Music lovers, prepare thy wallets, ’cause there’s a new vinyl subscription service in town, and you’re gonna want to open up those wallets for the waxy goodness they’re delivering. That service is called Bandbox, and it’s unlike any other vinyl subscription service out there.
Groove Is In The Box … The Bandbox, That Is
What’s the big deal, you ask? To begin with, the mad titans of wax behind the Bandbox curtain are delivering not just one album to your doorstep every month, but two! And just to overstate the obvious, the only thing better than getting one new record in the mail every month, is getting twice that number. With Bandbox focusing their box on a single artist/group every month, you can be assured they’ll be digging deep into each artist’s archives for those picks … which just makes it all the more lust-worthy.
To keep things interesting every month, Bandbox is throwing a hitch into their album selection process. That means the first of the mystery discs subscribers receive will be one of the artist’s bigger hits. The second mystery disc, however, will be an overlooked gem from the artist’s back catalogue, and it will not be the same album for every subscriber.
If that bold choice isn’t quite enticing enough, you should know that Bandbox is also stuffing every box with a track-by-track listening companion for the big album – not to mention a pseudo-fanzine tracking the artist’s career and releases. And that can all be yours for the super reasonable price of just $49 a month.
Now, here’s a look at what goodies they brought us for July.
For those of you curious about the Bandbox name, the crew behind the service were kind enough to include the official definition on their packaging. You’ll want to pay particular attention to the second definition there.
Just FYI – in case you’re wary of letting complete strangers “surprise” you with artist/album selections every month, the Bandbox crew will let you exchange the records you don’t want for ones you do, so long as they’re available in the Bandbox archives. And if you’re really, really wary of surprises, you can even “pause” your subscription at any time.
We seriously doubt you’ll want to “pause” anything once you’ve signed up, though. And for that paltry amount of money, we’d advise you have a little fun and get down with what Bandbox is bringing.
Let The Great World Spin
If you’ve read this far, then you’ve already read the name of the inaugural Bandbox artist. But just in case you weren’t paying close attention, we can confirm that team Bandbox pulled out all the stops for Vol. 1, selecting albums from legit rock & roll titan Young Neil. Of course, that’s Neil Young to most of us. Unless, of course you’re David Crosby. And if David Crosby happens to be reading this, I’d just like to say that If I Could Only Remember My Name is one of my desert island discs, sir, and I’m totally listening to it right now.
Anyway, we’re really not here to talk about Crosby. Because it’s his old pal and sometimes bandmate Neil Young who’s occupying the spotlight for Bandbox’s first ever delivery. I’m not gonna waste any time talking about Neil Young here, mostly because he’s one of the most important artists in the history of rock & roll, and if you don’t know who he is, well, I’d really want to question why the hell you’re eyeing this unboxing to begin with.
Whether you know his work or not, the fact of the matter is that Neil Young is one of those artists whose impact on rock music simply cannot be understated, and I’m happy to report that Bandbox more than does the legend’s vast back-catalogue justice with their selections for the inaugural box.
The big dog this month is a reissue of Young’s legendary, Crazy Horse-backed 1979 live album Rust Never Sleeps. And you’d better believe that this beauty (straight from the Neil Young Archives no less) was remastered from the original analog tapes … which is a pretty big deal in the often dicey land of vinyl reissues.
If you call yourself a Neil Young fan, it’s a safe bet you’re already well acquainted with this live set … if only because it’s bookended with Young’s iconic dual-tracks “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue),” and its more rocking counterpart “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black).” The eight tracks tucked between those showstoppers find Young and Crazy Horse in vintage form, slipping through soulful, folk-tinged numbers and rollicking, wall-of-sound styled guitar romps with the sort of grace and energy you’d expect from a Neil Young and Crazy Horse collaboration.
What made Rust Never Sleeps such a unique record in 1979 is that Young and Crazy Horse had neither recorded or even released the 10 tracks that make up the set prior to touring the material. Which means that – whether you made it to a show on this tour or not – the first time these songs were heard by Young’s fanbase was in a live setting. Part of the fun of listening to Rust Never Sleeps is not just in hearing Young and Crazy Horse rip through these songs in their most primal form, but also hearing the audience discover these new tracks as they did. That experience alone should make Rust Never Sleeps an absolutely essential album for Young fans.
Now, what about that “overlooked gem?” Bandbox dug deep into Young’s catalogue, and turned up one of the rocker’s folkier offerings in 2000’s Silver & Gold. Yes, it’s also an original pressing circa the year 2000. According to Discogs that’s actually the only pressing … which is also quite important to most folks who live in vinyl land.
