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Last Month's Top Sellers

1. BECK - Strong Feelings
2. ST. VINCENT - S/T
3. REAL ESTATE - Atlas
4. THE WAR ON DRUGS - Lost In The Dream
5. KEVIN DREW - Darlings

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FEATURED RELEASES

Friday
Jan172014

VA - Angola Soundtrack 2: Hypnosis, Distortions & Other Sonic Innovations 1969-1978

Latin America's musical influence on Lusophone Africa is in infectious, dancefloor-bound full bloom on this second set of Angolan rumba funk, focusing on the record industry which flourished in the capital city of Luanda throughout the Seventies.

"An exceptional set of circumstances existed in the history of Angola before Independence that created the giant leap in the style and standard of bands and recordings of the time.

When Portuguese repressive measures prevented the small Turmas, street musician groups, from being able to perform in Carnaval celebrations in 1961, a Portuguese civil servant, entrepreneur and Angolan music fan named Luis Montês was already in a position to capitalise on Luanda's need for a live music scene. His self-designed 'Kutonocas,' Sunday afternoon live music festivals, delighted a Luandan population hungry for a communication between the city and musseques (townships). It also forced groups to adapt to a different style of playing that would accommodate large stages and broader audiences. They equipped themselves with electric guitars, and fed on the musical influences from Cape Verde, Congo and the Dominican Republic, while staying patriotically true to their own musical legacy and unique rhythms." - Analog Africa

Sunday
Jan122014

GEORGE JACKSON: Old Friend: The Fame Recordings Volume 3

We're on record as long-standing admirers of Jackson's unique way of conveying both vulnerability and swagger whenever he stood at the mic for a vocal take, and with the recent theatrical success of Muscle Shoals (set to be available on DVD and Blu-ray by the end of February), this third volume from the Fame archives is set to introduce the man to more receptive ears than ever.

"Old Friend, the third volume of George's Fame recordings, is possibly the best of the three we’ve issued to date. There are a handful of songs which will be familiar via the versions of other acts. Unlike the first two, however, most of the tracks were recorded by George alone. Nevertheless, these predominantly-unheard songssome of which were written by George's friends and peers O.B. McClinton and Dan Greerare just as strong as those covered by Candi Staton, Clarence Carter, Wilson Pickett et al. All would surely have been hits for anyone who did pick them from George’s massive catalogue of potential hits.

The fabulous musicianship of the Muscle Shoals-based Fame rhythm sections is all over the majority of these recordings, including, on a couple of cuts, the stinging guitar work of Duane Allman. None of our featured tracks has appeared on CD before, which makes their presence here all the more vital; all but two have never been issued before. It’s a real pleasure to be able to keep George Jackson’s name alive with music of outstanding quality."
- Ace Records

“Old Friend”, the third volume of George’s Fame recordings, is possibly the best of the three we’ve issued to date. There are a handful of songs which will be familiar via the versions of other acts. Unlike the first two, however, most of the tracks were recorded by George alone. Nevertheless these predominantly-unheard songs – some of which were written by George’s friends and peers O B McClinton and Dan Greer – are just as strong as those covered by Candi Staton, Clarence Carter, Wilson Pickett et al. All would surely have been hits for anyone who did pick them from George’s massive catalogue of potential hits.

The fabulous musicianship of the second and third,Muscle Shoalsbased Fame rhythm sections is all over the majority of these recordings – including, on a couple of cuts, the stinging guitar work of Duane Allman. None of our featured tracks has appeared on CD before, which makes their presence here all the more vital; all but two have never been issued before. It’s a real pleasure to be able to keep George Jackson’s name alive with music of outstanding quality.

- See more at: http://acerecords.co.uk/old-friend-the-fame-recordings-volume-3#sthash.BUsyp7Dd.dpuf

“Old Friend”, the third volume of George’s Fame recordings, is possibly the best of the three we’ve issued to date. There are a handful of songs which will be familiar via the versions of other acts. Unlike the first two, however, most of the tracks were recorded by George alone. Nevertheless these predominantly-unheard songs – some of which were written by George’s friends and peers O B McClinton and Dan Greer – are just as strong as those covered by Candi Staton, Clarence Carter, Wilson Pickett et al. All would surely have been hits for anyone who did pick them from George’s massive catalogue of potential hits.

The fabulous musicianship of the second and third,Muscle Shoalsbased Fame rhythm sections is all over the majority of these recordings – including, on a couple of cuts, the stinging guitar work of Duane Allman. None of our featured tracks has appeared on CD before, which makes their presence here all the more vital; all but two have never been issued before. It’s a real pleasure to be able to keep George Jackson’s name alive with music of outstanding quality.

