Previously: 50-35, 34-17
THE UNDISPUTED TRUTH
The Undisputed Truth
Norman Whitfield was one of Motown’s most successful producers, working on hits for Marvin Gaye, Edwin Starr and, particularly, The Temptations. But it was with his own group, The Undisputed Truth, fronted by Motown backing singers Billie Rae Calvin and Brenda Joyce, that Whitfield embarked on far more radical experiments into psych soul and political commentary. Whitfield used the Truth to expand on his own material – this hard-to-find debut included the first version of “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”, and a thunderous 11-minute take on “Ball Of Confusion” – as well as funky vamps on intriguing covers like Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone”.
EXPECT TO PAY: £25 for the UK vinyl
PAULINE MURRAY AND THE INVISIBLE GIRLS
Pauline Murray And The Invisible Girls RSO RECORDS, 1980
For anyone who knows Murray only as the voice of Penetration, this lost post-punk classic will be a revelation. Produced by Martin Hannett – The Invisible Girls was the band he put together to provide backing on several excellent records by Salford bard John Cooper Clarke – the album sees the legendary Joy Division producer at his poppiest, yet most expansive, too. Drawing on dub, Eurodisco and brittle funk, Hannett crafted a troubled wall of artpop, awash in keyboards, to frame Murray’s wonderfully naïve and breathy vocals –soaring lead single, “Dream Sequence 1”, deserved to be a massive hit. With sublime guitar from The Durutti Column’s Vini Reilly and a Peter Saville sleeve, it’s also a Factory record in all but name – subsequent single “Searching For Heaven” featured Joy Division/ New Order’s Bernard Sumner.
EXPECT TO PAY: Still good value at £50
PAUL QUINN & THE INDEPENDENT GROUP
The Phantoms & The Archetypes POSTCARD, 1992
With a voice pitched somewhere between Bowie’s Thin White Soul and Scott Walker’s deepest melancholy, Quinn ranks alongside The Associates’ Billy Mackenzie as one of the most extraordinary singers out of Scotland. A schoolfriend of Edwyn Collins and associate of Alan Horne’s original Postcard label, Horne’s plans to make him a star on his subsequent Swamplands label ran aground in disputes with owners London Records. Indeed, this album was a major reason behind Horne’s unexpected decision to resurrect Postcard in 1992. Produced by Collins, and featuring original Orange Juicer James Kirk’s guitar genius, Quinn’s voice wandered through dark shadows of soul, pop and country on ballads like “Punk Rock Hotel” and exquisitely desolate covers including The Carpenters’ “Superstar”. A film noir of a record, this has never been re-released, possibly because Horne reckons the world simply doesn’t deserve it.
EXPECT TO PAY: £40 if you’re lucky
LAL & MIKE WATERSON
Responding to new directions in folk-rock, the two Waterson siblings hired folk luminaries Martin Carthy, Maddy Prior, Ashley Hutchings, Tim Hart and Dave Mattacks for this chamber folk with an uncanny twist – child sacrifice in “The Scarecrow”, or “Winifer Odd”, smashed by a car while picking up a lucky star from the road. From intimate guitar/voice arrangements to the Nick Drake strings of “Never The Same” and the country rock of “The Magical Man”, the tracks are unpredictable as English weather. Shadows and sunny intervals dominate the lyrics, and the clouds part spectacularly for the closing “Bright Phoebus”, where the sun beams down a spiritual awakening. Aside from a shoddy CD-R from CM Distribution in 2000, this has suffered the same fate as the rest of the Leader/Trailer catalogue (see Dave & Toni Arthur, No 32).
EXPECT TO PAY: £30, with a bit of luck
CHRYSALIS, 1980; DEMON , 1997 (CD)
T-Bone Burnett was unknown before Dylan recruited him for 1975’s Rolling Thunder Revue, where he met David Mansfield and Steven Soles, with whom he subsequently formed The Alpha Band and recorded three hugely idiosyncratic albums that combined rock, jazz, country, blues, folk and more. Truth Decay was his first solo album and returned him to the roots music he grew up with in Texas and with which he has since become indelibly associated as an award-winning producer. What Truth Decay shared with The Alpha Band was an inclination on songs like “Quicksand”, “Boomerang” and “House Of Mirrors” towards the surreal, satirical and unsettling, clever juxtapositions of off-kilter humour, dark moral fables and a profound disillusionment with a materialistic world, its acidity more brilliantly rendered than any of the infrequent solo albums that followed.
EXPECT TO PAY: A tenner for the vinyl, much, much more if you find it on CD
Silver Meteor SIERRA, 1980
Subtitled ‘A Progressive Country Anthology’, this excellent set might be noteworthy solely for its brace of rootsy – and rare – 1969 cuts from The Everly Brothers. But the presence of four won’t-find-’em-anywhere-else tracks from The Byrds’ preternaturally talented guitarist Clarence White – recorded in June 1973, just two weeks before his death – have given Silver Meteor elevated status in country rock circles. After The Byrds’ dissolution in late ’72, White secured a solo deal with Warners, and set about pioneering a startling brand of bluegrass and rock with fiddler Byron Berline, guitarist Herb Pederson and mandolin ace (and brother) Roland White. The results – including “Why You Been Gone So Long” with Ry Cooder on slide – are consistently astonishing, and hint all-too-briefly at the directions ’70s country might have taken.
