New Releases and Reissues: 28 February
Looking to spin something new this weekend? Long Live Vinyl runs the rule over a busy batch of new releases and reissues to help nip your buyer’s indecision in the bud…
Like any long-standing musical institution, lazy genre categorisation precedes The Allman Brothers Band: Southern Rock or, worse, jam rock, suggests interminable, redneck, double-denimed noodling. The band always eschewed such catch-alls, mainstay guitarist Dickey Betts opting for ‘a progressive rock band from the South’, which also manages to fall short of doing justice to this twin-drummer, sprawling blues-rock-jazz feast. Universal’s £350, 10LP wood veneer boxsetattempts to capture it all. No fewer than three “Allman Brothers Band historians” are responsible for putting it together and the comprehensive 56-page book boasts unreleased photos, plus a hefty 9,000-word essay. Heck, there’s even an orange and red splatter vinyl edition that is meant to “evoke the inside of a peach”. If you don’t own any Allman Brothers, it’s a great, albeit pricey, way in.
Trouble No More was the first song the six-piece recorded in 1969, and the set kicks off with a previously unreleased demo recording of it, concluding with a live version from their final New York residency. In between, the set traces a long career that, despite death, commercial failure, drug and alcohol addiction, illness, fall-outs and line-up changes, chugged on like a Duane Allman solo.
The set is arranged chronologically, so discs 1 and 2 cover highlights of the first three albums, including the epic Whipping Post and riff ballad Midnight Rider. The band’s breakthrough album, live double At Fillmore East, is represented by three tracks, including the 13-minute definitive version of Betts’ superb jazz jam In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed, which still sounds like some amazing Blue Note nugget; both drummers, jazz sticksman Jaimoe and brilliantly-named Butch Trucks trading licks and time signatures. Before this, ABB shows were outselling their records, but everything changed after its release.
The band’s next album, Eat A Peach, was the last to feature founder member Duane Allman, who died in a motorcycle crash after leaving rehab for heroin addiction. Brother Gregg’s tribute to him, Melissa is a highlight here, along with Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More, represented here by a live version.
Tragedy continued with 1973 follow-up Brothers And Sisters, when bass player Berry Oakley, inconsolable over Duane’s death, died in a second drugs-related motorcycle crash. He features on the band’s one big hit, Ramblin’ Man, which more than anything here, is guilty of the term Southern Rock. Betts’ control of the band in this period pushed it towards country rock, but Jessica still sounds great despite its Top Gear ubiquity.
The story then gets disjointed: touring, a four-year hiatus, a 1979 reformation and a change of record label. Much of this period is represented by live tracks, one of which (Mountain Jam) is previously unreleased. By 1980, they were making a slick Eagles-esque sound, which hasn’t dated well.
A decade passed before they got together again in 1989 and disc 7 opens with Good Clean Fun from their Seven Turns album, which reaches out reasonably successfully to catch former blues-rock glories like End Of The Line. The final discs are dedicated to the band’s last hurrah, including an annual residency at New York’s Beacon Theatre. By then, it was only Gregg and the drummers left from the original line-up, but the blues jam kept on chugging.
Caribou – Suddenly
Grammy-nominated Dan Snaith has come a long way since his early Manitoba releases, and little less since Swim raised his profile a decade ago. Most obviously, Suddenly starts and ends in tranquillity: Sister and Cloud Song are both lovely, hushed electronic ballads, the latter’s pulse raised just a notch, while on New Jade Snaith’s voice is as soothing as his syndrums are precise. You And I, meanwhile, switches between classic Hall & Oates AOR and contemporary digital skulduggery, and there’s more of the latter within the muted funk of Lime and in Sunny’s Time, its vocals cut and pasted, its pianos slipping in and out of tune like cassette wow and flutter. Suddenly’s highlight, though, is Home, which, like Lemon Jelly rewiring Moby’s Play, samples Gloria Barnes to glorious yet poignant effect.
Wilsen – Ruiner
After their 2017 debut I Go Missing In My Sleep led to a tour with Poliça, the New York trio step up on album two by stripping things back. Expertly crafted, they have the uncanny knack for making songs sound barely there, yet each element carrying the maximum emotional weight. This often includes Tamsin Wilson’s voice, gliding over Moon and Down with stark intensity. That’s not to imply Wilsen can’t dabble in West Coast pop when they want to: Align and Birds II have a mischief to match their poise. Anyone yearning for a new album by The Blue Nile should investigate a band who have quickly become expert at making the ethereal sound readily human and approachable. Helped out in the studio by Bon Iver/Big Thief producer Andrew Sarlo, Ruiner is a delicate landscape to get lost in time and again.
The Orielles – Disco Volador
It’s a familiar story: promising debut (2018’s Silver Dollar Moment), sell-out tour, then quickly onto album #2. So have Halifax sisters Esmé and Sidonie Hand-Halford (vocals/bass and drums), guitarist Henry Carlyle Wade and keyboardist Alex Stephens made the predictable disappointing second album? No. It’s a huge step-on from the debut, fundamentally because of better songwriting, but also because of its dance ethic, with deep, reverby bass and much funkier drumming. Lead single Come Down On Jupiter is easily the best thing the band have done, with time signature changes, at least three hummable tunes and a brilliant vocal delivery. Occasionally, some tracks outstay their welcome but most, like Rapid 1, Bobbi’s Second World and album closer Space Samba (Disco Volador Theme), are pop gems beamed down to earth from another planet.
Soccer Mommy – Color Theory
After 2018’s debut Clean saw Sophie Allison support Vampire Weekend and Paramore, and duet with The National, her second album as Soccer Mommy continues her remarkable growth. Color Theory was recorded with The War On Drugs producer Gabe Wax near Allison’s childhood home in Nashville, but is far closer spiritually to Smashing Pumpkins than it is to country twang. There’s a yearning drama in Allison coming to terms with mortality on Gray Light and Yellow Is The Color Of Her Eyes that Billy Corgan used to excel at, though Allison only needs her drowsy, doomy voice to conjure up her fatalistic visions. Capable of switching from the Juliana Hatfield-style simplicity of Stain to restless riffing in Lucy and Crawling In My Skin, Allison is only 22 but already exuding a veteran’s breadth.
Wrangler – A Situation
If you squint with your ears, you could be forgiven for thinking Wrangler’s new album dates from the late 1980s or early 1990s, an overlooked gem from the Mute catalogue perhaps. That’s largely because the trio – Benge (The Maths), Stephen Mallinder (Cabaret Voltaire) and Phil Winter (Tunng), who also trade as Creep Show when performing with John Grant – have a shared and enduring love of analogue synths and aged digital sequencers. Listen to third LP A Situation, though, and, from the moment scene-setter Anthropocene begins to express its very 21st-century concerns over the state of the planet, it’s evidently clear this is a contemporary record. Yet for all it explores dystopian visions, Situation is also a playful dance record packed with belting tunes – and heaven knows we could do with the sense of fun this imbues right now.
Jonathan Wright, John Earls, Ben Wardle, Wyndham Wallace