Oh Come On Now! Or David Bowie – Five Years 1969 – 1973

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Just a couple days since I wrote a piece on David Bowie’s Pin Ups and bang! The Big Announcement!

Bowie is releasing a giant box set entitled Five Years 1969 – 1973. The first in a series of new sets, this one will be a 10 albums featuring his first 6 studio records, 2 live albums, plus The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars 2003 Ken Scott Mix. In addition there will be a companion book featuring memorabilia, rare photos, hand written lyrics, press reviews and essays from the original album producers. It will all be available on CD and 180 gram audiophile vinyl.

Just to spell it out, you get:

David Bowie (aka Space Oddity), The Man Who Sold The World, Hunky Dory, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars, Aladdin Sane, Pin Ups, Live Santa Monica ’72, and Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture Soundtrack.

It will be released on September 28.

Not that I know anything about these things, but if he follows Springsteen’s example, but you can expect the newly remastered Space Oddity, The Man Who Sold The World, Hunky Dory and Pin Ups to get individual releases on Black Friday/Record Store Day. Either way, start saving now folks!

When do we get there Dad? Or Gordon Lightfoot – Sundown

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Rotating between having her head out the window or on my lap in intervals of less than ten seconds, Mugs would bounce around the inside of the Jeep like a canine pinball. The A.M. radio would play those adult contemporary hits which blurred the line between folk – rock – country and polite crooning intended to placate the masses who found The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour funny. Between being stepped on, loved and driven to distraction by the sounds of Hot Butter’s “Pop Corn” that my friends was seven year old me in my dad’s AMC Jeep in the summer of ’74.

It wasn’t all bad, slipped in between the greatest hits of Neil Sedaka and Anne Murray came Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundow,” a subversive little number promising murder “if I find you been creeping ‘round my backstairs.” I had no idea what that meant, but it sure sounded bad. That song and the follow up single “Carefree Highway” helped propel Sundown into #1 in both Canada and the U.S. in June of 1974.

Of course, vinyl was still king back then and plenty of records were issued in the year of its original release, but… what since?

Surprisingly, for a hit record, Sundown hasn’t seen much in reissues and remasters with two notable exceptions. In 1979, Mobile Fidelity gave Sundown the all-star half-speed recording treatment. You can find used copies for around $20. (Saw a still packaged one selling for over $200.00 on E-Bay, but let’s not get insane just yet). Then just last year a remastered 180 gram edition showed up for Record Store Day and you can still find them easily for about $40. Sound on it is outstanding.

If you’re crate digging you can still find decent copies of the original kickin’ about for under $5.

So, the vinyl spins I think of my Dad, my dog, and drives to the cottage along a carefree highway. Wish I knew where the hell that is! “When do we get there?”

The Hard Rock Blue Print or Aerosmith – Toys In The Attic

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Say what you want about Aerosmith, and I know that opinions vary wildly, but they were at one time the most important rock ‘n’ roll band in the U.S. of A. Too heavy to be power-pop, too light to be metal they were the popular bridge between the so-cal sounds of Fleetwood Mac and the raw power of Black Sabbath. The path that Aerosmith helped to create in the ‘70’s is what every glam-hair-metal band rode in on the 80’s. Furthermore, Toys In The Attic was the blueprint used by many of these bands trying to find mainstream success. A couple all out naughty rock tunes (“Walk This Way” & “Sweet Emotion”), a ballad (“You See Me Crying”) some quirky humour (“Big Ten Inch Record”), deep cuts to give a bit of depth (“Uncle Salty” & “No More No More”) and you have the recipe used by everyone from Faster Pussycat to Bon Jovi.

Of course Toys In The Attic sold close to 8 million records, so finding a copy isn’t a problem. The real issue is finding what is worth owning from a fidelity point of view. While original copies are plentiful, finding a great copy while crate digging can be hit and miss. Looking at discogs, you can see a virtual ton for under $5.00, but warning, buyer beware. This was about the time record companies began to release material on crappy vinyl. Standard was 120 gram, and some companies began to cut back to as low as the wobbly 80 gram. Inspect it first, or only buy from a reputable vendor. As for the reissue and re-mastered market, you got a couple really good options.

I don’t usually recommend CD’s, but in 1993, Columbia released a limited and re-mastered edition of Toys In The Attic on a super bit mapping 24k gold disc as part of their legacy collection. After buying it back in the 90’s, I sold my original CD copy and retired my old worn out vinyl edition. The sound from the gold CD blew them away. Still it can get a bit pricey finding one in great shape. Resellers have them listed anywhere from $30 to upwards of a $100.

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Still, being a bit of a vinyl enthusiast I picked up a new 180 gram limited edition (5000) copy on Record Store Day 2013. This is also a newly re-mastered edition. With the two playing back to back I noted a couple of small differences. The vinyl seemed to have a much warmer sound on the bass and drums while the CD put a bit more emphasis on the vocals and guitars.

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Honestly, I’m on the fence this time. I’ll take the vinyl on a great system with headphones, but the CD sounds awesome on everything that has a decent set of speakers.

Anyway, the RSD vinyl is still widely available for under $30 for anyone who is thinking of taking that route. I have no regrets with mine.

SAY WHAT NOW! VINYL TUESDAY! Oh damn, how the hell do I pay for that?

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I don’t know if any of you caught the music news this week but the big announcement wasn’t a release by “fill in your favourite band” but rather that indie record stores are about to start “Vinyl Tuesday.”

In conjunction with and modeled on the example of Record Store Day, Vinyl Tuesday is set to bring you new and limited vinyl each week. As stated by the American Association of Independent Music in their press release, “there will be several types of vinyl releases.”

1) Catalog releases which can mean releases made specifically for Vinyl Tuesday or a regular release

2) Commercial and promotional vinyl releases

3) Rare cases where vinyl hits the streets before any other medium

4) Vinyl made specifically for the Record Store Day / indie shoppers

5) Vinyl that is being released after other formats

Basically, all the same stores that have been participating on RSD are going to be joining the Vinyl Tuesday craze. The only thing not mentioned in the press release (or anywhere else) is when vinyl Tuesday is set to start.

Now… where the hell do I get the cash to pay for this?

With My Friend Beside Me… or The Black Keys – Brothers

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Brothers travelled the roads between Peterborough and Toronto with me as if this album was a best friend. Entertaining me, making me smile occasionally, and telling me outrageous stories as the hours passed. Back and forth I went and so did The Black Keys. After one particularly nasty life experience, the first thing that had me laugh in over two months was the video for “Howlin’ For You.” I mean, how cool is (Sir) Todd Bridges when he does that Samuel L. Jackson badass thing.

Released in May of 2010, Brothers quickly became The Black Keys best selling record, and by that November I knew I wanted to see it spin on my turntable.

Fortunately, the band provided several vinyl options for their fans. The first two are separate but almost identical releases. For North America, a regular 2 disc vinyl copy was put out with a CD and poster in a black gatefold cover. In Europe, it was a 180 gram audiophile 2 disc vinyl set with the CD, poster and same cover. However the big limited release came on Black Friday/Record Store Day when a limited edition became available.

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3000 copies all machine stamped and numbered in an alternate white gatefold cover hit the independent record stores. Brothers contained two 180 gram vinyl discs that played at 45 rpm, an additional 10 inch record with unreleased live material, the CD and a variant of the same poster contained in the other vinyl releases.

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The significance of the 45 RPM should not be understated in this case; vinyl 12” records play at higher speed, have wider grooves and allow the vinyl to carry a bit more sound. Audiophiles claim it gives a greater frequency response, while the rest of us hear an enlarged bass and more dynamic guitar.

When I play my vinyl against the CD, the wax sounds so much warmer and… well, whole. If you ever get the chance you should play a CD or download up against the vinyl and give it a test, I believe you will hear a difference.

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Copies of original vinyl editions of Brothers can still be purchased at all your favourite record retailers. As for the limited edition, you would have to go to the re-seller market on that computer thing and likely pay about $100 plus shipping. But… really, can you put a price on friendship?

Black Gold For The Masses or Lou Reed – Transformer

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Commercial success and critical acclaim together or apart are not really the true measure of an artist’s work. History and public acceptance can ‘transform’ the perspective and create a re-evaluation, or revisionist history towards how the art is viewed. No other work quite typifies this more than Lou Reed and his second solo effort Transformer.

With the Velvet Underground, Reed became a beacon to the outsider experience and while album sales were low, critics and musicians had found a kind of anti-hero on whom to heap praise. Once the Velvets broke up, Reed continued his stories and of counter-culture misfits but to a more commercialized effect on Transformer. Produced by David Bowie and his guitarist Mick Ronson, Transformer would be heavily influenced by Bowie’s ‘glam’ movement and blur the same androgynous lines. However, Reed would use his own brand of wry observation and deadpan delivery to create characters that lived with and amongst his crowd as opposed to embodying the characters space as Bowie did with Ziggy and Aladdin.

Oddly, it was “Walk On The Wild Side” a song that spoke of transsexuality, oral sex and drug use that propelled the album to heights neither seen by the Velvet Underground or Reed himself in previous efforts. It wouldn’t be until the 1990’s that “Perfect Day” would become an underground hit.

On its release in 1972, Transformer was given mixed reviews by critics who claimed it was overly “art-y” and overly sexual. History of course has shed new light and Transformer has made just about every magazines ‘Best All-Time’ list.

Despite, or maybe due to its recognition, finding vinyl editions of Transformer is pretty easy, but figuring out what works best for you might get a little more difficult. You can find used copies pretty much anywhere. I’m sure a lot of people bought Transformer to get similar material to “Walk On The Wild Side” only to find that it wasn’t like that. As for new, eight official vinyl editions have come out since 2004 with four in just the last three years. On RSD 2012 a straight re-issue was put out in record stores, and is still the most common new copy you will find. In 2013 – 2014 unofficial green and blue versions were released in the UK. Finally, a few weeks ago Newbury Comics put out a Limited Edition half black and half gold version. There were 1200 copies printed and each was gold stamp numbered.

Due to the sheer amount of what is available, you can get most copies of Transformer for less than $30.00 (including the unofficial UK copies). Only the Newbury edition is commanding high prices on the resale market, and that’s pretty damn silly, because you can still get a copy from Newbury for less than $30.00. The split colour looks awesome and indeed sounds great.

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You can get it here. Anyway, with his recent induction into the “Rock Hall” you can expect some renewed interest and copies of Transformer may begin to disappear. You might want to give that some thought if you’ve been sitting on the fence.

 

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.