Posts Tagged ‘Vinyl’

021

Trans-Europe Express – Kraftwerk   1977 EMI (Originally on Kling-Klang)

022I was recently on an Electronic/ Krautrock kick and I wanted to replace my much-to-well-worn copy of Trans-Europe Express. While at the record store I got skunked on the Kraftwerk, but re-discovered another great electronic album from a very unlikely source(more of this to come). So, basically I am reviewing my original copy that has…a lot of…character. It’s not that bad, actually…I am just kinda crotchety when it comes to these things.  Anyway, I will not say much about T-E E because so much has been said about it already, be it in reviews or, more importantly, by other artists albums which were so strongly influenced by Kraftwerk’s landmark album. If you listen to Radiohead, Bowie’s incredible “Berlin Trilogy”, most New-Wave bands or even Afrika Bambaataa’s classic, Planet Rock, one cannot help but notice that none of this music 024would’ve sounded like this without Kraftwerk. Just check out The title track’s synth line after the vocorder “trans-Europe Express” chant amd then look up Planet rock…you get the picture. Kraftwerk will someday be regarded as important to popular music as the Beatles, the Stones, Jimi Hendrix…you name it. They didn’t push musical boundaries, because they forged a new kind of music. There were no rules. They built their own instruments. Nothing could sound like this.  Here are some tracks…enjoy

011

Trans – Neil Young   1982 Geffen Records

And now for the sleeper. The last guy anyone would expect an electronic album from. Neil young has given the world some of the most beautiful acoustic music it has ever heard as well as some of the most introspective and daring electric guitar jams. He was known and loved for these two things…which is probably what made him make this album. He is famous for being extremely prolific and when record label execs would try to corner him by saying”we want a classic rock album”, he delivered them an album of rock-a-billy cheese…because he could.

012He had recently got his hands on a Synclavier and a Vocorder and started to make these songs(he admitted later, under the influence of Kraftwerk) that would baffle his fans and critics alike. It was generally hated and it was never released on cd in the U.S.. Hence, it is basically unknown and that is a shame because it is amazing. As with everything Neil does, it is beautifully recorded and mastered. The pressing is great and it’s lack of popularity kind of assured it being in near mint condition and very inexpensive. Songs like We R In Control actually still manage to rock. Transformer Man has heart and almost resembled an opera if Klaus Nomi performed it. The album brings a warmth and soul to the so-called Krautrock genre that is usually not present. Also, the album art is great…from the Deloreon type space cars on the cover to the heart-in-blade runner and computer font on the back. I was very happy to pay only 3.99 for this near-mint copy of a 30 year old classic…until I thought about it more. It’s kind of sad the something like this could be relegated to a bargin-bin. There is more background to the story that made me thing this(from 1980-1982 he was spending most of his time with his son Ben, who was going through therapy sessions after being born with Cerebral Palsy and was not able to speak. The songs he was writing were laced with the emotions he was dealing with and the lyrics and tone of this and the album previous, Re-ac-tor, reflect that). I guess I find it hard to write off an artists work simply because it wasn’t what people wanted at the time. No matter, through technology, you don’t need a record player to hear this work now…here it is

We R In Control

Transformer Man

Sample and Hold

012

LHI Years: Singles, Nudes & Backsides  –  Lee Hazlewood           2012   180g Record Store Day Special Issue

014Psychedelic Country…You gotta love that shit. Lee Hazlewood’s music is like Lou Reed performing to a Bacharach-scored spaghetti western on acid…and that can’t be bad. Mr. Hazlewood has made a long career and a lot of albums(with femme fatales like Ann Margaret and Nancy Sinatra) full of songs that are so melodic and lush they would make Neil Diamond blush and so bizarrely haunting they could have been on Tom Waits’ mid-career lp’s. This 2 lp compilation, made for this year’s Record Store Day, is full of the fucked up vibes that you feel as though you’re listening to elevator music if you swallowed a fist full of molly just before the doors closed. Side C is where it’s at with No Train To Stockholm (Scandinavian cowboy music?), Won’t You Tell Your Dreams and my favorite, Hey Cowboy in all it’s bizarre-death-dream glory.

The 180 gram double lp collection was remastered and pressed beautifully here. The strings soar and the horns almost seem to drip giving Lee and his bombshells a beautifully strange environment to dance in. And once again, packaging reigns here…the pic speaks for itself. Fuckin’ Lee Hazlewood!

