Friday, December 25, 2009

A Shiny Happy R.E.M. Christmas

Merry Christmas to everyone! After two straight nights of turkey, family and presents, I finally have time to post a new entry. To conclude my mini-Christmas tribute, I'm upping another rare recording, the R.E.M. Christmas record. This compilation is similar to the Beatles Christmas record because it compiles fan-club only 7" X-mas singles, these are from 1988-1996. These recording were special exclusive singles (A-side and B-side) that were sent out annually to reward their fan club members and are very limited (and rare) 7"ers with only 3,000-6,000 copies pressed. This compilation features Christmas carols, interesting covers, and originals.

Christmas Fan Club Singles (1988-1996)

1. Parade Of The Wooden Soldier (88a)
2. See No Evil (88b)
3. Good King Wenceslas (89a)
4. Academy Fight Song (89b)
5. Ghost Reindeer In The Sky (90a)
6. Summertime (90b)
7. Baby, Baby (91a)
8. Christmas Griping (91b)
9. Where’s Captain Kirk (92a)
10. Toyland (92b)
11. Silver Bells (93a)
12. Christmas Time Is Here (93b)
13. Sex Bomb (94a)
14. Christmas In Tunisia (94b)
15. Wicked Game (95a)
16. Java (95b)
17. Only In America (96a)
18. I Will Survive (96b)
19. Ghostriders In The Sky
20. Have You Ever Seen The Rain
21. Ghost Riders
22. Dark Globe
23. Ghost Riders In The Sky (live)
24. Funtime
(tracks 19-24 bonus discs? B-sides or from flexi's)
R.E.M.- Christmas Album. rar

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

'Tis The Season For...Los Straitjackets!!

Christmas album week continues with a fine yule time offering from the greatest Mexican-masked surf guitar instrumental combo, Los Straitjackets! I usually can't stand to listen to pop versions of Christmas classics, so this is a refreshing break from the usual drivel and sap that crams up our airwaves around the Christmas season.

Here's what has to say about this disc:
The world would be a far colder place at Christmas without the electric guitar and Los Straitjackets' Tis the Season for is all the proof you need. Packed with 11 guitar-driven traditional songs and two originals, this memorable disc is a must-have for anyone who loves the sound of unaffected, basic guitar rock reminiscent of the Ventures and your favorite garage rock band. Adventurous, ambitious, and totally satisfying, the band takes on "Jingle Bell Rock" (making its guitars ring like a Byrds-fest) and a host of other chestnuts from "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer" to the "La Bamba"-framed workout of "Feliz Navidad." Even the band's own "Christmas in Las Vegas" has those classic jingle-jangle guitar hooks that make this record a perennial holiday hit. --Martin Keller

This is a excellent album to spin if you need some seasonal background music to trim the tree by, so take off that crappy Boney M album and rock-out Los Straitjackets style.

'Tis The Season For (2002)
1. Here Comes Santa Claus
2. A Marshmallow World
3. Feliz Navidad
4. Jingle Bell Rock
5. Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer
6. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
7. Frosty The Snowman
8. Christmas In Las Vegas
9. Let It Snow
10. Sleigh Ride
11. Christmas Weekend
12. Little Drummer Boy
13. The Christmas Song

LOS STRAITJACKETS- Tis The Season For. rar

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Very Merry Beatles Christmas!

The idea and concept of Christmas albums have been around for decades, the Jackson 5 made one, Elvis made some, same with the Ventures, Arcade Fire, the Chipmunks, Charlie Brown and even the Beatles. Well sort of... each year from 1963 to 1969, the Beatles recorded Christmas records for Beatles' fan club members only, in the UK and U.S. Each recording was released on a 7" flex-disc and they were composed of carols, skits, jokes and thank yous to their fans. These records were often disjointed and bizarre, and as the years went on, more elaborate in concept and comedy bits. Overall it was strange, odd, messy, Monty Python-ish, sometimes boring, but always entertaining, if you can follow what they're talking about half the time. Even Tiny Tim makes an annoying cameo in 1968's episode.