- See more at: http://acerecords.co.uk/old-friend-the-fame-recordings-volume-3#sthash.BUsyp7Dd.dpuf

“Old Friend”, the third volume of George’s Fame recordings, is possibly the best of the three we’ve issued to date. There are a handful of songs which will be familiar via the versions of other acts. Unlike the first two, however, most of the tracks were recorded by George alone. Nevertheless these predominantly-unheard songs – some of which were written by George’s friends and peers O B McClinton and Dan Greer – are just as strong as those covered by Candi Staton, Clarence Carter, Wilson Pickett et al. All would surely have been hits for anyone who did pick them from George’s massive catalogue of potential hits.

The fabulous musicianship of the second and third,Muscle Shoalsbased Fame rhythm sections is all over the majority of these recordings – including, on a couple of cuts, the stinging guitar work of Duane Allman. None of our featured tracks has appeared on CD before, which makes their presence here all the more vital; all but two have never been issued before. It’s a real pleasure to be able to keep George Jackson’s name alive with music of outstanding quality.

- See more at: http://acerecords.co.uk/old-friend-the-fame-recordings-volume-3#sthash.BUsyp7Dd.dpuf

“Old Friend”, the third volume of George’s Fame recordings, is possibly the best of the three we’ve issued to date. There are a handful of songs which will be familiar via the versions of other acts. Unlike the first two, however, most of the tracks were recorded by George alone. Nevertheless these predominantly-unheard songs – some of which were written by George’s friends and peers O B McClinton and Dan Greer – are just as strong as those covered by Candi Staton, Clarence Carter, Wilson Pickett et al. All would surely have been hits for anyone who did pick them from George’s massive catalogue of potential hits.

The fabulous musicianship of the second and third,Muscle Shoalsbased Fame rhythm sections is all over the majority of these recordings – including, on a couple of cuts, the stinging guitar work of Duane Allman. None of our featured tracks has appeared on CD before, which makes their presence here all the more vital; all but two have never been issued before. It’s a real pleasure to be able to keep George Jackson’s name alive with music of outstanding quality.

- See more at: http://acerecords.co.uk/old-friend-the-fame-recordings-volume-3#sthash.BUsyp7Dd.dpuf

“Old Friend”, the third volume of George’s Fame recordings, is possibly the best of the three we’ve issued to date. There are a handful of songs which will be familiar via the versions of other acts. Unlike the first two, however, most of the tracks were recorded by George alone. Nevertheless these predominantly-unheard songs – some of which were written by George’s friends and peers O B McClinton and Dan Greer – are just as strong as those covered by Candi Staton, Clarence Carter, Wilson Pickett et al. All would surely have been hits for anyone who did pick them from George’s massive catalogue of potential hits.

The fabulous musicianship of the second and third,Muscle Shoalsbased Fame rhythm sections is all over the majority of these recordings – including, on a couple of cuts, the stinging guitar work of Duane Allman. None of our featured tracks has appeared on CD before, which makes their presence here all the more vital; all but two have never been issued before. It’s a real pleasure to be able to keep George Jackson’s name alive with music of outstanding quality.

- See more at: http://acerecords.co.uk/old-friend-the-fame-recordings-volume-3#sthash.BUsyp7Dd.dpuf
Saturday
Jan112014

STEPHEN MALKMUS & THE JICKS - Wig Out At Jagbags

Malkmus and co. follow up 2011's Mirror Traffic with more ever-detached observations and lyrical absurdity matched with proggy, '70s-indebted riffs and licks, as the Jicks somehow simultaneously shrug and showboat their way through yet another impressive effort.

"The fact is no one sounds like Stephen Malkmus, no matter how hard some have tried. Interviewing him a few years ago, I noticed that even when he talks he's got his own neo-boho vocabulary. Wig Out At Jagbags is loaded with Malkmisms (from the song titles right down to the album name itself). There's also a sense of reflection, especially on songs like 'Rumble At The Rainbo' and first single 'Lariat,' which contains the line 'We grew up listening to the music from the best decade ever / Talkin' 'bout the ADDs.' There are plenty more wry lines throughout, but they come off less like jabs and more like they should be accompanied by a wink.

