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CAROLYN MARK/The Queen of Vancouver Island: We know Loudon Wainwright shares kids with the Roches and the McGarrigles, but we're pretty sure that Mark is too young to be the kid we never knew Wainwright had with Karen Dalton. Mark tackles dour things but brings such a lopsided, classic Wainwrightian vibe to it all that you forget it's dour. Whether using vaudeville/carnival sounds, going lo-fi or using arrangements that bring Joshua Rifkin into the 10s, Mark is a one woman fun house ride existing purely in her own time zone that you'll either love or hate but you're a fool if you don't love her. A right on antidote to everything blah and bleh, Mark is the musical poster girl for everything that's right in the world. Great stuff!

RALPH "SOUL" JACKSON/The Alabama Love Man: If this soul singer sounds like some hybrid between James Brown, Arthur Conley, Otis Redding and a few others, it's because he's from that era. Still sounding like something spun from the Memphis/Florence axis, he grew up in an area that was once the Vegas of the south (certainly chitlin circuit division) and he learned his moves there. He learned them well as you can almost feel Willie Mitchell coming back from the beyond to produce Jackson with less of an ABC edge. Not retro, not revival, just a skilled pro plying his trade. If any of the old timers who would have been footnotes but have shown they had what it takes even if they never really got their shot have turned you on, Jackson is waiting for you to discover him at long last. Soul music the way it should be.

VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO/45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition: Funny thing. I don't think I've played the VU box set in at least 15 years. Last year, I went back to Lou Reed's original solo albums and realized I could appreciate them professionally but had out grown them personally (except for "Berlin", of course). That left me with ambivalence when they first announced this super terrific/jam packed edition of the first VU album, the one that really started an underground revolution that was a jumping off point for a generation of rock critics and rock musicians. Hey, I know it turned my head around when I got my copy of the mono album at Woolworth's for 39 cents in the cut out bin. And the verdict is----well, all you Jim Jims in this town better sit up and take notice. The banana record is still a stone cold mother. There were a lot of suburban kids that weren't enticed into Reed's sonic world of depravity but they were sure enthralled by the tales of it (especially since it saved slogging through a lot of comparable "literature" to arrive at the same point). Kicking off with a pristine stereo remaster that opens with "Sunday Morning" and continues into "Heroin" et al, this is sure to kick start the barely beating hearts of over 50 geezers whose mortgages are under water and can't get good jobs because they are ADA lawsuits waiting to happen and make them want to go out and start a band just like they wanted to (or did) back when the earth was cooling. We get the stereo and mono mix of the classic, and Nico's "Chelsea Girl" album, which was basically and inverted version of VU & N with Nico in the lead selling her Teutonic bitch goddess thing on tunes by teen aged Jackson Browne (sorry Christine, Gregg Allman has the jaw dropper on "These Days"). Then there's bootlegs and unreleased recordings and some unreleased concert discs. These latter things are for the hard core as the sonics are not what we want to hear now. Richie Unterberger contributes a book length book and the whole thing reminds you of why the music business is in the crapper today. Hint: it's not illegal downloading. This album didn't sell beans initially and it's lasted as long as works by Mozart, another trouble maker kid. I don't know who this is aimed at. Maybe the 9,600 people that bought it originally. In any case, this is where post-Elvis rock began, and All Tomorrow's Parties are still going strong 45 years later. Wild stuff.

Volume 35/Number 347
October 2, 2012
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2012 Midwest Record

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