Browsing Category Reissues

Peter Howell & John Ferdinando – Ithaca, Agincourt, & Other Psych-Folk Fairy Tales

Every Record Store Day there are a flood of releases that no one in their right mind needs to own. There are a dozen or so scattered titles that are necessary portions of back catalog that just get a bit overshadowed and would have ideally made great reissues given some space to be discussed on their own. Then there are the real gems. More often than not these real gems get pushed aside as well. They’re often reissues or records that appeal to a select group of collectors and aren’t flashy enough to get pre-release press. Sometimes, though, the best part of this is you can pick them up in regular distro dives once the dust settles. A few of these found some critical reception – Brett Smiley’s Sunset Tower reissue on What’s Your Rupture, the essential Alice Clark eponymous LP on We Want Sounds. This year, however one of the gems that slipped by softly came from Munster Records. The label issued an almost complete overview of the collaborative works of Peter Howell & John Fernando to little or no fanfare.

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Warren Winter’s Band – “Crossbar Hotel”

Sophomore Lounge digs up a real gem here – a heady mix of folk, West Coast-leaning mellow rock ripples, and biker psych. The record is the work of Edward Winterhalder, now a leading authority on biker culture and author of several books on the subject. Around the time Winterhalder was based just east of Tulsa, OK, and working with the Bandidos, a club with a sizeable following that helped form the lyrical bent of Warren Winter’s Band. The record follows in the wake of Winterhalder’s previous outfit The Connecticut Dust Band, which Winterhalder fronted for 10 years previous to the formation of Warren Winter’s band. Where that band leaned heavier into the folk, here Winterhalder adds in the dose of hangdog country and prison blues that gives this one more heft.

Winterhalder taps his childhood friend Kurt Newman to drum on both this LP and its predecessor As I Was (’84). Alongside Winterhalder and Newman the band nabbed studio ringers and laid this down at Grace Studios in Connecticut. Both albums were released on Winterhalder’s own imprint Shovster records. While the haunting, desperate sound resonates nicely all these years later, its easy to see how it might have landed out of step when it was released in ’88. Thankfully, though, Sophomore Lounge followed the trail back to this one and given it a right proper release that features a hand-cut die cut sleeve and a limited 500 press. Fans of Gary Higgins, Raven, Spur, Circuit Rider and the spirit of outsider rock should find something to love here.

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Gun – Gun

Real Gone have put Gun’s eponymous debut LP back on vinyl for the first time in three decades and its good to have it home on wax. The record’s been subjected to CD reissues several times and remains a solid slice of the UK hard rock canon. The band is most notable for being started by Adrian and Paul Gurvitz, a pair of brothers who’d wind their way through plenty of heavy hitters – going on work with Ginger Baker and Buddy Miles in later years, while also popping up in UK nuggets Rupert’s People and The Knack (“Time Waits for No One,” rockers, not “My Sharona”). For a short time Gun also counted YES’ John Anderson among the ranks, which might go some length to explain how the record also served as Roger Dean’s entry to cover art. The band’s sound embraced a towering post-psych, pre-prog aesthetic that drew in symphonics, dripping blues solos and a power-pounded rhythm section that keeps the energy pushed to the cliff.

The band released a follow-up, Gunsight, in 1969, but the album failed to capture audiences as they did with the often-covered single “Race With the Devil.” The band were branded as counterculturists by their label, CBS, but often found themselves at odds with that pitch, even working in a slightly anti-acid song on Gunsight. When the second album sunk, it pushed them away from the Gun name. The brothers formed Three Man Army, which would eventually become Ginger Baker’s Three Man Army after a few albums. This debut Gun album still stands as the pinnacle of their works, though. Tough, almost theatrically over the top in places, and willing to experiment with horn arrangements that weren’t necessarily the norm at the time. The label’s packed it up in a dedicated reproduction of the cover art and some limited red vinyl. There have been boots out there over the years, but this one’s sounding better than any unauthorized issue ever could. Its a grand reminder of when rock had no need to edit itself or even thing about reigning it in.



