After two weeks of covering only releases from this year, I'm dying to talk about some old tunes and dusty records that I've dug out of oblivion. This year has definitely been the year of vinyl for me. Most of my purchases have been on that resurgent medium and of late, those purchases seem to dig deeper into the obscure and unheralded. I've chosen a few of those for here, as well a few great selections passed to me by friend Marc, the Godfather of Prog. In addition, I'm continuing to share some of my rediscovered love for groove metal. Enjoy.
Boris - Japanese Heavy Rock Hits Vol. 1-4: In the last few months of last year, everyone's favorite heavy Japanese band released these four 7" records as a series. In recent years, this band has put out many varied releases, from heavy metal to drone, all with very mixed results in my opinon. I absolutely love their 2003 album Akuma no Uto, but have been less impressed with some of the follow-up albums. However these four singles, consisting of seven songs, has been getting a lot of air time in my speakers. It's much more mellow than most of their work, and just has a great heavy rock meets Blonde Redhead feel. Supercool.
Doctor Hook - Doctor Hook and the Medicine Show: I bought this album purely on the cover and the fact that it was recorded partially in San Fran in 1971. It turns out the band is from my old home state of New Jersey, right across the water from NYC. The album ended up being quite good, not that I was all that surprised from the look of these lads. There is an obvious Captain Beefheart influence, but it's fused with a country bar band feel. "Kiss It Away" is an absolutely brilliant track.
Television & Patti Smith - Early Gig '75: This is a concert bootleg from CBGB's featuring both of these artists in the very early stages of their careers. They don't play together (as far as I've been able to tell). First, Television plays an amazing set and they sound great, like a mellow Stooges. "Foxhole" and "Breaking My Heart" really stand out. Then, Patti comes on and plays a cool set, including "Gloria". It's nice to hear some light-hearted banter from her on stage, too. I think she's always portrayed as being so serious, that it was a fun change of pace. Finally, Television comes back on and plays some more. It's a shame the album suffers from really bad recording quality or it would be truly wonderful. As is, it's a fun listen for interested parties only.
Paul Kantner, Grace Slick and David Frieberg - Baron Von Tollbooth and the Chrome Nun: I didn't even know this 1973 album existed until I came across a copy of it for sale. Being an Jefferson Airplane fanatic, I snatched it up without concern to the band members' somewhat spotty '70s catalog (though I'm bigger fan of it than most). This is Paul and Grace's follow up to the excellet 1971 album Sunfighter and last album before Jefferson Starship is born in '74. The unique thing about this record is that it lacks joy, which oddly makes it enjoyable. This is an album about the death of '60s optimism turned inward. It's full of mythical and fable imagery and '70s guitar lines which make for a softer psychedelic sound that feels grown-up in a way.
Godz - Contact High With the Godz: This 1966 debut album from one of the original NYC freak folk outfits has been one I've wanted to hear for some time. It's a wonderful lo-fi garage sound of bluesy folk. It's one of those albums that's great for waking up to. "Come on Girl, Turn On" and "May You Never Be Alone Like Me" are the two tracks that really stand out for me.
Sleep - Sleep's Holy Mountain: My recent renewed love for Black Sabbath inspired heavy metal led me to this 1993 masterpiece by the San Jose band. This is stoner metal at it's absolute best. Heavy riffs, perfectly delivered vocals. Like Electric Wizard, this band is the sound of Sabbath fast-forwarded to a natural progression. This is one of my top albums from past years that I've discovered in 2010.
Ash Ra Tempel - Ash Ra Tempel: The 1971 debut from Berlin space prog pioneers is only two songs, each clocking in around 20 minutes in length. Both tracks are sprawling examples of prog wonderfulness that are much in the spirit of Pink Floyd's output of the same time. Just a perfect spacey album that I've listened to many times in the past week while writing.
Chicago - Chicago V: I rescued this 1972 album from my parents' garage recently and wasn't expecting much, being familiar with the band's soft rock schlock. However, it was more pleasing than I would've thought. It's a soft jazz-rock fusion album of the kind that could only be made in the '70s. For a good chunk of this album, it's very light and not really noteworthy. But when the sound clicks, like on "Alma Mater", it approaches the greatness of Elton John's Madman Across the Water.
Fleetwood Mac - Mr. Wonderful: In my continuing effort to familiarize myself with the Peter Green version of this band, I acquired this, the band's second album from 1968. This is the early band's best effort. A wonderful British Blues album that stands alongside the Bluesbreakers albums. "Love That Burns" is brilliant. Peter Green is in rare form on this album. Truly Mr. Wonderful.
Camel - The Snow Goose: The British prog-band's third album from 1975 follows this masterful Mirage (which I reviewed a few weeks back). It's an mostly instrumental concept album with moments that simply beautiful. This band is certainly influenced by Pink Floyd albums such as "Atom Heart Mother" and "Umma Gumma", but they push the idea further to create something that still feels fresh decades later. Another great album to listen to as I work.