by Mat Weir
One of the most appealing and daunting aspects of record collecting is the simple fact that it never ends. With over 100 years of recorded music and millions of groups existing in that time, a record collector’s mission is a lifelong event. As soon as one piece is placed on the shelf, it opens a door to three other records that inspired it. Soon, the obsessive fan is digging deep, trying to find that one obscure record from the band nobody heard of but everyone should know.
People have gone mad trying to find “the one.” Fortunes have been made and wasted in the pursuit. Families have been ripped apart, lovers betrayed and best friends killed. . .no, wait. That’s the Lord of the Rings, but you get the idea. Thankfully, with the Great Vinyl Revival, more and more of those obscure, palm-clamming, heavy breath inducing beauties are being reissued so we don’t have to kill our neighbors for their collection. . .yet. One record in particular is Mirkwood’s 1973 self-titled masterpiece, re-released by Machu Picchu Ltd & Light in the Attic Records.
Formed in 1972 in Dover, England by guitarists Mick Morris and Jack Castle, Mirkwood found their sound in heavy, yet aloof, progressive rock.
Fun Fact #1: Before forming Mirkwood, Morris was in the original Rolling Stones, a skiffle and blues band that formed in 1956. Shortly after playing a London gig in the early 1960s, the Rolling Stones heard another band (based in London) was using the name. The Dover boys thought about protecting their name legally, but ended up changing to The Playboys in hopes of taking the band further. However, that’s another story.
In 1973, MIrkwood cut their only album with 99 copies and shortly lost their first drummer, Steve Smith.
Fun Fact #2: They quickly replaced him with Nick “Topper” Headon, who stayed in Mirkwood for a year and a half only to later join The Clash in 1977.
Supplementing their own gigs with work as the backup band for bigger acts like Supertramp, Mirkwood would disband in 1978 and the name would fall off the rock precipice into musical obscurity. Only the record collectors would keep the name alive.
With such a limited pressing of such a monster album, Mirkwood’s self-titled became a precious commodity and even was Record Collector Magazine’s most expensive listed LP at one time. And it’s easy to see why! Morris and Castle’s duel, fuzzed guitars rip through the melodic bass lines of D. Evans, giving the listener a firm grip on the ground while the acid guitar trip swirls above. Smith’s drums fly from Ginger Baker-inspired beats (though never quite reaching the mad redhead’s level) to a calm, Ringo Starr timing. Derek Bowley’s vocals are powerful and seductive, harmonizing with Castle & Morris’ background voices when needed and belting out the chops when he’s front and center. Mirkwood is heavy and dark, mixed with pockets of mystery and fantasy, nothing less expected from a band named after a forest in Tolkien’s Middle Earth.
Fun Fact #3: Mirkwood is actually a term taken from the 19th century poet, novelist, translator and textile designer, William Morris, who had roughly translated it from a Norse myth about the Myrkvior forest.
Simply put, Mirkwood is a killer album that any prog, psych, or classic rock lover should own. Not only will it provide you with hours of deep listening but you can impress that girl or guy you’ve been eyeing for a while with some amazing songs they are guaranteed to have never heard. Plus, you can feel good doing it, because the reissue was officially licensed by the band, who will receive royalties for every LP sold.
Machu Picchu Ltd. only did a limited, one-time pressing of this gem, but we still have one or two floating around Streetlight Records. If you let it get away, well, I guess you have the rest of your life to keep looking, right?
by Mat Weir
Follow Your Gut
I never take advice from strangers unless I know they are a credible source. I’m a skeptic at heart and in a town like Santa Cruz everyone thinks they know the real knowledge. You know, the kind the government isn’t really telling you, or that the FDA is covering up. Every local knows you don’t even have to walk anywhere to find advice from strangers. Just post up on Pacific Avenue and wait three minutes, maybe even four, and you’ll have someone telling you something that will change your life because it did theirs. Usually the meth sores and/or liquor breath are a testament to this.
However, as a being of chaos, once in a while I’ll asses the person and go with my gut if it leads me on. I’ve never regretted this because it always ends well, whether it’s smoking a blunt in New York at 4 a.m. with guys claiming to be Bloods or discovering one of the greatest albums in rock history that surprisingly few know about.
I was shown the Litter’s third and final work, 1969’s Emerge, about two years ago, while working at the buy counter in the back of our store. A couple dropped off a stack of records and immediately I knew it was going to be a rare buy; maybe not in price, but in musical value. Both could have easily been mistaken for hipsters by your standard suburbanite, but there was nothing ironic about their hippie outfits. In fact, they looked like they walked right out of the records they were selling; everything was underground psyche, garage rock and odd progressive albums I don’t even remember.
I originally passed on Emerge because of giant chew marks in the spine (the old saying is true, eh?), but when the guy came to collect his money, he donated the passes. Before leaving, he looked at me from behind his sunglasses and beard with a raised eyebrow.
“You ever hear this?” he asked, raising the odd cover with a grey and white psychedelic photo of the band with the words “Emerge The Litter” in gold.
Of course I said, “No,” wondering what this lengthy alien was getting to.
“Maaaan, you have to listen to this. Nobody knows about this band,” he said over his shoulder before walking out. “But if you like rock ‘n’ roll, it will blow your mind.”
Something told me he knew what he was talking about, so I put it on for my next pick at work then proceeded to buy it immediately after the needle lifted on side two.
Seeing the Future
The Litter formed in Minneapolis in 1966 (by the merging of two other Minneapolis acts, The Tabs and The Victors) as a typical, stripped-down, garage act for the time–ala the Yardbirds, Rolling Stones, et al. Their first single, “Action Woman” is their most popular from the time and is featured on the debut LP, Distortions. In 1968, the Litter released the sophmore LP, $100 Fine, in the same garage rock theme. However, by 1969 (and with a line-up change here or there) the Litter saw how psyche was changing music and decided to take it a step further.
Emerge is one of the few albums that bridges the gap between rock and proto-punk/metal. Every listen is filled with the Stooges, Uriah Heap, Blue Cheer, and even some heavier Cream. Maybe it’s because they recorded the album in Detroit (THE rock ‘n’ roll city), or maybe they just knew how to draw from enough sources to make the alchemy right, or maybe the gods just chose them to be the torch bearers, I don’t know. What I am sure of, is this is an album a lot of mid to late ’60s bands wish they could’ve made.
Not only are Dan Rinaldi & Ray Melina’s wailing guitar riffs reminiscent of Hendrix or the MC5, but they’re fuzzier than either bands’ afros. Throw in J. Worthington Kane’s FUZZED-OUT, driving-to-heavy-metal-levels bass lines & Tom Murray’s domination of the double-bass kit for a splash of early Sabbath. Floating throughout are Mark Gallagaher’s vocals, one minute screeching and the next crooning in a jazzy pool of pro-alternative society & heartbreak lyrics.
The Minnesotan boys even throw in a couple of covers in true 1960s tradition. Side one ends with Buffalo Springfield’s, “For What It’s Worth,” and while the original is mournful and thought-provoking, the Litter turn it into a full-fledged rock tune with expanded guitar riffs, conjuring images of the opening scene in Terry Guilliam’s film Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, when Raul Duke and Dr. Gonzo shoot across the desert in their fire red, “Land Shark” Cadillac.
Flip it over and side two kicks off with a milestone version of Burt Bacharach’s “Little Red Book” that will shame Love’s version, any day. As if that isn’t enough, the side ends with a 12 and a half minute song, “Future of the Past,” which slowly climbs a mountain of psychedelic chaos, only to throw itself over the cliff. It ends with a drum solo by Murray where—if you have just the right chemical cocktail on a lonely night and the foresight of a rock ‘n roll guru—you can imagine some kid in 1969, putting on Emerge for the first time, and seeing the future of rock ‘n roll.