Hey Cowboy

010Disintegration – The Cure        1988  (reissue 180 g)

Side A “Plainsong” – 5:12  “Pictures of You” – 7:24  “Closedown” – 4:16
Side B  “Lovesong” – 3:29 “Last Dance” – 4:42  “Lullaby” – 4:08
Side C  “Fascination Street” – 5:16  “Prayers for Rain” – 6:05 “The Same Deep Water as You” – 9:19
Side D “Disintegration” – 8:18  “Homesick” – 7:06  “Untitled” – 6:30

You can’t go wrong with Disintegration (unless you are looking for a happy, pop record by the band who did Friday, I’m in Love…then you fucked). To me it has everything that makes The Cure great… Long, gothic, love tragedies that crawl, penitent over glass at a snails pace to proclaim their devotion only to find out it’s too late. I think the first side is probably one of the most beautifully depressing song cycles ever committed to vinyl (ahhh, maybe not, but you get the point). This album came out in 1989 and I heard it for the first time in the spring of 1990(sixth grade…perfect timing) and I initially got it on cd and devoured it. It (along with the Smiths/Morrissey and 10,000 maniacs) was a stand out in my large(for a 12 year old) music collection, which consisted mainly of Rock, Metal and Hip-Hop. It made me sad but in a good way and I wasn’t even sure why… then after the first few “Heart breaks”…well, I stopped listening and finally heard it. Every stubbed toe and “no” from Mom was the end of the world and this album understood that. The only reason it wouldn’t be a perfect “record the paramedics find spinning in ones room, needle popping over and over in the run-off groove, is that there are a couple of songs that sort of pick up the pace and while they are great songs, when one is taking their (truly) last sip of Bordeaux, standing on a wobbly chair, noose looking fancy and a note pinned to their shirt that says “No Funeral”…One simply doesn’t want  hope. In all seriousness, it is a gorgeous album, who’s 4 sides each play out like individual series of sonnets, letting you know that while it might NOT be ok, at least Robert Smith has it as bad as you…and that is beautiful…comforting.

Just Check the “lyrics” to Plainsong. More of a conversation, but like a dagger

“i think it’s dark and it looks like rain” you said
“and the wind is blowing like it’s the end of the
world” you said “and it’s so cold it’s like the
cold if you were dead” and then you smiled for
a second.

“i think i’m old and i’m in pain” you said
“and it’s all running out like it’s the end of the
world” you said “and it’s so cold it’s like the
cold if you were dead” and then you smiled for
a second

sometimes you make me feel like i’m living at
the edge of the world like i’m living at the edge
of the world “it’s just the way i smile” you said

Plainsong

  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZoYzne9Tpg

Pictures Of You

006Seventh Son of a Seventh Son – Iron Maiden  1988

 Side A
1. “Moonchild”   5:39 2. “Infinite Dreams”  6:09 3. “Can I Play with Madness” 3:31 4. “The Evil That Men Do”  4:34
Side B
1. “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”  9:53 2. “The Prophecy” 5:05 3. “The Clairvoyant” 4:27 4. “Only the Good Die Young”  4:42

I got this on tape when I was in 5th grade and didn’t get it…For all the reasons I love it now. It’s progressive (the last Maiden album to have longer song structures) and is the first Maiden album with synths. They add a cruddy feel of an 80’s horror b movie in the middle of the classical/metal dueling lead guitar lines. The opening track “Moonchild” (see link at bottom) sets the table: A folk/Satanic tinged intro (“seven holy paths to hell, and your trip begins…”  and then Boom, the synths start and the song erupts, full of imagery that brings a smile to any fun-loving anti-Christ’s face). This was another “sort of concept album” by the boys, this time dealing mainly with insanity caused by the paranormal and astrological as well as my favorite…Lucifer. “Can I play with Madness ?”and “the Clairvoyant” are 2 more examples of the marrying of the 80’s synths and the “New Wave Of British Heavy Metal” sound they helped build. They caught a lot of shit for the synths, but listening today it sets this record apart from some of the other interminable shit that muddied the metal scene at the end of the eighties. Thank Lucifer for that!

005Of course, a huge reason to love Maiden albums on vinyl is the artwork. They basically created the badass, demonic cover art genre with their character “Eddie”. The only way to truly take it in is holding the 12 X 12 cover in your hands after you drop the needle. He is once again used to maximum sickness on the front and back cover, as well as on the label itself. The only thing scarier looking on this album is the band’s wardrobe…dig the Hard Rock Cafe shirt and the fucking COSBY sweater! Tragic!

