Monthly Archives: July 2013

One Minute Critic: Americanarama Festival 7/12/13

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Americanarama

Even though I had a blast at the Americanarama Festival last night, it just reinforced why I much prefer club shows to stadium concerts (for a variety of reasons). Unsurprisingly, Wilco‘s  hometown set was easily the evening’s highlight, though Richard Thompson and My Morning Jacket were stellar too. As expected, the sound quality was less than exceptional at Toyota Park (home of the Chicago Fire soccer team), but the three supporting acts managed to rise above the issue for the most part- especially Jeff Tweedy and company. I had spied set lists for the previous tour stops and was really hoping the Chicago crowd would be treated to “California Stars” and Wilco/MMJ’s rendition of “Cinnamon Girl.” I received both of my wishes; thankfully the sun had set, making it easier to conceal my emotional responses to the two tunes.

The greatest disappointment of the night was the headlining Dylan. Even though he sounds like three-parts Tom Waits and one-part Bob nowadays, his voice isn’t what let me down. It was the altered arrangements to much-loved songs like “Tangled up in Blue” and “Simple Twist of Fate,” which rendered those and other standards nearly unrecognizable. I didn’t expect the performances to sound exactly like the album versions or resemble Dylan’s classic live shows. However straying too far away from the songs’ original visions created a palpable discontentment that seemed to envelope the entire stadium. Please save the rearranging for bonus tracks or other artists covering the songs. Despite my criticisms I am still glad I got to see Dylan again, though I will embrace my memories of his 1994 show tighter than last night’s.

Record REcollection 7/7/13

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Record REcollection

As mentioned previously, one of my resources for obtaining music has been friends. A couple in particular have been especially generous when they have run across CDs or LPs they know I want and pick them up for me. I return the favor when I see albums they are seeking, which makes for a pleasant back and forth exchange.

I have also been contacted by friends who have uploaded collections to their computers and they no longer want the physical copies. I am always more than happy to take the music off of their hands. Whatever I can’t add to my collection I pass on to someone who wants it for theirs.

Additionally, I have been on the receiving end of a stranger’s kindness. One example occurred during my first visit to Village Records in the Roscoe Village neighborhood of Chicago last winter. A small, but quaint record shop with an eclectic mix of  new and used music, books and DVDs, the store’s greatest asset is its owner Will. Will greets everyone when they walk through the door, but gives patrons space to navigate his wares without hovering over them. If someone has a question, however, he is quick to provide assistance. But the most engaging aspect of visiting the store is talking over one’s purchases with Will. As one customer remarked on yelp.com, “The owner knew all of the albums I picked out well despite the fact they were all over the genre map.” That was my experience too. The love for music he exuded as he rang up my CDs and records spoke to my inner music nerd and was a pleasant addition to an already grand record store experience. As Will was bagging up my goodies I noticed Stereolab‘s “Jenny Ondioline Part 1” seven inch clear vinyl promo on the shelf behind him. I asked to see the record and we talked about our love for the band. I decided to add it to my order and instead of charging me ten dollars as marked, he knocked the price down to seven- a very fair price for the rare 45. A friend that accompanied me inquired if he sold 45 adapter domes. Will said no, but without thinking twice gave him the one from the store’s turntable.  We haven’t had an opportunity to visit his shop again, but I look forward to the next chance we get.

Finally, I have found a lot of hospitable folks at yard sales. Many people are selling their unwanted music for cheap via their front lawn stores, with some offering boxes of compact discs or records for a flat rate. There was one sale I was perusing LPs and the seller said, “Ten bucks and they’re all yours!” I was delighted to accept those terms, as the collection contained a couple hundred records.

Saturday I encountered another benevolent yard sale merchant. I was drawn to the sale due to their classified ad stating, “Lots of music CDs.” After finding twenty-seven discs suitable for my collection, the homeowner complimented me on grabbing all of the Alan Parsons Project albums. I made mention that the only projects by Mr. Parsons I already owned were on LP, so these CDs were a nice addition. He told me he had some records inside the house but didn’t own a turntable. He added that he was just going to throw them away but asked if I had any interest in them for free. I couldn’t answer in the affirmative quickly enough and thanked him a few times over. His wife went into the house and came out with a huge stack of happiness. For the small sum of nine dollars (the CDs were three for a buck), I went home with twenty-seven CDs and forty-seven LPs!

Saturday’s haul:

CDS

The Alan Parsons Project Tales of Mystery and Imagination

The Alan Parsons Project I Robot

The Alan Parsons Project Pyramid

The Alan Parsons Project Eve

The Alan Parsons Project The Turn of a Friendly Card

The Alan Parsons Project Eye in the Sky

The Alan Parsons Project Ammonia Avenue

The Alan Parsons Project Stereotomy

Alan Parsons  On Air

The Cure Disintegration– This was a long time, overdue repurchase after lending it out in high school only for it to never be returned.