Wordplay aside, the music is simpler—no extended guitar jams—but Malkmus is still a damn fine axeman. He rocks out on 'Scattegories' (with the line 'Mott the Hoople’s got no scruples') and closer “Surreal Teenagers.'" - Paste

Friday
Jan102014

VA - Chimpin' The Blues with Jerry Zolten & R. Crumb

This compilation of '20s and '30s blues 78s and banter between R. Crumb and Penn State professor and author Jerry Zolten sounds like a radio program because, well, it was, having been first broadcast on college station/NPR affiliate WPSU back in 2003, and the casual conversation between these two lifelong record collectors (nevermind the great selections played and discussed) makes this set well worth the reairing.

"Raised in McKeesport, Pa., Zolten began collecting 45 RPM records as a teen and started DJing at record hops. Soon he became a junior historian, delving deep into recordings made decades before his birth, especially the work of overlooked African-American gospel and rhythm and blues artists. He went on to become an educator, musician and producer.

A mutual acquaintance in record collecting circles introduced Crumb and Zolten in the early 1980s. Crumb offered his original artwork in exchange for records; Zolten, a fan, jumped at the chance. They shared a fondness for 78s with each boasting collections of several thousand and would meet for marathon listening sessions. After one especially fruitful meeting of 'chittering back and forth about petty details,' Zolten thought the rare music and Crumb’s commentary might have broad appeal. Eventually, the two friends were chimpin’ in WPSU’s studio." - Penn State News

Sunday
Dec152013

HOLIDAY GIFT IDEAS 2013

Our Staff Best Of 2013 list is now posted, as is our earlier write-up re: the new Nick Lowe, Elizabeth Mitchell holiday releases, but in the meantime since the season is now upon us, this gift guide will hopefully help you hit the right notes for all the music lovers on your list (current availability cannot be guaranteed):

 

FOUR LADS FROM LIVERPOOL (and a Muswell Hillbilly)

THE BEATLES: The BBC Archives 1962-1970 (hardcover)
THE BEATLES - On Air: Live At The BBC Volume 2
(CD/LP)
TUNE IN: The Beatles - All These Years, Vol. 1
(hardcover)
THE JOHN LENNON LETTERS
(paperback)
RAY DAVIES - Americana: The Kinks, The Riff, The Road: The Story
(hardcover)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HELP FOR THE HOLIDAY BLUES

BLUES IMAGES 2014 CALENDAR: Classic Blues Artwork From The 1920s, Vol. 11 (CD included)
VA - Chimpin' The Blues with Jerry Zolten & R. Crumb
(ft. between-track commentary)
VA - R. Crumb's Heroes Of Blues, Jazz & Country
(book + CD)
VA - The Rise & Fall Of Paramount Records, Volume One (1917-27) (800-song USB drive, 6LPs and two books [art book + discography] enclosed in ultra-deluxe wooden 'wonder cabinet'!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOUL, R'N'B, ROCK'N'ROLL & GOSPEL

RESPECT YOURSELF: Stax Records And The Soul Explosion (hardcover)
VA - New Orleans Funk 3: Two-Way-Pock-A-Way, Gumbo Ya-Ya & The Mardi Gras Mambo
VA - Purple Snow: Forecasting The Minneapolis Sound
(2CD + book/4LP + book)
THE T.A.M.I. SHOW: Collector's Edition
(DVD)
OST - Muscle Shoals
VA - Jukebox Jam! Volume Two
OXFORD AMERICAN - Annual Southern Music Issue (magazine + 2CD)
VA - I Heard The Angels Singing: Electrifying Black Gospel From The Nashboro Label 1951-1983
(4CD)

 

 

 

 

 

MOPERS & MOPEDS: IVO, ELLIOTT, MOLLY, MOZ N' ROSES

FACING THE OTHER WAY: The Story Of 4AD (hardcover)
TORMENT SAINT: The Life Of Elliott Smith
(hardcover)
MOLLY DRAKE - S/T
(CD/LP)
MORRISSEY: Autobiography
(hardcover)
MORRISSEY - 25: Live
(DVD/Blu-ray)
THE STONE ROSES: Made Of Stone
(DVD/Blu-ray)

 

 







PUNKS vs. HIPPIES

THE CLASH - Sound System (11CD + DVD)
VA - Punk 45: Kill The Hippies! Kill Yourself! The American Nation Destroys Its Young
PUNK 45: The Singles Cover Art Of Punk 1976-80
(paperback)
UGLY THINGS #36 (Fall/Winter 2013)

 

 








MUSIC FANS-IN-TRAINING

THE POINT: Definitive Collector's Edition (DVD)
LEARN TO SPEAK MUSIC: A Guide To Creating, Performing And Promoting Your Songs
(paperback)
BUN B'S RAP COLORING AND ACTIVITY BOOK
(paperback)
OST - Sesame Street Old School Volume 1
(3CD)
VA - Smithsonian Folkways Children's Music Collection

