Saturday, August 30, 2014

IT'S BACK TO SCREWED TIME!

Continuing on the fine tradition of noting the various fiftieth anniversaries of importance in our suburban slob upbringing existences (the JFK assassination and the Beatles arrival in the US of Whoa amongst 'em) I thought I'd mention (or better yet, "bring up" [..........gurgle..........] another one that's almost upon us (and no, I don't mean the rather boffo 1964-1965 tee-vee season which gave us a few notable hits along with some rather expressive flops) but that of my entrance into---society so to speak. 'n no, I don't mean the "social whirl" of martinis and snack crackers at the Jonesies at eight, but that dark day in human history (at least for me) otherwise known as my first day of (shudder!) school.

Before I entered into Kindergarten that sunny if breezy day in very early September 1965, life was like, fun. In fact it was a daily adventure just as exciting as any episode of LASSIE that might have being airing at the time. Sure, turdler me had to contend with frightening nightmares usually having to do with the skeleton falling out of the photo of my dead grandfather that was hanging in grandmother's basement and butterflies eating me alive, not to mention the fact that my folks coulda been a whole lot less strict with me given their penchant to swing first and ask questions at the same time. But otherwise I was living through the kinda existence that I sure wish never woulda ended. Wake up, snap on the tee-vee and watch the morning cartoons, get dressed in time for the LITTLE RASCALS short or old TALES FROM THE RIVERBANK that always ended the cartoon hour (or maybe the Lowell Thomas station freebee having something to do with the United States Air Force) before playing with my toys while the tee-vee kept me company, or going shopping with mom or maybe even getting some toy outta a department store visit if luck would strike. Then it was more tee-vee and more playing with my toys until suppertime, and then even MORE tee-vee only with my dad reading the paper in the same room until it was time for bed. I could even get a snack of soda pop and Fritos to help me make my way through that episode of THE DEFENDERS that some wizenheimer put on! I mean, that's the kinda life I wish I could live now especially if the same sorta hotcha programs that were airing then (even THE DEFENDERS!) were still being shown giving a guy a good reason to stay up past seven o'clock!

Naturally that all would come to an end with my entrance into school, and what a depressing lifestyle rearrangement it was---BOOM like a lead curtain slamming me right on my tender five-year-old noggin! Or better yet a psychological dumping of the kid in the deep fat fryer and seeing if he comes up batter-fried fish or KFC!

The first thing that got to me was having to socialize with kids the same age I was---not that something like that wasn't exactly new to me albeit it seemed as if each and every attempt at playing with others usually ended up with said brat taking advantage of me and but good! (I remember one overcast autumn evening when my father and I were visiting a neighbor who happened to work with my dad'n I was more or less relegated into playing in the back yard sandbox with said neighbor's kid---dear little "Kevin" for no reason other'n I grabbed his dump truck threw a fistfulla sand in my face thus causing the folks to rush me home in order to squirt a few bottles of Murine into my eyes! When I heard years later that the very same kid had died [story has it either via AIDS or an accident] you can bet I felt justified to the max!!!) Now I hadda spend six hours in a room with a good twentysome more of these monsters, and you can bet that the experiences that I hadda endure with these monsters was nada like the fun 'n games ya used to see on DING DONG SCHOOL that's for sure!

Now I will remember that my kiddiegarden teacher Mrs. Carter was in fact quite a nice lady. She kinda looked like a cross between Rose Marie and that lady who used to hawk Cool Whip on tee-vee (she even popped up in a commercial with Bill Cosby who was pushing "pudding in a cloud" in the late-seventies!). Mrs. Carter used to wear a rubber band around her wrist and for some reason I thought that she had a removable hand she could take off and put back on for whatever reason she needed (grownups are funny about things like that!). I even asked my mother to ask her if in fact this was true, that's how interested I was in her hand! I also remember asking her if she was related to Sgt. Carter of GOMER PYLE USMC fame and she told me to move it, knucklehead which was especially fitting of her!

But still I hadda get up early three days a week and miss my morning cartoons and that was bad, and what was worse was a whole year later when I actually had to enter first grade, get up early FIVE days a week and endure even more snooty, pushy classmates (cunts all) as well as teachers who I believe were hired on the basis of how much they hated children. Now that was bad (and how I used to sit in class thinking about which LITTLE RASCALS short I'd already seen a hundred times was being aired right at that very moment). And what's worse is that the same pattern pretty much engulfed my entire living patters for my entire formative years.

'n yeah, I will admit that I used to get all giddy and excited over going back to school (a giddiness which did not last long mind you), but years later I think that was only because of my parents' pushing the school agenda just like tee-vee pushed the new fall season and the auto manufacturers hyped their new models (all around the same time which did lend a certain excitement to life in general!). It took me a long time to realize that I was being "had" but hey, when you're a kid you have no right to think, and shut up is your only option so like why bother even living???

Back to those "formative years"....here in my aged state I get the strong feeling that them days woulda been put to better use had I just stayed home and got my education sitting like a lump in front of the television set (as if  you remember everything you learned about mathematics, grammar and citizenship from that harridan you had as a teach all them years ago!) 'stead of being dragged to school during the weekdays. And Greg Prevost was RIGHT...after all, what good is the stuff being taught to you in third grade when you have to go out and fend for yourself in that megalomonster that we all call reality?

So now you know why I am the antisocial, mankind-hating person that I proudly proclaim myself to be these days. But I always wasn't like that, and if you want to see just what kind of a fun, everyday go-for-a-walk and watch tee-vee normal kid I was just hop in your own Wayback Machine and set if for a good fifty years or so back. And if you wanna see what a bitter, hate-filled loathsome wretch could be, just tune it back forty-nine!
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On to other subjects at hands or fritzes for that matter. After that all-too-potent edi-TOO-real I just dished out let me welcome you to this latest in hopefully a long line of BLOG TO COMM posts which I get the "funny" feeling you'll dig to the utmost. Just happ'd to get some really find wowzers o'er the past few days (some courtesy Bill Shute, others P.D. Fadensonnen, one thanks to Paul McGarry and a few I even paid for myself!) and I know that this week (and maybe even next!) will be pretty potent as far as delivering on the high energy goods to all of you rockism-deprived readers just drooling for that latest tip for a trip to your nearest record emporium! (Which may be thousands of miles away but hey, you always got FEET!) Surprisingly enough, it seems as if the reissue/exhumation market has been perking up a tad as we speak, and with some of these new releases making their way to your turntables and laser launching pads we might just have enough good jamz to kick out at least until...the next batch of  hardcore rock 'n roll recordings make their way out of the dresser drawers and into the streets!
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One more thingie---there are some things I'd really like to know and know a whole lot more sooner 'n later. Is it true that some cop in Ferguson Missouri really shot an English progressive rock group? And what's all this talk about an all-woman seventies horn-rock act of questionable sexuality (or was it a recent post-metal band) wreaking havoc in the Middle East?


THE MAGIC TRAMPS PRESENT "MENTAL MORON" AND "CHILDREN OF THE KINGDOM" CD (Whiplash Records, available via CD Baby)

Wow, after almost ten years a new Magic Tramps release has made its way out of Sesu Coleman's closet! Of course, clocking in at just a li'l over twelve minutes doesn't exactly make this 'un an especially smart buy especially considering the price tag placed on the thing, but since it's a taste of what's in store it ain't like I'm gonna complain about having to purchase this 'un like one iota!

The opening track entitled "Mental Moron" was recorded by a new version of the group featuring a fellow named Crow Weaver banging a guitar and singing along with Coleman's drumming and Lary Chaplin's violin. It's a cover of the old Corpse Grinders number which I believe was originally called "Rites 4 Whites" but since I haven't played that 'un for years I can't be certain whether or not it is. But whatever the status of this track may be it's a killer that proves that maybe only the oldsters can still play gritty, down-to-earth seventies-styled punk rock these days. Kudos must definitely go to Chaplin for the searing electric violin line that flows in and out of the tune like one of Wayne Kramer's better MC5 solos.

"Visions of the Temple" is one of those long and meditative Magic Tramps instrumentals the group used to do back when they were wrestling under the name "Messiah", and although it sounds like one of those repeato-riff drone-rockers that help ooze me into beddy-bye time I really can't tell---y'see, Colemen talks over the number (which is way down in the mix) making it all but impossible to hear. However, the exemplary drummer's saga about the group's history and development is mildly amusing even if nothing we didn't already know is revealed, and considering this platter is more 'r less a "teaser" for the upcoming platter I ain't gonna stomp my feet in righteous self-indignation. In fact, I'm counting the days 'till it finally does make its way out on the infamous Whiplash label, also home to the likes of the Corpse Grinders, the Brats, and maybe even a few more groups you ignoramuses haven't heard about yet!