Ray Charles The Best of Ray Charles: The Atlantic Years- As a general rule I don’t purchase greatest hits compilations of artists I enjoy enough to collect their entire works, but for the price, I made an exception.

Cheap Trick Dream Police

Jethro Tull Aqualung– I already owned it on LP and am glad to add it on this format.

Jethro Tull Warchild

ELO Out of the Blue

The Moody Blues Greatest Hits– See Ray Charles

Talking Heads Fear of Music

Van Halen Van Halen– All VH purchases are albums I used to own on cassette.

Van Halen Women and Children First

Van Halen Diver Down

XTC Nonesuch– My first album on any format by the band. I have been familiar with them for many years but have only started appreciating their work the last several. My introduction to their music was “Dear God” and I allowed my  previous religious-inspired bias to cloud my judgement. While that tune is still not one of my favorites , I have taken the opportunity to explore their back catalog and like what I’ve heard.

Yes Going For The One

Yes 90125

The following CDs were bought for my wife. We maintain separate CD collections, though our LPs are a combined accumulation.

Fleetwood Mac Rumours

Styx Kilroy Was Here

Styx Pieces of Eight

Styx Paradise Theater

LPS

Count Basie 20 Greatest Hits

The Beatles Rarities

Irvin Berlin Dance to the Music of Irvin Berlin

Chuck Berry Chuck Berry’s Golden Decade

Boogie Woogie Trio Vol. 3

Ray Charles The Ray Charles Story

Bobby Darin 18 Roses & 11 Other Hits

ELO Out of the Blue

Marvin Gaye Let’s Get it On

Marvin Gaye Midnight Love

Marvin Gaye Every Great Motown Hit of Marvin Gaye

George Harrison Somewhere In England

Billy Joel 52nd Street*

Elton John Blue Moves

Elton John Greatest Hits Volume II

Elton John A Single Man

Elton John Victim of Love

Elton John The Fox

Elton John Jump Up!

Elton John Too Low for Zero

Elton John Breaking Hearts

John Lennon/Yoko Ono Double Fantasy

Jerry Lee Lewis Original Golden Hits Volume II

London Philharmonic Orchestra Rachmaninoff Symphony No. 2

Lynyrd Skynyrd Gold & Platinum*

Barry Manilow Greatest Hits Vol. II*

The Moody Blues Days of Future Passed

The Moody Blues The Present

The Moody Blues The Other Side of Life

Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra The Nutcracker Suite

Elvis Presley Elvis’ Christmas Album (1959 reissue)

Elvis Presley Elvis’ Christmas Album (1985 reissue)

Elvis Presley Loving You

Elvis Presley Elvis Is Back!

Elvis Presley G.I. Blues

Elvis Presley Blue Hawaii

Elvis Presley Elvis Sings The Wonderful World of Christmas

Elvis Presley Memories of Christmas

Prince 1999– We own this already so it will be given away or traded.

Prince and the Revolution Purple Rain– See 1999.

The Al Sack Concert Orchestra Music for Listening– Isn’t that the point of all music?

Bobby Vinton Roses are Red

Collector’s Records of the 50’s an 60’s Vol. 13

Grease soundtrack*- The Mrs. already owns this one so it will be given away or traded.

Jazz Heritage Series Vol. 33 Piano In Style: 1926-1930– This album features Jelly Roll Morton, Pinetop Smith and James P. Johnson

Saturday Night Fever soundtrack*- See Grease.

* denotes records that are more geared toward my wife’s tastes.

Record REcollection 7/4/13

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Record REcollection is an ongoing series sharing recent record and CD acquisitions and some of the stories behind the music. For a detailed account of my musical journey, please follow the recurring series, You Say You Want An Evolution. I hope to update that feature soon.

While not telling the entire story, knowing what music is in one’s collection can convey a lot about that person. If you have read most of the NBTFS entries up until this point, you have likely determined I listen to a wide variety of music, enjoy going to concerts and am insanely sentimental, with a dash of goofy humor thrown in for good measure. Unless you are close to me and/or share a profound interest in music, however, you don’t know much about my collection or buying habits. That’s why I have added this feature, along with the upcoming Dusting Off the Discography entries.

There was a time when my disposable income allowed me to purchase a great deal more music than I am able to do today. In fact, a sizable portion of my collection was built when I still lived with my parents, had few expenses and would stockpile my favorite artist’s albums nearly every payday. It was also a nurturing era of discovering new music via word of mouth, radio airplay, magazines and taking calculated risks. After all, it was the early 90’s and the information superhighway wasn’t right at one’s fingertips.

Nowadays I have greater financial responsibilities and a more insatiable interest than ever in music, including my ever-growing CD and vinyl collection. Thankfully my options for obtaining albums are plentiful and sometimes inexpensive. They include the internet, new and used record stores, pawn shops, yard sales, department stores, friends and concerts. I love the opportunities to get albums on the cheap, but I try to regularly make purchases directly through the artists and independent record companies to show my support as well.