While the mainstream has their Zeppelins, and Joplins, many of us appreciate their importance but understand it’s the underground that pushes the boundaries of art. It’s the people who were ahead of their time, the ones that influence the younger generations who later become famous. Albums like Emerge that take the familiar and set it on fire, blazing paths for future genres of music and generations of music fans. And sometimes, all it takes is a stranger to light the match to show the way.
Emerge was reissued last week on Cleopatra Records and is currently available at Streetlight Records!!!
Charged G.B.H. – City Baby Attacked by Rats
by Mat Weir
As with any artistic movement before and after, punk rock has certain milestones one can point to as a defining moment in that genre. The first Ramones record set the tone for the term and the first Sex Pistols concert launched a movement by inspiring everyone in the audience to form their own bands. The Dead Kennedy’s obscenity trial launched that band into the media spotlight causing the nation to look at our First Amendment rights; and 32 years ago a British band would drop their debut album creating their own brand of music.
Reissued on glorious vinyl last week, Charged G.B.H.’s City Baby Attacked by Rats is 30 minutes of pure street punk—a combination of hardcore and thrash with a steady, dance beat backbone perfect for moshing and pogoing.
Formed by Coin Abrahail, Coin “Jock” Blyth, Sean McCarthy and Andy “Wilf” Williams, G.B.H. had a debut album that is still as vicious today as it was in 1982 with pounding beats, grinding guitars and Abrahail’s raspy voice shouting controversial lyrics about life in Britain, atheism and cannabalism. How many of us remember being a teenager doing juvenile things, or slamming in a pit, with “Maniac,” “Gunned Down,” or “Time Bomb” setting the soundtrack?
I don’t care who you are—whether you’re a true-blue punk ‘til death, or someone who maybe grew out of those angry years but still has a nostalgic side—this is a must have for any collection. I’ll even go as far to say if you own one G.B.H. album, this should be it. If you don’t believe me, just let the idea mosh around in your brain while I bust out the bullet belt, aqua-net & crank up this definitive UK82 gem.
by Cat Johnson
I’ve always thought that a good gospel choir could make any song sound amazing. “Mary Had a Little Lamb?” No problem. “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad?” Brilliant! So throw a song such as Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” into the mix and we’re talking a potentially transformative situation here.
In 1969, a group of session singers called Brothers and Sisters took on the Dylan catalog for Ode Records, the record label of renowned producer Lou Adler. With roots in the Baptist churches of Los Angeles, Brothers and Sisters tapped into the soul, human questioning, and acceptance that’s woven throughout Dylan’s material. Now, Light in the Attic has reissued the classic, rafter-raising album on CD and vinyl. Here’s the track list:
1. The Times They Are A Changin’
2. I Shall Be Released
3. Lay Lady Lay
4. Hey Mr. Tambourine Man
5. All Along The Watchtower
6. The Mighty Quinn
7. Chimes Of Freedom
8. I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight
9. My Back Pages
10. Just Like A Woman
While it’s a bit odd to hear “Lay Lady Lay” and “All Along the Watchtower” reworked in the gospel style, other tunes, including “I Shall Be Released,” sound as though they were made to be sung in church.
Here’s an excerpt of what Light in the Attic has to say about the project:
The genesis of the project was Lou Adler, the music business visionary who staged the legendary Monterey International Pop Festival. He imagined a project that combined the songs of Dylan with L.A.‘s most sought after session singers, most of which began their singing in the Baptist churches of South Los Angeles. “Listening to Dylan’s songs, I felt there was a gospel-like feel to them, both spiritually and lyrically,” Adler says in the liner notes. “So those two ideas, to work with these singers and to explore that side of Dylan – came together.”
Recording sessions at Sound Recorders Studios in Hollywood were a four-day party, with food, drink and far more musicians than were ordered, many of the singers bringing along cousins, mothers, partners and more. Carole King came to hear, as did Peggy Lipton and Papa John Phillips. It was a rock ‘n’ roll version of a gospel church. “Lou just put on a big, crazy party,” remembers Edna Wright. “He had all these people together, all this raw talent. And we were there for nothing but the love of singing.”
