From Pavement to Gazelle Twin, from Roxy Music and Tin Machine to Penguin Cafe and Norah Jones, April’s selection goes big and goes hard
Okay, so everything is continuing to be awful. The government is corrupt. War? War is stupid. The world is literally burning. There’s still a pandemic happening (seriously dude, take a hint) and the dreadful wankers up there are still shitting on all us people down here and we’re all doomed in general. To top it off, there’s probably a member (or two!) of your family really working your last nerve. Like pulling it out and dancing upon it, grinding it into the gravel. So, um… you could riot, I guess?
OR, and I know it’s not likely to soothe your mind very much, you could read 4,000-odd words about old records for 10 or so minutes. Look, I have your best interests at heart here. I’m doing this FOR YOU and it looks good on my haunted and futile CV. Hold my hand, it’ll be fun. There are crap jokes and everything…
As the ’60s petered out into the ’70s, pop music was a bit of a state. People were a bit glum about The Beatles ceasing operations, and were becoming aware that individually they weren’t as good as a whole. The charts were full of session musicians formed hastily into bands and there was an air of light entertainment and flimsy. Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd may have been huge, but they couldn’t be arsed with singles, Motown had grown up and seriousface and bar The Jackson 5, lost a joyful exuberance, and the soon-to-be megastars such as Rod Stewart, Elton John and David Bowie were still in the throes of formulating their legend.
Sensing the vacancy for a mania, and realising the kids needed something to scream at again, was Marc Bolan. Like most of his contemporaries he’d done his time in the blues clubs and one-offs, and had eked out a space on the cosmic folky sidelines as Tyrannosaurus Rex, and ahead of their fourth album he opted to ‘go electric’, throw some glitter on his cheeks, shorten the band’s name and become the UK’s biggest pop star as a bonus. From October 1970 until June 1973, T Rex had 10 Top 5 singles, including four Number 1s, and was genuinely a colossal sensation.
Now, in honour of 50 years since T Rex’s imperial phase, comes a box set called T Rex 1972, which collects together all the 1972 studio recordings, broadcasts and performances in 5CD or 6LP glory (there’s a 2LP highlights available too). It features The Slider album, Live At Wembley The Matinee Show – plus two previously unreleased 1972 mixes from The Evening Show, Born To Boogie – The Soundtrack Album (issued in full for the first time), Marc Bolan’s US Radio Sessions, T Rex on the BBC in 1972, all the B-sides and the fab T Rex Fan Club 1972 Christmas flexi disc.
There’s also essays by Tony Visconti and chief Bolan onion-knower Mark Paytress. It’s almost obscene how amazing this is, and short of containing replicas of notes he left out for his milkman (‘No milk today, I’m away being a fantastic popstar’ etc), it’s the definitive everything of someone undergoing genuine superstardom. If a box set seems a little daunting, you could always (or also) purchase the half-speed remaster of Electric Warrior on vinyl that’s also out this month, although be quick as that’s limited, yeah?
While I’m in 1972, let us turn to matters of the shock, the impact and the blast that was the arrival of Roxy Music. Good GRIEF, what a group (never ‘band’, you can’t just label Roxy Music as a ‘band’), they were an astonishing collision of ART, FUTURISM, GLAMOUR and FLASH. Celebrating 50 years since their debut album this year, they are releasing their catalogue in pairs throughout 2022 starting with their self-titled debut from 1972 and 1973’s For Your Pleasure this month, with Stranded and Country Life following in May and so on.
They’ve been half-speed remastered, lovingly touched up sleeve-wise and future-proofed to blow minds anew. As all wise dating books say, if you go back to someone’s home and they don’t like Roxy Music, they’re not to be trusted. There’ll be no touching the penis here thank you very much (this also applies with Bowie, Velvet Underground, The Human League and Lieutenant Pigeon). It’s THAT important.
You thought we were done with wittering on about high points of culture from 50 years ago? Think again, fuckers, for Suzi Quatro is up next with The Rock Box 1973-1979: The Complete Recordings, which is 7CD/1DVD box of, um, her complete recordings. From 1973-1979.
I used to have a recurring dream when I was about five years old, of Quatro in her leathery playsuit clomping up and down our stairs, and it was so vivid as around that time my parents favoured a period appropriate dark lilac theme for the hallway and landing area, although I only visualised it from the left-hand side, as the right had a textured patterned wallpaper that picked up the accents of the lilac with large black and gold decals.However, this dream was a manifestation of deeper problems as it turned out I had issues with one of my ears that needed sorting, as my mum thought I was going deaf.
I DIGRESS. Star of my wonky dreams, and a genuine all-round total absolute icon Quatro was – and still is – legendary, and this box collects together her RAK phase. All the crackers such as Devil Gate Drive, Can The Can and 48 Crash are inevitably here, and them and the DVD of performances of her and the band giving it some brown ale dance routines in sweatshirts is worth the price alone. Each album comes with bonus tracks (which is handy seeing as Devil Gate Drive caused RIOTS when it wasn’t on her second album Quatro) and it’s a fantastic package all round for anyone whose boyfriend’s name is Eagle. And everyone else obviously.
Pavement were bloody marvellous, weren’t they? For the majority of the ’90s they issued some fine singles and even finer albums. I even named a short-lived band after one of their t-shirt designs – THAT’S how good they were. Anyway, as Slanted & Enchanted’s 30th anniversary is upon us, they’ve opted to expand and deluxe up their final album Terror Twilight from 1999 into what they’re calling Terror Twilight: Farewell Horizontal.
It’s a 4LP and 2CD blow out of their Nigel Godrich-produced set, with 28 unreleased tracks. It features the smashes Carrot Rope and Major Leagues, and the vinyl is resequenced in the order that Godrich thought flowed best (which in some respects he has a point), plus has B-sides, dumped sessions from Sonic Youth’s Echo Canyon studio, some live gear and demos. The CD features all that, but the album is sequenced how it was originally by the band (ie: the version we know and love). It’s quite the thing all told, and handily issued before they hit Rock’s Lost Highway after a decade hiatus for a series of dates this year. Smashing!
What about the voice of Geddy Lee? (Yes, this isn’t amateur hour here, honey, I know how to link.) Anyway, Rush’s 1981 album Moving Pictures is getting a belated 40th anniversary release. It was Rush’s attempt at writing shorter songs and actually getting hit singles as it contains the colossal Tom Sawyer among others. If you’ve ever wavered as regards all that ‘becoming a Rush fan’ business, this was the entry point.
This reissue package might be a bit of a stretch depending on your keenness to get into them, but for nuts-to-soup fans, this is a maxi sausage for its available as a 3CD or 5LP set or the whole kaboodle in one box with a Blu-ray too as well as drumsticks, a model car, plectrums, posters, used betting slips, Geddy Lee’s discarded Pringles box – you name it.
The latest release in Needle Mythology’s ongoing quest to showcase and focus on the breathtaking and magical power of song comes from Butcher Boy. First formed in 1998 in Glasgow by lead singer and songwriter John Blain Hunt, the band released three albums (2007’s Profit In Your Poetry, 2009’s React Or Die and 2011’s Helping Hands) of which the splendidly titled You Had A Kind Face compiles highlights from.
Imagine a comfortingly baroque Belle and Sebastian (Stuart Murdoch is a big fan), with each song feeling like a warming soup or bringing to mind the tranquillity of a candlelit dog. You’ll find yourself instantly a fan after a spin of such delights as This Kiss Will Marry Us, You’re Only Crying For Yourself or There Is No-One Who Can Tell You Where You’ve Been. The vinyl comes with a three-track EP of new songs, while the CD features everything. With sleevenotes by John Niven and photographs by John Walmsley, the entire package is worthy of your investigation.
If you counted up all the interviews with Rufus Wainwright that magazines and arts supplements ran during the 00ze, and they translated into actual sales, he’d have been as big a popstar as Robbie Williams or somesuch. The articles were inescapable, but my, Rufus had a story – musical pedigree with musician parents, an acclaimed sister, and then all the stories about coming out, wanting to write operas and doing all of the drugs during an endless parade of orgies where he almost went blind – that’s pretty good copy catnip. If anyone deserved to be enormous, it was him.
Take for example Want, which is pretty much Rufus Wainwright’s masterpiece. The two albums; Want One (first released in 2003) and Want Two (2004, or 2005 in the UK) were an audacious and sumptuous arrival of a masterful talent that blossomed into something magical, and when they were combined into a whole, could feasibly be one of the greatest works of art of the period, even if they felt like they were effectively nailed to the shelves.
This month sees the arrival of Want Two on vinyl, and it’s bloody marvellous. Featuring tour de forces such as The Art Teacher, The One You Love, Crumb By Crumb and the Anohni-assisted Old Whore’s Diet, and musical chops from Levon Helm, the McGarrigle Sisters (his mum and aunt) and Van Dyke Parks. Hopefully the full Want will be boxed up together and future generations will eventually see it as one of the all-time greats. Even if you can imagine him now sticking pins into an effigy of the equally brilliant John Grant for parking his tanks on his lawn and being slightly more successful, there is music here, and across his catalogue in general, that will outlast him. So why not celebrate his genius now and buy his records, yeah?
You’re not going to get a better title this month than Loch Ness Monster & Funky Reggae, which was originally released as a pair of albums by Trojan in 1970. These compilations (well, Funky Reggae was known as Funky Chicken at the time) were huge in the reggae-facing skinhead world, and Loch Ness Monster focused on the mad and unsettling end of sexual, horrific and weird far-out reggae, featuring numerous tracks by The Upsetters, King Horror and Des All Stars, while Funky Reggae was, um, funky and has Dice The Boss, Tommy McCook & The Supersonics and The Rudies, and almost every song seems to be about chickens (amazing), there’s an additional 32 across the two CDs, with stuff such as Boss Cocky by Patsy & The Hot Rod All Stars, Honky Tonk Popcorn by Pama Dice and, well, I have an idea what the subject matter here is, but Pum Pum Lover by Carl Levy. Ahem. Anyway, they are funky, saucy, demented and fantastic.
Meanwhile, another 2CD affair, Super Bad – Hits & Misses From The Treasure Isle Vaults, 1971 To 1973 features a ton of stuff produced by Duke Reid – many tracks that have been unavailable for 50 years. And there’s 33 tracks making their CD debut on this occasion, and starring Porky & Cynthia, The Eagles (not that Eagles), The Melodians, Errol Dunkley and Toots Hibbert among others from the Treasure Island stable. These are both extremely brilliant and important reissues.
In a RELEASE EVENT they’re sort-of calling 21st Century Sparks, the Mael brothers will be reissuing their albums from 2000-2009 on vinyl and CD over the next couple of months.
The albums – Balls (2000), Lil’ Beethoven (2002), Hello Young Lovers (2006), Exotic Creatures Of The Deep (2008) and The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman (2009) – will be reissued in two batches: the first three on 29 April and the final two on 27 May 2022. All are in 2LP editions with the exception of Balls, and all CD versions feature bonus tracks except The Seduction Of Ingmar Bergman.
Over to the Now Desk, and aside from the news that Now 11 (aka one of the most legendary compilations of all-time ever) is the latest installment to be reissued in the always welcome reissue series (especially for those who out are regularly outbid on such things – ‘easy to get hold of’ my arse), this month also sees a superlative knees-up comp that they’re calling Now That’s What I Call 80s: Dancefloor.
An 81-track 4CD affair which takes in literally every shape throwing number you could wish for on such a compilation. Aside from the key texts of S’Express, Bomb The Bass, M/A/R/R/S, Freeez, Shannon, Inner City and Soul II Soul, there’s space for such nuggets such as the fabulous Sharon Redd’s Can You Handle It, Miquel Brown’s divine So Many Men, So Little Time, Barbara Pennington’s All American Boy, Sheryl Lee Ralph’s In The Evening and The World’s Famous Supreme Team’s Hey DJ. Yaroo!
We Are The Children Of The Sun is a new BBE compilation compiled by DJ Paul Hillery, which is a 3LP/1CD selection and a perfect distraction from everything, with folksome groovin’, electronic-light moods and feelings. The cover alone has chilled me right out.
