Record Time is Paste’s monthly column that takes a glimpse into the wide array of new vinyl releases that are currently flooding record stores around the world. Rather than run down every fresh bit of wax in the marketplace, we’ll home in on special editions, reissues and unusual titles that come across our desk with an interest in discussing both the music and how it is pressed and presented. This month that includes a massive boxed set of David Bowie’s ‘80s output, some piano jazz classics, a collection of library music and a reissue of an Elephant 6 power pop gem.
David Bowie – Loving The Alien: 1983 – 1988 (Parlophone)
The efforts by Parlophone Records to bring David Bowie’s entire discography (give or take a few notable omissions) has now arrived at one of the most maligned periods of the late artist’s career. It was a stretch of time when the Thin White Duke made unapologetic stabs at true worldwide pop stardom, reaching those heights and then falling back down to earth again, creatively speaking.
This weighty eight-LP set makes no such judgement calls. It simply pulls together remastered versions of his three studio albums from the era (1983’s Let’s Dance, 1984’s Tonight and 1987’s Never Let Me Down), two live albums, a collection of dance remixes, an odds and ends set and, intriguingly, a new version of the material Never, conceived by Bowie before his death in 2016 and completed by Mario McNulty.
The studio material benefits the most here, with even the lightweight tunes from the trio sounding explosive on wax. Even the curiosity that is the 2018 remake of Never Let Me Down sounds spectacular on the turntable. Unfortunately the result is a clearer glimpse into the more misguided decisions by McNulty and his host of collaborators, like the syrupy string arrangements by Nico Muhly and Reeves Gabrels’ diaphanous guitar work. The Re:call 4 set is a great benefit to fans too as it compiles his soundtrack work for cult favorite films Labyrinth and Absolute Beginners with copious singles edits and his quaintly misguided take on “Dancin’ In The Streets,” recorded with Mick Jagger. It’s only the live recordings, both seemingly sourced from rough recordings meant for home video release, that sound entirely thin and tinny. ‘Tis a pity, too, as the performances, particularly from the Serious Moonlight tour, are full of spirit and sharp edges.
The Weeknd – Kiss Land (Republic)
As vinyl becomes more and more a signifier of cool rather than a vehicle for music in the eyes of some labels and consumers, we’re going to see a small tidal wave of releases like this 5th anniversary re-release of The Weeknd’s debut album. It’s the LP equivalent of those deluxe editions that drop into the world eight to 16 months after an album’s initial release. This one feels potentially more egregious as Republic Records issued Kiss Land on vinyl when it was first released in 2013. The draw for this one is colored wax and new slipcover packaging that is well-designed but counterintuitive, with the promise of many records accidentally falling to the floor. The music, at least, sounds as good as a mostly digital production can when transferred to an analog medium. The Cinemascope sweep of Abel Tesfaye’s production gets tamped down a bit but there’s still enough oomph cut into each side of this double LP to allow for multiple late night buzzed spins.
Terry Callier – The New Folk Sound Of Terry Callier (Craft Recordings)/What Color Is Love (Cadet/Geffen)
The career of Terry Callier was a long-simmering affair that took the better part of three decades to finally boil over into some kind of solid success. His first album, reissued this month by Craft Recordings, was recorded for Prestige Records in 1964, but didn’t come out until four years later after the producer absconded with the tapes. By the time it was finally released, as writer Jason P. Woodbury says in his liner notes, “the quiet, moody folk of the LP was out of step with the heady times…and it failed to register a commercial impact.” A few years later, Callier had left his acoustic roots behind for soul-jazz, issuing a trio of records in the early ‘70s, including the masterpiece What Color Is Love, which is being brought back into circulation thanks to Geffen. His steady, vibrato-laden voice didn’t change from one record to the other, only his decision to move from spiritually-minded concerns to those of the body.
Callier was brought from the brink of obscurity thanks to record collectors and artists like Beth Orton and Massive Attack who cited him as an inspiration and helped him find a modern audience. And they have helped keep his older material in the minds of music obsessives, playing no small part in the reissues of these two albums. You really can’t go wrong with either one. Keep both in circulation on a lazy Sunday and they’ll each set the mood: New Folk Sound for the morning and twilight hours, Love giving the afternoon and early evening a nice sense of purpose and groove.
The Minders – Hooray For Tuesday (20th Anniversary Edition)
Portland-based popsters The Minders began their existence two decades ago in Denver, aided in the studio by Apples In Stereo leader Robert Schneider and skirting the outer rings of The Elephant 6 Collective that begat Neutral Milk Hotel. While lead Minder Martyn Leaper shared a lot of the same ‘60s loving DNA with those groups, he had a firmer grasp on the particulars that most with the help of his perfectly tart vocals and knack for an instant earworm hook. With the rights to the first Minders album back in his control, Leaper is re-releasing Hooray For Tuesday for the first time on vinyl with the addition two unheard versions of the title track: a re-recording by the current iteration of the band and a demo from 1996. The woozy, candyfloss spirit of this music still sounds like lost broadcasts from the bubblegum pop era, a sensation amplified through it being pressed to wax. The bonus cuts suffer a bit as the second side of my copy was cut a little off-center so they sound too warped to really enjoy. Until that point, the music offers nothing but pure delight.
RAMP – Come Into Knowledge (Verve)
The name of this soul-jazz ensemble is an acronym for Roy Ayers Music Productions, as it was the creation of vibraphonist Roy Ayers and he handled much of the songwriting on the group’s sole full-length Come Into Knowledge. If you know anything about Ayers’ work at the time this album’s release in 1977, you likely have a good idea of what the music sounds like: smoothed out love songs with a light dusting of funk and a lot of cyclical lyrics. If not, you’ve surely heard some of these tunes sampled by the likes of A Tribe Called Quest and Erykah Badu.
Returning this album to circulation will likely bring about some sighs of relief from record collectors as original copies of this album command $60 or more in the resale market. And Verve’s new pressing of it does these rare grooves justice. The music sounds as crystalline and gleaming as ever, to the benefit of the lovely vocals of Sharon Matthews and Sibel Thrasher, the co-lead singers for this Cincinnati-based outfit. The material itself isn’t the most dynamic of the era, as it tends to land in repetitive grooves with lyrics that don’t move much beyond one idea or phrase. All the performers on here sound great, but went on to far more exciting projects since.
Pharoah Sanders – Thembi (Verve)
The name and face on the cover of this 1971 album may be that of multi-instrumentalist Pharoah Sanders but Thembi was very much the product of all the players. The second side of the LP opens with a hypnotic and emotionally charged bass solo from Cecil McBee, and the first track “Astral Traveling” was built from an electric piano improvisation that keyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith was playing around with in the studio. The heart of the album, though, still belongs to Sanders. The title track was named for his young son, after all. And the music on it a reflection of his interest in Eastern instrumentation and his spiritual leanings. Back in print on vinyl for the first time in 30 years, Thembi is as entrancing as ever; a whirl of thoughtful playing and devilish percussion that presages the funk excursions of the ‘70s jazz universe and a cross-cultural hybrid approach that feels invigorating and alive.