HBO’s ‘VINYL” series scores with companion recordings

Published on February 13, 2016

The first in a series of recordings to be released in conjunction with the new HBO series “VINYL” features bold new original material, classic tracks from the past and re-recordings of older material by new artists.

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As someone who has spent much of his life with his head buried in a stack of records, the idea of a drama series built around the music industry in New York in the 1970s held incredible appeal for me.

The fact that Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger and Terence Winter were serving as the executive producers for that series only served to amplify my curiosity.

And now that I’ve heard one of the first in a series of soundtracks to be issued in conjunction with this ground-breaking series, I’m determined to follow it from beginning to end.

The series in question is HBO’s “VINYL” and, from all reports, it lives up to the hype that has preceded it.

Billed by its creators as a ride through the sex-and-drug-addled music business at the dawn of punk, disco, and hip-hop, the show is seen through the eyes of record label president Richie Finestra, played by Bobby Cannavale, who is trying to save his company and his soul without destroying everyone in his path.

How could you not want to watch that?

Okay, how could I not want to watch that?

This ground-breaking experience, and that’s no exaggeration, will produce a whole series of companion recordings, one for each week of the show.

Each will feature new original material, classic recordings and vintage songs from the period re-recorded by contemporary artists.

It’s certainly an ambitious project.

But it’s a project with the right people behind it.

The first release in the series proves that.

“VINYL: Music From The HBO® Original Series - Volume 1” features brand new tracks from Sturgil Simpson and Kaleo and classic wax from Mott The Hoople, Otis Redding, Edgar Winter, The Meters and Foghat.

On top of that there are re-recordings from New York Dolls alumnus David Johansen, who revisits Stranded In The Jungle.

Each episode throughout the season will be preceded by the release of a soundtrack EP.

Future releases will feature music from artists like Charlie Wilson, Iggy Pop, Chris Cornell, Nate Ruess, Trey Songz, The Arcs and Royal Blood.

Atlantic Records and Warner Brothers worked with HBO on these recordings, the first of which arrives in stores and at all digital retailers and streaming services this weekend. The last recording will be issued April 15, two days before the series finale.

The series’ original highlights on disc 1 include No Good, the gutsy breakout single from Kaleo, Sugar Daddy, the series theme, from Grammy nominated Sturgill Simpson and the punk-ish Rotten Apple, which was co-written by “VINYL” co-star James Jagger along with Mick Jagger, Luis Felber and James Dunson.

That track is performed by Nasty Bits, a band featured in the show that is fronted by James Jagger.

Other highlights here include a semi-respectable cover of War’s Slipping’ Into Darkness by Soda Machine and two tracks by Vintage Trouble’s Ty Taylor, a bluesy offering called The World Is Yours and a quirky piece of business called Cha Cha Twist. Taylor is featured in “VINYL” as the singing voice of the series character Lester Grimes.

Each week will bring a slate of new content in the form of musical offerings tied to every episode throughout the season.

Additionally, multiple promotional music videos tied to tracks found on the soundtracks and featured in the show will be unveiled throughout the season.

Definitely worth taking in.

(Rating 3 ½ out of 5 stars)

Doug Gallant, a reporter with The Guardian, writes his music review column for The Guardian every week. He welcomes comments from readers at dgallant@theguardian.pe.ca or 902-629-6000, ext. 6057.