Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Abbey Road-Box Set Coming November 7




VERY LIMITED. FIRST COME, FIRST SERVED! WE EXPECT YOU'LL BE EXCITED!

1/ Artist: The Beatles

Title: Abbey Road

Label: Capitol / Apple

Genre: Pop/Rock

Format: LP with black t-shirt and 24”x36” poster


Packaging: Black, glossy box (about 1” deep) containing lp, t-shirt and poster

(Same packaging used on the original release of All Things Must Pass)

Pre-order it with the large t-shirt or the extra large t-shirt now for only $55.99.

Street: 11/7/09 (NOVEMBER VINYL SATURDAY!!)


Tracklisting:

1. Come Together
2. Something
3. Maxwell's Silver Hammer
4. Oh! Darling
5. Octopus's Garden
6. I Want You (She's So Heavy)
7. Here Comes The Sun
8. Because
9. You Never Give Me Your Money
10. Sun King
11. Mean Mr. Mustard
12. Polythene Pam
13. She Came In Through The Bathroom Window
14. Golden Slumbers
15. Carry That Weight
16. The End
17. Her Majesty

This should be the best sounding LP edition of what many consider to be the Beatles finest album. Don't miss out. Pre-order today.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Albums of My Life - 1989 - Kirsty MacColl "Kite"



by Steve Pick

In the summer of 1989, I bought my first CD player so I could listen to the Rolling Stones singles box set I'd been sent for review. It took me a year or so to switch my listening habits away from LPs to these shiny new discs. One of the first things I bought, however, was the CD edition of this import-only (at the time; I think IRS released it domestically later) release from the mysterious legendary Kirsty MacColl.

A bit of background. I first heard MacColl's name in the early 80s, when the Morells from Springfield, MO were the number one party band in the midwest. They would come to town every few months, play three nights at Billie Goat Hill, and everybody I knew would show up. One of the songs they sang was "There's a Boy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis," a brilliant romp of a put down number written by Kirsty MacColl. Don't ask me how the Morells found it - nobody had any of MacColl's records at the time.

A year or so later, Tracey Ullman had a minor hit record with "They Don't Know," one of the most delightfully gorgeous and sweet songs ever written about first love vs. experience. And who put those words and that enticing melody together? Kirsty MacColl, of course. Years later, when I finally got a copy of MacColl's original version, I learned that not only did Ullman copy the arrangement note for note, she actually used MacColl's original cry of "Baby," as nobody could else could do it justice.

I'm not saying I combed the world for MacColl records - for one thing, back then, there was no internet, and you couldn't just find obscure imports at the drop of a hat. But, I was an import buyer for a record store, and I would have leapt at the chance to pick up anything with her name on it, based on these two songs alone and a little bit of rock press that indicated there was more where they came from. It took until 1989 for the chance to get one of her albums. As it turned out there were a couple more songs on the CD version, I figured I'd go the extra mile, and buy that one.

Let's start with the covers. Out of fifteen songs, three of the numbers on Kite came from MacColl's great taste in music. "Days" matches the Kinks original in exquisite beauty. I immediately loved MacColl's voice (or rather, voices, as she almost always overdubs lower and higher harmonies, creating a truly gorgeous layering effect), but it took me a long time to realize just how good her phrasing is. She was never a singer who called attention to herself, but she could always deliver the emotional core of a song, and given the richness of Ray Davies' classic song of thanks to a former lover, she doesn't miss a single nuance here. Truly a masterpiece.

Then there's "You Just Haven't Earned It Yet Baby" by the Smiths. MacColl actually co-wrote a few songs here with Johnny Marr, and he plays guitar on this song he originally co-wrote with his Smiths partner Morrissey. Here, the song is more spritely, and a tad less self-deprecating. I'm not sure who MacColl is aiming the vitriol at, though it still sounds ironic as well as vicious even as it whips you into a froth of pure pop pleasure.

