Quite a number of interesting vinyl reissues and deluxe editions coming down the pike …
Cher, Dancing Queen, Sept. 28
I think some gay cultural norm dictates I should show interest in this convergence of iconography, and I do, albeit more from an anthropological standpoint.
Johnny Hates Jazz, Turn Back the Clock (Deluxe Edition), Oct. 5
“Shattered Dreams” is an awesome single, and Turn Back the Clock was a decent album — something I’m glad I encountered but couldn’t consider a must-have. And yet I’m looking forward to this deluxe edition release.
Camouflage, Voices and Images (Deluxe Edition), Oct. 19
I actually like this album more than Turn Back the Clock, and the limited pressing of 1,500 copies for the CD (500 for vinyl) is nudging me to pre-order.
Sasagawa Miwa, Houjou -BEST ’03~’18-, Oct. 31
Has it really been 15 years since Sasagawa Miwa’s debut? This best album contains 10 previously released tracks, 3 new songs and a new version of “Himawari”.
Art of Noise, In No Sense? Nonsense! (Deluxe Edition), Nov. 2
This album doesn’t lend itself to singles as easily as In Visible Silence, but it’s a worthwhile, challenging listen, a period where the band pushed the limits of technology and music.
Dead Can Dance, Dionysus, Nov. 2
Dead Can Dance has always struck me as a band I should have been digging in high school, but at the time, their albums were available only as imports.
Hajime Chitose returns to her roots as a shima uta singer on this 7-track mini album.
Mikami Chisako, I AM Ready!, Nov. 28
Mikami Chisako starts anew with music reminiscent of fra-foa’s second album, if the YouTube clips on her official site are any indication. I have to admit I’ve missed her, and Chuu no Fuchi is still one of my favorite albums. It’s criminal that it’s out of print.
Living Colour, Time’s Up, Sept. 28
I’d be all over this reissue from Megaforce Records if I hadn’t already found an original pressing a number of years ago. This album doesn’t seem to have had the same impact as its predecessor, but it some ways, it expands and perhaps improves upon Vivid.
YEN TOWN BAND, Montage, Nov. 3
I’ve never encountered a vinyl reissue from YEN TOWN BAND that didn’t immediately sell out.
Utada Hikaru, Hatsukoi, Nov. 7
Any chance for a vinyl reissue of ULTRA BLUE?
Bill Frisell, Nashville, Nov. 9
Bill Frisell had always incorporated Americana, country and folk into his music, but Nashville is the strongest statement of those influences, resulting in one of his most accessible albums. Robin Holcomb shows up on two covers.
One of the first songs I learned to play on the piano was “Human” by the Human League, and I learned it out of a sense of survival.
“Human” was all over the radio in 1986, the year I graduated from eighth grade. I have no fond memories of junior high. I missed being placed in the honors class by a few test points, and the classmates with which I was placed didn’t appreciate my presence.
I was never physically harmed, but my social status was pretty obvious — I had none.
I didn’t have an aptitude for sports, and my school had no arts program. If I was going to turn things around in high school, I had to distinguish myself in some way.
So I learned how to play piano, and I learned popular music as a means to ingratiate myself.
I knew I wouldn’t have impressed anyone with classical repertoire — not that I had developed sufficient skills to tackle it — but with songs you heard on the radio? I could at least not look too square.
I wasn’t looking to become popular — I was realistic enough to know that would be dead end — but I wanted to make myself a less-appealing target. My band teacher seized on my ability and kept me busy. Before long, people didn’t mess with me because I had a talent.
I never repaid the Human League this change in status by buying their album. I loved “Human”, but other singles from Crash failed to make a dent in the US. So I moved onto other music.
I picked up a vinyl copy of Crash more than 30 years later at the Lifelong Thrift Shop.
At that point in the band’s career, the Human League had difficulty following up some big hits from earlier in the 1980s. At the urging of their label, the band teamed up with Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam, the producers who helped Janet Jackson break through with Control.
The resulting album is more Jam and Lewis than Human League, but it’s a rare instance where American funk rubbed against an English art school aesthetic. It’s actually an appealing convergence that deserves multiple spins on the playback device.
If I had listened to the album at the time of its release, I might have found it likable, but I’m not sure I would have appreciated the meeting of Sheffield and Minneapolis.
Crash is not a well-regarded album, not even by the band. “Great experience,” Phil Oakley said about working with Jam and Lewis,”but it’s not our album.”
I’m not familiar enough with the band’s earlier work to know what qualifies as a “Human League” album, so that probably allows me to have a more forgiving perception of Crash.
It’s an anomaly, for sure, but one that ought to be re-evaluated and maybe appreciated anew.
Carole King has been something of a straw woman here on Musicwhore.org. When her name was evoked, it was usually in service of describing milquetoast or overly sentimentalized music. Do a search for Onitsuka Chichiro on old versions of this site, and King probably shows up in a paragraph somewhere.
King released her landmark album, Tapestry, a year and two months before I was born. I would have encountered her music on the radio as I was growing up, probably on KSSK alongside Joni Mitchell and James Taylor.
