By Melissa B.
I’m a nostalgist. What I love about reissues is hearing a song I’ve forgotten entirely about. In a beat, I’m transported to the back-backseat of my parents’ station wagon, listening to KTTS on the radio. The reissue of Marty Robbins’s El Paso City/Adios Amigo took me right back to that station wagon.
In 1985, The Armoury Show took Britain by storm, billed as the first punk supergroup. By 1987, they had fallen off the radar completely, leaving only one album behind. Cherry Red’s reissue of that album, Waiting For The Floods, is a beautiful shiny thing, a welcome rediscovery of a band that faded out far too quickly.
Consisting of former members of Magazine, The Skids, and Siouxsie & the Banshees (John McGeoch!), The Armoury Show served up gorgeously slick cathedral Goth with strangely danceable grooves. Theirs was not music for the stand and shuffle crowd. You could dress up in your funereal best and still sway your anthemic hips, maybe even crack a smile.
The entire ‘70s catalogue of pioneering female singer/songwriter Lynsey de Paul has finally been collected in two new anthologies: Sugar and Beyond 1972 – 1974 and Into My Music 1975 – 1979. Using exclusive material and information from Lynsey de Paul herself, this is a unique collection, signifying a new chance to discover her work and to grant it the recognition it deserves.
By Cait Brennan
The experience of being alive is joyous and unbearable. This crude matter we’re made of fights us every step of the way, but something deeper, something more, some beauty and energy blasting through from a source we can’t know animates us, fills us, drives us onward, and the friction, the vibration of energy that moves us, is what we call music. Where does it go, do you suppose, when we’re gone? Nobody knows, but you’ve gotta hope that when the radio breaks, still the signal shines on.
If rock and roll means anything worth caring about, it’s the need to express something real and beautiful and transcendent from the human soul. But that need can lead to soul-destroying results. There’s a fake thing called fame today, but it’s nothing like the sun that blistered down on the rock and roll bands of the 1960s. Know-nothing hambones like Mike Love get out in front and let their egos feast on the callow roar and toxic adulation of the crowd while sucking the lifeblood out of the delicate creative genius that brought them to the party, like a fat tick on a sick dog. The songwriter gets in the way? Kick ‘em out of the band and keep the carnival on the road. Don’t mess with the formula, right?
Which brings us to the Byrds’ creative genius, Gene Clark. A down-to-earth, folk-influenced kid from the Midwest, he co-founded the band, and (excepting a few covers written by some stray named Robert Zimmerman) was the songwriting powerhouse behind the Byrds’ golden age. Just a few of the highlights he wrote or co-wrote: “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better,” “She Don’t Care About Time,” “I’m Feelin’ Higher,” “If You’re Gone,” “Here Without You,” “The World Turns All Around Her,” “Set You Free This Time,” oh, and a little number called “Eight Miles High.”
Before Kate Bush or Fiona Apple, there was Emily Bindiger. While on summer leave from the High School of the Performing Arts in New York, Bindiger was cast in the legendary, star-making French revue Double V. She dropped out of school and traveled to Paris alone to appear in the show. Through Double V, Bindiger met Michel Polnareff, who introduced her to the members of the psychedelic pop band Dynastie Crisis. Bindiger’s lone solo album, EMiLY, was released through Pathe in 1972. In honor of the album’s fortieth anniversary, British label Cherry Red has given EMiLY its MP3 debut.
By Cait Brennan
“Country music,” George Jones told music writer Holly George-Warren “is a religion to me.” Well, if country music is a religion, George Jones’s music is one of the bedrock gospels. From 1950s hillbilly hellion to elder statesman of the genre, Jones has always been one of the purest singers in country music. Jones is “just” a country singer the way Sinatra was “just” a saloon singer—both men mastered, then transcended their genres, making each song uniquely their own.
Some of Jones’s finest mid-’60s sides are collected on George Jones—The Complete United Artists Solo Singles, one of three essential country music compilations released on February 12 by those high llamas of music at Omnivore Recordings. No no-shows here; this is prime time Possum, showing the hall of fame singer on a diverse range of material penned by Jones and some of classic country’s greatest songwriters.
If you’ve seen Suspiria, then you know of Goblin, the Italian band responsible for its iconic, eternally terrifying score. There have been lineup changes over the years, but several members have been consistent: original members Massimo Morante and Claudio Simonetti, in addition to Maurizio Guarini, Agostino Marangolo, Walter Martino, and Fabio Pignatelli.
Fans of filmmaker Dario Argento may already be familiar with Goblin’s contributions to the Italian horror and giallo genres, but Goblin has much to offer the music aficionado looking for something challenging. In keeping with the spirit of their prog rock origins, they have several albums that are not scores, including at least one straight-up concept album, sort of like a soundtrack without a movie.
Cherry Red Records and Bella Casa have compiled an excellent sampling of Goblin’s bizarre and enthralling discography with a six-disc box set including not only the band’s compositions for Argento films, but also their contributions to the prog rock pantheon.
Time stopped when I first heard Víctor Jara sing. One of my favorite podcasts, Alt.Latino, had included Jara’s music in an episode that looked at protest music from across Central and South America. Jasmine Garsd, the podcast’s co-host, had preceded his song with a description of his importance in his native Chile and his brutal murder at the start of the Pinochet regime. As disturbing and poignant as this biography was, nothing prepared me for the beauty of his music.
The needle dropped on “Un Derecho de Vivir en Paz,” Jara’s song in protest of the Vietnam war. Over a bed of harpsichord and arpeggiated guitar, Jara sang in a disarmingly straightforward voice. His tenor had a reedy tone and a substantial quality that anchored the melody. Like many of its North American counterparts, the song had a memorable melody that could invite singalongs. Where many songwriters north of the border tended towards straightforward production however, Jara’s song featured a psychedelic instrumental break in which a ragged guitar freakout alternated with a bobbling analog synth part. The song ended with what sounded like a spontaneous choir of “la la la”s, which reinforced the spirit of community for which Jara’s time was known. As understated as Jara sounded, a current of sadness and hope ran through his voice, and that emotion made me want to listen to it again and again.
After hearing about his grotesque death, I found myself wanting to see Jara as he was alive. Some excerpts from a live concert he performed for Chilean television came up on YouTube. Seeing and hearing this man, with his steady, weathered voice and his everyman appearance, made him more real for me but also made the tragedy of his death that much more palpable. I was drawn to the honesty of his voice and the lyrics I could understand, but the experimentation in his music beguiled me as well.
In time, I was able to get a boxed set of Jara’s albums through inter-library loan, as well as a copy of An Unfinished Song, the biography his wife Joan wrote about him. I also have been attempting to read The Shock Doctrine to better understand the Allende administration and how Pinochet came to power. Through my interest in Jara I learned that two bands I quite like have paid tribute to him in song—Joe Strummer name-checked him on Sandinista! and Calexico recorded a song called “Víctor Jara’s Hands.”
In spite of these tributes and the praises of other big-name fans, Jara is not well known in the States. To that end, I will be working through his discography and writing reviews for Popshifter when time permits. Víctor Jara created music that both spoke to the people of its day and is still prescient in this day and age. His work deserves a larger audience and I’d like to do what I can to encourage readers to track down his music.
By Melissa B.
Another gem appears from the Buck Owens vault. Honky Tonk Man: Buck Sings Country Classics is a collection of musical backing tracks from Hee Haw with Buck’s reference vocals over them, which sounds like it wouldn’t be a treasure at all. But let me back up a moment.
By Melissa B.
Some people fantasize about going to Shangri-La, some people dream of winning the lottery. Me? I dream of going to Buck Owens‘s tape vault. Until a couple of years ago, it never crossed my mind, but with 2011′s release of Buck Owens’s Bound For Bakersfield collection of pre-Capitol demos (review), and now with the dual releases of Don Rich Sings George Jones and Buck Owens’s Honky Tonk Man, I want to go there. I cannot get my head around the fact that Don Rich’s lone solo record languished in the vault for 40 years. I can’t help but wonder what’s left in there, and desperately want to find out.
Don Rich was Buck Owens’s right hand: his guitarist, fiddler, and the man who brought harmony—a high tenor over Buck’s high tenor—to his tracks. They had an uncanny, beautiful way of harmonizing. Don’s smiling presence on Hee Haw, just over Buck’s shoulder, is my favorite thing about the show. Okay. That sounds a bit like fan fiction. Note to self: Don’t look that up. Ever.