The decision to press this collection of songs that jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi wrote and recorded for various Peanuts TV specials and films on a picture disc (Snoopy on the a-side; Woodstock on the flip)—a notoriously ugly sounding medium—was bad enough, but worse still is the lack of quality control that went into this project. The volume varies from track to track, and, at least on the copy I was sent to review, the vinyl was cut a little off center so, as the sides rolled along, the tone arm started to sway, giving the music a watery and dizzying sheen. Guaraldi and his cool, jumpy jazz deserve far better than this. Luckily, original issues and repressings of this work for A Charlie Brown Christmas and A Boy Called Charlie Brown are plentiful on the secondary market. When your music is in high demand, it never really goes away.
About 14 months after the release of a boxed set compiling the Zombies’ studio recordings, Varèse and Craft Recordings have broken three of the LPs out of that collection for the vinyl market. Which should be great news for anyone who couldn’t afford that set or that want to flesh out their Zombies vinyl collection beyond the band’s magnum opus Odessey & Oracle. And as it was when they were a part of last year’s box, this trio of reissues sound fantastic, with a crisp and clean remastering job by Steve Massie that stays true to ‘60s recording technology while giving a gentle polish to the source material. As a long time fan, I heartily recommend all three, but for the budget conscious vinyl buyer, start with I Love You, a compilation of some of the best material from the band’s initial run initially issued in Sweden as The Zombies in 1966. It features arguably their strongest pre-psychedelia tunes like “Indication,” “Whenever You’re Ready,” the starry-eyed “You Make Me Feel Good,” and “The Way I Feel Inside,” which should be familiar to you Wes Anderson stans out there. It’s a good choice too if you’re dipping into the Zombies discography for the first time. If you can ride with this, you’re going to love everything else the group did in their heyday.
Young white musicians embracing and evolving the sounds of the Afro-Caribbean diaspora has been a hallmark of England’s cultural landscape for decades now, as heard through the work of artists like the Pop Group, the Specials and Gorillaz. So the makeup of Nihiloxica, which joins a gaggle of percussionists from Uganda with musicians from the UK isn’t terribly shocking. The music this ensemble has devised is where the surprises lay. The rhythms and spirit are taken directly from the Ugandan folk tradition, but they’re being interpreted in real time by children of the broadband age: the rumble and bounce of acoustic instruments augmented by electronic percussion, a dub-like embrace of reverb and drone and clipped, almost overdriven digital production. Kaloli, the first official full-length by this group, is one of the most singularly thrilling albums to be released this year—an unblemished reflection of art’s ability to crumble borders and language barriers, and the common ground that can be built through a shared goal of reaching musical enlightenment.
Jacob’s Ladder, released in 1990, was a particularly harrowing film about the effects of PTSD wrapped in a horror story about a Vietnam vet subjected to medical experiments that left him with nightmarish visions of creatures big and small. Maurice Jarre’s score for the film was appropriately haunted and prickly, and should have been appreciated more at the time. His soundscapes, mixing low synth drones with Asian reed instruments and what sounds like the Bulgarian women’s choir, softened at times by a traditional orchestra and piano backdrop, set the template for contemporary film and TV composers like Hildur Guðnadóttir, Jonathan Snipes and Brian Reitzell. Waxwork, once again, does right by this music, surrounding it with creepy artwork from Jeremy Pailler and pressing it onto wax that is the color of a psych ward hallway.
This is not the strongest recording of Chet Baker’s post-comeback career. The jazz trumpeter sounds tentative throughout this 1979 session with vibes player Wolfgang Lackerschmid—his tone soft and winded. Which leads Lackerschmid to, at times, overcompensate and play with more fervor and volume. But with no other players to lean on or hide behind, the naked beauty and minimalist calm of these sessions becomes the centerpoint. Neither man aims for virtuosity or showiness as there was a late night mood to be evoked. That is perhaps why Baker felt so at home in the European jazz scene during the last decade of his life—and led him to collaborate with Lackerschmid on this album and in various live performances. The trumpeter wasn’t physically able to wail on his instrument but his melancholic sound cut right to the core of anyone with a soul in their body. Are you that somebody? Dot Time’s clean, frills-free reissue of this 1979 release is for you.
There have been many, many vinyl issues of the second album by modern metal dynamos Between The Buried And Me. There have been at least five different pressings by Victory Records since this LP was initially released in 2003. But it took that label until 2014 to finally put the breathtakingly complex music on black wax, leading me to believe that—unless you had a CD—fans were not getting the complete picture of what the band accomplished on The Silent Circus. They’ll have an even better opportunity to bathe in every dime-stopping change in time signature, mood and temperament that BTBAM indulged in with the release of this new edition of the album by Craft Recordings. While there’s a definite drop in attack and low end here as should be expected with a digital recording released on an analog medium, the pressing is remarkably quiet and manages to dial down the heavily compressed sound of the original sessions. And they cheekily tossed in a long chunk of silence at the end of side four to replicate the experience of waiting for the CD to finally reach the album’s hidden closing track “The Man Land.” Sure, you can pick up the needle and move it over to the song’s starting point, but where’s the fun in that?
We need to talk, yet again, about colored vinyl. My guess is that the average vinyl buyer isn’t terribly concerned about the fidelity of the records they purchase. The novelty of the medium is the draw; the music is almost an afterthought. And they do look damn cool spinning on the turntable. But they rarely sound as good as a black or clear pressing would. This truism is a bell I keep ringing in this column because I keep wishing that some of the records I get to review, like this lost album from Indiana acid rockers ICE, would sound better than it does. Especially because I love the hell out of this record. This band, which hit its popularity peak in the late ‘60s, was resurrected by an appearance (under a different name) on RidingEasy’s always amazing Brown Acid compilations. The interest in the group prompted the label to offer to release the album ICE recorded in 1970 and quickly shelved after their breakup. The music is psych rock perfection, taking the smoky sound of Steppenwolf and Deep Purple and adding a Byrdsian ramble and romanticism. But every moment is undercut by an audible whoosh courtesy of the yellow wax its pressed on. (The black vinyl version has long since sold out.) Frustrating? Absolutely. Annoying enough to stop me from spinning this on the regular? Not by a long shot.