3 Minute Record

"We learned more from a three minute record baby than we ever learned in school..." -from No Surrender by Bruce Springsteen

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3 Minute Record presents the Best of 2011: Part 1

Happy New Year! While we are excited to see what happens in 2012, there were some great musical highlights from the previous year we'd like to touch on. Over three posts we will present our individual thoughts about our favorite music of the year that was 2011. No list is the same or meant to be definitive, but these are the albums that touched us the most last year. The lists are not ranked, but in no particular order. We start out today with the list supplied by Jeff Fields. Thanks for reading. Enjoy! - Scott Allen 

Best Albums of 2011

White Denim - D (Downtown)
Mathy-indie, hippie-prog shredders from Austin make a deep & wide record that could make your favorite rock critic exhaust their treasure trove of adjectives.

Wye Oak - Civilian (Merge)
Lushly dark & surprisingly heavy emotion makes this record so easy to get lost in (not unlike when I was 14 and every song still had the "new car scent"). They meld the power of Neil Young and shoegaze 90’s rock with a gentle frailty.

The Head And The Heart - The Head And The Heart (Sub Pop)
This album rides the nouveau-folk trail blazed by Fleet Foxes, but does so with a poppier feel (and a lot less reverb).

Chris Thile & Michael Daves - Sleep With One Eye Open (Nonesuch)
This bluegrass mandolin & guitar duo harken back to a Stanley Brothers style sound. They provide excellent picking and some classic covers. This was the best bluegrass record to come out in 2011, hands down.

Gillian Welch (& David Rawlings) - The Harrow And The Harvest (Acony)
Gillian and David are the two most symbiotic singer/songwriters working today. Folk songs of death, whiskey and the south so visual they paint themselves in between your ears.

Wilco - The Whole Love (dBpm)
Wilco has given us their most diverse record yet. Songs range from electro rave-ups to pure indie rock to 60's pop throwbacks. This may be a diverse record, but all tracks are consistently anchored by excellent core songs.

Foo Fighters - Wasting Light (RCA)
There are 11 tracks on this record and only 2 of these are not rock radio anthem quality. Nobody writes records this hit laden anymore, not even the Black Eyed Peas. Wasting Light was recorded 100% analog. Respect is due people!

Hayes Carll - KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories) (Lost Highway)
Carll is a country chameleon with some of the best swinging country, talking blues, ballads and boozing anthems ever written for one album. Think Dylan, but country and with a Generation X angle.

The Decemberists - The King Is Dead (Capitol)
This record exemplifies everything you want in a great record. There is great recording/production, great songs/arrangement and great performances. These songs are the perfect marriage of indie rock and acoustic folk. It has superstar cameos and an excellent “making of” documentary. It is as perfect a swan song as any band can give to the world.

The Washover Fans - That Habit Suits You (CDBY)
This Seattle folk/americana/acoustic group delivers fresh songs with an earnest delivery. They never attempt to feign a southern accent or appear as anything they are not. The male/female vocal harmonies drive these very personal songs with great passion. This record is great example of a new band with great potential.

Best Reissues of 2011

Thin Lizzy – Jailbreak (Deluxe Edition) (Mercury)
There are a few reasons to love this reissue. They didn’t release a new remaster of the original album (ie. overcompress it so the kids think it’s loud enough), but reissued the 1996 remaster. They give you some beefed up remixes of the “hits” featuring new guitar overdubs. They include some great live from the BBC tracks. A classic record that never gets old, period.

The Jayhawks – Tomorrow The Green Grass (Legacy Edition) (American)
It was hard to pick which of the reissued Jayhawks records was the best of the two, the decision was made by the sheer volume of extras included here. You get a whole second disc or rarities, three versions of “Blue” and a copy of the great title track too. This is an overlooked classic that will hopefully find a bigger audience now that The Jayhawks have reunited.

