Today, we’re taking a look at four recent titles pressed for audiophile-level vinyl excellence by the Run Out Groove label!
Run Out Groove embraces the Paisley Underground with the vinyl premiere of The Dream Syndicate’s The Complete Live at Raji’s. Recorded on January 31, 1988 (not 1989, as indicated on the original CD release of the truncated album), the set captured the underground heroes prior to the release of their Ghost Stories album – and a year prior to their breakup. But the line-up, at this point consisting of Steve Wynn (vocals and guitar), Paul B. Cutler (guitar, vocals), Mark Walton (bass, vocals), and Dennis Duck (drums), was as tight and attuned to each other as possible. The fifteen songs played that evening at the Hollywood club and preserved here on four sides of 180-gram, colorful swirl vinyl attest to that.
The original Live at Raji’s was released by Rykodisc as the band’s final album, following Ghost Stories. The 2004 expansion – the basis for this vinyl release – added four tracks including two covers (the fast and furious opener, Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See That My Grave is Kept Clean,” and Bob Dylan’s ominous “All Along the Watchtower,” rendered with a dollop of Hendrix inspiration) and two Dream Syndicate favorites – “When You Smile” and “Tell Me When It’s Over.” The sound on the vinyl as mastered by Paul duGré is full and warm, with dynamics that well translate the intimacy of the venue and the power of the performance – particularly in Cutler’s searing lead guitar and Wynn’s fiery growl. The spare, aggressive overall sound owes to the swaggering likes of Television and The Velvet Underground as well as to the rawer, electric side of Neil Young, whose frequent collaborator Elliot Mazer produced the original live album.
The two LPs are housed in a sturdy gatefold containing liner notes by Pat Thomas, who co-produced the reissue with Run Out Groove’s Matt Block. Now Sounds’ Steve Stanley has designed the bold jacket, and both of the discs are happily stored in black protective sleeves as per Run Out Groove’s typical attention to detail in packaging.
Back in 1999, Rhino Handmade had an early triumph with the release of the 7-CD box set The Fun House Sessions, chronicling the making of the album from the quintessential proto-punk bad boys, The Stooges. Run Out Groove has boiled down that set into four sides of vinyl and fourteen choice selections as Highlights from The Fun House Sessions. Recorded with producer Don Gallucci of The Kingsmen at Elektra Sound Recorders in Los Angeles in May 1970 as The Stooges’ sophomore effort, Fun House made “Louie, Louie” look positively tame, and was commercially unsuccessful upon its initial release. But its influence as a key building block in the punk revolution can’t go unnoticed, as it quickly developed a cult following among both critics and fans. Blending fast and furious hard rock with improvisation and even a jazz element thanks to Steve Mackay’s saxophone and the loose feel, Fun House showed Iggy Pop, Dave Alexander, Ron Asheton, Scott Asheton, and Mackay at their most primal yet still pushing the musical envelope forward.
The first two sides of Highlights are sequenced to follow the track order of the original LP, with the third and fourth sides offering additional alternate takes, fly-on-the-wall studio chatter, and a 17-minute jam session/early version of the closing “L.A. Blues” entitled “Freak.” There are plenty of ferocious nuggets here that are illuminating to fans of the original album but accessible enough to be enjoyed on their own. Take 6 (Reel # 6) of “Down on the Street,” the lone A-side drawn from Fun House in its final version, spellbindingly pulsates. The taut garage band performance on “Loose” (Take 16, Reel 4) is almost-but-not-quite-commercial, no small accomplishment for The Stooges. Like Alexander’s throbbing bass on “Dirt” (Take 5, Reel 11) or Ron Asheton’s screaming guitar on “1970” (Take 2, Reel 1), Iggy Pop’s throaty wail on “See That Cat (T.V. Eye)” (Reel 2) explodes with no compromises. Desperation drips from his raspy delivery on “Lost in the Future” (Take 3, Reel 3). Outtake “Slide (Slidin’ the Blues)” offers something a bit different, with Mackay’s tenor sax wending through the bluesy drawl. Everything about Fun House is even more primal and raw in these alternate versions – musically unflinching, brutal, and immediate.
Designed by Peto Gerth, Highlights from The Fun House Sessions boasts a glossy gatefold with new liner notes. In a fine touch, the two multi-colored swirl 180-gram LPs, stored in protective sleeves, have vintage Elektra butterfly replica labels. With The Complete Fun House Sessions long out-of-print in CD format, this vinyl collection of screeching, raw power is a welcome arrival.