Closing out the disque's a recently-discovered 1970 Tramps recording with one-time frontman Eric Emerson singing away...sound's not too hot and you have to crank the thing quite a bit to get the proper effect (mind-numbing brain-damaging energy!), but it still rules like nothing else in 1970 did 'cept for LOADED, FUNHOUSEFLAMINGO and precious few others. "Children of the Kingdom", despite having a title that conjures up images of Melanie albums wasting away in your older sister's attic, really is a surprisingly powerful full-blast rocker with an easily-identifiable Velvet Underground riff (Chaplin's violin adding to the rhythm rather than careening over it a la John Cale) that perhaps proves the oft-touted theory about just how wide and expansive the VU's grasp was on the better rock 'n roll of the day. If the rest of the album's gonna be like this then I'm gonna stock up not only on the vinyl version but a few Cee-Dees in case my turntable conks out on me. Gotta be prepared, 'specially in these sordid rock-deprivation days!
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Fadensonnen-PD5 CD (Fadensonnen Records)

Lessee...did I use this one?..."sounds like the last minute of Jimi Hendrix's existence as he choked to death on his machine head"??? I think maybe I did...howzbout "WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT rammed through Chrome's sphincter and these are the sloppy seconds"????  Even worse..."Controlled Bleeding making the soundtrack to a new Conelrad alert"! A li'l better if I do say so myself, and if you're bound to disagree why don't YOU come up with your own corny and oft-used rockcrit comparisons that just about every fanzine snob dished out in order to hide the fact that they didn't exactly comprehend the sounds at hand (unlike I) back during those tired and retread eighties!
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Chrome-LIVE PRIMAVERA SOUND 2014 CD-r burn (courtesy P.D. Fadensonnen)

Maybe it ain't so coincidental that I namedropped Chrome in the above review for in the same package the above offering arrived in I also received this li'l representation of the recently-reconstructed band as they stand here in the mid-teens. I might have had more o' that legendary "trepidation" I often blab about when I plunked this 'un down on the laser launching pad...after all I never thought that the eighties/nineties works of the Damon Edge/Helios Creed team were as potent as those late-seventies disques...but this one rocks just as good as if ol' Edge was still alive and inflicting his demonic influence on the solar mess. Hot flare in the Siren tradition as the old faves are given new reworkings and sound just as feral as they did back when only a few of us fanablas were in on the massive push courtesy BOMP! and a handfulla worthy fanzines. I guess the mere existence of these recordings prove that Von Lmo was right all along (as if you didn't know that already).
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Simply Saucer-BABY NOVA 12-inch EP (Schizophrenic Records, Canada)

It's about time these 2011 recordings (done up at the aptly named Ghetto Studios in Detroit MI) were pressed up because if there's anything we really need here in 2014 it's SIMPLY SAUCER!!!! Of course we also need Rocket From the Tombs, Mirrors, Ex-Blank-X, Von Lmo, Stuart's Hammer and Figures of Light...and come to think of it we got 'em all as well. We even got the Magic Tramps as you can see from the review above!

Let's face it, there's nothing more rock 'n rolling than a buncha sixty-plus guys reliving teenbo treble tantrums now that it's fortysome years later and all of a sudden the music these guys were SHUNNED for playing is in fact the hippenest thing around! Even more satisfying is know that all of those cubeoid Pantsios types who once upped crustoid nostrils at these "primitive" acts are now comin' off as if these acts were the bee's knees all along and that they were in on the whole underground rock shebang from the get go! Yeah I hate bandwagon jumpers too but at least acts like Simply Saucer are now getting a whole lot more press 'n who knows what else than they were way back when, and why should they or their bankbooks for that matter argue?

Great re-dos of a buncha Saucer classics both familiar and not, and although singer Edgar Breau's voice sounds pretty rough and ragged these days it still fits the music like swell. And the music sure is potent enough to stir those teenage underground throb thrills up just like it was 1979 and you just got the latest BOMP! catalog in your crustoid mitts.

Not as "electronic" even in a sixties Velvet Underground sense as I thought it was gonna be, but still powerful enough with its Television ca. 1975 filtered through 1976 Gizmos with maybe a tad touch of Chad 'n Jeremy to Anglo it up a bit swerve! Definitely one that was worth the wait and I know that it does seem out of place here in the truly cyborg teens but hey, it sure beats the heck outta listening to 2014's answers to Ann Murray and the Sasoul Orchestra and believe-you-me there are plenty of those around to make this rock 'n roll feel all the more potent!
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John Oswald/Grateful Dead-GRAYFOLDED 3-LP set (Important Records, available via Forced Exposure)

Gotta hand it to Plunderphonics creator Oswald...only he could take a snoozy noodling track like "Dark Star" and turn it into something that's actually worth sitting through and enjoying as an actual form of creative musical expression 'stead of as an enhancer to some addled mystical experience which can only be experienced once the guy sitting next to you passes a li'l something your way ifyaknowaddamean...

Taking over a hundred different recordings of the extendo Dead number and overlaying, mixing, matching, adding extraneous tracks and who knows what else, Oswald managed to create a (believe it or not!) engrossing extended (over three platters!) version of the aforementioned jam track which spanned a good portion of the Dead's career. And heck if I get my headband out and turn freak brother on you, but (if you can believe it) GRAYFOLDED takes the comparatively staid music of the Grateful ones to an even further out level that never did get captured on their recordings, some of which  I've had the (mis?)pleasure of hearing these past few decades. And thankfully the resultant stew ain't on a level of boring hippie grooveed hackdom either but something that hearkens back to early San Francisco accomplishment just before Jerry Garcia began believing all of that press hype about how much of a "spokesman for a generation" he was.

At times it sounds as if a dozen Deads are playing at once, and the music goes off into the usual tangents but for once you don't mind as the currents cross-connect and your mind seems about as overloaded taking it all in a whole lot more'n the doof tripping outta his mind inna audience's was. Surprisingly avant garde enough to somehow recall not only the Dead-not-in-name-only album SEASTONES (which I thought was a pile of turd upon first listen back '78 way but just might be due for a li'l re-eval if I can latch onto a cheap copy somewhere), but the likes of some admitted Dead influences as Sun Ra or maybe even that mythical old kraut himself Karlheinz Stockhausen.

For a respected rock aficionado whose loathing of the Dead is known far and wide, I must admit that this project might bring out just what it was that made the Dead during their space rockiest so appealing to millions of malnourished hippies doing weird dances o' ecstasy in public parks. Not that I feel like doing those Gumby routines any day soon, but if you're game to some of the more atonal heavy duty avant garde sounds that made their way outta of the seventies soundswill you might just find this enticing enough to latch onto.
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The Safes-RECORD BEAT CD-r burn (originally on O Brothers)

Hmmmmm, more good 'n recent poppy rock 'n punk that doesn't sound as retread as I thought it would have given the track record of many a similar-minded bunch of re-creationists. Nothing that I'm gonna spin on a daily basis, but fairly interesting trash-compactor mooshing of poppy Beatles ideals and late-seventies power chord fanzine rah. And dare I say it, but it gives me great hope that the future of this country is in the hands of such fine, upstanding gentlemen as the Safes who are leading the youth away from the evil and decadent sounds of Justin Timberlake, Kate Perry and that notoriously amoral fiend Sam Smith! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr...
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Roxy Music-11-27-1974 - PARIS, PALAIS DES CONORES CD-r burn (courtesy of P. D. Fadensonnen)

I wouldn't call this 'un spectacular but it is a must for the rabid Roxy Music kinda fan who spent more'n a few hours thumbing through import and bootleg bins in the tri-state area. Sound quality is fab for what I can detect is an audience recording, and although the selection of songs leaves a bit to be desired (not enough tracks from the then-current COUNTRY LIFE alb and only two from the Eno days and they ain't "Virginia Plain" or "Remake/Remodel" either!), the sophisti-deca feeling that made Roxy one of the more talked about groups of the day still seeps through like syphilitic pus outta Iggy's main vein. Ferry and company cook up that jaded art sound in a fashion that would make any teenage ball o' confusion wanna don a tux 'n tie,.and although it may be hard for you to believe it but this was the music that was to be heard outta the suburban slob bedrooms of many a sad and lonely boy back in them days!
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ON STAGE WITH THE DAVE CLARK FIVE CD-r burn (originally on Capitol, Canada)

I guess this 'un'll be interesting enough for the collector snob types and hardcore DC 5 fans alike since it only came out in Canada and thus was probably not readily enough available at your local Zayre's. Mike Saunders and the rest of the rabid Dave Clark fans'll probably cherish a flesh 'n vinyl copy of this in their collections but frankly I find it, like all of the platters I've heard by these British Invasion heavies, rather roller-coasty with a few bright spots overcome by the band's generally lower energy output. But hey, if you want your bedroom to sound just like your older sis's did a good fifty years back just spin ON STAGE (which ain't even a live album making me wonder how they get away with such blatant misrepresentation???) and get a buncha young adolescent females to jump up and down and giggle a whole lot on your bed. And don't come crying to me when the cops bust down your door!
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Various Artists-DEWDROP NYMPH HEARTACHE CD-r burn (courtesy of the largess of Bill Shute)

Lotsa fun stuff here from two "song poems" to some gal group sounds (the Date with Soul as well as the Flirtations' snappy hit "Nothing But a Heartache") and the usual early-sixties trackage that really sends me back to my pre-memory days which I only wish I could remember. Bill even remains true to form by fitting a couple of country and western numbers that were country even when country wasn't stodgy enough to admit the likes of Barbara Mandrell to its ranks. Even the foreign legion in the form of Lebanon's Sea-Ders and Turkey's Maut Isiklar are represented, as is Forest of Harvest Records fame who sound true enough to their post-Barrett style to rate a seek out for one of the group's LP for that famed "progressive" label! And it's all topped off by a Vox Wah-Wah Pedal demonstration that I kinda get the idea was heard by every garage band kiddoid rockstar wannabe back in the sainted days of the mid-sixties!


