Beck – Morning Phase (the better late than never review!)

First, before I get into this review I want to share a little story about my live concert experiences (because it does relate to this review). My first, legit, concert I ever attended was in 2002 and it was Beck and the Flaming Lips on the Sea Change tour. Prior live musical experiences before 2002 were friends bands in garages, and those anti drug speaker/cover bands that travel around and perform at Junior High and High Schools to tell who how evil drugs are and then proceed to do horrible covers of hair metal/grunge songs which ironically were written by probably the biggest drug users of them all.. Rock stars!

So, seeing Beck live in 2002 was a revelation. It was awesome. Beck performed at an amphitheater here in Southern California. Huntington Beach actually. Beck’s performance was stripped down and acoustic until he played his other songs that were not acoustic and stripped down. The Flaming Lips opened the show and then performed as his backing band as well. This show also pretty much sealed my fate as a Flaming Lips fan. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots had just came out and it was just a great time to be a fan of both bands at that time. It’s nearly been 12 years ago now. How the time flies.

Morning Phase opens with a 40 second string orchestration intro piece called “Cycle” and then the song “Morning” kicks in with a familiar acoustic chord sequence that calls back to Sea Change’s “The Golden Age” and as anyone who has already read anything about Morning Phase; it makes sense because this album is basically a companion piece to Sea Change. It is a short album, clocking in around 47 minutes and released on one LP. This album really is one of those “has to be heard on vinyl” albums. I am not sure, yet, who mastered it*, but it was pressed at Pallas. My copy is flat, devoid of any defects. But back to the mastering, there is plenty of instrument separation and the instruments, especially guitar, sound incredibly life like as if Beck is performing in front of you (given your system setup of course). This is one of those albums that reminds me why I like vinyl.

I wouldn’t say Morning Phase is better than Sea Change. It is on the same level, and it really doesn’t need to be.

*Well I eventually took a look at the liner notes and Morning Phase was mastered by none other than Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering. There you go!


Record Store Day 2014

Another year, another Record Store Day.. I haven’t updated in a while, my bad. I’ve been meaning to, I have some pending articles/thoughts/musings to share. But for now let’s talk about Record Store Day which is today.

A little background for those that stumbled upon my blog recently. I’ve been partaking in this event since 2010.. And with each Record Store Day (and each Black Friday Record Store Day) I’ve seen it evolve and grow. I never really had a bad experience with it. I know there are other blogs, message boards, where the whole conceived notion that it is a “cash grab day” gets discussed to death. First, let me say, I have met people at the event who are there only to buy records to “flip” for profit on eBay. What can you do? People are opportunists. Where there is need there is supply but with inflated prices. In retrospect, the store gets their money back and profit from the day, the person buying records gets their money and profit back that day.. and the person who couldn’t get that record that day gets that record, but at an inflated eBay cost.. Oh wait. Not everyone wins… Yeah, that is the frustrating aspect of it.

Anyway. Enough about that. The social aspect of Record Store Day I always look forward to. I had lined up this morning at 6:30 am (alone) and got in line… which was already halfway around the store. There was the usual silence for a while, being that people lining up at 6:30 am at a record store day are probably socially awkward record collecting nerds, anyway. I know I am! But as the doughnuts started going around and the coffee started sinking in we all found common ground (records, what else?) and plenty to talk about as the hours went by. The store I went to, Rhino Records in Claremont, CA, let people in at 9:45 am… so for those of us that arrived at 6:30 am there was time to kill. The joke going around during most of this time was that the donuts being passed out were laced with something so the doughnut pushers could get closer to the door. Hah! I met a cool kid who is a Flaming Lips fan and also went to the same Flaming Lips show I went to back in October, so we had that commonality.

My haul this year was much smaller than last year’s ridiculous haul. I had spent a little over 400$ last year on records that I rarely listen to now. This year I focused on titles I knew I really wanted and also knew I’d listen to more than a few times. So those were: The Flaming Lips 7 Skies H3 on clear vinyl.. 7 Skies H3 is the 24 hour Flaming Lips song condensed into 50 minutes. More structured in a sense. I never heard the original 24 hour song because I literally could not imagine setting aside 24 hours to do so. I picked up, as well, the Nick Cave & Warren Ellis soundtrack to West of Memphis. A blissfully, but somber, instrumental album. Also, Joy Division’s “An Ideal For Living e.p. I intended to pick up both releases by The Zombies, “Odessey and Oracle” and “I Love You”. I could only find Odessey and Oracle. I actually thought it was a mono reissue, but it is in stereo and I have no idea what was used as a source. I actually own this album, but I own the Big Beat reissue from the late 90’s which was supposedly sourced from analog. The two Zombies albums were reissued by the Varèse Sarabande Records label by the way. “I Love You” is however in mono. Somehow, someway I will get it. I refuse to resort to eBay! And lastly I picked up The Black Angels Clear Lake Forest 10″ e.p. containing 7 new songs. And that is it.

I would say I came out of this Record Store Day unscathed. One thing I found amusing was the free goodies bags given out, I got a 8 track cassette tape in mine from The Jackson 5.. The Skywriter album actually. My store was actually giving away free tickets to see Nick Cave in Los Angeles with each purchase of the Nick Cave & Warren Ellis album, but ran out before I purchased mine.

Wrapping up, there are some releases I am curious about. MGMT had reissues for “Oracular Spectacular” and “Congratulations” (minus the scratch off album cover of the original release) which are, according to the labels, reissued from the analog tapes. Which makes me wonder.. what were the original releases sourced from? Congratulations actually went out of print a few years ago and would be worth picking up again for those that missed out on the original album. But like I said, the reissue doesn’t have the novelty of the scratch off cover art that the original had.

Happy Record Store day 2014 everyone! And remember to always support your local independent music retailer!



Record collecting.. It’s a musical journey part two: Reissue Labels

In my last post I briefly talked about something that possibly most collectors face at some time.. accidentally purchasing an album they already own. The idea of collecting in itself is a journey. I think most of us, when not absent minded, can actually pull an album out of our collection and remember when and where we purchased it. I still can do that…

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Record collecting.. It’s a musical journey…

I would say that collecting music does take one on a “musical journey.” Along the way there are bumps in the road, and there are challenges, and of course there are mistakes. I was thinking about this today as I was making the trek home from a record store that’s roughly twenty miles away from my house. I had purchased Brian Eno’s “Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)” on vinyl, for $10 dollars, it was a Island Label pressing that had the pink rim around the label border, known as a “pink rim” pressing and it was a pressing I assumed I did not have.. For some reason I thought I had a “Editions EG” pressing.. But alas, I did actually have the Island “pink rim” pressing. This isn’t the first time I’ve done this. I’ve come away with a couple copies of Cat Steven’s Tea for the Tillerman during my many thrift store adventures in the past. That was, more-or-less, just forgetting I actually owned the album. It is bound to happen when a collector amasses a collection of over 1,000 lps and doesn’t own a smart phone and can’t check to look at their own collection on-the-spot.

Be sure to check out part two of my “Musical Journey” posts where I get into reissue labels…