Alice Cooper – Alice Cooper Goes To Hell/Lace and Whiskey/From The Inside (Warner Bros./Rhino)
In the late ‘70s, following the worldwide success of Welcome To My Nightmare, Alice Cooper went a little concept crazy. The three successive albums he recorded at the end of that decade found him attempting to continue the tale of the lead character of Nightmare, taking on the guise of a hard nosed private eye and walking listeners through the halls of the sanitarium where he kicked his alcohol addiction. It was also a period where Cooper and his collaborators were dabbling in whatever musical styles they dared. That opened the door to perverse experiments in disco, Steely Dan-like jazz-rock, piano-driven rockabilly, symphonic pop and more of the glammed up rock he was known best for. All three albums are messy, curious affairs with moments of weird glory, which also sums up much of Cooper’s post-Nightmare career. You can spring for these colored wax reissues if you’d like, and suffer through the rough and tumble sound, or just do a day’s worth of digging at the used record shops and thrift stores in your hometown to find decent copies of the originally issued LPs. They’re ubiquitous.
Les Paul and his Trio – After You’ve Gone (ORG Music/Audiophile)
Remastering these tunes can’t have been an easy job. Some of the recordings on this two LP collection of guitarist Les Paul and his trio are around 70 years of age, and the tapes or vinyl they are sourced from have surely seen better days. That’s why I am willing to cut Dave Gardner at Infrasonic Mastering some slack for the weird sonic ghosts that arrived and disappeared throughout. As with most music of this era, you have to be willing to make your ears and speakers suffer a bit if you want to hear the greatness hiding in the hiss and pops of decades’ old tunes. And you can’t get much better than this outfit: an instrumental jazz ensemble running through standards and stray originals as a fantastic excuse to give Paul’s god-like command of an electric guitar its proper due. He is lightning fast and smooth as silver throughout, even on the most syrupy of ballads.
Shirley Horn – Softly (ORG Music/Audiophile)
Watching the word “Audiophile” spin around the label of this white vinyl reissue and hearing the dull roar of the colored wax intercut with the regular pop of an unmistakable scratch is the kind of hilarious, if dismaying irony that many folks who have bought into this world of repressings and special editions. That it undermines the otherwise great performances, apparently captured in late night sessions at a home studio in late 1987, only doubles the agony. Shirley Horn deserves to let have the amber colored sting of her vocals treated with kit gloves, which her backing musicians—percussionist Steve Williams and bassist Charles Ables—do so well. They let her mark the path on the map and follow closely behind, trying not to rustle too many leaves or snap too many branches lest they startle Horn and send her scurrying into the dark.
The Rutles – The Rutles (Parlophone)
If you’re a sizeable enough fan of The Beatles or Monty Python, you’re likely well aware of The Rutles. If not, the precis: former Python member Eric Idle and his buddy and ex-Bonzo Dog Band member Neil Innes poked loving fun at the Fab Four, at first through their long-forgotten parody show Rutland Weekend Television and then in a Lorne Michaels-produced TV special that aired on NBC. The soundtrack to the latter has wandered through used record store in the years since, but this wonderful reissue (released on the Beatles’ home Parlophone, no less) does them one better by including a 45 of the tracks left off the original release. Every song here sounds as great as ever, serving well the work that Innes did to perfectly echo the original recordings in these warm-hearted and spectacular parodies. He and his collaborators (including future Beach Boy Rikki Fataar and the extraordinary guitarist Ollie Halsall) dive into this project with knowing grins and the precision of true students of the Beatles’ craft.
Various Artists – The Warriors: Music From The Motion Picture (Waxwork)
The original soundtrack release of Walter Hill’s 1979 cult classic The Warriors was a mix of the pop tunes that punctuated scenes and the credits sequence with a smattering of selections from composer Barry De Vorzon’s keyboard heavy score. All well and good but it missed out on some of the funkiest and most dramatic music cues in the film. God bless the folks at Waxwork Records for helping fill the gaps with this double LP reissue that pairs the readily available material with the rarer bits of the score once only available on CD. Your future DJ sets will only improve when you drop the stomping “Night Run” or the synth throb of “Baseball Furies Chase” into the mix. As has become the standard with Waxwork releases, the music, remastered from the original source tapes, sounds tremendous, even with the grumbling of some slightly noisy colored wax hovering consistently in the background. You’ll even be able to hear De Vorzon counting out some changes for the band, which included studio whiz drummer Carlos Vega and Toto bassist Mike Porcaro.
Various Artists: Adrian Quesada Presents Look At My Soul: The Latin Shade of Texas Soul (Nacional/Electric Deluxe)
The influence of soul and R&B on the Latin music scene has been a rich vein of exploration over the past decade or so with writers like Ruben Molina whose book Chicano Soul dug up the roots of this sound. Former Grupo Fantasma member Adrian Quesada has followed this thread into the studio where he put together this amazing collection of throwback tunes, aided by a multi-generational crew of collaborators including Los Lobos co-founder David Hidalgo, vocalist for The Chamanas Amalia Mondragon and Tejano legend Ruben Ramos. As ever, this syrupy, bass-heavy sound deserves to be heard on wax, and this vinyl pressing of Look At My Soul bears that out beautifully. The sharp thrill of horn-heavy workouts like “Funky Chick” and the knee bent pleas of “Joey” are sweat-inducing delights, and the rest of the collection cranks up or eases down the temperature as needed.
The Dirty Heads – Any Port In A Storm (10 Year Anniversary Edition) (Five Seven)
Like the other bands that dare to combine hip-hop, reggae and rock, it feels almost gauche to listen to the work of the Dirty Heads on a studio album, or pressed into two pieces of colored wax. This music feels custom built for the open fields of a festival during the heat of summer or a sweaty rock club. This California-based band plays with that vital combination of loose and tight that has kept jam bands in the hearts of hippies for generations but there’s a strange constriction that tends to happen when you try to catch fire in the studio. This is also a sound that hasn’t aged terribly well. Even in 2008 when this album was originally released, it made only marginal sense as we’d already survived the nü-metal era and artists like Matisyahu and Michael Franti were filling the void nicely. This will no doubt delight fans of the band whether new or longstanding, as the vinyl sounds bright and big and the packaging is handsome and filled with little historical details.