Finally, we come to "Complainte Pour Ste. Catherine," a Kate and Anna McGarrigle classic written by Anna. Anticipating her later interest in Caribbean and Latin rhythms, MacColl takes this one at a double-time clip. If I didn't love the song already, I'm not sure the melody would be best served this way, but as it's one of many McGarrigle numbers completely imprinted in my head, I'm mesmerized by this onslaught. And, it makes for a fun way to end an album that has no weak links.

MacColl's own songs are full of wondrous hooks, truly intriguing arrangements (some no doubt courtesy of her then-husband producer Steve Lillywhite, who gives MacColl all the breathing space necessary while fitting in an awful lot of vocal tracks, guitar tracks, and assorted other surprises), and insight into the ups and downs of romantic entanglements. As one would expect from the glorious "They Don't Know," MacColl had a special way of seeing the complexities of love.

"Don't Come the Cowboy With Me, Sonny Jim," is probably my fave. The waltz rhythm, the unforgettable melody and that slam bang hook of a title might at first make us think she's strong and insistent to her man. But really, this is a song about vulnerability, about the ways men have hurt her, and the hope against hope that this next one will be different. "There's a light in your eyes tells me somebody's in / And you won't come the cowboy with me" is sung with such desire, such longing that she's not making this up, that this one will treat her right. It gets me every time I hear it.

I haven't even mentioned this is the only album I own that has Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour on a couple of cuts (one or two of which he and Johnny Marr actually play together). Okay, that's done. Actually, all the guitarists on this record, including one Pete Glenister who is less famous but who does a lot of the work, are terrific; MacColl's songs give guitarists a lot of room to create counterpoint to her tunes without demanding that they be the center of attention. Everything on this record just works so well together.

MacColl never made another album as perfect as this one. In fact, she only made three more over the next decade plus before she was killed in one of the most horrific tragedies to take the life of any musician. While swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, she was hit by the blades of a speedboat.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cover Me - Mad Women

Three fine covers this time featuring a Doo Wop Pajama Party



An oldies collection with a couple twisting, or maybe just practicing balancing on an imaginary surf board



Finally an European Gospel Due Anita and Bosse Andersson. Is it just me or is Anita a dead ringer for Peggy Olsen on Mad Men?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Euclid Records to Hold 2nd Annual Sidewalk Sale



Euclid Records is ready to celebrate the beginning of Autumn by having our prices fall down like leaves on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 26 and 27. This will be our second annual Sidewalk Sale, and we’ve been scurrying around, digging up bargain LPs from our basement, pulling out CDs from the nooks and crannies of the store. Music lovers can build an instant collection on a low budget just by poring over the boxes we’ll have outside the store.

Thousands of CDs will be on sale for $1.00 each. Thousands more LPs will be available for $2.00 each, or 3 for $5.00. Dig through the crates and find bargains, from the obscure to the basics of rock & roll. In addition, we’ll have posters and assorted odds and ends for collectors. It will be a veritable smorgasbord of delights for those who love to hear, read, see, and talk music.

But that’s not all. On top of the outdoor excitement, everything inside the store will be 10% off (with the exception of the six 7” 45’s in the Euclid Sessions series, all of which will be $8.00 flat as always). The largest selection of used jazz LPs in town, the extensive selection of used and new rock LPs, the huge assortment of new and used CDs, and all of our great used DVDs will be offered for 10% less than our everyday low prices.

And, we’re working on assembling some live music to make the day more festive. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 26 & 27 will be devoted to thanking our customers for their support of independent record stores, and sharing the joys of music. Store hours on Saturday are 10 am to 9 pm, and on Sunday are 10 am to 5 pm.

Euclid Records is located at 601 East Lockwood in Webster Groves, MO. In business since 1981, Euclid Records has remained fiercely independent and is thriving in the face of changed conditions for record stores across the country.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Albums of My Life - 1988 - Lucinda Williams "Lucinda Williams"


by Steve Pick

It was the tail end of 1988 when I read Robert Christgau's Consumer's Guide review of Lucinda Williams. Something about the way he sold it - "She can make a winner out of any song that spurns the cliches she's too avid and sensible to resort to" - made me want to hear it, and once I did, I fell immediately in love. This was a country record of passionate intensity and enormous restraint. It also didn't hurt that I was in a band at the time which featured intelligent and emotional lyrics, a bit of country, a bit of rock/pop, a lyrical lead guitarist and a stylish vocalist who connected deeply to the words she was singing. (We broke up the week before we were scheduled to open for Williams a few months later.)

