Browsing Category Reissues

Daniel Hecht – Guitar

Each year that passes there are still corners of the musical consciousness to dig and redeliver to a waiting audience. The reissue label field is getting dense, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still some genuine gems finding their way back out of the past. Daniel Hecht’s 1973 debut Guitar is just such a treasure that’s somehow evaded reissue until the tail end of last year. Hecht has the benefit of bridging the academic and field approach to the instrument. While he was classically trained in theory and composition, studying at the North Shore Conservatory in Illinois, he didn’t really begin his musical career until living on a commune years later, studying the works of Mississippi John Hurt and sitting in on conversations with Moondog, who would encourage him to record his guitar works.

He’d go on to record a few other records, with a couple winding up self-released on his own Dragon’s Egg imprint before finding camaraderie with John Fahey and releasing his final record on Windham Hill in 1980. Though his undisputed masterpiece remains this debut, a raw outpouring of country-folk, with a slightly complex edge simmering underneath its skin. The record has remained out of print, though not inescapable to collectors, since shortly after its release and now Telephone Explosion imprint Morning Trip are re-releasing it back rightfully into the racks alongside a new surge of acoustic pickers. For years I’ve heard Hecht’s name tossed among influences of players that strayed from the more usual fare and figurehead fingerpickers, but its nice to see this shared with a few new generations who might come to it with little knowledge other than its a beautiful piece that’s finally getting a proper due.



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Oh-OK – The Complete Reissue

As HHBTM notes, there seems to be a bit of an resurrection of prime period Athens indie going on. With reissues of Pylon and Love Tractor already scratching the surface of the scene’s reach, it seems only fitting that Oh-OK would be next. The band might be most famed for the inclusion of Lynda Stipe, younger sister of Athens’ most famous musical Stipe. The band formed just as Pylon were beginning to go their separate ways and the band’s rubberized punk carries on quite a bit of the sound that Pylon would explore, albeit in a more compact fashion. Stipe along with Linda Hopper would form the band in 1981 and as luck or more likely proximity would have it, they wound up opening for R.E.M. in their first show, leading them to follow in Pylon’s footsteps signing to DB Records the following year.

The band’s output isn’t robust, but there’s no real filler in their scant catalog. The compilation rounds up their two EPs — 1982’s Wow Mini Album and 83’s Furthermore What 12” alongside a handful of live recordings of songs that never made it to tape and two songs “Random” and “Courage Courage” which were set to be their final 7” before they broke up but were never released. An overview of the band’s work has made it to CD/Dig, but this marks the first time its made it to vinyl since the two EPs were first released. As usual, HHBTM is killing it with the details here and the comp is necessary, not just for Athens music fans, DB completists, and post-punk nuts, but for anyone looking for a good solid pop slap in the face. Years later this still sounds as vital as it did in the early cradle of the ‘80s.



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Pax – Pax

The halls of hard rock are lined with a litany of bands from the UK and UK, Japan and Germany get a fair amount of credit, but it seems that in the past few decades the real mining on the South American scenes has begun. Not that the talent wasn’t there, but scrounging originals and documenting the rise has been slower going than the more obvious spots. Brazil gets its credit for hippie psych, and Chile has had some spotlight thrown from its current crop of psych bands, but Peru can sometimes get lost in the mix. This proper reissue of Pax’ sole album has found a new home at Munster and its a welcome rise from the mists of time. The band evolved out of the dissolution of songwriter Pico Ego-Aguirre’s former beat group Los Shains. Pegged more to the garage rock / Anglophile influence, the band lasted until 1968, when sounds in Peru, as with abroad, began to grow heavier and more disillusioned.

Coming to fruition under the backdrop of the Peruvian revolution, with state censorship of psychedelic messages, the band fused their unrest with the growling tension of British Blues bands that were coming in on 45 into the import bins locally. The band originally culled from the ranks of former Shains members, but discord would fracture the lineups until Ego-Aguirre would remain alongside much younger members and an American expat who would go on to record the bones of Pax (May God And Your Will Land You And Your Soul Miles Away From Evil). There’s always a looming shadow of Zeppelin, but the band finds nimbleness of Vanilla Fudge, or Blind Faith and welds it to the crunch of Sabbath. The record is considered a cornerstone of Peruvian metal’s rise and its easy to see how this might have shuttled a few youths towards heavier hollows. It still feels like a burner after all these years, and it’s good to see it returned to an official vinyl release.



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The Mickey Finn – “The Mickey Finn 1964/1967”

Seems like The Mickey Finn always surfaces on garage comps when the gaze switches to the UK. From Nuggets to Chocolate Soup For Diabetics, the band’s psych single “The Garden of My Mind” finds its way into the ranks and adds a nice edge of psych-tipped R&B. The band never recorded an album proper, but their singles output is fairly solid over the years preceding their most famous single and this proper roundup from Munster does a bit better at giving an overview than previously culled comps, with the latest being a mostly European centered release from about 6 years back that’s a bit hard to find these days. The Mickey Finn 1964/1967 keeps the scope on their harder blues crossover singles, a period that often finds them as notable trivia fodder for the fact that the band’s friend Jimmy Page would sit in with them on tracks — adding harmonica to a trio of covers from Jimmy Reed, Chuck Berry, and Bo Diddley.

As the band pushed further on, they connected with producer Shel Talmy (The Kinks, The Who) and began to expand their sound from straight blues runners to songs that built more menace and space into the mix. “Night Comes Down” is probably the most prominent of the Talmy singles, with spaced organs and acerbic guitars entering the fray. This collection, while not boasting a complete overview of the band, does cut through any excess to deliver the band’s best works, while bringing them to a full LP release for the first time. Something here for the garage heads and British blues fans alike, but in rounding up the band’s singles, Munster has created a proper album for the band that proves they were more than just a bit of Zeppelin-adjacent trivia.



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Bill Fox – Transit Byzantium

Some great news of a couple of essential reissues out of the Cleveland underground this month. Bill Fox’s name might have swum into your conciseness if power pop fringes ever cross your turntable, having mad some slight amount of acclaim leading The Mice along with his brother Tommy in the mid-80s. Much to his brother’s dismay, Bill left the band behind just as they began to garner acclaim. The band’s sound had the feeling predicting a pop-punk explosion that was to follow in the early ‘90s, but it seems that wasn’t the route Fox had in mind. Bill would keep out of the public eye for quite a few years, but around 1996 he assembled a backing band he called The Radio Flyers and began to focus on a string of solo records that took on a quieter calling, but found their own ardent following in the process. While The Mice’s garage pop was based on huge hooks and a focused snottiness that made them instantly likable, Bill’s solo recordings were more introspective, finding themselves drenched in a home-recorded hue of folk pop and Everlys ease.

There’s still hangover of the charms that Bill brought to The Mice evident in his first solo LP Shelter From The Smoke, but it trades volume for quietude, reclining nicely into an album that straddles its clear Dylan/ Van Ronk roots with the indie-pop and folk waves that were swimming to the fore around the time. As he gets comfortable and leans into his second LP, Transit Byzantium he’s found himself penning a ruffled, but resplendent gem of an album that lays into hooks with the unfussed air of Guided By Voices if they were recording Elliott Smith style lamentations. Under the tape-hiss humbleness Fox lays out his masterpiece on Transit, weaving an album of nasal folk sighs that chaffed against plenty of trends at the time. However, given time to breathe and re-root itself into consciousness, the album proves to be an evergreen record of homespun tales that rattle around the brain with a weathered charm. The reissue, along with an LP issue of its predecessor mark the first time the albums have been on vinyl, boasting a brand new remastering that lets the sound sink into the grooves and grow into the essential release its always been.



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Heron – S/T

This is one of those reissues that’s always high atop my list of necessities. The originals are scant and likewise expensive and I, sadly, missed out on a 500 press reissue about seven or eight years ago. Yet, now it seems that Trading Places is stepping up to fill the need for lovers of English folk out there in the crowd. The band formed among friends in Maidenhead, Berkshire, in 1967 with a sizable creative debt to The Incredible String Band, though they’d begin to carve out a more unique identity by the time of this eponymous debut. They were signed by Donovan’s A&R rep/producer Peter Eden to Essex Records as songwriters, following a stint opening for larger bands in their college circle. This then led to the band issuing their debut album on PYE subsidiary Dawn.

Most renown for its recording quality, this LP has long found favor with collectors for its natural feeling that’s only bolstered by the gentle songwriting of Roy Apps and Robert Collins, and the auburn vocals of Tony Pook. The band was notably studio-averse, having found the trappings too stiff. So, like any band with folk leanings in Britain in the ‘70s, they split for the countryside to write an album in a someone’s remote family farmhouse — in this case Pook’s. The writing lead to recording, as they had a mobile studio with them on the trip and the recordings captured the kind of communal spirit that had been threaded through the the prior years of folk and psychedelic boom.

Alongside their resplendent folk rock, the songs are flecked with birds and insects from the meadows behind the farm. It’s probably as close as any have come to capturing the sound of porchlight sessions and true woolen commune warmth. The record itself didn’t catch on, though the band did tour with Comus and Demon Fuzz as part of Dawn’s promotions. They also caught the ear of John Peel and set up a less homespun follow-up single that received a fair amount of airplay, but was sabotaged by a vinyl supply issue. Later tours with David Bowie kept them on through a second album that was billed as a double LP for the price of a single LP, though even Pook has noted it probably would have made a solid single album, but wound up a very poor and haphazard double LP. It does boast Mike Cooper on slide in places, so its not a total loss. The band reformed in the late ‘90s, but this debut remains their true masterwork. Great to have it back in print once more. I wouldn’t let this one slide away.




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Norma Tanega – Walkin’ My Cat Named Dog

Tanega’s arc is unfortunately all too familiar among ‘60s pop acts. The singer was discovered as a music counselor at camps in the Catskills and brought to producer Bob Crewe. Despite possessing uniquely robust voice, that recalls Nico at times, Tanega was pushed towards the lighthearted single that gives this album its name. “Walkin My Cat Named Dog” wasn’t exactly representative of her other works, but it would be the song that she’d long be associated with. The single was rounded up alongside material that was much more a fitting environment for her strong vocal style, mixing folk with lush pop arrangements that swerve through Brill Building sounds. I’m sure that anyone coming to the album on the heels of the single might be a bit surprised. Its a lovely, melancholy record that might find some shelf space next to Wendy & Bonnie or The Proper Ornaments.

The album wasn’t exactly a chart success when it was released in 1966, but the label kept her on a few more years. She’d record several other singles through the end of the ‘60s and into the beginning of the ‘70s when she issued the album I Don’t Think It Will Hurt If You Smile for RCA in 1971. Her other singles “Bread” and “Run, On The Run” are included here as well. While the record has been on CD in the past few years this edition from Real Gone marks a return to vinyl for the songs here. Norma’s voice, alongside the whimsical production, paint a picture of an artist that was much more than just a novelty hit. In recent years the album’s opening track “You’re Dead” has found some life on television as the theme song to the Matt Berry show What We Do In The Shadows. However she gets it, though, Tanega’s well worth the attention. I’d definitely recommend nabbing a copy of the LP and letting the bittersweet glow wash over your day.




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Heavenly – A Bout de Heavenly

Still some late year necessities rolling in before 2020 officially tosses itself into the burn bin. The crew over at Damaged Goods fill in an indie-pop drought of Heavenly releases with this essential singles compilation. The band, which sprang out of the highly revered Tallulah Gosh, wound up making their own stake in indie-pop that was just as significant. The compilation rounds up the band’s singles, which were spread primarily over Sarah in the early ‘90s but also found their way stateside to K Records, with one popping up on Rough Trade’s Wiiija Records as well. The set nabs highlights from the singles as well as their four albums, similarly spread across Sarah and Wiiija.

Heavenly, as much has the Gosh before them found their charms spreading their sound between guitars that jangle n’ twang. Add to that the saccharine n’ tart vocals of Amelia Fletcher and Cathy Rogers and its easy to see why they’ve long been a fan favorite. While Fletcher’s heartbroken lament and pogo-pop delivery were the hallmark, post Le Jardin de Heavenly the band featured harmonies from Rogers and their back ’n forth became a bit of an expected feature, not to mention a blueprint for twee poppers following in their footsteps from Belle and Sebastian to The Vivian Girls. The band’s catalog has, as I mentioned, seen a bit of a lapse in the last few years. Aside from the digital availability of the LPs, the last round up of the band’s work round its way out around ’95. Indie pop fans should have this one high on their list even as the end of year onslaught threatens to bury it.



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The Toms – The 1979 Sessions

Anyone who’s been tumbling down the power pop staircase long enough eventually stumbles on the eponymous album from The Toms. Created by longtime studio vet, Thomas Marolda, the record is as solid as anything under the late ‘70s banner of the genre. Marolda was set to record The Smithereens when the band cancelled and instead he used the gap in his schedule to record the sessions that would wind up on his eponymous debut. Through it wasn’t just the tight tracklist that made the cut, he’d actually spent that lost weekend recording more than three albums worth of material. Some of this has made it onto various expanded CD versions over the years, but the material on The 1979 Sessions marks a round up of the remaining material from the weekend.

Marolda would go on to work behind the desk and in songwriting well into the present, and he’s picked The Toms moniker back up in recent years, but it’s impressive that even the third round cutting floor from the sessions in ’79 remain as packed with hooks as the songs included in this set. The set has landed over at Feel It Records who are finally pressing this lot to LP and giving it a good archival home. If you’ve never dug through The Toms’ original album, by all means start there, but if power pop oddities is your thing, there’s a bit more new blood from the band right here.



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Beachwood Sparks – S/T

While the sounds that filter through on Beachwood Sparks’ debut take their roots some 25-30 years prior, the band stands among a new wave of Cosmic Americana artists from the early aughts who would set the swell going long into our current era. There aren’t really any tarnished spots in their winding run, which fell around ’00-’02 and then picked up a decade later with a second wind pushing the same cosmic sails. The Sub Pop years in particular hold a special place in my heart and it seems that the bulk of the praise from the period often falls on their sophomore LP, Once We Were Trees, as the band really begins to leave the confines of the Earth and exist among the gauzy amber glow of the clouds. A year earlier the band laid the groundwork for that album with an equally sublime ache. The record bears the marks of time well, sounding as much a lost country-psych classic as any dug up from the ‘70s.

As their run on Sub Pop ended, the catalog was left to languish without the proper attention it deserves. Now with Brent Rademaker’s Curation Records picking up some Cosmic American slack with a slew of new releases, the rights have come back home and Beachwood is getting a long overdue reissue of the debut album on double LP along with a second disc of bonus material that rounds up a few rarities along with the band’s contributions to the Sub Pop Singles Club. With a current wave of newfound Cosmic Americana voices taking shape, its nice to have one of the Aughts’ best back on the racks reminding us why they were such a key voice in the first place. That gorgeous double gatefold doesn’t hurt either.



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