Must-Hear Vinyl Reissues for June 2014
Summer is one of our favorite times to dig through the crates. There are some great vinyl reissues this month. These are our favorites, including some punk, gypsy folk and Nigerian rock 'n' roll. It's a grab bag, sure, but it's all worth hearing.
The Numero Group specializes in releases that unfold entire stories, and 'Separate Oceans' is as good as any of them. Ned Doheny was the Los Angeles-based scion of an oil empire and Zelig of the '70s soft-rock scene, collaborating with the likes of Jackson Browne, Chaka Khan, Cass Elliot and the Eagles during his decade-long career. His own music -- released over the course of three albums, which Numero abbreviates here, with the addition of nine somewhat-revealing demo cuts -- bears influence of all of the above. Stylistically, one could draw a line between the driving music -- the guitar -and piano-driven Browne influence on Doheny’s 1973 self-titled debut -- and the bumpy bass and layered horns of his other two albums, 1976's 'Hard Candy' and 'Prone,' from 1978. The swimming-pool music, which dominates the first of the two LPs in this set, is actually the more satisfying listen – just in time for long summer days with the windows open. Doheny never made it big thanks in equal parts to record-company fumbling and his own lack of drive. But his radio-ready soft rock fits right in with Hall & Oates and Phil Collins on a weekend beach mixtape.
Thankfully, this package comes with plenty of liner notes, because the context around Gipsy Rhumba is a many-layered thing. Its immediate roots lay in the neighborhoods of Barcelona and the people called “gypsies,” ostracized from Spanish culture and free to develop their own style of music. They call it “roundtrip music" – based on the Spanish language music of the Caribbean, but without the orchestra-sized horn and percussion sections. Instead, they improvise an organic rhythmic style, consisting of tempos beat out on the side of a Spanish guitar by the palm of the strumming hand and virtuosically arranged handclap rhythms, sometimes in overwhelming tandem. Around that core bounce cheerful guitar and piano, and quavering folk vocals, reverberating loudly from a Catalonian mountaintop.
There’s a clear challenge untaken by hardcore punk trailblazers Big Boys on 'No Matter How Long … ': Can one band capture every disparate element of '80s skater music in one cohesive record? This record spans hardcore – the barroom shouts of 'No Love' and the mosh-pit glee of 'Listen' – as well as off-the-deep-end “funkcore” of 'What’s the Word,' and even the nascent sounds of record scratching on 'Common Beat.' In the process, they create a template for late-'80s MTV stars like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Faith No More. As a monument to punk music of the '80s, and the varied sounds that might stream through a stoned kid’s headphones in 1985, it’s an awesome release.
The Black Hippies were one among the several rock bands formed in Nigeria in the mid-'70s amid an oil and tourism boom, performing for foreign visitors and picking up the rock and funk sounds carried over from the other side of the Atlantic and melding them with the more traditional "highlife" sound. Led by a singer named Pazy, the Hippies put out this rhythmic cannon blast in 1977, just as Nigerian rock started to go on the wane. There are only five songs, but each one is funky and furious, a cyclone of wah-wah guitar, busy drums and over-driven electric organ. With rock less commercially viable in Nigeria in the late '70s, the Black Hippies turned to reggae, leaving this rare release to gather dust.
Rudimentary Peni were a peculiar hardcore punk act from London, mostly active in the early '80s. In 1983, they released this long player, their first and perhaps best statement as a group. There aren’t any widely circulated photos of the band, and it never played more than a couple dozen shows during its entire existence. Instead, their albums were adorned by impossibly detailed pen-and-ink cover art by singer Nick Blinko. Their music inhabits this nasty world of flesh tombstones and marching crucifixes, delivered in bursts of songs no longer than a minute each, whipping like the winds of hell. They wouldn’t be punks if they didn’t have a chip on their shoulders. So through 32 minutes of single-take scorch, they take on married people, Johnny Rotten and Joe Strummer, poppies, the depressed, meat eaters, colonizers and (of course) Jesus. Punks who revel in brutal speed and coffin-lid imagery are gonna dig this one.