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Goin' Your Way (2CD Set)
Goin' Your Way (2CD Set)
Price: $19.47
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A generous document of an extraordinary collaboration, February 4, 2016
Recorded on the last stop of Finn and Kelly’s 2013 tour of Australia, this double-disc live set was initially released that same year, but only down under; Omnivore now favors stateside fans with this reissue. Finn and Kelly were joined on tour by a full band as they picked their way through both solo material and songs from their previous bands. The latter includes titles drawn from the catalogs of Split Enz, Crowded House and the Messengers. There’s an impressive connection between Finn and Kelly as both songwriters and singers, their songs flowing together seamlessly and their voices enthusiastically shading one another’s.

Perhaps it’s just a mark of their talent and preparation, but this summer fling sounds more like a long-running artistic love story. Their mutual affinity is evident in the way they weave into each other’s songs, highlighted by a Finn-led audience reprise of Kelly’s “One for the Ages.” The performances are thoughtful and often low-key, though Finn’s “She Will Have Her Way” and “Won’t Give In” are given heavier beats and moving electric guitar crescendos. The band, which includes Finn’s son and Kelly’s nephew, provides finely calibrated support throughout. Those who saw the tour must have known it was something rare and special, and this generous set lets the rest of us in on the occasion. [©2016 Hyperbolium]


Follow Me Down
Follow Me Down
Price: $8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars +1/2 Let the good times roll - funky country, blues, soul and ragtime, February 4, 2016
This review is from: Follow Me Down (MP3 Music)
Tennessee-to-Texas transplant Lew Card is determined for you to have a good time. The spirited tone of his third album contrasts with the acoustic style of last year’s Low Country Hi-Fi, substituting keyboards and brass (the latter from the superb Tijuana TrainWreck Horns) for fiddle and dobro. The opening “Walkin’ Shoes Blues” brings to mind the daydream of Mungo Jerry’s “In the Summertime,” with a tempo that beckons the listener to strut down the street. Josh Vernier’s backbeat will have you bopping your head to “Baby Won’t Ya,” as Card beseeches a prospective mate, accompanied by fingerpicked acoustic guitar, electric piano and Doug Strahan’s tastefully rugged guitar solo.

The album’s themes span intimate pleasures (“Paradise” “Come On Up”) to broad social criticism (“Condo Town Rag”), stopping off at a claim for independence, “Do My Own Thing,” that brings to mind Charlie Robison. The horns add a moody touch to “30 Pieces,” with a dragging beat, dripping guitar and bird chirps that nod to the Beatles’ “Blue Jay Way.” The album’s ten originals are joined by a full throttle cover of Norman Blake’s “Southern Railroad Blues” stoked by Earl Poole Ball’s boogie-woogie piano and Strahan’s electric guitar. Fans of The Band, Commander Cody, the Neville Brothers,, Dr. John, Little Feat and Creedence Clearwater will certainly cotton to this album. 4-1/2 stars, if allowed fractional ratings. [©2016 Hyperbolium]


We Deliver: The Lost Band Of The CBGB Era (1974-1979)
We Deliver: The Lost Band Of The CBGB Era (1974-1979)
Price: $13.99
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The best 1970s CBGB band you’ve never heard of, January 29, 2016
It’s hard to imagine, given the state of musical archaeology, there are still bands to discover among the roots of the ‘70s New York punk scene. But this pop band remains surprisingly unknown, despite numerous performances at CBGB, Max’s Kansas City and the Mudd Club, and fanship from the likes of fellow travelers Blondie, the Ramones and New York Dolls. No doubt their obscurity is rooted in a lack of record releases - the band’s period catalog appears to consist of only a single track on the compilation Live at CBGB's. There appears to have been no self-released cassettes with handmade inserts, no impossibly rare indie singles (or the requisite bootleg reissue of same), and most detrimentally of all, no record label contract.

But even without records, there were recordings; some made in the studio (and funded in part by Mercury Records) and some cut live. There was, forty years after the fact, a self-released CD collection of the band’s studio work that circulated primarily among those already in the know. But now, finally, there’s an expanded collection that presents a full picture of the band’s wares, with the international distribution that eluded the group in the ‘70s. So why did it take so long for the rest of the world to hear the Miamis? Why didn’t the band latch on to the gravy train that turned a number of downtown club bands into international stars? Though they weren’t the only ones from the scene that failed to click, they may have been the most fully realized act that didn’t catch a break. Why?

