Thursday, December 30, 2010

Several Species OF Small Furry Thoughts - 2010

I’d like to say this year was somehow different from the other previous 21 years here at Twist and Shout, but honestly, it still feels about like it did in the beginning. Things have definitely changed but the basic feeling of being in a record store, turning people on to music, and validating their identities is still pretty much the same.

The changes seem like they are going on around, or in spite of us. More and more people download music. Unbelievably there has been a massive shift in the way our world consumes music. In the blink of an eye, entire generations of people have turned their backs on the advances made in sound replication in favor of storage ease. (Wow, Steve Jobs paid attention when he heard the axiom about never going broke by underestimating the gullibility of the American public.) Along with that, the social aspects so integral to listening to the music we so revered in the 60’s and 70’s have just disappeared overnight. Young people don’t listen to music together the way they used to. They can’t. The Ipod has created a self-sufficient bubble for each individual. There are devices for listening over crappy little speakers but from what I can tell, it is only adults who use these, and then wish they had never gotten rid of their turntable. For the most part, the social dynamic associated with popular music has shifted.  Does this mean that people have stopped loving music? No, it does not. In fact, I am seeing those kids who do take it seriously start to poke their heads in here again. As they become enamored of certain artists, they want to see what this “collecting” thing is all about. The artwork, feel, texture, smell and “life-force” of the actual object (CD, LP, 45 or DVD) brings an artist to life in ways that a download simply never will. To hold an LP by Muddy Waters is quite something special compared to downloading ten Muddy Waters songs.  I don’t labor under the false hope that downloads are going away - they are the future - but, as I had hoped, there is still a place for the real stuff. It is the final step in the life of a collector, no matter their age. If you love The Beatles, eventually some physical form of The Beatles is going to make its way into your life. So, the downloading of music has become a stepping-stone to collecting - as once the transistor radio was. Get a taste for it cheap or even free, then when you are ready to get serious, we’re here for you.

So what physical stuff did we sell this year? Vinyl Vinyl Vinyl. It is not a flash in the pan! It is back in a significant way. We have seen tremendous and sustained growth in the most physical of all formats. Across the board, artists and labels are starting to see the real value in offering their fans records. It illustrates my earlier point; once you have fallen for, say Godspeed You Black Emperor the reality of your love for that band can only be consummated in the soft flesh of a record. Once you hold something close and dear, it becomes so much more real. Over and over this year, I saw kids with that libidinous glow of pride as they approached the register with an LP or 7” by their favorite band. The smart bands truly get it. I would not expect Gaslight Anthem or The Black Angels or Animal Collective to ever release another album without a vinyl version. Their fans will demand it at this point. Of course, the limited nature of most vinyl issues insures that they will go up in value. Some of our biggest successes on Ebay this year have been with records that are less than five years old.

And let us not forget our old friend the CD. While it has been battered and insulted, proclaimed dead every year for the last decade and a half, it still is our biggest seller. Don’t believe the hype; the music industry still turns on the sales of the CD - period. Anyone who tells you differently is either a fool or a liar. It is still the format of choice for the vast majority of serious music listeners. It is over 60% of our sales and it still represents billions of dollars of sales to the industry. CD-wise, there was a difference this year; the biggest sellers were almost all newer acts. Sure, Eric Clapton and Neil Young both have new records that we are selling quite well, and the Elton/Leon album is something of a phenomenon, but the real winners this year at Twist are The Black Keys, Mumford and Sons, Arcade Fire, Cee-Lo Green, Ray Lamontagne, Bruno Mars, Kanye West, The National and countless other bands that have made their mark since the third Woodstock festival. In other words, that first and second graduating class of rock royalty no longer sits on the sales throne. Those artists still matter, but the young bloods matter just as much. And that is a good thing. If we are going to stay valid then the new artists need the same love and honor we give Elvis, Mick and Jimi. We have, we do, and we always shall stay excited about new music at Twist and Shout.

And then there is all the other stuff. A number of years ago when I paraphrased our friends at the great California store Salzers by saying “when people in Colorado think gift, I want them to think Twist and Shout” I didn’t know how real this idea would become. Sales of what we call our boutique regularly hover between 15-20% and this Christmas they were even bigger. I saw plenty of people who were shopping here just for the gifts - no music or movies at all. That’s just fine with us. There is a thin line between a new album and the shirt you wear while listening to it. It all adds up to who we are as individuals.

Like every recent year, people will come up to me in the coming weeks and hesitatingly ask how it went. I will be able to tell from their downturned eyes that they expect the worst answer possible. But, just like all the other years I am filled with optimism and fully believe in the mission - still and always. 
See you in the aisles,
Paul Epstein

Monday, December 20, 2010

I'd Love To Turn You On: At the Movies #3 - Cat People

Cat People (1942, dir. Jacques Tourneur) / Curse of the Cat People (1944, dir. Robert Wise)

Here on one mid-priced DVD, we have two very different films bearing the same tawdry kinds of titles that belie the subtlety and craft that went into the films themselves. First off, there’s Cat People, one of the great horror films of the 1940’s. Director Jacques Tourneur and producer Val Lewton (who was responsible for a terrific run of films at RKO studios at the time) worked together with a minimal budget to create a film long on atmosphere and suggestion, knowing that a few well placed sound effects, some spare lighting, and good performances from their actors were worth ten times more than the shock of showing a big budgeted monster effect that then took

