Record Time is Paste’s monthly column that takes a glimpse into the wide array of new vinyl releases continues to flood record stores around the world, and all the gear that is part of the ongoing surge in vinyl culture. 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 yet another compilation from some surf pop legends, Brazilian fusion jazz, classics of the British invasion and more.
The Rolling Stones: 7” Singles 1963 – 1966 (ABKCO)
The continued vinyl reissue campaign of the Stones’ recorded work keeps on a-rollin’ with this hefty boxed set. The title gives away the contents: lovely sounding re-pressings of 18 7” singles that Mick, Keef and co. released in the first four years of their band’s existence as mastered by Bob Ludwig and cut by Sean Magee at Abbey Road. Listened to in chronological order, from a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Come On” to the rollicking original “19th Nervous Breakdown,” the collection tracks the Stones’ evolution from able-bodied students of American blues and R&B to masters of psychedelic pop. Joining the thick 7”s are a booklet featuring liner notes and rare pictures, a poster featuring a snapshot of the band looking ragged as all get out on a mid-’60s trip to NYC and an envelope featuring lithographs capturing the group during some TV appearances. For serious Stones collectors, this set affords the chance to listen to these tracks on vinyl without putting more wear and tear on your OG singles, and for newbies, this is a mighty fine way to get many of these records in one boxy chunk.
The Beach Boys: Sounds of Summer: The Very Best of the Beach Boys (Capitol / Brother / UMe)
Take yourself to any record store in America and you’ll find the used racks choked with Beach Boys compilations. They spawn like dandelions every year. Which only makes the decision to take the 2003 compilation Sounds of Summer and expand it into a six-LP boxed set with a laser etching and some lithographs is redolent of the major label excess that could sink the current vinyl renaissance. Worse still is the song selection throughout. Much of this collection is filled with modern mixes of classic Beach Boys cuts, all of which sound slightly off in small and large ways. And by the last few discs in the set, it’s clear that the selectors were straining to fill the space, which would help explain the inclusion of oddball tunes like “Do You Like Worms,” “Pom Pom Play Girl” and “Susie Cincinnati.” If you’re a Beach Boys completist, you have my sympathy as you’re likely going to be the only people ponying up for this set.
Ani DiFranco: Living In Clip (Righteous Babe)
When it was originally released in 1997, Living In Clip was one of the highest peaks in singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco’s craggy career. Stitched together from recordings made on an extended tour that found DiFranco joined by longtime compatriot Andy Stochansky on drums and former Gang of Four bassist Sara Lee, this live album pushed its creator and her independent label Righteous Babe into a new tax bracket and has rightfully been hailed as one of the crucial releases of its decade. To celebrate its 25th birthday, the album has been given its first vinyl pressing, stretching the double CD set out over three LPs and not losing one iota of the emotional power, unflinching honesty and explosive joy of the performances included within.
V/A: Musicasión 4 1/2(Crammed Discs / Sonamos)
As a military dictatorship tightened its grip on the people of Uruguay, a group of artists led by composer Eduardo Mateo and theater director Horacio Buscaglia produced a series of politically-charged performances called Musicasión. In and around those shows, an album was produced in 1971 featuring poetry and spirited folk and psychedelic rock but its release was stifled by the government. Musicasión’s reputation only grew through word-of-mouth by collectors and folks like Juana Molina who fell in love with the album as a child. Molina is, in part, responsible for this celebratory reissue of the album, released on her label Sonamos. It features a remastered version of the original LP and, thrillingly, a second disc of never-before-heard outtakes from the sessions. As with the concurrent Tropicalia movement in Brazil, the music on this collection counters the darkness of Uruguay’s sociopolitical climate with music that is sensual and celebratory.
Doris Troy: Sings Just One Look & Other Memorable Selections (Atlantic / Real Gone Music)
When she arrived as a solo artist in the early ’60s, Doris Troy was something of an anomaly as one of the few Black women who recorded mostly original material that she had a hand in writing. Eight out of the 12 songs on her debut album, 1963’s Sings Just One Look…, were co-writes by Troy. A laudable statistic made even more impressive when you hear how great the songs are — something you can do easily now with this reissue from Real Gone Music. The record fits comfortably into the sound that Atlantic Records had codified at the time: gritty soul tempered just so by a pop sensibility. Meaning Troy’s rendition of standard “Stormy Weather” sits right between hip-snapping originals “Someone Ain’t Right” and “Time.” And, of course, there’s the indelible title track, a knee-buckling ode to love at first sight that still sounds as bright as a sunny day.
