Friday, January 15, 2010

Michael Fremer Review

I am very happy to continue our feature (look for this every Friday), music reviews that are written by the senior contributing editor of Stereophile magazine- Michael Fremer. It has been a pleasure to speak with Michael and learn more about audio sound and equipment. His DVD, "It's A Vinyl World, After All" is a must have for anybody who loves vinyl. Additionally, make sure to stop by his site,
and bookmark it for further exploration. I certainly want to thank Michael for the exclusive rights to reprint his fantastic material.

The Twilight Hours (new release)
Stereo Night

Twilight Hours TTH LP-01 LP

Produced by: John Munson and Matt Wilson with Jacques Wait
Engineered by: Jacques Wait, others
Mixed by: Ryan Freeland
Mastered by: Richard Dodd

Review by: Michael Fremer

This slab of red vinyl got plopped on the turntable and listened to before the unnoticed press blurb stuffed into the gatefold jacket made returning it from where it came impossible.

“No way these hook-drenched, mid-tempo pop tunes, packed with achingly beautiful melodies, meticulously arranged, played and recorded could be the work of first-timers,” I kept telling myself as one after another unfolded to my surprise and general delight.

That proved to be the case. The Minneapolis based duo of John Munson and Matt Wilson who are The Twilight Hours, have been around for decades, beginning with Trip Shakespeare in the late ‘80s and later, minus Matt, but including his brother Dan, as Semisonic, which scored a number one hit in 1998 with “Closing Time” contained on the platinum album Feeling Strangely Fine. “Closing Time” has been in commercials and even on a Simpson’s episode.

Matt Wilson recorded a solo album, then the duo re-united as The Flops; there was a jazz album minus Matt and now there’s this one due out at the end of January.

Stereo Night? You gotta love the title and believe me, the sound will kill you. These guys are doing what they love, but they’re hitting a bullseye on a target known as the “audiophile market,” with an album that’s so conceptually retro it might just be ahead of its time (one tune refers to “scratches in the groove”).

You’ll hear snippets of familiar pop/rock elements embedded within the smartly conceived arrangements, but will you be able to identify where you heard them? Perhaps when you get to “Goodbye Good Life” and then “Stay With You,” you’ll hear the Colin Blunstone/Odessey and Oracle connection.

If you like that album and don’t find it too icky-sweet you will gobble this one up with gusto, though these guys do occasionally veer too close to Wings territory—and I don’t mean Band on the Run Wings! But hell, if the worst thing one can say about this duo is that it sounds like The Zombies and Wings, how bad can it be?

So if you like The Zombies, The Odds, Big Star and The Left Banke’s “Walk Away Renee;” The Cars, Marshall Crenshaw, Pernice Brothers, Bread, Split Enz, Squeeze (minus that band’s playfulness) Queen’s ballads, soaring harmonies, juicy overdriven Tom Scholz/Brian May-like solo guitar fills and say, Fleetwood Mac’s “Spare Me A Little,” from the Bare Trees album, you’ll definitely dig all ten tunes on this album, even the bordering on treacle “Winter Blue” because it’s so damn well played, arranged and recorded and especially because the next tune, “Queen of Tomorrow” is harder, funnier and catchier— and you’re guaranteed to love the lyrics about a break up caused by the guy screwing with the girl’s stereo and her subsequent rock star success. There’s a pathetic/funny story twist not unlike Fountains of Wayne’s “Hackensack.”

Is there an element of calculation to the oh-so-earnest game plan? Yes. Will you enjoy being manipulated? If the last paragraph entices you, then yes. Even if the opener, “Dreams” strikes you as a bit saccharine, you’ll marvel at the craft and appreciate the placement perfection of the production elements. It’s a pop gem. The next tune injects another great hook but doesn’t hold up quite as well as it mimics The Cars and ends ala “You’re Just What I Needed.”

The laggard tempoed “Alone,” built upon a repeated triad and fitted with a soft kick drum and pedal steel fill may strike you as Shins-mope but once “My Return” gets rolling you’ll drop your reservations and buy into The Twilight Hours.

The lyrics are appropriately introspective, and deal with love, regret, abandonment, vulnerability, fear, nostalgia—the kind of subject matter that breed minor chord, sunset reverie.