 

 

 

 

LIFELONG STUDENTS OF MUSIC

DAVID BYRNE - How Music Works (new paperback edition/hardcover)
THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON MUSIC: The Science Of A Human Obsession
(paperback)
UNDERSTAND RAP: Explanations Of Confusing Rap Lyrics That You & Your Grandma Can Understand
(paperback)
1,000 RECORDINGS TO HEAR BEFORE YOU DIE: A Listener's Life List (paperback)

 

 

 

 

 






SASSY CHANTEUSES, PARK-BENCH POP & HAZLEWOOD'S STABLE

YE-YE GIRLS OF '60s FRENCH POP (paperback)
VA - Saint Etienne Presents Songs For A Central Park Picnic
VA - There's A Dream I've Been Saving: Lee Hazlewood Industries 1966-1971
(4CD/4CD + DVD + book)

 

 

 

 







SHAKEY, VAN, THE BAND & THE MAN (In Black)

NEIL YOUNG - Live At The Cellar Door (CD/LP)
VAN MORRISON - Moondance
(2CD Expanded Edition/4CD + Blu-ray Deluxe Edition)
THE LAST WALTZ
(DVD/Blu-ray)
THE BAND - Live At The Academy Of Music 1971
(2CD Expanded Edition/4CD + DVD Deluxe Edition)
JOHNNY CASH - The Life
(hardcover)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS OF FANCY

VA - Longing For The Past: The 78 RPM Era In Southeast Asia (4CD + book)
VA - Angola Soundtrack 2: Hypnosis, Distortions & Other Sonic Innovations 1969-1978
(CD/LP)
VA - Red Hot + Fela











THE GIFT OF MUSIC

TICKET STUB DIARY (to store/record memories of your showgoing year)
GIFT CERTIFICATES
(which can be written out in any denomination)

 

 

 

 

 

 
Happy holidays!

Friday
Dec062013

CATE LE BON - Mug Museum

Our Staff Best Of 2013 list will be posted soon is now posted, but as a preview, this late-year release worked its way onto four staff members' lists (more than any other title), and thus is our shop's favourite new release of the year!

"Welsh songwriter Cate Le Bon returns, less than two years removed from her triumphant Cyrk. There's a dreamy, gauzy feel in many of the record's 10 tracks; Le Bon's recent relocation to sunny California—Mug Museum was recorded in Los Angeles—could have a lot to do with it. 'No God' is embodied by a strong, rolling bass line and high-gain guitar; 'Mirror Me' floats on faint, feverish church organ and sluggish, thumping drums. There's a palpable heat in her new songs that's more intense than her previous work; you can hear the fiery psychedelia in the swirling, clashing woodwinds and scorched, distorted chords." - Under The Radar

"'Los Angeles is a constellation of plastic,' wrote novelist Norman Mailer when describing the
so-called City Of Angels, so it's no wonder alarm bells rang earlier this year when Welsh maverick Cate Le Bon swapped her home of Cardiff for the west coast of America. Since her 2009 debut
Me Oh My, the singer's records have been full of bizarre meditations on death and mortality, wrapped in strange flurries of experimental noise. It was easy to worry that being surrounded by wannabe film stars and sunshine would rid Le Bon of her idiosyncrasies, but she hasn’t been sucked dry by L.A. On the contrary, buggering off to new climes may be the finest decision she’s ever made. Mug Museum, her third full-length, is as wonderfully weird as any of its predecessors. And there's now sparseness in her music, plus a cool, controlled confidence that showcases her knack for the surreal more than ever." - NME

Thursday
Dec052013

NICK LOWE - Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection For All The Family / ELIZABETH MITCHELL - The Sounding Joy: Christmas Songs In And Out Of The Ruth Crawford Seeger Songbook

This year's batch of new holiday music includes titles from Erasure, Bad Religion and the two releases highlighted here, so if you've played out Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas and Phil Spector's A Christmas Gift For You, why not explore some new holiday tunes? Also, be sure to check out Jingle Bell Rocks!, screening at the Bloor Cinema over the next few days, for more off-the-beaten-track festive sounds.