Williams had done two albums several years before this one, but I didn't know them, and besides, they were much more blues-oriented. She would do two more albums almost as good as this one before losing her ability to sound natural and at ease, not to mention her casually brilliant use of detail to express what rarely appeared in pop songs. Back in 1988, I had no other Lucinda Williams music to compare this to - I was merely enthralled.

Alright, there's "Passionate Kisses," the closest thing to a hit she ever had (though that success came when a year or two later, Mary Chapin Carpenter removed the twinge of hurt Williams stuck in as a contrast to the hope and desire imbued in the song). Here it was, a statement of desire as a right, a belief that life is meant to be enjoyed and not wasted. Yes, she needs a comfortable bed, and of course food and clothing is necessary, but so are passionate kisses. The way she sings "Shouldn't I have this, shouldn't I have this, shouldn't I have all of this" slays me every time - there is the sense of questioning it, the sense of shouting at those who would question her for it, and the sense of obvious need, all at the same time. And then there is the release she gives when she sings "Passionate kisses, passionate kisses, passionate kisses from you" and Gurf Morlix's guitar glides down the notes back to the chord for the verse again. She sounds so ecstatic, so delighted, so relieved, so in love with the moment.

There are those who disparage Williams' singing ability, and there are examples on later albums which drive me crazy. But, for a while there, Lucinda Williams was as expressive a vocalist as any out there, a woman who intimately lived every word she sang, and who made us feel all the complex emotions mixed into the songs. Take "Side of the Road," a song about the balancing act between being in love with another and yourself at the same time. The tune isn't much - actually, Williams rarely put much work into melodies, figuring she could rely on Morlix's arranging genius, her gift for hooks on the choruses, and her ability to sing a few notes with radically different emphasis depending on the words - but oh, the emotions run deep. You can hear the sound of the car stopping, you feel the wind blowing and the grass brushing against her legs. You sense the connection she doesn't want to lose, you realize she's considering the possibility of changing and losing either herself or her lover, you consider the comparison between her life and an imaginary culturally cliched role as a wife. All of this swirls around inside her voice, and you know that, though the song brings her back to her man, she will lose none of her individuality under any circumstances.

There's desire unvarnished - "I Just Wanted to See You So Bad." There's revenge and escape fantasy - "Changed the Locks." There's tender, sweet, and slightly scared beginnings of love - "Like a Rose" (which, by the way, I just noticed shares some chord changes with "I'll Be Your Mirror" by the Velvet Underground). There's family connection, nostalgia, and love of place - "Crescent City." There's the knowledge that anything could turn around to hurt you, no matter how much you want it to be good - "I Asked For Water (He Gave Me Gasoline)," originally done by Howlin' Wolf, but close to being equaled in Lucinda's version.

I had originally planned to do a different record for 1988, but I realized this was the one that most captured my soul in that year (even if it came out so late). There was a lot of great music then - Leonard Cohen, the Pogues, Public Enemy, Eric B & Rakim, the Traveling Wilburys, more. Lucinda Williams, however, had so many songs that rattle around in my head still to this day, so she gets the nod to represent 1988. It is, alas, out of print, because of crazy record company issues.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Albums of My Life - 1987 - John Hiatt "Bring the Family"



by Steve Pick

We've all seen it in dozens of movies and TV shows. The slowly whirling camera from high above as the reunited couple snuggle on the couch. The montage of images from the happy past cut with the abandoned lover hoping she'll return to him. The crying hospital patient looking adoringly at the doctor who has just saved her life. I don't know, I'm making all these up, but John Hiatt's "Have a Little Faith In Me" has been used so often, it's difficult to think of moving images it wouldn't fit.

Once upon a time, in the year I turned 29, "Have a Little Faith In Me" ended side one of the album that taught me rock music could actually have something to do with adult life. Not that I ever doubted it, of course, as I wasn't making any plans to "grow up" and abandon my childish pleasures. But Bring the Family was a different sort of beast than what I had heard up to that point. Without abandoning the thrills of letting oneself experience excitement, Hiatt was making music that spoke from a point of view of emotional satisfaction, of contentment with his lot, and of deep gratitude and joy for what he had.

There are many things to love about "Memphis in the Meantime," the stunning rocker which opens the record. Ry Cooder's guitar, bursting at the seams with electrons jumping all over the place, and rippling deliriously captivating takes on classic rockabilly licks, is one of the most exciting sounds I know. Drummer Jim Keltner, whose presence before and since on hundreds of great records has always been welcome, puts together a performance here which has to rank among his ten best - he's so loose, so energetic, so full of impossible to imagine rhythmic ideas. Bassist Nick Lowe adds to the groove, as does Hiatt's acoustic rhythm guitar.

The song itself is about a man and his wife, not at a dramatic point in their relationship, no strain, no pain, no overwhelming exhilaration because they've just fallen in love. Nope, it's two people just looking for something different. (Alright, it's sung from his point of view; we're assuming she's as interested as he is in his plan to head away from country music territory and rock out for a night.) It's two people who acknowledge responsibility and plans for the future, but who need something fun and immediate, too. It's kinda how life has turned out to be for those of us who have stuck around for a while - this whole adulthood thing isn't just one long period of work and authority. Heck, it turns out there's a lot of room for fun, even when you're older.

As the album goes on, Hiatt sings from different points of view - the beginning of a relationship when everything feels like it's being dropped on two people from outside themselves ("Thing Called Love," later memorably covered by Bonnie Raitt); the life-saving aspects of love coming at a time of deep need ("Thank You Girl" and "Stood Up," both of which acknowledge that, while Hiatt made his own choices and changed his own life when he realized he was an alcoholic, his wife helped him a lot); the realization that there is a circle of life, that generations past went through the same things ("Your Dad Did," an astounding song which hits me more now that I'm 50 than it did when I first heard it); the need to recognize weakness and to gather the strength to overcome it (in their own ways, both "Have a Little Faith In Me" and "Learning How to Love You" cover this ground), and even the painful thought that the relationship could come to an end with great pain ("Lipstick Sunset").

John Hiatt had been making records for 13 years before this, releasing seven albums, some of which were pretty darn good. But Bring the Family was the first one on which Hiatt found his own voice - he was no longer trying to fit in with specific musical trends, whether folk or New Wave or synth-pop or even roots rock. Here, with the aid of the aforementioned treasures of musicians, Hiatt opened up, sang about his own life, wore his heart on his sleeve and became an adult. He would go on to make one more record as magnificent as this, 1989's Slow Turning, then settle into a long period of just plain goodness which hasn't come to an end yet.

Hiatt, Cooder, Lowe and Keltner, responding to critical calls for the four of them to continue playing together, tried forming a band called Little Village. Alas, with so many talented players working as equals rather than in service to only one man's vision, the result turned out to be pretty much a pleasant mess. I honestly don't know if anybody has listened to that album since it came out in 1992.

Monday, September 7, 2009

They Say It's Your Birthday - Sonny Rollins

Photos of Sonny Rollins and Don Cherry taken by Bernie Thrasher St. Louis 1962







These rare unpublished images are from the Euclid Records Archives and cannot be replicated without the consent of Euclid Records LLC St. Louis, MO


Sonny Rollins and Don Cherry
Rome 1963

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Albums of My Life - 1986 - Elvis Costello "King of America"



by Steve Pick

In 1986, I had a roommate who could be a tad obsessive about things. The day King of America was released, he had a copy, and he began to play it and play it and play it. I bet he played it a dozen times in that first 48-hour period. In less than 2 days, I had pretty much memorized the sound of that album.