Material Issue – International Pop Overthrow - 20th Anniversary Edition (Hip-O Select)
This record is an early 90’s pop-rock monster. Material Issue crafted a classic that now should rank next to the best of Big Star, Cheap Trick or The Smithereens. There are 4 songs with girls in the title and 3 of those were singles. The girl song formula was well used on this record and done very well.

Smashing Pumpkins – Gish (Deluxe Edition) (Virgin)
There have been rumblings of a proper remix or remaster of this record since 1997, so I was glad when I realized it was truly coming out. When I finally listened to remastering of this cd I realized my worst fears. This version was very compressed and lost much of the dynamics that made the original so great. The true saving grace for this (along with the Siamese Dream reissue) is the extra tracks. There are remixed versions of some songs (including Drown, Sub Pop single and demos) and some Peel session tracks. The real treat is the unreleased songs, not the remaster. The same holds true for the Siamese Dream package too.

Can – Tago Mago (40th Anniversary Edition) (Mute U.S.)
Only Can could craft this devastatingly intricate and unique record. That is all you really can say about this record. This new package includes 3 live songs, which is actually 47 minutes of music (hopefully that clues you in to how intricate the songs are).

Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon (Immersion Box Set) (Capitol/EMI)
This is an epic collection of songs and a legendary recording session. Since its release it has been a true classic of rock and roll. This set includes a very compressed 2011 remaster along with every possible audiophile version of the record (including HD, quadrophonic and an early mix of the record) along with a 1972 live performance of the whole record.

The Dismemberment Plan – Emergency & I (Vinyl Edition) (Desoto)
Some records sound dated or echo a certain scene or era. Emergency and I seems just awkward enough to elude this type of stamping. This record emerged from a convergence of some pretty fantastic elements like two great producers (J. Robbins & Chad Clark), a band with extreme talent finally crafting structured songs and quirky (but catchy) introspective lyrics.

Queens Of The Stone Age – Queens Of The Stone Age (Remastered) (Domino/Rekords)
This is a very cohesive and massive début record. It says everything you need to know about Queens. Originally released on an independent label in 1998, this record has been out of print for quite a while. It displays the blueprint for Queens’ signature sound. Domino Records re-released this record and gave newcomers a second chance to own this epic début.

The Beach Boys – The Smile Sessions (2 CD) (Capitol/EMI)
It took 40+ years to release. If you bought Brian Wilson’s Smile release then you know what you’ve been missing. The Brian version is a much more high fidelity version, but any true fan of music wants to hear what everyone has been missing for half of a century.

Superchunk – Foolish (Remastered) (Merge)
Originally, it only took 3 days to record this dark and angular indie classic. Some of the darkness stems from a Fleetwood Mac style band couple breakup. The great folks at Merge wisely included demos, acoustic versions and outtakes along with an entire live set. Bob Weston’s subtle but perfect remastering should give other engineers an example of how to approach and execute flawlessly.

Best Local Beers at a Local Show in 2011

  • Stag at Off Broadway at Lucero show
  • Schlafly ESB at The Pageant at The Jayhawks
  • Budweiser at Scotttrade at Foo Fighters

Hey! Look What I found. Where Do You Buy Records?

Yesterday, I found a copy of one of my favorite albums at a local antique mall/indoor flea market. You never know what you're going to stumble upon at one of these places. I didn't have a lot of time so I flipped through the 6 or 8 crates of records pretty quickly. I happened to find a VG/VG+ original copy of The Byrds LP Mr. Tambourine Man in Mono for $5.00. Except for a little wear around the edges, mostly on the bottom front cover and a stamp on the name and address of a previous owner on the back; the record is in great condition. There was no sleeve inside promoting the other albums for sale, but so often those are replaced or gone anyway.

Mr. Tambourine Man
Mr. Tambourine Man

The stereo copy of the album would have the 'Stereo "360 Sound"' logo on both the top of the front cover and the red label on the record. This one has neither and has the correct corresponding catalog item number of CL2372.

