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Looking Back: More Of 2021’s Albums I Didn’t Quite Review… Yet! (Part 2)

Mark Smotroff offers up some rock-leaning mini listening reports…

Last week I offered up some mini-reviews of albums I didn’t quite get around to writing about in 2021, more leaning toward Jazz and Soul related releases. Please click here if you missed that article. Today I’ll look at some more rock and pop leaning albums which you might want to check out. 

Neil Young at Carnegie Hall is packaged like a vintage bootleg yet this album is anything but that in terms of sound quality. Pulled from a fine high-quality recording of Neil at an early peak — performing on guitar and piano — this is the early show from his Carnegie Hall appearances which apparently was a better set than the late show that was indeed bootlegged back in the day. If you are a vinyl fan this is definitely worth getting even though the packaging is nothing exemplary (It’s not supposed to be… It’s supposed to look like a bootleg!) but it’s a very nice listening experience. The set list is a dream including a nice blend of songs largely from his second and third solo albums and even a preview from Harvest (“Old Man”) which would not be released until 1972. He covers some of his Buffalo Springfield tunes (“Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing,” “Expecting To Fly,” “Flying On The Ground Is Wrong”) and some CSN&Y classics (“Helpless” and “Ohio”).  The non-LP B-side “Sugar Mountain” is here as are some songs which would not come out for several years (“See The Sky About To Rain.” “Wonderin’”) and one he gave to his band Crazy Horse (“Dance Dance Dance”). Neil Young at Carnegie Hall can be found streaming in CD quality on Tidal (click here) and in 192 kHz, 24-bit fidelity via Qobuz Hi Res (click here).

Loveland Duren’s Any Such Thing is the latest release from recently widely venerated indie power-pop artist Van Duren (click here to read my reviews of his original album reissues and here for the documentary soundtrack). The newest in his ongoing collaboration with Vicki Loveland, the duo have released several albums over the years (available via their website, click here). I’ve enjoyed Any Such Thing a bunch but have to admit I held off on reviewing it fully due to the sound quality on the vinyl edition. The songs are perfectly fine and some of them really quite excellent but the vinyl edition sounds a bit harsh; there is some sort of issue going on there, especially apparent on the terrific lead off track and obvious single “Tumbledown Hearts” where those tell-tale odd crunchy digital edges take away from the power of the song, especially when you try to turn up the volume. Fortunately, this issue not apparent on the streaming versions I’ve heard. Just guessing here but I suspect the problem I hear may have to do with the vinyl mastering or a pressing issue. Loveland Duran is streaming in CD quality on Tidal (click here) and overall it sounds great there (alas the album is not available on Qobuz). Anyhow, if you are a fan of Van Duren, you should check out Loveland Duren to catch up on what they are doing these days. “Everyone Is Out Of Tune” is a classic Van Duren track which would not have been out of place on his earliest albums. 

Guided By Voices’ It’s Not Them, It Couldn’t Be Them, It Is Them was released late last Summer and is another fine effort from the excellent current incarnation of the band. Opening with uncharacteristic acoustic sounds, this album finds the band stretching out more akin to the direction of Pollard’s solo albums. For those wondering if GBV is still a “lo fi” band — I get asked that question a lot, folks — the answer is decidedly no (though they retain that option to do so if desired!).  While this album is not Abbey Road (if that is what you might be hoping for), GBV has been doing much fine studio work, lately helmed by mix-master / producer Travis Harrison. Heck, this new collection even breaks out orchestral strings and horns (arranged by Doug Gillard) on the single-worthy track “High In The Rain.”  Pushing boundaries, the band is ever-remarkable with its hook-delivery on songs like “Dance of Gurus.” The powerful driving — and lyrically insightful — album-closing anthem “My (Limited) Engagement” makes me want to turn the album over and play it all over again! What better compliment can I offer?  Guided By Voices’ It’s Not Them, It Couldn’t Be Them, It Is Them can be found streaming in CD quality on Tidal (click here) and Qobuz (click here) but you know you want it on vinyl or compact disc (which supports the band more directly). 

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