Thursday, August 28, 2014

BOOK REVIEW! POPEYE CLASSICS VOLUME 1 by Bud Sagendorf (IDW 2013)

I gotta admit that I did have a bitta trepidation opening the cover of this 'un not only because most of the POPEYE aficionados I've met up with loathe the post-Elzie Segar THIMBLE THEATRE strip with a stark-drooling passion, but because I thought that artist Bud Sagendorf's strip work from his 1959 debut until he got edged out in favor of Bobby London's "updating" of it in '86 was strictly grade-z turdsville myself. And for someone who obviously has better things to do like talk to Don Fellman and pop delicate nose blackheads (at the same time!) like, maybe a book like this is taking up too much spare time that could be put to better use!

But then again, I've learned long ago that snobs, whether they be of the cinematic, comedic or even the "rock music" variety, usually have their heads so far up their asses that they can personally greet their polyps with a hearty "hey" on a daily basis! Why should I let their crusty-nosed better-than-thou attitudes affect what I like in a comic anyway, especially when their tastes would generally veer closer to the likes of CATHY than they would a live-reaffirming, suburban slob strip like the Ernie Bushmiller-period NANCY. It's kinda like basing your record purchasing choices on what the numnuts at ROLLING STONE tell you is "cool", and since yer more likely than not ain't in high school where ya have to make brownie points with the other kids in order to be "accepted" anymore maybe its time ya thunk for yerself about these things 'stead of letting some college paper patsy, or ME for that matter, go around and set your modes of measuring kultural pleasure for you! Only remember, at least """""I""""" have my rockism controls set for the deepest center of your brain which is nothing I could say about any college paper turds I've had the displeasure of reading for years on end!

I should at least give Sagendorf credit for learning his POPEYE craft straight from the originator of it all (even though you'd never believe it looking at those sixties-era strips), but I'll proudly admit that when he was up-and-running with these late-forties comic book-only stories Sagendorf still had some of the old fire and energy associated with the original firmly in hand. Now these particular sagas don't exactly hold up to what Segar was cooking up over a decade earlier, but they're funzy enough in their own surprisingly snide and (dare I say) creative way, and the man still managed to capture the fun and even cut-throat antics of the entire cast thus sparing the wild-eyed rage and anger of thousands of Saturday Afternoon Barbershop Kids who only wanted a little bitta excitement 'n ten-cent thrills in their otherwise drab lives.

The art's still comparatively Segar-esque, and while the comic book version seems to (as usual) veer somewhat away from the newspaper and (definitely) the animated POPEYE galaxies I can't see anybody who peruses this blog not finding these various adventures worth eyeballing. Really, these sagas dealing with Popeye putting up with nonagenarian lookalike dad Poopdeck Pappy's antics or Olive Oyl joining an anti-violence society are so against the grain of 2010's thinking that I can see just why uppity social planners would (had they only the power) want to have alla these old comics banned just because they seem to go against the "get along" grain of current kiddie entertainment and socio-political brainwashing. Yes, the uplifters from those old D.W. Griffith films are up and about in a new guise, and the antiseptic dross that permeates live and culture these days (thanks to these moral and intellectual superiors) makes me wanna latch onto a bunch of these collections, don the ol' raincoat, and hang around schoolyards after dismissal goin' "hey kid, ya wanna buy a real hotcha book???"

And for this kid who spent a lotta time in front of the set watching the POPEYE cartoons that were flooding up the schedule for years (at least until my sister grossed me out by telling me that the famed sailor got his moniker because he had an eye gouged outta him!) and cherished his freebee "March of Comics" POPEYE shoe store giveaway for years on end (I still guffaw over the line where Popeye, seeing a soaked-to-the-bone Olive, mutters "you're all covered with wet!"), this does dredge up the good memories of early pre-socialization days when morn to night was a bigger fun adventure than anything since. It even reverts me to my early days like nothing since Playtex Living Bra commercials, though for some strange reason I can't get anybody to wipe me like I was accustomed to back during those days of worry-free kid-dom. Whassamatta mom, shirking your doody (as well as mine)???

Saturday, August 23, 2014

TOM CARTWRIGHT, MICHAEL INSETTA AND JOHN PLACKO TALK ABOUT STUART'S HAMMER

Yeah I know---yer all SICK AND TIRED of me blabbin' on about just how great of an album the LIVE AT CBGB's double platter was 'n all,. But gosh darn it if I don't still (after thirty-five-plus years) think that set was one  swell slice o' MID AMERIGAN ROCK that featured eight acts who, given the right time 'n opportunity, coulda created a sonic masterpiece of instant cutout $1.99 pleasure to rival the Flamin' Groovies, Hackamore Brick or even the Stooges themselves. Sure the few fanablas who did get signed perhaps on the basis of this album usually ended up making platters that didn't always gel in the rock out department, but the promise, energy and talent were there. And, after all's said and done, why should I blame 'em just because they got a duff producer and got signed to a label that didn't quite know what to do with these types of acts in the first place?

I get the humongously strong feeling that Stuart's Hammer woulda put out a particularly potent set of rockers had they gotten the Big Label treatment, but they didn't and all we have to judge 'em by right now is their sole offering via the CBGB set, the marvelously decadent for its time "Everybody's Depraved". Kinda reminding me of none other'n classic Wayne County, this 'un's got not only the in-tune for the smart set sickoid lyrics ("Everybody's depraved, the whole world over/So take morality and throw it over your shoulder") but a driving mid-seventies punk rock sound that evoked the Velvets, Groovies around the time of FLAMINGO and maybe even some Dictators (!) in a way that represented the heart and soul of mid-Amerigan teenage slob living more'n the top 40 or FM band of the day ever could. It's too bad that Stuart's Hammer didn't get that chance because hey, I sure would have loved to have been combing through the cheap bins of 1978 finding that little gem of an album for a mere $1.99!

Needless to say, the Stuart's Hammer saga needs to be preserved for future generations (and for seventies underground rock obsessives like myself) just like the recordings, sagas and travails of all of our other old time rock faves both noted and otherwise most certainly need to have their tales told. So when I discovered the presence of a Stuart's Hammer (btw the name of the band is a ref. to the E. B. White [of CHARLOTTE'S WEB fame] novel STUART LITTLE!) website more'n a few alarms popped off inside my head to the point where I was contacting just about everyone that group...got in touch with Michael Insetta (bass guitar) who was a tremendous help setting up a few things while group leader and guitarist Jordan Chassan even sent a brief bio. But Tom Cartwright, group guitar and mandolin player, consented to an email interview which follows below. Big heap thanks to not only Cartwright for sharing his memories but Insetta for his help...if it weren't for them you'd probably be reading yet another review of the LIVE AT CBGB's album this week!


You can find photos like this and others (much better reproductions---didn't wanna swipe alla the good stuff even though I did have permission) on Stuart's Hammer's own website where you can also catch up on what's going on in the Stuart's Hammer sphere these days (and there is much!). Believe-you-me, your time will be well-spent perusing the snaps and clippings that are available for your edification.
BLOG TO COMM-Any interesting early musical endeavors of yours we should know about???


TOM CARTWRIGHT-Well, let's see......

In 1964, I begged for a drum set after seeing The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Many years of garage bands later, I became the drum captain of my high school marching band. Into college, I picked up guitar and mandolin did the usual gigs. Right out of college, I met Mike Insetta over  at Montclair State University and briefly joined up with his band, White Lightning. We both quit upon meeting Jordan Chassan and immediately formed Stuart's Hammer with a chap named Steven Evers. That's my back story!

BTC-White Lightning....was that the same group (sort of Aerosmith/Led Zeppelin inspired) that plated the CBGB Summer Festival in 1975?
TC-I seriously doubt that's the same White Lightning Band - but, hey......some recollections are a little fuzzy these days, eh?

BTC-As for Stuart's Hammer, around when was the band formed?

