Album Reviews

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Mike Mettler, Mark Smotroff  |  Dec 30, 2023  |  12 comments

Looks like another year has gone by with a seemingly endless release-cycle parade consisting of scores of brand-new LPs from both known artists and untested newcomers alike, along with a myriad of archival vinyl reissues and overstuffed box sets galore — a good number of them presented in the much-preferred AAA form to boot. With the calendar set to turn over to 2024 any day now, that means it’s high time to assess the best of what we’ve heard on wax during the past 12 months. Read on to see AP editor Mike Mettler and chief LP reviewer Mark Smotroff’s respective lists of the top archival and new LP releases of 2023. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Nov 15, 2023  |  1 comments

Our latest Review Explosion Short Cuts serving tackles a trio of fine new LP sets thematically connected by a common love of British rock of the 1960s and ’70s. Included herein are an archival 2LP live set from The Flaming Lips circa 2003, a recent 1LP studio offering from the ever-prolific Guided By Voices, and the first official solo sojourn LP from acclaimed Irish singer/songwriter/producer Thomas Walsh. Read on to glean Mark Smotroff’s take on these wonderful LP sides that are collectively chock full of melody and imagination. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Nov 10, 2023  |  45 comments

In retrospect, Tom Waits’ trajectory from singer/song writer to down-beaten jazz-fueled street person scowling at the piano in the 1970s made perfect sense. But when he came out of the gate in the early 1980s, his transformation was almost as dramatic as David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust reinvention. Five new of-era 180g 1LP reissues from Island/UMe — namely, 1983’s Swordfishtrombones, 1985’s Rain Dogs, 1987’s Franks Wild Years, 1992’s Bone Machine, and 1993’s The Black Rider — all seek to remind us of just how fertile this period was in Waits’ overall canon. Read Mark Smotroff’s Short Cuts combo review to see if any or all of these new wonderful Waits reissues belong in your collection. . .

Mark Smotroff  |  Oct 21, 2023  |  3 comments

Created with direct input from label founder Marshall Chess, VMP’s The Story of Cadet Records almost entirely AAA 180g 8LP super deluxe box set is a welcome addition to the analog fold. The eight albums offered herein — including rare titles from the likes of Muddy Waters, Etta James, and Ramsey Lewis — are a healthy cross-section snapshot of the expansive sounds Cadet was pursuing as the mid-1960s exploded both socially and musically. Read Mark Smotroff’s review to see why The Story of Cadet Records is worth the investment. . .

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 21, 2022  |  6 comments
Jazz historian, Resonance Records Co-President and tireless searcher for unreleased jazz treasures Zev Feldman in 2015 was searching the French Institut National de la audiovisual (INA) archives when he came upon the complete, never before released in their entirety, Albert Ayler’s 1970 ORTF 1970 Fondation Maeght Recordings, recorded by Radio France, using professional recording equipment—a completely different STEREO source for this material than the radio broadcast, parts of which had previously been issued.

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 20, 2022  |  22 comments
For an artist who passed away at a relatively young age (51) Bill Evans left a rich and varied recorded legacy—more music on disc than even the most dedicated Evans fan could possibly consume, yet more rare and often precious gems continue to be discovered and released, particularly by Resonance Records, whose Co-President Zev Feldman is a huge Evans fan.

Willie Luncheonette  |  Jan 08, 2022  |  31 comments
Punk rock is a subgenre of rock and roll with roots in garage rock, but it's generally faster and more aggressive than garage. Punk was a rebellion against the hippie culture's idealism and appearance. The flower children’s righteous idea of making the world a better place was met with the stark reality of the punks' world in disarray. New York, the birthplace of punk, was almost bankrupt in the early 70's and when the Sex Pistols appeared in England, unemployment was severe with well over a million people out of work. Crime and drugs were rampant in NYC; parks were littered with used syringes. England incurred inflation, oil shortages and strikes. So bell bottoms were out, replaced by tight pants and those beautiful long locks were gone, replaced by hair cut short, and even cut off as skinhead culture emerged.

Mark Dawes  |  Dec 31, 2021  |  5 comments
These five excellent vinyl releases from 2021 include a five LP box set and a double LP, so you really get TEN albums for the price of five! If that doesn’t make you want to read on, I give up—come on, I’m killing myself here! You’re driving me out of business! But seriously folks, on the topic of money—I buy all my own records, so please be assured that none of these are promo copies and these recommendations are my personal choices from the crop of 2021.

Michael Fremer  |  Oct 28, 2021  |  40 comments
(photo: Jeremy Neech)
The blank white The Beatles double LP gatefold jacket intended to show the world that the group was finished with busy, production heavy studio creations that relied for completion upon production tricks and gimmickry. Instead, the group wanted to emphasize musicianship and “live play”.

Never mind that the songs sometimes ended up being more individual than group efforts and that squabbling and disagreement led to acrimony as well as long time engineer Geoff Emerick exiting, producer George Martin going on holiday and even Ringo Starr walking out for a few weeks.

Mark Dawes  |  Oct 24, 2021  |  7 comments
DJ Format (aka Matt Ford) is a hiphop DJ and producer from Brighton, England. DJ Shadow (aka Josh Davis) is a hiphop DJ and producer from Sacramento, California. Brighton and Sacramento; not the first urban centers you think of in relation to groundbreaking hiphop production. Format and Shadow, however, are at either end of a 25 year continuum of atmospheric instrumental beats. DJ Shadow’s 1996 debut Endtroducing….. which got a half-speed remastered 25th anniversary edition last month, was composed completely from samples, a methodology shared with DJ Format’s latest LP from 2021 Devil’s Workshop.

Malachi Lui  |  Sep 26, 2021  |  4 comments
(Vinyl Reports is an AnalogPlanet feature aiming to create a definitive guide to vinyl LPs. Here, we talk about sound quality, LP packaging, music, and the overarching vinyl experience.)

Joseph W. Washek  |  Sep 14, 2021  |  5 comments
In December 1965, Sam Charters (1929-2015) went to Chicago to record Blues musicians who were playing in the clubs of the Black neighborhoods on the south and west sides. Charters, a white man, had written "The Country Blues" published in 1959. It was the first book about rural blues and while it contained many factual inaccuracies, it was entertaining romantic storytelling and helped foster the interest of young White folk fans in acoustic Blues. The glaring failing of "The Country Blues" was Charters’ insistence that “real blues” was dead, that Lightnin’ Hopkins was the last living blues singer (!), that postwar electric Blues was diluted, crude, loud, monotonous and that, “The blues have almost been pushed out of the picture and the singers who have survived at all have had to change their style until they sound enough like rock and roll performers to pass with the teenage audience.” Opinionated, though he may have been, Charters remained open minded and observant and within a few years, realized that the music being played in the small bars in the Black neighborhoods of Chicago was an urban, modernized version of the rural southern blues he admired so much and served the same social purpose for its audience. 

Michael Fremer  |  Sep 02, 2021  |  33 comments
Joni Mitchell first came to the attention of some folk music enthusiasts from the three songs heard on Tom Rush’s 1968 release The Circle Game (Elektra 74018). Rush covers “Tin Angel”, “Urge For Going” and of course “The Circle Game.” Rush also covers on the album songs from Jackson Browne and James Taylor before they too became well known.

Joseph W. Washek  |  Mar 18, 2021  |  18 comments
On December 9, 2010 at about 11:30 pm, I was standing in front of Johnny D’s, a now defunct and demolished Somerville, Massachusetts club, alone with Bert Jansch who about an hour earlier had finished an hour plus set. It was cold, in the twenties and sleet was becoming snow. Bert was holding his guitar, uncased, by the neck in his right hand.

Malachi Lui  |  Oct 02, 2020  |  30 comments
(Review Explosion is a recurring AnalogPlanet feature covering recent releases for which we either don’t have sufficient time to fully explore, or that are not worthy of it. Curated by AnalogPlanet contributing editor Malachi Lui, Review Explosion focuses on the previous few months’ new releases.)