If I can take a moment to be completely honest here, I should say that I consider myself a pretty big fan of Neil Young, but I’d never once given Silver & Gold a listen. So pulling that disc from July’s Bandbox was a welcome surprise for me. Turns out, the album itself is full of surprises too.
I’m certain that there are quite a few of you who, like myself, totally slept on Silver & Gold when Young released it into the wild almost 20 years ago. More than anything, I want those of you who haven’t heard Silver & Gold to experience the album in the blindsiding, “wholly shit how have I never heard this record,” sort of way that I did. But just as a sort of primer, I’ll say that Silver & Gold finds Young Neil a little older, a lot wiser, and fully indulging in the country-tinged, introspective folk vibes that’s peppered his albums over the decades.
While you’ve certainly heard Young like this before, you’ve never really seen him put out an entire album’s worth of songs in this style. Just know that Silver & Gold is soulful and tragic and playful in ways that only Neil Young can be. It’s also an emotionally immersive piece of work, and it’s one you owe it to yourself to experience.
A Cardboard Box For Sharing Music
Yes, Bandbox is chiefly concerned with living up to that, “cardboard box for sharing music” definition. With two full length albums inside, it absolutely lives up to that definition. What’s so cool about Bandbox is that the founders fully understand that part of “sharing” music means talking about it. And the two magazines included in every month’s box are all about sharing thoughts and words not just into the songs that permeate the selected records, but the artists who recorded them.
But before we get to those zines, we should take a moment to ogle some of the sweet, sweet swag that was included in the inaugural Bandbox. Like this swanky logo sticker.
And this posh little slipmat, featuring original artwork from Bandbox’s own Cou Feis.
A quick note about swag: Swag is awesome. And every subscription that has swag in it is all the better for it. That being said, functional swag that can also dress up your turntable, well, that’s pretty hard to beat.
Did I mention that those inaugural boxes also come with a hand-written note from Bandbox founder Alex Rice. Personal touches matter, kids. And I cannot wait to see what those upcoming records are.
Now, regarding the lovely little booklet that post-it is stuck to, that’s just one of the zines included in July’s box. It’s called “Fan Talks,” and it’s the track-by-track album breakdown of Rust Never Sleeps I mentioned. It features a candid conversation about the album between Rice and fellow Bandboxer Seth Lichtenstein … not to mention a ton of album/artist inspired artwork from Feis.
As for the second booklet, it’s more of a proper fanzine covering Young’s decades-long (and still counting) recording career … and it’s packed full of gorgeous, intimate pics of Young Neil and Old.
What about the vinyl you say? Rust Never Sleeps comes inside a slick, printed inner sleeve, and a full lyric sheet for those of us who like to sing along.
For Silver & Gold, Young saved a few trees on this release by actually printing the lyrics on the inner sleeve itself.
As for the wax? Both album’s come in standard black. Which is a-ok, ’cause as cool as colored vinyl can be, it isn’t always necessary. On a side note, let’s all take a moment to dig on those old school Reprise Record labels.
Battle Of The Bandbox
With two albums arriving in every single Bandbox, it’s gonna be hard for folks to not pick a favorite every month. So I thought I’d take a moment to pick my own here. Team Bandbox did not make that an easy task with their inaugural box. On the one hand, Rust Never Sleeps is Young in vintage “Crazy Horse” form, easing in and out of folkie numbers and balls out rockers with shocking ease. On the other hand, Silver & Gold finds a later-in-the-game Young going mostly acoustic, and delivering an introspective stunner of an album that will come as a revelation to many. For my money this month, “revelation” absolutely trumps “vintage,” and I can tell you I’ve already begun wearing the grooves out on Silver & Gold, particularly those grooves running through “Razor Love.” Which is officially my new fave Neil Young tune.
It’s the Bandbox You Want, And The Bandbox You Need
Look, the so-called “vinyl boom” is not looking like it’ll fade away anytime soon. If you’re one of the many who have found themselves wholly wrapped up in the madness, we know you’ve got a million different options for getting your hands on some sweet, sweet wax. While I always encourage you to shop first at your local record store, I also understand that subscription vinyl clubs are an excellent way to help fill in/round out your growing collection.
If you’re looking to build that collection a little faster, a vinyl club that’s down to send you two records every month is a pretty good way to go. That Bandbox is delivering super high-quality pressings of albums by big name artists, they’re giving you a chance to both grow your collection with killer popular discs and discover something you might’ve overlooked (see my previous comments on Neil Young’s Silver & Gold). With that savvy mix of quality and variety, it should be easy for any diehard vinyl fan to board the Bandbox bandwagon. Make sure you get on board today!