New this week in the Rhino Room at iTunes:
Sister Sledge, The Studio Album Collection: 1975 – 1985: You know them for their hit singles, of course, but beyond “We Are Family,” “He’s the Greatest Dancer,” and the like, Sister Sledge had some solid album tracks as well, and now’s your chance to get into the grooves of all eight of the group’s efforts between ’75 and ’85. To list ‘em off, that means you’ll be getting Circle of Live (1975), Together (1977), We Are Family (1979), Love Somebody Today (1980), All American Girls (1981), The Sisters (1982), Bet Cha Say That to All the Girls (1983), and When the Boys Meet the Girls (1985). That’s a whole lot of dance floor goodness, but it also gives you an idea of how the sound of the Sledge sisters evolved over the course of their greatest commercial successes.
The Rascals are underrated. They had tons of hits, solid album after solid album, and yet they aren’t mentioned in the same breath as The Beatles, The Stones, and other luminaries from the 1960s. The Rascals may not have had the same level of lasting cultural impact, but as far as talent & creativity goes, they are right there with the best of ‘em. Listen to this playlist and tell me I’m wrong.
Last year’s Big Star documentary, Nothing Can Hurt Me, is now streaming over at Netflix…which I’ll use, here, as an excuse to highlight both the group and solo work of Chilton and Bell. If nothing went right for Big Star during their formative years in the early-mid ‘70s (bad distribution, zero management, internal creative strife), in terms of their legacy, it’s all came out golden in the end. As evidenced in the moving, sad and celebratory documentary, the band has touched many diverse lives, personally and professionally.
If there’s a power pop heaven, you know they’ve got a hell of a band.
There’s always been something a bit special about Spandau Ballet: even though they may have had a look and a sound that helped cement them as ‘80s artists, a surprising amount of their music had a timelessness to it that’s helped them remain in the memories of listeners long after many of their peers have faded away…and there’s no point in denying it, because you know this much is true.
After blowing away fans, critics, and casual observers during their SXSW appearance, which was their first American performance in almost three decades, and catching the eye of film festival attendees with their new documentary, Soul Boys of the Western World, more than a few journalists have dared to write the words, “Spandau Ballet is back!” For once, it’s not hyperbole: while the band’s new compilation, The Story - The Very Best of Spandau Ballet, is certainly not their first greatest-hits collection, it has three things that none of its predecessors possessed: “This Is the Love,” “Steal,” and “Soul Boy,” a trio of newly-recorded songs by the band, produced by Trevor Horn, the man who twiddled the knobs for “Instinction” way back when.
If you consider yourself a bass player and you don’t hold Jaco Pastorius in the highest esteem, then we can only presume you’ve never really listened to the man, because he’s one of those guys whose work with the instrument was so unique and groundbreaking that it’s hard to hear it without wanting to drop to your knees and begin recitation of the phrase, “I’m not worthy!”
Since we doubt if you thought for a moment that we’d suddenly started talking about him by coincidence, it probably won’t come as any sort of surprise to you that, yes, we’ve got a brand new anthology which provides both new and old fans with the opportunity to explore Pastorius’s work during his tenure with Warner Brothers Records.
This week’s Mono Monday release is a compilation rather than a studio album, but it’s an important compilation, one which provides a glimpse into the New Orleans sound circa the late 1940s and early 1950s via the early recordings of a gentlemen named Henry Roeland Byrd, known to his friends as Roy and to fans of his music as the one and only Professor Longhair.
Originally released in 1972, New Orleans Piano is a compilation of material recorded by the good Professor between 1949 and 1952, including his take on “Tipitina,” which joined the US National Recording Registry in 2011, but there’s much more in the mix to enjoy, including “Mardi Gras in New Orleans,” “She Walks Right In,” “Walk Your Blues Away,” and a dozen others. In fact, when Rolling Stone compiled its 2003 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, New Orleans Piano was sitting in the #220 spot, which is a remarkably strong showing for an album which was far more influential than it ever was commercially successful.
One of the founding members of Chicago hits the big 7-0 today, but we don’t feel comfortable quoting from “Birthday Boy” because, well, he didn’t write it. (This is the same reason we threw away our planned joke about how, if someone blindsides him with a celebration this evening, we wonder if he’ll break into “Baby, “What a Big Surprise.”) Don’t worry, though; we’re still going to celebrate the day of Robert Lamm’s birth.
Although he was born in Brooklyn in 1944, Robert William Lamm and his family left New York when he was 15 and headed to…what’s this? Chicago, you say? Wow, what are the odds of that? Anyway, between his parents’ record collection and his participation in his church choir, Lamm’s interest in music was such that, while he was at college, he shifted his creative interests from art to music, which he studied at Roosevelt University. Interestingly, Lamm was the only one in Chicago’s lineup who was attending Roosevelt: Terry Kath, Lee Loughnane, James Pankow, Walter Parazaider, and Danny Seraphine were all attending DePaul University when they founded the group then known as The Big Thing.
On October 5, 1993, the band Afghan Whigs, who’d self-released their debut album, 1988’s Big Top Halloween, and then came of age with a pair of albums on Sub Pop Records (1990’s Up in It and 1992’s Congregation), finally made the jump to the big leagues – and a major label – with the release of Gentlemen on Elektra Records. Most bands would’ve used the 20th anniversary of an album as an opportunity to celebrate its legacy, but not Afghan Whigs: they waited a year, hence the October 28 release of Gentlemen at 21, an expanded reissue of Gentlemen which will feature the original album as you remember it on Disc One, along with a second disc filled with demos, B-sides, and live performances.
Greg Dulli, Afghan Whigs’ frontman, kindly agreed to hop on the phone and chat about the original album, although he gave fair warning that his contributions to the reissue were somewhat minimal. “I just nodded, said, ‘Yes,’ ‘Cool,’ or, ‘I wouldn’t do that,’” admitted Dulli, laughing. “That was the extent of my involvement.” Having said that, however, Dulli was quite happy to wrack his brain and reminisce about how they came to Elektra, the process of putting together their major label debut, the opportunity to record in one of the most famous studios in rock ‘n’ roll history, the clause in the band’s contract that could’ve made a filmmaker out of him, and whose contract he copied to get that particular deal.
Rhino: Gentlemen was your debut album for Elektra. What was the band’s path from Sub Pop to the label? Did Elektra pursue the band, or did the band start looking for a major-label deal on their own?