Friday, December 10, 2010

Michael Fremer Album Review

Armed Forces (reissue)

Elvis Costello and the Attractions

Radar/Mobile Fidelity MFSL 1-331 180g LP

Produced by: Nick Lowe

Engineered by: N/A

Mixed by: N/A

Mastered by: Shawn R. Britton at Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs



Costello Sees the World
by Michael Fremer
November 01, 2010

Elvis Costello took a quantum songwriting leap on his third album and with a generous six weeks in the studio following a world tour with new songs written, came up with intricate arrangements and sonically sophisticated production that while complex, was not detrimental to the intense propulsion of the music.

While the incorporation of worldly lyrical allusions seemingly took the singer's preoccupations beyond the “boy beats girl” theme of This Year’s Model there's plenty of that here too.

Though the opener, "Accidents Will Happen" is as sincerely written an anti-promiscuity song as you're likely to hear from anyone and smartly makes the point that the repercussions of the behavior have long lasting residual effects, the song doesn't preach its message. A well-crafted melody and heartfelt bridge help get a point across that should resonate with succeeding generations.

"Senior Service" returns Costello to the bile factory with a vicious corporate politics get even song: "I want your neck/I want the seat that you sit at/I want your cheque/Because they told me I would get on/I wanna chop off your head and watch it roll into the basket/If you should drop dead tonight then they won't have to ask me twice."

The album's hit single in England, "Oliver's Army," references conflicts around the world and hits an anti-war theme Costello would visit later during Margaret Thatcher's Falkland War, while "Big Boys" deals with the snags of love and if you don't know about the guy coughing during the line "She'll be the one-but it's too late for you to" you're not really intimately connected to this album, but you’ll hear it more clearly on this 1/2 speed mastered reissue than on the original.

The side ends with the sympathetic "Party Girl," which covers the same emotional terrain as The Police's "Roxanne" but with less "smarm" and greater true empathy. The song ends with a neat, musical hats off to The Beatles' Abbey Road. It's a genuine, old fashioned side-ender lost on CD.

Though Mobile Fidelity went with the original UK "elephants" cover, it chose the American release's side two track selection that omits the waltz "Sunday's Best," deemed "too British" for American ears. The song later turned up on the Taking Liberties compilation Columbia Records issued in 1970 along with other tracks omitted from earlier Costello albums.

The monumental anthemic single "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace Love and Understanding" (credited to Nick Lowe) omitted from the original UK is here. It's a spectacular song and of course well worth having on the album, but it sounds tacked on and it's not really as good a closer as the cynical “love nest” of “Two Little Hitlers” with its ending refrain “I will return, I will not burn.”

“What’s So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding” was actually issued in the UK before the release of the album and as the "B" side to Nick Lowe's devilishly delightful "(I made an) American Squirm." The only clue to it's being on the flipside is that Lowe is holding a guitar with "Costello" pearl inlaid in the neck. Sly guys.

The recording and production, like the lyrics and melodies are wide open and generous. Pete Thomas's drum kit in particular is captured with an electrifying crack not heard on the also well recorded This Year's Model. Everything about the sound of this album is superior to the last one. The stage is far more spacious, the bass goes deeper and is tighter and the cymbal sound has an addictive chime.

I remember getting my first good moving coil cartridge (a Dynavector Ruby) shortly after getting a UK copy of this album and hearing those cymbal hits as they were meant to be heard. The whole drum kit is superbly recorded as is Steve Nieve's pleasingly florid piano work that here was textures and harmonics not previously heard even on the excellent UK original. If you only know this record from CD, you're in a for shock.

This is the Costello record where Mo-Fi's chain really demonstrates its clarity and purity. After the positive review here of This Year's Model we received a few emails from readers disappointed with the sound of that reissue because they felt it lacked the original's impact. I understand their point. It's true. However, that's because there's far less (if any) compression on the reissue so you do lose some of that pseudo-energy.

In its place though, you get more detail and far more textural information. Just turn the volume up slightly to compensate and you're sure to hear the clarity and precision of the images compared to the bright coarse and overly large ones resulting from the compression found on even the excellent UK original Radar.

Costello’s voice is far more natural-sounding here. The drums have more real texture, the cymbals cleanly rendered shimmer. The small dynamic shifts that bring the production to life, lost by compression, are here to enjoy. In fact, after you feel the need to crank it up higher at first, you’ll end up bringing the level back down to enjoy the album’s real sonic pleasures.

If the first two Costello reissues were mainly for the diehard fans, this one, so well-recorded in the first place, and packed with great tunes and equally fine production, is the first Costello reissue for everyone.

