Browsing Category Reissues

Groundhogs – Blues Obituary

I’m all in for getting the Groundhogs’ catalog back on the shelf and it seems that Fire are rushing to the rescue these days. The UK label digs into the band’s ‘69 release, Blues Obituary. The album provides an essential bridge between the hogs’ early blues covers and the, wilder, freer works of their later albums. Scratching The Surface is populated by standards and classics. Its proof the band can play and deserves to be lifted up among the upper echelons of British Blues. With Blues Obituary, however, The Groundhogs propose that they’re something else – provocateurs, alchemists – rather than journeymen. The songs are still rooted in the groove of blues, but TS McPhee and the boys bury the old notions, as the title might attest, and dive further into freakout and burnt psychedelia than they’d ever dared before.

Though they’d certainly push further in the future. The album precedes their doubled down classics Thank Christ For The Bomb and Split, which could use the reissue treatment as well. If the stars align and Fire’s got it in them, hopefully they’ll see new light as well. Apparently, the shift from the blues was spurred on by good ol’ John Peel, which just makes Blues Obituary that much sweeter in retrospect. Any rec from John is a shove in the right direction. This is McPhee just finding his freakish muse, and, while there are definitely more essential albums both in their catalog and from the same year, this is a perfect fit for heads into Canned Heat, Yardbirds and John Mayall. The label does the release proud with a die cut sleeve and limited color, making this likely the definitive issue of the LP.



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Kicking Giant – “This Being the Ballad of Kicking Giant, Halo: NYC/Olympia 1989 – 1993”

Without invoking to much of a pun, I’m kicking myself for missing this when it first found its way back to press. Not to worry, though as this rather essential reissue from Drawing Room Records remains in print. For the unfamiliar, Kicking Giant formed in 1989 in NYC while mems Tae Won Yu and Rachel Carns were in art school. During their time in the city the band issued a run of tapes, one a year, until their eventual move to Olympia, WA. Those tapes – January, Boyfriend Girlfriend, Secret Teenage Summer, and Present – would all be bound into a CD-only collection called Halo in 1993. Its this collection that is now coming to vinyl at last. Their early works were raw, and saw the band work through a range of styles, picking at punk, shoegaze, riot grrrl, abstract pop and indie. While this was a release meant to exploit the large capacity of CDs, its great to see Drawing Room work this out into a gorgeous vinyl package. It was meant as a mixtape for the uninitiated and its still stands as the best primer to the band’s eclectic sound.

The band signed to K Records in 1994, issuing one proper single and an album for the label. Though they’d also contribute to a number of compilations that pretty much summed up their run. Carns joined the similarly overlooked, but no less intriguing band The Need and issued four albums. Yu would instead transition back to visual art, most notably drawing covers for Built To Spill albums. For fans of lo-fi pop and the wild west indie days of the early ‘90s, this collection can’t come with a higher recommendation.




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Goblin – Profondo Rosso

Waxworks continues their expansive exploration of the scores to Dario Argento films. The last one to appear here was the Tenebrae soundtrack, produced as Goblin shifted from a 4-piece down to a 3-piece. Now it’s back to where the collaborations all began, with Argento and Goblin first working together on 1975’s Profondo Rosso (Deep Red). The Italian horror-thriller was the first to get a heaping helping of progressive psych and jazz work from Goblin and it still stands among their best collaborations with the composer. The score is littered with creeping menace and that odd twist of funk that gives Goblin their hook. They don’t go in for simply working through synth sweeps, Goblin’s charm lies in the hard-knuckled nature of their scores and an ability to keep things constantly in motion. The company has given this the most complete treatment to date, expanding the collection out to a 3xLP in triple gatefold.

What’s been most striking about the Waxworks editions is not only the expanded music but the extensive design, making the soundtracks more art pieces than merely musical accompaniment. Standing alongside editions from Mondo and Death Waltz, the new class of horror soundtracks are becoming curios for ardent collectors. Aside from the essential pickups of Profondo Rosso and Tenebrae in this series, the label has also put forth editions of the Phenomoena score, which while not a Goblin vehicle is worth checking into and boasts the first instance of the film’s completed score on LP. Plus, the artwork on this may be the best of the bunch.

