Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Boogie Down Productions - Live Hardcore Worldwide LP


Jive (1991)

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.

Boogie Down Productions has always been one of my very favorite hip hop groups, ever since I was a teenager.  I'm pretty sure the first time I heard them was on the Yo! MTV Raps: The CD compilation album.  It had a version of "My Philosophy" on it that is still my favorite version of the song (and one that I'm not sure was released on vinyl, at least not by cross checking run times on Discogs).  From their I started buying BDP albums and Live Hardcore Worldwide was the first 'new' release of theirs once I had started listening to them.

I've gone on record many times saying live albums are not usually my thing, but when I was fourteen years old, this was the only place I could find any way to listen to songs from the first Boogie Down Productions album, Criminal Minded.  It took another year or so before I was able to find a sketchy looking copy of that CD in a Coconuts one day that I had to convince my dad to buy me as I had no cash on hand.  Despite my feelings for live albums in general, I do like listening to this one still.  I'm sure it's fueled by nostalgia, but I also have more context on the shows themselves now.  

Several songs were recorded at S.O.B's in New York,  When I was a kid, I was really just imagining them playing arenas or gigantic venues because I really just had no idea.  I eventually went to S.O.B.s in the early 2000s to see Del The Funky v play and was pretty surprised how small that place was.  Imagining peak KRS-One just destroying a place that only holds six or seven hundred people is wild to imagine.  I was lucky enough to see him play last year in a small venue and he was amazing.  I can't even imagine what it would have been like to be there live in 90 or 92.

This is also the last of the Boogie Down Production CDs that I needed to get on vinyl.  And even though there are a few songs on the CD that didn't make it to the version on wax, I'm still really happy to have finally been able to find this at a good price.  Now the question is do I want to start hunting down their 12" singles.  I'm not sure I want to commit to that just yet, but I do need to do more research on that extended remix of "My Philosophy."

Friday, April 14, 2023

Steve Adamyk Band - Do You Wanna Know 7" - White Vinyl & Test Press w/ Alternate Sleeve


Drunk Dial (2023)

I cannot say that I was aware of Drunk Dial records before this release, but what I seem to have discovered is that they have a schtick.  And that's not meant in a derogatory way at all.  It's more due to my own personal vocabulary limitations.  The only other word I could think of was to describe it as a gimmick.  Basically, they say that a band is provided with enough alcohol and then some recording takes place.  This 7" is their eleventh foray into this experiment (maybe that was the word all along) and features one of my longtime favorites as Steve Adamyk Band turns in two tunes.

The A side is a cover of "Do You Wanna Know," which was originally by The Kids.  It translates quite well to a SAB song with the rolling guitar chord progressions and call and response chorus.  The B side is a cover of a Sedatives song, "Slip Away."  That's the band that is the reason I became such a big Steve Adamyk band.  I love that Sedatives LP, and I bought the first Steve Adamyk 7" on P Trash because it was Steve from Sedatives.  I don't know that this version is inherently different or better than the original, but it is a fun blast from the past for me.  It is crazy that Sedatives album is fourteen years old already.

I have two versions of the record, the limited to 100 white vinyl version would typically be the one I'd be going after.  But I also picked up the limited to 10 test pressing.  Now, I've gone on record in the past saying I really don't collect test pressing aside from hanging on to PopKid records ones.  This time I was tempted by the alternate cover and the fact that the label made it available via an instagram post and a totally normal and non-gouging price.  It was there.  I was there.  I bought it and I'm happy I did.

Steve Adamyk Band - Do You Wanna Know 7":

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Run-DMC - Down With The King 2xLP

Run-DMC - Down With The King 2xLP

Profile (1993)

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 Age' 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.