008

Moonchild…

nico4

Nico  The Marble Index   1969 Elektra Records (Dutch pressing)

Maybe it was the piece  on Nico by Nate Gelgud that I recently reviewed that got me to break out my Nico records, but it reaffirmed my belief that she made one of the sweetest albums ever as well as this, one of the scariest ever. Still, I love them both equally. Her first record after working with the Velvets, Chelsea Girl is beautiful and at times breezy(I know, I just threw up in my mouth a little bit), but Marble index is the beautiful downer of a creepy art album that could only find a contemporary if  Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen collaborated. Nico teams up with John Cale…say no more…I will however post two tracks, one from Chelsea Girl and one from Marble Index to show the progression(or downward spiral)

These Days – Chelsea Girls

Facing The Wind – The Marble Index

008

I have recently replaced my old Sumiko Pearl Phono Cartridge with a Sumiko Blue Point # 2. I have also, not quite as recently, changed out my old stock tonearm with the Pro-Ject Tonearm 9. These two changes have made a huge difference in the sound I get from my vinyl. I have a solid state Bryston amp and pre-amp and Martin Logan 003electrostatic speakers and I have found that it delivers a great, reference quality sound. I did want a bit more warmth so I thought I would alter my turntable and see what happens. The Pro-ject tonearm upgrade(only about 700$) made it possible to adjust the height of the arm tube and also fine-tune the vertical tracking angle which greatly improved the performance of the phono cartridge. Still I wanted tighter sound but added warmth, so I did some 012research and found that the best option under 750$(about 400$) for what I was trying to do was the Blue Point # 2. Ever since I installed it, the difference is night and day. Listening to Miles or Keith Jarrett, you can almost feel the room during the quiet parts and horns, especiall reed instruments sound like they are being played a few feet in front of you. On bigger arrangements with a lot of players, like a Zappa album, the separation and placement of instruments makes you feel like you are at the podium with Frank in front of the orchestra. Truly moving shit! Organs rumble, vocals whisper and roar, snares pop and cymbals crackle. Even electronic pieces like Kraftwerk or Gary Numan 013sound analog and warm while new records like those by Ellie Goulding, Lana Del Rey, Twin Shadow and Purity Ring sound nicely vintage while retaining their freshness. Anyway, the two upgrades have totally changed the game in my listening room. Some loooong nights are in the post.

Blue Point # 2
Moving coil design, high output, 2.5-mV, alloy cantilever, Blue Point-cut elliptical diamond stylus, and standard 1/2″ mounting.
Cartridge Type     MC
Frequency Response     15Hz-35KHz
015Output Voltage/Channel     2.5mV
Channel Separation     32dB
Channel Balance     0.5dB
Compliance     (x10-6 cm/dyne) 15
Stylus Size/Shape     .3x.7/Elliptical
Load Impedance     47k Ohms
Tracking Force Range     1.6-2.0 grams
Recommended Force     1.8 grams
Cartridge Weight     6.3 grams

Pro-Ject Tonearm 9
bluepoint_no2_01It features a solid one piece construction and allows for proper adjustment of VTA, a feature rarely found on tonearms at this price.
– One piece Headshell and armtube construction
– Inverted bearing design with four hardened ABEC7 spec ballraces
– Solid armbase permits accurate height adjustment of armtube and VTA (vertical tracking angle)
– Single-screw fixing of armtube allows rotation/easy adjustment of azimuth despite fixed headshell
– Highly flexible high grade copper internal wiring

005

Grimes – Visions   2012   4AD Records

006…what, never heard of Indy-Dream-Tronica-Experimental-Glitch-Core? Well, it’s either because you’re an ignoramus, or because I just made it up. Either way, the record is great. The songs are all over the place and yet very cohesive. The production is top notch and yet it was recorded and mixed using Apple Garage Band, which I love because it just proves that artists can take the power back, produce what they want and put out a great product without the pig-fuck record A&R people trying to homogenize the material until every song sound like fucking Rolling in the Deep. This album is an adventure from the drop of the needle(but not like a Radiohead or Weapon, dark, David Lynch nightmare type of adventure…more fun adventure like the Goonies…but if Bjork gave them ecstasy and led the gang) and doesn’t let up until you take the record off the platter and slide it back into the sleeve. That’s even fun, as the artwork and sleeve are both great to look at. If one knew nothing about this007 album, they would be expecting a new Black Flag record or something based on the cover…then this bizarre little party pours out of the speakers. So Pick it up on vinyl(4AD hits Canadian Gold again after Purity Ring, also amazing) and treat yourself to about 50 mins of Indy-Dream-Tronica-Experimental-Glitch-Core, now that you know what the fuck it is.

Just check out the vids to get an idea of what this girl is all about. She is not dull. What the hell is going on up in Canada? Between Her, Purity Ring and Rush finally getting into the (so-called) Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 2012 belonged to the Canucks in my mind.Love it!

002

Burnt Weeny Sandwich – The Mothers Of Invention   1970 Bizarre (blue label)

Disclaimer: There is nothing I’d rather listen to on vinyl thank Frank Zappa albums. They are always recorded, mixed and mastered impeccably, written and played with meticulous attention to detail, wildly creative and packaged with great artwork(most of the time). If I am lucky enough to track down a mint pressing, there is no better treat for my turntable than Frank’s bizarre offerings. Now, on with the review…

2_Originals_Of_The_Mothers_Of_InventionThese two albums, Burnt Weeny Sandwich and Weasels Ripped My Flesh, are like the two sides of a coin. They were recorded together before Frank dissolved the Mothers between 1967 and 1969 and were even released together on vinyl as 2 Originals of the Mothers of Invention for a time. This is why I thought I would talk about them together. That and the fact that even before I knew about them being released or recorded together, I used to listen to the together(along with 200 Motels, but that’s for a different review…once I find a mint press on vinyl).

004Here goes…Burnt Weeny Sandwich: First, I love how diverse this record is, even for Frank. Kicking off and wrapping up with Doo Wop covers(WPLJ and Valerie respectively) really sets the table for a bizarre meal. Side one has the two love letters to Stravinsky, Igor’s Boogie Phase 1 and Igor’s Boogie Phase 2. These snippets are brilliant abstracts that gives one the feel of being at the rehearsal of some martian marching band rehearsal(a good thing, to be sure). These tracks sandwich both Overture to a Holiday in Berlin(Another incredible march, this time having the feel of a late 60’s Italian crime film that had the courage  NOT to get Morricone to do the score…and I love Morricone, but you get the point) and Theme from Burnt Weeny Sandwich(with it’s great fuzz/wah driven guitar solo). The more I describe this side, I realize it really has the feel of 200 Motels…anyway…Then come my favorite part of the side…Holiday in Berlin, Full Blown. I love the feel and the time signature shifts in this one. I especially love the shift into the almost scumbaggy gigolo horn section. So good.

005

009010Before I flip the record to side two, I have to point out the album art and packaging. Frank almost always(except for the albums that should’ve made up the Lather album:Sleep Dirt, Studio Tan and Orchestral Favs covers were all weak in my opinion…Zappa in New York is the exception there) had great album art. Here is no exception. Even the sleeve is interesting. Just click the thumbnails and check it out.

012

Side 2 is all about the epic The Little House I Used to Live in. This is an absolutely amazing journey that is punctuated by Don “Sugarcane” Harris’ violin solo. The track is also a puzzle of time signatures being overlaid on each other while never losing momentum. It is truly incredible to listen a nice pressing of this. The recording and mastering are both so good, the separation of instruments basically places you in Frank’s rehearsal space with each part of the song cascading over you, leaving you enveloped in the bizarre majesty that was the Mothers. Here is the whole record, as I could not find good versions of individual tracks. Still, buy Frank’s albums. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBRUcElxhJU

Now on to Weasels Ripped My Flesh…

031Weasels Ripped My Flesh – The Mothers Of Invention   1970  Bizarre Records (Blue Label)

032Weasels is definitely the more song-y of the two albums and is made up of a mix of both studio and live recordings from 1967-1969.  It does start out abstract like Burnt Weeny with the track Didja Get Any Onya? This gives way to an electric violin driven, almost psychedelic, blues cover of Little Richard’s Directly from My Heart to You. Up next is the insanity of Prelude to the Afternoon of a Sexually Aroused Gas Mask. I don’t know why I think of this album as the song-y one…Maybe compared to Burnt Weeny. Still, to me it’s all about side two. Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue is a favorite of mine. I love Frank tracks that have a heavy vibes/marimba feel and this one has a great vibraphone intro that gives way to some nice interplay between percussionist and guitarist before building to a cacophony in the middle of the song. True Mothers stuff here.  Then there is the trio of My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Momma, Oh No and Orange County Lumber Truck. I will let the tracks do the talking…