all the imagination out of the equation. In the film, Simone Simon plays Irena Dubrovna, a Serbian-born woman living in New York, who begins to suspect that meeting her new husband Oliver Reed (played by Kent Smith) will awaken her familial curse and turn her into a murderous panther. Whether this curse exists or is the work of her emotional state and suppressed sexuality coming to the fore is a question left to the viewer as Tourneur and Lewton brilliantly and eerily suggest both possibilities – she may be a dangerous shape-shifter or an emotionally disturbed young woman. When Oliverturns to a co-worker for companionship that his wife is unable to provide, is he about to unleash the emotions of a jealous wife, or a deadly feline wreaking vengeance? Find out, in Cat People!
Two years later, Lewton returned to the success of his Cat People with the sorely mis-titled Curse of the Cat People. For this film he enlisted the aid of director Robert Wise, a journeyman Hollywood director able to take on projects as diverse as this film, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Haunting, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture, just to name a few of his 40+ director credits. Lewton and Wise did not have a psycho-sexual thriller in mind this time though, instead this film, which takes place six years after the original, focuses on shy, withdrawn Amy Reed, the daughter of the original film’s Oliver Reed (a role briefly reprised here by Kent Smith). Amy talks to herself and to her imaginary friend rather than engaging with playmates her own age. Could she be the victim of a curse as well? Or is she simply a child living in her imagination, in need of attention and help being drawn out of her fantasy world? The film’s evocation of the child’s interior life – which unduly concerns her parents – is miraculous; it’s one of the few children’s fantasy films that feels like it really understands the child inside and out, rather than portraying childhood in the cloyingly sentimental glow of adult reminiscence. Go in expecting more dangerous panther-women and you’ll undoubtedly be disappointed. But if you’re prepared to set aside your expectations of the spooky horror of Cat People and instead to experience one of the great fantasy films about childhood, you’re in for an absolutely classic double feature.

- Patrick

Monday, December 13, 2010

I'd Love To Turn You on #24 - Quicksilver Messenger Service - Happy Trails

When one thinks about the music of the 1960’s several different locales come to mind; London, New York City, Dee-troit, Memphis and of course, San Francisco. Of the San Francisco bands, The Grateful Dead, The Jefferson Airplane and Santana seem to get the most attention, yet the work of Moby Grape, The Charlatans and most importantly Quicksilver Messenger Service deserve to be mentioned in the same breath. In fact, if push came to shove I might have to name Happy Trails the most compelling argument of the Bay Area’s impact on rock. There is no better illustration of the potency of jamming wildly while on LSD than this incredible album.
The first side is just one song; Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love”, recorded live at The Fillmore and stretched to the limits of psychedelic imagination. Guitarists Gary Duncan and the great John Cipollina elongate the song to its artistic and sonic limits, intertwining their similar, yet always distinguishable styles into a snake of many heads. They play with such sympathy and telepathy that at times one can’t believe this is improvised music. They seem to know exactly where the other is going at all times and the result is a guitar freak’s wet dream. There is no other album that will drive a normally sedate 50-something man into such a frenzy of air-guitar as to worry his family. “I haven’t seen him this amped up over an album since the last time he listened to Quicksilver.” For me, there is no more distinctive and criminally under-appreciated guitar player than John Cipollina. Listen to the part of the song subtitled “How You Love” and hear Cipollina wrench vibrato and note bending out of his guitar like nobody this side of Hendrix. His practice of wearing a pick on each finger of his right hand combined with his completely muscular and manic left hand attack make him sound like no other player. He is the definition of day-glo guitar. Flower Power given body.
Side two is also largely taken up by one Bo Diddley song. This time it is “Mona” whose pounding, archetypical rock and roll beat opens up and lets Cipollina again ride a multi-colored beast around the Fillmore like nobody’s business. I have always considered Jerry and Jimi and Mick Taylor to be the tops, but I hold a completely special and unique place in my musical heart for John Cipollina. He burned so brightly and produced such a recognizable, stinging sound from his customized Gibson SG that he is just hard to beat. Check this picture out. It is his guitar and amp stack on permanent display at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. I always loved seeing him live up until his untimely death in 1989, but I have to admit that he never topped the playing he did on the first two Quicksilver albums.

After “Mona” romps through the Elysian Fields for about seven minutes, side two continues with Gary Duncan’s gorgeous instrumental “Maiden Of The Cancer Moon” before a sly edit takes us from the live milieu to the studio for another beautiful, feedback-laden guitar workout titled “Calvary.” At about three minutes in, when Duncan is majestically strumming acoustic and Cipollina is wringing the neck of his guitar within an inch of its life…bliss. “Calvary” might be the definitive acid-guitar instrumental. Happy Trails ends on an upbeat, funny note by winking at the freaks ou
t there andthe band singing the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans classic “Happy Trails.” I guess trails can be taken to mean several things.
When I first got the idea for this ongoing column, I’d Love To Turn You On, this was precisely the kind of album I had in mind. Something that I would give friends or customers that they were unfamiliar with, then, without fail, a month or two later I would see them; “wow, how did I not know about this album? This is the greatest thing I’ve heard. Who is this guitar player? I gotta hear more.” That type of reaction is what we, here at the record store, live for. In addition to the awe-inspiring music, Happy Trails is also blessed with one of the most pastoral and iconic covers of the 60’s. It perfectly captures the heady blend of modern thinking and a respect for an older sense of style that San Francisco has always embodied. Put on Happy Trails and it IS 1969.
Paul Epstein

