Sunday, February 28, 2016

Brandon Butler Heno Private 2012

Brandon Butler Heno Private 2012 NO CAT#

Brandon Butler of Boy's Life released this on colored wax in 2012 as what appears to be a self-funded, private release. Butler had moved to the D.C. area after Boy's Life disbanded years ago and made great friends. J. Robbins of Jawbox fame helped record and produce the album along with some other D.C. area players.

However, as cool as the East Coast is, this album sounds awfully Midwest. Heno is bordering between the alt. country sounds of  and 90's No Depression scene and the American Cosmic sounds of Gene Clark. While DC is cool, perhaps an extended visit back to the Heartland could have brought a bit more space and loneliness, but regardless, it's a very good album.

It's surprising that no one cares about this release. There's still Boy's Life/Farewell Bend fans out there and all you can find on the LP is, "Is this any good?" on webboards. It's very good. The fuckers asking should just buy it already. The track "Dear Assassin" is just as perfect as anything found on the Canyon LP's. It's spread out and lonely, get's big at the end, it's an amazing song.

The only faults to the album are it's length, it's just 7 tracks, with lots of room to spare. Also, Butler's vocals do sometimes sound a little high and out of place on some of his country outings, it works well with the spread out songs, but the more uptempo tracks, the vocals need a bit more depth.

It'd be a shame if this was the last thing Butler puts out. Personally, I have this grandiose idea he should return to Kansas City with a grip of songs and just get everyone around to put out a double LP. A KC allstar outing of American Cosmic recordings, sure, like this, I bet no one would care, but it'd be the type of thing that becomes legendary years later.

Dear Assassin Live Recording

Monday, February 22, 2016

Todd Newman and the Leatherwoods To Win You Back Reverb 1988

Todd Newman and the Leatherwoods To Win You Back B/W Downside of an Eightball Reverb 1988 CAT# REV701

I've been hearing legends concerning Todd Newman since hosting a power-pop show on KJHK. His songs were a must have per Lawrence power-pop enthusiasts.

So, up until finding this one, the hype has been building in my mind. Legendary Lawrence, KS power-pop, so good you can't find his 7"s anywhere. Then I got it and I'm like, meh, this is pedestrian.

Not to say it isn't good, it's enjoyable. "To Win You Back" has a great harmony on the chorus, but the rest could have been a Romantics song buried away on a second side of one of their albums and people might point it out as a highlight. The amount of swearing on the B-side, "Downside of an Eightball" is impressive. All the curse words paired with a power-pop balled is kind of humorous, but I'm not sure Todd Newman was trying to be funny.

Interesting bit about the band, formed in Lawrence, presumably as Jayhawks attending school (the 7" even thanks KJHK). The drummer of the Leatherwoods was Tim O'Reagan, who would move off to Minnesota and join the influential alt-country band, The Jayhawks, Coincidentally, Newman lives in the land of 1000 Lakes as well.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Casket Lottery Choose Bronze Second Nature 1999

The Casket Lottery Choose Bronze Second Nature 1999 CAT# SN016

You don't want to call Casket Lottery emo, but fuck, this album can be so emo. It's whiny, the dual vocal approach exchange cries throughout, and, I think most the songs are about girls. And while it doesn't sound 1999 Midwestern emo with all the math-y time signature changes, it would have fit in fine next to the likes of emo pioneers Boys Life and Giants Chair. So, in that regard, the Casket Lottery's first LP is an emo LP.

However, it's way beyond that, it's got more depth and way too much aggression. Keeping in mind, two thirds of the band performed in the brutal metal band (one of which still does) Coalesce, these songs will throat punch you. There's no time for crying, Casket Lottery has too much of a punk rock upbringing and too much of a metal ego to get too wimpy.

Another element of the post-hardcore scenes the Casket Lottery gravitated to, math-rock. Far more intricate than their emo counterparts. It's not as harsh as Don Caballero and not as pretentious as American Football or Joan of Arc, but these guys have enough start-stop moves and drum counts to start a class. They were able to find a solid balance of the influences and make something unique, catchy, but still maintain their punk rock DIY values. It's a great LP.

Also key to the Casket Lottery perfection is the special touches they gave every release outside not allowing for a single skipped over track. Choose Bronze features the band name in metallic bronze print on the front cover. They also inscribed the words, "Your Home" and "My Home" on opposites sides near the matrix numbers. Little things like that, always made Casket Lottery so clever and conscious of the people listening to them.


Friday, February 5, 2016

Count Basie and Orchestra On the Road Pablo 1980

Count Basie and Orchestra On the Road Pablo 1980 CAT #D2312112

This is a late-era Basie LP, recorded live apparently throughout a 1979 European tour. Features a host of brass players, Mickey Roker on drums, Keter Betts on bass and Freddie Green on guitar.

It's a good sounding recording as most Pablo releases are. It doesn't sound dated or dull. It's Basie bashing out classic tunes with a solid group of players.

In A Mellow Tone

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Morningstarr Virgin Lover B/W If I Didn't Want to See You Anymore Lion Records 1969

Morningstarr Virgin Lover B/W If I Didn't Want to See You Anymore Lion Records 1969 CAT# L-45-1003

This is the very same band that went on to become Morningstar and record two albums for Columbia in the late-70s...Well, mostly the same, give or take a few members, or all but one. Initially members were in the KC band, 19th Century Sound Affair, but broke off to to form a heavy psych cover band before coming upon the name, Morningstarr (the pic sleeve of this actually says, Morning Starr) in the late 60's. The group was spotted by former White Sox short stop, Lou Rennau, who took them in to record for his Lion Records label out of Columbia, Missouri. Rennau also had some connections with Topeka band, The Morning Dew, and was a musician himself.

"Virgin Lover" is a pretty bizarre psych nugget and an original by Morningstarr member, Greg Soto. The groove is right, feels 1969 with a bit of British influence. The lyrics and the idea of a Virgin Lover are a bit off putting, though. Like if that's what you're seeking out, you're kind of a creep, you know?

The flip side, "If I Didn't Want to See You Anymore" was actually a song intended for the prior band, 19th Century Sound Affair. It's actually co-written by Larry Sands who fronted the 19th Century. The track features the band's female singer, Melissa Mendenhall. It has a nice baroque-pop sound and not as heavy as "Virgin Lover." Both tracks are solid.

The release earned the band enough attention to open some shows for Led Zeppelin. Due to the travel associated with being in a band, Mendenhall would quit. But, the band trudged on for a decade. Legend states that it was this early stuff that brought them to Columbia records almost decade latter. The Columbia exec that signed the band had seen the band 7 years prior to signing them, which would have been a lineup similar to the one featured on this 45 versus the group that cut Columbia LPs.