Saturday, December 25, 2010

Annum Novo: Reissue Wrap

And so it came to pass... another year spent hunkered in the bunker unwinding my gears to the endless parade of long-eared gasps at eternity, loose-limbed strumblers from specks on the grass to the peaks of the fountains, nay-sayers and rambling loquacious losers on the necks of swans. To say the least, it was a good year - a full year, and feeling like the gentlemen above during this fair fair holiday crush and cookie crumble, I procrastinated my long overdue "Stocking Stuffer" shopping list for the mixed up mangled up lovers of the other mothers into the oblivion of a New Years reissue wrap up - so that if you missed the boat - maybe the boat hasn't missed you - yet, or ever, or unecessary to add I'd just like to see these fine productions, retreads perhaps - but essential - find essential homes - become cartridges for the slipping steam should the winter thaw to break the frost, the fragile loam surrounding my brain - HEY - so dig these discs this winter or else! I'm opposed to numerical order - these are all special, and deserve YOUR time if you can handle a little wayward loving, symphonic gloving, sisterly mugging... etc. al etc.!!!

To get things off on the right foot, I'd like to start with a record I only heard for the first time in early 2010, and the story of that discovery is nearly as miraculous as the fact that it has materialized as a gorgeous reissue less than a year later. Having played El Gusano's Fantasia del Barrio a million times since the initial WOW, I can say I've only grown closer to this dust coated desert hallucination, but perhaps am no nearer to fully realizing what exactly they had in mind when laying this set of highly original instrumental set of Latin funk down on tape. The back of the album describes a loose set of ideas pertaining to the movements of individuals - the ebb and flow of border-town life during war time, and more generally a consciousness pertaining to the human fabric of labor, family, and ideals. This of course is all a loose topography for the sounds - a deep, weird, earthy trip into the most cerebral riffage - epic tawdry cinematic dystopic dive-bar be-ins crashing up against rabid grooves and loud electric guitar - the flash of windchimes and roach buzz, hallowed chasms of a new "thing" - to think it alone in a small town on the edge of nothing in South Texas, the poetry of this motion almost the singular imagination of a band fused by the lysergic stoicism of a true survivor... well, I'm rambling, but if you've even caught wind of this already you probably get the idea. It's a bonafide keeper and easy to check out thanks to the upstarts at Heavy Light Records in Austin, TX.

Though perhaps not as epically proportioned to crowd-please every long-legged turntable this side of the Milky-Way, Wilcox-Sullivan-Wilcox's Album of Original Music is unquestionably one of the most worthy candidates for popular consumption this year, and a record that over time has taken on monumental importance to me personally, spiritually, and musically speaking. It is worth noting truly how many records there are that start off somewhat like this dynamic trio's New Mexico debut from 1971, and yet how few actually deliver the promise of transcendence and a nascent, otherworldy consciousness through acoustic folk music that this group delivers as easily as the flow of water through a mountain stream. I have spent a tremendous amount of time in this album's grasp and could probably babble on about it for just as long. The crux of it all though is in submerging yourself in their crystalline glow, imbibing a truth in the liminal lyrical phrasings, and taking pause at every subtle gesture of the steel guitar as it weaves hexagonal grace above and below wordless vocals that seem to echo forth from the supine harmony of growing hair, dogs drinking warm milk, people smiling and actually meaning something by it. This record is just that real, and I can think of very little else that touches it from the 70s whether privately pressed or majorly labeled. You've just got to spend a little time getting to know... Graciously made re-available by the original label, in resplendant unadulterated re-master (this thing sounds GOOD), and with a few clicks a mint CD of it can be yours. Read more here, buy it here, live this always. Amen!

Though I feel as if the popular discovery of Justen O'Brien's hypnotic AOR gyroscope of an LP has been long coming, the beautiful co-production of Time Will Tell by Yoga and Guerrsen Records certainly feels a bit slept on this year with all of the new things that have come to light in 2010. There's no doubt in my mind that the record, as magnificent and fully realized as it is, could work it's way into a lot of unsuspecting playlists, yet maybe folks just need to come to this one on their own terms. Time will tell... For me - O'Brien's high-plains seeker in a self-made limo was a true gateway drug - a world-class LP that illuminated the catatonic zone where most of my favorite records dwell: highly original musical citizenship without a clue in the world as to how utterly of themselves they appear and yet how beyond themselves they sound, like drawing raw energy from a star: their chords and guitar tunings secretly living on the dark side of the moon. If you've never gotten astral with Justen, it's just about that time of the year when things are dark enough for the true underbelly of the record to make sense: the maddening reality of life always on the edge of warmth, fame, and love - careening slightly out of control. If you were to take a trip out to the desert feeling like that, then maybe the lights would appear to you too... I'm never one to disbelieve! Available as a download from the fine folks at Yoga Records and on LP by Guerrsen with the gorgeous originally intended color jacket as seen above. This is a heavy one. You've been warned!

In the straight out of left-field department comes Doug Hream Blunt's Gentle Persuasion. This is one of my favorite re-press jobs this year, and another magical LP I had never heard til just a few months ago... Blunt's late 70s blend of soulful breezy funk, silky smooth production, and bouncy gleeful unabashed lyrical refrains completey won me over on the first spin and I have been thinking to myself, "Girl I just wanna chill" ever since. Located somewhere in the cross-section between new-wave and modern soul, the music has an irresistible groove that extends beyond time and space in a late-night cruising mode - palm trees flapping, circus animals walking all over the hood of your car, colorful ladies catching a ride... the atmosphere is pure magic and Blunt's laid-back croon will work out all your kinks by the time you have to get back to the real world - a softer place now, somewhere you can live, dig? Orders can be placed with: This extends to you rockists too! Seeya at the big-top...

If you've ever thought to yourself that a half-way decent version of the after-life is a murky basement filled with endless mold-covered master-tapes of 70s home-brewed rock and down-home folk, then the Numero group's Lone Star Lowlands comp is an essential pick-up this holiday season... The celebrated archival label went well out of their way to rescue a small Mom and Pop Texan studio's stash of just these kind of rough-hewn shoulda-been hayseed pop star epiphanies and blissfully toked out rural rock barn-burners. The results are absolutely stellar and should be mandatory listening if you like your denim severely frayed and long for the days when a beer can needed two holes to be drained. Musically the set spans all kinds of 70s nomenclature... and illuminates the freedom of expression in rock music before FM radio and "adult" oriented music marketplaces took the stage. I live and die for this stuff, so naturally this set was such a welcome addition to the seemingly bottomless well of long-lost long-hair croon and spoon. Loose, sun-baked, stem-munching bliss, brother. Check it out!

In other 70s pop miracle zones comes a welcome vinyl reissue of friend Paul Levinson's effervescent flower-pop magnum opus, Twice Upon a Rhyme. The LP, if you haven't already checked it out, is a glowing outburst of psychedelic color and stoney early 70s home-studio groove. I've long enjoyed the record and took time out to chat with Paul last year about his wonderful creation. Will speak personally to say that I've lifted many a foul mood with this meticulously crafted gem... and would love to spend some time in the shady glen that produced "The Coming of Winter"! The reissue is a very limited pressing so I suggest acting now... copies can be ordered directly from the label at:

In a final blurt I've got to give a shout out to my two favorite almost-reissued in 2010 LPs... the wild and wooly double-header of Michael Farneti's Good Morning Kisses and Stan Hubbs' Crystal, which will both see the light of day on the legendary Companion Records label out of Oakland, CA. I've waxed poetic enough times about both LPs, but needless to say - they are entirely worlds of their own, and Hubbs in particular might get my vote for the single greatest piece of private press zonk rock ever. Seriously. It's that freaking good. Not for the faint of heart, and a truly heavy trip even for the most well-traveled ears. Our proverbial anti-guitar hero was camped out in the foggy nether-underground of northernmost Sonoma county in the late 70s-early 80s, cobbling together local musicians to play his mutant breed of smoked out quasi-metal stoner rock unprecedented in this galaxy, then or now. The record has just a monumentally personal, earthy, strange presence that makes the walls breathe and the hair on your neck stand on end. I can't think of a single other disc that pushes me that close to the brink... Firm firm personal fave, and will be the reissue to beat in 2011, cowboys!

So many words... and so many more things to come... feeling tired now, and a little bit scared so it's time to travel on... May the new year treat you kindly, and stay in touch. Yours in music... JDF


  1. Great selection ! I hope that Doug Hream has been reissued in vinyl. I bought Lone Star Lowlands and maybe I'll pass an order for El Gusano.

  2. Wow what a post,so many great albums I'm gonna pick up a copy of Fantasia del Barrio right away! seriously awesome sound clips on that site. Hubbs' Crystal looks interesting too.. everything i've got from companion has been outstanding so far... this looks like it might be their bes release so far. Also... There was a song on an old compilaion you did.. (comp was called sad white people...) I'd love to know the title of the track and the band.... the lyrics were "i had a girl i loved and one night i offered her my ring, doesnt mean a thing... is what she said to me" many thanks and good luck in this new year!

  3. Anonymous -- The song in question is by The Shoes - but I can't remember the name of the song, alas. It's from their privately pressed debut "One in Versailles."

    Best, Jack


    Check my Doug Blunt interview here