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Multiupload is acting funky today, so I’m using other stuff. It’ll be fun when none of them work. Is there a single reliable upload service left? Jeez. -Ian!

The Merry-Go-Round’s Listen, Listen: The Definitive Collection is a near-perfect example of doing a reissue the right way. Lovingly put together by the folks at Rev-Ola, the package is a perfect blend of enlightenment and entertainment, with insightful liner notes that feature new interviews with many members of the group and their guiding light, Emitt Rhodes, excellent photos, clean and crisp sound, and best of all, the wonderful music of the Merry-Go-Round and Emitt Rhodes. First, some bookkeeping. The opening half of the disc contains the group’s lone album released on A&M in 1967, The Merry-Go-Round, the second half is the Emitt Rhodes album released by A&M in 1970 (and also in ’71 with a different cover and an altered track listing) called The American Dream. The album is made up of songs Rhodes cut with studio pros in 1969 after the demise of the group, as well as demos recorded in the latter days of the Merry-Go-Round. The package is rounded out by four songs taken from singles released after The Merry-Go-Round, the mono version with drums of “Time Will Show the Wiser,” and as a bonus, the band’s recording of “Good Vibrations” with A&M honcho Herb Alpert on lead trumpet. Now for the music. The Merry-Go-Round is a breathtaking blend of chiming folk-rock guitars, British Invasion harmony vocals, baroque pop arrangements, and pure pop songcraft that sounds daisy fresh in 2005. The Beatles are a huge influence, there is plenty of Paul McCartney in Rhodes’ sweet vocals and their vocal harmonies. You can hear the Byrds a bit, some Left Banke (especially on the sweeping orchestral pop gem “You’re a Very Lovely Woman”), some L.A. garage on rockers like “Where Have You Been All My Life” and “Lowdown”; the group definitely didn’t exist in a vacuum. There are some songs, though, that are quite unique and original like “Time Will Show the Wiser” with its otherworldly sped-up and backwards guitars and enchanting melody; the warm and bouncy hit single “Live,” and “Had to Run Around” an exquisite ballad whose tender beauty foreshadows Rhodes’ classic 1970 Emitt Rhodes album.

These songs, and the overall quality of the songs and the group’s loose and earthy playing, help lift the album above the pack and should lead to it being mentioned in the same breath as Love’s first album or Buffalo Springfield’s first when talking about classic American debut albums of the ’60s. The singles included on the reissue show the band adding piano and a fuller sound, not too surprising since many of the tracks on the album were demos. They are fine songs, too; 1968’s “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band”-inspired “Listen, Listen” rocks harder than anything else they recorded and has one of Rhodes’ most intense vocals; “She Laughed Loud” is a self-mocking tune with some great background vocals, and “Missing You” incorporates some lovely harpsichord and was unjustly buried as a B-side. The American Dream album features some of Rhodes’ best songs, like the rollicking Harry Nilsson-esque “Holly Park,” the catchy as the flu, should-have-been a hit “Let’s All Sing,” and a couple of tracks that sound like the blueprint for the sound of Rhodes’ first real solo album: the simple and beautiful “Saturday Night” and “Pardon Me.” It also features a couple of near-clunkers in the hokey Appalachian narrative “Textile Factory,” the overly dramatic “Someone Died,” and the calypso-inflected “Mary Will You Take My Hand.” The use of studio musicians also tends to drain most of the homespun charm of the MGR’s work and the grafted-on string and horn arrangements on some of the songs can veer to the point of schmaltz (“Come Ride, Come Ride,” “The Man He Was”). When you strip away the excess sweetening, though, the record is at its heart a solid pop record, not up to the standard of what preceded it or what followed, but most certainly worth hearing. The set is a must for fans of Rhodes, too, but more than that, the fact that it marks the first time the entire Merry-Go-Round discography is available on CD makes it an absolute must for fans of sophisticated ’60s pop. In a world of botched reissues and pointless collections, Rev-Ola gets it right here.

-Tim Sendra,

The Merry-Go-Round-LISTEN, LISTEN: THE DEFINITIVE COLLECTION (1966-69, 2005 compilation)
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Compiled by rock critic and future Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye, 1972’s Nuggets was the anthology responsible for reviving interest in mid-’60s American garage rock. After the proliferation of specialized volumes with the Nuggets title by reissue label Rhino, this four-CD box set is intended as the ideal summation/expansion of the Nuggets concept. The first CD reproduces, track-by-track, the original 27-song Nuggets, while the other three CDs add what may be considered 91 bonus tracks, from the biggest-selling garage hits (“Louie Louie,” “Wooly Bully”) to some cuts that only devout ’60s specialists will know. All important permutations of the mid-’60s garage style are present: primitive fuzz, folk-rock, horn rock, psychedelic dementia, protest rock, etc. Major heroes the Music Machine, the Seeds, the Shadows of Knight, the Electric Prunes, the Standells, the Sonics, the Chocolate Watch Band, and many others are all represented, often by more than one song. If it’s possible to give a five-star rating with reservations, it’s tempting to do so here. No one could have possibly satisfied all rabid garage collectors with a mere 118 songs, but that’s not really the point here; the object was to provide a wide-ranging box set of ’60s garage rock that would entertain, represent the considerable span of garage styles, and be massive — yet affordable — for the committed rock fan who nonetheless doesn’t want everything. Rhino has succeeded, while also presenting the songs in the best possible quality (in mono), whether from the master tapes or best existing copies. With a 100-page booklet of new liner notes (Kaye’s original annotation is also included), it is the best investment possible for those who thirst for more ’60s garage rock than is available on the best single-volume compilations, with a track selection geared toward cream-of-the-crop quality and variety rather than narrow collector prejudices.

-Richie Unterberger,


Actually thought I uploaded these already. This is the ground floor for Tangerine Dream, the goto stuff. Before the digital 1980s film score stuff like LEGEND that I think irrevocably tied them to cheesy sword-and-sorcery imagery for an entire generation of would-be fans. -Ian!

Phaedra is one of the most important, artistic, and exciting works in the history of electronic music, a brilliant and compelling summation of Tangerine Dream’s early avant-space direction balanced with the synthesizer/sequencer technology just beginning to gain a foothold in nonacademic circles. The result is best heard on the 15-minute title track, unparalleled before or since for its depth of sound and vision. Given focus by the arpeggiated trance that drifts in and out of the mix, the track progresses through several passages including a few surprisingly melodic keyboard lines and an assortment of eerie Moog and Mellotron effects, gaseous explosions, and windy sirens. Despite the impending chaos, the track sounds more like a carefully composed classical work than an unrestrained piece of noise. While the title track takes the cake, there are three other excellent tracks on Phaedra. “Mysterious Semblance at the Strand of Nightmares” is a solo Edgar Froese song that uses some surprisingly emotive and affecting synthesizer washes, and “Movements of a Visionary” is a more experimental piece, using treated voices and whispers to drive its hypnotic arpeggios. Perhaps even more powerful as a musical landmark now than when it was first recorded, Phaedra has proven the test of time.

The members of Tangerine Dream continued to hone their craft as pioneers of the early days of electronica, and the mid-’70s proved to be a time of prosperity and musical growth for the trio of Chris Franke, early member Peter Baumann, and permanent frontman Edgar Froese. The three of them had been delivering mysterious space records on a regular basis, and their growing confidence with early synthesizers (the best that money could buy at the time) made them virtuosos of the genre, even as they kept things organic and unpredictable with gongs, prepared piano, and electric guitar. Rubycon has aged gracefully for the most part, making it a solid companion (and follow-up) to their 1974 album, Phaedra. The somewhat dated palette of sounds here never overshadow the mood: eerie psychedelia without the paisleys — Pink Floyd without the rock. “Rubycon, Pt. 1” ebbs and flows through tense washes of echo and Mellotron choirs, as primitive sequencer lines bubble to the surface. “Pt. 2” opens in a wonderfully haunted way, like air-raid sirens at the lowest possible pitch, joined in unison by several male voices (someone in the band must have heard György Ligeti’s work for 2001). Rising out of the murkiness, the synthesizer arpeggios return to drive things along, and Froese weaves his backwards-recorded guitar through the web without really calling too much attention to himself. The piece evolves through varying degrees of tension, takes a pit stop on the shoreline of some faraway beach, then ever so gradually unravels a cluster of free-form strings and flutes. The rest are vapors, your ears are sweating under your headphones, and the smoke has cleared from your bedroom. This is a satisfying ambient record from the pre-ambient era, too dark for meditation, and too good to be forgotten.

-John Bush, Glenn Swan,

PHAEDRA (1974)
RUBYCON (1975)

To be clear, this compiles material recorded in the mid-1950s. This isn’t some throwback stuff. This is the real deal! -Ian!

Pure unbridled individualism, letting insanity run wild, playing all your instruments yourself without multi tracking, recording it in a wood shed behind your mom’s house and putting the blood and dirt in the music that is the pure essence of Rockabilly. Elvis is not the king in my eyes Hasil is. He is the great artist that was on a wavelength different from everybody elses’.

In “She Said” he talks of trying to make it with a girl whose face looks like ” a dying box of commodity meat”, then in a insane voice that gives me goosebumps he talks about chopping off his girlfriend’s head and putting it on the wall. I’m thinking what got in to this guy did he channel a demon while recording? Is he a schizo with multi personalties? Then he goes on to talk about a dance called “The Hunch” about the ancient dirty deed not the usual 1950’s lyrical fare. No wonder none of the majors ever picked him up. If you like your music RAW and REAL you don’t get better Rockabilly then the Haze.

-Cool Cat Rich,

Hasil Adkins-OUT TO HUNCH (1986 compilation)

I’m really excited about Gil Scott-Heron returning with this CRAZY SCOTT WALKER’S “THE DRIFT” SOUNDING ALBUM. Holy moly, talk about out of left field. -Ian!

Gil Scott-Heron, Brian Jackson, and the Midnight Band take a slightly different approach with their 1977 effort, Bridges. With less of the gaping and world-infused sound prevalent on previous albums, the songs are more concise and Scott-Heron comes into his own as a singer depending less on his spoken word vocal style. This album may not be one of his better-known releases (the long out of print LP is slated to make it’s CD debut in the fall of 2001), but the excellent songwriting exposes Scott-Heron at the height of his powers as a literary artist.

Air sampled this on some album I haven’t heard yet.

The social, political, cultural, and historical themes are presented in a tight funk meets jazz meets blues meets rock sound that is buoyed by Jackson’s characteristic keyboard playing and the Midnight Band’s colorful arrangements. Scott-Heron’s ability to make the personal universal is evident from the opening track, “Hello Sunday! Hello Road!,” all the way through to the gorgeous “95 South (All of the Places We’ve Been).” The most popular cut on the album, “We Almost Lost Detroit,” which shares its title with the John G. Fuller book published in 1975, recounts the story of the nuclear meltdown at the Fermi Atomic Power Plant near Monroe, MI, in 1966. This song was also contributed to the No Nukes concert and album in 1980. Along with the two records that would follow in the late 70s, Bridges stands as one of Scott-Heron’s most enjoyable and durable albums.

-Jeff Schwachter,

Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson-BRIDGES (1977)

So far, one volume of this exists for Indiana. There’s THREE Ohio volumes, THREE Florida volumes, but NO New Jersey volumes. Does anybody know of a New Jersey garage/frat rock/60s/70s comp? -Ian!

Gear Fab’s Psychedelic States series, which collects vintage 1960s garage rock singles on a regional, state-by-state basis, is extremely valuable in an archaeological sort of way, since these rare 45-rpm artifacts afford an interesting glimpse into the music of a specific time, place, and demographic, and in a larger context, allow for a region-to-region comparison of the similarities and differences in the garage band phenomenon. That’s the scholarly way to look at these collections. Musically, however, most of these singles are badly recorded, poorly performed, and clichéd and derivative at almost every level, which, of course, is probably why they’re so prized by collectors. This volume, which spotlights the Hoosier State, abounds with badly recorded, rhythmically challenged bands that scream and fuzz-chord their way through crude songs with a take-no-prisoners attitude and little else going for them. In other words, it’s an utterly fascinating glimpse at a time in the U.S. when every garage on the block seemed to have a band rehearsing in it, a glimpse at a true suburban folk movement where owning an instrument was at least as important as knowing how to properly play it and nowhere close to as important as the need to simply make noise.

Nothing here redefines Indiana as the epicenter of rock & roll in the 1960s, and nothing here was even so much as a regional hit, but this collection (like the others in this series) has all the charm of a truly bad horror film, the kind where you can’t help but root for the monster to destroy everything in sight. Highlights? It’s hard to say. The Endd’s shaky, tottering “Gonna Send You Back to Your Mother” from 1967 is spooky and oddly haunting, even infectious in a creepy way. The Chevelles’ “Just Once in My Life,” also from 1967, bounces along on a simple yet effective melody. The Serfmen’s “Cry” from 1964 is a fascinatingly ragged hybrid of “Louie, Louie” and “Twist and Shout.” The Jades’ “Come Back” from 1967 is simple and solid, and might even have been a hit if it weren’t so derivatively generic, which makes one wonder even more why it wasn’t a hit. Again, this collection will probably mean more to historians and collectors than it will to anyone else, and none of these singles could be deemed essential by any stretch of reasoning, but by sheer accumulation these raw, ragged sides show that there was indeed something happening, Mr. Jones, even in Indiana.

-Steve Leggett,

Supplemental visual accompaniment:


Various Artists-PSYCHEDELIC STATES: INDIANA IN THE 60’s VOL. 1 (2006 compilation)
320kbps, testing out a new upload service