Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Music Library: Willie Dixon, Willie Nelson, Wilson Pickett, Windbreakers, Wings, Wire, Woggles, Wolf Parade, Mozart, Wolves In The Throne Room, Wooden Shjips, Woods, Woody Guthrie, Wreckless Eric, Wrens, Wu-Tang Clan, Würm

Continuing to keep it brief with an eye on finishing this damn project before I am overtaken with the sweet relief of death.

Willie Dixon - I Am The Blues (1970). You know, he really is. When other people (Howlin' Wolf, primarily) play his songs, they are the blues, but Willie Dixon is always the blues, too. These aren't the best versions, but they're pretty good.

Willie Nelson - Crazy: The Demo Sessions (1966), Phases and Stages (1973), Shotgun Willie (1973), Red Headed Stranger (1975), To Lefty From Willie (1977), Stardust (1978), Willie and Family Live (1978), Greatest Hits (And Some That Will Be) (compilation, 1973-81). Once I didn't care for Phases and Stages, but now it's my favorite. I know I need more Willie albums, but I don't know which ones. Any advice would be appreciated.

Wilson Pickett - The Exciting Wilson Pickett (1966) and The Very Best Of Wilson Pickett (compilation, 1965-71). Mr. Pickett is definitely exciting.

The Windbreakers - Run (1986). Pretty great Southern power-pop from Mississippi.

Wings - Band on the Run (1973), Venus And Mars (1975), and At The Speed Of Sound (1976). I'm not a big fan of Macca's post-Beatles work. These are ok, especially the hits, but the deep cuts really sound like filler.

Wire - Pink Flag (1977), Chairs Missing (1978), The Peel Sessions Album (1978), 154 (1979), Live 1978-79, On The Box: 1979, A Bell Is A Cup... Until It Is Struck (1988), Wire 1985-90: The A List, Read And Burn 01 EP (2002), Read And Burn 02 EP (2002), Send (2003), Read And Burn 03 (2007), Object 47 (2008), Red Barked Tree (2011), and Change Becomes Us (2013). I freakin' love Wire. The first two albums are perfection, with the uber-chilly 154 not far behind. The 80s electropop albums aren't as fun for me, but they are still full of brilliant ideas. The 00s reformation as a frosty industrial--punk-metal outfit are most excellent and the reworking of their nonalbum tracks from the 70s in Change Becomes Us (the original versions appear on the Live 78-79 bootleg) is also definitely fascinating. Man, this is one of my all-time favorite bands.

The Woggles - The Zontar Sessions (1994) and Wailin' With The Woggles (1998). I have more Woggles on vinyl. Utterly great garage band from Georgia with the utterly great Dan Elextro on drums and a first-rate frontman in Professor Manfred.

Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer (2008) and Expo 86 (2010). I don't much care for these guys' output. Sounds like 80s radio music to me.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Requiem, KV 626 (BBC Symphony Orchestra and Sir Colin Davis, 1967), The Complete Mozart Piano Concertos, Vol. Seven (Derek Han, 1996), various other compilations. I got bored trying to write out all of these Mozart performances, sorry.

Wolves In The Throne Room - Diadem of 12 Stars (2006). Black metal made by hippies in the Pacific Northwest with a theme of ecological disaster. Pretty damn cool.

Wooden Shjips - Volume One (2007), Wooden Shjips (2007), Dos (2009), Vol. 2 (2010), West (2011). Build a jam song on a solid foundation of bass riffs and it will rock every single time. Each of these albums is better than the last, so that's pretty awesome.

Woods - How To Survive In/In The Woods (2007). 'Sokay. Needs work.

Woody Guthrie - Dustbowl Ballads (1940), Worried Man Blues (1944), This Land Is Your Land: The Asch Recordings, Vol. 1 (1944), Muleskinner Blues: The Asch Recordings, Vol. 2 (1944-45), Hard Travelin': The Asch Recordings, Vol. 3 (1944-45), Buffalo Skinners: The Asch Recordings, Vol. 4 (1944-45), Ballads of Sacco and Vanzetti (1947). The man is a legend for a reason. "This Land Is Your Land" should be our national anthem.

Wreckless Eric - Wreckless Eric (1978). Great Stiff Records (aka pub rock-protopunk-power-pop) singer-songwriter-guitarist with a feel for the rootsy guitar-pop of Nick Lower and early Elvis the C.

The Wrens - Silver (1994), Seacaucus (1996), Abbott 1135 EP (1998), The Meadowlands (2003). As unlikely as it seems, the Wrens are supposedly still working on a follow-up to The Meadowlands, a near-perfect piece of indie rock. The prior albums, especially Seacaucus, are also really good.

Wu-Tang Clan - Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993), Wu-Tang Forever (1997), The W (2000), 8 Diagrams (2007). I keep forgetting: Is the Wu-Tang something that I should be trying to fuck with? Or are they for the children?

Würm - Feast (1985). SST-approved metal with Chuck Dukowski on bass and vocals.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Music Library: Wilco, Wild Flag, Wild Magnolias, Wild Poppies, Wild Tchoupitoulas, Wilenski, Will and the Bushmen, Will Johnson, Will Kimbrough, Will Oldham, Willard Grant Conspiracy, William Basinski, William Bell, William S. Burroughs

More all-too-brief reviews.

Wilco - A.M. (1995), Being There (1996), Outta Print Outta Site (bootleg compilation, 1994-98), Summerteeth (1999), Summerteeth Demos (1998-99), Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Demos (2000), Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002), More Like The Moon EP (2003), A Wilco Anthology (bootleg compilation, 1994-2003), A Ghost Is Born (2004), The Wilco Book (2004), A Ghost Is Born Tour EP (2005), Kicking Television: Live In Chicago (2005), A Prairie Home Companion appearance (2007), Sky Blue Sky (2007), Wilco [The Album] (2009), The Whole Love (2011), June 1, 2013 Solid Sound Festival. Much love I have for Wilco, even as I have cared less and less about their output since A Ghost Is Born. And, see, on that album, I noticed how hard Jeff Tweedy was trying to sound like Nels Cline when it first dropped, and then Tweedy went and hired Cline to be in his band. They are one of the most exciting live bands out there, but I just can't work up much enthusiasm for the studio output. It's  pretty good, sure, but it doesn't blow my mind like they used to. I mean, I was there! I went to see them right before A.M. dropped, two or three times on the Being There tour, maybe three times for Summerteeth, a couple of times during the build-up to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and a few times since, although they're mostly outside of my price range now, because I am nothing if not cheap. And I can't name a single song on Wilco [The Album] without looking. Here's my favorite Wilco song, which is not a guitar freakout, all of my tastes to the contrary.

Wild Flag - Wild Flag (2011). Ah, superfun indie-rock lady supergroup. The Germans probably have a word for this.

The Wild Magnolias - The Wild Magnolias (1973) and They Call Us Wild (1975). The first of two Mardi Gras Indian albums in this post! The Wild Magnolias are a bit wilder than the Tchoupitoulas, especially on the first album here.

The Wild Poppies - Heroine (1986). Great kiwi-pop band doing that kiwi-pop thing.

 The Wild Tchoupitoulas - The Wild Tchoupitoulas (1976). The other Mardi Gras Indians! This one has the benefit of the Meters as the backing band.

Osias Wilenski, Don Juan-Rodolfo Valentino, Cesar Puente, and Maria Rosa Lopez - Wilenski: Carmen's Revenge (2010). This is some sort of classical response record, I think? I am really not qualified to tell you anything about it, because I really don't understand it.

Will and the Bushmen - Gawk (1987). Ok, Will and the Bushmen were an excellent power-pop band from Alabama led by the incomparable Will Kimbrough. I have completely lost my vinyl copies of the other two W&TB albums, so I'll have to fix that at some point.

Will Johnson - Murder of Tides (2002) and Vultures Await (2004). A couple of whispery-quiet acoustic albums from the leader of Centro-Matic.

Will Kimbrough - This (2000), Home Away (2002), Americanitis (2006), Godsend (2006), EP (2007), Live At Grimey's (with noted author Hayden Childs, 2008). I gotta catch up on Kimbrough's more recent albums, too. The man makes some great, great music.

Will Oldham - Western Music EP (1997), Black/Rich Music EP (1998), Little Joya EP (1998), Guarapero: Lost Blues 2 (2000). I have no idea how Oldham decides which release should be under his own name instead of Bonnie "Prince" Billy.

Willard Grant Conspiracy + Telefunk - In The Fishtank 8 EP (2001). Boston-based alt-country band meets European electronica band. Not one of the greatest Fishtank Eps, but, like all of them, it has its moments.

William Basinski - The Disintegration Loops I-IV (2002-03), Melancholia (2003), and The River (2008). Basinski - legendarily - finished salvaging The Disintegration Loops, earlier compositions on rapidly decaying tapes, on the morning of September 11, 2001. They consist of short burst of minimalist compositions falling apart, and they are achingly beautiful even as they fall into ruin. The other compositions here are also quite affecting.

William Bell - The Soul of a Bell (1967). Heck to the yeah.

William S. Burroughs - Dead City Radio (1990) and The "Priest" They Called Him (with Kurt Cobain, 1993). The junky monk of Beat letters, the man known more for his life than his works, Burroughs was king when I was in my late teens/early 20s and I'm not sure I have the patience for his work now. But these musical vignettes on Dead City Radio, which marry his words to music - mostly incidental TV music - hit the spot. The Priest single, which has him telling a duller story over the dull sound of Kurt Cobain screwing around with feedback, is less essential. Here's the apocalypse for you.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Music Library: Webb Pierce, Wedding Present, Weezer, Weird Weeds, Weirdos, Wes Montgomery, Kanye West, Whiskeytown, White Stripes, Who, Why?

I've been busy, y'all. (Get with it, Childs!) So, I'm keeping these short. Would like to finish this project this year so I can facing the gaping abyss of the rest of my life.

Webb Pierce - King of the Honky-Tonk: From the Original Decca Masters, 1952-1959 and Memory No. 1 (1965). Mr. Pierce indeed has a claim to the title of King of the Honky-Tonk.

The Wedding Present - George Best (1988). Excellent Brit-pop.

Weezer - Weezer (1994) and Pinkerton (1998). I like the first Weezer album a lot (even though their tendency to overuse nostalgia and irony is wearing 20 years on), but I don't get the hype about Pinkerton.

The Weird Weeds - Hold Me (2004). Lovely experimental fake-jazz from Austin. The drummer Nick Hennies played with Jandek on Jandek's first American show. I can't find clips from this album online, but here's one of their songs from a different album.

The Weirdos - Who? What? When? Where? Why? EP (1979) and Weird World 1977-1981: Time Capsule Volume One. Extremely creative first-generation LA punk band.

Wes Montgomery - The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery (1960). Superbly well-named album.

Kanye West - Late Registration (2005) and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010). I reviewed much of Kanye's other stuff with the Ks and haven't cared at all about the most recent albums. Late Registration is really good. The Fantasy record, though: eh. No video for Mr. West.

Whiskeytown - Rural Free Delivery (1997) and Stranger's Almanac (1997). When I saw Whiskeytown play in 1996, I thought they were the Second Coming of the Replacements, as volatile and riveting a live show as I had ever seen. But this energy and friction did not translate well to these albums, which are trying too hard to please when they should be carelessly flicking lit cigarettes at you.

The White Stripes - The White Stripes (1999), De Stijl (2000), White Blood Cells (2001), Elephant (2003), Get Behind Me Satan (2005), and Icky Thump (2007). A strong argument for the merits of simplicity.

The Who - The Who Sings My Generation (1965), A Quick One (1966), The Who Sell Out (1967), Tommy (1969), Live At Leeds/Live At Leeds Deluxe Edition (1970), Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy (compilation, 1965-70), Who's Next (1971), Quadrophenia (1973), Odds and Sods (compilation, 1964-74), The Who By Numbers (1975), Who Are You (1978), Face Dances (1981), Who's Better Who's Best (compilation, 1964-81), Thirty Years Of Maximum R&B (compilation, 1964-91). I love 'em best when they're still almost a garage band with outsized ambition. When the ambitions start to drag the songs under (Tommy, Who's Next, Quadrophenia), they were still capable of making awesome music, but then when the ambitions are all there was (Who By Numbers on, pretty much), they were capable of maybe one good song per album. This is a pretty good example of Manny Farber's termite art and white elephant art. Pete's an excellent termite artist, turning his silly concept in Who Sell Out into an astonishingly great album by focusing on the people in the songs, but when he gets his white elephant out, he loses track of what's important by focusing on being important. Anyway, here's a video of The Who upstaging the Stones at their own Rock & Roll Circus.

Why? - Alopecia (2008). Pretty great TVOTR-ish album from some of the members of cLOUDDEAD with a similar refusal to be pigeonholed.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Music Library: Waco Brothers, Wake Ooloo, Wall of Voodoo, Walter Franco, Wanda Jackson, Warren Zevon, Abigail Washburn, Mike Watt, Wayne Shorter, We Are Wolves, Weakerthans

The Waco Brothers - ...To The Last Dead Cowboy (1995), Cowboy In Flames (1997), and Electric Waco Chair (2000). Jon Langford's first Mekons side-project, the Wacos are an outsider's take on outlaw country and fun as hell. And jeez, Langford knows how to make things awesome.

Wake Ooloo - Hear No Evil (1994), What About It (1995), Stop The Ride (1996). Glenn Mercer's first post-Feelies band also featured Dave Weckerman. Not as great as the Feelies, but pretty damn great, anyway.

Wall of Voodoo - Call of the West (1982). Some of my friends love Stan Ridgway's noir-pop. I like "Mexican Radio" like everyone else, but I'm not crazy about the rest of this.

Walter Franco - Ou Não (1972). Lovely tropicalia.

Wanda Jackson - Wanda Jackson (1958), There's A Party Goin' On (1961), Two Sides Of Wanda (1964), and Queen of Rockabilly (compilation, 1957-64). The queen of rockabilly is a correct assessment.

Warren Zevon - Excitable Boy (1978). Similar to Randy Newman, I can see why so many of my friends adore Zevon's music, but it doesn't really move me.

Abigail Washburn - Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet (2008). This is a bluegrass banjo player attempting compositional music. I do not much care for it, although I appreciate her ambition.

Mike Watt - hyphenated-man (2011). I reviewed most of Watt's solo work elsewhere. This one came out in 2011, a 30-song Minutemen-like rock opera about the works of Hieronymous Bosch. It is freakin' ridiculously excellent.

Wayne Shorter - Footprints Live! (2002). I like Shorter best when he's under Miles Davis's thumb, but here he attempts some Davis-in-1970-style jazz, and it's pretty good.

We Are Wolves - Total Magique (2007). Eh.

The Weakerthans - Reconstruction Site (2003). Highly recommended by a trusted friend, but I'm not that crazy about it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Music Library: Vienna Philharmonic, Viktor Vaughn, Kurt Vile, Violent Femmes, Vlach Quartet, Volcano Suns, Voxtrot, Vulgar Boatmen

Continuing with short reviews in a rush to finish this thing out.

Vienna Philharmonic - Mahler: Symphony No. 4 (1988). Mahler-iffic!

Viktor Vaughn - Vaudeville Villain (2003) and Venomous Villain (2004). Another of MF DOOM's personae, the Vaughn (taken from Victor Von Doom, Doctor Doom's real-name-as-destiny) moniker means that DOOM raps but the production is by others. Excellent stuff, even if it doesn't have DOOM's own unassailable beats.

Kurt Vile - Constant Hitmaker (2008), Childish Prodigy (2009), The Hunchback EP (2009), Square Shells EP (2010), Smoke Rings For My Halo (2011), and Wakin On A Pretty Daze (2013). With Fahey-like acoustic guitar chops and a Neil Young-ish ability to crank out pleasing solos, Vile is a fun, but slight, listen. I tend to think of him as the hipster Jack Johnson, actually. Also, Kurt Vile is his real name.

Violent Femmes - Violent Femmes (1982), Hallowed Ground (1984), Why Do Birds Sing? (1991), and "Crazy." Do I really even need to discuss these guys? Sorry for the smarmy Dennis Miller in the video below.

Vlach Quartet - Beethoven: String Quartets, Op. 18, Nos. 3 and 4. Beethoven-iffic?

Volcano Suns - The Bright Orange Years (1985), All Night Lotus Party (1986), Bumper Crop (1987), Farced (1988), and Thing Of Beauty (1989). Peter Prescott's super-fun post-Mission of Burma band.

Voxtrot - Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, and Wives EP (2006), Biggest Fan EP (2006), and Voxtrot (2007). Brit-flavored indie-pop from Austin.

Vulgar Boatmen - You and Your Sister (1989) and Please Panic (1992). Ultra-tasteful folk-punk from Florida.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Music Library: Ventures, Verbena, Verlaines, Vernon Wray, Versus, Vetiver, Vic Chesnutt, Victoria Williams

Looking cool, guys!

Almost three months! I am really losing steam with this damn all-encompassing project. I think I'm going to post some terse posts for a while in an attempt to catch up.

The Ventures - Ventures In Space (1963), Walk Don't Run '64 (1964), and Play Guitar With The Ventures, Vol. 2 (1965). Excellent surf-guitar. The last one is an instructional album that breaks down four of their songs for lead guitar, rhythm guitar, and bass. Very cool.

Verbena - Souls For Sale (1997). Great moody rock from Alabama.

The Verlaines - Hallelujah All The Way Home (1985), Bird Dog (1987), Juvenilia (1987), Some Disenchanted Evening (1989), Ready To Fly (1991), and Over The Moon (1997). One of the best kiwi-pop bands, the Verlaines stand on the line between post-punk noise and power-pop. Highly recommended stuff.

Vernon Wray - Wasted (1972). Fantastic outlaw country album by Link Wray's brother with more than a touch of Townes Van Zandt in his lyricism.

Versus - Secret Swingers (1996) and Shangri-La EP (2000). Essentially great indie-rock band. I thought I had more of their albums.

Vetiver - Vetiver (2003), To Find Me Gone (2006), and Thing Of The Past (2008). Lumped in with the  freak-folk semi-genre, but more of a 70s-style Laurel Canyon thing.

Vic Chesnutt - Little (1990), West Of Rome (1991), Drunk (1993), "The Night The Lights Went Out On Georgia," Is The Actor Happy? (1995), WFMU 1995 (bootleg), About To Choke (1996), The Salesman And Bernadette (with Lambchop, 1998), Merriment (with Mr. and Mrs. Keneipp, 2000), Silver Lake (2003), Ghetto Bells (2005), Extra Credit EP (2005), Christmas At The 40 Watt (bootleg, 2005), North Star Deserter (with Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, 2007), Dark Developments (with Elf Power, 2008), At The Cut (2009), and Skitter On Take-Off (2009). Chesnutt was one of the greatest songwriters of our time. His lost is a devastating black mark on the backwards-ass American health system.

Victoria Williams - Happy Come Home (1987), Swing The Statue! (1990), Loose (1994), and Musings Of A Creekdipper (1998). Ms. Williams, like Mr. Chesnutt, was the beneficiary of one of the Sweet Relief albums, but I like her music much less these days. Too much twee. There are a few good songs here and there, but her eccentricities just haven't aged well for me.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Music Library: The Velvet Underground plus Notes On The Third Album

The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967) and The Velvet Underground & Nico 45th Anniversary Edition (1966-67). I picked this up with the Verve reissues in 1987 because of Kurt Loder praising it on MTV. I'd also read about them in the Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll, which quoted the familiar line about how only 5,000 people bought this album when it came out and they all went on to form influential bands. And my mind ripped open. There was so many types of music! But they all were served up in a drone-y faux-primitive style. The songs were perfect. The Super Deluxe 45th Anniversary Edition has versions of the album in stereo and again in mono, then a copy of Nico's Chelsea Girls, which the album rightfully claims is pretty much a VU album, then a bunch of demos, then a cleaned-up copy of the 1967 Valleydale Ballroom show from Columbus OH, which is also a part of the Caught Between The Twisted Stars four-disc bootleg set, reviewed below. You already know if this is something you must have. I'm sure everyone reading this has heard "I'll Be Your Mirror," but there's never a bad reason to listen to it again. Even the most emotionally direct country song can't light a candle to this: "I find it hard to believe you don't know the beauty you are/but if you don't, let me be your eyes/a hand to your darkness/so you won't be afraid." I mean, dammit, that's gorgeous.

White Light/White Heat (1968), White Light/White Heat Super Deluxe (1967-68), and Live At The Gymnasium, NYC (bootleg, 1967). Just as legendary as the first one, WL/WH is a blast of noise that takes the screech of "European Son" and amps it up. Or, at least, part of it is. The opening song is really more of a boogie song built on John Cale's piano rolls. "The Gift" is a fusion of the instrumental track "The Booker T," which is a grungy take on Memphis soul, with Cale's chilly-comic tale of poor Waldo Jeffers. "Lady Godiva's Operation" is not too different from the two-chord drone-art of "Venus In Furs." "Here She Comes Now" is utterly gorgeous, showing the way to the dreamy third album. Then side two, with the frenetic and loud "I Heard Her Call My Name" and the furious 17-minute bashathon "Sister Ray," is where WL/WH gets its reputation. The Super Deluxe version adds both stereo and mono mixes of the album, a bunch of single mixes and outtakes, most of which appear elsewhere, and a cleaned-up version of the 1967 Live At The Gymnasium bootleg. It's a killer bootleg, and the cleaner version well worth the price.

The Velvet Underground (Valentin Mix) (1969), The Velvet Underground (Closet Mix) (1969), and La Cave 1968: Designs In Urban Living (bootleg, 1968). The two mixes of the VU's third album are significantly different in places. In fact, I've worked up a long blog post about them, which I'll append below instead of leaving a separate piece. While all four of the VU's proper albums are essential, this is my favorite. It's not perfect - I mean, after about a million listens, "The Murder Mystery" gets on my nerves a bit now - but that may be why I love it more. I assume that whenever they make the Super Deluxe version of this one, the La Cave bootleg, which is pretty good and features early versions of these songs, will be included. See below for lots of videos.

Bootleg Series Vol. 1: The Quine Tapes (recorded 1969), The Legendary Guitar Amp Tapes (bootleg, 1969), "Sweet Sister Ray" (bootleg, 1969), 1969: Live With Lou Reed, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (1969, natch). The Quine Tapes consist of three concerts recorded by superfan Bob Quine, who was also one of the greatest rock guitarists ever. Excellent all around, capturing the VU's less arty and more rocking live show. The Legendary Guitar Amp Tapes is a bootleg that sounds like it was recorded from the inside of Lou Reed's amp with the rest of the band much diminished in the background. It's interesting, but falls flat over the course of the album. "Sweet Sister Ray" from a bootleg called The Wild Side Of The Street is a recording of the long jam that the VU would use to warm up for "Sister Ray." The Live With Lou Reed albums are from shows in Dallas and San Francisco, and they're cooking.

Loaded (1970), Loaded: Fully Loaded Edition (1970), and Live At Max's Kansas City (1970). Loaded with hits, in Lou Reed's words, but still unable to find a mass audience, the VU's last proper album gets short shrift from some fans, but I think it's fantastic. The Fully Loaded Edition adds a bunch of outtakes, demos, and alternative mixes, many of which appear elsewhere. Max's Kansas City is a great live show from the period.

Peel Slowly And See (1965-70). This five-disc box set came out in the 90s and included all the album (with the Closet Mix of The Velvet Underground) and a bunch of demos and outtakes from all the way back to a very early practice tape of Lou and John with their first drummer Angus MacLise. Many of the outtakes were from VU and Another View, and few of the other tracks don't appear elsewhere. When I bought it back in the 90s, I had all four of the album on vinyl but no digital copies, so this helped out, but I can't see any reason to own it if you already have the other stuff. The early recordings are interesting to hear once, but that's about it.

Squeeze (1973). Ugh. This is the rightly-reviled rock album made by Doug Yule and three other people after Lou left the group. Anyone trying to tell you this is good is a contrarian who is trolling you and you should feel free to ignore that person thereafter. Consider:

VU (1985) and Another View (1986). VU consists of a bunch of tracks that might have been the follow-up to WL/WH. Even though it's more garage-y than their eventual third album, it is freakin' excellent. Another View is a bunch of other demos and outtakes that's pretty rough outside of "Hey Mr. Rain" and the extraordinary "Ride Into The Sun."

Caught Between The Twisted Stars (bootlegs, 1966-91). This is an odd four-disc bootleg box set that unfortunately mixes up recordings for no clear reason. Disc one is mostly the Valleydale Ballroom show, but the final "Nothing Song" is too long, and is moved to the start of disc two, while the rest of the tracks are a grab-bag of bootleg tracks from many different sources, such as La Cave and The Gymnasium, plus--oddly--a few from the ill-fated 1993 VU reunion tour. Then there's a couple of remixes and "A Short-Lived Torture Of Cacophony," which is "Melody Laughter" backwards. Weirdly chosen.


Notes On The Velvet Underground:

I bought a vinyl copy of the 80s Verve re-release with the mix by engineer Val Valentin mix when it came out, and this was the version that I became intimately familiar with as a teenager. Then I bought the VU's Peel Slowly & See box back in the mid-90s, which came with the so-called "closet mix" by Lou Reed himself, so named because Sterling Morrison quipped that it sounded as if it had been recorded in a closet. Since I had a digital copy of that, it was only recently that I got around to picking up a digital version of the Valentin mix.

This is a track-by-track comparison. I knew going in that each has a completely different version of "Some Kinda Love," and that "What Goes On" had vastly different mixes. I didn't appreciate that every song except "That's The Story Of My Life" has different mixes that subtly (or not-so-subtly) affect the listening experience.

"Candy Says": Each version has a vastly different drum mix, not to mention that the tonality of the guitars is also different. The closet mix uses brighter, more trebly filters on the whole track, so the snare snaps more in the left ear, giving the song more movement, and while both guitars are louder and clearer on the closet mix, this is especially true for Sterling's guitar on the left, which is quiet enough to be barely distinct through parts of the song on the Valentin mix. The backing vocals are also louder. The Valentin mix, though, rides more on the bass and, by muting the snare, gives the tap-tap-tap of the high hat more emphasis, which is also appealing.

This is the closet mix. I can't find a copy of the Valentin mix on youtube.

"What Goes On," of course, is all about the organ. The Valentin mix pushes it and Lou's guitar into the red and rocks significantly harder. The closet mix has the organ much quieter and Lou's stellar rhythm guitar with a less-trebly filter. However, the drums on the closet mix sound great, maybe the best that Mo ever sounded. Notice the snare in your left ear in the closet mix below.

Here's the Valentin mix for comparison:

"Some Kinda Love," as I mentioned, has two different versions of the song. The Valentin version has a great performance from the whole band, but Lou's vocal performance is maybe a little too cool. The closet mix has only one guitar rather than the killer interlock of the Valentin version and Mo's drums are about as minimalist as possible (hitting on each beat of the 4/4 with a bass drum and woodblock and that's it), but Lou's vocal may be a career best. Here's the Valentin mix version:

And here's the closet mix version:

"Pale Blue Eyes": The closet mix again turns the treble up. Mo's playing a tambourine that is brighter and mixed all to the left in the closet mix, making it more snare-like. The Valentin mix has her darker and in the center, which gives the song more propulsion. In the closet mix, Lou's guitar is almost inaudible, as is the organ. This pushes Sterling's guitar part - one of my all-time favorites - further out front, which is a lovely effect. The more muddled Valentin mix has a better band sound, though.

This is the closet mix:

And this is the Valentin mix:

"Jesus" has the bass much louder in the Valentin mix. Sterling's guitar (the one with the high part) is quieter in that mix, though, and Lou's acoustic guitar pushes the song along. In the closet mix, Lou and Doug's vocals switch sides, and Doug's vocals are much louder in the closet mix, which sort of dampens how shockingly well Lou sings this song. No, I take that back. Lou's performance is a different in each take. His voice cracks more in the closet mix, and he goes falsetto more often in the Valentin mix.

Here's the Valentin mix:

And I think this is the closet mix:

"Beginning To See The Light" switches the pan on the guitars for some reason and does the familiar treble filter. On the Valentin mix, the acoustic rhythm guitar is on the right and the electric is on the left, but the closet mix reverses them and cranks the electric. I could be convinced that the closet mix is a completely different take on the electric because the bassiness and thicker tone on the Valentin mix suggest humbuckers or P-90s while the closet mix sounds thinner and more pointed like a Strat. Both guitars are quite loud in the Valentin mix. The closet mix pans the drums all the way to the left, making it sound less like a conventional rock song. I could be convinced that Lou's vocal is different on each, too. There's little subtle differences that might be my mind playing tricks on me at this point.

Here's the Valentin mix, but I can't find the closet mix on youtube, unfortunately:

"I'm Set Free": GodDAMN, what a song. The Valentin mix has drums and Lou's vocal in the center and both guitars panned all the way out on either side. The closet mix turns up Sterling's guitar a lot on the right and moves Lou's rhythm to the center, but turns it down a lot. Mo's drums are panned a little left, but she's almost inaudible until about a third into the song. Both vocals are louder in the closet mix. The solo is treated differently in both. In the Valentin mix, the solo is a little muddier with medium-dark reverb. In the closet mix, it's pushed up in the mix, brightened considerably, and the reverb is different - more small-room than dark-ampitheater. Both versions are absolutely fucking brilliant.

Unfortunately, again the only one on youtube is the Valentin mix:

"Story" is the same in both.

"The Murder Mystery" is different only in that the Valentin mix pushes the drums and rhythm guitar and dampens the vocals. There may be other differences, but I have a maximum of two listens per day on that song.

I think this is Valentin. They're very close:

"After Hours" puts a little more reverb on Mo's voice and turns the bass down a lot while panning it to the center. It's very loud and distinct (in the left ear) in the Valentin mix and so quiet in the closet mix that I thought it was a bass drum through most of the song. The closet mix also puts those neat deep reverb echoes on Mo's voice when the song rests, while the Valentin mix has a short repeat reverb instead.

Valentin mix:

Closet mix:

Monday, February 24, 2014

Music Library: Valery Gergiev, Vampire Weekend, Van Dyke Parks, Van Halen, Van Morrison, Vaselines, Vashti Bunyan, Velvet Crush

Valery Gergiev - Stravinsky: The Rites Of Spring (2001) and Mahler: Symphony No. 1 (2008). Two excellent orchestral pieces conducted by Gergiev.

Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend (2007). There are worse bands to emulate than the Talking Heads.

Van Dyke Parks - Song Cycle (1968). I wish I liked this album more than I do, because it has a lot going for it, and yet I find it amazingly dull. As much as I love the Beach Boys' SMiLE, I feel I ought to love this. But nope.

Van Halen - Van Halen (1978), Van Halen II (1979), Women And Children First (1980), and 1984 (1984). Such delicious cheese. It's practically bubblegum.

Van Morrison - Bang Masters (recorded 1967), Astral Weeks (1968), His Band And The Street Choir (1970), Moondance (1970), Saint Dominic's Preview (1972), Veedon Fleece (1974), and The Best Of Van Morrison (compilation, 1964-89). Once upon a time I loved Mr. Morrison's too-sophisticated-for-rock-but-I-love-soul thing more than I do now. I mean, I still like Astral Weeks a lot, and I love his garage-y stuff with Them, but most of these albums are only so-so for me.

The Vaselines - The Way Of The Vaselines: A Complete History (1987-92) and Enter The Vaselines (also 1987-92). Lovely, foul-mouthed pop-folk-rock music. The latter is an expanded version of the former.

Vashti Bunyan - Just Another Diamond Day (1970) and Lookaftering (2005). Fairylike Brit-folk princess who recorded the ethereal, barely there, brilliant album Diamond Day with Joe Boyd and then more or less disappeared from the music scene for 30-odd years.

Velvet Crush - Teenage Symphonies To God (1994). One of the greatest power-pop bands crank up the hooks and earn the title of this record from Brian Wilson.

Sorry so terse. I'm behind and anxious to move this along.

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