Mr. Tambourine Man label
Mr. Tambourine Man label

This is one of my favorite albums of all time and as I was excited to find a nice copy. Now, I just need to spring for that USB turntable I've been wanting so I can hear the difference between the vinyl and the CD reissue from the late '90s.

This find got me thinking about a question I had started a post on months ago, but never got around to finishing. Unfortunately, the question "Where do you buy records?" becomes harder after each passing year. With the influx of iTunes, Amazon, and online retailing the brick and mortar there are less record stores than ever. Independent record stores have been closing for years and still continue to close.

Not only do independent record stores have to compete with the internet, but the big box stores carry music too. Target, Borders, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart and K-Mart, have music sections, albeit only compact discs, though much more limited in overall scope than in years past. Out of these stores only Best Buy carries vinyl, but only in very small selection and quantities.

Here's a list of you local independent record stores -
Record Stores
Apop Records - St. Louis
CD Reunion - St. Charles
CD Warehouse - South County
Euclid Records - Webster Groves
Phono Mode - St. Louis
Record Exchange - St. Louis
Slackers - 10 St. Louis Metro Area locations
Vintage Vinyl - University City

Then, there's the semi-monthly St. Louis Record Collector's Show held in South St. Louis bringing dealers from in town and out of town focused on mostly vinyl LP's and 45 RPM records, but also selling compact discs and DVD's. Plus, there are tons of various online retailers ready to sell you vinyl and ship it directly to your door.

However, you can also find some diamonds in the rough in places like antique malls like I do on a regular basis.  You have to be a bit more careful with these to look them over and do your research, but you may still find some nice pieces. Further, there is a monthly flea marke at the St. Clair County Fairgrounds, Belleville, IL.

Finally, you can search sites like Craigslist, ebay, or etsy for some finds. Many folks are nice here, but some don't know anything about the worth of records and could be overcharging wildly so be careful.

St. Louis is lucky to have some great independent record stores to supply more than just "hit" tunes to the music loving public. Get out there and buy some music people! Please leave some comments if you know of some other local outlets.

Enter To Win Two Albums from The O's [Giveaway]

3 Minute Record is proud to present another super giveaway from our friends at 1888 Media! This time we are offering a FREE copy of The O’s new album Between The Two on vinyl and a FREE copy of their début album We Are The O’s on CD for one lucky winner!

Back in February, we favorably reviewed the latest release from The O's, Between The Two. You can listen to a track from the album there as well as see a video for their cover of the Everly Brothers "Bowling Green." During the review process we found that both Taylor Young and John Pedigo play some interesting instruments in The O's.

HERE'S HOW TO WIN: What instrument does one of the members play that you don't see pop up on the liner notes of many albums? Please leave a comment below with your answer. Comments will not be published until after the contest has ended. The winner will be chosen via random number generator. The deadline for the giveaway is Friday, April 29 at 5 p.m. An announcement to the winners will be published Friday evening or Saturday morning.

Until then, check out the recent music video for "We’ll Go Walkin’" from their 2011 album Between The Two. 

You can also catch The O's on tour! They have been touring this spring in support of the new album and if you haven't already caught one of their shows here are some chances; even if you're reading this from overseas in the UK.

The O's upcoming tour dates
Apr 28 The Loft Dallas, TX
May 07 Southgate House Newport, KY (Cincinnati)
May 09 Double Door Chicago, IL
May 11 Pizza Hut Park - FC Dallas Game Frisco, TX
May 12 Trinity River Audubon Society Dallas, TX
May 14 Homegrown Festival - Main Street Garden Park Dallas, TX
May 20 Son's of Hermann Hall Dallas, TX
May 21 Wildflower Arts & Music Festival Richardson, TX
Jun 01 Whelan's Dublin, Ireland
Jun 02 Dolan's Limerick, Ireland
Jun 10 West End Festival Glasgow, Scotland
Jun 11 Leith Festival Edinburgh, Scotland
Jun 19 Cluny 2 Newcastle, England
Jun 23 Blue Note Oklahoma City, OK
Jun 24 Crystal Pistol Saloon Tulsa, OK
Jun 25 Frank and Lola's Bartlesville, OK

Watts - On The Dial [Album Review]

Upon hearing On The Dial for the first time, the music made me want to get my 1967 Mercury Cougar out of its winter hibernation, fill up the tank with gas, slip the disc into the CD player (do you think a music guy would still have the stock AM radio), roll down the windows and hit the open road.