By the time I was old enough to explore music on my own, King’s music had become fodder for TV commercial jingles. A burgeoning art fag such as myself couldn’t help but hold her in disdain.
Gilmore Girls was one of my favorite shows, but when it aired, I had to mute the opening credits. The overly earnest cover of King’s “Where You Lead” is aural treacle.
But Tapestry shows up on critics list everywhere, and it’s not hard to find old vinyl pressings of the album selling for no more than $10. Before it could be jingle fodder, it had to achieve a level of success to warrant such ubiquity.
So when I spotted a copy of Tapestry selling for $1 at Lifelong Thrift Store, I bought it.
And I like it way more than I expected to.
King’s performances are gritty. Subsequent covers and reimagining of Tapestry’s tracks all polish off those rough edges. Onituska inherited that unfortunate legacy, although her own voice brings back some of that burnish.
I imagine Tapestry was the Jagged Little Pill of its day — an album where nearly every track could have been considered a hit single. While Alanis Morrisette’s breakthrough album took a raw, emotional look at heartbreak, King’s Tapestry holds together with an exploration of camaraderie. In both cases, they’re strong performances driven by an artistic clarity.
But it’s taken me nearly most of my lifetime to appreciate Tapestry. In that sense, the album is also a cautionary tale of music commercialization. Exploit a copyright too much, and a listener with little context may not realize that catchy jingle was actually intended to be art.
Teen-aged me would be very disappointed in mid-life me.
Cameo was all over the radio and MTV in the mid-80s with “Word Up”, and while the first few plays of the hit single were novel, the remaining billion over the course of its shelf life weren’t. That overexposure, of course, made me vow never to buy its namesake album.
But what did I do at the Friends of the Library Book Sale some 30 years later? I picked it up for $1.
What would compel me to turn back on my younger self’s resolve? The answer: “Candy”.
“Candy” was the follow-up single to “Word Up”, and it too became a hit, albeit without the excessive airplay. It was an unlikely candidate for a single, possessing a strange bass line that starts simply but shifts rhythmically in unpredictable ways.
The only hook in the song is the phrase, “It’s like candy”. The rest is a mishmash of an asymmetrical monotone melody and a punctuating guitar riff. Of the eight tracks on Word Up, it’s hands down the most complex.
Over the years, the catchier “Word Up” could be heard piping into public places more often than “Candy”, and as such, “Candy” receded into distant memory … until it appeared on the pre-show playlist at a concert by the Revolution.
When it came on, the oddness of “Candy” struck me, and I appreciated it on a level far more than I could as a teenager. A month after the concert, I found myself at the book sale with a copy of Word Up in my stack of purchases.
It turns out the title track and “Candy” are the most anomalous tracks on Word Up. The remainder of the album’s seven tracks are journeyman funk tracks that would not have sounded out of place a decade earlier, save for all the analog synths.
Word Up front loads its most remarkable tracks, then pulls back and becomes a different album altogether. If I bought it at the time, I wouldn’t have understood it, let alone appreciate it.
And I certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed it the way I do now.
On paper, Pony Express Record by Shudder to Think ought to be an album I adore. It has complex rhythms, angular melodies, dissonant riffs and lots of distortion. It even arrived at time in my life when modern classical music started occupying my wheelhouse.
But for many years, I could muster at most an intellectual appreciation for the album. Something about it prevented me from internalizing it the same I would music by, say, Wayne Horvitz or Meredith Monk.
Part of the problem was the fact I never paid for it — Pony Express Record was an assignment for the student newspaper. I listened to the promo and found the album had potential. Because I didn’t discover it the way I did with Jayne Cortez or Bang on a Can, I didn’t feel invested in my opinion.
And because I was a snob where avant-garde music was concerned, I couldn’t take Shudder to Think too seriously. Just what were their bona fides anyway?
That ambivalence meant Pony Express Record would not survive a purge for cash. I don’t even know at what point it left my collection.
But it has always nagged at me. I felt I was missing something about that album, something that made it difficult to dismiss.
I’ve tried at different times after subscribing to Google Play Music to give Pony Express Record another shake, but my attention would drift, and it would end without my realizing I had it been playing.
When I spotted a copy at Lifelong Thrift Store for $1, I welcomed it back into my collection, and I gave it the attention I couldn’t afford it in the past.
As it turns out, my inability to embrace Pony Express Record comes down to my tolerance for odd, angular music — which is pretty high. For all its weirdness, Pony Express Record sounds quite normal to me.
I call this my Beck affect. When Beck released Odelay, critics couldn’t stop tripping over themselves to praise his whiplash cuts. I thought it was just poorly-executed John Zorn card pieces.
Pony Express Record is strange, but it’s not the strangest thing I’ve heard. It doesn’t stop it from being a good album, even an important one.
Shudder to Think made a loud, noisy album that relies on precise musicianship to pull off. Rather than dial up the metal influences of grunge the way nü metal bands would eventually do, the band made the punk influences veer into something a whole lot brainier. And they do it while throwing in an occasional hook over mountains of crunchy distortion.
I’m a lot more familiar with Pony Express Record now, and I’m OK with not being able to hum more than a few measures of “Hit Liquor.”