cutout xxi: thrift shop treasures and an extra bonus review

24 Oct

Took the opportunity in the last week to swap some new discs into my car box, ushering in a new population to revisit and review. Some good stuff here, again, largely a cross-section of the 90s, when I was a loyal member of the BMG record club and bought lots of things I might not have otherwise because they were cheap and/or free. Also, this batch includes two discs I rescued from thrift shop obscurity; where used CDs are a buck and change, and I really need to take care to not let my standards slip too far.

For some reason, I hit five again instead of the usual four this time around, so if you’re counting, we’re up to eight-six capsule reviews now…not that anyone’s counting but me.

Mallrats: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Mallrats has been, these many years, one of my favorite go-to comedies, even if it’s not the Kevin Smith movie that gets watched the most. It’s a trifle, but at the same time, it’s a lot of good raunchy profane fun. Part of the package, of course, is the film’s soundtrack, which, like a lot of soundtracks, is made up of a cross-section of up-and-comers and indie tunes that the record company associated with the film production company’s parent corporation wants to promote, tied together with one or two tracks from established acts to drive impulse purchases. The big names here are Bush (who doesn’t really bring their “A” game with “Bubbles”) and Weezer, whose “Suzanne” end up as being iconic thanks to playing over the indelible image of Jay and Silent Bob holding hands with an organg utan walking into the sunset. The rest of the soundtrack sounds like a kinda crappy 90s indie record store, but manages to win you over with Belly’s “Broken” and a bunch of clips of dialogue from the movie. This one is actually brand-new to me; I picked it up for a buck or so at a thrift store near my office while looking for Halloween costume components. Not the greatest record, but it’s not bad, and definitely worth more than I paid for it.

Coverdale-Page: David Coverdale has always kind of wanted to be the slightly slicker version of Led Zeppelin with the innumerable versions of Whitesnake he’s fielded over the years, so it makes a poetic sort of sense that he’d eventually hook up with Jimmy Page and lay down some tape of their communal interest in the British electric blues tradition. This record is the result, and in the end, it ends up sounding…a hell of a lot like a Whitesnake record, only without the modern wanky polish of Sykes/Vandenberg/Vai guitar leads. That’s not to say it’s bad; it isn’t terrible at all, it’s just that as nice as Page’s guitar licks are (and no one can deny that Jimmy Page isn’t one of the 20th century’s greatest and most influential guitarists), his heart’s just not really in it here. There’s no iconic “Black Dog”s or “Kashmirs” to be had; it’s all just kind of anonymous. Sure, “Pride and Joy” is a pleasingly bombastic mostly-acoustic blues jam, but on the whole, Coverdale-Page doesn’t manage to even be the definitive best post-Whitesnake british blues record, as it’s not too hard to make the argument that it’s eclipsed by John Sykes’ Blue Murder project.

♦ The Cars – Just What I Needed: The Cars Anthology: A couple of entries ago, I knocked out a paragraph on The Cars’ Greatest Hits, and much of what’s said about that one can be said about most of this collection, a two-disc career retrospective, as this disc is essentially Greatest Hits along with another two dozen or so b-sides, rarities, and album deep cuts. I can’t quite remember the logic behind my buying this completists’ package when I’ve largely been a casual Cars fan, when I already had the single disc greatest hits package. However, it’s still a pretty good listen, serving as a great cross-section of the Cars in their heyday, with a handful of early demos and stuff from the later, less appreciated records like Door to Door. Also, being tailored to the superfan collector, it includes extensive liner notes summing up the band’s career over the course of several thousand words, which makes for interesting reading and gives even the casual fan a new insight into the band during it’s entire run.

♦ Jeffrey Gaines – ’91 Promo EP: This is another piece of history rescued from the same thrift store trip mentioned at the top of this article, a pre-release sampler of five tracks from Gaines’ debut disc on Chrysalis. Gaine was the leading edge of the Harrisburg PA 90s scene, snapping up his major label deal and grabbing a bit of MTV and radio play in the early nineties, before other acts like Live and The Badlees hit the majors. Listening to this disc conjures memories of listening to the local artist spotlight shows on rock radio, which is where I heard most of the tracks off this record; all of which are great examples of the literate singer-songwriter sound that typified the scene, especially standouts like “Hero in Me” and “Headmasters of Mine.” The odd thing about Gaines is that despite my being “present at the scene,” so to speak, I’ve never seen him perform live, thanks to a couple of near misses, one of which being a a blown car water pump keeping me from seeing a free performance by 4 Non Blonds, who ended up cancelling anyway and whose slot was taken up by Gaines. Interestingly, I also missed seeing him about ten years ago in Virginia Beach when his version of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” became a surprise hit. We made it out for the show, but weather or something caused us to leave before he went on, though we had a nice time hanging with opener of that show, Pete Palladino of the Badlees, promoting his solo record during the band’s post-UTDH hiatus.

♦ Natalie Merchant – TigerLily: This record, Merchant’s solo debut after breaking with 10,000 Maniacs, almost feels like two different records. The big commercial singles, like “Wonder” and “Jealousy” sound an awful lot like they could have come right off a 10kM record, what with the bouncing basslines and clean electric leads playing counterpoint to the melody of Merchant’s distinctive and lush vocals. However, a lot of the rest of the record plays differently, there’s a pleasingly anachronistic Regency-by-way-of-torch-song feeling surrounding Merchant’s slower, piano-based offerings, such as the melancholy “Beloved Wife.” What surprised me revisiting this one were the often excellent guitar solos closing out tracks like “I May Know the Word.” This record, in the years since it’s release, has gotten largely mixed reviews, but I’ve always been fond of it, largely because of the pleasant memories of seeing Merchant play tracks from this one live at Lilith Faire in 98 on my honeymoon, and feeling kind of let down at the fact that festival organizer Sara McLachlan was the headliner when Merchant’s set was clearly superior.

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