The fall release schedule probably means a lot more to listeners far younger than myself, but I don’t really see much beyond these albums — and ones previously reported — about which to get excited.
Rufus Wainwright, Prima Donna, Oct. 2
The bar for rock stars composing classical music is set low enough that exercises for first-year composition students in a conservatory become amazing acts of achievement. See Elvis Costello, Paul McCartney, Billy Joel. Wainwright, however, really loves opera, and his songwriting already shows a strong predilection for storytelling.
Glenn Gould, Remastered: The Complete Album Collection, Oct. 9
Back in May 2015, I picked up the soundtrack to Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, a movie I hadn’t seen since college. Listening to the soundtrack made me crave to watch it again, and after getting the DVD, I’ve picked up a few Gould recordings from the used vinyl bins. I don’t think I’m enough of a fan to drop $200+ on this set, but it would be tempting.
XTC, Oranges and Lemons (Deluxe Edition), Oct. 23
Oranges and Lemons was the first XTC album I owned, although I like Skylarking and the Dukes of the Stratosphear’s Psonic Psunspot more.
Igor Stravinsky, The Complete Album Collection, Oct. 30
On the same day Duran Duran dropped that stinker of an album known as Red Carpet Massacre, I bought a 42-disc budget boxed set of Igor Stravisnky conducting his own works. This remastered collection promises another 15 discs of material. That budget set was $40 and had the barest minimum packaging it could muster. Don’t know if I can justify spending 5 times as much if I’m pretty much going to rip them anyway. But yeah … tempting …
Dolly Parton / Linda Ronstadt / Emmylou Harris, Complete Trio Collection, TBD
Linda Ronstadt pretty much ruled out another Trio album when she revealed she had Parkinson’s disease. So this collection remasters the two Trio albums and adds a third disc of outtakes and rarities. Oct. 16 had originally been reported as the release date, but now no date has been set.
Henryk Górecki, Symphony No. 4, Jan. 22, 2016
Originally scheduled for Sept. 25 and then Oct. 16, Nonesuch’s recording of Górecki’s posthumous symphony has now been pushed back to January 2016.
Tags: dolly parton, emmylou harris, glenn gould, henryk gorecki, igor stravinsky, linda ronstadt, looking ahead, rufus wainwright, xtc
I’m writing this entry ahead of time, but when it gets posted, I will have attended my 25th high school reunion. I graduated in 1990, a nice even number made all the more significant by its relative placement to a new century, let alone a new decade.
The musical identity of a decade doesn’t get established till two years into it, so until then, a lot of gambling happens among the tastemakers. Nielsen SoundScan was a year away from launching, which meant the Billboard charts in 1990 still relied on phone reports by retailers to determine its rankings.
That year, the chart-topping albums included MC Hammer’s Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em, Vanilla Ice’s To the Extreme, Paula Abdul’s Forever Your Girl and Sinéad O’Connor’s I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got.
Billboard created a new chart at the time to track what would eventually be known as alternative music. The songs on this chart would set the tone in the years to follow, but till then, radio spun hits by Wilson Phillips, Roxette and a newcomer named Mariah Carey.
For me, 1990 marked the year the foundation for my ensuing music collection solidified.
I stopped listening to radio two years before and relied entirely on magazines to direct my choices. In the days before streaming audio and widespread Internet access, I put a lot of faith in a writer’s ability to convince me to drop cash on something I’d never heard. Some of those gambles paid off, and some of them didn’t.
But it was the sense of discovery that provided that hit of dopamine on a malleable mind. Needless to say that kind of independence set me apart from everyone else in high school. My classmates were rallying around a shared experience. I was more concerned with finding something I could monopolize, perhaps even proselytize.
My new wave proclivities from freshman year evolved into a taste for what was called “college rock”. A friend ushered it in by playing Beelzebubba by the Dead Milkmen the summer before. Camper Van Beethoven, 10,000 Maniacs, the Replacements and Midnight Oil followed. And, of course, I remained steadfast to Duran Duran.
Kronos Quartet had introduced me to classical music, but Black Angels sent me down a path of study that would last the first half of the decade. The frightening timbres of George Crumb’s title piece and the anguish of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Quartet for Strings No. 8 tapped into the uncertainty I felt about my own identity. That taste for dissonance sharpened when the self-titled album by Robin Holcomb led to John Zorn and Wayne Horvitz.
