals and high-hats of “New Lace Sleeves” or “Lovers Walk,” though those toned down after repeated listening. Thomas’ drums explode on the songs where they should, as does Thomas’ bass, which represents some of his best playing ever. I hope you’ll, ummmm, trust me when I say this is a classic album and should be in your collection.
4/5 (Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab)

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