The duo gets plenty of backing help, with drums, strings, sax, percussion, pedal steel and the like and with great engineering and mixing. Do a Google search and you can hear and see many of these tunes performed live, but to really hear it in all of its high fidelity glory, get the well-pressed red LP (by GZ in The Czech Republic through San Francisco's Pirates Press).

There’s not a false note struck on this exquisitely crafted, superbly recorded, highly recommended pop gem.

You can buy the vinyl at the group's website:

SOURCE:                 Reprinted By Permission

Music News & Notes

New Brian Jonestown Massacre

The Brian Jonestown Massacre is back and set to release their tenth studio album, Who Killed Sgt. Pepper? on February 23rd. The 13-track album was recorded throughout 2009 in Iceland and Berlin and features Spaceman 3 legend Will Carruthers on bass, vocalist Unnur Andrea Einarsdottir and a variety of international musicians contributing textures not previously heard on a BJM album. It is to be released on bandleader Anton Newcombe’s own label, “a recordings LTD”, distributed though Red Eye.

The album marks the return of guitarist/vocalist Matt Hollywood, an original member/co-founder of the band who helped write some of the BJM’s classic material from their early albums (Strung Out In Heaven, Their Satanic Majesties Second Request, Take It From The Man, Spacegirl & Other Oddities, Give It Back) as well as penning the infamous dig at the Dandy Warhols, “Not If You Were The Last Dandy on Earth”.


Johnny Cash Album to be Released

Another Johnny Cash album from the Rick Rubin-produced American Recordings sessions will be released, reports Pitchfork. Four albums from the sessions were released before the country singer's death, in which he sang covers of Beck, Danzig and the popular Nine Inch Nails cover of "Hurt."

On Feb. 26, the final volume of the series, "American VI: Ain't No Grave," will be released via American/Lost Highway.

The album is yet again produced by Rick Rubin and features covers of Sheryl Crow's "Redemption Day," Tom Paxton's "Can't Help But Wonder Where I'm Bound" and Bob Nolan's "Cool Water," among others. It will also feature a new Cash song titled "I Corinthians: 15:55."

Indie rocker Matt Sweeney of Zwan fame and Smokey Hormel of Beck's band play on the album and Scott Avett, of the Avett Brothers, guests on the title track.

"Johnny said that recording was his main reason for being alive," said Rick Rubin in a statement. "I think it was the only thing that kept him going."


Jay Reatard death treated as murder

Memphis Police are treating the death of garage rocker Jay Reatard as a murder and are calling for anyone with information for the investigation. The 29-year old (real name Jay Lindsay) was found dead at around 3:30am Sunday at his home in Cooper-Young, Tennessee.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crimestoppers at (901) 528-CASH or submit a tip to the website Information leading to an arrest has a $1000 bounty attached to it.

Jay Lee Lindsay Jr was born on May 1, 1980. He signed to Goner Records when he was 15-years old and scored an opening act slot soon after with Rocket From The Crypt. Jay named his first band The Reatards and adopted the surname.

The last album for Jay Reatard was 'Watch Me Fall’ in 2009.


Bobby Charles has died

Singer-songwriter Charles – who penned hits such as 'Walking to New Orleans’ and 'See You Later Alligator’ – passed away at his home in Abbeville, Louisiana, at the age of 71 and while the cause of his death remains unknown, he suffered from diabetes and was in remission from kidney cancer.

His publicist Karen Johnson said: "He is a classic American songwriter. His songs are real American songs."

His long-time friend and music collaborator Dr. John said of Charles:

"We were very close for 40, 50 years. We started writing stuff together in the 70s. He was very easy to work with and a special guy."


Alkaline Trio Addiction Coming Next Month

Alkaline Trio have announced the release of their forthcoming album, This Addiction, on February 23 via Epitaph Records/Heart & Skull.

Recorded and produced by the band with help from longtime cohort Matt Allison at Atlas Studios in Chicago, This Addiction marks Alkaline Trio’s first release on their imprint label Heart & Skull and first with their parent label Epitaph Records. The album also finds the Trio revisiting their punk roots while moving forward creatively.

"This record is a rock record but our punk rock upbringing definitely shines through, more so than our last few records," singer/guitarist Matt Skiba recently told .com. "The vibe is similar to our humble beginnings. It's a step forward but I also think it has glimmers of our past in it."

The album’s title track and first single wastes no time in setting the tone of the album as it rips and roars with Matt Skiba’s exceptional vocals and signature guitar riffs, bassist and co/vocalist Dan Andriano’s thumping low-end and drummer Derek Grant’s steadfast beats. From soon-to-be fan-favorites like the Andriano led rocker “Dine, Dine My Darling” and politically charged anthem “The American Scream” to the sonically mesmerizing rhythm and lyrics of “Dorothy” and the thrilling sing-along “Draculina,” This Addiction showcases Skiba, Andriano and Grant’s abounding gift for songwriting and crafting passionate punk fueled rock that will make fans fall in love with them all over again.

"I think that we wanted to make a punk rock record that we've been describing as 'thinking-man's punk,'" said Skiba. "We wanted to do something that's fun but also interesting and lyrically, something that will be fun for people to read along to and hopefully understand."

The band’s seventh studio album, This Addiction, will be available as a standard CD, a limited Deluxe CD/DVD edition (containing two bonus songs, four acoustic tracks and a full length concert DVD), as well as Gatefold LP vinyl. Epitaph will also have exclusive items signed by the band, rare vinyl and Limited Collector’s bundles - all with a standard digital download or a Deluxe Digital Download.


DANZIG's '777 - I Luciferi' Released On Vinyl

Night Of The Vinyl Dead has released a limited-edition vinyl version of DANZIG's 2002 album, "777 - I Luciferi".

The package contains a 12-page photo book and screenprint by M. Fumi and is limited to 500 hand-numbered copies.


EMI to Reissue Expanded John Lennon Albums

It's has been reported that EMI is planning on reissuing five of John Lennon's albums in expanded editions along with a box set retrospective. No titles or dates have been announced but it is known that the campaign will be based around what would have been his 70th birthday on October 9.

This Date In Music History-January 15


Rock-pioneer Captain Beefheart (real name Don Van Vliet) was born in Glendale, CA in 1941. The owner of a remarkable four-and-one-half octave vocal range, he employed idiosyncratic rhythms, absurdist lyrics and an unholy alliance of free jazz, Delta blues, latter-day classical music and rock & roll to create a singular body of work virtually unrivalled in its daring and fluid creativity. While he never came even remotely close to mainstream success, Beefheart's impact was incalculable, and his fingerprints were all over punk, new wave and post-rock.

Edward Bivens - Manhattans (1942)

1947, Born on this day, Pete Waterman, producer, TV presenter and part of the Stock, Aitken & Waterman team. Booked the first ever tour for The Bay City Rollers, signed Musical Youth and Nik Kershaw, during the 70’s was promotion consultant for John Travolta. Dominated UK pop in the mid-to-late 1980s. as part of S.A.W. the most successful pop writers & producers of all time producing Bananarama, Kylie Minogue, Rick Astley, Jason Donovan. Judge on UK TV’s Pop Stars.

Martha Davis - Motels (1951)

Melvyn Gale - Electric Light Orchestra (1952)

Boris Blank - Yello (1953)

Douglas Elwin Erikson - Garbage (1953)

Peter Trewavas - Marillion (1959)

Adam Jones - Tool (1965)

Lisa Velez - Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam (1967)

They Are Missed:

Gene Krupa, the premier drummer of the big band era, was born in Chicago today in 1909.

Born on this day in 1948, Ronnie Van Zant, vocalist with Lynyrd Skynyrd, he died in a plane crash on October 20th 1977.

Dee Murray, long time bassist for Elton John, died of cancer in 1992. He was 45.

Lyricist Sammy Cahn, responsible for such Oscar-winning songs as "Call Me Irresponsible," "Three Coins in the Fountain" and "All the Way," died in Los Angeles in 1993 (age 79).

In 1994, singer songwriter Harry Nilsson died in his sleep of heart failure after spending the previous day in the recording studio. He recorded "Everybody's Talkin" from the film 'Midnight Cowboy' and wrote hits for Three Dog Night and The Monkees. Had the UK & US #1 single with his version of Badfinger Evans & Ham song "Without You." When John Lennon and Paul McCartney held a press conference in 1968 to announce the formation of Apple Corps, John was asked to name his favorite American artist. He replied, "Nilsson." Paul was then asked to name his favorite American group. He replied, "Nilsson."

In 1996, orchestra leader Les Baxter died in Newport Beach, California, of a heart attack brought on by kidney failure at age 73.

Harmonica player Junior Wells died (born Amos Blakemore) in 1998. Worked with Muddy Waters, Van Morrison, Carlos Santana, Bonnie Raitt and The Rolling Stones.


The Everly Brothers made their debut on British TV in 1958, appearing on The Perry Como Show.

Elvis Presley recorded "Hard Headed Woman" in 1958.

Motown Records signed The Supremes in 1961.

Drummer Charlie Watts joined the Rolling Stones in 1962. The band’s original line-up is now complete.

In 1964, Vee Jay records filed a lawsuit against Capitol and Swan Records over manufacturing and distribution rights to Beatles recordings.

In 1965, Murray the K, a New York deejay known as the "Fifth Beatle" told the "New Musical Express" that "outside of the Beatles, British bands can't carry a show by themselves."

The Who's first single (with Jimmy Page on guitar), "I Can't Explain," was released in Britain in 1965. The record was ignored until the Who appeared on the TV program "Ready, Steady, Go," where Pete Townsend smashed his guitar and Keith Moon overturned his drums. "I Can't Explain" rose to number eight on the British chart, selling 100,000 copies in six weeks.

The Rolling Stones received their third gold record in 1966 for the album "December's Children." It featured the tunes "Get Off My Cloud," "Route 66," "As Tears Go By" and "I'm Free."

In 1967, the Rolling Stones were forced to change the lyrics of "Lets Spend The Night Together" to 'Lets Spend Some Time Together' when appearing on the US TV's The Ed Sullivan Show after the producers objected to the content of the lyrics.

Also in 1967, Donovan appeared at The Royal Albert Hall, London, Paul McCartney and George Harrison both attended the show.

In 1969, George Harrison had a five-hour meeting with John, Paul and Ringo where he made it clear that he was fully prepared to quit The Beatles for good. Harrison wasn’t happy with plans for live performances and the Let It Be film project.

George Harrison released "My Sweet Lord" in 1971.

In 1972, Don McLean's "American Pie" started a four week run at #1 in the US singles chart.

Also in 1972 - Elvis Presley reportedly drew the largest audience for a single TV show to that time when he presented a live, worldwide concert from Honolulu, HI.

In 1973, the Rolling Stones announced they'll put on a benefit concert for the people of Managua, Nicaragua, which had been devestated by an earthquake back on December 23. Nicaragua is the home of Jagger's wife, Bianca.

Brownsville Station, described by leader Cub Koda as "Chuck Berry 1973 filtered through three madmen," earns a gold record in 1974 for their only hit "Smokin' in the Boys' Room."

"Happy Days" premiered on ABC-TV in 1974.

Guitarist Joe Walsh makes his debut with the Eagles in 1976. He’s onboard for the group’s Australia/Japan tour.

The Eagles went to #1 on the US album chart in 1977 with 'Hotel California' the group's third US #1 album.

UK singer Leo Sayer went to #1 on the US singles chart in 1977 with 'You Make Me Feel Like Dancing', it was the first of two US #1's for the singer.

Men At Work started a four week run at No.1 in the US singles chart in 1983 with "Down Under," the Australian act group's second US #1, also a #1 in the UK.

Sean Lennon's remake of his father's "Give Peace A Chance" was released in 1991 to coincide with the United Nation's midnight deadline for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait. The lyrics are updated to reflect concerns of the 1990's.

A lyric sheet to the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," handwritten by George Harrison, goes for $300,000 at an auction in Scottsdale, AZ in 2007. Producer George Martin's score for the version of "Weeps" created for the Beatles' "Love" soundtrack album was also sold. A military tunic worn by John Lennon sells for $350,000 while a set of Beatles suits dating from '64 go for $30,000.