Sunday, January 31, 2010

On my turntable: Glassjaw - Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Silence

GlassJAw's Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Silence (2000) has been touted as one of the best hardcore albums of all time, which is probably why it received its first vinyl treatment in '09, almost a full decade after its initial digital release. I should say that I am not much of a hardcore fan, but this morning when I was struggling through a wickedly painful Crohn's episode I felt like I was able to scream vicariously through this record.

is reportedly based upon singer Daryl Palumbo's own experiences from living with Crohn's disease. Palumbo is also the lead singer for Head Automatica, whose LP Popaganda (2006) got a good amount of turntable play last year (at least in our living room).

Friday, January 29, 2010

On my turntable: The Beatles - Yesterday and Today (mono)

This is a far-from-perfect copy of Yesterday...and Today (1966) that I picked up recently for a few bucks. Visually the record is pretty scuffed, but sonically the vintage mono goodness is sweetly intact. I've never been a big fan of the "stereo" version of this LP, since several of the tracks are not true stereo. In mono, obviously, not an issue.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

On my turntable: Jackson 5ive - Get It Together (2010 reissue)

Motown started off 2010 by re-issuing a mess of remastered 70's Jackson LPs (both J5 and Michael solo) on 180g vinyl. When I saw them yesterday at the record store they looked so shiny and purty (as an added incentive each LP includes a code for a free album download). I am a little disappointed that the cover for Get it Together (1973) does not feature the original die-cut sleeve, but that is truly my only complaint about this kickass release. I have honestly never heard this music with more clarity -- the house was filled with the funk last night.

At the time of its original release, Get it Together signaled a more mature direction for the J5. While they were still a few years away from having the creative control that they desired (especially in terms of song-writing), the songs on this LP reflect what was happening musically at the time with artists such as Billy Preston, Labelle, and Marvin Gaye, just before funk gave way to disco. This is true down & dirty Soul Train music, seasoned with brass, electronic keys, percussion and fat basslines, with the voices of all the brothers featured up front on a number of the tracks (notably "Hum Along and Dance" & "Mama I Got A Brand New Thing"). The album concludes with the classic "Dancing Machine".(image from

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Truth Matters

I woke up feeling angry this morning. It is not a good feeling -- one way I manage it is by listening to records (a big "duh" from regular readers).

Getting to the point: I am tired and sick and tired about the hatred and lies directed at the LGBT community. Literally. I know that I am responsible for my own health, and the healthier route would probably be to ignore the injustice and go on with my big gay life. I have days where I'm able to do this, but not many of them.

So I manage the anger (or fuel it, I'm not quite sure) by seeking evidence that the truth is out there for people who are willing to see it. This morning (hat tip to I found this video, which served up a heaping bowl of truth cereal for my breakfast:

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some records to listen to.

Monday, January 25, 2010

What are Human Rights?

This exceptional video was used for a class that I am taking. I'm planning to use it for classes I teach as well:

Saturday, January 23, 2010

On my turntable: Gram Parsons w/Emmylou Harris - Grievous Angel

There are a few key reasons why I purchased this album:
  • I have always appreciated Parsons' contributions to the Byrds during his brief stint in the band.
  • I love Emmylou Harris' harmonies.
  • I have seen this album touted as a masterpiece on numerous "greatest LPs of all time" lists.
  • I had a coupon, and the price was right.
The first time I played Grievous Angel (1974) I wondered what the heck all the fuss was about. It just sounded like a country/bluegrass record. Yawn, I thought.

Now I'm on my 3rd or 4th listen, and I appreciate it more. The most striking track for me is "Love Hurts" (far more dramatic here than the more familiar version by Nazareth) with its gorgeous harmony between Parsons and Harris. Hearing this album confirms what I'd already believed, which is that Gram Parsons and Mike Nesmith are probably the two musicians most responsible for inventing "alt country", or at very least, creating the fusion of country and bluegrass with popular music, which paved the way for bands like The Eagles in the 70's. After doing some research on Parsons I admit this record is even more interesting - Parsons sadly died in 1973 from a mix of morphine & alcohol; Grievous Angel was released the following year.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Top 40 LPs of the 90's

To help make this task more manageable I did not include albums that were released on CD only. This may be one explanation for the lack of music from the latter half of the decade. Another explanation is that I spent a lot of the late 90's digging out classics from the 60's & 70's that I'd missed out on, albums like Bowie's Hunky Dory, Notorious Byrd Brothers, Love's Forever Changes.

