Notable Vinyl Releases, Part Three

These quick reviews cover an assorted lot: two compilations, a reissue and a 45rpm single all in needle-hits-groove physical format.

Warren Zevon – My Ride’s Here
If you only know a few things about Zevon, it’s that he did “Werewolves of London,” that he had a celebrated sardonic sense of humor (imagine a rock-oriented Randy Newman), and that he died. So when you learn of the reissue of a 21st century Warren Zevon album with a title My Ride’s Here, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a concept album about about his impending death.

Themes of death do inform the record, but his last would be The Wind, released in 2003, a week and a half before his death (it’s not really a concept record either). My Ride’s Here is a fairly standard Zevon effort: not at all bad but not really remarkable in any way. The quality that makes it unusual – composition credit with writers outside the music world – doesn’t automatically translate into memorable songs. Zevon’s trademark humor enlivens the set, but the album just doesn’t linger in the memory after it’s done. Still, the first-ever vinyl pressing of My Ride’s Here is welcome.

Joseph Bishara – More Music from the Further
Halloween’s just come and gone, but this collection of evocative, eerie and downright creepy instrumentals woulds be just right for a trick-or-treating soundtrack. Silences punctured by stabbing strings, icy electronic passages that seem to rise out of the mists … you get the idea. Very much horror film-style fare, perfectly in keeping with the composer’s métier; he’s scored some two dozen films. Often as not, this collection works more as sound effect than as music-proper, but one imagines that it’s supremely effective in the context of film.

Les Paul and His Trio – After You’ve Gone
Here’s a compilation of some significant historical import, but sadly lacking necessary context. Les Paul is, of course, the man whose name would become synonymous with the solidbody electric guitar (Leo Fender being a close second in that regard). Though as a musician Paul is best known for his work with wife Mary Ford, he had already been a recording artist for some years prior to their marriage and musical collaboration. This 2LP set features 28 songs featuring Paul with His Trio, billed as themselves and/or backing a variety of vocalists.

Frustratingly, there are no liner notes or discographical information included in the sleeve (at least not in my copy), so it’s difficult to put these tunes into context. They’re not chronologically sequenced, either. But the sleeve does at least note the year of release for about half of the tracks. The sound fidelity – in mono, as the sleeve reminds us – is stunningly pristine, even on tracks like “I Ain’t Got Nobody (And Nobody Cares for Me),” a recording dating back to 1925. Hell, that’s nearly 100 years ago!

Let’s set our quibbles aside, however, and just enjoy the music: sorta jazzy, sorta western swing, sorta unclassifiable. The near relentless uptempo vibe may wear on casual listeners, but this is fun music through and through. Recommended to historical aficionados, with the caveats as noted above.

The Drolls – “Follow That Dinosaur” b/w “Alternate Timeline”
Related to (and of interest to fans of) Date Night With Brian, this Seattle outfit self-describes as “what pop-punk became when it grew up.” I rarely quote press materials, but in this case it makes sense, as that description is apt. Pop-punk is generally one of those things that’s better in the description than in the execution. Here, the band fires on all cylinders, wedding a simple yet winning melody to a buzzing instrumental assault. The punk of “Follow That Dinosaur” reminds me a bit of Material Issue, but the Drolls dispense with niceties like vocal harmonies. “Alternate Timeline” dials back the intensity and ups the melodic quotient. Solid stuff.