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Caetano Veloso – S/T (Tropicália)

Not that the folks at Third Man don’t have wide ranging taste, but its not the enclave I expected to birth the first official version of Caetano Veloso’s eponymous solo debut. The man, responsible for the name of, and in large part the direction of, the Tropicália movement, moved from former child prodigy to art impulses with this 1968 album. Along with Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Tom Ze and Os Mutantes, Veloso was integral to the shift away from indigenous folk music and towards a larger psychedelic consciousness within Musica Popular Brasileira. Though Costa and Veloso recorded a duet album, Domingo, together in ’67, it wasn’t until the release of a pair of self-titled albums by Veloso and Gilberto Gil the following year that the movement would begin to take shape musically. The reaction wasn’t necessarily always to the welcome reception of fans, who objected to the shift away from folk. Moreso, given his and other Tropicalists’ critique of their military-led government, it was even less popular with the powers that be.

The album was aimed at becoming a cultural hinge-point, inspired by the open pop format of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s. The record embraces traditional bossa rhythms, spoken word passages, heavy electrics, and a newfound interest in effects. The resultant album, though attempting to veil its political leanings in cheeky implications, drew ire as it grew in popularity. For as much ground as it broke in shifting traditions, it broke twice as much in emboldening and codifying youth culture against their own broken systems and American institutionalism. Eventually this would result in the exile of Veloso and his compatriot Gil.

The two performed on TV in 1968 and the ensuing uproar sent both artists overseas to London until 1972 when they were finally allowed return. There Veloso would work write and record the somber and superb follow-ups (also self-titled, but typically referred to by their first tracks “Irene” and “A Little More Blue”). As he returned Veloso would become the center of Brazilian pop for more than twenty years. This is, essentially where it began, and in many ways still some of his best. The record has been reissued several times over the years, but this is the first sanctioned US-pressed copy. As with any version, it is utterly essential.


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Michael Rother – Solo

Odds are if you’re familiar with Michael Rother round about 2019, its from his work with Neu! or Harmonia. If you’re digging deep, perhaps from his short stint with Kraftwerk. This month, however, the light gets shown on Rother’s tight but enticing catalog of solo works as his label Groenland issues them in the box set SOLO. The tone in his works always captured a sense of wonder, but with Neu! there was also a feeling of modernity as well. Following his move to the smaller hamlet of Frost, in Northern Germany and his connection with Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius to form Harmonia, there slipped in a bucolic calm, but also (often to Rother’s chagrin) a formless float that wasn’t tethered to the heartbeat hum that had been his bedrock.

In 1976 the members all looked to solo ideas and Rother embarked on Flammende Herzen, which kept the calmer shades and lush atmospherics of his country surroundings but added in a bit more backbone than Harmonia had offered. This could quite rightly be attributed to excellent contributions by producer Conny Plank and Can’s own Jaki Liebezeit, but Rother’s vision was sound even without his ringers. The resulting album revels in natural wonder, working effervescent rhythms and Rother’s dewy guitar leads into an album that’s a soundtrack to the sun.

Surprised by its success Rother dove back in with a renewed confidence and a bigger budget, given that the solo album was outselling any of his previous works at home. Sterntaler follows much of the same feelings as the first LP before he broke new ground with ‘79’s Katzenmusic (inspired by his love of Cats) incorporating a less restrictive beat and a wider palette of instrumentation than before. While the record doesn’t exactly inspire mewling, its another instrumental dip into the blissful end of the pool, albeit now with a looser handle on the sticks and sequences. Quite sadly for audiences, this blissed trip would also be his last with Conny Plank at the controls. As he slid into his last, and quite frankly darkest period for ‘82’s Fernwarme, he’d leave behind his veteran producer in the process.

This last album in the set still retains Rother’s deft hand on the strings and synths, but turns a bit darker and away from his pastoral times, centering more on life in Hamburg than his idyll out in Forst. Jaki remains on the drums, giving the album another rhythmic tie in – looser still like Fernwarme wound up, but the record doesn’t capture the bliss as well as some of the others. The set’s rounded out with new live cuts and remixes, along with some soundtrack work, but its thos core four albums that make up the true meat of SOLO – a complete picture of Rother’s imprint on the guitar world bound up in one fine form. If you’re a fan of any of his other bands, not to mention other German Progressives like Ashra, Manuel Göttsching, Tangerine Dream, then this set seems like a solid place to spend a little time.



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Laaraji & Lyghte – Celestial Realms

In the past few years Laraaji has gone from something of a tightly traded name among New Age heads, experimental aficionados and yoga practitioners to a roundly celebrated artist with a wealth of material seeping back out into the reissue world. With entries into RVNG’s FRKWYS series and a collaboration with Brian Eno and Bill Laswell, he’s not light on stature, but it seems the current hunger for respite has driven the master of the zither further out into the light. There are plenty of points of entry for the curious among a catalog that’s decades deep, and none are more appropriate than his 1986 album with longtime collaborator Jonathan Goodman, aka Lyghte.

The original version of Celestial Realms was released to tape by New Age label Spirit Music, and it gets an upgrade here via Telephone Explosion’s brand-new offshoot Morning Trip. The album is two side-long tracks that delve deep into meditative trance. Lyghte provides the hypnotic bedrock that pins this to the mind – wavering and low, like the slow lap of a river. He leaves the sparkle to his foil Laraaji, who dazzles atop the drones with his Zither, bells, and guitars that predict the coming of Sun Araw’s psychedelic wobble long at a time when Stallones was more into silly putty than psilocybin.

The album is perfect not only for fans of vintage drone or New Age, but for those captivated by the dropout knockouts of more recent times – Emeralds, Kevin Drumm, Stars of the Lid fan take note and listen deep. It’s a great inaugural release for the fledgling label and perks my interest to see when Morning Trip goes from here. Whether you’re already scooping up the new and old issues from this NY legend or just want to unwind, a copy of Celestial Realms might be just the trick to block out the constant clatter of 2019.



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The Telescopes – Early Studio Recordings

While The Telescopes would go on to refine shoegaze into beautifully fuzzy bliss in their later year, the band found their footing far from the restraint that would mark their eponymous Creation classic. From the outset the band found themselves down in the noise trenches chewing the furious punk swagger of the Stooges into feedback folds on par with Jesus and Mary Chain, Spacemen 3 and Loop. With such a large and still evolving catalog to tend to, though, those early EPs tend to get overshadowed and lost from the conversation of psych-punk classics. Bang! Records aims to correct that mistake, however, with the issue of Early Studio Recordings which rounds up the band’s pre-Taste EPs on to one thick platter for the feedback freaks.

The collection rounds up completely remastered versions of tracks from their debut single, Kick The Wall, 7th# Disaster EP, The Perfect Needle EP, and To Kill A Slow Girl Walking EP. Rounding up years spent between Cheree and What Goes On, the early recordings weren’t afforded as much cash infusion clarity as their later works and its nice to hear them scrubbed up and sweating like new. The lingering effects of The Telescopes can be felt foaming through the veins of plenty of newcomers looking to claim the psych crown, so best to take the time to rifle through the unabridged history of noise rock. JAMC and MBV will always get the most space on the page anytime some poor schmuck’s rhapsodizing about the volume infected guitar albums that’ll rattle the fillings right out of your head, but for my money The Telescopes should be seated right near the head of the table. Recommended that you pick this up and find out why.



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Superette – Tiger

In the wake of Flying Nun second-gen powerhouse Jean-Paul Sartre Experience’s dissolution around ‘93/’94 the band’s Dave Mulcahy and Greta Anderson picked up hometown pal Ben Howe to round out their new trio, Superette. The album, long overlooked stateside, is powered by moody hooks and a thick layer of grunge fuzz. Produced by Nick Roughan, who also worked on JPSE’s The Size of Food, the record finds itself locked into the sparser end of the ‘90s spectrum, shooting for Albini and Kramer vibes, though skewing a tad more traditional than either producer kicked out at the crack of the grunge era. Like the last wave of JPSE’s output the record embraces less of the idiosyncratic Kiwi-rock and more of their American and UK counterparts, but they hold out some bright spots that keep them from falling into obscurity.

Mulcahy and Anderson were in hunkered down in New York at the time their previous outfit called it quits and they no doubt absorbed all that NY’93 had to offer. There are shades of Sonic Youth and Pixies weaving through Tiger, and while they don’t necessarily make as big a footprint as either of those, naturally, they smash through with “Touch Me” and the clanging “I Got It Clean.” Flying Nun has gone the full measure on this one as well, including the band’s debut EP Rosepig alongside recordings from a planned and scrapped second album. I’d wager than most ‘90s nostalgists on this side of the world are unfamiliar with the trio’s melodic crunch, but with this definitive edition, its worth getting acquainted.



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Simon Finn – Pass The Distance

Superior Viaduct has already been handling a ton of great reissues and overlooked essentials, but with the addition of Antarctica Starts here they’re expanding their labyrinth of sublabels to rope in a bit more fun. ASH specifically mines the ‘60s and ‘70s, though they’re not restricting themselves to any particular genre within that time period, which leaves this endeavor pretty open ended. While it seems like opening up the Viaduct brand to older releases could have been easily accomplished without a new logo and name, I’m all in on the SV folks getting into the vast pool of labels scraping from the ‘60s and ‘70s. As it turns out they’ve chosen a crown jewel of psych-folk for one of their inaugural releases, so we’re off to a good start here.

Alongside the wooded weirdness of Fresh Maggots, Relatively Clean Rivers, Pearls Before Swine and The Incredible String Band, Simon Finn’s 1970 LP Pass The Distance stands as a necessary vision of stream of consciousness, cracked-mirror folk. Finn’s sole album was recorded with producer Vic Keary at his Chalk Farm Studios. Keary had helped Finn record an earlier single, “Butterfly” that was met with solemn indifference from UK labels at the time, but the pair sketched out time for a fuller session to follow, hoping for more success with a fuller vision in tow. Finn had just met guitarist David Toop and percussionist Paul Burwell at a local restaurant a few weeks prior and invited them into the sessions. The serendipitous meeting would help to add to the record’s mystique, with Toop’s sleepy guitar curlicues giving Pass The Distance almost as much shape as Finn’s own lyrical loops.

The record was originally issued on Keary’s own Mushroom Records imprint rather than finding a home among the major contenders of the time, but the label suffered quite a few legal setbacks right around the time of release and Pass The Distance was withdrawn almost as soon as it was issued. Finn then faded from music, teaching karate in Canada and focusing on farming with his wife. The ASH edition is not, however, the first reissue of this gem. David Tibet of Current 93 contacted Finn personally to inform him of the record’s cult status among collectors of ephemeral folk and issued it on CD in 2004, even prompting Finn out of retirement for some shows at the time. Little Big Chief followed in 2014 with a short run LP, but this presents the best chance of getting your hands on a vinyl copy these days. Fans of the aforementioned folk outsiders, or keystone touchpoints of the movement like Skip Spence and Syd Barrett would do well to look into Finn’s fevered folk. Its not the most high marquee name in the genre, but it’s a worthwhile listen to be certain.




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Unusual Sounds

I’m a sucker for a couple of things, compendiums of overlooked music and collections of sleeve art throughout the years. Both come to a delightful crest in Dave Hollander’s book for Anthology Editions, Unusual Sounds. In the book the Texan record collector and filmmaker dips into his vast collection of Library music (one of the largest documented such collections around) to shed some light on what he sees as essential cuts and collections. While its an informative k-hole and a visual delight that’s wrapped up in a book jacket by Robert Beatty, one would assume that a book like this either leads to YouTube overload and keyboard cramps or that it might benefit from some sort of companion album, or ideally three or four.

Seems that Anthology agrees and they’ve rounded up twenty tracks from releases highlighted in the book. The collection spans all the best Library hallmarks, from the gameshow funk of Keith Mansfield to the creamy soul of John Cameron, it’s as much a feast for the ears as the book is for the eyes and mind. The haunted psychedelia twofer from Brainticket founder Joel Vandroogenbroeck is a particularly nice touch as is the creeping synth work of Nagara drummer Klaus Weiss. Library music has always been a genre that requires a studious collector and, in that regard, it’s nice to have Hollander take some of the encyclopedic work off of our plates. For those looking to get into some excellent examples of the film archives, funk collectors and soul savants this is a prime collection of genre gems that aren’t likely on over-dug compilations previously existing. Highly recommended!

The double set is, naturally, also wrapped in a Beatty-designed sleeve that gives it a touch of classic age.



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