It’s Alice Coltrane New Vinyl Thursday at The Vinyl Underground at 7th Heaven. Check out this week’s list of new vinyl arrivals:
2Pac- 2pacalypse Now
2Pac- Greatest Hits
A Tribe Called Quest- Midnight Marauders
Aesop Rock- Appleseed
Albert King- In Session
Alice Coltrane- Kirtan: Turiya Sings
Alice Cooper – Welcome to My Nightmare
Hard rock hero and theatrical performance pioneer Alice Cooper’s eighth album also marked the transition from the Alice Cooper band to Alice Cooper, solo artist. The difference may not be noticeable by the cover – or the billing – but it can definitely be heard in the grooves.
Released an interminable 16 months after the final Cooper band album, 1975’s Welcome to My Nightmare showed a disco influence on the opening, title track, while “Some Folks” is straight-up cabaret. Then there’s the album’s biggest song, the No. 12 hit “Only Women Bleed,” the softest number Cooper had released to that point.
While Nightmare lacked the grit of earlier albums, it demonstrated Cooper’s versatility as a singer and songwriter and paved the way for other late ‘70s concept albums like Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman’s Bat Out of Hell. And it’s not like Nightmare is bereft of rockers. Side two kicks off with the one-two of “Department of Youth” and “Cold Ethyl,” while side one features the underrated “Devil’s Food.”
In lieu of the defunct Cooper band, Uncle Alice recruited the same quartet that backed Lou Reed on his fantastic live albums Rock and Roll Animal and Lou Reed Live (both draw from the same concert). Cooper also brought in Vincent Price to provide voiceovers, beating Michael Jackson to the act by nearly a decade.
Welcome to My Nightmare started Cooper’s solo career on a high note. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to sustain its success, but the alum means a lot to both Cooper and fans alike. Songs from Nightmare still appear prominently in Cooper’s shows. In 2011, Cooper and producer Bob Ezrin reunited for a sequel, which is a high point in the artist’s late-career discography.- Joel Francis
Ani DiFranco- Revolutionary Love
Bad Brains- Bad Brains
Getting ready for Record Store Day this Saturday but in the mean time I’m digging this Bad Brains reissue on their own Bad Brains label.
As the story goes, in 1979 the rasta infused punk band was banned from nearly every club in their home town of Washington DC due to their perceived destructive fans. Inspired by a lack of places to play, the band decided to move to New York City and by the early 80’s were a large catalyst in the expanding hardcore punk scene at the legendary music club CBGB’s.
Their self-titled debut album, often referred to as the yellow album, was released on the ROIR label, originally on cassette only, in 1982. The cover sports a lightning bolt striking the capital.
In May of 1981 Bad Brains played a gig at 171-A, a recording studio located in the East Village of Manhattan. The studio manager, a guy by the name of Jerry Williams, recorded the show. The band liked the sound so much they returned to record between August and October of 1981. 12 of the 15 tracks on the album came from these sessions, while three of the songs from the live recording, “Jah Calling”, “Pay to Cum” and “I Luv I Jah”, were deemed good enough for the album.
The raw energy, statements about frustration and rebellion conveyed on the yellow album were a blue print for many hardcore bands to come.
Despite their appearance as bearded, dreadlock wearing Rastafarians Bad Brains was never short on Attitude as the song that bears the name states:
Don’t care what they may say
We got that attitude
Don’t care what they may do
We got that attitude
Hey we got the PMA
Hey we got the PMA
The band’s Rastafarian influences emerge on songs like Jah Calling and Leaving Babylon. This fusion of punk and reggae would lay ground for future acts like Sublime and Fishbone.
On the song Pay To Cum the band addresses the frustration of having capitalism infiltrate every aspect of our lives:
I came to know with now dismay
That in this world we all must pay
Pay to write, pay to play
Pay to cum, pay to fight
Coming of age in the Midwest during the 80’s and 90’s, my exposure to hardcore punk was predominantly white dudes with combat boots and shaved heads. Bands like Bad Brains broadened my perspective on what hardcore punk could be. They helped expose me to whole other genres like Ska, Reggae, and Dub music. Not unlike the Sex Pistols Never Mind The Bullocks or Ramones Rocket To Russia, this record is an important chapter in the cannon of punk rock.
– Major Matt
Benjamin Tod- I Will Rise
Billy Paul- The Best Of Billy Paul
Brian Setzer- Nitro Burnin’ Funny Daddy
Britney Spears- Oops I Did It Again (20th Anniversary Edition)
Childish Gambino- Awaken My Love
Curtis Mayfield- Curtis (50th Anniversary Edition)
Dexter Gordon- Espace Cardin 1977
Don Ellis- Don Ellis: Soaring
Eugene McDaniels- Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse
A product of Kansas City, Kan., who grew up in Omaha, Neb., Eugene – who also went by Gene – McDaniels made his name writing and producing hits for Roberta Flack, Gladys Knight, Jimmy Smith, Les McCann and other R&B and jazz artists. After a decade of hit-and-miss success as a solo artist, he got his best shot at the big time when he released two albums for Atlantic Records in the early 1970s.
McDaniels’ second album, 1971’s Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse, somehow angered then-vice president Spiro Agnew enough that he called the label and demanded the album be pulled from the shelves. To show how much marketing has changed in the past 50 years, instead of wearing Agnew’s scorn as a badge of honor, Atlantic quietly stopped promoting the album and shunted McDaniels.
What got Agnew so hot under the collar isn’t a proto-Public Enemy burst of Black rage (although those elements exist), so much as an insistent plea for understanding and steadfast resolve to explain the world from a Black perspective in the vein of Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson’s work.
Most of the fire, when it arrives, comes from a stinging lead guitar line (as on the opening warning track “The Lord is Back”) or assertive organ (on the title track), then it does from McDaniels’ voice. His singing is smooth and calm, closer to Lou Rawls than Isaac Hayes
A prized find of hip hop crate diggers, Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse has been sampled by the Beastie Boys, A Tribe Called Quest and Earl Sweatshirt. The album has drifted in and out of print over the years, but is worth owning by fans of socially conscious soul-jazz. – Joel Francis
Eugene McDaniels – Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse
Eugene McDaniels was a singular voice in the history of American singer songwriters.
Born in Kansas City, Kansas he grew up in Omaha, Nebraska where he sang gospel music in church, developed a love of jazz, and learned to play the saxophone and trumpet.
His greatest single success as songwriter was a song called “Compared To What,” made famous by Roberta Flack on her debut album Chapter One in 1969.
McDaniels’ music has been hailed by everyone from Q- Tip to Prince. His progressive, funky, soul arrangements have been sampled by the likes of Tribe Called Quest and The Beastie Boys but it’s his penetrating perspective on American politics and social constructs that are his true gift to the music world.
I wrote about the limited edition reissue of his 1970 album Outlaw, an album that covered, amongst other things, songs about marijuana and “braless women.”
His following album, Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse picked up where Outlaw left off and proceed to ramp up the politics. Out of the gate he pulls no punches with the driving funky powerhouse: The Lord Is Back where he claims:
The lord is black
His mood is in the rain
The people have called
He’s coming to make corrections
Perhaps the most controversial number is the dissonant Jagger’s Dagger, perhaps an homage The Rolling Stones frontman and his androgynous stage presence:
Jagger sucking the source of life
Slashing the pig with a horny knife
Jagger merging the sexes now
Just stand back and he’ll show you how
This album is and endless gift of lyrical treasures and powerful political statements. So powerful, legend has it that after its release in 1971 president Spiro Agnew himself called Atlantic Records to complain, and Request that McDaniels be dropped from the label immediately.
If you think Daniels is just great jazz artist, Suzanne Jane, is beautifully complex folk song about young, white privileged hippy:
She used to have a maid
In the palisades
Her fathers christ crusade
Did not include the spades
She never made the social grade
She loves getting laid
Barefoot in the muddy road
Another one worth me thinking is the Native American protest song: The Parasite (for Buffy). A tune he wrote for the indigenous Canadian-American singer-songwriter, musician Buffy Sainte-Marie.
For better or worse this album is just as relevant for our present times, maybe even more so, as it was on its release fifty years ago. On translucent purple vinyl this one is a must in my book!
– Major Matt
Greta Van Fleet- Anthem Of The Peaceful Army
Greta Van Fleet- The Battle At Garden’s Gate
Harry Styles- Harry Styles
Harry Styles was already an iconic figure for years being in One Direction, but with the release of his debut self-titled album in 2017 his fame and image rose like no other. From start to finish, he brings different elements of pop, soft rock, and bits of folk.
Track #3, “Carolina” brings a cheery, groovy vibe leading into a chorus that builds up with Styles’ voice finally resolving to a softer, smooth vibe back into verse 2. I personally like the toggle between britrock, and indie because it gives it a playful energy that I find catchy.
Heart strings are definitely tugged at in track #5, “Sweet Creature”, with the use of beautiful acoustics and layered vocal melodies. Being a confused young adult, I find solace with this track as he runs through different emotions that relationships and discovery can bring to someone. It’s not only relatable, but extremely well constructed for an easy listen.
One of my favorite tracks on this album has to be “Kiwi”, simply due to genre experimentation. It starts off with distorted, fuzzy vocals and a strong leading guitar that rams through the entire track. The explosive chorus then flowing beautifully back into verse 2 is admirable. This track is a whirlwind of sound, going back and forth between vocal soloing and instrumental highlights, making a song worthy to head bang to.
Overall, I think anyone listening to this album would find it alluring. There’s a wide scope of vocal and instrumental elements, all coming together to create something extremely memorable. I like that somehow even though there’s a lot of different sounds in this album, it all flows together seamlessly. – Nova Stebbin
Ida Mae- Click Click Domino
Jeff Russo- The Umbrella Academy (Original Series Soundtrack)
John Hiatt & JERRY DOUGLAS BAND- Leftover Feelings
John Mayer- Sob Rock
Kanye West- College Dropout
Led Zepplin- Led Zepplin I
Lightnin Hopkins- Mojo Hand
Lionel Loueke- HH
Lou Rawls- The Best Of Lou Rawls
Lucinda Williams – Southern Soul: From Memphis to Muscle Shoals
The second installment of Southern songwriter extraordinaire Lucinda Williams’ Lu’s Jukebox series seems so tailor-fit for her talents, it’s hard not to believe it hadn’t already happened. Over the course of 10 songs and 40 minutes – with one of Williams’ own chestnuts thrown in at the end for good measure – Williams leans into songs made popular by Al Green, Otis Redding, Bobby Gentry and other Southern royalty.
Williams obviously has a heart for this material, but the song selection is a little too on-the-nose. Because many of these songs are so well-known in the first place, and because Williams’ sound as a performer is so well-defined, it’s not hard to imagine what Williams sounds like singing these songs. For the most parts she sounds exactly as expected, which is both good and bad. The good part is that Williams inhabits these songs with a spirit that enhances their Southern gothic souls. The bad part is that there aren’t many surprises across the set.
The best moments come when Williams offers the unexpected, and they arrive most often during the more obscure songs, such as Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham’s “It Tears Me Up” and O.C. Smith’s “Main Street Mission.”
Williams also receives a considerable boost from her great band, which includes many moments of stellar interplay between guitarists Stuart Mathis and Joshua Grange. Bass player Steve Mackey and drummer Fred Eltringham lay down deep grooves that give Williams and the guitarists plenty of space to roam while keeping the performances moving.
The previous installment of Lu’s Jukebox celebrated Tom Petty’s catalog and worked because Williams picked several deep tracks and recontextualized the hits. She doesn’t fare as well this time around, and while Williams may not add much new to these songs, she definitely holds her own. – Joel Francis
Lucy Dacus- Home Video
Paul Motian- Bill Evans
Pink Floyd- Animals
Prince- Purple Rain
Roy Brooks- Beat
Spacehog – Resident Alien
Old man brag alert: I saw Spacehog in concert when they opened for the Red Hot Chili Peppers at Municipal Auditorium on the One Hot Minute tour.
The U.K.-via NYC quartet delivered a fun set, but honestly, I only remember one song. It was the song that stood head and shoulders above all others and forced everyone to pay attention to the captivating sound emanating from the stage. I’m talking, of course, about “In the Meantime.”
In the, gulp, 25 years since that show, “In the Meantime” has become a go-to signifier of the ‘90s – for good reason. The rest of Resident Alien, Spacehog’s 1995 debut, doesn’t soar as high, but it’s also quite a bit better than the band’s one-hit-wonder reputation would have you believe. Songs like “Starside” and “Zeroes” ride on David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust-era panache. Elsewhere, “Never Coming Down” bears a heavy Mott the Hoople influence.
In a post-grunge landscape when everyone else wanted to be Zeppelin, Sabbath or the Doors, cozying up to sparkly glam signifiers definitely set Spacehog apart. Their inability to deliver much depth behind the theatricality clipped the band’s wings, but there is certainly much to enjoy on Resident Alien for glam or ‘90s aficionados searching for something slightly out of the mainstream. Or just those wanting to soak up “In the Meantime” again.- Joel Francis
If the 80’s signified looking to the future, then the 90’s were a time when nostalgia became hip.
Much in the way you could take equal parts Lou Reed, Guided By Voices, and The Cure and get The Strokes, or mix elements of Led Zeppelin, Lightenin’ Hopkins, and The Gories and get The White Stripes, one might cross David Bowie with T. Rex with a dash of Queen and get SPACEHOG!
I had the benefit of seeing an early Spacehog show at a venue called Coney Island High in New York City. It was clear to everyone in the room at the time that this band was offering something different.
In the mid 90’s Alt. Rock music was fully immersed in grunge culture. Long scraggly hair, worn out jeans and flannel shirts were the preferred uniform of bands and fans of the time. The music was loud and aggressive, short on flashy guitar solos and contrived stage presences… and to be honest, we were all getting a little bit bored with it.
When Spacehog took the stage, several of the members sported spiky, unisex mullets and tight fitting shirts with sparkles. Singer Royston Langdon aka Ray Sprinkles wore his signature orange tinted glasses. His brother Anthony pranced around the stage like a proud peacock, tearing through one Mick Ronsonesque guitar solo after another.
The opening track and hit single, In The Meantime, on Spacehog’s 1995 debut album, Resident Alien, sounds like a lost song from Bowie’s Diamond Dogs record. Track two, Spacehog, wouldn’t be out of place on your favorite T. Rex album and the sizzler Space Is the Place Has more of a Buzzcocks feel. By the time we get to the song Last Dictator we’re getting into full on Brit Pop territory.
Even though, Spacehog’s core members were born in the English city of Leeds, the band claims New York City as their place of origin. And though the band never really topped the meteoric rise of this first album, in retrospect, they were a strong precursor to the British Rock influences that would come to dominate the global Indie Rock scene for the next several years.
– Major Matt
Sparks- Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins
Steve Reid- Nova
Stick Figure- Smoke Stack
T. Rex- Electric Warrior
Teddy Pendergrass- The Best Of Teddy Pendergrass
The Clash – Sandinista!
The Clash’s fourth album refuses to be summarized as neatly as their raw, self-titled debut and boundary-pushing third album, London Calling. Spread across three LPs and 36 songs, Sandinista is, at best, a mess. It is challenging, rewarding, confounding and thrilling – sometimes all within a single side.
Sandinista’s blasts off with the proto-hip hop of “The Magnificent Seven,” the R&B flavored “Hitsville U.K.” (with guitarist Mick Jones’ girlfriend Ellen Foley on duet vocals and a xylophone prominently in the mix). From there the band gifts us with an update of the blues song “Junco Partner” and song that casts the Cold War as a disco party sung by drummer Topper Headon. Whew!
From there, Sandinista twists through rockabilly, gospel, reggae, folk and calypso. Somehow, the idea of throwing everything at the wall nearly works. A cover of “Police on my Back” is one of the band’s most invigorating performances. Just two songs later, lead singer and rhythm guitarist Joe Strummer delivers three of his most potent political anthems: “The Equalizer,” a dubbed-out critique of capitalism, the anti-draft single “The Call-Up” and “Washington Bullets,” which decries the West’s imperialist meddling in South America. “Somebody Got Murdered” also numbers among the band’s best songs.
Things get messy on the third LP, which features a children’s chorus reprising the band’s earlier hit “Career Opportunities,” three dub versions and a backwards recording of songs that appeared on the first two platters. Yet there are gems among these seemingly redundant tracks as well, such as “Charlie Don’t Surf,” “Street Parade” and “Kingston Advice.”
Like many multi-album sets, Sandinista could be improved with some pruning, but the Clash were very much a warts-and-all, hearts-on-their-sleeves band and a one- or two-LP edition wouldn’t provide an accurate portrait of The Only Band that Matters. Sandinista is a deep dive that requires patience and persistence, but ultimately rewards.
(As if releasing a triple-album weren’t enough, the Clash also recorded an album with Jones’ girlfriend Foley shortly after wrapping up the Sandinista sessions. In fact, Strummer and Jones wrote six songs for the project. Devoted Clash fans should make it a point to seek out Foley’s 1981 album Spirit of St. Louis for a continuation of the Sandinista spirit – no pun intended.)- Joel Francis
The Grateful Dead- Workingman’ Dead
The Intruders- The Best Of The Intruders
The Kinks- Best Of The Kinks 1964-1970
The O’Jays- The Best Of The O’Jays
The Quill- Earthrise
The Traveling Wilburys- The Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 3
The Who- The Who Sell Out
Tina Turner- Foreign Affair
Various Artists- Jackie Brown (Music From the Miramax Motion Picture)
Various artists – Almost Famous original soundtrack
Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical film about his days as a precocious music writer captures the magic and magnetism music can have on one’s soul.
The accompanying soundtrack to that 2000 movie, Almost Famous, does a great job of weaving a musical spell that will leave the listener likewise entranced. The soundtrack’s performers are an A-list of late ‘60s/early ‘70s rock stars – Led Zeppelin, Rod Stewart, Elton John, Simon and Garfunkel, The Who – but Crowe threads both well-known and more obscure songs together in such a way that makes the material seem fresh and revelatory.
The way the brief and delicate intimacy of “The Wind” sets up Clarence Carter’s equally heartfelt soul ballad “Slip Away” illustrates why the alchemy of this soundtrack makes it so much more than a ‘70s rock playlist or drive-time set on classic rock radio. Among the better of the lesser-known cuts are the Beach Boys’ dreamy “Feel Flows” and Thunderclap Newman’s soaring (and forgotten) “Something in the Air.” Then there are a couple songs performed by Crowe’s then-wife, Heart guitarist Nancy Wilson. The acoustic “Lucky Trumble” is the most iconic piece from the score she composed for the film. Wilson also wrote “Fever Dog,” the hit song by the film’s fictional band Stillwater. Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready brings his incendiary guitar playing to the soundtrack version.
Long out of print on vinyl (and given a small press run), the Almost Famous soundtrack has become an expensive holy grail for many music fans. Now back in print as part of the film’s 20th anniversary, this is your chance to grab a copy without breaking the bank.- Joel Francis
Various artists – Say Anything original soundtrack
The image of John Cusack’s Lloyd Dobler holding a boombox over his head has become a Hollywood image as iconic as Elliott’s bicycle soaring in front of the moon and Tom Hanks’ dancing on a life-size piano.
Dobler got a massive assist from Peter Gabriel’s brilliant “In Your Eyes” for that scene, but the rest of the film’s soundtrack is almost as indelible. Assembled by the film’s screenwriter and director, former music writer Cameron Crowe, the Say Anything soundtrack is assembled with the skill and passion of someone who feels music’s beat deep in his or her soul.
There are very few tracks in the eclectic collection that don’t work, from the roaring hard rock stomp of Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality” and Depeche Mode’s ominous “Stripped” to Joe Satriani’s acrobatic instrumental “One Big Rush” and Fishbone’s self-explanatory “Skankin’ to the Beat.” An early Replacements deep cut and exclusive new song from Cheap Trick sweeten the playlist.
An essential ‘80s touchstone, the Say Anything soundtrack may only be topped by similar sonic companions to John Hughes’ films. It belongs in the collection of any cinephile or anyone who celebrates the neon decade.
(Fun bonus fact: The frantic Red Hot Chili Peppers single “Taste the Pain” appears on the soundtrack. At the time, Chili Peppers singer Anthony Kedis dated Ione Skye, who plays Dobler’s love interest in the film.)- Joel Francis
Wu-Tang Clan- Enter Wu-Tang
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