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Unsung Heroes: Tips on reissues by Lewis, Gun Club, Pia Zadora, more

Randall Roberts picks resurrected music from the Clean, Duran Duran, Lewis, the Flesh Eaters, Gun Club, more
Unsung Heroes: The week in reissues, archival recordings and lost classics.

It’s Thursday, which in Twitter parlance means the Day of Throwbacks: dusty, crate-diggable music worthy of renewed consideration. Below, a curated round-up of recent and upcoming reissues, archival recordings, resurrection mixes and vinyl pressings. 

Lewis, L'Amour (Light in the Attic). The mysterious artist who recorded under the pseudonym Lewis has gained much recent attention, much of it due to the reissue by Light in the Attic Records of his 1983 album, “L’Amour.” A smooth post-soft-rock guitar and synthesizer album considered a classic by collectors of private press recordings, “L’Amour” has a beguiling back story.

Specifically, no one’s quite sure were Louis went. As the story goes, prior to making "L'Amour," he rocketed into L.A., stayed at the Beverly Hills Hotel, recorded, did a photo shoot with underground punk photographer Ed Colver and then vanished, releasing "L'Amour" on his vanity label R.A.W. Records. The result is totally surreal: folky mumble-core that's tough to get a bead on. Is Lewis a genius or an outsider? 

The story keeps getting more strange. A second Lewis album called "Romantic Times" just resurfaced on eBay, one so obscure that the auction listing boasts that the record had "zero Google hits" prior to this discovery. How obsessed are Lewis' admirers? As of this writing, the bids have climbed over $1,700, with less than three days to go.

"L'Amour" is currently available on CD. A gorgeous gatefold vinyl version, featuring a Stoughton tip-on jacket, ships Sept. 3; it will be available on both standard and clear vinyl.

Duran Duran, "Rio" 2 x LP (Rhino/Parlophone). The new issue of Duran Duran's "Rio" collects the original UK album on the first two sides and on the second record various remixes released after "Rio" became a world-wide phenomenon: “My Own Way,” “Lonely In My Nightmare,” “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “Hold Back the Rain.” It lists for $29.98.

Is it worth it? For completists, sure. That said, the original pressing sold so many copies that Discogs.com currently lists 327 of them for sale starting at 67 cents. You could save much money -- and earn more hipster cred -- by going used. Those looking to get the original 12-inches can easily do so. Original pressings of most average about $1 a piece, the exception being “Lonely in Your Nightmare,” a B-side issued on a “Hungry Like the Wolf” pressing, which can be had used for around $15. (The original “Carnival” EP features four remixes similar, if not identical, to many of these, and can be had for $1.99.)

But those aren’t in a fancy new gatefold.

Pia Zadora, “When the Lights Go Out” (Funky Town Grooves). Who knew there was demand for Pia Zadora’s mid-1980s dance pop? Laugh all you want, because as reissue imprint Funky Town Grooves reminds us, the 1988 album “When the Lights Go Out” was produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the kings of some of the funkiest dance grooves of the era.

A Kardashian of her time, Zadora was near peak fame when the U.K.-only “When the Lights Go Out” came out. As a result, Zadora had money to hire excellent producers. Currently unavailable as digital download or on the major streaming services, Zadora’s “Lights” is available on double disc. The first features the original album, with the second offering extended remixes from Shep Pettibone, C+C Music Factory, Jam & Lewis and others (all of which can be sampled on YouTube).

The Posies, "Failure" (Omnivore). Power pop band the Posies delivered a host of scream-along, melody-filled rock during their prime in the late 1980s and early ‘90s. Best known to many for two members, Ken Stringfellow and John Auer, who with founding Big Star members Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens’ toured as Big Star before Chilton’s death, the Posies have long deserved a renewed interest, and Los Angeles label Omnivore steps up big time.

But, then, the imprint has been on a roll. It recently announced a reissue series from psych-pop visionary Scott Miller's band Game Theory, and in the spring, among others it released "The Garden Spot Program," a selection of previously unreleased Hank Williams recordings. "Failue" comes out on Aug. 19.

The Allman Brothers Band, "The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings" (Mercury). An expansion of the Allman Brothers' first live album at the storied New York venue, this box set collects the full recordings of four sets over two nights when they were at peak 1971 potency. No, this isn’t a single seven-hour recording of “Whipping Post”– though that would be pretty cool. Rather, “The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings” gathers all the tape from those gigs at the east coast outlet of Bill Graham’s venue onto a 6-CD set. The box arrives on Tuesday, July 29. It’s also available in an edited 4-LP volume.

The Flesh Eaters, “A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die” and the Gun Club, “Fire of Love" (Superior Viaduct). The excellent archival label Superior Viaduct has been directing its gaze of late on any number of admirable projects, many of them L.A. centered. Already this year it's delivered the essential DEVO collection of early rarities, “Hardcore DEVO” and a vinyl version of Alice Coltrane’s “A Monastic Trio.” Add to the roster two unsung L.A. post-punk classics: The Flesh Eaters’ “A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die” and Gun Club’s “Fire of Love.”

The brain child of Chris Desjardins, who as Chris D fronted a rotating band called the Flesh Eaters (and, later, Divine Horsemen), “A Minute to Pray” features an all-star ‘80s punk roster: Dave Alvin (the Blasters) on guitar, John Doe (X) on bass, Steve Berlin (Los Lobos) on saxophone and DJ Bonebrake (X) banging drums. Hard, cerebral punk less celebrated than the members' other bands, "A Minute to Pray ..." is an essential document of Los Angeles punk rock, available on deluxe vinyl and CD.

Also coming out on Superior Viaduct is the Gun Club's debut album, "Fire of Love." Including the band's best known songs, "Sex Beat," "She's Like Heroin to Me" and "For the Love of Ivy," "Fire of Love" is essential not only for the arrival of the late Jeffrey Lee Pierce, but for the work of Ward Dotson, whose underappreciated guitar went on to power the Pontiac Brothers. Both are out now. 

Various Artists, “Last Kind Words” (Mississippi Records repress). One of the better of Mississippi Records’ curated compilations of early, scratchy, ghostly American gospel and pre-war blues music, “Last Kind Words” is named for Geeshie Wiley’s rare Paramount records side. This features that song, "Church Bells" by Kid Prince Moore, "Catfish Blues" by Robert Petway, "Rolling Log" by Lottie Kimbrough, "That's No Way To Get Along" by Robert Wilkins and others. A collection sequenced more like a personal mixtape than an historic archival document, “Last Kind Words” is a stunning 3 a.m. record. Grab it while you can. LP only.

The Clean, "Anthology" (Merge Records). An addictive, powerful rock band, New Zealand trio the Clean were at the center of a late-1970s and 1980s post-punk boom that generated more excellent bands per capita as any place on earth. Along with Tall Dwarfs, the Chills, the Verlaines, the Gordons and the 3Ds, the Clean built something durable. The evidence is all over this all-encompassing collection. "Tally Ho," "Getting Older," "Point That Thing Somewhere Else" and dozens of others, each its own celebration. Simple, yes, but truly magnetic. Available digitally as MP3 and Flacc files, as well as 2 CD and deluxe 4-LP packages. (Clean co-founder David Kilgour performs with his band the Heavy Eights at Los Globos on Aug. 2.)

Also of note this week. Various Artists, "1970s Algerian Proto Rai Underground," a CD issue of the terrific collection of early "rai" music put out by Sublime Frequencies. Jobriath, "As the River Flows," delivers some early work from the unsung glam artist, who's the subject of recent documentary "Jobriath A.D." 

Stay tuned. "Unsung Heroes" will be a regularly updated column aimed at keeping track of the volume of archival recordings making its way back from the dead. 

Follow Randall Roberts on Twitter: @liledit

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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