Category Archives: record store day

David Bowie • Cracked Actor (Live in Los Angeles ’74) [3LP, 2CD]

Talk around the internet forums and blogs in April of this year was that this splendid release, DAVID BOWIE‘s Cracked Actor (Live in Los Angeles ’74), would probably be out on CD at some point. After all, the vinyl-only Record Store Day release sold out quickly and surely there was plenty of still-mourning fans who’d missed out. I’m not sure any of us figured the CD would be out barely sixty days later, but here it is: the 2CD reissue of a release not even two months old. Clearly it was always the plan. Crank up the hype machine, sell out of the initial vinyl run and then unleash the compact disc set while the iron was still hot. [Does that count as a mixed metaphor?]

Cracked Actor is an exciting live album and worth every penny regardless of the configuration you chose/choose. If you didn’t get the vinyl – for whatever reason – and you still thrill to a live Bowie show then you’ll want to add this release to your collection. Recorded in concert at the Universal Amphitheatre in September 1974, it’s a show and band lineup that appeared between the Diamond Dogs and Philly Dogs tours of that year. Bowie seemed to be tinkering with set lists and musicians incessantly and this transitional date was, luckily, recorded by the BBC to bolster a documentary they were working on at the time. The band included Carlos Alomar and Earl Slick on guitars, Mike Garson on keys and David Sanborn on sax, and they were a startlingly solid group considering how recently they’d come together. Vocalists included Warren Peace, Ava Cherry and a certain Luther Vandross, who worked with DB on his next studio release, Young Americans. Songs include numerous cuts from Dogs, plus some from Aladdin Sane and Ziggy Stardust as well as “All the Young Dudes” (written by Bowie and a then current hit by Mott The Hoople) and a cover of “Knock on Wood.” I really like the muscular, saxified “Cracked Actor” and the sublime “It’s Gonna Be Me,” ultimately an outtake from Young Americans. Cracked Actor is another case for Bowie as the amazing interpreter of his own songs that he was, and how every concert of his was an event because of that.

Indeed, the show has been bootlegged fairly extensively (apparently there was more stage banter and a longer intro than appears on this official release) so it’s not news to the more intrepid Bowiefans that this show even exists, but you won’t be sorry for buying this version even if you do have one of the boots. In a deluxe three panel album jacket, the 3LP presentation is a 5-sided, 20-song show that features rearrangements of even his then most recent material. (Side 6 features an etching of the distinctive Bowie logo that dons the cover of this release, as well as Dogs.) Sound quality is pretty top-notch for a live show, given its 1974 recording but late 2016 mix by longtime Bowie partner Tony Visconti, and mastering by Ray Staff at AIR Mastering. The pressing itself is on 180 gram vinyl and is dead quiet, with the records coming in static-free poly-lined black sleeves. The 2CD comes out tomorrow and features the same track listing but some liner notes and photos not in the vinyl package. It ought to be just as compelling, albeit maybe not as warm as the wax. At least you won’t have to flip the discs over as often. Either way, vinyl or CD, I wouldn’t miss this one!

4/5 (Parlophone DBRSD 7476 [0190295869373], 3LP, 2017) [I reviewed Bowie’s other 2017 RSD release, BOWPROMO, here.]

Here’s a clip of the title track from this very record, as broadcast on the BBC’s Cracked Actor documentary in 1974.

 

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David Bowie • BOWPROMO [12″ Single Box Set]

Another Record Store Day release, and one that was heavily anticipated and criticized, BOWPROMO is a box set version of a DAVID BOWIE rarity. What was once upon a time a promotional record with one side dedicated to rough mixes of tunes that mostly ended up on Hunky Dory, this RSD version features half of that record along with era ephemera included in a nice little clamshell box. Let me clarify.

I say “half” a record because the original promo was dedicated to two artists, Bowie and a female singer named Dana Gillespie. A management stablemate of Bowie’s, her songs comprised the other side of the record, which was sent out to drum up interest in GEM Management’s two artists. For this release Gillespie’s songs – her side of the record – were removed, so we have a one-sided 12″ with half an album’s worth of prime David Bowie. The mixes of these songs are different from what ended up being officially released (five of the seven tracks ended up on 1971’s Hunky Dory), and are therefore officially interesting to Bowiephiles around the world. The mixes’ original master hasn’t survived into the 2000s and so these were culled from an actual pressing of the promo – and they sound quite good. In fact, listening to these songs, which include “Oh! You Pretty Things,” “Kooks” and “Queen Bitch,” makes me want to give Hunky Dory another try. I have a copy somewhere (I believe the Virgin CD reissue), but as the latest batch of Bowie vinyl reissues has been so good (I never got a chance to review Diamond Dogs, but it’s a stunner!) I may just have to pick it up on record. I can tell you that all of the songs here are epic, including “It Ain’t Easy,” which is muscular as hell, and “Bombers,” which finally saw release on the Rykodisc CD version of HD.

