Friday, November 29, 2019

Archive Review: Thunderharp Choir’s Hope & Gloria (1996)

Thunderharp Choir’s Hope & Glory
A few years back, the Detroit scene gave birth to a rock ‘n’ roll band by the name of Jugglers & Thieves, a promising outfit with a pair of skilled guitarists, a talented female bass player (a rarity in those days), and a female vocalist with the voice of an angel.

The band mixed flash and form with acoustic balladry and electrifying hard rock, standing head and shoulders above their Motor City musical brethren, who all seemed to want to be either Guns ’N Roses or the Sex Pistols. Jugglers & Thieves released one wonderful album, played a single memorable Nashville show at a now-defunct local club, and then faded into rock ‘n’ roll history.

Thunderharp Choir’s Hope & Gloria

That angelic voice, personified in the form of one Christine McCall-Kuehn, has returned with another Detroit-area band, Thunderharp Choir. Their independently-released Hope & Gloria has nothing in common with the ex-Miss McCall’s previous band save for her subtly matured vocals and an impressive range of musical styles. The disc opens with “Magical Days,” a folk-pop tune which highlights Chrissie’s singing and songwriting skills, delighting with its lyrical hooks and its infectious, melodic “doo-doo-doo” chorus. It’s the perfect entry to Hope & Gloria, a collection of songs guaranteed to grow on you with each subsequent playing.

McCall-Kuehn trades off leads with the equally talented Graham Strachan, whose gutsy, more earthy style contrasts well with Chrissie’s heavenly vocals. Guitarist Jason McCall-Kuehn is certainly no slouch in the six-string department, tearing off some tasty licks in a blues-rock vein while keeping up a strong instrumental presence; the rhythm section adds a strong backbone to the material. Cuts like Graham’s “Strawberries,” with its nonsensical nursery-rhyme ending; Chrissie’s lonely, tearful “Where Your Heart Was,” with its appropriately sparse instrumentation, or Jason’s mournful ode to love lost, “Red Dress,” showcase a great depth of songwriting talent among the members of Thunderharp Choir. Even the hauntingly beautiful and chaotic “Soon,” cowritten by Chrissie and ex-J & T bass player Jill Zimba-Dybka, is served well by the band’s underlying chemistry, their musical skills perfectly tying together the material found on Hope & Gloria.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

Thunderharp Choir, much like their musical antecedent Jugglers & Thieves, is a rarity in today’s musical world: a completely unique and original band that refuse to fit into any neat category or pigeonhole. They masterfully blend the finer elements of folk and blues, melding them seamlessly with a rock background. Hope & Gloria is intelligent, thoughtful, sincere and most of all, entertaining. This time around, let’s hope that Chrissie and her latest band receive the acclaim and success they so thoroughly deserve. (Black Thistle Records, 1996)

Buy the CD from Thunderharp Choir’s Hope & Gloria

Archive Review: Electric Flag’s Old Glory The Best Of Electric Flag (1995)

Old Glory: The Best Of Electric Flag
If Michael Bloomfield was still alive today, he would surely enjoy the same sort of elder statesman status that has been bestowed upon Eric Clapton. During the late 1960s/early ’70s, Bloomfield – a middle class white kid from Chicago – was accorded the kind of critical acclaim that only British guitarists like Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page received. Poor health, a fragmented recorded legacy, and his mysterious death in 1981 has instead relegated Bloomfield to the history books as an interesting, if obscure, icon of the period.

It’s a shame, too, because as anyone who has heard Bloomfield at his best would testify to, he was one of the most exciting and intricate axemen of the era – Hendrix included. Electric Flag, Bloomfield’s ill-fated stab at success, was conceived of as an "American” music band, that is, a vehicle for gathering together two decades of rock, soul, and blues into one musical entity. The original band only released one album, A Long Time Comin’ before splintering into different factions, with Bloomfield the first to leave due to his health.

Most of that album is represented by Old Glory: The Best of Electric Flag, the eight cuts culled from Flag’s debut illustrating a band that is trying to cover too much artistic ground at one time. It nevertheless serves as an excellent showcase for Bloomfield’s six-string prowess, building upon his work with the Butterfield Blues Band and opening the door for the solo work to follow. Cuts taken from The Electric Flag: An American Music Band, the band’s second album are sans Bloomfield and mostly provide a forum for the less subtle musical tendencies of ersatz band leader Buddy Miles.

A few rarities and a pair of unreleased live cuts taken from the band’s debut performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 round out the compilation. I’d recommend Bloomfield's solo material or his work with the Butterfield Blues Band first, but if you're hungry for more after that, check out Old Glory: The Best of Electric Flag for another look at this unheralded talent. (Sony Legacy Recordings, 1995)

Buy the CD from Old Glory: The Best of Electric Flag

Friday, November 22, 2019

Archive Review: Michael Monroe’s Life Gets You Dirty (2000)

Michael Monroe was an integral part of Hanoi Rocks – one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most tragically overlooked bands. Over the course of half a dozen albums, Hanoi Rocks set the stage for most of what would follow in ’80s hard rock.

Guns ‘N Roses would subsequently rip off a good deal of Hanoi Rocks’ unique hybrid of flamboyant glam-rock and metal-edged hard rock, with Axl repaying the favor by getting the Hanoi Rocks’ catalog reissued stateside by Geffen. After the death of the Hanoi’s drummer, the band broke-up. Monroe made a couple of solo albums afterwards, later returning to Europe and fading from stateside awareness.

Michael Monroe’s Life Gets You Dirty

As an original Hanoi Rocks fan, I was overjoyed to find Life Gets You Dirty stuffed in my mailbox one afternoon and after a couple of months of listening to Monroe’s long-overdue solo effort, I am not disappointed. Life Gets You Dirty plumbs much of the same hard rock territory as Monroe’s previous solo material, and even his work with Hanoi Rocks, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Monroe’s vocals are particularly suited to this type of performances, complimented by additional vocals from songwriting partner Jude Wilder.

Monroe’s blistering guitar work evokes memories of former bandmate Andy McCoy while his current rhythm section nails every song. Cuts such as “Just Because You’re Paranoid,” “If The World Don’t Want Me” and  “What’s With The World?” as well as the obligatory Hanoi cover, “Self Destruction Blues” rock with a fervor and electricity that is truly timeless.

Since Life Gets You Dirty is an import disc, it may be difficult to find on your local music store’s thinly-stocked shelves. If you like your rock hard, though, you might want to check out Michael Monroe. With a high-voltage blend of amplified roots-rock, heavy metal, punk attitude and glam theatrics, Life Gets You Dirty blows away every hard rock poseur on the charts today. (Steamhammer Records, 1999)

Review originally published by Alt.Culture.Guide™, 2000

Archive Review: John Hiatt’s Crossing Muddy Waters (2000)

John Hiatt’s Crossing Muddy Waters
Crossing Muddy Waters, John Hiatt’s current acoustic project, makes perfect sense considering that Hiatt has always been about 25% folkie, 25% country, and 50% rocker at heart. Hiatt mixes all of his artistic inclinations together on Crossing Muddy Waters, throwing them into a big pot, adding a dash of soul and some blues to make a big ol’ tasty musical gumbo!

A gifted songwriter who has received far more recognition for other people’s versions of his material than for his own recordings, the raw ambiance of Crossing Muddy Waters probably won’t do much to lift Hiatt from undeserved obscurity.

John Hiatt’s Crossing Muddy Waters

Crossing Muddy Waters is a fine collections of songs, though, Hiatt’s masterful tales of the rural south exploring themes such as unrequited love, betrayal, religion and death that remain universal in their appeal. At this point in his lengthy career, Hiatt certainly harbors no illusions, and even if other people’s recordings of his songs have made him comfortable, his songs remain as intelligent and thoughtful as ever. Like most every other John Hiatt album that I’ve ever heard, there are some real gems among the tracks, and Crossing Muddy Waters is no exception.

“Gone” is a song of lost love that is nevertheless funny, the singer comparing his true love’s departure to other fleeting moments in life. “Mr. Stanley” is a bluesy dirge done Mississippi Delta style while the title cut is a lyrical “who dunnit” – why did the woman run away and leave her daughter behind? “God’s Golden Eyes” is a spiritual reflection on nature’s beauty and the intricacy of love. The album-closer, “Before I Go,” is a lively tale of eternal love that is rife with imagery and emotion (and will probably become a big hit for some other artist).

Aside from songwriting, another talent of Hiatt’s has been his ability to work with some of the best musicians around. Crossing Muddy Waters is no exception, with Hiatt enlisting the help of former Camper Van Beethoven members Davey Faragher and David Immergluck to help get his acoustic ideas across.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

Crossing Muddy Waters has been nominated for a Grammy Award™ for “Best Folk Album” but it is much deeper than that. John Hiatt is an American treasure, a humble poet laureate with talents as wide and deep as the great Mississippi. His contributions to rock, country, and folk music is immeasurable and, as proven once again by Crossing Muddy Waters, Hiatt only continues to get better with age. (Vanguard Records, 2000)

Review originally published by Alt.Culture.Guide™, 2001

Buy the CD from John Hiatt’s Crossing Muddy Waters

Friday, November 15, 2019

Archive Review: Strapping Young Lad’s SYL (2003)

Strapping Young Lad’s SYL
To make this comparison really come alive, you’re gonna need one o’ those industrial strength blenders, the kind they have in some food factory or maybe a slaughterhouse. Stick your head inside the giant metal bowl and feel the razor-sharp metal blades against your ears. Then reach over and hit the button for ‘puree’...that’s what listening to SYL is like. After a half-hour or so of joyfully experiencing Devin Townsend’s demonic growl and tortured six-string work, yer brain is guaranteed to turn to mush.

There’s heavy metal and then again, there’s HEAVY FUCKING METAL, and Strapping Young Lad definitely falls into the ‘HFM’ category. Townsend, former sideman for Steve Vai and a talented solo artist in his own right, mimics the sound of your brain being shredded like no other axeman plying his or her trade today (save for maybe Zakk Wylde). Townsend’s solo work tends to downplay his gonzo energy a degree or two on the old manic-meter in favor of prog-rock experimentation. When fronting his mates in Strapping Young Lad, Townsend throws caution (and the listener’s eardrums) to the wind to deliberately blast dangerous plaque from your speakers as loudly as possible.

Strapping Young Lad’s SYL

SYL proves that there is more to Strapping Young Lad than Townsend’s considerable ability to crack yer cranium open with his guitar. Guitarist Jed Simon of Front Line Assembly adds a dimension of industrial insanity to the sound while drummer Gene Hoglan of Dark Angel pounds the skins with the force of an underground nuclear test explosion. Along with bassist Byron Stroud, Hoglan creates an intense rhythmic undercurrent over which Townsend and Simon throw down their clashing guitars. It’s kinda hard to follow the lyrics buried in Townsend’s vocals, so they provide a cheat sheet in the CD booklet. Inane poetic whimsy such as “dripping... gigbutt... dirt pride... my pride... dripping... bunksock” sounds a lot better when it comes roaring out of your speakers like so much unburned jet fuel from the ass end of a F-16.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

The songs on SYL were inspired by the tragedy of September 11, 2001 and the album does express a fair degree of intelligent rage and frustration over man’s inhumanity to man (and woman), the above lyrics notwithstanding. Then again, nobody listens to HEAVY FUCKING METAL for the Dylanesque lyrical inspiration of the band’s muse. You slap something like SYL on yer box, crank the sucker up as far past ten as the amp will go, and then spend the next thirty or forty minutes bouncing off the walls until you either shit or go blind. To this end, SYL stands up admirably, temporarily robbing you of your vision and your hearing. With the apocalyptic tango of SYL, Strapping Young Lad delivers the first classic death metal disc of the century. (Century Media, 2003)

Review originally published by Alt.Culture.Guide™, 2003

Buy the CD from Strapping Young Lad’s SYL

Archive Review: Icons of Filth’s Nostradamnedus (2003)

Icons of Filth's Nostradamnedus
The first wave of British punk, circa 1977, spawned a number of bands that possessed a social consciousness and expressed their concerns through song. The Clash, the Sex Pistols, the Damned, even modish new wavers like the Jam all stirred up their fair share of controversy with lyrics commenting on social ills or championing left-leaning causes.

Nothing could prepare the Queen’s subjects for what was to follow, however. Extremist punks like Crass, Conflict, Discharge, Flux of Pink Indians, the Subhumans, and Icons of Filth took their cue from American hardcore bands, mixing anarchist philosophy with powerful thrash-and-burn instrumentation to create some of the most invigorating punk rock ever heard.

Whereas some of these bands – Crass readily comes to mind – were naïve idealists, forming communes and spinning off side bands, others such as Conflict or Discharge were more nihilistic in nature. With Maggie Thatcher in office in the U.K. and Ronnie Ray-gun sleeping in the White House, anarchist punks were forced to form their own record labels to get their music out since no corporate label wanted to touch them.

Conflict formed Mortarhate and, aside from the band’s own albums, they also released a number of singles and an album by fellow travelers Icons of Filth (all of which were reissued on CD by Go Kart in 2000). Throughout the years, Icons of Filth has grown in statue rather than sinking into obscurity, becoming one of a handful of artistic touchstones for underground punks wanting to bring politics into their music. With the recent revival of bands like Discharge and old mates Conflict, it was only natural for Icons of Filth to reform and stroll into the recording studio.

Icons of Filth’s Nostradamnedus

Nostradamnedus is the result of the band’s efforts, the first album from Icons of Filth in nearly twenty years and, let me tell you kiddies, this shit’ll grab you by the ears and knock your head into the wall. The band members seemingly haven’t lost a step through the years, still quite capable of creating balls-to-the-wall sounds that’ll shred yer greedy lil’ eardrums and make yer nose bleed. The usual lyrical preoccupations are found on Nostradamnedus: anarcho-leftist rhetoric about animal rights, vegetarianism, and racism and so forth, but Stig, Daffy and the boys have updated their perspective to appeal to a new millennium zeitgeist. While songs like “Riddled With Guilt” or “Treadmill” hit your brain like sticking a fork in an electric socket, others, like “Henry Ford,” tickle yer cerebellum with not-so-subtle thoughts of Luddite sabotage.

Once you get past the bad joke hidden in the album’s title, Nostradamnedus stands as an instant classic of hardcore punk, if only for the title track and “Airwaves.” Pointing directly at the fools who take every world event and match it to one of Nostradamus’ many prophecies, the band cleverly wraps up the past and future in a package with a neat little bow. After all, if the future has already been foretold, why bother to try and change it? Nostradamnedus, indeed! As for “Airwaves,” it was probably written by Icons of Filth a couple of years ago but, as we stand on the brink of war in early 2003, it couldn’t be any more relevant.

Set to a migraine level six-string drone and explosive rhythms, Stig sings “if you form an opinion that’s not in dominion/then you’re an oddball and should be kept quiet.” Kind of like how Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and these other rightwing radio gasbags keep beating the fucking war drums, ridiculing anybody who’s not ready to prostrate themselves before the wisdom of massa Bush and his Konservative Klan. “Airwaves” doesn't stop there, however, as Icons of Filth verbally slamdunk the entire corporate media monopoly and its restriction on diversity of thought – Stig spits out “when they tell you of free speech, they’re liars.”

Mindless television programs, radio playlist homogenization, empty consumerist dreams, “antenna head and already dead.” Fittingly enough, the band saves its worse barbs for punk rock itself, “rock ‘n’ roll has lost its soul and now everything's diluted/bands with fans, big money plans/your pockets empty, looted.” Kind of like how you feel when you buy that ultra-groovy new CD at the mall and get home to find out that it only has one decent song and when you stop to think about it, that song kind of sucks, too…

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

Now, more than ever, we need Icons of Filth, one of the few bands with the balls to be bold in a meek musical landscape. The Rev sez “check it out!” (Go Kart Records, released November 26, 2002)

Buy the CD from Icons of Filth's Nostradamnedus

Friday, November 8, 2019

Archive Review: Motörhead's Inferno (2004)

Motörhead's Inferno
Motörhead has been this “legendary heavy metal band” for so long that even many critics have overlooked the metal icon’s overall importance in the grand scheme of things. Frontman Lemmy Kilminster’s roots are in typical ’60s-era British R&B, but it’s when he joined prog-rockers Hawkwind that things began to get interesting. As bassist for the space-rock outfit during the early ’70s, Lemmy perfected both his bottom-heavy instrumental style and his songwriting skills.

When kicked out of Hawkwind for a myriad of offenses, Lemmy formed Motörhead as an outlet for his aggressive hard rock vision, equal parts British biker culture, pre-punk punk rock attitude, and heavy metal thunder. Over the course of dozens of albums, Lemmy and Motörhead's ever-evolving line-up managed to affect punk, heavy metal, and thrash unlike any other artistic influence.

Motörhead's Inferno

For almost thirty years, Motörhead’s musical blueprint has been consistent and consistently powerful: Lemmy’s gruff vocals spitting out lyrics above a massive slab of feedback-driven guitar riffs and thunderous drumbeats. Inferno, the band’s latest, doesn’t stray far from the formula. The blistering “Terminal Show” kicks off the disc, a futuristic tale of woe set to a speed metal soundtrack that careens out of control approx. 30 seconds into the song, guest axeman Steve Vai’s razor sharp leads standing in counterpoint to Phillip Campbell’s percussive riffs.

Motörhead's Inferno
From here, the pace never diminishes, drummer Mikkey Dee’s merciless rhythms driving the songs forward while Lemmy’s bass bludgeons the listener and Campbell’s six-string work punches with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. The only surprise on Inferno, perhaps, is the acoustic “Whorehouse Blues,” an overt reference to the influence of traditional blues (and British blues-rock) on Motörhead’s metallic sturm-und-drang.

Inferno is both timeless and out-of-time, Lemmy serving up uncompromising rock ‘n’ roll field-tested by better than a quarter-century of hard roadwork. In Campbell and Dee, Kilminster has the band he’s always wanted, the iron fist inside the tattered leather glove. Like most Motörhead albums, Inferno is dominated by themes of sex, death, power, and the near-mystical aesthetic of rock ‘n’ roll. The songs roar like a wolf at the door and scream louder than Dante’s nightmares, Motörhead an anachronistic thorn in the side of the music business, the rude guest that refuses to leave the modern rock party.

The Reverend's Bottom Line

You won't hear Inferno on the radio, but its importance will be felt five or ten years from now when the kid who discovers Motörhead through this album forms the next Metallica or Nirvana. In the end, Lemmy won’t be remembered so much for the remarkable simplicity and strength of his music but for the young musicians who continue to be influenced by the uncompromising honesty and anarchistic spirit that is Motörhead. (Steamhammer Records, 2004)

Review originally published by Alt.Culture.Guide™, 2004

Buy the CD from Motörhead's Inferno

Archive Review: Various Artists - Yes New York (2003)

Various Artists - Yes New York
If early ’90s Seattle was the new Athens, then early ’00s New York City must be the new Seattle, if you catch my drift. Sure, there are “garage rock” bands (or whatever you want to call ’em) scattered all across the fruited plain (and in old Londontown as well), but all that is hip and happening tends to somehow, eventually, inevitably find its way to the “Big Apple.” Yes New York documents the current crop of NYC bands, freezing the scene in a perfect moment in time not unlike the handful of late ’70s albums that captured the Ramones/Television/Patti Smith scene that made Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s the places to hang out in 1977.

Yes New York

The producers of Yes New York are a savvy bunch, throwing in some heavy-hitting major leaguers like the Strokes, Ted Leo, and Interpol alongside a minor league crop of future superstars like Radio 4, the Walkmen, and the Natural History. Round it out with some players-in-training like Longwave, Le Tigre, and Unitard and you have a batting line-up that will hit for power and percentage.

The once-banned “New York City Cops” is the hook to entice you to spend your coin on Yes New York; the rare live (and previously unreleased) Strokes cut copped from an April 2002 performance in Iceland. Most of the rest of Yes New York is culled from the artist’s current albums, although a few worthy gems – such as the anarchic “Tired” by LCD Soundsystem, or the new wave throwback cut from the Witnesses – are unreleased or barely released.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

So is Yes New York worth your time and money to track down? If you're interested in what is going on musically on the fringes of pop culture, then the answer would be an emphatic “Yes, New York!” As a microcosm of the current American music zeitgeist, NYC’s current scene offers all of the diversity, influences and varied sounds that any rocker would want to hear. If you're looking for a fresh take on some old sounds, check out the bands on Yes New York for a taste of what’s being done these days on the indie music scene (before it’s co-opted and corrupted by the majors!)

Review originally published by Alt.Culture.Guide™, 2003

Buy the CD from Yes New York

Friday, November 1, 2019

New Music Monthly: November & December 2019 releases

It's the end of the road for 2019, and record labels are emptying the vaults to try and grab their share of your Christmas cash. There's a wealth of vinyl reissues and pricey multi-disc box sets coming our way from artists like The Police, Queens of the Stone Age, Rick Wakeman, and Little Steven, among many others. If you've got the cash, there's plenty of great tunes to be had over the next six months! 

Release dates are subject to change and nobody tells me when they do. If you’re interesting in buying an album, just hit the ‘Buy!’ link to get it from’s just that damn easy! Your purchase puts valuable ‘store credit’ in the Reverend’s pocket that he’ll use to buy more music to write about in a never-ending loop of rock ‘n’ roll ecstasy!

Los Straitjackets's- ¡Viva! Los Straitjackets

The Bar-Kays - Gotta Groove [vinyl reissue]   BUY!
Booker T. & the M.G.'s - Melting Pot [vinyl reissue]   BUY!
Cold War Kids - New Age Norms 1   BUY!
Delaney & Bonnie - Home [vinyl reissue]   BUY!
Jeff Lynne's ELO - From Out of Nowhere   BUY!
Los Straitjackets - The Utterly Fantastic and Totally Unbelievable Sound of Los Straitjackets [CD & vinyl reissue]   BUY!
Los Straitjackets - ¡Viva! Los Straitjackets [CD & vinyl reissue]   BUY!
Nirvana - MTV Unplugged In NY [vinyl reissue]   BUY!
David Porter - Victim of the Joke? [vinyl reissue]   BUY!
Simple Minds - 40: The Best of 1979-2019 [3-CD set]   BUY!
Johnnie Taylor - Who’s Making Love [vinyl reissue]   BUY!
Uncle Walt's Band - An American In Texas   BUY!
Vetiver - Up On High   BUY!

Fats Domino's I've Been Around

Fats Domino - I've Been Around [12-CD box set]   BUY!
The Police - Ghost in the Machine [vinyl reissue]   BUY!
The Police - Reggatta de Blanc [vinyl reissue]   BUY!
The Police - Synchronicity [vinyl reissue]   BUY!
The Police - Zenyatta Mondatta [vinyl reissue]   BUY!

Send I A Lion

The Band - The Band [50th anniversary edition]   BUY!
Julianna Hatfield - Julianna Hatfield Sings the Police   BUY!
The Pineapple Thief - Hold Our Fire [live]   BUY!
Various Artists - Send I A Lion [compilation w/the Mighty Diamonds, Gladiators, Wailing Souls & others]   BUY!

Harry Nilsson's Losst and Founnd

Leonard Cohen - Thanks For the Dance   BUY!
Junkyard - Old Habits Die Hard [unreleased 1992 LP]   BUY!
Harry Nilsson - Losst and Founnd   BUY!
Queens of the Stone Age - Rated R [vinyl reissue]   BUY!
Queens of the Stone Age - Songs For the Deaf [vinyl reissue]   BUY!
The Who - Who   BUY!

Land of 1000 Dances: The Rampart Records Complete Singles Collection

Various Artists - Land of 1000 Dances: The Rampart Records Complete Singles Collection   BUY!

Rick Wakeman - Box Of Boots: Official Bootleg Series [10-CD box set]

Gentle Giant's Unburied Treasure

Gentle Giant - Unburied Treasure [Limited edition 30-CD box set]   BUY!
John Hiatt - Only The Song Survives [15-disc vinyl box set]   BUY!
Lee "Scratch" Perry - Heavy Rain   BUY!
Little Steven Van Zandt - RockNRoll Rebel – The Early Work [11-disc CD/vinyl box set]

Queens of the Stone Age's Era Vulgaris

Queens of the Stone Age - Era Vulgaris [vinyl reissue]   BUY!
Queens of the Stone Age - Lullabies To Paralyze [vinyl reissue]   BUY!
Frank Zappa - The Hot Rats Sessions [deluxe 6-CD box set]   BUY!

Frank Zappa's The Hot Rats Sessions

Album of the Month: I dunno, it's really hard to choose from all the great archival material the labels are spitting out here in Q4, but if I had to choose, I'd go with Frank Zappa's The Hot Rats Sessions, a deluxe six-disc box set that provides the rabid Frank fanatic with everything they could want from the storied collection. Zappa's sophomore solo effort, from 1969, Hot Rats was the first album anywhere to be recorded on 16-track tape, and the Maestro used the expanded technology to his advantage. The set is said to include every song recorded during the sessions, as well as a "Zappa Land" board game. The Hot Rats Sessions includes 65 tracks, all but six of them previously unreleased.