TC-We first formed in early 1975 - Jordan, Mike, Steve and me. Four piece outfit playing all original music written by Jordan. He had some terrific songs for a young guy! Plus, he was the best non-pro guitarist I had ever met at that point. We rehearsed at Jordan's father's house in Montclair, NJ for years - I remember a lot of complaints from the local police. We got a respectable number of gigs at local bars and college parties. However, the all-original nature of our repertoire was not a strong selling point with the clubs that were transitioning to disco in those days.  In 1976, we realized we needed to expand the talent, so we hired John Placko, a college friend, as our lead singer. That way Jordan could focus more on his song writing. Soon after, we decided that I would switch from drums to guitar and mandolin, and so we brought in Steve Pellegrino on drums. Steve had spent some time out in Colorado playing in a Genesis-type band, but was back in NJ to help out in his father's Pizzeria. Oh, and John Placko worked with Steve as well. They made some wonderful Italian food for us during the days when we were low on dough, believe me. One gig lead to another, and soon we were doing showcases in NYC.     What was the question?

BTC-I get the impression judging from the use of a mandolin that there was a country influence?

TC-Country influence? Oh, yes indeed. The early 70's were packed with "countryish" acts - major acts, like The Eagles, Poco, The Band, The Grateful Dead, etc . We all sort of cut our chops on that  LA Country feeling. I know Jordan was huge admirer of Clarence White and Gram Parsons and all the post-Byrds line-ups. Mike was a great banjo player in addition to bass, and I had dabbled on the mandolin in college doing jug-band stuff ala The Holy Modal Rounders.  We approached the early Stuart's Hammer music more like Electric Hot Tuna meets The Kinks than anything else. It just felt comfortable and was totally unique in the Jersey Club Scene of the day. People either loved us or didn't. Which, I guess, is the first indication that you may be on to something solid. The name CBGB embodies the country, blue grass, blues idea. Hilly was a big fan of any type of urban/folk music - as long as it was totally original. Which we were.  Hilly seemed to recognize our sincerity and was very supportive of our style. In fact, Hilly's daughter Lisa recently mentioned that the appearance  of the electric mandolin was a part of why he invited Stuart's Hammer back after our audition. I remember  a couple reviews of Stuart's Hammer in the local underground press that referred to us a "Country Punk".  I guess we were.

BTC-Speaking of CBGB, when did Stuart's Hammer audition?

TC-When did we audition? Hard to recall......I suppose Mike or Jordan arranged to set us up for a Monday or Tuesday night with a couple other bands. The only thing I recall is that we brought our own PA system, which was huge and heavy. Lucky we had a truck. That plus our discovery that CBGB was the filthiest room we had ever played - or would ever play. OMG, the facilities in the early days were astoundingly awful! The CBGB movie only touches the surface of that issue. Anyway, the beer was plenty and free. I guess we played a good set that night, cause Hilly booked us for a follow-up. There really wasn't "scene" yet at that point. But soon......

BTC-And not too soon after you guys ended up on the LIVE AT CBGB'S album. How did that come about?

TC-I'm not really sure how Stuart's Hammer wound up on the Live at CBGB album. I do recall that one day, I got a call from Jordan, and he said Hilly wanted to have a live recording session and include us as one of the stronger/regular bands. We didn't understand the scope of the project at the time, so we simply did a lot of rehearsing to prepare. I thought we had a good solid set - maybe 8 songs. Anyway, the recording dates were announced, and the bands were divided up between 3 or 4 days when the mobile recording unit could be on site. We did our best and that was that. Later, we heard that a number of the groups that recorded were pulled because major labels wanted to start outside projects with them. At the end, Hilly and his advisers agreed to allow one Stuart's Hammer song on the final recording. Since we had limited resources, lets say, we didn't really have any chance to take advantage of any  post-production or overdubs. "Everybody's Depraved" went down like it was: lean and real. Hilly hooked us up with his lawyer to set up our publishing. Then, the whole project was snapped up by Atlantic, and they did what they wanted.

BTC-Did Stuart's Hammer get any label interest after the CBGB album came out?

TC-No. Nothing. There were a few individuals who showed interest in managing us, but we never got any further. I don't believe we were ever really accepted on the NY scene as it was. We did a lot of shows in and around New York and New Jersey, and a few small tours with some of the CBGB bands that were on the album. Colleges seemed to like our act and we made a little money on that circuit. Believe me, we tried hard to capitalize on the Atlantic Records connection - but the combination of the unstoppable disco surge and the huge British new wave was a lot to contend with. Stuart's Hammer was a great band. We grabbed some good opportunities and I'm sure we missed some, too.

BTC-Speaking of the CBGB LP tours, where did you play

TC-I recall we did a handful of shows with The Laughing Dogs, Mink DeVille, The Shirts and Nicki Buzz and Sun. This was 1976, so there were some outdoors concerts for the Bicentennial that we played. We did a show in Boston, something out on Long Island, and a huge number of colleges. Max's Kansas City, The Other End, The Dirt Club, Kenny's Castaways, Folk City...I don't know....we played a lot of places and made nothing to speak of. That was the New York scene.

BTC-What was the CBGB package tour like? The CBGB book made it out to be a disaster!

TC-I'm sure there were a few CBGB package tours set up around the release of the album. The hype was instantaneous  and I imagine there were a number of good reasons for the CBGB administration to try to cash in. Stuart's Hammer was included on one tour to Long Island - for the bicentennial, and another to Boston for a long weekend  .Also, there was another held out at My Father's Place in Roslyn, NY.   I remember a lot of confusion, sleeping on couches - or wherever, and bad food. If you remember the CBGB moving van from the movie, THAT was what we toured in.  Kind of romantic in a way, but nevertheless uncomfortable. Again, Stuart's Hammer had little to say in the planning of these events - we were along for the ride. Funny thing was - when we were all away on the tours, other acts were booked at CBGB as substitutes. Acts like Tom Petty and The Police. Wonder how those guys ever made out?

BTC-The groups that were playing the clubs back when Stuart's Hammer were around, did you have any favorites? Were there any other acts playing CBGB that were pretty good but never got the attention they deserved?

TC-A list of my personal favorite groups that were playing CBGB in 1975-76 would have to include - Mink DeVille, The Laughing Dogs,  Television, and The Patti Smith Group.  Mink DeVille was a solid, well conceived act with tons of charisma and street appeal.  I made every attempt to get to see their shows. They had a good run of albums and success after their CBGB start, but never really hit it big in the mainstream. Television , too, was a wonderful act that got an early recording contract and had the critics on their side. Tom Verlaine on stage in a small club was about as good as it got for me.  The Laughing Dogs, I will tell you, were probably the finest musicians and songwriters on that scene. They had a strong sense of humor and managed to carry that through into some excellent pop songs. That combined with a musical delivery reminiscent of The Rascals, made them so exciting for me. Again, they had some great albums, but never really got what they deserved. I only saw The Patti Smith Group once, cause she was a standing room only/sold out performer. Between Patti Smith, Talking Heads and The Ramones, you pretty much got everything you expected from CBGBs. Their recorded live performances endure in every media imaginable.

There were dozens and dozens of other one shot groups I got to see while Hilly was "auditioning" them. Some destined to burn out immediately, others pushed on year-after-year, never getting any further than 215 The Bowery. These are the personalities I most identify with. The heart and soul of  underground rock & roll.

BTC-How about Man-ster? Seems that they had a strange cult all their own.
TC-Man-ster, eh? Now they were what I would call a cult band if there ever was one. I was only able to catch their show a few times, but I must say, they were straaaaange indeed. Excellent musicianship, intriguing stage act. Creepy vocals. I think I related to them in the way we were both, while fully qualified and worthwhile, to be just a little outside the CBGB border. If they did develop a following, as you mentioned, I guess they must have released some product over the years. I'll look into that.  Maybe our paths will cross again someday. I hope.

BTC-And what did you think about the other acts on the album like the Shirts, Sun, Mink DeVille, Tuff Darts...

TC-The Shirts had something good going,  not only musically, but visually - with the wildly animated stage  interplay between Annie Golden and Artie. I've listened to their album work, and can't understand why they didn't meet with more success. I remember that Hilly was their manager at the time, and that they were known as the " house band". I hear they are still performing in one way or another in and around NYC. I need to look into that.  Sun was a four man band that sounded like ten. The energy emerging from Nikki Buzz gave me shivers....these guys were ready for the big stage, but, again....what happened? So much of it is just plain luck and opportunity. True then and true now. Mink DeVille and The Laughing Dogs I talked about prior: both were wonderful acts with so much potential. I was so pleased when they both went on to produce some really good album work after CBGB.  Tuff Darts, eh? Now, there was a fully formed, Hollywood-ready ensemble if there ever was one. The finger-wagging songs, the wardrobe, the gangster poses, combined with an air of social defiance rendered them unapproachable. I never met or spoke with anyone associated with Tuff Darts. Ever.  Finally, I must give a big salute to The Miamis - probably the most fun band you could imagine. These guys kicked out the rock and roll like no one's business - and had a thrilling sense of humor to boot. East to listen to, easy to meet and as sincere as pie. Great people and focused artists, even to this day.  There was just so much talent, enthusiasm, and potential in that one little club in 1975, that I can't believe I had the fortune to be a fly on the wall. No offense to the the other flies!

