Archive for December, 2012

The Best Reissues of 2012

Here are some of our top picks for records reissued in 2012 (in no particular order):

  Mad Music
Drag City/Yoga Records [LP/MP3]
“A privately funded record of lavishly produced instrumental music originally published in 1977 and now reissued by Drag City / Yoga Records.” Mysterious and unreleased so-called “trance” music from anonymous creators.
  Van Dyke Parks “Song Cycle”
Bella [LP/CD]
Not just Van Dyke’s first album Song Cycle, but also his other records Clang of the Yankee Reaper and Discover America. If you are unfamiliar with his works these three are the place to start.
  Lee Hazlewood “Singles Nudes & Backsides”
Light in the Attic [LP/CD/MP3]
“The best of Lee’s solo songs and duets from his LHI (Lee Hazlewood Industries) imprint. Acid-folk and country-rock to pop-psych and soul, re-mastered for the first time from the original analog tapes, along with Lee’s output for other labels, rarities, and unreleased gems.”
  Davy Jones “The Bell Recordings”
Friday Music [CD]
“Davy Jones’ self titled 1971 masterwork featuring the hit single “Rainy Jane.” Long out of print album that became a pop classic finally available for the first time on CD.”
Steve Miller Band (first five albums)
Edsel [CD]
“Digitally remastered digipak editions of the first five records from SMB containing all the lyrics, interviews with Steve Miller, and photos from Steve’s own collection.”
The Velvet Underground 5 LP Box Set
Sundazed [LP]
“Includes the rare mono versions of the VU’s first three albums, the mono version of Nico’s Chelsea Girl and a definitive edition of the band’s unfinished fourth album. Housed in a deluxe box with all original LP artwork along with two bonus poster inserts.”
  The Fame Studios Story 1961-1973
Kent Records [CD]
“UK three CD collection focusing on the famed Alabama recording studio. Special attention is paid to those acts closely associated with the Fame label, such as Candi Staton, Jimmy Hughes and Clarence Carter, as well as its stable of writers and producers, including Dan Penn, Spooner Oldham and George Jackson.”
  The Kinks at the BBC
Sanctuary [CD]
“Limited five CD box set collated from all of the BBC owned Kinks recordings that still exist in the archive. Included also is a DVD of the bands sought after appearances on Top of the Pops and the Old Grey Whistle Test a well as concerts from throughout the band’s career.”
  R. Stevie Moore “Hearing Aid”
Knock Em Dead [LP]
“Compiled over the course of 17 years, digging deep into Stevie’s cassette catalog, Hearing Aid is a collection of Stevie’s songs that cover a wide range of variety. The end result is not a “greatest hits” collection but rather a diverse sculpture of the early world of R. Stevie Moore.”
  Suzanne Ciani “Lixiviation”
B-Music [CD/LP]
A fine selection of tracks that will appeal to fans of early electronic experiments and electronic music in general. Cleverly sequenced tracks combining short audio logos with lengthy soundscapes for an album-like listening experience. Sprinkled with brilliant sonic logos  non-commercial pieces teetering between psychedelia and ambient music.
  Laurie Spiegel “The Expanding Universe”
Unseen Worlds [LP/CD/MP3]
“Debut album by composer and computer music pioneer Laurie Spiegel. Composed and realized between 1974 and 1977 on the GROOVE system developed by Max Mathews and F.R. Moore at Bell Laboratories, the pieces on this album were far ahead of their time both in musical content and in how they were made.”
  Donnie & Joe Emerson “Dreamin’ Wild”
Light in the Attic [CD/LP/MP3]
“The sonic vision of the talented Emerson boys, recorded in a family built home studio in rural Washington State. Far removed from the late 1970s punk movement and the larger disco boom, Donnie and Joe tilled their own musical soil, channeling bedroom pop jams, raw funk, and yacht rock.’”
  Karen Dalton “1966”
Delmore [LP/MP3]
“Archive collection of previously unreleased impromptu recordings.” Featuring covers of Fred Neil and Tim Hardin songs, among others, captured by a friend on a portable reel-to-reel.
  Ray Stinnett “A Fire Somewhere”
Light in the Attic [LP/CD/MP3]
“Original guitarist in Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs recorded this masterpiece for A&M at the legendary Fame and Ardent Studios with assistance from Booker T. and co-mixer/ engineer Richard Rosebrough. Available now for the first time in 41 years.”
  Can “The Lost Tapes”
Spoon/Mute [CD]
“3CD box set of unreleased studio, soundtrack and live
material. Years of archived material, not outtakes, but rather tracks which had been shelved for a variety of reasons.”