The A&R shorthand was apparently “too punk for pop, too pop for punk.” But the set’s title track is clearly pop enough for pop, and fits easily alongside contemporaries like Blondie and the Paley Brothers, and power pop exponents like the Raspberries and Knack. You can hear a bit of New York bravado - ala the Dolls and Dictators - in a few tracks, but by today’s post-hardcore standards, it’s hard to remember how punk this might have sounded at the time. The songs are playful and joyous, melding the puppy love vibe of Gary Lewis, Joey Ramone’s affection for the Brill Building, the Rubinoos’ harmonies and a touch of soul on “I Want a Girlfriend.” The titles and lyrics are clever, as in the group’s salute to modern art, “Dada Mama,” which manages to rhyme “brioche” and “gauche” without breaking stride.

The group’s ten studio sides are augmented by two demos, two alternate versions and nine high quality live tracks recorded at CBGB. The latter show off a polished, energetic and engaging stage show, with nary a hint of DIY punk in their instrumental chops and harmony vocals. Their set includes a generous helping of rock ‘n’ roll, R&B and blues, adding a bit of the ‘50s to their ‘60s, and recalling J. Geils on “Detente.” They get downright goofy with their remembrance of “Elvis, Groucho and Bing,” and together with titles like “Wang It” and “We Need a Bigger Navy,” may have simply distracted A&R reps from the high quality of their music. Hopefully this retrospective can dispel that confusion as it welcomes new fans into the fold. [©2016 Hyperbolium]


The Complete Singles - The 50th Anniversary Collection (2-CD Set)
The Complete Singles - The 50th Anniversary Collection (2-CD Set)
Price: $27.99
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For the first time in 50 years, the original mono single edits and mixes, January 24, 2016
Although the Mamas & Papas’ hit songs are nearly elemental in their familiarity, the actual hit singles are still rare to the ear. That’s because the mono mixes collected here often differ from the more commonly circulated versions by virtue of edits, instrumental changes and vocal overdubs. Unless you have the original singles, you probably haven’t heard these versions since they were on the radio, and even then, you likely heard them only through the limited fidelity of AM broadcast. But heard in remastered form, your ears will be impressed with the coherence of the mono productions and vocal blends, and in their absence, the problems that have plagued the group’s stereo catalog. To make things even better, the group’s A’s and B’s are complemented by the ABC/Dunhill solo singles of Cass Elliot, John Phillips and Denny Doherty.

The set opens with the group’s incredibly rare first single, “Go Where You Wanna Go.” While the recording is well-known through its inclusion on the debut album and greatest hits anthologies (and the song is even more familiar in its later hit cover by the Fifth Dimension), the 7” single saw only very limited release, possibly even promotional only, and was quickly superseded in distribution, record company attention, public acclaim and chart success by “California Dreamin’.” The group would continue to ride high in the charts through 1967’s “Creeque Alley,” fading a bit before “Dream a Little Dream of Me” returned them to prominence and charted the way for Cass Elliot’s solo career. Elliot, Doherty and Phillips all recorded solo material for ABC/Dunhill, and their singles fill out disc two.

Nearly all of these tracks appeared on original albums, though as noted earlier, often in different mixes or edits than the singles. A few, “Glad to Be Unhappy,” “All For Me,” and “The Costume Ball” were originally released only as singles, and though Doherty’s “To Claudia on Thursday” was released as an album track, it was on Jimmy Haskell’s California 99, rather than one of Doherty’s own albums. The UK-only B-side “I Can’t Wait” is omitted from this set, but that’s a nit among the wealth of mono singles returned to print here. Ed Osborne’s liner notes feature interviews with Michelle Phillips and producer Lou Adler, and the 24-page booklet includes full-panel photos, master and release data, and chart info. This is a must-have for fans, but even casual listeners will find it an incredibly compelling collection. [©2016 Hyperbolium]


One Night In Indy
One Night In Indy
Price: $13.99
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wes Montgomery and Eddie Higgins jamming in 1959, January 20, 2016
This review is from: One Night In Indy (Audio CD)
After several decades with no newly discovered material, Wes Montgomery’s catalog has expanded rapidly in the past few years. First came Echoes of Indiana Avenue, a collection of live material from late-50s dates in Indianapolis clubs. Next was the 2-CD In the Beginning, collecting live and studio material from Montgomery’s early years. And now, for the first time since it was recorded fifty-seven years ago, a one-of-a-kind date between Montgomery and pianist Eddie Higgins. The pair are accompanied by the esteemed drummer Walter Perkins and an unidentified bassist on forty minutes of pop and jazz standards, including Duke Ellington’s “Prelude to a Kiss” and Thelonious Monk’s “Ruby, My Dear.”