Some of my choices that year would prove prescient, as college rock morphed into the alternative rock made popular by Nirvana. I remember my sister telling me she was watching 21 Jump Street, and a character mentioned Camper Van Beethoven and 10,000 Maniacs. She wouldn’t have recognized either of those bands had I not brought their albums home to inflict on everyone in the house.
Tags: music discovery
One day, I felt a hankering to hear the sample of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Quartet for Strings No. 8 by Kronos Quartet that was used in a Mr. Bungle track.
There was just one problem — it was never used on a Mr. Bungle track.
The sample was used on Angel Dust, the album Faith No More recorded after Mr. Bungle released its self-titled debut album. It was easy enough to confuse the two albums.
When Mike Patton joined Faith No more, writing for The Real Thing had finished, and he was brought in to put on the final touches. On Angel Dust, Patton contributed from the outset, and he brought with him the maniacal, chaotic sound of Mr. Bungle with him.
Patton tried to get Kronos Quartet to play on the Mr. Bungle album, but David Harrington instead commissioned a piece from the group. The sample of Kronos on Angel Dust was probably wish fulfillment on Patton’s part.
I tried to love Angel Dust the way I had The Real Thing, and the avant-garde, shape-shifting writing on the album should have tickled that itch brought on by Naked City. For a while, I did. But it didn’t survive my first large purge when I moved my music collection from Honolulu to Austin.
If I were honest, I really wanted Angel Dust to be The Real Thing, Part II, mostly because Jim Martin dominated The Real Thing. On Angel Dust, he was woven further into the mix, which suited the writing well but left his precision playing blunted.
In interviews, Martin would reveal his ambivalence about the direction Angel Dust had taken, and looking back, I sensed it.
Now, I actually dug Mr. Bungle, the album, but that was a lot of sound to take in at one time. What I didn’t want from Angel Dust was to be Mr. Bungle, Part II. And … that’s essentially what I got.
The Real Thing and Angel Dust got the deluxe reissue treatment on the heels of Faith No More’s first new album in 18 years. I hadn’t planned on getting the deluxe edition of Angel Dust — because why would I get the fancy version of an album I let go? — but I still had a hankering to hear that sample.
Angel Dust had also gained renowned since its release, and I wanted to see if the intervening years would change my opinion of the album.
Yes, as a matter of fact, it did.
More precisely, I listened to it without the baggage of The Real Thing hanging on it, and it’s pretty astonishing how Faith No More juggled so many elements without everything flying apart. As the album progresses, it seems at some point it should all break down, but the architecture of these songs had the structural integrity to withstand the whip-lash.
Angel Dust got an unfair shake with me because it followed up a hugely successful — read: tuneful — album with something challenging and ahead of its time.
Tags: faith no more, the ones that nearly got away
At the height of my craze for 10,000 Maniacs — circa 1988-1990 — I learned about the band’s pre-major label releases, Human Conflict Number Five and Secrets of the I Ching. All the interviews the band held up to that point pretty much indicated finding copies of these albums would be nigh impossible.
Elektra Records reissued both releases as Hope Chest: The Fredonia Recordings in 1990. Back then, I had this perception that a band’s first albums retroactively represented how they sounded before they signed to a label. Hope Chest corrected that notion pretty quickly.
The jangly folk-rock that marked the Maniacs sound was in a nebulous state on these early recordings. Rob Buck did some pretty experimental stuff with his guitar before settling on his recognizable style of playing. Merchant, still a teen at the time, had none of the confidence that emerged on The Wishing Chair and In My Tribe.
Hope Chest wasn’t impressive. The band sounded deflated, and reviews of the compilation hinted that Elektra meddled needlessly in remixing the material. When Rhino released the career retrospective, Campfire Songs, most of the early recordings were taken from Hope Chest and not The Wishing Chair. I found that disappointing.
Fast forward 25 years, and during one of my record shop visits, I found a vinyl copy of Secrets of the I Ching.
The reviews were right.
The Hope Chest remix drained the punchiness of Secrets of the I Ching. Merchant’s reticence comes across as more demure, and the post-punk vibe in band’s playing come through in greater detail. Hope Chest smoothed these rough edges much to their detriment.
Now that I’ve heard what Hope Chest originally sounded like, I’m a lot more curious about Human Conflict Number Five.
I doubt the clock can be turned back on a future archival release — if there is one — but these early mixes deserve a wider audience. The tougher sound on Secrets of the I Ching makes far more sense as a precursor to The Wishing Chair than Hope Chest had indicated.
Tags: 10000 maniacs, vinyl find