Rounding out the collection is the score to Inferno, which moved away from Argento’s work with Goblin, but kept things in the prog family, partnering instead with ELP’s Keith Emerson. Again, this is wrapped up in deluxe packaging and limited color vinyl. If you’ve been exploring the deep bench of horror soundtracks, these three are a good start outside of your normal Carpenter canon.




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Velvet Crush – In The Presence of Greatness

There just aren’t that many classic power pop tales that begin with, “straight outta Rhode Island,” but the clam neck state offered up Velvet Crush in 1989 and they’d work their way into one of the decade’s oft overlooked gems. To be fair the band actually got it together in Southern Illinois college towns, where the band’s Paul Chastain was helping care out a sound running the Picture Book label. The band picked up roots and headed to Providence, but nabbed some help from friend and fellow power-pop impresario Matthew Sweet. Sweet would record In The Presence of Greatness as well as play guitar on the LP. The band share’s a considerable crossover with his love of The Raspberries and Big Star, showcasing a similar love for the jangled, classic version of the genre on their debut.

The album gained some traction in college rock circles but wound up making the most impression oversees, where the band would wind up distributed by Creation. Problem there was in 1989 Creation was moving from jangles to shoegaze and while the band might have fit in with a longview of the label, at the time they were passé for a lot of British fans. Be that as it may, the record is a solid sender of jangle-pop, power pop and college rock. Its incredibly indebted to the old guard of power pop that preceded it by a decade, but they’re pulling it off as good as most.

The band would go on to get further attention around their sophomore LP, Teenage Symphonies To God, produced by ‘90s studio savant Mitch Easter (R.E.M., The dB’s), but the band would wind up stretching a bit outside of their comfort zone. The debut is a great genre dig for those who love the crossover of power pop and Creation. While maybe not the most essential of either of those camps, it’s a great curio from the era that was left to linger for far too long.



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Catherine Ribeiro + Alpes – Box Set

Anthology is going above and beyond with a massive reissue of early ’70s albums from French progressive artist Catherine Ribeiro. The singular vocalist had an uncompromising vision of psychedelic folk that saw her progress over this three album arc from baroque, yet semi-grounded folk to a wildly experimental set that would send most Krautrock heads spinning. The artist began her trajectory on film, appearing in Spaghetti Westerns and, notably, netting a part in Jean Luc Godard’s Les Carabiniers. Acting put her in contact with creatives that started her down a musical path and by 1969 she was carving out a space with the help of Patrice Moullet, who backed her first record with his band 2Bis. By the time her follow up rolls around the band had morphed to become Les Alpes, and thus began this period of fruitful collaboration.

Ribeiro’s voice is truly the star of her albums, strong and unyielding, its a true force of nature. She’s often been compared to Brigitte Fontaine and shares similarities with Nico and Buffy St. Marie. Her work over the course of N°2, Ame Debout, and Paix wound darker and more complex with each year. N°2 is mostly just Moullet and Denis Cohen (percussion, organ) backing her up. With each ablum, as they gain confidence in their vision, Les Alpes begins to take on bigger and more varied forms, though. Ame Debout picks up some motorik steam, locking rhythms to anguished violin and wild flights of ambient sound. The band gets more of a role here, even taking on a couple of instrumental tracks that aren’t dominated by Ribeiro’s powerful sway. The album is the most in flux, shedding Ribeiro’s beginnings, but not fully in command of what would come next.

By the time the band rolls into ’73’s Paix they’ve left the normal constraints of folk behind, working into 15 minute lengths and pushing the idea of song further from the digestible single than ever before. Paix is truly the band’s Zenith, tough its remarkable to see how they built towards this exploratory sound over the past two albums. As a box set the trio works to dissect how Ribeiro and Moullet worked off of one another and pushed each other to get outside of the mindset of French pop music entirely. If you have the time for the deep dive, then all three are worth a visit, but if you must cut to the core, Paix is where Ribeiro makes her mark for the ages. This is an excellent collection of an artist truly deserving of a retrospective.



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The Wolfhounds – Hands In The Till

As with many, I might imagine, my introduction to The Wolfhounds came at the hand of the C86 compilation. Though the comp is rather cohesive in its rounding up of the UK janglepop picture at the time there are a few outliers that stick out simply because they’re not as gentle as the majority of the fodder on the fabled collection. Chief among these aberrations are Half Man Half Biscuit, The Shrubs and The Wolfhounds. The latter actually lands close to the scope of many of the band’s but there’s a danger present in their sound that begs closer inspection. The band followed their excellent ’86 material with the biting “Anti-Midas Touch” EP starting off a noise-pop journey that’s still going.

As could only be expected of a quality UK band, they were participants in John Peel Sessions, leaving behind four sessions worth of incredible performances that sound surprisingly smooth all lined up. Given that the band was torn apart and reformed a few times over the span of the sessions, that’s no small feat. The comp covers a lot of ground and is notable for stringing together quite a bit of non-album singles material, touching on cuts from the Me, Cruelty, and Happy Shopper 7″s. The band have always remained admirable for swaying from the easy road, they’d captured their jangly beginnings in Unseen Ripples from a Pebble and the subsequent singles but turned around and drove the noise to the forefront with Blown Away, which likely dropped a few fair weather fans. This comp, sitting in the context of their excellent catalog proves that, like their peers in The Fall, McCarthy and The Wedding Present, they were an essential band carving out their own unique take on England’s rose. This is an excellent primer for the unfamiliar and an essential pickup for the ardent fan.



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Cosmic Invention – Help Your Satori Mind

There are long simmering reissues that have been achingly in need of a new day, obvious and picked over – the kind that require a contract negotiation to will into existence. Then, there are those that were just bubbling below the surface, ones which should have been obvious, but for some reason or another eluded the mind. The news that Cosmic Invention’s sole album was getting the vinyl treatment fell squarely in this second camp. While Ghost’s early catalog still remains elusively and tantalizingly out of print, this Masaki Batoh side project is given a well-deserved second life through Drag City. The band featured a stunning lineup of musicians, one which would be enviable in any Japanese Psych band before or after. The ranks included Michio Kurihara (White Heaven, The Stars), Chiyo Kamekawa (Fushitsusha, Yura Yura Teikoku), and Okano Futoshi (Acid Mothers Temple, The Silence) among others who have orbited Batoh’s works since.

Landing just a year after Ghost’s haunting psych-folk opus Lama Rabi Rabi, the record stands in stark contrast to that album’s dark restraint. It’s the beginning of a heavier sound for Ghost, played out as a standalone record hinged on molten solos and spectral noise. The band moves from AMT-styled barn burners to electric Miles freeforms with ease, proving that the assembled players were all hitting a seasoned prime during their time in Cosmic Invention. The record found its way out on the experimental label The Now Sound which issued previous records from Batoh and White Heaven along with the similarly Batoh affiliated Sweet & Honey.

While all the members here add to the psychedelic fortitude of the album, the record is really the outcome of opposing forces in Bathoh and Kurihara’s style. Batoh brings his well of haunted tenderness and Kurihara sets it all on fire with a heavy hand on the strings. What springs between those poles, however, is an album of darkness and light that’s rarely been matched. For fans of ‘90s Japanese Psych, this is a pickup on par with anything from the PSF archives and Drag City has done a nice job of it, even adding in a bonus cut. Though, for the life of me I can’t imagine why they redesigned the cover to look like a live bootleg but let’s not pick at small details. It’s a completely essential and utterly devastating record and it should find a place on your shelf as soon as possible.



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Popera Cosmic – Les Esclaves

Finders Keepers have never shied away from prog or concept albums before, but they’ve netted themselves something of a big fish in terms of psychedelic classics here. Popera Cosmic was a landmark album that helped shape the French psychedelic direction that would follow – from Serge Gainsbourg through on to Jean Rollin, Gong and Magma, this stands as the germ that began many musicians’ journeys. The record is headed by songwriter Francois Wertheimer, who would go on to write for Vangelis and was a fixture at BYG records. He paired up with Jodorowsky collaborator Guy Skornik and the two based the record on a concept from a young Jean Michel-Jarre.

As for the record itself, its up there with the most outre psychedelic pieces. The album was inspired by French street theater in its narrative and sweeps through styles from blistering psych freakouts to barroom sing-a-long and lush orchestral folk with string arrangements courtesy of William Sheller and Paul Piot. Further support comes from the rhythm section from French prog legends Alice, who keep the record clicking through its stylistic changes flawlessly and add a dose of heaviness on the psych-stompers.

The record was instantly deleted at the time of its release and lay as a collector’s totem until now, so it seems high time this was available on a wider basis. Beyond fans of the French psychedelia this would influence, those who have been in thrall of The Holy Mountain, SF Sorrow or Head can feel free to dig in. Or, if you wish there existed a mash of Gong’s Flying Teapot, Les Mis on a heavy head of DMT and Haphash and the Coloured Coat, look no further.



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Adorable – Against Perfection

Every once in a while, a true classic slips back out into the world without anyone kicking up to much of a fuss. Just as I was about to work in a Necessary Repress feature on the great – but often dismissed by American audiences – debut by Adorable, I doubled checked and it was due out this month from Music On Vinyl. The Dutch label has a habit of rescuing albums from both the fringe and from the zeitgeist. They’ve been especially handy at working through the period of ‘90s and ‘00s records that began to elude major runs on vinyl, and thus, like Against Perfection have run up huge tabs on Discogs and eBay.

The band had a famously fraught relationship with both its label and the music press. They garnered early praise for the single “Sunshine Smile,” though, which won them hearts at NME and an entry to Alan McGee who’d sign them to Creation. While the songs on Against Perfection were incredible – clear heirs to both the noise of a shoegaze hangover from the years previous and to the swooning pop of Echo & The Bunnymen, the band’s timing always seemed to be off. That connection to shoegaze meant they were on the tail end of trends in a country often too enamored of what’s next. Since 1993 was the year Britpop broke, it seems that Adorable were pedaling murk in a land looking for pristine pop. Abroad, the record was released in the US through SBK, who was having some tense relations with Creation at the time. Their souring on Creation acts and didn’t help to push Adorable on American audiences and the record would languish low on the charts in a crowded field of grunge in 1993.

Further adding to their troubles was the fraught relationship with UK music press, who apparently found them too cocky. It seems that anyone working in shoegaze should put up walls and be withdrawn – wan geniuses in tattered sweaters. Guess the press saved all their patience for loudmouth swagger for the rising tide of Britpop, lord knows there was enough cockiness there to fill quotas. When Sony took over Creation the band felt pressured by their shortcomings to quickly produce a follow up. The resulting Fake was nowhere near the proper successor to Against Perfection and as feared, the band was dropped a mere three years after signing with Creation. So, it’s good to have the debut back on the turntable, especially without the typical $100+ pricetag. If, like me, you came to this one late due to US press covering about one British band a month, then now’s the perfect moment to make up for lost time. Kinda feel like it might be another 25 years before they press this one again.



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Danny Graham – S/T

Since it seems there’s still no light at the bottom of the well of overlooked and lost releases out there, it’s heartening to come across a release like Dany Graham’s eponymous 1980 LP. Despite the time stamp showing the dawn of the ’80s, the record is rooted firmly in wobbly ‘70s songwriter territory, sharing a bent sense of pop with the R. Stevie Moore / Bobb Trimble / Carl Simmons set, but in spirit it perhaps sidles up most closely with Deep Freeze Mice. Like the Mice the album has a ‘60s hangover that’s squeezed through a scrappy private press filter. The record was such a non-starter that when contacted years later by issuing label Xerox searching for information on Graham, many of the session players didn’t even know the album had seen light originally.

There are moments of pure pop brilliance on the album, albeit refracted through rough production patches, an apparent lack of editing and a nice warm lap of hiss. Graham nails softball soul (“Early Morning Heatwave”), mad-eyed folk-pop (“We’ll Make A Deal (In Amsterdam), “Love Start”) and soft rock (“Feeling You Beside Me”). As an actual album, its admittedly a bit uneven, but as a collection it wraps up all of the brain fragments Graham let slip through the tape in fine form. There’s definitely a certain type of collector that’s going to revel in this and even more cultivators of lost psychedelic ephemera who are going to find the missing piece in their mixtape of melted pop they’ve been searching for. Kudos to Xerox for digging up this treasure and with word they’re also shining up Graham’s sole other release for a new issue, it seems there’s more to love on the way.




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