Thursday, December 30, 2004

It's funny how your taste in music changes when you have a wide selection. Last week I was all about Blondie and the Go-Go's and Joan Jett. This week I'm more interested in the new incarnation of Throbbing Gristle... But over the last year and a half I have been consistently fascinated with the work of Arthur Russell.

Russell undoubtedly sold more records in 2004 than in any other year of his life, or since his death in 1992. No less than three reissues and a ton of press, leading a few to nominate him as "most overrated". I beg to differ. Russell's work was almost totally under the radar for somebody who almost joined Talking Heads and released Sire Record's first ever 12" single in 1979 (as Dinosaur). Pretty much everything you could ever want to know about him is at the Jahsonic website.

So let's talk about the reissues... First came Soul Jazz with The World Of Arthur Russell, an excellent collection/starting-point showcasing his varied approaches. Then Audika put out the all-unreleased Calling Out Of Context which, again, sounds like none of his other records - mostly keyboard-centered. Lastly was the jaw-dropping Audika reissue of 1986's solo-voice-and-cello-with-echo LP World Of Echo. This was the record that turned me on to the guy in the first place, after reading about him in David Toops's Ocean Of Sound book. I found it on somebody's shared folder along with This Heat and Virgin Prunes tracks, so I knew it had to be good. Indeed, it is one of the most fascinating records I've heard in years. Originally released by Rough Trade in 1986, the reissue blows my lame MP3s out of the water in terms of sound quality. Highly recommended.

Of course, there's a ton of stuff still out there. Here are some likely suspects...

Probably the next reissue we will see is the out-of-print Another Thought CD, two tracks of which were included on the Soul Jazz collection. It's solo voice and cello with minimal overdubs. Here's another few, one only found on this disc and two alternate versions of World Of Echo songs:
"This Is How We Walk On The Moon"

"Lucky Cloud"
"See Thru Love"

The flipside of Russell's Buddhist introspection was a joyous disco vibe that few have equalled. Although it might be available on a compilation called Disco Not Disco, the B-side version of "Kiss Me Again" is so so so worth posting. David Byrne plays guitar! One of the most transcendent disco diva anthems I have ever heard.

On a different disco note, this 12" A-side of "Tell You Today (New Shoes Part 1)" is bouncy and fun as opposed to passionate and intense.

As a coda, we have yet another different approach, the almost orchestral sound of "Sketch For Face Of Helen" found on the old-school Fruit Of The Original Sin compilation LP along with DNA and others. The DNA tracks have come out on a "complete" CD of theirs, but this is another little slice of genius that fell through the reissue cracks. Enjoy!

Last post of the week will be Half Japanese/Jad Fair, and we're gonna get technical, record-nerd style...

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