Thursday, December 14, 2017

MOOM PITCHER REVIEW! BULLETS DON'T ARGUE starring Rod Cameron, Angel Aranda and Horst Frank (Italy, Spain, W. Germany, 1964)

I kinda get the impression that by the time this film was made Rod Cameron was too old to play Pat Garrett, but he still does fine in this Eurowestern made during the early years of the form.

In BULLETS DON'T ARGUE the Clanton Brothers (who come off as a rather unsettled pair with older brother Billy bordering on psychotic) decide to rob the bank located in their home town at the exact moment that Garrett is getting married in order that the confusion of it all'll give the gang time to make a quick get-out. George murders the bank president and teller when their cover is blown and naturally the brothers skedaddle for Mexico with Garrett in hot pursuit. He captures them in one of those Mexican bandit hideaway towns and heads back for the US with them in tow, but when a local bandit gets wind of the huge bankroll the funzies really start.

In all a very watchable film that only lets you down during a few slow moments which I think were added to not only pad the film out but relieve some of the tension that had been building. Cameron is pretty good as the aging sheriff who seems to do better in the hot desert clime than his younger prisoners, while Horst Frank as Billy's so great in his own evil (if "cool") way that you'll be rooting for him a good portion of the pic just like I was! And Angel Aranda as the kinda/sorta good brother's also believable even if there are times (like when he chickens out on killing the bank teller and prez) that you'll wanna slap him around even more'n Billy does!

Hokay, the slight romantic angle just doesn't seem "right", but there really is little of that to make you head for the nearest vomitorium and the gal's cute enough anyway in that mid-sixties pre-hairy pit way to the point where it don't matter. And hey, if you can find a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon'n watching something like this (unless you know a flea market that's still selling the kinda stuff they did inna seventies, and at seventies prices!) well man, go to it! But somehow I don't think you will. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

MOOM PITCHER REVIEW BY BILL SHUTE! WILDFIRE (1945) STARRING BOB STEELE!

I’ve always loved the phenomenon of Western film stars who featured their horses and saw that their horses got special billing and special attention in their films: Ken Maynard had Tarzan, Roy Rogers had Trigger, Tex Ritter had White Flash, Charles Starrett had Raider. Some horse stars of Western films even had their own comic books (I should review one of those here at BTC!). Going even beyond that in affection for horses would be that curious sub-genre of films that FEATURE the horse, where the humans take a back seat. WILDFIRE is to some extent one of those.

I was not raised on a ranch with horses, alas, but I did have a friend down the street who had horses, which I enjoyed spending time with, and I worked off and on as a 14-year-old at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds in the barns picking up after horses, helping to get them hay, etc. And I’ve been a lifelong horse-racing fan….in fact, I skipped school once in 6th grade to go to the track. They would not allow unaccompanied minors in, so I had to wait outside and approach a friendly-looking hard-core gambler to let me come in as his “nephew” or whatever. No wonder I enjoy a film like this one.

WILDFIRE was an independent western, sort of.ACTION PICTURES made three features in 1945-1946, two of which starred Bob Steele (his other one was a Mountie film, also recommended), and the other starring Robert Lowery (my favorite Batman) and Buster Keaton. Action Pictures eventually became SCREEN GUILD, which eventually morphed into Lippert Pictures. According to Kit Parker, Lippert was co-owner of Action. Screen Guild and Lippert made and distributed many excellent modest-budgeted films, all the way through 1955. Lippert then ran the B-unit of 20th Century Fox until the mid-60’s, again producing many enjoyable genre films made for the bottom of the bill. Chris reviewed his RAIDERS FROM BENEATH THE SEA (from 1964) here at BTC a number of months ago. The gimmick with these three Action Pictures releases was that they were in CINECOLOR, one of the many second-tier color processes, like TRU-COLOR. There’s actually a fascinating Wikipedia article on Cinecolor here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinecolor. Color was still quite a novelty in 1945, especially in the low-budget genre-film arena, so offering a COLOR Bob Steele western to exhibitors, for whom Steele was a proven box-office draw, would certainly have made WILDFIRE stand out from the pack.

Steele had been a reliable western star with a distinctive and energetic style since the late silent era. No one was a better horseman, and Steele did a lot of his own stunts too. He’d worked for the majority of the production companies heavily involved in B-Westerns (though not Columbia, to my knowledge), and in the early 40’s, he’d had his own series at PRC, he’d been one of the Three Mesquiteers at Republic (and the entries in that series are quite good, especially where he’s teamed with Tom Tyler!), and he’d been one of the trio The Trail Blazers at Monogram, paired with Hoot Gibson and Ken Maynard (and after Maynard left, with Chief Thundercloud). Steele was also active as a supporting actor in non-Westerns, having had key roles in such classics as OF MICE AND MEN and THE BIG SLEEP. He continued working as a supporting actor with regularity once he had his last above-the-title starring roles in B-Westerns in 1946 (he had a regular role on the F-TROOP TV series in the 60’s). He is probably my favorite B-Western star, as he always gives a film 110% effort, no matter how ragged and slipshod it might be (and among the most ragged and slipshod would probably be his series for Metropolitan Pictures in 1939-1940). Interestingly, Steele’s B-Western career was given a second wind years after he made his last one in 1946 when all his old films (and he’d made A LOT of them) became staples of early TV in the early 50’s. He even got his own comic book at that time, years after he’d stopped starring in films, but his films were all over TV then, so perhaps he was even a bigger star in the early 50’s. You know you’ve made it when you get your own comic book….at least that’s the way WE judge things here at BTC!

Steele and his sidekick Sterling Holloway (!!!!)—yes, Winnie The Pooh himself, also try to check out his Columbia comedy shorts!—are traveling horse traders and see a wild horse being shot at by two seedy looking characters. They defend the horse, who’d already been shot by these guys, and chase the horse-abusers away. They then nurse the horse back to health. Evidently, a local crook is blaming Wildfire for chasing away horses from their owners’ ranches when he himself is actually stealing the horses. So Bob Steele and Sterling Holloway are not just saving Wildfire and nursing him back to health….they are protecting his reputation and his good name!

If all this is not enough, the Sheriff is played by Eddie Dean, who was just then starting his own musical B-Western series, and who does get to sing briefly here—it’s almost like a coming attraction for his solo films over at PRC (“hey, who is that handsome guy singing there and looking so elegant on that horse? Eddie Dean? Oh, one of his pictures is playing down the street. I’ll have to go see it.”). And if you want more random connections, some of Eddie Dean’s PRC westerns were released in Cinecolor!

Of course, everything works out well in the end. Eddie Dean gets the girl, Bob Steele sends the recovered Wildfire back to be with his herd of wild horses, and the bad guys get what’s coming to them….all in 57 minutes and all in Cinecolor.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

EVEN MORE SINGLES THAT HAVE GONE STROONADED!

Here's the latest in hopefully a long line of these singles that, like the earlier entries, were mostly random picks from the leaning tower(s) in my collection. I must confess that a few of the items listen below were personally sought after due to years of neglect and I just forgot what the blasted things sounded like which can happen if you're a music-obsessed mental midgie such as I! And I believe that a few items have already been reviewed in these "pages" before, but like that was ages back and well, who can remember back that far. I guess not even me if I plucked these outta the stacks of single not knowing that I've already giving these the blogspot royal treatment! Talk about my short-term memory...sheesh, I can remember things that happened when I was three clearer'n ever, but something that happened a decade ago....phhhhhhhhtttttt!



