Saturday, April 23, 2016

Weekend Music Roundup

So now that Record Store Day is safely in rear view, I've returned to pollute your time with my thoughts on the sounds I've been listening to during the course of the week. Naturally, a lot of what is going to be on the next couple of Roundups is going to be from my haul last weekend, but there are also some current releases that I'm trying to stay on top of. A good number of my RSD buys were albums that have already been reviewed here over the years from their digital existence, so you'll be spared those. In the meantime, here is the list, consisting mostly of oldies and a few new ones. Enjoy.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - Person A:  The L.A. folk collective's first album in three years doesn't stray far from their campfire singalong style that they've developed over the years. Alexander Ebert is quietly becoming one of the best song writers of his generation, crafting catchy indie folk pop tunes with political messages about the power of love. "The Ballad of Yaya," "No Love Like Yours," "Free Stuff," and "Let It Down" are standouts on this fine album.

The Kinks - The Kink Kontroversy: The legendary band's fourth album of 1965, and fifth in total, really cemented their place as one of the premier British Invasion bands. Face-to-Face, their best in my opinion, would follow, and this album is the perfect lead up to it. I've always considered them to be the third in the Big Three, along with the Beatles and the Stones. They are the mod garage band that I truly love, not The Who. Klassic!

The Flaming Lips - Lightning Strikes the Postman: This Record Store Day CD-only release is an alternative mix of their 1995 album Clouds Taste Metallic. And by alternate mix, it is basically just the guitar mixed to the forefront and everything else faded into almost nothing, creating a psychedelic folk album with a wonderful mood throughout. I'm sure there are people who will be disappointed by this instrumental bit of weirdness because it doesn't sound like the Flaming Lips. For that same reason, I found it intriguing. Regardless, on its own merit, it is a great example of psychedelic guitar work that never feels dull.

The Monkees - Headquarters: 1967 was a breakthrough year in The Monkees development, seeing them shift from teen pop to some of the best psychedelic pop ever made. It all began with this record, and continued with Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. released later in the year. There are moments here where they resemble the teen sound of Herman's Hermits and others where they erupt with songs The Beatles would be envious of and not match until the White Album. This was the one essential Monkees album I was still missing and found it in a $1 bin.

Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals - Call It What It Is: Reunited with the Innocent Criminals for the first time in nine years, the California native released a new album last week. I was a big fan of Ben Harper in the mid-90s. His first three albums were a revelation in a landscape dominated by increasingly radio driven alternative rock. His songs felt like gospel. I admit to souring on him by the turn of the century, feeling as though he sold out and went all Hollywood. The first single from this album, "Pink Balloon" has been on heavy rotation on the local indie radio and it sounded refreshing enough that I took a chance on this one. While there are flashes of the old Ben, like on "Goodbye to You" and "All that has Grown," this isn't a classic album. Very listenable, and very enjoyable, but still doesn't compare to Fight For Your Mind.

Elton John - Caribou: If you would have told me a dozen years ago that I'd be an Elton John fan, I would've laughed. But in that time, I've come to appreciate his early work as some of the best albums ever made. Released in 1974, smack between Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Captain Fantastic, this is considered a bit of forgotten record, except for the mega hit "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me."  Though it lacks some of the glam flare that makes those other two mid-70s offerings classic, this is still a solid record. Glad to have added it, not I'm only missing Don't Shoot Me to complete my vinyl collection up to Captain Fantastic. 

Thelonious Monk - The London Collection Volume 3: A little while back, I picked up Volume 2 of this collection, a previous Record Store Day release, and liked it so much that I decided to snatch up this year's RSD addition. This Monk at his mellow best, recorded in '71, there is a magic that surrounds these recordings, magic that makes my whole house seem bright and alive when I play these on Sunday mornings. I could probably listen to "Trinkle Tinkle" all day long, so I'm glad it both opens and closes side one.

Bob Dylan - Street Legal: By 1978, old Robert Zimmerman was no longer the revolutionary folk poet of that he was in '60s. He was entering his gospel age, which would continue for the next few albums, but it begins here in a glorious way. I first encountered this album when I was 19 or so, and admit to kind of hating it. It wasn't the Dylan that I wanted to hear. Oddly today, it's exactly the Dylan I want to hear, possibly because he's around my age here and singing of the way I've to come feel. This is a bigger sound, more pop rock than folk, and it's actually quite good. "True Love Tends to Forget," and "Changing of the Guards" are some of his best work. Well worth the $1 spent on it. 

Boz Scaggs - Down Two Then Left: In 1977, Boz followed up his monster hit album Silk Degrees with this one. Having picked that one up a few weeks back, and jamming on it quite I bit, I dug this one out the $1 bin to go alongside. It being the end of the '70s, there is a definite disco undercurrent that runs through these blue-eyed soul tunes. While its predecessor reminded me of Billy Joel, this one feels more Elton John, though oddly, I like the Joel sounding one better despite not liking Joel. One of the appeals of this is certainly that these songs totally remind me of the music my dad loved, and hearing them reminds me of him. Another $1 well spent.

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