Friday, October 29, 2021

Booker T & The MG's - The Complete Stax Singles - Vol. 2 (1968 - 1974) 2xLP - Red Vinyl


Real Gone Music (2021)

This is, of course, the companion piece to Vol. 1, which came out back in 2019.  With the release of this double LP, all of the Stax singles that were released by Booker T & The MG's have now been compiled and packaged in a way that is convenient to own and a joy to listen to.  I really wish they'd do something like this for Otis Redding.  He has a surprising number of amazing songs that didn't appear on any full lengths.

Back to The MG's, while I'm not typically a huge fan of instrumental bands, there's always just been something about these guys that enthralls me.  I'm sure it can be traced to my love of The Blues Brothers and the Stax soul sound in general, but I have no problem getting lost in these songs even without the presence of a singer guiding the way.

There's so many hits here.  "Soul Limbo," "Melting Pot" and "Time Is Tight" stand out as my favorites.  I can't really say which volume of this compilation set is better as both have so many wonderful songs.  I feel like you really can't have one without the other.  And I'm happy to have both.


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Hard 2 Obtain - Ism & Blues 3xLP - Orange Vinyl (/300)

Hard 2 Obtain - Ism & Blues 3xLP - Orange Vinyl (/300)

90s Tapes (2019)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo! MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for twenty-five plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

Hard 2 Obtain have a silly name.  It reminds me of N2Deep with their terrible "Back To The Hotel" song, but even if the name wouldn't be my first choice, this album is unbelievably great.  Ism & Blues originally came out on Atlantic records in 1994.  I have no memory of ever reading about them in The Source or seeing them on Yo! MTV Raps, so I didn't hear them when this first came out.

I stumbled across them when I was listening to the Kurious record.  One of the songs was really resonating with me and I saw that the production was done by the SD50s.  A production team that was also involved with some of the Hieroglyphics records that I love so much.  I decided to do a little bit of research to see what other groups they had worked with that maybe I had missed out on.  Hard 2 Obtain came up as not only a group they had worked with, they had essentially done the production for their entire album.

That's the strongest point of this record, the beats are just excellent.  Bouncing bass lines, upbeat drum beats.  It's such a quintessentially 1990s sound and something I wish was still prevalent in the world of hip hop.  As far as the vocals go, there are two MCs; Taste and DL.  I'm not sure which one is which throughout the course of the record but they have a solid flow and one of them sounds quite a bit like Grand Puba.  In fact the whole album does have something of a Brand Nubian feel to it and I can't think of too many groups that I would rather be compared to.

This album was rereleased in 2019 by the label 90s Tapes.  This is a label that I've gotten really into the past year or so and hunting for this record is what made me start looking at their other releases.  They did an incredible job with this album, expanding it to a triple LP and tacking on instrumentals and other tracks not on the original release.  Sadly this rerelease, like the original, is long out of print and I did have to pay collector prices to get my hands on a copy, but it's really worth every penny and might be one of the best albums from the golden era that sadly seems to have been mostly forgotten about.  I sure wish that I could have heard it in 1994.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Superchunk - Indoor Living LP


Merge (2014, Reissue)

While I have had all of my favorite Superchunk full lengths on vinyl for quite some time, there are a few records that I don't like quite as much as some of the others and haven't picked them up.  One is Here's to Shutting Up, which has been out of print and expensive until a repress that came out this year.  The other is Indoor Living, which is probably my least favorite album by Superchunk.

Now, when I say this is my least favorite Superchunk record, it's kind of like saying Let It Be is my least favorite Beatles album/. When you're comparing a record to some of the ,ost perfect records ever released, something has to be your least favorite, but it's not to say that this record is bad or un-good.  I just don't like it as much as the others. 

I think the main reason why I don't like this one as much is because it's a pretty mellow affair, all things considered.  Especially considering that it was the next album released after the explosive Here's Where The Strings Come In, I think it was bound to be something of a letdown as I was hoping for more of the same.  But the songs are well written and well played, I just think I'd like them more if there was a bit more oomph.  This was the first of a trifecta of slower Superchunk albums.  I think that Come Pick Me Up pulled off this style the best of the bunch, but for me, I like my Superchunk loud, fast and full of that distorted guitar that I love so much.

Superchunk - Indoor Living:

Friday, October 22, 2021

Piggies - ...And Now CD

Piggies - ...And Now CD

Waterslide (2021)

I really needed to listen to something like this.  Piggies hail from Japan and have been kicking around for over twenty years.  They haven't released a ton of records during that time period, but here we are in 2021 and they have a five song EP on Waterslide records.  It's such a blast of fresh air and is one of the best things I've heard all year.

