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Pete Seeger “Clearwater II”

While this record is technically credited to various artists, I’m calling it a Pete record here (he likely wouldn’t accept the credit) for convenience and recognition of the fact that it wouldn’t exist without the Hudson River Valley’s hero and national treasure, Pete Seeger. If you haven’t read up on Pete’s body of work, seen the excellent documentary The Power of Song, tried to learn 5-string banjo, or ever listened to an American folk tune, there is little doubt that Seeger’s music or social efforts have still reached you in some way. On this rarely found followup to 1974’s Clearwater, Pete and friends, including folk names like Judy Collins and Tom Paxton, deliver an outstanding set of traditional folk, sea chanties, and progressive folk numbers devoted to the Hudson River.

Tom Winslow’s “It’s the Clearwater” kicks off this rather fine sequence of gems, a rousing and catchy anthem to the Clearwater Sloop that’s sailed the Hudson promoting environmental awareness since 1969. I had heard lot’s of Pete Seeger’s music recorded with the Weavers, solo cuts from scores of best-of albums, but I had yet to hear his “Golden River,” a gorgeous ode you could only imagine played on bank of the river, featuring lazily swift guitar patterns and a vocal as honest and pleasant as a voice could provide. This may be Pete at his finest, his banjo machine seeming to perform the melody by itself for “My Dirty Stream,” a plainly clear assessment of the Hudson’s polluted condition; the picking sounds almost accidentally natural. Several boisterous sea chanties lend a presence similar to Graceland, albeit a little more from under an Irish bar than African skies.  The tracks balance gently, never allowing one feel or another to steal the show.

A couple surprises turn up too, like side A closer “Jebah Brown” by the Womblers, a traditional sounding number hiding a dark, synth-padded almost-psych section, detailed with some nice electric picking and a good and out-there mix. Another gem is Frostwater’s “Haul Away,” a laid-back folkster groove educated with a slight taste of rock.

If you aren’t a serious folkie, you may not get down with every tune here, but Clearwater II stands as a sweet slice of American folk that while gravely honest, and to-the-point in message, feels like a celebration among friends. As local and homegrown as it gets, yet universal, and rich with life.

As stated on the back cover, “Proceeds from this album will be used by the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater to improve the ecology of the river.” If you manage to find this one out in the wild or enjoy the tracks posted here you can find out how to donate to the Clearwater cause at clearwater.org and you can find some of the tracks  from Clearwater and Clearwater II posted at their site as well.

mp3: Pete Seeger – Golden River
mp3: Frostwater – Haul Away

:) Original | 1977 | Sound House Records | search ebay ]

Doc Watson “Doc and the Boys”

There’s little doubt folk and bluegrass lost one of its legends in Doc Watson, a self-taught founder of flatpicking and popularizer of traditional American music for 60 some years. While you can’t miss on any Doc record, this one is my go-to favorite.

Though Doc and the Boys was Doc’s highest charting LP (41 on US Country), little mention is heard of the record today. A lot of the early pickers are subjugated to compilations, best-ofs, and box sets. Fortunately, this LP comes from a time when singles were eschewed for album length statements, and Doc and the Boys delivers a rock solid 35:00 straight from the prime of that funky, in-the-groove Nashville country of the mid-70s.

Starting from the studio recording side, we get a smoking kickoff in “Darlin’ Corey,” Jim Isbell’s zip-tight rhythm dispelling any doubt that a drum kit belong in a bluegrass tune. Merle trades lines with Doc’s harp on the deep-in-the-pocket “Cypress Grove Blues” and Doc proves his gifts with a song on Tom Paxton‘s very sweet “Can’t Help But Wonder (Where I’m Bound),” an easygoing “Girl I Love,” and a bouncy number called “Natural Born Gamblin’ Man.” Side one closes with the hottest rendition of “Little Maggie” I’ve yet to hear. He may be known for his picking, but Doc may have had one of the best rounded and perfectly suited vocal tones in the history of country music. Such a comforting, deep, and rooted voice.

Recorded live at the Hub Pub in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, side two doesn’t skip a beat in its sound. It took me a year to even realize the sides were split between live and studio! If anything, the live atmosphere only adds to the octane in the picking and harmonies. In any case, tunes like the a capella “Southbound Passenger Train” clearly had to be recorded live and we are treated to honest takes on gems like Mississippi John Hurt’s “Spikedriver Blues” and a fine original from piano player Bob Hill in “Southern Lady.” Cash may have done better with “Tennessee Stud” but it’s nice to hear Doc close with a happy take on a hit.

If you’re a fan of “honest, down-to-earth” and damn good country music, track this one down. We’ll miss you, Doc!

mp3: Cypress Grove Blues
mp3: Spikedriver Blues

:D Reissue | 2003 | 2fer w/ Live & Pickin | buy here ]
:) Original | 1976 | United Artists | search ebay ]

Dillard

Levon

uReview: Your Record Stores

 

Record Store Day is this weekend and we thought we’d bring back this thread to hear about some new shops, stores not yet mentioned, openings, closings, stores from new readers etc. As before, if you mention a store, we’ll take care of the linking and mapping.


