Record Time is Paste’s monthly column that takes a glimpse into the wide array of new vinyl releases currently flooding record stores around the world, and all the gear that is part of the ongoing surge in vinyl culture. Rather than run down every fresh bit of wax in the marketplace, we’ll home in on special editions, reissues and unusual titles that come across our desk with an interest in discussing both the music and how it is pressed and presented. This month, we get you ready for RSD Black Friday with a rundown of some of the limited releases dropping this year as well as our regular dive into the pool of recent vinyl releases and reissues.
The prolific musician and producer Augustus Pablo was perhaps best known for defining the aesthetic of dub reggae and his use of the melodica as the chief instrument in his instrumental recordings. One of his finest hours as a recording artist was 1975’s Thriller, an appropriately titled album that bounces and skips like an astronaut on the moon. On it, Pablo shows his prowess as an arranger and sonic architect, as he slips oddball details — be it a healthy dose of reverb or scrabbling percussion intrusions — into each track without losing its danceable groove and bottom heavy wonders. The album was last released on vinyl back in 1982 via a U.K. label, falling out of print soon thereafter. All the more reason to celebrate this spectacular RSD reissue from ORG Music, which features brand new artwork and an impressively full sounding master.
Long the stuff of legend and shaky sounding bootlegs, this 1964 recording of a young Janis Joplin backed by future Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen has been given a serious sonic upgrade by engineer Michael Graves who restored and remastered the source tape back to its original glory. The performances have a shocking clarity to them, with even the clacking of Margareta Kaukonen’s titular typewriter and the tapping of Jorma’s foot reaching across the ages to excite the air once more. This is a rare opportunity to hear these artists sound as naked as they do here and should be rightfully celebrated by fans of both the blues and the fomenting Bay Area rock scene.
The liner notes for this live recording of pianist / vocalist Mose Allison, captured at Maryland’s Showboat Lounge, are almost defiant in admitting how rough around the edges Dick Drevo’s source tape is. The writer calls it “adequately recorded” and boasts, “It ain’t about technology; it’s about these transcendent versions of Allison classics…” Methinks thou doth protest too much. No, this release doesn’t hit the heights of some of the tapes that Zev Feldman has gotten his hands on, but there’s little to complain about here. Especially as Allison and his rhythm section (bassist Tom Rutley and drummer Jerry Granell) are audibly buzzing with joy and maintain that wiggly looseness that can only be achieved by being well rehearsed and locked in as a unit. Any loss of sound quality in the move from tape to digital to vinyl ain’t worth worrying about.
This might not be the version of the Burritos that you would want to hear a live recording from. While pedal steel wiz “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow remained, the rest of the classic lineup of the group was long gone by this point replaced by a more than able crew of country players like Gib Guilbeau and former Byrds members Skip Battin and Gene Parsons. What reservations you may have about this release should be set to rest. The quintet was a powerful force at this point capable of bringing the spirit of a swampy honky tonk to the city slickers in the Big Apple with an audibly stoned reverie. It cuts right through the somewhat wonky quality of the original recording with its split second sound drops and occasionally fuzzy moments. And I dare not mention the misspelling of “sneaky” on the back cover.
Beloved singer-songwriter Jonathan Richman slipped into the ’80s with a new version of the Modern Lovers that included a pair of female backing vocalists and Rubinoos bassist Greg Keranan. Those are just the dull details behind his 1983 release Jonathan Sings!. No matter who he’s performing with or when the record was dropped, Jonathan will always be Jonathan. So it is with this album, re-released for RSD Black Friday on orange wax. The songs are breezy and catchy as anything, reaching back into the earliest days of rock ‘n’ roll and R&B for inspiration. And like the first progenitors of those genres, Richman sees no separation between heart-on-sleeve proclamations like “You’re The One For Me” and “Somebody To Hold Me” or the goofier odes to “Those Conga Drums” or the City of Lights (“Give Paris One More Chance”).