Friday, December 10, 2010

Several species of small furry thoughts - Memories of Ebbets Field

I first started going to concerts in the Denver area in about 1971 and by the time Ebbets Field opened in early 1973 I was starting to venture into clubs that would allow people under 21 to see the acts. Ebbets was one of those. You would get hand-stamped or wristbanded and were allowed to enter and see the best acts of the day in a tiny, intimate setting and buy overpriced cokes (there was a two drink minimum as I recall). I remember going to my first show there (Taj Mahal and Corky Siegel) with what would also be my first date. A great show where I learned about the magic of seeing a band up close and the horror of the first date. The girl’s name was Miriam (same as my mother) and she was totally beautiful and I just couldn’t quite put together that she was there WITH me and I was her date too. That part didn’t go so well, but I was smitten with seeing bands in clubs. I’d sort of figure the woman thing out - thank god for Jill - later in life, but rock and roll was very clear to me from the beginning. Some of the great shows I saw at Ebbets field were Country Joe McDonald, Renaissance, Roger McGuinn, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Peter Frampton among many others. It was such a special place to see a show. At the furthest you were maybe 25 yards from the band and the sound system that Listen Up installed and ran was many people’s first exposure to really world-class sound.
You wouldn’t know it now, but going in to downtown Denver in those days was more of a rare occurrence. In the early 70’s, when you came into downtown after 5 pm or so, it was quite literally a ghost town. There was very little going on, and Ebbets was an early glimmer of the cosmopolitan life that awaited Denver in the decades to come. In other words, it was a glittering, special event to go see a band at Ebbets. Denver was also not the primary concert market that it has become in recent years. We didn’t get all the great bands back then like we do now. Chuck Morris, Barry Fey and their early efforts to put Denver on the musical map really did accomplish that goal. We are now as good a market as any city in the country, and the first tentative steps represented by Ebbets, Tulagi’s and later the Rainbow Music Hall were milestones in Denver’s development. 
And so, our friends at Listen Up have released the 4th volume of their Live From Ebbets Field series. For you see, Listen Up not only ran the sound in the legendary club, but they recorded the shows and broadcast many of them on the radio. For years I loved listening to these shows surface on various radio stations, and the series of CDs that have been released have brought back many great memories. Volume 4, which benefits The Morgan Adams Foundation, is a wonderful disc that really captures the magical intimacy of these performances, but also the eclectic and hip nature of the booking. Highlights of Volume 4 include Cheech and Chong introducing The Beau Brummels as “The Bro Bummers,” ex-Byrd Gene Clark’s riveting version of “Set You Free This Time,” a young, angel-voiced Dan Fogelberg playing “Stars,” a triple shot of blues greats with Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and Freddie King all making appearances, Doc and Merle Watson tearing up “Wabash Cannonball” and ragers by El Chicano, Spirit and The Marshall Tucker Band. This CD really reminds me of a great time in music history, and a special period in Denver’s movement toward becoming a world-class city. This is a limited release, with a charitable component, and this is the only record store where you can get it. Rush in and get 10 right now - they make great gifts. 
We also were lucky enough to get the few remaining copies left of Volume 3. This disc will benefit the - soon to be a reality - Colorado Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame (of which I am a board member). It is only $4.99 and it goes to a cause very close to my heart. Highlights of Volume 3 include an over-the-top version of “Green Grass and High Tides” by The Outlaws, “Hello Hello” by Sopwith Camel and more great stuff by Robin Trower, PeterFrampton, Pure Prarie League and many others. These discs are a wonderful reminder of a very special time and place in Denver’s music history.

-Paul Epstein

Monday, December 6, 2010

I'd Love To Turn You On: At the Movies #2 - Microcosmos

Microcosmos (1996, dir. Claude Nuridsany/Marie Pérennou)

Microcosmos is a very hard movie to really explain to people.  Well, you can explain what happens in it, but that's not the same as explaining it.  Like many films, Microcosmos features struggle, conflict, violence, death and an extended (and rather sloppy) sex scene.  Unlike most such films, this one is rated G.  And unlike most such films, nobody is acting.
Microcosmos took three years to create (between designing the cameras and filming all the footage). The filmmakers take you down into the grass, into the world of insects.  And then...they leave you there.  With nearly no voice-over and not much music, you're simply allowed to watch as insects go about their daily lives.  You spend a few seconds with some insects, and several minutes with others. The insects scavenge for food.  They eat.  They attempt to avoid getting eaten.  They search for mates. They procreate.  They sleep.  And a few of them die.  
As I said, this explains what happens in the movie, but it doesn't explain the movie itself.  As somebody once wisely proclaimed, "it's not what it's about - it's how it's about what it's about that matters".  And directors Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perennou really did something remarkable here.  This might have been just another (rather interesting) documentary, but it's not a documentary at all.  The filmmakers in fact took a bit of grief when this film was first released.  Apparently several of the scenes were "staged" - the settings were provided, the insects placed into them, and the cameras rolled.  But that just means that Microcosmos isn't a documentary in the traditional sense.  It might have been, if the camera had moved back more, if they had hired a stern-voiced British actor to explain what we were seeing at all times. But that's not how most movies work.  We rarely have any need for a narrator explaining what movie characters are doing, and why they're doing it - the movie trusts us to figure that out by watching the characters interact.  And this is what the directors have done - they bring us in close, and they simply let us watch what's going on.  Sometimes, it isn't exactly clear what we're seeing, or the insects' motivation for doing what they're doing.  But in a sense, that's part of the appeal.  What ARE those two ants doing?
...and who would have thought I would ever want to know the answer to such a question?
As you can well imagine, this isn't a typical film to watch.  I'm not sure it's something you'll want to invite the whole family or a bunch of friends over to experience.  But "experience" seems to be the right word.  I never felt like cheering or crying or laughing while watching this film.  But that might be because I was so wrapped up in it.
- Alf

Monday, November 29, 2010

I'd Love to Turn You On #23: Yes – 90125 (Rhino)

Many think of Yes as the 70's prog-rock band with that fantastic alien world album cover art. As a child of the 80's, my memories of Yes are the “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” video and “Owner” on the radio, in the car, going on long road trips to Disney World with the family. At that age, I mostly disregarded any music earlier than 1980, but hey... Michael Jackson had exploded and Duran Duran captured my musical focus. It wasn't until about 10 years ago that I rediscovered Yes and their classic 1983 album 90125.

The album could very well have been 90125 by the band Cinema, the name that some members of Yes adopted when singer Jon Anderson quit the band a few years earlier along with keyboardist Rick Wakeman. After singer/guitarist Trevor Rabin entered the band for the 90125 sessions, Chris Squire played some of the music to Jon and it was enough for Jon to agree to rejoin Yes late in the album's construction. The nine tracks that ended up on the album are nothing short of fantastic. Again, this was the emerging 80's and synths were gaining popularity fast. Keyboards had almost always been prominent in Yes with Rick Wakeman's magical fingers, but at the time they were part of the prog-rock style. I can hear some of that style throughout the 90125 album, but there is something quite different going on. The pop/new wave sensibilities had influenced the band without taking over and morphing Yes into something they had not previously been.

“Owner Of A Lonely Heart” kicks off the album with a bang with its ultra-catchy verses and chorus, and ended up being the band's first and only number one single in the U.S! In my opinion “Hold On” and “Leave It” rival “Owner” as the best songs on this album full of great songs. With Jon's wonderfully majestic vocal style spearheading them, there is so much melody and intricate excitement going on. I find these songs in my head days after playing the album. A great example of the brilliance of 90125 can be found in the lyrics of “Our Song”: "Music has magic, it's good clear syncopation." Magic indeed. The guitars, keyboards, vocals, even the production by short-lived member Trevor Horn is all top-notch.

I rediscovered Yes as a band (including their 70's output), but this album brings back distant memories of songs from 90125 that I believe hold up very well at 27 years old. The peak of the band Yes is five numbers that are not a zip code of any kind: just
9 0 1 2 5!


Friday, November 26, 2010

Cee Lo Green The Lady Killer (Atlantic Records)

Cee-Lo Green's The Lady Killer finds the Grammy-winning artist in a familiar place for a superstar – on the prowl. But, much like his fellow ATLien Andre 3000 on The Love Below, the search isn't without its one night stands, lost loves and doubts. The result is a brave and complex soul-inflected journey through Green's colorful ups and downs.
By informing the listener that "my name is…not important" on album opener "The Lady Killer Theme (Intro)," Green immediately identifies with party hoppers looking for love on the dance floor. Pre-party anthem "Bright Lights Bigger City" follows, with a bass line reminiscent of "Billie Jean" and call-to-fun lyrics sure to be played on the way to clubs throughout the winter of 2010 and beyond. Like "Bright Lights Bigger City," The Lady Killer is full of invitations to relax and give in to the pleasures of spontaneity. The use of gunshots in the chorus of "Love Gun" are a positive response to M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes," turning "you shot me baby" into a winking double entendre. Elsewhere, Green exposes his disappointments in love on songs like "It's OK," and internet phenomenon "Fuck You" (which is stripped of its appeal in the cleaned up version "Forget You"). However, the true heart and soul of "The Lady Killer" comes in the latter half of the record with the three-song punch of "I Want You," "Cry Baby," and album standout "Fool For You."
Overall The Lady Killer offers a glimpse into Cee-Lo Green's journey through relationships and reveals many relatable situations. Add to that a compelling mix of R&B grooves and soul-inflected pop songs and you've got a record that not only warrants but rewards repeated listens.
- Paul Custer  

I'd Love To Turn You On: At the Movies #1 - Dead Man

Dead Man (1995, dir. Jim Jarmusch)
One of my favorite film critics described Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man as an “acid western.” It’s a fitting label, but misleading. It makes you expect lots of aggressive camera work, special effects and color. Dead Man has none of that. It’s black and white, and the pace is slow. But it’s a total trip just the same — one of those rare works of art that exists in four or five or eighteen different dimensions.
At its core, Dead Man is a simple story. A man sells everything for a train ticket to the western frontier to fill an accounting position he’s been offered. By the time he gets there, though, the job has gone to someone else. He spends his last dime on a bottle and winds up getting shot in a fight over a girl. He flees into the wilderness where an Indian finds him, tries to save him but is unable to remove the bullet from next to his heart. Duty bound, the Indian delivers him to the Pacific Ocean for a proper send off into the afterlife.
Where the film gets really heavy is in its cultural allusions. The biggest is the lead character’s name, William Blake (played by Johnny Depp). This William Blake knows nothing about the British poet, painter and printmaker. In fact, none of the film’s characters do except for the Indian, who, it turns out, actually studied Blake’s work in England after he was captured and hauled across the ocean in a cage and paraded around Europe as an oddity from the New World. When the Native character (who calls himself “Nobody” and is portrayed brilliantly by Gary Farmer) learns Blake’s name he assumes that he’s the real William Blake. He recites a chilling stanza: “Every night and every morn / Some to misery are born / Every morn and every night / Some are born to sweet delight / Some are born to sweet delight / some are born to endless night.” This moment in the film combines with others like it to suggest a theme or message that’s never exactly clear, but still makes sense on multiple levels.
Dead Man is about America and the Manifest Destiny, that much is obvious. During the early shoot-out scene, for instance, when Blake discovers a gun under his lover’s pillow and asks her why she has it she says, “Because this is America,” as if it’s the stupidest question she’s ever heard. Also, the film’s plot line clearly moves from east to west. And throughout the film, Nobody refers to European settlers (invaders) as “stupid fucking white men” and reveres Blake as “a killer of white men.” It gets really deep, though, when filthy fur trappers sit around campfire reading Bible verses about Philistines or when a cold-blooded bounty hunter finds a corpse looks like a “goddam religious icon” or even in the scenes with Robert Mitchum, which are clearly crafted in homage to all the cool and kind of cheesy Westerns he starred in as a young man. It’s funny, too — full of sight gags and inside jokes, including a couple that only people who speak Cree or Blackfoot languages would understand. (There also a lot of rock and roll nods: appearances by Iggy Pop and Gibby Haynes, characters named after musicians and songs.)
It sounds like a recipe for pretentious muddiness, I know, but Jarmusch pulls it all together artfully with the simplicity of the story and with a mesmerizing soundtrack by Neil Young (a must-have in its own right; it’s all solo guitar with a little bit of pump organ with a few key dialogue scenes from the movie and a Blake poem read by Depp mixed in). The slowness of the plot offers time and space for contemplation. I’ve owned a copy of the film for years, watched it dozens and dozens of times, and I always feel profoundly moved after the final scene — one of the most beautiful and poetic in all of cinema. I always walk away with a mixture of disgust and awe about America, which, to my way of thinking, is absolutely on point.

- Joe

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Posies – Blood/Candy (Rykodisc)

The Posies have always been a dark band with lucid undertones, but each album they have produced remains unique and unclassifiable. After a long crazy ride of collaboration and having mentored and collaborated with Alex Chilton as the other half of Big Star for a number of years, Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer have learned a thing or two about loss and friendship. The song "Accidental Architecture" seems to allude to their collaboration with Chilton, and it is one of the shining examples of the delicate landscapes created by The Posies with each subtle structuring of lyrics and song. With pensive, starkly honest, painful yet playfully childlike lyrics and solid psychedelic sounds, The Posies have caught me off guard yet again by producing one of the most refreshing albums of 2010.

"For The Ashes," one of Blood/Candy’s best tracks, is a masterwork that intricately mixes booming, juicy, psychedelic nuggets with the feel of a powerfully raw ballad. "She's Coming Down Again" is a brutally honest, desperate plea from one friend to another and a haunting warning. Stringfellow and Auer have created a wondrously disturbing portrait in song, something they have always had a gift for. They seem to unlock various puzzles of the mind without question or judgment, and complement that gift with lavish, encompassing melodies that are often times starkly beautiful. Another treat appears on “Plastic Paperbacks” in the form of special guest Hugh Cornwell of the Stranglers.

Much like Alex Chilton (one can really hear and understand how they all got along so well) one might be initially put off by the sheer indulgence of their sound. It is so awesomely big and illuminating, but if the listener chooses to embrace its chaos, I am guessing they will find themselves like me, returning again and again to this album. It is the sound of grown adults revisiting childhood fairy tales and making peace with how their lives turned out. It is two long lost friends finally putting the past aside to create a fruitful and fun future.

Having been one of the greatest songwriting duos of the 90's, Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer have now returned and solidified with this thrilling, decadent release. They have proven, working with legends of the past, that this partnership is essential to the future of authentic and innovative music. 
- Christianne Chowning

The Posies play December 1st at the Gothic Theater with Brendan Benson.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lez Zeppelin Lez Zeppelin (Pie Records)

We had so much content for our upcoming Winter zine, that we had to throw some reviews on our blog. Check out this review and keep an eye out for our upcoming Winter zine in the store!

The latest girl-group sensation Lez Zeppelin is the hottest thing in blues-rock since the first Jeff Beck album! I mean, these lassies can seriously rock out with the best of the boys, the only possible drawback being a reliance on cover material. Luckily, there is a range of inspiration here, from Willie Dixon, Jake Holmes (a dynamic cover of “Dazed and Confused”), to Bert Jansch and Maurice Ravel (!), with the highlight being a distinctly beefed-up cover of Joan Baez's “Babe I'm Gonna Leave You.” All of this is fed through a powerhouse wall of sound, geared towards the heavier sounds of today. Unusual for a Garage band these days, LZ even have a bass player. The drums too, are very economical yet powerful, with the whole effect of the rhythm section being very original indeed. I would like to hear these ladies attempt some original material, because if they can pull that off the world is their oyster.
- Ben S.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Several Species of Small Furry Thoughts – The Wild Man and The Boss

In the new world of fewer physical sales and diminishing marketing clout going to music sales, it is surprising to see two large and extremely important box sets hit the market on the same day, but this Tuesday saw the release of some very important pieces in the jigsaw puzzles that represent Jimi Hendrix and Bruce Springsteen. One of the more interesting Rock and Roll parlor games has been to speculate on the direction Hendrix’s art would have taken had he not died such an early and tragic death. It is pointless at some level because Hendrix’s art and style have become so closely associated with the late 60’s that it is almost impossible to imagine him unstuck in time as an older, less interesting man. He is perfection in his completeness. Unlike his peers his legacy is preserved in a way. He didn’t become less like the Beatles, whose solo work is a clear indication that the parts were indeed less than the sum. He didn’t become a sad drug casualty like Sly Stone, but he also didn’t get to become an institution, touring the world to staggering acclaim and revenue like The Rolling Stones. He has remained a roman candle of color and sound, splashed across the rock firmament in preserved history. There has been a lot of product released since his death, and remarkably most of the major label stuff has been pretty high quality. There might be two explanations for that; one is that since the Hendrix estate has taken over the administration of his music they have been careful and smart with the legacy. The other is that Hendrix didn’t produce much crap. He recorded everything - studio, concert stage, jam sessions, parties - he was always recording himself, and what he recorded was uniformly high quality. He was truly one of the great searching artists of the 60’s. He was always seeking new sounds, new influences new peaks. The box set, entitled West Coast Seattle Boy - The Jimi Hendrix Anthology comprises 4 CDs and 1 DVD and is an incredible smorgasbord of every Hendrix era and style. The first disc compiles 15 songs by different artists who used Hendrix as a hired gun before he was famous. It is fascinating to hear him inserting his proto licks into these more conventional settings. It is especially interesting to hear a song like Don Covay’s chart hit “Mercy Mercy” and realize that this familiar guitar break is actually a young Jimi. The disc ranges from pop to soul to funk to the manic rock performances of Little Richard who turns in the worst recorded performance of the set. Throughout this first disc it is instructive to hear Hendrix figuring out his sound. 
The real fireworks begin on disc 2. There are far too many highlights on each disc - in fact there is almost no filler, so I will just point out a couple of outstanding moments on each disc. “Little One” is a real psychedelic treasure - Dave Mason playing sitar with multiple tracks of Hendrix playing acoustic, lead, slide and bass and Mitch Mitchell playing drums. It’s great, trippy fun with some bracing soloing by Jimi. The real find of this disc however is an incredibly intimate 6-song session of Hendrix and friend Paul Caruso in Jimi’s hotel room in March of 1968. Playing solo electric and singing in a relaxed voice Hendrix plays a stunning cover of Dylan’s as yet unreleased “Tears Of Rage,” a funky “Hear My Train A-Comin’” before ending with a hauntingly simple version of “Angel.”
Disc 3 opens with a big, fat, funky jam session with The Experience, Buddy Miles and some exceptional Hammond organ playing by what is believed to be Lee Michaels. It has a great freewheeling feel - very 1960’s. “Messenger” is a weird, driving, complex song that never made it past the instrumental run-through stage but provides an interesting glimpse into the Hendrix creative process. “Untitled Basic Track” is another pretty developed track with no vocal, but it shows Hendrix as a proto-metal guitar monster. Disc 3 finds its center with “Young/Hendrix,” which is the full 20 minute jam session with Jimi and jazz organ great Larry Young. Recorded in April of 1969 the jam goes through countless changes as Hendrix and Young play off each other with playful telepathy.
Disc 4 bows with a previously unreleased track from The Band Of Gypsys’ triumphant New Year’s Eve shows at the Fillmore East in 1969. These shows yielded the Band Of Gypsys album and several reissues, so it is sort of amazing that this track has never seen the light of day. Especially because it is an incendiary 14 minute performance where Hendrix improvises wildly, taking on “The March Of The Wooden Soldiers,” and “Sunshine Of Your Love” among others before coming back to “Stone Free” where he started. It is really an exciting find. “Lonely Avenue” is a slow, bluesy reading of the Doc Pomus classic that is shockingly credited as a Hendrix original in the liner notes. “Peter Gunn/Catastrophe” finds Jimi screwing around between takes with funny results. The box set closes with a gorgeous unreleased recording from the spring of 1970 called “Suddenly November Morning” that is another tantalizing peek at what might have lay ahead for Hendrix had he not checked out. It is beautiful and fragile and points to many possible new directions. 
This box set is so full of great stuff it is kind of hard to believe. There is never the feeling that this is anything but a fresh and exciting collection of material from a vital and vibrant artist, not something from a man close to half a century gone.
Speaking of vital and vibrant, Bruce Springsteen has remained on an upward trajectory for so long that it hard to fathom. Like Dylan, he has had career peak after career peak (along with a few lows). The Promise: The Darkness On The Edge Of Town Story puts a microscope on what I consider to be his ultimate peak, both as a songwriter, and as a performing artist. The mammoth box set includes a remastered version of the album proper, two discs of unreleased songs that came out of the remarkable period between Born To Run and Darkness and three videos containing over 6 hours of illuminating and thrilling material. 
I don’t know about you, but for me there is the phenomenon of albums that I never fully understand. Some albums are 80% above the surface. I got Never Mind The Bollocks by The Sex Pistols immediately. I got Nevermind by Nirvana immediately, and even London Calling by The Clash. Darkness On The Edge Of Town was always a deep, strange mystery to me. It was, for me, the last Springsteen album I really loved until The Rising (with the possible exception of Nebraska). It wasn’t that I thought he was bad, it just seemed like he never topped the creative high-water mark this album represented. The fact that it was so mysterious; such a beguiling blend of muscle-car rock and highbrow poetry is what made it such an enigma to me. The River and Born In The USA are many things, but enigmas they are not. Part of the equation was THAT show. Red Rocks, June 20th 1978, the summer of my freshman year of college. It was everything I have ever wanted from a rock concert. I was familiar with all of his albums, but had only heard of his live reputation. I had a hard time believing the hype. By the late 70’s many of the dreams of the last decades had evaporated like so much powder up the nose of disco dancers at Studio 54. Springsteen kind of represented the four corners of Rock and Roll. He stood straddled between four decades. He embraces Doo-wop and the great revue type rock shows of the 50’s; he embodied the singer/songwriter/social conscience of the 1960’s; he helped define the giant rock show of the 70’s, while providing the most meaningful anthems of the decade; and in 1978, he looked forward to the future and years of confusion and bitterness as music changed irrevocably from art to business. That Red Rocks show was like seeing an artist at THE moment of his career. It was palpable in the air. This was one of those moments when an artist transcends fashion and just delivers the goods. He did that night. It was three hours of balls to the wall rock. His material was epic, and his band was, on any given night, the greatest show on earth. Did you miss that tour? Wish you could see it? You can now. 
The Promise contains the best video proof of Springsteen’s greatness. One video is an entire show from Houston in 1978 that finds the E-Street Band winning over an arena-sized crowd of yahoos who probably don’t know his material as well as the coastal audiences he is used to. They perform valiantly. The show encompasses the best of his early material, and all the big numbers from Born To Run and Darkness as well as some rarities like “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town” and the “Detroit Medley” which actually lives up to the term “barn-burner.” It is pretty exhilarating, but the next video (compiling various clips from ’76-’78) really showcases what an explosive band they were. In particular, the five songs from Phoenix are unbeatable. The chemistry between Bruce, Clarence Clemons and the audience is something to behold. The version of “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” is what that show at Red Rocks was like. In the future, if young people want to know why we found Rock so exciting, this would be a good piece of footage to show them.
But there is so much more. There is The E-Street Band in 2009 performing the album in its entirety in an empty theatre in New Jersey. One is struck by the fact that these guys are definitely older, but maintain a gritty intensity that still puts the material over. There is a great documentary about the making of the album, and this period of extraordinary achievement for Springsteen. Few artists could stand up to the challenge of following up Born To Run and yet Springsteen gave an album that meets and possibly surpasses. The two discs of material left off the album are a revelation as well. His castoffs are better than many great albums. There are at least 10 bona fide Springsteen classics in this bunch of songs, and in total it fills in a lot of blank spaces between Born and Darkness. The path this artist took between albums is much more clearly illustrated with this addition to his canon. I love those first two albums like a first kiss, and Born To Run is just incomprehensible, but with history at its back Darkness On The Edge Of Town might just be the best Springsteen for me. This is an artist reaching for the stars and actually getting hold of them.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

IMA Robot - Another Man's Treasure (Werewolf Heart Records)

We had so much content for our upcoming Winter zine, that we had to throw some reviews on our blog. Check out this review and keep an eye out for our upcoming Winter zine in the store!

Whatever vision singer Alex Ebert had out in the desert a few years back really changed him and his musical ideas. Though the experience did spark the Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros magic, here IMA Robot is subdued compared to previous albums. Maybe the collective ADD is under control rendering a more focused output; maybe the band has discovered love. Lyrics like "love will lead us home" and "pass it on and multiply your love" are signs that the band's hippie flag is flying high and in the same yard as the Zeros. The best song, "Life Is Short" really stands out to me with its catchy as hell verses and chorus plus the Dean Ween style guitar solo towards the end. This song sticks to my cortex like honey. "Sail With Me" has some semi-tribal elements and the closer "Swell" takes notice of various instruments and sounds utilizing a professional studio (Werewolf Heart Studios; Werewolf Records is home to Ryan Gosling's Dead Man's Bones band). I am always excited to hear more music from Alex and Another Man's Treasure is said to be an experimental album, and lives up to that statement. 
- Joel

Monday, November 15, 2010

I'd Love To Turn You On #22 - The Kinks - Something Else By The Kinks

When going through the list of universally acknowledged rock and roll masterpieces, one will usually come across The Kinks' 1968 album The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society. However, often lost in the praise heaped upon Village Green is the masterpiece that came before, 1967's Something Else By The Kinks. The title can be looked at in a couple of different ways, as in "oh, here's something else" or "WOW! that's really SOMETHING ELSE!" What's clear is that in the psychedelic summer of love year of 1967, The Kinks really were doing something else compared to their rock and roll peers. They had left behind the blues and R&B-based rock of their early years, but instead of following the psychedelic path of Sgt. Pepper, Pink Floyd and the San Francisco scene, they turned to traditional British music hall and folk stylings. It also helped that Ray Davies was writing some of his very best songs.
The opener, "David Watts," is the closest they come here to the heavy-riff guitar rock on which they initially made their name. Yet the lyrics offer a contrasting mood as they detail a schoolboy's jealous obsession with the popular athlete of the title. These attitudes of vulnerability and self-doubt were new to rock and roll at the time and would set the stage for many introspective songwriters such as Morrissey and Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian. The band takes its biggest musical left turn on the bossa nova flavored "No Return." Davies originally wrote this song for bossa nova star Astrud Gilberto. The music hall influence comes through on the jaunty "Tin Soldier Man" and the wistful "End of the Season." "Harry Rag" is a particularly British song that I had to look up on wikipedia to find out just what it was all about. "Situation Vacant" is a phrase that sounds stark and grim to us yanks, though it's really just what the Brits use for "help wanted" (which also can sound a bit grim when you think about it).

One of the most striking songs on the album is "Two Sisters," an intriguing look at a sibling rivalry. Sibling rivalry is certainly something Ray and his guitarist brother Dave knew a thing about. Dave contributes a pair of songs to Something Else and they may just be his two best. "Death of a Clown" is a folk-rock character study with a great sing-a-long chorus. "Love Me Till the Sun Shines" is an infectious rocker that should be required learning for garage bands everywhere.
The album concludes with the masterful "Waterloo Sunset," easily one of the greatest pop songs of the rock era. A beautiful tale of a young couple finding quiet time in the midst of a sprawling urban landscape, this may just be Ray Davies' finest work. It's also a fitting finale for an album of quiet yearnings and small pleasures, proving that great music can be made from things other than volume and bombast. Something Else is certainly not your typical rock masterpiece, but it is a collection of excellent songs that work both individually and as a complete work. It led off a string of fantastic Kinks albums that are all worth checking out as well.
- Adam Reshotko

Friday, November 12, 2010

Several Species Of Small Furry Thoughts - KEEF

It’s going to be a very Keith Richards Christmas and New Year. What with the recent release of the incredible concert movie Ladies and Gentlemen The Rolling Stones, the re-release and re-expansion of Keith’s hypnotic Wingless Angels project, the earlier releases of the expanded Exile On Main Street and its accompanying documentaryStones In Exile, it all seems to be setting the stage for the massive two-year world trek that even the band is calling their final tour. Thus it is almost an embarrassment of riches that Keith has released his tremendously entertaining autobiography Life and put out a single disc retrospective of his solo career Vintage Vinos that elicits a reassessment of the man and the myth.
Life is so much more than I could have expected. The hoped for tales of excess on the road are all there; and he really hides very little in the way of juicy details. The book opens during the Stones’ ’75 tour of America with him tearing across the country in a rented car with Woody and the ultimate drug-dealer to the stars, Freddie Sessler (there needs to be a book about this guy too), completely ripped on every drug imaginable. They getting popped in small-town Arkansas, and through wile, bravado, and high-as-a-kite luck they talk their way out of it. We learn about both the recklessness and the charmed nature of his existence right off the bat. There is no other rock star - period. Keith is the ultimate! One suspects that he paints himself as a bit more saintly in the last decade or so than might be the truth, but for the most part he pulls no punches. After the ’75 incident, we jump back in time for a long, fascinating and very Anglo look back at his childhood. He seems to have grown up a cross between the Artful Dodger and well, Keith Richards. His post-war, lower class upbringing seems a perfect metaphor for the entire generation who came of age with him. He is a baby-boomer whose life was shaped by the immediate past (WWII) and whose life helped shape the future. The casual way he talks about the birth of Rock and Roll and his part in it just reeks of authenticity. You know he was there, and we now know he was not some drugged up moron. He was a drugged up keen observer of people and places. His take on the events of the times are always thoughtful and earthy. After all the many books written about the era, it is interesting that the Human Riff has some of the most insightful things to say about the times he inhabited.
His insights into the music of The Rolling Stones are also unique. He is impressed with Mick Jagger’s talent, but is clearly not star-struck and again pulls no punches when describing the large ego and small weenie of his 50-year partner. His overall feeling towards Jagger and all the Stones is loving and respectful, and in spite of some playful cattiness we actually get the clearest picture ever of the depth of their creative marriage and their love for each other. It is hard to remember a better book about Rock and Roll than Life, but then it is hard to find a better rock and roller than Keith Richards.
In addition to all the Stones albums you will listen to while reading this book, pick up Vintage Vinos. This superbly chosen set takes songs from all three X-pensive Winos releases; Talk Is CheapMain Offender and their Live At The Hollywood Palladium and shows Richards’ solo career to be pretty damn great. Songs like “You Don’ Move Me,” “Eileen,” Wicked As It Seems” and “Locked Away” would fit in perfectly with the Stones repertoire, but others like “Struggle” or “Take It So Hard” have a uniquely Keith feel about them, and the three Stones songs he performs live - “Connection,” “Happy” and “Time Is On My Side” - boast his rough and ready abilities to carry this material. Perhaps the most exciting song on the album is the rarely heard “Hurricane” which was released as a benefit for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Written by the Glimmer Twins, it is just Keith and Woody in the studio playing acoustic guitars and Keith singing the slyly simplistic lyrics about the great tragedy unfolding before his eyes. It is short, very sweet and it alone demands you own the album.

Solar Bear - Captains Of Industry

We had so much content for our upcoming Winter zine, that we had to throw some reviews on our blog. Check out this review and keep an eye out for our upcoming Winter zine in the store!

Solar Bear Captains Of Industry

Solar Bear’s Captains Of Industry is the sound of a band growing up but refusing to go quietly. The foursome specializes in melding post-hardcore ferocity with angular, progressive melodies, usually connected with just a sprinkling of tasty grooves. But on this six-song disc, they seem finally content to let the reins of their hardcore past loosen a bit and give in to the bounce: For every dissonant start-stop arrangement, there are swinging breaks that are downright danceable. The result is that they instantly widen their party tent without losing an ounce of aggro crunch.
The key to maintaining this constant ebb-and-flow between high-energy chaos and devil dance comes from the interplay between Tyler Stoakes’ bouncing bass thump and Marshall Gallagher’s dextrous guitars. Gallagher weaves intricate licks that balance dissonance and uplift; these riffs then seesaw between Stoakes' elastic, earthshaking foundation. Together, they're masters of pacing, and Gallagher knows exactly how to balance his spiky runs atop Stoakes' high-tension wires before both crash together into a ruthless but catchy breakdown. The dearly-departed Kevin Henkelman serves as a solid backbone on the drum kit, pounding out beats that suit both the complexity and subtlety of the group’s writing without trying to hog the spotlight in a band already blessed with virtuosos. To wit: Marcus Tallitsch’s ability to talk-scream like a banshee and overdrive into a razor-sharp wail would make Steve Snere of These Arms Are Snakes proud (or jealous). Solar Bear’s latest does more than solidify their place in Denver’s post-hardcore scene: It makes them noisy captains of the next wave.


Monday, November 1, 2010

I'd Love to Turn You On #21: John Cale - Paris 1919

Before this all gets completely incoherent, let me say that John Cale's 1973 masterpiece Paris 1919 is a fabulous record that you should own if you love great, classic pop music. And good lyrics. This is one of those rare albums with both rich, thoughtful music and intelligent, thought-provoking words. The arrangements, playing and production are equal to the compositions. It is one of those records that is just special. It's one of those dearly cherished albums that immediately spring to mind when one thinks about these things - desert island discs and so forth. Like Neil Young's Tonight's The Night, Big Star's 3rd or Scott Walker's 4th album, Paris 1919 gives me that magic feeling. I want it to belong to me; it's just special.

In 1967, John Cale was a Welshman in New York, a viola and bass player aggressively exploring the outer limits of noise and minimalism. His sound gave the Velvet  Underground that edge which made them arguably the most influential group of the following decade. And, while for much of his subsequent production and recording career, Cale has maintained a high level of manic abrasiveness, there is little of that to be found on Paris 1919. If this was any other Cale album, our protagonist might be found to be yelling about, oh! the horror of things, but this is 1919 after all; stultified post-colonial grin-and-bear is the "customary thing to say and do." So this time the anger is folded in between cushions of literary references and lush major 7 chords.

I like to see Paris 1919 as a concept album - a narrative that slips in and out of consciousness like a dizzy Bruce Chatwin travelogue with maybe a dash of Proust. We are on a train ride through Europe, after the war. At a time of renewal and hope, just as all this potential was about to be squandered at Versailles (which the title surely refers to), there is a sense of innocence and foreboding. After all, with all that grizzly Grand Guignol slaughter we had just witnessed still fresh in our minds, among the calm of this journey there is a creeping sense of menace. And, perhaps with the roundabout lyrics betraying a hero after too much opium or absinthe, the half-remembered, half-understood lyrics make this one of the most compelling song-cycles of the era.

Paris 1919 opens with a rollicking dream of “A Child's Christmas in Wales” (Dylan Thomas is the first of several quoted men of letters in this revolving novella). It's one of the "rockers" on the LP but that doesn't mean the subtle erudition escapes him. Splendid lines about "murdered oranges" and the whole "cattle graze bolt uprightly, seducing down the door," like everything on this LP continue to bewilder and delight me on every listen. Next up are two master classes in songwriting: “Hanky Panky Nohow” and “The Endless Plain of Fortune” - one of Cale's greatest ever tracks. This stuff is just breathtaking. And then there is “Andulacia,” another stop on the train journey (this time in Spain) and the tenderest love song on the album. Ending side one (or CD part one, if you will), “Macbeth” appears to be another frenzied fever dream, specifically Shakespearean but channeled through a Glam-era bonfire of pounding drums and slide guitar. This is the only track that sounds remotely like the band that is actually on this LP - Little Feat. 

One side two, the quirkily macabre, self-consciously cultivated “Graham Greene” is sandwiched between three of the best, most beguiling songs in the pop canon. Geography is again the main focus for imagery, the itinerary taking in England and France, with daydreams drifting all the way from Norway to Africa, the church and the spoils of war. The great title track is part-jolly, part-terrifying with stunning “Eleanor Rigby”-style strings. With “Half Past France,” Cale airs his feelings of exhaustion and dislocation through the eyes of an Edwardian gentleman, and even manages to get a dig in at Lou Reed. “Antarctica Starts Here” ends the album with Cale assuming a dangerous sotto voce over blissful descending chords. The final line of the album is one the best - "the anaesthetic wearing off...Antarctica starts here."

Paris 1919 is more than just a pop album, it is more like a novel. Or maybe a fine wine.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Several Species Of Small Furry Thoughts- Fly Translove Airways

For their second installment of vintage live recordings, Collector’s Choice Live has unearthed four tremendous Jefferson Airplane concerts from four very different and pivotal periods in their career. Kicking off with original singer Signe Anderson’s final performance with the band, the October 15th, 1966 show at The Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco was the biggest surprise to me. I assumed that it would be the least interesting since I know the least about Anderson and there is so little stuff out there about her. Well the show is an emotional powerhouse as the band, the audience and even famously curmudgeon-like promoter Bill Graham all take turns making their feelings known to this singer. The little speech Marty Balin makes saying goodbye and her reaction that she is going to be a mother is a classic bit of 60’s nostalgia not to be missed. The band is tighter than expected and their repertoire is classic ballroom fare. The second release in the series comes the very next night as new singer Grace Slick doesn’t waste a minute in making her presence known. They perform a largely different set that shows Grace unafraid to get her feet wet with new material and comfortable singing with three other male lead singers. It bodes well that over the course of two sets you can hear her become more confident and the band responds by becoming more excited.

The third set skips ahead a month to two shows at the Fillmore that bring us a fully engaged Grace and a band that is really feeling their oats. Two full shows loaded with classics from the first two albums as well as a bonus couple of songs that were played at a late night photo session. The version of “The Other Side Of This Life” from the late session clocks in a almost 10 minutes and presents the Airplane in full flight. The final release is from February 1, 1968 and is a very special show the band was asked to play at the their old stomping grounds The Matrix. The Airplane had become much bigger than The Matrix (a small club) would indicate, but they good-naturedly loaded in to the club they used to own and proceed to tear the place down! The set now boasts material from the third album After Bathing At Baxter’s and even a couple of the not yet released Crown Of Creation songs and the presence of LSD is quite evident in their music as lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen lights up one solo after another with high-octane rocket fuel. The band is now a live musical beast on a par with their contemporaries The Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service. The Airplane were always the best songwriters and singers but now their musical muscle is bursting Hulk-like out of their Bruce Banner sized clothes and it is something to hear. All four of these sets are fantastic recordings, and far surpass some of the dicier live Airplane releases of the last few years. The packages are beautifully illustrated with vintage photos of the band and informative liner notes. This is a great series.