LATEST ADDITIONS

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 19, 2003  |  1 comments

Maybe you've heard this story before: after Richard and Linda Thompson's legendary 1982 Roxy performance in support of their Shoot Out the Lights album, Linda collapsed backstage and was spirited off to Malibu by Linda Ronstadt. Thompson's marriage was breaking up before the tour and singing songs about a breakup, which Richard insisted at the time were not autobiographical, was just too much for her. It was easily one of the most memorable live musical experiences I've had-especially since I went with my ex-girlfriend who'd broken up with me a few months earlier.Maybe you've heard this story before: after Richard and Linda Thompson's legendary 1982 Roxy performance in support of their Shoot Out the Lights album, Linda collapsed backstage and was spirited off to Malibu by Linda Ronstadt. Thompson's marriage was breaking up before the tour and singing songs about a breakup, which Richard insisted at the time were not autobiographical, was just too much for her. It was easily one of the most memorable live musical experiences I've had-especially since I went with my ex-girlfriend who'd broken up with me a few months earlier. That allowed me to double the intensity of the pain emanating from the stage.

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 19, 2003  |  1 comments

This much sought after 1956 Blue Note release "books" at a few hundred dollars in mint condition-if it's a "deep groove" pressing. Even the second press goes for around $150. In case you're unfamiliar, "deep groove" refers to a circular groove in the label area, not a description of the vinyl cut itself. Early Blue Note pressings (and those of many other labels) featured the distinctive groove.

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 19, 2003  |  1 comments
You needn't speak Icelandic to appreciate and absorb the primal purity and almost unbearable innocent beauty created by this electronica driven quartet. In fact, speaking the group's native tongue wouldn't help at all since vocalist Jonsi Thor Birgisson's lyrics are in a language of his own invention. You needn't speak Icelandic to appreciate and absorb the primal purity and almost unbearable innocent beauty created by this electronica driven quartet. In fact, speaking the group's native tongue wouldn't help at all since vocalist Jonsi Thor Birgisson's lyrics are in a language of his own invention.
 |  Jan 18, 2003  |  1 comments
This Otis Rush love fest, produced by Mike Bloomfield and Nick Gravenites at Fame in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, was payback for the generosity and help Rush provided the youngsters back in Chicago during their \\"formative\\" years. Led by The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, the white suburban audience that formed the core of the \\"counter-culture\\" had discovered the blues. Butterfield had backed Dylan at Newport in 1965, causing a big stir, and soon thereafter Mike Bloomfield and drummer Sam Lay were in the studio with Dylan to record Highway 61 Revisited.

This Otis Rush love fest, produced by Mike Bloomfield and Nick Gravenites at Fame in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, was payback for the generosity and help Rush provided the youngsters back in Chicago during their "formative" years. Led by The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, the white suburban audience that formed the core of the "counter-culture" had discovered the blues. Butterfield had backed Dylan at Newport in 1965, causing a big stir, and soon thereafter Mike Bloomfield and drummer Sam Lay were in the studio with Dylan to record Highway 61 Revisited.

By the time this record was made, in 1969, two years had passed since Gravenites had formed The Electric Flag, a horn-drenched, blues-rock-psychedelic "American music" band that included Bloomfield. The group recorded the soundtrack to the psychedelic film The Trip, followed by Long Time Comin'. Bloomfield quit shortly thereafter.

Meanwhile, the long-play album revolution was peaking, and even if The Rolling Stones, these guys, and some others had revived the blues and brought the electrified Chicago spur of it to a white audience, how much of that audience had actually heard it played by the original masters?

Rush, who'd essentially been a singles artist (on Cobra) and had had his greatest success in the mid to late 1950s, had never made an album. Using their newfound leverage, Gravenites and Bloomfield got Rush signed to Cotillion, a small subsidiary of Atlantic, and brought their hero down to Fame to record his first album. By then the Muscle Shoals studio had become a familiar venue for Atlantic Records.

Since Rush had been under the tutelage of Willie Dixon, who wrote, produced, arranged, and played bass on most of Rush's great singles (including his most famous, "I Can't Quit You Baby"), Bloomfield and Gravenites provided many of the tunes here. Neither played, though--instead they put Rush in front of the famous Muscle Shoals session team, which included a young Duane Allman before he'd formed his own group. Also on board was keyboardist Mark Naftalin, who'd been in the Butterfield band. But the main sound here is horn-drenched Dixie--closer to Stax-Volt than to Chess or the "West Side Sound," which makes sense since the producers were obviously trying to get Rush some well-deserved commercial success using a sound that was then white-hot.

The star here is Rush's fluid guitar playing and his mellifluous voice, which shines above some of the pedestrian "pick-up band" arrangements and less-than-stellar song choices. Gravenites and Bloomfield had their hearts in the right place, but skilled A&R men they were not. At least they weren't at the time of this session, though it must be said that they penned the set's highlight, "Reap What You Sow" (which includes the album title in its lyrics).

Rush does contribute two tunes, "Love Will Never Die" and "It Takes Time," both of which have an urban retro feel. Don't expect to hear Duane Allman's upper-register fretboard squeals on this record, though. This was Rush's album, and the other guitarists stay respectfully in the background. The final tune, "Can't Wait No Longer," with its "black chick" background vocals and pulsing horns, shows where Rush might have taken his sound had the album been commercially successful. It smokes.

Sonically, this recording is barely competent. Whether by design or accident, Rush's voice on side one sounds distorted, echoey, and distant--as if the producers or the engineer were trying to mimic the raw sound of the Cobra sessions, which were recorded under less-than-ideal conditions but which nevertheless contributed to a unique and very commercial sound. Some tracks sound better than others, but it all sounds like four-track recordings mixed hard-left/-right and center. I'm making it sound worse than it really is so you won't be disappointed (the faults lie in the recording, not the mastering, which is fine). Crank it up and you'll enjoy this slice of musical history. Meanwhile, if you want to hear Rush's Cobra singles, check out The Essential Otis Rush, The Classic Cobra Recordings 1956-1958 (Fuel Records/Varése Sarabande 302 061 077 2).

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 18, 2003  |  1 comments
Neither the brilliant work of "breakthrough" musical art claimed by its proponents nor the career suicide mission (or words to that effect) Reprise records called the album in refusing to release it, Wilco's yankee hotel foxtrot (picked up and originally released on Nonesuch) is deliberately modest music and quiet thoughts plunged into audacious settings. Kind of like a Norman Rockwell painting done up in dayglo.
Michael Fremer  |  Jan 18, 2003  |  1 comments
Sundazed's decision to issue Blonde on Blonde using the much sought after mono mix is indicative both of the company's dedication to doing what's musically correct, and of the vinyl marketplace's newfound maturity. There was a time a few years ago when no "audiophile" vinyl label would dare issue a mono recording; audiophiles wouldn't stand for it was the conventional wisdom. Perhaps back then it was even true. Today, with Sundazed, Classic, Analogue Productions and others issuing monophonic LPs on a regular basis (and one has to assume selling them as well) listeners are appreciating the music for music's sake, and equally importantly, for the wonderful qualities of monophonic sound reproduction. The choice was also pragmatic, as the original stereo mix-master reel was rendered unusable back in the 1970's. It wore out from being repeatedly used to cut lacquers. That tells you that second, third and possible higher pressings were cut from the original tapes and probably sound pretty good, but there's nothing like an early "360 Sound." Subsequent remixes from the 4 track masters were made, including a particularly bad one used on Columbia's early '90s "longbox" gold CD - a must to avoid. A recent remix, supposedly supervised by Dylan is said to be much better, but even an original stereo doesn't hold up the nuanced, musically coherent mono mix.
Michael Fremer  |  Jan 18, 2003  |  1 comments
You go with what works, and that's what Groovenote has done here. Having scored big with female vocalist Jacintha, the label is hoping to do likewise with the delicious looking, sultry sounding jazz singer Eden Atwood. Again going with what works, Atwood is backed by the pianist/arranger Bill Cunliffe's trio featuring Joe LaBarbera on drums and Derek Oles on bass. The group has become the label's de-facto "house band."
Michael Fremer  |  Jan 17, 2003  |  2 comments

Airplane aficionados have long maintained that the monaural mix of this classic '60s album is the best way to hear it, and those lucky enough to own an original mono pressing--issued in the Spring of 1967--will certainly concur. Think about it: we're talking about an album of 36-year-old music that still holds sway over listeners of all ages. How many young listeners in 1967 were grooving to music made in 1931? Only those lucky enough to understand that the music of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, et al., was not ancient history, though the primitive recording quality may have made them sound that way.

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 17, 2003  |  1 comments

Genre-busting artists often disappoint stylistically because they end up diluting the power of their influences while failing to create a fusion as substantial as any of the components. Even if artistically successful, their debut albums often suffer disappointing sales due to the vagaries of marketing and promotional placement. Tossing music into a prefabricated slot is one thing, creating a new one is another. In the case of stylistically ambiguous Norah Jones, it has all come together brilliantly.

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 09, 2003  |  First Published: Dec 31, 1969  |  0 comments
NOTE:

This review has been reprinted in its entirety from The Absolute Shower with not one word censored or deleted. The Absolute Shower is the journal of High End Hygiene and reports its findings on hygienic devices and anti-bacterial sources without fear or favor from any large pharmaceutical conglomerate. Its aquatic evaluations take place in real shower stalls, hence, cleanliness is the measure of reference.

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