These lists are never perfect; If I leave it alone for 20 minutes I'll see something that I want to change. So here it is in its imperfection, my Top 40 fave LPs of the 90s. (note: Titles in bold are albums that I currently own on CD only, but I know the vinyl exists and is out there somewhere.)
40. The First of Too Many (1992) - Senseless Things
39. Archaeology (1996) The Rutles
38. Help Yourself (1991) - Julian Lennon
37. Spilt Milk (1993) - Jellyfish
36. De La Soul is Dead (1991) - De La Soul
35. Automatic for the People (1992) R.E.M.
34. Graffiti Bridge (1990) - Prince
33. Ben Folds Five (1995)
32. Elemental (1993) - Tears for Fears
31. Come On Feel the Lemonheads (1993) - Lemonheads
30. Innuendo (1991) - Queen
29. OK Computer (1998) - Radiohead
28. Up (1998) - R.E.M.
27. Real (1993) - Belinda Carlisle
26. Older (1996) - George Michael
25. Plano (1998) - The Aluminum Group
24. Are You Gonna Go My Way? (1993) - Lenny Kravitz
23. tie: Ill Communication (1994), Check Your Head (1992) - Beastie Boys
22. Of the Heart, of the Soul & of the Cross (1991) - PM Dawn
21. I Wish My Brother George Was Here (1991) - Del tha Funkee Homosapien
20. Cold (1996) - froSTed
19. Into The Sun (1998) - Sean Lennon
18. Talk (1994) - Yes
17. Tiny Music from the Vatican Gift Shop (1996) - Stone Temple Pilots
16. Mondo Bizarro (1993) - Ramones
15. Nevermind (1991) - Nirvana
14. Soul Martini (1992) - Cavedogs
13. Wedding Album (1993)- Duran Duran
12. Buhloone Mindstate (1993) De La Soul
11. Notorious (1991) - Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
10. It's A Shame About Ray (1993) - Lemonheads
9. The Gold Experience (1995) - Prince
8. The Low End Theory (1991) - A Tribe Called Quest
7. Out of Time (1991) - R.E.M.
6. Pandemonium (1990) - The Time
5. Blonder & Blonder (1995) - The Muffs
4. Woodface (1991) - Crowded House
3. Odelay (1996) - Beck
2. Eroica (1990) - Wendy & Lisa
1. Phaseshifter (1993) - Redd Kross

Friday, January 15, 2010

On my turntable: The Parade 12" singles

It's not easy for me to pinpoint the precise moment when Prince's jumbled career jumped the shark, since there are probably a good half dozen moments from which to choose. I tend to view the breakup of The Revolution as the first jump. I know many fans would disagree with me, citing the masterwork Sign of the Times (1987) in their defense. I would remind such fans that SOTT evolved out of Dream Factory, which was to be The Revolution's brilliant follow-up to Parade (1986).

Without his band, especially Wendy and Lisa, a crucial creative element has been lost from Prince's work. That's not to say that Prince hasn't released incredible work since then, but it's hard to dispute that there has been a lot of hit & miss along the way.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

On my turntable: Ringo Starr - Y Not?

Ringo Starr, who will be 70 years old this year, has managed to continue making great records over the past twenty years. The wisdom that comes from sobriety likely plays a part in this longevity, as do talent and having a lot of musician friends and an awesomely supportive spouse. Ringo knows what he's doing at this point, and for the first time has taken on the role of producer for one of his own albums.

Personally, I was feeling that the Ringo/Mark Hudson machine was nearing the end of its run anyway, so the absence of Hudson on this album is a nice change (no offense to the awesome talents of MH). On Y Not, Starr works with some long-time associates, including Beatle Paul, Joe Walsh, Richard Marx, and Van Dyke Parks. The result is as satisfying and catchy as anything Ringo has ever done. Also satisfying is that this is Ringo's first vinyl release since 1992's Time Takes Time.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Rev. Jesse Jackson on "A Different World"

A pretty powerful speech from the "Citizen Wayne" episode,
which first aired on 4/27/89.