If you really want to talk about a supremely unpopular opinion in hip hop, allow me to bestow this little nugget of insanity upon you.  I think Down With The King is the best Run-DMC album.  Chaos, right?  Well, hear me out.  So much about what connects with you is about time and place, and to some extent your age.  I was sixteen years old when this record came out in 1993.  All of the earlier, classic, beloved Run-DMC albums had come out years earlier and to a sixteen year old, 1986 seemed like a prehistoric time where Transformers were certainly more important than hip hop.  Down With The King was the album that came out when I was paying attention.

Don't get me wrong, I was aware of their earlier material and how important they were, but those records sounded so old to me.  It's mostly because of the production as things were changing so incredibly fast in the early 90s.  Down With The King has songs produced by The Bomb Squad, Q-Tip, EPMD and of course Pete Rock with his magnificently produced title track.  That song, which features Pete and CL Smooth is one of the classic tracks of that year, in my opinion.  With legendary producers like that all working together to make Run_DMC seem contemporary, it was going to connect more with me, as this was the era of hip hop that I was following.

That's not to say the record or the group's performance is perfect.  It's uneven at times and not everything hits the way it's supposed to.  At times, they lean into the sounds of 1993 a little too much, to the point where I forget this is actually Run-DMC.  They sound like Onyx over here, Naughty By Nature over there (Even the cover is perhaps a bit too similar to 19NaughtyIII).  It's never bad or anything, but it's a group that doesn't sound particularly comfortable with their place in the hip hop landscape of the early 90s.  

Still, when this record hits, it hits pretty hard and of all of the Run-DMC songs that are out there, these have always been the ones that resonated the most with me.

Run-DMC - Down With The King:

Monday, April 10, 2023

Chisel - Set You Free 2xLP


Numero (2023, Reissue)

I think that most people first heard of Ted Leo as he and the Pharmacists started to gain notoriety.  But for me, I was lucky enough to have gotten on board when his main outlet was still Chisel.  From the moment I heard to opening riff of "Hip Straights," the lead track from their album 8am All Day, I was hooked.  I think that Set You Free had just come out when I had first heard 8am All Day so I essentially bought both albums at roughly the same time.

And as great as 8am was, Set You Free really took things up to a higher level.  The songs were a bit more complicated and you could tell that as songwriters, everyone in the band had grown considerably since the last record.  Yes, there was definitely the mod influenced, Odd Numbers type sound as the ground floor of this record, but there was a stronger indie rock feeling starting to seep in.  The songs were still bouncy, for the most part, but there was a different sort of heft to them this time out.

Numero has reissued Set You Free on double vinyl with some bonus tracks.  I have the original pressing of this, so it was a double dip for me.  The bonus tracks aren't the most eye grabbing, spectacular list of tunes that I've seen.  A live version of "Town Crusher," an extended version of the album's instrumental track, and early versions of two songs, one from the OTS 7" and the other from a split 7" with Velocity Girl.  Only the B side "Guns From Meridian Hill" is a song that's not already on the main album.  But the thought of having it this expanded to the double LP was the real selling point as the original track listing was a bit long to fit comfortably onto a single LP.  

In a real departure for me, I didn't even buy the colored vinyl.  I had some store credit kicking around a place that only had the black vinyl in stock and just figured that I already had this album once, so if I'm going to buy it again it probably makes more sense to buy it with 'pretend money' than it does to shell out new spending on the colored vinyl.  I'm not positive I made the right call to be honest, but as I get older I'm starting to shift more towards having a nice copy in the collection that sounds great versus always trying to chase down the rarest variant.

Set You Free and Chisel as a band have long been favorites of mine.  I was always very happy to see Ted start to receive some of the credit I thought he was due as the Pharmacists thing started to take off, but I always held an extra special place in my heart for Chisel.  I am also very eager to finally get to see them play for the first time in May.  More than anything, what I want to know is if Numero ever plans to tackle 8am All Day or Nothing New and the various singles.  There's a lot of great Chisel music still out there needing the deluxe treatment.  Enough for a proper box set, really.

