Friday, September 29, 2023

Otis Redding - The Dock of the Bay LP (From Otis Forever: The Albums and Singles 1968 - 1970 Box Set)


Rhino / ATCO (2023)

Over the next few Fridays I will be writing about each of the individual albums in the Otis Forever: The Albums and Singles 1968 - 1970 box set. This is the second Otis Redding box set I have, but this one focuses on his posthumous albums.

We start off with a weird one, to be honest.  The first album in this box set is Dock of the Bay.  Why is that weird?  Because it’s the last album in the Definitive Studio Albums box set. Why is the same album in two different box sets?  I couldn’t tell you.

Especially since this box set is absolutely being positioned as a companion piece to the first set. The artwork is similar and they are really meant to sit side by side.  So it’s kind of odd that there’s a duplicate album between the two sets.  I guess you can say that the one in this set is in stereo, while the prior version was in mono.  But honestly, that’s not anything particularly important to me.

That said, it is a great album. I don’t really feel the need to write too much about the music as I did so here: It’s not like having this record in the box would ever dissuade me from buying it, but I can’t help think they could have made the set a bit cheaper by not including it.  Oh well.

Otis Redding - The Dock of the Bay:

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Black Sheep - Non-Fiction 2xLP


Mercury (1994) 

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.

Like just about everybody in 1991, I loved the first Black Sheep album, A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing.   Fueled by the massive hit "The Choice Is Yours," Black Sheep were inescapable yet not overplayed.  It's a difficult thing to describe.  I definitely got sick of hearing "O.P.P." after the millionth time, but I could listen to "The Choice Is Yours" a million times a day.  Black Sheep didn't come back with a follow up until 1994 and in those three years, a lot changed in hip hop.  

In hindsight, Black Sheep probably should have tried harder to strike while the iron was hot and get something out in 1992 or early '93 at the latest.  But they waited.  Dres made a ton of guest appearances and then in DECEMBER of 1994, Non-Fiction was released.  I don't want to say it was a flop, because honestly I don't know the particulars, but there was certainly no buzz that I ever heard back then.  As I've said a million times, 1994 was the year I stared checking out following hip hop as the sounds were becoming too homogenized.  I didn't buy Non-Fiction when it came out and I honestly never thought much about it for decades.  It doesn't really seem like a lot of other folks did either.

Revisiting this album many years later, we were all wrong.  Now, I can't and won't pretend the record as a whole is as strong as the group's debut.  Nor will I say there are any songs even close to the caliber of "The Choice Is Yours."  But, it's still a really good record.  It's a bit more laid back, but the jazzy samples and thumping drums are still here.  It just further supports my feeling that this album was probably a victim of timing more than anything else.  You can't convince me that "City Lights" wouldn't have blown up on Yo! MTV raps if they played it in early 1993.  Granted, that's not one of the singles they picked for the album, but the point remains.

The vinyl has never been repressed in the nearly thirty years since it's original release.  But it's also not super difficult or pricy to find.  I waited a while trying to find a copy in the condition I wanted and was at at a price I was comfortable paying.  I'm glad to have it in the collection and it's an album I think people should give another chance to.  There's a lot to like here.

Black Sheep - Non-Fiction:

Monday, September 25, 2023

Telegenic Pleasure - Concentric Grave LP


Feral Kid / No Front Teeth (2023)

I have a small pile of records that some labels sent me to write about.  I'm going to make an effort to get through these over the next couple of weeks and clear out the record bin I keep in my office that houses the stuff I haven't written about for the site yet.  First up is Telegenic Pleasure.

I've been sitting on this one for a little bit.  It's one of those 'dude recorded it by himself during the pandemic' albums.  I've heard records made like this that are fun, and then there are others that sound like someone just going crazy.  This one is kind of in the middle.  I could never say that I like it, in a lot of ways it's the epitome of annoying solo recording that bug me.  But at the same time, there was a definite point of view being pursued.  Just because I don't like the point of view being followed, does that make it bad?  A quandary.