EXPECT TO PAY: £30, including shipping – it’s a US-only release
Music For A New Society
ZE/ISLAND, 1982; RHINO, 1994 (CD)
Even by the frequently disturbing standards of Cale’s many previous excursions into territories of dread and disconsolation, Music For A New Society was daunting, a blasted requiem for an unravelling world and the victims of insane times. It is, in many ways, Cale’s masterpiece.
That Music For A New Society is not currently in catalogue is inexplicable. Rhino US licensed the album from Cale, but the term of that licence expired in 2004. Imagine logging onto Amazon to order Blood On The Tracks or Astral Weeks for someone who’d never heard them and discovering they’d been deleted without explanation. You’d be stupefied. Another equivalent would be finding out that someone had taken a tin of whitewash and a very big brush to Picasso’s Guernica, making it disappear beneath a layer of blank undercoat.
His previous album, 1981’s Honi Soit, itself now only available as a download, had been a loud, abrasive essay in apocalyptic paranoia, full of squalling guitars and a turbulent sonic mayhem that would be replaced on Music For A New Society by a kind of symphonic minimalism.
With the exception of “Changes Made”, which featured a full band, with Blue Öyster Cult’s Allen Lanier on lead guitar, the songs on the album – most of them improvised in the studio – featured not much more than Cale’s handsome Baptist tenor set against brutal reductions of the kind of arrangements he had provided 14 years earlier for Nico’s The Marble Index.
There were moments of startling poignancy, among them the exquisite “Broken Bird” and “Chinese Envoy”, and a wracked new version of “I Keep A Close Watch”, an anguished ballad from 1975’s Helen Of Troy. Elsewhere, darkness and violence loomed in livid tandem. “Taking Your Life In Your Hands” and the hugely unsettling “If You Were Still Around” starkly explored three of Cale’s favourite themes: nostalgia, murder and madness. But the album’s grim centrepiece was the long, agonised “Sanities” (originally titled “Sanctus”, but mistakenly re-titled on the album sleeve), on which over an aloof, majestic keyboard drone and fragmenting percussion, Cale’s possessed narration evoked disaster on all fronts, ending with an ominous prediction of terrible things to come, the bleak promise of “a stronger world, a stronger loving world. . . to die in.” ALLAN JONES
HOMESTEAD 1986; TOUCH & GO, 1992 (CD)
Seething with disgust (at human weakness and perversity) and pummelled by a badass drum machine (succinctly credited as roland: roland), Big Black’s debut took the rage of hardcore punk and fused it with the harsh mechanics of the electronic age. In passing, it established the uncompromising nature of mainman Steve Albini, who’s gone on to engineer more records than any sane human should. Atomizer’s been unavailable for a while because Touch & Go ran out of stock, and Albini and co took the opportunity to remaster it (along with a number of other BB titles). “All of them should be available relatively soon. We intend to keep everything available forever,” Albini says.
EXPECT TO PAY: £15 for the vinyl
SANDY DENNY &
All Our Own Work HALLMARK, 1973
The offensively cheap artwork fair screams “cash-in”, and indeed this budget release was designed to capitalise on fan interest. Not in the wonderful Denny, though, but in The Strawbs, who in ’73 were high in the charts with “Part Of The Union”. These tracks were recorded in 1967 in Copenhagen (the sleevenotes erroneously state 1968), before she joined Fairport Convention, and feature the earliest version of her haunting calling card, “Who Knows Where The Time Goes”. Hallmark is not known for its reissue programme, so this seems unlikely to get a re-release soon, although Fairports producer Joe Boyd did compile some other, differently orchestrated material from the Copenhagen sessions for 1991 CD Sandy Denny And The Strawbs. But now that’s out of print, too…
EXPECT TO PAY: £15. But search hard enough and it’ll turn up cheaper
One of 2009’s more disingenuous reissues was The Catalogue, a thorough-sounding Kraftwerk boxset which failed to include their first three LPs. Perhaps that early work was deemed too idiosyncratically human, with the mensch-maschine not yet fully operational and a freestyling hippy fallibility taking precedence. They remain, however, fascinating records, not least the 1970 debut, where Florian Schneider and Ralf Hütter embarked on four capricious avant-jams. The heavy-weight electronics were at a putative stage: Klaus Dinger, soon to form Neu!, contributed live drums; Schneider led, jauntily, with a flute. “I’m working on the album tapes,” Hütter told Uncut last year. “It will be Kraftwerk 1 and 2, Ralf & Florian, and maybe one or two live ambient situations, whatever we find in the archive… It needs some more work, redusting and remastering.”
EXPECT TO PAY: Approaching £100
Night On Earth OST
Jim Jarmusch’s portmanteau movie Night On Earth presents five encounters between taxi drivers and passengers, all happening in different cities around the world at the same moment. The film’s much underrated in Jarmusch’s canon, which perhaps helps explain why Waits’ soundtrack – at the time, his first new material in five years – has fallen off the radar. It’s mostly instrumental, a main theme evolving as a series of woozy, junky mood pieces designed to reflect the geographical settings of each story, but which are nevertheless all firmly located in Waits’ boneyard carnival. Among the tunes are three vocal turns, “The Other Side Of The World” and two readings of “Back In The Good Old World”. First taken as a rollicking gypsy stomp, Waits’ closing reprise of the song as an aching waltz ranks among his most heartbreaking.
EXPECT TO PAY: Up to about £50. Even the cassette is worth a tenner…
JONATHAN RICHMAN AND
THE MODERN LOVERS
It’s Time For…
ROUGH TRADE, 1986
When The Modern Lovers Mark II (or III) broke up at the end of the ’70s, Richman laid low for several years, before returning with a trio of albums that showed him fully reinvigorated: Jonathan Sings! (1983), Rockin’ And Romance (1985) and It’s Time For… All three are long out of print; Richman apparently holds them all in low regard. Produced, like its predecessor, with the lightest of touches by Andy Paley, the last is the pick of the bunch. Showcasing Richman’s love of early rock’n’roll and doo-wop, it’s nostalgic without being sentimental, as warm and true as an old valve amplifier. Opener “It’s You” is plausibly one of the ’80s’ most gorgeous recordings; “Corner Store” a paean to vanishing times to rank with his seminal “Old World”;
“When I Dance” is the singer at his most magical.
EXPECT TO PAY: A high-end £50
The Beatles At The Hollywood Bowl
Astonishing to think that, save some stuff on the Anthologies, there is no Beatles live material available on CD. And not just because this was a band that famously forged themselves on the live circuit – this is The Beatles, after all, the biggest cash cow in music history. Things never seem to go smoothly with the Fabs’ catalogue, though, and the long and winding story of the original release of these recordings is fascinating, involving abortive attempts by Phil Spector, much dust-gathering in Capitol’s vaults, and, finally, a heroic salvage job by George Martin. While Martin’s selection (from two shows in August ’64 and August ’65) is scarcely a hi-fi listening experience, it’s still revelatory. Clearly audible among the soprano screams and general hysteria are 13 raw, R’n’B-weighted tracks – including a searing “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” – that proved what a spookily tight, breathlessly exciting live act they could be. Great between-song patter, as well…
EXPECT TO PAY: £10. It did hit No 1!
St Dominic’s Preview
WARNER BROS, 1972; POLYDOR, 1997 (CD)
Morrison had posed with then-wife Janet Planet for the cover of 1971’s bucolic Tupelo Honey. By this follow-up, the marriage was deteriorating, and he sounded more magnificently restless than in years. While continuing the mixture of radio-friendly R’n’B (the belting “Jackie Wilson Said”) and jazzy Celtic folk-rock (“Gypsy”) that had characterised recent albums, St Dominic’s… saw Morrison also reach back toward the beat visionary ground of Astral Weeks on questing epics “Listen To The Lion” and “Almost Independence Day”. Morrison here dubbed his sound “Caledonian Soul” and on the glorious title track, you hear what he means. Warners started to reissue their Morrison titles in 2008, but the project seems to have stalled. In a 2009 Q&A with Time magazine, Morrison, who has had issues with his old label over ownership of his back catalogue, was asked, “When will we see your out-of-print albums in stores?” His ominous response: “There are no plans right now.”
EXPECT TO PAY: A reasonable £20
CAPTAIN BEEFHEART & THE MAGIC BAND
Lick My Decals Off, Baby
STRAIGHT, 1970; ENIGMA/RHINO 1989 (CD)
Where do you go after Trout Mask Replica? Beefheart’s follow-up was a riot of bamboozling marimbas and jaw-dropping ensemble playing, with the rapid-fire high intellect of chess grandmasters slamming down their pieces. Like many albums released on Frank Zappa’s Straight label, Decals was released on CD in 1989, but was withdrawn for legal reasons. While copyright issues regarding Straight’s catalogue have now been resolved [see Starsailor panel, p49], allowing Rhino to re-release Decals temporarily on vinyl in 2007, other considerations make it unlikely this will emerge on CD in the foreseeable. The permission of Beefheart himself – (Don Van Vliet) is required, and his relationship with Rhino is understood to be poor. He is also ill, and one presumes a CD release of a 40-year-old LP is low on his priority list. No dialogue is currently taking place, we are told.
EXPECT TO PAY: CDs change hands for £40 or so
Time Fades Away REPRISE, 1973
There’s a long feature on this in Uncut 156
Next: Uncut Readers’ Great Lost Albums
Previously: 50-35, 34-17