Saturday, April 30, 2011

Worth the Effort: The Gold Experience - Prince - 1995

Prince's massive discography is as full of gems as it is head-scratchers and, while most of it is still readily available, a few of each have fallen out of print and take some digging to add to your collection. Once someone has accumulated the established canon of the Purple One's classics that any reputable music seller should stock, The Gold Experience needs to be the next must-have on the list.
The Gold Experience
The first record to be credited solely to the artist's unpronounceable symbol alter-ego, The Gold Experience was first readied for release in 1994, envisioned as a coming out for the new Artist-Formerly-Known-As/Symbol, paired with Come, which would be credited to the Prince of old. Warner Brothers was reluctant to release too much Prince material simultaneously, Prince painted "slave" on his cheek and claimed he was permanently throwing The Gold Experience back into the vault.

Friday, April 29, 2011

25th Anniversary of Megadeth's Peace Sells...But Who's Buying?

Start socking money aside for July 12, 2011 when Megadeth will unleash a massive 25th Anniversary Edition of their landmark classic, Peace Sells...But Who's Buying?

The deluxe box set has five CDs and two vinyl LPs and will include unreleased and rare mixes of the album's tracks and high-resolution audio for the remastered album and a live show from 1987. Also included is a 20-page book, 8"x10" photos and reproductions of vintage Megadeth memorabilia.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

One Great Song - "Spine of God" - Monster Magnet - 1991

The title track from stoner rock icons Monster Magnet's full-length debut may be hard to swallow for those who latched onto the band with their 1998 mega-breakout, Powertrip. In fact, the entire album may be difficult for those looking to bang the head with any velocity. This mother does not rage, it lumbers. And it frequently sits down, smokes up and spaces out.  And nowhere is this better illustrated than the eight-minute odyssey and album centerpiece, "Spine of God."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Death to False Metal (Advertising)

I love Uriah Heep. I'm that annoying guy who trys to convince anyone with any interest in music, particularly rock music, that Uriah Heep is where it's at and, if they'll only give Salisbury and Innocent Victim a chance, they'll be sure to agree. That said, I can never really defend Abominog. "It's actually a great album," I say and then I stop, because they're looking at the cover, looking at me, looking back at the cover and slowly handing the album back.

Abominog has a great cover. For a wicked as sin, balls out metal band. Uriah Heep, for all my love of them, are not that band. Abominog, I am sure, has turned many would-be listeners away from the band forever. Those who may otherwise like the band are turned off by the sleeve and those who buy it seeking screaming, searing heavy metal get something that sounds more akin to, well, the harder side of Foreigner.

My lastest humilating attempt at recommending Abominog got me reviewing my own music collection. As one who frequently buys records based on their covers, which of mine may mislead the uninformed listener?  I have a few.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Upcoming Releases and Reissues - May 17-May 23, 2011

There are some exciting new items popping up on the schedule through May - mostly a boatload of incredible reissues. Get the wallet out and plug in the headphones....

Monday, April 25, 2011

One-Off Wonder: Coping with the Urban Coyote - Unida - 1999

Being an obsessive, completist music collector, my shelves have too many CDs by most artists.  I am not too far gone to admit that, very few bands excepted, not every record a group puts out is essential. The most fun records, then, are those that exist as the sole entry in a group's catalog.  There are a few notable biggies: Blind Faith and Sex Pistols come to mind (posthumous collections don't count) - but what about the others that, for whatever reason, don't make any other album?

Unida arose from the ashes of Kyuss, coming from the John Garcia side of the band, somewhere between Slo Burn (whose sole recording, Amusing the Amazing is another worthwhile one-off) and the more prolific Hermano. Garcia enlisted Arthur Seay on guitar, Mike Cancino on drums and Dave Dinsmore on bass for the Unida project. Dinsmore (who later went on to form Ché, another one-off band with Kyuss' Brant Bjork) was later replaced by Scott Reeder who in turn got replaced and, frankly, I don't know who is currently walking around claiming to be Unida's bassist.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

New Dread Zeppelin Release Announced for May

Dread Zeppelin just announced a new record, SoSo. According to DZ:
This cd is ....well.....SoSo. But not really! Brand new studio recordings of Black Dog, Heartbreaker, Livin Lovin Maid, Your Time Is Gonna Come, Bring It On Home, Whole Lotta Love, Black Mountain Side, I Can't Quit You Babe, Immigrant Song, Moby Dick, and a very special version of The Rain Song (you won't believe this one)! PRE-ODER NOW FOR DELIVERY FIRST WEEK IN MAY!

Check it out at their official site!

One Great Song - "Watermelon in Easter Hay" - Frank Zappa - 1979

"Watermelon in Easter Hay," an incredible guitar number that first surfaced live in 1978, appeared on record on Joe's Garage Acts II & III. Zappa himself identified this song, along with "Black Napkins" and "Zoot Allures," as one of his signature pieces for which he wanted to be remembered (and was on the first posthumous release from the Zappa Family Trust, Frank Zappa Plays the Music of Frank Zappa: A Memorial Tribute, in 1996).

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Worth the Effort: Unholy Passion - Samhain - 1985

One of the dual agonies and joys of record collecting is the out of print album.  Prior to the internet, securing what you sought meant pure luck, perseverance and, for the truly dedicated, ponying up for an ad in Goldmine. With eBay, Amazon and the like, it's usually just a matter of how much you're willing to pay and that rare gem is yours within days. Still, some mystery remains. Is that original pressing of Kryst the Conqueror's Deliver Us from Evil really worth forty bucks? Sometimes the thrill of success renders the quality of the recording moot.  And sometimes you end up with Grand Funk's All the Girls in the World Beware and no sense of accomplishment can make up for a record that reminds you why no one was buying it in the first place.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Six Degrees of Martin Atkins

I turned into a completist music collector when Rykodisc released their incredible expanded David Bowie catalogue in the early '90s. Having been addicted to Bauhaus' BBC cover of "Ziggy Stardust," I picked up a copy of ChangesBowie and was instantly hooked. Ryko was releasing these in batches, maybe three or four titles at a time, and after slowly building a foundation on everything they reissued (covering the period through Scary Monsters), I searched secondhand shops high and low for the then out-of-print EMI records (Let's Dance through Never Let Me Down) and, when I finally got it all, I was more than ready for a new studio record, which dropped in 1993.  This was Black Tie White Noise, far from his finest moment (hell, it made Never Let Me Down sound good by comparison). Suddenly, this completist trend got painful.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

We're Getting the Band Back Together!

In the history of rock music there have been some heart-breaking dissolutions, whether through tragedy or break-up - Led Zeppelin sits atop my list of pure perfection cut short and one of the biggest "what ifs?" of all time. There have also been some surprisingly successful personnel changes - AC/DC and Van Halen seem to be the most vaunted examples. But what of those that didn't overcome the odds and imprint themselves on the consciousness of the record-buying public?  Here are three less dramatic transitions, yet still ones that interest me as bands' catalogues evolve, each with varying degrees of success.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

One Great Song - "The Mistake" - Urge Overkill - 1995

Urge Overkill went out on a high note at a low point with 1995's Exit the Dragon. With drummer Blackie Onassis arrested on drug charges and an album more or less ignored by radio, they simply disappeared from the scene. And it was a downright shame as Exit the Dragon was easily their finest album to date and one of the best of its era. Not a concept album but with a consistent feel, nonetheless, Exit the Dragon was made for the rain and the dark as much as Saturation was designed for sun and sparkle.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Special Forces - Alice Cooper - 1981

I always find it utterly fascinating when established artists who have cemented a characteristic sound fans come to know and love take a detour and explore new tones and styles. Neil Young's infamous Geffen albums even earned him a lawsuit from his label for records "uncharacteristic of his previous recordings."

Alice Cooper went down a similar road in the 1980s, though the results were much more palatable than Young diversions such as Everybody's Rockin'. While Lace and Whiskey and From the Inside signaled a shift from Alice as madman, Flush the FashionSpecial Forces and Zipper Catches Skin all broke new ground for the Coop. DaDa then artfully transitioned Cooper back into monster mode in time for Constrictor, which signaled a return to the sinister snake-charmer most contemporary fans know and love.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Upcoming Releases and Reissues - April 19-May 10, 2011

I just posted some exciting items on April 10, but they keep making more! Here's a list with at least one release per week across the next four Tuesdays to feed your musical beast.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Beyond the Icons - Some of My Other Favorite Album Covers

As I noted in a recent post, I frequently judge my records by their covers. Perhaps not as much after I have played them through but I have certainly purchased many albums based solely on their artwork alone. In fact, one of my favorite things to do while listening a record is to browse through other albums, enjoying the sleeve desgins.

There are many books and lists of acknowledged classics. I won't downplay works of art like Led Zeppelin I, Sticky Fingers, Who's Next, Sgt. Pepper's or anything by Pink Floyd. These are as good as their reputation and deserve their iconic status. I do have quite a few second-tier favorites, though, that catch my eye as much as my ear:

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Get Your Buzz On Live - Chickenfoot - Hitting Palladia HDTV April 30-May 4

I have collected hundreds of rock films.  A huge variety of live shows, some phenomenal and many, many overedited, poorly dubbed messes. In the last few months I have run across a few gems, one of which is Chickenfoot's live DVD companion to their self-titled, excellent debut album.

Friday, April 15, 2011

One Great Song - "You Got Me Runnin'" - Def Leppard - 1981

If I had to pick a favorite song, it would change from day to day, maybe even hour to hour.  But there's definitely a Top 100. And well toward the upper end of that list would be Def Leppard's "You Got Me Runnin'," from what I consider to be the finest album in their catalogue, High 'n' Dry. The album as a whole is sharper than their debut. It doesn't quite sport the stadium sheen that was to come with Pyromania and Hysteria but retains a hunger that comes through from beginning to end.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

30th Anniversary Blizzard of Ozz/Diary of a Madman Box Set

Sony Legacy announced today that a 30th Anniversary Box Set of Ozzy Osbourne's Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman would release for shipment no later than May 31, 2011.  This set is pricey (listed at $150!) and contains the following:

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Rusty Angels - Highlights from Tony Martin's Black Sabbath

The average music fan knows Sabbath with Ozzy.  The metal fan knows Sabbath with Dio.  The Sabbath fan knows Tony Martin. Black Sabbath's longest-tenured vocalist, Martin lent his vocals to five studio albums and one live album/video for the band across nearly a decade from 1987-1995 with a brief break in between for the Dio Mob Rules-lineup reunion for Dehumanizer around 1990-1992. Often ignored by the mainstream and perennially out-of-print, Martin's albums are a fascinating, essential chapter in Black Sabbath's legacy and, while there may not have been high-charting hits, even the most skeptical listener can take two tracks from each and build a "Best Of" playlist guaranteed to change your mind about where Sabbath begins and ends and pique your interest in the man known as "The Cat."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Wasting Light - Foo Fighters - 2011

I cannot pretend to be one of the Foo faithful.  Or even a part-time fan. Almost exactly 16 years ago I made a deal with a college neighbor. I had a car, he had tickets to a show. I had never heard of Mike Watt, he promised I would dig it and offered me a ticket for the ride. Once we arrived at Bogart's in Cincinnati it was bedlam.  Apparently Eddie Vedder was in on this tour and opening with his ultra-secret Hovercraft project. That, and Nirvana's drummer was there with his band, too. Desperate fans outside were offering many times the face value of the tickets (which I seem to remember being under ten bucks) and, sensing this was something bigger than we expected, we opted to go to the show. I remember the Foo Fighters.  I remember they had a t-shirt for sale but no record. Apparently it wasn't out yet. I cannot honestly claim that I was overly awed (in fact, I know I spent a lot more time after the show seeking out Hovercraft's Zero Zero Zero One 7"/VHS combo hoping to replicate the Floydian sound and vision effect of their set). Watt's set, with Vedder and Pat Smear on guitars and Dave Grohl on drums was much more memorable. I became a Mike Watt devotee and pretty quickly forgot the Foo Fighters.

Monday, April 11, 2011

What's the Last Disc You Bought?

This is a question that comes up a lot between music fans (or at least the ones I talk to). And I always have a hard time answering because, frankly, I always seem to have albums ordered, in transit, downloaded, pre-ordered, bid at auction, swapped and, believe it or not, purchased across the counter at a bricks and mortar record shop.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Upcoming Releases and Reissues

The next few months have a few exciting items already on the calendar. A few I am stoked about coming up through early summer:

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards - Joe Satriani - 2010

After fondly recalling Mr. Satriani and his role in my love affair with the compact disc earlier this week, I decided to take a nice long run this morning with an iPod queued up with his latest album, Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards. I have since spent the better part of a rainy Saturday replaying this record a couple more times.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Best of the Rest (of)

OK....while I am torn on "Best of" compilations, I am generally a sucker for Leftover platters.  And not Monday's meatloaf. Unless it's Meat Loaf. In other words, when a band calls it quits and they or the label clear the vaults of tracks that didn't make the living discography, I cannot wait to hear what got left behind. Many established artists do this from time to time during their ongoing career and we end up with nice little single-discs gems like R.E.M.'s Dead Letter Office or Def Leppard's Retro Active. Others come up with entire box sets to explore, like Springsteen's Tracks and Danzig's Lost Tracks. What interests me most, though, are those that come out as a last gasp and neatly sew up the legacy. A few favorites include:

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Best of the Best (of)

I have a love/hate relationship with compilations. With an album-oriented artist they seem to go against the grain and ruin the intended statement of an epic whole, for better or for worse. Some records, such as Thick as a Brick, simply need to be listened to beginning to end with no skipping, no excision of the "hit." But yet, there are at least a half-dozen major label compilations that include a chopped, quick version of the namesake track. So many of us have labored and listened through the whole darn thing, it just doesn't seem fair that someone seeking a quick fix can click right to it and then get rewarded immediately afterward with "Aqualung" or "Bungle in the Jungle." They should at least have to sit through A Passion Play. With other single-oriented artists, I feel quite differently. It only makes sense to make a one-stop shop for those who released the best of their music two or three minutes at a time.  Link Wray or Mitch Ryder's best (Rumble and Rev Up, respectively). Then, there are the artists who think they're album-oriented but whose hits are all anyone ever wants - or needs (Eagles and Steve Miller, anyone?).

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The First CD - Four Years Late and Three Years Later?

As I sit looking across shelves of CDs, trying to pick what to listen to during my day's drive, my eyes always stop at the spine of Joe Satriani's Surfing with the Alien. This is the first compact disc I ever remember seeing and holding at a record store. As I recall it was not housed in a cardboard longbox but instead a clear plastic version and I was drawn to it not by any knowledge of Satriani in any way but instead the vibrant Silver Surfer cover art.  This piece of art, bursting with color and motion, combined with a new technology that alowed me to play music without flipping sides and to skip tracks in an instant convinced me in that instant that I needed into this medium and it had to happen by Christmas.

But it wasn't new, was it?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Beyond the Seventh Star - Glenn Hughes & Tony Iommi

I've always been intrigued by Seventh Star. Whenever one expands their Sabbath collection beyond the original Ozzy albums, beyond the Dio albums...they end up with the fascinating and underappreciated vocal contributions of Tony "The Cat" Martin, Ian Gillan and Ray Gillen (if you dig deeply enough). Rounding out that collection is the sole Sabbath album featuring Glenn Hughes that's not really Sabbath (or is it?), Seventh Star.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Forevermore - Whitesnake - 2011

I have had Whitesnake’s newest release, Forevermore, in heavy rotation since I picked it up last Tuesday. I was thoroughly impressed with their last studio album, Good to be Bad, and it had set my expectations high for what I consider the Whitesnake renaissance. Sure, Whitesnake has never gone away, but, let’s face it, it was a long stretch since Restless Heart (if you even consider that an "official band" album).

Sunday, April 3, 2011

"Sail Away" - Deep Purple - 1974

Nothing like starting off with something not quite obscure, but not exactly timely, either. I am obsessed with music. I am most interested in what was but still keep an ear open for what's new as well. I have the following problems: