Category Archives: 7″ vinyl

The Flaming Lips • “Space Oddity” [7″]

flaminglips-spaceoddity_350pxThis is Ground Control to major David Bowie fans everywhere: THE FLAMING LIPS have a new 7″ out, their cover of “Space Oddity,” one of our hero’s best known songs. Coming out a year after Bowie’s death, it’s a fairly faithful yet interesting take, very similar to the version they did on Stephen Colbert’s TV show last April. The fact that it comes out at the same time as the Lips’ new album is also of interest: is this a sideways promotional tie-in to Oczy Mlody or a heartfelt tribute? Here in the year 2017 I’d have to say it’s both. There’s no way to hear about one record and not the other since the advent of the internet, keyword searches, SEO and the rest. And my job is to let you know about things I like, find interesting, moderating or even disgusting, so I naturally inform you.

flaminglips-oddity-vinyl_350pxWayne Coyne and his bros do a nice version of Bowie’s breakout song, keeping to the recipe for the most part, adding a dash of Lips spice here and there but not so much that you taste only the pizzazz and none of the actual showcase dish. It’s got a nice picture sleeve, is pressed on red vinyl, and has a big hole in the middle so us Americans can have our 45 served the way we like it. “Jest (There Is…)” on the flipside is pretty standard Lips fare but important to Flaming collectors because it’s not on the new album either. If you want ’em both LP + 7″ you can order them as a bundle from the band’s web site and save some money.

Anyway, “Space Oddity” is a nice DB cover, a worthwhile addition to the Lips discography and the video’s pretty cool, too.

3/5 (Warner Bros.)

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Robyn Hitchcock & Emma Swift • “Love Is a Drag” b/w “Life Is Change” [7″]

Hitchcock Swift Love Is a DragThere hasn’t been a lot of  activity in Robyn Hitchcock‘s discography in the last year or two, so his new 7″ single with Emma Swift is notable. “Love Is a Drag” is a moody dirge of a tune, the duo’s second outing on vinyl, primarily acoustic but with a sizable helping of atmospheric sounds to bring the point on home. The single was recorded earlier this year by Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub) and just released on Hitchcock & Swift’s Tiny Ghost label. I’m not normally a fan of low tempo balladry, but then Hitchcock wouldn’t share his authorship with anything as normal as what is commonly considered a ballad.

This slowpoke starts with a lone nylon stringed guitar, joined by Emma and an electric guitar somewhere off in the distance. Soon Robyn comes in along with a toy-sounding xylophone and by the time it gets to the chorus this song would make those with weak constitutions for depressing lyrics hastily pick up the needle and perhaps look for one attached to a syringe to bring them a little comfort. The attraction to this song for me is the atypical harmony these two singers bring to the chorus – partly because the girl is singing the lower part while the boy is handling the higher harmony. It kind of reminds me of Elvis Costello’s “I Want You” (from 1986’s Blood & Chocolate), though it is mercifully shorter and not nearly as psychotic. The B-side, “Life Is Change,” is almost a “part two” to the A-side, as if the chorus (“you robynhitchcock_emmaswift_300pxdon’t want to see that life is change” or “…life has changed”) is the reason why the antagonist of the first song has found himself the subject of this single in the first place. This tune starts off at a similarly lethargic energy level as it’s dark brethren but starts to pick up toward the end, and features a nice descending guitar line that sounds vaguely like something from a Beatles tune whose title is escaping me at the moment. (I’m sure I’ll come up with it eventually but I’m not gonna wait for it to happen before I put up this review. Meanwhile it’s gonna drive me crazy, so if you solve this mystery, please post a comment here. It’s not close enough to Christmas – nor healthy – for me to be going this insane over a silly little single.)

You can order the record directly from Robyn Hitchcock’s web site, and it comes with a download card so you can put the songs in your iTunes and carry them close to your soul. If you’re that brave.

3/5 (Tiny Ghost)

 

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The Kinks • Sleepwalker [LP]; 3 EPs [7″]

418457742734-800Record Store Day, Black Friday 2016 brought a kuartet of records by The Kinks to my local vinyl emporium – and yours. This time we got a black and white marbled vinyl reissue of the band’s 1977 LP, Sleepwalker, plus three more EPs in the kontinuing series of 7″ releases kourtesy of Sanctuary Records. But first, the long player.

Sleepwalker was the initial release in the ’77 resurgence of The Kinks as a world-class rock ’n’ roll band. Issued worldwide by Arista Records thanks to mogul Clive Davis’s belief in Ray Davies & Ko., it told the world that these Brits had gotten a second wind and were back with a vengeance. As it turned out, the band made a handful of great records between then and the mid ’80s that were every bit as meaningful as the great singles they made in the mid ’60s. It just so happens that Sleepwalker isn’t as great as the later Low Budget or the live One from the Road, but it wasn’t a bad restart. The title track is quite good, as is “Life on the Road” and a few others. Totally worth your trouble if you can still find a copy. Friday Music pressed it on a colorful 180 gram piece of wax so that’s a plus. (It’s priced a little high but is limited to 1500 copies, so that and the marbled vinyl are probably why.)

Kinks EP Till Death Us Do Part Kinks EP David Watts Sanctuary Records, who handles The Kinks ’60s output, brought out three EPs for Black Friday ’16. This time we get two vintage titles, Till Death Us Do Part and David Watts from 1967, and the newly created God’s Children, made up of songs from the band’s soundtrack to the 1971 film, Percy. There’s nothing new here – all of these tracks, 12 across the three records, have been released before (though a couple aren’t the easiest to find) – but if you’re already kollecting the EPs then there’s no reason to stop now. The pressings are nice, the sleeves are kool looking, and the music is, of kourse, top notch.