In 1970, the flexi's were compiled and sent out to U.S. fan club members as The Beatle's Christmas Album, which meant better sound quality than the flexi-disc's and reminded the fan's that the Beatles were in fact no more.

I've posted a version of the Beatle's Christmas Collection that includes some bonus outtakes as well as the complete 1963-69 Christmas messages. This is a must for any serious Beatle's fan and though it's not too Christmasy and it's sometimes quite weird, it's not nearly as weird as listening to the Bob Dylan try to sing carols.

Complete Christmas Collection 1963-69
01. Christmas Time Is Here Again (1967 outtake)
02. The Beatles Christmas Record (flexi 1963)
03. Another Beatles Christmas Record (flexi 1964)
04. The Beatles Third Christmas Record (flexi 1965)
05. The Beatles Fourth Christmas Record (flexi 1966)
06. Christmas Time Is Here Again (flexi 1967)
07. The Beatles 1968 Christmas Record (flexi 1968)
08. The Beatles Seventh Christmas Record (flexi 1969)
09. Christmas Message (1964 Outtake)

BEATLES- Christmas Collection 1963-1969. rar

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Maybe I Don't Get It...

I should start off by stating, I'm a fairly modest Bob Dylan fan, I've seen him in concert twice, I have about a dozen of his albums and I consider him one of the most influential and important songwriters in the past half century, but I should also mention these albums are all from the sixties and seventies and I last saw him live over ten years ago. He is a multiple Grammy award winner, a member of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and he is critically acclaimed and respected the world over, so why, oh why, did he record and release a Christmas album? He couldn't be hard up for cash, nor does he seem like the type that gets giddy and excited like a little kid during Christmas and why would his record label want to highlight the declining state of his voice to the point of exposing his lack of singing range, as he's straining to hit notes and why would they release such bizarre renditions of these classic Christmas songs, has me baffled. Is Christmas In The Heart a joke? It's probably the most hilarious thing I've listened to this year, but for all the wrong reasons. His voice is so inappropriate compared to the slick arrangements, music and background vocals, the gruffness in his voice makes him sound like a creepy drunken uncle that's had just a bit too much rum in his eggnog. The songs are disjointed and inconsistent and more like a parody of an old guy singing bad Christmas karaoke that makes everyone listening, feel a little bit better about themselves.

The concept of a Bob Dylan Christmas cover album could be considered a clever marketing ploy (cashing in on the fact musicians don't record as many Christmas albums as they used to) that showcases the side of Bob we never expected, as we know Dylan (similarly Neil Young) likes to pull a complete 360 in style and concept every once in a while, sometimes with good results, sometimes really bad! Albums such as Self Portrait, Saved and Down In the Groove are perfect examples and it proved that Dylan wasn't a complete genius and he was prone to self-indulgence and unaware he was releasing bad records. I'm sure Bob had good intentions when he recorded Christmas In The Heart (some proceeds go to charity), and perhaps it was all done tongue-in-cheek, but why? Maybe I don't it, am I missing something here, is this really a genius at work giving back to his fans, a joyfully merry Christmas present, or has Dylan lost it...again?
You decide, have a listen and let me know what you think.
BD Christmas. rar

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Before She Was Famous- Norah Jones

I noticed Norah Jones has a new album (CD) out called, The Fall. The reviews are somewhat mixed and I heard it is a bit of a departure from her first three albums as she experiments with different sounds and collaborators with a more, "rock-oriented" sound. I haven't heard the new album yet, but I wasn't as crazy for her last album, Not Too Late, than her first two. I probably will buy the CD as a Christmas gift for someone (possibly in my household?), and I'll be sure to buy the deluxe edition that features a bonus disc of 6 songs performed live at the Living Room in New York City. It includes three Jones' originals as well as some juicy covers by Johnny Cash, Wilco and the Kinks. Before Norah Jones released her first album, Come Away With Me, she put out a EP in 2001 called First Sessions. First Sessions was limited to about 5,000-10,000 copies and was actually a demo recording for the first album as 5 of the 6 songs were re-recorded and sometimes re-arranged for Come Away. For a more detailed analysis about this hard-to-find recording, I've posted a submitted review from a listener: Although it was extremely hectic to come across for a non-staggering price during Jones' initial burst of hype and is still locatable solely on the expensive side, the "First Sessions" EP is a true treasure; a mirror of sorts that reflects what was to become "Come Away With Me," which went on to become the #7-selling female recording of the Soundscan (1991-present) Era at 9.2 million copies in the US alone. The arrangements of the songs here that went on to make "Come Away With Me"'s final cut, while not as sharp as what they would splendidly evolve to be, are certainly worthy of any ears who've come to appreciate Jones' music to a higher degree than the majority of her CD buyers. The only such track that does not follow that is "Turn Me On," which is near-indistinguishable from the "Come Away With Me" version. Like "Turn Me On," Jones' vocals on "Don't Know Why" are the same as they are on the version included on the mega-hit debut album, with an obviously differed arrangement. The bass and piano are distinctively less poignant and on-the-money than they would eventually become, but still shine brightly. "Come Away With Me" and "Lonestar," meanwhile, could very well have been included as 'Softer Version' alternative takes on CD singles or side projects. Indeed, these predecessors sound much more languid and laid-back than their 2002 counterparts would end up being, much to the chagrin of detractors of Jones' mellow sound. For listeners with the keen sense to sit back and savor the subtle beauty of the sound of Jones and her band, however, these two particular recordings are essentials. "Something Is Calling You," a splendid Jesse Harris-penned track that, while obviously out of place with the overall landscape of "Come Away With Me," matches the album's material in overall quality. The instrumentation, which begins with a consistent guitar solo that absolutely grabs hold of the heart with its profound beauty, along with cacophonous drum brushes, marries with Harris' stream-of-conscious lyrics and Jones' dreamy interpretation to produce an underrated gem in her catalog: "What difference/Do you think that it makes/If you give/Or if its you who takes?/I know it/I feel it/You do too/Just listen/You'll hear it calling you." The best kept secret, all things considered, of her catalog, however, is her cover of jazz legend Horace Silver's "Peace." Recorded solely with Jones introspective interpretation of Silver's lyrics, accompanied only by her passionate, flawless piano-playing, this is for certain the best track the legend-in-the-making has recorded thus far in her young career: "When you find peace of mind/Leave your worries behind/Don't say that it can't be done/With a new point of view/Life's true meaning comes to you/And the freedom you seek is won/Peace is for everyone." Overall, "First Sessions," while only existent among a limited pressing of 5,000 copies, is positively worth attaining if you are a bonafide appreciator of Jones and her music. One listen to this will make such fans wonder why the hype that surrounded her didn't come all the more soon than it did. By Rudy Palma "The Writing Fiend" (NJ) - See all my reviews NORAH JONES First Sessions (2001)
  1. "Don't Know Why" (Harris) – 3:11
  2. "Come Away with Me" (Jones) – 3:06
  3. "Something Is Calling You" (Harris) – 3:25
  4. "Turn Me On" (Loudermilk) – 2:37
  5. "Lonestar" (Alexander) – 3:07
  6. "Peace" (Silver) – 3:51
Edit note: Sorry, I had to remove the offending download links.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sloan- Peppermint

Right now as I write this, Sloan is performing in our town at the Pyramid Cabaret. Maybe it's laziness or just because it's so freakin' freezing outside, I'm not there, but sitting inside my warm home. I've never actually seen Sloan live despite the fact I'm a pretty big fan. I have their albums from the 90's and a couple from the last ten years, but recently I've been re-spinning those discs and plugging them onto my iPod. I tend to play bands in heavy rotation when I anticipate attending their shows, but instead I'm listening to two recent Sloan recorded in New York and New Jersey.

At these two shows are available for download both in FLAC and mp3 formats. The NYCtaper always posts quality recordings with much better equipment than I have and he's more than willing to share these shows. Congratulations to NYCtaper for being named one of PC Magazine's top 50 blogs of 2009.

SLOAN- 2009-12-04 Bell House, Brooklyn, NY
SLOAN-2009-11-30 Maxwell's, Hoboken, NJ

As a Sloan tribute, I am posting their first release, an EP from 1992 called, Peppermint which features 6 songs including three that appeared again on their debut full-length, Smeared.

Peppermint (1992)
  1. "Marcus Said" – 4:34
  2. "Underwhelmed" – 5:25
  3. "Pretty Voice" – 3:08
  4. "Lucky for Me" – 3:11
  5. "Sugartune" – 3:37
  6. "Torn" – 2:55
Download: SLOAN- Peppermint EP. rar

Monday, December 07, 2009

Lisa Hannigan- Daytrotter Session

If you are interested in listening to new unique music and sampling artist's you may not have heard of previously, then you should check out Daytrotter gives you exclusive, re-worked, alternative versions of old songs and unreleased tracks recorded in a rustic setting at the Horseshack in downtown Rock Island, ILL. Musicians are invited to drop by the studio and record their songs and then the sessions are posted for free on the site for your listening enjoyment. This almost sounds too good to be true, there are many well-known, as well as smaller indie-type bands posted here and it's an excellent opportunity to discover and have a (no money obligation) have a listen to any of these musicians. As of today, there are 775 sessions posted in their archives and there are shows added every week. Earlier this year I posted the session Juliana Hatfield recorded at Daytrotter and I've unearthed some great music.

A few weeks ago, my friend Sumi turned me on to an amazing talent, Lisa Hannigan. I must admit I hadn't heard any of her music, so I downloaded her debut solo album, Sea Sew and was pleasantly surprised by what I heard. She has a beautiful soothing voice (with a slight Irish accent) and the quiet whimsy and she describes her style as, "plinky plonk rock". She's previously best known for her collaborations with Damien Rice, but her solo work has garnished much praise and exposure to mainstream audiences through appearances on Leno, the Colbert Report and the BBC's Later...With Jools Holland.

The Daytrotter session with Lisa Hannigan was recorded on March 27, 2009, with Lisa and her band performing four songs from her album, Sea Sew. I've posted a rar file to download if you want the complete session for your iPod or other listening device, but if you want to sample the songs separately, scoot over to Lisa Hannigan's Daytrotter page and click the play buttons on the right hand side of the page. If you have Sea Sew already, this is a fine companion piece, a mini-concert performed in an intimate surrounding, if you haven't heard Sea Sew, this is a great place to start, then buy the album.

Download: Lisa Hannigan-Daytrotter Session 2009-03-27. rar

Sunday, December 06, 2009

40 Years Ago Today- Altamont!

When asked the question, what was the definitive music event of the sixties? Most people will answer, Woodstock. Woodstock symbolized the peace, love and understanding era (or at least 1969) and it became iconic of the end of the sixties. While Woodstock defined what was right about the sixties, Altamont demonstrated what was wrong and it led to the death of the Woodstock nation. The Altamont free concert was held on December 6th, 1969 at Altamont Speedway and was headlined by the Rolling Stones. This infamous concert was best remembered for the considerable violence including one homicide and three accidental deaths. An excellent document of the event is available in the film, Gimme Shelter, a documentary that followed the Rolling Stones on their 1969 American tour and the lead-up to the free Altamont concert. Approximately 300,000 people attended the event that ended in mayhem and much controversy.

Much of the problems with this concert, as compared to Woodstock, was the choice of security hired to add muscle and order. The Hells Angel's were allegedly hired by the Rolling Stones on the recommendation of the Grateful Dead, for $500 worth of beer. Here's a brief description (courtesy of wikipedia) of the result of this bad judgement:

Although peaceful at first, over the course of the day, the mood of both the crowd and the Angels became progressively agitated, intoxicated and violent. The Angels had been drinking their free beer all day in front of the stage, and most were highly drunk. Fueled by LSD and amphetamines, the crowd had also become antagonistic and unpredictable, attacking each other, the Angels, and the performers. By the time the Rolling Stones took stage in the early evening, the mood had taken a decidedly ugly turn as numerous fights had erupted between Angels and crowd members and within the crowd itself. Denise Jewkes of local San Francisco rock band the Ace of Cups, six months pregnant, was hit in the head by an empty beer bottle thrown from the crowd and suffered a skull fracture. The Angels proceeded to arm themselves with sawed-off weighted pool cues and motorcycle chains to drive the crowd further back from the stage.

After the crowd (perhaps accidentally) toppled one of the Angels' motorcycles, the Angels became even more aggressive, including toward the performers. Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane was punched in the head and knocked unconscious by an Angel during the band's set, as seen in the documentary film Gimme Shelter. The Grateful Dead had been scheduled to play between Crosby, Stills & Nash and The Rolling Stones, but after hearing about the Balin incident from Santana drummer Michael Shrieve, they refused to play and left the venue, citing the quickly degenerating security situation.

The definitive moment of the film, was the stabbing of Meredith Hunter. Hunter is seen in the film attempting to get on stage with others, but was grabbed and punched in the head by an Angel. Hunter is shown in the documentary drawing a gun from his jacket and pointing it at the stage, at that moment he is tackled, stabbed and stomped on by the Hells Angels. Alan Passaro the man that stabbed and killed Hunter was arrested and tried for murder, but was acquitted after the jury watched the footage from the film and declared he acted in self-defence.

The footage that was filmed at Altamont for Gimme Shelter was what really made this documentary so significant. Personally, I consider Gimme Shelter one of the best music documentaries ever. It has the drama and build-up of a real event that was unpredictable and intriguing and you don't have to be a Rolling Stones fan to enjoy the film, as it is an important document of a decade, oh so long ago...

I've looked hard to find a decent recording of the Rolling Stones's set at Altamont and I actually found a complete recording of the show. During the film, they show the Stones' performing only a few numbers so this is a real treat, a historical document, if you will. It's not the best sounding recording, (it's definitely an audience recording complete with chatter and screaming), but it captures some of the chaos and craziness of the crowd, as well as the Stones' amazing set. Check out the first ever performance of Brown Sugar! Are they the greatest rock 'n' roll band? You decide!

Download: The Rolling Stones- Altamont, December 6, 1969. rar (Part 1) (Part 2)

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

B.T.W.F.- Billy Bragg (Riff Raff)

In my ongoing series, Before They Was Famous, this week we take at look at the early career of Billy Bragg. Billy was in town on the weekend shopping for hockey bits, getting honoured by the Winnipeg Folk Festival and performing a concert at the Burton Cummings Theatre on November 28th. If you've never been to a Billy Bragg show be prepared for almost as much talk as music. During one of Billy's long drawn-out stories about one of his Woody Guthrie co-written songs, Ingrid Bergmann, a fan shouted out, "play the song" which of course prompted Bragg to continue to talk even longer. A Billy Bragg show is music, as well as an outlet for Billy's outspoken political views and his fight for people that have suffered a mis-justice. His solo career has spanned from the early 80's right through until the present, as strong a voice as ever. I was at the concert on Saturday, sitting third row centre (thanks Vicki!!) with a perfect view to go along with a good sound mix (it's not too hard with just voice and guitar). I recorded the show and I'll post a few highlights of the concert later in the week. Long before Bragg's long and illustrious solo career, he formed a punk/pub rock band called, Riff Raff. They released a series of singles that got no attention whatsoever which prompted Bragg to take a hiatus from music and join the army. This only lasted a few months and Billy returned to music by busking around London, just him and his electric guitar. Read more about Billy Bragg's career here. RIFF RAFF The Singles 1977-1980 1. I Wanna Be a Cosmonaut 2. Romford Girls 3. What's The Latest 4. Sweet As Pie 5. Barking Park Lake 6. Richard 7. Fantocide 8. Every Girl 9. You Shaped House 10. She Don't Matter 11. New Home Town 12. Little Girls Know 13. Kitten Download: Riff Raff- The Singles 1977-1980. rar
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