Memories both old & new or The B-52’s – Live! 8.24.1979

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It seems to me that the B-52’s have never really gotten the respect that they are entitled. More than just a kitsch band of singles, they were, and remain a beacon in a fog of mediocrity. This world where tired old themes are constantly rehashed for rock ‘n’ roll consumption; the B-52’s could tell insane stories while making even the most ‘two left feet’ amongst us dance and have a great time. There music was simultaneously accessible and other-worldly, mixing a 60’s surf vibe with what would later be called new wave. It was the perfect soundtrack for not only dancing, but strapping on some roller skates and praying the next wipe-out wouldn’t be slowed by your face being dragged along the cement.

So imagine my surprise to see a perfect little live document arrive in my hands this Black Friday / Record Store Day… a way over due example of the band in their prime. It’s a small piece of gold coloured vinyl now spinning on my turntable of an era that is timeless, and so very long ago. Before the flash and colour of “Love Shack” this is the B-52’s out supporting their debut album with the incredible Ricky Wilson still rocking the guitar in a frenetic fashion as Fred Schneider, Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson pull off their insane version of the call and answer.

Listening to it I find myself wondering why this record is only seeing the light of day in 2015. Full of energy, Live! 8.24.1979 literally had my seven year old dancing and rolling on the floor trying to sing all the vocal parts at once. It’s an impossibility, but he sure tried. What you have is great songs followed by hilarious, if not awkward introductions. Fred Schneider deadpans: “this next song is a dance tune” as if this is a revelation.

Between my sons twirling and my memories of roller rinks, Live! 8.24.1979 is the kind of blast from the past that puts a giant smile on your face that lingers long after the needle turns away from the wax.

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The Emotional Depth of Flanging and Reverb or Ride –OX4

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There was a time before the 90’s wave of Grunge and Brit-Pop when a generation of music geeks had their collective consciousness turned towards the sounds of a UK movement dubbed “shoegaze.” Known for “wall of sound” like buzz and a variety of guitar effects it was the best possible escape for people tired of pop and hair metal but still loved loud electric guitar as the driver behind the tunes.

Ride was one of the best of the era with their own brand of songs crossed between My Bloody Valentine, The Smiths and even American avant-garde noise rockers Sonic Youth. At the beginning what attracted people to the band was the menagerie of influence pooled together under a banner of rock attitude and loud experimentation.

Unlike classic rock bands that would build a song around a guitar riff using it for the more climatic moments, Ride would use a riff like a wave over the song and change its very dynamic. If you listen to “Like A Daydream” even when the songs driving force is held back during the lyrical sequence, the guitar riff is still present as the basis for the rhythm. What changes is the tone and power with which it is played. The song itself gains more emotional resonance by the riff coasting for the duration rather than any one specific moment. At their best, this is exactly how Ride operated, a lyric of longing surrounded by shimmering guitar lines that buzz meaning with flanging and reverb.

Unfortunately, their existence was a brief eight years and it ended with internal disagreements and some half hearted attempt to go in a more ‘commercial’ direction. Some critics have claimed they fell flat looking for a more Brit-Pop sound, but honestly, after reading some of their more recent interviews, it sounds more like they just lost the motivation to be a band.

Still Record Store Day 2015 was a reminder of what brilliant music they did put out back in the day, with the vinyl re-issue of OX4: The Best Of. Three editions were released on April 18th in three major markets. The UK and Europe saw 500 copies each printed in red translucent vinyl while the North American market printed an additional 5000 copies of the same. As of last week when I was visiting record stores in Toronto I still saw copies around at the regular RSD prices.

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On a cooler note, Ride have worked out all their differences, are back together and currently touring. They’ll be hitting the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto on June 2nd and are being presented by 102.1 The Edge/Spirit Of Radio.

What I Got, I Gotta Get It… or Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magik

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It’s pretty hard to imagine the 90’s without the funky sounds of the Chili Peppers making dancers of even the most inept “two left footers” in the alt-rock clubs. Thank goodness jumping up and down with your arms in the air was an actual dance move (the “Pogo” – look it up) back in the day or I’d have been stuck at the bar all night.

What seems remarkable (other than me actually dancing) is that other than during its initial release in 1991, no vinyl version of Blood Sugar Sex Magik was put out until 2009 and it wasn’t re-mastered from its original analog source until 2011. Then things went into temporary overdrive.

Between 2011 and 12, five vinyl versions of Blood Sugar Sex Magik hit the streets. On November 25, 2011 (Black Friday/Record Store Day in North America), the first two limited versions were put out as a two disc set on red 140 gram vinyl. The North American version was gold number stamped while over in Europe the numbers were printed in black dot matrix. Both copies also included inserted lyric sheets. Despite it only being a few years back, the resale market has gone a bit insane with prices. Discogs has the North American version listed for $170 with one E-Bay re-seller asking $300.00 American dollars for it. The European release has an asking price of 189.00 dollars at discogs and none available at E-Bay. A two disc black 180 gram vinyl version was also released that same day but commands only regular record store prices for purchase.

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Following the initial release, two more copies hit the market in 2 disc sets also in 180 and regular black vinyl. My advice is hit your regular record store. You should be able to get a great sounding 180 gram vinyl edition for a reasonable price.

I’ve heard both the 140 and 180 gram versions and they sound fantastic. Just don’t skip your needle when you start doing the ‘pogo’ too close to the stereo.

THEY DID WHAT!!!! or Hollerado – 111 Songs

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Record Store Day 2015 provided lots of vinyl highlights, but with so much to choose from it can take a while for the dust to settle and appreciate what you might have got – and what you might have missed.

Fact is I missed the best damn thing released on Record Store Day. I saw it, but with so much stuff already in my hands I started counting my pennies and kept walking. However, curiosity got the better of me, and I streamed the single, and then realized what was really happening… this was “THE” thing to get. Sure Hollerado was releasing a single for “Firefly” in green glow in the dark vinyl that was epic looking, but the title 111 Songs wasn’t just a title – It was a statement of facts – there was actually a download card with the single for one hundred and eleven songs! How many bands give you over a hundred songs for the price of a vinyl single – no other band people… no other band ever!

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Hollerado is a power-pop outfit whose home base is ‘now’ Toronto (they formed in Ottawa) and have been putting out quality tunes since 2007. They’ve been runner ups for Junos (Canadian Music Award) on three occasions. Their last record White Paint is filled with some serious harmonies and presents a level of word play that is missing from most of the rock oriented bands that have recently presented themselves. They have spent the last few years touring with The Flaming Lips, Weezer, Passion Pit, The Dead Weather and a few others.

111 Songs is a gift for fans who pre-ordered their last record with one song written for each person and completed in less than two years. It is ultimately a huge workload all the more incredible as guitarist Nixon Boyd was battling testicular cancer (he’s fine now).

Anyway, I’ve been calling a few of my local record stores with no luck, but… it can still be ordered… YAY! While the band site, and record label do not have it, there is still a place.

So, if you like to rock out and toss your hair around to the sounds of something worth getting excited about – order this… (and as Stan Lee would say) Nuff said!

Better Late Than Expensive! or Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings The Flood

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One of my disappointments from Record Store Day 2015 was the absence of the promised Neko Case and her incredible Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. No one seemed to have it and if ever there was a record that was meant to be put on vinyl – this is it. I mean cripes, her backing musicians on this record include members of The Band, Giant Sand, Calexico and The Sadies. So imagine my feeling when I see a tweet from one of my favorite record stores stating it just arrived, days after RSD15. Well a quick phone call and a drive later, this beautiful piece of red vinyl spins on the turntable. Originally released in 2006, I have no idea how many vinyl copies were pressed, but it couldn’t have been many as the current surge in vinyl sales had yet to happen. It was re-released two years later in the U.S. with a gatefold cover in blue vinyl. I couldn’t find official information on how many were produced (although I saw a number of only 500 on a resale site) with a current asking price of over $200.00.

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In 2009, a Canadian release of Fox Confessor Brings The Flood came out. It seems that 25 test pressings hit the streets as well as an undetermined amount on red vinyl. It is likely that it was another 500, but again, I couldn’t find any official figure. In fact I couldn’t even find any for sale, although record sites and chat rooms sure had a lot of people hunting for it.

Anyway, it’s been six years and there were more than a few people waiting to get this record. It is once again in red vinyl, includes a download card and a special RSD turntable slipmat.

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Well – RUN PEOPLE!!!! Call your local record store and see if they have it. The e-bay users are already asking more than $70.00 and you shouldn’t pay that. Pick it up from a local retailer for one third that price.

Sometimes Rare “Means” Rare or The White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan

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With all The White Stripes catalogue being released through Third Man Records you would have thought that Get Behind Me Satan would have been in the mix… but noooooooo, sometimes rare stays rare. This explains a good amount about why Jack White went through great lengths to put out a cool vinyl product for Record Store Day. It also explains the hefty price tag if you were lucky enough to get your hands on it. Near $50.00 is expensive even for 180 gram coloured vinyl.

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Thing is, the alternative is way more expensive due to the exclusive nature of its original pressings.

Only 600 were made and split for distribution between V2 and XL recordings in North America and Europe. These vinyl editions were given to music journalists for review. The original North American V2 record sells for over $630.00 on discogs and I found a copy on e-bay that someone had priced at over $1200.00.

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The European XL edition is selling on discogs for over $426.00 and e-bay for more $970.00.

Then a German company tried to make a convincing bootleg edition to pass off as the those 600 originals by printing 600 numbered fakes in red coloured vinyl and another 600 in white. Funny thing is, even the counterfeit vinyl sells for over $200.00 a piece.

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So now you have your Record Store Day copy Get Behind Me Satan and already the least expensive asking price is just under $100.00.

BUT…..

You couldn’t get out for RSD 2015 and you really want a copy, well…

WAIT!!!!!!

Third Man Records is putting out a regular black vinyl edition later this year. You don’t need to mortgage your house or sell your car to own this record, you just need a little patience. It won’t be ‘rare’ much longer.