It’s that time again. And I still have to wonder if this whole vinyl resurgence is real or not. I mean, in just a few short years, record stores the world over have shut their doors, CDs have been scaled back to almost nothing and we’re left with intangible software as our primary source of new music. But on the flipside—and incredibly so—most every worthwhile new release now has a vinyl component, and labels big and small are reissuing their back catalogs in high quality LP packages. Silver lining? Definitely.
Rather than just feature the standard list of this season’s Record Store Day (RSD) releases, here you’ll find a few highlights, plus some other recent vinyl goodies to keep an eye out for.
No matter what you think about Steven Tyler’s tenure on American Idol, and that horrible ballad from the Armageddon film, the Aerosmith of yore was beyond reproach. To commemorate the period, Sony’s Legacy division has reissued four more classic titles on high quality wax: Rocks, Draw The Line, Night In the Ruts and Rock In A Hard Place.
Rocks stands as the band’s finest hour, featuring a full range of essential tracks and concert staples, including the dirty white groove of “Back In The Saddle” and the apocalyptic “Nobody’s Fault,” one of the heaviest numbers in existence.
Draw The Line is another classic, showcasing the band in its late ’70s prime, while Night In The Ruts was the last album before Joe Perry left for a few years, its dark and somber tones reflecting the band’s inner turmoil.
Rock In A Hard Place is a bit of an oddball, as the only album not to feature the original lineup. Both guitarists—Perry and Brad Whitford—had left, as the band’s fortunes began to wane. In spite of this, Tyler and company managed to create a steamy brew of offbeat tracks, including the heavy single, “Lightning Strikes” and the spacey, unnerving “Prelude To Joanie.”(Legacy)
Bad Cop/Bad Cop
Seven inches of pure pop-punk bliss…that’s the easiest way to sum up the sounds of this saucy combo from Los Angeles. With big guitars and hooks for days, this female band packs the punch of The Distillers with the pure pop of The Muffs and the star quality of early No Doubt. And, if these four highly crafted songs are any indication, I predict big things. Check out the lead “My Life” for proof. (Fat Wreck Chords)
Brand New Year
Power pop pioneer Eric Carmen gets further memorialized in this hip 7-incher that features a new mix of his latest recording “Brand New Year.” On the flipside is a rousing solo version of “Starting Over” from 1976. A heavy pop number à la The Who, it was originally released by his former band The Raspberries, one of the originators of the genre. The cool cover for this single pinches photographic bits from his upcoming comp, The Essential Eric Carmen. (Legacy)
Busy Making Noise
While linking terms like “punk rock” with “super group” may seem highly ironic, it’s absolutely accurate in the case of The Crunch. This killer combo features highly pedigreed old-schoolers Terry Chimes (The Clash), Dave Tregunna (Sham 69) and Mick Geggus (Cockney Rejects), plus Swedish vocal idol Sulo Karlsson (Diamond Dogs).
In spite of all the OG links, the sound is surprisingly fresh, with touches of power pop and rootsy rock ‘n’ roll—think Social Distortion meets Cheap Trick. And it works a charm in numbers like the title track and “Street Flavour.” This limited vinyl edition comes pressed on a hefty slab for maximum punk appeal. (Legal Records)
The Dandy Warhols
Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia – Live at the Wonder
Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia remains the pinnacle of The Dandy Warhols career. Leaving the ‘90s indie school of angst and self-importance behind, the band created a focused, pop-rock album tinged with equal shades of glam, psychedelia and power pop. This live release celebrates the 13th anniversary of the album, with a rousing set recorded in the band’s hometown. This 2-LP set comes in a plush, gatefold sleeve with various color choices for the vinyl. (The End)
“Davidge” is actually Neil Davidge, ace producer of films and video games, and pioneer of the orchestral/electronic movement of the late ‘90s. Slo Light teams the mastermind with a series of vocalists for a trippy, atmospheric ride that is equal parts eerie and infectious. Check out the opening title track—it’s a pure pop nightmare pressed in neon-green wax. (The End)
Mink DeVille was a mainstay in the early CBGB scene, playing theatrical rock ‘n’ roll and soul with touches of Cajun, country and early NYC punk. Front man Willy DeVille would go on to become a renowned mainstream songwriter, known for crafting epic ballads. But, he would always be associated with the early punk scene, in large part due to his eclectic, individualized approach that epitomized the genre during its inception.
The first three LPs of the catalog —Cabretta (1977), Return To Magenta (1978) and Le Chat Bleu (1980)—have been reissued in svelte mini-LP CDs, each replicating the albums’ original artwork, down to the inner sleeve. For those expecting driving punk rock, this is not it. But if you’ve got the inclination to look deeper, into some of the vintage vocal-group sounds that influenced the likes of Johnny Thunders and The Ramones, this is a great place to start. And these expertly reproduced CDs are the closest thing to the original vinyl there we’re going to get right now. (Culture Factory)
The Dwarves Are Younger and Even Better Looking
Few bands—punk or otherwise—can lay claim to the infamous live shows and destruction that the Dwarves have been responsible for over the past couple of decades. This recent release is actually a reissue of The Dwarves are Young and Good Looking LP (1997), and includes a bevy of bonuses, including a live radio jam, front man Blag Dahlia’s solo release and more.
Sin and Bones
This one came out a while ago on digital and CD, but the vinyl finally surfaced later on last year. For all of the backlash against bands like Fozzy and Steel Panther get for serving up their metal with a healthy dose of sarcasm, these cats rock hard, and Sin And Bones—with its Maiden-style riffage—should do well to satiate even the most serious of metal purists. This releases comes complete in a deluxe gatefold sleeve. (Century Media)
Heaven & Earth
Those who continue to denigrate ‘80s-style hard rock should take notice—it’s very much alive and well. LA’s Heaven & Earth are living proof that it still has some juice, issuing Dig late last year to a rabid fan base pining for the virtuosity and accessibility of bands like Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, Dio and Whitesnake. While the album doesn’t quite match up to the aforementioned, there are quite a few worthy jams that sound extra strong on this high-quality vinyl issue. (Quarto Valley)
The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Live At Monterey
Hendrix die-hards always cite his performance at the ’67 Monterey Pop Festival as one of the high points of his career. This lavish, 200-gram audiophile edition does the show ample justice. New analogue mastering by renowned studio hound Bernie Grundman marks a vast improvement over previous issues and there’s also an insightful essay by Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell. Stand-out tracks include “Killing Floor,” Purple Haze,” and “Wild Thing.” (Legacy)
No Fairy Tale
Aside from one massively overexposed single from the 1990s, my only real knowledge of Lisa Loeb has been her quirky specs and studious sex appeal. Predictably, I had no idea what to expect when I received the newly re-released No Fairy Tale LP. Turns out, the album—co-produced by New Found Glory’s Chad Gilbert—far exceeded my expectations. What blasted through my speakers was a set of perky power pop gems including the sprite title track and the insidiously catchy “Matches.” Kudos to Miss Lisa on a killer comeback. (429 Records)
Marah Presents Mountain Minstrelsy of Pennsylvania
“Folk” is all the rage these days. If you’ve got a banjo, a couple beards and a few pairs of suspenders in tow, you just might have a hit on your hands. Marah is different. They’re not particularly hip and they don’t sport the latest in designer vintage wear. What they offer here is an authentic take on a batch of unearthed lyrics gathered by Pennsylvanian historian Henry Shoemaker some 100 years ago. Channeling the spirits of the past through a country/folk/punk prism, the band has creating something fresh and vibrant. Check out “Old Timer’s Plaint” and “Rattlesnake” for proof. (Valley Farm Songs)
As one of the more original bands of the Noughties, it’s nice to have vinyl editions of MGMT’s best work. (Although, I have to say that I’m not sure we really need remastering at this early stage in the game.) Either way, MGMT far exceeds its indie trappings on the psychedelified, slightly proggy and eerily poppish debut Oracular Spectacular (2007), and furthers the charge on its appropriate follow-up, the acid-tinged Congratulations (2010). Both now come pressed on thick 180-gram vinyl with foil-stamped numbered sleeves. (Legacy)
Tragic Illusion 25
Heavy, doomy, gothic, dramatic…that’s Paradise Lost’s modus operandi and it’s hard to believe that it’s been happening for 25 years now. This ultra-cool 10-inch release features a clutch of rarities, and comes pressed on highly limited green vinyl. For fans, the misty cover of Everything But The Girl’s “Missing” is strangely cool. (Century Media)
Out of the ashes of Rocket From The Tombs—which also spawned the Dead Boys—Pere Ubu hit the scene playing a peculiar mix of avant-garde garage rock. The band’s experimental approach often incorporated disjointed vocals, spidery guitars and pulsing rhythms for a jarring sound unlike anything else.
Modern Dance was the band’s debut from 1978. With numbers like the animated title track and the driving “Non-Alignment Pact,” it’s no wonder why it didn’t make the Top 40. Think Dead Kennedys at art school, and you begin to get an idea of this oddly compelling release—now available as a high-grade vinyl reissue. (Music On Vinyl)
The Pretty Reckless
Going To Hell
One thing I’ve learned about the music scene is that everything’s cyclical. Case in point, what was once referred to derisively as “Hair Metal,” has been repackaged for modern times and is all the rage once again. And, one of the leading lights of the scene is The Pretty Reckless.
Setting aside the racy artwork featuring Taylor Momsen’s painted backside and all the publicity the band is getting because of it, the album just plain rocks. Whether it’s the mammoth riffage of “Going To Hell” or the fist-pumping glam stomp of “Heaven Knows,” this is no band of preening posers, these cats—and kitten—know how to kick out the jams. This LP comes pressed on blood-red vinyl in a plush gatefold sleeve. (Razor & Tie)
For the uninitiated, Rory Gallaher was badass Irish axe-slinger who left this world far too soon. A fan of true crime, Gallagher’s noir-influenced material informs this concept album of sorts that includes two discs in a thick gatefold, along with a 44-page comic book that illuminates the story. While not as essential as stuff like his Tattoo album, there are still some choice licks to be had, and this is the perfect way to experience them. (Music On Vinyl)
Whether or not you were a fan, there’s no denying the sheer pop brilliance of ‘90s alterna-darlings The Cardigans. Singer Nina Persson has since struck out on her own and Animal Heart is her latest offspring. Slightly more subdued and mature than the earlier treats, it’s still got a few good hooks packed within its tight, feral grooves. Check out the title track for a taste. (The End)
Welcome To San Diego
Sunnyside cranks out classic, traditional pop punk with gritty guitars and vocals to match. The band’s colorful knack for storytelling comes across loud and clear on numbers like “Margaritaville” and “Lights Out,” and there’s never a dull moment to be had. Check it all out on this limited edition vinyl release—on green or yellow wax. (It’s Alive)
At a time when funk/metal/ska/pop hybrids were all the rage during the ‘90s, the band 311 took second tier to the likes of Sublime and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Nevertheless, they managed to crank out a few hits in the process. Two reissues are up for grabs now, in luxurious 2-LP packages. 1995’s “The Blue Album” makes its vinyl debut and features the hits “Down,” “All Mixed Up” and “Don’t Stay Home.” Evolver (2003) gets a sonic overhaul and features the single “Creatures (For a While).” (Legacy)
Toys That Kill
Although this one’s been out for a little while, its infectious hooks and buzz-saw guitars screamed out to me for inclusion. Part power pop, garage and ’77 punk, Toys That Kill has an uncanny knack for bringing the noise and actually making it sing—something that very few in the field can pull off.
On this, the band’s fourth album, we get actual songs, with real cohesive arrangements and discernible parts, instead of the standard unfocused riffage and ironic lyrical fits. And, it’s refreshing, especially on tracks like “The Nervous Rocks” and “Stye.” (Recess Records)
About Bloody Time
While their name is strange and their album covers a bit mysterious, the swift and punchy power pop sounds of the Zatopeks are beyond question. Mixing The Toy Dolls with Green Day, The Kinks and Johnny Thunders makes for a killer concoction—and songs like “One Evening” and “Alert!” are hard to shut out of your psyche. For its crunchy riffs, massive hooks and insightful knowledge of all things rock ‘n’ roll, this one’s a keeper. (It’s Alive)
For questions, comments or something you’d like to see, send me a note at Retrohead77@yahoo.com. Cheers, JK.
Check out more Record Store Day releases at the official RSD site – www.recordstoreday.com