Plus: Percolatin' Chicago house, garage-punk mania, space-rock, astrofolk, and "New Sensation"
REISSUE OF THE MONTH
1. Hank Williams
The Lost Concerts Limited Collector's Edition
The first-ever release of actual concert recordings by country music's livest, wiriest wire is a thrilling revelation. Compiled from two 1952 shows just before Williams' death, the music is familiar classics, but the performances are uniquely fiery, soulful, and almost arrogantly breezy. Williams commands the stage with his iconic, raspy croon — the wounded wail of a man who was too crafty and badass for his own good — but there are also examples of his sly, cornpone banter, delivered with a seasoned hustler's sentimental glint. His band, the Drifting Cowboys, tenderly wreck your heart or tear ass at breakneck speed, especially fiddle player Jerry Rivers, whose astounding blur on "Orange Blossom Special" could shame any death-metal guitarist into hanging up his horns. Also included is a rare, intriguing 1951 radio interview. All in all, an unexpected fresh look at one of pop's greats at his poignant, masterful peak. CHARLES AARON
2. Various Artists
Eccentric Soul: Omnibus
After 10 years of globe-trotting crate-digging misadventures (and magically turning a profit in the Spotify age) the world's most meticulous reissue label performs the most audacious victory lap imaginable. Their 45th release is a spiffy metal box containing 45 individually packaged 45s — the ideal format for your soul DJ night, a late night on the rug flipping records, or if you need something to put inside an actual jukebox. This odds 'n' sods singles bonanza (five hours of music spread across 90 sides of vinyl), the ultimate statement from the label's flagship series, Eccentric Soul, telling story after story of artists who often didn't release more than an A- and a B-side. The "eccentric" part is maybe a little misleading (though pan-racial, pan-gender Texas crew Tickled Pink does a sublimely twisted Sly Stone organ riff using only their voices) since any number of these sides could have been huge hits if given the right exposure. That isn't to say some aren't in-the-red, lowest-fi burners ready to grind a needle to a nub: The lone single from Florida's Sag War Fare, "Don't Be So Jive," is gloriously demo-quality; and Kansas fuzz-blusterers Curtis Liggins Indications could probably tour with the Dirtbombs tomorrow if the frontman's life wasn't cut short in 1972. There's a thick book with multiple indices to help navigate this tangle, which covers everything from Land-of-1,001-Dances latecomers of the mid-'60s to hip-hopping astro-disco of the early '80s. Though if we can help, do start with the Temptations-gone-Edwin Starr of North Cakalakans Duracha, whose squealing saxes and apocalyptic moods would be perfect sample fodder for a Nation of Millions reboot. Everybody is a star. CHRISTOPHER R. WEINGARTEN
3. Various Artists
Only 4 U: The Sound of Cajmere & Cajual Records (1992-2012)
The mind of Chicago producer/artist Curtis Jones has been a beautifully enigmatic, plainly pleasurable playspace for the past two decades. Operating where house music's gospel-infused sensuality ebbed and flowed into rave's more playful, kinetic bango, Jones, a.k.a. Cajmere and Green Velvet, helped define the second generation of his hometown's storied dance-music history. This two-disc compilation of his label Cajual opens with the bubbly, lo-fi churn of "Percolator" (a key juke/footwork inspiration) and shifts into the artfully edited sunburst uplift of "Brighter Days" (Louie's Masters at Work Mix) and "U Got Me Up (Danny's Club Version)," all Cajmere productions, with the latter two featuring the unmistakable vocal wail of Dajae. Charting an edgier path was the spacy, pots-and-pans boom of "Feelin' Kinda High" (Cajmere feat. Terrence F.M.), the dislocating stutter and searching beep of "Moments in Time" (Adam), and the pissy mischief-making of Green Velvet and first-wave Chicago house testifier Jamie Principle on "Lalalalala (Inside My Head)." It's all innovation as raw, vibrant, blissful jackin'. C.A.
It's Cosy Inside
British duo Woo make era-less electronic drone-jazz astrofolk that sounds like it beamed down in the 15 years between the pastoral pluckage of Pentangle and the minimal jangle-pulse of Young Marble Giants. In fact, their second album, It's Cosy Inside, came out in 1989 and it's a breezy no-jack-swing odyssey somewhere between freak-folk, post-punk, ambient jazz, hipster-friendly new age and space-age bachelor pad smoke-out. C.W.
5. The Lyres
On Fyre / Lyres Lyres
In the late 1970s, Jeff "Monoman" Connolly was the frontman for pioneering Boston hardcores DMZ, but he really found his voice — or more accurately, his primal growl and howl — as leader of wild-eyed garage-punk zealots the Lyres (who've also featured DMZ bassist Rick Coraccio and drummer Paul Murphy from time to time). With Monoman, leather jacket and sunglasses firmly fixed, convulsing over his Farfisa or obliterating his harmonica on timeless neo-Nuggets forces of nature like "Don't Give It Up Now" and "Help You Ann," the foursome was one of the most unrelenting, impassioned live bands of the '80s. These first two studio full-lengths were also remarkable, full of the group's coiled-tight urgency (1984's On Fyre) and Monoman's capacity to voice the most heart-wrenching depths of his emotional core (again and again), both in his own compositions (1986's Lyres Lyres), and via deftly chosen covers (Kinks, Outsiders). C.A.