With vinyl back on the scene for several years now, isn’t it time to put the whole “fad” theory to bed? I’d say so, especially if you think about the physical aspects of music in this day and age. CDs are kind of considered gauche in most circles, and cassettes, well, that’s basically a hipster thing at this stage. So, what else is there for those of us who want to be able to collect and actually hold the music we’re listening to? In a nutshell, vinyl ticks all the boxes—for the audio, visual and collectability aspects.
The past few months have seen a flurry of new releases from all ends of the spectrum. Read on for a few standouts, just in time to peruse your favorite music store for Record Store Day 2018.
One of the most impressive success stories in recent years for me was news that first-wave UK punk band The Adicts got signed to a major-ish label, some 40 years into their career. And, to a metal label, no less. But, Nuclear Blast is known for taking great pride in its roster and has done a bang-up job with Adicts’ latest opus, And It Was So!. For the uninitiated, The Adicts were innovators in the early British punk scene in both style and sound.
Playing a hybrid or eerie power pop, street punk with a healthy dash of age-old nursery rhymes, the band’s mix of Clockwork Orange imagery and singer Monkey’s pantomime looks have distinguished it for decades. The band’s early albums are stone classics, and for an ultra-brief spell, it fiddled with major labels, only to be put back out on the streets soon after.
And It Was So! showcases the band’s knack for big pop hooks (“If You Want It,” “Gospel According to Me”), traditional punk ethics (“Fucked Up World,” “Gimme Something To Do”) and even dabbles a bit into psychedelia as evidenced in the epic lead single “Picture the Scene.” Pressed on clear/orange vinyl, And It Was So! is a sonically strong offering, one that fits well within a catalog that rarely disappoints and has helped paved the way for pop punks of all stripes over the decades.
Original power pop and punk practitioners The Who have a trio of recent LPs to dig into. The Kids Are Alright is the vinyl component of the 1979 documentary film by the same name. Featuring a clutch of killer live cuts, TV appearances, rare versions and the original 20-page booklet, what makes this super-limited version extra special is that it comes in red and blue vinyl. (UMe)
To keep the momentum going, check out the brand-new Live at the Fillmore East 1968. This 2-LP set that features blistering and remastered extended versions of earlier staples such as “I Can’t Explain,” “My Way,” and “Happy Jack,” plus over 30 minutes of the original punk anthem “My Generation” (UMe). The massive 3-LP set Tommy, Live at the Royal Albert Hall showcases the band’s 2017 performance of the groundbreaking rock opera in its entirety almost 50 years after the fact, in support of the Teenage Cancer Trust. While the band is down to just two, plus a clutch of backing musicians, it sounds heavy and very much alive, especially with the mammoth production of its most revered outing (Eagle Rock).
Speaking of rock operas, for a more current take on this somewhat lost genre, have a listen to Paradise by Dawn of Paradise. This Portland outfit consists of the husband and wife Steven Denekas and Tamar Berk, this double-album package is impressive to say the least, especially for a band on an indie budget. Leaning heavily into ‘70s prog and arena rock, the band managed to score the production talents of none other than Ron Nevison, the man at the helm for the likes of Led Zeppelin, The Who, UFO and Ozzy, among many others. The result is a sprawling, melodic opus reminiscent of Emerson Lake and Palmer, ELO, Styx and Elton John. The packaging on this piece is also a sight to behold—it’s glossy gatefold sleeve and sci-fi artwork making it one of the more impressive packages in recent times (Luvvers Club).
The original outlaw Johnny Cash has a couple of related releases you might want to know about. But first, let’s look at Cash’s own punk pedigree. From Glenn Danzig to The Clash and Social Distortion, the Man in Black has either been a direct influence or has provided inspiration via his non-conformist stance and reflective prose. Johnny Cash, Greatest Hits: The Sun Records Years collects 20 classic singles from Cash’s productive early days including “I Walk The Line,” “Cry! Cry! Cry!” and “Folsom Prison Blues,” all remastered from the original master tapes for superior sound. This edition comes on ultra, high-grade 180-gram vinyl with a thick, glossy cover, a must for Cash fans (Charly).
To experience the after-effects of Cash’s influence on punk at its most basement level, check out the raucous EP from Joecephus & The George Jonestown Massacre, 5 Minutes to Live: A Tribute to Johnny Cash. Featuring guest luminaries such as Mick Harvey (The Birthday Party), J.D. Pinkus (The Butthole Surfers and King Buzzo of the Melvins, the material presents the Cash cache in very unexpected ways, which is to be expected from Sir Joecephus and the sage folks at Saustex Records.
For more punk-related goodies, check out the recent reissues of Billy Idol’s back catalog, all polished up for a punchier sound with original artwork, his sprite self-titled debut and Rebel Yell being the stand-outs. Revamped proto-punk icons The Flamin’ Groovies released Fantastic Plastic—an album of all-new material—that preserves its long-standing legacy of raw, garage sounds fashioned with a healthy dash of traditional rock ‘n’ roll. The album boasts one of the best front covers in recent memory and stand-out cuts “What the Hell’s Going On” and “End of the World.” Along similar lines—but with a decidedly darker edge—Jim Jones & The Righteous Mind put out Super Natural, an acidic concoction of garage-y punk ‘n’ blues, served up with Jones’s evangelistic vocals. For fans of Jones’s early band Thee Hypnotics, this one’s a keeper (Hound Gawd! Records).
Good and Gone, the debut by UK power trio Screaming Blue Messiahs has been reissued on plush colored vinyl courtesy of ace reissue label Easy Action. Known for its crushing rhythms and the staunch, sarcastic delivery of front man Bill Carter, Good and Gone hints at the more melodic mayhem that was yet to come during the band’s brief brush with success during the mid ‘80s.
One of the early punk classics, L.A.M.F. by Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers has been further immortalized with the tribute, L.A.M.F.: Live at the Bowery Electric. Led by lone surviving Heartbreaker Walter Lure, the tribute band is filled out by Wayne Kramer (MC5), Clem Burke (Blondie) and Tommy Stinson (Replacements). Culled from a few different performances in NYC to commemorate the original artifact. The result is a raucous set of Heartbreakers classics, played loud and sloppily in a totally un-ironic fashion, which sounds kind of fresh these days (Jungle/MVD).
For questions, comments or something you’d like to see, drop me a line at Retrohead77@yahoo.com. Cheers, Kaz.