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New Music Friday: Our Top 8 Albums for June 11th

New music this week from The Raybeats, Michael Legrand, Frank Foster, King Ropes and more courtesy of the Vinyl District.

The Vinyl District


Ìxtahuele, Eden Ahbez’s Dharmaland

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(Subliminal Sounds)

Eden Ahbez remains best known for writing “Nature Boy,” which was a smash hit in 1948 for Nat King Cole, though in connection with that achievement Ahbez was noted for a proto-hippie lifestyle that included mysticism, health foods and extended living outdoors (you know, in nature). The Swedish exotica band Ìxtahuele (amongst its members is Mattias Uneback, whose highly enjoyable Voyage Beneath the Sea came out last year, also on Subliminal Sounds) has undertaken the recording of Ahbez’s late compositions, which were located in the Library of Congress by this album’s coproducer (and liner scribe) Brian Chidester. The results are deftly played and with obvious love and respect for the material. Fans of Martin Denny will surely be pleased, but a song like “Dharma Man,” sung by King Kukulele, gives a lighthearted (some might say novelty) spin to the clear influence of Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums, and delivers a tune that would’ve fit very nicely on Rhino’s The Beat Generation boxset. Like, cool, daddy-o. A-     


V/A, Chicago/The Blues/Today! (Craft)

Recorded for the Vanguard label in 1965 at the behest of Sam Charters, the three LPs in this collection were initially released as separate volumes. They were first reissued together in 1999, and now here they are again for RSD in a triple gatefold sleeve with two sets of notes by Charters and some words from critic Ed Ward (RIP). Issuing them together makes for a more expensive package, but that’s really beside the point, as anybody with an interest will want all three. Bluntly, this material from nine Windy City blues bands is indispensable from side one to side six. The artists tapped are Junior Wells, J.B. Hutto, Otis Spann, James Cotton, Otis Rush, Homesick James, Johnny Young, Johnny Shines and Big Walter Horton with Charlie Musselwhite. Of course, guitars, mouth harps and pianos are well represented, but Young’s mandolin adds some unexpected breadth. Along with a handful of LPs put out on Delmark by Bob Koester (RIP), this set exemplifies the sound of the Chicago blues in the 1960s. It still delivers an astonishing kick. A 

Michel Legrand, La Piscine OST + “Un Homme Est Mort” (WEWANTSOUNDS)

Legrand, who passed in 2019, remains one of the greatest of film composers, and one of the best at utilizing the legit essence of jazz. The list of his exceptional scores is long, so instead I’ll mention that this is one of his less celebrated OSTs, at least in the USA, where the 1969 psychological thriller directed by Jacques Deray doesn’t have much of a reputation, at least not until very recently, with its 2021 restoration and theatrical rerelease, 4K Blu-ray from Criterion, and the LP at hand (the bonus RSD-only 45 offers two cuts from a 1972 Deray film scored by Legrand). Starring the smoking hot bods of Alain Delon and Romy Schneider, a soundtrack positively brimming with chicness was required, but Legrand delivers more, grabbing violinist Stephane Grappelli, calling on his vocalist sister Christiane Legrand (a member of the Swingle Singers), and even getting Delaney Bramlett to sing on one of the album’s two pop-rock numbers (but it’s the other one, “Ask Yourself Why,” sung in English by Sally Stevens, that’s the gem). The 45 is a total smoker. A        

The Raybeats, The Lost Philip Glass Sessions (Ramp Local)

NYC’s The Raybeats featured George Scott, Don Christensen and Jody Harris, all fresh from the Contortions, and also included Pat Irwin, who played with Scott in 8-Eyed Spy (Lydia Lunch’s band after Teenage Jesus and the Jerks), so the No Wave connection is sturdy. But if you’re expecting pure abrasiveness and alienation, please understand that The Raybeats were tagged at the time as a neo-surf group. One could also call them a party rock combo, a description that points ahead to Irwin’s later work with the B-52’s. Also, Danny Amis, who replaced Scott after his death by overdose, went on to play in Los Straightjackets. Of the seven tracks here, Amis plays bass on a cover of Link Wray’s “Jack the Ripper” and guitar on “A Sad Little Caper.” Those and two more cuts, “Pack of Camels” and “Black Beach,” were produced by Philip Glass, who also played keyboards (and released it all in 2013 on his Orange Mountain Music label, though this is its first time on vinyl). A few of these moves are showing their age, but overall, this hangs together quite well. A- 

Jenny Don’t and the Spurs, Fire on the Ridge

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(Fluff & Gravy)

Sporting a cover that reminds me just a bit of Satan Is Real by the Louvin Brothers (it’s the abundant flames), this LP’s contents quickly put me in the mind of Bloodshot Records, which is a compliment, though as this four-piece (which began as a duo early last decade) reside on Portland, OR, they’ve sensibly hooked up with hometown label Fluff & Gravy for what appears to be their third full-length (not counting a 2013 demo CD and a 2017 live cassette). Taking a gander at Jenny Don’t (that’s her on the sleeve) should clue folks in that she and the Spurs specialize in twang, but what’s not as immediately obvious is how a fair amount of the material is idling at the crossroads of surf and C&W: surfabilly, perhaps. Another strength is songs with an underlying pop structure (as in pop classique), plus Jenny D’s vocal prowess, which allows her to enhance the stylistic angle without the strain of affectation. At times, the short album insinuates a merger of Neko Case and Wayne Hancock, and that mighty alright by me. B+

Frank Foster, The Loud Minority (WEWANTSOUNDS)

Saxophonist Foster recorded a whole hell of a lot, but succinct descriptions of his career (he passed in 2011) will focus on his playing in (and in the 1980s, leading of) the Count Basie Orchestra, along with a handful of records he cut for Prestige that found him cruising in the soul-jazz lane. But this set, cut in 1972 for Bob Shad’s Mainstream label, deserves a much higher profile, as it’s musically adventurous, socially engaged and features a 15-piece band loaded with heavyweights including Elvin Jones, Stanley Clarke, Cecil and Dee Dee Bridgewater, Jan Hammer, Airto Moreira, Harold Mabern and Hannibal Marvin Peterson. At the start, the music seems to be heading for the zone between Strata-East and Archie Shepp’s Blasé, but the gist of the album, which features four tracks (two a side) is in progressive large band mode with a penchant for funky grooving. That Foster wanted to cut a politically engaged LP in 1972 isn’t shocking, but that he made one this good is a bit of a surprise. The band can really cook, and with cerebral underpinnings. I just wish it got a little crazier. B+     

King Ropes, Way Out West (Big and Just Little)

King Ropes frontman Dave Hollier spent time in Brooklyn and Los Angeles prior to moving back to his native Montana in 2017, after which he got this band together, with Way Out West their fourth album. While the title pertains to geography, after listening to this set’s ten selections it might relate just as much (or even more, maybe) to the off-kilter nature of their sound (like, way out, dig?). King Ropes is often bent (but not broken) as they blend indie rock with an introspective streak (meaning this more frequently exudes singer-songwriter vibes than raggedy bashing) plus strains of Americana (possessing a Northwestern angle) and flashes of sophistication that reinforce the time spent in those big cities (this shines brightest in the almost Hoboken poppish “Needles”). When the focus shifts to vocals and piano with waves of amp burn, as in “A Loser and a Jerk,” I was reminded of Nick Cave, but just a little. Elsewhere, the songs inspired thoughts of Pavement, Doug Martsch, Nick Lowe and the Velvets. Overall, this is more than an okay time. B+    

Tales of Terror, S/T (Call of the Void)

Sacramento’s Tales of Terror existed in the 1980s for around four years and cut one album, this one, originally for the CD Presents label. It is a legendary record, and it’s a pretty great one as the band had a legit LP’s worth of quality (and nicely fucked-up) material. It also helps that there’s just this one record, plus a handful of compilation tracks (not included on this reissue), by which I mean that they didn’t go out with the stench of crumminess. Due to the adulation of Kurt Cobain, Mark Arm and the Melvins, Tales of Terror are often spoken of in association with Grunge, which is totally fair as they were clearly influential on that scene, but it’s really more appropriate to describe them as post-Dead Boys and Detroit punk (they cover “Search and Destroy”) with hardcore intensity, as they inhabited the stranger side of the ’80s skate punk spectrum (heard on a Thrasher comp and also contributing “Skate or Bate” to Rat Music for Rat People Vol. 2). Budding punk enthusiasts into The Germs and Flipper should definitely investigate this RSD limited edition. A-

Check out The Vinyl District for more music reviews and try out their free GPS-based Record Store Locator App for iPhone & Android!

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