Look, I’m not going to be able to put it any better than Mr Hillery, so I’ll copy and paste his words for mine are insufficient: “Tune in,” says Paul, “and ruminate while consciousness is awoken with transmissions dropping out from the fringes of psyche tranquillity, holding hands with folk-funk that runs deep and hazy, as the bejewelled turquoise waters lap gently at the ocean’s shore.” You can’t say fairer than that, really.
It’s 20 years since Norah Jones glowed into being with Come Away With Me, an album that seemed to chime with a mix of jazz, soul, pop and blues to the tune of 27 million copies worldwide and hoovered up awards. It’s not hard to see (or hear) really, it’s held up significantly well after two decades and, well Norah has been consistently ace ever since.
Now it’s been given a remastered extension into a 3CD and 4LP set (or if you fancy 1CD or 1LP), featuring 22 unreleased demos, session outtakes, alternate versions and remixes, alongside some of her earliest demos that got her under the nose of Blue Note in the first place. The vinyl box isn’t cheap, frankly, and the ready availability of the album may put passing fans off, but it’s a collection that deserves a bit of a celebration.
Years ago, there was the Penguin Café Orchestra, who were an avant pop outfit who illuminated from 1972 until 1997 when their founder Simon Jeffes died of an inoperable brain tumour. Then in 2009, his son Arthur formed Penguin Café as an entirely different enterprise, with a whole new line-up, but still played a few of the original Orchestra tunes in their repertoire and incorporate elements of their aesthetic.
Now, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their debut A Matter Of Life…, the Caffs have remastered it and releasing it on vinyl for the first time. The current Penguin Café has seen musical contributions from Neil Codling of The London Suede as well as Cass from Gorillaz (or if you’re elderly, the Senseless Things) and all helps reconfigure the Penguin legend further while still being their own thing. A Matter Of Life… 2021 is music that’s a balm for the soul, and chamber pop for busy stressful scenes and very very good.
The second album by Tin Machine, called matter-of-factly Tin Machine II, is out on limited crystal clear and turquoise vinyl. Tin Machine was famously Bowie’s ‘I can’t be arsed to be David Bowie at the moment, for I require inspiration and so I’m off to the democracy of a band’ sidebar supergroup formed with Reeves Gabrels, Tony Sales and Hunt Sales, who piped up in 1989 with their self-titled debut to reasonably good response, and after Bowie completed his Sound & Vision tour in 1990, he set about ‘not being David Bowie’ again, and reunited with them once more.
First released in 1991, it didn’t do as well as the debut, even if the singles from it, You Belong In Rock ‘N’ Roll and Baby Universal fared slightly better than those from the debut. Anyway, it has its moments even if you take a hefty pinch of salt at some of the reports of it inventing Nirvana (or something). While they weren’t built to last – Bowie was back on his ‘being David Bowie’ scene again, and various in-band drug problems destroyed the chance of a Tin Machine III – time is gradually becoming kinder to the whole experience.
It’s easy to forget HOW massive The Police were. They were chucking out cheery new wave-adjacent pop reggae toe-taps about prostitutes, moons, and ‘the troubles’ and having No.1s and massive albums galore across the end of the seventies and start of the eighties as it was, and then released stalker anthem Every Breath You Take, which eclipsed their entire career, and has been a constant radio station favourite for nearly 40 as one of the most performed works ever. And while people got a bit sniffy about Sting trying to save the planet and having sex that lasts three days or summat, their achievements as a turn got overlooked in critical circles. Yet somehow inspired no end of unlikely people who were impressed by, well, Sting and co’s bigness.
So, look, The Police Greatest Hits first came out in 1992, but what with everything being very CD back then, only a few copies (well, more than at least 14, but significantly less than a million) were pressed up on vinyl and so it’s gone on to be highly sought after by fans, as it didn’t include that rotten remake of Don’t Stand So Close To Me that blighted the hits collection from 1986. It’s back. Back. BACK! now on half-speed remastered double vinyl and is ruddy splendid and full of reasons (well, songs actually) as to why they were so popular, and it also explains why their reunion tour was one of the most profitable ever. There’s also hints of further Police reissues and revisits a-coming up, so keep ‘em peeled.
Those Canadian excavators We Are Busy Bodies are being, um, busy bodies this month with a trio of jazz reissues. First up is Tshona!, one of the great South African jazz collaborations of the 1970s, by Pat Matshikiza and Kippie Moeketsi, featuring saxophonist Basil ‘Mannenberg’ Coetzee, and is revered as a canonical recording from this era.
As a member of the all-star Jazz Epistles in the late 1950s, saxophonist Moeketsi was one of the pioneering forces of modern South African jazz, and while his Jazz Epistles bandmates Hugh Masekela and Abdullah Ibrahim went off to become stars in the wider world, Moeketsi stayed behind in South Africa and built his legend.
Another African release featuring Baz ‘Mannenberg’ comes in the shape of 1987 album Shrimp Boats by pianist Lionel Pillay feat. Basil ‘Mannenberg’ Coetzee. The album collected together unreleased recordings from 1979 and 1980 which touches upon the burgeoning fusion scene with a cover of Weather Report’s Birdland.
Next up is Barney Wilen’s Zodiac from 1966. Not long graduated from Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Miles Davis European tours, this was Frenchman Wilen’s excursion into free jazz, dedicated to signs of the zodiac (man). It’s far out, flirting with aheadness and cosmic enough for a cross-legged session into tonality with splashes of technicolour splurging.
First released in 1974, Cosmic Funk was Lonnie Liston Smith’s second album, although he considered it as a ‘transitional release’ which he recorded when he was still in Miles Davis’ band, prior to finally digging his own scene as a solo turn. He was quite the sideman for jazzers, having done time with Art Blakey, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Pharoah Sanders and Gato Barbieri. While it’s not particularly funky, it’s a signpost to what was coming up next in his career. Anyway, it’s available on CD and LP, and groovy.
British Progressive Jazz’s latest release is Graham Collier’s Hamburg 1968. Collier was a significant force in British jazz, launching the jazz degree course at London’s Royal Academy of Music and was its artistic director until he resigned in 1999 to concentrate on his own music. In 1989, he was among the group of jazz educators who formed the International Association of Schools of Jazz, whose magazine, Jazz Changes, he co-edited for seven years. He was the first recipient of an Arts Council bursary for jazz, awarded an OBE for his forward-thinking jazz awareness, and published several books too. Literally having only been going a few months, British Progressive Jazz have a jolly little home on Bandcamp, and are starting to move into physical product too, so it’s well worth signing up to them to get updates and whatnot in the future.
It’s somewhat horrible that 25 years have now passed since we lost Billy MacKenzie. Oh man, if ever there was a voice that could’ve done fantastical things, it was his, and thinking of where he could’ve gone and the art he could’ve created makes it even sadder. Now a 3CD collection entitled Satellite Life Recordings 1995-1996 collects together the stuff he made with Steve Aungle, who’d collaborated with Billy over the years, and then worked together towards scoring a new deal in the mid-’90s.
Little of these sessions actually made it onto an album during Billy’s lifetime, but some did end up on Beyond The Sun (1997) and Eurocentric (2001), and a couple more surfaced on Auchtermatic (2004). Now everything has been lovingly compiled and assembled by Aungle with 14 previously unissued tracks, with memories and unseen photos from the time. Surround yourself with whippets and digestives and revel in the magic and wonder once more. You’re allowed to cry, too.
Unfortunately for everyone, Dudley our resident futurist is still with us. Having failed in his attempt to time travel literally into the future, he’s taken to wearing a mask made from a cheese grater and some malfunctioning fairy lights.
How do sausage, what’s happening in your prism this month?
“It’s actually futurist Kabuki, I’ll have you know. I’ve been taking part in a mime workshop where one looks to shed one’s human bondage through the use of kitchen implements, yeah? Anyhoo, Gazelle Twin is reissuing her debut album The Entire City for its 10th anniversary. It was critically acclaimed when it first arrived – which felt like last November, but that’s time for you – and now comes in a 1LP and 2CD set with a mini album called The Wastelands (available separately as a 1LP but features on the 2CD) which has period-associated extra unreleased stuff on it. It’s very good. The usual blend of vocal gymnastics and an entire multi-storey car park of cinematically foreboding industrial sounds and percussion. It’s right up my street.”
Cheers Dudley, anything else this month?
“Not at the moment, there was a Daft Punk box set that seems to have sold out instantly, and so why’s the bother? However, I’ve underestimated the chafing that comes with a nutmeg grater and must retire to A&E this instant. Toodle pip!”
Let us now turn to matters of The Queen Group, or rather Brian May who is reissuing his second full studio album this month. Originally released in 1998, Another World was initially envisaged as a covers album with Brian tackling some old faves such as Mott The Hoople’s All The Way From Memphis, The Shadows’ FBI and Hot Patootie from The Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack.
All those tracks are featured across the formats which are the usual 2CD, box set (2CD+coloured vinyl LP), and black vinyl LP, in addition to the standard CD plus cassette and picture disc available via Bri’s site. Recorded at his home studio, it’s Brian having a bit of fun, basically, with a who’s who of rock of contributors including Jeff Beck, Ian Hunter, Steve Ferrone and close collaborator Cozy Powell who tragically died in a car accident before the album was completed, as well as Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins who has also sadly died since the press release for this reissue came out.
Way before Groovejet and having a world-famous Kitchen Disco, at the age of 17 Sophie Ellis-Bextor did time in the indie-facing group Theaudience. Formed by guitarist Billy Reeves in 1996, formerly of the indie group Congregation, they also numbered ex-The Sundays drummer Patch Hannan (are The Sundays still going? Doubtful *instantly hears news they’re back Back BACK*).
They didn’t do too badly all told, with their sole album just missing the Top 20 in 1998, and while there were plans for a follow-up – although Billy left by then – Mercury dropped them, they split, Soph went off to be a National Treasure and that was about the dimensions of it. Anywho, that sole album has been issued on double vinyl with six bonus tracks on side four and comes in black, blue or white vinyl options. It’s very limited, so get yer skates on pop picklers.
The utterly fantastic CAN are issuing their 1969 debut Monster Movie album on ‘Monster Sky’ coloured vinyl this month. That’s about it as regards NEW INFO is concerned, but you need as much CAN in your life as you can get as far as I’m concerned. Or should I say The Can, as that was what they were initially known as. It was actually their second album as their actual debut Prepared to Meet Thy PNOOM was rejected by their label (although much of it ended up on Delay 1968 which was a collection of stuff from that era and is completely ace). Anyway. Monster Movie. The Can. CAN. Buy it.
Sunrise From West Sea was a 1971 live album by Yamash’ta & The Horizon, who were figureheads – well Stomu Yamash’ta especially – of the Japanese music scene, bringing together a pleasing melange of electronics, percussion, electric organ and shamisen into a seismic, brooding hallucinogenic stew. It was recorded during an all-night concert at Yamaha Hall in Tokyo in front of an invite-only audience, which is quite a groovin’ stink.
Yamash’ta latterly formed the supergroup Go with Steve Winwood, Al Di Meola, Klaus Schulze, and Michael Shrieve, as well as his Space Theme providing the music for The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy as well as some of his tracks featuring on the soundtrack to The Man Who Fell To Earth. Keep that handy next time you’re down the pub or wherever it is you go to chat Japanese music.
? and The Mysterians’ 96 Tears and Action albums are being reissued on vinyl! Rejoice! ?, or Question Mark to his mum, claimed to have been born on Mars and lived among dinosaurs in a past life, which is my kind of pop star tbh. Anyway, basically everyone who has ever claimed to be into garage rock will know 96 Tears.
It was a Number 1 single on the Billboard charts in 1966, and sold over a million copies. It was even covered by The Stranglers and basically invented Inspiral Carpets. The first two albums are now back out on vinyl this month, and combined it’s 56 minutes of proto-punk froth and urgency and GRRR. Huzzah!
So that’s April for you. Except it isn’t! For I’ll be back in a coupla weeks with a look at some of the best Record Store Day releases (not all 23,000 of them – I’m not insane), and then May follows with Robert Fripp, Marc Almond, UT, Rick Astley, Rose Royce, The Associates, The Who and some others that I can’t quite decipher from the unhelpful links I’ve put in my spreadsheet. Tap us for hot tips at @wadeywade and stay sexy.