ManAgainstWeaselmanI will not go into much more depth on the rest of the music here, as I feel dissecting these pieces take away from the whole. I will mention the packaging though. Again, the artwork has it’s own little story too. Frank brought an issue of Man’s Life to his artist because the cover story interested him. He told artist Neon Park to come up with something worse than that and Neon combined the Weasels attacking idea with an ad for an electric shaver. Frank loved it and, legal problems with Shick aside, the iconic cover was born. You should see the German cover…Google that one for a laugh.

The pair of albums can be looked at as either separate, distinct projects or as companion pieces to each other. Either way has it’s merits. I like to experience them together, as I like Frank’s larger works that seem to loom in scope. Though these two albums don’t have a cohesive narrative theme like Joe’s Garage or Thing-Fish, that doesn’t mean they don’t complete each other in some ways. So do yourself a favor, track down some nice presses of these two records, sit down in front of a nice stereo(or make friends with someone if you can’t find one on your own) and surrender to the insanity. Don’t worry if it makes sense beyond the music. Like Frank said, “Information is not knowledge; Knowledge is not Wisdom; Wisdom is not truth; Truth is not beauty; Beauty is not love; Love is not music; Music is the best.

081

Waka/Jawaka  –  Frank Zappa   1972  Bizaare Records(Blue Label)

Disclaimer: There is nothing I’d rather listen to on vinyl thank Frank Zappa albums. They are always recorded, mixed and mastered impeccably, written and played with meticulous attention to detail, wildly creative and packaged with great artwork(most of the time). If I am lucky enough to track down a mint pressing, there is no better treat for my turntable than Frank’s bizarre offerings. Now, on with the review…

082Waka/Jawaka comes from the peak of Frank’s early to mid seventies “Jazz-Fusion” period. He would take to the studio(and even the road) with huge orchestras to play incredibly complex and original works that sounded like nothing else. This record has two epic tracks that push the musicians while remaining tuneful and fun. The title track has an almost lounge scumbag feel but upon closer listening, one is struck but the interweaving of instruments that form chords. For example,  when someone holds a chord on a guitar, there is a very limited depth to the note, a limited tone color. However, when a composer like Frank writes for an orchestra, he can have 5 instruments play separate notes at the same time to build one chord, giving it a huge body. The results are amazing. Taking that into consideration, it makes the interplay between the musicians that much more impressive. They have to be so exact and so in synch. It’s mind-blowing.

085My Favorite here is Big Swifty, an epic that opens in a fast 7/8 riff, then continues to alternate between 7/8 and 6/8 times, and eventually making it’s way to a 4/4 swing time signature. The song is manipulated even more live(but that is for another review). Sitting and listening to this on a good turntable with a solid amp/pre-amp and quality speakers is like being in the orchestra pit. This is due to Frank’s incredible recording style (he is know to take days getting mic placement right for the orchestra). The pressing I have is great as well, so I was in, well not heaven(even if it did exist, doesn’t seem like a place I’d enjoy too much), but I was transported to a place in my mind that was very nice, warm and fuzzy. Frank is a God. Simple.

Big Swifty (In Two Parts)

Waka/Jawaka

028

Roxy Music – Country Life   1974 Virgin

029I love Roxy Music. Not just the two albums with Eno(although, they are both prog-glam masterpieces-the first side of the debut lp is probably one of the best sides of glam music NOT made by Bowie). I know a lot of people saw Bryan Ferry’s style as just that…a style. His croon wore some people down after Eno left. Me, I love the cut of his jib. I love the pageantry he brought to each production(as if the album cover wasn’t enough to turn heads, also included is a 2′ X 3′ poster of the cover, which I am sure helped out a lot of 14 year old’s in 1974). I love the image, the Roxy Cover Girls, the Riviera party and cocaine swagger, but most of all, I love the music. I though Eno’s departure ushering in Edwin Jobson on keys/synths and strings added a whole new level of musicality to an already experimental baroque new wave glam band. The songs evolved and became little glam operas. Don’t take my word for it, the proof is in the aspic…

032

The Thrill of it All       http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8F4GkOEef2M

Bitter-Sweet      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W73AVb7u_9Q

A really Good Time     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzRtnwv8eJ4