Hailing from Boston, Mass., Watts waxes nostalgic for the Classic Rock era squarely hitting the mark of this signature period in music history. Released in December 2010, the group's sophomore album, On The Dial, a follow up to their 2007 debut One Below the All Time Low, collects 11 originals and a cover of the 1980 hit by The Angels, a late '70s /early '80s Australian band, titled "No Secrets." The band's sound combines straight ahead rock and roll with elements of new wave, punk, and 70s glam; think Bad Company and Cheap Trick packaged neatly together.

wattsonthedial
wattsonthedial

Sporting the classic rock lineup of four members centered around a two guitar attack and anchored by bass and drums, Watts includes Dan Kopko on lead vocals and guitar, John Blout on guitar and vocals, Craig Lapointe on bass guitar and vocals and Johnny "Rock" Lynch keeping the beat on drums and vocals. Each member of the band takes a turn on vocals, however it's Kopko's low, gravely voice that provides the majority of the vocals on the record. Though not close to the sound of the smokey, whiskey soaked growl of newly honored Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Tom Waits, Kopko's vocal range is still somewhat limited. Yet his rasp does not detract greatly and fits the genre well.

Kopko's songwriting honors his musical heroes with the songs sounding like a lost album from the late 1970s. These riff laden songs push and grind their way into your head until they've got you humming singing along to the chorus. The lyrical themes include girls, drinking, dancing, cars, records, and playing rock and roll. No boundaries are pushed here either stylistically or thematically, but that doesn't mean that these songs aren't fun and engaging. The songs are a perfect soundtrack to hanging out with your friends at the bar and tossing back a few cold ones watching the girls on the dance floor in front of the band. Watts clearly proves that the classic rock formula still works.

"Dancehall Days and Nights" demonstrates these points perfectly. Watch a video of the song below -

Fans of Bon Scott era AC/DC should clearly hear some similarities to the songs that Watts presents here. The distortion from Blout's lead guitar and Kopko's rhythm guitar falls short of Angus and Malcolm Young's heavy riffs, but every so often there's a hint of those classic players' sound. Even the sound of the album's recording seems to mimic the "dead room" sound of '70s where sound proofing was the hip technique of the era.

Presented in a nice, bright digipack CD style package, the album gives the listener only the very basics for liner notes. It's unfortunate for bands with a lower budget that they can't press their albums to vinyl because On The Dial is a perfect candidate for the warm undertones with slight crackle/pop sound of a needle on vinyl spinning on the turntable.

In light of last weekend's Record Store Day we suggest that if you're in the Boston area please just run down and support your local record store, Newbury Comics. Otherwise for the rest of the lazy internet crowd you can purchase the album online at AmazonCD Baby and iTunes.

Watts - On The Dial track listing (Tracks highlighted below are streaming audio)
1. On The Dial
2. Chaperone
3. Afterburn
4. Time To Give The Devil His Due
5. Girls On Holiday
6. Dancehall Days & Nights
7. She Wants To Rock
8. No Secrets
9. Don't Mind
10. Fight Song
11. The Times
12. Sweethearts Of The Radio

A video of Watts playing live at their CD release show from December 2010 can easily be found on You Tube. Also, check out photos of the band from a performance last month at The Rosebud Bar in Somerville, MA here.

ANNOUNCEMENT - Flogging Molly Contest Winners!!

Thanks to everyone who left a comment and entered the contest to win free Flogging Molly prizes! Here's the winners...

3rd Prize - Jeremy

You will receive a set of 3 Flogging Molly shot glasses

2nd Prize - Brian

You will receive a catalog of Flogging Molly albums (CD versions) including their album Float signed by the band!

GRAND PRIZE - Nicole B.

Our grand prize winner receives 2 tickets to the Flogging Molly concert at Congress Theater in Chicago on Saturday, March 12 plus a catalog of Flogging Molly albums (CD versions) including their album Float signed by the band! Also, a set of 3 Flogging Molly shot glasses!

We will be sending you a confirmation e-mail to get your information so we can send the prizes.

Finally, we want to send out a big THANK YOU to our friends at ‘Stache Media for the offer to our readers a Flogging Molly giveaway you don’t want to miss!

Johnny Cash - From Memphis To Hollywood: Bootleg Vol. II [Album Review]

When Johnny Cash returned to the United States from Germany and his stint in the U.S. Air Force in Summer 1954 he could not have realized the changes that would happen in his life less than a year later. Within the next year he had married, started making records and had his first child. A life changing few months indeed. Before the decade was complete Cash had signed to Columbia Records in 1958 leaving his original label, Sun Records; he was only 26 years old. His career still in its developmental stage, Cash already had several hits on the Country charts including #1 singles with "I Walk The Line", "There You Go", "Ballad Of A Teenage Queen" and "Guess Things Happen That Way." However, he wasn't a legend nor the "Man in Black" yet. A new compilation reveals part of the back story of the songs Cash wrote during this early stage and subsequent recordings made around the same time those hits were on radio.

Johnny Cash - From Memphis To Hollywood: Bootleg Vol. 2
Johnny Cash - From Memphis To Hollywood: Bootleg Vol. 2

Released by Columbia on February 22, just in time for what would have been Cash's seventy-ninth birthday today, From Memphis To Hollywood: Bootleg Vol. II documents Cash from local country artist with a 15 minute show on Memphis radio station KWEM to country star recording for Columbia Records with his band, The Tennessee Two, plus soon to be wife June Carter and the Carter Family on backing vocals. Honorably discharged from the U.S. Air Force in 1954, Cash started his recording career in 1955 and by 1969 he was a major recording star; a legend.

From Memphis To Hollywood:Bootleg Vol. II doesn't focus on the hits although it does include some demos of some of his greatest songs including "I Walk The Line", "Get Rhythm" and "Big River". This compilation, however, unearths demos, rarities, singles, outtakes and B-sides. These intimate recordings look closely at Cash the songwriter and musician. Much like the previous Bootleg release, Personal File, many of these tracks are solo recordings of just Cash and his guitar.

On disc one Cash is a local artist in Memphis in the 1950s, playing radio shows, recording demos as reference for studio recordings and recording studio tracks for local independent label, Sun Records. First, Cash and the Tennessee Two (Luther Perkins on guitar and Marshall Grant on bass) play a 15 minute radio show for KWEM 990 at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 21, 1955. The recording, their first radio show for the station, is raw as the AM radio it played through over 50 years ago. Cash and the Tennessee Two play 4 songs while Cash hawks commercials for his employer, Home Equipment Company, between songs. As perspective, three days later Cash became a father as his oldest daughter, Rosanne, was born.

Less raw, yet still containing a strong analog tape hiss, the compilation presents a group of 12 demos of Cash recording his own songs with just voice and guitar next. Though unknown when and where these demo recordings were made,  the songs feature a feel of Cash making home recordings as demos for his band, publishing or for Sun Records owner/producer Sam Phillips. Cash's voice is gentle and introspective. The artist at his most vulnerable.

While the radio show and demos provide the listener a glimpse into Cash's working life as a musician the first disc offers other highlights. One highlight from the first disc is "Wide Open Road," a song featured here twice, one a radio recording from the KWEM show and the other a solo Sun Studios recording from late 1954.  Reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen's "Open All Night" from his acoustic album, Nebraska, but in reverse.  The narrator of Cash's song is upset and urging his girl to get out-of-town and hit the wide open road leaving him behind for good, while Springsteen's protagonist is pining for his girl and driving all night to see her. In a second highlight Cash gives a dark reading of the classic Leadbelly song "Goodnight Irene".

By the start of disc two, Cash is in Nashville recording for Columbia Records with producers Don Law and Bob Johnston. Cash had moved his family from Memphis to Hollywood in 1958 after signing the deal with Columbia Records. The sound of Cash's 1960s material is more polished, but still contains the stark qualities of his Sun Sessions. However, the music is recorded with better equipment in buildings built specifically as recording studios. With these songs, broad in scope and rich in imagery, Cash carries a heavier weight of the people on his shoulders. The lyrics offer less about Cash's personal experiences and more about overarching themes of the working man and issues for which he deeply cared.

Highlights from the second disc include the prisoner's last moments "Five Minutes To Live", the hard luck lament "The Losing Kind" and the "Locomotive Man". Cash gives his country take on Bob Dylan's "One Too Many Mornings" and provides his negative thoughts on the general public's acceptance of the 1960s folk revival with "The Folk Singer".

Though now an American music legend with a large catalog of recorded work, Johnny Cash's stature continues to grow even after his death in 2003. In this compilation we meet Cash more as a man instead of legendary recording artist. A great way to reacquaint yourself with an artist you think you already know. Long live Johnny Cash!

It's About Time! New Reissues from The Kinks

A promotional photo of British rock group The ...

For years the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Who have had their full recorded catalogs on compact disc for fans and subsequent generations of music fans to buy again and again and appreciate the greatness of their music. While the catalog from the Kinks has lagged hopelessly behind all the rest of their British Invasion contemporaries (except for the Animals). This year that's all about to change!

On March 22, the injustice will be rectified with the first three albums starting the reissue program: the Kinks 1964 self-titled album, and Kinda Kinks (1964) and The Kink Kontroversy(1965). Later in the spring (May) and summer (July) their later 1960s and early 1970s work gets the same treatment as Face to Face (1966) and Something Else (1967), Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) (1969), Muswell Hillbillies (1971) will hit the shelves.

Word on the street is that each album will receive a double-disc treatment with plenty of outtakes, rarities, in-depth liner notes and other tasty bits.

For a band so prolific, so important to the British Invasion and with so many artists citing their work as influencing their own it's almost criminal that the Kinks back catalog isn't more accessible. The Beatles full catalog, first released on compact disc in 1987, received a major reboot a year and a half ago with each album beautifully remastered in both Stereo and Mono. The Who and the Rolling Stones have remastered and reissued their respective catalogs a couple of times since originally being issued on the compact disc format in the late 1980s. So why not the Kinks?

The Kinks catalog received a reissue program in 1998 from Castle Records. However, most albums only included a few extra tracks; nowhere close to another disc worth of material that's being offered here. As a reminder, the Kinks released their last official studio album, Phobia, in 1993 so maybe they were not yet ready for a full-fledged expansive reissue program. 

In 2004, Sanctuary Records reissued a special deluxe edition of The Kinks 1968 masterpiece, The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society. The album received a beautiful 3 disc treatment that presented the album and singles of the timeframe in both stereo and mono mixes plus a third disc of outtakes, rarities, and BBC session material over 62 total tracks! At that point I thought that the reissues would keep on coming, but the process seems to have taken a bit longer than expected. 

In case you're interested (and really you should) in the track listing details for the first three albums you can find them here.

If you just can't get enough of the music of the Kinks the band's leader and prolific songwriter, Ray Davies, releases a new album this spring. See My Friends sees the light of day on April 5. For the album Davies re-recorded classic Kinks songs with a list of guest stars including Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi & Richie Sambora, Metallica, Black Francis, Mumford and Sons, Spoon, Lucinda Williams, the late Alex Chilton and more playing and singing along.

Davies, now 66, continues to stay busy and will curate London’s Meltdown festival from June 10-18, 2011. Past curators have included David Bowie, Morrissey, John Peel, Nick Cave, Patti Smith and Jarvis Cocker.