The Texas-bred three-piece Secret Machines carved out a niche in the alt-rock landscape of the early ’00s with their updated brand of progressive rock, or space rock. Brandon Curtis (vocals/bass/keyboards), his brother Benjamin (guitar/background vocals), and Josh Garza (drums) were all veterans of local bands by the time they came together and recorded their full-length major label debut, 2004’s Now Here is Nowhere, for The House That Frank Built, Reprise Records. Run Out Groove returns the album to vinyl for the first time since 2004 (and first time ever in the U.S.) on two LPs – with LP 1 pressed on clear vinyl with silver swirl, and LP 2 on clear with red swirl.
Secret Machines earned comparisons to Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and even The Flaming Lips, and earned fans including David Bowie. It’s easy to see why, as this riff-heavy, noisy yet textured and often melodic debut (bookended by the sidelong, Floyd-worthy epics “First Wave Intact” and title track “Now Here is Nowhere”) wore its classic and contemporary influences on its sleeves, particularly in the Zeppelin-recalling “Sad and Lonely.” The sound is confident and compelling throughout on such darkly impressionistic songs as “The Road Leads Where It’s Led” (all songs are credited collectively to the band) and “Pharaoh’s Daughter.” Stylistically, the album has some variety, too; the moody “You are Chains” veers from ballad to rocker and back within its almost six minutes.
This line-up of Secret Machines only recorded two albums before Benjamin Curtis left the band in March 2007; a third album materialized from Brandon and Josh, joined by Phil Karnats on guitar, in 2008. It remains Secret Machines’ final album. Sadly, Benjamin died in 2013 of lymphoma. Run Out Groove’s reissue features a gatefold jacket, and each LP housed in a sleeve with lyrics and credits. The Reprise steamboat labels on each LP are a fine, retro treat. It’s a testament to the enduring power of the music created by the short-lived band.
Mark Sandman, Dana Colley, and Jerome Deupree formed Morphine in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1999, coining the term “low rock” to describe their spare, often slow sound incorporating blues, jazz, and traditional heavy rock – sans the usual ingredient of electric guitar, that is. With vocalist Sandman on instruments including two-string bass, guitar, organ, piano and more (such as the self-invented “tritar,” with two guitar strings and one bass string); Colley on saxophones; and Deupree on drums and percussion, Morphine sounded among the most “alternative” of the alternative rock crop. ROG’s Live at the Warfield 1997 is a 2-LP, 17-track presentation of previously unreleased recordings from the band’s San Francisco stop on its Like Swimming Tour (in support of the fourth Morphine album).
This tight set of never-before-heard live recordings will be manna for the band’s fans, and an intriguing introduction to Morphine’s stylings for newbies. The setlist takes in songs from 1993’s Cure for Pain (“I’m Free Now,” “Candy,” “Cure for Pain,” “Thursday”), 1995’s Yes (“Honey White,” “Super Sex”) and Like Swimming, which had been released earlier in the month of March (“Swing It Low,” “French Fries with Pepper,” “Wishing Well,” “Early to Bed”). The sound is deep, rich, and intimate on ROG’s release, as mastered for vinyl by Jeff Powell and Pete Weiss, capturing lead vocalist Sandman’s darkly resonant, Beat-esque croon (which veers effortlessly from song to spoken word in the manner of a poet) with presence. Colley’s saxophone mesmerizingly weaves through the tracks as Deupree locks in a hypnotic groove.
That this release has been curated with love is apparent from not only its superb sound (from the impeccably recorded original masters) but also its fine packaging. Watercolor artwork by the late Sandman (who tragically died onstage of a heart attack while performing on July 3, 1999 in Italy) adorns the tip-on Stoughton gatefold jacket as well as two of the LP labels. Colley has penned a short, new introduction, and an art print is also included. Additionally, Colley provided ROG with the unseen photographs used for this release. The music of Morphine lives on today as Colley and Deupree still perform from the band’s discography. Swing it low!
The Dream Syndicate, The Complete Live at Raji’s;
The Stooges, Highlights from the Fun House Sessions;
Secret Machines, Now Here is Nowhere; and
Morphine, Live at the Warfield 1997 are all available at finer retailers including: