The Stooges - Heavy Liquid Box Set (1972-1974)

Is it possible that someone was following the Stooges around circa 1972-1973, taping their every move? It certainly seems that way, as evidenced by the overabundance of outtakes and demos that has surfaced from the group's Raw Power period. The most exhaustive collection to focus on these tracks arrived in 2005 -- the six-disc box Heavy Liquid. Set up similarly to a previous Stooges box set, Rhino Handmade's 2000 release 1970: The Complete Funhouse Sessions, this is not six discs worth of different rare songs, but rather songs that are repeated over and over again. And unless you're the biggest Stooges fanatic in the universe, there's simply no way you can sit through 13 takes of "I Got a Right." Longtime Stooges fans will undoubtedly be long familiar with most of these selections, as they've been included an countless compilations over the years (mostly on the Bomp! label) -- the aforementioned "I Got a Right," "I'm Sick of You," "Johanna," "Open Up and Bleed," "I Got Nothin'," "Head On," etc. There's not much here that most of the Stooges faithful haven't already heard countless times before. But the packaging is certainly appealing, as it comes with not one but two booklets (which feature essays, rare pictures, and articles from the era). The average Stooges admirer would be able to get by with any one of the single-disc collections of this material but if you want it all in one shot, Heavy Liquid is the way to go.

The Dead C - DR503c (1987-89)

DR503C compiles many near-impossible-to-find songs: four tracks from the band's debut Flying Nun LP, two from the cassette-only release DR503b, two from the Sun Stabbed EP, the entirety of the 15-minute Perform Max Harris cassette, and a live version of "Sun Stabbed." There is even one previously unreleased track to entice completists who already have the other songs elsewhere: the opener "Crazy I Know," which was recorded in January of 1987. All of the material presented here comes from the first year-and-a-half of the band's existence. Many characteristics that came to define the band later are seen here in embryonic form; the drones don't seem to build to anything much, and sometimes the band members sound like they're not really listening to each other play, the song just plodding along. But there are some highlights, including the almost poppy and darkly humorous "Bad Politics" and the harrowing two-chord "Speed Kills," which holds its own with the best of the band's later work.

The Dead C - New Electric Music (2001)

Even if the Dead C themselves were hardly new when this album came out, the five tracks on it definitely show that the Russell/Morley/Yates trio was far from exhausted when it came to their own method of noise fun. Notably, New Electric Music isn't simply the Dead C just being the Dead C -- if anything, the combination of semi-glitch and extremely low-key feedback murk which starts the album with "Killer" shows that the old dogs can't merely learn new tricks, but that they can find ways to make them their own. Minimally spooked and sounding like a vague threat building outside one's door, "Killer" is one of the most subtle Dead C efforts ever, making the shift to the more familiar clatter/stomp/growl of "Hush" particularly jarring. That track is particularly dazzling, though, a spiraling, scraping guitar solo of some kind unwinding over its length as Yates lays down steady beats perfect for tripping out to, if one so desires. "Repulsion" perfectly balances both a strange, central rhythm of hums, drones, and what sounds like an occasional drum hit with everything from cymbal clashes to chopped-up and fiddled-with vocal samples -- call it the Dead C interprets Main, a worthy concept realized quite well. "Stand" is comparatively easygoing all around, not quite a lazy blues jam but perhaps a kissing cousin to same, even when the volume level perks up a bit about three minutes in. "Forever" both concludes the album and takes up nearly half of it at a little over half an hour in length. Making use of a clipped guitar feedback burst sample that's at once powerful and actually a little amusing at the same time, the three work around that as a core rhythm, with a slew of improvisations and backing electronic moans that's quite entrancing.

The Velvet Underground - Singles (1966-69)

The seven singles included in The Velvet Underground Singles 1966–69 comprise the four Velvets singles originally released in the U.S. on the Verve and MGM labels, plus an additional pair of singles that were prepared for release but never made it to the marketplace and a special radio-only promotional single. The singles feature alternate mono versions that differ in significant ways from the songs' better-known stereo album versions. For instance, the band's 1966 debut single "All Tomorrow's Parties" appears here in a special mono edit that amplifies the song's melodic beauty and sonic tension, and a mono mix of their sophomore single "Sunday Morning" emphasizes the song's haunting quality. Meanwhile, the mono single version of "White Light/White Heat" exemplifies the vintage Velvets' stark, distortion-laden fury, while a mono edit of "What Goes On" accentuates that song's inherent pop jangle.