Ian Fisher-"Girls Like That"/"It's a Riot" (Monster Wax Records)

Remember the Invaders, whose "Could You, Would You" single was written up and in a positive way a good two or so SINGLES GOING STROONAD back? Well, some if not all of 'em back this cool looking Northwestern rocker named Ian Fisher on these two marble-vinyled sides and the results are what I would most definitely call outta this sphere! Fisher belies his cute Peter Noone looks what with an overall roar of a vocal that echoes the screamers of Northwest Rock past as well as a few more recent practitioners like Iggy Pop and Greg Prevost! Not only that but the backup goes over-the-top eruption just the way you remembered rock 'n roll to be long before the mellow rot set in. The b-side even opens up with a spoken dedication to the MC5 in case you still have your doubts as to the pummeling nature of this effort! I wonder what Fisher is doing these days, and if it is selling used cars in Dubuque I frankly wouldn't be surprised one bit.
***
The Human Beingz-"Mony Mony (Part One)"/"Mony Mony (Part Two)"

Youngstown Ohio's Human Beinz made the sixties garage band hall of somethingorother with their hit version of "Nobody But Me", and surprisingly enough they have been active in one form or another ever since the eighties when they recorded this single which naturally went over the heads of the FM-bred dolts who made up the local music listening clientele. Still the Beingz did us sixties-loving fans well with this single (with the "g" properly replaced in their last name) which actually contains a fairly decent cover of the Shondells fave beefed up a bit for local blue collar hard rock consumption. Dunno why they hadda do two versions of the same song and label it "Part One" and "Part Two" but I'm glad it came out back then because hey, what else was goin' on in rock 'n roll other'n a perhaps not so hot 'n bubblin' under the underground scene anyway?
***
The Spotnicks-"Le Deernier Train de L'Espace"/"Space Creature" (Polydor Records, Japan)

I (and most certainly you) must give thanks to the Spotnicks for not going the hipster route and (like the Ventures) sticking to their early-sixties instrumental credo rock at a time when they must have seemed like total fanablas to the tastemongers in charge. Sure by the time this record came out the Spotnicks ditched their space suits and eventually would cover the hip de la hip Frank Zappa toon "Lumpy Gravy", but they did that 'un in such a 1962 down home way that who in their right mind could accuse them of freaking out??? On these mid-sixties sides the Space Swedes keep their guitars treblin' while taking on a couple of numbers that don't show any influence or indication that the Beatles even happened let alone existed, and although I do enjoy those mid-sixties longhair records more than you'd suspect I would well...I kinda like the idea that the Spotnicks were trying to hold off the oncoming sludge of hippydippy love and backstabbing as much as they could with numbers such as these. Too bad they failed but wha' th' hey.

By the way, I happened to obtain this one FREE via the fine folk at Forever Records from Tokyo a good thirty-five years back! Y'see,  I tried to obtain a Japanese Spotnicks album and due to some confusion I didn't get it even though I should have, or something along those sordid lines. As a consolation for my travails they actually gave this since to me for which I'm eternally grateful! Sheesh, and they say there's no justice left in this hyper-sensitive world of ours!
***
Earle Mankey-"Maumau"/"Crazy!" (Bomp! Exhibit "J" Records)

This is the Bomp! reissue of Mankey's '76 Bearsville single that came out in England and let me tell you it is a bigger gas than the time we had baked beans for lunch at school followed by a gym class fulla pelvic squats! Most of you will know about Mankey's behind-the-boards work with Todd Rundgren, but you must also remember that he was an original member of Sparks and a lotta the things he was doin' with the Mael Brothers certainly rubbed off on him as this electro-quirk pop platter would belie. A-side take the old "Poppa Ooo Mow Mow" riff and gives it the Eno "Lion Sleeps  Tonight" treatment while the flip has Amerigan Indian tom tom sounds dragged through an electronic jungle sounding like something a fashion conscious tribe would have used as a war cry. No wonder the folk at THE NEW YORK ROCKER gave more than ample space to not only Mankey but this single in one of their earliest issues!
***
Snatch-"All I Want"/"When I'm Bored" (Lightning Records, England)

While waiting for the Snatch album to arrive I thought I'd play this particular specimen in order to warm up for that anxiously awaited longplayer. The duo of Judy Nylon and Patti Palladin sing typical punk rock chick style on these bright sides that reflect all of those good moments to have been had in the pre-gnu (copyright 1982 Bill Shute) new wave scene with a force that comes off like the two shoved everyone from the New York Dolls to Television and maybe even some Blondie into a mixmaster and LET GO! A certain Jerry Nolan sits in on drums, which doesn't surprise me one bit. Reminds me of all of those things I missed out on the first time around and by the time I had enough moolah to buy some...pooooof!
***
Room 101-"Red No. 5"/"Another Holiday" (101 Records); "Annabella"/"Moondog" (KX4 Records)

Sister Ray guitarist Mark Hanley's other band who, despite not exactly being a play out every week sorta affair, managed to release two singles and a cassette-length album during their on-and-off lifespan. I reviewed their cassette quite awhile back...here are the singles including the debut (recorded live) which captures that dingy bar feeling best known to these kinda of acts complete with the bass guitar recorded way too loud as the murk wafts in. Kinda reminds me of METAL BOX settling in on Killing Joke territory for some reason, though the pre-recorded tape of a little girl screaming is quite unsettling.

The second single's a studio affair and like its predecessor is instrumental if clearer sounding. It reminds me more of those neo-jazz rock-y MX-80 Sound side projects that were coming out on the Quadruped label under the titles Half Life and O-Type---angular and jagged yet crisp and clear enough to the point where you can tell which stringbenders Hanley had been getting his guitar chops from. Worthy of a massive reissue package complete with liner notes and detailed history...even if I get the feeling that I'd be the only one who'd buy it.
***
Rodney Bingenheimer-"Let's Make the Scene"/"Then He Kissed Me" (Razor Records)

I know Rodney has been about as popular in certain El Lay rock circles as I would be at a Gerard Cosloy circle jerk, but doggone it if I just can't snuggle up to the li'l rascal if only because of his street-smart Kim Fowley-esque ways and self-promoting whiz. I hear that the Blondie people play the backup on these sides and it would figure, what with Bingenheimer roaring on a la Fowley himself over a rock beat on the a-side and singing (vocals quite buried) the Phil Spectre classic on the flip. A toss away, but a FUN toss away if you ask me. Somehow it seems rather charming seeing this one snuggled up between the old Peter Pan fairy tale singles and the Longines Symphonette freebee flexidiscs that continue to moil away in a collection that must be pushing a good sixtysome years by now (I'm counting the old Big Band platters of my dad's etc. amongst the more current offal...I'm not that old even if I do feel so!).
***
The Vice-Roys-"Liverpool"/"Tonk" (USA Records)

I bought this one ages back under the impression that these Vice-Roys were the same Viceroys of Northwest hard poundin' rock fame. One listen proved otherwise even if there was a heavy sax sound on the flipster...still it's a good spinner trying to cash in ever so slightly on the British Invasion craze of the day even if the a-side sounds more like a surf band heavily under the influence of the pre-Beatles Tornados and their "Telstar". The flip heralds back to the instrumental craze of a few years prior which only goes to show you just how stubborn (in a GOOD way) these Amerigan kidz were. Not bad at all, and about as conduit to the sixties teen mindset as all of those other things that us brain-dead youth were eventually told was antithetical to "The Movement (Inc.)".
***
The Showmen-"It Will Stand"/"Country Fool" (Imperial Records)

This is the 1964 reish of the '61 hit that had a whole lotta people from Kim Fowley to Jonathan Richman to Iggy all hot and bothered, and like a lotta these early-sixties records that intellectual rock critics sneer at it's not hard to hear why. It's all pretty hotcha vocal group music, not quite doo-wop yet nothing that would be confused with vocal group sounds a good ten or so years later. One of the better efforts in this field from a day and time which I sure wish I was more conscious of in this rather dullsville life of mine.
***
The Gooses-"Just a Tailor"/"Is It New"