Anyway, there's lots of synthy drum programming, spacey noises and distorted vocals.  The songs are all pretty weird and don't follow the most standard structuring I've ever heard.  There are early Love As Laughter songs that mined similar sonic territory, but those those ones always felt more spontaneous and exciting.  These Telegenic Pleasure songs don't have that same sort of off-the-cuff flavor.  I don't know, I'm getting lost.  If you like weird, spacey, bedroom recordings, you might like this.  You might also find it annoying because there's nothing all that interesting going on.  I can only hope you don't find yourself in the position of having to write two paragraphs about it.

Telegenic Pleasure - Concentric Grave:

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Yaggfu Front – Action Packed Adventure! LP


Mercury (1994) 

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.

I've mentioned more times than I can count that I have found a lot of really interesting hip hop records digging through lists on the internet.  My best friend for a while was the obligatory 'forgotten hip hop records of the 90s' type lists, of which there are no shortage of.  One of the very first groups I came across from those lists was Yaggfu Front.  But hot damn was it impossible to find a copy of this bad boy on vinyl.  I kept holding out hope that someone would reissue it, but it just never happened,

After passing on copies priced well over $200 and sometimes quite a bit more than that, I finally stumbled across a copy that was more reasonably price.  Note that I said 'more reasonably priced,' it really wasn't as reasonable as I would have liked.  I definitely overpaid for it, but I had been searching for so long I had to grab it.  Why was I willing to search for so long?  It's the production on this record, which is as strong as anything released in 1994.

Lyrically, no one in Yaggfu Front is an elite MC.  They're fine, there's nothing bad here but there's never a track that gets me thinking I'm in the presence of an amazing lyricist.  They are all mostly there to serve the beats, and they serve the beats just fine.  Or maybe it's more accurate to say the beats serve them, and truthfully pick the album up in a way that makes the record sound really great.  The beats, hooks and samples on this record are so good that the rapping on it is almost an afterthought.  Again, the rapping isn't bad at all, but the production hits that sweet spot of what I'm looking for in a hip hop record so perfectly that I'm really distracted from paying attention to much else.

I really recommend giving this record a listen.  It might not be worth hunting down a copy for everyone, but it's certainly worth finding it on youtube or whatever.  And if anyone does ever rerelease it at an affordable price, it's absolutely worth a pickup.

Yaggfu Front – Action Packed Adventure!

Friday, September 15, 2023

Bad Idea - Sonic Hellride LP - Yellow Vinyl


Self Released (2023)

Bad Idea hail from Minneapolis, a city that has produced more than its fair share of bands that I really dig.  And while the bulk of bands I have enjoyed from this fine city have skewed towards the pop punk side of the spectrum (with some detours into Big Drill Car sounding territories), Bad Idea are playing a old school/garage-y sort of punk rock that I don't typically associate with Minneapolis.  Granted, I don't live there so it's possible a thriving community of likeminded bands exist, but they aren't typically on my radar.

Most people that know my taste in punk rock will know that Bad Idea don't immediately fit the bill.  It's not as hooky as I would prefer and there certainly aren't many vocal harmonies as are on a lot of records I own, but they still resonate in a way that most bands like this do not.  A major reason is because of the quality vocals.  So many groups like this are shouting and hollering and yelling in a way that my tender ears do not appreciate.  This singer is one that can actually sing.  It's gruff, maybe in a less gravelly Lemmy sort of way, but he's carrying a tune and that goes a long way with me.

Some of the songs are straighforward in a beat you over the head sort of way, and I don't click with those quite as much.  But then there are a few that lean more towards my wheelhouse like "TV Brain" and "Act Of Violence."  I wouldn't call them pop by any means, but there's a different level of dynamics there that elevate them higher.  As far as the songs that are of the more straightforward variety, if you like your punk rock a little more old school and traditional, particularly with a tinge of garage energy, this is probably a record you should check out.  They do this style better than most.

Bad Idea - Sonic Hellride:

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

The B.U.M.S. - Lyfe 'N' Tyme 2xLP + 7"


90s Tapes (2023, 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.

Lyfe 'N' Tyme originally came out in 1995, and if you are even a somewhat casual reader of my Wednesday nonsense, you know that year is the cut off for following hip hop.  1994 and earlier, I was paying very close attention to what was happening.  1995 and beyond was a total mystery to me for decades because there wasn't anything catching my interest.  As a result, I ended up missing out on quite a few really good records.  I still contend that very few albums from after '95 can hand with anything from what I consider the Golden Era of 1988-1994.  But again, there are some that have popped up as I've been digging around the last few years.

The B.U.M.S. are one of those groups that ended up on my radar looking for something new that I hadn't heard before.  I checked out their only album Lyfe 'N' Tyme and while I liked it, it wasn't one of those albums that made me think I must pay collector prices and get this record in my collection immediately.  Not rushing into that paid off in the long run as my favorite hip hop reissue label, 90s Tapes, stepped up and rereleased a great version of this album.  Double LP with a bonus 7", you really couldn't ask for a more definitive version.

As far as the music goes, I still contend that it's a good record, though it never really crosses that line to be considered top tier.  The beats are mostly laid back and rely on some jazzy samples, but they don't really have the energy of something like Tribe or Gang Starr.  There's laid back and then there's slow, Lyfe 'N' Tyme is really riding that line between the two.  Lyrically is where the album really shines, with dynamic flows and rhymes.  Being from the Bay Area, you could draw a dotted line to the Hieroglyphics folks, but The B.U.M.S. are a bit more straightforward and don't experiment quite as much.

It really is a solid record and had it come out when I was in the thick of my teenage hip hop obsession, I probably would have been playing this in my car fairly often.  Today, it's a solid record and a nice change of pace when I'm looking to listen to something I'm less familiar with.

Monday, September 11, 2023

The Subjunctives - Let's Try This Again LP - Pink Vinyl


Top Drawer (2023)

When I think about it, it seems kind of inconceivable that the last Subjunctives album came out four years ago already.  Sunshine and Rainbows still feels like a new record to me and while I'm fully aware that my sense of time has been distorted over the past few years, it's wild that I'm holding the band's new record thinking 'boy, they sure pumped out another one of these pretty quick.'  Yet the entirety of how long it takes to get through high school has happened since the last one.  Feeling old yet?

Let's Try This Again picks up where Sunshine and Rainbows left off, with Ean, Jeff and new drummer Wendell crafting poppy punk songs that lean on Bob Mould style guitar crunch as much as they do Sicko style irreverence and tight hooks.  I had mentioned when I wrote about the first Subjunctives record that this was the Ean band that was able to scratch my Sicko itch, and while there's probably a better way to phrase the sentence in a way that doesn't make it seem like I'm dealing with some sort of rash, it's still true.  This makes me feel like it's 1996 again, hanging out in the record store and just enjoying the way the music was making me feel.

Lyrically, Ean is really in top form here.  We've got songs about smart pop punk vs. dumb pop punk, career paths, Covid, fuckers and Lance from J Church/Cringer.  It's subject matter that certainly resonates with me and it's refreshing to hear an album that feels thematically targeted to someone in their 40s and 50s.  And that's not to say the kids won't be able to get down with these funky sounds.  I'm sure many in their 20s will agree that these tracks slap.  Which is a somewhat obnoxious way to say that this kind of pop punk always feels universal to me.  Even if the specific topics might skew to an older demographic, the overall feelings of battling insecurities, fears and trying to celebrate the things that help get you through each day are common themes that everyone can relate to.  

Start to finish, it's just as strong a record as Sunshine and Rainbows.  We've got short fast songs, we've got mid tempo guitar pop and we've even got a cover of the Sicko song "Believe" played even faster than the original.  To me the biggest difference between Let's Try This Again and the last record is in the vocals.  The way they are recorded is much more slick and it's dripping with massive harmonies on just about every song.  It sounds full, crisp and and impeccably recorded, though it is missing a little bit of the scrappiness that I tend to associate with Sicko and the first Subjunctives album.

2023 is a year that, for me, has really been lacking in new albums that I've connected with.  There's been a some, but I can't remember a year where I've bought fewer new records.  Luckily, The Subjunctives were aware of my plight and put out a record that reminds me that there's more to life than 90s reissues.  There's also people from the 90s still writing great music.

The Subjunctives - Let's Try This Again:

Friday, September 8, 2023

Neon Genesis Evangelion - Original Series Soundtrack 2xLP - Blue w/ Black Smoke Vinyl


Milan (2023)

I don't buy a lot of soundtracks on vinyl, but I have been picking up some of the cooler ones that get released.  If it's Godzilla or Toho related, that's probably an instant buy.  Then there are others that pop up randomly like Cowboy Bebop and Star Wars type stuff.  I don't buy all of it, but I will pick up the occasional record that I think is cool.

I don't watch much anime.  In fact, I really don't watch any.  The only exceptions are the aforementioned Cowboy Bebop and Neon Genesis Evangelion.  I stumbled across Evangelion in college, maybe in 1997 or so?  It was recommended to me and I started buying the VHS tapes that were being released at the time.  Two episodes per tape and lots of trips to Suncoast Motion Picture Company.  I loved that show and though it was so interesting and powerfully written.  Until the last couple of episodes anyway, then it just kind of goes a little crazy and I don't really understand what's going on.

The thing I always remember about the soundtrack is "Angel Attack," a rousing piece that captures the sound of impending doom perhaps better than anything since the Imperial March.  The rest of this soundtrack is only kind of OK.  I mean, nothing is bad or anything, but when I listen to it I'm not getting that immersive experience that I tend to while listening to other soundtracks.  Maybe I'm just not as familiar with the music of Evangelion, but it's not until the closing version of "Fly Me To The Moon" that those nostalgic memories hit again.

This was out of print for a while, as best I can tell.  It recently got repressed and I was able to pick it up for pretty cheap, so I did.  I'm glad to have it, but as far as soundtracks that I'm going to listen to often, this one will end up being lower on the priority list.

Neon Genesis Evangelion - Original Series Soundtrack:

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Gang Starr - The Ownerz 3xLP


Virgin (2015, 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.

The Ownerz was the final Gang Starr album of the group's original run.  It came out while I was working my radio promotion job and a buddy that was working at Virgin at the time hooked me up with a CD copy back then.  So unlike a lot of hip hop from 1995 until recently, I did actually hear this right when it was released.  It got to a point where this album was the only one of theirs that I didn't have on vinyl, so I finally picked it up to complete the full length collection.

Gang Starr has pretty much always been amazing.  Even in 2003, when the bulk of hip hop was absolutely not my cup of tea, Guru and Premier put out an album that still felt like the sort of thing I would have listened to at the height of my hip hop fandom.  The beats still feel like classic Premier and Guru's lyrics are as sharp as ever.  If it was primarily the two of them over the album, it would be another classic.  But to me, that's the album's biggest problem.

There are way too many guest appearances for me.  I know that's what hip hop turned into, everyone on everyone else's albums, but if I buy an album, it's because I want to hear the person or group putting out that album.  Of The Ownerz' nineteen tracks, eight of them have guest verses on them.  It makes everything feel watered down to me and I think the album would be significantly stronger if those verses were replaced by more from Guru.  That aside, it's still a solid album and considering when it came out, it's certainly one of the better post-golden era releases out there.

Friday, September 1, 2023

The Pretty Flowers - A Company Sleeve LP - Opaque Blue Vinyl - Record Release Sleeve (7/47)


Double Helix (2023)

This will be a quick write up today as I just posted a much lengthier missive about this fabulous record the other week.  Please go here if you want me to tell you how great the music is:

For today, I wanted to show off the limited, alternate sleeve version from The Pretty Flowers record release show.  They did 47 of these in total and they were sold at the show, with a few leftovers winding up on Bandcamp.  The folks at Pretty Flowers Inc. were kind enough to make sure that my alternate sleeve came with the opaque blue version of the vinyl, so I have both colors now as well.  It also came with a signed promo photo straight out of 1997.  I haven't seen one of those since my time writing at my college newspaper many, many moons ago.

This is one of those variant hunts that I've tried very hard to keep from overtaking my record collection.  For the most part, I'm much better about only buying one version of a record when it comes out.  But there are sometimes bands or variations that tug at my heart strings and I just can't help myself.  This is one of those records and I'm happy to have it.  

The Pretty Flowers - A Company Sleeve: