Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Note to Psychobabble Subscribers

As the insidious cretins known as Spammers continue to figure out ways to drop penis enlargement adverts and confidential messages from rich African princes into your inbox, email providers continue to tighten up their restrictions on what constitutes spam. This is generally a good thing, but it also means that legit messages can also get slapped with the spam label. That includes your old pal and non-insidious cretin Psychobabble. 

Lately I've noticed that Psychobabble subscription updates have been going to my spam folder no matter how many times I mark the messages as "not spam." This is probably because the email address sending these updates includes the phrase "no reply", which aside from being the title of my favorite early Beatles song is also a favorite of spammers. My updates also include such other nasty red flags as photos, links, and in the case of this particular post, 652 uses of the word "spam."

So if you're a subscriber and have not been receiving your precious, precious Psychobabble updates, be sure to always check your spam folder for all the latest news, reviews, features, and things that are definitely not spam about all the oldest Rock & Roll, cult flicks, and horror pics.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Triple-Disc Deluxe Edition of 'The Monkees' Coming Soon

Having gotten caught up on the second half of The Monkees' career with triple-disc deluxe editions of every album from The Birds, The Bees, & The Monkees through The Monkees Present (not surprisingly, there hasn't been much demand for a deluxe edition of Changes), Rhino Records are winding back to the very beginning. On November 11, the company is releasing a super deluxe edition of the group's debut album. The format will change a bit from the previous deluxe editions with both the original mono and stereo mixes of The Monkees being grouped on a single CD; a second disc of sessions, outtakes, and remixes; and a third one devoted to the pre-Monkees solo work of Davy Jones and Mike Nesmith, plus some bonus demos of "I Wanna Be Free". 

Presumably, this means we might be able to expect super-deluxe editions of More of The Monkees and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, and Jones, LTD. over the next few years. Headquarters was already dealt with on Rhino Handmade's The Headquarters Sessions in 2000, but perhaps that out-of-print set will get re-released...or we could get an all-new Headquarters Super Deluxe Edition. Time will tell...

For now The Monkees (Super Deluxe Edition) is available to pre-order now from The Monkees Official Store here.

And now, the track list:


THE MONKEES (SUPER DELUXE EDITION)
Track List:

Disc 1

The Original Mono Album

Turn Left at Greenland, Part 10: ‘Revolver’


In this monthly feature on Psychobabble, I’ve been looking at how The Beatles were presented on long-playing vinyl in the United States.

Capitol’s absurd impatience finally bit them on the ass with Yesterday and Today. Because The Beatles hadn’t released an album in—gasp!—over six months, their American label insisted on rush-releasing one even though the band was currently recording a new record that would be ready to hit stores in a mere month and a half. The rush caused Capitol to put out Yesterday and Today with a grotesque cover it was already wary about releasing, and one that would have to be hidden at great expense when the inevitable outcry followed. On a more artistically crucial level, Capitol’s insistence that The Beatles sacrifice three of their new recordings for Yesterday and Today did a great disservice to the album they were actually choosing to make. When Revolver was released in England on August 5, 1966, it was not just the best collection of Beatlesongs yet (and by overwhelming contemporary assessment, their best ever); it was also their most balanced. John and Paul each sang lead on five of their own songs. Paul wrote one extra for Ringo to lead. His songwriting skills blossoming stunningly, George Harrison submitted three. Even “The White Album” wouldn’t have such an equal ratio of contributions from each Beatle, and it is only more eclectic than Revolver because it has twice as many songs. George makes raga rock on “Love You To”, pushes pop off-kilter with “I Want to Tell You”, and freaks up funk with “Taxman”. Paul crafts classical for psychos with “Eleanor Rigby”, casts a spell over the love struck with “Here, There, and Everywhere”, summons the daylight with the good-timing “Good Day Sunshine”, brings a touch of baroque elegance to the drawing room with “For No One”, gives Motown a soulful run for their money with “Go to Get You Into My Life”, and presents an early Christmas gift to the kiddies (and Ringo) with his toy “Yellow Submarine”. That leaves John to bring the weirdness, and he more than delivers with the morbid acid rock of “She Said She Said” and the terrifying, cacophonous black mass “Tomorrow Never Knows”. He also sings a love song to his drug dealer “Doctor Robert”, avows his love for lying in with “I’m Only Sleeping”, and recaptures some of the old Beatlemanical joy—with enough sour smugness, sweet harmonizing, and stinging riffing to keep things interesting—with the euphoric “And Your Bird Can Sing”.

We already know the fate of those last three songs in the States. They’d been in the Yanks’ record collections for a month and half. While some of The Beatles’ major peers, such as The Rolling Stones and The Who, suffered the humiliation of having songs repeated senselessly on their American releases, Capitol drew the line at this odious practice. “Doctor Robert”, “I’m Only Sleeping”, and “And Your Bird Can Sing” would not be returning for Capitol’s Revolver. After all, their absence still left eleven tracks, which was the norm for Capitol’s Beatles LPs. As far as the label was concerned, the public was still getting their money’s worth.

 
In 1967, London Records released Flowers, which repeated three tracks already included on recent Rolling Stones albums. The following year, American Decca put out Magic Bus: The Who on Tour, which committed the same crime.

They were also getting a very strange listening experience indeed. All three of the songs sacrificed for Yesterday and Today were John Lennon’s. Consequently, the most balanced of The Beatles’ British albums became one of the most off-balance of their American ones. Capitol’s Revolver is the only Beatles album on which George Harrison contributes more songs than Lennon. John only sings twice as many as Ringo. The grandest collaboration of the Fabs’ career ends up sounding like the Paul and George show. Paul’s romanticism envelops the record. George suddenly seems like he’s become the cynical one. John’s two songs are left to close each side, at least giving them pride of place, but they really seem to come out of left field. Had John lost his mind, only able to come up with two new songs during a period that was so clearly creatively fertile for his band mates? And these are the songs he came up with? He hadn’t even bothered to come up with more than one chord for “Tomorrow Never Knows”!

As it had with Rubber Soul, Capitol at least recognized the artistic value of the cover of Revolver. The only difference it made to Klaus Voormann’s creepy illustration/collage is the use of its own logo instead of Parlophone’s pound sign.

Capitol’s Revolver is an intrinsically great record because, well, its eleven songs are all great. Dave Dexter, Jr., finally conceded that George Martin knew what he was doing and refrained from laying on the echo he thought made Beatles recordings exciting enough for an over-excited public. Comparatively speaking, however, Capitol’s Revolver is sorely inadequate once we know what we’ve lost. John’s three missing songs don’t just make the Parlophone record more balanced; they make it rock harder. Without the soaring guitar duel of “And Your Bird Can Sing”, the grungy licks of “Dr. Robert”, and the mind-melting backwards leads of “I’m Only Sleeping”, the lasting sonic impressions of Revolver are its strings, sitars, tape loops, French horns, clavichords, and brass bands. John’s songs bring extra color to a dark record, even though his sly nastiness still encrusts the edges of each song. Their loss makes The Beatles’ most perfect album less perfect. Had Americans known Revolver as The Beatles intended it to be known from the very start, it may have not taken it until the Parlophone record’s global release in 1987 to usurp Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as the album considered their greatest.

What The Beatles must have been thinking when they consciously set out to make their artiest statement! What injustices would Capitol rain down on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band? Would Dave Dexter drown “A Day in the Life” in even more echo? Would he lop off “Fixing a Hole” so he could put it out on a new record called The “Hole” Beatles!? How about removing “With a Little Help from My Friends” for The Friendly Beatles or another one for Getting Better with The Beatles?



Lucky for that record’s reputation, Dexter would no longer be a problem by ’67. Capitol demoted him in 1966. If he remained in position as A&R rep., would he have tampered with The Beatles’ “Big A” art piece? Well, he probably would have wanted to, but he would not have been allowed since The Beatles made certain that when they renewed their contract with Capitol in January 1967 that it specified the label could no longer tinker with their art. So the only alteration Capitol made was removing the two-second loop of gobbledygook from the run-out groove of Side B. Otherwise, Americans finally got the same Beatles record as their British friends. Never again would Capitol mess with a Beatles LP at all. Their EPs, however, remained fair game…

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Review: 'David Bowie Treasures'

Ignorant critics have regularly accused David Bowie of being an artist of greater style than substance. Truth is, he is has both in spades. Mike Evans's David Bowie Treasures, has no aspirations of substance, but it pulls off the style pretty well. Like all books in the Treasures series, this slip-cased installment is light on biography, heavier on photos, and augmented with pockets containing removable reproductions of posters, concert adverts, tickets, and contracts. The interesting thing about Evans's book is that so many of the photos capture the primary artist with others famous people: Jagger, Dylan, Lennon, McCartney, Mercury, Townshend, Tina, Iggy, Lou, Bing. One almost gets the sense that the author (assuming he was the one who chose the photos) wasn't sure if his subject was a big enough star to carry the book on his own (obviously, he is). Nevertheless, we get some pretty neat shots, my favorite being one of Bowie and Liz Taylor, who looks like she just finished raiding his closet. 

Get David Bowie Treasures on Amazon.com here:


Review: 'Pumpkin Cinema'


There are already enough horror movie guides haunting bookstores to choke King Kong. Nathaniel Tolle justifies the existence of yet another one by employing a welcome premise: movies that conjure just the right atmosphere for Halloween viewing. He lays out his criteria in the introductory chapter of Pumpkin Cinema: nothing too slow, too long, too depressing, too cruel, or too off-season for Halloween fun. Such seasonally perfect selections as Something Wicked This Way Comes, House of Frankenstein, The Adventures of Ichabod, and of course, Halloween are shoe-ins.

Sometimes Tolle has trouble sticking to his own premise, as when he chooses the swelteringly Amazonian Creature from the Black Lagoon instead of more appropriately autumnal alternatives like The Wolf Man or Dracula (which he disqualifies for being too slow…blasphemy!). While those are some glaring omissions matched only by the near-total absence of Hammer horrors, I appreciated Tolle’s otherwise appreciation of classic monster movies from all eras and how he further distinguishes his book from similar guides by getting into cartoons, short films, and Halloween episodes of non-supernatural TV series. I also liked the fact that he selected movies he likes, so you don’t have to hunt around to locate his recommendations. You still might want to approach a lot of those recommendations with caution since Tolle can be undiscerning when it comes to direct-to-video cheapies and holiday movies starring Ernest or The Olsen Twins. That unfettered enthusiasm extends to writing that is accessible yet can get dodgy without enough editorial intervention. Someone certainly should have steered him away from writing “working quite well are the many ample bosoms that constantly struggle to stay confined in their tiny bikini tops” in his entry for the notorious rape-monster movie Humanoids from the Deep. Yeesh.

Get Pumpkin Cinema on Amazon.com here:




3


Friday, September 26, 2014

Review: 'Brian Jones: The Making of The Rolling Stones'


Everyone who has done their Rolling Stones homework knows that Brian Jones started the band, that he was their most naturally gifted musician, that he contributed more to their recordings than Mick and Keith want you to believe. Unfortunately, Brian did not live to drill his version of events into your consciousness the way Mick has with his carefully calculated interviews and Keith has with his critically drooled-over doorstop of an autobiography. Had he lived beyond 1969, Brian Jones probably would not have anyway based on the way Paul Trynka presents the guitarist/keyboardist/saxophonist/sitarist/marimbaist/etc. in his new biography Brian Jones: The Making of The Rolling Stones. The most vilified member of the Stones comes across as less violent, less perpetually drugged, less useless here.

Not that Trynka shies away from Jones’s most abhorrent traits. We are well informed that Brian Jones was a narcissistic, misogynistic, often callous, sometimes abusive ball of paranoia. But Mick and Keith already told you that. Armed with intensive research and a multitude of interviews, Trynka reports that Brian could be kind and he rarely complained about the nasty treatment his co-workers showered on him. Most importantly, Trynka is intent upon setting the record straight regarding Jones’s contributions to the Stones’ music and music in general. His eclectic contributions shaped much of The Rolling Stones’ music during their most creatively fertile period of 1965 through 1967. Brian did more than add sitar and recorder to “Paint It Black” and “Ruby Tuesday”, two of the band’s best loved songs; he co-wrote them. Most significantly of all, we learn that the open-tunings Keith claims he stole from Ry Cooder in the late sixties had actually been stolen a lot earlier from Brian Jones, who’d used them for his slide work on tracks such as “Little Red Rooster” and “I Can’t Be Satisfied”. And just as Keith would later replace Bill Wyman’s bass parts in later years, Brian would sometimes do that with Keith’s guitar on early Stones records. By Trynka’s insistence, Brian also did more to hip the world to African-American and African music than any other white musician of his generation.

While clearing up the Brian Jones story, Trynka also tidies up some other areas that have been distorted by the self-serving accounts of those who knew him. We learn that the uncredited Jack Nitzsche was often a more hands-on producer than Andrew Oldham, that Andrew’s ousting may have stemmed from his refusal to give Mick a one-third share of Immediate Records, and that Dick Hattrell, the roommate Brian tortured mercilessly during the group’s early days, is a real person, with real feelings who was well aware of how he was being mistreated.

Brian Jones was not necessarily a good person, but he was a person, and by recognizing this, Paul Trynka gives us a balanced and compassionate portrait of a guy who has been slagged off and diminished a lot in Rolling Stones history. The fact is there would have been no Rolling Stones without him. He at least deserves some respect for that. Brian Jones: The Making of The Rolling Stones delivers it.

Get Brian Jones: The Making of The Rolling Stones on Amazon.com here:

 

5


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Psychobabble’s Ten Greatest Albums of 1964


If March 22, 1963— the day The Beatles’ released Please Please Me— was the album era’s date of conception, then 1964 was its year of infancy. As The British invaded and the singles charts remained key for kids, a higher-quality crop of LPs was just starting to sprout too. As we shall see, two artists were particularly reliable, but Bob Dylan and The Beatles were not the only makers of excellent albums in 1964. A number of the year’s best were the very first efforts from some of the decade’s defining rock and soul stars. And if only one of the following albums stands as its artist’s defining long-playing statement, all are distinctive for appearing before a lick of self-conscious artistry sneaked into the music. In the year before “Yesterday”, “Desolation Row”, and “California Girls”, the defining sound was simple, exuberant. Hell, even Dylan started getting poppy! So pop on your Beatle wig and yowl “Yeah, yeah, yeah!” Here are Psychobabble’s Ten Greatest Albums of 1964!

10. Kinks by The Kinks

The chemical formula of all pre-’65 British pop LPs is on fiery display on Kinks. Take a few Chuck Berry covers, a few blues nuggets, a snatch of originals by a budding songwriting genius, and one monumental single, and you have everything necessary to convince teens to part with five bucks. Unlike The Rolling Stones or The Beatles, The Kinks cannot keep their essential Britishness in check when doing those Berry and Blues songs, so things like “Beautiful Delilah” and “Too Much Monkey Business” sound more poppy, if not necessarily more polite, in their hands. Dave Davies’s naturally ravaged voice makes the former track sufficiently rude, but Ray’s grinning sigh is already audible on the latter one. He sounds a lot more at home on his own material, whether screaming through the psychotic “You Really Got Me”, pumping through the Mersey Beat styles of “I Took My Baby Home” and “I Just Can’t Go to Sleep”, or choking up throats with the swaying “Stop Your Sobbing”. Dave’s guitar work, on the other hand, sounds like a tormented bull barreling out of its corral on its way to gore a matador for the first time. Compared to what would come later, Kinks is definitely a lesser Kinks album, but no other record finds them sounding this raw and hungry, even as it remains decidedly poppy.

9. Pain in My Heart by Otis Redding

Speaking of raw and hungry, no other record on this list conveys those states more shatteringly than Pain in My Heart. Even the title is a bloody statement of emotion. By common accounts, Otis was actually a sweet, good-natured, happy guy. He still managed to pull things from his soul that made that pain sound nothing but 100% authentic. The title track, “These Arms of Mine”, “That’s What My Heart Needs”, “Security”, and Otis’s astonishing cover of Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me” will turn your knees to jam and drop you to the carpet. But let’s not get too bogged down in that pain, because there’s a ton of joy on this record too, with the man inviting you to dance the Rufus Thomas-way on “The Dog”, and turning your skull into rubble with his own screamer “Hey Hey Baby”. If “Pain in My Heart” is the heart of this record, than “Hey Hey Baby” is its wiggling legs; Otis at his wildest and most goddamned fun.

8. Where Did Our Love Go by The Supremes

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Review: 'George Harrison: The Apple Years 1968 – 75'


With his primal screams, avant gardism, agit-prop politics, and insistence that he is a tusked marine mammal, John Lennon has the reputation for being the “weird” Beatle. All of that may change with the release of George Harrison: The Apple Years 1968 – 75. Those unfamiliar with the less traveled nooks of George’s catalog may be shocked by its scary synth experiments, culture-clashing soundtrack, unabashed spiritualism, and an LP made while the singer was suffering from a severely shredded larynx.

Unlike John and Paul, George did not make a lot of overly familiar albums at the beginning of his solo career. Each housing a huge number one hit, All Things Must Pass and Living in the Material World are as well known as it gets (and I hadn’t even heard Material World before now). His first two albums, Wonderwall Music and Electronic Sound, are downright obscure, and for obvious reasons. The Meditative Beatle’s second album collects a pair of bizarre and very different Moog synthesizer experiments. The first, “Under the Mersey Wall”, is pure sci-fi movie soundtrack with strays blasts of humor. At one point, some 3D crackling will make you check to see if your stereo equipment is malfunctioning. At another, he starts to play “Yesterday” only to end the melody by noodling back off to the cosmos. The other track, “No Time or Space”, is a much tougher listen, George’s synth simulating gunshots, squalls of white noise, laser beams, and sirens. It’s as assaultive and angry as John’s most throat-ravaging screams. So much for that meditative reputation.

Wonderwall Music, the other true curio in this eight-disc box set, is a much more delightful surprise. For a goofy little period-piece film that few people saw, George composed some outrageously gorgeous music that mostly spotlights his raga obsession but also dallies with baroque pop, acid rock, music hall, psychedelia, Mellotron mood music, Moody Blues romanticism, tape loops, and avant garde collages. Wonderwall Music is a lovely encapsulation of all the things that made mid-sixties music wonderful and its artist doesn’t even sing or play a note on it.

Then came the record that everyone heard, and deservedly so, because All Things Must Pass is the greatest pop album of the seventies. George’s first “proper” solo album is a triple-LP stuffed with all the superb songs for which there was “no room” on those John and Paul dominated albums, produced with grandiose splendor by Phil Spector. Living in the Material World is very modest by comparison, its first side resembling origami swans: plain paper folded prettily. The second side is much more substantial, and transforms Material World into a record really worth hearing. The thumping title track, the whispering “Be Here Now”, and the swirling “Try Some Buy Some” are some of the best songs of George’s solo career.

Things get odd again with Dark Horse. Musically, it’s George’s most lighthearted album yet, but his strained, hoarse singing knocks it off kilter and he often waxes bitter, even pitching a bit of mud at his ex-wife Pattie Boyd and her new beau Eric Clapton in a jerky cover of “Bye Bye Love”. So what could have been too polished and poppy ends up more fascinatingly crazed. Plus the title track, “So Sad”, “Maya Love” and “Far East Man” are all really good songs (for those who wish to hear George sing “Dark Horse” with all his vocal powers intact, there’s the demo included as a bonus on this disc). The brainless single “Ding Dong, Ding Dong” and “Haris on Tour (Express)”, which sounds like a seventies sitcom theme song, are not.

Almost all traces of weirdness are scrubbed away for the final CD in this set. Extra Texture (Read All About It) is too bogged down with mid-tempo, easy listening epics. The closing track, a fairly rollicking tribute to the Bonzo Dog Band’s “Legs” Larry Smith, is a welcome change of rhythmic pace but it isn’t bonzo enough. Only the Spector-esque “You” (rescued from an old session for Ronnie Spector), the self-quoting “This Guitar (Can’t Keep from Crying)”, and the slinky “Tired of Midnight Blue” stand out.

The final disc is a DVD that collects bonus video content from previous incarnations of All Things Must Pass, Living in the Material World, and The Concert for Bangladesh, as well as a silly promo video for the silly “Ding Dong, Ding Dong”. Olivia Harrison directed a new seven-minute, semi-animated video promo film for this release too. None of this stuff is exactly essential viewing, but I thought it was a nice precursor to listening to the CDs, offering tantalizing tastes of a lot of music I’d never heard before.

All of the CDs are collected in mini-LP covers, though ones that don’t attempt to slavishly recreate the originals (alas, All Things Must Pass is not in a mini box, but Extra Texture has its textured sleeve) and include informative booklets with the exception of All Things Must Pass, which has a repro of the LP’s lyric poster instead. Most of the discs also feature bonus tracks, Wonderwall Music and Living in the Material World having the best of the bunch. Unfortunately, All Things Must Pass copies the track line-up of the album’s 2001 edition, which means its bonus tracks are bunched at the end of disc one, thus disrupting the album’s flow if you’re not quick to hit the “stop” button after “Run of the Mill”. The best move would have been to mimic the triple disc format of the original album and place the bonuses at the end of the disposable “Apple Jam” disc, or at least follow the format of its 1988 CD incarnation and split the two discs between the LP’s sides C and D, placing the bonuses at the end of the second disc. Fortunately, this new All Things Must Pass does not mimic the flat sound of the 1988 CD or the harshness of the 2001 one. Newly remastered from the original analog tapes, it is warm and detailed, as are the other discs in this nicely packaged set. 

Get George Harrison: The Apple Years 1968 – 75 on Amazon.com here:

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Review: 'How Star Wars Conquered the Universe'


How Star Wars Conquered the Universe is the Star Wars book I’ve always wanted to read. It’s a well-written, frank, vivacious, irreverent, reverent look at the most popular film series of all time and the phenomenon it heaved out into the galaxy. Others have tried to do what Chris Taylor does but have been hampered by the strictures of working within the Lucasfilm Empire or their own Sithy ambitions. What Michael Kaminski took 500-plus pages to do in his admittedly essential but not exactly fun to read The Secret History of Star Wars, Taylor does in much easier-to-digest form. We get the gist that despite his usual rap, George Lucas really did not have much of a plan for his space opera.

Crucially, Taylor also spends a lot of time away from the making-of history (mostly focused on the 1977 film) that is the meat and bones of his book. Its heart is all those other little weird detours that make Star Wars much more than the sum-total of two great, two OK, and two straight-up lousy movies. Taylor realizes that he would not have told the full story without chapters on the kooky super-fans, the merchandise, the fellow sci-fi contemporaries, and the cheesy rip-off flicks Star Wars inspired. He dispels some myths (apparently, Lucas’s dad was not the villainous Darth Vader stand-in historians often believe him to be) and lets us know how the phenomenon affected such bit players as affable pothead Bill Wookey, who enjoyed a bit of fame because of his famous name, and the sadly infamous “Star Wars kid”, whose life was nearly ruined by a video a trio of assholes leaked (no worries though, people; Ghyslain Raza seems to be doing just fine now).

Taylor also dabbles with the seedier side of Star Wars—the backstage sex, drugs, and porno watching—that never would have made it into a book with the official Lucas stamp of approval. The author never wallows in these asides, so How Star Wars Conquered the Universe never becomes seedy itself. They’re just in there for the sake of completeness, and as satisfied as I was with this book, I still wish there was more of it simply because it was so much damn fun to read.

Get How Star Wars Conquered the Universe on Amazon.com here:


Monday, September 15, 2014

Review: 'Gimme Indie Rock: 500 Essential American Underground Rock Albums 1981-1996'


In the eighties, music fans who didn’t want to preen with the new wavers, pout with the hair metalists, or snooze with Lionel Ritchie really had to do their research. Groups like Black Flag, Throwing Muses, and The Feelies weren’t exactly playing alongside Mötley Crüe on MTV at 4PM, though you might catch them if you stayed up past Midnight on Sundays. You might also read about them in photocopied fanzines or get lectured about them from the Doc Martened blowhard at your local hole-in-the-wall record shop. 
In the Internet era, this kind of happenstance is less a prerequisite to discovering great underground groups, so from one point of view, Andrew Earles’s Gimme Indie Rock: 500 Essential American Underground Rock Albums 1981-1996 is about twenty years too late. Arriving in 2014, however, it still serves a definite function as a valuable tour of one of the least-eulogized roads of Rock history. More practically it’s a distillation of The Trouser Press Record Guide that hones a fifteen-year flood of small-label albums down to the must haves… or, at least, Earles’ idea of the must-haves. As is the case with any “best of” guide created by one person, the selection is highly subjective even as the writer reveals he chose some albums he didn’t like because of their historical importance. Taking that under consideration it isn’t unreasonable to wonder where certain artists (no Spinanes, no Velocity Girl, no Grant Lee Buffalo) or select albums (no Pony Express Record, no The Real Ramona, no The Stars Are Insane) are. Still I can’t say there are a ton of glaring omissions from Gimme Indie Rock.
As a writer, Earle certainly seems to have been influenced by The Trouser Press Record Guide (which he name-checks in his introduction) with his tendency to write about ecstatic music clinically rather than ecstatically. That kind of writing isn’t generally my cup of tea, but even Earle can’t hold back his awe from time to time, as when he uses more visceral terms to describe Team Dresch’s Personal Best, which “will knock unprepared listeners against the wall”. He is not fucking kidding.
Get Gimme Indie Rock: 500 Essential American Underground Rock Albums 1981-1996 on Amazon.com here:




Saturday, September 13, 2014

New Kinks Box Set Outlined with Pre-Order Info

It has been just six years since the release of the last Kinks box set, and while Picture Book was long overdue, it was also seriously flawed. Poorly mastered and perhaps a little too evenly split between the great and the not-as-great eras, that set is now out of print. On November 3rd (November 18th in the US), Sanctuary will release what is shaping up to be a far more interesting and consistent set. As its somewhat unimaginative title states, The Anthology 1964-1971 will focus on The Kinks' indisputably finest period. And it will not merely be a rehash of the excellent double-disc deluxe edition campaign that finally wrapped up with this year's Lola/Percy CD. The five-disc set will include a couple of the most sought-after and beautiful Kinks tracks: "Pictures in the Sand" and "Til Death US Do Part". Neither track has been released since 1973's controversial compilation The Great Lost Kinks Album.

According to Modculture.co.uk, The Anthology 1964-1971 will also include a bonus 7" single and can be pre-ordered now through Amazon.com here:


 Here's the track-listing from Modculture.co.uk:


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Farewell, Richard Kiel

Best remembered for his towering 7' 1.5" stature and for playing the silver-toothed villain Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, Richard Kiel won Psychobabble's heart when he terrified as the Kanamit in the unforgettable "To Serve Man" episode of "The Twilight Zone" and milked laughs in the "I Was a Teenage Monster" episode of "The Monkees" (more on that episode next month...). You may have your own favorite Richard Kiel moments since he acted in nearly eighty films and TV shows, most recently providing the voice of Vlad in the hit animated movie Tangled and appearing as a Giant in an episode of the kids' show "Blood Hounds, Inc". A less known aspect of Kiel's career is that he also co-wrote Kentucky Lion, a biography of abolitionist Clay. Cassius Marcellus Sadly, Kiel died yesterday a week after being hospitalized for a broken leg. The specific cause of his death is not yet known.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Review: The Criterion Edition of 'Eraserhead'



Eraserhead has been streaming on Hulu as a member of the Criterion Collection for two years, which means excited speculation that Criterion might give it a proper home-media release has also been circulating for years. The ultimate cult movie meets the finest video-distribution company to achieve cult status of its own. That is a relationship much happier than Henry Spencer and Mary X’s.

Criterion’s presentation of Eraserhead is almost all good news for those of us who’ve been sitting tight for the last couple of years. The lossless audio and 4K visual upgrades of this new release are stunning. Lynch and Alan Splet’s unusually alive (and constant) sound design rumbles the floor tiles yet still retains its unique timbre in which voices almost sound as if they’re transmitting from some old timey radio broadcast. Contrast is totally effective despite the film’s deliberately dark palate and there is not a blemish to be seen. The deep blacks never looked so velvety, the industrial greys never so brooding, the sudden shocks of white never so headlight blinding.


On the extras front Lynch’s feature-length “Eraserhead Stories” interview that appeared on the old DVD is still present. Criterion supplements it with a half-hour of new interviews featuring Charlotte Stewart (Mary X), Judith Ann Roberts (The Beautiful Girl Across the Hall), Cinematographer Frederick Elmes, and Assistant Director/Log Lady Catherine Coulson. This is a really nice companion piece to “Eraserhead Stories”, offering other perspectives of the film’s making and impact. We learn how Bogdanovich’s Paper Moon was integral to the unique look of Eraserhead and get teasing peeks at Lynch’s script and storyboard. But for me the biggest revelation was seeing Judith Ann Roberts today—I had no idea that was her in the most recent season of “Orange Is the New Black”!

Criterion also digs up about forty minutes of vintage interview footage with members of the cast and crew, one of which finds Lynch tooling around LA with Jack Nance and basically behaving exactly like Agent Cooper a year before the duo made “Twin Peaks”. We also get the Eraserhead-reunion segment of Toby Keeler’s wonderful 1997 documentary Pretty As a Picture: The Art of David Lynch, and the Eraserhead chapter from Chris Rodley’s absolutely essential Lynch on Lynch book in the booklet.

Finally Criterion delivers what may be the most tremendous bonus feature in its entire collection: five of the short films included on the 2002 DVD The Short Films of David Lynch. A couple of these pieces are negligible. “Six Men Getting Sick”, a film intended to be projected on sculpture, loses something when deprived of its unique presentation, and “The Amputee” remains little more than an amusing experiment with different video stocks. However, the terrifying/mesmerizing ultra-minis “The Alphabet” and “Premonitions Following an Evil Deed” and the beautiful, poignant, and uncommonly resourceful “The Grandmother” prove Lynch is just as much a master of short forms as he is of long ones. These shorts appear in 2K restorations and the ages and presentations of each film is sometimes a factor. “Six Men” and “The Alphabet” both have their shares of scratches and spots, though the images and colors have never looked so good on home video. “The Amputee” never looked good, and it still doesn’t. Fortunately, the best film in the bunch—and one of Lynch’s best films, period— “The Grandmother”, is the most well maintained on all accounts. Its spare use of color is finally as vivid as Lynch intended it to be (and finally, the pee stain on the little boy’s bed looks more pee-yellow than orange juice-orange). Unfortunately, there is one absentee from the Short Films DVD, the slight but enjoyably goofy “Cowboy and the Frenchman”, which apparently could not be included because of rights issues.

Eraserhead is my favorite movie, and I’m thrilled with this new disc. It looks and sounds fabulous and the bonus features are a dream. This blu-ray is the film’s ultimate presentation.

Get the Criterion edition of Eraserhead on Amazon.com here:




As for the film, here’s what I had to say about Eraserhead in Psychobabble’s 150 Essential Horror Movies:

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Siouxsie and the Banshees' Final Four to Finally Be Reissued Next Month

It has been four years since Universal Music abandoned its Siouxsie and the Banshees reissue campaign that saw the group's first seven studio albums remastered and ornamented with bonus tracks. On his Facebook page, bassist Steve Severin said the decision was down to those albums lacking sufficient bonus tracks back in 2010. Apparently, that was bollocks, because UMe, in conjunction with Polydor, will be reissuing Through the Looking Glass, Peepshow, Superstition, and The Rapture complete with bonus tracks this October 13. Hopefully, now that Universal and The Banshees are back on track that career-spanning box set Severin has been teasing for years will finally happen.

For now, you can pre-order Siouxsie and the Banshees' final four on Amazon.com here:


Review: Reissues of Big Star's '#1 Record' and 'Radio City'


At a time when Rock & Roll was succumbing to its most self-consciously epic excesses and the simple pop was looking like a product of the past, Big Star swept in and did their best to right this sad wrong. Sadly, no one really knew it but the frustrated Rock critics they easily won over with their breezy harmonies, jingling guitars, and effervescent, emotion-packed, three-minute tunes. So Big Star has gone down as one of those groups like The Velvet Underground or The Pixies who made only the slightest commercial ripples during their time but had a tidal wave effect on the artists they influenced from R.E.M. to Teenage Fanclub to Elliott Smith.

Most of those artists didn’t really get the word out about their love of Big Star until after 1992, which is when Stax-owned Ardent Records dumped their phenomenal first two LPs onto a single compact disc. This is never a great way to present individual albums, creating the illusion that each one runs on too long, and if there is one thing you can’t say about the power-poppy #1 Record and the wilder, more ragged Radio City is that they are long-winded or self-indulgent. In the wake of renewed respect for and interest in Big Star exemplified by the recent and very excellent documentary Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me, Stax is returning #1 Record and Radio City to their individual states. These reissues feature new liner notes by fan Mike Mills of R.E.M. (same notes on each disc) and have been remastered from the original analog source tapes. To be honest with you, Ardent’s old twofer sounded really good and I don’t notice a dramatic sonic upgrade aside from a touch more warmth and detail. At least they didn’t attempt to make these albums sound “modern” by leaning on the levels. In fact, the press materials boast that listeners might have to turn up the volumes of their stereos after popping in these CDs. Never a bad idea when listening to Big Star under any circumstances.

Get #1 Record and Radio City on Amazon.com here:


Monday, September 8, 2014

Massive Chuck Berry Box Coming This Fall...