david bowie bowpromo labelPackaging on BOWPROMO is first-rate – as it should be, considering the pretty penny they charged for it. Picked up for fifty bucks locally, the release comes in a thin box that houses the one-sided 12″ (nothing pressed on the other side) which comes in its own cover sheathed in green wrapping paper, plus a manila envelope with color photos of our boy-ie, and a press release-style printout detailing the differences in these mixes from their official released versions, as well as info on the original promo release. Many have complained online about the fact that there are only seven songs here, but this presentation is worth the $50 I got it for. Whether it’s worth more or less depends on you, more or less. One might consider the old adage “a fool and his money are soon parted,” as one person did on one of the music blogs I read, but who’s to say what constitutes a fool-ish action? If I think it’s worth what I paid, then you are a fool to consider me a fool. (And I’m dying to finish this with “And I pity the fool!”)

5/5 (Parlophone)

You can see the original press release for this reissue on David Bowie’s web site.

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Pink Floyd • Interstellar Overdrive [12″ single]

Pink Floyd Interstellar Overdrive RSDRecord Store Day 2017 brought with it a plethora of pleasing platters and the first one I’m writing about is this PINK FLOYD 12″ single. Yes, it’s a single of one of the band’s earliest works, “Interstellar Overdrive”. This isn’t, though, the studio version you’ve thrilled to on their debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, but an earlier recording that has never seen the light of day (on vinyl) until now.

Recorded in late 1966 in a studio in Hertfordshire, England, this 15 minute take has much to offer. Take its sheer length: I can’t think of too many bands that were doing quarter-hour songs at that point, which may be why the original, official release was shaved to under ten minutes. Yet, the fifteen minutes gives the band even more room than usual to stretch out. Syd Barrett gets to wail on his Telecaster, slipping in and out of lockstep with bassist Roger Waters and drummer Nick Mason, while keyboardist Richard Wright plays some seriously demented organ pads full of distortion and contortion. Chaos reigns supreme! Also, the instrumental song’s “chorus”, the descending chord progression that anchors the song, is played to a curious drum beat – seemingly taken directly from Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walking”! I’m not kidding. The backbeat played by Mason is just like that boom-ba-boom, boom-ba-boom pattern we all know and love.

Package-wise, this is mostly a winner. The record comes in a nicely designed Hipgnosis cover, complete with printed inner sleeve, poster and postcard showing the Floyd in a saturated, black and white photo taken by Irene Winsby for Melody Maker. The only con? Well, it’s a one-sided record. I mean that literally. There’s nothing on the flipside except smooth, black vinyl, completely unladen by any sort of a groove. Isn’t it just like Pink Floyd? Wasting an entire side of 12″ vinyl. On the other hand, arty types that they are/were, they give us a poster and postcard we aren’t likely to actually use (why, that would decrease the release’s value, RSD dorks!) just because they can. And I kinda like that. After side one’s blistering 14:57, you see, there’s not much you can follow it with.

4/5 (Pink Floyd Records)

The following video (assuming it’s still up) is from a documentary by Syd Barrett buddy Anthony Stern, purportedly the first use of the 14:57 take of “Interstellar Overdrive” on the above-reviewed release. There’s more information on this recording here.

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The Clash • The Clash [LP, CD]

In early April 1977, punk rock was something us Yanks enjoyed from the relative tranquility of our overstuffed living room chairs via nightly network newscasts and their exaggerated coverage of the UK’s latest outrage. Twenty-somethings with safety pins for earrings (and noserings!), ratty leather or Levi’s jackets emblazoned with patches and pins of their favorite bands – bands we’d never heard of here, with crazy names and logos – were shown constantly. It was real exciting for a 14 year old just starting his first band! I, like most of America, bought into the hyped-up, dumbed-down coverage, believing that “punk rock” must be pretty stupid judging from what our US talking heads were reporting. Of course, most of the stories on TV were shallow, not telling us how the movement was both a slam against the mega-rich rock stars of the time and the fact that there were no jobs for the working class, who were forced to try and live “on the dole” with no hope and quite likely no future.