BTC-Did Stuart's Hammer do any studio recordings?

TC-Stuart's Hammer never had the opportunity to do any further studio recording after "Everybody's Depraved". We toured, did some live shows on WFMU  and gigged constantly for a couple of years, and then broke up. Immediately though, Michael, Jordan and myself reformed as "It's The Hendersons", with the addition of Ed Pastorini on vocals and keyboards (Google him - he's had a vast career). Under this new group we did release a single on Uptown Records (Hoboken) - as I recall it was Baby Happy backed by The Merger. Both good pop songs - and, The Merger had some success in England, I'm told.  Michael eventually went off to other projects, and Jordan, Ed and I carried on with a succession of bass players until somewhere in 1981, when Ed started his 10,000 Crusteaceans project, and Jordan formed The Young Hegelians. I became a chimney sweep.

BTC-So, what's up with Tom Cartwright these days?

TC-Me?  I'm still active in music....just finished my fourth solo album - self-published. Once I can get the entire catalog mastered, it's on to Bandcamp. Mike Insetta and I play together a lot - sometimes electric and sometimes acoustic. I still can hold my own on the mandolin, and Mike is an avid banjoist. In fact, here's the real news: Stuart's Hammer has reunited recently and we are going down to Nashville in early June for a recording date at Jordan Chassan's studio. SoundBarn is the name at it features all-vintage analog tape facilities. Jordan has produced some excellent recordings for a variety of artists, and has an extensive reputation in the industry as man you can trust when you're extra fussy about first rate recording.  Let's see what the old country punks can whip out!
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Can't wait to hear that 'un, which I suspect and hope will be every bit as good a straight-out rocker as if it were recorded a good thirty-eight years back!

Anyway, here's a bit via group bassist Michael Insetta (whose cousin Paul Insetta was a songwriter, studio guitarist and manager of Jerry Vale!) telling about the time Stuart's Hammer were mulling over letting a certain someone who would become famous in another artistic realm join the act (as well as some other informative tidbits):

I went to Montclair State College when Bruce Willis was there. He knew me as Banjo Mike as I was playing the 5 string banjo back then, that's how I met Jordan and that's when we decided to form a band doing only original work. Anyway Bruce who we all called " L tone" ( for Elton John because he was always wearing these big sunglasses like Elton John; he also always wear bib overalls), anyway he knew Jordan and I and wanted to audition a singer for our band. This was after we had played awhile I think though it was before we did LIVE AT CBGBs but we were playing in the city. Anyway we had him come up on stage one night to sing and play harp on a couple of songs don't remember what songs they were. Needless to say we didn't take him up on it and the rest as they say is history.


Also have a story about the night at CBGBs we showed up to hang out, it was a Tuesday or Wednesday. Anyway we pull up and there's a big white limo in front. We walk in forgetting who was playing and we see this big black dude walking down the aisle towards the door, bald head and gold earring lolled like a black Mr Clean, no disrespect intended. Anyway a few feet behind him comes this little guy with long black curly hair and a Fu Manchu mustache. Guess who.....Frank Zappa checking out the place

How about the night when I met Alex Chilton after I told Hilly that the first song I had ever learned to play on the guitar was "The Letter" which of course Alex sang lead on when he was sixteen. Couldn't believe I was meeting the guy. This occurred after the album came out. Or the fact that I found out that Lisa Kristal and I both grew up in North Bergen and went to the same schools and had a lot of common friends. I was one or two years ahead of her and had no idea. It was only after we started chatting ( she was a real big fan like her dad of us as well as the Laughing Dogs, she took a lot if pictures of us back then) that we found this out and we became really good friends 
Or the fact we were pretty good friends with Fred Smith from Television and Terry Ork rest his soul was a fan of ours and wanted to produce and record "Everybody's Depraved" but we were already committed to Hilly and the album.
And before we go, here are a few just under the wire reminiscences from group singer John Placko!


1. Mike (bass) was sharing an apartment with a bunch of guys. It became a hangout because it was over a bar. I was friends with Tom (Rhythm) who sometime hung out there so I sometimes hung out there too. Steve, who became the drummer, & I worked together in his father's pizzeria. So, Steve & I went over there after work, ~ midnight, and hung out. That's how Steve got into the band. Then later, I somehow got sucked into the band too.

2. Once outside CBGBs I was having a cigarette and just hangin' when this guy comes up to me to bum a butt. He decides to go inside and asks me to watch his bike (chopper). Just before he goes in he turns and shows me this gun stuffed in his belt and says to come get him if anyone fucks with his bike. Needless to say this Jersey kid was scared shitless.

3. One performance at CBGBs I screamed before an instrumental and slide off stage on my knees. As I got up, there was Willy DeVille laughing his ass off and he said to me "man that was great". That might not sound like a big deal but the weird thing was he said it in a normal voice. Why so weird, every other time I heard him talking to people (his fans) he had this high whinny voice.

4. We were booked with some of the other CBGBs regulars at My Father's Place in Long Island. Before our show, the entire place was packed because there was this free concert being put on by the local radio station. After the concert ended they made the entire place empty out and if they wanted to see our show they had to pay to get in. So instead of having, I don't know, maybe 500 people, we had like around 50. Imagine the beer they could have sold.

5. We were booked with some of the other CBGBs regulars at Hot Dog Beach in Long Island. The other bands had management so they had hotels. We had no management so we were allowed to sleep in a barn with the roadies. Ain't fame grand.
Need anything else, oh rabid followers of seventies underground esoterica???

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

MOOM PITCHER REVIEW! HOOK, LINE AND SINKER starring Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey (Radio Pictures, 1930)

Wow, whatta surprisingly funny offering from the team of Wheeler and Woolsey, one that I gotta say is much better'n their previous romp HALF SHOT AT SUNRISE. Now that one, although delivering on some rather good guffaws if you paid attention hard enough, was bogged down by musical numbers and a rather weak script that just couldn't hold the attention span of this mental adolescent occupied long enough but you don't get any of that here...heck, there ain't even an opening musical theme to accompany the titles so you know that this 'un ain't one of those high-falutin' comedies custom-made for the fru frus who go for sophisticated high class comedies with Katherine Hepburn in 'em that's for sure!

Wheeler and Woolsey play a couple of lovable ne'er do well types (what else?) who come to the aid of the cute as a button Dorothy Lee, a lass who has inherited a sleazebag hotel which (thanks to the quick thinking of Woolsey who places a bogus article in the papers) becomes a four star resort for the rich and classy types on the lookout for a li'l getaway. Strangely enough Woolsey's ingenious idea bungles the plans of Lee's old boyfriend, a lawyer who is also working as a smuggler using the hotel to hide his goodies.

A lotta advance publicity regarding the hotel's extra-secure safe also bring out the criminals including a phony duke and duchess, and after the usual funtime plot twists it all comes to a shooting conclusion during a power outage which (believe it or not!) is a whole load funnier'n any preconceived notions you might have accrued after years of watching b-movie crankouts on weekend television during your kiddie upbringing years.

W&W in their typically years of vaudeville experience fashion spew the lines out at quite a rapid pace, and even the cornballiest of jokes work when they're rat-a-tatted your way to the point where they're almost toppling all over each other. The standard plot (I mean, how many films both comedy and drama have used that over-squirted premise?) actually is improved thanks to the talents of the two, and it's so good to the point where even the misfires don't make you wanna switch stations and watch DICK CAVETT  like you probably woulda hadda do way back 1972 way. And just because Dick Cavett liked Wheeler and Woolsey doesn't mean you have to hate them, though frankly I don't know what Cavett thought of 'em one way or the other!

A surprise winner from this still-remembered comedy team that just might suit even the most jaded of people who troll this blog. Might be the one to catch next time it pops up on your local low-wattage "antenna" station in between DANNY THOMAS reruns, but you rich kids who get Turner Classic Movies might wanna check your tee-vee schedules as well.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sorry to take soooooo long (Sunday nite even!) to get this post out to you, but I was way too busy havin' fun celebrating the death of Robin Williams to drag myself in front of the ol' computer! Well no, not really (after all, I never did have any contact with him whether it be personal or via the various social networks), but let's just say that I am one ol' stinkin' turd of a human being out there in sowhaddaboudit land who ain't joining the choruses of hosannas 'n rendered garments that could be heard on many a tee-vee show this past Tuesday sniffing on about this "great loss" of a worthy human life. (And believe-you-me, when Ozzie Nelson died back '75 way all he got was a quickie mention as if his mere existence had nada social significance!) Now, I could be a smartass about it and say that I was "choked up" over his suicide 'n all, but that would be so typically tasteless of myself so why should I bother. But I will say that I am one guy who won't be claiming to High Heaven that Williams was one of the greatest comedians and emotive actors since Charlie Chaplin, and everyone knows what a twat he was!

