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TOP 20: DEAD HEAT
Down to the wire. (6/28a)
STREAMS HIT BIG BENCHMARK
Merrily we roll along. (6/28a)
GREIN ON GRAMMYS, FIRST TAKES: BEST NEW ARTIST
The Whisperer returns. (6/28a)
LYOR'S NASHVILLE 4TH
Music City meets the Googletube. (6/28a)
GRAMMYS HEADING BACK TO L.A.
But first, a stop in the Big Apple. (6/28a)
WE KIDNAP A NASHVILLE SONGWRITER
...but then things go sideways, kinda.
HITS' 31ST ANNIVERSARY ISSUE
How will we fill the white space between those lovely, lovely ads?
WHAT WAS ON THAT PIZZA?
Dude, I feel weird.
STEVE MOTHERFUCKING MILLER
Show some respect.
Critics' Choice
SONGS FROM THE 
MOTHERFUCKING WOOD
6/27/17

By Simon Glickman

Funny what the universe can throw your way, exactly when you need it. Such as Rhino’s Jethro Tull Songs From the Wood 40th Anniversary Edition: The Country Set.

This handsome batch of remastered discs, concerts and outtakes, replete with a 96-page booklet for maximum fan geekage, is my new standard for “rediscovery.”

When this record was nearly new, I lavished many, many adolescent hours swooning away to its sylvan grooves—and leering at its occasionally lascivious lyrics.

Think that’s a nerdly confession? Nestled among my other 45s is the 7” “The Whistler” single featuring the (until now) otherwise unreleased “Strip Cartoon” as a B-side. The Chrysalis logo revolved in my dreams. I played air flute. I might as well have lived in The Shire.

And I further admit that over the years, I came to think of the album as lesser Tull, lacking the edge of the angry young early-’70s material, so of the city and therefore, somehow, more authentic. But now I’m a gray and withered old hobbit and have experienced the country air and all of its joys. So Songs’ folkloric anthems, fixated as they are on the seasons, on antediluvian lore with the fertile earth at its center, feel warmer and fuzzier than I might’ve imagined.

The reason this album and the music immediately following it hewed to these themes is twofold. One: Ian Anderson and his bride left the city at last and he lived the life of a country squire in Buckinghamshire, where the rites of spring were danced outside his very windows. Two: His manager gifted him with Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain, a scholarly guide to the beliefs and rituals of the pre-Christian land. He dove in, and emerged with forest-rocking cuts like “Jack-in-the-Green,” “Ring Out, Solstice Bells” and “Cup of Wonder.” And also sexed-up woodland jams like “Velvet Green” and “Hunting Girl.”

The music marries the band’s tricky, already baroque rock to the timbre of ye olde English folk, but the combination has aged rather astonishingly well. Even with bubbling late-’70s synths all around the hedgerows. Also: Jesus, this rocks. Put on “Pibroch” for your Sabbath-worshiping pals and see them bow down before the blazing riffage of Martin Lancelot Barre.

Couple this with two audio discs and one DVD of a miraculous ’77 show that crystallizes the band’s repertoire, stylistic range and sheer sense of fun better than any I’ve heard, and you’ve got something pretty miraculous. Then there’s all the stuff that takes my geekage to the next level, like the charming trade ad for Marshall amps that finds Barre recounting his nervous Tull audition. Or the interview with engineer Trevor White! What does he say about rolling off 10db in the first submix? Buy the set and find out!

Look, I know this ain’t for everybody, But it sure as shit was for me, and now—when merely cataloguing the terrible things going on in the world is a full-time occupation—it is solace indeed.

Too nerdy for you? Fuck off. I’ve got air flute to play.

 

AMERICANAFEST SETS HONOREES
6/22/17

Guitarist Robert Cray, late folksinger Iris DeMent, Graham Nash, the studio musicians of Hi Records and the founders of HighTone Records will be honored at the Americana Music Association's 16th Annual Honors & Awards ceremony on 9/13 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

Cray will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance. The Hi Rhythm section—guitarist Mabon "Teenie" Hodges, keyboardists Rev. Charles Hodges and Archie "Hubbie" Turner, bassist LeRoy "Flick" Hodges and drummers Howard Grimes and Al Jackson Jr.—are this year's recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award for Instrumentalists.

DeMent will be honored with the Americana Trailblazer Award; Nash will receive the Spirit of Americana Free Speech in Music Award; and HighTone founders Larry Sloven and Bruce Bromberg are the recipients of the Jack Emerson Lifetime Achievement Award for Executive.

As previously announced, Van Morrison will receive Lifetime Achievement Award for songwriting.

“We are proud and humbled to honor these artists whose work has shaped what we not only call Americana today, but the musical landscape on the whole,” said Jed Hilly, Executive Director of the Americana Music Association. “We are inspired by their work and excited to see them all as they will honor us in song at the Ryman this fall.”

The ceremony serves as the official kick-off for the 18th annual Americana Music Festival & Conference that runs 9/12-17.

UNIVERSAL RESTORES BANANA ART
ON 50TH ANNI VU & NICO LP
6/14/17

The Velvet Underground and Nico turns 50 this year. UME is celebrating by releasing on 6/30 a black vinyl edition of the album with its original Andy Warhol-designed cover art and a pink vinyl version limited to 1,000 copies. In November, VU co-founder John Cale will perform the album in full with an orchestra and special guests on 11/16-17 as part of the 2017 Next Wave Festival at New York's BAM. (On 11/18, he’ll do a career retrospective performance).

In addition to reproducing Warhol's "banana cover" design, complete with peelable banana sticker, the 50th-anniversary vinyl edition also reproduces the album's original gatefold cover as well as its rare original back-cover "torso" photo, with Lou Reed's face superimposed over the torso of Warhol associate Eric Emerson.  

The shot is restored to its original glory on the 50th anniversary edition, along with a replica of the black sticker that was used to obscure the image. The sticker will be attached to the shrink wrap of the anniversary LP.

An additional insert has been added for this edition, with vintage images plus new liner notes by Cale and Richie Unterberger, author of the book White Light/White Heat: The Velvet Underground Day-By-Day.

The album, released in March 1967 on Verve Records, sold only 30,000, but as Brian Eno famously said, everyone who bought it formed a band. And if you think you like the album, you got nothing on this guy, one of our favorite publicists.