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Staff Picks: November 26, 2020

Staff Picks: Daniel

Bill Evans: Alone (Again) LP (Fantasy, 1977)

I often listen to jazz pianist Bill Evans when I’m winding down or drifting off to sleep at night, but I didn’t own any of his music on vinyl. I’d been waiting for some to roll through the store—most of his records aren’t particularly rare—and this week it happened. When I listen digitally I reach for 1974’s Symbiosis or 1973’s Conversations with Myself and we didn’t get in either of those, but I did snag this 1977 album Alone (Again), a solo piano record in which he revisits the conceit of his well regarded 1970 LP Alone.

One thing I love in jazz is when musicians take a melody and twist it and turn it inside out, exploring how it works and remaking it into something else in real time. I suppose that’s the soul of jazz, taking an existing framework and making it your own. The classic formula is that the band starts with a main theme, then the players take turns soloing, exploring what makes the song, what it offers, and what its limits might be.

Usually in this arrangement the rhythm section holds down the main rhythm and/or chord progression while the soloists do their thing, but a solo pianist has no such luxury… all Bill Evans has is his two hands. His style is so ornate and busy that each tune’s skeleton seems to dissolve as soon as the song starts. When I’m listening to this record, I’m often unable to pull out anything I’d call a tune or a main melody. Instead, it sounds like a flurry of notes, and even though I can’t make conventional sense of those notes, it still sounds beautiful. I often see the word “complexity” thrown around when people discuss Bill Evans’ music. Paradoxically, the overwhelming complexity simplifies my listening. It’s like my brain gives up any hopes of “understanding” the music, instead sending me to a Zen headspace where I just live in the moment and enjoy the sound.

Staff Picks: Jeff

What’s up Sorry Staters?

Have you ever had the thing happen when you would ask someone about if they like a certain band, and the person would reply, “Yeah, but only their early stuff.” I think over time, my friends and I would make fun of this cliché. With punk nerd-dom evolving, this response eventually devolved into, “Yeah, but only the demo.” Pretty silly. But funny enough, I guess in some cases I do fall into this category, because for my staff pick this week, I would personally argue that the demo does sometimes happen to be a band’s best material. Prime example: the 1984 demo by Sudden Impact, which was reissued by Supreme Echo Records.

I know both Usman and I have mentioned these dudes in our staff picks before: I remember early on when I first met Chris and Michael Hardy (we affectionately refer to them as the Hardy Boys), Michael dubbed me a cassette with a 1983 COC live recording on the A side and the Sudden Impact demo on the B side. At the time, I’d never heard Sudden Impact, but a glowing endorsement from the Hardys goes a long way with me. I would play that tape constantly. Whenever I’d listen to the Sudden Impact side, I would always be enamored with how much I thought it ripped. While the band is from Toronto, listening to the demo, I feel a definite kinship with Sudden Impact and the bands that had that skate rock vibe that I normally associate with the Nardcore and Mystic Records scene. After some detective work, I found out that this demo had never been reissued – much less, was definitely never repurposed on vinyl. Now, don’t get me wrong, Sudden Impact’s 1986 LP No Rest From the Wicked is by no means a bad record, but I guess I was a little disappointed after my introduction to the band was their ripping and much more brief early recording. Sometimes 13 minutes and raw production is about all you need from a hardcore band. There’s just something about the looseness, intensity and speed of the demo that they just nailed right off the bat. Plus, a couple guitar squeals and divebombs that hint at the oncoming thrash wave.

Again, saying that a band’s demo is “better” is kind of ridiculous. That said, I know many of my fellow HCPMFs would agree with me. I feel like the Sudden Impact demo tape specifically is thrown out as a lost 80s hardcore ripper you need to hear. And if you’re gonna hear this recording, this reissue is the way to experience it because it’s a “deluxe” edition with a thick-ass booklet including liner notes, interviews, flyers, and photos of the band. Pretty sick.

Also, I would be remiss if I failed to mention how killer the new Public Acid record is. I got to have some fun hearing early mixes of the record that Chubb would play for me here at the store sometimes, but now holding and hearing the finished product, it’s one of those releases that just makes you go, “Holy shit.” Crushing.

That’s it for me this week.

Thanks for reading,

Staff Picks: Dominic

Hello everyone in Sorry State Land. A very happy Thanksgiving to you all. It’s probably not quite how we all wanted to celebrate the holidays, still in the middle of a pandemic and not being able to be with our families but by this point of 2020 we all should be used to the bizarre being the normal.

This week for my recommended listening I wanted to chose something that felt familiar and uplifting and not too dark. I’ve mentioned before my love of soundtracks and how they are great for mood music and for getting tunes that you can’t find anywhere else, so this week I would like to point you towards another one of my favorites.
Willie Hutch: Foxy Brown. Motown. 1974
I had the CD version of this playing in the car recently and was enjoying it so much that I kept it repeating for several back to back plays. There is a lot to like here. Firstly, the artist Willie Hutch is someone that you should be aware of.   Active as an artist since the mid sixties, he scored several hits during the seventies for himself and other acts on Motown, starting with I’ll Be There for The Jackson 5. In 1973 he hit big with the score to another great Blaxploitation movie, The Mack. That soundtrack included the songs Slick and Brother’s Gonna Work It Out, the latter being a hip-hop sample staple. On the back of that success he was handled the task of scoring the music for Foxy Brown the following year. It’s a triumph and is so much more than a mere soundtrack. The film itself is legendary, mostly due to the incredible star power of Pam Grier who plays the title character but also because it is a good movie. The music matches the scenes and the action superbly. However, the mark of a great piece of soundtrack music is that you can listen to it and enjoy with out having seen the film necessarily. This is definitely one of those. Hutch doesn’t pull any surprise moves here, it’s a soul and funk record all the way and if released as an independent album would surely have been just as popular and successful. The theme song and a couple of other tunes from the record did make it on to various 45 releases but for me the best cuts are exclusive to the record and they make it worth picking up a copy. I particularly like the songs Out There and Ain’t That (Mellow, Mellow), the latter being such a great good vibes tune that reminds me a bit of the William DeVaughn hit Be Thankful For What You Got.

Also of note are the terrific backing vocals on the album, supplied by Maxine and Julia Waters and Carolyn Willis. These ladies have backed up countless artists and Willis was part of the awesome Honey Cone girl group. Those of you familiar with the modern artist Michael Kiwanuka will find some similarities here I think with how he utilizes female backing voices in his songs. There is definitely some similarity in my opinion and that’s a good thing.

Lastly, if any you needed any other reason why owning a copy of this record is a good thing, just take a look at the cover. It’s Pam Grier. Do I need to say anything else?

Here are the two tunes that I mentioned above to whet your appetite and I certainly encourage you to listen to the whole album whether you know it or not. You’ll feel better for doing so, trust me.
Out There
Ain’t That (Mellow, Mellow)
Thanks for reading and we’ll see you all next week. Ta-ra for now.

Staff Picks: Usman

PUBLIC ACID Condemnation EP (Beach Impediment #49)

Mark who does Beach Impediment has the ability to release killer shit seemingly non-stop. La Vida is a similar type of label to my ears (on a slightly larger scale I guess). I've been anticipating this EP's release for a minute, hell I've even hounded Public Acid to bless my label with Jeff with a Public Acid release. Unfortunately we never got a bite. Anyway, this is a killer record. I'm sure every single person reading this right now has heard it already, and hopefully grabbed a copy. This band is so good, they blow the fucking doors off live. Good luck if yer band plays with them cos yer gunna sound like shit compared to their relentless intensity. Yer lil' amp wont stand a chance to Kai's full stack of cabs. And they're not the kind of band where the guitar is loud as fuck and you cant hear the drums, Chubb hits hard as fuck. Alright so I'm not gunna talk about the EP much, buy it from us or Beach Impediment if you haven't or kick yerself later.

"Public Acid" started as a band back in 2012, as Holder's Scar from Greensboro, NC. The line-up has changed a fair amount with the name change, but in a sense it is the same band to me. When the band started, it was Mikey on guitar, Justin on bass, Marty doing vocals with Chubb on the drums (who are both still in the band). After a few years Mikey was no longer in the band, and T-Bone, who had moved to Greenboro a few years after the band formed, took over guitar duties. He lives in Charlotte now and plays guitar in Mutant Strain. He gigged for a while with Holder's Scar. After he stopped, Jeff (from Sorry State) filled in on guitar for a tour to that big ass fest in Austin. After the tour, eventually Kai took over on the guitar, who lived in Chapel Hill at the time. At this point the band changed their name to Public Acid. The second to last release Holder's Scar had was called Public Acid and the final release was No Witness. Almost all these songs you can find re-recorded on Public Acid's debut 12" Easy Weapons. Justin moved to Richmond and soon after left Public Acid. Geoff (who was in Natural Causes) took over for a while. He lived in Chapel Hill at the time but moved to Germany for a while so they need someone new to take over. Will Jarrot from Richmond, VA ended up being their guy (Will Jarrot fucking rules.) 3/4 of the band lives in Richmond now, with Kai being the only North Carolinian left (she lives in Asheville.) I can't wait to hear what they do next. Every release they do is killer. Check out their earlier material if you are just now getting wind of the band. I leave you with a video of Holder's Scar playing live soon after they formed (I think their first show was 5 months before this footage.) So killer live. Yeah the style is little different, but if you listen close - you can hear what the future had in store for them.

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