Other'n the brief mention in an early ish of CLE I know nada about this Gooses band at all, which is a shame because both sides of this self-produced effort are what I'd call bee's knees worthy. A-side sorta straddles the power pop and punk rock realms while the flip is standard 1967-era teen pop. But then again both sides very well could have hailed from the late-sixties 'stead of a good decade later. It is rather confusing but still who CARES what with this nice home-produced effort which only adds more mystery to that whole under-the-underground scene. Y'know what I'm talkin' about...the kind of records that people like Anastasia Pantsios would never acknowledge even existed because hey, they just didn't fit in with the script.
***
GREAT SHAKEN' WITH GROUPS FROM THE 60'S (Mo-Donna Presents Records)

It sure is nice hearing some of my favorite sixties groups prostituting themselves by endorsing such definitely non-revolutionary products as Great Shakes (which for the life of me I can't remember ever seeing at the stores...I do remember Borden's milkshake in a can being advertised on tee-vee as a kiddiegarden ager). Of special interest are the Who and Yardbirds versions with the Keiths Moon and Relf plugging new flavors Milk Chocolate and Cherry Vanilla as if they'd ever let the goop touch their lips in a millyun years! You also get to hear Linda Whatzername with the Stone Poneys advertising Pepsi (funny, with Linda I thought it would be Coke!) and the Troggs for H.I.S. men's clothes where I assume you could also buy those fancy striped matching suits just the Reg and Co. used to wear! Still waiting to hear the Troggs' Miller's High Life commercial which for some reason ain't floating around in the internet ether somewhere like I hoped it would.
***
John Cage-THE CREDO IN US (Dolor Del Estramago Records)

Haw! A John Cage 45 from the nineties consisting of an early realization of this World War II-era composition as it originally was created way back when it was first conceived. Mostly consists of what I believe are the sounds of pianos (some pre-recorded I gather) which when put all together reminds me of Conlon Nancarrow and his prefab player piano music more'n anything. A better version of the composition than the more recent one which, having been recorded in the nineties, features some rather intruding modern top 40 radio clips which just ruined the mood for me. Still can't hear music with that third ear of mine I guess.
***
Ray Campi-"Pan American Boogie"/"Sixteen Chicks " (Rollin' Rock Records)

Another one of those Ron Weiser living room session releases that I must say captures the original cheap studio fifties intent of it all, what with Campi rip-roarin' it all over the place as if it were still the fifties and the guy wasn't some nobody who was living long past his time. I got this one straight from Weiser in the eighties when he was still operating even if on a limited basis trying to sell his remaining record and fanzine stock, so I doubt that you'll get any response if you write to the address on the label asking if he still has that legendary Tony Conn album up for sale. Because I for one know that he DON'T!
***
The Fleetwoods-"Lovers By Night, Strangers By Day"/"They Tell Me It's Summer" (Dolton Records)

The definitely non Northwest-sounding guy and gal team return for a slightly spry single whose a-side I'm not sure I got right. Sounds like the kinda "get-the-gal-inna-mood" music that would have really put a date into romance gear had this one hit as big as "Come Softly To Me" and "Mr Blue". Frankly it ain't bad at all as far as these early-sixties teenage pop records that Lou Reed found more avant garde than the avant garde actually was. Flipside was written by Randy Newman long before his tenure as one of those hip rock critic faves had been well established. Label scrawled with the name of the original owner "Debbie" who, if she wants this back bad enough, will have to prove to me that she is in fact "the" Debbie and not an imposter and to my liking as well. Shouldn't have gotten rid of it in the first place, girl!
***
Hawkwind-"Silver Machine"/"Silver Machine (Full Version)"/"Psychedelic Warlords (RCA Records, England)

Early-eighties live re-do done up obviously to try and garner some interest in a rock act that was seemingly being buried under the weight of the competition. Of course this is nada like the more familiar hit version with Lemmy singing away but it'll do. Flip the platter over, turn the speed down to 33 and you get the entire number as well as an especially creepy-crawl take of "Psychedelic Warlords" that proves Hawkwind still had it in 'em even after some of the listening audience had probably written 'em off.
***
Sunlight and the New Seeds-"Diamonds in the Rough"/Universal Sun-"Universal Stars" (Emerald Light Records)

I always thought Sky Saxon's post-Seeds career was a roller coaster of hard punk flash and hippie excess but thankfully he remains true to his roots on this double-sider which inexplicably is credited to two different acts. Basically the same song taken from the same long jam, they show Saxon ranting and raving while a killer group (probably the same guys who were on JUICY GROOVE and a slew of other Saxon efforts) rage on like it was still 1966 and granola never happened. Remember when Greg Shaw said that the Rainbow Red "Two Shy" single was a good enough punk rock platter? Well so is this one which could wipe out a whole slew of those tiresome new wave-o efforts of the early-eighties with one felt guitar ka-CHING! and don't you doubt it one second!
***
Mr. Epp and the Calculations-OF COURSE I'M HAPPY, WHY? EP (Pravda Records)

Not only a by-now legendary effort but a personal if forgotten fave, Epp and band take on the punksters with their own weapons on "Mohawk Man" and reduce rock to two notes on "No Rights". The other side is closer to the whole hardcore punkitude of the day which I will admit still sounds better'n what was transpiring in the "real" rock world at the same sorry time. A whole lot better'n what the entire schtick led to once it became hard to tell the MAXIMUM ROCK crowd from the folk at the local feminist anarcho-left cunnilingus workshop.
***
WOMEN'S CITY CLUB PRESENTS CLEVELAND ON THE GO FEATURING MAYOR RALPH J. PERK AND THE SINGING ANGELS WITH BILL BOEHM 33 rpm EP (Women's City Club of Cleveland Records)

Yuppers, an entire EP's worth of deep down sentimental moosh just custom made for those early-seventies moods you have when you've forgotten why you bought those old heavy metal records in the first place. I guess Mayor Perk could sing better than he could govern which ain't sayin' much and boy could he schmooze his way through such old heart warming classics as "May The Good Lord Bless And Keep You". Somehow I get the feeling that the black kids pictured on the cover wish they were doing something else than chiming in on these definitely cornballus numbers, but at least the Women's Council had the good sense to make sure that there was something for every member of the fambly by including a rendition of that Sammy Davis Jr. hit "Candy Man". Produced by Anastasia Pantsios.
***
Circus-"Too Much To Handle"/"Bad Feelins" (Bro Records)

Circus never did live up to the promise they oozed all over the Cleveland power pop scene after "Stop Wait and Listen" failed to climb the charts, and this '78 single shows 'em at the end of the line tryin' to make it back on track and not quite hitting the bullseye. Original member Mick Sabol's "Too Much To Handle" has a little too much of that disco bop for me to appreciate to the fullest though the flip features ex Milk-man Al Globekar's "Bad Feelin's" which is a good attempt at a late-seventies local hard 'n heavy rocker that wouldn't have been outta place on one of those BONEHEAD CRUSHERS albums. As far as the b-side goes this really wasn't that bad of a vinyl farewell for this legendary group and who knows, maybe a retrospective on 'em will pop up one of these days tho I doubt it.
***
Dorothy Morrison-"Brand New Day"/"Border Song (Holy Moses)" (Buddah Records)

Another deep reach into the collection, this early-seventies slab features a rather talented soulstress doing Van Morrison on the a-side and Elton John on the back end, which would figure. You probably will adore if if you're still into that rootzy gospel sound that used to make occasional inroads into the early-seventies AM playlist but really, can anyone ever manage to make "Border Song" palatable no matter what they try to do with it???
***
The Crickets-"That'll Be The Day"/"I'm Looking For Someone to Love" (Brunswick Records)

Maybe a tad too familiar to appear in this post (I tossed away various Pere Ubu, Stooges and Creedence finds for that very same reason) but wha' th' hey it's still a boffo spin considering just how stoked I get for late-fifties rock 'n roll combos of varying talent. And once you get down to it the only thing that separates Buddy and the Crickets from the likes of the Rock-A-Teens or Rhythm Rockers is that they happened to stay big after hitting it big, or else Linda Ronstadt would've been singin' "Woo Hoo" back 1976 way much to Billy Miller's dismay. After lo these many years it is STILL a great reflection of that boffo late-fifties period as much as LEAVE IT TO BEAVER or MAD magazine were, and if original owner Angie Dramis wants this copy back all I gotta say is tough turds...you lost it and I got it and that's THAT!
***
The Clash-"White Riot"/"1977" (CBS Records, England)

Sounds familiar, like (as I always tend to say) a group that sure influenced a whole lotta other groups down the line. Nice enough growl that shows the influence of various mid-seventies rock kultural landmarks yet there's a little something that keeps me from really going craparoonie over this...maybe the fact that the guys in this group ended up recording long tiring dirges with disco beats long after the original rush had dried up. Good enough but they'll never be the Subway Sect.
***
The Scientists-"We Had Love"/"Clear Spot" (Au Go Go Records, Australia)

I remember the big hubbub about this eighties-era Australian band which I first embraced then got tired of for some reason or another. But on this side the Scientists do the O-mind hard-edged growl a whole lot better'n I remember as they gather up all of the boff rock 'n roll references of the late-sixties onward (c'mon, you know the groups I'm talking about!) and slice and dice 'em into an even wilder sound that anyone out there in cult rock group land could imagine. Low-fi helps immensely and any group that has the nerve to cover a Beefheart song even at a time when covers had become extremely verboten due to THE GREAT "I WANNA BE YOUR DOG" COVER VERSION OVERKILL OF THE EIGHTIES yet pull it off without pretension really deserves an award. Or at least an award for rising above it all like that sticky foam on Jello's One-Two-Three.
***
Next one...maybe March? (or even sooner if the lack of inspiration moves me).

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Y'know, I get the strange feeling that HOPPITY HOOPER must have seemed (at least to the lumpen ranch house suburban slobs of the day) like total denouement after ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE's bombarding of the early-sixties television airwaves. Talk about going from the familiar to the strange...it's kinda like when you were a kid and you were tuning into those OZZIE AND HARRIET reruns only to find out that they've been replaced by DISCO SHOWCASE '79 or something equally colon-twisting...the ultimate comedown especially since you've become hooked on Ozzie and his gosh-it-all style those past few months.

But still who could blame anyone for seeing something quite strange in HOPPITY since the passing from the fantastico '59-'63 years into the transitional mid-sixties must have been tough for a whole load of people. Some of whom I sure of did not quite like the way life outside their safe suburban squats was heading, as if anyone could blame 'em what with the rumblings of a social revolution that was for the most part a huge detriment to mankind. But still I just hope these youfs got the message and SOAKED IT UP ALL THEY COULD because the latter portion of that decade was gonna be nothing but hippies and hair and Arlo and stuff like that and what place did us home-lovin' lawn-mowin' NANCY-readin' kinda guys really have in that new order anyhow?

I bought a few "burned" discs of HOOPER that I must say I really adore not only because the series was much better than I recall, but because they were actually videotaped from some by-now ancient channel 7 in New York broadcast and, if your eyes are steady enough, you can catch a glimpse of a station ID slide that'll reveal to ya that these were broadcast along with the old KING AND ODIE 'toons which really should bring back a few funtime memories in these increasingly cyborg days. No Odie here, but the Hooper is in full force and I for once got a whole lot more outta my buck her than I do supporting the United Way!

It's not as quirky or as mature as THE BULLWINKLE SHOW was, but it's still top notch tee-vee viewing that should have had a longer life in syndication (for the life of me I can't recall seeing an episode of the thing since I was but a mere lad). Hoppity might have been even more naive than the denizens of Frostbite Falls but he's still got something upstairs that Bullwinkle never did seem to possess (common sense? who knows what that is these days???) while Waldo Wigglesworth has gotta be the best lovable scamster to be seen since Major Hoople, WC Fields and maybe even that guy at a mid-seventies flea market who told me to get $40 from my folks to buy his beat up electric guitar because I could learn how to play it and make a lot of money! And Fillmore Bear manages to top even Bullwinkle for doof sidekick status or is that only because Bill Scott did a suspiciously similar voice?

The sagas match ROCKY's slick wit and pacing although they don't last nearly as long. In fact one entire story is limited to a daily installment of four episodes (in the original netcasts the spare time was filled in with the same ol' ROCKY filler that even Jay Ward was rehashing during the final days of BULLWINKLE) so's you don't have to get all twisted over the cliffhangers like you used to do with BATMAN or LOST IN SPACE. HOOPER was also just as topical as ROCKY with sly satires of Beatlemania and a rather neat TWILIGHT ZONE spoof where not only do the main characters get turned into vegetables (talking turnips and mushrooms, not Karen Quinlan) but Paul Frees does perhaps the worst Rod Serling impression I've ever heard. I should also mention to you a couple of episodes (including the Beatle one) where Wigglesworth's ultra-sexy galpal Susan Swivelhips makes an appearance and manages to be the only anthropomorphic cartoon character I've come across to even make me hot and horny! Especially the way she does the ol' man-hungry routine at her former fiancee who deserted her at the altar with a bottle of the Indian Guide Elixir he's always peddling from his wagon.

Chris Allen as Hoppity and the femme voices ain't exactly June Foray but she does a pretty convincing job, especially when she's doing Swivelhips' neo-Mae West sexy "booooing!" routine that really does something to ya. Hans Conried's Waldo Wigglesworth's the perfect characterization of the slimy snake oil kinda guy only he could voice...sorta like Snidely Whiplash with the ol' lovable fanabla touch. And keeping in the spirit of the earlier Jay Ward creations Scott does those tough guy and doof voices perfectly. Of course the slapdash Gamma Productions animation helps out a whole lot especially if your eye is keen enough to catch some of the mistakes.

HOPPITY HOOPER is but more crucial viewing for you against-the-grain stopped growing in 1967 type of readers, especially when you consider that it's supposedly a "kiddie" cartoon, the kind that I used to get scorned for watching until I pointed out just how grownup they were thus getting the older folk up 'n center for 'em! Videos seem to be hard to come by, so check out the grey market dealers you internet savvy stroon you!

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

MOOM PITCHER REVIEW BY BILL SHUTE! SWING PARADE OF 1946 STARRING LOUIS JORDAN AND THE THREE STOOGES!

As a member of internet discussion groups devoted to Charlie Chan and the Bowery Boys/East Side Kids, I get to see a lot of exhibitor-focused promotional materials and ads in the trade magazines from Monogram Pictures, perhaps my favorite B-movie studio of the 1940’s (along with Columbia and PRC). Monogram had many series films, and they were sold to exhibitors in blocks, which made a lot of sense….theater owners knew that, say, The East Side Kids or Bela Lugosi or the Frankie Darro/Mantan Moreland duo could be relied upon to bring in customers, and customers who enjoyed what they saw (it’s interesting to see how exhibitors would rave about Monogram’s product being especially satisfying to the paying customers and how their product could be RELIED UPON to bring in warm bodies to fill their seats and buy their popcorn and snacks), so what could be better than to get the promise of six or eight more films in those successful series to guarantee good box office receipts for the next fiscal year for your small-town or second-tier theater.