The 18 tracks featured on this RSD Black Friday release from ORG Music, recorded by Delta blues man Skip James in 1931 and released on a series of 78s, have been in and out of circulation for years — compiled and anthologized by Mississippi Records, Yazoo and as part of Third Man’s ambitious Paramount Records boxed sets. In a sense, then, there’s not much that sets this LP apart from the pack. Still, having these lightning bolts of brilliance captured in one bottle — or, in this case, on a translucent orange piece of vinyl — is always worth crowing about, no matter when and how it happens. Whether on piano or guitar, James can stop the world in its tracks, freezing listeners in place with his coolly powerful performances. He hits on all the themes we’ve come to expect from players of his’ time and place: lust, infidelity, salvation, damnation. But James instills a weariness that borders on resignation in his vocals and playing that strikes deep chords of empathy and fellowship that ring as loud as ever nearly 100 years later.
For a few years, organist and arranger Korla Pandit was something of a superstar, rubbing shoulders with celebrities and hosting his own television show in the ’50s. And his music, which drew inspiration from Indian and Asian traditions, paved the way for fellow exotica artists like Martin Denny and Les Baxter. But Pandit’s story has many more twists, especially the revelation that, in spite of his public persona as an artist from the Far East, he was really a Black man from Missouri. (For the full details, check out the wonderful 2015 documentary Korla.) No matter the reality, the music is still a pure delight to listen to, as proven by this compilation that pulls from the 13 albums Pandit made for Fantasy Records. It’s a delightfully kitschy collection of pop standards, classical music and originals that played up Pandit’s connection to the music of, as one record title calls it, “the Exotic East.”
Singer and pianist Bobby Cole’s discography is decidedly slim — one album on Columbia with his trio and a lone solo album released on the boutique label Concentric Records — but during his lifetime, he cast a long shadow on the world of cabaret jazz. He was a regular presence at piano bars around the Eastern seaboard, making fans of Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland along the way. The latter even hired Cole to take over as arranger for her stage shows after firing Mel Torme. His legend has only grown in the years since his passing in 1996, culminating in this glorious reissue of his solo effort. Working closely with Cole’s estate, Omnivore has beefed up the sound of the original recordings nicely to draw further out the devilish rasp in Cole’s singing and the invigorating bounce of the music. Too, the label has uncovered a full second disc’s worth of recordings from the mid-’60s that may well have been sessions for a follow up album. The extra LP finds Cole under the influence of pop and psychedelia on tracks like “At the Darkest Hour” and the groovy “Elegy For Eve.”
After an apparently barn burning performance at the 1997 edition of Cavestomp, a celebration of garage and psych rock held in New York, the original lineup of Question Mark & the Mysterians were coaxed into a studio to re-record their beloved singles (including, of course, their #1 smash “96 Tears”), some rarities and even a cover of Suicide’s “Cheree.” The finished sessions were released on CD back in 2001, but are getting their vinyl bow as part of RSD Black Friday. It’s an appropriately zonked looking slab of wax, all purple splatter, and the pressing does a perfect job capturing the Farfisa-heavy strut of these tunes. I would, however, like to sit down with Rock Beat’s graphics department to have a stern word about designing the cover art to look like a cut rate CD that’s currently collecting dust at a truck stop. Shameful.
So far as I can tell, this live album by Big Bill Broonzy was released in full back in 2006 as part of a two-CD set. The version being released for RSD Black Friday is a truncated version of the performance this celebrated blues artist gave in Amsterdam in the winter of ’53 as part of an extended European tour. Having the whole concert on vinyl would be great, but nothing gets lost in this compact reissue. We still get plenty of Broonzy’s charming stage persona, bantering with an excitable Dutch audience about his history as a player and the origin of some of the covers he adds to his set. And, of course, there’s his actual performances, which are positively heavenly. Broonzy’s guitar playing oozes through the air like a stream of mercury, reflecting glorious colors with each striding rhythm and wiry solo.
Knowing the sheer volume of music that pianist Oscar Peterson recorded during his lifetime, it is a surprise to learn that he only managed to hit the studio once with a working trio that included bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen and drummer Louis Hayes. Though he had plenty of great collaborators over the years, Peterson seemed particularly well served by this group. The rhythm section felt particularly attuned to supple nuances and speedy runs that the pianist dashed off with ease. Further evidence of that is this never-before-released live recording of this trio playing to a thrilled Swiss audience in 1971. The material is deep in Peterson’s comfort zone — “Mack The Knife,” “On A Clear Day,” “On the Trail,” etc. — which leaves him plenty of breathing room to dazzle with some truly otherworldly right hand work and little dashes of inharmony that sting like pin pricks.
Zev Feldman’s continued mining of the apparently vast archive of live recordings captured at Seattle jazz club The Penthouse deserves some kind of special citation or a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And for RSD Black Friday, the producer / engineer is taking a further step forward in his efforts with the introduction of his own imprint, Jazz Detective. The inaugural releases from this label are two double LP sets of pianist Ahmad Jamal’s frequent appearances at the Penthouse. These aren’t the full sets by Jamal and his rotating rhythm section, but the finest cuts from some juicy post-bop performances. There’s not a moment across eight sides of vinyl that feels uninspired or ragged, which only makes it more difficult to play favorites as to which set stands out from the rest. As of this writing, I’m leaning toward the June 1963 recording on which Jamal is joined by bassist Richard Evans and drummer Chuck Lampkin who collectively provide a soft and pliable backbone that the pianist stretches and twists at will.
By the time Creedence Clearwater Revival finally made it across the pond for a European tour in the spring of 1970, the roots-rock quartet were at the peak of their commercial powers. The previous year saw the group release three studio albums, one more brilliant than the next, all of which reached the top 10 in the U.S. Anticipation for CCR’s arrival on the other side of the Atlantic was at such a pitch that their label paid to capture their performance at London’s Royal Albert Hall on film and audio. Somehow the footage and the recording has never seen the light of day until this year, courtesy of this superlative boxed set from Craft Recordings. The audio of their second set in London has been restored with help from Giles Martin and Sam Okell and pressed to two LPs at 45 RPM. The two men retain the immediacy and lava hot smolder of the performance, as the band tears through classics like “Fortunate Son” and “Keep on Chooglin’.” Completing the package is a DVD featuring the live footage, two added CDs and some choice ephemera like a recreation of the programs printed for the shows.
When it was released in 1997, Spiceworld, the second album by Spice Girls, was an explosive success, moving millions of units through the next year. That’s why CD copies of this record are a penny per pound on the resale market. The original vinyl issue, on the other hand, is as rare as hen’s teeth, making this new 25th anniversary edition of the LP so very welcome. The two-disc set features a lightly spiffed up version of the album as released as well as a collection of recordings from Spice Girls’ world tour and some remixes. As this material was recorded during peak CD era, it all loses a bit of oomph after being downgraded to an analog medium. The programmed drums have been dulled and the glitziness dimmed. To the surprise of no one, the remixes from club minded stalwarts like David Morales and SoulShock & Karlin raise the sonic stakes considerably, goosing the bass and rhythm tracks with pure abandon.
All The Hits was originally issued on vinyl in 2020 as a double LP set — an expansive overview of the many chart hits of British Invasion success story The Dave Clark Five. This year, the group has released a tidier version of this collection as 10 7” singles in a sturdy cardboard box. It’s a sweet little curio as the remastered versions of classic tunes like “Because,” “Bits and Pieces” and “Over and Over” have a razor sharp edge to them when pressed on a 45. At the same time, the set skimps on any historical details about when these songs were recorded and their chart placement, opting to only include a thin sheet of paper with pull quotes from famous fans like Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney. For this longtime fan, I think the DC5 would be better represented by a comprehensive set of represses of the actual singles they released during their peerless decade-long run. True, that would mean owning up to their cover of Neil Young’s “Southern Man” and lesser tunes like “The Mulberry Tree,” but it would tell a much fuller and more fascinating story than All The Hits dares to.
First, a somewhat minor quibble: in spite of this set’s title, this isn’t a complete collection of the work that synthpop band the Human League recorded for Richard Branson’s label. Prior to the group’s international success with 1981’s Dare, they recorded two full-lengths that had a much darker and more avant garde bent to them. Those are, for some reason, overlooked here. Instead, the material collected on The Virgin Years — five LPs, from Dare to 1990’s Romantic?, each pressed on colored vinyl — represents the ensemble’s commercial heights, like their U.S. #1 hits “Don’t You Want Me?” and “Human,” and their captivating yet uneven album Hysteria. Much as I’d love this to include Reproduction and Travelogue, this boxed set is a pure joy to dig into. The League had developed into a pop powerhouse with Dare and further developed their sound with some key assists by the production team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, and Rob Brydon, a.k.a. one half of Moloko.
Keyboardist Johnny Hammond’s 1975 album Gears has long been fodder for DJs and producers, with the likes of Stetsasonic and Kendrick Lamar making use of elements of this disco-funk-jazz hybrid. It’s also been beloved in the U.K. where the record has been re-released a number of times. Here in the States, this new reissue from Craft Recordings is the first time Gears has been brought back into circulation since its initial offering. What on Earth took so long? With some help from the Mizell brothers and talented players like trombonist Julian Priester and drummer Harvey Mason, Hammond grooves hard. He sounds limber and playful on the extended electric piano solo he kicks into on “Shifting Gears” and lets his organ command attention amid the soulful clamor of “Les Conquistadores Chocolatés.” And his synth workout on the gleaming “Lost on 72nd Street” surely sent Herbie Hancock reeling with delight and envy. If you’re unfamiliar with Hammond’s work, let this album be your starting point as there are dozens of other equally funky and fabulous records of his out there in the world.
Fenella is an ongoing project bringing together avant-pop artist Jane Weaver with a pair of fellow sonic voyagers, Peter Philipson and Raz Ullah (both of whom have contributed to Weaver’s wonderful solo work). As with this trio’s first full-length, an alternate soundtrack to the Hungarian animated film Fehérlófia, the music on The Metallic Index has a cinematic bent. Inspired by the research done in the ’20s on a girl with supposed telekinetic powers, the music — created using a bank of vintage synths and modern recording technology — has the chill of a great Gothic horror story combined with the warmth and empathy that these musicians clearly feel toward a woman treated like a lab animal. The sheer depth of what the trio concocted in their cauldron becomes even more palpable thanks to the decision to cut this LP for 45 RPM playback.
Released initially in a small batch edition in 2020, German producer / artist Yosa Peit’s debut album is getting a far greater reach with some help from Fire Records. The U.K. label recently issued an expanded version of this collection of glitchy electronic pop, tacking an added track on the end and handing a couple of extras in with the download. What I love about this album is how it seems to be deconstructing itself as it moves along. The more easily digestible soul of “Curls” soon gives way to more ambient explorations on the second side of the white vinyl LP, with the layers of melody and structure slowly being shaved off each step of the way. The final two tracks are a delirious psychedelic water slide — damp, adrenalizing and more than a little terrifying.
The fourth album from Karl Wallinger’s psych-pop project World Party will always rate a place in the historical record for producing “She’s The One,” a song that ex-Take That member Robbie Williams took to #1 in the U.K. in 1998. Don’t let your feelings, positive or negative, cloud your judgment about what was achieved here. Wallinger recorded almost everything here alone at his home studio, letting his finely tuned ear for arrangements and engineering blossom. And he brings so much emotion to this material, lamenting our planet’s fate while grasping tightly to those little moments and glimmers of hope that keep humanity aloft and afloat. It’s a tricky balancing act, but one that Wallinger had already proved capable of on his commercial breakthroughs Goodbye Jumbo and Bang!. Capping off this welcome vinyl reissue is a selection of live material, recorded in New York that further expands the scope of Wallinger’s heartfelt expressions.
The beauty and wonder of the new album by Aarktica, the ongoing musical outlet for Jon DeRosa, stirred up memories of trying desperately to stare at the sun as it descended, in hopes of catching sight of a green flash on the horizon. The bare, bold sentiments found in hypnotic songs like “Can’t Say I’ve Missed You” (“I kept you so close to my heart / You hurt me so bad,” he sings over a tender fingerpicked guitar melody) and the soft descending petals of the ambient instrumentals throughout the record are almost difficult to listen to, but I can’t turn away or lift the tone arm. I know there’s something more that will reveal itself to me if I play close enough attention. Unlike my blinding adventures on the beach, repeated spins of this LP do draw out fresh details, like the discord barely audible within the intertwining clouds of drone on the title track or the little catch in DeRosa’s voice throughout “Delicate Waltz of Shadows.”
Charlie Mingus had already played around with mixing jazz composition with spoken word on his 1957 album The Clown, but he damn near perfected it two years later with the release of this LP. Opening track “Scenes In the City” features playful and unexpectedly moving narration from actor Mel Stewart, as written by Lonnie Elder and Langston Hughes. The extended piece with its Mondrian-like angles and colors sets the tone for a series of songs that alternately smolder and chill with Mingus binding it all together with long bowed notes and lightly plucked rhythms. Symposium has been pulled from the ashes and dusted off by Kevin Gray who rightfully wipes away many of the post-production effects heard on the original LP. And New Land provides the background story with some great liner notes from pianist Bob Hammer and a second disc of alternate versions and outtakes.
The title of this album was taken from a statement by jazz artist Dave Liebman who told Newvelle owner Elan Mehler that those two qualities were all one needed to communicate one’s music. It’s the trust one musician puts in his fellow artists and the truth that they express through their instruments. No one embodies that better than Liebman, a living legend who has recorded hundreds of albums in his lifetime. He knows of what he speaks, and he brings those elements to bear on this session, recorded with guitarist Ben Monder and bassist John Hébert. Each musician is, in reality, coming at this collection of standards like “Blue In Green” and “Stella By Starlight” from different angles. Yet they mesh perfectly, finding those unexpected connections where Monder’s modernist use of guitar effects intertwines easily with the age-old thrum of a standup bass and Liebman’s saxophone.
I’m starting to suspect that the only way to defy the trudge of time and getting old is to spend your life playing metal. For example, the various members of Swedish doom metal group Candlemass are all pushing 60, but on their 13th studio album, they all sound as spry and inspired as they did when they were starting out in the early ’80s. Sweet Evil Sun maintains the band’s unbroken streak of brilliance and cements the return of original vocalist Johan Längqvist, who was brought back into the fold around three years ago. His years in the wilderness have added a growling wisdom to his singing. It helps impart a lived-in quality to bandleader Leif Edling’s lyrics of turmoil and wickedness and fantastical conflicts. It’s as if Längqvist is telling ancient tales around a fire even as the rest of the band unleashes a torrent of slogging heavy rock.
It makes perfect sense to me that Warren Defever of His Name Is Alive infamy fell hard for the music of Michigan artist Katie Lass. There’s a shared DNA between the two artists. A mutual love of clouding syrupy melodies within layers of noise, reverb, grime, grease and fingerprints. They want you to get into the muck with them and roll around. At least that’s what it feels like listening to Hypnopomp, Lass’ debut album — a joyous, slippery dive into a warm muddy pool that clogs the ears with liquid and slips through the fingers and toes with an unexpected sensuality. Through multiple listens, I’ve long since abandoned any desire to understand what Lass is vocalizing about under these blankets of sound. Much like the work of Grouper, there’s enough being conveyed within the timbre of her voice and her drifting candy floss pop melodies.
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