Recorded at the Indianapolis Jazz Club, the performance was recorded by club members (the IJC was more a club of jazz aficionados than a nightclub) and passed along the decades until it reached noted photographer Duncan Schiedt. Schiedt contacted producer Zev Feldman with the idea of getting the tape issued, and two years later, here it is: the only known document of Montgomery and Higgins playing together. Originally released on limited-run vinyl in 2015, the tape now makes its debut on CD. The sound quality is very good, especially so for a hobbyists recording, with all instruments having good presence, a surprisingly solid bottom end and warm tone. There’s some distortion in places, but it never get in the way of enjoying the music.

The mood is relaxed, and Higgins and Montgomery warm up to each other quickly on a breezy, swinging run through “Give Me the Simple Life.” Montgomery and Higgins each play extended solos, with Higgins’ light touch providing relief for Montgomery’s more forceful lead, and there’s also some playful back-and-forth before the quartet returns to the theme. The tempo heats up for “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” cools for a romantic pass at Neil Hefti’s “Li’l Darling,” and closes with a fiery ending to Cole Porter’s “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To.” Among the material recently added to Montgomery’s catalog, this may be the most unexpected, given the lack of history between the principals, and the most surprising, given their quick chemistry. [©2016 Hyperbolium]


Complete Them 1964-1967
Complete Them 1964-1967
Price: $23.39
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The complete Them with Van Morrison, January 18, 2016
This review is from: Complete Them 1964-1967 (Audio CD)
It’s tempting to see Them primarily as a launching pad for Van Morrison, and though anyone who saw them live or heard these early singles would quickly zero in on Morrison, the band’s tight, tough sound was as essential to framing Morrison’s vocals as Morrison’s vocals were to defining Them. Though not a huge commercial success in the U.S., cracking the Top 40 only twice with “Here Comes the Night” and “Mystic Eyes,” the band still had a lasting impact on American music. In addition to their iconic cover of “Baby Please Don’t Go” (a single that failed to crack the stateside Top 100 but remains as familiar as if it had), Morrison’s original “Gloria” proved to be one of the foundational pillars of garage and punk rock.

Sony’s three-CD set gathers together all of the material recorded for their first two albums, Angry Young Them and Them Again, non-LP singles and EPs, and adds a large helping of demo tracks, live recordings and alternate takes. In the process the set provides a huge helping of crisply remastered mono originals and introduces a few new stereo sides on disc three. Some will be disappointed that true stereo mixes weren’t used everywhere they were available, but mono is what just about everyone heard in the mid-60s, and the punch of these mixes makes the band sound all the more visceral. Neither Morrison nor the band ever seem to lose steam, even when the tempo slows they remain ferocious, and their mix of original and cover material is seamless.

The three discs come packed in a four-panel digipack with a 16-page booklet that includes newly written notes from Morrison. The return to the original mono master tapes undoes some of the changes brought by 1997’s The Story of Them; the earlier collection is worth hanging onto for its true stereo mixes, but it’s no substitute for the original mono sides presented here. Add in the demos, alternate and live tracks featured on this set’s third disc (including “Mighty Like a Rose,” which was omitted from the 1997 set), and this compilation becomes an essential addition to any Van Morrison fan’s collection. [©2016 Hyperbolium]


Reflections: The Greatest Songs Of Rod McKuen
Reflections: The Greatest Songs Of Rod McKuen
Price: $11.99
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars +1/2 - Disparaged by critics, loved by the people, January 15, 2016
The gap between Rod McKuen’s popular success and his critical station may be larger than any musical artist or poet in history. McKuen sold more than 100 million records and 60 million poetry books, wrote hit songs for numerous A-list artists, brought Jacques Brel to an American audience, scored films, won two Grammys and a Pulitzer, yet critics regularly derided his work as “schmaltz,” “treacle” and “kitsch.” He read his poetry side-by-side with the San Francisco Beats, sang at the famed Purple Onion, appeared in concert and on television, and collaborated with Henry Mancini, but had his work labeled “superficial” and “irrelevant,” and his poems called “facile” in obituaries that followed his January 2015 passing.

