Written by 4:48 am Audiophile Music

Ten Inches of Rockin’ Fun From Monkees, Pugwash and Dictators

Mark Smotroff finds joy in alternate vinyl formats.

Sometimes, 10-inches is enough. Get your minds out of the gutter, kids. I’m talking about the size of a vinyl LP record! 

One of the fun side-effects of the vinyl revival is the re-birth of the 10-inch EP as a useful format in its own right. 

AR-DictatorsEP225.jpgFor those of you not in the know, the 10-inch, long playing record was a format initially introduced in the early 1950s simultaneous with the 12-inch format. “Ten-inchers” (as many call them) had a purpose but eventually they more or less disappeared as the seven-inch 45 RPM format eclipsed it as the popular choice for budget line offerings (ie. for those who couldn’t afford a full album). 

But still, they are cool, typically better sounding than the average 7-inch EP (which crams approximately the same amount of music into a tighter space) and offers the consumer a more substantial value proposition, usually with larger, often unique cover art and more times than not, offering tracks not found on the regular album releases. 

Accordingly, as I am sitting here near the end of 2016, I found myself enjoying several 10-inchers from a diverse group of rock and pop bands, some of which came out this year, others which I have just discovered recently. So I thought you, Dear Readers, might want to check them out as they may just be what you need to put a toe in the water with these groups:

The Dictators – This New York band played an influential role in the emergence of punk rock in the mid-1970s and the next generation of hard rockers. On Record Store Day in 2015 a nifty 10-inch EP was issued celebrating the band’s debut album Go Girl Crazy, originally recorded in 1974. With six songs, three per side, The Next Big Thing EP gives you a good sense of what this band was like and, no surprise, I like what I’m hearing a whole lot! Side One features three songs remixed in 2015 from their debut album Go Girl Crazy while Side Two includes alternate takes and unreleased tracks. Generally The Dictators sound pretty great, more muscular and rocking than the snarly, anyone-can-play-this-stuff attitude of the street punk stuff to come. On these recordings they sound sort of like Long Island’s Good Rats by way of peak-period Alice Cooper and Mott The Hoople, but with more free wheeling spirit closer to The New York Dolls.  The red vinyl EP pressing is mostly quiet, thick and well centered.  

Ok, so you may be wondering why I’m writing about a 2015 release in 2016? Well, the reality is this nice EP was probably a bit overpriced when it was first issued, selling initially for about $26 in one of the stores I frequent (and they are usually one of the most reasonable priced stores in town!). On Record Store Day this year, however, the good folks at 1234Go Records were in blowing out a lot of back stock that didn’t sell well, for loss leader prices. Woo Hoo! So I was able to pick up The Next Big Thing EP for a much more reasonable $10 and for that price it is a great deal!  You can find copies of this on Amazon going for well under $20, so shop around and see what you find. This is as good an introduction as any to a clearly great and influential rock band who counts Bruce Springsteen among their greatest fans (which for me is enough alone to make me explore their albums deeper!).

AR-MonkeesGoodTimesPlus225.jpgThe Monkees – Initially, I was pretty miffed when I heard about the special edition 10-inch EP being issued this year on Record Store Day from The Monkees. Why was I miffed?  Well, I’d gone to great lengths to get all the non-LP tracks and limited deluxe edition pressings from stores like FYE and Barnes & Noble Books. Don’t get me wrong: I’d do that again tomorrow as the treasure hunt around the Bay Area along with my music buddy Frank was a lot of fun (and that IS ultimately what record collecting is about, right?). So its was initially a mixed blessing reading about this 10-inch EP titled Good Times! Plus! featuring those four non-LP songs coming out on Record Store Day.  But… y’know… now I’m good with it all. After all, t IS super handy and kinda cool to have a companion 10-incher to the LP with these four tracks.  And they sound quite good — certainly better than the CD-only versions (a couple of the songs were on a bonus 7-inch 45 RPM single included with the Barnes and Noble special edition). So for the $14 I paid, I’m pretty happy overall. The clear pink/red vinyl is well-pressed and and quiet. 

That said, I must report that I DID have one big technical problem with this release initially which in short order did get rectified and proved to be a one-off anomaly, thankfully. What happened, you ask??  Well, the first copy I got was horribly off-center, with a mis-punched center hole as well as an improperly “cut” trim job which basically cut off most of the lead in groove! I posted pix of it on Facebook to the dismay of a number of my fellow record collectors on various groups I participate in. The GOOD NEWS is that I was able to return it to the store for credit (they’d sold out of them) and I picked up a copy at another store, so all is well. The new pressing sounds fine — quiet vinyl that is well centered — and from what I’ve heard from others, the pressings seem to be generally very good, not like the one I got. 

Most importantly, the EP sounds good and the new songs are excellent. These four songs work pretty well as a separate four song-EP. Although, I really do think that XTC’s Andy Partridge’s song “Love Is What I Want’ is more vintage Monkees-sounding (if you will) than almost anything else on the Good Times album (you can click through here to read my review of the vinyl LP version. So for that factor alone you may want to get this EP.  The version of  “Me and Magdalena” here is pretty remarkable given its alternative modern rock-flavored arrangement.  I can understand why this version was not put on the regular album as it makes the song sound less like a Monkees song, but its no less great. So, I’m glad they released this for the fans to enjoy on its own.  Good Times! Plus! is selling on Amazon for $10 more than what I paid, but it is a cool EP and if you do like The Monkees, you might want to look around to see if you can find it cheaper somewhere. Perhaps even your local music store will have a copy lying around waiting for you. Imagine that?! 

]]>Pugwash — I’ve written about Ireland’s Pugwash a bit this year already and their melt-your-heart-with-rich-vocals lead singer / songwriter Thomas Walsh.  A group which came up at the tail end of the CD era, Pugwash’s European issued albums are somewhat hard to find and quite pricey even in digital formats.  Bit by bit, the band is getting their back catalog reissued on vinyl (such as their fine first album which I looked at here on Audiophilereview back in September)  

AR-puwashEP225.jpgI recently came across an affordable listing for their 2012 10-inch EP release Here We Go ‘Round Again so I snapped it up via Amazon for less than $10 including shipping and I’m not disappointed.  Here you get three fine pop songs (and a fourth one, an instrumental) in the Pugwash tradition of clean rich vocals, harmonies, a rockin’ band and great songwriting pressed on well centered, standard black vinyl spinning at 45 RPM. It sounds great!  The vinyl is quiet, the disc pressing well centered. I like the title track a whole bunch with its peak-period-ELO-meets-Badfinger-meets-Nick Lowe choruses. How many pop songs do you hear that combine a Farfisa sounding organ and a Mellotron?  “Ying Yang” is a groovy little hip shaker of a rocker replete with its Cars-circling-the-Fountains-of-Wayne synth line. “Better That We Dance” is a dreamy ballad that gives me an idea of what might have happened had George Harrison formed a supergroup with Brian Wilson and Eric Carmen — The Tremendous Wilsonburys, anyone?  Pugwash is a great great band and Thomas Walsh a great modern pop songwriter. So, if you are a fan of all things British rock and power pop — new music with distant echoes of ELO/Jeff Lynne, XTC, The Kinks, Guided By Voices, Beach Boys, Beatles, Emitt Rhodes, The Who and more — you really owe it to yourself to check them out. And, for less than $10 cost, this might be as much of a no brainer for you as it was for me to add to the collection. It is ideal for those times when I want a 15 minute dose of Pugwash flavored pop.

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