Various Artists — Twentieth Anniversary
(Rykodisc RCD10651, 2003, 2CD)
by Jeff Melton, Published 2004-09-01It's surprising that Rykodisc is still around, considering that the advent of digital recordings and CDs has now evolved and been relegated to old school. Since it is a year of anniversaries, Rykodisc has combed through their vast back catalog and served up a representative set of tracks and artists that indicate just how innovative the label was when record companies were too slow to adopt new technologies. This two-disc retrospective is a balanced look at selections ranging from Frank Zappa to the Replacements and Yoko Ono's controversial works to English folk legend Nick Drake. In the last twenty years Ryko had the foresight to offer David Bowie a non-nonsense deal to remaster his entire back catalog and issue one of the first boxed sets, Sound and Vision, which I still have on my shelf, that captured the marketplace with the precedent setting of presenting rare live and demo recordings that not only appealed to collectors but curious newbies. Devo's herky-jerky cover of the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" (which was a gale of fresh alternative air) stands up well against musical cousins They Might be Giants, if only for originality and quirkiness. In the 90s the label was a vanguard for independent artists such as Morphine, Golden Smog, and Soul Asylum, all with various degrees of acclaim, recognition (and eventually leading to signing with major labels after Ryko helped get them on the map). There are artists as diverse as UK folk rocker Richard Thompson (1983's "Tear Stained Letter") to groove masters Martin, Medeski and Wood's track "Bubblehouse." Lastly, let us not forget that Frank Zappa also chose the same label to release his back catalog (represented on disc two with "Joe's Garage"). In summary, without Rykodisc pushing major labels into the early digital age, it would have been several more years before CDs replaced LPs and cassettes as the media of choice for music delivery.
Phil Miller RIP – Sad word reaches us today of the passing of another of the great musicians of the Canterbury Scene — guitarist Phil Miller. His distinctive sound added greatly to Matching Mole, Hatfield and the North, and National Health, and he also contributed to albums by Caravan, Dave Stewart $amp; Barbara Gaskin, and many others. He was 68. » Read more
Moonjune to Distribute Tony Levin's Back Catalog – It has been announced that Moonjune will now handle distribution for Tony Levin's catalog of releases. These great albums will now be a bit easier to get hold of, so check out the site and see what you're missing. The veteran of King Crimson and Stick Men worked with a host of great players on these albums, and we've reviewed most of them over the course of the years. » Read more
Bandcamp Shines Light on Niches We Like – Bandcamp has developed into one of the best places to discover new music, and even a lot of old music is showing up there. In addition, their staff has been producing periodic articles spotlighting some interesting stylistic areas. On 20 September, they published one called "The New Face of Prog Rock" which bears checking out. » Read more
Holger Czukay RIP – Holger Czukay, a musical experimentalist without boundaries who has been involved with expanding the sound palette of rock music since the late 60s, has died at the age of 79. After studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the early 60s, he became fascinated with the possibilities of rock music, and was a co-founder of the pioneering group Can. He leaves behind an impressive body of work both as musician and producer. » Read more
John Abercrombie RIP – Another of the greats of jazz guitar has left us. John Abercrombie plied his way through a beautiful series of albums on the ECM label as well as bringing his talent to bear on albums by many of jazz's greatest artists. From his early work in the group Dreams to Gateway and outstanding work with Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Wheeler, and many more to his own trios and quartets, he brought a unique instrumental voice to the world. » Read more