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by Josh Antonuccio

7 Apr 2011

In the Bible, there is an interesting story about a largely disregarded prophet named Jeremiah.  Jeremiah was a prophet in Israel, before and after its capture and exile to Babylon.  In a time when most people in that nation were living in what they thought was “love, peace, and happiness”; Jeremiah was walking around telling everyone that judgment and destruction were imminent.  For telling the inevitable truth, Jeremiah was ostracized and out of sync with the culture around him, all the while attesting to a future doom that was yet to come.  In the same vein, a largely unknown folk songwriter at the onset of the 1970s named Bill Fay released the album Time of the Last Persecution from the fringes of the music culture, heralding the end of the era of hippie idealism with messages of judgment, human despair, and eventual consummation. 

Bill Fay’s recording career was short, to say the least.  Besides a 1967 single and two albums released within a year of each other, there is not much material to draw on.  His third album Tomorrow and Tomorrow didn’t see the light of day until nearly 30 years later.  Just last year, Fay released a double-disc collection of both old and new material titled Still Some Light, which featured a collection of songs from his 2009 home studio recordings.  Beyond that there is not much to speak of.

Although his first self-titled debut album received some notice at the time of its release (with the gorgeous song “Be Not So Fearful”), it would be his second, Time of the Last Persecution, that would remain firmly fixed in the imaginations of many, especially notable fans such as Wilco, Six Organs of Admittance, and Sonic Youth member/Wilco producer Jim O’Rourke.

by AJ Ramirez

5 Apr 2011

Today marks the 17th anniversary of the suicide of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, so in tribute to Mr. Unwilling Voice of a Generation I’d like to briefly draw attention to one of his group’s underappreciated gems. Specifically, I’m talking about the first brand-new release the grunge trio unleashed upon the world after conquering the mainstream with its blockbuster second album Nevermind—a song the group elected to issue on indie label Touch & Go as a split single with Texas noise rockers the Jesus Lizard.

It’s wonderfully perverse that Nirvana put out “Oh, the Guilt” in such a manner. Prior to the single’s February 1993 release, Nirvanamania was still riding high, as evidenced by the Christmastime arrival of the rarities collection Incesticide to satiate fans eagerly awaiting a new studio album. So what did the group follow that with? A rarity!  The single had a worldwide pressing of 200,000 copies (only a fraction of the million-plus sales “Smells Like Teen Spirit” racked up in the United States alone), with many of them issued as vinyl records, then considered a dead format by all but the tiniest of labels.  It’s now widely available due to its inclusion on the 2004 box set With the Lights Out, but in case you haven’t had the opportunity or drive to scour through three dense discs of odds-and-ends to uncover it, it’s high time you learned that “Oh, the Guilt” is one ripping piece of scuzz-filled rock

by Zachary Williams

15 Mar 2011

Bud Powell was one of, if not the, greatest jazz pianists we’ve ever known. Most likely, you’ve never heard of him. The man they called ”the Charlie Parker of the piano” had his career damaged by many unfortunate events. The most disheartening were at the hands of the police. At age 20, a drunken Powell was brutally beaten by cops going far beyond the acceptable call of duty. Following the incident, Powell was institutionalized for several months.

Later in life, a marijuana bust was perhaps the last straw. According to his NPR’s Jazz Profiles: “In 1951, Powell was arrested with Thelonious Monk for drug possession. Charges against Bud were dropped, but he was sent to a psychiatric hospital for a year and a half. Finally, it all caught up to Powell and his life took a turn from which he would never fully recover”.

by Stephen Rowland

15 Oct 2010

Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson’s Pacific Ocean Blue seemed the best place to start because it is probably the best album that will appear in this series. That, and it haunts me to my core. It is not easy for me to listen to this record.

The strangest thing is, after shedding pretty much all of the classic Beach Boys sound, after coming into his own and releasing a near-masterpiece, Dennis hated this record (Brian Wilson loved it, by the way). It took him nearly seven years to complete, so my question is: why spend almost a decade creating something you would come to loathe? That’s what marriage is for.  And another question, Dennis (R.I.P.): what exactly is wrong with it?

After the release of Pacific Ocean Blue in 1977, Wilson was extremely excited about his next record, entitled Bamboo or Bambu (no mooks like me can seem to agree). But then he died, and it was never released. Bootlegs exist, but again, nobody can seem to agree on the proper track order, which tracks would’ve been on the actual album (there are about 20 or more floating around)—maybe one day I’ll get it together and try to give my quintet an impression of what could’ve been. My confusion still lingers, however, because he barely wrote any of the songs on Bamboo/u and a lot of them ended up on the Beach Boys’ much-maligned L.A. (Light Album). More to come on that one.

by AJ Ramirez

25 Jun 2010

If you ever have a sit-down conversation with me about music, you’ll pick up sooner or later that I have a major jones for ‘80s R&B. It’s what I grew up on before I discovered rock music in the mid-1990: slick production, high-energy arrangements, and flat-out funktacular grooves. No slow jams for me: I like my R&B to sound like the soundtrack for the most happening house party ever.

I’m always open to encountering underrated gems from that period, and I was suitably impressed when a friend played me Marcus Miller’s underappreciated funk jam “My Best Friend’s Girlfriend” (which peaked at number 36 on the Billboard Club Play chart in 1984). Admittedly, the song isn’t without its faults. Bathed in a production that sounds extremely dated, the song relies on a synthesized melody line with an atrocious tone, while Miller audibly strains as he attempts to high certain notes. Taken at face value, it’s actually kind of a cheesy song. However, Marcus Miller isn’t just your average glossed-up ‘80s funkateer. Miller has had an extensive decades-spanning career largely rooted in the jazz sphere, working both as a solo artist and in collaboration with heroes like Miles Davis. Miller has some serious chops as a performer and as an arranger, proving it with this uptempo blast that practically digs into the listener with its infectious hooks.

The point where “My Best Friend’s Girlfriend” really starts to work its magic is when it hits the prechorus, where the agonized Miller sings the line “And the way she looks into my arms / Lets me know she wants me” in a staccato ascending melodic figure. That staccato motif is then utilized in chorus, injecting it with a fist-pumping energy that surges in search of release. With a chorus like that, I don’t care if if Miller piles on all the dated synth fills he wants. The 12” vinyl single mix is good, but it’s the album version from Miller’s self-titled 1984 effort that really deserves to be tracked down.

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