In the aftermath of the supermoon this past weekend, I thought it would be an appropriate time to look a little deeper into some of the more earthy and introspective gems that were released on Record Store Day 2012. While I am happy to have been able to get copies of these, I guess I’ll be eating salad for a while, since I went over my budget a bit (I have to diet anyhow). But I view it as a good investment that allows me to tell you, Dear Reader, more about these records.
Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band: First up is wonderful release from the good folks at Sundazed Records: original mono reissue of the extremely rare first singles by none other than Captain Beefheart and (an early incarnation of) His Magic Band. Put aside your preconceptions about the good Cap’n — these singles are very much in keeping with the flavor of his first album, Safe As Milk (which came out a year or so later on the Buddha Records label) and are seriously blues based rock ‘n roll with just a hint of proto-psychedelia and none of the deconstructionist avante garde blues rock sonic freak-out that put the band on the map in the late ’60s.
“Diddy Wah Diddy” should have been a huge hit, but apparently was torpedoed by a similar release at the same time by The Remains (from the East Coast) and thus created confusion at radio and retail (go figure). “Moonchild” sounds very much like a Safe As Milk track, but was written by — get this — session producer David Gates (yes, the same David Gates who later landed soft rock his like “Baby I’m-a Want You” with his band Bread. Go figure).
If you don’t want to mess with 45 RPM singles but want to get this music, you have a couple of other options. In the early ’70s, A&M Records issued a very cool radio-station-only promo 2 LP set (which you can still find around if you look) called The A&M Bootleg Album. This features only a nondescript brown bag-like cardboard cover and a cheap black and white sticker on the front. There was apparently an insert sheet with track listing info (mine doesn’t have that), but it contains then-rare tracks by the likes of Joe Cocker, T-Rex, Procol Harum, Leon Russell, The Move (proto ELO), The Flying Burrito Brothers, and Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band. In fact, it contains all four of these single tracks, albeit in actually-very-nice-for-the-period stereo.
Or if you don’t want to mess with the vinyl, you can still find a five-song EP that was put out in 1984 featuring the singles, plus a previously unreleased outtake. Any way you go, you owe it to yourself to get these tracks, as they are jolly great fun. I got my A&M Bootleg album at Amoeba Records for a bargain: $10! You can find similar bargains going on eBay right now.
I noticed that also on the A&M Bootleg album is a track by Dillard and Clark — a project of former Byrds singer and songwriter Gene Clark — called “Why Not Your Baby,” which, as it turns out, was on a Record Store Day 2012 exclusive release from Sundazed Records along with another rare non-LP track from 1969. (I didn’t pick that one up, but it is a great track that appears to have been arranged by none other than Van Dyke Parks! I am going to be exploring other recordings by Gene Clark, such as this reissue of Dillard and Clark’s Fantastic Expedition… album. Pioneers of country rock! This is the sort of discovery process I just love about music and record collecting!)
I did, however, buy another 45 RPM single by Gene Clark on Record Store Day. The cool thing about this single is that it features two songs slated for a release in 1970, which would have marked a reunion of the original Byrds (“One in a Hundred” b/w “She’s the Kind of Girl”). The songs are really nice mixes-in-progress dominated by Roger McGuinn’s signature Rickenbacker 12-string. They are kind of slower paced songs, fitting more in with the vibe of the early ’70s Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter sounds that were starting to emerge at that time. Curiously enough, these songs pre-echo the sound of Big Star, Alex Chilton‘s seminal indie band that would influence generations to come. This is a great release, but again, my big and only real gripe (especially given the $10 price point) is that both sides of this single (at least my copy) are pressed way off center, so there is a lot of wow messing up the sparkling tones of McGuinn’s 12-string as the turntable tracks the disc as best it can. (C’mon Sundazed. Gotta get your QC in check. We expect more from you.) Nonetheless, I like these tracks, and am going to be exploring other Gene Clark solo releases, many of which Sundazed has reissued on LP and CD.
The Byrds: This is another single that never existed before, and is a cool addition to the collection. It features an alternate vocal mix of my favorite Byrds song on the A-side (“I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better”) that is neither better or worse than the original, just different and nice to hear. “Its No Use,” an outtake from the Mr Tambourine Man album demonstrates — to quote the liner notes on the great period-perfect picture sleeve — “that a raw Byrds album outtake is as good or better than most bands’ finished product.” I can’t disagree. Nice job on the spot-on recreation of the Columbia Records white label promo-styled label and the vintage royal blue clear vinyl pressing, which sounds quiet and punchy in mono.
Paul Revere & The Raiders: This release apparently marks the first time two prime-period tracks by this great, critically underrated (but hugely popular) Northwestern band are appearing on vinyl (they are on CD Essential collections). Packaged in a period-appropriate picture sleeve (groovy clothes guys!) and pressed on bright clear red vinyl with a faux Columbia Records white promo label (as issued to radio stations back in the day), these tracks are great slabs of party rock. The first tune, “Ride Your Pony” was written for Lee Dorsey (“Ya Ya”) by none other than Allan Toussaint, and sounds like it comes from the same sessions as other Raiders hits such as “Just Like Me” and “Louie Louie,” with a bit of Jr. Walker & The All-Stars’ “Shotgun” tossed in for good measure. The B-side, “(You’re A) Bad Girl” is written by singer Mark Lindsay with producer Terry Melcher, and is great power pop that sounds like what might happen if The Animals covered Sonny & Cher’s “The Beat Goes On,” backwards.
The Mynah Birds: Who? Yeah, I said that initially and then I remembered why the name sounded familiar — it was the first band Neil Young was in along with future Buffalo Springfield bassist Bruce Palmer and… get this… Rick James (yeah, as in “Super Freak” Rick James!) and two future members of Steppenwolf! But, Neil was from Canada, you say, right? Right! One of the first stops over the border for some Canadians might well have easily been Detroit, and thus this record was recorded for Motown Records and shelved (according to the Wiki) after Rick James was arrested for deserting the US Navy. Then the band split up and the rest, as they say, is history.
The songs are good, if somewhat standard Byrds-like rock — but they are no doubt an important slice of rock music history. You can hear Neil Young on harmonies in the background, as well as his developing-yet-already-distinctive guitar playing. “It’s My Time” backed with “Go On and Cry” comes in a nice period-appropriate picture sleeve and a small-hole European styled 45 RPM 7-inch disc with a repro of the old VIP Records label, which is pros.
Finally, my record-collecting friend Rick in Las Vegas mailed a few things he grabbed for me there that I’d missed out here on the West Coast, including what appears to be a free single by K’Naan, an artist I’d never heard of, pulled from the recent Bob Dylan tribute album honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International called Chimes of Freedom.
While I was dubious about the single’s content, I gave it a spin and — ya know what? — it’s pretty cool! K’naan puts Dylan’s legendary anthem through a Beck-meets-Jules-Shear-blender to come up with a nifty hip hop- infused cover version that is at once respectful of the past and yet forward looking. Check it out on SoundCloud.
I know I’ve said it before, but it is worth repeating this point — again, folks — that this sort of discovery is exactly what singles are about, and what Record Stores are great for: getting exposed to new music in a way that you really don’t get online. So, unplug for a while, get out of the house, and go make some discoveries of your own at your favorite local store.
I leave you with a couple of aforementioned cuts from Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band. First up, “Moonchild”:
… and a clip from ABC’s Where The Action Is (circa 1966)