This was fine by me. Elvis Costello was and is my favorite songwriter. It has long been my contention that no single person has written great songs for as long a period of time as Costello has without showing any signs of skill deterioration. Bob Dylan? Granted, his heights have actually been higher - "Watching the Detectives," as magnificent as it is, is no "Like a Rolling Stone" - but his lows have been way lower. Irving Berlin? That assembly line process of Tin Pan Alley brought forth a lot of masterpieces, but a lot of dreck as well. Nope, Costello remains the only songwriter who has continually put forth at the very least interesting songs for 32 straight years.

Anyway, if he did have a lowpoint, it might have been Goodbye Cruel World, the album which preceded this one. Released almost two years before - the longest gap in Costello's still-young career to that point - that record suffered from insufferable production choices, not from weak material. With only an occasional sputtering of import singles, I had been jonesing for some new Costello, and I was happy to have a roommate who could make my desire seem moderate.

Within a couple months, we attended a seminar held at Washington University by an English major from England who put us both to shame. This guy lectured on the lyrics of Elvis Costello, most especially the ones on King of America, and to this day, almost everything I understand about the record comes from dim memories of what he had to say. The whole masturbation theme which pops up more than once here went right past me despite lyrics such as "And as they speculate what she would look like underneath that thin night gown / His family pride was rising up as he cast his eyes down."

Which brings me to an interesting admission - I don't really pay close attention to Costello's lyrics. I never have. I am aware, from this lecture, from books I've read, from talking to others, from even the occasional close listen, that there is a whole lot more going on in these songs than I know. It's just with those melodies, those hooks, those arrangements, that vocal approach (which borrows from the best phrasing of a dozen genres to create a style which overcomes some occasional problems with hitting the notes accurately) all give my brain so much to do that I don't notice the words. For most of my life, this was pretty much the way I listened to all music, but in recent years, I've forced myself to hear lyrics; I just can't do it as much with Costello, whose musical skills are so strong that I get easily distracted.

There's a lot to unpack in the words, but also a lot to unpack in the music. This was Costello's first album (save his first) without the backing of the Attractions. Producer T Bone Burnett assembled a small army of amazing session players - legendary guitarist James Burton, even more legendary drummer Earl Palmer, jazz giant Ray Brown all turn up on at least one track. The sound of this album breathes in ways Costello's music hadn't done before - the players here were more used to backing a singer than competing with him. (And mind you, I love the competition of the Attractions; this was just a different method, and one which suited Costello just fine).

Costello had flirted with genres before - most notably country music, but also soul. Here, he mixed them all up - country, soul, blues, folk, pop, rock. The backing is primarily acoustic - acoustic guitars, stand-up bass, dobro, accordion, brushes on the drums - but it doesn't sound quiet. By this point in Costello's career, he wasn't focusing quite so much on the pop charts any more, and was free to take his melodic gifts in whatever musical direction they might go - a pretty melody might be echoed on a dobro for the chorus, but sound more like a rock song on the verse. Two covers - the Animals "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" and J. B. Lenoir's "Eisenhower Blues" - are dropped in between 13 originals, all of which stand up after all these years.

A quick word on the nature of this column - an explanation, of sorts, for Costello releasing nine albums in the previous nine years without making the cut. I don't mean to claim the choices I make for each year are necessarily the finest records of the year. I definitely do love each of them, but I can, for example, argue that Get Happy was a better record than AC/DC's Back in Black in 1980. But, I'm choosing a single record which represents something essential about that year - not the only essential, but something which is worthy of comment. For one thing, I had more to say about Back in Black than I do about Get Happy - what more can I do than say that record has 20 pitch perfect cuts? And then, 1982 comes along, and Shoot Out the Lights by Richard and Linda Thompson has no peers, despite being in the same year as arguably Costello's best album, Imperial Bedroom. (Imagine getting to hear those both for the first time at about the same time.)

Which means that choosing this record for 1986 is not meant to reflect poorly on his previous albums, five of which remain among my favorite records of all time. It also shouldn't reflect poorly on Blood and Chocolate, which Costello released later in 1986, nor on Paul Simon's Graceland. Put the three of them together, and it's hard to remember anything else happened that year at all.