Tuesday, August 14, 2018

July on the Turntable

I limit myself to one record per week.  My pics for July followed a very organic progression... 


Portishead - Dummy

I initially set out to buy Purple Rain, but when I found this in the rack it immediately jumped to the head of my priority que.  I have a soft spot for radically innovative bands who only release 2-3 albums in their initial run.  My Bloody Valentine are one.  Joy Division are another.  So are The Stooges, New York Dolls, Television, The Stone Roses, The Sisters of Mercy...and of course Portishead.  This sophomore album is the apex of their mountain of jazz-infused trip hop, and absolutely must be heard on vinyl.  On a side note, there was a block party below my apartment one night last summer.  They played 'Glory Box' as a dozen middle-aged couples waltzed across the red carpet laid on out on my street.  The living embodiment of summer magic.


Prince and the Revolution - Purple Rain (soundtrack)

The other week I was having dinner with a friend, and we got to talking about how when great artists pass away we often get the urge to revisit their body of work.  He told me that he got that itch with Bowie, but not Prince, and admitted he just didn't get the hype on His Royal Purpleness.  Here's my rebuttal to that: Prince was in every measurable sense a genius.  He wrote every note, played every instrument and built a public image virtually without precedent.  If at times he seems too out there to handle, it's because you're hearing the work of an uncompromising visionary.  Though I'm sure I'd heard it before, the first time I can recall hearing 'Purple Rain' I was sitting at a practically empty bar in Testaccio while outside a summer rain poured down on the city.


John Coltrane - A Love Supreme

After Portishead and Prince, Coltrane was the next logical step.  My meager credentials prevent me from making any intelligent comment on A Love Supreme, so I'm just going to quote Henry Rollins: every house should come with this record


The Damned - Machine Gun Etiquette

...and then came punk, which without jazz would not exist.  We need punk now more than ever.  As I wake up every more morning to an increasingly hostile and maddening political sphere, this music provides a firm backdrop of moral support.  Hell, bands like The Damned got the Brits through the Thatcher era--maybe they still carry strength in the Age of the Orange Nightmare.  Machine Gun Etiquette is a damn fine record that has aged considerably well.  In fact if you were only going to get one Damned album I would pick this one without hesitation.  I got the red pressing on Let Them Eat Vinyl, which sounds perfect and contains a bonus LP of alt versions.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

June on the Turntable

A little late with this post.  Lately I've been working about sixty hours a week giving tours of Rome, Tuscany and Pompeii, leaving me with just enough time to blow my cash on records, but not quite enough to blog about them.  Anyway, here are my scores from June:

The Jesus and Mary Chain - Barbed Wire Kisses

I've been a Jesus and Mary Chain fan for well over fifteen years.  After finally catching them live at Rome's Orion theater, I was compelled to hunt down this compilation (I managed to score the Record Store Day edition on red vinyl.)  Now, I've never had a problem with "alternative" bands transitioning into a more commercially accessible sound.  The Cure did it.  So did The Sisters of Mercy.  Iggy went solo.  Joy Division became New Order.  Having said that, the B-sides and rarities on this record typify the JAMC I love best: 60's girl group melodies entrenched in abrasive, feedback-driven surf guitar, like Jefferson Airplane hooked up with the Sex Pistols at a beach party.  If you're a JAMC fan, you don't want this.  You NEED it.


This Mortal Coil - Filigree and Shadow

I'd been after this one for a while.  4AD is a British label that released some of the most refined indie music of the 80's, with bands as diverse as Dead Can Dance, Cocteau Twins, Modern English, Pixies and Bauhaus.  Around 1984, founder Ivo-Watts Russell gathered his favorite talent from the label and released a trilogy of albums under the moniker This Mortal Coil.  Most of the music consisted of covers of obscure 70's pop tunes, interspersed with the occasional original song or ambient soundscape, all swirling and blending in an intoxicating dreampop cocktail.  While I recommend starting with the first album, this double-LP is the most diverse of the three in terms of tempo and structure.  My summer evenings required this record.

Steve Roach - Dreamtime Return

Steve Roach stands alongside Brian Eno in the pantheon of ambient music.  Making his home in the Arizona desert, the man lives an ambient lifestyle.  He's collaborated with everyone from Robert Fripp to medicine men, and was one of the first ambient composers to incorporate traditional instruments from the harmonica to the digeridoo.  This double-LP from 1988 is the result of his journey to the Outback with photographer David Stahl and his studies of the Dreamtime, the Australian Aboriginal concept of "time out of time."  Earlier this year I spent a week in a beach bungalow/bar on Koh Pha-Ngan run by a 50-year-old Thai hippie named Tip.  Every night when the sun went down over the water he played tribal-ambient music over the speakers.  That was around the time I decided I needed this record in my life.


Tom Waits - Rain Dogs

If you asked me to pick the three greatest songwriters of the 20th century, they would be (in no particular order) Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Tom Waits (with Nick Cave and Shane MacGowan clocking in at close Honorable Mentions.)  It's hard to choose a favorite Waits, but hold a gun to my head and I'll have to pick Rain Dogs.  Some will cite Swordfishtrombone, but here he truly came into his own in the unhinged circus-bar phase of his career.  Rarely has anything ever sounded so dirty yet so refined.  For this one, I deliberately sought out an old pressing, not some polished 180g reissue.  It sounds perfectly imperfect.  On a side note, I hadn't had a cigarette in over a week, but this record broke me.