Through this regular feature you will be introduced to terms such as “round-outers” and “junk vinyl.” You will also find out how many “must-have” albums have taken an embarrassingly long time to become a part of my collection. But most of all, I hope you are moved to recall your own special memories when you see albums you love or perhaps you will discover something new. As always, feel free to share your personal experiences, as I would love to hear about them. I will start with my most recent arrivals, via Joyful Noise Recordings and eBay.

After embarking on a couple of reunion tours and re-releasing some of their classic albums in recent times, Sebadoh reconvened in the studio last year and created Secret. Originally only available on CD at live shows and via Bandcamp, Joyful Noise Recordings released the album on 10″ vinyl last month and announced the band’s plans to deliver a full-length effort, Defend Yourself, in September. In addition to a standard black vinyl edition, the record company produced three hundred hand-numbered copies on green-marbled vinyl. I was fortunate to catch the news early enough and placed an order for the latter variation before they sold out in about an hour! I also decided to tack on math rock merchants Don Cabellero‘s Gang Banged With A Headache And Live. It was available as a bone-colored 12″ vinyl limited to five hundred, so I opted for that edition.

On Tuesday my Joyful Noise order arrived, safe and sound. The record company did an excellent job securing the items and included two namesake stickers and a Sebadoh sticker that depicted art from the forthcoming album. Like Polyvinyl Records regularly does, they included a couple pieces of candy as well. Who knew Now and Laters still existed? I was very pleased with Joyful Noise’s customer service and recommend pineapple as my new Now and Later flavor of choice.

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I also received an eBay purchase that day: the ¡Alarma! LP by Daniel Amos. The first in the band’s four part “Alarma Chronicles” series,  the 1981 album arrived as advertised in near mint shape and was a long overdue addition to my  record collection (I had purchased the CD version in the early 90’s).

Originally known for a country rock meets gospel sound, the group had already evolved into something closer to new wave by this album’s release, and exhibited considerable lyrical growth as well. The tour for ¡Alarma! and the subsequent albums in the Alarma Chronicles series featured a multimedia presentation which included video screens synchronized to the music, an unusual practice for any band at the time.
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Land of Linking: Sufjan Stevens’ Michigan Turns 10

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While our friends up north are celebrating Canada Day, July 1 also marks the tenth anniversary of one of the most ambitious concept albums in the history of music. Originally marketed as the first release of a planned “Fifty States” series, Sufjan StevensMichigan is a gushing love letter that explores themes of hope, family, faith and love, but not without acknowledging personal struggles as well as the hardships the state itself has experienced.

To say that Stevens pulled out all the bells and whistles on the multi-layered album would be putting it mildly, as the talented musician played no less than twenty-three instruments (twenty-four if you count his voice), in addition to handling the art direction, arrangement, mixing and production duties. That doesn’t account for the other eight musicians who contributed to the project.

While in some cases less is more, Michigan doesn’t suffer from overproduction, nor do the instruments or vocals overshadow one another. What you find instead are lush canvas for the soft-singing, yet passionate Stevens to paint his pictures upon, as he takes the listener on a journey throughout the Great Lakes State.

Consequence of Sound does a nice job explaining why Michigan is much more than a tribute from one of its native sons in their feature, Five Reasons Sufjan Stevens’ Michigan Gave Us Hope.

This might be the first mention of Sufjan Stevens on this blog, but it most certainly won’t be the last.  Until next time, I will leave you with the sprawling, eight+ minute call to action, “Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head!”

The Pixies: No Longer Kim-less But Still Without a Deal

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The Pixies announced via their website this morning that Kim will in fact be playing bass and providing background vocals on their upcoming tour- just not the one we have grown accustomed to hearing and seeing. Kim Shattuck, lead guitarist and vocalist from The Muffs, will be stepping into the role recently vacated by Kim Deal, at least on the road. It had been speculated that Jeremy Dubs would be filling that spot after appearing on the new Pixies single “Bagboy,” which has been receiving mixed reviews since its release last Friday. The band has scheduled a European tour this fall and has already sold out four of the nineteen shows.  According to their website, this is the first leg of an “extensive, worldwide tour.” No word yet on when they will be hitting the States.

“Bagboy” is still available to download for free via the band’s website.  The video is also available to watch on Youtube.

2013 European tour dates
9/29 Paris, France
10/2 Brussels, Begium (Sold Out)
10/3 Brussels, Belgium (Sold Out)
10/5 Amsterdam, Holland
10/8 Berlin, Germany
10/10 Prague, Czech Republic
11/1 Vienna, Austria
11/2 Geneva, Switzerland
11/4 Milan, Italy
11/7 Madrid, Spain
11/9 Lisbon, Portugal
11/13 Copenhagen, Denmark
11/14 Oslo, Norway
11/15 Stockholm, Sweden
11/18 Dublin, Ireland (Sold Out)
11/19 Dublin, Ireland
11/21 Manchester, England
11/22 Glasgow, Scotland (Sold Out)
11/24 London, England