Merle Haggard may be known as the “poet of the common man,” but Rod McKuen has probably been quoted more often in love letters and wedding vows. His plainspoken words of isolation and spirituality resonated with an audience that might not otherwise have ever read a poem, and his songs captured the attention of artists ranging from Frank Sinatra to Waylon Jennings. McKuen rasped his way through both vocal and spoken word performances of his own, releasing dozens of solo albums, collaborations with Anita Kerr and the San Sebastian Strings, and more than a dozen film soundtracks, including the Oscar-nominated A Boy Named Charlie Brown.

Though McKuen’s personal accomplishments on the singles chart were meagre (including only the 1959 Bob McFadden and Dor novelty “The Mummy” and 1962’s “Oliver Twist”), his songs were hits for Oliver (“Jean”), Terry Jacks (“Seasons in the Sun,” an English translation of Jacques Brel’s “Le Moribond”), Damita Jo (“If You Go Away,” a translation of Brel’s “Ne Me Quitte Pas”), Perry Como (“I Think of You,” co-written with Frances Lai), Frank Sinatra (“Love’s Been Good for Me”), Perry Como (“I Think of You”), the Kingston Trio (“Ally Ally, Oxen Free”) and others. McKuen’s own versions of these hits are included here, along with poems, such as “Listen to the Warm” and “A Cat Named Sloopy,” which were set to original music.

McKuen sang in a hushed, hoarse tone - a byproduct of oversinging rock bands in his youth - that made his words feel like the confidence of a friend. Joe Marchese’s liner notes dub McKuen “the poet laureate of loneliness,” and though this captures the essence of his songs, the effect of his records is one of connection. McKuen’s writing may have been sentimental, treacly and even schmaltzy, but it voiced feelings that struck a chord with listeners. His remembrance of his cats Sloopy and A Marvelous Cat, is almost painful in its diarist’s sincerity, but it’s remained a listener favorite since it was released in 1967. Interestingly, the song’s invocation of “midnight cowboy”, from which the film apparently drew its title, seems to hint at McKuen’s complex sexuality.

It may have been this sort of intimacy that rubbed critics the wrong way, as McKuen sewed threads of acceptance and hope, if not quite happiness, amid thoughts of melancholy, lost love, abandonment, loneliness and isolation. “Lonesome Cities,” which was recorded by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Nina Simone, speaks to McKuen’s wanderlust, a remnant of his early life drifting along the West Coast in the 1940s. McKuen sings many of the selections included here to lush orchestrations and touches of then-contemporary pop instrumentation. A few tracks, including “Rock Gently,” “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” and “A Man Alone” lean to jazz, “Listen to the Warm” is arranged as a samba, “Kaleidoscope” as a waltz, and “The World I Use to Know” is backed by folk guitar and harmonica.

With McKuen’s earlier greatest hits albums having fallen out of print, this 24-track, 74-minute disc provides a good introduction to his most popular songs (including 1971’s anti-war “Soldiers Who Want to Be Heroes,” which returned to the original lyrics after a 1965 parody), and provides a good helping of the lyrics and poetry whose popularity confounded critics. Having recorded hundreds of albums, fans are left to explore his original and live albums, spoken word and classical recordings, soundtracks, collaborations and collections of his songs recorded by others. Perhaps Andy Warhol’s appraisal of painter Walter (and in reality, Margaret) Keane is the best summation of Rod McKuen: “I think what Keane has done is just terrific. It has to be good. If it were bad, so many people wouldn't like it.” 4-1/2 stars, if allowed fractional ratings. [©2016 Hyperbolium]


A Place in America
A Place in America
Price: $5.94

4.0 out of 5 stars Superb EP of pop-inflected Americana, January 11, 2016
This review is from: A Place in America (MP3 Music)
This Long Island band just gets better with each release. The early demos of their debut, One More Time, were accomplished and perfectly unpolished, and though the songwriting, playing and production has matured over the course of five years, songwriter Pete Mancini hasn't lost the emotional wear that makes his singing so appealing. Their last full-length, Destination Blues, explored the realizations and disappointments that set in with age, but this new EP gets up from the couch to seek action. Mancini doesn't leave his new found knowledge behind, but uses it to prompt forward motion rather than wallow in place.

The addition of keyboards gives several songs new timbres, and Eric “Roscoe” Ambel's mix puts everything in balance. The band balances country, rock and pop, with "Black & White Dreams" suggesting both Jackson Browne and Matthew Sweet, and the whistling organ of "Twisting in the Wind" adding a soulful touch to the electric guitars. The album's title track is a centerpiece that builds from snapshots of a tattered American dream to a refrain whose yearning wish is spurred by ever more insistent guitars. The arc of Butchers Blind's catalog is the sound of a band finding themselves, and this EP is their best self yet. [©2016 Hyperbolium]


The Very Best Of Paul Davis
The Very Best Of Paul Davis
Price: $11.19
25 used & new from $9.97

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive collection of soft-rock singer’s hits, December 27, 2015
Mississippian Paul Davis is best remembered for his breakthrough 1977 hit “I Go Crazy,” but the light-soul soft-rock singer-songwriter broke into the industry seven years earlier, and continued to chart regularly until 1982. Varese’s seventeen-track collection reaches back to his first single, “Revolution in My Soul” b/w “Constantly” (issued as The Reivers), and rolls all the way through a pair of chart-topping duets in the mid-80s with Marie Osmond (“You’re Still New to Me”) and Tanya Tucker (the terrific “I Won’t Take Less Than Your Love”). Along the way the disc collects all of Davis’ charting singles except the minor chart entries “Can't You Find Another Way (Of Doing It),” “Keep Our Love Alive” and “Cry a Little.”

The two earliest sides, issued on the Los Angeles-based White Whale label, are great period pop, with the Muscle Shoals-produced A-side evincing gospel soul and the B-side tuneful bubblegum. The single gained enough notice to get Davis signed with the Bang label, where his first release was a sweet soul cover of the Jarmels’ “A Little Bit of Soap.” The single’s success led to an album, A Little Bit of Paul Davis, and an opportunity for Davis to spread his songwriting wings with “I Just Wanna Keep it Together.” You can hear a touch of labelmate Neil Diamond in the single’s near-spoken passages, though the production is more in line with the pop hits of Tony Orlando and UK acts Edison Lighthouse and the Flying Machine.

Davis continued to write imaginative hits for himself throughout the ‘70s, often producing or co-producing his own records. He added country rock flavor to “Boogie Woogie Man,” folk country to “Ride ‘Em Cowboy,” and turning more towards the pop mainstream with electronic keyboards on 1976’s “Thinking of You” and double-tracked vocals on the name-checking “Superstar.” The updated sound set the stage for Davis’ breakthrough with the following year’s “I Go Crazy,” a single that stayed on the Hot 100 for a then record-setting forty weeks. A follow-up duet (with Susan Collins) covering the Beach Boys’ “Darlin’” charted outside the Top 40, but the smooth “Sweet Life” brought him back to the Top 20 and crossed to the country chart.

Davis moved to Arista and notched a trio of hits in the early ‘80s, including his biggest chart success, “‘65 Love Affair.” His final hit for Arista, a cover of the Friends of Distinction’s “Love or Let Me Be Lonely” is included here in its original single version, featuring a third verse that was not on the album track. Davis largely retired from recording after 1982, guesting on a pair of country chart-topping duets in 1986 and 1988, and focusing on background singing and songwriting, including penning “Meet Me in Montana” for Dan Seals. This disc provides a good introduction to Davis’ music, from earlier, earthier sides through the slicker pop-soul sound of his solo hits, to the country duets with which he bowed out. [©2015 Hyperbolium]
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The Winding Stream - The Carters, The Cashes And The Course Of Country Music
The Winding Stream - The Carters, The Cashes And The Course Of Country Music
Price: $13.59
40 used & new from $7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, but surprisingly unannotated collection of Carter Family songs, December 24, 2015
As the soundtrack to Beth Harrington’s like-titled documentary, these songs sing the story of the Carter Family’s seminal invention and their on-going influence. But as a standalone volume, this virtually unannotated set provides little in the way of context or connections. The sources, circumstances and even years of these recordings are not provided, and the three-page liner notes history of the Carter Family does little to explain where these songs came from, what they meant to the Carters, or how these particular performances (including five from the Original Carter Family, one from Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters, and one from Maybelle and Sara Carter) thread into the story.

The selections are excellent, including performances by John Prine, Johnny Cash, George Jones, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Rosanne Cash and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. And the programming is surprisingly smooth, given the disparate qualities of the recordings; but one can’t help but wish there was some background, particularly on the song origins and their path into the Carter Family catalog. The little publishing information that’s provided on the booklet’s back is so microscopic as to be nearly unreadable, and though tracks 1, 5, 14 and 16 trace to The Unbroken Circle, the origin of others remain obscure. The music may speak for itself, but as the mate to a rich documentary and book, the lack of provenance is disappointing. [©2015 Hyperbolium]


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