15 Record Store Day Releases That Should Exist

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It’s 2016, folks.  All of the chaos of the holidays has died down, along with the new years sales, all of which were kick-started at the end of November with Black Friday.  But while some people were sleeping on sidewalks and pissing into super big gulp cups, only for the opportunity to choke out strangers for the opportunity to purchase a Soda Stream for 30% of its MSRP, there was a small section of other assholes, like myself, who were hitting up independent record stores that morning hoping to pick up special and/or limited edition record releases.  Consumers are consumers, so how really different are either of these situations, if at all?  That’s up for debate and, if you know anything about the Record Store Day Black Friday event, or the larger, primary RSD event that takes place each year, you’re probably also aware that there’s plenty of debate surrounding it.

Started in 2007, Record Store Day is an international event celebrated annually on the third Saturday of April, and created as a means for promoting independent record stores and the purchasing of physical releases in an era where music has become largely digitized and sales of physical media have plummeted.  To get people into stores, various special and/or limited edition releases and reissues are pressed specifically for RSD with various in-store events and giveaways taking place — each individual retailer deciding how to celebrate and which releases to carry.  The Record Store Day organization, which operates throughout the year in other capacities, provides a master list of the various releases on the official website and requires participating retailers to sign a pledge agreeing to specific terms, including a promise that they will not sell any of the RSD inventory in advance of the official designated day, or withhold anything for the secondary market.  In addition, a maximum of only one single copy of each release can be purchased by any one individual.  The more recent addition of the RSD Black Friday event feeds into the criticism that many have about the special nature of Record Store Day becoming more and more watered down.  Meanwhile, the RSD organization claims that RSD Black Friday isn’t truly a second “Record Store Day,” per se — there are less releases and fanfare involved in it — but rather an attempt to find a way for independent records stores to reap some of the benefits of one of the biggest retail shopping days of the year and not get left out.

At this point, my belief is that the people behind RSD not only began as well intentioned, but remain well intentioned.  Even so, what they have created has had repercussions that they, most likely, never foresaw, has created particular disruptions, and is pissing a lot of people off.  Some of the backlash is warranted, while much of it is not.  One major complaint is that, with the limited release format, RSD is promoting a collector culture and, in turn, an inflated secondary market.  The ability to regulate shithead retailers is also non-existent, with tons of RSD titles still appearing on ebay well before record store day ever arrives, regardless of the “pledge.”  Perhaps, the more valid concern is that, although there is a vinyl resurgence, the number of vinyl pressing plants that exist have not really grown to meet the demand.  The results of that have not only proven to involve quality control issues, on occasion, but plants are starting to become jammed up year-round and, with the addition of RSD Black Friday, it only adds that much more strain at another point in the year.  So, for the smaller indie labels that want to release their regular non-RSD related albums for artists, as labels do, they need to attempt to time everything out for their releases throughout the year, around the Christmas push and these RSD events that, more or less, monopolize the plants resources.  Then, of course, as the event got larger, the major labels like Warner, decided that they wanted to get in on it, squeezing the smaller labels out even further — smaller labels, mind you, who have largely been the ones responsible for keeping the vinyl format alive during its decline over the last 2 1/2 decades.  Among other critiques is the highly involved process of getting something approved and released on the official RSD list, whether or not smaller labels are offered as much opportunity to get their foot in the door and for their projects to see the light of day, or if the majors are beginning to really squeeze them out.

So… how do I feel about RSD?  Well, my feelings are mixed, as well, but overall, I like it.  Personally, I’ve been consistently frequenting independent record stores for over 20 years, so anything that keeps them open, I have to support.  And, if you only go to your local brick and mortar on Record Store Day, then your concerns don’t really matter to me anyway.  I spent parts of the 1990s purchasing things like Talking Heads albums for 10 cents, and heard my first Zeppelin LPs when I was able to pick them up for only 50 cents-a-piece at the swap meat, so this “vinyl boom” has taken it’s toll on my wallet already — as an opportunistic cynic, I’m just waiting to buy some of these kids’ collections at a reduced price, once the novelty ends for them (I’m, already, in too deep).  But the main reason that I have to be in favor of RSD is because i’ve fared pretty well with it, and so, I don’t have the right to complain.  I, first, really paid attention to the event in 2013, after discovering that Stephen Malkmus had performed a version of CAN‘s Ege Bamyasi in full with some musicians in Berlin, where he was living at the time, and that the recording was getting a limited edition vinyl release.  I showed up late in the day, expecting that there to be little to no demand for something of that nature, only to discover the power of RSD and that they were completely sold out.  The first time that I actually participated in anything RSD related, after that, was on Black Friday 2014, when I came away with Death Grips‘ highly sought after Govt Plates LP (a few copies, actually).  Then, for last year’s “real” Record Store Day in April, I, actually, found this thing.  So… of course, I’m a fan; I have to be.  And while some might complain about the “limited edition” nature of releases, that’s the only reason that many of these people ever go out and support the indie stores each year, rather than simply adopting the attitude of, “Maybe, I’ll just pick one up later.”  But, in the end, the core of my support for RSD really does stem from a reason as pure as the idea behind the organization’s decision to found it.  I don’t believe that I would have, necessarily, ever seen something like that Malkmus/CAN LP come to fruition, otherwise.  Some genuinely great releases have come about, because of the organization of this event.

RSD seems to have a loose, yet semi-specific, formula, but it is one that I believe honestly attempts to promote and provide variety.  Not unlike most of the major music festivals these days, which present lineups that are incredibly easy to be dismissive of, overall, there are, generally, still some real gems hidden among these masterlists.  One benefit that I haven’t mentioned, regarding this vinyl boom, is that, while prices have skyrocketed, the demand has prompted reissues and represses of titles that have been difficult to get one’s hands on, otherwise, until now.  2015 saw some great reissues that I’d been hoping to see for a long time, including Built To Spill‘s brilliant 1994 sophomore effort, There’s Nothing Wrong With Love and Ween‘s final 4-track masterpiece, Pure Guava.  So far, 2016 is already shaping up to be another great one for reissues, with Thrill Jockey re-releasing  limited runs of every Tortoise studio LP in their catalog on colored vinyl and the next-to-impossible to find Epic Soundtracks albums finally being put back into circulation.  There’s always great stuff popping up, but if you’re like me, there’s always a few releases in your head that you’d like to see happen, but never do.  With Light In The Attic already announcing their plans for the first really great RSD release of the year with their Heartworn Highways documentary/original soundtrack DVD/2XLP 40th Anniversary box set (there goes the inflated value of my original DVD), this seems like as good a time as any to post a detailed list of 15 more releases that I’d would love to see hit shelves in the future.


 

1. Brotha Lynch Hung – Season Of Da Siccness LP [marbled meat vinyl]

season of da siccness

For most of the items that you’ll see on the list, they’ve been numbered arbitrarily with no real significance in the order in which they were placed.  For this album, however, it’s at #1 for a reason: there is nothing else that I’d rather see get reissued on vinyl than this grimy-as-fuck 1995 Sac Town murder rap classic.  Unfortunately, it’s probably among the least likely to receive that treatment.

If you don’t know Season Of Da Siccness: The Resurrection, then it’s time to get wise and get your mind blown.  To this day, the debut full-length from Brotha Lynch Hung (born Kevin Mann) is the only release in which he is credited with recording, mixing, and mastering the entire thing himself and it remains the Sacramento rapper’s undisputed masterwork.  Although his followup, Loaded, proved to be an incredibly solid effort in its own right, there’s just something about Season… that sets it apart from anything that has ever come before or after it.  It’s a complete vision and an uncompromisingly relentless one.

Credited as a “horrorcore classic,” there’s a very particular quality of doom that’s unique to Brotha Lynch, which doesn’t appear in quite the same way on the work of others that had been connected to the genre before him.  Of course, Lynch didn’t invent “horrorcore” — the word is that Kool Keith has tried to claim that title himself, by referencing some of his early work with Ultramagnetic MCs — but he did deliver what could be considered the quintessential model of it, while simultaneously crafting something that exists beyond the restraints of such categorization.  Season Of Da Siccness is simply Season Of Da Siccness and it’s fucking amazing.

Many point to Geto Boys and, more specifically, the song “Assassins” from their 1988 debut, Making Trouble, as being the first “real” appearance of true “horrorcore.”  The Houston rap crew are innovators and considered legends for good reason, but I, personally, lean more toward street-oriented material like “Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta,” “Six Feet Deep,” the psychological paranoia of “Mind Playing Tricks On Me,” or even slightly later-era cuts like “G-Code” and “The World Is A Ghetto,” which, while still cinematic, offer some real emotional authenticity in them.  Songs like “Chuckie” — written by fellow horrorcore pioneer, Ganksta N-i-P —  venture into intentionally over-the-top, slasher film territory, too cartoony to be taken seriously.  Known for his own patented “psycho raps,” N-I-P wrote a lot of verses where his gory references reached a point of absurdity.  Meanwhile, a young teenage prodigy from Detroit named Esham was also hitting the scene with what he referred to as “acid rap,” and, incorporating his affinity for heavy metal and dark lyrical content (satanism, serial killings, etc.), the adolescent-turned-icon would go on to make a tremendous impact, becoming an immeasurable influence on fellow Motor City rappers like Eminem and Insane Clown Posse (their makeup was actually inspired by the cover of Esham’s 1991 EP, Homey Don’t Play).  Just like with Geto Boys’ early work, N-I-P and Esham were still utilizing some fairly recognizable formulas, constructing sample-heavy beats, relying on 808s, audio clips, and standard late-80s boom bap/gangster rap cadences, leaving the listener convinced that, although any one of these artists might actually rob you and/or shoot you in the face, and could all probably benefit from some one-on-one time with a psychiatrist, the slasher-flick content was little more than high-end blood capsules and plastic vampire teeth, utilized for shock value.  When Flatlinerz and Gravediggaz each dropped their debut albums in 1994, both groups were specifically devoted to pushing the Fangoria horror aspects in their music front and center, from the individual aliases that they chose to rap under, to the ominous production.  But with Flatlinerz, who often sounded and looked like a cross between Onyx and Das EFX, being founded by Russell Simmons‘ presumably affluent nephew, Jamel (aka Redrum), and Gravediggaz repackaging already established super-producers, RZA (WU-Tang Clan) and Prince Paul (Stetsasonic), who had made a name for himself working on De La Soul‘s first 3 albums — not to mention releases for Big Daddy Kane, Queen Latifah, and 3rd Bass — so as to present them as evil, demon-possessed, blood-thirsty lunatics on killing sprees, it was near impossible to process these releases as anything more than the really solid, inventive, and enjoyable pieces of entertainment that they are.

Not unlike Three 6 Mafia and their debut, Mystic Stylez, which would be released only a handful of months later — and, received it’s own 20th anniversary vinyl release last year — Season Of Da Siccness was an independent release that possessed an incredibly dark, foreboding, and visceral quality, merging the unhinged violence of hardcore gangster rap with the terror of classic horror and presenting them in a way that finally placed them on equal footing.  That’s not to say that Esham wasn’t working toward similar ground, that Lynch wasn’t still utilizing over-the-top vulgarity (see “Return Of Da Baby Killa“), or that he was even the first to touch on some of the crazy shit that he rapped about, but it is the delivery and the overall package that continues to stand out for me.  On his 1993 EP, 24 Deep, Brotha Lynch spoke of being an “atheist” and referenced his “rip gut cannibalism” over classic g-funk beats.  2 years later, he was pushing his own patented, doom-laden variation on the sound, almost as if noxious, psychosis-inducing deemster/cannabis smoke was being piped through the vents of Death Row Studios — the pitch-bending still in full effect; the grooves more infectious than ever, yet thick, weighty, and sinister.  Lynch was still gonna shine some light through that skull, only he was cooking up the body afterward.  Maybe you get fed to his kids.  Maybe he fries up a baby corpse for himself, before relaxing with a blunt and snacking on some “bloody pussy clit.”  Labels like Rap-A-Lot had major distribution, videos, and more connections than Sacramento‘s little Black Market Records, but while the album was grimy in just about every way possible, Lynch Hung‘s creative vision and production was truly impressive.  Even those who may despise the subject matter on the release would have to admit that the grooves are undeniable.  With his ability to ride those beats with mind-boggling agility, while presenting such clear and vivid imagery on that LP, an example of true skill and artistry is on display; the end result a pure vision that is hardly ever realized so fully and with such success.

The grainy cover art for Siccness, featuring a full body silhouette and an image of Hung staring down from the sky, sets a tone for what’s inside: a feeling of eternal dusk and wandering like prey through unsettling territory.  In part, a tribute to his recently murdered cousin, Q-Ball, the release shows Mann bringing an air of authenticity to his fury on the tracks focused around creeping through the dark, strapped, sporting a “black beanie disguise” and putting holes through motherfuckers that he’s conflicting with, well before they have an opportunity to catch him first.  With this album, Lynch seemed to recognize that the perilous, crime-ridden environment that he dealt with in his day-to-day life was the true horror, the impending terror of gang violence only magnified by the fact that he’d eat your ass afterward.  The thick, ominous beats provided the landscape for his rapid fire delivery to infiltrate like a gatling gun.  There’s a marvelous balance to the project, narrated less by a predator as from an individual in a land built on survival.  And, to be fair… I guess… a baby-eating predator, as well.

I first heard Season Of Da Siccness in 1997, while spending time in Sacramento.  2 years after its release and EVERYONE was still listening to it (Sac)religiously.  Far beyond any shock value, it remains an incredibly solid and alarmingly raw hip hop effort that transcends simple genre classification and manages to capture much of the essence of the city in which it was crafted.  The street elements were so convincing that the horror didn’t seem out of place; it simply melded effortlessly.  Despite the outlandish nature of the claims — abortions performed vaginally with a 9mm, a rifling off of various culinary preparation for infants, like a psychopathic Bubba from Forrest Gump — the project is so fluid throughout and the delivery so consistently arresting that, out of all horrorcore releases, Season Of Da Siccness seemed to be the one that left that question in your head, even though you knew that it was simply just entertainment (right?).  His incredibly low-budget 2000 movie, Now Eat, presented a much hokier representation of Lynch Hung‘s persona, yet 2 years later, fellow Black Market label mate, Big Lurch, was actually incarcerated for murdering a woman and eating part of her lung, while high on PCP.  Crazy shit.

Mann would never quite reach the level of Season Of Da Siccness again, which is unfortunate, because his talent is so great and Loaded was such a solid follow-up, but once you make a masterpiece of that caliber, there’s a good chance that you could be chasing it forever (ask GZA or of Montreal).  The public can be unfairly rigid in their unwillingness to watch an artist change or evolve, and one of the major strengths of Season Of Da Siccness is that Hung was free to create without expectation, and in relatively uncharted territory.  Seeing him tweet about playing Madden, or selling verses on instagram today, definitely takes an edge off the persona of the “rip gut cannibal,” but 20 years have passed.  For 2011‘s more slasher-esque Coathanga Strangla, released by Tech N9ne‘s Strange Music, Lynch presented the tracks as more of a continuous storyline, and it’s unfortunate that it will never hold the same power as that first LP, because the dude can still rap and he can still make a pretty decent track.

Mann, eventually, had a huge falling out with Black Market over the typical things that indie labels and the artists that help put the on the map have falling outs over: money and, I’m assuming, publishing rights.  Last I heard, from someone that attended one of his shows, is that Lynch may not own the rights to his old material, resulting in him not being able to perform any of it live.  Whether this is true or not, it’s fucked up to think that it might be, and it makes it unlikely that we will ever see this classic pressed onto wax again, any time soon.  But, what if it was?

I know that they do wacky shit with special edition vinyl, these days — especially, for record store day — so my original idea was to press placenta into the wax, but rather than focus on novelty, I’d rather have an album that sounded good (plus, that’s, admittedly, kind of insane).  That’s why I think that a marbled meat colored wax would probably be the way to go.  A “NOW EAT” apron as an RSD promo also wouldn’t be a bad touch.


 

2. Sausage – Riddles Are Abound Tonight LP

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Les Claypool initially formed Primus with Tom Huth in 1984, and, after replacing their drum machine with a series of other human drummers, they finally rounded out the trio with Jay Lane in 1988. Lane joined the group during a period when his primary band, The Freaky Executives, was in limbo with their record company and he later returned to them when things started moving again, leaving Primus by the end of the year. This was followed shortly after by Huth exiting the group to take care of his growing family. Those departures made way for the classic lineup of Claypool, Larry “Ler” Lalonde (guitar) and Tim “Herb” Alexander (drums) that would rise to fame with albums like Sailing The Seas of Cheese, Pork Soda, and Tales From The Punchbowl, but it was the 1988 version of Primus that made a name for themselves as a live act in the Bay Area, laying important foundation for what was to come.

The Claypool/Huth/Lane lineup recorded a demo in 1988 to sell at their live shows. The cassette, which they titled “Sausage,” featured 5 tracks (“John The Fisherman,” “Pudding Time,” “Harold Of The Rocks,” “Groundhogs Day,” and “Frizzle Fry”) all of which wound up on both Suck On This — the 1989 live album recorded only a couple of months after Lalonde and Alexander first joined the group — and their 1990 studio debut, Frizzle Fry. In 1994, after Primus was already a well-established festival headliner, and between the release of Pork Soda [1993] and Tales From The Punchbowl [1995], Claypool reunited with Huth and Lane to form a short-lived side-project taking their name from the early demo tape that they created 6 years earlier.

Sausage released one LP and promoted it with a tour supporting Helmet and The Rollins Band, before parting ways again; Claypool returning to Primus and Jay Lane to the Charlie Hunter Trio, before teaming with Bob Weir to form the post-Grateful Dead project, Rat Dog. The album, Riddles Are Abound Tonight, included early Primus cuts like “Shattering Song” and “Temporary Phase,” that had yet to be recorded, but found their way into live sets during the trio’s initial run. It would be an understatement to say that, from the moment that I first saw the members dressed in purple lycra full-body suits equipped with dangling light attachments on their heads like anglerfish, it appealed to me. The Sausage album really does stand out as its own wondrous entity, while also providing a look into potential directions that Primus may have taken had the lineup never disbanded — it’s interesting to consider how other early tracks like “Tommy The Cat,” “Sgt Baker,” and “Is It Luck?” may have developed had they still been on the table once Riddles… was being recorded. Huth and Lane reunited with Les again in 2000 to tour as the part of the larger ensemble, Colonel Claypool’s Flying Frog Brigade, even cracking out a couple of Sausage tracks, and Lane even returned as Primus‘s official drummer from 2010 – ’13, but, as for Sausage as an official unit, it was pretty much that one album, the mini-tour, and then, it never happened again.

At some point over the last couple of years, it came to my attention that Riddles Are Abound Tonight was treated to a rare red vinyl pressing, during its 1994 release. You can occasionally stumble across one for sale, but they’re typically going to cost you in upwards of $150 or so, if you pull the trigger. This deserves a reissue.

When I first started thinking about this list, I was getting absurd, considering all kinds of different worthless shit that could be done for a special limited release, like playing off the sausage theme by pressing fennel into the wax. But, just like I mentioned concerning the Brotha Lynch album above, I don’t really care what the vinyl looks like, as long as it sounds good; something that could easily be compromised by pressing plant-life into it. It might, however, be cool to see a special 10-inch pressing of the original demo included, if not simply to give it its own official cassette re-release, separately


 

3. Neil Young – Dead Man (OST)

dead man soundtrack

Record Store Day always needs to have a good soundtrack release on the list.  On that first Black Friday that I attended, I picked up a reissue of Ennio Morricone‘s iconic score to Sergio Leone‘s The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly.  My latest proposal is for the rerelease of another western, of sorts.

The story behind the soundtrack to Dead Man is that filmmaker, Jim Jarmusch simply provided Neil Young with a fully edited copy of the film and Neil improvised the score to it live, as he watched it.  Here’s how the musical legend explained it in a March 2004 interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air:

…when I did the score for “Dead Man,” I had the film projected on TV screens, and I had, like, about 20 TVs all around me, big ones, little ones, tiny little portables, and  wide screens and everything hanging from the ceiling in a big semicircle all the way around me. No, in full circle. And then I had my instruments inside the circle.

So the instruments were always close enough for me to go from one to another, and they were all set up and the levels were all set, and everything was recording. So the film started, and I started playing the instruments. So I watched the show–I watched the film go through, and I played all the way through live. I’d put my guitar down and walk over and play the piano in the bar when there’s a bar scene. I played the tack piano. Then when that scene was over, I’d walk over from the piano and go play the organ for another scene and then–a little pump organ I have, and then I’d pick up the electric guitar again and get all my distorted sounds out of that to go with the Indian drums and the things that were happening in the film. And basically, it was all a real-time experience. And so in that…

The entire score was written and recorded live on the spot, resulting in the haunting, sonic masterpiece that not only reflects the tone of the film, but interacts with and informs it.  The music penetrates and engulfs, providing tension and immediacy, rumbling underneath the scenes like a dormant volcano preparing to erupt.  The physical release featured dialogue interspersed periodically throughout the otherwise instrumental recording, but one thing that was missing, surprisingly enough, is the main theme of the film that plays during the beginning and ending credits — it was, however, released individually as a promotional single.

You can still find vinyl copies of the soundtrack out there, but if the price seems reasonable, it’s probably because it’s a bootleg.  Most of them are.  If you’re trying to determine which is which, the original has a weathered look to the cover art, while the lesser quality “unofficial” copies are glossy reproductions.  The soundtrack was released in February of 1996, so this year would mark the 20th anniversary.  Not a bad time to do a vinyl re-release, but this time they can do the right thing and include the main theme with it.


 

4. Z-Rock Hawaii


Around the same time that WEEN was recording their Chocolate & Cheese LP, Aaron “Gene Ween” Freeman and Mickey “Dean Ween” Melchiondo teamed up with EYE Yamataka of Japanese noise-rock titans, The Boredoms. for a much less well-known effort titled, Z-Rock Hawaii.  Already a fan of WEEN‘s work, eYe was enthusiastic about the collaboration, staying at Mickey‘s house while they hammered the thing out.

In the early days, before they had a full band and it was just Gene and Dean traveling around doing shows backed by a dat machine, that’s when the duo really formed their “awesome sound,” pushing out gritty lo-fi home recordings and coming into the oneness that is unmistakably WEEN.  This release is overflowing with the quintessential rawness which only Gene and Dean have the ability to pull out — it’s the quality that is so often referred to by their fan base as “brownness.”  This Z-Rock Hawaii project is an amalgamation of noise collages, straight up scuzz rockers, casual little joyful tunes, even spoken word laid over drones punctuated by jazzy horns.  It’s the type of sonic pastiche that showcases WEEN‘s unparallelled versatility and defined their early recordings, before they were able to lock into broader more cohesive themes on albums like The Mollusk [1997].  Yamataka‘s presence is definitely felt on the effort — especially, his unintelligible ranting squawks — which helps the project find a unique place even within WEEN and The Boredoms‘ respectively diverse catalogs.  In fact, although this was recorded somewhere between 1993 and ’94, this LP wasn’t actually released until 1996, right after WEEN‘s 12 Golden Country Hits and The Mollusk.  With such a different sound compared to where WEEN was headed at the time and with it’s release on the relatively unknown Nipp Guitar Records, Z-Rock Hawaii was severely lost in the mix.  I’ve had a digital copy of the album for quite some time, but I have never possessed a physical one, as even the CDs are difficult to come by and are regularly posted on ebay and Discogs for $85 or more — they don’t sell for that, but are listed for it.

It would be nice to finally see a 12-inch release for this little beast.  They can press the vinyl whatever color they want, but it doesn’t get much browner than this.


 

5. Aaron Freeman Photo Book

Aaron Freeman Tractor Tavern Seattle
Obviously, this is a photo of Aaron Freeman and not a photograph taken by him, but photography is one of his hobbies; he has a collection of some really wonderful photos that are, unfortunately, not currently viewable by the public.  I took this photograph during his Freeman tour stop at Seattle‘s Tractor Tavern in November of 2014, and it was a tremendous and encouraging display hearing his new material and witnessing him sober/in recovery, still putting out quality music with an inspired performance, after walking away from the band and moniker that has become an integral part of his identity for the past 30 years.  Of course, in the time since this photo was taken, Freeman has come to terms with/re-embraced the Gene Ween name and his former band has even announced their reunion with a trio of instantly sold-out dates in Colorado this upcoming February followed by a festival stop and an additional sold-out run in NYC.  Along with the recent Schnitzel records reissue of Pure Guava — the album that introduced me to their work 2 decades ago — a limited edition clear vinyl reissue of The Pod released for Black Friday, and an inevitable tour in the wings (c’mon, who are we kidding?) there’s little more that we can really ask of the boys from New Hope, PA right now.  The future looks bright, but during that limbo period when nobody really knew what to expect, what the next move would be, or if new original solo material was even in the cards  — especially, Aaron — I, personally, felt like if he chose to step back, focus on his photography, and pursue a project related to that interest, it could definitely produce something worthwhile.

I followed Aaron‘s Flicker account for a while and, not too long ago, became aware that, not only was my account not following his anymore, but the option to do so was removed.  Since he clearly chose to make it semi-privatized, I won’t provide the link out of consideration, but I will say that, these days, his feed consists mostly of content like pictures of his family and beautiful, majestic architecture from his travels.  In the past, however, there was also a ton of really amazing behind-the-scenes WEEN shots in there that have since, either been removed, or marked unviewable.  If these images were compiled into a coffee table book, there’s no question that it would blow other projects like the disappointing Pixies photo book that I got through that Kickstarter campaign, out of the water.  And, if the folks at RSD aren’t into it, crowdfunding wouldn’t be a horrible way to go about financing something like this.


 

6. 100s – Ice Cold Perm [Ice Blue vinyl]

100s-ice-cold-perm-cover

It was around December of 2012 when I first heard Ice Cold Perm, a mixtape from a then-19-year-old Berkley, Ca emcee calling himself 100sThe cover art for the 14-track debut paid homage to Snoop Doggy Dogg‘s 1996 sophomore release, Tha Doggfather — complete with the all-black backrdop, the S. Niil Fujita title font, and the young rapper’s mug framed dead center with the same stoic look and straightened mane as on the original.  I was sold from the opening track, “My Activator,” which begins with a sample from Keenan Ivory Wayans‘ unforgettable Jheri Curl scene from the 1987 Robert Townsend comedy, Hollywood shuffle.  But beyond any gimmicks, the song itself was incredibly immersive from the jump off; a silky iridescent beat gradually bubbling up and crystalizing around the confident, effortless flow that pierced through its center.

Many of 100s tracks seem to freeze time with their beats, almost breathing, as he zips through a glass wind tunnel, skimming the surface on a light cycle.  The production work by Joe Wax is incredibly impressive and forward-thinking.  In fact, it could easily be argued that he’s the real star of the project, if the vocals weren’t so clearly capable of holding their own.  Wax is a fellow Bay Area resident who’s also produced for the likes of Main Attrakionz and is around the same age as his rapping cohort.  What I loved the most about the album is that the duo managed to really create a whole new mood and environment that, at once, felt comfortable and familiar, while simultaneously presenting an incredibly refreshing and inspired vibe, like nothing else that I quite heard before.

The duo definitely possessed and displayed some recognizable elements, but there was something unique about these kids that made me excited about future collaborations between them and that really allowed them to standout; both from their contemporaries, as well as those who may have inspired them from the past.  Most people that hear their work are bound to instantly categorize it as “pimp rap” — I’ve explained it that way myself — and the subject matter of fucking “bitches” and playing “hos” (and not loving them, of course) does everything in it’s power to reinforce that impression.  Likewise, the beats typically supplied a smooth laid-back groove for the silky-locked rhyme spitter to unfurl his mack game and drape it across like a velvet carpet.  But while predecessors like Oakland‘s legendary Too $hort made careers out of churning out  grimy verses about getting their dick’s sucked over basic, semi-relaxed skronking laser funk bass loops, 100s tended to deliver something smokier, more intoxicating, and seductive.  His gators were radioactive and his hoopty hovered like he carjacked a Neutrino from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.   He laid out his verses with the confidence of an OG , but in a chamber equipped with Zero-G.  His delivery was hypnotic and the songs mesmerizing, mirroring the caliber of hustlers featured in the Hughes Brothers documentary American Pimp, wherein the vulgarity and subject matter takes a back seat and become somewhat of a non-issue, because the presentation is so charismatic.  And If it’s true that Joe Wax was relying primarily on Fruty Loops Studio to craft his beats, he definitely managed to find a voice with that program, even mixing those quick trademark Three 6 Mafia-style rolling trap snares with shit that sounds like it could have been ripped from early 70s Krautrock releases from acts like Harmonia, Klaus Shultze, and Cluster.  There was actually some pretty brilliant stuff on there.

Everything that you just read was pulled, almost verbatim, from a post about 100s that we published in February of 2014 surrounding the release a song called “10 Freaky Hoes,” the lead-off track from IVRY, his debut EP on A-Trak‘s Fool’s Gold Records, which saw him continuing to work with Wax, while leaning toward more G-Funk inspired beats.  Ice Cold Perm was just a free independent mixtape, albeit a remarkable one that resulted in him getting signed, and the future was looking brighter and brighter for the young rapper, who had still only really broken on a relatively minor level.  When I missed my chance to catch him live in Seattle as the very first opening act on a 2013 A$AP Ferg tour that had a lineup about 6 acts deep, I never would have imagined that would be my last opportunity to do so, but when the 10 Freaky Hoes” video arrived in September of 2014, the message that appeared on the last frame was pretty clear.

To the 100s fans,

I appreciate each and every one of you, but it’s now time for me to continue on my journey. So this is goodbye.

-Kossisko

Kossiko is both 100s birth name and the name which he has since continued his career under, eschewing his pimp rap persona for a sultry R&B singer floating on smokey beats with shimmering synths.  What he’s doing now is still pretty unique, if not compelling, but while it’s commendable to see an artist take such a risk and branch out as he has — right when his project was on its way to gaining some real traction, no less — those who took an immediate shine to the 100s material… well… maybe some of us are just having a bit of trouble adjusting to this new concept that this young hustler might not not love hoes quite as much as he initially let on.

Aside from the Hollywood Shuffle sample and another one pulled from the original House Party movie, I’m not sure what they’d need to get cleared or the other logistics involved with turning the mixtape into an official release, but I’d love to have a physical copy of Ice Cold Perm to put on, at some point, specifically an “Ice Cold Blue”-colored vinyl pressing.  In fact, the IVRY EP never received a physical release, either.  An obvious “ivory” colored vinyl of that would also be welcomed, but first things first.  I’m not trying to get too ahead of myself.


 

7. Daedelus – Invention/Of Snowdonia
daedelus invention - of snowdonia

The weekly Low End Theory experimental hip hop and electronica night in Los Angeles may have started with humble roots, but it has steadily grown to the point of garnering attention on a global scale, since its inception nearly a decade ago.  In fact, at this point, the producer showcase has branched out well beyond Wednesdays at The Airliner club with additional nights popping up in San Francisco, New York, and Europe, as well as a quarterly in Japan, not to mention the Low End Theory podcast, created in 2009.  Brainfeeder label owner, Steven “Flying Lotus” Ellison, has become a household name, along with such acts as Thundercat and San Diego transplant, The Gaslamp Killer, and it was from Low End Theory that much of that notoriety was forged.  As the word spread and more and more people wanted to experience what was being hailed as a haven for experimental music producers and enthusiasts, the mystery and desire to be a part of it was only compounded with stories of Thom Yorke, a fan himself, finding time to come down and perform at the venue.  It wasn’t long before the new “Los Angeles sound,” as it pertains to the artists and material being spawned from these nights, was being referenced and discussed internationally.  But while Flylo may be among the most prominent figures from this crowd and Brainfeeder (founded in 2008) may have become the most recognizable label associated with that scene, it was actually another Los Angeles label owner known as Daddy Kev who founded Low End Theory, and a slightly less publicized artist from the Low End Theory camp by the name of Daedelus that provided me with a sample of that LA “sound” quite a few years before any of it.

Perhaps, Daddy Kev‘s Alpha Pup records has not received as much credit on a larger scale because, while Ellison is known for signing up and releasing work by jazzy and/or electronic-based Low End Theory regulars, Kev‘s label had already made their name more on the emcee front, with acts like Busdriver and Awol One.  Or maybe it’s just that the Flylo name became so big that he swallowed a lot of the attention — Alpha Pup released Nosaj Thing‘s debut, Drift, so who knows.  One thing that I remember when I first began hearing material from Low End artists like Flylo is that it instantly reminded me of Daedelus (aka Alfred Darlington), a prolific electronic musician who has gone on to release an EP and a full-length through Brainfeeder and had already put an EP out through Alpha Pup previously.  My strong association between Daedelus and Alpha Pup is because, around the same time that my friends Scream Club signed on to release their own album through the label, I had heard a rap project that Daedelus produced for Busdriver and Radioinactive called The Weather, and must have assumed that, due to the personnel involved, it must have been released by Kev.  The fact of the matter is that, along with its instrumental version, The Weather [2003] was actually put out by Mush Records.  Darlington has had work released by a number of labels, including Ninja Tune, Anticon, Berlin‘s Laboratory Instinct, and Prefuse 73‘s Eastern Developments — often, at the same time — but some of his most notable works are solo efforts that were put out on Mush, with albums like Exquisite Corpse and Denies The Days Demise hitting shelves in 2005 and 2006, respectively.  Sandwiching The Weather releases, however, were Alfred‘s only 2 LPs on the Plug Research label: Invention and Of Snowdownia, a pair of albums that I’ve easily listened to more than anything else in his entire catalog.

Although, technically, the odd release, Her’s Is > [sic] was put out through Phthalo in 2001, Invention [2002] always felt like the producer’s “real” full-length debut for me.  It was on that album, and to a lesser extent on The Household EP [2003, Eastern Developments], that I first became acquainted with that downtempo, broken-beat shuffling that has become so synonymous to particular works by Low End regulars like Flylo and Teebs, years later.  While Exquisite Corpse actually featured the vocals of MF Doom on the track “Impending Doom,” it was the Invention cut, “Experience” that would eventually go on to be sampled for the Madvillain song “Accordion” (Daedelus also appears in that video playing the instrument that it was named after).  Guillermo Scott “Prefuse 73” Herren ventures into similar glitchy, downtempo soundscapes, but it is Darlington, with his mutton chops and coattails, to whom they will be forever linked for me, as the sonics have a quality that truly compliment his H.G. Wellian dandy aesthetic and bring to mind a turn-of-the-century scientist tweaking away at a brass steam-powered time machine.  I really like his evolution into the later MUSH releases and appreciate how he has continued to consistently experiment throughout his catalog to this day, but the Plug Research material is the closest stuff to my heart and, in my opinion, is nearly impossible to top, for that very reason.  For example, the very first time that I ever placed headphones onto the belly of the mother of my child, I played Invention for my unborn son.  It meant so much to me, that I eventually tracked a vinyl copy down and had it mailed to me from Germany.  There are only a handful of records that I care that much about to put in the effort to own.

Let's make this happen folks.

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Granted, I do now possess a copy of Invention on vinyl and the large majority of this list is just me writing about things that I don’t have and want, but I did have to track it down and honestly believe that it deserves a wider release for those that have only, in recent years, become more acquainted with a largely overlooked artist.  This is especially true, since we’re in a climate where I believe that his earlier material might find a greater appreciation than ever before.

What’s much more impossible to find, however, is its follow up.  For some inexplicable reason, Of Snowdonia was never even released on vinyl, at all.  Very similar in tone to its predecessor, Of Snowdonia is every bit as good as Invention and could easily be viewed as a continuance, in many ways, although I’m sure that my feelings are partially influenced by the fact that I’ve listened to the pair in conjunction with each other so many times, that they now, blend together.  I once hit up Daedelus on Twitter, directly, to suggest that somebody finally get on putting Of Snowdonia out on wax, to which he responded that he might try and do a Beat Delete campaign for it [Beat Delete is a site that allows users to place votes/”orders” for repressings, or first time pressings and, when a project is successful enough, a limited amount of them are pressed and sold].  His reaction to my inquiry was appreciated and, while I had a temporary moment of hope, that was a full year ago and still nothing has come of it.  If only one of the 2 has to be reissued on vinyl, I’d definitely prefer it to be Of Snowdonia, but since they are both Plug Research releases, I feel that both albums would make a great pair of additions to something like RSD.  Shit, even if it comes down to them only agreeing to put it out if it’s as a gatefold double-vinyl combo release like United Artists did for The Grateful Dead‘s Wake Of The Flood/From Mars Hotel in 1977, or The Joy Of A Toy/Shooting At The Moon release that Harvest put out for Kevin Ayers, 2 years earlier, I’d take would I could get.  They do pair nicely.


 

8. The Advantage – Self-Titled & Elf-Titled

the advantage covers
Prior to ever forming Hella with Zach Hill (Death Grips, The Boredoms, Marnie Stern, etc), the guitar-shredding half of the duo, Spencer Seim, was manning the drums in The Advantage, a 4-piece rock outfit paying homage to the music of video games from the original Nintendo Entertainment System.  By the mid-2000s, both of Seim‘s groups would find themselves signed to 5 Rue Christine, a now-defunct sub-label of Kill Rockstars.  An experimental haven that served as home for such acts as Deerhoof, Xiu Xiu, No-neck Blues Band, Out Hud, Marnie Stern, Excepter, Wooden Wand, and Nervous Cop (a one-off collaboration between deerhoof drummer, Greg Saunier; Zach Hill; and Joanna Newsom), 5RC has plenty of gems in their catalog that deserve to have a brighter spotlight shined upon them, but I really believe that, right now, more than at any other time in history, a resurrection of The Advantage works would provide them the perfect opportunity to gain the wider appreciation that they always deserved.  I also believe that a limited vinyl release promoted through something like Record Store Day would be the perfect outlet to release their material to maximize both sales and exposure.

Over the 2 studio albums that they put out through 5RC — their 2004 self-titled debut and the follow up, Elf-Titled, 2 years laterThe Advantage recorded 3 1/2 dozen renditions of 8-bit video game classics.  Some of these covers were more general titles like “Bubble Bobble,” “Ghost & Goblins,” or “Marble Madness,” while others were medleys/composite jams from popular games, like “Castlevania – Intro + Stage 1,” “Guardian Legend – Corridor 1 & 2,” “Contra – Alien’s Lair / Boss Music,”  and even “Castlevania 3 – Boss Music / Willow – Village / Mega Man 2 – Bubble Man.”  The majority of the others were more stage specific, such as, “Double Dragon 2 – Mission 5: Forest of Death” and “Solar Jetman – Braveheart Level.”  Another 14 tracks also popped up between 2 separate EPs, each of which were self-released and sold during the tours promoting the 5RC albums.

With the origins of the band reaching back to 1998, The Advantage were pioneers at the forefront of the videogame music scene and, more specifically, something that has, unfortunately or otherwise, regularly been referred to as “Nintendocore.”  What really sets the band apart, however, is their tremendous musicianship, recreating and reinterpreting beats and melodies which, for all intents and purposes, were never really intended to be performed by humans with more standard, non-digital means.  Not to take a shot at groups like the Mini Bosses,– a band formed around the same time, have a fervent fan base, and are often booked to perform at large game expos and conventions — but they really don’t seem to be in the same league, at least not for my money.  While the element of nostalgia that plays such a large role in the appeal for these groups is still an unavoidable factor with The Advantage, they don’t simply rest on that as their foundation, actually overshadowing the novelty by showcasing the musicality and compositional brilliance behind these pieces.

After touring to promote Elf-Titled in 2006, they got together to perform, momentarily, in 2008.  After that, it seemed like it might be the end of the project, but in 2010, they released a compilation album entitled B-Sides, which featured all of the material from their 2 tour EPs (minus”Gradius II – Boss”) plus additional tracks, and followed up with a handful of performances in Asia, the same year.  Then… nothing.  The good news is that, in recent years, signs of life have resurfaced for the band, primarily through activity on their Facebook page.  For years, whenever I’d try to look up footage of them on Youtube, I would be taken to clips from one of 2 different San Francisco shows, either a 2006 concert at Bottom Of The Hill, or another from the Great American Music Hall where they performed — in silver batting helmets, no less — as part of the 2006 Noise Pop music festival.  Live albums for these concerts were made available through the group’s bandcamp page in 2013 and ‘14, respectively, with the additional album, Edits, also appearing in 2013 and consisting of tracks originally cut from the 5RC full-lengths.  Posts on their Facebook page have appeared as recently as this month, implying that we may be seeing more of these guys yet.

As for an RSD release, I’m not exactly sure what they should put out, or how.  Should it be a box set?  Probably not.  I’d encourage Kill Rockstars to maybe just put out the first album on vinyl and see how it fairs.  There’s always a concern with pressing even 500 copies of an album without getting a return on their investment, especially for a truly independent label like KRS (remember, 49% of SUB POP is actually owned by Warner Brothers), but I really do believe that a good case could be made for doing this one as a Record Store Day release.  The hype-building novelty factor that the RSD people love is there, which would sell it to a demographic that goes beyond just people like myself who have been longtime fans of both the band and the vinyl format.  With this huge vinyl resurgence going on right now, there has also become a substantial amount of overlap with videogame enthusiasts, especially those that are into retro gaming and pop culture.  In fact, there has even recently become a market for videogame soundtracks like Mega Man and Battletoads, which sell like meth-cakes to rabid fans.  For me, this one is a no-brainer.


 

9. Pajo – Scream With Me

pajo scream with me
David Pajo is a musician.  And while that statement may seem as though it reveals very little, it actually says quite a deal.  There are celebrities and “rock stars,” multi-platinum selling figures in “the industry,” and even just recognizable frontmen, but those who know Pajo know him and respect him for his work, first and foremost.  When I saw him perform with Slint in 2014, my photo pass was essentially worthless, as the group played on a barely lit stage, David and his guitar residing in the darkest shadows, even then.

Slint, the sporadically resurrected project that he formed with his teenage friends in the mid-to-late-1980s, embodied that ethos where music and sound exploration were paramount to any focus on fame, image, or even genre.  In fact, their sophomore album, Spiderland — released just after the group had officially disbanded — is a seminal work that has been credited with pioneering post-rock, albeit it, like most genres, is a difficult one to classify, entirely.  Pajo later joined Tortoise for 1996‘s brilliant Millions Now Living Will Never Die, before departing the group shortly after recording the the jazzier triumph, TNT, 2 years later.  The influence that his work with both groups has had on the music world is immeasurable, and stretches well beyond the math and post-rock worlds.  Content with falling more into the background, the multi-instrumentalist has also worked as a touring musician with groups like The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, played bass with Interpol, and even appeared on projects with his friend and fellow Louisville native, Will Oldham (aka Bonnie ‘Prince” Billy), who is responsible for photographing the now iconic Spiderland album cover.  He was a founding member of the short-lived Billy Corgan project, Zwan, alongside peers like Paz Lenchantin (Entrance Band, The Pixies, A Perfect Circle) and Matt Sweeney (Chavez) — who I hold in similar regard — and has recorded with the likes of Royal Trux, King Kong, and others.  From hardcore and indie, electronic to folk, Pajo has not only explored styles from across the board, he has worked to forge new ground and expand our own understanding of what music is capable of on an incredibly broad scale, generally with much less praise or recognition than he deserves.

Along with his collaborations, David‘s solo ventures under monikers like Papa M, Aerial M, or simply Pajo, are equally worthy of your investigation.  But, one particular release that I’d like to see dug out and brought to a wider audience, actually, involves him doing a series of covers.  Released in 2009, Scream With Me is a 9-song album consisting entirely of slowed-down acoustic renditions of Misfits tunes.  I first heard it playing over the speakers while shopping in the since-closed Capitol Hill location of Sonic Boom records in Seattle and wasn’t aware of what it was, at first, until I noticed that I was semi-consciously singing along and knew all of the lyrics.  It was clearly a used copy that had just come in and, after the clerks told me what it was, I should have just picked it up from them right there and then.  This was in 2011 and I haven’t seen one for a reasonable price since.  Released by Black Tent Press on 130 gram vinyl in a spraypainted serigraph on French paper sleeve, the run was limited to only 1,000 copies and came with a CD-R matching the same content as on the vinyl.  I’m not really sure how they would top that presentation with a new pressing, and I’ll admit that, if I had a copy, I probably wouldn’t see the need to make a call for a new one.  But, I don’t have a copy.  And I want one.  And that seems like a pretty good reason, at least for it to wind up on MY list.


 

10. Built To Spill – Cover Album

black-and-white-Doug

Photo taken at the 2015 Capitol Hill Block Party in Seattle

Back in October, I was finally able to scratch one very important title off the top of my reissue dream list, Built To Spill‘s tremendous 1994 sophomore release, There’s Nothing Wrong With Love.  Above all else, that album is so embedded in my own individual history, nostalgia, and personal connections that it’s hard to even view objectively — it’s massive.  Beyond that, I’d be hard pressed to find another artist that I have more respect for than Doug Martsch, from his songwriting ability, innovation, and influence, to his consistency, personality, and artistic integrity.  What I’m proposing is much more of a novelty release than that album which played a part in shaping my memories and personal development, but it’s still something that I feel could be a solid effort, nonetheless.  Plus, what better opportunity is there to release one-off novelty releases than Record Store Day?

I’ll never forget the first time that I saw Built To Spill respond to the cliche audience request of “FREEBIRD!!!” with a simple smirk followed by what was easily 8 1/2 minutes worth of the most surprising and raucous version that I could ever hope for.  Slightly tongue-in-cheek, they still paid reverence to the Southern Rock staple by going all out and tearing through it with a shredding guitar breakdown.  It sounded great and would continue to, as I saw them pull it out on a handful of more occasions in the future.  The songs that the band has chosen to cover, over the years, are always perfectly selected and, often, feel as if Doug could have written them himself, if not that they were simply created specifically for him to put his touch on.  If they choose to attack something, they rarely fuck around, always locating their own sound within its parameters and making it their own.  Perhaps, the most notorious cover that they’ve had in their repertoire was their masterful 20-plus-minute version of Neil Young‘s “Cortez The Killer,” which was featured on their LIVE album in 2000, but around the same time that they were mixing that into their sets, they were also including a brilliant dub version of Elton John‘s “Daniel” that remained affecting, but in a completely new and inspired way.  Similarly, the beautiful rendition of “Some Things Last A Long Time” featured on The Normal Years [1996], is one of the few Daniel Johnston covers that I feel really does Daniel‘s work justice and manages to approach the emotional power of the original.

Each year, BTS has been playing multiple days at the Treefort Music Festival in their hometown of Boise, Idaho at which they have been dedicating one on those sets entirely to cover songs.  In 2013, they played one such performances as an unannounced surprise concert at Cafe Stritch in San Jose and have, since, done similar cover shows elsewhere.   More recent song additions include choices that are clearly in their wheelhouse, like Pavement‘s “Here” and “How Soon Is Now” by The Smiths, along with less orthodox covers “Abba Zabba” by Captain Beefheart and, one that I was particularly psyched out, Devo‘s “Gut Feeling/Slap Your Mammy.”  Other notable songs that they’ve worked in through the years include “Paper Planes” (M.I.A.), “Ripple” (The Grateful Dead), “Don’t Fear The Reaper” (Blue Oyster Cult), and even the Peanuts theme, “LInus & Lucy” by Vince Giraldi.  The problem for a release like this wouldn’t be in finding enough tracks to fill it out; if anything, it would, be in editing down the selections.  That and licensing, but… that isn’t my department; this is a dream list and I’m not concerning myself with that aspect.

Doug and company have already consistently found themselves as part of the Record Store Day festivities, releasing their new album, Untethered Moon as an RSDFirst release” last year, and honoring the 20th anniversary of their debut, Ultimate Alternative Wavers with its first ever vinyl release, the year before (technically 21 years later).  The latter’s family photo-style cover image remains one of my favorite examples of album art and I think that it would be a great addition to have the band members recreate classic photo shoots of the various acts that they are covering to be featured in a full page booklet — maybe slap some energy domes on their skulls, Charles Shulz them out for another image, etc.  And one great addition to the project that could help fill in the trademark keys on those Devo and Giraldi cuts would be the inclusion of Sam Coomes of Quasi.  Not only did he co-produce Untethered Moon, but he’s also appeared on every Built To Spill studio album since 1999‘s Keep It Like A Secret.

You now what?  Novelty, or not, I’ve clearly thought this one out a lot more than I even realized.  This should just happen.

[SIDE NOTE: The first BTS show that I was ever supposed to attend included Heat Miser, a band featuring Coomes and the late Elliot Smith, as one of the openers.]


 

11. De La Soul – Stakes Is High

de la stakes
When De La Soul released 3 Feet High & Rising in 1989, it was groundbreaking.  Establishing the blueprint for the alternative and jazz rap movements to come, 3 Feet High was offered up during a time period where rap was flooded with aggressive violent lyrics.  These days, the LP finds itself on an endless number of all-time greatest albums lists, with it’s cultural impact being recognized at an even greater level by being added to the National Recording Registry at the Library Of Congress in 2010.   The follow up, Del La Soul Is Dead, showed the group following a slightly darker and more laid-back sound, trying to distance themselves from the hippie label that had been placed on them.  Similar paths were later taken on the sophomore efforts of groups like The Pharcyde and Digable Planets and, like with those groups, De La‘s follow up was slightly jarring at first, only to become heralded as a triumph and a classic in its own right.  In fact, while most people are familiar with 3 Feet High and the break out single, “Me Myself And I,” if you ask a lot of less casual fans of the group, they’ll tell you that De La Soul Is Dead is their favorite release from the Long Island trio.  Like clockwork, Buhloone Mindstate showed up 2 years later and was another brilliant release.  The group continued to step up their game and evolve — the JB Horns (Fred Wesley, Pee Wee Ellis, and Maceo Parker) even make an appearance — but, although it’s one of my favorites, Buhloone Mindstate isn’t as recognized as the first 2 albums.  For whatever reason, the only De La album that I’ve found myself listening to more than that one is Stakes Is High.

Is it just because I’m some sort of weird fuck, or a contrarian that the group’s 1996 album is my go to?  Maybe it’s because I just discovered it at the right time.  All that I know is that, for me, Stakes Is High is a slept on classic, not just for De La, but for hip hop music and the 90s, in general.  It’s not that it doesn’t have its fans, or that it hasn’t garnered any sort of attention, because it has, but the first 2 De La albums pretty much overshadow everything that came after them.  A lot had changed in the hip hop world since 3 Feet High first dropped — 2pac would be dead a mere 2 months after Stakes Is High‘s release with Biggie following 6 months later.  De La continued their trend of not following any and, for their 4th full-length, made another big shift in direction, as it was their first venture going it alone without Prince Paul, who had contributed production work on everything prior.  Right in the middle of the East Coast / West Coast feud, Stakes lobbed further critiques at the promotion of gangsta rap and havin’ thangz.  This was particularly true on the title track, which was produced by the late Jay Dee (aka J Dilla), who was heavily involved in The Pharcyde‘s equally undervalued Labcabincalifornia, just the year before.

And that’s another thing about Stakes Is High; it’s not only a fully realized classic from beginning to end, but it also contains seeds of the future.  Aside from the contribution from Dilla, everyone’s favorite producer that was underappreciated for what he was doing at the time,”Big Brother Beat” is one of 2 tracks credited with bringing a pre-Black Star Mos Def into the public eye and launching his career — the other one being Posdnuos-produced, “The Love Song,” which appeared on the Bush Babees album, Gravity, a few months later.  For the most part, De La handles both the production and the verses across the board on Stakes Is High, with the contributions of Dilla and Mos Def being notable exceptions.  Another one of the very few guest appearances is on the song “The Bizness,” which features Common in his prime, before he, eventually, became… terrible a lot less interesting.

3 Feet High has received a few reissues over the years, the most recent coming in 2013, which included a limited edition Urban Outfitters yellow vinyl pressing.  4 Men With Beards reissued De La Soul Is Dead back in 2008 and, although there was a time period where a number of articles appeared online to announce that the label would be providing a similar treatment to Stakes Is High, it seems as if something went awry in that department and it never actually came to fruition.  Curious about all of these articles hyping the arrival of the reissue, which all seem to have, since, been removed — as of tonight, a google search includes information about a DMCA takedown notice removing results due to copyright infringement complaints, and one particular blog has even become privatized — I, eventually, asked my local independent record store about if they knew anything pertaining to the reissue.  In searching their system, they noticed that they actually had an order placed for copies around the reported 2011 release date, but they also noticed that, with absolutely zero recorded sales, it appears that they never actually received any copies, before the release became “discontinued;” something that happened almost immediately.  The closest thing that I can find is a Soundstagedirect order page, complete with detailed product info, that is also marked as “discontinued.”  Another interesting thing that I just stumbled across is an Amazon listing for a 4 Men With Beards Buhloone Mindstate reissue, also completely absent and “currently unavailable.”   One final piece to this puzzle is a webpage listing “upcoming” release dates for July of 2011 that lists 4 Men With Beards reissues for both Stakes Is High and Buhloone Mindstate as being scheduled for the 19th of that month.  Discogs does have a listing for a 2011 repress of Stakes credited to the original label, Tommy Boy that may have conflicted with them putting it out, but it seems a bit suspect and I would honestly be surprised if even that was really anything more than another bootleg.

We may still be unsure about exactly why the reissues never came to be, but the fact that they didn’t might be for the better.  4 Men With Beards is a sub label of Runt Records, which also houses 3 other labels under its umbrella, including Plain Recordings.  These labels are notoriously plagued with mediocre to terrible pressings, with Plain being responsible for the shitty noise and pop-ridden WEEN reissues (The Mollusk, in particular) and the, basically worthless, one for Mazzy Star‘s So Tonight That I Might See, in 2010.  Hopefully, the red tape isn’t too mangled for someone else to pick up the torch and get a reissue of Stakes Is High finally pressed.  Through their Modern Classic Recordings imprint, Light In The Attic pushed out the wonderfully received Blowout Comb reissue a couple of years ago, and I’d love it if they were the ones to take the reigns on this one.  They consistently do some of the most impressive and thorough work in regards to reissues, from the pressings to the packaging.  After that’s settled?  Next move: Buhloone Mind State.

 


 

12. Lucifer – Black Mass

black mass lucifer
You may not be familiar with the name Mort Garson, but there’s a pretty good chance that you might have heard some of his work (at least segments of it).  A sample from the song “Planetary Motivations” from the album Cancer — part of his Signs Of The Zodiac project series — was used on the track “Building Steam With A Grain Of Salt” that opened DJ Shadow‘s groundbreaking Endtroducing album, while the late J Dilla sampled the composer’s work multiple times.  For the Run The Jewels 2 track, “Jeopardy,” EL-P uses a slightly modified sample of “Taurus – The Voluptuary” from Mort‘s 1967 album, The Zodiac: Cosmic Sounds, and Massive Attack even covered his song “Exchange” on their LP, Mezzanine.  Weirder yet, wikipedia claims that his songPlantasia” taken from his 1976 album, “Mother Earth’s Plantasia” — “warm earth music for plants and the people who love them” — is featured in the documentary Lil Bub & Friendz.

Not unlike Raymond Scott, Garson was a composer/arranger with a classical background who was doing shit like conducting orchestras, only to eventually find himself drawn to electronic synthesizer technology, becoming a pioneer in the field, working in the burgeoning movement in its infancy.  The Canadian-born musician graduated from Julliard and worked as a pianist/composer until being drafted into the armed forces toward the end of WWII.  The early 60s found him creating arrangements for the likes of Doris Day, writing for Brenda Lee, and composing the music for the Ruby & The Romantics hit single, “Our Day Will Come.”  He would later go on to do the arrangements for The Sandpipers‘ commercially successful version of “Guantanamera,” provide string arrangements for Glenn Campbell, and, in 1974, be responsible for the Grammy Award-winning electronic-infused music to The Little Prince narrated by Richard Burton [I, actually, found a copy of this soundtrack at an estate sale a handful of months ago].  And it’s his electronic music that I find so fascinating, both for how it holds up on its own, as well as for the stark contrast of his origins and previous work.

Garson was a prolific artist composing music for film, television, game shows, and numerous jingles throughout his career, but one of his most important feats has to be having his work utilized as background music during the airing of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing.  He explored some truly left-field territory, recording a Moog-based rendition of the musical Hair, as well as a psychedelic hippie freakout interpretation of the Wizard Of Oz.  In the 2007 featurette, The Music Man: Mort Garson, Garson talks about meeting Bob Moog at a convention and becoming interested in using his invention, at one point stating, “I was the first one to get one [a Moog synthesizer] and I utilized it.”  He goes on to explain that he began to make a ton of money by using “this instrument,” specifically, in the composition of commercial jingles.  At that point, the composer was already a balding middle-aged jewish man with spectacles, side burns, and a thick burly mustache.  In other words, he looked like exactly what he was: somebody’s aging father named Mort.  The mini-doc was released the year before the subject died of renal heart failure at the age of 83, and to see this reserved, light-hearted, elderly man seated in a striped pullover sweater and polo shirt, paired with a polka-dotted bucket hat, it seems crazy to imagine him creating an eerie, tripped-out, dark-psych synth record titled Black Mass under the pseudonym of Lucifer36 years earlier.  Of course, that’s exactly what he did.

I only first heard of the Black Mass album last summer, while visiting a good friend of mine who is, typically, fairly well versed in releases of this sort.  A dealer in vintage clothing, he had stumbled across the album at a Goodwill outlet (aka “the bins”) at random.  He picked it up because it looked so damn interesting, but didn’t really know anything else about it other than the fact that it was pretty fucking wacky and really fucking good.  It was from there that I discovered more about its history and that it was actually Garson who produced it.  It’s the only album that he ever released under the Lucifer moniker and I can only speculate as to what it is about the synthesizer that made the composers that were first discovering what the inventions were capable of draw comparisons to the dark lord, but fellow electronic music pioneer, Bruce Haack, released an album titled Electric Lucifer only a year prior, in 1970.  According to Discogs, there was a recent double CD reissue of Black Mass in which it was combined with Garson‘s 1975 album, The Unexplained:Electronic Musical Impressions Of The Occult, which he released under the name Ataraxia.  It appears that the Ataraxia album also received the vinyl reissue treatment in 2015 from a German label, but Black Mass doesn’t appear to have seen a repress again since 1980.  Check this nutty shit out below and I trust that you’ll agree that It’s about time that something is done about that.


 

13. Piero Piccioni – “Black Flower” 10-inch EP

colpo 1999 repress black flower

Many of you are familiar with the work of Ennio Morricone, if not simply from reputation, but there’s another brilliant and incredibly prolific Italian composer by the name of Piero Piccioni that deserves an equal amount of your respect and attention.  There’s a good chance that you’ve heard his compositions somewhere without knowing it, whether it’s the track “Spinning Waltz” used on the show Curb Your Enthusiasm, or “Traffic Boom” better known by many as the background porn music from “Logjammin” in The Big Lebowski.  Also clearly a fan, director, David O. Russell has featured Piero‘s material on the soundtracks for both Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle.  And if anyone knows soundtracks, it was Piccioni, credited with composing for well over 100 films from the early 1950s until his death in 2004, both under his own name, as well as variations of the alias “Piero Morgan” (P. Morgan, Morgan).

A master at his craft, Piccioni explored various styles throughout his career, adapting to whatever the project required.  Often working heavily with jazz and lounge elements, he ventured into funky spy territory for the Puppet On A Chain soundtrack in 1971, and provided spaghetti western orchestration for Sergio Corbucci’s Minnesota Clay (1964).  Earlier this year, South Korea’s Beat Ball Records put out a wonderful vinyl reissue for one of his most sought after works, the soundtrack to the 1970 crime drama, Colpo Rovente.  Here’s a breakdown of the release taken from the website of US distributor, Light In The Attic:

“‘Colpo Rovente’ is one of the rarest soundtrack albums in the Italian film music history. This soundtrack stands out from the traditional period into the psychedelic era. Soft-spoken and suave cool jazz, along with hallucinogenic go-go sounds appears throughout the film and soundtrack. Dynamic big band tunes are stunningly matched with impossibly beautiful jazz funk scores infused with a touch of bossa nova. If your tastes lie somewhere in the intersection between elegant European lounge and primal psychedelia, this soundtrack is a must-listen.

The new remastered reissue is really solid and I think that it’s great that they stayed true to the original release, even including the original artwork, something that wasn’t done with the 1999 Italian reissue from Easy Tempo (pictured above).  What the previous double-LP reissue did have, however, was a lot more than the original 12 tracks; the second disc consisting primarily of alternate takes.  I’m not the type to really give too much of a shit about things like alternate tracks, but that release also contained completely new additions.  Along with the new vinyl pressing by Beatball, there is also an expanded CD option available that, actually, does include the alternate takes, as well as the sultry “Endless Love” and the aptly titled, “Big Chase.”  Still missing from the CD, but featured on the Italian reissue, however, are “Senza Via D’uscita” (also from the soundtrack of the same name); the brief, yet stone funky soul groove,”Occhio Dell’Uragano;” and, most importantly, the remarkable “Black Flower.”

I’d be able to ignore everything else, but “Black Flower” is one of my favorite cuts on the entire soundtrack and its absence is disappointing.  I’m not sure why it was left off of the original, or why it wasn’t cleared for this latest expanded CD, but since I’m not interested in dumping $100 or more for the Italian reissue, I feel like something needs to be done about this.  My original thought was that it should be put out as a 7-inch single, but after seeing a surprising number of 10-inch releases for RSD, I now believe that format would likely work best, because it allows room for the other 4 tracks mentioned above, if not an additional remix or alternative take from the main album.  If that happened, I wouldn’t think twice about picking it up.


 

14. Sinful Dwarf – Opening Theme 7-inch single

sinful dwarf
I’ve only ever seen clips from Vidal Raski’s, The Sinful Dwarf, but the plot to the Danish thriller is a fairly standard one.  The film is yet another imagining of that age-old tale involving a twisted dwarf named Olaf and his equally deviant ex-cabaret singer mother secretly running a white slavery ring out of their home, taking in boarders only to drug women and transform them into smack-addict prostitutes.  Not surprisingly, this 1973 grindhouse creep fest has garnered attention from enthusiasts of sketchball low-budget cinema, even earning writeups from the likes of AV CLUB and Dangerous minds.  I’m sure that I’ll wind up sitting through the entirety of this deviant cinematic fiasco, and I’ll probably even get into it — after all, we were watching a Mothra sequel when my girlfriend went into labor with our child, and saw the first airing of first Sharknado, simply because we liked what we saw on the guide description — but, as of right now, it’s the music and not the storyline that really intrigues me.

I haven’t found anything regarding an official soundtrack release, but if there’s anything else on Ole Ørste‘s score that resembles the magic of this Dwarfsploitation film’s intro theme, someone needs to slap that shit on side B and release this as a 7-inch.  Bonus points if they can pull off an interactive pop-up gatefold featuring wind-up toy imagery on a sleeve that small.  Extra bonus points if such involved packaging doesn’t warp the vinyl like it did on last year’s Father John Misty release.


 

15. R. Kelly – LIVE From Home DVD

kellz stogie

Last year on my birthday, the lady took me to see R Kelly in Everett, Wa and the whole night was a goddam spectacle.  Everything about the show felt incredibly budget, and that’s not just because we purchased our tickets through Groupon.  Kelly set up the stage so that women were sitting on sofas behind him, while he casually strutted around sporting a smoking jacket with a drink in one hand and a mic in the other.  It was the “Black Panties Tour,” in promotion of his album, Black Panties, so, naturally, he had to take several minutes to distribute black panties from a Victoria’s Secret bag to women in the front row, while speculating on their sizes — don’t worry, he loves women of all sizes.  Midway through the show, he left the stage so that he could project a vertically filmed cell phone video of himself talking to the camera drunk while chomping on Kettle Chips and scooping chili out of a to-go container and into his boozy face hole.  He later entered the audience to the Star Wars theme, making his way to a mini-stage/platform at the back of the room, on which he sang a-capella songs about trifling broads, accompanied by the mediocre crowd that surrounded him.

Was Kells just phoning it in?  In some ways, I suppose.  But, mostly, I got the feeling that he is such a crazy, detached, and outrageous figure that most people in his circle don’t feel comfortable — or, have any motivation, whatsoever — with suggesting that even one of his ideas might be short of genius.  If they did, or if he listened, would he still be 33 chapters into an overtly racist and homophobic “hip-hopera” that changes the beat less than Wesley Willis‘s solo career, in which he plays a protagonist that’s cheating on his wife, pulls a gun on the husband of his one night stand, and, un-ironically, continues to move forward as if he’s both the hero and the victim?  Would they have encouraged him to introduce a new section live at the 2005 MTV VMAs, playing multiple characters and lipsynching along to a backing track?  Would I have gotten so sucked in, going on a bender watching parts 1 through 22 in one sitting, because the next 11 episodes were dropping the next day?  Maybe, maybe not, but the way that Kelly sees himself isn’t so much as a genius, but rather a lightning rod for the divine.  He is just an incredibly gifted vessel.

As we explained in our 2012 post with the downloadable Trapped In The Closet Thanksgiving placemats:

Kelly himself has stated that the story unfolds to him organically, as if in a “daydream,” implying that he is no more than a conduit channeling cliched, often cartoonishly bigoted, stereotypes and campy soap opera-esque storylines from the outer reaches of the cosmos.  Even as the mastermind behind the work, he has repeatedly referred to Trapped in the Closet as an “alien.”  At a recent premiere/preview screening of the latest installments, which took place on Monday at New York’s Landmark Sunshine Cinemas, Kelly used the term yet again, while adding that he’s just “happy to be one of the astronauts.

Why even attempt to reign that in?

Understandably, some people acknowledge his accomplishments, while others just write the man off.  Did a 28-year-old Robert Kelly secretly marry Aaliyah when she was only 15 years old?  Sure.  Is there video evidence of him urinating on another teenage girl?  Allegedly.  Did he pick up a 16-year-old from the Rock N Roll Mcdonalds in Chicago and have an affair with her until she got pregnant, at which time, someone from his camp drove her to an abortion clinic?  Reportedly.  Did Kelly convince the manager of another McDonalds to stay open late one night and to allow him to work the drive through for 3-hours after a gig in St Louis?  Apparently.  Is the “Ignition – Remix” an undisputed top-shelf party jam?  Fuck yes, it is!!!

And regardless of whether or not some of us want to acknowledge it, R Kelly does possess some genuine talent and, quite probably, some authentic genius, even if it can become too much for himself to wield, sending him off the rails from time to time.  I knew that I was attending a tour for an album called Black Panties, so I had a minor idea of the spectacle that I may be walking into, but in my heart, I had sincerely hoped for the off-chance that it would be more like the tour for his 2010 album, Love Letter, which saw Kells taking a detour away from the freaky sex jam and into more romantic, classic soul music territory, embracing a sound and delivery much more akin to legends like Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye.  The tour for Love Letter even involved to artist performing a mini Sam Cooke set, during the shows.

In 2011, around the time that he was still exploring his affection for old-school love songs, Interview Magazine published an interview with Kells conducted by none other than Will “Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy” Oldham, a fan who actually featured a folk rendition of the R&B crooner’s hit “The World’s Greatest” on his 2007 cover album, Ask Forgiveness, and continues to work it into into his live shows.  During the conversation, Oldham asked Kelly if there was one moment where he decided that he was going to make “a record about love” and the response that he yielded was pretty amazing.

“Well, a party that I gave at my house influenced me. I gave a Christmas party last year—well, two Christmases ago—where I did a Sam Cooke show. I didn’t perform as R. Kelly. I performed the Sam Cooke show from 1964, when he performed at the Copacabana.

[…]I did the whole set. I invited, like, 1,000 people out to my house, and everybody had to be dressed like it was the ’60s. People had the long-stem cigarettes and the zoot suits and all that stuff, man. It was just a good time.

[…]It was about a two-and-a-half-hour show that I put together in my living room. Built a stage and catwalk. I had the bulb lights and everything. I had tap dancers. I had a girl with me who sounded just like Billie Holiday. I had a guy who sounded just like Frank Sinatra. And then I did Sam Cooke. We had the marquee on the outside of the door, and I went and got old-school pictures of myself and we put them up like I was born back then and performing back then. We had a sign that said, “One night and one night only.”

“I did that show, and I was afraid of doing it, but I knew I wanted to do it because I’ve always wanted to go back in time—I’ve always said that I wished that I was working back in the Sam Cooke days so I could feel the spirit of that music, because I love that music. So the only way for me to capture that was for me to become Sam Cooke for one night and do all his music and really try to nail it. So I had a full band. I had an orchestra, horn sections, upright bass, all of that stuff, man. Brought in background singers. And I came out with a suit on and everything. It was very classy. People loved it. I mean, they got with every song. I was shocked. We had a ball. But I think I was bitten that night, like Peter Parker being bit by the spider. I had this feeling that we really tapped in spiritually to that time. We did go back in time that night. And when I came back to the present, if you will, I’d brought back some goodies, because when I went in the studio—I was working on the Zodiac album, which was all, like, the bump ’n’ grinds—I couldn’t work on it because I was so overwhelmed and overpowered and pretty much musically abducted by this other period. […] You know, we recorded the show. We had three cameras recording it because I didn’t want to lose what we’d done.  And when people would come over to my house—be it celebrity company or just my friends from around the way—I would play it for them and we would drink and have a ball just looking at it. The more I would play it for peo­ple, the more I saw they was enjoying it, and the more I saw they accepted me in this area.  So I was like, “If I did a whole album of this, boy . . .” You just never know— it might be a great thing, you know?  So that’s when I started really deciding I’m going to go and do an album.”

This is, obviously, one of the longer entries on this list and could be an entire post of it’s own, but I really love that interview and I feel compelled to post that hefty excerpt to highlight the magnitude of what this guy is willing to do just to entertain himself and follow his vision.

When I spoke with Will Oldham before an in-store, in 2012, I asked him if he ever got a chance to watch that live video.  His response was that he hadn’t, but that he would love to.  I feel the same way.  Will it ever happen?  Probably not.  I mean, there aren’t a lot of people that have a full album’s worth of unheard/unreleased Michael Jackson material just chilling in their homes and still go about their days just eating chili and Kettle chips, without ever thinking too much about it.  But, the point of this post isn’t what will happen, it’s about what I wish would happen and, seeing as RSD usually has a DVD release featured, this would be as good an option as anything to fill that spot.

Dead C

Located in Seattle, Dead C is the founder/editor, as well as the principal writer and photographer, of Monster Fresh. Creating the site in 2007, he did so with a specific dream in mind. Unfortunately, being a muscle relaxer-fueled fever dream, it's hard to recall all of the details. "I remember that my mom was there, but it wasn't actually her in the dream, it was actually 70s heart throb, Jan Michael Vincent. And everything took place here, in this room... but it wasn't actually here... it was different. The colors were washed out and, for some reason, there was a raccoon kicking it with us and it was wearing a holographic monocle."

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