Released this month in 2008! Warpaint ~ The Black Crowes

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Looking back, it seems inevitable that the Black Crowes would suffer a rocky middle age. Young bands yearning to be old tend to stumble when the years start to pile up, once hunger and ambition start to fade into the ceaseless grind of the road, and the Crowes were no exception. After they mapped out the furthest reaches of their world on 1994’s Amorica they slowly spun their tires, turning out records both respectable and tired, before internal tensions slowly tore the brothers Robinson apart, leading to a split in 2002, not long after the release of their sixth album, Lions. A few years of solo wanderings led the Crowes to a reunion in 2005, but they had to go through a few more lineup changes — including the addition of North Mississippi Allstar Luther Dickinson as the replacement for guitarist Marc Ford — before they buckled down to record their seventh album, 2008’s Warpaint. All that turmoil and trouble are felt on Warpaint, as are the years the band spent paying dues on the jam band circuit after Amorica. Warpaint shows that the decade of hard struggle gave the Crowes soul and chops, turning them into the band they’ve always wanted to be. the Black Crowes haven’t changed their basic sound — ever since Shake Your Money Maker the band has always drawn deeply from the Stones and Faces, tempering that British swagger with Southern-fried blues borrowed from the Allmans, then slowly threading hippie mysticism throughout — but the feel of the band has changed, as the Crowes have turned from reckless ruffians into seasoned veterans, with the group feeling lived-in and genuine. There’s depth here, highlighted by an instrumental suppleness that slightly recalls Little Feat — particularly on the slow-rolling “Oh Josephine” with its gently cascading choruses — an evolution that could only be earned during those years on the road, building the band through nightly jams and a slow cycle of membership turnovers. This is a suppleness that has grit, thanks especially to Dickinson’s glass slide runs that give this music some welcome grease. the Crowes also pull off a couple of sly moves here, weaving some swirling psychedelia through the chorus of “Movin’ on Down the Line,” turning the Reverend Charlie Jackson’s “God’s Got It” into a heavy, heavy backwoods stomp, then spinning the closing “Whoa Mule” into a roiling blues raga. These are the turns and tricks of veterans, who can slide these flourishes into their signature sound without calling attention to their changeups, but these numbers are enough of a departure to garner attention — what may not get as much praise is how the Crowes write compellingly within their standard sound, as they do here, beginning with the opening gambit of the down’n’dirty “Goodbye Daughters of the Revolution” and the crawling “Walk Believer Walk.” From there, Warpaint continues to gain momentum, as this album is not only their strongest set of songs since Amorica, it has a depth and presence that is rare for a digital age creation and, best of all, the album has a true narrative thrust, making it feel like a true classic rock album. What the Black Crowes have done here is what true journeymen do: they don’t renounce their past, they build upon it, finding hidden depths within it, shaping tradition after their own image to make it sound fresh. They’re old-fashioned, but in the best sense: they’re in it for the long haul, which the superb Warpaint proves beyond a shadow of a doubt.

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Happy Birthday Angus Young!

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Angus McKinnon Young (born 31 March 1955) is a Scottish-born Australian guitarist best known as a co-founder, lead guitarist, and songwriter of the Australian hard rock band, AC/DC. Known for his energetic performances, schoolboy-uniform stage outfits, and popularisation of Chuck Berry’s duckwalk, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Young as the 24th greatest guitarist of all time.[3] In 2003, he and the other members of AC/DC were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. AC/DC have remained together since their formation in 1974 and have released 15 studio albums. The band have shipped over 200 million albums worldwide, with 70 million certified units in the US. Their 1980 studio album, Back in Black, is accountable for 50 million of those worldwide sales and is the second all time highest-selling album worldwide.

Did you know? RCA issued the first ever 45rpm single on this day in 1949..

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1949, RCA Victor introduced the 45rpm single record, which had been in development since 1940. The 7-inch disc was designed to compete with the Long Playing record introduced by Columbia a year earlier. Both formats offered better fidelity and longer playing time than the 78rpm record that was currently in use. Advertisements for new record players boasted that with 45rpm records, the listener could hear up to ten records with speedy, silent, hardly noticeable changes. The first 45 rpm disc, ‘Texarkana Baby’ by country & western singer Eddy Arnold, was issued by RCA in the US. It was made of green vinyl, as part of an early attempt to colour-code singles according to the genre of music they featured. Others included red for classical music and yellow for children’s songs.

Released on this day in 1989! 3 Feet High and Rising ~ De La Soul

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The most inventive, assured, and playful debut in hip-hop history, 3 Feet High and Rising not only proved that rappers didn’t have to talk about the streets to succeed, but also expanded the palette of sampling material with a kaleidoscope of sounds and references culled from pop, soul, disco, and even country music. Weaving clever wordplay and deft rhymes across two dozen tracks loosely organized around a game-show theme, De La Soul broke down boundaries all over the LP, moving easily from the groovy my-philosophy intro “The Magic Number” to an intelligent, caring inner-city vignette named “Ghetto Thang” to the freewheeling end-of-innocence tale “Jenifa Taught Me (Derwin’s Revenge).” Rappers Posdnuos and Trugoy the Dove talked about anything they wanted (up to and including body odor), playing fast and loose on the mic like Biz Markie. Thinly disguised under a layer of humor, their lyrical themes ranged from true love (“Eye Know”) to the destructive power of drugs (“Say No Go”) to Daisy Age philosophy (“Tread Water”) to sex (“Buddy”). Prince Paul (from Stetsasonic) and DJ Pasemaster Mase led the way on the production end, with dozens of samples from all sorts of left-field artists — including Johnny Cash, the Mad Lads, Steely Dan, Public Enemy, Hall & Oates, and the Turtles. The pair didn’t just use those samples as hooks or drumbreaks — like most hip-hop producers had in the past — but as split-second fills and in-jokes that made some tracks sound more like DJ records. Even “Potholes on My Lawn,” which samples a mouth harp and yodeling (for the chorus, no less), became a big R&B hit. If it was easy to believe the revolution was here from listening to the rapping and production on Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, with De La Soul the Daisy Age seemed to promise a new era of positivity in hip-hop.

New Release! Sonic Bloom ~ Night Beats

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Seattle garage rockers Night Beats have been at it for a few years now, but they’ve already put out music on LP + 7” vinyl, cassette, and have appeared on compilations, DVDs, and live bootlegs. However, the band’s most recent release, Sonic Bloom, is what will truly give them the attention and praise they deserve. Night Beats brings the resonant and raw quality of their fuzz-fueled rock and meld it with the flowing and exotic nature of psychedelic music.

Sonic Bloom is the band’s second full length LP and was released by The Reverberation Appreciation Society, the record label branch of the Austin Psych Fest, where the band has played in the past. (Two of the members are also originally from Austin, TX) Taking queues from bands like Zombies and more contemporary artists like the Black Lips, Night Beats’ songs are well crafted and catchy tunes that put the listener back to a simpler time. The hooks catch the listener immediately as the opening track “Love Ain’t Strange (Everything Else Is)” is one of the most memorable songs on the LP. In addition, the grooves on songs like “The 7 Poison Wonders” and “The Hidden Circle” are infectious and keep you entertained throughout the entire album while also creating excellent contrast for the harder hitting tracks. One of these tracks is “Rat King”. Feedback flashes of guitar switch off with jams by the rhythm section until the two chaotic halves combine into one fluid segment of the song, and with the lo-fi echoing vocals layering over top of this, the song packs a truly powerful punch.

The only critique to offer is that a few of the songs throughout the record can blend together a bit. The upper half of the record in particular lacks some of the experimental techniques that make the latter half’s songs really shine. In addition, the vocals are at their best when Lee Blackwell (who also plays guitar) varies the tones of his vocals to match the nature of the song (like in “Love Ain’t Strange”). Instrumentally the album is solid throughout, using extra instruments like keyboards and horns to add texture to already dynamic recordings. Blackwell’s guitar technique is refreshing and his use of such a variety of effects adds a lot to his sound. Tarek Wegner’s bass playing with James Traeger’s drumming makes for the best you could ask from a rhythm section too; they hold the foundation of the songs but their parts also easily take center stage at times throughout Sonic Bloom.

So, if you are looking for a garage rock record that is sure to be a timeless classic in no time, Night Beats is the band to listen to. The record also serves as a great representation of the Reverberation Appreciation Society. If the other records in their discography are at this caliber, they are also definitely a name to keep an eye on.

Released on this day in 1972! Music of My Mind ~ Stevie Wonder

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With a new contract from Motown in his hand, Stevie Wonder released Music of My Mind, his first truly unified record and, with the exception of a single part on two songs, the work of a one-man-band. Everything he had learned about musicianship, engineering, and production during his long apprenticeship in the Snakepit at Motown Studios came together here (from the liner notes: “The sounds themselves come from inside his mind. The man is his own instrument. The instrument is an orchestra.”) Music of My Mind was also the first to bear the fruits of his increased focus on Moog and Arp synthesizers, though the songs never sound synthetic, due in great part to Stevie’s reliance on a parade of real instruments — organic drumwork, harmonica, organs and pianos — as well as his mastery of traditional song structure and his immense musical personality. The intro of the vibrant, tender “I Love Every Little Thing About You” is a perfect example, humanized with a series of lightly breathed syllables for background rhythm. And when the synthesizers do appear, it’s always in the perfect context: the standout “Superwoman” really benefits from its high-frequency harmonics, and “Seems So Long” wouldn’t sound quite as affectionate without the warm electronics gurgling in the background. This still wasn’t a perfect record, though; “Sweet Little Girl” was an awkward song, with Stevie assuming another of his embarrassing musical personalities to fawn over a girl.

New Release! Wilderness ~ The Handsome Family

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Wilderness, the tenth long-player from the New Mexico-based husband-and-wife team of Brett and Rennie Sparks (The Handsome Family) lives up to its ecological moniker with a 12-track set that invokes both nature and nurture, with an emphasis on the shady bits in between. Once again, Brett handles the melody side of things while Rennie conjures up the stories, and oh what diabolical tales they are. Each song is named for a beast, bird, amphibian, reptile, or insect, and like a Kafka short story or a Michael Sowa painting, they occupy that strange, ill-defined moment between a particularly vivid dream and the cruel bleat of the alarm clock. Standout cuts like the galloping, Beatlesque “Octopus,” the funereal “Glow Worm,” and the remarkably affecting “Wildebeest,” the latter of which compares the death of Stephen Foster, the oft-cited father of American music, who bashed his head against a water basin in a fit of fever and later died from infection, to a crocodile-savaged “wildebeest gone crazy with thirst pulled down as he tried to drink,” feel less like the warm, composed, bedroom country-folk hymns that they are and more like the vision quest-induced fever dreams of a modern day Carlos Castaneda chasing a particularly elusive spirit animal.