Friday, June 22, 2018

Van Morrison: The Best of Van Morrison (1970)

Although initially released in 1970, I have a US pressing from 1973. This was an early attempt by Bang records to milk its Van Morrison cash cow. All of these tracks appear in many other releases, but I picked up a copy anyway. Mine is a little rough, but so it goes.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Van Morrison: His Band And The Street Choir (1970)

"...even if it's inferior to Moondance, it is still better than eighty per cent of the records you've got in your collection." - John Tobler

His Band And The Street Choir was originally released in 1970. I have a Canadian repressing from 1979, which makes sense because that was the year I really started to buy records in earnest. This record is part of an amazing streak. Blowin' Your Mind was OK, but his next eight or ten records were all brilliant. It's amazing that he had that much creative energy and drive. I think his output has been good overall, but the consistency of the first several records is amazing.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Van Morrison: Moondance (1970)

I love this record. It's a less abstract than Astral Weeks, incorporating rhythm and blues, soul, and pop. One would be forgiven for thinking that the record is a greatest hits package. That's how many great songs are on this LP.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Van Morrison: Astral Weeks (1968)

Is this the greatest record ever made? Some would argue that it is. It's really hard to argue otherwise. It's a masterpiece, pure and simple. But, it took me a while to get into it. For one thing, I came to it later, after I was already familiar with the ten records that followed it. I remember being a little disappointment when I heard it, and I am not sure why. Perhaps it was because there wasn't an obviously joyous tune, akin to Moondance or Domino or Wild Night or Jackie Wilson Said or Wavelength or even Cleaning Windows.

I have a Canadian pressing from 1979. The first UK pressing goes for a pretty penny.

The record was not initially successful, but has later achieved accolades.
Astral Weeks' critical standing eventually improved greatly, however, and it has since been viewed as one of rock music's greatest and most important records (a reputation Morrison himself has dismissed). It is sometimes referred to as a song cycle or concept album. Critics laud the album's arrangements and songwriting. Morrison's lyrics are often described as impressionistic, hypnotic, and modernist. It was placed on numerous widely circulated lists of the best albums of all time and had an enduring effect on both listeners and musicians. Forty years after the album's release, Morrison performed all eight of its songs live for the first time during two Hollywood Bowl concerts in November 2008; this performance was later released as a live album. [source]
I have a copy of that live album on CD. There was a vinyl issue, but the price is stupid now. Unless it's repressed, I am out of luck.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Van Morrison: Blowin’ Your Mind! (1967)


George Ivan Morrison, sometimes nicknamed Van the Man, is Ireland's best soul singer and one of my favourite singers of all time. Van's first record contains his most enduring song, Brown Eyed Girl. Others might choose Moondance as his most recognizable tune, and that's fair, I guess. This record also contains T.B. Sheets, a harrowing nine-minute epic that is really the center-piece of the record. But, more on that tune in a later post.

One other thing to note regarding Brown Eyed Girl:
The song's nostalgic lyrics about a former love were considered too suggestive at the time to be played on many radio stations. A radio-edit of the song was released which removed the lyrics "making love in the green grass", replacing them with "laughin' and a-runnin', hey hey" from a previous verse. This edited version appears on some copies of the compilation album The Best of Van Morrison. However the remastered CD seems to have the bowdlerised lyrics in the packaging but the original "racy" lyrics on the disc. Lyrically, it "shows early hints of the idealized pastoral landscapes that would flow through his songs through the decades, a tendency that links him to the Romantic poets, whom Morrison has cited as an influence" according to music journalist Erik Hage. [source]
I have a US pressing from 1973. It sounds fantastic. The album cover sucks. This was not my first Van record. I can't remember which was first. I also have an extensive Van Morrison CD collection. I have met some people who do not like Van Morrison. I just cannot get my head around that. It simply makes no sense.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Thurston Moore & Loren Connors: The Only Way to go is Straight Through (2013)

The Only Way To Go Is Straight Through is a limited edition of 3000 copies, released on RSD 2013, containing:

NYC - The Stone - July 14th, 2012  (21:15)
Brooklyn, NY - Public Assembly - October 17th, 2012 (22:59)

The record company said this: 
While this was not the first time that Thurston Moore and Loren Connors have performed together, a vinyl pressing of their improvised collaborations is unprecedented. A mere three thousand copies of this extraordinary LP will be available worldwide ONLY on Record Store Day (April 20, 2013). The music will not be available in any other format, on any other day, so we think it will be well worth braving the insanely long RSD lines to get your hands on a copy. [source]
The funny thing is that I picked up a copy of this record many many days after RSD and it was on sale. So much for the record company hyperbole. Also, you can buy a copy of Discogs for very little cash.

There's really nothing on Youtube from this LP.

Friday, June 01, 2018

The Monks: Suspended Animation (1980)

The opening track on this record - Don't Want No Reds - sounds a bit like ska, though that doesn't hold true for all tracks on the LP. The other thing is that this record is not as funny as the first. While I like this record, I think that the first is better. Some people love this record, but I am ambivalent. Perhaps it has aged poorly.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Monks: Bad Habits (1979)

The Monks (not to be confused with The Monks) were a UK pop and new wave band. Oddly, three of the four members were originally in The Strawbs. Once upon a time, I owned some records by The Strawbs, but I never listened to them, so I sold them. It was many years later that I became aware of the connection to The Strawbs.

(By the way, since we are in the M section, I should mention that I used to own some Eddie Money records. I know that's weird, but true. In my defence, I will say that I was a young kid).

For some unknown reason, this The Monks were huge in Canada. In fact, the second record from the band didn't even get a domestic UK release, but it was available here on cassette, LP, and compact disc. Bad Habits was so popular in Canada, it was even repressed here. I have the original Canadian pressing.

