August 30, 2004

Nearly one year ago, Stylus published its Non-Definitive Guide to the Lost Album. Featuring some of the most rare recordings that we’ve discussed on the site, being composed of unreleased, shelved or, in some cases, unrecorded material, we felt there was no better to start off our all-new mp3 blog than to present some of the tracks that did slip through the tracks on these woulda/coulda/shoulda albums that never were.

Dennis Wilson – He’s a Bum, [Bamboo]

Possibly the “real” Beach Boy’s best unreleased song, the vaguely reggae “He’s a Bum” hails from Dennis Wilson’s lost Bamboo, which laid in a permanent state of incompletion with the drummer’s drowning in 1983. Like all of Denny’s best work, “He’s a Bum” is about himself; “He’s a dog / A hot dog / He likes to do it on his hands and knees” rasps Wilson in the song’s first half, his voice ravaged from years of hard living, as he croons about, well, hard living. Though the umpteenth generation copy renders the song’s second (and bleaker) minute almost unintelligible, with slurred pleas for prayer virtually lost amidst the graininess, the track remains a powerful testament to the middle Wilson brother’s genius for a brand of melancholy, reflective and affecting pop that was all his own.

[Matthew Weiner] [buy a deluxe bootleg of Bamboo here]

Daryl Hall - Babs and Babs, [Sacred Songs]

Part of Robert Fripp’s infamous MOR trilogy, Daryl Hall’s Sacred Songs found itself in limbo upon its completion, unable to be released because of its so-called challenging nature. Hall, who was consciously trying to reinvent himself outside of his more famous duo with a certain Mr. Oates, plunged back into duo work and soon found his commercial feet again with some of their best-loved material on Voices and Private Eyes.

That being said, while some of the work on Sacred Songs was undeniably pop, “Without Tears” being a prime example, many of the songs suffered from a battle between the twin impulses of Fripp and Hall. This push/pull can be seen no better than on “Babs and Babs”, which goes from oompah-pop stomp to Fripper-tronic guitar theatrics and back again over the course of its seven-minute length.
[Todd Burns] [buy Sacred Songs here]

Kraftwerk – Sex Object, [Technopop]

As Matthew Weiner makes clear in his write-up of the aborted Technopop sessions, it became obvious that by the early 1980s that the world had caught up with Kraftwerk. Struggling with the fact that groups like the Human League, Depeche Mode and others were racing ahead of the group technologically, the boys from Duesseldorf shelved the Technopop sessions and eventually emerged with the lukewarm Electric Café offering.

You can hear the beginnings of the track that eventually made it onto that full length here, but at the same time it’s almost an entirely different track. Sound quality aside, it’s a rawer and more immediate song here. It’s also a bit quicker, which gives it a sense of urgency that the later version lacked in spades.
[Todd Burns] [buy Electric Cafe here, buy Tour de France Soundtracks here]

Prince/Camille – Rebirth of the Flesh, [Camille]

As difficult as it is to keep up with Prince during the mid-to-late 80s, following him was a task that is thankfully as rewarding as it is challenging. Of the reportedly thousands of unreleased tracks in Prince’s vaults (many of which made up the body of collections designed to help him out of his Warner Bros. contract in the late 90s) the recordings from the 86-87 era are among his best and for obvious reasons—they catch an artist at his creative zenith, confidently embracing almost the entire spectrum of popular music.

From an untitled project to be released under the name of Prince’s helium-voiced, ambigenderous alter ego, Camille, “Rebirth of the Flesh” features a gargantuan metal riff, slamming beat and sing-songy chorus, delivered with a supremely squelchy, over-the-top Camille vocal. It falls directly in line with the same types of songs that he was creating for the project at the time: darker and witchier with dry, bare and cold arrangements that suggest a new wave Sly and the Family Stone.
[Matthew Weiner] [buy Sign ‘O’ the Times here, buy Musicology here]

Robin Gibb - Sing Slowly Sisters, [Sing Slowly Sisters]

Ego (and drugs and drink) ruled the day after the release of the Bee Gee’s Odessa, leading to Robin’s departure from the band. And after Robin’s Reign and its steady drum machined “Saved by the Bell” single, his first solo success, Gibb began to work earnestly on the follow-up. It was shelved indefinitely however, along with Maurice and Barry’s solo debuts, after the brothers decided to join forces again for the 1971 effort, Two Years On.

As such, the only copies that are still in existence of Robin’s SSS are of the heavily bootlegged variety. The sound quality obviously adds a lot to it, but Robin’s proposed second solo album sounds positively haunted. Take the title track, for instance, whose harrowing and wavering strings make a soft bed for Gibb’s typically melodramatic vocals. Despite the sound quality, it’s painfully obvious that this elaborately orchestrated four-minute confection would have fit neatly in the pop pantheon as one of Gibb’s finest achievements.
[Todd Burns]

Note: These songs are no longer available for download.

The styPod | 12:01 am | Comments (1)

August 29, 2004

Hello and welcome to that thing that’ll “change the way you read Stylus forever”. Why? Well, the essential problem with music criticism is the fact that you have trust, implicitly, the writer that you’re reading to be able to accurately describe the music that they’re critiquing. At that point, you have to go out, take a chance and purchase the music that they’re talking about and hope that the music translates to what you’ve read.

Not anymore. It’s become standard practice for a number of music writers to present the music that they’re writing about on what are being called mp3 blogs. Featured in both the New York Times (here, kind of) and on NPR (here and here), we at Stylus figured it was about time to enter the game ourselves.

So, in the coming weeks we’ll be featuring five tracks each Monday morning for your aural enjoyment in two different formats: writer curators and feature tie-ins. The former will be exactly as it sounds: a writer from the site will take control of the blog for a week and post the songs that they feel may have passed you by the first time they were talked about on the site, songs that they’re planning on talking about in the future or songs that they were turned on to themselves by reading the site. The latter, as you’ll see in our opening post, is a tie-in to an upcoming, current or past feature that we’ve run on the site that would benefit from a few samples to whet your appetite more towards hearing the full releases.

In each case, though, the aim is the same: to talk about the music that we love and to turn you onto it further. And, if we aren’t enough for you, we recommend hitting up some of our links on the left-hand side. Enjoy!

Todd Burns | 11:59 pm | Comments (3)

 
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All MP3s are offered for a very limited time (usually 72 hours), so there's every reason to check back often. If you are an artist (or represent an artist) featured on this blog and want a song to be removed, please let us know and we will do so immediately. The MP3s are offered for evaluation purposes only: if you like what you hear, we've done some of the legwork required for you to purchase these records and strongly recommend that you do so. Also, please be courteous: download one track at a time and don't direct link to the tracks.

We love music and only wish to share that love in the best way that we know how. If you enjoy what you hear, let us or, better yet, the artists know!
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