Category Archives: 10″ vinyl

Sun Ra & His Arkestra • “Rocket Number Nine” [10″]

sunra_rocketnumbernine_front_300pxThere’s a lot of activity right now in the universe of SUN RA. Just who or what is he/it? Short answer: He was a jazz pianist and composer who created some of the craziest music ever committed to vinyl. The guy who was born Herman Poole Blount in Birmingham, Alabama in 1914 was definitely a cosmic cat, and in the last year (over twenty since he passed into the great beyond) there has been some notable additions to his discography, including a double album of singles and a recent Record Store Day live release.

This 10″ record, put out by Sundazed’s new Modern Harmonic label, is but a trio of slices of his multi-flavored pie. “Rocket Number Nine” originally came to my knowledge via a cover version by rock ’n’ roll’s Sun Ra equivalent, NRBQ. It’s a bit kooky, and not surprisingly, the ’Q’s version ain’t that far off from this. Recorded in 1960, this version is “one of the earliest renditions” of the song so apparently he recorded it more than once. It starts off with an uptempo groove and a small chorus singing “Rocket number nine take off for sunra_greenduo_300pxthe planet Venus, Venus!,” then comes a quiet section with a moody and slightly off-kilter cello (part of the rocket trip to Venus?), followed by a short piano bit (presumably by Sun himself), and the “second stop is Jupiter” finale. It’s a fun piece to hear and I’m curious to know what other renditions are like. The other two cuts, “Ankhnation” and “Project Black Mass,” are previously unissued cuts and are a bit more normal – whatever that is in early ’60s, semi-bebop jazz. The latter is basically solo piano with someone banging a solo hubcap for rhythm. (Interesting but a little on the annoying side.)

One of the things that really makes this record cool, to me, is the artwork. The cover illustration is by Ian Schoenherr and it, along with the typography, make this record a real nice addition to your library. The fact that it is a ten-inch on clear green vinyl just adds to the fun. Modern Harmonic has a number of Sun Ra records out, all licensed from the man’s estate, and I plan to collect ’em all, along with  the aforementioned singles 2LP set.

3.5/5 (Modern Harmonic/Sundazed)

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Off! • Live from the BBC

off-frontTrying to figure out just what show on the BBC would have a hardcore punk band like Off! on it? How about the BBC Radio One Rock Show. They had this clutch of punk lifers in their London studios in October 2014 to record the ten songs that make up Live from the BBC, an album released on 10” vinyl for Record Store Day 2015.

This epic 16-minute platter brings some of Off!’s best tunes to life, having been played and recorded live in the studio. The mix sounds a bit muffled, perhaps befitting the band’s genre, and the vocals are low enough in the mix that it sounds like the songs were recorded at a show with a weak PA. Intentional or not, it sounds as punky as you’d hope. There’s no lyric sheet so, just like at a gig, it’s hard to tell what Keith Morris is singing about, but off-label“Over Our Heads,” “Meet Your God,” and “Darkness,” for instance, leave no doubt that the band’s bothered about something. There’s nothing all that ground breaking here—it’s pretty hard to break new ground in such a genre—but Off! play the kind of hardcore that most of us either live for or would rather die than hear. I fall somewhere in between, closer to the “I was listening to punk rock before you were even born” side than the “turn that racket DOWN!” one.

3/5 (Vice)

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The Replacements • EP

replacements_ep10inchOriginally released in 1987 as part of the campaign for The Replacements‘ second big league effort, Pleased to Meet Me, this EP is half teaser for the LP and half outtakes that didn’t make the album. This time, as a 10″ EP, it’s been released for Record Store Day 2015 just as the band (re-formed with two original members) go out on tour in the USA. “Alex Chilton” blasts out of the speakers like an ICBM, thanks to a detailed mastering job by someone who must appreciate the band’s ramshackle brilliance. The song’s about a guy you may have heard of who once led the power pop underdogs Big Star (and was the teenage lead singer of The Box Tops), and it’s one of the best tunes on the aforementioned LP. Up next is “Nightclub Jitters,” another album track that’s loaded with Paul Westerberg’s reality-based observations on dating and a nice standup bass line. (It actually stands out nicely on the vinyl, even when you consider the tracks were recorded in the infancy of digital.)

replacements-band_300pxOuttakes make up side two: “Election Day” is a slow blues with a powerful slide guitar lead that could have been on the album (which only had eleven songs) though it does feel slightly unfinished. Next the band covers “Route 66” in a throwaway piss-take complete with wrong lyics that’s pretty enjoyable but certainly not a vital part of the band’s legacy—it’s perfect for a B-side.

In all, a nice 4-song platter that makes a tasty appetizer for the record that was The Replacements’ greatest main course.

