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Review: Two From Camper Van Beethoven and Omnivore Recordings

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Camper - Our BelovedAnd this here’s a government experiment and we’re driving like Hell
To give some cowboys some acid and to stay in motels
We’re going to eat up some wide open spaces like it was a cruise on the Nile
Take the hands off the clock, we’re going to be here a while

– Camper Van Beethoven, “Eye of Fatima (Pt. 1)”

You can take the band out of the underground, but you can’t take the underground out of the band.  California’s Camper Van Beethoven had been making its brand of “surrealist, absurdist folk” for roughly five years before garnering a major-label contract courtesy of Virgin Records in 1988.  Typically, many wondered if the result would be a watered-down version of what made the band successful in the first place.  But upon the release of Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart, the words “sell out” were unlikely to cross the lips of all but the most cynical fans.  Both that landmark release and its 1989 follow-up Key Lime Pie have just been reissued by Omnivore Recordings in splendidly remastered, generously expanded deluxe editions.  These two packed reissues are manna for longtime fans and solid introductions for those who aren’t familiar with the CVB ouevre.

From D.I.Y. to the House That Richard Branson Built, Camper Van Beethoven maintained a core of musical integrity.  The five-piece group behind Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart (Omnivore OVCD-69) – bassist Victor Krummenacher, guitarist Greg Lisher, guitarist/vocalist David Lowery, drummer Chris Pedersen and strings/keys man Jonathan Segel – imbued the album with a joyfully schizophrenic tone and the defiantly “alternative” sound of Segel’s fiddle.

“How can I believe that everything in this world is going to be fine? /How can I believe that everything in this world has its place and time?,” Lowery asks on “She Divines Water.”  The false rhyme notwithstanding, it’s an arresting opening couplet, and certainly reflected the questions of many listening in the year that George H.W. Bush seemed poised to continue the Reagan Era.  Although there’s an anything-goes sense of possibility that permeates the album, there’s also an undercurrent of darkness.  The mordant “tribute” to titular “revolutionary sweetheart” Patty Hearst and the cult of celebrity, “Tania,” is wryly humorous: “How I long for the days when you came to liberate us from boredom/From driving around/From the hours between five and seven in the evening…”

The quirky, irreverent, oblique and subversive lyrics throughout the LP are aided by the band’s varied musical settings, with one element rarely detracting from the other.  Following the hypnotic “Devil Song,” “One of These Days” surprises simply by not being too surprising.  The relatively straightforward track makes the most of its familiar title previously employed by the likes of Pink Floyd, Mose Allison, Paul McCartney, Lou Reed and Barry Manilow (!) and boasts a strong radio-friendly gloss.  Pop harmonies enliven “Never Go Back” following its bleak, carnival-esque introduction, and Camper is at its most punk on the frenetic, aburdist “My Path Belated” and boisterous “Turquoise Jewelry.”  A woozy brass arrangement punctuates the loping “Change Your Mind.”  Instrumental tracks stand shoulder to shoulder with the vocal performances, such as Part II of “Eye of Fatima,” the heavy “Waka” and the atmospheric, film soundtrack-esque “The Fool.”  The witty address that concludes the album (“And life is grand/And I will say this at the risk of falling from favor/With those of you who have appointed yourself to expect us to say something darker…”) showed a band completely unafraid to defy expectations…whatever your expectations were.

Reissue producer and designer Greg Allen has added a clutch of bonus tracks culled from singles and previously unissued live performances circa 1988 from Toad’s Place in New Haven, CT and the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA.  There are numerous treats here, including covers of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass (“Wade in the Water”) and Paul Simon (“Kodachrome” with a clever twist of Ringo Starr’s “Photograph”).  On the latter, David Lowery’s disaffected lead voice makes for an ironic contrast to Paul Simon’s knowing choirboy vocals on the original.

After the jump: a slice of Key Lime Pie and more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 11, 2014 at 10:33

Posted in Camper Van Beethoven, News, Reissues, Reviews

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Release Round-Up: Week of February 11

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Camper - Our BelovedCamper Van Beethoven, Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart/Key Lime Pie: Deluxe Editions (Omnivore)

Omnivore expands both Virgin Records releases from the winning alt-folk group, released in 1988 and 1989.

Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart (CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.; LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)
Key Lime Pie (CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.; LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Def Leppard SlangDef Leppard, Slang: Deluxe Edition (Bludgeon Riffola)

The band’s fan-favorite 1996 album gets a generous deluxe edition treatment with B-sides and unreleased demos.

Amazon U.S.: 2CD / 2LP
Amazon U.K.: 2CD / 2LP

The Organisation of PopVarious Artists, The Art of The 12″, Volume Three The Organisation of Pop: 30 Years of Zang Tuum Tuub / Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Frankie Said: Deluxe Edition (ZTT/Salvo)

New ZTT comps abound this week, including an updated double-disc retrospective for the U.K. (which differs from last year’s U.S. edition on Razor & Tie) and a CD/DVD edition of the latest Frankie best-of.

The Art of The 12″: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Organisation of PopAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Frankie SaidAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Visions of EightHenry Mancini, Visions of Eight: Music from the Original Soundtrack / Sid Ramin, Stiletto: Selections from the Soundtrack (Dutton Vocalion)

Some underrated soundtrack goodness is due from this U.K. label. Stiletto features the song “Sugar in the Rain” as written by Marilyn and Alan Bergman, while Visions of Eight also features Just You and Me Together Love, Mancini’s 1977 collaboration LP with poet Joe Laws.

Mancini: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Ramin: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

WizardVarious Artists, The Wizard of Oz: 75th Anniversary Anthology (Sepia)

Produced through the unintended convenience of U.K. copyright/public domain laws, Sepia provides a neat little “bonus disc” to accompany the immortal soundtrack to the 1939 film. (Amazon U.S. /Amazon U.K.)

Ross Culture FactoryDiana Ross, Ross / The Temptations, All Directions / James Brown, Ain’t It Funky The Popcorn /Rod Stewart, The Rod Stewart Album / The Runaways , Live in Japan  (Culture Factory)

Culture Factory dips into the Motown and James Brown catalogues (among others) for vinyl replica CD reissues.

Diana: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Temptations: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
J.B. Ain’t It Funky: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
J.B. The PopcornAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Rod: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Runaways: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Dusty SACDDusty Springfield, Dusty in Memphis (Stereo Hybrid SACD) (Analogue Productions)

One of the greatest albums of its decade gets the SACD treatment. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Written by Mike Duquette

February 11, 2014 at 08:28

Release Round-Up: Week of February 4

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Together OST CDBurt Bacharach, Together? — Original Soundtrack Recording / Toomorrow: From the Harry Saltzman-Don Kirshner Film “Toomorrow” — Original Soundtrack Recording / The Mamas and the Papas, A Gathering of Flowers / Brotherhood, The Complete Recordings / Smith, A Group Called Smith/Minus-Plus / Troyka, Troyka / Jim Reeves, A Beautiful Life — Songs of Inspiration / The Grateful Dead, Dick’s Picks Vol. 20 — Capital Centre, Landover, MD 9/25/76 — Onondaga County War Memorial, Syracuse, NY 9/28/76 (Real Gone Music)

What could be better than this Real Gone bounty, featuring a classic compilation by The Mamas and The Papas, an exciting compilation by Brotherhood, a post Paul Revere & The Raiders combo, and two exceptional, long-out-of-print soundtracks? How about those latter two soundtracks making their way to domestic CD with liner notes from The Second Disc’s very own Joe Marchese? I’d call that a big yes!

Together?Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
ToomorrowAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Mamas and The Papas: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Brotherhood: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Smith: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Troyka: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Jim Reeves: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Grateful Dead: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Otis Redding - King of SoulAretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul / Otis Redding, The King of Soul (Atlantic/Rhino)

Two of the most legendary performers in the Atlantic soul catalogue are newly anthologized with simple four-disc overviews.

Aretha: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Otis: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

mike-bloomfield-boxMichael Bloomfield, From His Head to His Heart to His Hands (Legacy)

One of the best (and most unfairly obscure) guitarists of the 1960s gets his due in a new career-spanning box set featuring three CDs of favorites and rarities and a new film about the late performer, who played with Bob Dylan, Al Kooper, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and others. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Tina Turner Love SongsTina Turner, Love Songs (Parlophone)

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, a new romantically-inclined compilation from another all-time soul queen. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Small Faces - Here Come the NiceThe Small Faces, Here Come The Nice: The Immediate Years 1967-1969 (Charly/Snapper Classics)

An exhaustive new box set (exclusive to Amazon) featuring all of the mod legends’ single sides for the Immediate label, rare and unreleased studio outtakes, four repressed vinyl EPs/acetates and a load of extra content, including replica press kits, posters, art prints, a hardbound book and more. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)


The Day Before of Wine and Roses

The Dream Syndicate, The Day Before of Wine and Roses (Omnivore)

A killer live set recorded at KPFK-FM in Los Angeles, weeks prior to the recording of The Dream Syndicate’s seminal debut. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

rainbow_singles_box_setRainbow, Singles Box (Polydor/UMC)

A 19-disc box replicating various 45s from Ritchie Blackmore’s iconic rock combo. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Gene, Olympian To See the Lights Drawn to the Deep End Revelations Libertine: Deluxe Editions (Edsel)

All five of the alt-rock/Britpop band’s standard albums (including the B-sides compilation To See the Lights) have been newly expanded as double-disc sets in casebound packages, all featuring rare B-sides and some unreleased live material and demos throughout.

Olympian: Amazon U.K.
To See the Lights: Amazon U.K.
Drawn to the Deep End: Amazon U.K.
Revelations: Amazon U.K.
Libertine: Amazon U.K.

Cast, All Change / Mother Nature Calls / Magic Hour Beetroot: Deluxe Editions (Edsel)

In the same vein as Gene, John Power’s band after the dissolution of The La’s was notable in the Britpop era, particularly for debut All Change, the highest-selling debut in Polydor Records’ history. All four of their albums have been expanded as triple-disc (double in the case of Beetroot) sets, including rare B-sides and other material as well as DVDs packed with music videos, live appearances and new interviews with Power about each album.

All Change: Amazon U.K.
Mother Nature Calls: Amazon U.K.
Magic Hour: Amazon U.K.
Beetroot: Amazon U.K.

Jon Anderson, Olias of Sunhillow / Alice Cooper, Billion Dollar Babies (Audio Fidelity) / The Doobie Brothers, Stampede / Dean Martin, This Time I’m Swingin’ / Frank Sinatra, Point of No Return (Mobile Fidelity)

The latest hi-def offerings. Kevin Gray and Steve Hoffman respectively master the Audio Fidelity gold disc titles, while MFSL offers two crooners and a ’70s rock band on hybrid SACD.

Jon Anderson: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Alice Cooper: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Doobie Brothers: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Dean Martin: Amazon U.S.
Frank Sinatra: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Our Beloved Revolutionary Band Returns: Omnivore Expands Two By Camper Van Beethoven

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Camper - Our BelovedAmong the leading lights of what would eventually become known as “alternative rock,” few groups made as great a mark as Camper Van Beethoven.  The California band, which had its beginnings in 1983 and coalesced in 1985, incorporated elements of rock, punk, folk, ska and world music into its own style of “surrealist absurdist folk.”  Three indie albums arrived before Camper signed with Virgin Records for its major-label debut, 1988’s Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart.  On February 4, Omnivore Recordings will revisit that alt-rock landmark as well as its follow-up, 1989’s Key Lime Pie, in deluxe expanded editions available on CD and produced in cooperation with the band members.  The same date, the original LPs will also be reissued on 180-gram vinyl in lavish Omnivore fashion.

Dennis Herring, who would go on to produce albums by Elvis Costello, Ben Folds and Counting Crows, helmed Camper’s two Virgin albums.  Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart assuaged the usual fears that a brave and adventurous indie band had “sold out” in signing to a mainstream label; as Omnivore’s press release puts it, “As it turned out, the first three tracks on Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart were a pop song, an instrumental and an adaptation of a dirge about death. Heck, the release even had a love song for Patty Hearst. No, Camper Van Beethoven hadn’t sold out. They just had better distribution now!”  Though Sweetheart was an accessible record which earned the band an even greater fan base, it didn’t whitewash the band’s more outré sensibilities or simplify the wide-ranging, varied instrumentation.  The album’s line-up included David Lowery on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Jonathan Segel on violin, mandolin, keyboards, guitar and backing vocals, Victor Krummenacher on bass and backing vocals, Greg Lisher on lead guitar, and Chris Pedersen on drums. (Sweetheart was the first Camper Van Beethoven album not to feature founding guitarist/drummer/multi-instrumentalist Chris Molla.)  Omnivore’s CD reissue adds a whopping 10 bonus tracks to the album’s original 14 songs, including live tracks, non-LP songs and the edit of “Eye of Fatima Pts. 1 & 2.”

Camper returned in 1989 with Key Lime Pie, its final album before (temporarily) breaking up in 1990.  The band’s line-up was somewhat altered here, with the departure of Jonathan Segel before the album’s recording commenced.  Hence, the album was crafted by Lowery, Krummenacher, Lisher and Pedersen, with the violin parts played by Don Lax and Morgan Fichter.  Somewhat darker and more Americana-oriented than its predecessor, Key Lime Pie featured a noteworthy cover of Status Quo’s psychedelic “Pictures of Matchstick Men”  and a track about another notorious American figure, “Jack Ruby.”  Nine bonus tracks add up to the tastiest Key Lime Pie yet, including live tracks, rare edits and demos.

After the jump: more on both albums, including full track listings and pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 5, 2013 at 10:59