One area that has surprised me somewhat when I am looking at old Monogram trade ads from the 1940’s is how there are usually a few swing-oriented musicals on offer, and how the selling points are a few name bands (and they actually use the term NAME BANDS in the ads) and a few song hits of the day (and back then, the song was still more important than its performer). Of course, a formula “swing picture” would also need some comic relief, a young female and male lead who could have some kind of romance, etc. Swing music was huge both on radio and on records….and in major cities, at the larger movie houses (probably ones that DID NOT book Monogram films!), you’d even get swing bands in between the films. My late mother got to see many of the greats—Benny Goodman, Count Basie, etc.—that way. One of these swing movies could provide an hour of escapist entertainment, a number of “name bands” and hit songs, and truly satisfy the audiences in that pre-television age.

That’s what we’ve got in this 1946 offering, and it certainly does deliver the goods. In fact, the titles of the hit songs (such as "Caldonia" and "Stormy Weather") are plastered all over the film’s opening credits sequence multiple times! The film also starts in high gear with an uptempo flag-waver (as they used to call them during the swing era) of a theme song, “Swing Parade,” while the star-studded credits roll quickly. I can imagine that everyone would be sitting up in their seats and tapping their toes within five seconds of the film’s start. Monogram Pictures did not waste their time in their features, which often averaged between 59 and 69 minutes.

The female lead, Gale Storm, was a singer/actress who was one of Monogram’s few home-grown “stars.” The studio tended to use both stars and series which were already known (or, as the trades would put it, “pre-sold”)—The East Side Kids/Bowery Boys actually became “stars” at Warner Brothers as the Dead End Kids, Charlie Chan began at 20th Century Fox (the series was brought to Monogram by star Sidney Toler after it was dropped by Fox), and series such as Joe Palooka and The Shadow already had followings in other media. Storm was also a star in early television (MY LITTLE MARGIE and THE GALE STORM SHOW) a few years after this feature, and she’s both a vibrant and attractive presence AND a good, swinging vocalist (her version of “On The Sunny Side Of The Street” is first-rate and holds its own with the better of the many versions of this jazz standard). Because much of Gale Storm’s work was at Monogram and on early TV, and neither of those have ever been the darlings of either critics or those who write the history books, Storm has not really received the credit she is due. If you own a theater, let me program a Gale Storm festival for you!

The “plot” is typical of those found in low-budget musical films, and this formula was still being used in the 1960’s! A club devoted to whatever kind of music is being featured (rock and roll, calypso, folk, swing, the twist, you name it) is in financial trouble or about to be shut down for some reason (here it’s because the club manager, played by young Phil Regan, providing the romantic interest for Storm, has a father who disapproves of swing music and wants his son to get into the family business). There’s usually a big production number featuring most of the “name acts” near the end, and whoever was opposed to the club and/or the music is eventually won over….blah, blah, blah. We’ve got all that here, and it’s presented in a fast-moving and entertaining package. Every few minutes there’s another musical number or comedy sequence, so you could have staggered into the theater after some long night shift at work, half-asleep and burned-out, and you’d still get awakened every few minutes by the swinging music and the comedy.

And speaking of comedy, this film is best-known—if it’s known at all!—for the presence of THE THREE STOOGES, who play janitors at the club. This was one of their few outside loan-out films while they were working at Columbia for 20+ years…..this one for Monogram in 1946, and the western GOLD RAIDERS (with George O’Brien) for United Artists in 1951. I first saw Swing Parade in the 1980’s, when a friend taped it off of cable TV onto a VHS tape for me. The Warner Archive issued it on DVD in 2011, and I’ve probably watched it five times since then. My first impression of it—while certainly positive—was to realize how much of the greatness of the Three Stooges was complemented by the photography and editing of their Columbia shorts. We don’t have that here. It’s like when Laurel and Hardy moved from Hal Roach to 20th Century Fox, or when a small-label recording artist would move to a major label that somehow did not “get” what they were about—something just doesn’t FEEL right. Oh, the Stooges are funny (some of the routines are recycled from their pre-Columbia Ted Healy days—and the film’s screenplay was written by the great TIM RYAN, one-time husband of Irene Ryan, Granny of BEVERLY HILLBILLIES fame, a man VERY familiar to Monogram Pictures fans both as a screenwriter and as an actor, in multiple Bowery Boys and Charlie Chan films….in fact, he played the same comedic police inspector in a few of the Roland Winters Chan films---he was also the comic relief in the 1946 Columbia/Sam Katzman serial WHO’S GUILTY….and perhaps most legendary of his achievements to us here at BTC, “Tim and Irene” had their own series of comedy shorts at Educational Pictures in the mid-1930’s!!!!), and they’re actually in a lot of the film, not just one sequence, as is often the case with “guest stars” in this kind of film. It’s just that for director Phil Karlson—a legendary name in crime films but someone who worked steadily in many low-budget films in a variety of genres for decades, even into the early 1970’s with the original WALKING TALL with Joe Don Baker—The Stooges’ sequences in the film were just another sequence, like the musical numbers or the romantic scenes with Gale Storm. He got them in the can quickly and efficiently, but he had no experience working on the Stooges Columbia shorts and did not know the unique filming and editing style their films had there.

Let’s not forget the amazing LOUIS JORDAN, whose sequence here would be worth the price of admission by itself, the man who was the main influence on both Chuck Berry AND Bill Haley, and thus the true godfather of rock and roll. He’d appeared primarily in all-Black Cast features distributed by Astor Pictures, which played to African-American audiences and also to the kind of third-run backwater or neighborhood theaters serviced by Astor (and I’m old enough to remember when these Black cast features were shown as filler on BET back in the early days of cable….can you imagine a Louis Jordan movie or one of Spencer Williams’ films such as THE BLOOD OF JESUS being shown on cable TV, watched by tens of thousands? Those days are certainly long-gone, as BET fills so many hours with bad sitcoms!). Though he gets only one song, the classic "Caldonia", it’s a real show-stopper, beginning with the outline of the musicians’ instruments being glow in the dark on a darkened stage, as the booting R&B beat kicks in….the band does a long version of the song AND dancers are brought in during the final verse. You’ll feel exhausted by the end of Jordan’s performance. What a master!

Yes, there are a few sappy ballads here….back in the day, you could have gone to the bathroom or gotten some popcorn during them, and today, you can go to your home bathroom or get a snack from your kitchen. But don’t take TOO long as those songs last about two minutes maximum, and you may miss a Three Stooges sequence!

As this period of Monogram is owned by Warner Brothers (the DVD of this is from the Warner Archive), you can probably wait until it airs again on TCM and see it for free, but devoted Stooges fans will want to get their own copy now. I’m sure I’ll be re-watching this film here and there in future years, as it’s the kind of thing that puts a smile on your face and takes you into an entertaining alternate-universe for its 74 minutes (long by Monogram standards). If I owned a revival or “art” theater, I would book this!

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Gotta admit, much to the dismay of my my enemies no doubt, that as of this past week I've definitely been on the manic side of the pole. Really guys, does life all of a sudden feel so positive and  EXHILARATING and other words I haven't used in years. Blame it on the plethora of downright GOOD rock 'n roll etc. music I have been spinning as of these last few days, which coupled with the fine words of people I have read and respected for years, really pumps the good ol' Serotonin into a mind that has been devoid of any positive polarity for quite some time now.

Yes, the writings that are zoning me to my true suburban slob roots may be older than you'll ever be and ditto goes for the music, but right now when I slap on a high-energy post-Velvet Underground slice of pure atonal mania (usually Rocket From The Tombs or Can...take your pick) while reading Miriam Linna's Cleveland reminiscences on her sadly stillborn KICKSVILLE 66 blog or some old Peter Laughner pick of the hiss from his college paper writing days I feel the same way alla those guys who are OD-ing on heroin during this so-called "Opiate Crisis" do. Now that term really gets me puzzled...somehow I'd get the idea that the lack of opiates would be the thing causing the crisis but once again I'm wavering off the beaten track.