"It's About Time"

"It's about time we get together
To be out front and love one another
Brothers sisters everybody
We better start to help each other now
We need it now

When we're sharin' our love brother
That's when we know we can shape another world"

("It's About Time" ~ D. Wilson, B. Burchman, A. Jardine)

Monday, January 11, 2010

On my turntable: Prince - Lotusflow3r/Mplsound

In today's mail: Prince's first proper/official vinyl release in 9 years (the last being the extremely limited The Rainbow Children (2001)). I'm a little short on words right now, so I thought I'd just post some pics. Please to enjoy...

On my turntable: Simon & Garfunkel - Bookends

About a month ago out of curiosity I bought a nice copy of this record for $.50. I've always had an appreciation for S&G, but my collection has only consisted of Parsley Sage Rosemary & Thyme (1967). Turns out that Bookends (1968) is a folk-art masterpiece. On the first listen I was stricken by how stellar it was.

As luck would have it, last week I came across this recent Sundazed 180g reissue of said masterpiece for a cozy $7. Right now, rather than watching the morning news, I'm relaxing with Bookends and a cup of java and feeling pretty groovy about it.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

On my turntable: Tommy James & The Shondells - Cellophane Symphony

Cellophane Symphony (1969) is an oddly eclectic and often stunning record. The highlights are brilliant pieces of late 60's pop psychedelia: "Evergreen", "Changes", and the album's Top 10 hit, "Sweet Cherry Wine". The album has its offbeat moments as well, especially the 9+ minute instrumental track that opens the album. The song, dominated by the moog synthesizer, may have seemed far-out & ahead of its time in 1969, but in 2010 you may find it grating if your mind is free & clear of mood-altering psychedelics.

If you are a purchaser of CDs, I strongly recommend the two-fer disc that pairs Symphony with Crimson and Clover (1968). Played back-to-back the two albums are a powerhouse, almost in a White Album sort of way.

On my turntable: The Beach Boys - Surf's Up

This week I finally bought the Capitol Vaults 180g reissue of Surf's Up (1971). As with Capitol's other vault releases, this is a flawless restoration of the original, down to the lyric insert that was included in the '71 Reprise pressing.

Over the years I've been critical of Surf's Up, not because it doesn't include brilliant work (because it most certainly does, especially from Carl and Bruce), but because it doesn't have the same feeling of band unity as its predecessor, Sunflower (1970). Having said this, I don't think any Beach Boys album is as unified as Sunflower, so this is probably an unfair criticism. Track for track ("A Day in the Life of a Tree" excluded), Surf's Up is actually a pretty amazing record.

You can read more in my previous post on this album from 5.7.06.

New Julian Lennon

Julian Lennon has released a new EP featuring the song "Lucy", written for his childhood schoolmate (the girl who served as the inspiration behind "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds") who recently died of the autoimmune disease Lupus. You can purchase the track directly from Julian's new company, theRevolution. A portion of each sale helps to fund Lupus research.
Julian is expected to release a new full-length album titled Everything Changes later this year.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

"It's a different world..."

Some of my favorite art mediums are those that manipulate existing forms (i.e. audio, video, photos, print, etc). Before I had access to professional video equipment in college (part of my undergraduate major was Video Production), I would rent a VCR from a local video shop and create my own video collages. Over the past month I've been having a blast learning to do the same thing using iMovie on my MacBook. Unfortunately I think this new hobby will result in having to purchase an external hard drive, since these movies can take up an insane amount of space.

The video I've been working on this week is a mash-up of some of my favorite bits from A Different World, a show which ran on NBC from 1987-1993. The video quality varies quite a bit, but one of the things that I like about this type of "art" is that quality can be secondary to content. "Lo-fi" can actually be an aesthetic of the work itself. Or maybe that's just an excuse people use when the quality is sub-par. :)

I am going to guess that posting this video violates a bunch of copyright laws, so I may need to take it down at some point. Regardless, I want to emphasize that I am not profiting from this in any way, as it is posted purely for entertainment purposes, and out of my great love for ADW, the greatest TV sitcom of all time.