I listened to this record so much, I got tired of it. Part of the problem was that me dad liked the record too, and he asked me to make a cassette copy so he could listen to it in his car. That meant I heard it far more often than I wanted to.

I've seen this band categorized as both punk and new wave. For me, it fit better in the new wave category, and it complemented a lot of other stuff I was listening to at the time, like Squeeze, for just one example. Also, it seemed to me that this band was a parody of punk, and not really punk at all.

Oh, and yes, I thought that the cover was interesting. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Momus: Tender Pervert (1988)

"Hell hath no fury like an insecure Englishman"

Frankly, I find it extremely difficult to describe the music of Momus on this record, so just read this:
Tender Pervert is the first great Momus album, thanks to a newfound affinity for synth-pop and songcraft, not to mention his sudden discovery of irony. It's hard to say which is more important to the overall effect. The lush, electro-acoustic arrangements provide a platform for Momus' increasing production acumen, and the rambling song-poems of albums past are either condensed into melodic, verse-chorus structures, or held together by focused storytelling (as with the Yukio Mishima-influenced epic "Bishonen"). What's more, the wry humor hinted at on The Poison Boyfriend blossoms into a signature worldview here, complete with a nasty, cold-blooded edge in which Momus takes obvious pleasure. Paradoxically, when he's writing with a bit of ironic distance, Momus seems freed up to discuss more personal matters, perhaps because he's not trying so excruciatingly hard to present himself as thoughtful. A few stories are appropriated, but regardless of the source, they all seem to have more emotional resonance for their author; as such, it's the first time he's really found the humanity of his subjects, instead of simply using them to illustrate ideas. Overseen by a god who gets his kicks watching humanity inflict pain on itself, the characters on Tender Pervert live confusing, duplicitous lives, putting up a front to deal with the world's expectations while carefully hiding their true selves and goals. Yet no matter how dark their desires might get, they're quite often sympathetic, imbued with charm and elegance by Momus' faux-New Romantic backing tracks. And that's to say nothing of the singer's own lyrical wit, which flourishes on "I Was a Maoist Intellectual," "The Homosexual," and "A Complete History of Sexual Jealousy, Parts 17-24" in particular. All in all, Tender Pervert is easily one of Momus' most impressive albums, striking just the right balance between his earlier and later work. [source]
I couldn't possibly add anything to that. I don't think I have ever seen a Momus record in any store since the day I bought this one for $2. There seem to be so few of his records on this side of the ocean. Oh, and I suppose it's apt to mention that he is Scottish, though he currently lives in Japan, at least part time. I really like this record. It seems that he should be better know, but he not, for some reason. The first track, below (I Was a Maoist Intellectual), reminds me of Leonard Cohen.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Mogwai: Rave tapes (2014)

Yeah for Scottish music. I say that because I am part Scottish. Yeah for post-rock, because I love post-rock. Most of my Mogwai collection is on CD. That's sad. About the style, Wikipedia says: "The band typically compose lengthy guitar-based instrumental pieces that feature dynamic contrast, melodic bass guitar lines, and heavy use of distortion and effects" [source]

I'll just say that I like it very much.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Modern English: Ricochet Days (1984)

I tend to think that Modern English were a one-hit wonder. I mean, apart from I Melt With You, what else is there? They even re-recorded that tune, for no apparent reason and with questionable results. The band's first record received this review:
Trouser Press panned the album, calling it "a load of monotonous droning and shouting by a precious art band oppressively weighed down by its self-conscious 4AD pretensions." [source]
Wow. And, how about this review of the second record:

Record reviewer Nick Burton gave After the Snow a mixed review, saying that the album's eccentric mix of genres and styles lacks direction but is interesting nonetheless. He warned readers that the hit "I Melt with You" is completely unrepresentative of the album, and concluded that "If nothing else, After the Snow provides some offbeat, if not unintentionally amusing, listening." [source]

For the third record - Rocochet Days - Alllmusic says this: "Ricochet Days begins Modern English's slow decline toward the status of just another synth band." [source]

But, I will say that Hands Across the Sea is a very good song. By the way, the 7" EP (which is missing from my copy) was a label sampler, with cuts from The Cocteau Twins, Gene Loves Jezebel, The Icicle Works, and Death Cult.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Mitchell and Manley: Norcal Values (2011)


I my view, anything released by Thrill Jockey is worth having in your collection. I fee the same way about Constellation and Kranky. The LP is a collaboration between Phil Manley (of Trans Am) and Isaiah Mitchell (or Earthless). The record was released in a limited edition of only 1000 copies for Record Stare Day 2011. I picked it up later in sale bin. It contains only two long tracks:

San Francisco Values (16:42)
Sausalito Values (18:44)

The record label says this: 
Floating down the Yuba River, hang gliding off the cliffs at Fort Funston, a day at Ocean Beach with the dog, a leisurely stroll in Golden Gate Park, a fat bag of Trainwreck; these are among the many images that come to mind when listening to Mitchell and Manley’s Norcal Values.

Inspired by his spiritual advisor, Bettina Richards, Phil Manley recruited the shredding stylings of Earthless’ Isaiah Mitchell to collaborate on a record comprised almost exclusively of a single continuous guitar solo. The recording was made live with no overdubs - completely improvised. This recording exhibits inspiration so pure that it could only come from within. Drawing from the classical Indian music tradition as well as from modern new age music, Norcal Values is the sonic equivalent of fine Californian cuisine. We invite you to dine upon its bountiful aural splendor. Bon appetite!
That's a evocative description.