"[Quality Street] is an amalgamation of Christmas classics, unusual covers and some newly written original songs. Ron Sexsmith contributes a song especially written for the album, along with a new Ry Cooder/Nick Lowe tune. It's the new songs written by Nick Lowe, though, that are the heart of the album—'Christmas At The Airport' is a playful take on the travel tie-ups we've all experienced, complete with Ray Conniff-style backgrounds punctuated by terminal PA voiceovers. Meanwhile, the stunning 'I Was Born In Bethlehem' unfolds as an inventive retelling of the nativity. Lowe says, 'It’s this amazing story that everyone knows, but I was trying to write it as if you'd met Jesus on a plane, and he just started chatting away about that night. I tried to make it very conversational and sort of matter of fact.'" - Rockshot UK

"The Sounding Joy is a spirited collection of folk carols drawn from Ruth Crawford Seeger’s 1953 songbook American Folk Songs For Christmas. Featuring Elizabeth Mitchell and a luminary list of her musical family, friends, and neighbors, this album celebrates the spirit of community and homespun traditions that existed in times before the commercialization of Christmas. Natalie Merchant, Aoife O’Donovan, Amy Helm, John Sebastian, Dan Zanes, Happy Traum, and many others including special guest Peggy Seeger all add their voices to pay tribute to a collection revered in the canon of American Music." - Smithsonian Folkways

Tuesday
Dec032013

KRONOS QUARTET Plays Music By BRYCE DESSNER - Aheym

Classical music doesn't get much play time in our shop, but every once in a while it'll find its way into the queue. When we played this latest Kronos Quartet release a while ago, it generated a flurry of interest from the handful of customers in the shop at the time. Perhaps more in-store play of classical music is in the offing?

"Aheym, Dessner's collaboration with contemporary-classical hip-uncle figures the Kronos Quartet, is the result of a working relationship that dates back a few years. Three of its four pieces were written specifically for Kronos, and the title track has been a fixture of their concerts for a few years now. 'Aheym' begins with all four members digging into their strings and producing hard, sinewy sforzandos, or sudden, violent accents, before subsiding quickly into an agitated, seething hum. The cello plays lopsided arpeggios, each one nervously edging forward, while pizzicato prickles tension higher. It is fierce, vivid music." - Pitchfork

Wednesday
Nov202013

VA - I Am The Center: Private Issue New Age Music In America 1950-1990

With such labels as EM, Numero and RVNG/FRKWYS having already issued solo and collaborative material (both old and new) from Iasos and Laraaji (both featured herein), and the post-noise/nu-new-age/neo-kosmische tape-trading heyday just having passed, what better time than now to honour the roots, peak and decline of this most earnestly transcendental (and unabashedly tacky) of American private-press scenes?

"Ever marvel at how much experimental indie music these days sounds like Enya? This smart, trippy, well-annotated archaeological dig helps explain why, connecting the dots between psychedelia, electronic music, yoga soundtracks, drone art and Muzak, showing how musicians questing for enlightenment through sound birthed a mainstream market niche, and then a hipster touchstone. Inspiring stuff." - Rolling Stone

"Though most new age music has rightfully been associated with the cynical postmodern business of sonic backdrop music of the 1980s, '90s, and early 21st century, it was originally an outgrowth of the spiritual adventurousness of the 20th, particularly during the late '60s and '70s. Light In The Attic presents the first overview of the genre from the private-press side—in other words, its most authentic expression, since the vast majority of the records surveyed here were released by artists who had no regard for economic remuneration. This set collects 20 tracks from both well-known and hopelessly obscure musicians and places them in an historical and qualitative context which focuses on musical adventure and/or spiritual intention—most of what's here was released long before the genre became an industry. This is the music of the true believers." - Allmusic

Wednesday
Nov202013

NATIONAL WAKE - Walk In Africa 1979-81

An understandably politicized Joburg blend of punk, new wave, reggae and hard rock (check "It's All Right"'s surprisingly downright Rush-like ascending riff!), National Wake are a must-hear for any fans of The Clash, The Police and The English Beat, as well as such pre-punk acts as Detroit's Death and Zambia's WITCH and Amanaz (as especially heard on "Time And Place").

"The South Africa of the late 1970s was neither the right place nor time to launch a mixed-race punk band. Yet, following the student-inspired Soweto Uprising of 1976, it was also exactly the right conditions to foster a band like National Wake, one formed in an underground commune and one whose very name exists in protest at the divisive, racist apartheid regime. Never before collected together, Light In The Attic has now released National Wake’s full body of work as Walk In Africa 1979-81.

Featured heavily in the recent documentary Punk In Africa, National Wake played punk, reggae and tropical funk, equally at home in the city’s rock underground and the township nightclub circuit. Ivan Kadey started the band with two brothers, Gary and Punka Khoza. [...] Later joined by guitarist Steve Moni, the whole band grew up against a backdrop of township unrest, social upheaval and suburban tedium that characterized apartheid-era South Africa." - Light In The Attic

Tuesday
Nov192013

Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me (DVD/Blu-ray/OST)

Offering respective peeks into both the biographies of the band and their Memphis scene peers as well as rough and alternate mixes made during the recording of their three studio albums, this documentary and soundtrack are must-see/-hear material for both Big Star fanatics as well as those new to the group.

"A treasure trove of home movies and photographs allows director Drew DeNicola and co-director Olivia Mori to document the band’s coming together and falling apart and offer a passionate tribute to its brilliant, beautiful music. The film is by turns joyous and poignant (Bell died at the age of twenty-seven), and the filmmakers unfold with great care the band’s stuttering beginnings, their record company’s fumblings, and the eventual rediscovery in the mid-eighties that brought the musicians some of the adulation they so richly deserved." - The New Yorker

"All too many music documentaries send you away feeling unsatisfied, but with its heartfelt backstory and generous helpings of music, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me is a shining exception: the filmmakers' urge to be true to their subject is palpable. It doesn’t hurt that Drew DeNicola and Olivia Mori frequently crank up the volume and allow the shimmering chords and moody sweep of Big Star to enfold the influential rock band’s mythic story of years in the wilderness and late rediscovery." - Film Comment

Monday
Nov182013

CASS McCOMBS - Big Wheel And Others

Two years after the downer-folk/lighter-rock one-two punch that was WIT'S END soon followed by Humor Risk, McCombs' newest throws all his approaches in the pot, making for an 85-minute-long, double-disc effort that's all over the map in the best of ways.

"The titular 'Others' aren’t a mess of B-sides and throwaways—following the manly-man trucker of 'Big Wheel,' those others are all the dreamers, drifters, dealers, waitresses and wastrels populating the westbound highway. This isn't the Disneyfied hoboing of that rabble-rouser with the illegitimate sons, nor is it the faithful road that’s no place to start a family. Working from cover-to-cover through the American Songbook, McCombs bears equal witness to the principled and the unscrupulous, delivering a travelogue of country folk, folk blues, cemetery blues, lounge jazz, free jazz, rockabilly, cock rock—you name it, it’s all represented." - Paste

"Unless you are listening to one of his seven albums, perhaps a little hypnotised by his gifts and the one setting in which everything about Cass McCombs seems to make sense, this artist can seem a perplexing figure. [...] In 2011 he released two compelling, confusing and challenging albums in WIT'S END and Humor Risk, the latter he promoted by only doing postal interviews. If that wasn't enough to make an awkward fit with a culture driven by snap judgements, instant accessibility and short attention spans, here is an album with 22 tracks of wilful, exploratory music and his familiar wizened poetry. And a cover of a Thin Lizzy song.

There is no getting around the fact Big Wheel And Others is a slog on first listen and will always remain so for some, yet McCombs is nothing if not a songwriter who knows catchiness: somehow, each of these songs is memorable for its structure and compositional bite, though some are better than others. The triumphs are among the best things he has done." - The Quietus

Monday
Nov182013

TIMMY THOMAS - Why Can't We Live Together (Expanded Edition)

The king of one-man soul's crowning achievement has finally been remastered. Sounds like a futuristic blast from the past, even today!

"Why Can't We Live Together was the first of four albums Thomas recorded on Glades Records, and with the title track released as the first single in late 1972, Thomas had his first and biggest hit with ‘Why Can’t We Live Together,’ which peaked at #1 R&B and #3 Pop in the U.S., and #12 in the U.K. [...] [The title track] has a very stripped-down production, a sound echoed throughout the album, with Thomas’s soulful organ played in an improvisational style over the rhythm section, giving room for his impassioned vocals. [...] BBR is very proud to bring you Why Can't We Be Together, completely remastered and repackaged with extensive liner notes, extended bonus content, and a brand new interview with Timmy Thomas." - Big Break Recordings

Sunday
Nov172013

MOLLY DRAKE - S/T

Gentle and soothing but subtly ominous and wisely wistful, the (until-now) private piano parlour tunes of Molly Drake are as melancholy and beautiful as the work of her son, someone else whose songs were similarly only fully appreciated after his passing.

"Squirrel Thing Recordings is proud to announce the release of Molly Drake—a self-titled collection of never-before-heard songs recorded in the 1950s at the Drake family home, and lovingly restored by Nick Drake's engineer John Wood. According to Joe Boyd, legendary producer of Five Leaves Left and Bryter Later, 'this is the missing link in the Nick Drake story.'

In the privacy of her home, Molly Drake wrote music and poetry, and played her songs for family and friends. With the help of her husband Rodney, she recorded them to tape and direct-to-disk recorders, but they were never published in her own lifetime.

For fans of Nick Drake, Molly Drake reveals an undeniable influence on her son’s celebrated canon. But moreover, these songs present a comprehensive first look at a singular and sophisticated artist in her own right." - Squirrel Thing Recordings

Sunday
Nov172013

VA - New Orleans Funk Vol. 3: The Original Sound Of Funk - Two-Way-Pock-A-Way, Gumbo Ya-Ya & The Mardi Gras Mambo  

Yet another undeniable (and nicely varied) doozy from Soul Jazz, the 18 enclosed cuts ride that uniquely N.O. (second) line between dressed-up and low-down.

"This new instalment of New Orleans Funk features more classic New Orleans funk in all its forms. The syncopated percussion beat of the second line jazz parade bands, the secret language and dances of the Mardi Gras Indians, the mambo and Latin rhythms of Professor Longhair and the city’s many piano players help make New Orleans a unique musical melting pot.

In the 1960s and into the early 1970s add to this the creative powerhouses of Allen Toussaint, The Meters, Eddie Bo and others alongside the famous musical families of the city--the Nevilles, the Marsalises, the Lasties – and we find ourselves at the birthplace of the original sound of funk - New Orleans Funk.

A seemingly endless line of amazing singers - Lee Dorsey, Betty Harris, Willie West, Eldridge Holmes – released a constant stream of stunning 45s, backed by the super-funk Meters and produced by Allen Toussaint. The multi-talented Eddie Bo, similarly wrote and produced for an elite set of artists including The Explosions, Chuck Carbo and others.

But limited local record distribution meant that most of these artists remained unknown outside of the city borders and as a consequence many of these records are serious collectors items today.

Wednesday
Nov062013

WHITE DENIM - Corsicana Lemonade

Imagine a slightly more angular Black Keys, or maybe a modern-day equivalent to the likes of Little Featbetter still, stop imagining, take a listen to White Denim's newest, and enjoy the fifth full-length from a band that we've been enthused about for a while now, yet still remains remarkably underheard!

"For White Denim, Corsicana Lemonade (named after a city in Navarro County, Texas) was a chance to make an album which sounded more like the band's live show than anything else. While the band's run of albums such as Workout Holiday, Fits and D were full of complex and intricate wig-outs, the live show was always more about sheer visceral instinct of a powerhouse band making an infectious, fuzzy, stonking racket.

One of the problems with previous recordings, says frontman James Petralli, was that there was no outside voice to say no or tell them to stop. 'When we did all the recordings ourselves, Josh [Block, White Denim's drummer] was the man in charge at the mixing desk, and he'd never say no when I wanted to add a tenth guitar part onto a track...We wanted to make sure [this] record had some of the live show energy and a kind of gut instinct." - The Irish Times

Tuesday
Nov052013

WILLIAM ONYEABOR - Who Is William Onyeabor?

While Luaka Bop recently stated that this compilation was five years in the making, it's been more like an eight-and-a-half-year stretch for anyone whose interest was initially piqued by the inclusion of "Better Change Your Mind" on the label's 2005 compilation of West African funk rarities, World Psychedelic Classics, Vol. 3: Love's A Real Thing. While the label's clearly been biding their time, since Who Is William Onyeabor? is still only Vol. 5 (with the Tim Maia anthology Nobody Can Live Forever the only other addition to the slim but immaculately-selected series in the interim), getting to finally hear such strange, synth-lead-laden Afro-disco dancefloor-filling workout warnings as "Atomic Bomb" and "Why Go To War" properly mastered at last has been well worth the wait. 

If Fela Kuti was a child of James Brown, fellow Nigerian William Onyeabor is something like the next-generation musical offspring of Parliament-Funkadelic. His songs are extended call-and-response disco-funk jams driven by the space-age sound of synthesizers and drum machines—very new tools when Onyeabor was recording in the late '70s and '80s, especially in Africa. After years of existing mainly as secret grails passed between electronic music DJs and other crate diggers, Onyeabor's handful of studio LPs have been licensed and boiled down to a killer compilation.

