Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Classic Bootleg Series Vol. 23: Led Zeppelin - The Complete BBC Radio Sessions - Part 2 of 2

Discs 1 and 2 (along with the artwork) are here. And if you thought they were great, brace yourself for these -- the entire session at the Paris Cinema in London on April 1, 1971, recorded for John Peel's "Sunday In Concert" program on BBC Radio One. Simply spectacular. Be sure to play it nice and loud.


Disc 3:

01 John Peel intro
02 Immigrant Song
03 Heartbreaker
04 Since I've Been Loving You
05 Black Dog
06 Dazed And Confused
07 Stairway To Heaven

Disc 4:

01 Going To California
02 That's The Way
03 What Is And What Should Never Be
04 Whole Lotta Love
05 Thank You
06 Communication Breakdown

Friday, November 23, 2007

Classic Bootleg Series Vol. 23: Led Zeppelin - The Complete BBC Radio Sessions - Part 1 of 2

Time to get the Led out. With all the hype surrounding the release of the Mothership collection last week and their reunion show in London next month, not to mention Robert Plants's recent solo triumph with Allison Krauss, I've been listening to a ton of Led Zeppelin lately. That, in turn, made me realize that a Zep boot is long overdue in this series. There are scores of great recordings to choose from -- in fact Zeppelin probably joins The Beatles, Dylan and The Rolling Stones as the most bootlegged acts of all time.

But while any number of live recordings by the mighty Led Zep would certainly qualify for "classic" status, it's this massive 4-disc box set released by Empress Valley, collecting all of their appearances on BBC radio between 1969 and 1971, that I return to most often. (Some of this material appears, in slightly different form, on the official BBC Sessions release in 1997, but this set is far more exhaustive and about twice as long.) The performances are consistently spectacular, and with one exception (the March, 1969 appearance on Alexis Korner's "Rhythm and Blues" program in the middle of Disc 1, which is muffled but still very listenable), the sound quality is equally fantastic throughout.

We'll start with Discs 1 and 2, which compile the band's earliest (and bluesiest) sessions for various BBC radio hosts. Then I'll be back in a few days with Discs 3 and 4, on which you get the entire two-hour session that the band recorded for John Peel's "Sunday In Concert" show on Radio One in April of 1971, seven months before the release of Led Zeppelin IV, playing new songs like "Black Dog", "Going To California" and "Stairway To Heaven" to a small theatre audience (it's unsettling, in fact, to hear the latter get no reaction at all from the crowd), and at the absolute peak of their legendary powers.

This is just essential stuff. If you're having any doubts about wanting to devote your bandwidth to such a massive set, listen to the first track on Disc 1, a raunchy troll through "You Shook Me" that confirms what a stunning live act Zeppelin was from the very beginning, and I guarantee you won't be able to pass up the rest. Positively jaw-dropping.



Disc 1 (1969):

01 You Shook Me
02 Communication Breakdown
03 I Can't Quit You Baby
04 Dazed And Confused
05 Alexis Korner intro
06 What Is And What Should Never Be
07 more chat
08 I Can't Quit You Baby
09 more chat
10 You Shook Me
11 Sunshine Woman
12 The Girl I Love Has Long Black Wavy Hair
13 Communication Breakdown
14 Something Else
15 What Is And What Should Never Be
16 Group interview with Chris Grant
17 Whole Lotta Love
18 Communication Breakdown
19 What Is and What Should Never Be
20 Travelling Riverside Blues

Disc 2 (1969-1970):

01 Alan Black intro
02 Communication Breakdown
03 I Can't Quit You Baby
04 Alan Black interview
05 Dazed And Confused
06 Interlude with Adrian Henry
07 White Summer-Black Mountain Side
08 You Shook Me
09 How Many More Times
10 White Summer
11 Black Mountain Side

I'll be back with Discs 3 and 4 early next week. Turn this up LOUD and enjoy.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


The good folks at Stereogum have posted video and mp3s of the tunes performed during Radiohead's surprise in-studio webcast on November 9, including a cover of "The Headmaster Ritual" that is essential for Radiohead and Smiths fans alike. But for some reason, the band's wicked rip through In Rainbows standout "Bodysnatchers" is not among the songs that you can grab at the 'Gum. To complete an iTunes playlist of the entire webcast, I did my own capture of "Bodysnatchers" and then ripped it to mp3 at a super-high bitrate to match the tracks at Stereogum. Consider it my Thanksgiving gift to all of you.

MP3: Radiohead - "Bodysnatchers" (live in studio), from the November 9, 2007 "Thumbs Down" webcast

Friday, November 16, 2007

More Adventurous

If we really wanted to bring you a knowledgeable discussion of electronica, we'd undoubtedly need to bring in a guest blogger. We're not. Now, I'm no connoisseur, but from time to time I encounter entries into the genre -- not that electronic music can really be accurately described as a single genre I realize, but bear with me, I'm using shorthand here -- that pique my interest. Here are a few:

Caribou is the nom de guerre of Don Snaith, who reportedly recorded his newest, Andorra, a dense, multi-layered wonder of neo-psychedelic pop, at home. I can't claim these comparisons as original thoughts, but there are those who invoke Elliot Smith's vocals, Brian Wilson's melodies, and '60s psychedelia as reference points. Those people would be right -- all colored by a modern DYI aesthetic.

Andorra, which I understand is something of a more pop-oriented departure from Snaith's earlier work, is a sonic tour de force -- one made for the headphones. It's a certifiable grower, albeit that rare grower with initial appeal. Be sure to check out the lushly romantic, Brian Wilsonesque "She's The One." Great stuff.

MP3: Caribou - "Sandy" from Andorra

I am completely blown away by UK's Burial. Although I'm certainly not hip enough to discuss the meaning of British "Grime," "2-Step," "Garage," or "Dubstep," as I have variously heard this music described, I can describe the sound as something like a Ghost In The Machine. With skittering electronic beats, ghostly keyboard washes, and soul vocal samples manipulated near the point of torture, Burial's Untrue sounds like some kind of aural missive from the next world, crackling and popping in the rain. This music is both haunted and haunting.

Adding to the cool mystery of this one-man band is that no one knows who Burial is. And he (or she) aims to keep it that way, and keep the focus on the music. The music is certainly worthy of that focus. The songs on Untrue flow from one to another with blurred distinction, and the whole record sounds very much like it is meant to be listened to in its entirety. Its sameness is never boring, but feels as deep (and as dark and cold) as the ocean.

MP3: Burial - "Near Dark" from Untrue

Camilo Lara's Mexican Institute of Sound may come from south of the border, but it specializes in smashing musical borders via a latin dance party. In MIS's new record Piñata, one can find aspects of Cumbia, Cha Cha Cha, Baile Funk, and other musical styles with which I have limited or no familiarity. Regardless, you don't have to be an ethnomusicologist to have fun with this stuff.

Obviously, Piñata is heavily influenced by Central American style, but it incorporates a club-friendly hip hop flair that will put the party right into your Margarita. If this doesn't get your toe tapping, I don't know what will. Go do a shot of tequila.

MP3: Mexican Institute of Sound - "Para No Vivir Desesperado" from Piñata

Friday, November 09, 2007

From Sweden With Love

It was my Aunt Joyce who traced one of the roots of my maternal family tree back to Sweden, which delighted me for no other reason than that it seemed somewhat exotic. I didn't buy a Swedish car just because of this, but Aunt Joyce's genealogical efforts in some small way may have helped close that deal. Musically, we're in the middle of something of a Swedish invasion on these shores, so while I wait for the new Hives record to drop next week (why in the world hasn't Saab used one of their songs in a commercial?), here's a quick look at a few new releases from my Swedish cousins.

The Perisher's Victorious is a lush pop record that is a little reminiscent of Dire Straits to my ear, with a fair amount of Blue Nile mixed in (which is always a good thing). It's a fairly romantic mainstream sound that would appeal to fans of Coldplay and Travis; a sound you might not be surprised to hear in the soundtrack of some teenage television drama, which I understand has occurred. Don't let that turn you off. It's still a mature sounding record that deserves a broad audience. Very good stuff.

MP3: The Perishers - "Midnight Skies" from Victorious

On Our Ill Wills, Shout Out Louds channel The Cure in the latter's sunny, pop manifestation, setting tales of melancholy to jangly, imminently hummable melodic confections. For me, this record generates a fair amount of '80s nostalgia, but is most enjoyable without seeming overly derivative. Lead-off track "Tonight I Have To Leave It" was cooked using only a slight variation on the recipe for "In Between Days," and I'm ok with that. Songs like "Impossible" are damn near impossible not to sing along with after just a few listens. Shout Out Louds are a skilled bunch of musicians, with keen ears for melody and a talent for song structure.

MP3: Shout Out Louds - "Tonight I Have To Leave It" - from Our Ill Wills

Jens Lekman is something of an anomaly. On his new release, Night Falls Over Kortedala, he manages the seemingly impossible task of being twee and bombastic at the same time ("And I Remember Every Kiss"). He seems both earnest and tongue-in-cheek. He's Burt Bacharach and disco ("Sipping On The Sweet Nectar"), folkster and hipster. He's sweet, and maybe naively honest ("I'm Leaving You Because I Don't Love You"). He's clever with a lyric, and has a great sense of humor ("A Postcard To Nina"). He's a Swedish Jonathan Richman. He's a musical gentle giant and a complete breath of fresh air. This record is consistently smile-inducing, and often outright laugh-worthy, a thing of joy.

MP3: Jens Lekman - "Your Arms Around Me" from Night Falls Over Kortedala.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Classic Bootleg Series Vol. 22: The Beach Boys - SMiLE

Here's a mea culpa for my woeful inactivity over the past few weeks -- what can I say, I've got stuff going on.

For almost 40 years, the Beach Boys' SMiLE was the Holy Grail of bootlegs -- the great lost album of the rock era, and the work that both confirmed Brian Wilson's absolute genius as a singer, composer and arranger, and propelled him into the mental illness that would cripple him for the next three decades. It was analyzed, dissected, annotated and theorized to death, and hailed as both an unfinished classic -- better even than Pet Sounds -- and an artistic failure that didn't deserve to be completed in the first place. Of course, Brian finally recorded and released an updated and truly triumphant solo version of the record in 2004. So by now, most likely, you've heard SMiLE. What you may not have heard, however, is SMiLE sung by the Beach Boys circa 1966, which is something altogether different -- and, let's face it, what God and Brian (if, at the time, they weren't occasionally one and the same) originally intended.

There are literally dozens of versions of SMiLE: high profile bootlegs (by labels such as Vigotone and Purple Chick), collections of the fragments that have seen official release (most notably in the Good Vibrations boxset), scholarly reconstructions and frequently terrific fan mixes (seek out the ones by Wrightfan, who just loosed his seventh attempt at a definitive SMiLE on the bootleg trading community, and a mysterious fellow who calls himself D.J. Mic Luv) abound.

This particular version -- the so-called "Millennium Edition" released in Japan on the Dumb Angel label -- isn't the best, or even one of my favorites (to use the take of "Our Prayer" -- one of the most sublimely beautiful harmony exercises in pop music history -- that degenerates into laughter is sacrilege in my book), but it is among the most difficult to get ahold of. And, if nothing else, this version closes with a truly gorgeous edit of "Surf's Up," among the most perfect pop songs ever written, complete with a purely instrumental pass through the first two verses that serves as an overture, the "Woody Woodpecker" horn punctuations, Van Dyke Parks' brilliant lyrical wordplay ("canvas the town and brush the backdrop," "the music hall / a costly bow / the music all is lost for now"), and that classic, haunting vocal from Brian. If I could only hear ten songs again for the rest of my life, "Surf's Up" would be one of them.

THE BEACH BOYS - SMiLE (Millennium Edition)

Artwork (these are PSD files - download and open/print with a photo viewing program):
Front cover
Inside cover
Back insert

01 Our Prayer
02 Heroes and Villains (Barnyard Suite)
03 Child Is Father Of The Man
04 Wonderful
05 With Me Tonight
06 Do You Like Worms?
07 The Old Master Painter
08 Cabinessence
09 Good Vibrations
10 Vega-tables
11 Wind Chimes
12 The Elemental Suite (Look > Holidays > Mrs. O'Leary's Cow > Cool, Cool Water > Friday Night > Good Vibrations closing bit)
13 Vega-tables (reprise)
14 Surf's Up