River City Rebels - "Playing To Live, Living To Play" CD 14/31:28
There's no let-up in the energy on the sophmore effort from these 7 Vermont punkers. They've got the full artillery complete with horn section, and they use all their weapons including strong vocals to rock out in powerful melodic songs. If I were some big time touring punk band I sure wouldn't want RCR opening for me, tough act to follow as they say.
V/A - "The Detroit Girl Groups" CD/LP 18/43:56
Would you like to hear both sides of the first Supremes single, before they were on Motown, when they were called The Primettes? It's here and it's great. These superlative and amazing tracks from unknown pre-Motown Detroit girl groups shows that Barry Gordy had a great deal of talent to choose from. Of course none of these hit's that weren't have the production value of a Motown hit, but it's quite a collection of pop/soul gems that eluded the fans until now. I bought this on both LP and CD, and the vinyl sounds better. The big difference is in the EQ, so adjust accordingly.
@ Relic, P.O. 572, Hackensack, NJ 07602
Bill Hicks - "Philosophy" CD 71 minutes
Back in the '80s I always looked forward to TV appearances by Bill Hicks and Sam Kennison, both of whom reminded me of Lenny Bruce. All three died young leaving an enourmous cult following behind. SP doesn't do much in covering comedy albums, but this compilation of monologues by Hicks must be heard! Great stuff!
Selecter - "Too Much Pressure" CD 16/49:26
This was the best album that Britain's Two-tone label released as part of the short lived ska-punk fad of 1980. It was released in America on Chrysalis who lost interest in keeping it in print, making life miserable for everyone who needed this essential gem to complete the ska section of their collection. Pauline Black and company had one album of wonderfully infectious tunes, and live the energy was so intense it was unbelieveable. This doesn't sound quite as good as the original vinyl, but it'll just have to do.
Revillos - "Rev Up" CD 18/40:21
The main (only) reason people think I'm cool is cause I saw Scotland's legendary Revillos twice live. Quite a live show with their kooky costumes and the go-go dancing Revettes dancing in the background. Their demented brand of pop borrowed from instro-surf, Joe Meek, rockabilly and '60s girl pop. Fay Fife who played keyboards and did most of the singing was a great performer, and Eugene Reynolds and the band wrote strong high energy tunes. Sooo underrated. Did I ever mention that i saw them in concert twice!
Bob Marley & the Wailers - "Birth Of a Legend" CD 20/57:21
This has been released in various forms before and has always been some of my favorite Bob Marley and the Wailers music. Some might consider these early '60s four-track recordings demo quality. I think that only adds to the historical importance of these great songs which document, well, like the title says, the birth of a legend. The band's four singers all get a chance to sing songs they authored, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Junior Bratwaite and of course, Marley, who sings the majority of songs. The quality of the songs here is amazing, and this is certainly essential for any reggae fan. The sound quality isn't actually quite as good as the double LP version that came out in America in 1976 on the Calla label, but those are long gone.
Speedtrain - "Starlight" CD 6/17:37
Although they may not be the most talented musicians, or have expensive instruments, these three women come up with some good tunes, especially the remarkable "Untitled". Most of the songs have a simple steady garage beat. The vocals and farfisa organ have a lo-fi charm that's irresistable.
Preston School Of Industry - "All This Sounds Gas" CD/2XLP11/48:23
When I first heard this it reminded me of Pavement, then I noticed the sticker reading, "...led by Pavement co-founder Spiral Stairs". This is a solid collection of simple poptunes. It's not fair to compare this to the Malkmus album. Actually I suppose it would be fair; this is better.
@ www.matadorrecords.com (MP3 available)
Heavenly - Heavenly Versus Satan CD 14/56:01
Heavenly pop indeed, with the wonderful vocals of Amelia Fletcher. This was first album from 10 years ago, and although I have it on vinyl, I'm super thrilled to have this CD version with some brilliant singles tacked on. They began as Talulah Gosh in the mid-'80s and had a profound influence on indiepop. Their "Le Jardin" album is one of the greatest ever, and this is its essential companion piece.
Bobby Fuller Four - "The Best Ofä" CD 13/28:11
BF4 were an American '60s band who incorporated a variety of influences, from the Beatles to Buddy Holly to Dick Dale. Though best known for his hit "I Fought the Law", Fuller produced more than his share of pop gems, but died in '66 mysteriously. The case will remain unsolved, but whatever happened it took away one of America's more talented performers and this set is a good representation of his legacy.
Churchbuilder - "Patty Darling" CD 9/27:38
This sounds like any other indiepop band even though 3 of the 5 band members play keyboards. Most of the sweet tunes here have the band's female members handling the vocals, although the boy/girl song is a nice touch. Gentle songs with hooks to make each stand out on it's own. Strong songs and performance to match.
Laura Watling - "Early Morning Walk" CD 16/41:57
Laura has been prolific, first with the Autocollants and then solo, and this is her first solo full length. The quality of her work is consistently high, so a new LW record is not to be taken lightly. Laura plays virtually all the instruments on this self-recorded effort and keeps it simple. She could pull off her music with just a tambourine and acoustic guitar, although there are drums, and keyboards at times. It's all sweet lovepop with innocent vocals. It's all good, and "Same" is a must-hear.
Roach Motel - "Worstest Hits" CD 20/33:18
Raw melodic punk with wailing guitar noise blasting out of a cheap amp and strangled vocals that really work for me. They just don't make music like this anymore. This Florida band recorded these tracks between '80-82, and it sounds good 20 years later. Great album title.
Astropop 3 - "Eclipsing Binary Star" CD 12/36:52
A3 are inventive with their catchy '60s style melodies, but their vocals are sooo distinctive. Both Dan Villanueva and Angelique Everett have voices that are special and memorable, and really separate them from the indiepop pack. This ain't hi-fi; I don't know what they're playing as drums, and the guitar is frequently reduced to a distorted haze. It's inept but it works. Strong songwriting influenced by '60s psych-pop makes for indiepop from a fresh perspective. Excellent.
@ Planting Seeds, PO Box 64665, Virginia Beach, VA 23467
Atlantic Manor - "The Desperate View Of Emotional Devestation" CD 11/36:47
A self-recorded third album from AM that has the feel of early GBV experimentalism. With song titles like "Deathwish Safety Check" and "Tin Cup Chimp" you could almost guess as much. Several tracks are less than 2 minutes, several are more than 5 minutes. "Emotional Cripple" at 7:16 takes its time, as does AM in general, and becomes a haunting favorite. This is a solid effort, a close relative of Pere Ubu perhaps, file under experimental blues.
Orchid Pool - "Chutes and Ladders" CD 10/38:18
We don't get much folk-pop or folk-rock here at SP, and when we do the band is usually from Scotland. (Belle & Sebastian, Airport Girl) The song that kicks this off, "Elevator" is the best of the bunch, a tune Ian and Sylvia would have been proud of. The rest of it's a mixed bag that should appeal to fans of the genre.
http://artists.mp3s.com/artists/189/the_orchid_pool.html (MP3s available)
Siddeleys - "Slum Clearance" CD 16/41:51
Boy, do I feel stupid. In the late '80s when Britpop was at it's all-time peak I somehow failed to realize how good the Siddeleys were. I guess I was too busy listening to Smiths and Wedding Present. Singer Johnny Johnson wrote the songs and plays various instruments in addition to providing her own vocal harmonies; quite a versatile gal. Johnny used a lot of reverb on her vocals, a whole lot, and the layered guitars included suitable jangle, overall a dense and pretty wall of pop sound with literate lyrics somewhere between the Smiths and Popguns. What ever happened to JJ, what a spectacular talent!?
Bob Dylan - "Love and Theft" CD 12/41:00
L&T is Dylan's best sung, best played, best produced and best written album in 15 years. Still, I find it unsatisfying, too weighted down with Dylan's adaptation of the Blues, which I always thought was the weak part of his repertoire. Despite the old timey feel most of this has, it doesn't come together as a cohesive effort, as a number of songs just don't fit in. "Mississippi" is a stand out track that has little in common with the rest of the album. A previous recording of it was left off Dylan's last album, "Time Out Of Mind", four years ago. "Sugar Baby" is another highlight that doesn't really fit the concept. The best of the new songs that does is "Po' Boy". The last time Dylan explored pre- Rock n' Roll Americana was the "Basement Tapes" where he frequently incorporated silly lyrics. He does the same here and the results may be more entertaining lyrically than musically.
@ Columbia, no address
Iggy Pop - "Beat Em Up" CD 15/58:00
A terrible try for Iggy as he attempts a horribly uninspired rehash of what he was doing 30 years ago. There's not really a good song in the bunch. This never gets all that noisy or rockin', and all too often brings the proceedings to a halt with his more recent influences, rap and poetry. Not even close.
@ Virgin, no address