On October 17, German label Bear Family Records will plunk down a tremendous box of every studio recording (and a bunch of live ones too) by Rock & Roll architect Chuck Berry. Rock and Roll Music- Any Old Way You Choose! - The Complete Studio Recordings...Plus! earns its unwieldy title with sixteen CDs and two hardcover books totaling 356 pages. Paul McCartney pens the intro to one. You can pre-order the set directly from Bear Family's site now here. And now, the big, big track list:

Friday, September 5, 2014

Review: 'The Zombie Book: The Encyclopedia of the Living Dead'


As much as I love monsters, I’m pretty burnt out on the whole zombie craze that really needs a pickaxe through the brain at this point. So I cracked open Nick Redfern and Brad Steiger’s The Zombie Book: The Encyclopedia of the Living Dead without a load of enthusiasm. I was relieved to learn it’s basically mistitled, though I’m not sure what would have been a better name for an eclectic encyclopedia that gathers together plenty of zombie-related entries (films such as Night of the Living Dead and Shaun of the Dead, alleged real-life voodoo practitioners such as Papa Jaxmano and the Chickenman, “zombifying” diseases like Mad Cow, etc.) and a lot of stuff that really doesn’t have much to do with its ostensible topic. True blue-skinned zombie devotees might get frustrated with entries covering monsters (space aliens and Texan gargoyles) that don’t have much in common with zombies. They may question the inclusions of AIDS, human cannibals like the Donner Party, and the Apocalypse, or wonder where genuinely zombie-related items like “Tales from the Crypt” and The Song of Ice and Fire/“Game of Thrones” (with its zombie “wights”) are. They may also get exasperated with an entry on Armageddon that not only has nothing to do with zombies but has nothing to do with Armageddon either (it’s about the U.S. Marine Corps’ detestable practice of having biblical quotes inscribed on rifle sites at great expense to taxpayers). As a reader who wasn’t really looking forward to immersing himself in an endless orgy of zombienalia, I really enjoyed the off-topic facts, myths, and rumors and the lively, often humorous way Redfern and Steiger share them.


Get The Zombie Book: The Encyclopedia of the Living Dead on Amazon.com here:

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Early George Harrison Box Set Coming Soon

It's been ten years since the release of the first semi-career spanning George Harrison box set, The Dark Horse Years 1976-92. Universal Music and Capitol Records are finally following up on that now out-of-print collection with The Apple Years 1968-75. The seven-disc set will consist of Harrison's first six solo albums, from the experimental instrumental albums Wonderwall Music and Electronic Sound through his masterpiece All Things Must Pass and onto Living in the Material World, Dark Horse, and Extra Texture (Read All About It). The seventh disc is a DVD of bits and pieces from the era. Each CD features newly remastered and restored sound and is available both in mini-LP covers in the set and digipaks individually. Most of the discs include bonus tracks too. Pre-order now on Amazon.com here:

And now for the trailer:


...and specs on each disc:
Wonderwall Music
bonus tracks
"In the First Place – The Remo Four"
"Almost Shankara"
"The Inner Light"
 

Electronic Sound
No bonus tracks. 


All Things Must Pass 
bonus tracks are all from the 2001 edition
"I Live for You" (Bonus Track)
"Beware of Darkness" (Acoustic Demo) (Bonus Track)
"Let It Down (Alternate Version)" (Bonus Track)
"What is Life (Backing Track/Alternate Mix)"
"My Sweet Lord (2000)"


Living In The Material World
bonus tracks
 "Deep Blue"
"Miss O'Dell"
"Bangla Desh" (Best of George Harrison mix
 

Dark Horse
bonus tracks 
"I Don't Care Anymore"
"Dark Horse" (Early Acoustic Take)
 

Extra Texture (Read All About It) 
bonus tracks
"This Guitar (Can't Keep from Crying)" (previously unreleased Platinum Weird version) 



DVD [exclusive to The Apple Years box set]

• George Harrison - The Apple Years Feature (2014) [7:27]

Produced by Peacock

Directed By Olivia Harrison

• All Things Must Pass (bonus feature in 2001 album package) [8:03]

Produced by Radical Media

• The Concert for Bangladesh EPK (2005) [6:03]

Produced by Olivia Harrison and Jonathan Clyde

Edited by Claire Ferguson

• Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth) (video from Live In Japan, 1991) [3:43]

• Miss O’Dell (alternative version from 2006 deluxe edition of Living In The Material World) [2:31]

• Sue Me Sue You Blues (acoustic demo version from 2006 deluxe edition of Living In The Material World) [3:04]

• Living In The Material World (feature from 2006 deluxe edition of Living In The Material World) [3:34]

Produced by Abbey Road Interactive

• Ding Dong, Ding Dong (original promo video, 1974) [3:46]

Directed by George Harrison

Filmed by Nick Knowland

Film Restoration: David Dean & Gwyn Evans

• Dark Horse (original promotional clip, 1974) [:30]

Created by Capitol Records
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