So (I'm warning you!) expect some real long-winded bornados this week because man, I feel more like Bill Shute detailing a platter's eternal value intertwined with some sordid aspect of my past (if only my past were as sordid as his!) rather than goin' the midgie "Rock-A-Rama" route that I have been trying to stay on with varying results these past umpteen years. To be honest with you the only review I do go off the rails with is the one regarding the Zep boot (its purchase spurred on by a brief mention in BACK DOOR MAN #1) but still, that one's a result of brain chemistry gone amok that at this point in time I hope never ends!
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Amidst a slew of celebrity deaths of late, maybe a so fond farewell to JIM NABORS. He liked 'em, and he LOVED 'em!
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Anyway, hope you'll settle back for the ride...what a long strange trip it's going to be as someone once said kinda/sorta... But before we get into it, howzbout casting your eyes over the only William Burroughs article worth reading in 2017??? I don't agree with a whole good lot of it (after all, calling Burroughs an alt-right double agent is kinda akin to calling Jay Hinman a brilliant libertarian mind) but it's either that or some radical fags on some obscure blog who hate the guy for not being wild enough in their sodomatic eyes. C'mon, it just might be worth your while to give it a swing...


Led Zeppelin-GOING TO CALIFORNIA 4-CD set (Graf Zeppelin Records, Japan)

Like many of you more astute readers, I spent a good portion of the seventies and even some of the eighties loathing the ground that these guys tred upon. My hatred of Zep came partially from their music, the slurpy folk and sludge metal of "Stairway to Heaven" not to mention a number of entirely dreadful single sides from "D'yer Maker" on to that hideous FM playlist filler which Robert Plant wrote about his dead son. The other part came from their fans, most of whom were part of the stoner generation that seemed especially abhorrent to a relatively straight-laced and head on straight (hah!) kinda kid like I. Y'know who I'm talkin' about, the archetypal greasy longhair zit-pocked boxboy who just naturally set off a whole load of stench alarms in my comparatively well-formed brain. Plus ya gotta admit that their music wasn't exactly that noisy, that atonal, that maddening and (most of all) THAT CONDUCTIVE TO A TRUE SUBURBAN SLOB RANCH HOUSE KIDDIE LIFESTYLE the way everything from Elliot Murphy and even Dylan at his most midclass teen spokesman to the Velvet Underground and a slew of bands bred in the nerve-cranked centers of our UHF-bred existences were. Not that the rest of the "kids" knew it, but I sure could sniff it out and as time has proved I WAS RIGHT AND THEY WERE WRONG!!!! 

Pardon the shouting, but back to the saga. Around '81 I decided to toss away my anti-metallic inhibitions even if Pere Ubu at their earliest could wipe Black Sabbath off the stage and decided that maybe there was something to this HM blunderbuss of sound that had captivated many a people, some who even knew where they were treading. After all if such mid-sixties stalwarts as the Troggs and Yardbirds could be responsible indirectly or downright obviously for Black Sabbath and Zep and if intelligent mind of the early/mid-seventies could conceive of the fact that the Velvets, Stooges and Pink Fairies were metal and that Alice Cooper, Budgie and (even) Zep were punk rockers in the classic tried and true sense then maybe there was more to this music than commercial sludge.

But I played the first Zep platter that I procured at the infamous Hartville Flea Market and thought it was nothing but boring blooze swipes done up sans the standard trash aesthetics that made other non-hippie bred music of the same strata so appealing to me. Face it, Black Pearl (who also straddled the hard blues and neo-metallic realm) these guys just weren't.

But give up I did not given how my interest in a decade old form that had been mishmoshed outta recognition was ever-growin'. Spurred on by various smartcrit writings digging up the whole Zep = Punk Rock equation (see the Mad Peck punk rock cassette compilation in a now-ancient FUSION) perhaps it was possible to enjoy Zep using the same set of braincells that I did to enjoy the Stooges and Troggs and hey, if there was a definite connection in style and credo twixt such acts in 1971 why couldn't there be one ten years later?

So I decided take stock in Zep bootlegs and bootlegs only figuring they were undoubtedly devoid of the slick studio hijinx that made those radio tracks so iffy. And I decided to stick to the earlier, less brain-dusted version of the band when they seemed more or less of the same soundscapading as many of my all-time fave noisebusters. And y'know what, some of those bootlegs do present a brilliant spark of punk intelligence that fits snugly in with the whole sound overload that stood strong against the rising tide of deeply meaningful folk mewlings that were being force fed into our pre-teen mindsets by people who seemingly "felt" and nothing else in their lives.

GOING TO CALIFORNIA's perhaps one of the classic Zep boots next to that one that has that ancient painting of  some small titted gal tweaking the nipple of an equally devoid of breast matter nudie directly next to her, and its legendary status reaches far and wide as far as these kind of under-the-counter albums went. So I decided to get this comparatively cheap (!) 4-Cee Dee set which not only features the original album but the show at the Berkeley Community Theatre from the night before (September 13, 1971) along with a few neat enclosures and even a "Trade Mark of Quality" sticker and you know what I think???

I think the shows were OK...nothing great in that transcendental fashion when the Velvet Underground play on drum-less into areas that seemingly go beyond music itself such as towards the end of "Sweet Sister Ray" or the "Chelsea Girls" Ondine segment, but fine enough. In fact, if these guys only realized that drum solos a la "Moby Dick" were snoozeville and that their folky bids for the hayseed hippie audience were more than just "misguided" these guys might have been the MC5 or even the Stooges. Which is strange because like, we know that they all were huge Iggy fans but unfortunately it never was reflected in their all-encompassing repertoire.

First night...iffy live recording but still clear enough to enjoy the various bits of true metallic crunch like "Black Dog" while osmosing the fact that "Communication Breakdown" might just be the real late-sixties punk rock gryphon to duke it out with everyone from the Stooges to It's All Meat.  This is pretty much what rock 'n roll really meant before the great energy crisis of sound to hit only a few years later. "Dazed and Confused" also roars even if the Yardbirds take on the BBC a few years earlier surpasses just about every Zep take I have had the pleasure of hearing. Especially that dreamy drone section which didn't quite translate well into the Zep portion of the program.

The familiar night after sounds a tad better SQ-wise and also does well when you edit the more knucklehead moments outta the thing. Of course there's the played to death "Stairway to Heaven" that lost its luster for me a few radio plays on (even though the final portion did set the stage for various early-mid-seventies hard rock chording that even filtered into the pop charts) but the harder rock elements thankfully pay you back many fold. Gotta say that I did like the live takes not only of this night's "Whole Lotta Love" but the previous one where the band roars into Ricky Nelson's "Hello Mary Lou" and other long-forgotten faves. Maybe if these guys had stuck true to their rock 'n roll roots they could have ditched the burp wheeze of their more mystical material and just like kicked jams out and nothing but!