The Animals: The Animals / The Animals On Tour / Animalization / Animal Tracks / I Just Wanna Make Love To You EP (ABKCO)
While the Stones did a fine job paying tribute to the American bluesmen that inspired them early on, what they didn’t have was Eric Burdon. The Newcastle-born vocalist possessed an electrifying, growling tenor voice that elevated his band the Animals from mere copycats into a formidable R&B combo. The proof is plain to hear on the four albums the band released in the U.S. between 1964 and 1966, all of which have been recently reissued in glorious mono. Though these records were, in fact, a mish-mash of album cuts and singles, they still possess a deep, steady fire fueled by the quintet’s infectious chemistry and keyboardist Alan Price’s virtuosic solos. An addition treat for Animals fans is a limited reissue of I Just Wanna Make Love To You, a four-song, one-sided EP originally released as a private press introduction to the group back in 1963.
Three Man Army: Two (Reprise / Real Gone Music)
The music of British outfit Three Man Army skirted that wonderful line where blues, prog and heavy rock collided. That locale was befitting a pair of players — guitarist / vocalist Adrian Curtis and his bassist brother Paul Gurvitz — that were members of Gun and later logged time with Ginger Baker in the Baker Gurvitz Army. Joined by the explosive drummer Tony Newman, the brothers went far out and gone as TMA, a short-lived exercise that ended after the release of this, their third album. 1974’s Two is as ambitious as it gets, complete with orchestral accompaniment on “I Can’t Make The Blind See” and “Space Is The Place,” and complicated arrangements that played with time signatures and moods throughout. The album works best when the power trio is in full freakout mode, as on side two opener “Irving,” a breakneck instrumental worthy of inclusion on an ELP album and the extended breakdown on “Today,” which must have had Led Zeppelin blushing with envy.
Tijuana Panthers: Halfway To Eighty (Innovative Leisure)
The sixth album from SoCal trio Tijuana Panthers is a musical sample platter. Likely a reflection of the listening habits of these rockers, the record offers up little servings of psych-pop, garage-punk, moody darkwave, indie and new wave — all of them whipped up with precision and style and spiky humor. The shifting styles is also a result of having three equally strong songwriters in one group. Why bother sticking to one path when there are so many other options available to you? The throughline is an atmosphere that drummer Phil Shaheen said he encouraged Jonny Bell to evoke in his production work. “Just keep it South Bay,” was the direction. Bell clearly got the message as this record draws up images of a smoggy, yet sun-soaked drive from the beach to the desert on a palm tree-lined freeway.
Melvin Van Peebles: Watermelon Man soundtrack (Real Gone Music / Second Disc)
Filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles’ lone studio effort, 1970’s Watermelon Man, was a daring one, telling the story of a white man who wakes up one morning to discover that he’s Black and has to face the racism baked into every aspect of his world. It’s a bitter satire leavened just so by the music that the director wrote for it. The soundtrack, reissued this month by Real Gone Music with Second Disc, is like a grin through gritted teeth with its knock-kneed rewrite of “Heard It Through the Grapevine,” woozy ragtime, blues rambling (featuring some slide guitar allegedly played by Ry Cooder) and the funk of “Love, That’s America,” which boasts a loopy protest sermon by Van Peebles and was adopted by the Occupy Wall Street movement.
OFF!: First Four EPs / OFF! / Wasted Years (Fat Possum)
Just in time for the return of OFF!, the L.A. punk group led by former Circle Jerk Keith Morris and guitarist Dimitri Coats, comes colored vinyl reissues of the band’s first two full-length albums and the LP debut of First Four EPs, formerly released as a 7” boxed set. Every last second of these records is like taking multiple blows from a 2×4 to the skull — bruising, dazing, potentially concussion-inducing. The music flies by in loud, unrelenting fashion, especially on the EPs and their self-titled debut, which are cut at 45 RPM. Morris is in particularly fine form throughout with furious, political lyrics delivered in his signature dyspeptic honk. You bet they’ve all got something against you and they’re going to spell it out at maximum volume and with maximum intensity. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
V/A: Earl’s Closet: The Lost Archive of Earl McGrath, 1970 to 1980 (Light In The Attic)
You might not know who the late Earl McGrath was, but a lot of famous people sure did. His resume is dizzying. He ran a short-lived Atlantic Records offshoot called Clean, was named president of Rolling Stones Records, discovered Hall & Oates and poet / musician Jim Carroll and dabbled in everything from screenwriting to film production and art dealing. His legend loomed large within the cultural elite of Hollywood and New York. And it’s starting to grow beyond those circles with the release of Earl’s Closet, a collection of material plucked from the dozens of reel-to-reel tapes McGrath kept stashed in his apartment. Compiled by journalist Joe Hagan, this wonderfully sequenced double LP includes some familiar names outlaw country legend Terry Allen, Warhol acolyte Ultra Violet and New York Doll David Johansen, as well as lots of folks whose careers never reached those levels of fame / infamy. Early favorites include the Neil Young-inspired duo Cowboy, psych-Americana singer-songwriters Jim Hurt and Paul Potash and the acid-funk track recorded by Norma Jean Bell.
East Coast: East Coast (Encounter / Real Gone Music)
For one glorious year, drummer Bernard Purdie had his own record label. Encounter Records released five albums in 1973 before unceremoniously folding soon thereafter. Shame, too, as Purdie had some excellent taste, as proven by the lone album from East Coast, a soul-funk group led by future Cameo front man Larry Blackmon. The group had a varied repertoire that ranged from jazzy swing to acid rock to pure Southern grease. With original copies going for nearly $200 on Discogs, having this red vinyl reissue to add to the collection feels great. Problem is that this new pressing — at least the copy that came across our desk — is rough. The disc was not cut properly, which makes the music sound like it is running hot and clipping throughout. I’m not quite ready to spring for an OG edition, but I will definitely track down another copy of this repressing and hope that this one is an outlier.
Azymuth: Telecommunication (Milestone / Craft Recordings)
The timing for this reissue couldn’t be better. In 2020, Ali Shaheed Mohammed and Adrian Younge brought this Brazilian trio to the attention of younger listeners via an entry into their Jazz Is Dead series. Now, vinyl collectors have a shot at hearing the group in their heyday with this new pressing of Azymuth’s 1981 album Telecommunication. And what a fine album it is. The Latin-funk of the band’s earlier work gave way to a smoothed out approach that makes ample use of synths, vocoder and a bevy of other electric instruments. It’s era-appropriate goodness that fits comfortably next to the work that Herbie Hancock and Weather Report were getting into around the same time. And Kevin Gray, working from the original analog tapes, has made the album sound as good as ever. He keeps the music’s neon lit sheen while boosting the low end appreciably.
My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult: Sexplosion! (Wax Trax)
Thirty years ago, cult electro-disco act My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult found themselves caught up in the waves stirred up by the rising tide of grunge and alt-rock. It left the Chicago group with an open lane to get their sensuous danceable sound in new ears with a little help from their hip-grinding buzz bin classic “Sex On Wheelz” and their work in films like Cool World and The Crow. Taking listeners back to that halcyon era is this anniversary vinyl reissue of the band’s breakthrough record Sexplosion! pressed on pink vinyl and joined by a second LP that includes three remixes and a previously unheard tune from the album sessions. The mastering work for this re-release leaves a little bit to be desired as the mastering engineers squeezed just over 50 minutes of music onto one disc, resulting in a slightly dampened sound. Perhaps the right move so as to be able to include the bonus material, but it keeps the album’s house, disco and lounge grooves from truly popping.
Kolumbo: Gung Ho (Calico Discos)
I’m consistently charmed that new generations of musicians are drawing inspiration from the sounds of the exotica albums of the ’60s that are mainstays of record store dollar bins and free boxes. The latest iteration of this sound that I’ve heard comes from Kolumbo, a Brooklyn-based artist whose debut album Gung Ho was released last month via the Allah-Las’s boutique label. It is everything I’d ever want from a record of its ilk. Synth, sax, flute and percussion layered together in intricate Latin and funk-inspired patterns with just enough cheese melting on top to show that the man behind this project, Frank LoCrasto, doesn’t take himself or this music completely seriously. It’s not going to push the Enoch Light or Martin Denny albums out of my collection any time soon, but will sit nicely next to them on the shelf and in the crate next time I put together a lounge lizard set for a party or bar hang.