4/5 (Sire/Rhino)

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Fela Kuti • Fela and His Africa 70 (10″ EP)

FELA-10inch-frontAnother Record Store Day gem, which I didn’t buy on that fabled (last month) date but just found the other day. My friend Gary brought over his copy of Fela Kuti‘s EP on Knitting Factory, Fela and His Africa 70, a few weeks ago and I really dug the West African pop-meets-jazz ‘n’ soul vibe. I’m not sure about the origins of these tracks, and the label’s website has scant info on them, so all I can say is the tracks on this 140-gram, 10-inch record sound like they’re from the ’70s, with a very soulful vibe and some great grooves.

You know, just trying to describe this music makes me feel very, ummmm, white. Like when I wear this really cool King Tubby t-shirt I have, I feel conspicuously visible. Or when you see a drunken frat boy wearing his Bob Marley shirt at a club and you think, “You probably don’t know any other reggae artists, you frickin’ moron!”, that’s what it’s like. I guess you just have to sample the music for yourself and see if it moves ya. I like the groove of “My Lady Frustration,” with its cool bass line and horn riffs. Fela sounds frustrated, kinda, but his band doesn’t let him get mired in it at all. If James Brown was Nigerian and could just slow down a bit, that’s kinda what you have here. If you know the song “Soul Makossa” by Manu Dibango, it’s a lot like that but less poppy. It’s got a real sweet trumpet solo too. Definitely a jazz record, though, so if you’re against jazz (c’mon, man, just try it, you might like it!) then you’ll want to pass. But I think this 10″ record’s a winner.

4/5 (Knitting Factory)

[Another re-post from my previous blog, Skratchdisc, from May 2010. This 10″ was available on Record Store Day 2010.]
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The Sonics • 8

[Since this blog is named after a series of 10″ record releases from the early ’80s, I’m starting off with a re-post of this 10″ release from late December 2010. It originally appeared in my old blog, Skratchdisc.]

Yes, “8.” I have no idea what the significance of the title is*, but I do know why this release is significant: It’s the first release of new music from The Sonics in decades! And while there’s only four new studio tunes, there are six new live recordings from their recent European tour (you only get four on the 10″ vinyl).

To see these guys live—even today!—is to experience rock ‘n’ roll the way it was meant to be. Their manic, loud, practically deprived performances are what it’s all about. I imagine there’s no need to “introduce” you to The Sonics, since you probably already know they were a Tacoma, WA garage band from the mid ’60s who followed in The Wailers’ footsteps, but took it a few steps further, into the grimy back alley of what we call rock. Their original tunes “Psycho,” “Strychnine,” and “Cinderella” were some of the best original rockers of the decade. (All three are performed live on this release.) So, now we have 8, a short, sharp, shocking piece of wax (or aluminum and plastic) with some new tunes. When I interviewed the band in late 2008 for the article I did in The Big Takeover**, Larry Parypa said they were planning on recording some new tunes but were worried that they couldn’t find a producer who could do it as raw as they wanted. Well, it seems they got in touch with Jack Endino somehow, and though Jack only gets an engineer credit, and Larry himself is credited as producer, the record definitely has the raw power Parypa was after. That being said, there’s a bit of high end lacking (and that may just be modern ear syndrome), yet the result is overall pretty pleasing. I mean, let’s face it. Everyone looking forward to a record like this thinks to himself, “I bet it’s gonna suck.” But if you’ve seen them live recently (and they’re playing a show on New Year’s Eve in Olympia, WA), you gotta figure there’s a good chance they could manage a respectable rekkid. And they have…

sonics-8_250pxI like the new tunes on this, especially “Cheap Shades” and “Don’t Back Down” (not The Beach Boys song), both sung by Jerry Roslie, and the other two aren’t bad either (sung by latter day bassist Freddie Dennis). But it’s the live tracks that everyone’s most interested in. Well, they certainly deliver the goods, performance-wise. The sound quality’s not what you might expect from a 2010 live recording, but then again, the “very good quality board tape” quality is definitely in your face and fills your ears. (Here I’ll mention that the other live tracks on the CD are “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark,” and not on the vinyl, “Boss Hoss” and “The Hustler.”) Kudos to Jim Anderson, Seattle soundguy extraordinaire, for not overdoing it, separating it on 24 tracks, or using modern post-production tricks to make it sound clean. Dirty is where it’s at, folks, and The Sonics are dirtier than bands half their age. Hell, a quarter of their age!

3.5/5 (The Sonics Record Co.)

* Aha, could it be because there’s eight songs on the record? Sure, but there’s ten on the CD and that’s what most people will buy.
** Issue #64, and available at their web site on the Back Issues page.

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