Record Time is Paste’s monthly column that takes a glimpse into the wide array of new vinyl releases that are currently flooding record stores around the world. Rather than run down every fresh bit of wax in the marketplace, we’ll home in on special editions, reissues and unusual titles that come across our desk with an interest in discussing both the music and how it is pressed and presented. This month, that includes the final two albums from a classic rock mainstay, the latest from a longstanding goth metal act and a deluxe reissue of a NWOBHM blueprint.
Craft Recordings rounds out their reissues of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s studio albums with new pressings of the group’s final recordings together. The two LPs are the product of an acrimonious time within the band, which saw founding guitarist Tom Fogerty quit and the whole operation coming to an end soon after. These releases also represent CCR at their best and worst. Pendulum is a smoker with John Fogerty continuing to refine his swamp boogie rock with some deep injections of soul and R&B and a career making highlight with the hit single “Have You Ever Seen The Rain.” Mardi Gras is a hodgepodge in comparison. To keep moving forward, the group decided that they should write their own individual songs and take the lead role in the recording. Bless Stu Cook and Doug Clifford, but they never had the singing voice or songwriting acumen of John Fogerty. Their work here just falls flat. Not that their bandmate was doing them any favors. With the exception of the heartfelt “Someday Never Comes,” the rest of Fogerty’s songs on Mardi Gras seem half-baked and his performances disinterested. Regardless, the pressings for both reissues are given a careful and bright overhaul under the watchful ears of Miles Showell. CCR sounds great even as it’s falling apart.
Chico Mann, or Marcos Garcia as he’s known to his family, may be familiar to you for his work within the free-ranging Afrobeat group Antibalas or his collaboration with producer Captain Planet. But on his own, this multi-talented musician happily follows his own muse and, on his latest solo effort, released late last year on Ubiquity, he’s in psych-funk mode. The Latin and African flavors are still present, filtered through the fuzz of his guitar and the fearsome backbeat set by his brother, drummer Geoff Mann (aka Jeff-Michael) and bassist John Paul Maramba. These are the slinky, nasty sounds that should be the soundtrack to a Blaxploitation remake or playing in heavy rotation over the speakers at every underground L.A. speakeasy.
Last year, Matador Records started dipping into their past, reissuing precious moments from their back catalog as part of a series they’ve charmingly dubbed “Revisionist History.” While that has included guaranteed best sellers by acts like Yo La Tengo and Pavement, the recent entries in this run come from more curious corners. That includes the 2000 solo debut full-length by former Helium leader Mary Timony. The songs were, as the artist put it in the essay included with this release, “the sonic equivalent of diary entries” as she pulled herself out of deep depression. Working slowly and deliberately with friend Christina Files in a warehouse outside Boston, Timony continued to write pop music on her own terms, letting the rough edges and strange shapes she was creating with her prog-like time signatures and spindly guitar tones. This anniversary edition adds on three demos and a newly recorded version of the aching “Valley of One Thousand Perfumes” that applies strings and a mood akin to the Pretty Things’ more freaked out moments.
North Carolina singer-songwriter Michael Flynn has clearly done his homework. His third solo effort bears the marks of someone who has done a lot of deep listening to the pop canon—Nilsson, the Beach Boys, Sufjan Stevens, Neutral Milk Hotel—picking it all apart and seeing what fits best with his airy tenor and his skills as a composer and arranger. There’s a tinge to this record that feels like Flynn is dangling this material as catnip for music supervisors (his bio speaks to his songs being placed in “Shameless” and used to sell cars). But is that a bug or a feature? Shouldn’t we want a talent like this to get paid properly for his talents and be able to keep making incisive and well-honed records like this? Whatever your feelings on matters like that shouldn’t take away from Flynn’s achievements on this utterly delightful album. This is music to sink into and get nice and comfortable with.
Another entry into Matador’s Revisionist History series is this oft overlooked album by New Zealand noise rockers Bailter Space. By this point, the then-trio had cleared away some of the leaves and sticks that were smothering some of their work. The fuzzy, overdriven guitar work was still prevalent, but they were letting in much more clean air and small pockets of sunshine. All of the band’s voluminous skills are in play with the dream pop gush of “Splat” gently lighting the path that the lumbering “At Five We Drive” and “Zapped” tramp all over; the deliberately cockeyed “Voltage” fidgeting between the steady drive of “D Thing” and “Glimmer.” What this re-release is missing is some liner notes to set the band, and this album, in the right historical context—and to make the case for why fans of the War on Drugs and David Nance should snap this up immediately.
Let me give a quick shout to Napalm Records for knowing how to best package their new vinyl for shipping—tucking the vinyl in the middle of the gatefold rather than in their designated pockets. All to protect the sturdy and gorgeously designed sleeves from seam splits. Would that more labels and manufacturers took that level of care. Moonspell fans will certainly appreciate it. The new album from the gothic metal band has been hotly anticipated for four years now, and for good reason. Even after nearly three decades, the Portuguese group still has some tricks up their collective sleeves. Hermitage throbs and glistens like a pool of lava bathed in the glow of synth melodies and longstanding vocalist Fernando Ribiero’s David Sylvian-like croon. Vinyl collectors also get the added treat: a pitch perfect cover of Candlemass’ “Darkness In Paradise” that slots in perfectly with the creeping dread and desperate lyrics of Moonspell’s originals on the rest of the album.
By the time Black Sabbath settled into L.A.’s Record Plant Studio to record their fourth full-length, the Birmingham rockers had been burning the candle at both ends, with an added flame melting the middle for good measure. They knocked out three albums and multiple tours over a short two years. Little wonder that one of the only acknowledgments on the cover of the original 1972 release of Vol 4 is a thank you to “the great COKE-Cola Company of Los Angeles.” Giving themselves ample time to record album #4 resulted in an ambitious collection that included a heartfelt ballad (“Changes”), a tossed off experimental track and the downright lush “Laguna Sunrise,” which sets Tony Iommi’s acoustic guitar against a backdrop of strings. Vol 4 also features some of the group’s heaviest work with the steaming “Supernaut” and the sludgy “Snowblind.” This luxe reissue only deepens the story with a sensational remaster of the original album sitting alongside two LPs worth of alternate mixes and studio outtakes that were mixed and mastered by Steven Wilson. The jewel of this set is a live album recorded at various stops on the band’s sold out tour of the U.K. in 1973—a period that was arguably Sabbath’s best as a touring entity. As it should be, the quartet breathe fire into their material with longer, expressive solos and showcases for the instrumentalists to take spotlight turns. Taken in one heaping spoonful, this set is a stunner.