Wednesday, December 7, 2016
I've discussed this LP before, it's Kansas' masterpiece, there most well thought out LP and it's got the hits.
This version differs in that it's a CBS Half-Speed Remaster that came out in 1980. In the 70's, Mobil Fidelity Sound Lab began to remaster titles at half speed and make limited runs on high quality vinyl. Better known as MoFi, the records sound great and are considered audiophile releases, sold at a premium and still command a significant amount today. They started a trend and the majors attempted to latch onto audiophile trend. Obvisouly, someone thought enough of Kansas to press up some audiophile copies.
Problem is that while an album like 'Point of Know Return' deserves an audiophile pressing, CBS' process wasn't anywhere as good as the MoFi releases. There are some Half-Speed CBS records that aren't any better, possibly worst than the original pressing. This pressing isn't terrible, but it's not great either. It's really bright and thin, which brings out a lot of keyboards well, but other areas suffer. It's generally panned as a terrible audiophile press, but I would still argue it's listenable (there's a CBS Self-Titled Boston LP that is absolute garbage and this isn't on that level of suckitude).
Surprisingly, despite that most experts will say stay away from this and most other CBS Half-Speed pressings, a copy still demands a premium over a clean original. Apparently the thought of having something marked audiophile outweighs the quality to some people.
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Although they continued several more years past this release, this LP marks the end of a pretty good run for the Springfield, MO band that made a huge impression on Kansas City in their early days. This effort wasn't as consistent as their prior releases, but it's the same odd blend of old-time bluegrass, smooth pop, and country rock that sometimes goes song to song and other times within a single track.
There's a crazy story about founding member, Randle Chowning getting into a fight with his bandmates in Europe and quitting the band around the time of this LPs release. Apparently, a band sound mix pissed Chowning off, so he turned it to 11. After the show, he argued with band members and held a grudge all the way back home and ended up leaving the band. Despite that, he's listed as a sideman in the credits for 'Sideman From Earth', obviously appearing on some of the album tracks. Also interesting, the album was recorded EVERYWHERE. In Nashville, as well at the legendary Caribou Ranch in Colorado, and surprisingly at American Artist Studio in Springfield, Missouri, the same studio that drummed up business releasing a bunch of local custom and private press records in the area.
Again, 'Men from Earth' is a bit more uneven than the prior LPs, maybe due to the all the different recording locations. But, it's not a miss by any means, it has its share of enjoyable tracks, just lacking an obvious hit.
Fly Away Home
Saturday, December 3, 2016
Not much to this LP, not even the typical Beatles cover that was all the rage with high school choirs. Really only reason to pick it up is to archive it.
It's the Shawnee Mission North music program recorded in concert. The girl's choir is kind of entertaining, but yeah, nothing special. Typical selections for a high school program and it all ends up sounding like church music.
Greater Corinthian Nondenominational Church of Kansas City, Missouri Close to Thee HSE of America 1980
This LP is hot fire. The title and opening track 'Close to Thee' starts funky with a rootsy choir, the lead male takes over taking a standard approach, then, I can't tell if it's the same guy or someone pairing with him, but this insane falsetto voice starts and owns the song. The next track, 'Sanctified, Justified, Glorified' is uptempo gospel, maybe a little too fast for the church's own sake as everyone has a hard time keeping up, but it makes the song real and live. It also continues for over 10 minutes. Third and final track on the 1st side, 'Plenty Good Room', slows things down considerably, but there's still plenty of fire pouring through it's grooves.
The second side starts hot with female led track, 'By and By'. After that, the album finishes with a winding gospel jam that is followed by an exit prayer, exploding in gospel music in the last minute.
As the title states, the church was located in Kansas City. The record was put out by the Nashville, TN gospel lable, HSE of America. Don't know much about the players, but they're great. Solid LP.