Kinks EP God's ChildrenI’m hoping the powers that be keep putting out new Kinks kollectibles, but that they’ll get an infusion of kreativity and kome up with some titles or kompilations that haven’t been done before. Phew! I kan’t keep up with all of these k’s. God Save The Kinks!

3.5/5 (Friday Music [Sleepwalker], Sanctuary)

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The Dogs • “Ain’t Going Nowhere” (7″ EP)

dogs-aintgoingnowhereWhat makes a punk record today? Über clean ‘n’ whiny vocals amidst perfectly tuned guitars bought for the band by mom and dad? Major label distribution during a tour that the band paid to get on? Or is it a 4-song EP on white vinyl, limited to just 200 copies, put out by a tiny label that’s not in business to make money, by a band of three friends who’ve been playing together off and on for decades just for the sake of playing together? I’d say that’s more likely to be it.

In this case, The Dogs‘ new 7″ “Ain’t Going Nowhere” has a quartet of original punk tunes that rock harder than most of what’s being put out today, by a band that’s got experience in both playing the music AND living the life. The title track, which is the better of the four songs – though the other three are awfully good, too – is about “living the dream” that’s become a nightmare and is likely going nowhere. Fed up? Yeah! Giving up? Hell, no!

Unlike lots of releases that are “limited editions” (say something put out for Record Store Day), this release is highly unlikely to come out again. That’s part of the punk rock ethos – let’s put this out now because this is what we’re feeling NOW. It ain’t gonna last forever, either, so if you want one you’ll have to get off yer ass and find it in your local punk rock record shop NOW. Or, better yet: go see The Dogs when they play your town. If neither of those is an option for ya, then follow the link below and order yourself one, now.

4/5 (Smelvis Records; more info at: http://www.smelvisrecords.com/the-dogs.html)

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The Kinks • Kinksize Hits EP, Kinksize Session EP, “You Really Got Me” (live) 7”

kinks_kinksizehits_400pxHere’s a trio of 7” releases for RSD 2015, on the verge of yet another possible Kinks reunion, designed to get you excited for a band that continues to thrill 50+ years after they first laid noise to tape.

Kinksize Hits, an EP first released in 1965, contains only two hits: “You Really Got Me” and “All Day and All of the Night.” (Pretty big hits, I’d say!) The other two tracks barely scraped into the charts—ask most Kinks fans if they’ve heard of “It’s All Right” and “I Gotta Move” and they’d probably have to think about it for a few moments. Regardless, it’s a reissue so you can’t blame the record company. After all, they did at least get the sound quality right!

kinks_kinksizesession_300pxKinksize Session came out in ’64 and features four lesser known tracks: “I’ve Gotta Go Now,” “I’ve Got That Feeling,” “Things Are Getting Better” and “Louie Louie.” This one’s actually a bit nicer because of that—the songs are ones that you’d likely skip over in any other circumstance, but they’re pretty good. (Though even I’d take The Kingsmen’s version of “Louie Louie” over this one.) The songs here are the ones that define the old cliché, here re-worded to add some freshness to this sentence, “most bands would kill to have their crap sound this great.” (I’d like to see if anyone ever puts out an EP called Kinks Krap.)  (Kinks Katastrophe?) (How about Kataklysmic Kinks?!)

The third of these releases, “You Really Got Me” (live) b/w “Milk Cow Blues” (live) is pretty superfluous. Both tracks were recorded live in a London TV studio (late ’64 and summer ’65), both sound pretty lousy, and both versions are nowhere near as good as the kinks_youreallygotme_300pxstudio versions. Why didn’t they just reissue another EP, like Kwyet Kinks? (That’s a real one, by the way.) If I wasn’t such a Kinks konneisseur, I’d have either passed on this one or tried to sell it back. But you know I kan’t do that!

You really got to hand it to those folks at the record label. They found that photo of me over a barrel and taped it up in the board room.

3/5, 3/5, 2/5 (INgrooves/Sanctuary/BMG)

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Dionne Warwick/The Stranglers • “Walk On By”

stranglers-warwick_walkonby_400px  Who would have ever thought that British pubrock punkers The Stranglers would cover this Burt Bacharach/Hal David composition, first made a hit by Dionne Warwick, with such glorious results? And then… Who would’ve expected the two versions to share opposing sides of the same 7″ vinyl?

“Walk On By” was a huge hit for Warwick in 1964, her second single to make the US Top Ten, and a breezy, wispy little tune about lost love that floats along beautifully thanks to her soft, expressive voice. Fast forward to 1978 >> The Stranglers, pub rockers turned punk, take a stab at the song, a quite sinister sounding cover carried by Hugh Cornwell’s deep voice, JJ Burnel’s fuzzed-out bass and an organ part that is equal parts Warwick arrangement’s horns and strings. dionne-warwick-walk-on-by_300pxCornwell sounds like, once he’s done crying over losing his love and “seem[ing] broken in two,” he’s gonna grab her, drag her into a dark alley and let his foolish pride finish things up. And this version reached the UK’s #21 slot.

What’s great about Rhino’s Side By Side series of 7″ single pairings is that it can juxtapose two clearly different versions of a song, giving you two ways of looking at the same situation. It’s like having an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other and you’ve got to pick which one to go with—except you can choose both. It doesn’t always work: another SBS 7″ from Record Store Day 2015, “Dark Globe” featuring Syd Barrett’s original as well as R.E.M.’s cover, doesn’t achieve the greatness Dionne Warwick and The Stranglers’ versions do because they’re too much alike. the-stranglers-walk-on-by_300pxHats off to the intrepid Rhino who first uttered this idea at a record company meeting expecting to have it shot down like a sitting duck on a pond. Now wouldn’t it be cool to have Dionne actually front The Stranglers and do a live mashup?!

4/5 (Rhino)

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