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So, wherever you are, where are you going to be this Saturday to show your support for Record Store Day?

Suzanne Ciani “Lixiviation”

Suzanne Ciani is probably best known today for her grammy nominated new-age records. That legion of fans may not be prepared for her latest comp from B-Music/Finders Keepers which explores her earlier, pioneering work composing synthesized soundscapes and logos. It’s this part of Ciani’s career I find most interesting and Lixiviation 1968-1985 curates a fine selection of tracks that will appeal to fans of early electronic experiments and electronic music in general.

Not a typical record, but rather a selection of cleverly sequenced tracks combining short audio logos with lengthy soundscapes for an album-like listening experience. Sprinkled with brilliant sonic logos like the famous “Coca Cola Pop & Pour” and “Atari Corporate Tag,” 30-60 second spots for adventurous sponsors like “Clean Room ITT TV” and “Almay Eclipse,” and four or five non-commercial pieces teetering between psychedelia and ambient music. The title track swerves from introductory blips and effects to a beautifully filtered odd meter sequence. “Paris 1971” explores droning pads and softly shifting wind sounds a full six minutes without becoming a bore. The buzzy “Princess With Orange Feet” finds her improvising with tape delay and using full range of the Buchla’s unique touch plate keyboard. It’s Ciani’s ability to guide listeners so delicately through each track, maintaining interest with the simplest changes in timbre and never rushing, that seems to define the masterful touch in these tracks.

Her commercial works really take off in the mid 70s as evidenced by “Discovery Magazine TV Spot,” which sounds especially indicative of electronic music’s future, a fresh sound made with tight delays and sharp sawtooth chords. “Inside Story PBS TV Spot” layers tape edited sound clips over some fancy sequence work; I wish I could hear 4-minute versions of these tracks especially. The spots are indeed short, but merely deserve some repeated listens.

Ciani’s career in synthesized music began after meeting Don Buchla and one of his fantastic modular machines. In the synth world, there is no machine I can think of more imaginative in design, complex in architecture, or more grandly exploratory in sound than any of Buchla’s rare machines. In her interview with the LA times, Ciani recalls her first encounter with its sound:

“Your ears woke up. The frequency spectrum was so much bigger. It had the high end and the very low end, and you could go to the very top and the very bottom. After hearing that, acoustic music seemed to occur along a very narrow path. It wasn’t alive.”

After listening to the full nine minutes of the droning, rich-frequency laden “Second Breath” I was surprised how much waking up my own ears have left to do. Suzanne has since become one of Buchla’s most famous users, as well as helping to make legendary tools such as the Sequential Circuits Prophet 5Roland’s MC-8 sequencer, as well as various voice synth/vocoder technology. While the album runs slightly short, it stands as the best introduction to Ciani’s illustrious, one-of-a-kind career. It’s even available on vinyl with detailed liners. If you like what you hear, make your next find the new-age classic Seven Waves.

mp3: Princess with Orange Feet
mp3: Discover Magazine (TV Spot)

:D CD Comp | 2012 | B-Music | buy from Finders Keepers | amazon ]
:) Vinyl Comp | 2012 B-Music | buy from Finders Keepers ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

The Best Reissues of 2011

It’s been another great year for quality reissues from some of our favorite labels dedicated to vintage sounds. Here are our favorite reissued records for 2011, unranked and submitted for your review in the poll below:

  Can “Tago Mago”
Mute 2CD: Can’s all-time classic gets the deluxe treatment, restores the original UK artwork, and comes with a bonus CD with a live show from around the same time.
  The Rationals “The Rationals”
Big Beat CD: Followup to last year’s excellent Think Rational, this year Big Beat delivers the group’s eponymous album with the same attention to detail. First time it’s been reissued legit since 1970.
  The Free Design – Complete Discography
Light in the Attic LP/CD/MP3: What a treat from LITA with all of the Free Designs albums reissued in 2011. Available in different formats with liner notes and some bonus tracks. This’ll be standard issue for new fans to this wonderful group.
  The Beau Brummels “Bradley’s Barn (Expanded)”
Rhino Handmade 2CD: Impressive reissue of the Brummels’ best moment from Rhino features a hardbound booklet with brand new liners and a second disc with 25 rare and unreleased recordings.
Michael Chapman “Fully Qualified Survivor”
Light in the Attic LP: Classic English folk-rock masterpiece from Michael Chapman gets its first CD issue in the states and the first vinyl reissue in decades.
Mickey Newbury “Heaven Help the Child”
Drag City LP: In addition to Heaven Help (maybe his best), Drag City put out some of Mickey’s finest work on LP this year: Looks Like Rain, Frisco Mabel Joy, and American Trilogy. Unfortunately, they’re only shipping to the US.
  John Fahey “Your Past Comes Back to Haunt You”
Dust to Digital 5CD: Massive box set from Dust to Digital features 115 mostly new-to-CD tracks from “The Fonotone Years, 1958-1965.” Remastered audio straight from the reel-to-reel tapes and an extensive accompanying book highlighted by a 1967 interview with Fahey.
  V/A “Local Customs: Pressed at Boddie”
Numero CD/MP3/Cassette: A novel concept from the adventurous Numero label. All of the tracks on this comp were pressed at The Boddie Recording Company in Cleveland and range from garage to soul to polka. Available on cassette tape!
  The Left Banke “Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina”
Sundazed CD/LP: The Left Banke get their due this year with both of their original records restored by Sundazed.  Sourced from the original stereo tapes, we get the original track orders for this and The Left Banke Too. The CD features new liners and interviews (but when will Sundazed finally give us liners with the vinyl?).
  Oscar & the Majestics “No Chance Baby!”
Sundazed LP/MP3: First-ever collection of Oscar Hamod’s complete ‘60s output, previously uncovered on last year’s Michigan comp. Includes the band’s best known USA sides as well as rare self-pressed singles. Includes detailed liners, vintage photos and 45 label scans.
  Los Dug Dugs “Dug Dug’s” (aka “Lost in My World”)
Light in the Attic LP: One of the more unsung releases of the year was Los Dug Dug’s self titled debut (1971), credited as the first Mexican psych record with English lyrics. Released concurrently with their second album, Smog, this one is only available on vinyl.
  The Outsiders “CQ”
RPM CD: Remastered and expanded edition of this seminal 1968 album. This year’s RPM issue features six bonus cuts from a live show in Amsterdam, December 1968.
  Hot Knives “Hot Knives”
Grown Up Wrong! CD/MP3: This Flaming Groovies spinoff band, often compared to the Airplane and Grape, saw its first reissue after 30 years in 2011. The 14-track album comprises material recorded at 3 sessions in local studios in ’76. Includes liners and an illustrated booklet.
  Paul McCartney “McCartney”
MPL/Concord 2CD: Released along with McCartney II as special 2CD editions featuring remastered audio and generous bonus cuts.  Also comes in a more expanded edition with a bonus DVD of unseen footage.
  Phil Spector “Presents the Philles Album Collection”
Sony Legacy CD: Six albums from Spector’s Philles record label remastered in mono album and reissued for the first time on CD. Packaged in mini-vinyl replica sleeves, it also includes a bonus disc of B sides, many available on CD for the first time.
  Michael Hurley “Long Journey”
Light in the Attic LP: Michael Hurley’s classic 1976 Long Journey see its first vinyl reissue. LITA also put out the legendary Have Moicy! album this year featuring the Holy Modal Rounders and Jeffrey Fredericks, as well as some other classics from Michael Hurley.
  Jim Ford “Harlan County”
Light in the Attic LP: First straight vinyl reissue of Jim Ford’s classic record. Remastered from the original tapes and given the usual LITA loving treatment.
  Pink Floyd Discography
Capitol CD: All 14 original studio albums have been digitally remastered and reissued with new packaging and booklets created by the band’s long-time artwork collaborator Storm Thorgerson.
  The Beach Boys “SMiLE Sessions”
Capitol Box CD/LP: Will be surprised if this doesn’t top most lists this year. The first official SMiLE release from Capitol includes 5 CDs,  2LPs, 2 7″ singles, and tons of extras. Every Beach Boys fan should have seen this one under the tree this year. No brainer.
  Bobby Charles “Bobby Charles”
Rhino Handmade CD: Three-disc Deluxe Edition that combines a remastered version of the original with a wealth of unreleased material recorded during those sessions and others recorded at Bearsville Studios throughout 1974. The set closes with a newly unearthed, 30-minute interview Charles did that was recorded shortly before the Bobby Charles album was released in August 1972.

Top 20 Reissues of 2011 (choose up to 8)

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Q. Any releases you would have included in our best-of this year?

uReview: The Pink Floyd Discography

With Pink Floyd on an all-out reissue bender, I thought it would be a good time for another one of these discography reviews. I loved the Floyd as a youngster discovering rock & roll, but started to lose faith as I delved deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole.  Dark Side is an undisputed masterpiece, but  am I too much of a Syd snob to choose it here? What are you gonna go with?

Top Floyd Records (Choose 4)

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Q. Do you call them “The Pink Floyd” or just “Pink Floyd?”

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uReview: Jim Sullivan “U.F.O”

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I had heard a lot about Jim Sullivan’s UFO before Light in the Attic’s 2010 reissue and jumped at the chance to finally get my hands on a copy. This one won our poll of the best reissues from 2010, so from any big fans of this record, let’s hear your thoughts on it…

:) Reissue | 2010 | Light in the attic | buy here ]