Sanctified, Justified, Glorified
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
The cover for Linda Rich's 'There's More to Living Than I Know So Far' catches your eye with it's 60's pop-art lettering and simplicity. You turn it over, and in the upper right there's a picture of Linda Rich and she looks motherly, old even. Then you read through the back notes and it's all about Jesus and religion, now she looks like a grandma in the photo.
If you search the LP online, though, you'll find that it's sold often as "folk-psych" as well as with the Christian abbreviation, Xian. Once you listen to it, the "folk psych" thing is just hype, it's folk, but as psych as the weakest Moody Blues song. It's certainly religious, but you can figure out why there's a demand for the LP. It's well-done femme folk from the late 60's. Linda Rich's back photo must just be a bad angle, because her voice doesn't sound like an older woman, she sounds youthful. The album is Linda Rich, her guitar, and backing musicians that do their best to bring about a hippie-inspired dream session. If you can get past all the Jesus, it's a pretty solid LP. The reissue label Numero Group even featured the track "Sunlight Shadow" on a recent compilation.
The back cover gives some clues to Linda Rich, she played around colleges for Christian youth groups throughout the Midwest and apparently an awful lot in Colorado. She was from Augusta, Kansas, which is a small town about 30 minutes East of Wichita. Other than that, she did another obscure LP and it appears she was a recent college grad or current student at the time of this release in 1969.
Saturday, November 26, 2016
Man, I remember being so excited for this record in 2000. I actually got an advance copy to promote through an indie-promotion company when I was doing "street team" work. The Anniversary was becoming a big deal, locally and nationally. They were touring with the Get Up Kids, the singles they had released up to their debut were frantic emo-pop sing-alongs.
However, when I got the album I remember being completely let down. The album starts out promising with "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" followed by "All Things Ordinary", but after that, I remember thinking the band had run out of ideas. The Rentals formula was wearing thin and in bursts, it worked for the band, but for an entire album, it gets thin. When the album was officially released, I never bothered updating my promo copy which was just a disc in a plain white envelope with a hype-sticker across the back.
Years later, when nostalgia took over, I regretted never buying it on vinyl. When I started looking for it, I would have been lucky to find a copy for $50. Then, just recently, Vagrant started re-releasing a bunch of their back catalog for the label's 20 year anniversary and this was included. I waited too long apparently to get a standard black copy and settled for this blue colored version...and once again, I was disappointed when I first put it on. Not because I felt I bought a bad album, I can now validate the purchase for two great tracks and some solid filler, I got more money than I did in 2000. But, what I was upset about this time was slightly warped vinyl...WTF. Quality control on recent vinyl pressings leaves a lot to be desired, but that's to be expected when everyone is buying records again.
Either way, the album sounds better today than it did back then. Bonus, the warp doesn't affect playback, so it's cool. I'm picking up on all the moments when the Get Up Kids association rubbed off on these guys, the pick slides, the obvious emo infliction, it's nice. But, mostly it's the nostalgia that gets me.
Designing a Nervous Breakdown
Larry Good looks like a bad-ass in his fancy cowboy hat and turquoise jewelry. Truth is, the Kansas City born performer was. Looking at the cover, you'd think it's just some sap from the KC area trying on his country digs, and it is, but Larry Good had a name.
Prior to starting up in rockabilly and country music, Larry Good was Kansas City born baseball player who played in the Chicago Cubs minor league system as an infielder in the early to mid-50s, but he never made the Show. Following his baseball career, he put out a slew of 45s on the Kansas City labels, some of the early rockabilly stuff he did is well-regarded. He continued his music career for over 40 year and apparently, in the 80's he founded Lari-Jon Productions/Records that coincided with a country music television program that aired throughout Nebraska.
The album suffers from dated production, but overall, Larry isn't so bad. He picks out some ass-kicking country to cover, He sticks to traditional country honky-tonk, early country sounds. He jumps into his rockabilly groove on a cover of "White Lightnin'". There's two originals that conclude the LP, they're pretty simple attempts at sing-along bar chants or possibly something he had in mind for the closing of his television program.