Friday, August 26, 2011

The Beatles: Rare Beatles

Review # 38
Artist: The Beatles
Title: Rare Beatles
Format: LP
Label: Phoenix Records
Songs: 10

Never heard of this record? Neither had I until a few months ago when I was perusing the clearance bins at Jive Time Records. This is one of several available bootlegs of the Beatles from the days when they were an unsigned band from Liverpool that traveled to Hamburg to play the seedy clubs along the Reeperbahn in hopes of making a little money. Specifically, this was recorded at live show during the Beatles' second stint in Germany. Having shed their original bass player, Stuart Sutcliffe, on their first trip to Hamburg, the band's lineup in 1961 (or 1962? I'm finding conflicting information about this) when this recording was made was John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and drummer Pete Best.

But not on the night this record was recorded.

According to the sleeve, on the night Ted Taylor decided to bring his tape recorder to a Beatles show, Pete Best was out for the night. Sitting in for him was the drummer for band called Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. His name was Richard Starkey, or as the world would come to know him, Ringo Starr. This recording, then, is of the first performance of what would become the most famous band ever.

So, you may be thinking (especially if you aren't a hardcore Beatles fan), "that's cool I guess, but how is the music?" Well, it's a live recording of very early Beatles material. It has all the strengths and weaknesses of such recordings you may have heard before--the energy is great, the performance is spot on, the recording quality leaves something to be desired. However, compared to other non-professional live recordings of the Beatles I've heard before, this one is at least as good and maybe slightly better in terms of recording quality. Later, in the cd section, I'll be reviewing the more widely known 1962 Live At the Star Club disc, and while it's been a little while since I've listened to that, I'm pretty sure Rare Beatles sounds a little better. The production is a little rough, but you could do worse.

What's cool about this disc though, aside from the historical value, is that some of the songs on here are tunes I've never heard the Beatles perform on any other release. The record includes Fats Waller's novelty tune "Your Feets Too Big" and Tommy Roe's "Sheila," as well as better known tunes that would remain in the Beatles' repertoire, such as "'Till There Was You," which would appear on the bands second LP a few years later.

There's also some fun banter between band members, and occasionally the sounds of an enthusiastic crowd, both of which make it easier to imagine that you are there watching the Beatles play this historic show.

If your a big fan of the Beatles, and you can find this record, I recommend it. The first show with Ringo is pretty cool to have on record. For casual fans, this probably isn't worth the time and cost of seeking out.
Total songs listened: 485

Thursday, August 25, 2011

New Record! Arctic Flowers: Reveries

Review # 37
Artist: Arctic Flowers
Title: Reveries
Format: LP
Label: Inimical Records
Year: 2011
Songs: 8

After a long hiatus, 30,000 Songs is back in action! Life has kept me too busy to review (or even listen to many) records in the last few weeks.  But now, I have a short window before, well, before that happens again for a while, actually. But for more fun reasons. Anyway, those who have been with the blog since its inception might recall that in the original outline for the project, I said that if I acquired a new record that fit in somewhere I'd already passed, I'd review it upon acquisition. I actually bought this a few weeks ago, but again, no time.

But now, without further ado, the new LP by Portland's Arctic Flowers. I first saw Arctic Flowers opening for the Subhumans (I think? Might have been Citizen Fish? I can't really remember) last year, and I was frankly blown away. Arctic Flowers play anarcho-punk, not crust. Female vocals that mostly sing and occasionally shout, but never really scream, compliment dark, melodic guitar lines and a warm, undistorted bass. The drummer makes full use of his toms and in doing so fills out the sound nicely.

The band are clearly influenced by the British anarcho-punk of the 1980s, but are much more in the tradition of Lack of Knowledge, Zounds, Omega Tribe, Rubella Ballet (who's song "Arctic Flowers" is presumably the source of the band's name) or the other bands from that scene that developed their musicianship by incorporating post-punk influences than the likes of Crass or Conflict. There definitely sounds like there's some post-punk influences here, and occasionally even some moments that are reminiscent of emo back when that genre still had something to offer. The guitar, for example, reminds me in places of old Sunny Day Real Estate. At other times I'm also reminded of the quieter moments on the third WitchHunt LP. This is definitely punk rock, but it demonstrates a wider array of influences than the average punk band and probably has something to offer even those who aren't big punk fans (though probably not for those who dislike punk). It's powerful, but not as assaultive as a lot of the music from the genre and there's some really competent and innovative musicianship going on here.

The lyrics here are a blend of personal and political, delivered in a manner that's compelling, haunting, and passionate by a woman who knows how to use her voice in more than one way. The production is warm yet crisp, with a few effects used on the vocals that add to the haunting, post-punky feel of the record. It's hard to pick out highlights because the whole record is so good, but I guess I'd point to the title track, the opening track ("Double Edged") and "Cri de Coeur" (which apparently means "an impassioned outcry") as my favorites. This may well be my favorite record of 2011. If you like any punk rock at all, you should check this band out.

The record is new enough that I can' really find any tracks from it online. It's not hard to find some of their earlier stuff from their first demo if you want to, which would give you sort of an idea of what to expect, but those tracks are less polished and mature efforts, and, not being from this record, I won't post them here. It's not on iTunes either, so you'll have to track this down on your own, or better yet, go see the band live. Just like in the old days.

Total songs reviewed: 475