By the time THE CLASH had their debut album, The Clash, released 40 years ago, punk was everywhere. The Damned had already issued their first records (see my review of Damned Damned Damned elsewhere on this blog), the Sex Pistols had a single out, and bands were forming everywhere in garages across the land. Here in the States, small, punk-infused movements were getting going in New York, L.A., San Francisco and nearly every city with more than four disaffected youths, and even way down under in Australia there was The Saints (see my review of I’m Stranded) singing about the same things! Fact of the matter is, teenagers and young adults all across the civilized world were feeling fed up with what appeared to be their lots in life and music was a real good way to express it. Anyone could pick up an instrument and play it, and some could even play together well enough to create songs – the rest could buy a cheap 7″ and sing along with the woes their new heroes had set to music. Punk rock wasn’t as homogeneous as it has been portrayed; some bands came up with great tunes and melodies while others set basic war chants to music. Some bands were political, others weren’t. If you had ears to listen there was something for you.

Photo by Chalkie Davies.

The Clash was for those who were through with what the government was giving them. Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, with Paul Simonon and Tory Crimes, sang about “Hate and War,” a “White Riot” and “Career Opportunities” (“the ones that never knock”). The music was primitive and powerful. Strummer’s lead vocals weren’t so much sang as spat. Jones’ guitar was played with all the grit you could get out of a Gibson. This is a record that demands the listener to don full-on riot gear in order to avoid the blood splatter blasting from the grooves! “London’s Burning,” indeed.

In retrospect it’s strange that this album was considered so raw that it wasn’t even released in the USA until after the following album, Give ’Em Enough Rope, was issued. When it was finally released here (after it had sold over 100,000 units as an import), the A&R dude at Epic Records stripped a handful of songs from it and replaced them with some newer, more “radio friendly” cuts plus a 7″ single with two brand spankin’ new non-LP tracks. (See, even back in the late ’70s record companies were trying to get you to buy more and more copies of a release you already owned. “’Cause killers in America work seven days a week!”)

I’ve got a few different versions of The Clash. On CD there are both the 1999 issues (UK and US configurations, of course) and the 2013 remaster included in The Clash Sound System mega-boxset. Vinylly, I spin the pictured 2013 Record Store Day issue pressed in “white riot/Protex blue split color” wax. Both recent versions were mastered by “Tim Young & The Clash” (presumably minus Strummer!) and sound great considering the rawness of the recordings, unlike most of what was being released by major record labels in the ’70s. I imagine any 1999 or later CD or vinyl of legitimate issue will suffice – what we’re talking about here is a punk rock cornerstone, an album that would actually benefit from shoddy quality. If it was supposed to sound polished and proper it wouldn’t be punk!

4.5/5 (Epic Records, 1977)

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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 Doors • Strange Days (Mono Mix)

doors-strangedays-frntWhat’s, errr, strange about this release is it came five years after The Doors’ eponymous debut was reissued on vinyl in its original mono mix. Why did they wait so long? Well, it could be that the band’s second album, Strange Days, wasn’t as big as their first—despite a couple of big hits. Chances are the record company couldn’t expect the kind of sales on this one that they did for the other, and yet, being what amounts to a definite “real fans only” release, you’d expect they could gauge demand well enough to know just how many they could sell and at what price. Maybe it took them five years to do that.

Strange Days arrived originally in September 1967, only nine months after The Doors first hit the scene as the band’s rookie release. Naturally, because LP numero uno was so big, great expectations were foisted onto numero dos. As usually is the case, creating an equally satisfying sophomore album is difficult. To their credit, The Doors did a pretty fine job. doors-strangedays-bandStrange Days is loaded with songs that could only be from Morrison/Krieger/Manzarek/Densmore, and has some of the band’s greatest songs on it, including the title track, “Love Me Two Times,” “People Are Strange” and the epic “When the Music’s Over.” There are also lesser known songs that are every bit as good as the more familiar ones, such as “Moonlight Drive” and ”You’re Lost Little Girl,” which I was first introduced to via Siouxsie and the Banshees’ cover (on their 1987 Through the Looking Glass album).

This Record Store Day 2015 issue of Strange Days is the first reissue of the mono mix of the album. Back in the ’60s mono and stereo versions of an LP were very commonplace, since hifi stereos weren’t yet in every home, but by the late ’60s stereo was winning and mono releases were gradually phased out. What that means is, finding a mono copy of this album today is difficult, if not darn near impossible, especially if money is an issue. doors-strangedays-cuSo thank Rhino and The Doors for putting this out. Unfortunately, the mono mixes of these songs aren’t as good as the stereo ones. Take “Strange Days,” the album opener, for instance. Its mix is hampered by a pumping dynamic level that is pretty distracting. Yes, the mixes are slightly different (and the rest of them aren’t as problematic), and that’s why the dedicated fans will want a copy of this. But if you’re just a casual fan you can probably skip this one. I feel the mono mix of The Doors is a much more compelling listen—but then I like that album more.

One thing’s for sure: Doors fans have been clambering for this reissue for sometime, collectively screaming “we want the world and we want it now!” Well, here it is! Grab one while it’s still grabbable.

3/5 (Rhino/Elektra)

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Lord Sitar • Lord Sitar

Who is Lord Sitar? Well, he’s a man known for his sitar playing prowess who, in 1968, recorded the one and only album under his name, Lord Sitar, released originally via EMI Records labels worldwide (in the US on Capitol, in Europe on Parlophone). The LP was one of those from the mid to late ‘60s that presented instrumental arrangements of current hits in order to cash in on a current fad. Think Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, or Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66, only this time the sitar is the star.

lordsitarWho is Lord Sitar? He was Big Jim Sullivan (born James Tompkins), the famed English session guitarist who played on literally hundreds of records by mostly British music acts of all ilks. (See the Wikipedia entry on him.) After learning the sitar, Big Jim recorded a couple of clever sitar-based albums, the other being Sitar Beat (credited to Big Jim Sullivan). This one, reissued on 180-gram clear green vinyl for Record Store Day 2015, features covers of a handful of Beatles tunes, including “Blue Jay Way” and “I Am the Walrus,” as well as “Daydream Believer,” “Black Is Black,” and my favorite, The Who’s “I Can See for Miles.” I first heard the Lord Sitar version one day at Jive Time Records in Seattle, immediately asked who it was, and then dutifully researched it until I found a CD copy (Jive Time, alas, only had the tune on a compilation album).

You can hear “I Can See for Miles” on YouTube below.

To today’s ears the album will sound cheesy. There are spunky horn sections, fuzzed out guitar a la Neal Hefti (Batman TV series theme), crazed cellos and of course the sitar, taking the lead vocal part with its elastic, nasal tone. And let’s not forget the inevitable female background choruses (usually singing only “la la las”). bigjimsullivan-lordsitarBut Lord Sitar is so “of its era” that it can’t help but either make you wince at its cheese factor or smile at the enjoyable, carefree arrangements as they merrily make their way out of your speakers. One bummer: Lord Sitar also covered The Rolling Stones’ “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadows?”, which appeared on the single of “Black Is Black” but which wasn’t added to this reissue or previous CD issues. It’s a killer cover!

Lord Sitar—that is Big Jim Sullivan—passed away in 2012 with a discography like no one else in popular music. With over 750 charted singles and over 50 number one hits, Big Jim was more of a god than a lord.

3/5 (Parlophone)

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The Family Way • Original Soundtrack Recording

To call The Family Way a holy grail for Paul McCartney fans would be missing a point: Macca wrote only the tunes (or “cues” in movie music-ese) here. He’s not on the record at all. The orchestrations were done by The Beatles’ producer George Martin, who by 1966 had already shown quite a bit of talent at arranging for orchestras and such; he’d done a good bit of it before ever laying ears on Liverpool’s finest. So when McCartney was approached to score this British comedy/drama’s soundtrack, there was probably no doubt who’d be doing the heavy lifting. And yet, without chunes, a record ain’t nothing but a slab of black wax.

the-family-wayThe melody bits Paul gave George to orchestrate are quite catchy, and though a few of them reprise in different forms here and there (as you’d expect in a soundtrack), the barely 27 minute album is nice to listen to, even if you haven’t–and you probably haven’t–seen the movie. Starring Hayley Mills as a newlywed who gets mired in a comical series of events that prevent her and her husband from consummating their marriage, The Family Way was based on a Bill Naughton (Alfie) play, All in Good Time, and released in December 1966, just a half year before The Beatles would introduce Sgt. Pepper to the world.

This release is of the stereo mix of the record, most likely from the 2011 remaster that came from the original first generation master tapes and was used to produce Varese Sarabande’s first-ever stereo CD issue of the soundtrack. Another Record Store Day 2015 release, The Family Way is a nice addition to your Macca collection and certainly costs WAY less than a decent copy of the original vinyl.

2.5/5 (Varese Sarabande)

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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 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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