So, who is William Onyeabor? Part of the album's conceit is that even the compilers don't fully know. The liner notes, by veteran British journalist Vivien Goldman, note that Onyeabor is a crowned chief in his hometown village of Enugu, Eastern Nigeria, where he lives in 'a hidden palace in the woods' and is a booster of the local Christian music scene. But he essentially left his own music career in the '80s, in the wake of the recordings collected here, presumably when he became a born-again Christian—indeed, you can hear a moral, preacherly spirit on a lot of the tracks here." - NPR

Monday
Nov042013

DAVE VAN RONK - Down In Washington Square: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection

With track-by-track liner notes and selections spanning his entire career (from early live recordings made in 1958 through to his final studio recordings in 2001), Down In Washington Square is a fitting and thorough summation of a key figure in (and mentor to) the Greenwich Village folk/blues revival of the late '50s/early '60s, and the inspiration for the title character of the Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis (the T-Bone Burnett-produced soundtrack for which is set to be released next week). On a related note, Van Ronk's autobiography/memoir The Mayor of MacDougal Street is a recommended read for anyone looking to learn more about this grizzled growler and fine fingerpicker. 

"[His] large personality is what made Van Ronk a central figure in the '60s Greenwich Village scene and folk song revival, and that influence found its way to fellow folkies like Phil Ochs, Suzanne Vega and Bob Dylan. There's an anecdote in the Dylan documentary No Direction Home that's repeated in the booklet here about how the emerging singer learned his version of 'House of the Rising Son' from Van Ronk, and how Dylan asked Van Ronk if he could record it. Van Ronk said that he'd rather Dylan didn't since he had his own plans to record it soon. The problem was Dylan had already recorded it.

Van Ronk said he had to stop performing it live because people thought he was ripping off Dylan, but eventually they both had to stop after people thought they were ripping off The Animals. 'Rising Sun' is included here, along with a host of other songs that have appeared and reappeared in one version or another in various places by other singers." - American Songwriter

Friday
Oct252013

TAL NATIONAL - Kaani

Propelled by the remarkable drumming of a man known simply as Omar, Niger's Tal National introduce themselves to the international market with Kaani's trance-inducing, predominantly-12/8 tracks frenetically incorporating both the snaking scales of Tuareg desert blues as well as the griot guitar of the region's Songhai people.

"Tal National is a band from Niamey, the capital city of Niger, West Africa’s largest nation (and one of the world’s poorest)[...], centred around Hamadal Issoufou Moumine (a.k.a. Almeida), a judge in local courts and ambassador for the SOS orphan foundation who had a successful soccer career before becoming Niger’s best-loved guitarist.

Wanting the follow-up to 2006's Apokte to be a better quality recording and realising it was cheaper to fly an engineer with remote-recording capabilities to Niamey than for the band to travel to the nearest studio (in Nigeria or Ghana), Almeida recruited Chicago-based recording engineer Jamie Carter, whom he met during the Chicago Calling arts festival. The result was 2008's A-Na Waya, an album that became hugely successful in Niger. The record stood out in the domestic market, for both the quality of its sound (a big issue in a country where it's impossible to buy instruments, where there is no studio that can handle a live band, nor competent engineers), and also for the integration of traditional instruments like the talking drum. In January 2011, Almeida brought Carter back to Niamey record their third album, Kaani, captured over two weeks at the run-down Studio Maibianigarba." - Fat Cat

Friday
Oct182013

THE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA - I'll Find A Way / VOLCANO CHOIR - Repave

Those anxiously awaiting the next Bon Iver album can tide themselves over with these excellent new Justin Vernon projects. We're especially enjoying his production work on the Blind Boys of Alabama record with songs boasting guest vocal turns from Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), Sam Amidon, Merrill Garbus (tUnE-yArDs) and Justin himself on the ethereal cover of Dylan's "Every Grain Of Sand".

"Insouciance isn’t a gospel word, yet that’s what makes the Justin Vernon-produced I’ll Find A Way so engaging. Here, the iconic Blind Boys Of Alabama sound more joyful, jubilant and ready than ever, their faith a source of palpable euphoria, whether laced with tuba, tambourine or resonator guitar.

The Bon Iver leader makes Way a progressive, rootsy affair. As a drum echoes hollow and the piano sustains and spreads like a sunset, Vernon’s reverence permeates Bob Dylan's 'Every Grain of Sand.' What reads as a match made as generational marketing becomes an intersection of faith from different realms. Elegant and elevated, believing’s universality becomes a bond." - Paste

"Over a year after its well-received release in September 2009, a decision was made to adapt
Unmap to live performance and to tour Japan, after which it was clear that Volcano Choir existed as a fully-formed entity. There would be another record, but as with Unmap, there was no timeline. There were writing sessions that continued for years, sometimes within a couple of months of one another, sometimes within half of a year between November 2010 and March 2013.

Repave brings Volcano Choir into sharp focus. The glitch-laden, cautious presentation of the band's previous work serves as points of both reference and departure across these eight songs, the product of growing conviction and trust, of a fully-operational band, gifted in shading and nuance, and rumbling with power" - Jagjaguwar