On my turntable: Pat Benatar - Seven the Hard Way

I'll admit it - I was a fairweather Benatar fan. I had a couple of her 45s, and I remember how "Heartbreaker" knocked my socks off the first time I heard it. The only Benatar LP I bought at the time of its release was Precious Time (1981), but my brother had her first 2 albums so I got to hear those a lot. Since the 80's I've developed a greater appreciation for her work, and through rediscovering vinyl I've picked up more of her albums (they are easy to find in good shape for very little cash). Pat did a great Minneapolis club show in the late 90's that I was able to see (which you can read about here if you like).

Seven the Hard Way
(1985), in my opinion, sounds hastily assembled around a couple of singles. Granted, those singles are badass: "Invincible", produced by power-pop king Mike Chapman (The Knack, Blondie, The Sweet), "Sex as a Weapon", and "La Bel Age" (a great tune that didn't quite make the top 40). After 7 albums in 7 years (hence the title of the album) Benatar was in need of a break. Although she still had a few minor hits left in her, "Invincible" would be the last to crack the top 10.

Thanks to Chuck for unintentionally recommending this album earlier today!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

On my turntable: John & Yoko - Double Fantasy ('89 Capitol pressing)

Leo and I made a 20 minute stop at Half Price Books tonight, where I nabbed this little beauty, an album I've been hoping to find for years. Double Fantasy (1980) was only the 2nd LP to be released on David Geffen's label (Donna Summer's The Wanderer was the 1st). By the late 80's the Lenono catalog was no longer being pressed by Geffen, so in 1989 Capitol (who owned the rest of John's catalog) licensed Double Fantasy and for a very brief period offered the album on vinyl. While Double Fantasy is one of the easiest records to find at used shops, you will rarely come across a Capitol copy. This one here cost me a bank-breaking $3.98. Life can be so f'n sweet sometimes.

Listening to this album conjures a mixed bag of emotions. Musically and thematically it's such a hopeful, positive record. I bought the original pressing of the album the week it came out in November, 1980. I remember listening to it before going to bed on the night John was shot, not knowing until the next morning what had happened. For many years after that night it was painful to hear this album, but I noticed tonight while listening to this gorgeous near-mint copy that I was feeling more hope than hurt. I guess time does heal sometimes.

Hope on!

Wall of Sound

1.1.2010, originally uploaded by jeff's fancy blog.

With the addition of one more Expedit shelf unit from IKEA, the wall is now complete.

Friday, January 01, 2010

On my turntable (New Year's booty edition): Belinda Carlisle - Real

It's been an amazing week for yours truly at local record stores. A few days ago I flipped when I snagged a super rare Zombies LP, and today I found one of those "missing link" LPs that I've been seeking for years.

Real (1993) is Belinda Carlisle's most fully realized & accomplished album. She co-wrote most of the songs herself, mostly with fellow Go-Go Charlotte Caffey. The album's opening (and best) track, "Goodbye Day", was also written with Redd Kross' Steven & Jeff McDonald (trivia: For those not in the know, Charlotte and Jeff are the coolest married power-pop couple on the planet).

Unlike the rest of Belinda's solo catalog, Real features honest instruments (not overly synthed like most of her stuff), and rocks almost as if it were a Go-Go's record (not quite, but almost). The album's cover features Carlisle dressed simply in a long-sleeve tee and faded jeans, with minimal make-up. Overall, Real is an honest depiction of Belinda as a musician.

A year after Real's release Belinda was back with her band for a brief tour in support of Return to the Valley of The Go-Go's (1994), a double CD retrospective including three new kickass tracks. The band reunited for good in 2001 with God Bless the Go-Go's, possibly the greatest comeback album of all time.

On my turntable (New Year edition) - Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson: "Relator"

My friend Ellen turned me on to this song. When I saw the 45 at the store earlier this week I bought it and held off on playing it until 2010. So now "Relator" (2009) is the first song of the decade to be played on the turntable.

Happy New Year everyone!