Chisel - Set You Free:

Friday, April 7, 2023

The Karl Hendricks Trio - For a While, it was Funny LP


Merge (1996)

Another LP in my quest to own everything by the Karl Hendricks Trio on vinyl.  For a While it was Funny is the band's fifth full length (again, depending on if you count Some Girls Like Cigarettes as a full length, which I tend to do for whatever reason), and it was their first proper full length release on Merge (though the just mentioned Some Girls... was rereleased on Merge the year prior).  It was a step up in notoriety for the group, but it certainly didn't see them ditching their lower fidelity aesthetic that they had been perfecting.

This is another wonderful record of scratchy guitar crunch, with emotionally charged lyrics.  It's not emo, it's assuredly in the indie rock wheelhouse, but there is a heft and intelligence to the lyrics that flys a little higher than is typical for bands of this era.  

Things start off hot with the full force "Naked and High on Drugs," but settle into a predominantly mid tempo groove.  There's some slower songs and some faster ones, but the bulk of the album cruises along at a pretty perfect speed, allowing the guitar work and vocals to shine.  They've always been a band that never felt like they were as popular or lauded as they should have been, but they sure did crank out a lot of albums, some it must have been clicking with enough people to keep things going.  ANd I'm very grateful for that.

The Karl Hendricks Trio - For a While, it was Funny:

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Gang Starr - Moment of Truth 3xLP


Virgin / Noo Trybe (2051, 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 Age' 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.

Daily Operation and Hard to Earn stand quite high on my list of all time favorite hip hop albums.  They came out in 1992 and 1994, respectively, and sit in that sweet spot of my own personal Golden Era.  I didn't look backwards as much back then, so I wasn't as familiar with their albums before 1992 and by the time Moment of Truth came out in 1998, I was pretty checked out on most hip hop.  I don't know why it took them four years between albums back then, but I'm not sure a year' or two difference would have put it anymore on my radar back then.

I came to find out over the years that many people, to the point where I would a say a majority, place Moment of Truth as the best Gang Starr album.  I don't know that I could say that, but it is really good and way better than I would have figured for a record that came out in 98.  The secret sauce here is how well DJ Premier puts together beats.  While there is certainly a slightly different vibe compared to their early 90s releases, for the most part the production still feels genuine and is similar enough to me that it works.  It does have something of a minimalistic feeling on some songs, but again it still sounds like Gang Starr.

And to me, Guru sounds exactly the same, which is a compliment, I don't want him to sound different.  His laid back, somewhat monotone delivery just works for him.  He's a skilled lyricist, but always shines the brightest when he's working with top tier production.  Do I think this is the best Gang Starr album? No, Daily Operation and Hard to Earn are superior in my opinion.  But Moment of Truth is really strong and is just as good as, and in some instances is better than, Step in the Arena.

Monday, April 3, 2023

Werewolf Jones - Rot Away LP


Big Neck (2022)

This Werewolf Jones record came in at the very tail end of 2022, but to me it feels like a 2023 release.  Anything coming out in December is a record my brain tends to push to the next year.  Regardless of the year, I'm not positive this is a band that would be the sort to make one of my personal end of the year lists.

I've reviewed other releases by Werewolf Jones, tapes mostly, but I am always amused by their name, which I think is a tremendous band name.  I haven't been as enamored with their music, but it's mostly because stylistically, they don't fit that well into the sort of thing that I typically am drawn to.  A lot of that is in the vocals, which are of the throat shredding variety.  I can't say they are particularly melodic, but I will say that they are better than most bands that pursue this sort of thing.  I can feel genuine passion and energy, it doesn't just sound like screaming for the sake of it.

The other thing that I can say is that for the most part, the music itself works, for this sort of thing anyway.  This is a band that is tight and when they play at a million miles an hour, it never feels like things are going to go off the rails.  The recording quality really shines through here as the bass in particular sounds really full and drives home the lightning fast guitar riffs.  Again, this isn't really my sort of thing, but as far as bands straddling that divide between hardcore and garage, Werewolf Jones does it better than most others out there.

Werewolf Jones - Rot Away: