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The Top Ten Merle Haggard Albums

Posted by Joe Goldmark, October 21, 2014 02:50pm | Post a Comment

It’s been said that during his heyday, 1966-1976, Merle Haggard wrote a good song every day.  I’ve only heard that said about one other artist: Stevie Wonder. Indeed, Merle’s albums during this period showcase his talents as a songwriter and performer. When he wasn’t recording his own tunes, his covers of mostly Bakersfield songwriters further displayed his unique ability to get to the heart of a song.

Merle started out playing bass in Wynn Stewart’s band and soon cut some singles for Tally, a small Bakersfield label. After scoring a top 20 country hit with “Sing a Sad Song,” Merle got signed to Capitol and was teamed up with producer Ken Nelson. Ken let Merle use his own band, supplemented with some L.A. studio guys like James Burton, to get his Bakersfield sound.  The key components were the hot but sparse sounds of guitarist Roy Nichols, steelers Ralph Mooney and Norm Hamlet, and the stark harmonies of Merle’s then wife, Bonnie Owens. Merle had more hits when he moved on to MCA, Epic, Curb, ANTI- and others, but the hard-biting brilliance of his early Capitol works defines Bakersfield C&W music.  There were also five excellent, mostly instrumental albums by Merle’s band, The Strangers, that are worth seeking out if you like slinky West Coast country pickin’.

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10 Essential Albums From Blue Note Records

Posted by Billy Gil, September 29, 2014 06:35pm | Post a Comment

Some of our staff have picked out essential albums from Blue Note Records that should satisfy both the purist and the newcomer to go along with Sonos Studio’s brilliant exhibition celebrating the label's 75th anniversary.

A bit about Blue Note’s history: The label was in 1939 by Alfred Lion and Max Margulis, getting its name from the “blue notes” of blues and jazz, or notes sung a bit lower than the major scale for expressive purposes. Moving from traditional jazz to some bebop (including artists like Thelonious Monk) in the 1940s and hard bop (artists such as Horace Silver) in the 1950s, Blue Note distinguished itself by paying musicians for rehearsals as well as recordings, in order to ensure a better final product. With iconic album artwork by Esquire designer Reid Miles (using photographs of the musician in session, taken by Blue Note’s Francis Wolff), Blue Note made its name as one of the most influential labels in jazz music, later issuing records by free jazz musicians like Ornette Coleman and popular musicians like Herbie Hancock, having records sampled in hip-hop records by the likes of Madlib and, now, seeing massive success with mainstream artists like Norah Jones.

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25 Cassette Store Day Releases to Look For

Posted by Billy Gil, September 24, 2014 05:34pm | Post a Comment

The second annual Cassette Store Day is coming this Saturday Sept. 27! We’ll have just-released cassettes at the front sampler section at Amoeba Hollywood and in front at Berkeley and S.F. Plus, 15% off all used cassettes at Amoeba SF only. Here are some releases to look for …

1349 Massive Cauldron of Chaos

An early release by black metal greats 1349! Personally, I think the lo-fi aesthetic of Black Metal sounds amazing on cassette. The LP and CD come out Sept. 30 on Seasons of Mist.

 

The Adolescents - The Complete Demos 1980-1986

Consisting mostly of tracks recorded in 1980, The Complete Demos is kind of like the punk band’s unofficial first album.

 

Alvvays

Alvvays Alvvays; Fear of Men Loom

Fear of Men and Alvvays are great female-fronted indie-rock bands reminiscent of The Cranberries and The Sundays; two personal favorites from this year.

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The 50 Best Scottish Bands of All Time

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 16, 2014 03:12pm | Post a Comment


By now you and I have heard the arguments for and against Scottish independence from the UK but as someone who has naturally bristled like a thistle when diasporic people argue passionately and ill-informedly about another country's political situations (which they are thankfully powerless to effect) I'll keep my political opinions to myself. What I will do instead is far more frivolous purposes -- that is list the best Scottish bands of all time.


*****
 


Given its small population, Scotland has produced a fairly shocking amount of great music. Sure, there have been occasional English bands of note -- almost always from the north -- but I've always taken Anglophiles' preference for all things (assumed to be) English over English language pop from anywhere else as proof of a terminal subcultural defect. It's not really fair to blame England for Anglophiles any more than it is to blame Nirvana for Puddle of Mudd but I suppose it's because so many of the helmet-haired horde mistakenly think that I am one of them that they so vex me. How could I not be an Anglophile when I drink more tea than the average North African, enjoy curry in all of its Asian forms, and my favorite writer is Irish

I wouldn't describe myself as an Albaphile either -- as I generally like things because they're good and not because of where they're from. Scottish bands are generally good, too. I'm not a fan of The Beta Band, Deacon Blue, Del Amitri, Eurythmics, The Exploited, Franz Ferdinand, IdlewildMogwaiPaolo NutiniThe Proclaimers, The Reindeer Section, The Rezillos, Snow PatrolStealers Wheel, Texas, and Wet Wet Wet although it's possible that I just haven't heard the right songs yet. 

About a decade ago I noticed the sudden appearance of Bobby Gillespie clones and detected a concurrent rise in appreciation of Scottish pop I suggested to more than one Britpop DJ (Britpop in the American catchall sense referring to all post-Phil Collins British music not sung by Seal) that they give Parklife a rest for just one night in just do a set entirely comprised of Scottish pop... or Kiwi pop -- or better yet, both together! It seemed that Scotland and their pop music might blow open the artificial dichotomy of Anglophila vs. Anglophobia and soon we'd all be enjoying music from beyond the Anglosphere altogether!

Lo and behold, my wish is finally coming true -- well, the wish to hear an all-Scottish set*** -- and all it took was the possible dissolution of the United KingdomClub Underground, a Chinatown-based dance club named after England's most famous rapid transit system, will be throwing (regardless of outcome) a Scottish Tribute Night (sorry, "Nite") on Friday, 19 September at Grand Star Jazz Club.

21 Records To Look For This Fall

Posted by Billy Gil, September 10, 2014 03:59pm | Post a Comment

Aphex TwinSyro 


Out Sept. 23

The Internet pretty much exploded when Richard D. James announced Syro, and with good reason. It’s the ambient/electronic artist’s first album in 13 years, and from the sound of the glorious “minipops 67 [120.2][source field mix]” (OMG vocals), it’ll have been worth the wait.

Pre-order Syro LP & CD.

 

Julian Casablancas + The Voids Tyranny 


Out Sept. 23

Will this be the project that lifts the post-Room on Fire curse from Julian Casablancas? Perhaps. The ambitious 11-minute noise-pop piece “Human Sadness” and newly revealed grimy rocker “Where No Eagles Fly” certainly make the case.

Pre-order Tyranny LPCD.

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