If you’re a fan of Dylan, gospel, Light in the Attic, soul music, or killer reissues, you’re going to want to give this one a spin. Here’s a teaser:
Meet the Band: Her Majesty, the queen of the big boss beat, Miss Bon Von Wheelie // He’s saucy, he’s sexy and slightly sassy, Dale on Bass // Ladies and gentlemen for your dancing and listening pleasure the Big Kahuna // and Kurt.
In 1988 K Records and Sub Pop got together with the band Girl Trouble and released Sub Pop’s first full length LP. This January is the 25th anniversary reissue of that album: Girl Trouble’s Hit It or Quit It.
The reissue will include two tracks that were not on the previously released album, “White Lightning” and Johnny Kidd’s “Shakin’ All Over,” which is amazing news to me because both of these songs are so good.
Girl Trouble is four-piece band out of Tacoma, Washington. The group was immediately one of my favorites, not just because they sound amazing and because I could listen to any of their albums on repeat and not be bummed, but because they have a girl drummer. Not only is she bad ass because she plays the drums, she’s bad ass because she loves wrestling, likes Chyna (pre-surgery, Degeneration-X era), and calls Mick Foley’s Socko a “stroke of genius.” Plus she has seen Jimi Hendrix perform in concert!
This album is full of fuzzy 1960s garage rock with crazy lyrics and wild vocals. I recommend it to anyone who likes to party or likes rock’n’roll, the Cramps, Hasil Adkins, or likes good music.
by Cat Johnson
Long out of print, Lucinda Williams’ self-titled album with bonus tracks is finally back in print, and even more extra material to boot. Disc one is the original album featuring standout tracks “I Just Wanted to See You So Bad,””Big Red Sun Blues,” “Passionate Kisses,” “Am I Too Blue” and lots more. Disc two is a live recording from the Netherlands in 1989 plus six bonus tracks of more live rarities.
The album is also available on vinyl, though not the second disc. But, you get a download code…so there’s that.
You know that out-of-print Queens of the Stone Age debut lp that you really wanted but either couldn’t find or couldn’t afford? Well, good news: it’s been remastered, reissued and expanded by three tracks. Here’s the official word on the release from Rekords Rekords, the label formed by Josh Homme:
Queens of the Stone Age – self-titled debut album
“Upon the dissolution of the criminally overlooked Kyuss, guitarist Josh Homme pulled up stakes from the California Desert for the Pacific Northwest to work on a new project concurrent with spending time on the road as second guitarist in Screaming Trees. Seeking a new sound, Homme discarded the sludgy low-end expanses of his former band for much tighter song structure (for the most part) and honest-to-goodness capital ‘H’ hooks and what was originally christened Gamma Ray was quickly changed to Queens Of The Stone Age shortly after birth.
Homme returned to his old stomping grounds and reunited with latter day Kyuss drummer Alfredo Hernandez to record as a fake trio (bass player “Carlo Von Sexron” is a nom-de-boom for Homme) and QOTSA came into full bloom. If this re-issue doesn’t document “hour zero,” it’s only a few minutes past. “Regular John” introduces Homme as a smooth and assured vocalist with great melodic instinct. Tracks like “Avon” and “Walkin On Sidewalks” lock into heavy riffs that are in entrancing in their repetition and subtle shifts. And it’s hard to believe that insistently catchy “How To Handle A Rope” didn’t make a greater impact on mainstream radio upon its initial release. Amidst the mid-fi riffage and willful experimentalism of an artist forging a new sound for himself are some killer guitar melodies that could have easily come from 1971, 1991 or 2011. And that’s part of the timelessness of this unassuming debut album. QOTSA can only truly be classified as a “rock band;” Any attempt to narrow that down further would be to neglect the scope of Homme’s broad body of work and the band’s wide-reaching appeal.
This Rekords Rekords re-issue, in conjunction with Domino, has been fully remastered from the original tapes and has been expanded by three tracks. “The Bronze” & “These Aren’t the Droids Your Looking For” (from the split EP from ‘98) and “Spiders and Vinegaroons” which was part of the posthumous Kyuss/QOTSA split EP.”