I have all of the CD reissues from Ryko to Rhino and this new 180g version beats them and even the original UK pressing, though that gives this some competition since it was cut from a fresh tape.

Reissuing Armed Forces in high quality 180g all analog vinyl is a public service in my opinion, even though Mobile Fidelity couldn’t possibly go to the time and expense of reproducing the original’s fold-open graphics and post card inserts.

Thanks to Michael over at for the exclusive rights to reprint this material. Stop by for more reviews and features.

Copyright © 2008 & Michael Fremer - All rights reserved Reprinted by Permission

Rock & Roll Trivia

As a special treat for the holidays, I am reprinting a very popular series I call Rock & Roll Trivia. Interesting tidbits about our music and our musicians, this will be posted every day until Christmas. Enjoy:

The song title of the Beatles' "Penny Lane" is derived from the name of a street in the Beatle's hometown of Liverpool. Locally the term "Penny Lane" was the name given to Allerton Road and Smithdown Road and its busy shopping area and is named after James Penny, an 18th century slave trader.

After recording her first record, Oasis records made a spelling mistake on the label and Donna Sommer became Donna Summer for the rest of her career.

Songwriter Jimmy Webb got the inspiration to write The Fifth Dimension's hit "Up, Up and Away" from a hot air balloon that a friend flew on promotions for radio station KMEN.

The Dovells, who scored a number two hit in the U.S. in 1961 with "Bristol Stomp", also appeared as Chubby Checker's backing band on "Let's Twist Again" and accompanied Jean Hillery on the 1968 novelty tune, "Here Comes The Judge".

The Sir Douglas Quintet were playing in a club one night and noticed a couple dancing. Lead singer Doug Sahm said "She's a body mover!", which gave him an idea for a song. Back in those days you couldn't say "body mover" on a record, so he changed the lyrics to "She's About A Mover" and achieved a US Top 20 hit.

The blistering guitar lead in George Harrison's song, "Taxman" is the exact same guitar part heard at the ending fade of the song. It was copied and re-recorded onto the end.

The song "Summertime Blues" was a US Top 40 hit in three different decades - in the fifties by Eddie Cochran (#8), the sixties by Blue Cheer (#14) and the seventies by The Who (#27).

The Mothers Of Invention are believed to have released the first double album with "Freak Out!" in early 1967.

In 1962, Gene Pitney recorded "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" for the movie of the same name, starring John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart. Although the song reached #4 on the Billboard singles chart, it was never included in the film.

When the Beatles made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9th, 1964, producers received over 50,000 applications for the 728 seats in the TV studio.

Alan Gordon, the co-writer of The Turtles' hit "Happy Together" said that he wrote the melody to the song based on an open string pattern used by a bandmate to tune his guitar.

Jerry Lee Lewis' parents mortgaged their house in order to buy him a piano.

Johnny Preston's 1960 number one hit, "Running Bear" was written by J.P. Richardson, The Big Bopper.

The double entendre title of the Bellamy Brother's hit "If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me" was derived from a quote by Groucho Marx.

With some left over studio time on their hands, a group of musicians recorded an instrumental intended to be a throw-a-way album track. The song ended up on the flip side of a single release called "Train To Nowhere", which was virtually ignored by US radio stations. Finally, someone flipped the disc over and discovered "Tequila", which went to number one on both the Pop and R&B charts for The Champs.

Kenny Loggins joined The Electric Prunes during their final tour in 1969, two years after the band had scored a hit with "I Had Too Much Too Dream". When the tour was over, the band split up for good and Loggins went on to team up with Jim Messina in 1971 and later had several solo hits.

The distinct horse logo that appeared on most of Poco's albums was designed by Saturday Night Live star, Phil Hartman.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote "I Want To Hold Your Hand" in the basement of Jane Asher's house. She was Paul's girlfriend, to whom he would later become engaged to, but never married.

One day while out riding with her dad, Stella McCartney stopped to stare at him. It had just come to her at that moment. She said, "You're Paul McCartney."

While the title of the song is often shown with a comma ("Louie, Louie"), writer Richard Berry told Esquire magazine in 1988 that the correct title of the song was "Louie Louie", with no comma.

When The Supremes' Mary Wilson was contacted for an interview by the television show Romance of The Rich and Famous, she moved some of her personal belongings into a freinds' mansion and let on it was hers, instead of revealing her true residence, a tiny, two bedroom bungalow in Studio City, California.

Little Richard's recording career had just gotten off the ground when his father was murdered in the winter of 1952. To support his family, Richard took a job washing dishes at a Greyhound bus station in Macon, Georgia.

Reginald Kenneth Dwight changed his stage name to Elton John, taking his first name from Bluesology saxophonist Elton Dean and his last from bluesman, Long John Baldry.

When Decca Records first released "Rock Around The Clock" by Bill Haley And His Comets in the Spring of 1954, most people had never heard of Rock And Roll and the company had a hard time describing the song. The label on the single called it a "Novelty Foxtrot."

Vinyl Record Store Thrives

It's great to read that there are some vinyl record stores doing well.  Check out this interesting piece:

Upper West Side music store thrives as others close shop

As music sales plummet, Westsider Records’ business booms thanks to an increasing interest in LPs.

By Crystal Lewis

“Business has been good to excellent.”

In a harsh economic climate, these words are surprising to hear. But even more shocking is that these words were spoken by an employee of local music shop Westsider Books and Records.

From the closure of Union Square’s Virgin Megastore last June to the legendary New York hip-hop store Fat Beats shutting its doors in September, music retailers are slowly disappearing. It’s a crushing blow to a city that is known as the birthplace of hip-hop and home to Broadway.

In general, the music industry has been on the decline. Throughout the first half of this year, CD sales have decreased 18 percent, according to a report from Neilsen SoundScan. Globally, music revenues have fallen by more than 7 percent.

So why is Westsider Books and Records’ business flourishing? Vinyl.

Read the rest of this interesting article  Here

Vinyl Record News & Notes

Beady Eye Reveal Tracklisting & Cover Art

Beady Eye have just revealed the details for their debut album which will be called 'Different Gear, Still Speeding.' fronted by Oasis alum Liam Gallagher, the group will release the album on February 28, 2011 via Beady Eye Records.

1.'Four Letter Word'
2. 'Millionaire'
3. 'The Roller'
4. 'Beatles and Stones'
5. 'Wind Up Dream'
6. 'Bring the Light'
7. 'For Anyone'
8. 'Kill for a Dream'
9. 'Standing on the Edge of the Noise'
10. 'Wigwam'
11. 'Three Ring Circus'
12. 'The Beat Goes on'
13. 'The Morning


Avril Lavigne New Album, 'Goodbye Lullaby,' Coming In March 2011

Two years in the making, singer-songwriter Avril Lavigne's fourth studio album, 'Goodbye Lullaby,' is set to be released by RCA Records on March 8, 2011. Lavigne will also debut the first single "What the Hell" on New Year's Eve during "Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve."

Lavigne worked with longtime collaborators Deryck Whibley, Evan Taubenfeld and Butch Walker, as well as songwriter/producer Max Martin. She continues to share her personal experiences through her writing and music, and 'Goodbye Lullaby' is a further evolution of this, propelled by a more raw and organic sound.


Pixies New Vinyl Release

Pixies are set to bring their compilation 'Wave Of Mutilation' to vinyl, with a new re-issue set for release on January 17.

A truly seminal group, the band barely made an impact on the mainstream in their initial incarnation. But, after their untimely split, the band enjoyed a curious second life, almost becoming cult heroes. For many fans, 'Wave Of Mutilation' was an entrance point for the world of Pixies. Initially released in 2004 the compilation has proved to have an enduring popularity, mixing classic tracks with rarities.

Focussing on their glorious early era, 'Wave Of Mutilation' also finds time to represent a few tracks from their unjustly ignored later incarnation. Only ever available on CD and as a download, the album will now receive a vinyl pressing, being made available as a double LP set (the first European pressing will be available on special edition orange vinyl). Released in a gatefold sleeve, the album will be available on black vinyl for American fans.


Side One
'Bone Machine'
'Nimrod's Son'
'The Holiday Song'
'Broken Face'

Side Two
'Monkey gone To Heaven'
'Gouge Away'
'Wave Of Mutilation'

Side Three
'Here Comes Your Man'
'Where Is My Mind?'
'Into The White'

Side Four
'Dig For Fire'
'Alec Eiffel'
'Planet Of Sound'


Cheap Trick Announces Dream Police Shows In Milwaukee

It's been more than thirty years since the release of the internationally acclaimed album 'Dream Police,' and now Cheap Trick will be staging a multi-date show that features songs from the platinum record. The Rhythmic Noise Philharmonic Orchestra & Mind Choir will perform alongside these and other hits from Cheap Trick's extensive catalog. The run kicks off January 20th, 2011 and includes 12 dates through February 26th.

The shows are set to take place at Milwaukee's Northern Lights Theater at Potawatomi Bingo Casino, less than two hours away from Chicago. Retaining its intimate, up-close-and-personal atmosphere, the 500-seat theater ensures that there is not a bad seat in the house.

"Dream Police was the first record where we felt the songs were well -suited for orchestration; that was a very expansive time for us musically," says bassist Tom Petersson.

"Since then, we've been fortunate to work with several world-class orchestras - live and in the studio," adds lead vocalist Robin Zander, "and after 36 years together, our band is thrilled to have an opportunity to present our songs - both new and old - with an orchestra and a unique state-of-the-art production."

Hmmm, right in my neck of the woods, would like to make one of the shows.

Cheap Trick were formed in the city of Rockford, IL in 1974 and have sold over 20 million albums and singles including "Surrender," "I Want You to Want Me" and "The Flame."

Show Dates: Jan 20, 21, 28, 29 & Feb 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19, 25 & 26
Tickets go on sale Friday, December 10th.
Prices: $85, $75, and $65
Theater Box Office: (414) 847-7922


Metal Club Line Up Black Sabbath

Heavy metal vets Black Sabbath have joined a new club, Metal Club that is, to release 'Black Sabbath: Live at Hammersmith Odeon,' a 3-LP 180 gram vinyl with a triple gatefold packaging which will be released on January 1, 2011. This release will be limited to 3,000 numbered copies and is a Metal Club exclusive.

Available for the first time on limited-edition numbered vinyl, the concert spotlights Black Sabbath as they storm through 14 of the Dio-era's best including, "Neon Knights," "Heaven And Hell," "Children Of The Sea" and "Country Girl." The band also performs several pre-Dio classics including, "Paranoid," "Children Of The Grave" and a white-hot version of "War Pigs." 'Black Sabbath: Live At Hammersmith Odeon' features Ronnie James Dio, Tommy Iommi, Terry "Geezer" Butler and Vinny Appice.


Peter Bjorn And John Set To Release New Full-Length Studio Album

Peter Bjorn And John are scheduled to release a new full-length studio album which is due out on March 29th via StarTime International. For their sixth album the band chose to work with a producer for the first time ever enlisting the skills of Per Sunding at Tambourine Studios in Malmö. For a band that has always produced their own albums, this is a big move and when asked about the choice in a recent interview with John Eriksson said, "We needed someone who can make us play differently, someone to remember to back up the hard drive [laughs]."

In the nearly two years since the band's last album, Peter Bjorn And John have kept very busy. Bjorn Yttling produced the new and wildly popular Lykke Li record - "Wounded Rhymes," Peter Morén released his second solo album and his debut Swedish language album - "I Spåren av Tåren," and John Eriksson released a new album - "Favorite Flavor" - with his disco-kraut band Holiday for Strings as well as three EPS with his solo project Hortlax Cobra. In addition, in January 2010 the entire band participated in an auction to help Haiti by submitting the bongos used on the recording of "Young Folks" along with Peter's jacket that he wore when they performed with Depeche Mode at MSG in the summer of 2009.


MANOWAR: Autographed Copies Of 'Battle Hymns 2011' Vinyl Picture Disc Available

The vinyl picture disc, limited-edition version of "Battle Hymns 2011", the "reinterpretation" of MANOWAR's debut album, 1982's "Battle Hymns", can be personalized with your name and autographed by the band. Available for the hefty price of $199.95, it includes a numbered certificate of authenticity. According to a posting on MANOWAR's official webstore, The Kingdom Of Steel, if you pre-order now, you will also get the digital download immediately "for free," with a 16-page PDF booklet.

If you do not wish to spend $200 on the "autographed" version of the picture disc, the standard edition can be yours for "only" $49.95. This item can also be pre-ordered  and includes the immediate "free" digital download as well as the 16-page PDF booklet. Shipping on both items is expected to begin around December 20.


GRAPEFRUIT RECORDS – Simon Joyner Launches Vinyl-Only Subscription Label

Veteran of the Omaha music scene, Simon Joyner, has recently launched a subscription-based record label called "Grapefruit Records" that will release four select albums a year exclusively on vinyl. His idea had roots back in the early to mid-90s when he ran a small, indie label, Sing, Eunuch!, which put out mostly Omaha music and vinyls of Joyner’s own albums. The label also released some of Conor Oberst’s (Bright Eyes) early cassettes.

Joyner recalled the experience of running a small label as a catch-22. “The distributors, with very few exceptions, refused to pay us for the albums they sold until we had a new release they were interested in carrying,” he said. “We never had enough money coming in to pay for the manufacturing on the releases we needed to put out in order to get the distributors to pay us for the previous releases.” Eventually Joyner stopped the label out of frustration, but kept some ideas about a better way of doing things: “I told myself that if there were away to run a label without involving distributors, returns, unsold product, I’d do it again, but only under those conditions.”

The idea came bubbling up again, last summer, when Joyner was on an east coast tour staying in Brooklyn with his friend Ben Goldberg, who runs Ba-Da-Bing Records. The two started working on the new label soon after.

Read the rest of the article Here