Piggies are playing a very pop forward strain of punk rock.  It's not quite as straightforward pop as something on Mutant Pop and it doesn't lean into hardcore at all the way you'd expect from the golden era of Snuffy Smile releases, but it's somewhere in the middle.  The co-ed vocals are incredible, with sugary sweet harmonies and backing vocals on every single song.  The hooks are gigantic with probably the catchiest choruses that I've heard all year.

The real selling point for me on this EP is just how much fun it is.  There's a lot of bleakness in the world these days and it's pretty easy to get wrapped up in dour feelings and angry music.  That's not Piggies. They are here to make you remember the good times and how much fun you can have with some guitars, drums and a pile of great, great tunes.  I only wish it were a full length instead of an EP.

Piggies - ...And Now:

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Czarface - Czarface 2xLP


Brick (2013)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo! MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for twenty-five plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

While buying and rebuying all of these golden era hip hop classics over the last couple of years, I've been desperate to find modern hip hop that has a similar feel.  Though I have found a few labels issuing unreleased 90s gems, finding modern acts putting out records I like has been a much harder quest.  Luckily I stumbled across Czarface earlier this year with their excellent Super What album earlier this year.  That made me start digging through their back catalog.

I've bought the entire Czarface full length discography at this point, but let's start with their debut from 2013.  Czarface is Esoteric and 7L along with Inspectah Deck from Wu Tang Clan.  Considering how I never really appreciated Wu Tang until very recently, it's no surprise that I wasn't paying attention when Czarface started up.  But this is pretty much the sort of hip hop I want to listen to.  The crack of the snare and the thump of the kick drum drives the production forward, it doesn't sound old, but certainly has that late 80s/early 90s boom bap vibe.  And that's what I want.

Lyrically Esoteric and Deck have flows that really compliment each other.  The subject matter tends to be comics, sci fi and a smattering of pro wrestling references sprinkled throughout.  And though I can't say I am a huge comics fan (it is one of the only nerdy things I never got into as a kid), the references still land with me and the record is just an upbeat, good time.  Maybe there are other records like this that I've missed over the years.  I hope there are and I hope I can find them as I've been really digging Czarface the last few months.

Czarface - Czarface:

Monday, October 18, 2021

Rocket From The Crypt - Live From Camp X-Ray LP - Orange with Black & Yellow Splatter (/500)


Vagrant (2021, Reissue)

This is the companion post to last week's Group Sounds review.  As part of the Vagrant Records twenty fifth birthday thing, they've been rereleasing records from their past.  As they had two Rocket records, it was probably inevitable that they'd be rereleased again.  This time out though they were exclusives sold through Newbury Comics.  

This was the last Rocket From The Crypt full length to be released and the fact that it is eighteen years old is a little crazy.  I keep hoping and hoping that we'll get another one someday, but so far there isn't anything in sight, I'll just have to keep on hoping I suppose.

This vinyl variant looks great with the album artwork, but it's also super similar to the 2013 reissue they did for that year's Record Store Day.  I'm fine always buying whatever variants are released to keep the archive up to date, but I wish they had done a version that was a little bit more unique.  While this is certainly the best looking version and is an improvement to the 2013 one, it is pretty much the same and I'm not sure why they didn't make it stand out just a bit more.

Then again, most people probably aren't idiots like me that own six versions of this same record...

Rocket From The Crypt - Live From Camp X-Ray:

Friday, October 15, 2021

The Mr. T Experience - Shards Vol. III LP - Sea Glass Vinyl (/300)

The Mr. T Experience - Shards Vol. III LP - Sea Glass Vinyl (/300)

Sounds Rad (2021)

This is the final volume of the Mr. T. Experience Shards project, wherein they compiled all of the weirdo non-album songs from the various singles, compilations and bonus tracks strewn across the land over the course of a few decades.  This particular volume mainly focuses on singles and B sides.  It's twelve tracks long, but for whatever reason I feel like it should be longer in my head.

I think that's primarily because even though I have a bunch of Mr T. Experience 7"s, I keep forgetting that there were a good amount of album tracks on those, not to mention about thirty seven appearances of the song "Together Tonight."  The tracks that are here are pretty great for the most part, with lots of fun cover songs and the tremendous tracks from the Alternative Is Hear To Stay single.

One of the things about these MTX singles is how difficult it was for me to track them down in a pre-internet world.  Now granted, it's not like I'm saying the internet didn't exist in 1995, but it sure didn't have the robust record hunting features that it boasts these days.  I spent a lot of time coming through record stores and trying to come up with interesting trades to other folks to obtain them.  I think in some ways that hunt makes me appreciate those 7"s a bit more than this LP.  While the songs undoubtedly sound better on the comp, there's something special about the memories forged by tracking down those singles, even if I can't really remember the specifics of any of those memories.

The Mr. T Experience - Shards Vol. III:

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

N.W.A - Straight Outta Compton - 20th Anniversary 2xLP


Ruthless / Priority (2007, Reissue)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo! MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for twenty-five plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

You are correct, I did write about picking up a version of this record on vinyl a few months ago, but my main experience with this album was always on CD.  The regular pressing of the vinyl didn't reflect the same tracklist as the CD version and that irked me a little while listening to it.  Yes, I know I'm aggrevated by very trivial things.

This 2xLP version has the same tracklist and song order as the CD I've had for ten thousand years.  It feels more comfortable to me this way.  That tracklist takes up three sides of this double album.  The fourth side is other hip hop groups covering N.W.A songs.  You've got Snoop Doggy Dogg, Bone Thugs N Harmony, WC and Mack 10.  I haven't listened to this side.  I don't know that I'll ever listen to it.  Who could possibly care about listening to N.W.A covers when you've got the real thing right in front of you?

N.W.A - Straight Outta Compton:

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Rocket From The Crypt - Group Sounds LP - Yellow w/ Black Splatter Vinyl (/500)

Rocket From The Crypt - Group Sounds LP - Yellow w/ Black Splatter Vinyl (/500)

Vagrant (2021, Reissue)

For Vagrant Records' twenty-fifth anniversary, they are rereleasing some records from their catalog.  To say that label had an uneven output of albums is the understatement of the century, but they did give the world a few John Reis releases, so they get a pass on the rest.

In addition to being part of the Vagrant reissue campaign, this particular version of Group Sounds was released as a Newbury Comics exclusive variant, limited to five hundred copies.  I already have five other versions of this on vinyl (and two on CD), but I just can't help myself from buying Rocket records.  The urge to have a complete archive of every version of every release is something I just can't shake.  Which is why the red vinyl version of the Pure Genius 7" haunts me daily.  Someone sell that to me please.

Anyway, this version looks pretty solid.  Yellow with splatter.  I don't know that it really stands out as being anything better or worse than the other colorways out there, but when you get to the tunes themselves, there are few records in this land as great as this twenty year old masterpiece.\

Rocket From The Crypt - Group Sounds: 

Friday, October 8, 2021

Reverse - Bloody Mary and Grant Hart 7"


SP Records (2019)

This 7" was meant to be a precursor to the excellent Reverse full length album Empty Spaces.  Of course, I am now writing about it ages after the full length actually came out.  This record was in a pile of Japanese releases that Kazu kept aside for me for a period of time that was way longer than reasonable.  I am forever grateful that he helps me acquire the Japanese records I need and am even more thankful that he lets them accumulate at his place waiting for me to finally say 'ship them.'  A total class act.

On to this 7".  Reverse has been a long time favorite band of mine and the fact that they are active again (or as close to active as a band can get these days) is such cause for celebration.  The A side is "Bloody Mary and Grant Hart," which is the closing track on the Empty Spaces LP.  It's a fantastic song that I can completely understand why it was chosen as a single from the album.  It has those wonderfully rugged guitar riffs combine with the melodic, but somewhat gravely vocals I always associate with Reverse.

On the B side is a song that isn't on the album, "You're the Poison."  This one is a straight ahead rocker, blasting forth with a fast paced verse that erupts into a super catchy, singalong chorus.  Ah Reverse is one of the most under-appreciated bands out there.  Everything they put out is tremendous and the fact that the artwork on this 7" matches up to their three earlier 7"s they released in the 90s just makes me smile.

Reverse - Bloody Mary and Grant Hart 7":

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Cypress Hill - Black Sunday 2xlp


Columbia / Ruff House (2013, Reissue)

Every Wednesday, in honor of Ed Lover Dance Day from Yo! MTV Raps, I take a break from rock and roll to write a little bit about hip hop. In the late 80s and early 90s hip hop ruled my musical life. During this often called 'Golden Era' I discovered so much incredible music. As I am slowly replacing the CDs I've had for twenty-five plus years with vinyl copies, I'm going to talk about some albums that had a really important impact on me during some very formative years.

In the lead up to the original 1993 release of Black Sunday, my anticipation to hear the record could not have been any higher.  This was after two solid years of listening to their debut on repeat pretty constantly.  Released during the summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school, I could not have gotten to The Wall any faster to buy this album at the Rockaway Mall.  When I first heard it, I definitely dug it quite a bit.  

It had the same sort of soul-laced beats and wacky, screeching sound effects that made their debut so very enjoyable.  B-Real's vocals are perfect, with his nasally flow he just glides over the top of the beats and ties everything together.  Sen Dog's barking hype man backup vocals just add to the mix.  

Not too long after the record was released, it seemed like the single "Insane In The Brain" started to blow up.  People in high school that never listened to anything I liked were suddenly getting into Cypress Hill and it was a little jarring.  You have to remember in 1993 there was often a pretty big backlash to 'selling out' in hip hop and punk rock.  As a dumb high schooler I was susceptible to thoughts like this and it tempered my enthusiasm for Black Sunday as I moved on to digging for more obscure acts.

At some point, I even sold my CD copy and only kept their debut in my collection.  Rebuying this on LP gave me a chance to really listen to it again without the baggage of what was going on in music in 1993.  It is still a pretty great album, maybe not as good as the first one, but still absolutely one that should be in the collection.

Cypress Hill - Black Sunday:

Monday, October 4, 2021

Needles // Pins - Needles // Pins LP


Dirt Cult (2021)

I have written several times about the dearth of new records in 2021.  There have been so few albums that have caught my interest and for the first time ever, I'm actually concerned I'm not going to be able to put together a top ten list, let alone a top twenty.  I don't know if it's just fewer records being released or if I'm just started to slip into irrelevance.  Regardless, I've been way more interested in hunting down records from the 90s than I have been about anything coming out this year.

The new Needles // Pins records is something of a microcosm of this dilemma.  This is a band that I know and have been listening to for nearly ten years.  I have all of their LPs and have enjoyed them all.  You can include this new one in that mix as well.  This is an extremely well written and well put together album.  It has that Leatherface-esque gravelly vocal thing going on that I like so much.  You can play it right after Dear Landlord or Off With Their Heads or Dillinger Four and it fits right in.

But for some reason, I'm not as excited about this album as I think I would have been at another time.  Yes, it is a good record and it is absolutely one of the best thing I have heard this year, but it's just not grabbing me and holding my interest as much as I'd expect it to.  I don't really know why.  I can't point to anything about the record that isn't what I usually want out of a band like this, so I assume the problem might be me.  

Either it's fatigue from a seemingly never-ending pandemic or I may have just crossed that line and I'm too old to stay excited about new music.  I'm really not sure, but I feel like if this record had come out a year earlier, I would have been much more enthusiastic about it.  But again, I think it's me - not the album.  If you've dug the band in the past, this record hits all of the right spots, it's definitely worth picking up.

Needles // Pins - Needles // Pins:

Friday, October 1, 2021

Custody / Spells - Split 7" - Green Vinyl (/400)

Custody / Spells - Split 7" - Green Vinyl (/400)

Snappy Little Numbers / Brassneck / Keep It A Secret / Shield (2021)

I don't see as many split singles these days as I did in the 90s, but I'm always psyched when one comes out.  This time we've got two bands I already like, Spells and PopKid alumni Custody.

Custody never disappoints and their song "Into The Great Unknown" is no exception.  I find it difficult to write about Custody without typing the word Samiam, and while there are always some Sergie influences in most Custody songs, I do feel like the guitar work on this particular track does chart some newer ground for the band.  There's a surfy lead in the intro that breaks into a riff that reminds me a lot of the The End Will Be Kicks song "You Are All Kinds of Red Lights."  Once we hit the chorus, you get the booming, crunchy distortion that no one delivers quite like Custody, but I like the journey taken to get there,  Another great song.

Spells come in with "Confidence, Baby. Confidence!" which is a song that has a wide variety of punctuation in its title.  This one starts out by clapping and spelling out the word 'confidence' similar to the Bay City Rollers "Saturday Night" or Rocket From The Crypt's "Tiger Feet Tonight."  It then breaks into a pretty raspy vocal for the verse, the music fades here a little bit only to come roaring back in the chorus.  While I can't say this is my favorite Spells song that I've heard, it's also not so far away from the sound that I'm used to from them.  I could never say anything but good things about it, it just isn't hitting me quite as hard as some of their other songs.

Still, this is a great little record featuring two of the best current bands out there.  If you read my dumb website, chances are you probably need to pick this up.

Custody / Spells - Split 7":