Let us know in the comments what records you would have included in this year’s list…

Los Macs “Kaleidoscope Men”

Los Macs may very be one of the crown jewels of South American psychedelia. Born out of the bright, rambling port town of Valparaíso, Chile, the band first gained acclaim playing rock and roll classics on the local bar scene before eventually becoming engulfed in the international wave of lysergia kicked off by the Lonely Hearts Club Band. Kaleidoscope Men is arguable their magnum opus in this regard, a heady mix of ramshackle garage, folk-rock and sound experiments sung in heavily accented English as well as Spanish. The track “La Muerte de Mi Hermano,” or “The Death of My Brother,” penned for the band by noted Nueva Canción writer Payo Grondona, was even a national hit, managing to combine left-wing political sympathies and interpolated tape samples with an extraordinarily catchy beat-group chorus. On the strength of this single, the album was to become one of the group’s most enduring successes, and it is not uncommon for Chileans to still recall Los Macs brief blip in the charts.

A caveat, however: one should not go into this record expecting the artistic budget and sophistication of Sergeant Pepper, despite the many comparisons. At their heart Los Macs were always a garage band anyways, and their musical vocabulary never strays far from a classic Nuggets-family groove. Raw, jangly guitars predominate, with occasional overdubs and tape reversals providing a little local color. Perhaps the closest parallel I can find is the one and only Rockets album, as each band maintains a similarly tight and screwy groove. Standouts tend to come with the more ambitious pieces, such as the extremely Harrison-esque “Atravéz del Cristal” and the album-closer “Nada Dulce Niña,” with its orchestral flourishes and astral organ blips. “F.M. and C.I.A.” rides free and easy, despite having what may be strident left-wing political lyrics (in the given recording the vocals are pretty unintelligible, so it’s hard to say whether this is in fact a scathing indictment of United States media control in Chile or just another teenybopper love song. I like to pretend it’s both). It’s unfortunate that the band did not compose more of their material in Spanish, as the musicians’ own language better serves their material, but this artistic compromise is at least somewhat understandable considering the stranglehold English-language pop music had on the Latin American market at the time (and still does, unfortunately).

If there is one serious fault to Kaleidoscope Men then it’s the album’s rather disjointed nature. Whereas contemporary recordings in this vein tended, almost as a rule, to explore various styles and modes, such disparity was generally bridged by a unifying sound or theme. Los Macs have concocted a solid batch of material, but many of the actual recordings sound as though they may have come from different sessions or periods in the band’s evolution. “La Muerte de Mi Hermano” is a good case-in-point. The sound effects that bookend the song could have served to clear the gap between it and the following piece, the much crisper, baroque-tinted ballad “Anne Marie,” but the band fails to make use of any such transitions and instead opts for a rather abrupt cut. This in turn slips into the frenetic garage rock frenzy of “Tension Extrema,” with a zooming fuzz guitar lead and  rough, filtered vocals. Taken piece by piece, there’s nothing to complain about; it’s only when these disparate elements are pieced together under one name that it starts to get a little jostling.

Kaleidoscope Men has been reissued several times under varying circumstances, including a Chilean compact disc issue with bonus tracks and a Japanese mini-LP version that adheres to the original tracklist. You’re probably going to have a hell of a time finding an original vinyl copy in Europe or the United States, seeing as how the band failed to make any commercial inroads outside of Chile, but these latter-day issues are more than work seeking out for yourself, and help revisit an important puzzle piece in the development of South American rock and roll.

mp3: Atravéz del Cristal
mp3: El Amor Despues de Los Veinte Ano

:) Original | 1967 | RCA Victor | search ebay ]