Hokay, I will admit that I was one of the many suburban slobs who used to tune into MORK AND MINDY on a regular basis during the show's first season and that it was, from what I remember, watchable enough that during my budding Asperger's Syndrome days even I mighta blurted out a few "na-noo na-noo"'s during a fambly get-together or two. Of course this was during the big slide from seventies Second Golden Age of Tee-Vee revival to eighties flounder, and eventually I bailed out on the series like I was wont to do with a whole lotta programs that just didn't measure up to the high quality and standards of just one episode of LEARN TO DRAW WITH JOHN GNAGY. Maybe life just wasn't funny anymore...heaven knows that SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE wasn't once 1980 rolled around and neither were a good portion of the sitcoms that I had been tuning in to for quite some time. Anybody care for another round of ARCHIE BUNKER'S GRAVE* reruns??? Thought so.

If I ever got a laugh outta some Robin Williams stand up routine it must've been so rare I totally forgot about it. Ditto any of his film appearances, every one of which I've seen just reeking of post-hippie glop 'n ennui.  For some of us (didn't take count at the last curmudgeons meeting) Williams had become just another eighties relic and reminder of a time in my life when everything from music as an overbearing force (a la the sixties/seventies non-hippoid credo that gave us everything from the Stooges to Lester Bangs) to life as a celebration of youthful anger and justified revenge was either far beyond my reach or dead as a doornail, and if anybody could laugh or sigh or moan at the man's comedic or acting "abilities" they really must have either a dull sense of humor or had just recovered from that surgery where they remove your skull and stick weird metal probes on it that make you utter nonsense syllables.

It may seem callous to some, but for me Robin Williams was a guy who had everything anyone could have wanted in the world but didn't have enough sense to seek the mental help he obviously needed. Mind was probably too clouded from alla dem drugs those Hollywood types take, which is perhaps another reason we jackasses shouldn't worship the jackals in our lives. The newscasters and papers may mourn the passing of a guy who mirrored their own sick sense of what is supposed to be the new normal or whatever they call it, but all I could see was an unfunny guy who pandered to humorless people who always go about with a look on their faces that says they know something I don't, and personally I wish they'd keep whatever it is they do know to themselves!

Also rip to Lauren Bacall, who looked rather nice when she was younger unlike the androids they call females these days. But again, I really couldn't say much else because well, she was more like something from my parents' generation 'n all, and although I like old mooms as much as the next insomniac it wasn't like she was yukkin' it up with the Three Stooges 'r anything like that. And anymore it's things like that which mean all the more to me as the years creep on.
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As you can tell, this "Special Report From BTC News" has postponed the planned post that was to have appeared here this week. That of course will be rescheduled at a future date just like all of those tee-vee programs you wanted to see only John Kennedy got his Excedrin Headache and ruined a fine weekend for us. In its stead I'm going to fill the rest of this 'un up with the post I had been planning to present next week, which of course I hadda do a whole lotta extra work on just so's to make this thing look "presentable". Between you and me I don't think I did that hotcha of a job getting this up to BLOG TO COMM standards, but considering the way life is going these days who gives a whit about standards anyway???
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The big surprise these past few days was the discovery of a bonafeed crapload of new FIGURES OF LIGHT releases that are available via where else but CD Baby. Even more surprising is that none of these recent releases are available via the Norton label of fine fanablas leading me to believe that there may have been a falling out between the two parties at hand. Maybe not (after all, some of the material on these platters is not exactly up to the musical ideals set forth by the likes of Billy Miller and Miriam Linna, as you will see), but it's sure great knowing that this recently-revived act is still up and about making music (some of it good) while the rest of us are more content to sit around in our fart-encrusted bedrooms typing about it on our blogs. Anyway, here are the most recent releases from the soon-to-be-reckoned-with FOL label that you just might know about, and in case you're wondering why I didn't review the download-only selections it's because with a computer like mine, who knows where those files will end up!


LOST & FOUND is the sturdiest of the batch, a long-playing platter which contains a number of old, new and even newer tracks in varying qualities and the standard no-chord playing. A nice li'l sampler which introduces us to some new trackage of worth not forgetting some live cuts from a 1972 show at Vorhees Chapel where you can actually hear the vocals (and who out there would not believe that "Strawberry Jam" from this very show sounds almost exactly like that blues jam from THE CHELSEA GIRLS soundtrack????! Not a duff cut to be found (and thankfully it all sounds suburban ranch house 1966, especially the mid-six-oh Beatles swipe "You Better Wise Up"), though I'm still puzzled as to why the inclusion of that Belladonna and the Decimators "Death Metal Cover" of "It's Lame"! What a strange sense of humor these guys have!


GIMME A QUARTER only clocks in at sixteen minutes, but those seconds are well spent with these recent recordings that showcase the band's various aspects. Seems as if a certain Stuart Pendergast is now a member of the act on guitar (Dixon and Downey handling the rest of the gear), and they do swell on such toonz as "Arrested Adolescent" and "Frustration". Some of these tracks, like the title one ("Totally Insane Remix" version) remind me too much of mid-eighties new wave for comfort, but since I can still work up a bit of a froth over some of the things my favorite post-seventies NYC outfits (or their survivors) could pull off then maybe I can enjoy the pre-programmed drum track'd offerings for what they are. But please don't go tellin' my 1985 self this turgid fact!


I dunno what you think about CD singles, but I'm sure you know what I think of them myself! Still, I did like the precious few minutes that the double-tracker "l;eave Her Alone" and "Dreams of the Past" unveiled before my very ears...dunno how this could qualify as a Figures of Light release proper consiering that Wheeler W. Dixon's main role in this release was as producer (Downey playing guitar with the aforementioned Pendergast handling everything else) but the instrumentals to be heard on this 'un are thankfully typical of the wild surf-y sounds that the Figures have been releasing on their previous and widely available platters so there's nothing really to fear from plunking down the moolah for this 'un.


Now, there may be something to fear from buying the group's THE OPEN DOOR four-tracker since it sounds about as far from the garage band-y Figures of Light sound that had me bidding a hefty $127.85 on their original single and getting outbid within a few minutes. The title track ("for Lou Reed" as it says) sounds more like a backing track for some 1982 Roxy Music cum new wave act that got stuck in limbo after the lead singer dislodged both tonsils during an extended holiday in San Francisco, while the "It's a Scream" mixes remind me of something a really masochistic bedroom-level bunch of budding musicians woulda sent to FORCED EXPOSURE ca. 1987 just so they could get off on the scathing negative review their efforts would surely render. Dixon plays synth and nothing but on these instrumental sides and really, I never thought that anybody even remotely associated with the Norton label past present or future even touched one of the things!


For a better mix 'n match you might wanna try GREAT! NOW WE GOT TIME TO PARTY! But then again maybe not. Again, most of the music contained within these grooves have nada to do with the Figures of Light sound that I've raved on about, and in fact the title track comes off more like some easily-enough whipped out computer-generated number I'm sure any astute middle-aged daddoid coulda cranked out with the aid of his seven-year-old son. One track, "Heading For The Sky", even sounds more like a Mobius/Plank track than a garage band standard, but at least there's a 2013 "remaster" of "It's Lame" that will at least jolt you back into rock 'n roll reality.


Of which there is very little on THE POWER, perhaps the weakest of the batch. Starting off with yet another electronic flub-a-dub, the title track is painful to sit through but at least the Downey/Pendergast instrumentals are relaxing enough. But then again it's back to a "Super Ballistic Version" of "Gimme Gimme Gimme" which once again comes off like pure electronic effect jagoff that irritates me to no end. Dunno what got into these guys bub, but talk about the sharp dichotomy between teenage garage fun and post-gnu wave ahtzyness...



Also clocking in on the short end of things yet packing a (thankfully) much better wallop's TOO MANY BILLS, NOT ENOUGH THRILLS which contains some leftover Norton-era recordings produced by one-time Gorie and Light Figure Mick Collins, along with a newer number once again featuring  Pendergast. The earlier tracks might just be outtakes but what a nice batch they are what with that patented A-Bone-esque sound that gets the punk rock drill down hard 'n good as if it were still 1976 filtering 1966 vibrations as if 1971 and the Peace Train got derailed for good. The last song tho is once again just Downey and Pendergast cooking up a pretty decent instrumental number that doesn't exactly zoom you back to some bikini scene in an AIP moom pitcher, but wh' th' hey...


What I guess would be the latest Figures of Light release "proper" (or "improper" if you prefer) would be BUY BEFORE YOU DIE, a full-length feature with this year's copyright date on it and Dixon and Downey joined by even newer members, this time an Andrew Nicodema and Alex Berserker, the latter of who has one of the better rock 'n roll names heard in quite awhile. And it's back to the great ol' teenage sound here with the band cranking out in that fabulous Ramones meets the Real Kids cum six-oh style that really sounds dated, but in the way alla us ranch house suburban slobs like our datedness anyway.  If you expect to turn on the tee-vee and see an episode of SGT. BILKO pop up, this is the one for you!


And finally on today's schedule WHAT'S THIS???, fiftysome minutes of nothing but atonal and perhaps even immoral guitar feedback in the grand tradition of "Loop" and all of those other attempts to get the guitar to play the amp! Here's da scoop..."On January 24, 1971, three original members of Figures of Light - Wheeler Winston Dixon, Michael Downey, and Phil Cohen - presented a concert of feedback music at Brecht West Theater in New Brunswick, NJ. Unlike their other concerts, this performance consisted entirely of feedback from the band's electric guitars, thus anticipating Lou Reed's 1975 METAL MACHINE MUSIC LP by several years. The tapes of the concert, however, were lost, only the poster remained to mark the date." So what did the team of Dixon and Downey do about the missing recording---pout and cry about it??? No, the recreated the entire shebang in the here and now making for an extended one-track romp that takes alla that gab about electronic music you've heard for eons and puts it in its proper place (which, in case you didn't know, was your laser launching pad). Listen hard enough and you too will enter into the fabled "cloud" that Lou Reed once talked about, and if you hear trumpets and Renaissance choirs in this stew I wouldn't doubt you one bit.

And (of course) if you wanna buy any or all of these rarities, you know where you can go ('n it ain't FYE that's for sure!).
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INTRODUCING THE ELEVENTH HOUSE WITH LARRY CORYELL, LARRY CORYELL & THE ELEVENTH HOUSE AT MONTREUX CDs (both on Vanguard)

Sometimes I do tend to take rockist kismet for what its worth, like the time, and the reasons I snatched these two fusion slabs up was just because of the same innate drive that'll have me slipping on an Amon Duul side after reading a Velvets = krautrock article or tearing through a pile of John Cage platters after his particular brand of free splat is compared and contrasted with Yoko Ono. This time I followed through on my whims to give Coryell and co's early releases a try after coming across too many fusion refs. in my rockist reading, especially a positive review of Return to Forever by Charles Shaar Murray in some old NME not to mention former Man-ster bass guitarist Tommy Gee referring to his earlier combo as being "jazz fusion" which does put an interesting spin on what was going on underneath the underground at CBGB if you also consider the reams of jazz-oriented rock strut that was taking place in the various En Why clubs at the time. (Still looking for tapes of the Boston-area teenage jazz rock combo Yarbles if anyone out there is willing to comply...)


INTRODUCING is the better slab even with the various slick and processed numbers...at least this one could whip up somewhat of a noisy storm when prodded somewhat. Overtly mid-seventies jazz-guitar.synth-laden true (perhaps Coryell's work with Gary Burton would be more up my ever-expanding alley?) but still solid enough despite the patented electronic whirrs and heard it too many times before hot flash guitar lines. At least it can conjure up spasmodic images of typical jazz-bred tension and angst when needed, which is more than I can say about the pallid musings of the bowtie schmooze that came in the Eleventh House's wake.

And without the airy-fairy conjuring of Return to Forever or the trendy bump 'n grind of way too many mid-seventies jazzbos out for the moolah, this 'un does tend to satisfy even if it is only because it doesn't end up sounding like the aural equivalent to an ad for a synclavier to be found in the pages of DOWN BEAT magazine.


Big thumbs down for the live 'un though, which has the House playing at the Montreux Jazz Festival and losing much in the translation. As far as live albums go, this is way too sterile and fly-spec-less for my own personal sense of sonic crunch. Maybe if Vanguard had released an album from one of the group's appearances at Max's Kansas City from around the same time this woulda been easier to sit through because hey, something about Max's as well as CBGB used to really bring out the scuzz in a man's music, y'know? But until somebody does decide to release that Man-ster album maybe this is about as close to a non-aerie faeire jazz rock sound we can dare to get as far as mid-seventies tastes go, outside of the title track on RADIO ETHIOPIA.
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Sun Ra-CHURCH ORGAN, 1948 one-sided LP (no label)

Dunno if this 'un was put out by the same stroon who released that boffo Agents of Misfortune single-sided album that came out late last year, but it sure looks like the same mad method that was put into that 'un was dumped into this strangity as well. According to the spoken introduction, Ra had purchased an early "paper" tape recorder in the late-forties and recorded a number of tracks in some unnamed church which I guess hadda be reconsecrated after the music of Blount was performed. Two jazz standards and an original, all kinda sounding like the soundtrack to a silent movie being played by Mrs. Muriel Carter of Tupelo Miss. who had been tippling at the punch bowl during the intermission to TEN NIGHTS IN A BARROOM. Lotsa "roots" of future accomplishment to be found, no doubt.
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Various Artists-ROCK BOTTOM SCATTY BULBS-A-GRIZZLY CD-r burn (guess)

And last as usual here's the latest Bill Shute spin that I plucked outta the pile and slapped into the Cee-Dee launching pad during a Sunday afternoon of utter boredom. And hey, it's a pretty goody good toe-tapper and that's not only because of the old radio spot ads that'll zoom you back to 1951 whether you wanna go back there or not.** Exemplary selection here,. from the mock Beach Boys of Greg Mihran's "Grab-a-Grizzly" to the Off Set doing their darndest mid-sixties West Coast folk rock best to topple the Turtles and Association at their own game. Of course if you want something a little less professional there's always Barbara Gorman and Sister Viv sounding like Big Ethel and Sugar Bea from PONYTAIL (or was it the off-center spindle hole?) singing "8 O'Clock Date".

But the bestest off all happens to be a couple of NEW numbers, and both of 'em are from modern living and breathing modern day bands as well. The New Mystikal Troubadours' "Nature's Way " (not the Spirit song) is unbelievably wowzy, sounding like an unholy cross between the Velvet Underground at their droniest mixed with the best San Francisco had to offer before hackdom ensued slapped onto the b-side of a 1972 obscure self-produced single. The Peter Kerlin Octet's "Bulbs" reminds me of the late-sixties free jazz cum rock of acts like the Charging Rhinoceros of Soul and Carnal Kitchen. Both really affected this old fanabla in a way that kinda reminded me of back inna mid-eighties when I was looking for some then-current signs of 60s/70s accomplishment being made in the proper eighties mode...and FOUND it usually in the most obscure places one could think of. Gotta look out for more by these acts, though I do get the stinking suspicion that they ain't gonna live up to these superdupers, certainly not to be confused with superdopeers!

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*hokay, that was swiped from some early-1980 ish of CREEM I only perused via the stands, but I'll bet you never even read the thing so why not swipe from a mag that was also in the throes of early-eighties agony?

**though I gotta admit that the five-second "Park Free Save More" sounded like a mid-seventies Philip Glass vocal composition!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

MOOM PITCHER REVIEW! THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII starring Steve Reeves (1959)

Sheesh, another wopadago Pompeii film for me to peruse! Well, like the Brad Harris effort reviewed earlier this 'un's a pretty good afternoon lollygagger starring Steve Reeves in a action-packed winner featuring wild bandits working through the auspices of the local Isis temple (funny, I thought Isis was an Egyptian goddess!) and the emerging Christian movement who are getting blamed for the recent rash of murderous pillaging because the bad boys paint a red cross on the looted home in question. And that's not even mentioning the last big burst o' mountain goo itself which just happens to pop up at the right time, which is what we were all waiting for throughout the entire dad-blamed film!

A lot more interesting than the 79 AD moom reviewed a few months back, but just as Sunday afternoon nothing-else-to-do mindnapping as it ebbs and flows milking the same ol' plot for all it was worth. And really, when films like this were airing on those lazy summer afternoons it was either this, CHAMPIONSHIP BOWLING on the other station, or an extended romp in the bathroom with the wrong issue of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC snatched up meaning you hadda get all aroused reading about the aluminum industry in Bahzramain 'stead o' them hula gals who looked like they breast fed the entire seventh fleet!

Again the historical inaccuracies might have given Eddie Haskell a run for the moolah, but it's still fun to watch even though star Steve Reeves, seen with a full set o' brannigans on the poster, is actually clean shaven here (maybe the distributors thought nobody would notice him w/o a beard!). And while I'm at it, I was wondering if there was gonna be any mention of that recently-unearthed painting found in the molten ashes of that doomed Eyetalian city that's up for restoration showing a guy engaged in sexual bliss with the goat of his choice?!?!?!? Unfortunately nada was said about this peculiar Pompeiian practice (which, from what I have read was more than a common practice between a man and his consenting cloven hoofed one) though considering the film was made a good fifty-plus years ago I'm sure the puritanical tastemongers would have definitely nixed anything so sweet and so pure as inter-species romance. Now if it were made in TODAY'S open and easy-going clime I'm sure that such a subject would not only be mentioned but in fact heralded as concrete proof of the all-inclusive nature for which we must now all strive. C'mon you Hollywood Big Bucks mogul, re-make THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII as it should be presented for today's sophisticated audience, and do it like YESTERDAY!!!


Saturday, August 09, 2014

Considering that this post is, just like last week's, a rather sick example of what a respected (hah!) blogschpieler like myself can whip up for your dining and dancing pleasure, I thought I'd review a few more of the sites linked up on your left and give my own personal opines regarding what I think of 'em and why I decided to slap 'em up here inna first place. Yeah, this portion of today's blog might just be about as exciting as looking at photos from your gay brother's latest proctology exam and mistaking it for slides from the family's Mammoth Cave vacation but remember, one mere WORD spewed forth on this blog packs a more potent punch than the competition's last year of rock "writing" combined so shut your mouth for once, willya?

I've written before about just how much I didn't give a rock critic's ass for CRACKED, SICK, CRAZY and a good portion of the various MAD swipes that were cluttering the satire portion of your local newsstand throughout the sixties and seventies. If the motto for these collected knockoffs was indeed "dare to be dumb" they surely lived up to their reputations, what with their pilfering past and future MAD regulars to crank out  reams of comparatively uninspiring art and sneaking in the visage of Alfred E. Neuman whenever they could get away with it in order to do a little good natured nose rubbing. The results were mostly worthless, and all of that dismal writing just made the turds smell even stronger, if you know what I mean.

Therefore it might seem peculiar that I would link up the CRACKED magazine website on my own beloved blog. As usual, there is madness in my method because frankly this site has just about as much to do with CRACKED the magazine as MAD the magazine has to do with---what MAD the magazine used to be during its long drag through the years.

Don't worry about cringing through all of those obvious MAD swipes, for CRACKED the site is actually a halfway decent sarcastic site filled with humorous stories and top five lists that actually do have a certain relationship with your otherwise mundane existence. The ones dealing with old time gulcher and comic goo are the ones that appeal to me the most, and if you're the kinda guy who likes reading about the dark underbelly of long-gone cinema or just have a strong hatred for Walt Disney, you just might like it. But I sincerely doubt it.

And surprisingly enough, it does do my heart good knowing that such an entity as CRACKED, no matter how convoluted and trite it could have been, exists in some form these sorry days. But then again, it's kinda like the same feeling I get knowing that BEETLE BAILEY, BLONDIE and DICK TRACY are still up and about and how many times do any of us read those comics anymore?
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I'm sure that any suburban slob who's poured through an import bin back '77 way and saw that dark grey copy of Iggy and the Stooges' METALLIC KO remembers the strange Skydog label from whence this demi-above ground bootleg album appeared. Soon after more'n a few of us began noticing Skydog albums as well as singles popping up all over the import/back-door record shop scene, and that coupled with the fact that this company seemed like the kind of label custom made for us subteen sputum all agog over those early seventies 99-cent cutouts really did something as far as stimulating our work ethic if only we could afford the $$$ to purchase as many of these platters as we could.

If you like reminiscing about those days, or (like I do) try to kid yourself into believing it's still 1978 even if alla them creeps out there are trying to drag us into the 21st century kicking and screaming, the Skydog site linked above certainly does help. A nice tribute to a label that seems to be going strong, even in a world that couldn't give two whits about punkism or intensity anymore which is really saying something positive. Could be a little more thorough in the history department but you might fill a few gaps in your mind if you care to peruse the thing for but a few minutes.
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THE DAILY RASH ain't as funny as the DIVERSITY CHRONICLE blog but it still comes off with a few snickers and guffaws. I will 'fess up to the fact that it's funnier'n THE ONION, especially since that site's become too defensively uberprog and self-consciously pious for my own tastes. Prime targets include Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, Al Sharpton and the ever-lovin' Joe Biden. Sometimes the president himself makes a surprise appearance like he did in the over-the-hills-and-far-away funny "Obama Welcomes First Transgender Baby to White House". If you don't find this really roll-on-the-floor high-larious, I truly do hope you are offended.
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Well, enough of that blab---on to the part you've been waiting for lo these many paragraphs...


The Dave Clark Five-HAVING A WILD WEEKEND CD-r burn (originally on Epic)

Compared with the last Dave Clark album reviewed, not bad at all. These guys coulda used a few lessons from the Sonics in sax-laden high energy, but they fare well not only on their better known material but the instrumental chiller "No Stopping". Of course there are the two string-laden 'n gloppy to the nth degree tracks to contend with (which I assume were used as incidental music for the moom pitcher of the same name...I mean, what else?) but you can woosh those outta your system faster'n Fleet after givin' the more rockin' tracks a steady listening or two.
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Southern Culture on the Skids-DIG THIS CD-r burn (originally on Kudzu)

I usually don't go for these neuvo retrobilly type platters that much, but this one is slightly better'n the usual crew. At times authentico enough to sound like real-life early-sixties loco radio spin fodder which is a startling surprise. And while a good portion of this Cee-Dee does have that Cramps-ish rear-view mirror gazeback that only the Cramps seemed to do with any authenticity, I can't see why this shouldn't appeal to all of those new wave-o types who tired of the stuff 'round '82 way and were looking for something a li'l rootsier yet not quite the real deal. The karaoke tracks tagged at the end should be a hoot at your next party, as long as you don't invite Aunt Martha to sing along with some of the selections present.
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Jackson Beck as PHILO VANCE CD-r burn (old timey radio series)

I'm sure a whole lotta grandpas 'n grandmas out there will get them zoom back memories listening to these old mystery radio shows Bill has been shooting at me, but whenever I hear 'em I merely recall those adolescent days when WPIC-FM would run this one spook series whose name I forget (Saturday night at 9:30) with some local horror host type doing the usual cornballus gags along the lines of calling the then-recent Sinatra album LIVE AT SLAUGHTERTOWN...typical har-de-har-har gags like that which probably were funnier when you were an elevem year old but nowadays go over worse than a Porky Pig cartoon at a Bar Mitzvah.

Maybe I did mention this interesting bit of autobiographical goo in a previous post but dang, there's only so much you can say about these radio mystery/detective/comedy shows other'n they're kinda like I LOVE LUCY and ARMCHAIR DETECTIVE w/o the picture.

Two good 'un's here, the first having to do with noted detective Philo Vance on the tail of some guys holding up various society page get togethers using a strange code that Vance was able to crack like potrzebie (and the reasoning behind the code crack is even stranger'n the code itself!) while the second has to do with this young political reformer out to bust the local machine who gets threatened with his life, shrugs it off and of course gets what he was asking for like any doofus out there in radioland coulda told ya. Both tales are solid 'n smooth, though I was wondering why Philo's arch enemy Onions Oregano wasn't in either of these episodes considering just how much this gadfly was Moriarity to Philo's Holmes...oh wait, that's Philo KVETCH! Well, for a kid who used to get not only ARCHIE and FRECKLES but DICK TRACY and FEARLESS FOSDICK (not to mention BUGS BUNNY and MOE HARE) mixed up, it is an honest mistake!
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Thee Oh Sees-DROP CD-r burn (originally on Castle Face)

You may remember that I didn't really care for this group's earlier (debut?) effort, but DROP seemed to settle in quite well with my own sense of suburban slob addledness. Yeah this sounds as 2014 as the latest hog caller to make his way to AMERIGA'S GOT MEDIOCRITY, but the echoes of mid-sixties garage band psychedelia does lend a tasty edge to it all. And dang it if Thee Oh Sees will surprise you what with their crafty emulations (OK---swipes) of everyone from the Thirteenth Floor Elevators to the Move! A surprise sleeper that I have the feeling's gonna get shoved to the side even in these internet-conscious days where just about anyone can be a star, even if it is in the privacy of their own bedroom.
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Various Artists-WHISTLING BURGERS AND BEETLES CD-r burn (Bill Shute Productions)

Being in a particularly turdsville mood when I wrote this (last Monday to be exact), the arrival of Bill Shute's latest Care Package didn't quite pep me up the way I thought it would. However, I found that listening to WHISTLING BURGERS AND BEETLES a whole lot more fitting a way to cap off the worst day (so far) in the year that had I spent the final hours of twilight's first gleaming spinning THE FARTING CONTEST. Starts off swell with the Blisters' '63 shot outta nowhere "Shortnin' Bread" (the famed toe tapper done up with loads of hot sauce dumped on it) which really woulda fit in with the refreshing blend that year's top 40 was noted for, along with old radio ad spots (the kind where they tone down the music so's the local announcer can hype the rubes) and the standard garage band (Daily Flash) 'n country twang (Jerry Smith) Bill loves sooooo much. High points...Montreal Burger Stand lowdown, Robyn Hitchcock doing Syd Barrett which is better'n Robyn Hitchcock doing himself if you ask me, and the Edison Military Band's 1908 rendition of "The Whistler and his Dog", a song you won't know by name but sure will by toon! Sheesh, I wonder why I'm still in a keyed up, pissed off mood after spinning this classic set but man, I am!