The Velvet Underground Singles 1966–69 also includes two unissued singles, one with a never-released pairing of "White Light/White Heat" backed by "I Heard Her Call My Name," and the other with "Temptation Inside Your Heart" and "Stephanie Says," recorded in the waning days of the band's classic Reed/Cale/Morrison/Tucker lineup and unheard by the public for nearly two decades thereafter. The set's seventh single is a reproduction of a vintage promotional disc, a two-and-a-half minute radio spot promoting the band's eponymous third album and featuring legendary disc jockey Bill "Rosko" Mercer, with excerpts from "I’m Set Free," "What Goes On" and "Beginning to See the Light," as well as a picture sleeve with an un-airbrushed variation on the album's iconic cover art.

Sebadoh - Beauty of The Ride EP (1996)

A new, rougher, nastier recording of a Harmacy banger along with 3 great BBC recordings one of which is their take on Will Oldam's "Riding."

Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Little Lost Blues (1998-2006)

Little Lost Blues by Bonny Billy is the third compilation of singles and rarities by Will Oldham. The previous two were Lost Blues and Other Songs (1997) and Guarapero/Lost Blues 2 (2000). It was offered as a limited edition bonus disc with some copies of The Letting Go LP and CD.

"Little Boy Blue" is a George Jones cover, and "Less of Me" is a Glen Campbell cover.

The Double Happys - Nerves (1992)

The DoubleHappys (sometimes spelt Double Happys) were a short-lived but influential rock band based in Dunedin, New Zealand, and part of the Dunedin Sound music wave of the 1980s. The band was formed initially by former Bored Games members Shayne Carter and Wayne Elsey

after the demise of Elsey's other band The Stones in 1983.

They employed an old and erratic drum machine (christened "Herbie Fuckface"). Herbie proved too erratic and it was not long before the duo opted to recruit former school friend John Collie to provide a more reliable rhythm section. They took part in the Flying Nun "Looney Tour" in February 1984, travelling around the country with various other bands, cutting a single, the "Double B-side" ("The Other's Way" and "Anyone Else Would"), in March.

Early in 1985, the band recorded an EP, Cut it Out and embarked on a short tour in June. Towards the end of the tour the band were travelling south from Auckland by train, and Elsey, in high spirits, climbed out of a carriage. Tragically, the train passed under a bridge, killing Elsey instantly.

The two remaining members of the band decided not to continue with the name, but later formed the nucleus of Straitjacket Fits.

A compilation CD Nerves which features the single, EP, and live tracks, was released in 1992.

White Noise - An Electric Storm (1969)

An Electric Storm is justly renowned among techno boffins as one of the first albums to fuse pop and electronic music before the advent of the Moog synthesizer. But you don't have to be versed in the language of sine waves and oscillators to enjoy this mostly delightful and hugely inventive album. For although the White Noise were almost exclusively composed of virtuoso knob twiddlers and tape splicers moonlighting from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, luckily they were no slouches when it came to penning a decent tune. There's also anarchic humor at play on the manic "Here Come the Fleas," which contains more edits in its two minutes than the whole of Sgt. Pepper's.Yet it's the retro-futurist textures that still grab the ear most. These are sounds that will be familiar to anyone who knows the soundtrack of Forbidden Planet or the early series of Doctor Who, but they had never before been deployed in the service of pop music, nor have they since. And whereas the Moog would supplant all of these primitive, time-consuming techniques of sound generation and manipulation within the year, it also destroyed much of electronic music's spirit of adventure in the process. How could you boldly go where no man had gone before when your sound universe was suddenly overlaid by tram lines and route maps? So although most of the songs that make up the first half of An Electric Storm are pretty much your standard-issue polite British psychedelia (the somewhat embarrassing United States of America-style orgy of "My Game of Loving" aside), the way they're dressed up still sounds innovative decades later. Sometimes songs dissolve into bleeps, whooshes, and gurgles that hurtle between your speakers, but compared to the extended guitar and organ solos that were common currency at the time, they are the very essence of restraint. That said, restraint was put to the sword on the final two tracks, the 12-minute "The Visitations" and the seven-minute "The Black Mass: An Electric Storm in Hell." The former is a decidedly spooky "Leader of the Pack"-style drama with a supernatural twist. The biker, having departed this life, attempts to make one last attempt to cross over and console his grieving beloved, only to fall agonizingly short. If you can suspend your disbelief -- and persuade yourself that the biker's departing spirit doesn't sound like a cappuccino machine -- it's spine-tingling stuff that you won't dare listen to with the lights off. Which is more than can be said for the concluding track, a would-be satanic jam session botched together in a hurry to meet Island's suddenly imposed deadline.

Blossom Toes - We Are Ever So Clean (1967)

Imagine the late-'60s Kinks crossed with a touch of the absurdist British wit of the Bonzo Dog Band, and you have an idea of the droll charm of Blossom Toes' debut album. Songwriters Brian Godding and Jim Cregan were the chief architects of the Toes' whimsical and melodic vision, which conjured images of a sun-drenched Summer of Love, London style. With its references to royal parks, tea time, watchmakers, intrepid balloon makers, "Mrs. Murphy's Budgerigar," and the like, it's a distinctly British brand of whimsy. It has since been revealed that sessionmen performed a lot of these orchestral arrangements, which embellished the band's sparkling harmonies and (semi-buried) guitars. But the cello, brass, flute, and tinkling piano have a delicate beauty that serves as an effective counterpoint. The group sings and plays as though they have wide grins on their faces, and the result is one of the happiest, most underappreciated relics of British psychedelia.

A Handful of Dust - Musica Humana (1994)

Designed as a counterpart to The Philosophick Mercury, with the same overall sense of design and packaging, Musica Humana differs from its counterpart in terms of musical content. Whereas Mercury collected two free-form shows of the band live, Humana compiles what purportedly are the "complete works" of the band from 1990 to 1993. Sources for material include a regular full LP, Concord (originally released on Twisted Village), and a variety of tracks from singles and compilations, including one from the legendary Killing Capitalism With Kindness collection on Turbulence. Russell and Galbraith are the specific stars of the show this time around; Stapleton doesn't appear anywhere on the collection, while the only two guests -- Russell's Dead C bandmate Morley and young son Max -- show up on a single track, the brief "Calling Radio Ethiopia." The Handful of Dust aesthetic runs at full force throughout the various cuts, whether it be the barely-minute-long noise/spoken word collage "The Lonesome Death of Albert Ayler" or the concluding quarter-hour tense semidrones of "A Brief Apology." Russell and Galbraith are credited with everything from vocals and guitar to "toys," and the mad, playful, and sometimes harrowing nature of Dust's work gets more than an adequate airing as a result. "Masonic Inborn" starts off calmly enough, with a squiggly, heavily processed instrument playing the American national anthem while found-sound conversations carry on, only to conclude with a sheet of white noise and dim, muddily recorded pounding. Russell's vocals, as before, seem to consist of readings from the obscure 16th and 17th century texts he enjoys, at least when they appear and are reasonably intelligible. Like Mercury, Humana is packaged as part of an issue of Russell's mock journal Logopandocy, this time containing Russell's sharp "free noise manifesto," "What is Free?," along with an enlightening discussion between Russell and Galbraith and a study of the Jacobean litterateur and nobleman Thomas Urquhart.

The Clean - In-A-Live EP (1989)

An absolutely essential live EP that captures live material from phase 1 of The Clean. If you've only heard the studio albums you've only heard one side of this amazing band.

King Loser - You Cannot Kill That Which Does Not Live (1995) / Caul of The Outlaw (1997)

King Loser defied pigeonholing during their illustrious and colorful career. From surf rock instrumentals to psychedelic rock, the indie band's wildly dynamic sound ran the gamut. Guitarist Chris Heazlewood and keyboardist/bassist Celia Mancini led the New Zealand group, as guitarist Sean O'Reilly and the drummer known only as Tribal Thunder rounded out the quartet. Their albums on Flying Nun Records showcased a dizzying mix of sounds and beats.

Starting with 1995's Sonic Super Free Hi-Fi on Turbulence Records (later re-released by Flying Nun), the band called on New Zealand luminaries like Peter Jefferies to round out their sound. You Cannot Kill What Does Not Live was released in early 1996, and with the help of American college radio, 1997's Caul of the Outlaw found the band new fans who embraced the album's forward-thinking and irregular sound. Both efforts were released on Flying Nun, a label that staunchly supported the band's colorful sound.

Back soon

Sorry for the lack of updates but if you've been following my blogs over the years you know I am prone to taking long sabbaticals. Look for tons of music this weekend.