A good 'un true, and it might even pass favor with some of your more classically trained punks just like a kidney stone passes through your pee hole. Blood for the ears if you do crank it up, and I'm sure SOME enterprising bootlegger has a cheap available version out there somewhere in the ether of internet.
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Matt Krefting-MICROCHIPS CD-r burn (Kendra Steiner Editions)

Bizarroid effort courtesy KSE featuring this sound sculptist who intersperses various recordings both "found" and not with music that sounds like muddled synth strings which give off a particularly drugged air. Next to O-Type's MEDICATION this is perhaps the best recorded example of what a fever dream or an overdose of Ny Quil is like. Thirty years back I would have said this was a chilling document of things to come, but with the concept of actual microchips being placed not only in animals but humans (with no consideration of the implications that would cause) we're not talking future shock but present day shock and I do mean it! End of socially redeeming portion of this post.
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Razor Boys-1978 LP (Hozac Records)

After looking through years of various Max's Kansas City, Club 82, CBGB and Mothers gig listings I've gotten to wonder if the rising time of glam groups that played there and just about every other dump inna land had any sorta value to 'em redeemingly social wise or other. I get the idea that most of those long-forgotten groups were just as good as the bunch that did get all the huzzahs 'n Maybelline contracts, but of course without listenin' to any of 'em how can we tell, eh?

Well, if they're as good as Atlanta's Razor Boys then they just might have been a whole lot better'n any of us woulda expected. They got the glam slam look down great true, but they also had the sound. Kinda like a cross between the Sweet and Spiders from Mars with a touch of Dolls and maybe even a bitta Iggy. And they were doin' it all in the land of Southern Rock which ya gotta admit wasn't exactly "conduit" to this kind of prance-y prance! Pretty exciting music here, and no cut is duff no matter how your listen in!

Could go on but I spewed enough in the Zep review. So lemme just finish by recommending this one to all of you glitter kids out there who never outgrew the platforms and striped leggings. Hozac, if you can locate some of the other hard-rockin' no nonsense glam bands of the past howzbout givin' 'em a go. If you need any hints there are a whole buncha listings for seventies-era New York clubs available all over the web.
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Kim Fowley-21st CENTURY YOUTH CD-r burn (originally on Trash-O-Gram Records)

Fowley must have known his days were numbered when he recorded this. It sounds like he's singing at his own wake. One of the dankest, most frightening albums I've heard in ages, this is definitely the 21st century equivalent of THE MARBLE INDEX. Fowley sing-songs in his unique monocroak style to a stripped down backing lyrics in a way heavily reminiscent of Richard Meltzer's various forays with Smegma amongst others. And he does it with the same resultant ooze of dark doom and death-mask ritual. After listening to it all I wondered if in fact this was the last punk rock (using the classic 1971 CREEM definition I adhere to) album that we'll ever hear.
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Various Artists-MURDER BY CONTRACT LP (Aziza Records Spain, available via Forced Exposure)

I don't know about you, but """""I""""" sure  am surprised at the amount of great rock 'n roll music that has come outta the African continent during the sixties and seventies. Records like MURDER BY CONTRACT are a boon to recordkind for presenting these unknown yet top notch new faves to us or else where would we get the opportunity to hear them.

For the most part the groups that pop up here play a specific kind of kinetic rock that takes a whole lotta local color and pops it into the usual format, with the wilder tracks digging deep into sub-Saharan rhythms and percussives for a good hunk of their inspiration. Yeah some of it doesn't quite jibe, but when these groups got good they were cooking like acts such as Group Inerane and other relatively recent groups that have become underground hipster fodder during the past decade or so.

Personal fave: Narma Samith's "Ziffaffildada" which sounds like a roller rink organ backed by the Master Musicians of Joujoka's drum section.
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Nihilist Spasm Band-NO RECORD CD-r burn

Back before he was poor Bruce Mowat used to call me up and sometimes during our conversations (more or less) he'd be spinning the Nihilist Spasm Band who could more than clearly be heard in the background. Good for him, because these guys are so under even the usual under-the-underground radar that they need all the help they can get! And so do you which is why you just might wanna snatch up not only this but other NSB efforts that are up and about. Loose free noise with a slight cohesiveness to it all. If you like TROUT MASK REPLICA or FUNHOUSE or the Scratch Orchestra there's no reason why you shouldn't like this.
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The Chimps-MONKEYS A-GO-GO CD-r burn (originally on Wyncote Records)

Sheesh, I wonder what the looks on the faces of the low-budget kids who got this 'un from their normally reluctant parents were like when they gave this obviously Monkees rip off a listen! Starts out fair enough what with a fairly decent Davy Jones imitation on "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" and the Dolenz-alike on "The Girl I Knew Somewhere" making the stripped down backing sound a little better'n one'd think. However when "The Chimps Theme" came on I almost thought I was listening to a Mike Brown/Montage outtake while "5th Class Mail" goes from waltz tempo to total freak out a la side one of the LE STELLE DI MARIO SCHIFANO album! And it gets even better with some fairly good songs that owe little to the Monkees but a lot to the wild spirit of what was happening in the poppier side of rock music back during those best and in no ways worst of musical times! (And oh, you won't believe how they got away with "Your Uncle Grizzly" which certainly ain't a sexual switcheroo on "Auntie Grizelda" nohow!)
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The Popcorn Explosion-HUNGER AFTER DINNER CD-r burn

Pretty good for a modern-day psychedelic rock try, and you know that for me the term "modern" can mean anything that happened after the signing of the Magna Carta! Norwegian in origin, this late-eighties effort reaches back to the lysergic past for inspiration just like many similar recordings of the same strata. However, I must admit that HUNGER AFTER DINNER also leaves that afterpunk taste just like many other post-Bomp! platters that were taking up a whole load of precious fanzine (excuse me...'zine) review space at the time. Good enough because at least I didn't feel offended enough by it to wanna smash Bill Shute a good 'un inna face for sending it my way inna first place, not that I would ever think of doing that to him (he's much bigger'n me)...
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Various Artists-IT AIN'T HEARTBREAK, IT AIN'T FEVER CD-r burn (Bill Shute)

Short 'n sweet...it's good that I ain't Robert Christgau or else I'd knock this one down a few grades for length! Sandwiched by the Cobra's over-the-top Beatle rave (almost as good as the Barbarians' debut!) are a number of tracks both good 'n blah, the former consisting of Normie Rowe's rather good loco rock of a definitely mid-sixties variety, the latter the Three Sounds' lounge-y rhythm and somethingorother the kind you always thought you father was listening to when he was cheating on your mother. The country swing of Otis Parker and Ralph Pruitt do make for good tween high rest stops, and as far as keeping us up on our toes and dancing around like total retards I or even you can't do better'n this. Three guesses as to who the mystery figure on the front cover of this 'un is, and as the old sayin' goes the first two don't count!
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LAST MINUTE NOTE!-from here on in, butt-related underwear stains or "skidmarks" as they are usually referred to will, at least on this blog, be referred to as "fartographs".

Friday, December 01, 2017

BOOK REVIEW! BROTHERS BE, YO LIKE GEORGE, AIN'T THAT FUNCKIN' KINDA HARD ON YOU? A MEMOIR BY GEORGE CLINTON WITH BEN GREENMAN (Atria Books, 2014)

Sheesh that Bob Forward doesn't know when to stop gibbin' me Christmas presents, first with the Richard Lloyd book reviewed a few weeks back 'n now this three-year-old George Clinton autobiography which I gotta say slipped by my sights perhaps due to money envy. But I don't care because I know, just like you all, that GETTING is better than GIVING, and when it comes to givin' the only thing I'm gonna give you is THE WORKS because man, you all certainly deserve it!

But a George Clinton autobio is what we all need, and this 'un does a pretty good job of detailin' alla the neat and sordid parts of the Funkadelicament thang's life from humble country beginnings to Dee-troit psychedelicament and on, and it's a pretty wild ride that make a whole lotta similar sagas look pretty staid. Rocky at times and the latter part of the book dealing with the mega-stardom days of the act doesn't quite get me, but when Clinton's talking about things like "Maggot Brain" and the Process Church you can bet that my perk-o-meter's pickin' up all up at full tilt and absorbing it into my always a'hungerin' for crucial rockist information brain. And Clinton dishes it out, pretty good and in that nice talk to instead of at you way that I like in a book.

For the average BLOG TO COMM reader (who is far from "average" if you get my drift) there are interesting little bits and shards of early-seventies Detroitian matters to chew on, from the mention of the proposed by CREEM marriage of Clinton and Iggy Pop (wonder which one's gonna be the "bride" ifyaknowaddamean) to the time Funkadelic and the MC5 were on a jet and the latter band was smokin' the doob in an overt effort to attract attention. Nice stuff to digest true, but the meaty portion of Clinton's life and travails (especially regarding copyright ownership and the hassles that put upon his work) really do engross ya even if you thought those late-seventies singles weren't quite up yer ever-expansive alley.

This guy is what I'd call like a LIVING TREASURE and sure the music changed a lot over the years and doesn't zone you in like it did during the Westbound days, but it's still a journey that will astound, and maybe even reveal the true nature of deep down hard funk that's evaded you your entire butt-pitted life!

A definite reader here, and if I had a book club like Oprah this might even be the read o' the week!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

MOOM PITCHER REVIEW BY BILL SHUTE! PASSPORT TO CHINA (1961) STARRING RICHARD BASEHART!


During the studio’s 1950’s and 1960’s heyday, Britain’s HAMMER FILMS released a wide variety of films in many genres—if you were to look at the studio’s output, I’d gamble that horror (of the Dracula variety, the kind of films for which Hammer was best known) would not be even 50% of it. They were a working studio with international distribution deals in many countries, and all of those countries had a hunger for quality product, professional-looking features with marketable concepts in easily identifiable genres with a star name or two. One of those countries was the United States, and Hammer had deals with different American studios over the years to provide programmer titles to fill the bottom of the bill in those days of double features (the double feature booking practice continued here into the early 70’s, and British product was often used as the “second feature”). Hammer had a long relationship with Columbia Pictures in the US, and in the last decade or two, Columbia-Sony have issued a few excellent multi-film box sets of Hammer’s non-horror features which had a US release via Columbia pictures in the late 50’s and early 60’s. Alas, PASSPORT TO CHINA, released in the US by Columbia in 1961, was NOT included on any of those sets.

In keeping with the bottom-of-the-bill programmer status of these Hammer pick-ups for the American market, PASSPORT TO CHINA was released here in black and white, even though it was made in color (my DVD-R of this seems to be taken from an old TV broadcast someone recorded onto a VHS tape, and it is in color).

The few online references to the film, mostly by Hammer authorities who have covered the studio’s entire output, do not rate it very highly, calling it boring or overly talky or lacking tension (or something similar). Yes, no one would describe the film as full of nail-biting excitement, and it lacks the over-the-top cartoonish feel of the 1958 HONG KONG CONFIDENTIAL (with Gene Barry), but when I put myself into the shoes of someone here in the US who wanders into their 1961 local theater after a long work week, with a bucket of popcorn and a large soda and looking forward to 3 ½ hours of escapist entertainment via a double feature, I think I would be relatively satisfied with PASSPORT TO CHINA….although it might not make a strong permanent impression.

Richard Basehart, who blasted into public consciousness as the psychotic killer in the 1948 hard-boiled crime classic HE WALKED BY NIGHT, was an actor’s actor, the kind of person who could play any part, gentle or brutal or solemn or comedic, and who could be either leading man or character actor, whatever was needed, and he was secure enough as an actor to treat every role as equally important, even when he probably knew that it wasn't. He’d also worked in Europe (he did two films for Fellini!) and was married to an Italian woman in the 1950’s, so not only did he have an international following from his American films, but he was an international figure himself. The same year that he made PASSPORT TO CHINA (also known as VISA TO CANTON) for Hammer and producer-director Michael Carreras (who was better known as a producer and directed only a handful of projects), he also made one of the first Euro-westerns for Carreras (who had created his own production company, independent of Hammer, with another Hammer regular, writer-producer Jimmy Sangster), SAVAGE GUNS, which was released in the US by MGM. It is (supposedly) the first Eurowestern to be shot in Almeria, Spain, and is usually discussed in any serious history of the European Western.

Basehart is perfect for PASSPORT TO CHINA as he is charming, he’s got a great speaking voice (which served him well in later years as a narrator of documentaries) which is put to use in the film’s voice-over narration, and he can be convincingly tough when needed. His character is a former military man who fought alongside the Chinese against the Japanese prior to and during WWII, and so he feels as though the Chinese are his people and Hong Kong is his home. In fact, he literally has a Chinese “family” in that the family of his war buddy has kind of adopted him, as he has no ‘family’ of his own. His knowledge of China and things Chinese, along with his contacts in different Asian cities made during his years as a pilot, allowed him to open and operate a successful travel agency, and in the initial scenes in the film, he is shown working out the inevitable problems that arise with visas and the like in international travel, as well as schmoozing with and charming cranky customers at his travel office.

Then one of those anonymous government operatives you see in spy films comes into his office and tries to get him involved in a mission about an airplane that was forced to land in Red China. Basehart politely declines, explaining that he is a businessman and not into politics….and also that he needs to keep good relations with all parties in the area, including the mainland Chinese, because as a travel agent, he works with parties everywhere.

Of course, the film would end right there if that’s all there was to it….so when Basehart visits his Chinese “family” after that encounter, he learns that his “brother” in that adoptive family was on the mysterious plane.

At that point, we’re 20 minutes in to a 75 minute film, and you can figure out where it goes from there. The brother managed to escape from the plane before the Reds get to it, but the other passengers did not….and one of them was an intelligence courier….and certain governmental forces manage to “persuade” (by holding his brother on false smuggling charges) Basehart to help. I won’t give away any spoilers about the rest.

I must say that I don’t agree with those who find the film boring or overly talky. Maybe these people are comparing this to a MISSING IN ACTION or a RAMBO film or some straight-to-video action film where people bust heads and kick ass now and ask questions later. Obviously, Basehart needs to work carefully, ask questions, establish contacts, etc., and all of that is handled well, at least as well as you’d find in any above-average detective or spy film. Oh, and there’s also a woman who needs his help with another issue, and that muddies the water in the second half of the film (and creates the expected romantic interest).

Hammer does not do a bad job in their films set in foreign areas (think Terror of the Tongs)….with a combination of evocative sets and second-unit photography that’s well integrated into the film, they can convince you of the film’s setting without flying the star and crew across the world. I assume that’s what was done here. It certainly feels like Hong Kong and Mainland China, at least a B-movie version of them.

This is Richard Basehart’s show—he’s in pretty much EVERY scene, and he’s a convincing enough actor to carry us along with him from adventure to adventure and also to make us care about his situation. Producers who hired Richard Basehart knew the man could deliver the goods AND bring a touch of class to their project (after all, he’d worked for Fellini TWICE, played Ishmael in an adaptation of MOBY DICK, etc.).

If a Hammer espionage programmer set in Hong Kong and Canton, China, starring Richard Basehart sounds appealing to you (it did to me!), then try to find a copy of PASSPORT TO CHINA. I would not be surprised to see it on one of the streaming services or on a cable channel at 3 a.m., since it’s both a Hammer film AND a Columbia release in the US. It’s not some off-the-wall independent film of murky provenance. I’ve enjoyed virtually every Hammer film I’ve ever seen (even the ones from the “new” Hammer, in recent years), and even the ones which were not great were interesting curios. I particularly like the early 50’s Hammer crime films, which involved Robert Lippert as a production partner (they were released in the US by Lippert Pictures) and included, via Lippert, an American star such as, say, Cesar Romero or Alex Nicol or Lloyd Bridges or Dane Clark. VCI has many volumes of those available, under the slightly mis-leading title HAMMER NOIR. Any and all of the volumes in that series are highly recommended.